Sunday Notes: Soliciting Opinions on Some Playoff Teams

The San Diego Padres are arguably baseball’s most-exciting young team. They’re unquestionably also very good. Heading into the final day of the regular season, the A.J. Preller-built squad boasts the second-best record in the senior circuit.

How do the 2020 Padres compare to the 2013 Tampa Bay Rays and the 2016 Texas Rangers? Given their respective relationships with those earlier playoff clubs, I asked a San Diego slugger, and the team’s manager, for their perspectives.

“I don’t think there are a ton of similarities, to be honest with you,” expressed Wil Myers, who played for the 92-win Rays in 2013. “Talent-wise, I would say that this team is definitely better than that team, especially from an offensive standpoint. The pitching for the Rays was obviously really good — David Price was a Cy Young guy — but we have Dinelson Lamet, who is a Cy Young guy. We have pitchers from top to bottom. So if you compare the 2013 Rays to the 2020 Padres, I believe from a pitching standpoint it’s pretty even, but from an offensive standpoint this team is much different, and more dynamic, than that team.”

“Both teams had really good offenses,” said Jayce Tingler, who was a coach with the 95-win Rangers in 2016. “There was some really good front-end pitching that unfortunately didn’t play out into the playoffs — [Cole] Hamels and [Yu] Darvish — and I feel like this team has more depth. And no disrespect to some of the teams in the past, but I feel like this team is as close of a unit, chemistry-wise [and] energy-wise, as any I’ve been a part of. So overall, I think there’s more depth and a greater connection with one another inside the clubhouse, and certainly on the field.”

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Trevor Bauer is a stalwart on a squad that got hot just in time. Underachieving for much of the season, the Cincinnati Reds secured a postseason berth on Friday night by winning for the 10th time in their last 12 games. Armed with a formidable starting staff, they’re viewed by many as a serious threat to go deep into October despite a barely-above-500 record.

Bauer knows what it’s like to go deep into October. Four years ago, the cerebral hurler was on a team that advanced to the seventh game of the World Series. With that in mind, how do the 2020 Reds compare to the 2016 Cleveland Indians?

“[We’re] very similar in a lot of ways,” Bauer said yesterday. “In 2016 with the Indians we had a lot of very talented young players that kind of had this chip on their shoulder. Really, it was beating Detroit, because they’d beat us so bad for three or four years before that. Then we had some people in Cleveland that wrote us off towards the end of the year when Carlos Carrasco was hit with a line drive and broke his wrist. Danny Salazar was out. It was a team with a chip on their shoulder.

“We peaked at the right time. We got hot towards the end of the year — everyone was clicking on all cylinders — and we were very motivated. I see a lot of that team in this year’s Reds team. We’ve gone through our struggles, for sure, but everyone is starting to come around and play the way we all know we can play. I think we’re entering October with a much better [pitching] staff overall than what the 2016 Indians team entered the postseason with. [And] as we’ve seen, year in year out in baseball, it’s not necessarily the best team that wins. It’s the hottest team that wins.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Doug Glanville went 14 for 31 against Andy Benes.

Ron Coomer went 14 for 32 against James Baldwin.

Mark Kotsay went 21 for 36 against Jamie Moyer.

Jim Rice went 21 for 37 against Steve Stone.

Rusty Staub went 21 for 47 against Steve Blass.

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Which team has most impressed Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts this year? Not surprisingly, it was the one that outscored Boston 66-38 while winning nine out of 10 games.

“I would have to say the Yankees,” Bogarts told me on Friday. “They beat us up a lot. It sucks to say that, but their record against us was pretty one-sided. Kind of last year also, but this year definitely. Tampa is solid — they have the good pitching — but the Yankees have those big boys. If they play the way they know how to play, it’s going to be tough to beat them. It’s going to be hard, man.”

What about the National League teams he saw?

“The Braves,” responded Bogaerts. “Oooh, man. There were the three-homer-games the two guys [Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall] had against us. Yeah, that’s a powerful team. It’s a powerful lineup. They and the Yankees are pretty similar.”

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A quiz:

Since 1940, only one pitcher with 90 or more career plate appearances has posted a batting average of .300 or higher. Who is it?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez has been cleared to resume light exercise and is expected to be able to follow a normal offseason conditioning program. The 27-year-old developed myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) after testing positive for COVID-19 early this summer.

The Blue Jays have eliminated the full-time special assistant positions held by Pat Hentgen and Paul Quantrill. Also let go were Triple-A manager Ken Huckaby, pitching rehab co-ordinator David Aardsma, and pitching rehab coach Darold Knowles. (Per SportsNet’s Shi Davidi.)

Wei-Yin Chen has signed with NPB’s Chiba Lotte Marines. The former Baltimore Orioles and Miami Marlins southpaw had pitched for the Chunichi Dragons prior to coming stateside in 2012.

