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June 25, 2015 / Ben

MLB Daily Can o’ Corn: What Does Chris Heston Even Look Like?

In a perpetual cycle of San Francisco Giants pitching magic, rookie pitcher Chris Heston has come out of nowhere with a couple of amazing performances already this year. To be honest, I almost know nothing about this guy. I don’t know what kind of pitcher he is and I don’t know how much of a prospect he was. I don’t recall hearing anything about him as he rose up in the minors; he is 27, which is old for a prospect. But, I love players who bide their time as they ply their trade and rise at a steady pace. Or maybe I am just idealizing myself as a baseball player. I digress…

What I do know about Heston is that his nickname, according to someone at baseball-reference, is Hesto Presto, which is wonderful. I also tried looking up all players with the same surname and only found one Andrew Heston, currently in the minors. So my advice to you, if you want to have a famous child, would be to change your last name to Heston because there is a 67% chance your kid will be famous (and a 100% chance if your kid’s name is Ch. Heston). Now that I’ve blathered on for two whole paragraphs, it is time to find out, what does this man of mystery even look like? The answer may surprise you (but probably not- he’s a pretty normal looking guy).

Would you trust a man who couldn't exhibit such precise shaving and trimming with a baseball?

Would you trust a man who couldn’t exhibit such precise and impeccable shaving and trimming with a baseball?

Heston stares into the abyss.

Heston stares into the abyss.

Chris Heston anticipates collecting the third ever limited edition no-hitter Buster hug.

Chris Heston anticipates collecting the third ever limited edition no-hitter Buster hug.

Further research has yielded another famous baseball-playing Heston: Bayard Heston “Bud” Sharpe. He played in 1905 and 1910. What does he even look like? Well…

Just look at those rosy cheeks and those sad, tired eyes.

Just look at those rosy cheeks and those sad, tired eyes.

According to Wikipedia, Bud Sharpe passed away in 1916 at the young age of 34, due to heart attack. Heart attack? That doesn’t sound likely for a guy whose interests included playing professional baseball and amateur soccer. Sounds like we have ourselves a mystery afoot…

June 24, 2015 / Ben

MLB Daily Can o’ Corn: A Recap of Unlikely No-Hitters

On May 18, 2004, legendary pitcher Randy Johnson pitched a perfect game for his Arizona Diamondbacks against the Atlanta Braves. One year passed without another no-hitter, let alone a perfect game. Then, another year. This no-hitter drought became the longest in MLB history. People wondered if this was the end of the no-hitter. Hitters were getting better while pitchers maintained a constant performance level. A no-hitter would require not only extreme pitching mastery, but large amounts of entropy, aka luck. Yet on September 6, 2006, a young kid with the Florida Marlins, Anibal Sanchez, would break the spell with a no-hitter to utterly destroy the pitching floodgates and totally restore the eminence that is Major League pitching. No year after 2006 has featured less than two no-hitters.

Lanky left-hander crushes the heart and spirit of 16 year old author.

Lanky left-hander crushes the heart and spirit of 16 year old author.

Already two no-hitters have been pitched in 2015. With this recent flourish of no-hitters, it can get a little difficult to remember who all has pitched them. Here is a list that shows all of these giants among players, and a few of them may surprise you. Already we have had two no-hitters this year, and I’ve already almost forgotten that the Giants’ rookie Chris Heston pitched the first. Here are some of the no-hitters from the last ten years that I found most strange.

2014: Tim Lincecum threw his second no-hitter despite having become a shell of his former Cy Young self.

2013: Henderson Alvarez twirled a no-hitter on the very last day of the season for his lowly Marlins as everyone else, including the media, was already highly focused on the playoffs.

Tim Lincecum threw his first no-hitter with a crazy 148 pitches, second most all time.

2012 & 2013: Cincinnati Red Homer Bailey somehow managed to pitch two no-hitters with no one else pitching one in between, becoming the seventh man to accomplish that feat.

