” I can sum up what I know about life in three words…It goes on”… Robert Frost

Consider this an official announcement. This blog is officially being transformed. Begun as a baseball blog to honor the 100th birthday of Fenway Park; I am officially transforming and broadening it’s vision.

Throughout the years, I have sprinkled some personal stories throughout these posts. Recognizing that, that will continue, I feel compelled to make it official.

And in the end, it all makes sense, for my great love, for the great game of baseball is rooted in the fact that baseball is truly one of the great metaphors for life itself.

I’m moving forward, still with baseball stories but with more of the nitty gritty of life. What that means, in a nutshell, is that nothing is off the table. I move with the words of legendary UCLA coach John Wooten who once said, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be;” and with the hope of George Eliot who intoned that it is “never too late to become what you might have been.”

So…Recognizing that this stage of my life calls for a bit of a reinvention, I invite one and all to climb on board and I hope you enjoy the ride.

                                        And so it is on this day, March 29, 2017

 

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OF BLESSINGS, BASEBALL, AUNTIE NANCY, OWEN AND DANCING IN THE RAIN…..

This is a deeply personal story. I offer it here because each of us is a deeply personal story unto ourselves. It is my hope that my story can touch you and your story.

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This is Nancy Cappellini. Nancy is my “baby” sister. The youngest of four children of Remo and Mary Sinibaldi.

This is Remo and Mary Sinibaldi when Mary was known as Mary Kelly.

And this is Mary and Remo with their four cherubs shortly after moving into their new home in Weymouth Massachusetts.

Nancy married Steven, her childhood sweetheart, and they raised a family of four beautiful children; two boys and two girls. They weathered the storms that life delivers us all and all that did was teach Nancy how to dance in the rain. Along the way she completed her required degrees and became first, the children’s librarian, and then its director in Hanson Massachusetts. Steve owned and operated a body shop and the Cappellinis became known to most in this small town of 10,000 people.

This is Steve and Nancy, with Lauren and their son Scott, on the day of their wedding. It was October 1, 2016, Nancy’s 62nd birthday.

The Cappellini household became the sun in the solar system of their extended families. It was here where family gathered during summer for Fourth of July bonfires (yikes), where Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were held. Kids were everywhere and it was home to not only family but anyone and everyone who needed a kind word, an ear, a place to be valued, a place to be loved, and of course, something to eat! Nancy became mother to many more than just her four.

She is a precious vessel of light, …and she is ours!

A week before Christmas, Nancy succumbed to the ravages of cancer after a two year gallant, heroic battle. And while fighting this battle she brought out the best in those whom she touched. She was the source of energy and strength, she was the encourager, she was the teacher; and through it all her ultimate lesson was the true meaning of the greatest of life’s gifts, love.

I had the honor of sharing her last day with her. A dear friend wrote me and said, “Be ever so present right now. This is part of our journey on this earth and it is sad but also miraculous if we allow that level of understanding and insight.” I was present and during that day I got to watch the manifestation of the love her husband and children shared with and for her. It was a love which sprung from the depths of a divine humanity and it glimmered with a palpability that brought its own breath. It is a love that could only proliferate even in her passing. We all were literally uplifted in its presence.

And it could be no other way. For as she said to her son a mere hours before she passed, “Our connection is pure love.” Twas always thus, and thus shall always be.

This is Margeaux and Brian.

Margeaux is Nancy’s niece and one of those to whom Nancy was a mother. Brian is the daddy to that treasure they are holding together. That little treasure is a baby boy named Owen and this is about one month before his due date of January 3rd, 2017

Margeaux had a very special relationship with her Auntie Nancy and in her “condition” she was deemed “unable” to travel the 1500 miles to attend her services. This was found to be unacceptable.

“Our connection is pure love.”

Her and Brian boarded a plane and made the 1500 mile flight, to say goodbye to her Auntie Nancy and to be with us all. We laughed, we cried, we held on to each other and through a rain, the likes of which we have never known…we danced.

And we watched the love that was Nancy uplift thousands of people. We saw it in the people who stood in an hour long line to simply stop and pay their respects. We saw it in a full church who came to pray and listen to those who loved her so, tell of her unconquerable spirit and undying love. And we were touched by it from a community’s outpouring of kindness, love and support.

This is Kristi and that’s Margeaux behind her wearing glasses.

Kristi and Margeaux have been pals since they were little kids splashing in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet MA. Kristi’s birthday is December 30th. When Margeaux got the word that her due date was January 3rd, she said to me, “this baby is going to be born on Kristi’s birthday.”

On December 23rd, the day after Auntie Nancy’s funeral, Brian and Margeaux flew home to Florida. We communicated daily and late in the evening of December 29th, I received the following message. ” I think my water just broke.”

Owen Raymond Imperiale arrived at 3:57 am on December 30, 2016. Happy Birthday Kristi.

It is said that the hour between 3 and 4 am is the hour when the curtain between the spiritual world and those of us fumbling around here on earth is at it’s thinnest. Auntie Nancy was, in Margeaux’s words, “everywhere.”

“Our connection is pure love.”

