Baseball Esoterica

September 30, 2005


In a span of a month, Washington was involved in four crazy, almost spookily similar games.

On August 20, they couldn't solve Pedro Martinez. Meanwhile, the Mets built an 8-0 lead. As soon Pedro left after six, though, the Nats mounted a dramatic comeback to tie the game and take to extras. They promptly lost in the 10th. Sigh.

Then, 12 days later, John Smoltz and the Braves roared out to a 7-1 lead. After Smoltz left after five, still up 7-3, Washingon beat up on the bullpen again and tied the score. On to extra innings again! They then promptly lost in the 10th. Choke!

Fast forward 10 more days. That same John Smoltz and those same Braves build a 6-0 lead over these feisty (g)Nats. After Smoltz leaves, still up 6-2, the Nats, jump on the bullpen (yet again!) in the eighth and take the lead 7-6. They didn't even need extra innings this time. They promptly gave up two homers in the ninth, and lost 9-7. I mean, come on!!

Six days later, they tried a variation on the theme.

On September 17, San Diego couldn't touch Washington starter Hector Carrasco, who left with a 5-0 lead. In the ninth, the Pads came back against the Nats' bullpen and tied the game. On to extra innings! Now you know the Nats must be experts at this by now. They're figuring that it must be their turn to pull out the rug. Funny story...they give up a homer in twelfth, and lose 8-5. Scream!!!

Has another team ever experienced such unbelievable frustration? I'm not sure, but I'll try to figure that one out...

September 28, 2005

Craps, Anyone?

The Orioles achieved an admirably estoeric feat last night against the Yankees: each of their first six batters drove in a different number of runs. Check it out:
Slot   Player    RBI's
1 Castro 0
2 Mora 5
3 Tejada 3
4 Gibbons 4
5 Surhoff 2
6 Lopez 1
(This reminds me of when Garret Anderson did this on his own. In six games between June 3 and June 8, 2003, Anderson drove in four, five, two, zero, three, and one runs. Cool, eh?)

And to make it just a little bit better, Gary Sheffield of the Yanks drove in six runs. Now, how many games have had different players drive in one, two, three, four, five, and six runs? Not many, I'm sure.

Also, twice in this game did one team score at least five unanswered runs after the other team scored at least five unanswered runs: After the Yanks scored the first run, Baltimore went up 5-1, then the Yanks took a 7-5 lead, then the O's came back with six to make it 11-7. What made it even more fun was that each set happened over two innings.

Extra Esoterica:
And even more esoterically, Javy Lopez, in his five plate appearances, managed to get exactly one hit, drive in one run, score one run, strike out once, and walk once. And just for good measure, he allowed one stolen base.

September 27, 2005

Below Average Bonus

Loyal reader Will noticed another esoteric fact about our good friend Ryan Zimmerman: of his 16 hits this season, seven are doubles. Is that special?

Well, it depends how you look at it. Since 1920, a player has had at least as many hits and doubles as Zimmerman 25 times. That number drops to 17 if pitchers are excluded. To his credit, no player has ever hit more than four doubles in a season with his number of at-bats (38). The fewest at-bats in a seven-double season is 41, by the amazing Rudy Pemberton. In 1996, he went an other-worldly 21-for-41 (.512) with eight doubles. This guy had a .336 career average over three seasons, believe it or not. What's the highest...ahh, I'll save that for another day.

I'll revisit Mr. Zimmerman after the season's over...

September 26, 2005

Below Average

Currently, Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals is in the odd state of having his on-base percentage (.400) being 12 points lower than his batting average (.412). Um, how can this happen? You pretty much have to never walk or get hit by a pitch, but hit a sac fly. Should he keep this up he'll be joining some elite company...really!
  • The only non-pitcher to keep this up with more than Zimmerman's number of at-bats (34) is Dante Bichette in his rookie year, 1988, when he hit .261, but only managed a .240 OBP in 46 at-bats. How'd he do that? Try no walks or HBP's, and four sacrifice flies! Other rookie notables: Don Mattingly (.167, .154), Bruce Bochy (.214, .205), and Joe Crede (.357, .333). And, I swear, John Shave and Razor Shines.
  • The player to pull this off with the most at-bats is San Francisco utility-infielder Ernie Bowman. In 1963, he batted .184 in 125 at-bats, while only compiling a .181 OBP.
Extra Esoterica:
Dante Bichette only had four other RBI's in 1988, meaning that sacrifice flies accounted for 50% of them. Believe it or not, this is not the "record". In 1979, Rance Mulliniks (one of my all-time favorite baseball names) hit five SF's, but only compiled three other ribbies in his 68 official at-bats. And since we're here, I might as well tell you that the player with the most RBI's, all of which came from sac flies was Mark Leonard in 1993 with three.

