Another Winning Season

September 27, 2011

The Dodgers won their 81st game last night ensuring another winning season after spending most of the year far below the .500 mark.  The team’s surge during the last two months has brought the Dodgers into the top half of all MLB teams, which may not be a good thing according to Josh Suchon of Dodger Talk: “…A team that signs a Type A free agent in the off-season -– you know, like Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder –- has to forfeit a first-round draft pick.  But if that teams finishes in the second half of all Major League Baseball teams, then it falls to a second-round pick. So if you finish with one of the top 15 records and sign a Type A, there goes your first-round pick…”

Matt Kemp’s 38th home run sparked a 4-2 win over the D’backs and brought Kemp within two of the 40/40 club with two games to play.  His quest for the lead in the batting average is all but over as he is now down by 10 points.  He still has a strong chance for the MVP award despite not winning the triple crown.  With three more RBIs, Kemp will be in second place behind Tommy Davis for the most RBIs by a Los Angeles Dodger.  With 123, he trails Mike Piazza and Shawn Green who have 124 and 125 RBIs respectively.

Tonight could be the end of the line in Los Angeles for Dodgers veteran Hiroki Kuroda.  Kuroda, who pitched in Japan for 11 seasons before coming to the Dodgers, has yet to decide whether he’ll return to Los Angeles or pitch in Japan next season.   “At this moment, I really don’t know,” Kuroda said. “I might stay here, I might go to Japan. It’s 50-50.”

This Day in Dodgers History

September 27, 1961 – Sandy Koufax breaks the National League mark for strikeouts in a season, surpassing Christy Mathewson’s mark of 267 established in 1903. Unlike the turmoil caused by commissioner Ford Frick’s edict of having to hit 61 homers by the 154th game in the extended 162-game schedule to break Babe Ruth’s single season home run record, little is made that Dodgers southpaw’s 268th punch-out occurs in the 151st game of the season, compared to the 142-game sked played early in the century.

Sandy Koufax breaks the National League mark for strikeouts in a season, surpassing Christy Mathewson’s mark of 267 established in 1903. Unlike the turmoil caused by commissioner Ford Frick’s edict of having to hit 61 homers by the 154th game in the extended 162-game schedule to break Babe Ruth’s single season home run record, little is made that Dodgers southpaw’s 268th punch-out occurs in the 151st game of the season, compared to the 142-game sked played early in the century.

The Birth of a Benchmark

August 31, 2011

One of the reasons that baseball is the greatest game is there are so many ways to measure performances.  These measurements are burned into our collective consciousness.  When I was growing up, I was given a book that had most of the records and great stars through the history of modern baseball up to the early 1960’s.  Numbers like 56, 60, .406 and 714 had an almost legendary significance.  Some of those numbers, like Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak of 56 games and Ted William’s .406 batting average are still the record (the .406 season is the last season anybody batted at least .400.)  Babe Ruth’s single season and career home run records, which had existed for so many years, have been replaced.  The funny thing is, I don’t know how many homers Barry Bonds finished with.

I am not a baseball fanatic.  I just know that baseball and all of the numbers and legendary players just seemed so much bigger when I was a child.  As much as I admire the performances of Kershaw and Kemp this year, I stopped being in awe of major league players once I was older than they were.  The Cey, Russell, Lopes and Garvey group were the last players that I really looked up to.

I was in Little League (age 10-12) in 1963 through 1965, a time when the Dodgers were world champions 2 of those years.  From my screen name, you probably know my favorite players were Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.  I probably ruined my arm trying to pitch like Drysdale.  As a dominating pitcher in Little League, I loved to aim at the batter and watch him bail out only to have my curve or maybe it was really a slider break over the plate for a strike.  Those were the days before kids were warned not to throw breaking pitches.

1959 was the first time I remember being interested in the Dodgers.  This date in 1959 was when Sandy Koufax set the record by striking out 18 batters.  But I really did not follow the team until they were in the World Series.  I just remember that Larry Sherry was the hero that year.  But the 18 strike outs by Koufax set him apart from others even before his first really dominant season in 1962.

The records last until they are broken, but the feelings about the record holders from ones childhood remain.  Orel Hershiser broke Don Drysdale’s scoreless inning record but I am 32and53fan, I don’t even know Hershiser’s uniform number.

This Day in Dodgers History

August 31, 1959 – Tying a major league mark, Sandy Koufax fans 18 Giants to establish a new National League record for a nine-inning in a 5-2 Dodger win at the LA Memorial Coliseum. In 1938, Indians fireballer Bob Feller struck out 18 in a 4-1 loss to the Tigers.


Can Kershaw Match Van Lingle Mungo?

July 26, 2011

Vin Scully put up a graphic during Monday’s game that showed Dodger pitchers who have led the league in strikeouts. He posed the question, “Can Clayton Kershaw maintain his current lead in that department throughout the year?”

Hideo Nomo was the last Dodger to be the N.L. strikeout champ, fanning 236 in 1995. Fernando Valenzuela led with 180 in the strike-shortened 1981 season. Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale dominated the 1960’s (starting in 1959) with the former leading the league four times, while the latter accomplishing that feat three times.
Don Newcombe topped the list in 1951. Dazzy Vance led the National League in strikeouts every year in an amazing string from 1922 to 1928!

The only other Dodger to make the list was the pitcher with the best name of them all – Van Lingle Mungo, who prevailed in 1936. No other Dodger ever inspired the title and chorus for a cool jazz song. And Mungo was doing a high leg kick in his delivery before Juan Marichal was even born.

 

This Day in Baseball History

On July 26, 1948, Babe Ruth makes his final public appearance. Ruth visits the film premiere of “The Babe Ruth Story.” Ruth will succumb to throat cancer only three weeks later.


Kershaw takes on Jhoulys Chacin of the Rockies at 7:10 tonight.