                                                                       Owen

Little Owen is a happy little fellow who has no idea the special position he holds in our family. But he will come to understand and know all about the love that is his great Auntie Nancy. How could he not?

“Our connection is pure love.”

French philosopher and Poet Alphonse de Lamartine once wrote, “Grief knits two hearts in closer bonds than happiness ever can, and common sufferings are far stronger links than common joys.”

A wise man that Monsieur de Lamartine. For in leaving us far too soon, the vessel of light and love that was and continues to be Nancy; has presented those of us left behind with a precious gift. The opportunity to grab onto those words and live them.

“Our connection is pure love.”

When we lose those we love, we honor them by how we live our lives. We are infused with the responsibility to carry on for them. I must say that I have found Nancy sitting on my shoulder quite a bit these past few months as she refuses to let me be anything less but the best I can be, and when I’m not, I seem to hear about it. Frankly, sometimes she’s a pain in the ass, but I was a pain in the ass to her on more than one occasion so I smile as she works on me.

I believe I have been in love with baseball since my birth. I’m not sure how, maybe I heard dad grousing about the Braves leaving Boston while I was in utero, but I cannot remember not loving baseball. The Red Sox will be opening the season in a couple of weeks and as much as I love the Sox, I must confess my true love for this game comes from hanging with these guys at the Venice High School Baseball Field.

                                          The 2017 Venice High School Baseball Team.

The difference between these guys and the Sox, is that with these young men I have the opportunity to build relationships. And I get to do that with a group of men I admire, respect and with whom I have come to form a brotherhood that extends far beyond the baseball field. They, like my sister, demand my best.

I have known Nancy’s husband Steve since we were in high school together. We have shared many times, happy times and sad times, smooth times and troubled times. However, the “grief that has knitted our two hearts together” has formed a closer bond than we have ever shared. And baseball, specifically Venice High Baseball, has played a part. A link on the chain of that bond formed by simply sharing the dugout during a high school baseball game.

“Our connection is pure love.”

Steve and I in the dugout at Bishop Verot High School in Ft. Myers Florida on Steve’s recent visit.

Baseball will be a part of Owen’s world in some form or another and he has already smelled the grass while his brothers Drew and Seany scurried about.

There is a trendy saying now a days that talks about “moving on.” Nancy has left us, and the hole in our collective hearts in her absence is, at times unfathomable. However, moving on is not the answer, for what fool would move on from the love and light she brought to our lives? Who, in their right mind, would eschew the opportunity to strengthen the “bond of two hearts knitted in grief?”

                                  Some of the “hearts knitted together in grief.”

Who would run from “our connection of pure love.”?

No, moving on is not the answer, moving with is more like it. Moving with a greater understanding of the gift of love. Moving  with a more profound sense of urgency to relish every single moment. Moving with an increased capacity to give and receive love. Moving with a renewed desire to be the very best one can be and moving with the desire to share all of that with those we love.

Life is a miracle, so indeed is death. They are inexorably linked in this mortal journey we all travel. There is opportunities presented to us in the death of one we love however one must be open to it. I am fortunate that my sister would demand nothing less from all of us left behind, other than embracing that opportunity to grow.

“Our connection is pure love.”

There are some who will simply not understand it. There are some who will shrink in fear of it. There are some who will understand it, feel it and maybe even want it but convince themselves otherwise and thus squander the opportunity. Saddest of all will be those who understand it, know it, feel it, want it and believe they are unworthy of it. Thus they will watch it simply pass them by.

As for me, I will effort to not squander a single moment and heed the words of my dear friend whom I love, “this is part of our journey on this earth and it is sad but also miraculous if we allow that level of understanding and insight.” I will effort to take every opportunity to pass my sisters light on to all I encounter and especially they whom I love. Tis a tall order she has left me but she will be with me to remind me when I’ve slipped.

Let it in…Don’t ignore the miracle… and…Dance in the rain.

The following occurs to me as I finish: it is March 18th and Nancy left us three months ago today, tomorrow marks the 32nd year of my mothers passing at the age of 62 and I am sitting on Nan’s couch in the very spot she sat when we last chatted in this place.

“Our connection is pure love.”

                               And so it is on this day, March 18, 2017.

 

 

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Koufax and Kershaw, Leveling the Playing Field…

In my last post, I gave you a pretty comprehensive overview of Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw. For Koufax it encompassed his six years of dominance from 1961 through 1966 and for Kershaw it ran from 2011 into this year.

https://fenwaypark100.org/2016/06/27/clayton-kershaw-sandy-koufax-and-a-comparison-in-dominance/

When the performances of these two greats are analyzed there is a remarkable comparability in them. However, what cannot be denied is the remarkable incomparability in the wide disparity in innings pitched/pitches thrown. It is thus this disparity in which I will attempt to level the playing field.

How do we do that?

I will keep this as simple as possible and be advised I am in the process of a complete comparison of their six seasons, so what I have for you today is a breakdown of their first  Cy Young Award seasons for each of them.

