Sunday Notes: Giants Rookie Caleb Baragar Is Gobbling up a Lot of Decisions

The San Francisco Giants have 23 wins on the season. One week ago today they won for the 20th time, with the decision going to Caleb Baragar. It was the rookie left-hander’s second W in two days, and his fifth on the year to go with one loss. This isn’t 1972 Steve Carlton we’re talking about either. Baragar is a reliever who has pitched all of 17-and-two-thirds big-league innings.

Has a pitcher ever recorded six decisions — moreover five wins — in so few innings to begin a career? I wasn’t able to find an answer in time for this column — a call to the Elias Sports Bureau went for naught — but there is a pretty decent chance that Baragar holds a unique distinction.

The 27-year-old Jenison, Michigan native is taking his newfound habit of gobbling up Ws with a grain of salt.

“It’s a stat — ‘winning pitcher’ — that doesn’t always tell the whole story,” said Baragar, who has received some good-natured ribbing from Giants starters. “It’s not something where I’m walking around saying, ‘Hey, I have five wins in the big leagues.’ For me, they’re important because the team won, and this is a shortened season where every game matters. It’s by no means a personal stat that I’m holding my hat on.”

The first of his wins came in his big-league debut on August 25. Notably, it came against the best team in baseball. Having no fans in the stands worked to his advantage.

“Giants-Dodgers is obviously a huge rivalry,” said Baragar. “We were in Dodger Stadium, on a Saturday, and it would have been a whole lot louder if the place was packed with fans. In a way, it almost felt more like a spring game than an actual regular-season game. I was way calmer than I expected to be, and I think that was a big reason why.”

Baragar entered in the fifth inning with the Giants up 5-1, and proceeded to pitch two clean frames in a game that finished 5-4. Aware that a starter needs to go at least five to qualify, he assumed he was in line for the win.

He was also in line for a celebratory ritual.

“For your first win in the big leagues, they throw you in the laundry cart and pour beer all over you,” explained Baragar. “They kind of did it from far away because of COVID, but I still got the treatment. They threw beer on me in the shower, too.”

An equally-enthralling experience came two days before the start of the season. Baragar was called into manager Gabe Kapler’s office, and the news he received came as a surprise.

“It was crazy,” said Baragar, whom the Giants drafted in the ninth round out of Indiana University in 2016. “I assumed it was going to be your typical exit meeting, the only difference being that it was from summer camp. Instead, they told me that I’d made the team. I remember having a mask on and being really happy that I did — nobody could see my jaw drop to the floor.”

Seven weeks later, Baragar has the most wins on a team competing for a playoff berth. With the six decisions in 17-and-two-thirds innings, he may also have an obscure big-league record. Further research is required.

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Matt Foster’s habit of being in the right place at the right time to log wins was chronicled here at FanGraphs nine days ago. The rookie reliever was 4-0 in 17 innings at the time, his ERA a stingy 1.59. Not mentioned in the article was his best offering, which he’s been utilizing at a 37.3% clip.

“I throw a two-seam kind of changeup, but when I release the ball it’s spinning on a sideways axis and breaks down to the right,” explained Foster. “A lot of guys throw changeups that fade — it runs to their arm side — and while mine will do that occasionally, the majority of the time it’s kind of like an opposite slider.”

Foster went through “six or seven” changeup grips before he found one to his liking, his admittedly small hands making the quest a bit more challenging. As for the movement he gets, that’s God-given with maybe a hint of a twist.

“I mostly just let the grip do the work,” claimed Foster. “The only thing I do is concentrate on throwing it downhill, and I try to push my back foot into the ground as hard as I can when I throw it. For whatever reason, that works for me.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Home Run Baker went 0 for 7 against Lew Brockett.

Lou Brock went 10 for 41 against Ernie Broglio.

Greg Brock went 9 for 25 against Mike Boddicker.

Brock Davis went 5 for 17 against Steve Blass.

Brock Holt is 11 for 17 against Dylan Bundy.

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With space considerations in mind — the interview ultimately comprised 2,200 words — quite a bit was left out from last week’s conversation with Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster Joe Block. Given a pair of Milwaukee Brewers pitching performances that have since ensued, a few of those cuts merit mention here. In short, Block called Brandon Woodruff “a legitimate ace, or close to that.” He also suggested that Corbin Burnes “looks like he might be on his way to being special.”

In the days following Block’s comments, Burnes threw seven one-hit inning with 11 strikeouts, while Woodruff threw seven one-hit innings with 12 strikeouts. Neither walked a batter, nor allowed a run.

Unrelated to his prescient pitching observations, Block also weighed in on former Pirate — and current Philadelphia Phillies — outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

“He’s one of the handful of Major League Baseball players whose off-the-field talents come close to matching his on-the-field talents,” Block told me. “He’s a great artist. He’s funny. He’s thoughtful and engaging. He’s got things to say that people ought to listen to. That combination is special. There are very few players in baseball today, at least that I know of, who are like that. “

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A quiz:

In the modern era, only one pitcher with at least 50 career plate appearances has a batting average higher than .330. Who is it?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Effa Manley, former owner of the Negro League Newark Eagles and the only woman elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, has been honored with SABR’s Dorothy Seymour Mills Lifetime Achievement Award. Information can be found here.

Junior Noboa has been appointed baseball commissioner of the Dominican Republic (per ESPN’s Enrique Rojas).

Mark Newman, who played a significant role in the New York Yankees organization from 1989-2014, died earlier this week at age 71. Newman primarily worked in scouting and player development.

