In this week’s edition of the Triple Play, we look at an unlikely power hitter, the Captain’s lost season, and more (including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch). Off we go:
Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics
Crisp has suddenly transformed from a slap-hitting, base-stealing leadoff man into a slugger. In the past three weeks, Crisp has belted eight home runs, driven in 14 and scored 19 runs. For the season, he has a career-high 18 homers, 54 RBI, 17 steals and 77 runs scored. His previous career high was 16, back in 2005 with Cleveland. Since starting this power binge on August 21 against Seattle, Crisp has batted a scorching .344/.386/.813, with a 1.198 OPS. While fantasy owners no doubt miss the stolen bases (he’s on pace for his lowest total since 2009), they have to be enjoying the unexpected power just as much as the A’s. The power could dry up at any time, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
If anyone would like a mulligan on the 2013 season, it has to be Jeter. After fracturing his ankle in the ALCS against Detroit, he finally made his season debut July 11. He went 1-for-4 with a single and an RBI, fueling hopes that he could help turn the Yankees’ season around. However, he left that game with a strained quad muscle and missed another 17 days. He returned again July 28 and played just four games before being injured again. This time, he was out until August 26. He made it through 12 games before having to depart yet again, this time in the 6th inning of Saturday’s game against Boston. His season stat line is .190/.288/.254, with one lone home run, seven RBI, and eight runs scored. The combination of Eduardo Nunez, Luis Cruz and Reid Brignac has not exactly filled the gap, production-wise. At age 39, there has been talk of just shutting Jeter down for the season, but that would be surprising. The Captain will likely try to return to the lineup before season’s end. One thing is certain: with the Yankees scrapping for a wild-card spot in the brutal AL East, his presence has been missed greatly.
Playing the Name Game
Name this pitcher: after being credited with a win yesterday, this pitcher became the first pitcher in American League history to win at least 15 games with four different teams. When he first came up in the 1990s, he was a power pitcher, but has never consistently been a strikeout artist. In 2000, he averaged 10 strikeouts per nine innings, but has never again approached that level. Over the years, he has compensated for his diminishing strikeout rate with excellent control. In 2002, he was traded for a package of players that would go on to include three All-Stars. The next year, he was dealt again and became a free agent at the end of the season. He would go on to win a Cy Young Award for his next team, with which he spent four seasons. The A’s are his fourth different team since 2008. Know who it is yet?
After his Cy Young season, this pitcher endured four injury-plagued seasons before rebounding to make 26 starts in 2011. Those starts were inconsistent (4.00 ERA, 21 home runs allowed in 164 1/3 innings), so that team cut him loose. The end of the line appeared close. He signed with his current team in 2012, partially to serve as a mentor to a stable of young pitchers. Then, at age 39, he rediscovered the control that served him so well during his career peak. He became a vital starter to a team surprisingly in contention for its division. Then in August 2012, he was suspended for 50 gamed for a positive drug test. Although his team went on to win its division, he did not pitch again. You must have it by now, yes?
This year has been this right-hander’s best season since winning the Cy Young while with the Angels in 2005. He leads the AL with three complete-game shutouts and was his team’s lone representative at the All-Star Game. Yes, it’s Oakland’s Bartolo Colon. He won at least 15 games twice while with Cleveland (1999, 2000), once with the White Sox (2003), twice with the Angels (2004, 2005) and now this year with the A’s. If nothing else, he can say he has had a long, interesting career in baseball.
- Wainwright Walk Watch: Once Adam Wainwright started the 2013 season by pitching 37 innings before allowing his first walk of the season, we started a weekly tracker to keep track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace hands out this season. He has led the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio all season, and it hasn’t been close. Saturday night, at home against the Pirates, Wainwright righted the ship, pitching seven innings of shutout baseball. The Cardinals’ 2-0 victory lifted them past Pittsburgh, back into first place in the heated NL Central. Wainwright allowed two hits and two walks, while fanning eight. For the season, he has walked 31 batters in an NL-leading 213 2/3 innings with 195 strikeouts. That’s good for a 6.3-to-1 K/BB ratio, which is still tops in the major leagues. He also leads the league in wins, complete games and walks per 9 IP (1.3). His next start should be Thursday at home against Milwaukee, against whom Wainwright tossed his first complete-game shutout of the season back in April.
