Results tagged ‘ Cy Young ’
As the attention of the sports world turned to Flushing, New York (not New York, New York, no matter how many times Jon Miller incorrectly identified it) last week and Seattle Washington last night, I pondered a number of questions about no-hitters, one the most random and fascinating events in sports.
Question 1: What was the longest no-hitter?
Answer 1: The longest a pitcher ever had a no-hitter (or perfect game) was Harvey Haddix on May 26, 1959. Haddix had a perfect game for 12 innings (ending with a Don Hoak error) and a no-hitter for 12.1 innings (a Joe Adcock sort-of-double ended the game). Adcock actually hit a home run to end the game, but Hank Aaron left the base paths after touching second base, so only Felix Mantilla was credited as scoring. His opponent was Lew Burdette, who allowed 12 hits, no walks, and struck two batters out in his 13-inning shutout. As a side note, Haddix absolutely dominated a very, very good Milwaukee Braves team that day. On that team were Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews (who would hit 306/390/593 that year), Hall of Famer Hank Aaron (355/401/636), and Joe Adcock (292/339/535); plus the Braves went 86-70. Of course, MLB later invalidated Haddix’s efforts, so the answer becomes more complex, as it’s either (a) Sam Kimber, who threw an 11-inning no hitter on October 4, 1884 or, if you don’t consider records before 1901, (b) the record becomes Hooks Wiltse, who threw 10 no-hit innings against the Philadelphia Phillies in 1908; Fred Toney, who threw 10 no-hit innings against the Chicago Cubs in 1917; and Jim Maloney, who threw 10 no-hit innings in 1965 against the Philadelphia Phillies. So, the answer is “it depends.”
Question 2: What was the earliest into a career a pitcher threw a no-hitter?
Answer 2: On October 4, 1891, Ted Breitenstein threw a no hitter in his first major league start (at the time there was no American League, just the National League and the American Association). After that, 21 rookies have pitched no-hitters, but the quickest was Bobo Holloman, a 30-year old rookie who made 22 appearances in the Majors and 301 in the minors, on May 6, 1953. Holloman also went 2/3 with 3 RBI that day – the only times on base and RBI of his career.
Question 3: What was the quickest into a team’s existence that a pitcher threw a no-hitter? (H/T Melissa for the question)
Answer 3: The Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals), when Bill Stoneman threw a no-hitter on April 17, 1969, in the NINTH game of their existence. Sam Kimber threw a no-hitter for the Brooklyn Superbas (now the Los Angeles Dodgers, more on them later) on October 4, 1884 against the Toledo Blue Stockings. A number of teams have had one thrown in their second year of existence, including the Los Angeles Angels (Bo Belinsky in 1962), Houston Astros (then Colt .45′s, by Don Nottebart), and Chicago White Sox (Nixey Callahan). See the image below:
Question 4: Have any great pitchers been the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter for a team or just a lot of random pitchers?
Answer 4: It appears to be a solid mix of both. I don’t pretend to have great knowledge of baseball before the 1950s (or the 1980s other than Hall of Famers and random things), but a number of great pitchers are on the list, such as Cy Young, Randy Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson … and the list is also littered with utterly forgettable pitchers (I have already mentioned Bill Stoneman). History is littered with Hall of Fame pitchers who threw no hitters, including Pud Galvin, Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn (who you should follow on Twitter, seriously), Cy Young, Big Ed Walsh (who was listed at 6’1″, 193), Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Warren Spahn, Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, James “Catfish” Hunter, Gaylord Perry, Jim Palmer, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro, Dennis Eckersley (1977, with the Cleveland Indians), Bert Blyleven, and Tom Seaver (with the Reds – ugh). I would imagine this list Hall of Fame list will shortly include Randy Johnson.
Question 5: You said Randy Johnson was the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter for his team. Was it for the Diamondbacks or the Mariners?
Answer 5: Both. June 2, 1990 for the Mariners (their 14th season) and May 18, 2004 for the Diamondbacks (their 7th season). Johnson is the only pitcher to be on this list twice, though Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, or Johan Santana could join him if they play for the Padres or baseball expands again, or Bob Gibson bucks up and makes a comeback.
Question 6: What is the longest amount of time between a pitcher throwing no-hitters?
Answer 6: Cy Young threw three, his first on September 18, 1897 and his last on June 30, 1908 – a span of more than ten years. Bob Feller threw his first no-hitter on April 16, 1940 and his last on July 1, 1951 – a span of more than eleven years. Randy Johnson threw his first on June 2, 1990 and his second on May 18, 2004, a span of nearly 14 years. Nolan Ryan threw his first no-hitter on May 15, 1973 and his seventh on May 1, 1991, a span of nearly 18 years. Think about that – he went nearly 18 years between no-hitters when the average MLB career is ONLY 5.6 years.