San Diego Padres pitcher Trevor Rosenthal has been named to the Board of Directors of the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.). The only other current player on the 17-person board is Adam Jones, who is with NPB’s Orix Buffaloes.

SABR has named Scott Carter as its new Executive Vice President. Carter recently served as the Director of Marketing and Corporate Partnerships at Camelback Ranch, in Glendale, Arizona.

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The answer to the quiz is Renie Martin. A right-handed pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, and Philadelphia Phillies from 1979-1984, Martin batted .301 in 90 career plate appearances. For those of who guessed Terry Forster, his .397 batting average came in 86 plate appearances.

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Why are the Twins a championship-caliber team? I asked that question to Caleb Thielbar, who returned to Minnesota this season after a four-year hiatus and logged a 2.29 FIP over 16 relief appearances.

“First of all, we have a lot of good players,” said the 33-year-old left-hander. “And the chemistry we have is just great; the clubhouse atmosphere is awesome. Having leaders from a diversity of backgrounds is huge in my opinion, and this team has that. Nelson Cruz is a leader, not only among the Latin players, but also for the American guys. He has a huge influence on this team.”

What about leaders on the pitching staff?

“For me personally, it’s Rich Hill,” said Thielbar. “In the bullpen, it would be Taylor Rogers. But there are so many guys that just want to see everyone do well, and are willing to help. This spring, I was having some problems with my curveball, trying to figure out a release point, and I’d been talking to Rich about it. Guess who was at my next bullpen session? This was without me saying anything to him. Rich just showed up and started helping out. That’s the kind of stuff good teams are going to have. We have a lot of that here — not just the few guys I’ve mentioned.”

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The Miami Marlins were projected to go 25-35, and instead they’ve advanced to the postseason for the first time since 2003. Moreover, they’ve done so despite a coronavirus outbreak that nearly derailed their season early on. Why has the Don Mattingly-managed club done as well as it has?

“The organization has done an amazing job the last couple years,” explained Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas. “Starting in 2018 when the new regime — the new front office — got here, they’ve done a great job acquiring talent via different means. Trades, international signings, the draft. That’s put us in a good position to build from the bottom up. It’s been the key to this team being this good this year. The organization’s depth is so much better than in years past. We lost a couple of players, battled through COVID, and still competed.”

Rojas expects the team he’s been with since 2015 to continue to compete for years to come.

“You can see how we’re set for the future, because this young talent is closer to big-league ready,” said Rojas. “Remember, last year they weren’t even close to being big-league ready. — they were in Double-A, high-A, even low-A. Guys like Trevor Rogers, Braxton Garrett, Sixto Sánchez, Jesús Sánchez, and Lewin Díaz are getting an opportunity already Having all of this talent ready to play in the big leagues this year has been really important.”

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2020 STAT NOTABLES

DJ LeMahieu heads into the final day of the season assured of winning his second batting title, and his first in the American League. The Yankees infielder is batting .348, the same mark he had when he copped the NL crown with the Colorado Rockies in 2016. LeMahieu is slashing .332/..382/.531 since donning pinstripes, essentially laying waste to the idea that his previous success could be attributed to Coors Field.

Charlie Blackmon — the subject of “Will he hit .400?” speculation back in August — heads into today’s finale with a .308 batting average.

White Sox first baseman José Abreu is slashing .333/.373/.725, with six home runs, in 75 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.

On Thursday, Yadier Molina reached 2,000 hits, 1,978 of which have come as a catcher. The only players with more hits while playing the position are Ivan Rodriguez (2,749), Jason Kendall (2,160), and Carlton Fisk (2,145). (Hat tip to Brian Walton at The Cardinal Nation for the research.)

Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Mitch Keller finished the season with 11 hitless innings over two starts. According to STATS, Keller is the first National League pitcher with back-to-back no-hit outings of at least five innings since Johnny Vander Meer threw consecutive no-hitters in 1938.

Joey Votto passed Pete Rose to become the Reds’ all-time leader in walks earlier this week. Rose drew 1,210 walks in 12,344 plate appearances as a Red. Votto reached 1,211 walks in 7,569 plate appearances.

Baltimore’s Hanser Alberto has the highest O-Swing% among qualified hitters, at 53.7. Toronto’s Cavan Biggio has the lowest O-Swing%, at 16.4.

On Monday, Toronto’s Cavan Biggio became the second player ever to reach 100 runs, 100 walks, and 20 stolen bases within his first 154 career games, The first was Jim Giliam with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953.

Tyler Austin is slashing .252/.340/.569 in 141 plate appearances for NPB’s Yokohama BayStars. The former big-league first baseman/outfielder counts 10 doubles, a triple, and nine home runs among his 31 hits

In the KBO, Kiwoom Heroes’ DH Ha-seong Kim 김하성 stole his 20th base in as many attempts, giving him his second career 20-20 season.

