Sunday Notes: Well-Grounded, Jordan Weems Looks Back at Two Firsts

Jordan Weems was in his 10th professional season when he was featured here at FanGraphs for the first, and heretofore only, time in July 2020. His story was one of resilience, but also of change. Then 27 years old, Weems was a converted catcher soon to make his big-league debut as a pitcher for the Oakland Athletics. Drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2011 out of Columbus (GA) High School in 2011, he moved to the mound five years later after dwelling in Mendoza-line territory while wearing the tools of ignorance.

Weems is now in his third season with the Washington Nationals, and by and large he’s forged a decent career as a reliever. The 6-foot-4 right-hander has made 118 appearances at baseball’s highest level, and his numbers include 140 strikeouts in 130 innings. The first of his Ks came against Trevor Story, the first batter he faced while toeing a big-league rubber.

I recently asked the personable hurler if he ever thinks about that initial punch out.

“Absolutely,” replied Weems, who has a 3.94 ERA over 16 innings in the current campaign. “You have to kind of stay where your feet are in this game — what you did in the past is in your past — but at the same time, if you’d have told me early on in my [professional] career that I’d be a pitcher in the big leagues, I would have laughed. Looking back, what I’ve done is pretty cool.”

Weems remembers being calm when he took the mound against Colorado in the 2020 contest — but only until the umpire said “Ball’s in!’ That’s when the moment hit him. And so too did the Rockies, albeit not necessarily as hard as the box score might suggest. After fanning Story, Weems gave up a bunt hit to Charlie Blackmon, followed by three singles — two of the ground-ball variety — and a sacrifice fly.

“They scored two runs, but it was nice to get that one under my belt,” Weems said of his first big-league frame. “I knew that from there I could just go out there and do what I do.” Which he did. Weems worked two more innings that day, both scoreless.

He had to wait until last year for his first win. On June 27, he pitched the 10th and 11th innings in Seattle, and to say the W was well-earned would be an understatement.

“That was a nuts game,” recalled Weems, who was making his 66th big-league appearance. “That’s one I look back on a lot. I had two pitch clock violations with me coming set before the hitter was ready. I had the bases loaded and no outs, in extra innings, and got out of it. Then we scored two runs, I came back out and had a one-two-three inning, and I got my first win. It’s pretty cool how… I mean, everybody’s journey is different. Sometimes it takes a little longer for things to come about, but you can’t let that discourage you. You have to just go out there and what will happen will happen.”

To say that Weems has an admirable perspective on the game he plays for a living would also be an understatement. His upbringing plays a big part in that — “I’m very family-oriented” — as do his favorite off-the-field activities. Weems loves to hunt and fish, and while he enjoys bagging a trophy-size whitetail deer, what he truly relishes is the quietude of nature.

“Hunting kind of grounds me, just being out in the wilderness by myself, watching the sun rise and the world coming alive,” explained Weems. “It’s a slower pace of life. When you’re playing ball, it’s nonstop and fast-paced. Being out there settles you down and lets you take in the little things in life that are important.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Joe Charboneau went 8 for 15 against Floyd Bannister.

Joe McEwing went 5 for 13 against Kerry Wood.

Mario Mendoza went 5 for 10 against Richard Dotson.

Will Clark went 7 for 10 against Mario Soto.

Mario Guerrero went 9 for 13 against Rick Honeycutt.

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I’m currently reading Keith O’Brien’s new biography of Pete Rose, and it has only lessened my opinion of the controversial all-time hits leader. The well-researched book doesn’t pull many punches, with O’Brien opting instead to lay bare Rose’s overblown ego, multiple marital infidelities, close associations with gamblers— which began long before his rise to fame — and other tawdry behavior.