Question 7: What is the shortest time between no-hitters?
Answer 7: For a single pitcher or a team, Johnny Vander Meer threw no hitters on June 11 and June 15, 1938 (more amazing is that, in those two starts he struck out 11 and walked 11). Hall of Famer Ernie Lombardi caught them both. During a season, Gaylor Perry (with the San Francisco Giants) no-hit the St. Louis Cardinals (beating Cy Young and MVP Bob Gibson) on September 17, 1968. The following day, Ray Washburn of the Cardinals returned the favor, no-hitting the Giants (his pitching counterpart, Bobby Bolin went eight innings, allowing only two runs. Frank Linzy pitched the ninth after Bolin was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 8th).
Question 8: Has a team ever lost a no-hitter?
Answer 8: Amazingly, it has happened twice. The Houston Colt .45′s (now Astros) lost Ken Johnson‘s no-hitter on April 23, 1964 due to an error (by Johnson, no less), a groundout, and another error (this time by the second baseman). The winning pitcher was Joe Nuxhall, who pitched two-thirds of an inning in 1944 at the age of 15, allowing five runs on two hits and five walks. On April 30, 1967, Steve Barber walked TEN en route to picking up a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers. Barber only went 8.2 innings, walking three in the ninth before Stu Miller came in to end the game. (Actually, that’s sort of false. Miller came in, got a FC with the batter reached on an error then got another FC, this time 5-6, to end the game.)
Question 9: Wasn’t Babe Ruth part of a no-hitter? He’s a Hall of Famer! Why didn’t you mention him?
Answer 9: Well, it was a weird game and Babe Ruth was in the game for zero outs. See, Ruth started the game by walking leadoff hitter Ray Morgan on four pitches. Ruth then argued with the umpire (he felt the umpire’s strike zone was incorrect), and was thrown out of the game. Ernie Shore came into the game and Morgan was caught stealing. Shore then retired the next 27 batters en route to a no-hitter. As a side note, Ernie Shore was absolutely huge for his era (and rather large for today). Don’t believe me? Check out this picture with the 6’2″ (listed) Ruth:
Question 10: So only the Padres who have not had a pitcher (or pitchers) throw a no-hitter?
Answer 10: That is correct; 6,896 games and counting – they’re in their 44th season.
Random things I noticed: Teams used to change names a lot, often going back and forth between names and using multiple team names at the same time.
- The Boston Red Sox were known as the Boston Pilgrims and the Boston Americans at the same time.
- The Los Angeles Dodgers were known as the Brooklyn Atlantics (1884), Brooklyn Grays (1885-1887), Brooklyn Bridegrooms (1888-1890), Brooklyn Grooms (1891-1895), Brooklyn Bridegrooms (again, 1896-1898), Brooklyn Superbas (1899-1910), Brooklyn Dodgers (1911 – 1912), Brooklyn Superbas (again, 1913), Brooklyn Robins (1914-1931), and Brooklyn Dodgers (again, from 1932 to 1957), and Los Angeles Dodgers (1958 to present).
- The Chicago White Sox have been known as the White Sox since 1901. The Detroit Tigers have been known as the Detroit Tigers since 1901. These appear to be the longest any team has been named the same thing and played in the same city.
- There were no teams added to the Major Leagues between 1901 and 1961.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
As I walked back to my apartment from dinner Friday night, I noticed that I had a lot of text messages – a rarity as I do not text much – and I realized that Johan Santana had thrown the first no-hitter in the history of the New York Mets.
Though many people know Santana’s exploits in the major leagues – the Cy Young awards, the sub-1 WHIPs – Santana’s path was anything but ordinary. In 1995, the Houston Astros signed Santana out of Venezuela as a center fielder. Due to his arm strength, left-handedness, and perceived inability to become a major league hitter, Santana was soon converted to a pitcher. After finally being granted a visa, Santana was assigned to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Astros, where he put up a 7.93 ERA across nine games (five starts) and 36.1 innings. Promoted to the Short Season A Auburn Doubledays of the New York Penn League, Santana made one four-inning start to end the season, allowing just one run and one hit, walking six and striking out five.
To start the 1998 season, Santana was held back in extended spring training, and was sent back to Auburn in June, striking out 88 while walking 21 in 86.1 innings over 15 starts, putting up a 4.36 ERA. At the end of the season, Santana made two appearances for the full season A Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League. Santana struggled in his two appearances, putting up a 9.45 ERA over 6.2 innings.
