Monday, August 6, 2007

Historic Weekend in Baseball

This weekend was a pretty amazing one for baseball fans, and even more amazing for milestone buffs. Saturday brought us two historic home runs, while Sunday brought us one of pitching's greatest feats.

Tom Glavine, New York Mets, 300th win -

Tom Glavine became only the 23rd pitcher in major league baseball history to amass 300 wins over the course of his career. The exclusive 300-win club has introduced only 8 other pitchers since 1980, and only 3 others since 1990 (Ryan 90, Clemens 03, Maddux 04).

To be clear on what constitutes a win, a pitcher must go at least 5 innings and must either have the lead when he leaves the game OR be the most recent pitcher in a game before his team adds runs to take the lead. As such, if a starter leaves a game that is tied and another pitcher comes in, the starter is no longer eligible for a decision in the game and can not win, even if the team goes on to do so. Likewise, if a starting pitcher leaves the game with his team leading and the other team comes back to tie the game, even if the starter's team still ends up winning the game, he does NOT get the win.

In the good ol' days, there was no such thing as "pitch count", which today helps make sure pitchers don't throw too many pitches and hurt their arm. There was no 4 - 5 day rest between pitching. And there was very rarely any need for relief pitching. The starting pitcher pitched often, and threw however many pitches it took to get through 9 innings. And when his team won, he got the win.

This is why 14 of the 23 members of the 300 win club recorded their 300th win before 1965 (and 10 of those were before 1930).

The game didn't really start to use relief pitchers religiously until the mid to late 1980s. Once that trend got started, pitchers were pulled from games based on pitch counts, struggles, "signs of fatigue", and anything else in favor of a fresh arm in the bullpen.

That is what makes Tom Glavine's milestone mark so incredible. Glavine has pitched 19 full seasons (not including his rookie year which was only 50 innings, or this year) without injury, and has pitched deep enough into games to be the pitcher of decision in a relief-pitcher era. Of course credit is due to the teams he played on for getting him the run support he needed for these wins, but there have been many great pitchers in this league's history, and only 23 of them are on this list.

Congrats Tom!

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees, 500 home runs

I can't help but think back to earlier this season when the Big Hurt, Frank Thomas, cracked his 500th home run off of Carlos Silva in Minnesota and received a standing ovation from the road crowd. He became only the 21st player to ever accomplish the feat. Fans have been watching the Big Hurt since he cracked into the league at the age of 22 in 1990. Injuries plagued him over the last decade or so, but last season he returned to form with an incredible 39 home runs. This season he put the exclamation point on a great offensive career.

Fast forward to Saturday, when Alex Rodriguez smacks a ball over the left field wall after a 10-day homer-less drought to join that very same elusive home run club, becoming only the 22nd ever to reach 500.

But the atmosphere was just a tad bit different.

For A-Rod, the home run wasn't even close to being a last great hoorah. On the contrary, as the youngest player to ever accomplish the feat, no one seems to be thinking 600 or even 700 HRs for this guy - it's Barry Bond's record that everyone is speculating whether or not A-Rod can catch.

From this writer's perspective, the answer is simple: YES, he can. And will.

Bonds is at 755 as I write this, and will surpass Aaron's record sometime in the near future. After that, there really isn't much left for Bonds to prove. He may stick around an extra season or two, but I think capping him off at 800 HRs is pretty reasonable. Not saying he CAN'T surpass that (or that it would matter), but its a fair assumption to say that he won't.

Back to A-Rod. As far as work ethic is concerned and athleticism, no one in baseball can do much better than A-Rod. He is nothing but muscle, and works hard to keep it that way. With his work ethic and body type, there is no doubt in my mind that he will be able to play the game for as long as he wants to. (Long enough to break the HR record, anyone?)

NOT including extra homers he will hit this year, A-Rod will have to average 30 HRs a season over the next 10 years to amass 800, which should be enough (or very close). Considering his last 9 year's HR totals are 42, 42, 41, 52, 57, 47, 36, 48, and 35 (36 so far this year), 30 a year shouldn't be a problem. With each 40 HR season he has, he will give himself the luxury of only needing a 20 HR season elsewhere.

By this logic, baring injury or early retirement, A-Rod should have no trouble hitting 800 HRs, and should go down as the greatest power hitter of all time.

Only time will tell for sure. However easy it was, congrats on the big homer A-Rod!

Barry Bonds, San Fransisco Giants, 755th home run

Well, since you've already read enough of me for one day, I'll just save all of my thoughts and analysis on B-Bonds for when he actually hits number 756 and becomes the new home run king.

For the record, I am very, very jealous of the announcers that get to be behind that call.

I believe mine would be something like...

Bonds gets a hold of this one... its high... its deep... and its OUT OF HERE! Love him or hate him, boo him or cheer him, BARRY BONDS is now the greatest home run hitter of all time!

Instead, I'm stuck in the blogosphere. Oh well.

Congrats on 755 Barry. You'll get my take on your career and all the controversy surrounding it next time!

1 comment:

Vegas Mom said...

It was a historical baseball day, and I notice you still didn't write about Bonds breaking the record. It's a shame the controversary seems to outweigh the record...

Congrats to Tom and A-Rod, it would be nice if he keeps healthy and keeps playing