Sunday Notes: Matt Vierling Looks Back on His Two-Way Days

Matt Vierling has been swinging a hot bat with the Detroit Tigers. Over his last 11 games, the 27-year-old third baseman/outfielder is 16-for-41 with four doubles, a triple, four home runs, and 13 RBIs. His slash line over the span is .390/.435/.829 bringing his seasonal mark to a solid .292/.324/.509. While by no means an offensive force, he has nonetheless been an integral part of the lineup. Since being acquired by Detroit from Philadelphia prior to last season as part of the five-player Gregory Soto swap. Vierling has the second-most hits (175) on the team, and a respectable 106 wRC+.

Defensive versatility adds to Vierling’s value — his big-league ledger includes games at 3B, 2B, CF, RF, and LF — and there is a chance that another non-DH position could eventually be added to the list. Given the right circumstances, he might even pitch. It would be familiar territory. Vierling thrived on the mound as a prep, then was a two-way player at the University of Notre Dame from 2016-2018.

A Perfect Game showcase in Minneapolis is a standout memory for the St. Louis, Missouri native. Vierling recalls Carson Kelly’s brother, Parker, being one of his teammates, while Ke’Bryan Hayes and Josh Naylor — “I pitched against him if I remember correctly” — were among his notable opponents. Playing well against that type of talent garnered him attention from colleges and professional scouts alike, and while his bat showed promise, it was the arm that stood out the most.

“I was getting more looks to be a pitcher than a position player, so I guess that means I was a better a pitcher,” reasoned Vierling. “I had a big fastball — I was 94-95 [mph] — although I would only hold my velocity for a few innings, then it would drop down. I was also more of a thrower than a command guy, and the other stuff wasn’t really there. When I got to college, I started trying to refine that more.”

The refinement yielded middling results. Vierling put up good offensive numbers over this three collegiate season — a .300 batting average, 25 home runs, and an .849 OPS — but his pitching numbers were nothing to write home about. Over 26 relief appearances comprising 26-and-a-third innings, he allowed 37 hits and logged an 8.89 ERA.

Which isn’t to say he didn’t have his moments.

“I remember getting us out of a big jam against Florida State,” recalled Vierling, who had four wins, four losses, and two saves during his time with the Fighting Irish.”I struck out Cal Raleigh. That was a cool moment, even though I ended up going out for a second inning and giving up a walk-off hit. Another time I got us out of a big jam against Miami. It was cool to experience being a two-way guy, but to be honest, I don’t remember all that many fun pitching moments in college. It was a pretty clear that my future was as a position player.”

One who would enjoy taking the mound in pro ball?

“I haven’t done that, but I’d love to go out there and see what I’ve still got,” said Vierling. “Actually, I’d probably just do the position-player mop-up thing and throw it over the plate. I think that would more effective than if I went out there and threw 85-86 right down the middle, or tried to gas it up. They’d be ready for that.”

Any knuckleballs?

“No knuckleballs,” Vierling said to my suggestion. “I’ve never been able to figure that one out.”

———

RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Duffy Dyer went 6 for 13 against Gary Nolan.

Thurman Munson went 9 for 13 against Dyar Miller.

Stuffy McInnis went 10 for 14 against Eddie Dyer.

Jermaine Dye went 11 for 17 against Steve Trachsel.

Jimmy Dykes went 16 for 42 against Lil Stoner.

———

Yan Gomes was on the receiving end of a blowout loss at Fenway Park earlier this season. Behind the dish for the Chicago Cubs, the 36-year-old backstop called 187 pitches over eight innings in a 17-0 drubbing by the Boston Red Sox. What is it like to squat behind the plate in such a debacle? I asked the veteran catcher that question the following day.

“It’s not what you come in expecting, but it’s one of the things that’s going to happen,” replied Gomes, who has caught close to 1,000 games since breaking into the big leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012. “You just try to make sure we attack the zone and get in and out of there healthy.”

Gomes was involved in a nearly identical shellacking in 2015, and as chance would have it, it was against his current club. Gomes started behind the plate for the Cleveland Indians in a 17-0 loss to the Cubs at Progressive Field on June 17 of that year. As was the case in Boston, a pair of position players took the mound for mop-up duty.

What does a catcher do when a non-pitcher is handed the ball in those situations?

“Tell him to throw strikes,” Gomes said with a laugh. “You’re not calling pitches, you’re just letting him throw.”

———

A quiz:

The New York Yankees have hit the most home runs of any franchise in the modern era (since 1901). Which franchise has allowed the most home runs?

The answer can be found below.

———

NEWS NOTES

Riley Feltner, the younger brother of Colorado Rockies right-hander Ryan Feltner is joining the Cleveland Guardians as a Baseball Operations and Development Analyst. He recently earned a masters in Business Analytics from Miami University where he served as an assistant baseball coach.

