Wednesday September 30, 2004
Johan and Randy
Who is George Sisler?
Twin Killing and Ichiro!
The Twins fell short in both games against the Yankees yesterday. They did stay in both games, but Mariano Rivera came in and recorded saves in each game. In Game 1, the Twins got another strong Johan Santana performance. He gave up a run in his five innings. As was pre-determined, Santana went just five innings and threw 71 pitches. He could have gone longer and, had he, the result of the game may have been different. But our hero (note sarcasm) JC Romero came in and was terrible again! And while the Twins jumped on Mike Mussina for three first inning runs, they didn't score the final eight innings of the game. In Game 2, Kyle Lohse pitched poorly again and the bats just didn't come through, with the exception of Jason Kubel. Here are some random thoughts on the Twins and Yankees:
TRY TO WIN!!! - I hear a lot of people complaining about how the Twins don't even seem to be trying to win these games. People want the starters to play all the time. Now, I totally understand that. I want the Twins to win too. However, I do have a couple of thoughts on that.
1.) The Twins have clinched. They are in the playoffs. And yes, home-field advantage is great and would be better, but it is vastly over-rated. I think Twins fans think it is a big deal because of the 1987 and 1991 World Series results.
2.) Starters do need time off to heal both physically and mentally. If Torii Hunter is mentally exhausted, it is great to be able to give him a game or two off. If Shannon Stewart's hamstring is tight, I don't want him to aggravate it. I fully believe that Corey Koskie needs time off! If Luis Rivas' elbow hurts... well, shut him down for the season!
3.) And really, who is playing that shouldn't be? Jason Kubel needs at bats if he is going to be on the post-season roster. The coaches need to evaluate him to see where they can use him. Also, if we're being honest, he's a better hitter than some of the "starters" (Jacque) anyway and should be playing. Michael Cuddyer started Game 1 at 2B ahead of the "starter" Luis Rivas. Do we really think that is a bad thing? He started Game 2 at 3B, allowing Koskie to not play 18 innings! Lew Ford replaced Hunter in Game 2. Michael Restovich replaced Stewart/Ford in LF in Game 2. Although these are not the 'starters', they are fully capable of contributing, and they have. Pat Borders caught Game 2 of a double-header.
4.) Jesse Crain will be on the post-season roster, so he needs to pitch in such situations. Same with Grant Balfour. At least Joe Beimel wasn't brought into the game... then again, JC Romero was, so is that really any better?
5.) I am fine with limiting Johan Santana to five innings. He is the key to the Twins success in the playoffs and I want him to be strong and healthy when he starts game 1 of the division series next Tuesday. I am guessing that Brad Radke will have the same restraints on him today. Carlos Silva may be given a little more leeway on Friday because there will be an extra day off between game 2 and game 3.
6.) Along those same lines, the Twins losing to the Yankees does not mean too much, even if they play them next week. Why? Because next week, the Twins will not take Santana out after five innings. He will got 7 or 8 innings (maybe even 9). So, the results of this game is secondary. You don't think that the Yankees hitters were thrilled when Johan was taken out. Likewise, Brad Radke will hopefully be able to give the team seven or eight innings next week even if he goes just five today.
In summary, the Twins are trying to win. They are playing the right guys each day and giving time off to guys that need it. Jason Bartlett is barely playing. I guess to be honest, I'm sick of hearing how the Twins aren't trying to win. Maybe the Yankees do play their regulars all the time, even after clinching. Fact is, they don't have the minor league system or organizational depth to bring up players that could contribute. Twins fans should be thrilled to have their depth, allowing their regulars to be at 100% going into the playoffs.
What do you think? Am I completely wrong? Do I make any sense? E-mail me.