September 23, 2005

The Big 1-2 Punch

On September 7, Florida managed to score 12 runs without ever plating more than a couple in an inning (1 0 2 2 1 2 2 0 2). That is just one off the Esoteric record of 13, by those wonderful 1999 Colorado Rockies (1 1 1 1 2 1 2 2 2).

It's happened only three other times:
  • 8/16/80, Texas: 2 1 1 2 1 2 0 1 2
  • 7/1/99, Pittsburgh: 1 2 2 2 2 1 0 2 x
  • 4/19/03, Oakland: 0 2 2 2 1 2 1 2 x
Extra Esoterica:
Honorable mention goes to Oakland, who on 6/27/84 barraged KC pitching with eight scoring innings, but only nine runs: 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 0 1.

This Florida game was also part of my post Company In Seventh Heaven.

September 22, 2005

Phils Do a Vanessa Williams?

Welcome Esoteric Boxscore fans! Ready for some more Esoterica?

Vanessa Williams once sang about saving the best for last, which the Phils sure did on Saturday. But stay tuned...she has a very meaningful, I mean, meaningless connection to doing just that.

After scoring exactly zero runs on exactly three hits in exactly eight innings, the Phils--with significant help from exactly four Marlins errors--put up a ten-spot in the ninth! Watch the inning here.
PHI  0  0  0   0  0  0   0  0 10  -  10 11  1
FLA 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 - 2 7 4
Yikes. Believe it or not, Dontrelle actually began the ninth looking for a shutout and his 22nd win. And it looked like a foregone conclusion after allowing only three baserunners through eight. Here's one for Elias: When was the last ten-run inning started by a pitcher was as many as 21 wins??

Twice in the past 35 years, a team awoke from an eight-inning slumber with a huge ninth, scoring eight each. And here's where the creepy Vanessa Williams connection comes in.

The last time it was done was 22 summers ago, in the year Ms. Williams was crowned. And on what day that year was she annointed America's ambassador to the world? Why, it was on September 17, the date the Phillies just did it. Wow. You know, it just doesn't get any more Esoteric than that!

A few more notes on the game:

  • Endy Chavez and Shane Victorino entered the game in the ninth as pinch-runners. And then Chavez nearly got up to bat with no outs! I wonder if that’s ever happened. He hit an RBI single and finished with the batting line 1 1 1 1, which is the “I hit a pinch-hit homer” line. I wonder if it’s ever been done his way. Not to be outdone, Victorino (isn’t that a sub-atomic particle? Or what the Italians yell when they kick the winning goal?) composed tough-to-do batting line of 0 1 0 1. It’s not easy to go 0-0 with a run and an RBI! The only other way I can think of is if, in your only AB of the game, you:
    • draw a bases-loaded walk or HBP and then score.
    • get on base on a dropped fly ball ruled a sac fly and then come around to score.
  • Here's a quote from the game article on ESPN:
    "The stunned Marlins fell two games back with their fourth consecutive loss -- and the latest was the kind that can have a lingering effect."
    Why won't journalists ever give up on the idea of momentum? They'll remember Gibson's homer that "set the tone" for the '88 Series, but not the '96 Braves, whose postseason was absurdly streaky. Of course, Florida came out and beat the Phils the next day. By eight runs.

September 21, 2005

Most Unlikely Hitting Streak Ever?

Last night, as Elias reported, Jimmy Rollins became the third player to advance a 25+ game hitting streak with two outs in the ninth. Wow. But here at Baseball Esoterica, we like to take things a step further. To me, that factoid begged the question: what were the chances of Rollins continuing it? How unlikely was it, really?

If he was the scheduled third batter of the inning, then it's actually no big deal. In that case, he would have had approximately a 25.9% chance (percentage of plate appearances with a hit), or 1 in 4. Not that high, but certainly nothing to get excited about.

But that's not what happened. He was scheduled fifth up. His chances still weren't that great--two of the first four guys had to get on and then he had to get a hit...around a 1 in 13 shot.

But then the screws were turned...the first two batters made outs. And the next two guys up were Mike Leiberthal and Michael Tucker, both with sub-par OBPs of .327 and .315, respectively. So at this point, as Rollins sat in the dugout, he must not have been very hopeful, even without his calculator handy. If he did have it, though, he'd know that he only had a 1 in 37 shot at continuing his hitting streak! (.327 * .315 * .259 = .0267 = 2.67%). So wouldn't you know it, both Lieberthal and Tucker walked, and then Rollins singled!

