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Cleaning Out the Fridge
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Cleaning Out the Fridge
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
May 31, 2007

From time to time, I will spot something or think of something that I don’t have time to write about or think more about at the moment, so I will email it to myself. Invariably, I fail to follow up on these things, and they sit in my inbox for a while. When I finally get around to cleaning out these things, it can be a lot like cleaning out a refrigerator – I just look at these things in bewilderment and wonder why I ever thought I should save them.

Rather than mindlessly tossing these things this time, however, I decided to compile them here. In a sense, if cleaning these things out of my inbox amounts to a proverbial cleaning out of my fridge, then you reading them amounts to a proverbial rooting through my trash.

Kerry Wood

We all know about Kerry Wood’s infamous 20 strikeout game. Recently, I was looking at the boxscore for that game, and I saw some things that I haven’t realized until now.

First and foremost, it should be pointed out that, as on as Wood was that day, Shane Reynolds of the Astros had quite a day himself. He took the loss, but went eight innings for the complete game, allowing eight hits and two runs, one earned, while striking out 10 and walking two. After Wood struck out the side in the top of the first, Reynolds went on to match the feat in the bottom half of the inning.

Second, this means the Cubs and Astros combined for 30 strikeouts and two walks that day. I challenge everyone out there reading this match this game for a) total strikeouts between two teams, and b) worst combined strikeout to walk ratio for in a single game.

Third, Wood gave up only one hit and walked none that day. As many of us remember, the only thing that stood between him and perfection on that day in May, 1998, was a muffed grounder by Kevin Orie which was ruled a single after it deflected off of his glove. But what I didn’t remember is that the player that got that hit was none other than Ricky Gutierrez, who would go on to play shortstop for the Cubs in 2000 and 2001.

Frank Crosetti

Only player ever to lead his league in outs three years in a row – Frankie Crosetti, SS, New York Yankees, 1937, 1938, 1939.

Also led the league in hit by pitch eight times, including five times a row from 1936-1940.

Miscellaneous from my Father-in-Law

This is a follow up message to Interesting fact I sent on May 1. (On May1st, Chuck sent me an email noting that the Yankees and Nationals had the same number of wins).

Today is May 29, four weeks after my previous message. The Nationals have won 21 games, same as the Yankees. Who would have guessed this?

How many more times will I get to send this message?

The Nats have a payroll of $35 million compared to the Yankees $200 million. Figure about a third of the season has been played and the payroll is about a third expended. That means the Nats have spent $555,555 per win, and the Yankees have spent about $3,174,603 per win. Go figure.

I noticed that Dmitri Young and Scott Rolen collided the other day and it put both out of the lineup after the rain delay. When you compare the fielding prowess of both players, it’s like comparing the gold glove with the anti-glove. It’s almost like a collision between matter and anti-matter. No wonder it put both players out of the game.

This day in history bonus fact: Joe Niekro hit the only home run of his 22-year career this day in 1976—off his brother Phil.

Craig Biggio Is Hurting the Astros

For those of you who have not noticed, Major League Baseball is going through a bit of a “Year of the Leadoff Hitter.” In the just the NL East, Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins and Jose Reyes of the Mets are arguably their teams’ best players, while Kelly Johnson (Braves) and Jimmy Rollins (Phillies) have been instrumental in their teams’ success. I could catalog the exploits of the leadoff men throughout baseball for you – Grady Sizemore, Curtis Granderson, Alexis Rios, David DeJesus, Rickie Weeks, Chris Duffy, Juan Pierre, Ichiro Suzuki, Reggie Willits, Chris B. Young, Marcus Giles, and Luis Castillo to name a bunch – but this isn’t the point I want to make today.

The point I want to make today has to do with a certain NL Central team that is currently failing to live up to its own standards. This team is currently 9 games under .500 after a 9 game losing streak, and is in fourth place in the division after spending the last thirteen years finishing worse than second place only once.

We are talking, of course, about the Houston Astros, and the point I have to make here today is this: Are the Houston Astros really willing to sacrifice the 2007 season to make Craig Biggio happy?

Biggio, as we all know, may be the greatest player in the history of the Astros franchise, depending on how you feel about Jeff Bagwell. Nine days from today will mark the 20th anniversary of the day the Astros drafted Biggio with the 22nd overall pick in the 1987 amateur draft, and what he has accomplished in that time has been impressive. One of the best offensive second basemen of all time – and a player Bill James once had ranked 35th in the history of baseball – Biggio finds himself knocking on the door of the 3,000 hits club and the 300 homeruns club (and with it the 300/300 club), and he has already topped 1800 runs and 650 doubles for his career.