2012: A man nobody knew before, Phillip Humber of the Chicago White Sox, pitched a perfect game, perhaps the most unlikeliest of any pitching performance ever. His would seem to disappear almost as quick as he had risen to the top.

2010: A workhorse, but not particularly great, Edwin Jackson, hurled a no-hitter for the Arizona Diamondbacks with a record 149 pitches thrown.

Almost as unknown and unexpected as Humber, Oakland Athletic (and future Alex Rodriguez antagonist) Dallas Braden pitched a perfect game on Mothers’ Day. This game was highly memorable due to the fact that Braden’s mother had passed away from cancer while he was in high school.

2008: Before losing nearly all of his skill, the hotheaded (and excellent hitter) Carlos Zambrano was actually quite a good pitcher. He even pitched a no-hitter for his Chicago Cubbies.

2007: Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Bucholz, who has often been between the lines of serviceable and meh, crafted his piece of Red Sox magic in the second year that they would go on to their 2nd World Series victory in 100 years.

So here’s to you, Anibal Sanchez, for having the grace and leadership to be the first in a long line of some of the most historic pitching performances of all time, or at least of recent memory.

Anibal celebrates in front of thousands of cheering, screaming orange seats.

Anibal celebrates in front of thousands of cheering, screaming orange seats.

June 24, 2015 / Ben

MLB Daily Can o’ Corn: Darryl Hamilton

Yesterday, it was shockingly reported that former Major Leaguer Darryl Hamilton was killed in a murder-suicide by his girlfriend. I admit that I do not remember Hamilton so well, despite the fact that he had a 13 year career in the Majors from 1988 to 2001. By the end of his career he accrued 14.2 fWAR and 16.6 bWAR and finished with a .291 batting average, very respectable numbers. By seemingly all accounts, Hamilton was a fantastic man and one of the least likely guys to ever be involved in an incident like this.

In memory of Darryl Hamilton, let us turn back the clock and see some of his highlights.

On June 12, 1997, when interleague play was still a fresh, exotic idea, Hamilton picks up the very first interleague hit:

On June 5, 1999, Hamilton makes the game-winning, game-saving catch:

Later that year and after a trade, on September 5 Hamilton punishes his former team with a grand slam:

Rest in peace Darryl Hamilton. Your baseball legacy lives on ad infinitum.

June 22, 2015 / Ben

MLB Daily Can o’ Corn: Trades & Transfers

A couple of days ago, the Atlanta Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks engaged in a curious player exchange that left most (probably all) commentators with their jaws on the floor. In a move panned by 99% of all people (the 1% primarily composed of the Diamondbacks front office), the D-backs sent an aged, T. John surgery-recovering yet serviceable pitching veteran with a somewhat hefty contract and a young, highly touted pitching prospect who also happens to be a first round draft pick from only one year ago to the Atlanta Braves for a utility infielder. It pains me to see ex-Braves player Phil Gosselin involuntarily involved in this joke of a trade, but really, this trade seems unequivocally ridiculous and silly. What were the Diamondbacks thinking??

Goodbye Gosselin...we hardly knew ya.

Goodbye Gosselin…we hardly knew ye.

In the sport of soccer, there is a thing called a ‘transfer,’ which, to my knowledge, also happens to be how most, if not all, players end up at any club that is not their first club (usually a player first signs with his club as a teenager and works his way through their youth academies). Trading is virtually nonexistent in this alternate universe. When Club A transfers a player to Club B, it is recognized that two things are actually happening rather than just one. Not only does Club B gain a player, but Club A suddenly has more money to spend on other valuable players or anything else that could benefit them, e.g. new training facilities.

