“You can observe a lot by just watching.”
Baseball is heaven for statistics geeks. Everything, no matter how arcane or meaningless, is counted and measured. There are reasons for this. Chief among them is to provide a way to compare players against one another. This is a game that exists without a time clock, so shouldn’t individual players be able to exist outside of time as well?
This season there is a tremendous amount of talk about Los Angeles Angels phenomenon Shohei Ohtani. He can serve up a 100 MPH fastball and he can hit them for home runs. Because of these multiple abilities, the name Babe Ruth has been brought up quite a bit in comparison to Ohtani. It appears to me that most people now think about Ruth primarily as a hitter. This may be true, it is also important to remember, that, like Ohtani, the Babe was also a lights out starting pitcher. In 1916, he started 40 games, winning 23 of them. His earned run average (ERA) was 1.75. The following season he started 38 games and completed 35 complete of them with a 2.01 ERA. He hit in 67 games in 2016 and in 52 in 1917. His batting average (BA) was .272 and .325 those seasons. These are all pretty remarkable numbers.
In his first game pitching for the Angels, Ohtani struck out 6 and only allowed 3 hits over the course of 6 innings. One of the hits was a 3-run homer Oakland’s Matt Chapman to left center field that brought in the only other two hits recorded against Ohtani that day, back-to-back singles hit by Matt Joyce and Stephen Piscotty. The Angels won against the Athletics that day 7-4.
It was in his next appearance that the comparison to Ruth became more apparent. In his first at-bat at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, he lifted a 2-2 count ball thrown by Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin to the stands in centerfield for his own 3-run scoring home run in the first inning as part of Los Angeles’ 13-2 pasting of the Ohio team. With that strike, Ohtani became the first pitcher to win as a starting pitcher and then hit a home run as a non-pitcher in his very first game since Ruth did it in 1921. At that point, Ruth was in his eighth professional season and Ohtani’s MLB career had yet to reach eight days.
My wife, Rebekah is not a Baseball fan by any stretch of the imagination. She has picked up a fair amount of knowledge about the game largely due to my incessant yammering on the subject. Whenever I bring up statistics that compare two players like Ohtani and Ruth, it is viewed as nothing more than “pedantic nit-picking.” My protests that I am bringing to light the subtle nuance of the game are met with a comically mocked retort of “So? What’s his batting average on Tuesdays with a full moon and a runner on second?” She may not see the beauty of my beloved game, but at least she is aware of the levels of details that go into the record keeping of the sport.
One of the weirder stats going on right now concerns the standings. Among all 6 divisions, only the AL Central has a first place team with a losing record at the time of this writing. Cleveland is sitting on the top with an 18-19 (.486) record just half a game ahead of the 16-18 (.471) Minnesota Twins. Sometimes being in first place doesn’t mean what it used to…
Rookie Gleyber Torres of the New York Yankees notched an interesting stat this past week. With his home run Friday night in New York’s 10-5 loss to Oakland, the 21-year-old second baseman became the youngest Yankee with a hitting streak of 9 games or more since Mickie Mantle had a 10-game streak stretching from June 24th to July 3rd, 1952. The Mick was 20 years and 257 days old at the time.
Easily the pitcher with the fastest pitch speed, New York closer Aroldis Chapman tossed this season’s fastest throw so far this season on May 8th, when he threw a four-seam fastball at 103.3 MPH to Boston center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. While the speed was imposing, it was likely less impressive to Bradley when he was hit by the pitch. He can’t complain too much, though. Kris Bryant of the Cubs leads the MLB this season with 9 Hit-By-Pitches (HBP). Like I said, in this came, we count everything.
By the way, on Tuesdays with a full moon and a runner on second, Ruth slightly edges over Ohtani in batting average, going .356 compared to the newcomer’s .320*. Neither one of these guys can top Pittsburgh’s Arky Vaughan who was the first player to hit two home runs in an All-Star Game (1941). Whether it’s true or not, I like to believe there was a full moon out that night.
*Full disclosure-This stat is completely made up. Ohtani DID, however, hit that home run on a Tuesday, April 3rd to be exact. The Full Moon was on March 31st, but still…
Daniel G. Moir is a freelance writer, musician, and baseball enthusiast. He hardly ever misses a Minnesota Twins home game at Target Field, and when the team is on the road he watches at home with his pal Brubeck. He can be contacted at @DMoir5150.
If you like what you’ve read here, please CONSIDER THIS