In 1999, Santana had his best season pitching for the Michigan Battle Cats of the Midwest League, putting up a 4.66 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) over 160.1 innings, striking out 150 and walking 55 in his age-20 season.
After the season, the Astros left Santana unprotected in the Rule V draft, and, just two years after losing Bobby Abreu in the 1997 Expansion Draft, the Florida Marlins selected Santana with the second pick of the 1999 Rule V draft. The Marlins then dealt Santana to the Minnesota Twins for Jared Camp, the first pick of the 1999 Rule V draft.
The Rule V draft is fascinating, as to be eligible for the Rule V draft, a player:
- Is not included on the 40-man roster of the organization holding his contract; and
- Has been in the minors and/or majors for at least four years, if he was signed after his 19th birthday; or
- Has been in the minors and/or majors for at least five years, if he was signed before his 19th birthday.
In short, to hold onto Santana, all the Astros had to do was put him on the 40-man roster. However, to hold onto Santana, the Twins were required to keep Santana on their major league roster for the 2000 entire season, something that is difficult to do when a young player has not played at a level even close to the majors. The Twins, sensing the talent in Santana, kept him on the roster as the entire season as the long man and a spot starter, appearing in 30 games, pitching 86 innings with a 6.49 ERA. In 2001, Santana served in a similar role, pitching 43.2 innings with a much-improved 4.74 ERA before straining his left elbow flexor and missing two months.
In 2002, Santana was to be turned back into a starter and opened the season in the minor leagues for the first time in two years, putting up a 3.14 ERA across 48.2 innings for the AAA Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast League before being brought back to Minnesota. Santana started to show his talent, putting up a 2.99 ERA in 27 games (14 start) for the Twins, striking out 137 and walking 49.
In 2003, Santana opened the season as a middle reliever for the Twins, putting up a 1.59 ERA in his first 11 appearances. Santana made a spot start, going five innings against the high-powered offense of the Boston Red Sox, allowing no runs in five innings. After seven more relief appearances with a 6.52 ERA, Santana became a starter for the duration of the season, putting up a sparkling 3.22 ERA across 92.1 innings, putting up an 8-2 record. During the 2003 season, Santana put up a 3.07 ERA across 45 games (18 starts) while striking out 169 batters and walking 47 batters. Despite the seemingly pedestrian statistics (though the 3.07 ERA was good for a 148 ERA+), Santana picked up one fifth-place Cy Young vote.
In 2004, Santana dominated, putting up a 2.61 ERA across 228 innings, striking out 265 with a 20-6 record. Even more amazing was the second half of Santana’s season. After putting up a 3.78 ERA in 19 starts across 123.2 innings, Santana overwhelmed opponents with a 1.21 ERA across 15 starts over 104.1 innings while averaging 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Even more amazing was Santana’s final six starts of the season, all in September. Across 40 innings, Santana allowed only two runs (both earned), while striking out 52. After the season, Santana was awarded the American League Cy Young award.
Over the next three years, Santana established himself as one of the most reliable and dominating pitchers in the major leagues, winning another Cy Young, coming in third place and fifth place one time each. From 2004 through 2007, Santana put up a 70-32 record, striking out 983 while walking 198 and allowing 705 hits. In 2005, Santana went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA. In 2006, Santana went 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA, striking out 245 to lead the league in strikeouts for the third consecutive season. Additionally, Santana won the pitching triple crown, leading the American league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. In 2007, Santana seemed to take a step backwards, put up a 3.33 ERA across 219 innings and had his first WHIP higher than 1.000 since 2003.
After the season, the Twins, fearing Santana would leave as a free agent after his contract expired after 2008, looked for a team willing to give up multiple top prospects. Rumors swirled around multiple large-market franchises, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees. The Yankees were rumored to be offering a number of packages involving different prospects, including Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes, Jeffrey Marquez, Ian Kennedy, and Jhonny Nunez. The Red Sox were dangling a number of packages as well, including packages that included a combination of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, and veteran Coco Crisp. The Dodgers were dangling packages involving prospects Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, who was viewed as the best pitching prospect at the time.
While the Mets were rumored to be involved, they refused to part with top prospect Fernando Martinez, thereby significantly decreasing the possibility they would acquire the ace. In the end, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers were unable to acquire Santana and it was the dark-horse Mets who acquired Santana for Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, and Kevin Mulvey.