Rose’s reaction to the end of his NL record 44-game hitting streak isn’t tawdry, but it is eye-rolling. The streak ended with a ninth-inning strikeout in a lopsided game. and the fact that Atlanta Braves reliever Gene Garber fanned him with a changeup angered Rose. Garber — gasp! — had actually tried to get him out! As O’Brien related in the book, Rose cursed several times during his postgame interview, and complained that Garber had pitched to him like it was the seventh game of the World Series. He told reporters that he hoped Garber would pitch again the next day so that he could hit a hard line drive at the mound. The following day, he was still angry about a pitcher having done his job, rather than bow down to the great Pete Rose.

Pete Rose the baseball player merited respect and adulation. The same can’t necessarily be said about Pete Rose the person. O’Brien’s book — Charlie Hustle: The Rise and Fall of Pete Rose, and the Last Glory Days of Baseball outlines the reasons quite clearly.

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A quiz:

Four St. Louis Cardinals pitchers have won 20 or more games in a single season since 2000. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are two. Who are the others?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Tom Tischinski, a catcher who played in 82 games for the Minnesota Twins across the 1969-1971 seasons, died on April 23 at age 79 (per Baseball Player Passings). A Kansas City-born catcher, Tischinski logged 21 hits, one of them a home run off of Washington Senators right-hander Casey Cox.

Looking ahead, the sixth annual SABR/IWBC Women in Baseball Conference will be held virtually on September 22-24. Information can be found here.

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The answer to the quiz is Darryl Kile (20 wins in 2000) and Matt Morris (22 wins in 2001).

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Asked prior to a recent game how many pitches he was hoping to get out of that night’s starter, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash joked that the number was 170. Given his club’s well-known reliance on relievers and modern-day pitcher usage as a whole — even Koshien has cut back — such a total would obviously be unfathomable. As such, I joked back that it will probably be fewer than 170.

“I think that’s fair,” the Rays manager replied. “110, I don’t think there are many pitchers who have gotten there. I mean, the way we try to organize the rotation, with our bullpen usage, we get to that 100-pitch mark rarely. I’m not going to say we’re uncomfortable with it, but we try to stick right around that number.”

The most pitches a Rays starter has thrown during Cash’s tenure?

“If I had to guess, it would be Chris Archer at Yankee Stadium,” said Cash. “I think he threw 114 pitches.”

Cash was in the right ballpark, but the number was a tad low. Archer threw 122 pitches at Yankee Stadium on July 3, 2015, his career high.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Robinson Canó is slashing .402/.479/.588 with five home runs in 119 plate appearances with the Mexican League’s Diablos Rojos del Mexico. The 41-year-old, eight-time MLB all-star has 3,369 professional hits, including 2,629 in the majors.

David MacKinnon is slashing .347/.448/.456 with three home runs in 174 plate appearances for the KBO’s Samsung Lions. The 29-year-old corner infielder spent last season in NPB after playing in the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics systems.

Kyle Hart is 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 55-and-a-third innings for the KBO’s NC Dinos. The 31-year-old former big-league lefty — he appeared in four games with the Red Sox in 2020 — Hart spent last season with Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate.

Hiroya Miyagi is 2-4 with a 1.70 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 42-and-and-third innings for the Orix Buffaloes. The 22-year-old southpaw has 443 strikeouts and 418 hits allowed since making his NPB debut in 2020.

Roki Sasaki is 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 46-and-two-thirds innings for the Chiba Lotte Marines. The 22-year-old right-hander has a 1.95 ERA and exactly twice as many strikeouts as hits allowed (448-224) since making his NPB debut in 2021.

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The Cy Young Award was introduced in 1956, although it wasn’t until 1967 that it was given to a pitcher in each league. For the first 11 years of its existence it went to only one pitcher, with Sandy Koufax winning it three times, including in 1966 when he was by far the game’s most dominant hurler.