Tony Scott, a speedy outfielder who played for the Montreal Expos, St. Louis Cardinals, and Houston Astros in a career that spanned the 1973-1984 seasons, died last Sunday at age 72. The Cincinnati native swiped 125 bases, including 37 with St. Louis in 1979.

Danny Fife, a right-handed pitcher who appeared in 14 games for the Minnesota Twins across the 1973-1974 seasons, died this past week at age 74 (per Baseball Player Passings). Drafted out of the University of Michigan by the Detroit Tigers and subsequently traded to the Twins in exchange for Jim Perry, Fife went 3-2, 5.43 over his brief MLB career.

SABR’s Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference will be held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, in Cooperstown, New York, this coming week, from June 6-9. Information on the event, which includes a virtual registration option, can be found here.

——-

The answer to the quiz is the Detroit Tigers, with 14,450 home runs allowed. The Baltimore Orioles — formed as the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901 before becoming the St. Louis Browns from 1902-1953, and then the Orioles in 1954 — have allowed the second-most as a franchise, 14,390.

———

The Tigers faced Jared Jones and Paul Skenes in a double-header this past Wednesday, and not surprisingly A.J. Hinch came away impressed with both. I asked Detroit’s manager for his thoughts on Pittsburgh’s dynamic, rookie duo prior to Thursday’s game at Fenway Park.

“They’re elite arms, both in ingredients and their composure,” replied Hinch. “I was more impressed by their composure on the mound. We hit Jones pretty well. We did not hit Skenes. But for young pitchers at this level, they held it together, competitively, very well. Their stuff is off the charts. Jones has a chance to be really, really good. His pitch mix, his velocity, his athleticism. And then Skenes came as advertised with some of the more dominant combinations that you’ll face from a young pitcher. Fastball-split was good. Slider was solid. He doesn’t really change expression. He’s as even-keeled a competitor as you’ll find. They’re going to be a problem for the NL Central.”

———-

Four fun Lou Gehrig facts:

Gehrig both drove in and scored 100 or more runs every year from 1926-1938.

Gehrig batted .350 or higher in six seasons, yet one just one batting title.

Gehrig had 102 stolen bases and was caught stealing 102 times.

Gehrig started at four different positions during his consecutive games (2,130) streak. Along with his regular first base position the Iron Horse started one game each in left field, right field, and shortstop. His game at short, on July 14, 1934, comes with a caveat. Gehrig was on the lineup card at that position in a game played in Detroit, and after he singled in the top half of the first inning he was replaced by a pinch runner.

———

EARLY-JUNE STATISTICAL SNAPSHOTS

New York Yankees southpaw Carlos Rodón has allowed 10 home runs this season, all of the solo variety.

Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani came into this weekend with 221 at-bats apiece. Soto had 41 singles, 15 home runs, and 41 runs scored. Ohtani had 40 singles, 14 home runs, and 41 runs scored.

San Diego Padres reliever Jeremiah Estrada has fanned 18 of the last 24 batters he’s faced. The 25-year-old right-hander has a 45.9% strikeout rate to go with a 0.53 ERA and a 1.48 FIP over 17 innings on the season.

Seth Lugo is 9-1 with a 1.72 ERA.
Ranger Suârez is 9-1 with a 1.75 ERA.
Tanner Houck is 5-5 with a 1.85 ERA.

The Padres have 12 bunt hits, the most of any team. The Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, and Oakland Athletics are the only teams without a bunt hit.

The Atlanta Braves are the only team without a sacrifice hit. The Chicago White Sox have 10 sacrifice hits.

The Boston Red Sox have gone 9-0 on Sundays.

———

Which of Francisco Lindor and José Ramírez has had the better career to date? I asked that question in a Twitter poll on Friday, and the result was a rout. The Cleveland Guardians third baseman garnered 85.3% of the votes cast, while the New York Mets shortstop received just 14.7%.

Let’s compare a few of their numbers, with Ramírez listed first:

5,654 PAs, 1,390 hits, 232 HR, 211 SB, 129 wRC+, 47.4 fWAR.
5,686 PAs, 1,377 hits, 224 HR, 164 SB, 118 wRC+, 48.4 fWAR.

Ramírez winning the poll is perfectly reasonable — he would have gotten my own vote — but at the same time, 12.6% for Lindor is strikingly low. Moreover, it is somewhat ironic. Ramírez was underrated for years, while Lindor — Ramírez’s teammate in Cleveland from 2015-2020 — was seen as a shining star. Is it now Lindor who is underrated?

———

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks have NPB’s best record at 33-15-2. The Seibu Lions have NPB’s worst record at 18-33-0.

Tokyo Yakult Swallows catcher Yuhei Nakamura has 17 sacrifice hits this season, the most in NPB. The Swallows have 51 as a team (in 50 games), also the most in NPB.

