Mel Stottlemyre: Pitcher Who Could Hit
ALSO: PREDICTING THE 2022 NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION TITLE RACES
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Did you know…
Upgrades to Toronto’s Rogers Centre will take two years and reduce the current capacity of 53,605 . . .
Of more immediate impact, Oriole Park at Camden Yards – the top home run park in the majors – is getting a facelift that will not only move the left-field wall back by 26½ feet but also make it six feet taller . . .
Over the last five years, Oriole Park has yielded 1,140 home runs, almost twice as many as San Francisco’s Oracle Park, the toughest target, site of 659 . . .
Based upon 2021 figures, the changes will hit the Yankees hardest; the Bronx Bombers hit 26 home runs and yielded 6 but would have lost 20 with the new Baltimore dimensions . . .
The Dodgers ranked next-to-last among the 30 teams in batting average against curveballs last year, which is one reason they added Freddie Freeman (.273 vs. the hook) . . .
Atlanta lefty Max Fried, owner of a spectacular curveball, has a 9-0 career record against American League teams . . .
Congratulations to Alexis (Scrappy) Hopkins, the first woman ever drafted to play professional baseball. She’ll play for the Kentucky Wild Health Genomes against the Lexington Legends when the Atlantic League begins play July 4.
Mel Stottlemyre Was Last Pitcher To Get Five Hits In A Game
By Andrew Sharp
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the designated hitter becomes universal this season. Pitchers will no longer be in the lineup to bat in either league.
The players union is happy to gain the roster spots for veteran players who will serve as National League DHs. The owners are happy at the prospects of more offense. The handful of pitchers who actually have been decent hitters – Max Fried, Zack Greinke and Madison Bumgarner immediately come to mind – might get a rare pitch-hit opportunity but otherwise won’t need to bother with batting practice.
So it’s worth looking back at a memorable game 58 seasons ago: September 26, 1964, the last time a pitcher actually had – and will ever again* have -- five base hits in a game. It was accomplished by a 22-year-old rookie sensation who helped lead the Yankees to the last of their 29 pennants between 1921 and 1964.
Against the Senators that night in Washington, Mel Stottlemyre tossed a two-hit shutout. He pitched no-hit ball over the final seven innings. His two-run single in the second knocked out the Senators’ Claude Osteen and put New York ahead, 4-0. Two pitchers later, the Yankees were up 6-0 by the end of the inning.
Joe Pepitone’s 27th homer – his 11th in September – accounted for the final Yankees’ run in the seventh. The final score was 7-0.
The shutout gave Stottlemyre, who made his debut on Aug. 12, his ninth victory. (Exactly a month earlier, the Senators had shut out the Yankees 2-0 and handed Stottlemyre his first major league defeat.) Soon after, however, the Yankees began an amazing run, winning 19 of 22 games from September 4 through 26.
Stottlemyre’s pitching and hitting that night led the Yanks to their 11th-straight victory, tied for most in the A.L. that season. He was only the second batter to get five hits in a game at D.C. Stadium in its first three seasons. In his previous start, September 22 in Cleveland, Stottlemyre had singled his final time up, so the five knocks in Washington gave him six in a row. He raised his batting average 124 points to .257 in his shutout, yet surprisingly this was the only season in his career that he hit better than .200.
The soon-to-be Yankee ace singled off journeyman Steve Ridzik in the third inning for his second hit. Trying to sacrifice in the fifth, Stottlemyre beat out a bunt off former Yankee Jim Bronstad. Off Alan Koch, the Nats’ fifth pitcher, Stottlemyre singled in the seventh and doubled in the ninth.
On the mound, Stottlemyre yielded a one-out single in the first to Don Zimmer and a two-out double in the second to Joe Cunningham. That was it for Washington. Stottlemyre walked five and struck out five in throwing the first of seven two-hitters in his career.
When he was finished after 11 seasons, he had thrown 40 shutouts. He spent most of the rest of his working years as a pitching coach, notably for the Mets and Yankees. Two of his sons also pitched in the majors. Stottlemyre died on January 13, 2019, at age 77. Check out Gregory H. Wolf’s excellent SABR bio essay here.
Before Stottlemyre, eight pitchers in the 20th century had five hits in a game, but it hadn’t been done since 1936, according to a list in the SABR publication Great Hitting Pitchers, updated in 2012. Babe Ruth as a pitcher had a five-hit game in 1918.
Since Stottlemyre, 15 pitchers have had four hits in a game, thanks to a list compiled by SABR’s Al Yellon. Dan Haren was the last, in 2010. Noted for his hitting as much as his pitching, Micah Owings had two of those four-hit games.
As a fan of N.L. baseball, I’m sorry to see the adoption of the DH, but I recognize the arguments in its favor. Still, the game just won’t be the same.
[*If Shohei Ohtani gets five hits in a game he pitches, he’ll do it as the designated hitter.]
Andrew C. Sharp is a retired journalist and SABR member who blogs about D.C. baseball at washingtonbaseballhistory.com. His e.mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Majors May Have First Repeat World Champions Since 2000 Yankees
By Dan Schlossberg
No team has won consecutive World Series since the 1998-2000 Yankees won three in a row. And no National League team has taken back-to-back crowns since Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine of 1975-76.