The Mets, fresh off one of the largest collapses in baseball history (at that point, possibly only eclipsed by the 2004 Yankees in the ALCS and the 1964 Phillies), needed to acquire another arm and make a splash. Without giving up their top prospect, Fernando Martinez (#20 in Baseball America), the Mets were able to acquire one of the best pitchers in the game. In the deal, the Mets paid a high price, as Deolis Guerra (#35 in Baseball America) was fresh off a season in High A St. Lucie as an 18-year old, an age most people are finishing up High School, Carlos Gomez (#52 in Baseball America, after being #60 in the previous year) showed significant upside in his brief trial with the Mets, Humber struggled in AAA after being the #3 overall pick in 2004, and Mulvey showed a lot of promise in AA after being a second round pick in 2006. In short, while the Mets did not give up their top prospect, they gave up a lot of talent to acquire Santana.
In 2008, Santana did not disappoint. Leading the National League with 34 starts, 234.1 innings, and 964 batters faced, Santana put up a 2.53 ERA and capped the season with one of his best starts of the season in the 161st game of the season, a sparkling 117-pitch complete game shutout, allowing three hits and walking three more, striking out nine against the Florida Marlins. Unfortunately, the Mets struggled to complete the season yet again, missing out on the playoffs in the final day. After the season, Santana had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.
In 2009, Santana pitched well, putting up a 3.13 ERA across 25 starts before being shut down in late August due to bone chips in his throwing shoulder after the Mets fell out of contention. Santana would return in 2010, putting up a 2.98 ERA in 29 starts across 199 innings before being shut down in September due to an Anterior Capsule Tear. A capsule is a soft tissue envelope that helps to attach to the scapula, humerus, and the head of the bicep. Due to this injury, Santana missed nearly the entire 2011 season, only making two appearances at High A St. Lucie.
In 2012, Santana returned with a vengeance, striking out 68 in 68 innings, and leading the National League with 11 starts and two complete game shutouts, including the no hitter on June 1, the first in Mets history – 8,020 games.
After the game, Santana addressed the Mets, saying, “[t]onight we all made history, that’s all that matters. I give it to you guys, because you guys made it happen.” Santana’s game was amazing for a number of reasons, it was the first time he had fewer than three hits in a complete game and the most pitches he ever threw in one game, with his 134 pitches amounting to nine more than he had ever thrown in a professional baseball game.
By sheer coincidence (or was it?), the next day I attended a Baseball Prospectus event at CitiField where I, along with a number of other baseball fans, had the opportunity to hear a number of baseball writers including Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks and Ben Lindbergh; BP and SI.com’s Jay Jaffe; and MLB.com’s Corey Schwartz. Additionally, there was a 30-minute question and answer session with Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson. Alderson opened by discussing Santana’s outing, discussing Manager Terry Collins’ decision to allow Santana to throw 134 pitches despite only recently coming back from shoulder surgery. Alderson, while showing a clear preference for not allowing Santana to throw 134 pitches, commented that “probabilities, mathematics take a back seat to emotion,” showing his support for Collins’ decision.
In the end, Santana’s no hitter, the first in Mets’ history, was something that he will remember for years and so will a great a number of Mets, former teammates, and sports fans. But the best comment is from Johan Santana himself:
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
On Friday morning, word leaked out that Kerry Wood would be announcing his retirement but remain available to pitch for the Chicago Cubs during their weekend series against the Chicago White Sox. This announcement brought about reminiscing about Wood’s career and the Chicago Cubs, and much consternation regarding Dusty Baker.
The career of Kerry Wood began before the Cubs drafted him in 1995, with Wood’s senior season at South Grand Prairie High School in Grand Prairie, Texas. Wood posted a sparkling 14-0 record with a 0.77 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 81.1 innings, routinely packing the stands with scouts and baseball fans. Wood verbally committed to nearby Texas Christian University, ratcheting up the stress of baseball teams, warning that he may go to college instead of entering professional baseball.
Viewed as a top prospect, scouts from many of the top teams watched Wood’s final start before the draft. Wood’s ended up throwing 175 pitches in a doubleheader, putting the professional baseball scouting community in an uproar. Wood, his father Garry, and Coach Mike McGilvray defended the pitch count, pointing out that this was not the first time Wood had thrown this much on a single day. The Chicago Cubs drafted Wood with the 4th pick of the 1995 Rule IV draft behind Darin Erstad (#1/California Angels), Ben Davis (#2/San Diego Padres), and Jose Cruz, Jr. (#3/Seattle Mariners). Despite the concerns over being overworked while in high school, the Cubs gave Wood a $1.2 million signing bonus and assigned Wood to the Rookie Level GCL Cubs in the Gulf Coast League. Wood started one game and pitched three innings, walking one and striking out two, while not allowing a hit. After the game, Wood was sent to the Short Season A Williamsport Cubs of the New York Penn League. In Williamsport, Wood struggled, starting two games and allowing eight runs (five earned) over 4.1 innings, walking five, striking out five, and allowing five hits.