Most baseball fans, even some of the brightest, don’t recognize any fortunes involved when it comes to being on the perceived wrong end of a lopsided trade. With the Braves having acquired the contract of Bronson Arroyo at around $10 million for the rest of this year, the Diamondbacks now have a lot of money to potentially spend on improving their team. If the D-backs were sold on clearing Arroyo’s salary space, they could have just let him come off their books at the end of the year anyway. Then they wouldn’t have had to sell a top prospect. Therefore, the Diamondbacks somehow think they can contend right now or they just really needed money for more shady pursuits. I will entertain the former, although the D-backs contending doesn’t really make much sense; their division is home to the juggernaut Dodgers and it would be hard to imagine them getting much closer to a wild card spot.

But if the D-backs invest wisely, perhaps they can acquire valuable assets to propel themselves nearer to the playoffs. This article from Fangraphs acknowledges that this strategy would be the only way to redeem this trade, but the author Dave Cameron goes on to say that there are no clear ways for the D-backs to upgrade their roster with $10 million. However, as an MLB: The Show aficionado, I can say with certainty that there are always ways to improve your roster and system with more money. The easiest strategy would be to trade a good player with a club-friendly contract for a great player with a high contract. The disparity in contracts can be as high as $10 million, which is a lot!

Unfortunately though, I can’t recall a time when any general manager or front office has successfully undertaken this type of strategy. I recall a similar salary dump orchestrated by the Detroit Tigers. In December 2013, they traded their very good pitcher Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals. Here are some quotes from the story:

The Tigers figure to save about $6 million by trading Fister, who was arbitration-eligible and projected to earn about $7 million. But Dombrowski said the trade was not done to save money in hopes of keeping Scherzer beyond next season.

“It gives us some flexibility for some other things we want to do,” he said on a conference call.

“We’re not cutting payroll whatsoever,” Dombrowski said.

I acknowledge this is not the same situation because Fister was going to be paid more money in the next year, so the savings here are mostly from an opportunity cost. However, to my knowledge, the Tigers front office never made up for the value lost when Fister left. History repeated itself when their even better pitcher Max Scherzer left the following year and the front office still did not make any grand moves with all the money they saved.

Bronson Arroyo distracts a batter with his talent for calisthenics.

Bronson Arroyo distracts a batter with his talent for calisthenics.

When you transfer players out, you have to transfer players in. When you transfer money in, you have to transfer money out. In soccer, the clubs know this. They know their fans will be upset and raise hell if they see tons of money reaped without tons of corresponding spending (there is also the promotion/relegation system keeping clubs honest). I have hope that one day in baseball, a GM will come along and master the strategy of the transfer. Baseball will surely become much more exciting on that day. In the meantime, I will look forward to the on-field success of Bronson Arroyo and Touki Toussaint for the Atlanta Braves.

June 19, 2015 / Ben

MLB Daily Can o’ Corn: Big Man Triples and Other Unexplained Phenomena

You can usually tell the type of game ballplayers will play just by looking at them. Short, thin players will tend to be speedy, but mostly hit singles. Tall, massive players will swing for the fences, but not be able to reach the extra base if they put the ball in play. It shouldn’t be very surprising that the big hitters don’t hit a lot of triples. But in the game of baseball, crazy things happen. Balls take wicked bounces off of walls, fielders misjudge the perfect route to the ball, or the ball is perfectly placed in the gap or down the line. Maybe it should be surprising that a big leaguer, no matter how big, can go six seasons and 2,316 plate appearances without smacking 3 quarters of a dinger.

Smoak’s milestone sadly goes unremarked upon in this clip.

One week ago on June 12, the Blue Jays’ Justin Smoak, measuring in at 6′ 4″, 230 lbs, finally snapped his triple-less skid. I believe this might be the record for most plate appearances before hitting a triple, but I cannot verify. He recently broke the record for most plate appearances without a triple, but now that he does have a triple he does not qualify for this odd distinction anymore. For most PAs to start a career before hitting a triple, it is either him or Mike Lowell, apparently.

Schwarber schwats a schcorcher.