That said, Craig Biggio is currently hurting the only team he has ever played for.

The Houston Astros are currently 21-30 after a nine game losing streak, good for fourth in the NL Central, a weak division which will probably be won for the second year in a row by a team with a record just over .500. The Astros recently followed a winless road West Coast road trip with a home loss to the Cincinnati Reds, one of the worst teams in the National League. This streak is nothing new – the Astros have had losing streaks of four and seven games in addition to the current one.

So, why are the Astros struggling?

Simple – they are playing 41-year-old who can no longer field his position particularly well at second base, and batting a 41-year-old who can no longer get on-base consistently at lead-off.

Second base is a crucial position. It makes up part of the all-important up-the-middle defense that any team relies to support its pitching. And how has Biggio performed there this season? He has committed only two errors, but his range factors is significantly below the league average, indicating that he simply isn’t getting to the number of balls that other second basemen get to. And it isn’t like the Astros don’t have a quality second baseman to replace Biggio with. On the contrary, Houston has both Mark Loretta, and extremely capable second baseman on both offense and defense, and Chris Burke, an up-and-comer who the Astros may use at that position just as soon as Biggio is out of there.

The more damaging aspect of Craig Biggio 2007 is his hitting. Biggio has hit leadoff in 41 games this season, but in that time has walked only 11 times to go with 33 strikeouts. That computes to a whopping on-base percentage of .286. If Biggio’s batting average were .286, it would not put him in the upper tier of leadoff men this season, but an OBP of .286 is simply a disaster. Biggio has only led off a game by walking or being hit by a pitch twice in 42 chances.

As a result of Biggio’s performance in the lead-off spot, the Astros have suffered. Houston ranks 28th in the Majors in runs scored per games, ahead of only Washington and St. Louis. Perennial RBI machine Lance Berkman has only 24 RBI in 50 games, putting him on pace for what would easily be a career low for a full season. Look, the Astros have every right to let their most beloved player play as long as he wants, to achieve all the milestones that he deserves to achieve, and to do these things in an Astros uniform. But the Astros also have a legitimate chance to develop some young talented players while also making a run at the NL Central title this season. When Craig Biggio gets inducted into the Hall of Fame, no one will likely remember what he did individually during the last season of his illustrious career. But if the Astros managed to make a run at the World Series part of Biggio’s finale, I think it would be a special year indeed.

Some leadoff hitter is going to play an instrumental role in carrying his team to the World Series in 2007. If the Astros see themselves in the post-season, that leadoff hitter will have to be someone other than Craig Biggio.

Notes on Three Pitchers at the End of May

Johan Santana - Santana has already given up 12 homeruns in 73.0 innings after giving up only 24 in 233.2 last season and 22 in 231.2 the year before. Remarkably, over 46% of the earned runs against him have been scored via the homerun.

Oliver Perez - If Perez can keep up his performance this season, his new nickname will be Oliver “Kotter” Perez (as in “Welcome Back”). For whatever reason, Perez has regained the form that he displayed during his dominant 2004 season when he struck out 239 batters in only 196.0 innings. Perez is currently limiting hitters to a .197 average and his WHIP sits at 1.02, while he his K/BB ratio sits at a career best 3.39 (61/18). Like Santana, Perez has been disproportionately hurt by the homeruns – he has given up nine in 63.2 innings, which accounts for over 47% of the earned runs against him. Fear not though, Mets fans – of those nine homeruns, five were hit in two games by the Giants, against whom Perez will not pitch again this season, while only two have been hit in 36.0 innings (6 games) against divisional opponents.

Ervin Santana - In five home games this season, Santana is 4-1 with a 2.12 ERA and a 2.5 (25/10) K/BB ratio in 34.0 innings. In six road games, he is 0-5 with a 9.30 ERA and a 1.35 (23/17) K/BB ratio in 30.0 innings. The home/road splits on Santana are simply astonishing:

G GS W L SV CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP BAA
Home 5 5 4 1 0 0 0 34.0 27 8 8 2 10 25 2.12 1.09 .216
Away 6 6 0 5 0 0 0 30.0 45 34 31 11 17 23 9.30 2.07 .346


The Angels should learn to play a game called “Do Not Let Ervin Santana Pitch on the Road.” The rules are simple.


Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.

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