After the season, the accolades rolled in. Baseball America ranked Wood the #16 prospect in all of baseball (between Bartolo Colon and Rey Ordonez) and the third-best prospect from the 1995 draft (Erstad #4, Davis #10, with Cruz #23). In 1996, Wood was assigned to the Daytona Cubs of the High A Florida State League, where he dominated his opponents with a 2.91 ERA across 114.1 innings, striking out 136 and allowing only 72 hits. On the flip side, Wood walked 70 batters, hit 14 more, balked 7 times, and threw 10 wild pitches, displaying wavering command that would often plague him throughout his career. Unconcerned, Baseball America rated Wood the #3 prospect in all of baseball after the 1996 season, behind only Andruw Jones and Vladimir Guerrero, and ahead of Matt White and Travis Lee (as a side note the #100 prospect was Livan Hernandez, who would have the most impact on the 1997 season of all of the prospects). Wood was selected as the Chicago Cubs Minor League Player of the Year.
In 1997, Wood began the season with the AA Orlando Rays, putting up a 4.50 ERA across 19 starts and 94 innings, striking out 106 (10.1/9), but walking 79 (7.6/9) while hitting 10 more batters. Despite the mediocre numbers, Wood’s pure stuff impressed sufficiently to earn him a promotion to the AAA Iowa Cubs of the American Association, where he put up a 4.68 ERA across 10 starts and 57.2 innings, striking out 80 (12.5/9), but walking 52 (8.1/9) while hitting six batters. For the season, Wood put up a 4.57 ERA across 29 starts and 151.2 innings, striking out 186 (11.0/9) while walking 131 (7.8/9), while hitting 16 batters, balking six times, and throwing 18 wild pitches. Despite the scary walk numbers and high ERA, Wood’s season earned rave reviews as he struck out 186 batters despite turning 20 during the season. Baseball America ranked Wood the #4 prospect in baseball, behind Ben Grieve, Paul Konerko, and Adrian Beltre.
In 1998, Wood made one start for the Iowa Cubs (now of the Pacific Coast League, as the old AA folded), striking out 11 in five innings, walking two and allowing one hit and zero runs. On April 12, Wood made his debut for the Chicago Cubs, striking out seven, walking three, allowing four hits and four runs over 4.2 innings while picking up the loss. In his second start, Wood again struck out seven, walked three, and allowed four hits, but did not allow a run over five innings, picking up his first major league win. Wood got shelled in his third start, allowing seven runs in 1.2 innings, but bounced back in his fourth start, striking out nine across seven innings while picking up his second win.
Wood’s fifth major league start has become the thing of legends. On May 6, Wood struck out 20 Houston Astros, a team led by Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Moises Alou, while allowing only one hit and hitting one batter (shockingly, it was Craig Biggio). This was only the third time a pitcher had struck out 20 in a single game, after Roger Clemens did it in 1986 and 1996, and the first time a National League pitcher struck out 20, breaking the record of 19 held by Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, and David Cone. Wood threw 84 strikes and 38 balls while dominating the Astros (lost in the story is the complete game loss by Shane Reynolds, who struck out an impressive 10). How dominating was Wood that day?
I will say that Wood's 20 K game is the best stuff I've ever seen any pitcher have in a single game.—
Kevin Goldstein (@Kevin_Goldstein) May 18, 2012
With the sudden attention, Wood pitched well through August. After throwing 133 pitches on August 26 and 116 pitches on August 31, Wood woke up on September 1 with his elbow throbbing. Despite being in the middle of a pennant race, Wood did not pitch again until game 3 of the National League Division Series, going 5 innings and allowing only one run, against the Atlanta Braves.
For the season, Wood put up an impressive 3.40 ERA (129 ERA+) across 26 starts and 166.2 innings, striking out 233 batters. Wood led the Major Leagues by allowing only 6.3 hits per 9 innings pitched and 12.6 strike outs per 9 innings pitched. Wood won the NL Rookie of the Year, beating out Colorado’s Todd Helton 128-119.