I wonder what the most unlikely scenarios have been for continuing a long hit streak? Both of the other two who did this, Paul Molitor and Marquis Grisson, were due up third in the ninth, so it wasn't them.

NB: Yes, I know I didn't consider the pitcher's OBP against or park factors or whatnot...just keeping it simple.

Extra Esoterica:
  • Rollins was only batting .262 going into streak, which must be one of the lowest starting points for a 25+ gamer, especially this late in the season. Earlier this year, Jose Reyes began a 20-game streak with a .258 average.
  • Rollins is even streaky in his streaks! Observe: Before his current streak, Rollins went 17 games without hitting in more than a two in a row. Before that stretch? A 10-game streak.

September 19, 2005

Triple and SB Fun III - Anti-Hustlers


Even more mysterious than the hustler is the player or team that steals bases at a good clip, but cannot make it past second on a batted ball.

Starting with teams, there have been a number with unbelievablely lopsided 3B/SB ratios. It seems pretty illogical that a team can steal a base every day, but hit a triple only once a week. But in baseball you never say never. Eighteen--count 'em!--eighteen teams have done this.

Teams with 150 SB, 25 or fewer 3B

Team Year SB 3B 2B
LAN 1986 155 14 232
NYN 1999 150 14 297
OAK 1991 151 19 246
TOR 1998 184 19 316
CAL 1992 160 20 202
NYA 2001 161 20 289
NYN 1989 158 21 280
SDN 1999 174 22 256
ATL 1982 151 22 215
HOU 1995 176 22 260
ATL 1999 150 23 309
CLE 1996 162 23 345
LAN 1999 167 23 253
HOU 1999 166 23 293
CAL 1993 169 24 259
NYN 1991 153 24 250
CIN 1988 207 25 246
OAK 1989 157 25 220

So how does a team like the '96 Indians steal 162 bases, hit 345 doubles, and only 23 triples? That's 15 doubles for each triple! For a fast team that seems strange indeed. Were these accomplished in bad triple-hitting parks? A few of them, at least. I'll save that for another day (or another person...anyone?). A regression analysis of triples to stolen bases would also be instructive. There's an intuitive correlation, but is there a real one?

My favorite team season is the 1976 Oakland A's, who stole an astonishing 341 bases--123 more than any other team--but finished 18th of the 24 teams in with only 33 triples.

And the offending individuals? Some you'd expect, some not. Here are the players who have stolen 30 bases while hitting nary a triple.

Name Year SB 3B 2B
Miguel Dilone 1978 50 0 8
Mariano Duncan 1986 48 0 7
Davey Lopes 1985 47 0 11
Jose Canseco 1988 40 0 34
Rickey Henderson 1999 37 0 30
Bob Dernier 1983 35 0 10
Eric Davis 1993 33 0 17
Frank Taveras 1980 32 0 27
Derek Jeter 2002 32 0 26
Larry Lintz 1976 31 0 0
Lenny Dykstra 1992 30 0 18
Jeff Bagwell 1999 30 0 35

Bagwell, Jeter, and Dykstra are surprises. They are generally known as hustlers. How'd they never make it to third? Henderson and Canseco, less so. By the way, Larry Lintz having zero doubles is not a misprint...he actually had only one at-bat all season! Manager Chuck Tanner used him exclusively as a pinch-runner that year. He retired with almost as many steals (128) as hits (140)!

Props to loyal reader Ankur Roy for this bit of Extra Esoterica: This season, Scott Podsednik is leading the league with 56 steals and is holding steady with exactly zero triples. If he keeps it up, he will take the above title away from "freak-1980" Miguel Dilone. My guess? He'll pull a Rey Ordonez (he of the one homer a year, hit in September) and get one in the next week or two. Update: As I wrote this paragraph a week ago, this was true. Wouldn't you know it, last Tuesday, Podsednik hit his first triple of the year! Oh well...sadness in the world of Esoterica.

Careerwise, there are 10 speedsters with 250 steals who finished with 10 times as many steals as triples (min. 2000 AB). Here they are.

