“I faced some big names in old Yankee Stadium, which is hard to beat,” recalled Miller, who retired Melky Cabrera, Johnny Damon, and Derek Jeter. “It was part of a doubleheader, as we’d gotten rained out the day I was called up, and afterward, [pitching coach] Chuck Hernandez came over and put his hand on my chest. He asked if I was going to have a heart attack.”
He wasn’t about to get a big head. Not only was Miller joining a championship-caliber club — the Tigers went on to lose to the Cardinals in the World Series — there was little chance he’d have been allowed to. While his veteran teammates treated him well, they also treated him for what he was — a 21-year-old rookie with all of five minor-league innings under his belt.
“It was a shocking experience all around,” Miller admitted. “In hindsight, it’s scary how little I knew, and how naive I was, when I got called up. Thank goodness Jamie Walker called my room and told me to meet him in the lobby to go over some ground rules and expectations. He saved me from a lot of mistakes. Of course, after that Jamie was maybe the hardest veteran on me. It was all good natured, but I couldn’t slip up around him.”
Todd Jones and Ivan Rodriguez were also important influences. The former served as a role model — “I learned a lot watching him prepare in the pen” –while the latter helped him feel comfortable right from the get-go. The lefty was in the lobby of the team hotel with his family when Rodriguez ambled over and shared how impressed he’d been with the debut, adding that he was excited to have him around.
“That was over-the-top nice, and one of the coolest things that’s ever happened in my career,” said Miller, who now pitches out of the pen in St. Louis. ” I think my parents’ jaws hit the floor. That whole day brings a smile to my face.”
Rob Kaminsky‘s debut was similar to Miller’s in many respects. Earlier this month, the 25-year-old St. Louis Cardinals southpaw breezed through three high-profile hitters in his lone frame of work. Moreover, he did so in the bottom of the eighth inning of a game his team lost.
There was a notable difference. Unlike Miller, Kaminsky didn’t climb a big-league mound less than a month after signing his first professional contract. He waited seven full years, and while the appearance came with the team that drafted him, there was a detour along the way. The New Jersey native was traded in 2015 and spent four-plus seasons in the Cleveland system before rejoining the Cardinals this past winter as a minor-league free agent.
Another difference was due to the pandemic.
“I was talking to Andrew Miller about it,” explained Kaminsky. “He was saying that it’s just such a different debut. There are no fans. Afterwards, you can’t go out to dinner with your family, or do anything with the guys. But it all counts the same in the record books, and my family couldn’t be any happier. They’re way more emotional than I am about this stuff. I try to be as stoic as possible, although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little emotional when I was warming up.”
“The first pitch to Abreu was a changeup away, for a strike,” recounted Kaminsky. “A few pitches later, I got him to roll over [to short] on a changeup. It was cool to face all three of those guys. Getting your first taste of the big leagues against all-stars, you have to really focus and make your pitches.”
Three innings earlier, one of Kaminsky’s teammates learned just how lethal big-league hitters can be when you don’t make your pitches. Making his own MLB debut, right-hander Roel Ramirez surrendered home runs to four straight batters. The last of them was Kaminsky’s second batter.
“It was curveball, changeup, curveball,” Kaminsky said of his sequence to Jimenez, who went down by way of the K. “The last curveball honestly wasn’t a very good pitch. It was up and out of the zone, and I was supposed to go back foot with it. But it was [called] a strike, so it got the job done.”
After working exclusively away to Abreu and Jimenez, Kaminsky then tried to go inside to Encarnacion. He missed — “the ball drifted middle” — but once again the result was a good one. A routine ground ball ended the inning. Kaminsky’s debut was in the books.
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
The trade deadline is tomorrow, and yesterday’s deal sending Trevor Rosenthal from the Royals to the Padres was the second notable swap involving a late-inning reliver. The Phillies had earlier acquired Brandon Workman, along with Heath Hembree from the moribund-in-the-standings Red Sox.