During spring training in 1999, Wood was still experiencing a sore elbow and was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament which would require ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery, more commonly known as Tommy John Surgery. After surgery, Wood missed all of 1999 and came back firing in 2000. After three starts in the minor leagues to start the season, Wood made his return to the Cubs on May 2, allowing only one run over six innings against the Houston Astros. Often pitching on extra rest, Wood struggled, putting up a 4.80 ERA across 137 innings, striking out 132 and walking 92 batters.
Wood increased his workload in 2001, with 174.1 innings across 28 starts, striking out 217 to go with a sparkling a 3.36 ERA and a 124 ERA+. In 2002, Wood was back to a full workload, with 213.2 innings over 33 starts, striking out 217 batters and walking 97, while putting up a 3.66 ERA.
In 2003, Wood, paired with second-year fireballer Mark Prior, and rising star Carlos Zambrano, Wood threw 211 innings across 32 starts, striking out a Major League-leading 266 batters (Prior was second with 245), putting up a 3.20 ERA (136 ERA+) to go with a career high 100 walks and 21 hit batsmen. Wood logged another 17.2 innings in the playoffs over four starts, striking out 31 while walking 14, as the Cubs lost to the eventual World Series Champion Florida Marlins. Wood’s 2003 season, while amazing, was an incredible example of the use, or complete lack of use, of pitch counts. The Cubs new manager, Dusty Baker, had Wood, along with Prior, throw an inordinate number of games with more than 120 pitches, 13, and Wood threw at least 101 pitches 25 times. Wood threw a season-high 141 pitches on May 10 against the St. Louis Cardinals. More amazingly, Wood threw 952 pitches in 8 starts from April 6 through May 15 and 728 pitches in his final six starts of the season. All in all, Wood threw 4,008 pitches in 36 starts (playoffs included) in 2003, an average of 111.3 pitches per start.
In 2004, Wood had a good season (3.72 ERA) but only pitched 140.1 innings across 2 starts, as he was sidelined for nearly two months with a strained triceps. In 2005, Wood missed time with right shoulder bursitis, a joint problem caused by repetitive movement and excessive pressure. Wood missed all of May, made only one start in July, and became a middle reliever for August before being shut down for the season at the end of August. At the end of August, Wood had surgery to reinforce his labrum and debride his rotator cuff and bursa sac in order to remove dead tissue to promote healing. In March 2006, Wood had surgery on the meniscus in his right knee during spring training. After two rehabilitation starts in the minor leagues, Wood made his 2006 Major League debut on May 18 against the Washington Nationals. Wood made four starts, putting up a 4.12 ERA over 19.2 innings before being shut down for the season with a partially torn rotator cuff. After the season, the Cubs decided not to exercise their option on Wood for 2007, choosing instead to pay Wood $1.3 million and make him a free agent.
With Wood’s injury history, the best offer was to return to the Cubs in 2007 as a relief pitcher for a 1-year, $1.75 million contract with a significant number of performance bonuses. After missing time in training camp with a triceps strain, and was put on the disabled list at the beginning of the season with right shoulder inflammation. Wood made eight successful rehabilitation appearances in the minor leagues before being activated from the DL and making his debut on August 5, allowing one hit and striking out one in one inning against the New York Mets. Wood pitched well in his relief role, putting up a 3.33 ERA over 24.1 innings across 24 games in August and September.
After the season, Wood filed for free agency and received offers from a number of teams, but remained with the Cubs by signing a one-year, $4.2 million deal. Wood pitched well in 2008, putting up a 3.41 ERA (141 ERA+), while striking out 84 batters in 66.1 innings, making 65 appearances and raking up 34 saves.
In November 2008, the Cubs signed Kevin Gregg to close games, causing Wood to look elsewhere. Wood signed a two-year, $20.5 million contract with the Cleveland Indians, with a $11 million option for 2011 that vested if Wood finished 55 games in 2009 or 2010. In 2009, Wood was, literally, a league average pitcher with a great strikeout rate. Wood had a league-average 4.25 ERA with 63 strike outs in 55 innings (10.3/9) while picking up 20 saves. In 2010, Wood was getting shelled during his time with the Indians, with a 6.30 ERA before he was traded to the New York Yankees for Andrew Shive and Matt Cusick. Wood dominated in his time in the Bronx, putting up a microscopic 0.69 ERA while striking out 31 batters in 26 innings. Wood allowed only 4.8 hits per nine innings pitched, the lowest total of his career.
After 2010, Wood returned to the Cubs with a 1-year $1.5 million contract and pitched well, putting up a solid-if-not-spectacular 3.35 ERA in 51 innings across 55 appearances while pitching in relief. After signing another 1-year contract worth $3 million with the Cubs, Wood struggled in 2012, with an 8.64 ERA in nine appearances.