The Kia Tigers have the KBO’s best record at 35-21-1, The Lotte Giants have the KBO’s worst record at 21-32-2.

Kia’s Hai Young Jung has a KBO-best 16 saves to go with a 2.63 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 24 innings. The 22-year-old right-hander had 89 saves over the previous three seasons.

Jack O’Loughlin became the 38th Australian-born player in MLB history when he debuted with the Oakland Athletics last Sunday. The 24-year-old left-hander is from Adelaide, South Australia.

———

A random obscure former player snapshot:

Jo-Jo White isn’t as famous as the late NBA star with the same moniker, but his career was nonetheless notable. Born Joyner Clifford White in Red Oak, Georgia, the speedy centerfielder played for the Detroit Tigers from 1932-1938, and later for the Philadelphia Athletics and the Cincinnati Reds in 1943-1944. Known as a hard-nosed aggressive baserunner, he had his best season in 1934 when he batted .313 and stole 28 bases, helping lead the Tigers to the first of back-to-back pennants. The following year, Detroit won the World Series for the first time. White’s final professional season came in 1949 with the Pacific Coast League’s Hollywood Stars. His son, Mike White, played for the Houston Colt .45s/Astros from 1963-1965.

———

FARM NOTES

Dylan Crews is slashing .271/.349/.459 with four home runs in 153 plate appearances for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators. The 22-year-old outfielder was drafted second overall last year by the Washington Nationals out LSU.

Max Clark is slashing .275/.385/.369 with two home runs in 192 plate appearances for the Low-A Lakeland Flying Tigers. The 19-year-old outfielder was drafted third overall last year by the Detroit Tigers out of Franklin (IN) Community High School.

Kyle Karros is slashing .299/.391/.437 with three home runs in 192 plate appearances for the High-A Spokane Indians. Drafted in the fifth round last year out of UCLA by the Colorado Rockies, the 21-year-old this baseman is the son of former big-league slugger Eric Karros.

Nikau Pouaka-Grego is slashing .293/.404/.439 in 100 plate appearances for the Low-A Clearwater Threshers. The 19-year-old infielder from Christchurch, New Zealand was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in January 2022, He missed last season due to a knee injury.

Samuel Aldegheri is 3-3 with a 2.51 ERA and a 2.76 with 55 strikeouts in 43 innings for the High-A Jersey Shore BlueClaws. The 22-year-old left-hander from Verona, Italy was signed by the Phillies in July 2019. The last Italian-born pitcher to appear in a big-league game was Marino Pieretti, in 1950.

———

The Pittsburgh Pirates fell to the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 in 14 innings on Friday night, and not only was it MLB’s second-longest game by innings since the zombie runner was introduced (the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres played a 16-inning marathon in 2021), it included a first-time-in-over-a-century offensive dearth for the losing side. Listening on Pirates radio, I learned that Pittsburgh batters were without an extra-base hit and had drawn just one walk. That hadn’t happened to them in a game this long since the dead-ball era.

Checking the record books, I later learned that the bygone game in question was played on July 28, 1910. Sans an extra-base hit, nor drawing a walk, the Pirates outscored the Cincinnati Reds 4-2 in 14 innings. The Reds also didn’t have an extra-base hit that day.

While I was listening to Pirates-Blue Jays on Friday — while walking home from a comparatively-nondescript game at Fenway Park — a crazy eighth inning was taking place in Kansas City. Rallying from a 3-2 deficit, the San Diego Padres tallied 11 hits, including seven in a row, while putting up a nine-spot against the Royals. I wasn’t tuned in for the onslaught, but I subsequently heard a nearly-as-crazy bottom of the ninth inning after switching over to Padres radio when the game in Pittsburgh ended.

Trailing 11-3, the resilient Royals stroked seven hits, four of them with two outs, and pulled within 11-8. Nelson Velázquez, who was representing the tying run, then drove a ball 385 feet to left-center, a blast that would have left the yard in 21 of MLB’s 30 ballparks. It was caught for the final out.

Baseball is fun.

———

LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

Vince Guerrieri compiled an oral history of 10 Cent Beer Night — the infamous June 4, 1974 debacle that resulted in the Indians’ forfeiting a game — for Cleveland Magazine.

Zack Meisel wrote about longtime Cleveland Indians/Guardians radio play-play announcer Tom Hamilton for The Athletic (subscription required).

MLB official historian John Thorn gave us a detailed look at the first findings from the Negro Leagues Statistical Review Committee.

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince wrote about how baseball’s record book changing is nothing new.

At Andscape, Clinton Yates wrote about how the Negro League stats update by MLB is a sobering reminder of the challenge to maintain Black History.

