Today’s print edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer included a curious article – a full-page write-up on Francisco Mejia’s 49-game hit streak which ended last night in an 0-for 4 in a loss to Winston-Salem.
Except since this is 2016 and my smart phone, which I use as anything but a “phone” and which blinks at me ceaselessly throughout the night with urgent reminders concerning Olympic news and minor league hit streak updates, had sent me a succinct update sometime before I dozed off last night that Mejia’s streak was back on after an updated scoring decision.
For those of you born before 1970 or who just like to receive as many papers on your doorstep as the PD can afford to deliver in a week, this was a fun little reminder of the limitations of print media. Pshaw, I say. Who wants to stare at yet another screen for their weekend box scores while they sip their Argentinian free trade coffee and blink away the remnant sleep in their eyes?
The PD article includes a fuzzy video clip of the play that was originally ruled an error and eventually switched to a double, apparently under stern pressure from Hillcats manager Mark Budzinski. Ignoring scorekeeping shenanigans, it’s hard to even fathom what a 50-game hit streak means, especially across two levels of A-ball. Hitting streaks are the result of both consistency and luck in parts both immeasurable.
Instead, Mejia creeps closer to the professional record 69-game hit streak of Joe Wilhoit from 1919, and is within hailing distance of Joe DiMaggio’s 61-game streak with the San Francisco Seals in the PCL in 1933.
It’s times like these that it’s fun to remember that with the Yankees in 1941, DiMaggio went on another 16-game hit streak after his 56-game streak ended in Cleveland on July 17th, meaning the Yankee Clipper hit safely in 72 out of 73 games.
The Week Ahead
Boston Red Sox (Make-up Game on Monday)
63-52, 2 GB Toronto
Remember all that ugly weather in April? Hard as it is to remember now that Cleveland has developed a combination of heat and humidity to rival anything Slocum encountered in the South Pacific, April was a brutally cold and rainy month. Monday’s game is a make-up of a 4/7 rain-out that I had long forgotten about. Bonus Red Sox visit!
Former Indian farmhand Drew Pomeranz is set to start for the Sox. Pomeranz, now with his fourth team since being traded in a 2011 package for Ubaldo Jimenez, has not been as effective in Boston as he was in San Diego. Opposing batters are hitting 100 points higher (.280 in Boston vs .184 in San Diego), his walk rate has jumped from a barely manageable 3.6 BB/9 to an ungainly 4.6 BB/9, and his K rate has gone down from 10.1 to 9.1. He’s also allowed six home runs in just five Boston starts after allowing eight in his 17 starts with San Diego.
Conventional wisdom suggests that fatigue is overtaking Pomeranz as his 127 2/3 innings this year already far exceeds his big-league high of 96 2/3 from 2012. Unfortunately for Pomeranz, it’s right into the buzz-saw which has been the Indians torrid offense the past few weeks.
The White Sox, 5-6 in August, make their first return to the Prog since getting swept in three games back in mid-June. They’ll be welcomed by Corey Kluber on Tuesday, and Kluber is on a role recently.
Since Kluber was pounded by the Blue Jays on July 3rd en route to a 17-1 drubbing, he has bounced back to his rightful position as team ace. In six starts, he’s gone 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA, allowing just 39 baserunners in 43 innings.
Projected Starting Pitchers
Tuesday, 8/16, 7:10 PM ET – Corey Kluber (12-8, 3.21) vs Jose Quintana (9-8, 2.85)
Wednesday, 8/17, 7:10 PM ET – Carlos Carrasco (8-6, 3.21) vs TBD
Thursday, 8/18, 7:10 PM ET – TBD vs Carlos Rodon (3-8, 4.32)
Toronto Blue Jays (Friday thru Sunday)
66-51, +0.5 ahead of Baltimore
The Blue Jays get their second look at the Indians this season after snapping the Tribe’s 14-game win streak back on July 2nd. The Jays thumped the Indians 17-1 the next day to salvage a split in the four-game series.
