Every single day of baseball is awesome. Every single game of baseball is awesome. Actually, that may not be entirely true. But at least every single game of baseball has something awesome about it. A hit, an out, an event, a player. Something is absolutely fantastic about each and every game.
At least, that's my opinion.
With that spirit in mind, I'd like to welcome you to a new daily column here at Beyond the Box Score. First Pitch is a daily celebration of baseball -- every weekday morning you can come here to our site and get a few quick information hits.
Each day we'll start with One Quick Thing -- my attempt to converse and editorialize on something baseball. It could be something about stats, or about history, or about nothing at all relevant to your interests. But it will be something. Then, in The Smallest Sample Size, we'll run down the previous day's games and a few items of note -- analytic and otherwise. If there's big MLB news to share, you should find it in Lineouts. Depending on the day, and what works over the next few weeks, I'll toss in a few other sections to mix things up a little bit. For now, you can look forward to Puig Watch.
The idea is to make this column as useful and entertaining as possible for you -- so let me know if something works especially well, or especially poorly. You hate the layout, the information, or whatever? That's fine, just leave your constructive feedback in the comments. And if you like something, it'd be helpful to know that too.
Let's be on with it, right?
One Quick Thing -- Charlie Keller
It's easy to forget about good-to-great players that aren't in the Hall of Fame ... especially if you're a younger person or non-historian. With thousands upon thousands of former players in the annals of the game, I'm always learning more about the guys I never got to see play. One of those guys is former Yankee outfielder Charlie Keller.
I stumbled across Keller's name when I was looking up the top players in MLB history by wRC+ on FanGraphs' leaderboards. Even if you're a baseball novice, you'd think you could probably predict 30 out of 30 of the top hitters in baseball history, even using a metric like wRC+ which controls for park and league. And while most of the names are the hitters you'd suspect (Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, etc.), a few surprises pop up, like Dan Brouthers, Gavvy Cravath (how did I forget about Gavvy!?), and No. 26 all-time, Charlie Keller.
Keller is probably known to Yankee fans as part of a dynamic outfield consisting of himself, Joe DiMaggio and Tommy Henrich. Though he never received the press of DiMaggio (who has the same career wRC+ of 152), Keller was a fearsome hitter in his own right, posting a career slash line of .286/.410/.516. In his best years, he was the total package, playing solid defense, legging out a handful of triples, flashing plus power and getting on base like you wouldn't believe. Keller had a career walk rate of 17.0%, one that makes Joey Votto even jealous.
Given that walks weren't looked at in quite the same way they are now, Keller probably was undervalued at the time, despite his overall prowess. He was a player with a high peak but low longevity -- he lost nearly two prime years of his career to time spent in the Merchant Marine -- and his skills were such that he sits near the border of induction in the Hall of Stats (91 Hall Rating) despite only playing 1170 career games.
Charlie "King Kong" Keller was great during his heyday, getting MVP votes and going to five All-Star games, but today he's one among many players who probably doesn't get his due among current baseball fans. He's an interesting guy to consider. What players playing today might have skills that cause them to be overlooked a bit today, but valued later on? I mean, Keller basically played ball like Joey Votto, a guy who has recently won an MVP award. And which ballplayers of today will follow in Keller's footsteps by being recognized -- at least somewhat -- during their careers, but left forgotten by the baseball fans of 2063?
The Smallest Sample Size -- Game Results for 06/30/13
Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports
Nationals 13, Mets 2
Gio Gonzalez (seven IP, seven punchouts, three hits, two walks, and no runs) completely shut down the Mets' offense, which would be a lot more impressive if it wasn't, y'know, the Mets' offense. Jayson Werth offered up a homer, a double, two walks, and an awful beard in four plate appearances. Late in the game, the Nationals just abused Brandon Lyon to the tune of five runs in the eighth. The Nats showed #natitude in climbing back above .500 on the season.
Zack Wheeler had another less-than-impressive start, which has got to bring down everyone who thought he'd be Matt Harvey 2.0. Josh Satin did his best Dave Magadan impersonation (H/T @jeffpaternostro) and Eric Young continued to show #want on defense. But the Mets are still not very good.
Position Player Pitching Alert: New York Mets backup catcher and professionally handsome man Anthony Recker pitched the ninth inning! The results: walk, (towering) home run, fly out, fly out, fly out. Still handsome.
The Marlins won this game on a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth by Jeff Mathis, who WAIT ARE YOU KIDDING ME WHAT? Jeff Mathis the third-string catcher ON THE FREAKING MARLINS? Jeff Mathis who has a career wRC+ of 49, making him one of the worst offensive players in recent memory? For one day, Jeff Mathis gets to feel like David Ortiz, and that's pretty cool. But my sabermetric side threw up a little bit in its mouth. Meanwhile, Nathan Eovaldi gave up no runs on four hits and three walks with no strikeouts, which is weird too, right?
