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May, 2010

5/29/10: #34 Tosses #20 - Roy Halladay threw the 20th perfect game in major league history Saturday night, fanning 11 Marlins along the way. Halladay needed 115 pitches and some generous umpire calls to get it done, but wasn't really the beneficiary of any exceptional defense behind him.

Remarkably, this marks the first time since 1880 in which two perfect games were thrown in one year. Lee Richmond and Monte Ward actually tossed perfectos five days apart in June of 1880 for the first two perfect games of all time. Baseball Evolution wonders whether anyone back then had an inkling that there would only be 18 more thrown over the next 130 years.

This also marks the 10th no-hitter in Phillies history. The last three perfect games have come against Florida-based teams.

Giants Prospect Meter: Who’s Hot: May 22, 2010 - Buster Posey was the San Francisco Giants' top prospect entering the 2010 season, and he hasn't done anything so far to contradict that ranking. He leads a large group of Giants prospects who have been sizzling so far this season. Learn more in the inaugural edition of The Giants Prospect Meter, a look at who’s hot among the team’s minor league prospects.

5/19/10: Pierre's Putrid Power - Juan Pierre had a nice game Tuesday night. He went 2-for-4 and robbed Juan Rivera of a possible home run in the fifth with a leaping catch. Unfortunately for Chicago's left fielder, he also reached a rather dubious milestone. By failing to hit a home run in those four at-bats against Joe Saunders, Juan Pierre now has exactly 1,500 at-bats in his career without a home run against left-handed pitchers.

That is a phenomenal number of at-bats without a homer. To put that in perspective, no player has had a homerless 1,500 at-bat career since the end of World War II and only two players (Tom Oliver and Irv Hall) have had such careers since 1890. Jack McCarthy did have a whopping 2,736 at-bats without a homer between 1900 and 1907, but he also clubbed four homers in 1899. More recently, Jim Gantner had a steak of 1,762 at-bats without a homer between 1987 and 1991, but Gantner boasted a robust 47 taters in his 17-year career.

Pierre's 13 dingers in 4,187 at-bats against right-handers may not seem like much, but it dwarfs his historic lack of power against southpaws.

5/19/10 - Finally got the Monk off their backs - The San Francisco Giants reversed just about all of their season's offensive trends on Tuesday. They came into the game 0-7 against the San Diego Padres with just nine runs scored in those games, plus zero runs scored in 16 innings against Padres starter Mat Latos. For the season, the Giants had averaged 4.3 runs per game and 8.8 hits per game.

So naturally, against Mat Latos Tuesday night in Petco Park, the Giants racked up seven runs on 18 hits, albeit in 12 innings rather than nine. No-name players Andres Torres, Eli Whiteside, Matt Downs, John Bowker, Ryan Rohlinger, and Eugenio Velez combined to go 10-for-20 with a homer and six RBI.

The Giants are currently just a half game in back of the Friars despite their struggles against San Diego and an offense that ranks 13th in the NL in runs scored.

May 18, 2010 - A New Paradigm for Hall of Fame Predictions. Is Jamie Moyer a future Hall of Famer? How about Albert Pujols? What about Joe Mauer?

Playing the Hall of Fame prediction game is always fun. Every baseball fan does it, from you and me to Bill James and Rob Neyer to Darren Daulton and Mike Missonelli. But to ask whether Moyer, Pujols, or Mauer will one day be in the Hall of Fame is to ask three different questions.

By looking at the careers of Phil Niekro, Sandy Koufax, and Dale Murphy - two of whom are Hall of Famers and one of whom improbably turned out not to be - we can get a better feel for how to handle this question.

Indeed, it can give us a whole new paradigm for this analysis.

May 18, 2010 - The Recent History of Early Call-Ups. By all accounts, Stephen Strasburg looks to be one of the greatest pitching prospects in baseball history. Curt Schilling has even gone so far as to say he'll be the best pitcher in baseball when he inevitably makes his major league debut next month. Strasburg has obvious skills, but what does recent history tell us about bringing pitching prospects to the majors with only minimal minor league seasoning? Let's have a look.

