Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-8-22

8/22/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Happy birthday to Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Paul Molitor

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Top of the 1st
HOME RUNS WITH A RING TO THEM
It has often been said that baseball is a game of inches, that theorem also applies to the concept that baseball is a game of sounds and there is only a slight, inch like, difference in the sounds. For example, the uninformed ear hears the Fenway faithful providing a resounding level of disdain for one of their favorites as they intone “Yooook” whenever Kevin Youkilis comes to the plate. This is easier to distinguish than the “Boooog” that the Memorial Stadium fans shouted out to Boog Powell when he lumbered up to the plate for the Baltimore Orioles, back in the day.

There is also a very distinctive sound that a well hit baseball makes. Watch the outfielder, but don’t listen to the fans when they think the crack of the bat of a hometown slugger has a resulted in a long homer. Invariably, the outfielder has heard the sound of that gentle fly ball as he takes a few steps in and makes the catch.

But there is a different “ring of the bat” of a home run hitter that is significantly more important; that being the ring that a World Series champion wears, because after all, isn’t that championship more important than a home run crown?

This season, Prince Fielder leads the National League in homers. We can give him a pass to the fact that he wears no championship rings, after all this is only his second full year in the majors; but what about Alex Rodriguez who leads the majors in homers? In fact, he has over 500 of them, how many championship rings does he wear? Well actually here in his 13th year in the bigs he has yet to play in the Series.

Forget A-Rod and his 500+ homers, let’s go to the big boy himself, Barry B*nds. In 22 years he led his team to the Series but once and his Giants lost to the Angels (although Barry did have a great Series, which in part makes up for the eight miserable other post-seasons in which he participated in).

Perhaps B*nds is too big and too easy a target. Number two on the all-time home run list is Hank Aaron. In 23 seasons, Hammerin’ Henry went to the postseason three times, the Series twice, and he does have one big ring to show for it. Let’s look at the top ten home run sluggers of all-time and see how they did in their quest to lead their teams to World Series rings.
1. B*nds is 0 wins and 1 loss
2. Aaron was 1 and 1
3. Babe Ruth was 7 and 3
4. Willie Mays was 1 and 3
5. Sammy S*sa is 0 and 0
6. Ken Griffey, Jr. is 0 and 0
7. Frank Robinson was 2 and 3
8. Mark McGw*re was 1 and 2
9. Harmon Killebrew was 0 and 1
10. Rafael Palm*iro was 0 and 1

Of the top 10 home run hitters of all-time only two won multiple championship rings and only five won rings during their long careers which is the same number who appeared in the Series one time or less.

Maybe history is a fluke. Maybe this year is different…then again, maybe not. Of the top 20 leaders in homers this season (really 22 because of a tie for 20th) in the American League A-Rod leads and Hideki Matsui, who is ninth in the league, and their Yankees have a middling chance of making the postseason. Gary Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez are sixth and eighth respectively and their Tigers are fighting to make the postseason. David Ortiz is 10th in the league, Manny Ramirez is 18th, and their Red Sox will be in the postseason, although last year when Big Papi led the AL in homers with 54 the Sox missed the postseason.

Grady Sizemore is 12th in the league and his Cleveland teammates Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, and Jhonny Gomes are all tied for 20th and they are all scrambling, and battling Detroit, to make the postseason. Also scrambling are Richie Sexson (13th) and Adrian Beltre (16th) of the Mariners. Finally, there is Vlad Guerrero, 19th in the league, playing for the Angels who will most likely make the postseason. Overall, it’s not very impressive.

In the National League, our top 20 is also 22 and the results aren’t more impressive. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are wishing the Brewers can hang on. Ryan Howard, Aaron Rowand and Jimmy Rollins are hoping that the Phillies can sneak in. Albert Pujols’ Cardinals are only alive because their competition is so mediocre. Carlos Beltran and David Wright, barring a major collapse, will most likely be with the rest of their Mets in the playoffs. Chris Young hopes that Brandon Webb can keep pitching so his Diamondbacks remain in first place. While Andruw Jones has 23 homers, good for 13th in the league, his Braves have only a marginal shot at the playoffs thanks to his .214 batting average. Then there are Brad Hawpe and Matt Holliday barely hanging in at 20th in the league playing for the Rockies who are barely hanging in the pennant race.

With all of our fascination with the home run it does make you think maybe a home run hitter is not really the key to success. The reality is that after 13 straight seasons in which teams averaged at least a homer a game, it appears that teams will fall short of that mark this year. Last season, the average team hit 180 homers and this year teams are on an 160 homer pace with only four teams, the Brewers, the Reds, the Yankees, and the Phillies, heading to 200 or more homers and there is a better than fair chance that none of them will make the postseason.