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Dick Hall is celebrating his 90th birthday today. A reliever for Baltimore Orioles teams that went to the World Series in 1969, 1970, and 1971, Hall played 19 big-league seasons in all, the first three as a position player. When he made his mound debut on July 24, 1955, one of his teammates was 20-year-old Roberto Clemente. I asked Hall about that, and he responded with an even earlier memory of the iconic outfielder.

“I first pitched in an intrasquad game,” recalled Hall, whom the majority of scouts had preferred as pitcher when he signed with the Pirates out of Swarthmore College in 1951 “We were in Fort Myers, which was a big park, and this skinny Latin kid comes up. He probably weighed about 165 pounds. I threw him a high fastball and he launched this long home run over the left-field fence. Hitting one over that fence was an accomplishment for anybody, and this skinny kid does that. I was like, ‘Holy cow.’ I didn’t know who he was, didn’t know his name. It was Roberto Clemente.”

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The Red Sox are relocating their Triple-A affiliate from Pawtucket, Rhode Island to Worcester, Massachusetts beginning next season. The move is bittersweet (some might say soul-crushing) as the “PawSox” have called McCoy Stadium home for five full decades. Mike Tamburro will miss the historic venue as much as anybody.

The following is per Alex Speier, from Friday’s Boston Globe:

“I’ve been mourning the whole season,” said PawSox vice chairman Mike Tamburro, who has worked with the team since 1974. “This has been a great old building. Its hallways and grandstands just echo memories of prospects coming through, fans cheering, children laughing, popcorn, and peanuts — everything that’s great about this game… For me, it’s those memories that I will savor and that I will take to my grave.

The facility currently being built in Worcester will be of high quality. Every bit as important for ownership, it will be a moneymaker. What it won’t be is McCoy Stadium. That part is a shame.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

Sports Illustrated’s Emma Baccellieri wrote about the unbridled joy of being—and watching—Fernando Tatis Jr.

USA Today’s Gabe Lacques opined that the Tampa Bay Rays may be the perfect squad for MLB’s 2020 season.

At The Los Angeles Times, Bill Shaikin wrote about how a puzzling lack of direction from owner Arte Moreno makes the Angels GM role a difficult gig.

Three players in MLB history have had the first name “Aurelio,” and remarkably they all died in automobile accidents. Ryan Fagan has the story — complete with the mathematical odds of that happening — at The Sporting News.

MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy explained how a Milwaukee Brewers pitcher had his hopes of finishing with the National League’s lowest ERA in 2000 derailed by a slide into Bernie Brewer’s beer mug.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

The first hit Nolan Ryan allowed in his career was a solo home run by Joe Torre. The last hit he allowed in his career was a grand slam by Dann Howitt.

Vince Coleman had one home run (an inside-the-parker) and 110 stolen bases in his 1985 rookie season. The following year, Coleman had no home runs and 107 stolen bases.

In 1994, Milwaukee Brewers backup catcher Rick Wrona had a six-day stretch in July where he went 5 for 8 with three doubles, a triple, and a home run. They were his only hits that year, and the three doubles came in his final big-league game.

On September 27, 1935, the Chicago Cubs extended their winning streak to 21 games by sweeping a doubleheader from the St. Louis Cardinals. The wins were No. 99 and No. 100 on the season for the North Siders, who went on to lose the World Series to the Detroit Tigers.

Jay Dahl was 17 years old when he made his only MLB appearance on September 27, 1963. A left-handed pitcher wth the Houston Colt 45s, Dahl died in a car accident less than two years later.

On September 28, 1972, New York Yankees reliever Lindy McDaniel homered off Mickey Lolich in a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers. It was the last home run hit by a pitcher in old Tiger Stadium.

Jim Derrington made his MLB debut with the Chicago White Sox on September 30, 1956, at age 16. The left-hander pitched his final big-league game the following September at age 17.

On September 30, 1951, Ned Garver got his 20th win of the season as the St. Louis Browns beat the Chicago White Sox 9-5. The Browns finished 52-102, with Garver getting 38% of the team’s pitcher wins.

Players born on today’s date include Thornton Kipper, a native of Bagley, Wisconsin, who pitched in 55 games for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1953-1955. His grandson, Jordan Kipper, has pitched in the Angels and Orioles systems.

The Cincinnati Reds’ last World Series title came in 1990. The most-obscure player on the Reds roster that year is Paul Noce, who singled in his only at bat in a Cincinnati uniform. An infielder during his playing dayS, Noce went on to spent 20 years as the head baseball coach at Hillsdale (MI) College.





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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Didn’t everybody go 14-32 against James Baldwin?