JOHAN AND RANDY
Tuesday, I discussed Curt Schilling. Yesterday, after again comparing the numbers of Johan Santana and Randy Johnson this year, I asked the questions:
I am surprised that I never did think about the NL/AL thing until this morning. We saw that Curt Schilling was averaging 10 or more strikeouts per nine innings the last few seasons. This year, he is averaging just over 8. Why didn't I think to ask the question: Is it because of the DH? Does the pitcher hitting make that big of a difference? What would Randy Johnson's strikeout rate be in the American league, and likewise, what would Johan Santana's strikeout be in the National League? Interesting question. Do you have the answer?
I got a few excellent responses, but the following from James really makes a good point and is clearly well thought out. What do you think?
From James -
If pitchers were automatic strikeouts, we should see it when we look at the respective K's of the 2 pitchers coming from the #9 position in the batting order. Well, JS has 30 K's in 79 AB's; RJ has 34 in 80. So the Big Unit gets 3 or 4 extra K's thanks to the pitchers. Big deal.
I know what you're going to say next. In the AL, the DH typically bats 4th, 5th or 6th, not 9th. So, doesn't that mean there are fewer strikeout opportunities throughout the lineup? Well, let's see.
From the top 3 spots in the order, JS has 82 K's in 285 AB's. The Big Unit has 87 in 308. Very slight edge to Johan here, 28.8% to 28.2%.
Positions 4-6: JS 87/262 = 33.2%; RJ 91/274 = 33.2%. Identical K rates here!
Positions 7-8: JS 61/168 = 36.3%; RJ 60/176 = 34.1%. Small edge to Santana here as well.
Conclusion: Santana's K-rate would be somewhat higher in the NL, but not dramatically so.
Of much greater significance, in my opinion, is the poor start Santana had, before he really began to cut it loose. In April and May he had only 54 K's in 61 IP, or 8.0 per 9 IP. since then he has racked up 206 K's in 162 IP, or 11.4 per 9 IP. That's a 43% increase! He also gave up 11 of his 24 HR's in the first 2 months of the season. Santana definitely has been the most dominant pitcher in baseball from June on.
Five Innings. Three hits. One walk. One run. Five Strikeouts. No-Decision. So, Johan ends the season with 20-6 record, and performed great in NYC doing nothing to discredit the fact that he should be the clear-cut AL Cy Young Winner. Santana is currently the top all over the internet and newsprint. Here are a number of recent articles on him.
Second Halves Require Second Looks - John Hunt - USA Today - He writes an article discussing Santana's incredible second half. It has a fantasy perspective, but his dominance definitely comes out. On a side bar, he asks the question, "Are there any Johan Santana owners out there who are not in first place?" with some great responses.
Santana Grows into Greatness - New York Daily News article discusses how good Johan Santana has been, even before this year. This article talks a lot about how the organization's patience with Santana and others may prove to be the best thing for everyone in the long term.
No Cy of Relief - New York Post article discusses his early season struggles and the social problems down in his native Venezuela, and more.
Not Safe at Home: The ESPN.com article written by Tom Farrey talks about how bad things are in Venezuela. Farrey actually traveled to Venezuela and talked with Johan Santana's parents. With Tigers' closer Ugueth Urbina's mother having been kidnapped, it is clearly not a safe place for people with money to live. This article has been the talk of television and radio talk shows the last few days. Well worth the read!
Dreading the Winter Ahead: a second part of the ESPN article, it includes quotes from Santana and other Venezuelan ball players about heading home during the offseason.
I got a great e-mail from a frequent reader, Dave Anderson, yesterday about Ichiro Suzuki and his quest to reach 257 hits on the season. That is the record number of hits in a season, set by George Sisler in 1920. Last night, Ichiro was 1-3 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch to move to 255 hits, two from the record with three games to go. Dave wrote:
I assume within the next few days you may be addressing Ichiro's hit record. It's a real impressive achievement to have all those hits -- it makes Ichiro the best singles hitter of his generation, and perhaps all-time. It's interesting, though, how we stacks up with the best singles hitter of the 70s, Rod Carew (another speedy lefty).