Through August 22 this year, just five players Alex Rodriguez (42), Prince Fielder (39), Adam Dunn (34) Ryan Howard (33), Miguel Cabrera (30) have 30 or more homers. Through the same date a year ago, at least 15 players had already hit at least 30 blasts.

Home runs may make the baseball cash registers ring but it seems that the few championship rings that home run hitters bring are confined to your fantasy league.

Top of the 2nd
TIGER-IFFIC
If the Tigers finish above the Indians this season, Jair Jurrjens will deserve to be doused with champagne rather than with shaving cream, which is what a rookie pitcher gets in when he wins his first big-league game.

Jurrjens, the 21-year-old right-hander from Curacao, was brilliant last night as Detroit defeated the first-place Indians, 2-1. Jurrjens allowed only one hit in his second major league start, a Jhonny Peralta homer with one out in the 6th in what ended up being Cleveland’s only hit of the game. It was the first time in franchise history, the Indians’ lone hit was a home run. The last time they had only one hit was April 15 in a 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox. Detroit didn’t a lot better getting only three hits but two of them were consecutive homers from Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen off Fausto Carmona.

The game also marked the return of Joel Zumaya. Zumaya was brought in when Jurrjens, with two outs in the 7th, walked Travis Hafner on four pitches. Zumaya threw four pitches to Ryan Garko, fastballs that hit 97, 98 and 99 mph, in getting him on a bouncer to second to end the inning.

“I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life,” Jurrjens told reporters after the game. So will a lot of Tiger fans if Detroit overtakes Cleveland for the AL Central crown.

Top of the 3rd
TWO SOFT SPOTS
There are two genuine soft spots in the rotations of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees – Jon Lester and Mike Mussina and they both pitched last night. Lester came out a winner, Mussina a loser; perhaps because Lester faced the Devil Rays and Mussina faced the major league Angels.

Lester (2-0) allowed five runs and four hits over 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander, who struck out four and walked four, in the Sox 8-6 victory, has a 5.67 ERA.

Mussina, gave up seven runs and seven hits in 1 2/3 innings in his shortest outing of the season as the Angels walloped the Yankees, 18-9. Mussina (8-9) has a 5.22 ERA.

The real story of the Angels victory was the massive game by Garrett Anderson who set a club record with 10 RBI. Anderson hit a grand slam, a three-run shot, drove in two runs with a double, and doubled home another run for Los Angeles. The home runs were his seventh and eighth of the season.

He became only the 12th player in major league history to reach double-digit RBI in a game and received his first curtain call from the appreciative fans. He is the first player with 10 RBI in a game since Alex Rodriguez also had 10 against the Angels on April 26, 2005. Rodriguez hit a pair of solo shots his 41st and 42nd homers of the season.

The major league record of 12 RBI is shared by the St. Louis Cardinals’ Jim Bottomley (1924) and Mark Whiten (1993). The AL record of 11 was set by Tony Lazzeri of the Yankees on May 24, 1936.

Anderson had a chance to break the major league mark when he came up in the 8th with runners at the corners and two outs, but he grounded out to shortstop.

Top of the 4th
MLB ATTENDANCE MARKS

Year Attendance
2006 76,043,902
2005 74,926,174
2004 73,022,969
2003 67,630,489
2002 67,941,211
2001 72,581,101
2000 71,358,907
1999 70,139,380
1998 70,372,221 (30 teams)
1997 62,616,312 (28 teams)
1996 60,097,381
1995 50,469,236 (strike year)
1994 50,010,016 (strike year)
1993 70,256,938 (28 teams)
1992 55,870,466 (26 teams)
1991 56,888,512
1990 54,823,768
1989 55,173,096
1988 52,988,904
1987 52,011,506

The three most-attended days in major-league history:
Date Attendance Games Average
July 28, 2007 717,478 17 42,205
July 3, 1999 640,412 17 37,671
July 21, 2007 639,628 16 39,977

What’s your take? – Discuss the numbers, Bill@billy-ball.com.

Top of the 5th
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
In Monday’s 9-0 loss to the Brewers, infielder Jeff Cirillo became the second Diamondbacks position player to throw a scoreless inning in the past week. Augie Ojeda threw a scoreless inning last Tuesday in a 14-5 loss at Florida. It was the first pitching appearance of Cirillo’s career.

Cirillo entered the game as a pinch-hitter, played an inning at second base, and then moved to the mound. Cirillo walked two batters but didn’t allow a hit. More importantly, he knew how important it was to get the leadoff batter and he did, striking out Craig Counsell (who must be sooooo embarrassed).

Last night Gabe Gross hit a grand slam in a five-run 7th inning that helped the Brewers beat the Diamondbacks, 7-4. It keeps Milwaukee tied with the Chicago Cubs, who beat San Francisco 5-1, for first place in the division. The Diamondbacks, who have lost three straight for the first time since July 15-17, remained 3