The Padres, meanwhile, got a nice start out of Andrew Cashner and saw a fun pinch-hit dinger from Carlos Quentin. Yasmani Grandal walked three times in four plate appearances. But yeah, they lost on a Jeff Mathis grand slam, so I think they should probably pack it in for the season or move to Triple-A for a while.
The Sox walked it off against Toronto, thanks to a Josh Thole error at first base. But, since there's no reason Josh Thole should have been playing first base to begin with, I see it as a blameless error. Therefore, we can simply celebrate Shane Victorino driving in Jonathan Diaz for what it is: baseball. On an aside, I am 95% sure Jonathan Diaz is a MLB The Show Create-A-Player given life by some sort of wishing well or the like. But yeah, Adam Lind having to leave the game with a back issue might have cost the Jays this game.
Every hitter named "Jose" on the Blue Jays hit a home run, so there's that. Koji Uehara immediately blew a save as closer for the Red Sox, so just about all is right with the world.
Brian McCann homered. Freddie Freeman homered. Brian McCann doubled. Freddie Freeman doubled. I mean, Dan Uggla homered too, but Freeman and McCann were the stars of the night for the Braves. And Paul Maholm did a nice job of scattering eight hits through six-and-two-thirds innings.
Trevor Cahill basically has just one job for the Diamondbacks: induce grounders. He gave up three homers in less than five innings. Grade? F+. And Paul Goldschmidt basically drove in all his team's runs by grounding into double plays. Bad job all around, Snakes.
The Pirates will not and can not be denied. Winning in the 14th inning on a walk-off? No sweat. Leading the baseballing world in games won? Sure. No problem. 12 innings of scoreless, two-hit relief by one of the best bullpens in baseball? Of course. Russell Martin playing like an All-Star again?
Martin Maldonado, he of the 49 wRC+, was almost literally all of the offense for the Brewers yesterday. That's awful. If you want to pick out a positive from this game, how about Tyler Thornburg putting out five very solid scoreless innings of relief with four Ks, two hits, and one walk.
Rick Porcello was warned early after hitting Ben Zobrist in the first inning, but the rest of the violence in this game came at the expense of baseballs. Miguel Cabrera hit his 25th home run of the season, but the Tigers fell to the Rays in the end. Jeremy Hellickson stifled the rest of the Tigers' bats, which is par for the feast-or-famine course for Hellboy this season.
James Loney continues to show some decent hitting ability, despite dropping off after an extra-hot start to the season. He offered a double off of Rick Porcello, providing some of the team's offense. Jose Lobaton basically provided the rest, with three singles in three plate appearances.
The hero of the day is Justin Masterson, who twirled his third shutout of the season. Masterson just crushed the White Sox, striking out eight and walking just one during a complete game. I dub him the King of Sunday.
His opposition, Chris Sale, threw eight innings of his own, striking out 10 and giving up three runs. That's pretty great, just not as great as the Indians' killer app. It only took a few mis-timed doubles to Ryan Raburn and Yan Gomes to give the Tribe plenty of cushion.
Photo credit: Hannah Foslien
I'd consider this (1) a classic Royals-Twins matchup and (2) a classic Ervin Santana-versus-Kevin Correia matchup. And what I mean when I say those things is that it was a couple of bad pitching performances. Whatcha gonna do?
Royals outfielder David Lough had the game of a lifetime, pairing a solo home run with three doubles and four runs scored. That's one of the most perfect batting lines anyone could ask for, as he never made an out with the bat or on the basepaths, and always found his way home.
Angels 3, Astros 1
Break up the Angels! Despite going Trout-less, the Angels crushed their arch-rival Houston Astros (well, at least for this year) for their sixth-straight win. Howie Kendrick (3-for-4 with a triple) and Josh Hamilton (a double and two walks in four plate appearances) led the offense while C.J. Wilson gave up a single run on three hits and three walks. And, oh yeah, he struck out 10 Astros. Unfortunately for C.J. each strikeout against the Astros only counts as half a strikeout, given how easy they are to rack up.
Carlos Corporan, filling in for starting catcher Jason Castro and batting cleanup, went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. The Astros probably shouldn't try that again. At least starter Lucas Harrell pitched seven strong innings with seven strikeouts.
Both Yu Darvish and Mat Latos threw well, but Darvish and the Rangers came out on top in this one. Darvish struck out eight and walked four in six-and-two-thirds scoreless, while Latos struck out nine and walked two in the same amount of innings. But Darvish didn't give up any runs, while Latos offered up three on eight hits and an error, so there's your difference.