The Jays are gaining steam as the season progresses and had their best month in July at 16-8. They’ve done this with relatively little help this season from impending free agent Jose Bautista (.222/.349/.444 with 15 home runs) but have gotten huge production out of Josh Donaldson, who is hitting even better than he did in his MVP season last year, as well as LF Michael Saunders (career-high 20 home runs and 129 OPS+) and the ever-steady 3B/DH Edwin Encarnacion (30+ home runs for five consecutive seasons).
The Jays are in a dogfight for the AL East title and sit just a half game up on Baltimore and two games ahead of Boston. They have six games remaining against each of those division foes this season.
Projected Starting Pitchers
Friday, 8/19, 7:10 PM ET – TBD vs TBD
Saturday, 8/20, 7:10 PM ET – TBD vs TBD
Sunday, 8/21, 1:10 PM ET – TBD vs TBD
Around the AL Central
Detroit Tigers – Casey at the Bat
The Tigers mounted a serious run at first place in the Central before losing five straight this week and currently sit five games behind Cleveland and six back in the loss column. If the Tigers hope to have any chance of catching the Indians this season, they’ll certainly need to improve upon their 1-11 showing against their division rival in their remaining six games against the Indians.
The Tigers are looking for some lightning in the bottle from veteran Casey McGehee while third baseman Nick Castellanos is out with an injury. The 33-year-old McGehee, who’s last and really only good season was in 2010 with Milwaukee when he hit 23 home runs with 38 doubles, has been tearing it up for AAA Toledo, batting .322 with 37 doubles in 109 games. McGehee hit just .198 with San Fran and Miami last season, but could be the kind of veteran bat who could hold down the fort for a few weeks until the reinforcements arrive.
Chicago White Sox – Cuban Defections + James Shields’ Ungainly Regression
Colleen Kane’s piece about Jose Abreu in Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune was a reminder of the unique and immense challenges facing Cuban players who leave their families behind to chase their dreams in the United States. Abreu, who defected from Cuba in 2013, was able to see his five-year-old son for just the second time since he came to the US.
In other news, it’s been awhile since we’ve checked in on James Shields. As you may remember, it was noted in these very electronic pages that Shields was exceedingly terrible in his first three starts with the White Sox. Shields was pounded for 24 hits and 21 earned runs in his first 8 2/3 innings across three starts (21.81 ERA).
Shields was then largely quite effective over his next seven starts, going 3-3 with a 2.11 ERA, more importantly averaging nearly seven innings a start and allowing just a .215 batting average by opposing hitters. Well, Shields has now book-ended that run with another dreadful three-start stretch. He’s allowed 25 hits and 21 earned runs in has last 9 1/3 innings across three starts for a 20.25 ERA and a nearly perfect match statistically for his first three starts with the Pale Hose.
The White Sox retain Shields’ services for the following two seasons at the low-low price of $21 million per season. Is this a good time to remind White Sox GM Rick Hahn that Corey Kluber is owed just $18.4 M total over the next two seasons?
Kansas City Royals – Where Have You Gone, Raul Mondesi?
While the Royals look to next year and play the prospects, the Kansas City Star wrote a piece about 21-year-old shortstop Raul Mondesi, Jr. You’ll be forgiven if you did not know that Mondesi has already made history – he’s the first player to record his first Major League at bat in the World Series.
The article calls the young Mondesi’s offense a “work-in-progress” but lauds his bunting skills. As a baseball fan who came of age in the 90’s, I can’t help but remember Mondesi’s father, Raul Sr., who was known for anything but his bunting skills.
Pops Mondesi was an athletic, hard-hitting right fielder with a howitzer for an arm who made his own debut at age 22 for the 1993 Dodgers. The 1994 NL Rookie of the Year was one of the most exciting young outfielders in baseball in his LA days, posting a 122 OPS+ with a Strat-o-Matic range rating of 1 with a -5 arm. If you know Strat-o-Matic, you know you’re playing him in right everyday even if he had to bat blind-folded.
Mondesi the younger already has more career sacrifice bunts than his father, though, three to two.
Minnesota Twins – Ich bin ein Berliner
If you’ve got a few minutes as you wind down your weekend, I’d highly recommend this Star Tribune article about the Twins young outfielder Max Kepler. Indians fans probably recall Kepler as that guy who bashed three home in Cleveland on August 1st, but did you know Kepler is the rare European-born ballplayer and the son of professional ballet dancers?
