Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tracking the career strikeout record throughout history

Strikeouts are at an all-time high. In fact, they have been at an all-time high since 2008, with the height of that high continually getting higher and higher. In 2008 there were a record 6.83 strikeouts per 9 innings across MLB. That record has fallen each year, with the figure climbing all the way to 7.73 last season. Recent seasons have included huge strikeout rates for many different starting pitchers (which could be its own post), though in terms of raw counting, the lower number of innings starters now throw each year has kept anyone from posting an historic total.

For hitters it has been a different story. Until 2004 no one had ever struck out more than 189 times in a season, but in eleven season since then it has happened 17 times, with the record climbing all the way to 223, done by Mark Reynolds in 2009. Despite that though, no one has been able to reach the career total of the straw who stirred the drink, Reggie Jackson.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The pitchers who've been baseball's best since I became a fan

This week Johan Santana signed a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, a deal that includes an invitation to spring training. It is not uncommon for players who haven't thrown an inning in MLB for more than two years to have to settle for such a contract. What is uncommon is seeing someone who used to be the best pitcher in all of baseball sign a deal like that. Santana won the 2004 and 2006 American League Cy Young Awards; he deserved to win in 2005 too, and in 2006 he also probably should have been given the AL MVP. He was tremendous. Shoulder trouble knocked Santana out near the end of the 2010 season, and in the four seasons since then he has pitched in just 21 games (all in 2012). 

Whether he makes it back or not, Johan was, as I said already, the absolute best pitcher in baseball for a time. How many men can say that for themselves? I decided to find out how held that spot in my time as a fan, which dates back to 1986.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Oldest living and longest tenured Hall of Famers

Bobby Doerr, the oldest living Hall of Fame player
Ernie Banks passed away Friday night here in Chicago. Since I was old enough to think about such things, I've always considered him the face of Chicago baseball, and so while I am not a Cubs fan and never saw Banks play, I was saddened to hear of his death, both as a Chicagoan, and as a baseball fan. Banks was 83 old though, and he was able to enjoy being a Hall of Famer for more than 37 years. I found myself wondering: How many Hall of Fame players his age are still with us? How many Hall of Fame players lived for so many years after their induction?

Monday, January 26, 2015

My favorite movies of 2014

I saw 43 movies from 2014. I know that's many more than most people see, but it's my lowest total since I began keeping track in 1997, when what I still consider my closest group of friends took form and we started going to a movie most weekends. Of the 43 movies I saw last year, only 26 of them were actually in a theater, which is an even more dramatic departure from most of my last two decades. Part of me is bummed that I'm not seeing as many movies as I used to, but in truth, most of what I'm not seeing anymore isn't very good, because I used to go to a lot of pretty crap movies with my friends. I miss not having more time to spend with my friends anymore, but I probably need not mourn the specific movies I'm missing out on.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The players 10-year-old me thought would be Hall of Famers

I'm not sure how old I was when I first knew about the Baseball Hall of Fame. I do recall receiving a set of baseball cards when I was young, all of which had black-and-white photos on the front, most showing players I'd never heard of. Babe Ruth was there though, and Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig. I know who they were, and grasped that the others must have been great too. I certainly knew about the Hall by 1990, the year I turned ten. That's when Jim Palmer and Joe Morgan were inducted. It's been just shy of a quarter century since those two were elected, and I find myself thinking back on which of the players from that time I expected to someday enter Cooperstown.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Best relief pitching performances in World Series history

The 2014 baseball season ended with an incredible performance by Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, who pitched a shutout in Game 5, then came back three days later to enter Game 7 in the middle of the 5th inning and pitched five shutout innings of relief to finish off the game and the series. A pair of singles were the only base runners Bumgarner allowed as he made himself an easy choice for World Series MVP. I've been busy with other things in the month since that game, but have been wondering about the other greatest relief appearances in World Series history. I couldn't recall anything like what Bumgarner did, but what had I forgotten about, and not been around to see when it happened?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Victor Martinez had a great season (especially for an old guy)

Victor Martinez was one of my favorite Cleveland Indians, both because of his fantastic play for the team and his tremendous presence in the clubhouse. I understood why he was traded away, but it was a drag seeing him play for Boston. Seeing him move on to Detroit wasn't any better, but I can't bring myself to root against him, even as it pains me to watch him routinely destroy the Tribe. (His 1.024 OPS against the Indians is easily his best versus any AL team.) Victor missed all of 2012 after having knee surgery, then posted his worst numbers in years in 2013. He turned 35 last offseason, and it made sense to think he'd entered the final stages of his time as a productive player. Instead though, Martinez had the best season of his career.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A look back at each Maddux of 2014

There were 12 Madduxes pitched in 2014. For the 27 seasons (1988-2014) we have pitch count data for, the average number has been 10.7, so this season was above average, especially when considering that the peak period for Madduxes was the late 80s and early 90s, while they've been less frequent during the last 20 years. This was the second year in a row to feature an even dozen of them, which hasn't happened in consecutive seasons since 1992 and 1993. We've really seen a resurgence to level not witnessed since years before I first created the Maddux in 1998.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Clayton Kershaw is Magic

Pitchers are putting up eye-popping numbers, the likes of which have rarely been seen during the last 20 years. Felix Hernandez has a 2.23 ERA. Only three AL pitchers have beaten that in the last two decades (Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, and Zack Greinke). This year though, he's behind Chris Sale. Yu Darvish has a K/9 rate of 11.35. The only other pitchers to beat that were Randy Johnson, Pedro, and Kerry Wood. Garrett Richards has a home run rate bested only by Greg Maddux in 1994 and Andy Pettitte in 1997. From 1993 to 2013, only four AL pitchers ever posted a FIP of 2.60 or better. In 2014, led by Corey Kluber's 2.43, five pitchers are below that mark. If (like me), great pitching is the baseball you love best, it's an incredible time. One guy tops them all though: Clayton Kershaw is the best.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The 13 Madduxes of Greg

I introduced the Maddux in one of the very first posts I wrote after starting this blog, having already spent almost 14 years searching for them, first in the box scores of the newspapers delivered to my family's home, and later at various online outlets (Baseball-Reference eventually made finding them easy, which was mostly incredible, but also a little sad, as it sort of ended the great hunt).

That original post has been seen by far more people than anything else I've written, due in large part to Jonah Keri and Craig Calcaterra, each of whom spread it to a far wider audience than I could have on my own. In the more than two years since then, I've written a number of other posts relating to the Maddux (many of which can be found through links in the original post).

One thing I haven't written about during are the 13 Madduxes thrown by Greg himself. He's being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend though, and this seems like as good a time as any to run through his personal collection.