Monday, August 31, 2009

Howie Pollet, 1943 St. Louis Cardinals

Jesus Christ. Pollet was a fucking assassin in 1943. Yeah, I know, wartime baseball was diluted, blah blah Hal Newhouser blah blah...whatever. According to Warren Corbett, Pollet was "a pitching prodigy." Well no shit! In '43, Pollet became the only player in history to throw five shutouts in 15 or fewer (14, in his case) games. Yeah. That's nasty. But that's not all. He also completed twelve of those fourteen games, compiling an 8-4 record, a 0.972 WHIP, and winning the ERA crown (he barely qualified) with an electric 1.75. Pollet joined the Air Force after the 1943 season, returning to the majors for the 1946 season and finding that he was still a pretty damn good pitcher (21-10, 2.10 ERA, fourth in MVP voting). Unfortunately, Pollet had a mediocre '47 and, despite finding some later success, his career was never fully realized. His later struggles were certainly due to a combination of prime years lost to war, arm injuries, and the generally-stronger play of integrated, post-war baseball, culminating in his retirement after the 1956 season.

5+ shutouts, 15- games

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Miguel Dilone, 1978 Oakland Athletics

Base stealers get triples, right? Lance Johnson, Christian Guzman, Jimmy Rollins, Brett Butler-mad wheels on all of them. So what the hell was going on with Miguel Dilone in 1978, when he became the only player in history to steal 50 bases without collecting a triple? I mean, he was a professional baseball player, unlike Herb Washington, the A's mid-decade designated pinch runner (1974: 92 G, 0 PA, 29 SB, 16 CS). Alright, he only had 292 plate appearances, but he did have 292 plate appearances. That's half a season and more than enough chances to take an extra base on one of his 8 doubles. Hell, in '79 Dilone collected 2 triples in 137 plate appearances. Over a full 1980 season (566 PA), he collected 9 triples! A paucity of plate appearances only explains why Dilone collected just 14(!) RBIs that year, not why he played like Pete Incaviglia on greenies.

50+ stolen bases, 0 triples

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rod Scurry, 1988 Seattle Mariners

I'd never heard of Rod Scurry before yesterday, something I now regret. How could I have never heard of King Balk? Stuck on one of the inevitably crummy pre-Griffey Seattle teams, Scurry, a 32 year-old journeyman reliever, formerly of the Yankees and Pirates, was coming off a lost 1987 season (he was in the minors, not injured). Returning to the majors, Scurry may very well have thought "wouldn't it be fun to be the first pitcher to accumulate 10 or more balks in under 35 innings?" He certainly seems to have pursued that goal, chalking up 11 balks in just 31.1 innings pitched. Surprisingly, this had little discernible effect on his ERA (4.02 - just 0.13 above his career average). Scurry was out of the majors for good after the '88 season, though. While some might blame his 1.596 WHIP, his 1992 cocain-induced heart attack death suggests other possible career complications.

10+ balks, 35- innings pitched

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Scott Williamson, 2000 Cincinnati Reds

I like Scott Williamson a lot. The 1999 All-Star and NL Rookie of the Year was a throwback to old-school Hoyt Wilhelm- and Mike Marshall- type pitchers who could toss a ton of innings in relief, serve as closer, and even start in a pinch. Williamson pitched in 110 games in his first two seasons, going 17-15 with 25 saves and 243 strikeouts over 205.1 innings. So what's the record this man among men set? Well, I'm aggrieved to tell you it is an ignominious (though perhaps incidental) one. In the '00 season, Williamson became the first pitcher to throw 20 or more wild pitches (21) in under 115 innings (112.0). Considering Williamson's very healthy career total of wild pitches (72), in over just 439.1 innings of work, this may have only been the nature of the flame-throwing beast. His 3.29 ERA and 1.491 WHIP certainly paint a confusing picture as to how effective he was. Or maybe I'm just kidding myself.

20+ wild pitches, 115- innings pitched

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hal Lanier, 1968 San Francisco Giants

Sometimes I feel like, if you wanted to manage in the Major Leagues before 1998, you'd be best served taking a few rising fastballs to the head first. I mean, you'd think that Giants manager Herman Franks, who had led his club to a 279-206 record over the previous three seasons, would have the wherewithal to look at the Twins and mutter "what the shit is Ermer doing keeping Versalles in the lineup?" Apparently this was not the case, however. Enter: Hal Lanier, 25 year-old starting shortstop and son of former All Star Max Lanier. Though Hal wasn't prohibitively terrible with the bat his rookie year (75 OPS+ in 1964), he had gotten worse each of the following three years (51, 50, 48), culminating in a 38 OPS+ in 1968. How bad is a 38+ OPS? Well, in 2008, Andruw Jones's historically terrible season gained him a 34. Meanwhile, Kenji Johjima's craptacular season yielded a 64. But Lanier's cancer bat didn't concern Coach Franks, and Lanier became the only player in history to accumulate 500 or more plate appearances (518) with an on-base percentage of .225 or lower (.222). This didn't have to be the case, but Lanier didn't want to fuck up his .461 OPS by walking more than twelve times. God, Herman Franks was a moron.

500+ plate appearances, .225- on-base percentage

A Short Introduction

As you may or may not know, I'm a very active member of the Society of American Baseball Research, a big proponent of SABRmetrics, a shameless stat-head, and a student of history.

What does that mean, practically speaking? Well, for one thing, I yearn to lay some absurd pieces of trivia on y'all. These shards of knowledge may just rock your world. Or win you a bar bet. Or be forgotten about five minutes from now. That's the thing about living in a free country - it's your choice.

Nonetheless, who are you to spurn knowledge wrought from the straining muscles and grinding gears of time? Only one can could get away with that, and his name is Tony Tarasco.