Kepler, who was born in Berlin and graduated from the John F. Kennedy School in Berlin (which I didn’t know was a thing!), is one of just 44 players who were born in Germany and went on to play in the Major Leagues. He already ranks fifth all-time in home runs by German-born players with 15. Considering his promising start, it’s not hard to envision him catching Mike Blowers, who once hit 23 for the 1995 Mariners and was born in Wurzburg but graduated high school in Washington state.
Another way to consider where scouts go to source Major League talent – there have been 659 Major Leaguers born in the Dominican Republic, a 18,000 sq mi country with a population of 10 million. 44 players have come from Germany – and how many were born while a family was stationed overseas is a research project that I’m not prepared to tackle today – a country with a population over 80 million covering 137,000 square miles.
Krakatoa and Baseball
Reading through Simon Winchester’s absolutely enthralling “Krakatoa” last week, I was pleasantly surprised by a small footnote concerning baseball – quite unexpected in an otherwise geologically-focused examination of the 1883 super-volcano.
A footnote mentions an old newspaper called the New York World, as in baseball’s World Series, suggesting that the name of our national pastime’s championship series was originally sponsored by a newspaper which gave it its name. A newspaper, mind you, that was also owned by a guy named Joseph Pulitzer.
Some internet research does not bear this out, however. While the World was in print from 1860 to 1931 and the World Series did begin in 1903, there is no reference from that time suggesting that the series was named or sponsored by a newspaper. The series was called by a number of monikers for a few years before settling on the “World Series”.
Incidentally, while the name “World Series” itself invites comments about a league focused entirely in North America, I’ve always taken it to suggest the league is a collection of the best players in the world representing all countries. Certainly, the level of competition in other countries does not compare to the Major Leagues, despite what dictators in North Korea or Cuba may tell their citizens.
That argument was more difficult to make in 1903, however, when the league was more strictly North American Caucasians.
Sunday Night Matchup at Wrigley Field
Yeah yeah, I get it. Cards-Cubs at Wrigley Field is a marquee matchup and a huge rivalry and all that jazz. But come on Sunday Night Baseball! You’re the exclusive provider of the prime time game of the week and variety is not just a French boho-rock record – it is the spice of life!
Luckily enough for any readers with enough committment to read to the end of this article, I drank an extra cup of coffee and then counted through all of the Sunday night match-ups we’ve seen so far this season.
Dodgers – 7 times
Red Sox – 5
Yankees – 4
Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, Pirates – 3
Rockies – 2
Mariners, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Braves, Padres, Mets, Astros, Tigers, Royals – once
Notably absent are the Indians, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rangers and Nationals. Good thing we got the Rockies twice.
Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium – 3 times
PNC Park, Yankee Stadium, AT&T Park – 2
Busch Stadium, Turner Field, Petco Park, CitiField, Fenway Park, Minute Maid Park, Kaufman Stadium, Comerica (rained out) – once
The next three matchups through Labor Day have now been scheduled as well, which I’ve taken the liberty to include below along with my own recommendations for more interesting and rare match-ups.
Actual: Mets at Giants at AT&T Park
Would Prefer: Blue Jays at Indians or Astros at Orioles
Actual: Royals at Red Sox at Fenway Park
Would Prefer: Indians at Rangers
Actual: Nationals at Mets at CitiField (at least the Nats finally make it)
Would Prefer: Astros at Rangers or Marlins at Indians
That leaves four unscheduled Sunday Night spots open for perhaps a chance to show off exciting stories in Arlington, Toronto and Cleveland. Remember, these are teams that were expected to contend and have done exactly that, yet can’t crack the prime spot on the weekly schedule.
Submitted here are my most humble recommendations:
Red Sox at Blue Jays
Orioles at Tigers
Tigers at Indians
Yankees at Blue Jays
Nationals at Pirates
Beautifully, MLB has again scheduled every game on the season’s final day between 3:05 and 3:15 ET. This is my favorite new tradition in baseball and should never change. Good job, Rob Manfred.