- If the Orioles end up missing one of the wild-card spots by one game, they’re going to look back on Sunday’s game as the one that cost them. Chris Dickerson, a 31-year-old journeyman outfielder who has never had more than 255 at-bats in a season, entered the game in the 9th inning as a pinch runner. He fell for a fake by White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who made it appear that a ball hit by Brian Roberts was in play. In fact, it had been a foul pop-up near first base and Dickerson was easily doubled off to end the game. Ouch.
- Another problem for the Orioles has been Chris Davis’ untimely slump. Since the calendar rolled over to September, Davis has hit just .222/.370/.670 in seven games with only one home run. Baltimore can ill afford to have him slump down the stretch.
- The Indians also might have a September 8 loss to lament at the end of the season. Three weeks after dumping Daisuke “The Human Rain Delay” Matsuzaka, Cleveland could only muster three hits and one run against him. Had to be especially sweet for Dice-K, having been in the minors all season until the Mets picked him up. Ouch again.
- They still have nine games remaining against the Kansas City Royals, who have won 11 of their past 15 games and continue to play meaningful September games.
- Kansas City fans are understandably confused and have reportedly contacted fans in other cities to learn how they should handle the situation.
- Texas seems to have adapted fairly well to using their team speed and relying less on outslugging opponents. In 47 games in the second half of the season, the Rangers have stolen 59 bases, which is how many they stole in the 95 games leading to the All-Star break. Now, about that pitching staff…..
- Jacoby Ellsbury (who leads the majors with 52 steals) has a compression fracture in his right foot. He hopes to return before the playoffs, but given the way the Red Sox are hammering the ball, they are well-positioned to weather his absence.
- Furthering that point, over the past two weeks, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Will Middlebrooks have combined for 15 homers, 40 RBI, five stolen bases and 39 runs scored for the Red Sox.
- That had to be a discouraging weekend for the Yankees, losing three straight games in which they scored at least eight runs. With the lineup they’re using these days, scoring four or five runs is fairly impressive. Now, about that pitching staff….
- Considering that baseball nicknames nowadays generally consistent of shortening a player’s name (i.e. CarGo, Tulo, Miggy, Astro-Cab), what is Atlanta’s Joey Terdoslavich’s nickname?
- Billy Hamilton might be the fastest player I’ve ever seen in baseball. He has stolen four bases – including two(!) off Yadier Molina – and scored three runs since being recalled from the minors. Number of plate appearances: zero. Games he has helped decide with his speed: three – and counting.
- The Reds have morphed into a team nobody wants to face. The lineup contains three of the more dangerous bats in the NL (Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce), plus Brandon Phillips. Mat Latos and Homer Bailey have formed a potent top of the rotation, while Aroldis Chapman may be the most intimidating closer in the NL; he regularly hit 100 mph versus the Cardinals last week, with at least one fastball clocked at 103.
- Although, as Cubs and Giants fans will tell you, never underestimate Dusty Baker’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. His suicide squeeze in extra innings last week against St. Louis was classic Baker mismanagement.
- Speaking of the Giants, Hunter Pence needs one more home run to become the first Giants player with a 20 homer/20 steal season since Barry Bonds in 1998. That’s about the best thing we can say about San Francisco baseball this year.
- Raise your hand if you can name the team for which J.B. Shuck, Kole Calhoun, Andrew Romine and Buddy Boshers play. Without looking them up, I mean.
- Yeah, I couldn’t either.
- Rumor has it that Joe Morgan was unhappy about his new statue at Great American Ballpark. Something about statues being made better back when he played the game or something….
- Finally, congratulations to Jason Giambi on becoming the 245th player in major league history to reach the 2,000 hit mark. At age 42, the sun is setting on his playing career. He seems like a sure bet to become a manager sometime within the next five years.
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