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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Recently, the New York Mets welcomed to their active roster Michael Conforto. Conforto was the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft. Much heralded he spent just a brief period of time in the lower minors before his call-up in July, 2015. So what is so special about him? Well it turns out he was the 1,000th player to appear in a game for the Mets. This got me to thinking about a special group of players who belong to the Cup of Coffee Club (CCC). To be a member of the CCC you had to appear in just one Major League game. Of the approximately 20,000 players who appeared in a Major League game approximately 950 of them are members of this club. I was surprised when I discovered that there were so many members of this club. Clearly I cannot tell each of their stories. However, my research has uncovered some very unusual stories which I will tell now.

On July 9th, 2005, Cubs skipper Dusty Baker told Adam Greenberg to pinch-hit. He was just called up from Double-A ball. The pitcher was the Marlins’ Valerio de los Santos. The first pitch he saw was a 92-mph fastball. The ball was inside and as he turned away it struck him in the back of his head. Greenberg suffered a mild concussion, which led to years of vertigo and headaches. The next season he batted under .200 in the minors and was released by the Cubs. He labored in the minors for the next few years. At this point in time he seemed headed to the CCC. From 2009 to 2012, Greenberg set out to get out of the CCC by honing his skills with the independent Bridgeport Bluefish. In 2011, Greenberg and de los Santos faced each other for the first time since that fateful pitch in 2005; the at-bat ended with Greenberg reaching base with a single. A successful online petition drive in 2012 led to a one-day contract with the Marlins. He had one at bat for the Marlins and struck out on three pitches. Yes, he was no longer a member of the CCC.

Here are two of the worst offensive one-game performances by two members of the CCC. Ron Wright’s day resulted in 6 outs for his 3 at-bats. His first career at-bat ended with a strike out. His second at-bat resulted in a rare triple-play. In his third at-bat he hit into a double play. His only game resulted in a career worse average of 2 outs per at-bat. This brings us to the 19 year old Ed Cermak. His 4 at-bats resulted in 4 strike outs. Today, the term Golden Sombrero would apply but in 1901 it was probably just called A Day to Forget. He never would, though, seeing as it would be the only Major League memory he’d have.

Now for a one-game success story. On the final day of the 1963 regular season, John Paciorek had a hell of a career. The 18-year-old playing for the Houston Colt 45s had a perfect day at the plate: three-for-three, two walks, three RBIs and four runs. Nagging back injuries meant he’d never have a chance to blemish that perfection. You could say he is a Hall of Fame member of the CCC with a perfect 1.000 batting average and a perfect 1.000 on-base average.

Sometimes bad luck can detour even a top-rated prospect. This brings us to Ralph Gagliano. Drafted by the Indians in 1964, Gagliano was a bonus baby. Gagliano tore knee ligaments during his first spring training, sending him to the DL until he was finally activated on the first day of September. His only game appearance was as a pinch runner. Gagliano’s next two-and-a-half years were spent in the military during the Vietnam buildup. By the time he was ready to return, the game had passed him by.

A stunt arranged by Bill Veeck was to add to the roster of the St. Louis Browns a 3 foot 7 inch midget, Eddie Gaedel. He made one plate appearance in his career and walked on four straight pitches. It happened in 1951 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the American League.

It is a dream of every Little Leaguer to someday be in the Major Leagues. At least every member of the CCC had their dream realized.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

On July, 17 1941, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak came to an end.

The title of this blog comes from the book Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports by Kostya Kennedy. His book takes the reader through each game of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak at a time when America was preparing for war with Japan. Joe’s streak began on May 15, 1941 when he blooped a single to right field in a game against the White Sox. The streak ended two months later at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, in front of 67,000 cheering fans. That day Joe had 4 plate appearances. Joe walked once and hit 3 ground balls. The first ground ball was a rocket hit down the 3rd base line which was backhanded by Cleveland’s Ken Keltner throwing Joe out by a step. Joe Walked in the 4th inning. In the 7th he ripped another rocket to Keltner who threw him out again. In his final plate appearance he hit a routine grounder to the shortstop. Joe’s greatness showed when he promptly started a new hitting streak which lasted for 16 games. All told Joe produced at least one hit in 72 of his 73 games. Both his 56-game hitting streak and hitting safely in 72 out of 73 consecutive games have never been duplicated. Without Keltner’s great fielding, the consecutive game streak might have reached 73 games.