Two days ago on June 17, Cubs’ rookie phenom (one of them) Kyle Schwarber, measuring in at 6′ 0″, 235 lbs, stepped up to the plate for his second ever plate appearance, having had a pinch-hit opportunity the night before. On the third pitch, Schwarber drills the ball down the first base line for his first career hit and ends up with stand-up triple. Ah baseball, your feats of the unexpected incredible are truly wonderful to behold. It often appears that two completely separate but similar events featuring similar levels of incredulity occur within a very closely in time with each other. For example, just earlier this month the Padres’ Andrew Cashner and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard did something no one else had done… in back-to-back games! I am also reminded of Aaron Hill hitting for two cycles in the span of 11 days in 2012. The San Diego Padres were founded in 1969 and still have never had one player hit for the cycle!

June 18, 2015 / Ben

MLB Daily Can o’ Corn: Masterpiece Theatre

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has seemingly suddenly turned into an elite batsman. Because of his supreme worthiness, the Cubs media team has crafted a most delightful commercial that focuses on imploring the viewer to get out (read: on your computer) and vote this man into this year’s All Star Game. Held in Cincinnati, the director of the commercial takes an interesting approach, focusing on Rizzo’s love for the city, which is made all too plain to see. Not quite anti-humor and not quite parody, I am unsure of what flavor absurdism this experience is, but I do know that it is something I can get behind! Check out the video, below:

If I were interested in voting for the All Star Game (if it weren’t such a crap show), I would definitely vote for Rizzo. Then again, I would vote for him solely based on his stats. Then again, I’d have to fill out a second ballot just to vote for the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt.

June 17, 2015 / Ben

MLB Daily Can o’ Corn: The Name is Francoeur… Jeff Francoeur.

At the beginning of Casino Royale, a naked James Bond sits in a chair with the bottom cut out. His interrogator holds a thick, heavy rope, threatening Bond with perhaps the worst torture imaginable (at least for a man). Of course, Bond stoically refuses to talk (even smiles, if I recall correctly) even though he knows exactly what is coming. A mighty swing of the rope unleashes a mighty thwack unto Bond’s poor, poor undercarriage. Bond has already accepted his painful fate, perhaps making it easier for him to absorb the pain.

When Jeff Francoeur arrived to the Big Leagues with his hometown Atlanta Braves in 2005, everything was looking up. Right off the bat, he tore up the league, causing Sports Illustrated to famously declare him a nonfictional version of “The Natural.” His first three seasons were great by the standards of traditional stats, but his second and third seasons were only bad to average sabermetrically speaking, hinting at a nefarious mediocrity lurking within. By 2009, he wore out his welcome in Atlanta with his poor batting performance and he has since moved around the minors and majors with seven different MLB teams thus far.

A young, happy Francoeur

A young, happy Francoeur

By all accounts, Jeff Francoeur has one of the best, friendliest personalities in baseball. There is a great story about him buying pizza for fans of the opposing Oakland Athletics. Yet, by now, Francoeur has to be aware he is not very good at baseball. Considering the superstar he started his baseball life as, it’s pretty crazy how far he fell. I believe most people in his situation would have retired years ago. But, despite the horrible beatdown that baseball gave Francoeur, here is a man who keeps playing because he loves the game. Just yesterday, with his Philadelphia Phillies getting obliterated by the Baltimore Orioloes he sacrificed for his team, pitching two full innings and allowing two runs while saving his bullpen from more potential shame. (Granted, he probably also wanted to do it for the fun and competitiveness factors.) This man maintains his happiness and drive even after his completely public humbling. I find his grounded attitude beautiful. Does he possess a secret to life of which most of us can only dream of grasping a strand? Like James Bond, Francoeur accepts his fate and carries on. Unlike James Bond or even Roy Hobbs, Francoeur is actually a real person. No, Jeff Francoeur is not a good baseball player, but yes, Jeff Francoeur is a great man.

Always Smiling: The Jeff Francoeur Story

Always Smiling: The Jeff Francoeur Story

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