Youngsters Leonys Martin and Engel Beltre both went two-for-four at the bottom of the Rangers' lineup, with each also adding a stolen base. Martin in particular is proving quite valuable, racking up a .343 OBP so far this season with five homers and 16 stolen bases -- not to mention solid defense. On the Reds' side, Joey Votto had a nice game, logging two singles and a walk in four plate appearances.
The competition is very tough in the NL Central, and the Cardinals missed an opportunity by dropping the rubber match of this series against the A's. The Athletics rode the bats of Josh Donaldson (a homer, a double, and a walk in four PA) and Jed Lowrie (a single and three RBI) while roughing up Cards starter Jake Westbrook.
The Cardinals weren't ineffective at the dish, however, as Allan Craig, Matt Carpenter, and Carlos Beltran all brutalized Tommy Milone with homers. Carpenter in particular was on, adding two doubles to his homer to rack up eight total bases on the day and raise his seasonal batting line to .322/.397/.482.
Jeremy Bonderman did not look sharp on Sunday, and the Cubbies took advantage by pinning six runs on him in three-and-a-third innings in the win. The Cubs strung together a bunch of hits at Bonderman and Blake Beavan's expense, including a pair of doubles each by Darwin Barney and Alfonso Soriano. Of course, the Cubs also almost blew the game in the late innings, allowing the M's to get within a run of the lead. Because bullpens are terrible, you know.
On the Mariners' side, the aged slugging duo of Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay each hit a round-tripper at the end of the game, and now Bay is on pace to hit more home runs this season than he did during his entire Mets tenure. Ibanez, meanwhile, already has 19 homers, which is as many as he had with the Yankees all of last year. Recent callup Brad Miller looked sharp at the plate, posting two doubles and a walk in four plate appearances.
Photo credit: Stephen Dunn
Phillies 1, Dodgers 6
First, I can't believe that Stephen Fife is actually starting for a Dodgers team that had, like, twelve starting pitchers to begin the 2013 season. Second, I can't believe that Stephen Fife was dangerous against the Phillies, throwing seven strong with five strikeouts, a single walk, and no runs allowed.
Yasiel the Undeniable led the Dodgers offense, and we'll catch up on him in a little bit, but Matt Kemp and A.J. Ellis also hit well with four singles and a double between them. Also Dom Brown of the Phillies didn't reach base for the first time in about a week, ending a run of pretty great games at the dish.
The Giants let their bats free behind a solid performance by Madison Bumgarner, keeping themselves from being swept by the Rockies in Denver. Hunter Pence and Buster Posey went yard, like they are wont to do.
Michael Cuddyer has the longest hit streak in the majors this season (27 games), so if you had a prop bet on that before the season, then you probably just won a gazillion dollars. Also, no Rockie had more than one hit off Madison Bumgarner and company, but Cuddyer's and Carlos Gonzalez's (a homer!) were probably the most interesting.
Yankees 2, Orioles 4
We need to re-format the text of the Orioles' first baseman's name as cHRis davis from now on. Are you okay with this? Good. Because this is Chris Davis's time. He hit his 31st homer of the season, and continues to lead the known universe in just about every offensive statistic. He lent a small portion of his home run power to Nate McLouth and Manny Machado, who also graced Camden Yard with dingers.
Meanwhile, the Yankees got swept and Hiroki Kuroda watched his FIP swell to 3.75, which still isn't bad. Robinson Cano hit a homer, and Zoilo Almonte (still the second-best Zoilo in baseball) kept his OBP above .350, which shouldn't last all that much longer.
- Sunday was kind of a slow day for general MLB news. Peter Bourjos of the Angels is injured again, hitting the DL with a broken wrist that should keep him out for a few weeks. It's a good thing that the Halos are one of the few teams with two phenomenal defensive center fielders ... plus J.B. Shuck isn't chopped liver.
- The Orioles traded for Mariners outfielder Eric Thames in a deal that will probably have no effect on anything, ever.
- Let's twine these two threads together -- injuries and Orioles. Brian Roberts finally came off the DL again on Sunday, which is great for fans of Roberts, who seems to be constantly injured. The O's second baseman basically pulled a Manny Machado (read: all the doubles) in 2009. As good as Roberts is when healthy, I'm sure that Orioles fans are hoping that Machado finds a different career path.
Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports
Daily Stat Line: Four-for-five with two singles, a double, and a triple. Two stolen bases. One strikeout, but who cares?
2013 Season Stat Line: .436/.467/.713 -- 7 HR -- 234 wRC+
Today's Puig Status: THIS. PUIG. IS ON FIIIYYYAAAAA!!
So that's it! Don't forget to follow up with feedback, and we'll see you tomorrow!
. . .