NEW YORK - MAY 17:  Marcus Thames #38 of the New York Yankees celebrates his two-run walk off home run in the ninth inning to beat the Boston Red Sox on May 17, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Red Sox 11-9.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
May 18, 2010 - Marcus Thames Enjoys His Yankees Moment. It was the type of moment that Marcus Thames probably thought he’d enjoy many times during his career when he was coming up in the New York Yankees farm system: tie score, two outs, bottom of the ninth against the hated Boston Red Sox. Thames, a former Yankees prospect who is back with the Yankees this season after seven years with Texas and Detroit, became the latest hero in the Yankees-Red Sox saga when he hit a walk-off two-run homerun last night to cap off a wild game in the House That Jeter Built.

An Actual E-mail from Actual Reader Josh S.:

Asher, I'm sure you have boats to represent but if you get a spare moment, can you use your skillz to come up with the percentage of times that Wilson Valdez has converted on GIDP opportunities? That guy is responsible for oodles of outs.

Actual Answer from an Actual Writer:

Actually, Josh, you’ve really nailed this. This morning, you commented that it seemed like if Valdez weren’t in the lineup, the Phillies would never stop batting. This is closer to true than it has any right to be. You also said during last night's game that Valdez hits double play balls even when it isn’t a double play situation. Also dead on.

05/09/2010: Dallas Perfect in Oakland - Dallas Braden tossed the 19th perfect game in major league history Sunday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays. Braden needed just 109 pitches - including 77 strikes - to set down all 27 Rays hitters he faced in order. The final out of the game - Gabe Kapler - was the one who authored the long drive that DeWayne Wise caught in the ninth inning of last year's perfect game by Mark Buehrle. Kapler worked the count to 3-1 in the ninth before grounding out to shortstop and cobbled together a 12-pitch at-bat in the sixth that ended with a pop foul.

While the Rays may be reeling a bit from having perfect games thrown against them in consecutive seasons, the fact that they ended the game with the best record in baseball serves as some consolation.

5/8/10: Dave Kingman of the Marlins? - Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins - who currently plays shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays - has an award in his name for the position player who falls the furthest after a quick start to the season. Dave Kingman - who played for seven major league teams, including two stints with the Mets, but never with the Blue Jays or Marlins - has an award in his name for the position player who has the least value despite a gaudy home run total.

32 games into the 2010 season, Gonzalez ranks second in the American League with 10 homers, but is hitting just .266 with a .304 OBP, thanks in large part to his whopping strikeout total of 31 and his meager walk total of six. Despite the 10 homers, he has only scored 20 times and only driven in 26 runs. If the season were to end today, Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins (Blue Jays) would be a leading candidate for the Dave Kingman Award.

As remarkable as that would be, we also have to consider the possibility that Gonzalez could sweep the two awards. With both power numbers and strikeout numbers well above career norms, AGotM(BJ) is a serious threat to win his own award with a poor second half in 2010.

We are only about one month into the season, but things are taking shape around Major League Baseball. While the Yankees and Rays vie for the title of MLB's best team, three squads are locked in a heated battle for the rights to the #1 overall pick of the 2011 draft. While the Baltimore Orioles have the worst record in all of baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates boast the worst run differential even after beating the Cubs 11-1 Thursday night, it is the Houston Astros that are clearly the worst team in the major leagues.

5/6/10: Things Are Going Bradley for the Mariners - The Seattle Mariners placed outfielder Milton Bradley on the restricted list today. The news comes as a complete shock, as Bradley has never been suspended by a team or league official before. It comes on the heels of a shouting match with Mariners manager Don Wakumatsu, which was notable, as Bradley had never had an altercation with a coach or manager prior to that incident.

Similarly, the five games Bradley missed in April - which conveniently allowed him to miss a three-game series in Chicago - created quite a stir, as Bradley had never missed a game due to injury in his big league career and had been gearing up to make a run at Cal Ripken's consecutive games played streak.

Prior to his deactivation, Bradley had gone 1-for-20 as the Mariners' cleanup hitter. That Bradley would be the Mariners' primary power acquisition of the offseason made a lot of sense, as the 32-year-old Bradley has twice clubbed over 14 home runs in a season and twice eclipsed the 56-RBI mark.

The Mariners are on a six-game losing streak and have scored the fewest runs in the American League.

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