Name Year SB 3B SB/3B 2B
Otis Nixon 1983 620 27 22.96 142
Rickey Henderson 1979 1406 66 21.30 510
Eric Davis 1984 349 26 13.42 239
Billy North 1971 395 31 12.74 120
Julio Cruz 1977 343 27 12.70 113
Tommy Harper 1962 481 38 12.66 266
Davey Lopes 1972 557 50 11.14 232
Miguel Dilone 1974 267 25 10.68 67
Don Baylor 1970 285 28 10.18 366
Eric Young 1992 450 45 10.00 312

Wow. Considering that Rickey hit over 500 doubles, you'd think he'd be able to get to third more than one out of every nine non-HR extra-base hits. Some of the others just didn't get a lot of hits, period. Park factors could be a factor for Dodger Davy Lopes. The others? I call them anti-hustlers. Maybe there are factors I'm not considering, but consider this: Tommy Harper stole at least 23 bases 11 times and hit at least 22 doubles six times in 12 years, but never hit more than five triples in any of them...

Honorable mention to the venerable Henry Cotto with just nine triples to go with his 130 steals.

Additional kudos to Bengie Molina for steering clear of this debate. The eldest Molina has compiled the fewest total triples and stolen bases (min. 2000 AB) with only 2 triples and 2 steals.

Any ideas on the hustler or anti-hustler phenomenon? I'd love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment or drop me a line.

September 16, 2005

Updates and Last Month's Leftovers IV - One-derful August

One Is Enough Update: On August 16, I reported that there had been an amazing six 1-0 games in a span of three days, with two on each day. When Kansas City one-zipped Minnesota on August 31 (see below), it capped a surprising month, in which there were 12 1-0 games! There has never been more of these in a month's time during the current uptick in offense. It's actually been 13 years--there were 14 in July 1992. There were also 12 1-0 games in August of 2002. This year's number is also surprising since the first one came on August 9!
Saving the Best For Last
Minnesota, on their way to losing the last 1-0 game of the month, actually outhit KC 13-5! The eight hits is the most a losing team has been outhit by in a 1-0 game in 12 years. No losing team has been outhit by more in the past 35 years. And it’s the most hits in a 1-0 game (18) since 6/7/91.

Extra Esoterica:
Jose Reyes went 4-for-4 in a 1-0 gamefor the Mets on 8/19. I wonder the last time that happened?? For the record, in the 12 1-0 games in August, only 22 players got more than one hit: there were 19 with two hits, two with three hits, and Reyes. Oddly enough, one of the two three-hit performances (by Preston Wilson) came in the same game as Reyes'!

Coming Soon
Tune in Monday for the third part of my Triples and Stolen Bases series--the "Anti-Hustlers"!

September 15, 2005

Updates and Last Month's Leftovers III - Bonds and Jeltz Duel

In honor of Barry Bonds' return this week, here's some genuine Bonds Esoterica you'll only find here, folks!

On August 29 Detroit scored 5 in the first inning and lost the game. What's the most scored in the first in a losing effort, you ask? Would you believe...ten?!

On 6/8/89, Barry Bonds led the Pirates to a roaring start with a three-run dinger in a big 10-run first inning. Staked to that huge early lead, Bobs Walk and Kipper couldn't hold down those fightin' Phils. Long story short, by the end of the sixth inning, the Bucs clung to a slim 11-10 lead, led by two homers by...Steve Jeltz?! (For those of you who don't know the Amazing Jeltz, he was a career .210 hitter with two homers in 1,500 AB entering the game) And then the Phils put them away with a five-run eighth. So there you have it...up 10-0 in the first, and lose by four! Tough to do. Just as rare as Steve Jeltz out-homering Barry Bonds!

September 14, 2005

Theme Week at Esoteric Boxscores!

Check out my other blog, Esoteric Boxscore of the Day, where I'm having my first "theme" week. Throughout the week, there will be posts about games that all have something interesting in common. This week, I look at games in which teams had an odd consistency...

Updates and Last Month's Leftovers II - Company in Seventh Heaven

On September 7 both Florida and Milwaukee had seven scoring innings in their respective games. Last time that happened? How about 15 days earlier when the Mets and Rays did it! Before then? How about six years ago? And, the only other time two sets of teams were so prolific and timely in the past 35 years was when the Rangers/Cubs and Cards/Dodgers came up big just four days apart on June 3 and 7, 1987!

September 12, 2005

Updates and Last Month's Leftovers I - Exceeding Expectations

Extra Effort Update: On August 29 I reported that there had been three games--including two in one day--in which a team scored five runs in an extra inning. The full moon must have been affecting me as well as the players, because I missed it on 8/20 when San Diego scored five in the 13th and Seattle scored six in the 10th! And, this past Sunday, Cincinnati did it yet again, putting up a five-spot in the 12th! So now that's six times in three weeks! In the past 35 years, I haven't found a three week period with that many--the most being four occurrences in July-August 1994. And it had only happened on the same day once in the past 20 years, when the White Sox and Indians both scored five in different games in the 12th inning on 8/7/94. And then it happened twice in five days! Unreal.