———

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Hall of Fame catcher Josh Gibson made his professional debut in 1930 with the Memphis Red Sox, a team skippered by Candy Jim Taylor, who managed the most games in Negro League history. Taylor also played in the Negro Leagues, as did three of his brothers, including Steel Arm Johnny Taylor.

Seattle’s Cal Raleigh has 70 career home runs and is one of just nine catchers in MLB history with 70 or more in his first four seasons. Mike Piazza has the most among the bunch with 92.

Detroit’s Jack Flaherty’s holding Boston hitless for six-and-a-third innings on Thursday served as a reminder that you have to go all the way back to June 20, 1958 for the last time the Red Sox were no-hit at Fenway Park. It was a Tiger who turned the trick. In the first game of a Sunday double-header, Jim Bunning threw the first of his two career no-hitters, with Al Kaline catching a Ted Williams fly ball for the final out.

Ty Cobb had 619 hits, 176 walks, and 286 RBIs vs the New York Yankees. He had 615 hits, 175 walks, and 287 RBIs vs the Boston Red Sox.

Willie Stargell had 2,232 hits, 4,190 total bases, 1,540 RBIs, and a 145 wRC+.
Willie McCovey had 2,211 hits, 4,219 total bases, 1,555 RBIs, and a 145 wRC+.

On today’s date in 1998, the Atlanta Braves beat the Milwaukee Brewers 9-0 in a game where each team had a dozen hits. Forty-four-year-old Dennis Martinez went the distance for the 12-hit shutout win.

On today’s date in 1925, Ty Cobb hit a walk-off home in the ninth inning to give the Detroit Tigers a 16-15 win over the Chicago White Sox. Cobb went on to finish the year with a .378 batting average, the 10th highest of his Hall of Fame career.

Players born on today’s date include Lemmie Miller, an outfielder whose brief MLB career saw him go 2-for-12 with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1984. His first hit came off Jerry Koosman. The second was against Bill Campbell, after which Miller motored around the bases to score his lone big-league run.

Also born on today’s date was Gene “Stick” Michael, who became a longtime executive with the New York Yankees after a playing career that spanned the 1966-1975 seasons. A shortstop who saw action with the Pirates, Dodgers, Yankees, and Tigers. “Stick” was signed as a free agent by the Red Sox prior to the 1976 season and was on Boston’s active roster from April 9-May 4 without appearing in a game.

Another player born on today’s date is a pitcher who from 1963-1969 was one of the top starters in the National League. Over that seven-year span, Cincinnati Reds right-hander Jim Maloney went 117-60 with a 2.90 ERA, throwing two no-hitters along the way. Then fate intervened. With his 30th birthday still in front of him, Maloney incurred an injury early in the 1970 season and never won another big-league game.





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.

18 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
PC1970
18 days ago

Trivia beat me today. I guessed the Boston Red Sox due to Fenway Park. 2nd choice was Philadelphia Phillies because they were a struggling franchise for a long time.

Should have realized Detroit also played in a HR friendly park, Tiger Stadium, for a long time.

Left of Centerfield
18 days ago
Reply to  PC1970

Went with the Cubs since they’ve tended to be bad and also played in a pitcher’s park. Would be interesting to see the full list of teams. Looks like you can get it from BR’s Stathead but I don’t have a subscription.

MikeSmember
18 days ago

I also thought maybe Boston or the Cubs for the same reasons you and PC1970 did. I went with the Red Sox because they played the Yankees regularly and figured they gave up enough longballs to them to give them the edge.

You can get the list on Fangraphs by playing with the filters on the team stats page. Here’s what I got.

https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders/major-league?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=y&type=0&month=0&ind=0&rost=0&players=0&team=0%2Cts&sortcol=18&sortdir=default&pageitems=30&startdate=&enddate=&season1=1901&season=2024

I briefly thought it might be a trick question and the Yankees would also be the leader for this. The page I linked to doesn’t even list the Yankees because they were the Baltimore Orioles in 1901 and it lists teams by who they were originally. That makes the list look weird in a fun way. Seattle is on the list twice – Mariners and Brewers nee Pilots. Washington is also on the list twice, but neither one is for the Nationals. Once for the Senators becoming the Twins and then for the Senators becoming the Rangers. The Nationals are listed as Montreal.

Anon
18 days ago
Reply to  PC1970

I guessed Baltimore/St Louis because the Browns were REALLY bad for a long, long time before moving to Baltimore. But I could have seen going with 3 or 4 different teams.

mordecaiconstant
18 days ago
Reply to  Anon

Orioles/Browns guess for me too – really bad for a long time AND over a century of playing in the same league/division as the Yankees.

synco
17 days ago
Reply to  PC1970

I guessed the Detroit Tigers, with the Orioles as my backup. Guess it’s time to go by some lottery tickets.