The year 1941 also marked the last time a Major League hitter batted over .400 when Ted Williams batted .406 for the season. The year 1941 witnessed two remarkable baseball feats that many baseball experts say will never happen again. The baseball writers had a tough choice for the 1941 AL MVP Award. They chose the Yankees’ DiMaggio over the Red Sox’s Williams.

In my book, Sandlot Stats Learning Statistics with Baseball, I devote Chapter 16 to the study of many different types of batting streaks. In that chapter I develop a new probability formula which uses a player’s actual batting statistics for a season to calculate his probability of duplicating any of these batting streaks. These calculated probabilities allows us to compare different batting streaks seeing which streak would be the hardest to duplicate.

The rivalry between DiMaggio and Williams also extended to batting streaks. Ted Williams possesses 2 amazing on-base streaks. He holds the record for getting on-base in 84 consecutive games (1949) and the record for getting on-base in 16 consecutive plate appearances (1957). To be credited with getting on-base a player must either get a hit, a walk or be hit by a pitch. Using my probability formula, I calculated the probability of Joe and Ted achieving their 3 streaks. DiMaggio had a 1 in 10,000 chance of achieving his 56-game hitting streak while Williams had a 1 in 10 chance of achieving his 84-game on-base streak and a 1 in 25 chance of achieving his 16-plate appearance on-base streak. Which streak was the hardest to achieve? From a probability point of view the answer is clear. Yes, Joe DiMaggio’s streak was the hardest to achieve. In fact, Ted Williams said, “I believe there isn’t a record on the books that will be tougher to break than Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.”

In Chapter 16 of my book I provide 4 lists of special baseball and softball players. The lists include the players with the longest hitting streaks in the Major Leagues, the Minor Leagues, the college baseball leagues and the college softball leagues. In the Major Leagues Pete Rose (1978) and Willie Keeler (1897) are tied for second place with 44-game hitting streaks. For the Minor Leagues, Joe Wilhoit (1919) had a 69-game hitting streak followed by would you believe Joe DiMaggio with a 61-game hitting streak in 1933 for the San Francisco Seals in the PCL.

Considering the thousands of players in the history of professional baseball, for Joe to have 2 of the 3 longest hitting streaks speaks to the greatness of Joe D.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Although it is an older movie from 1993, I finally watched “The Sandlot” which tells the story of 9 boys between the ages of 12 and 13 playing baseball during the summer of 1962. Scotty Smalls is the new boy in the neighborhood. He has no friends until he is friended by a boy in the neighborhood named Benny Rodriguez whose first love is baseball. The problem for Scotty is he never learned to play baseball. Benny teaches him how to play baseball which leads to his acceptance by the other boys in the neighborhood. The movie opens with the legend of “the called-shot” of Babe Ruth in the 1932 World Series and promises a new legend will be made by one of the boys. The movie focuses on the coming of age of young adolescent boys and their hijinks. As the movie proceeds many of the incidents experienced by these boys reminded me of my experiences at the ages of 12 to 13 with my two best friends Burt and Gene. The stories I will tell have their counterpart in the movie.

I turned 13 in 1957. My story is a little different than that of Scotty. I was not new to the neighborhood and lived my entire youth on the same street in Hackensack, NJ. The fields we played on were basically unkempt and the term “sandlot” can be used to describe them. Also, the word sandlot is used in the title of my book, Sandlot Stats. As in the movie, my friends and I practiced baseball almost daily and formed a neighborhood team and played other teams in other neighborhoods without any adult involvement. I was one of the younger kids and the older kids made the arrangements and kept the scorebook.