In Carew's peak season ('77, Twins), he had 239 hits but was more than just a singles hitter (that year) with 38 doubles, 16 triples and 15 HR for a slugging percentage of .570, compared with Ichiro's .459. Carew also had: 20 more runs scored than Ichiro will likely have this year, 40 more RBI (Carew had 100 that year), plus more walks and fewer strikeouts. The only edge Ichiro has on Carew's '77 season is stolen bases and at bats.
In fact, the extra at-bats Ichiro will have from hitting leadoff (Carew hit 3rd) and walking less (Carew walked 69 times) are the reasons Ichiro will break the record.
Great player and superior defender, but not a better hitter than Carew.
I realize that SABRmetrics like to discount how good Ichiro has been this year because he does not walk. This year, he has 48 walks, of which 18 are intentional. But a season hitting .373/.416/.459 with 23 doubles, 5 triples, 8 homers and 59 RBI from the leadoff position is pretty great. A .416 on-base percentage is pretty good. I don't care if it takes 255 hits or 100 walks to get to that amount. He is a hitter and for him to pretend to be something more would not help him, or his Seattle Mariners team.
No, he doesn't have a lot of extra base hits, but again, that doesn't detract from what he has done. Rod Carew probably had his best season in 1977. He is a Hall of Famer, so I would hope he had a few great seasons, and he did. But again, by saying that Rod Carew's best season is better than Ichiro Suzuki's record-breaking hit season is like saying Barry Bonds 2001 season was better than Mark McGwire's 1998 season. Yeah, it was, but it doesn't mean that McGwire's season wasn't pretty incredible too.
Now, I do realize that this isn't the intention of Dave, so if it sounds like that, I apologize. I just think that any time a record of any kind that lasted almost 85 years is very impressive!
Ichiro is a great player. I think it would be fair to say that he is a player unlike any other in baseball. I talk a lot about how Lew Ford gets a lot of infield hits. Ichiro is the king of the infield hit. His speed is remarkable. Last week, I saw him hit a ground ball to 1B and he beat it out. His swing is anything but pretty. He slaps the ball a lot. He does not try to hit for power. I remember people always wanted Tony Gwynn to hit for more power. Like hitting .330 every year just wasn't enough! Anyway, I have heard Gwynn himself say that he probably could have been more of a power hitter, but he felt he was at his best and best for his team if he hit more for average.
Some other Ichiro numbers that stand out to me:
When he puts the ball in play on the first pitch, Ichiro hits .451.
If he can take the first pitch for a ball, and then puts it in play on 1-0, he hits .521!
When there are runners on and two outs, he is hitting .481!
Before the All-Star break, Ichiro was very good. He was hitting .321 (119-371).
However, his numbers since the All-Star break are insane; .440 (131-298).
He hit .432 in July and .463 in August. Fell to .392 in September.
He is hitting .358 against righties... and the left-handed hitting Ichiro is hitting .412 against lefties!
WHO IS GEORGE SISLER?
We keep hearing about George Sisler's 257 hits in 154 games in 1920, but we rarely hear anything about George Sisler. Here is a quick overview.
Sisler spent 15 seasons in the big leagues, primarily with the St. Louis Browns, from 1915 to 1930. He accumulated 2,812 hits and had a career batting average of .340. In 1920, when he had 257 hits (in 154 games and 631 at bats), he hit .407/.449/.632 with 49 doubles, 18 triples, 19 homers and 122 RBI. He also stole 42 bases. I'd say that's a pretty solid season. His best season may have come in 1922 when he won the league MVP. That year, he hit .420/.467/.594 with 42 doubles, 18 triples, 8 homers and 105 RBI. He stole 51 bases. He had 246 hits (in 142 games and 586 at bats).
He was actually a player-manager for the Browns from 1924-1926. He was elected into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. His grandson, Dave Sisler, pitched in the big leagues from 1956-1962.
On that note, have yourself a great day! As always, please feel free to e-mail me about anything you've read here, or well, anything.
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