The A's free-fall continued apace, the Phillies threw a no-hitter, and all the rest of the long weekend's action.
The Labor Day Weekend Takeaway
“Embarrassing” and “pathetic” were just two of the words that Oakland skipper Bob Melvinused to describe his team’s play during the weekend’s critical showdown against the division-rival Angels. The A’s began the four-game series just one game behind the Halos in the American League West, but Oakland’s bats went into hibernation during the weekend series as their chances of claiming a third straight division crown are rapidly slipping away.
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Tim Lincecum no-hits the Padres again, but in a very different fashion, plus other action from Wednesday and what to watch today.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Until yesterday afternoon, only one pitcher in major league history had no-hit the same team twice. In the series finale between the Giants and Padres, Tim Lincecum gave long-ago Cleveland Naps right-hander Addie Joss—who baffled the White Sox in 1908 and 1910—some company by dominating Bud Black’s lineup for the second time in less than a year.
Six good fan videos of Clayton Kershaw's final out.
You might have noticed while watching Clayton Kershaw's final out last night that, in between shots of Kershaw's wife, there were shots of fan after fan after fan after fan holding up a cell phone. All those videos had to go somewhere, and these are five of them, shot from various parts of the ballpark, all posted to YouTube since last night and all giving you a pretty non-nauseating sense of what it was like in the stands last night.
Clayton Kershaw gives the Dodgers their second no-hitter of 2014, the Royals run their winning streak to 10, Bartolo finds his bat, and more.
The Wednesday Takeaway
When play began on Wednesday, the Dodgers—thanks to Josh Beckett—were the only major-league team that could boast about a no-hitter this year. That’s still true. Only now they have two of them, after Clayton Kershaw sliced through the Rockies in Chavez Ravine last night.
The American League wild card battle took centerstage this past weekend, but Henderson Alvarez stole the spotlight on Sunday afternoon.
With most eyes focused on the AL Wild Card race over the weekend, Henderson Alvarez turned heads on Sunday with an outstanding performance that ended the season for the Marlins in dramatic fashion.
Through eight innings, Alvarez had rendered the Tigers hitless and allowed just two batters to reach base. The right-handed hurler plunked Prince Fielder with a slow curveball in the first inning, while Jose Iglesias reached base on an Adeiny Hechavarria error in the fifth.
Tim Lincecum's no-hitter was a great moment for Giants fans, but it didn't make Brian Sabean's job any easier.
The Weekend Takeaway Tim Lincecum accomplished more in his first three-plus major-league seasons than most pitchers do in decade-long careers.
Back-to-back games with double-digit strikeouts on July 26 and August 1, 2008. Back-to-back National League Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009. A four-hit shutout on September 13, 2008. A two-hitter with 14 strikeouts in Game One of the 2010 National League Division Series, the first step toward the first of his two World Series rings.
We generally don't expect top athletes to choke, but that doesn't mean they don't get just as nervous as you would.
There was a brief period in my life when I was afraid to drive. I had had a near accident on I-5 when I, inexplicably, could not find the brake pedal and had to veer off the freeway at full speed. After that, I drove in dread of missing the pedal again. I tried to visualize myself braking, but even in the visions the nervous part of my brain took over and my visualized foot would just flail dumbly and unsuccessfully. This is what we call choking. A bit of nerves made me unable to perform a basic function. The level of stress it took to cause me to choke was: the threat of having to slow down a car. It did not take a lot of stress to cause me to choke.
We take it for granted that baseball players won’t choke, except in the extremely rare cases when they do. We are aware of those cases, and those cases make sports a little bit unpredictable and exciting, but mostly we take it for granted that they won’t choke. We take it so for granted that we have repurposed the word to describe merely failing in a big situation, which has nothing to do with choking. In a competition between two athletes, after all, one must fail. There’s nothing psychological about it. If you say Alex Rodriguez chokes in big situations, you mean he pops out. You don’t mean he forgets how to swing and holds the bat upside down.
After over 50 years without a no-hitter, Johan Santana finally pitched the Mets to a spot in history.
The Weekend Takeaway
Superstitious baseball fans scream or tweet threats at broadcasters who mention that a no-hitter is in progress for fear that the pastime’s overlords won’t let it stand. Apparently, those same overlords read Craig Glaser’s guest article last Tuesday and decided that the curse should work in reverse, too.
Some 80 hours after the article went up on the Baseball Prospectus homepage, Johan Santana took the mound at Citi Field and threw the first of the 134 pitches he would need to do what no Mets hurler had ever done before. He began with an 88-mph fastball to Rafael Furcal and ended with a 79-mph changeup that fooled David Freese. In two hours and 35 minutes, Santana walked five Cardinals and struck out eight, facing 32 batters without surrendering a hit.
No Mets pitcher has ever thrown a no-hitter? How unlikely is their no no-no streak, and how many no-hitters would we expect them to have?
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Craig Glaser is an Application Developer at Bloomberg Sports, where he helped design and implement the algorithms that make Bloomberg’s fantasy baseball tool Front Office tick. He has previously written articles for The Hardball Times, Surviving the Citi, Amazin’ Avenue, and his own site, Sabometrics. A member of SABR, he has recently participated in panels at the SABR Analytics and 50th Anniversary of the Mets conferences. In a prior life, he studied Experimental Economics and Cognitive Psychology at NYU, focusing on how people perceive probabilities, a field of study that continues to color his view of life and the sport of baseball. You can find his musings about sports, probability, and everything else on Twitter @Sabometrics.
Fans were treated to weird baseball in Boston when the O's and Sox resorted to using position players as pitchers.
The Weekend Takeaway
Everyone loves a good dose of weird baseball, and that’s precisely what fans at Fenway Park were treated to on Sunday afternoon. The Orioles capped off their first sweep of the Red Sox in Boston since 1994, but that does not even begin to describe what transpired on Yawkey Way.
In one of the most bizarre goat-to-hero stories you will ever see, designated hitter Chris Davis hit like a pitcher… and then pitched like one, too. Davis began the afternoon by collecting a platinum sombrero, added a double-play ball in his sixth at-bat, and wound up 0-for-8 by the time the 17-inning marathon was over. But with the media preparing to make Davis the butt of many a Monday joke, Davis put the joke on the hometown nine, hurling two shutout innings to earn the win.