Marco’s Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2022: HOT STREAK
By the end of the 1948 season Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees is a crippled mess, barely able to hobble around the diamond. His problem is a nasty bone spur digging into his heel when he puts weight on it. He goes home after the Yanks are eliminated in the pennant race by Bob Feller and the Cleveland Indians... an aberrant season in which the Pin-striped Pulverizors are NOT going to be in the World Series. DiMaggio has an operation on his tender heel and limps home to rest.
His “rest” lasts through the winter, the total run of Spring Training in spring of 1949 and into June...8 months of no baseball at all as his heel still screams at him whenever he puts weight on it. He misses 65 games to start the 49 season. Joe’s career is hanging... twisting slowly in the wind.
The Yankees are doing very well without him to start the season, but they slow down in June as the Red Sox start coming on.
The Sox have won 10 of 11 as the teams get ready to play a 3 game set at Fenway that would start the fans wondering just who was whose Daddy.
But on Wednesday morning back in New York, Joltin’ Joe stands up out of bed and feels...no pain. It is miraculous after over a year of suffering. He can finally put weight on his injured heel without gritting his teeth. He calls manager Casey Stengel immediately.
And that is why on Friday, June 28, Joe DiMaggio’s name is written into the Yankee lineup card and delivered to the umpires at the traditional home plate exchange.
With no Spring Training and no at bats in a game since September 1948, Joe’s timing is off in his first time up and he fouls several pitches out of play to the right side. The Red Sox starter, Mickey McDermott, throws hard. Joe finally blasts a single to left. Ted Williams fields it and laughs, shaking his head. Even he is impressed.
But Ted isn’t laughing when Joe comes up in his second at bat and hits a 2-run homer over the monster. The Boston fans actually give Joe DiMaggio a standing ovation. As one would say later, “You can hate the Yankees, but you gotta love Joe DiMaggio.”
With New York leading in the ninth 5-4, Joe runs down a Williams deep shot to center to preserve the victory.
Saturday. Game 2. The Red Sox come storming out of the gate and lead 7-1 in the 4th inning. Looks like a laugher until ...3-run homer over the monster by DiMaggio! And then in the 8th...2-run bomb over the Green Hulk again! Yanks win 9-7!
The third game of the series has New York leading Boston 3-2 in the seventh in front of a SRO crowd at the Fens. Joe comes up in the 8th with two men on. Nobody is really surprised when he hits the light tower with a 3-run moonshot that wins the game for the Bombers and sparks them towards the pennant and the first of 5 Series wins in a row from ‘49 to ‘53.
DiMag bats .455 in the three game set with 4 home runs and 9 rbis. He says simply: “I think I was the most surprised guy in all of Boston.” So much for Spring Training.
Now Trevor Story is no Joe DiMaggio. But his selection as the Player of the Week in May of 2022 gives pause. Where did that come from?
Boston obviously needs to sign a productive middle infielder in the off season, but the list of suspects empties steadily as one star free agent shortstop after another is gobbled up by hungry teams. Correa to the Twins, Baez to the Tigers, Seager and Marcus Semien to the Rangers, Andrelton Simmons to the Cubs... no call for Story, waiting for the axe to fall after a very productive run as shortstop of the Colorado Rockies. Maybe teams figure Trevor’s numbers have been inflated by Coors Field?
Finally the call from the Red Sox nets him a 6 year, $140,000,000 deal. Oh My Soul, that’s a hunk of change!
Which is why Boston fans are booing him lustily in early May when Trevor is batting .195 with no homers and almost nothing else positive. But here’s the deal…
1/Story is coming from the National to the American League and he doesn’t know the pitchers well.
2/He is adjusting to playing second base instead of his familiar position of shortstop. (Where Boston All-star Xander Bogaerts excels.)
3/Story gets the flu in April
4/Trevor’s wife has herself a baby in May and Trevor goes home to play Daddy. (As he should.)
So he has a few alibis. But the Red Sox are losing spectacularly. Obscenely. Regularly. Constantly. In wholesale lots of lost series after lost series. One run games, blown saves, extra inning cataclysms and blow outs. They are in last place and already written off for any kind of post season, even with the new additional wild card team for this year. And the fans decide that Trevor Story is not earning his salary of $23 mil a year. So they let him know.
But the whole team is in a funk. The Red Sox don’t like the cold weather at all, and this year their offense just ...isn’t. Devers, Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez are doing great, but then the next 6 positions in the lineup are strictly Mendoza-ville. Verdugo, Dalbec, Vasquez, Bradley Junior, Kiki Hernandez...and yes, Trevor Story...all hovering feebly around the .200 line.