Who would have merited the AL Cy Young in 1966 had the award been given out in both leagues? Voters likely would have chosen Jim Kaat, who along with leading the junior circuit in innings pitched went 25-13 with a 2.75 ERA and a 3.02 FIP with the Minnesota Twins. But did Gary Peters have an even better season? The Chicago White Sox southpaw logged fewer innings and went just 12-10, but he posted a 1.98 ERA and a 2.70 FIP. And while Kaat had the edge in fWAR (6.4 to 4.2), Peters had a better bWAR (5.3 to 4.5). Moreover, along with leading the league in ERA, Peters also had the best WHIP.

Given Kaat’s sizable advantage in innings — 304.2 to 204.2 — he probably would have been more deserving. What then was the point of this thought exercise? As much as anything it was to highlight a strong season by a back-in-the-day pitcher you might not have heard of. From his 1963 Rookie of the Year season through 1967, Peters had a 131 ERA+ while averaging 15 wins annually. He also slugged 11 home runs over that five-year span, second most in the majors behind Earl Wilson (23), whose 1966 season also would have merited Cy Young consideration.

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A random obscure former player snapshot:

Steve Sisco had one home run and two RBIs in a 25-game MLB career that saw him go 5-for-27 with the Atlanta Braves in 2000. They came on the same swing, and in game-winning fashion. On May 13th, the Thousand Oaks, California native blasted a pinch-hit, two-run homer off of Scott Aldred in the 10th inning to lift the Braves to a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Thirty years old at the time, Sisco was hitless in five big-league at-bats when he delivered a memory that will last him a lifetime.

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FARM NOTES

Brett Bateman is slashing .325/.450/.404 with 26 strikeouts and 25 walks in 142 plate appearances for the High-A South Bend Cubs. The left-handed-hitting outfielder was selected in the eighth round of last year’s draft by the Chicago Cubs out of the University of Minnesota.

Frank Mozzicato has a 2.57 ERA, and has allowed just 12 hits in 28 innings, for the High-A Quad Cities River Bandits. Drafted seventh-overall by the Kansas City Royals out of Manchester, Connecticut’s East Catholic High School, the 20-year-old southpaw has walked 18 and fanned 27.

Matt Wilkinson has a 1.02 ERA and a 1.60 FIP to go with 63 strikeouts in 35-and-a-third innings for the Low-A Lynchburg Hillcats. The 21-year-old Vancouver-born southpaw was drafted 308th overall last year by the Cleveland Guardians out of Central Arizona College.

Phillip Glasser is slashing .321/.412/.482 with two home runs in 132 plate appearances between Low-A Fredericksburg and High-A Wilmington. The 24-year-old infielder/outfielder was drafted 285 overall last year by the Washington Nationals out of Indiana University.

Filippo Di Turi is slashing .359/.537/.487 in 54 plate appearances for Milwaukee’s Arizona Complex League affiliate. No. 10 on our Brewers Top Prospects list, the 18-year-old middle infielder was signed out of Venezuela in January of last year.

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Mike Scott had a five-year stretch where he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. From 1985-1989, the Houston Astros right-hander had a 89-49 won-lost record and a 2.93 ERA. A three-time All-Star over that span, he led the National League in strikeouts and won the Cy Young award in 1986.

Mike Aldrete was among the handful of hitters who enjoyed success against Scott in the righty’s prime. Playing for the San Francisco Giants and the Montreal Expos during those years, Aldrete went 10-for-28 with three doubles and a pair of home runs. I asked the now-Oakland Athletics coach about his memories of facing Scott.

“Early on, he had a fastball — and it was a good fastball — but guys hit fastballs,” recalled Aldrete. “Once he got that split — and that split was filthy — he turned into Cy Young. A lot of guys would guess split-finger and try to hit it, but my thought was, ‘I can’t hit that.’ Instead, I would guess split-finger and take. I basically waited around for a fastball.

“His split would disappear,” added Aldrete, who logged 565 hits over a relatively modest 10-year career. “What he would do is throw that 95-mph fastball, and then he’d throw the split in the same spot. One would do this and the other would do that. Sometimes it was hard to distinguish between them. His split was low-spin, almost like a forkball, so if you could recognize the lack of spin you knew it wasn’t the heater.”