But today, on May 18, rumors of Wood’s retirement have stoked the fires of past potential. Once nearly universally viewed as the next great power pitcher in the mold of fellow-Texan Nolan Ryan, Wood struggled with arm problems and chronic misuse at the hands of his managers. We should not place all of the blame on them, however, as the job of a Major League manager is to win and their overuse of Wood was due to his ability to maintain velocity late in games. Many often take a pot shop at Dusty Baker, and his amazing overuse absolutely deserves some of the blame, but Jim Riggleman did the same thing in 1998, as Wood had eight outings with at least 120 pitches and 21 outings with at least 100 pitches.
So what do we learn from Kerry Wood? Should pitchers be babied? Was it an issue with his throwing motion? Is there really no such thing as a pitching prospect? I think it is all of them – the human arm was not meant to pitch like Ryan did and managers must be careful, but at the same time pitching is an inherently risky activity. Well built pitchers with seemingly perfect throwing motions break down before they can become stars and undersized pitchers with unorthodox throwing motions can dominate while winning multiple Cy Young Awards and remaining healthy.
In the end, no one knows what to do so maybe it makes sense to do what Riggleman and Baker did – overuse pitchers to try to win a World Series, because flags fly forever.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/MISC/XOP.htm (Scroll down)
It is often said that Americans love the narrative of the underdog. That is only partially true: the whole world loves the underdog. We root for the upset; we root for the improbable; we root for the statistically improbable. There’s nothing the world loves more than David taking out Goliath (unless, of course, we have Goliath on our fantasy team). The prospect equivalent to David is the undrafted free agent. A player so undesired, whose desire to play professional baseball is so unrequited, that no team values them highly enough to say their name on a conference call. Many of these players are signed and never make it out of A ball, but a select few make the show and become stars including, but not limited to, Larry Bowa, Kevin Mitchell, Bobby Bonilla, and Jim Leyritz.
Much has been made about how Mike Piazza was drafted in the 62nd round in 1988, but he was drafted (albeit as a favor to his father by his godfather, Tommy Lasorda). The subject of this article is three-time All-Star Heath Bell, a pitcher who placed 8th in the 2010 National League Cy Young Award vote. Despite lettering in football, basketball, and baseball while attending Tustin High School in Tustin, California, Bell failed to impress scouts and was not drafted. Bell attended Santiago Canyon College and was named a freshman All-American in 1997. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Bell in the 69th Round of the 1997 draft. The 69th round had a total of three picks (neither of which appeared to play any professional baseball at any point), the final of which was Bell. Bell didn’t sign with the Devil Rays and made two appearances for the El Dorado Broncos in the National Baseball Congress World Series. Alas, Bell was not drafted in 1998 and signed with the New York Mets as an undrafted free agent in 1998.
Bell impressed from the start, a 2.54 ERA and 61 strike outs in 22 games (46 innings) at Kingsport of the Rookie Level Appalachian League in 1998 earned him a promotion to the Mets full season A affiliate for 1999, the South Atlantic League’s Capital City Bombers. In Capital City, Bell put up a 2.60 ERA with 68 strikeouts across 62.1 innings. In 2000, Bell appeared in 48 games for the St. Lucie Mets, the Mets’ affiliate in the High A Florida State League. In St. Lucie, Bell continued to excel, striking out 75 in 60 innings while putting up a sparkling 2.55 ERA.
Bell hit his first bump in 2001, when he was promoted to the Mets’ affiliate in the Eastern League, the Binghamton Mets. Bell appeared in 43 games, striking out 55 and putting up a 6.02 ERA. Bell returned to Binghamton in 2002 and put up an electric 1.18 ERA while striking out 49 in 38 innings. Bell was promoted to the Norfolk Tides, the Mets AAA affiliate in the International League, and pitched reasonably well, putting up a 4.26 ERA with 28 strike outs in 31.2 innings. In 2003, Bell put up a lackluster 4.71 ERA at Norfolk, while striking out 44 in 49.2 innings. After the season, it was revealed that Bell had a stress fracture in his right arm that Mets team doctors failed to diagnose.