Following the first of those two deals, I asked Orioles GM Mike Elias how much value bullpen arms have in today’s game — particularly for teams that aren’t serious contenders.
“It’s really tough on a team when you feel like you’re going to win a game and you blow it,” answered Elias. “That’s whether you’re a first place team or a fourth place team. When you’re trying to develop starting pitchers, being able to hand off games to quality relievers is nice; it puts less pressure on the manager to stretch those young starters. So there’s a lot of value for any club, but obviously if you’re a playoff-bound team — you’re in a playoff race — relievers are more valuable to you. Particularly in a season like this where the proportion [of innings] these relievers are going to throw is greater than normal. I think their impact is going to decide some of these races maybe a little bit more than normal.”
In a Zoom call on Tuesday, Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde brought up the value of veteran presence, then went on to say that he’s in “win-now mode.” The latter was understandable. While the Orioles are undoubtedly rebuilding, they were half a game out of the last playoff spot when those words were spoken.
I asked Hyde about his role in trade decisions.
“I’m not involved in trade decisions,” responded Hyde. “I take the 28 guys we have here — the 28 guys who are going to be here today, and the 28 guys that are going to here tomorrow — and we’re going to coach them the best way we can, and try to win games. Trade talk is not in my department.”
Following up, I inquired as to whether there are any players the team can’t afford to part with if they hope to contend to the bitter end.
“If we lose people it’s going to impact us,” said Hyde. “Those are questions for Mike [Elias].”
Only one catcher has led the American League or National League in doubles. Who was it?
The answer can be found below.
In NPB, Yuki Matsui earned his first win as a starter in nearly two years on Thursday, going seven innings as the Rakuten Golden Eagles beat the Lotte Marines 15-0. A 24-year-old left-hander, Matsui averaged 28 saves annually from 2015-2019.
Remy Hermoso, who played for three teams over parts of four big-league seasons, died earlier this week at age 72. A native of Carabobo, Venezuela, Hermoso recorded 27 of his 47 career hits in 1974 with the Cleveland Indians.
The Society For American Baseball Research is seeking remote student interns to work during the Fall 2020 semester. The deadline to apply is 5 pm MST Monday August 31, and information can be found here.
I ran a Twitter poll earlier this week, asking which of Jim Edmonds, Juan Gonzalez, and Tony Oliva was the best hitter. Their respective numbers suggested it would be a close race, and for awhile that’s what it was. They were within a percentage point of each other through the first 100 votes.
By the time the poll closed — this with 1,602 votes cast — one of them had dropped like a rock. Before we get to that, here are some of their career totals:
Edmonds: 1,949 hits, 393 HRs, 3,615 total bases, 132 wRC+.
Gonzalez: 1,936 hits, 434 HRs, 3,676 total bases, 129 wRC+.
Oliva: 1,917 hits, 220 HRs, 3,002 total bases, 129 wRC+
Oliva is the one whose early momentum came skidding to a halt; he finished with just 19.9% of the vote. The others? Edmonds garnered 37.1%, while Gonzalez came out on top with 42.9%.
2020 STAT NOTABLES
The Oakland A’s are 5-0 in extra-inning games. The Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees are the only two teams yet to play Calvinball.
Chicago Cubs and New York Mets batters have each been hit by pitches 26 times, the most in the majors. Houston Astros batters have been hit by pitches 14 times, which is tied for 15th most in the majors.
Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez has eight stolen bases and has yet to be caught. Ramirez is 66 for 76 (87%) in steal attempts since the start of the 2018 season.
Max Scherzer had 11 strikeouts and didn’t allow a walk in Washington’s 7-1 win over Boston on Friday night. It was Scherzer’s 26th career game with 10-plus strikeouts and no walks. Only Randy Johnson (37) and Curt Schilling (27) have more.
Miguel Cabrera recorded his 2,840th and 2,841st career hits yesterday, moving him past Charlie Gehringer and into 50th place on the all-time list. Cabrera has 1,999 hits in a Tigers uniform. Ty Cobb holds the franchise record with 3,900.