Scott was thought to have doctored the baseball from time to time. According to Aldrete, that would have happened when the hurler threw his signature pitch.

“Rumor had it that what he would do is put the scuff on top,” said Aldrete. “I’m not an aerodynamics whiz, but apparently if there was a scuff on top of the ball it would go down. He’d do this when he threw his split. This was during the scuffed-ball era, so yeah, there were rumors.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

MLB official historian John Thorn profiled Retrosheet founder Dave Smith for his pioneer series at Our Game.

The St. Louis Cardinals offense has gone south since hitting coach Jeff Albert departed following the 2022 season. Josh Jacobs wrote about it at Redbird Rants.

At SaskToday, Calvin Daniels wrote about Eleanor Callow, a Winnipeg native who was one of the top power hitters in the All-American Professional Girls Baseball League while playing for the Rockford Peaches in the 1940s and 1950s.

Daniel Epstein shared a baseball-focused interview he did with recently deceased punk rock luminary Steve Albini seven years ago.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Robert Gasser — first featured here at FanGraphs in July 2022 — has allowed just one run in 11 innings since debuting with the Milwaukee Brewers on May 10. He is the first pitcher in franchise history to earn a win in each of his first two MLB appearances (per Brewers media relations director Mike Vassallo).

Chicago Cubs left-hander Shota Imanaga is 5-0 with a 0.84 ERA over 53-and-two-thirds innings in his first nine MLB starts. In 1981, Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Fernando Valenzuela went 8-1 with a 0.91 ERA over 79 innings in his first nine MLB starts.

Eight different Tampa Bay Rays relievers have been credited with at least one save this season, and the team has 16 saves in all. The Cincinnati Reds have seven saves as a team, all by Alexis Díaz who has a 7.47 ERA and a pair of losses on the season.

Philadelphia Phillies reliever Matt Strahm has a 0.95 ERA, a 0.13 FIP, and a 42.9% strikeout rate in 19 appearances comprising the same number of innings.

John Hiller allowed one run in 26 innings in his first three big-league starts, those over a 10-day span in August 1967. The southpaw pitched out of the bullpen in all but 43 of the 545 appearances (the most in franchise history) he made for the Detroit Tigers from 1965-1980.

Mark Fidrych went nine or more innings in 23 of his 29 starts in his 1976 rookie season. “The Bird” had a 10-inning outing, four more in which he went at least 11, and he also had an eight-inning complete game.

On today’s date in 1990, Rod Booker hit a two-out, three-run triple in the 11th inning to give the Philadelphia Phillies a 15-12 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The teams combined for 39 hits, with Tom Herr accounting for five of Philly’s 24.

The Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees played to a 16-inning, 2-2 tie at the Polo Grounds on today’s date in 1916. Harry Covaleski went the distance for Detroit, while Nick Cullop and Bob Shawkey went eight frames apiece for the home side. Time of game was recorded as 3:00.

Players born on today’s date include Fritzie Connally, a third baseman who played in 10 games for the Chicago Cubs in 1983, and in 50 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 1985. A Baylor University product, Connally counted three home runs among his 57 career hits, including a a pair of grand slams.

Also born on today’s date was Skippy Roberge, an infielder who played for the Boston Braves in 1941 and 1942, then missed three seasons serving in the Army before returning to the NL club in 1946. The Lowell, Massachusetts native was wounded in battle in 1945 and received a Purple Heart.





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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sadtrombonemember
25 days ago

Got 50% on the quiz. I was going to pick Matt Morris and Lance Lynn, and then I decided those were way too obvious. So threw them both out and picked Darryl Kile and Jaime Garcia, and got the same 50% as if I had gone with my original guesses.

PC1970
25 days ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Ditto. Got Matt Morris, but, figured Kile’s 20 game season was in the 1990’s & guessed Jeff Suppan who was on those great mid 2000’s teams.