Now for some of my personal stories that connect directly to scenes in the movie. There was a scene in the movie where the boys were at the town pool and one of the boys could not take his eyes off this beautiful lifeguard sitting in a chair applying lotion to her body. Finally, to get her attention he dove into the pool, even though he could not swim, to be rescued by her. My friend Gene and I used to sit in front of his apartment house which faced the apartment house across the street and stare up at this beautiful girl’s bedroom window waiting for her to walk by. Another scene in the movie was when they lost their last ball and Scotty ran back to his house and retrieved his stepfather’s ball. Unfortunately, that ball was a ball autographed by Babe Ruth. Scotty was batting when he hit that special ball over a fence into a junkyard guarded by a killer dog called The Beast. When Scotty told his friends that he had taken the ball without asking his stepfather and the ball had the woman’s name Ruth on it, they stared at him in disbelief. Scotty had never heard of Babe Ruth before. The rest of the movie focused on the boys working together to fix the problem by retrieving the ball that was being protected by The Beast. After several failed attempts, Benny took it upon himself to climb over the fence and get the ball away from the beast. He retrieves the ball from the beast and the legend of Benny Rodriguez was born. Now for my transgression with my friend Burt. Burt’s mother left us alone in her house. She had these valuable figurines. We were told not to use our peashooters in the house. But we were bored and sure enough decided to play with the shooters. Unfortunately, I hit one of the figurines with a pea and knocked the hand off. Like in the movie we had to fix the problem before she returned. We got some glue and put the hand back on. I guess the glue failed and my friend Burt was told not to associate with me anymore. Another scene showed the boys experimenting with chewing tobacco and getting sick. Well Burt and I experimented with his mother’s liquor and as a result I got deathly sick. I vowed from that day forward to stay away from alcohol which I have done.

Yes, the movie brought back precious baseball and other memories.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

An article from the Wall Street Journal used data from Statsllc to compare the hitting and pitching statistics between the 1969 Amazin’ Mets and the 2015 edition of the Mets. These statistics are through June for both the 1969 Mets and 2015 Mets. In the pitching statistics that follow the top four starting pitchers in 1969 were Tom (Terrific) Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and Jim McAndrew. In 2015 the top four starting pitchers are Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. The ranks of the 1969 Mets are based on 12 NL teams; the ranks for the 2015 Mets are based on 15 NL teams.

1969 Mets Vs 2015 Mets
 

A look at these statistics shows in both these years the Mets possessed great young starting pitchers and anemic offenses. The statistics are based on the first 72 games in the 1969 season and the first 78 games in the 2015 season. We see the four young starters in 1969 and in 2015 are very similar in age, in ERA, in WHIP and Ks per 9 innings. Considering their entire pitching staffs the similarity extends to the opposition runs per game, 3.47 for the 1969 pitchers (rank 3 out of 12) and 3.73 for the 2015 pitchers (rank 4 out of 15). 

The lack of runs scored by the Mets in 1969, 3.75 (rank 9 out of 12) and 3.58 (rank 14 out of 15) in 2015 can be attributed to each team’s next to last rank in the NL for the statistic OPS (on base plus slugging).For OPS the 1969 Mets ranked 11 out of 12 and the 2015 Mets ranked 14 out of 15. In fact before their July 5th game in 2015, the Mets had scored a grand total of 28 runs in their last 16 games. During this stretch of time the 2015 Mets also had a streak of 22 scoreless innings.

With great pitching and feeble hitting how did the 1969 Mets get into the playoffs and eventually win the World Series. Before the trading deadline they acquired Donn Clendenon for three good prospects and two other players. Clendenon, a big right handed hitting first baseman immediately energized the offense and went on to be named the MVP for the 1969 World Series. The 1969 Mets proceeded to win 37 of their last 48 games and win the Eastern Division by 8 games. They then defeated the Western Division champion Atlanta Braves and the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

The 2015 Mets have an easier time making the playoffs. In 1969 you had to win your six-team division to make the playoffs; whereas, today you can make the playoffs either by winning your division or being one of the two wild card teams.

The Mets’ fans deserve better. Here is a team with pitching you can die for. They even have a successful closer in Jeurys Familia. They need to follow the example of the 1969 Mets and upgrade the offense. There are two ways this can happen. Either trade some of their best Minor League pitching prospects for another team’s elite young hitter, like the Cubs Kris Bryant or Anthony Russell, or open the wallet for an expensive veteran hitter another team is willing to shed

. For the sake of suffering Mets’ fans and for Joe Benigno, please Sandy Alderson, don’t stand pat and add that big bat. Yes, Met fans the playoffs are in reach.


 

 

 
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