You could say the Red Sox can’t hit for average but they have no power. Tough to win ballgames with that lineup, and when you add in a confused and ineffective bullpen you got...as Porgy says…
“plenty of nuthin’”.
Story hits his first 4-bagger as a Red Sox on May 11. And then in Game 1 of the next series against the Mariners he connects 3 straight times and steals a base. Next game? Grand Slam to win it for the Bostons. He winds up the week with two more homers...6 dingers in 7 games with 14 Ribbies. How do you get that hot that quick?
If anybody should know, it’s Trevor Story. His rookie year in Colorado he hit 7 home runs in his first 6 games to win Player of the Week in the N.L. The Hall of Fame wanted his helmet and batting gloves after that career-start. (They wanted his bat too but no way.)
This time, coincidentally, the rest of the Sox lineup gets hot at the same time Trevor does and pours on the the runs. I mean, the averages are still excruciating, but at least people like Dalbec are hitting an occasional bomb and even Jackie Bradley gets a couple of base hits. And since Story’s outbreak, the Boston team has vacated the basement and has a winning record now.
Manager Alex Cora takes the credit. The winning streak coincides with him shaving his beard.
Here are some other interesting Hot Streaks to ponder:
1968...Frank Howard of the Washington Senators hits 10 home runs in a string of 20 at bats. You can’t even understand how hot that is. He sets a record with 10 taters in a week of 6 games. He has 4 games of multiple dingers in the streak.
1952...Walt Dropo of the Detroit Tigers gets a hit in twelve consecutive at bats. He ties the record originally set by the old Cubs catcher Johnny Kling in 1902 and tied by Pinky Higgins of the Boston Red Sox in 1938, but Higgins had a couple of walks mixed in with his base hits. Only Dropo and Kling have ever gotten 12 base hits in consecutive plate appearances. Walt hit 9 straight singles and then went triple, single, double to tie the record before a foul pop ended it in his fourth at bat of the day.
1932...Johnny Burnett of the Cleveland Indians gets 9 hits in one game. (It’s a trick...it was an 18 extra inning game and the Clevelands lost. Burnett went 9 for 11 with 2 doubles.) Nobody has ever gotten within 2 of Johnny Burnett’s Hot Hit Streak.
1927...Babe Ruth hits 17 home runs in 1 month. The Babe set the record of 59 circuit clouts in a season back in 1921. As an older player nobody really expects him to challenge that record and when he stands at 43 taters at the end of August nobody is watching for anything stratospheric. But the Bambino gets hot and clobbers 17 home runs in the month of September, hitting his record 60th in the last game of the year on the same day that his great rival Walter Johnson retires. The Babe hits one off Johnson’s Washington teammate Tom Zachary, who sits in the dugout crying afterward.
Ruth sets the record for home runs in a month that is beaten by…
1937...Rudy York hits 18 bombs in August. Rudy is a rookie on the Detroit Tigers searching for a position on the loaded Tiger team. He’s an Oklahoma Indian with scary power but limited defensive prowess at any position. The Tigres have Hank Greenberg in his prime at first base so nothing for York there. Outfield is not Rudy’s bag either. Likewise catcher and third base. Rudy is a bench warmer until manager Mickey Cochrane puts him in the lineup at catcher on August 4. Rudy hits 4 bing bangs in 4 games...and Cochrane sits him down for awhile and only lets him pinch hit! Eventually they leave him in the lineup and the rookie winds up with 18 tatas and 49 rbis in 30 August games. He finishes the season with 35 long balls in only 375 at bats. So over half his four baggers come in one month. Hace mucho calor!
2017...Giancarlo Stanton hits 18 downtowners in August to tie York’s record.
*****ASTERISK SECTION: Sammy Sosa hits 20 home runs in June of 1998. I guess that makes him a greater player than Ruth, York and Stanton? No...it doesn’t.
The record for homering in consecutive games is 8 by 3 men: Dale Long was a journeyman first baseman playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates when he got hot in 1956. Don Mattingly went yard on a daily basis in 1987. Ken Griffey Jr. duplicated those results in a good week back in July ‘93.
What about the pitchers? Most of you remember Orel “Bulldog” Hershiser strapping the Dodgers to his back and carrying them over the line in 1988 when he set the record for consecutive shutout innings with 59.
But I noticed a funny thing going through the history books: some of the most impressive pitching hot streaks were put up by screwball pitchers.
That is noteworthy because very few pitchers have ever mastered the pitch. We’ve got hundreds of forkball/split finger pitchers and we’ve had submariners and quite a few effective knuckle ball pitchers. But good screwball pitchers? It’s a very hard pitch to master...it’s just the opposite of a curve or slider...the pitcher has to turn his hand inside instead of outside to get the contrary movement. But rarity equals potency when it comes to screwball pitchers.