That trend is about to change, according to USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale.
He predicts the Atlanta Braves are good enough to repeat — and he may be right.
Even though the New York Mets have a payroll that’s $100 million higher, the Braves are basically a young team with key players on long-term contracts, several injured stars returning from lost years, and a savvy general manager who’s 20 years younger than his field manager but on the same page.
Atlanta’s bid for a fifth straight NL East title rests on the league’s best lineup — offensively and defensively. Names to remember include Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies, Adam Duvall, and Matt Olson — all 30-homer, 100-RBI men last year — plus returning sluggers Ronald Acuña, Jr. and Marcell Ozuna, who should also land in that lofty territory. No team has ever had six 30-homer hitters (or more than four) in a single season.
With Kenley Jansen bolstering a bullpen dominated by lefties Will Smith, Tyler Matzek, and A.J. Minter, starters Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and Charlie Morton can exhale whenever they get into trouble. Two Kyles — Muller and Wright — complete a solid front five.
The Mets may make it closer, now that Max Scherzer has joined Jacob deGrom to form a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the all-righty rotation, with Chris Bassitt and comeback candidates Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker behind them. But age and injuries could be factors there and neither the bullpen nor the overall defense can match Atlanta’s. DeGrom will miss the first month with shoulder issues so the rest of the staff has to step up. New manager Buck Showalter also needs comebacks from Robbie Cano, Jeff McNeil, and Don Smith behind Pete Alonso, Eduardo Escobar, and Starling Marte.
Philadelphia’s porous defense is even leakier with the ill-conceived signings of Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber. But Phils’ fans will love the increased power, especially if Bryce Harper repeats his MVP performance and Rhys Hoskins returns to form. Joe Girardi gets good starting pitching from Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola but the bullpen, despite new faces, may not be much improved.
Miami, on the other hand, might be more than a Fish story after adding World Series MVP Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia to a team with good young pitching. Washington needs a comeback from Stephen Strasberg (again) plus big seasons from Juan Soto and newly-acquired ancient mariner Nelson Cruz.
St. Louis, the team with the youngest and least experienced manager, has three of the oldest players: Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright, and Yadier Molina. But all are anxious for one last hurrah and could get it if Jack Flaherty hurries back from his spring training arm problem.
Milwaukee’s pitching is powerful enough to survive a continued nosedive by former MVP Christian Yelich. The Brewers have All-Star arms in Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes and lethal lefty reliever Josh Hader.
The Chicago Cubs get a boost from ex-Met Marcus Stroman but will miss former All-Stars Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, and Bryant.
Neither the downsizing Cincinnati Reds nor the penny-pinching Pittsburgh Pirates figure to be much more than spoilers down the stretch. Poor Joey Votto.
In the NL West, Los Angeles should reach the playoffs for the 10th year in a row but even the arrival of Freddie Freeman won’t compensate for an unfinished rotation, shaky bullpen, and the continued struggles of one-time MVP Cody Bellinger. A full season of Max Muncy at second base could also pose problems.
San Francisco won’t survive the losses of Buster Posey (retired) and departed free agents Kris Bryant and Kevin Gausman, plus the spring injury to Evan Longoria. Had San Diego not lost to Fernando Tatís for three months after wrist surgery, the Padres could emerge as chief challenger to the Dodgers.
Arizona will have a better bullpen after adding Mark Melancon but Colorado’s pitching will still be sabotaged by Denver’s alpine air — though Bryant brings power and versatility to a club reeling from the departure of Trevor Story.
Here’s how the National League should finish:
EAST — Braves, *Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Nationals
CENTRAL — Cards, *Brewers, Cubs, Reds, Pirates
WEST — Dodgers, *Padres, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies
(*) Wild cards
NLDS — Braves over Cards; Mets over Dodgers
NLCS — Braves over Mets
WORLD SERIES — Braves over Blue Jays
Next week: American League preview
Here’s The Pitch weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ knows his preseason predictions are as likely to reach fruition as the forecasts of his weatherman friend Ken Olivenbaum. But both of them keep trying anyway. E.mail Dan at email@example.com.
“When a player is a free agent, I don’t deal directly with the player. It’s just something I’ve never done.”
–- Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos on the Freddie Freeman negotiations
Having Nelson Cruz behind him in the Washington lineup helps Juan Soto but the betting here is that the veteran slugger will be trade bait in July . . .
Also on the block are Oakland starters Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas; White Sox closer Craig Kimbrel; Tampa Bay’s swift Kevin Kiermaier, and Orioles center-fielder Cedric Mullins, a 30/30 man last season . . .
The Nationals are reeling from the news that 24-year-old third baseman Carter Kieboom has a flexor mass strain in his right forearm that will keep him out for an unspecified time and leave the hot corner open to ex-Brave Ehire Adrianza and former Phillie Maikel Franco . . .
Mazel tov to the Cleveland club, which finally managed to install its new Guardians sign at Progressive Field. No matter what, it’s still the worst nickname in the big leagues . . .
Braves manager Brian Snitker and general manager Alex Anthopoulos launched their baseball careers as catchers who couldn’t hit . . .
Former Braves president Stan Kasten, now with the Dodgers, has learned to play the banjo.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.