It appears I hold an unpopular baseball opinion

pujols 2000 rbi

It isn’t just your imagination, Detroit Tigers fans. It doesn’t seem to matter whether either team is having a good year or a bad year: the Angels always destroy the Tigers. Since 2009, no American League team has a better winning percentage against the Tigers than the Angels.* Even by those dismal standards, Thursday’s game was a noteworthy one:


Albert Pujols’ home run on Thursday, a solo shot off Ryan Carpenter in the sixth inning, carried significance beyond that fun fact, of course, in that it represented both Pujols’ two-thousandth RBI and a reminder that you earn an RBI when you bat in yourself. Whatever you think of the import of RBIs, you have to admit it’s impressive that Pujols now is one of only five players ever, and three since 1920, to accumulate that many of them. It’s a testament, however circumstantial, to a long and successful career.

The home-run ball in question landed in the seats beyond left field and was nabbed by a twenty-something guy who had just arrived at the park for the day game with his friends and, I initially thought from the replay editing, immediately traded the ball for a Little Caesar’s Hot’n’Ready and a Two Hearted. An in-game interview on the telecast soon revealed that my initial thought was incorrect: he still had the ball and, in fact, planned to keep it. He has a relative who is a big fan of the Cardinals, Pujols’ prior team, and he was thinking about giving it to him. As news spread about the benchmark RBI, the story of the man who had the ball in question– and, more specifically, the fact that he had expressed an initial intention to retain that ball– got swept up along with it. Reports indicated that the man had turned down an offer to meet with Pujols, presumably for the purpose of exchanging the ball for other memorabilia. The Tigers’ public-relations team even instigated itself into the conversation in a strange and seemingly unsolicited fashion. The man subsequently reported that team officials treated him poorly. Two themes appeared to prevail in the public response: 1) the man should have taken the meeting with Pujols to exchange the ball for other items and 2) his refusal to do so would have financial consequences for him.   Continue reading

Shohei Ohtani boomerangs into spring training

Easily the most anticipated debut of the 2018 MLB season belongs to Shohei Ohtani, the two-way player from Japan who signed with the Angels as an international free agent this offseason. The twenty-three-year-old previously starred as both a starting pitcher and hitter for the Nippon Ham Fighters, a team in Japan’s top professional baseball league. During his five seasons with the Fighters, Ohtani posted a  2.52 ERA and .859 OPS. While his numbers don’t correlate directly to Ohtani’s expected performance with Los Angeles, they do suggest Ohtani could become both a very good pitcher and hitter here, something without recent parallel in the MLB ranks.

The presently ongoing spring training offers American audiences their first good look at Ohtani, who has made one appearance (1.1 IP) on the mound thus far. Can he pitch? Reader, he can pitch:

The Angels surprised many by racing to a second-place finish behind runaway success (and eventual World-Series champion) Houston in 2017, and they promise to be even more interesting in 2018, with a roster that adds Ohtani and a bunch of former Detroit Tigers (Cameron Maybin, Justin Upton, and Ian Kinsler, plus Brad Ausmus as a front-office assistant) to a group that already included Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons, Zack Cozart, and compiler Albert Pujols.

Babe Ruth, Atlanta, and the Longest Home Run Ever Hit


The Atlanta Braves debut at their new home, SunTrust Park, tomorrow night. Today, my latest article for The Hardball Times is a look back at baseball in Atlanta in 1928, when there was a ballpark out front of what’s now Ponce City Market, and Babe Ruth hit the longest home run ever.

The full article is available here.

A fresh glance at Babe Ruth, upon the resumption of baseball

My latest post at Banished to the Pen contributes to the spirit of the opening of a new baseball season with a quick look back at one of the game’s most accomplished players.

It is nice to see the rookies of today showing respect for their elders, but modern celebrants of the game sometimes fear that reexaminations of their childhood heroes will alter their images and understandings of past giants in adverse fashion. For Babe Ruth, a truncated, targeted retrospective does serve to modify the Ruthian folk zeitgeist, but, in his case, it does so exclusively to enhance the stature of the Sultan.

The full post is available here.

August Bodies: Cabrera, Upton, and the Ex-Presidents

August is the only month in the American calendar without a holiday, which leaves us free to craft ad hoc celebrations of events taking place in the moment.

For baseball fans, this is the time of year when the action really starts to heat up. There are a deceptively large number of games remaining in the season, but it’s the beginning of crunch time for teams looking to secure their positioning for the postseason.

The Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves are two of the best teams in baseball this year, and they happen to be two of the teams followed closely on this site. Each also has a star hitter who has ramped up his performance this month.

I’ve already noted that Miguel Cabrera is following up his 2012 season– in which he won both the MVP and Triple Crown– with an even better 2013. This month, it is widely becoming clear we are witnessing a special season from the Detroit third baseman, who is becoming something of a living Babe Ruth-Kirk Gibson combination. Due to injuries, Cabrera basically is playing on one leg, making it difficult to do things like run the bases. His response has been to hit a lot of home runs so he doesn’t have to run the bases. He has sixteen hits in eleven games in August, and six of them were homers. Here are his numbers through last night, broken out by month:

As more and more turn their eyes to the Motor City to gaze upon this remarkable production, the number of articles testifying to Cabrera’s greatness to which I could link here are many. Consider this one from yesterday, though, which nicely combines text and visuals describing Cabrera’s recent exploits.

While Cabrera’s August is allowing us to marvel at his ability to persistently perform in historic fashion, Justin Upton is offering up a late-summer burst that shows him rising to the great levels expected of him when he joined the Braves in the offseason.

After a ridiculous start to the season, which included five home runs in his first five games, the younger Upton cooled off. He hit a total of twelve HRs in April, but he only hit four in all of May, June, and July. He’s already hit six through thirteen games this month, though, and his .380 batting average is the highest monthly mark he’s posted all year by almost one hundred percentage points. Here are his numbers through last night, broken out by month:

juptonstatsFinally, we come to the (mostly) ex-presidents. The United States Senate often is referred to as an “august body.” The president of the Senate is the vice president of the United States, and the president of the vice president is the president of the United States, and so here we have scouting reports on the pitching prospects of all of the United States presidents since William Howard Taft. Enjoy.