The Screwball Pantheon:
CHRISTY MATHEWSON (he invented it)
CARL HUBBELL(he mastered it)
WARREN SPAHN (he added it and tried it on Musial)
JUAN MARICHAL (with a high kick added)
MIKE CUELLAR (lots of Cubans liked the screwball)
FERNANDO VALENZUELA (cemented the screwball’s fame)
Luis Arroyo (Cuban born Yankee reliever circa 1961)
Tug McGraw (thanks Warren!)
Willie Hernandez (MVP closer Tigers 1984)
Hector Santiago (throws it today)
Christy Mathewson either invented his famous “fadeaway” (which was a screwball) or didn’t give credit to whoever taught it to him. Matty was such a goody two shoes and super smart to boot that maybe he did invent the pitch. He wasn’t the type to lie about it.
Matty had a great fastball and great control, so when he was on, the other team was in serious trouble. In the 1905 World Series Matty’s Giants were going up against Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. Matty pitches a 4-hit shut out in Game 1, another 4-hit shutout in Game 3 and wins the Series for the New Yorkers with a 6-hit shutout in Game 5. All complete games.
Notice one thing...this was the first meeting between these two rival teams from different leagues, and the A’s had never seen a screwball.
Carl Hubbell might have had the best of all possible screwballs. That’s because he had nothing else to throw that would get people out. King Carl threw the screwball so much that his left (throwing) arm was permanently hanging pronated.
Carl was most famous for his start in the 1934 All Star Game. With two men on in the first inning, King Carl fans Ruth, Gehrig and Foxx...in a row. All three of the sluggers look awkward as hell trying to hit that darting scroogie. In the second inning Hubby fans two more Hall of Famers in Al Simmons and Joe Cronin to set the most memorable All Star pitching record of all time. Notice how many screwballs those five hitters were seeing in the American league...nil. Again, the very rarity of that particular pitch made it effective.
Carl “The Meal Ticket” Hubbell also owns the record for most consecutive games won without a loss. He won 24 decisions without a loss in 1936-37.
Warren Spahn is the winningest leftie of all time. His career didn’t really start until he got back from WWII. His first win came at age 25...and he wound up winning 363 ball games! Spahnie had an arsenal of good pitches. His circle change was famous and in the second half of his career, he added a screwball to give him an even stranger look.
Spahnie coached for the Mets after his playing days were over and taught the screwball to one of the top relief men of the game...Tug McGraw.
Juan Marichal was another pitcher with a gigantic repertoire. He would throw a slider, a curve, a change and a screwball all in the same at bat and throw them from two or three different arm slots.
Fernando Valenzuela showed up in 1981 and took the game by storm with his Luis Tiant “eyes to the heavens prayer to the sky-god” as he delivered to the plate. While the stadium disc jockey played The Lonely Bull on the sound system. Fernando allowed a total of one run in his first 5 games...4 complete game shutouts! Again, the hitters hadn’t really ever seen a pitch do what Fernando’s screwball did.
You know how all the time the Stat-Heads of the game are mumbling about not letting their starters go through the opposing lineup a third time? Familiarity breeds contempt and when good hitters get multiple looks at a hurler’s stuff he’s more likely to do something with it.
Well, if that’s true on a per game basis, it is also true on a seasonal basis. Back in the Good Old Days of two 8 team leagues, each team played the other 7 in their league 22 times every year. Almost every team used a 4-man starting staff and most had maybe 10 pitchers total. So the hitters of the Old Days only had to study up on maybe 30 starters and they saw those starters 5 or 6 times a season. Add in the key relievers. Lots of familiarity. So they got to know the tendencies of those pitchers.
Nowadays you’ve got 14 other teams in your league plus some interleague games. Even with video scouting the hitters can’t keep up with that many pitchers. What is it, maybe 100 pitchers that they’ll see more than once or twice a year and need to figure out how to hit them? Plus new arms coming into the game constantly?
Yet another reason why hitting is disappearing from the game. (And yet another list!...call this one….)
High Average Hitters...An Endangered Species
1/Too many pitchers to keep track of.
2/Improved scouting and video making it possible to find all the studs in the world who can throw 96+ and filling rosters with them.
3/Everybody teaches a slider/cutter that is super hard to recognize as a “pseudo” fastball.
4/Huge bullpens mean hitters never face a tired pitcher. Instead they face a new pitcher almost every at bat.
5/so much speed in the game means outfielders make spectacular plays to rob hitters of base hits in the gaps.