Nick Markakis recorded his 507th career double yesterday, moving him past Babe Ruth and into 58th place on the all-time list. Albert Pujols hit his 665th double on Friday, moving him into a tie with George Brett for sixth place. Tris Speaker had 792 two-baggers.
TV play-by-play broadcasters for MLB’s 30 teams hail from 18 different states. Michigan — Joe Block (Pirates), Joe Davis (Dodgers), Len Kasper (Cubs), Matt Shepard (Tigers), and Missouri — Chip Caray (Braves),Bob Carpenter (Nationals), Dan McLaughlin (Cardinals), Dewayne Staats (Rays) — are most represented, with four each.
The Chicago Whales won the Federal League pennant in 1915 with a record of 86-66. The St. Louis Terriers finished second with a record of 87-67. The Whales, who played two more games, had a .566 winning percentage, while the Terriers had a .565 winning percentage. Something to keep in mind with the likelihood that not every MLB team with play the same amount of games this year.
Also, in 1972 the Detroit Tigers won the AL East with a record of 86-70, while the Boston Red Sox finished second at 85-70. The two clubs closed the season against each other, knowing that the winner of the three-game series would be awarded the division title (Boston was up by half a game coming in) — the lost game, this in a strike-shortened season, wasn’t going be made up.
Following the postponement of Thursday night’s Orioles-Rays game. Baltimore pitcher Alex Cobb was asked how difficult the situation is for him, in part because his brother is a police officer. His response is well worth sharing:
“Extremely, but I’m learning to not look at it through those lenses anymore,” said Cobb.” I think in the beginning I [felt] you had to be one side or the other — you had to be for our police, or for our inner-city communities — and I just don’t think that was the right way to look at things. I will always respect every single person that puts on a uniform and goes out to protect us, but I’ve also had too many moments where I look into my teammates’ eyes, or my friends’ eyes, and see that they’re dealing with some real struggles. Their hearts are heavy, and we need to find a way to start the conversation of mending the two sides, rather than picking a side… I pray that we’re able to find a way for everybody to just love everybody.”
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
Newsday‘s David Lennon shared how a hot mic showed Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen as an agent of change.
The Australian Baseball League is set to take a radical approach with its next season, due to COVID-19. John Stensholt has the story at The Australian.
Matt Monagan wrote about the long, weird history of the eephus pitch at MLB.com.
Sports Illustrated‘s Emma Bacciellieri looked into how MLB travel directors will be controlling chaos at the trade deadline.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Zac Gallen has made 23 big-league starts and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of them. In 15 of his starts, he’s gone at least five innings and allowed two or fewer runs. Gallen has a career record of 4-6.
On August 28, 1926, Cleveland Indians right-hander Dutch Levsen had complete-game wins in both ends of a double-header against the Boston Red Sox. Levsen allowed one run on four hits, and didn’t record a strikeout, in each of the two games.
On this date in 1960, the Boston Red Sox swept the Detroit Tigers in a doubleheader, winning the first game 5-4 in 15 innings, and the second game 3-2 in 10 innings. Red Sox second baseman Pete Runnels went 9 for 11 on the day.
Cholly Naranjo recorded his only big-league win on September 2, 1956. Pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cuban-born southpaw relieved Fred Waters in the first inning and went the final eight-and-two-thirds. The Pirates prevailed 5-1.
Spencer Pumpelly‘s career consisted of one inning for the Washington Senators in 1925. Facing the St. Louis Browns, Pumpelly surrendered a home run to Marty McManus, walked Baby Doll Jacobson, retired Pinky Hargrave on a fly ball, and induced a double-play grounder from Gene Robertson. Pumpelly is one of 78 pitchers to allow a home run to the first batter he faced in the big leagues.
The Chicago Cubs took Colin Kaepernick in the 43rd round of the 2009 draft. Kaepernick pitched in high school and was recruited by multiple universities as a baseball player.
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