Extra Esoterica

  • In his first 45 games (as of 8/23), Carlos Pena had more multi-homer games (3) than single homer games (2).

  • From the Gee, Bob...That's Moderately Interesting! Department: In the NL on that same date, there were 10-0, 10-1, and 10-2 games. That actually also happened on 6/7/69. And just for your viewing pleasure, I will note that on 7/29/00, there were three 10-2 games.

September 09, 2005

Is This Thing On?

Just checking if anyone is out there. I haven't gotten much feedback on this site. I enjoy writing it, but it takes a lot of time, and would prefer if someone besides my Mom actually read it. So I was just wondering if you 1) exist, and 2) like what you see. Make a comment or drop me a line!

Remember also to check out my Esoteric Boxscore of the Day blog. The link is also just over there to the right in the Links section.

September 08, 2005

Triple and SB Fun II - Hustlers

Along the same lines as my doubles and triples post, you'd expect a guy with a lot of triples to steal some bases. And then there's Dale Long.

In 1955, the year before his famous 8-game home run streak, Long did something pretty weird. He hit 13 triples to lead the league...but did not steal a base all year! Joe DiMaggio actually did something similar five years earlier, stealing no bases (no surprise so late in his career), but still legging out 10 three-baggers. In fact, in his last three years, he hit 20 without a stolen base. Oddly enough, Long also did the reverse seven years later, stealing six bases while hitting zero triples! The last "modern" time this was done was by good ol' Roy Howell in 1980, who hit nine and never even attempted a steal! Here's the complete list, since 1950.

Name Year 3B SB CS
Dale Long 1955 13 0 1
Joe DiMaggio 1950 10 0 0
Vic Power 1955 10 0 2
Jerry Lumpe 1962 10 0 2
Roy Howell 1980 9 0 0
Bill Mazeroski 1962 9 0 3
Billy Goodman 1956 8 0 3
Gene Woodling 1951 8 0 4
Dick Stuart 1961 8 0 3
Gil McDougald 1959 8 0 3
Bill Howerton 1950 8 0 0
Mickey Vernon 1955 8 0 4
Walt Dropo 1950 8 0 0

How about over a career? Well, here, our heroes are Russ Nixon and Dick Stuart. Nixon hit 19 triples over 12 seasons and never stole a base. Not one. Even by mistake. Stuart hustled for 30 three-baggers during his 10 seasons, while compiling a measly two thefts. These guys were hustlers. Here's my list of all-time hustlers, based on triples and stolen bases.

Name First Yr 3B SB SB Pct
Roberto Clemente 1955 166 83 64%
Brooks Robinson 1955 68 28 56%
Ernie Banks 1953 90 50 49%
Willie Stargell 1962 55 17 52%
Bill Skowron 1954 53 16 47%
Wade Boggs 1982 61 24 41%
Gus Bell 1950 66 30 49%
Joe Torre 1961 59 23 44%
Bill Mazeroski 1956 62 27 54%

No big surprises. I suppose you could say that a lot of them were both great hitters and baserunners who found a lot of gaps. Though, with the possible exception of Clemente, they didn't have great judgement when it came to steals. (well, maybe there were a lot of busted hit-and-runs...) I'd be curious how many times they were thrown out at third.

How about for a team? Here are the ones that had more triples than stolen bases since 1970, when teams began stealing at a "modern" clip.

Team Year 3B SB 3B/SB
PIT 1973 44 23 1.91
DET 1972 32 17 1.88
TOR 1978 39 28 1.39
DET 1970 38 29 1.31
CHA 1977 52 42 1.24
BOS 1984 45 38 1.18
MIN 1982 44 38 1.16
DET 1973 32 28 1.14
CHN 1970 44 39 1.13
DET 1971 38 35 1.09
BOS 1983 32 30 1.07
NYN 1975 34 32 1.06
PIT 1970 70 66 1.06
MIN 1981 36 34 1.06

The 1973 Pirates hold that mark, finishing third in the majors with 44 triples, but dead last in steals, with only 23 all season. Those early 70's Tigers were also a bunch of slow hustlers, stealing an expansion-era low 17 bases in 1972 while still hitting more triples than 13 other teams...including Texas, which led the AL with 127 steals, but finished dead last in three-baggers, with a mere 18. Huh? A nice segue for the next post...