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The answer to the quiz is Terry Forster. A left-handed pitcher for five teams from 1971-1986, Forster had 31 hits in 78 at bats for a .397 average. All told, he came to the plate 86 times.

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2020 STAT NOTABLES

The Twins have been charged with 14 errors, the fewest in the majors. The Pirates have been charged with 40 errors, the most in the majors.

The Mets’ Michael Wacha has a .408 BABIP, the highest among pitchers with at least 20 innings. Toronto’s Thomas Hatch has a .119 BABIP, the lowest among pitchers with at least 20 innings

Tampa Bay’s Willy Adames has a .442 BABIP, the highest among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. Adames’s Tampa Bay teammate Hunter Renfroe has a .134 BABIP, the lowest among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances.

Red Sox rookie Bobby Dalbec has six home runs, four singles, four walks, and 20 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances. His TTO rate is 70%.

Red Sox rookie left-handers Matt Hall and Kyle Hart have combined to throw 19-and-two-thirds innings this year. They’ve allowed 41 hits, 20 walks, and 39 runs.

Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola and Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo both logged their first career complete game on Friday. The two have combined to make 223 big-league starts.

Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera got his first stolen base since 2015 on Friday. The future Hall of Famer has 39 career steals, one more that Manny Ramirez, and nine more than Joe DiMaggio.

Matt Moore has won two of his three decisions for NPB’s SoftBank Hawks. The former MLB southpaw was on the mound for Friday’s 4-2 win over the Seibu Lions.

Tatsunori Hara got his franchise record 1,067th win as Yomiuri Giants manager. An infielder for the Giants from 1981-1995, Hara had homered 382 times during his playing career.

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Deion Sanders scored on a 68-yard punt return for the Atlanta Falcons on September 10, 1989. Five days earlier he’d homered for the New York Yankees. Playing in his first NFL and MLB seasons, ‘Neon Deion’ quickly established himself, along with Bo Jackson, as the most-prolific two-sport star of our lifetimes.

Sanders went on to have far more success on the gridiron, as evidenced by his 2011 election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On the diamond, he amassed a modest 6.2 WAR over parts of nine seasons.

How good could he have been had he devoted himself to baseball? We’ll never know, but in the opinion of Buck Showalter, Sanders’ ceiling was sky high.

“He could have done about just about anything he wanted to,” opined Showalter, who managed Sanders in the minors, and coached him in the majors. “He was on a different level of foot speed than anybody I’d ever seen. He had some pop. He could throw. He didn’t bail on left-handed pitching. And he also had a big competitive button. From my perspective, Deion was baseball’s loss.”

Is there a chance that Sanders would have foregone football?

“There was a deal to be done,” said Showalter. “He was ready to walk away if somebody would have stepped up and fully committed him to baseball.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At CBC News, Karin Larsen told us about an 83-mph pitch pitch thrown by a 15-year-old girl at a high-performance camp in Surrey, British Columbia.

At The Seattle Times, Ryan Divish delved into whether J.P. Crawford is trending toward being the Mariners’ long-term solution at shortstop.

Former White Sox pitcher Richard Dotson learned a family secret that ties him to erstwhile Phillies hurler Turk Farrell. Jayson Stark has the story at The Athletic.

New Jersey Advanced Media’s Randy Miller wrote about how Somerset, currently the home of an independent league team, might replace Trenton as the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate.

Holly Horning wrote about Miguel Cabrera and the Clemente Award at Totally Tigers.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Bob Gibson hit 18 sacrifice flies, the most for a pitcher in the modern era. Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, and Jeff Samardzija have four sacrifice flies, the most among active pitchers.

Eddie Plank was hit by a pitch 24 times, the most of any pitcher in the modern era. Plank hit 196 batters, the second-highest total behind Walter Johnson’s 203. Johnson was hit by a pitch 13 times, which is tied for seventh-most among pitchers.

Walter Johnson had 15 strikeouts in a game twice in his career, once as a starter and once as a reliever.

Larry Rothschild made seven big-league pitching appearances, the first on September 11, 1981 and the last came September 11, 1982. All came with the Detroit Tigers.

On today’s date in 1953, Bob Trice became the first Black player in A’s franchise history. Making his MLB debut, the former Homestead Grays hurler took the loss as Philadelphia fell to the St. Louis Browns by a score of 5-2.

Willie Mays hit his 500th career home run on this date in 1965. Frank Robinson hit his 500th career home run on this date in 1971.

Players born on this date include Eddie Rommel, who once allowed 14 runs in a relief outing… and got the win. Pitching for the Philadelphia A’s against the Cleveland Indians on July 10, 1932, Rommel worked the final 17 frames as the A’s prevailed 18-17 in 18 innings. It was Rommel’s only win that season, and the last of the 171 he accumulated in his career.

Rebel Oakes played for the Federal League’s Pittsburgh Rebels in 1914 and 1915. Prior to jumping leagues, Oakes manned the outfield for the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals from 1909-1913.

Pittsburgh’s NFL franchise became known as the Steelers in 1940. From 1933-1939 they played as the Pittsburgh Pirates.

To close, a great Stan Musial fact from Jeremy Frank and Jim Passon Jr’s Hidden Ball Trick: The Baseball Stats You Never Thought to Look For, Vol 2: In 1943, Musial batted .357 while the MLB-average position player posted a slugging percentage of .356. He’s the most recent player to post a higher batting average than the league-wide slugging percentage.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Jballin
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Jballin

I would certainly defer to Elias, but using Baseball Reference’s Stathead tool to the best of my (admittedly limited) ability, I can’t come up with any other name than Caleb Baragar.