6/glove technology is probably three or four times better than in the
7/too much travel in the game
8/too many cold weather games
How did guys like Ted Williams, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Tony Gwynn and Ichiro do it? Will we ever see a batting average over .360 again? (Ty Cobb hit .362...LIfETIME!)
AND NOW... THE GAZETTE:
The Yanks are pounding the Dickens out of everybody. I tried to jinx them by picking them to finish fourth in the AL East, but it backfired. Whereas in the last several years the Yanks have looked old, now every move they make works like magic. I think their best move was trading Gary Sanchez, the anti-catcher ,to the Twins for Josh Donaldson. Their pitching staff loves new catcher Trevino and you’ve seen Taillon, Montgomery, Severino and Nestor Cortes all turn into stoppers. And Gerrit Cole is still there!
If I had told you pre-season that Chapman, Chad Green, Loaisiga and Zack Britton were going to miss all or most of the season you would have jumped off their bullpen bandwagon I bet. But the Yanks got lucky with Clay Holmes turning into Mariano Junior and Michael King striking out 51 batters in 37 innings.
They fixed up their shortstop problem with that Falafel kid from Pittsburgh via Twinky town. (Excuse me...Isiah Kiner-Falefa.)
The infield is solid now with Gleber Torres moving over to second where he does less harm. They went out and got Anthony Rizzo to play first base. I told you he was too old. But evidently not too old to lay in ambush of low inside fastballs to Pop into the Pavillion. 18 taters to augment Aaron Judge’s 25. (Aaron on his way to a career year...barring injury.)
So much for my prediction of disaster in Pinstripes. The oddsmakers are only giving the Yankees a 99.9% chance of making the playoffs. (Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber: “So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance!”)
AL Central: Tony LaRussa is obviously insane. He’s walking Trea Turner after his pitcher gets ahead with a 1-2 count? Huh? Not exactly a by-the-book managing decision. The White Sox should get Joe Maddon who the Angels should never have let go. (How many games was he supposed to win with no pitching staff and injuries to Trout and Rendon?) The White Sox, even as diminished by injury as they are, still hold the hammer in the AL Central.
AL West: Those mischievous Astros! They’ve somehow reworked their whole lineup so skillfully that it’s the same production with mostly new names. From Springer, Altuve, Correa, Bregman to Alvarez, Tucker, Altuve, Bregman, Pena. Nicely done, Space City!
NL East: the Bravos just finished a 14 game win streak against Arizona, Colorado,Oakland,Pittsburgh and Washington. Impressive, right? Not when you look at the records of those opponents. The Braves are short on hitting, especially in the outfield. They lost Ozzie Albeis at least til September. Their pitching is definitely not deep. They are down 5.5 games to the Mets and 3 ahead of the Phillies. And they’ve now finished up the kindest portion of their schedule.
So..one question Atlanta...NOW DO YOU MISS FREDDIE FREEMAN???
NL Central: Dead tie. Milwaukee and St. Louis. As predicted in these pages. Goldschmidt and Arenado are the golden boys of the Cardinals and they have offensive help from Edman. But the St. Louis team has 8 regulars or semi-regulars with on base averages under .320.
The Brewers are barely functioning offensively. Yelich has never rounded into the form of MVPs of old and the Brew-Crew has 11 regulars with OBAs of under .320. So don’t expect a lot of scoring in their upcoming 4 game set in Milwaukee.
Problem: The Brewers have lost 3 star pitchers: Peralta, Woodruff and Josh Hader. Poof and they’re gone. Corbin Burns is the last Ace standing.
St. Louis needs to win this series and start pulling away from Milwaukee. These teams have gone 5-5 against each other this season. I relish watching how they match up right now.
NL West: Ssshhhh! Everybody be quiet and don’t wake them up! DON’T WAKE THE DODGERS!!!
They’ve been coasting all season with their unbeatable lineup and their unbeatable pitching staff and now they’ve somehow just fallen totally asleep and zonkered out into a protracted comatosity.
Remember San Diego...Pride of the Waffle House team colors and forever cursed because they never won one with Tony Gwynn? Have a shortstop who’d rather break bones on his motor bike than on the ballfield? Well yesterday they were in first place for a minute.
And the Giants of San Francisco...nice city if you like cable cars and Hippies. The Giants have been winning frequently and doggedly.
They’re coming for you again Dodgers! Bobby Thompson, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Stretch McCovey, Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and all the Dodger-killers of the past are biting you on the ass in the division standings. They never quit, Dodger Boys!!
(The hairy, skinny freak with the pistol and the coke bottles on his fingers from The Warriors:
Come out to PLAAAAAAY_AAAAY!!!!”)