After one two-inning appearance in Binghamton to start 2004, Bell was promoted to Norfolk, where he put up a 3.12 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 55.2 innings, earning Bell a September call up to the Mets where he put up a respectable 3.33 ERA with 27 strikeouts across 24.1 innings. In 2005, Bell began riding the “Heath Bell Express”, as he was shuttled between AAA Norfolk and New York as the Mets whenever the Mets needed another bullpen arm. Bell put up a 1.69 ERA in Norfolk and a 5.59 ERA for the Mets. Bell clashed with Mets’ Pitching Coach Rick Peterson, who put the kibosh on Bell’s weight-losing in-line skating that helped him lose weight during spring training. In 2006, Bell resumed riding the “Heath Bell Express” as he put up a 1.29 ERA in Norfolk and a 5.11 ERA for the Mets.
In mid-November, the Mets dealt Heath Bell and Royce Ring to the San Diego Padres for Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins. Acquiring Bell paid immediate dividends for the Padres. After putting up a 2.02 ERA over 93.2 innings in 2007, Bell put up a 3.58 ERA over 78 innings in 2008. In 2009, longtime Padres closer Trevor Hoffman signed with the Milwaukee Brewers and Bell became the closer, racking up a National League-leading 42 saves to go with his sparkling 2.71 ERA. Bell’s success has continued, as he put up 47 saves to go with a 1.93 ERA in 2010 followed by 43 saves and a 2.44 ERA in 2011.
After the 2011 season, Bell became a free agent for the first time and signed a three-year contract worth $27 million (with a vesting option for a fourth year worth another $9 million based upon games finished) with the
Florida Miami Marlins. While Bell has not been perfect to start the season (or, even, particularly good), there is no reason to suspect Bell will be anything other than the top-tier closer that he has been for the past three seasons. On a personal note, I must say I am happy for him. I always felt that the Mets misused him, though some of that may have been a result of his outspoken ways, as first reported in an article by Tim Kurkjian:
“Everything in New York was so serious,” Bell said. “I should keep my mouth shut, but I never do. In 2005, I didn’t pitch for 28 straight days. I don’t know if I did something to Willie [Randolph, then the manager of the Mets]. I didn’t always get along with [then pitching coach] Rick Peterson. I don’t know if they wanted to make me the scapegoat. It was a bad situation. I was an undrafted player. I was a walk-on. I was the last guy to get to the big leagues. I came in with [former manager] Art Howe, then went to Willie. I was with [former general manager] Steve Phillips, then [former GM] Jim Duquette, then [current general manager] Omar Minaya. No one really saw me. But they heard about me in the papers.”
Alas, the first question is: What happened? How did every team miss on Bell (twice, as he was not drafted in the 1998 draft)? The answer is that drafting baseball players is incredibly difficult and the level of play between high school and college are an ocean away from the level of play in the major leagues. This difference of play requires scouts to make projections about players four to six years into the future, a difficult task at best. The Mets should get credit for giving Bell a chance, but should be severely dinged for the fact that, once he showed the ability to thoroughly dominate AAA, never giving Bell a chance to succeed at the major league level. Further, former Mets General Manager Omar Minaya should be excoriated for his trades prior to the 2007 season. Dealing Bell and Royce Ring to the Padres for non-factors Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins was just the start of the problem. Minaya continued by dealing relievers Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom to the Marlins for Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick (which would have worked out well had Minaya not dealt the solid Vargas to the Seattle Mariners in the ill-fated J.J. Putz deal), then dealing reliever Brian Bannister for Ambiorix Burgos, who pitched poorly, got hurt, then committed a number of crimes (assaulting his girlfriend, hit an run, then kidnapping and poisoning his ex-wife).
The second question is: How did Bell figure it out? Clearly the Mets felt Bell was little more than a middle reliever or, possibly even gave bell the dreaded 4A label. Maybe Bell was better than the Mets believed, but I feel that Bell learned a lot from one of the greatest closers of all time, Trevor Hoffman. As Bell put it:
“Trevor taught me a lot, including, ‘let’s have fun,’” Bell said. “He taught me that we have to be serious, but we’re allowed to have fun before and after games. Before the position players arrive every spring, the pitchers play games with comebackers [balls hit back to the box] and we play a game where we hit in the cage with fungos. It’s fun. San Diego has allowed me to be me. When the game starts, I want to tear your head off, but I’m one of the nicest guys I know. In Philadelphia last year, a fan screamed at me from the stands, ‘How many cheesesteaks did you have today, four?’ I yelled back, ‘Only three, why don’t you get me a fourth?’ Another guy yelled, ‘Hey, fatso.’ I yelled back, ‘Tell me something I don’t know. C’mon, this is Philly, you’re supposed to be better hecklers than that.’”
In the end, Heath Bell made it his own way and we should all be rooting for him, the true underdog.
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