Now here’s where we level the playing field so hang with me. Again we take the given that Sandy Koufax threw far more innings in a season and thus, far more pitches per outing. There is no way we can accurately attempt to measure what Kershaw may have done if he threw as many innings/pitches as Koufax. We can however, get a pretty accurate read on what Koufax may have done if he threw less. With that in mind, let’s proceed.

We can get that read by using what I will call, the seventh inning demarcation mark. The choice of the seventh inning is simply because of the current use of pitchers in Major League Baseball, with set up man (8th inning guy) and of course, the closer.

So here goes.

In 2011 Kershaw was 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA. He led the league in strikeouts with 248. His opponents hit .207 against him. Those are the traditional stats. Looking at the other stats, his WAR was 6.5, his WHIP (Walks plus hits/IP) was an NL leading 0.977, his strikeouts per nine innings was 9.56 and his average hits allowed per nine innings was a league leading 6.71.

In Kershaw’s 33 starts in 2011, he threw 3,469 pitches, that is an average of 105 pitches per start. In 13 of those 33 starts he went beyond the seventh inning, twice he threw complete game shutouts and he also threw three other complete games, all wins. In each game he threw beyond the seventh he went 12-0 with one no decision.

As we begin it should be understood that complete game shutouts pitched by both Kershaw and Koufax were removed from scrutiny. The reason is simply that by definition, the performances of both pitchers on those days were not affected by number of innings pitched or pitchers thrown.

With that said, we begin the breakdown on Kershaw’s 2011 performance past the seventh inning. He pitched 13 2/3 innings, allowing 4 runs, on 13 hits while walking 4 and striking out 15. His ERA was 2.63 (a third of a run more) and he surrendered 4 earned runs past the seventh, 6% of his 59 total earned runs allowed. His opponents hit .245 against him (38 points higher), his WHIP was 1.27 (a half hit more per inning), and his hits per nine innings was 8.5 (nearly 2 full hits more). The only stat that remained the same was his strikeouts per nine innings which actually went up from 9.6 to 9.7.

Now comes what I will call his COMPARATIVE PERFORMANCE…Pretty sexy huh? Arrived at by backing out all activity beyond the seventh inning.

His record remained the same…21-5…His ERA went from 2.28 to 2.25…His Opponents Batting Average from .207 to .204…His WHIP from 0.977 to 0.960…His Hits per Nine went from 6.7 to 6.5 and his K/9 remained the same 9.6.

Now lets take a look at Koufax’s first Cy Young season of 1963.

First the traditional stats: he was 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA. He led the league in strikeouts with 306. His opponents hit .189 against him. In the modern stats: his WAR was a major league leading 10.7. His WHIP also a major league leading 0.874 and his K/9 innings was 8.8. He allowed 6.1 hits per nine innings to lead the NL.

Koufax started 40 games in 1963 throwing a total of 4,454 pitches for an average of 111 pitches per start. That is only six more per start than Kershaw. It is worth noting that Koufax had two starts in 1963 where he threw only 8 pitches in one and 16 in another. Twenty-eight times Koufax went beyond the seventh inning with 11 of them complete game shutouts. Nine other times he threw complete games and in all games he went beyond the seventh he was 24-0 with 4 no decisions.

This is what he looked like beyond the seventh inning; again remember this does not include his 11 shutouts for the aforementioned reason.

He pitched 35 1/3 innings allowing 12 earned runs, 38 hits while walking 8 batters and striking out 33. His ERA was 3.05 (well over a run higher), as he surrendered 12 of his 65 earned runs after the seventh, 18% of his total. His opponents hit .259, 70 points higher than before the seventh. His WHIP was 1.302 (like Kershaw nearly a half of hit higher). His strikeouts per nine dipped to 8.4 while his hits per nine soared from 6.2 to 9.6 nearly 3.5 hits more!

His COMPARATIVE PERFORMANCE…

His record remained the same…25-5…His ERA went from 1.88 to 1.73…His Opponents Batting Average from .189 to .173…His WHIP from 0.875 to 0.819…His Hits per Nine went from 6.1 to 5.7 and his K/9 virtually remained the same 8.8 to 8.9.

A few interesting notes on these two seasons…

KOUFAX 1963

  • Left-handed hitters hit .224 against him while righties hit .179.
  • 31 of his 40 starts came on 3 days rest, he was 19-3 with a 1.93 ERA in those games.
  • He started one game on just a days rest…He won, giving up 2 runs (one earned) in 8 innings.
  • He was 15-3 with a 2.09 ERA against teams over .500, 10-2 1.47 facing teams under the mark.
  • His 11 shutouts remains a record for left-handers in the Modern Era (1901-Present) and he threw 3 of them in a row in early July.
  • In two separate starts, he lasted only 1/3 of an inning surrendering 9 earned runs in those starts.

KERSHAW 2011

  • Lefties hit .178 against him, righties .213.
  • In his first 25 pitches of the game, batters hit .130 against him; over 100 pitches, .267.
  • In the seventh inning opponents hit .283 against him, his worst inning.
  • Seven times he registered double digit strikeouts with his high being 12.
  • His average run support was 4.44.
  • He was 3-3 on May 2nd and went 18-2 the rest of the way.

This is one year completed with five to go! In the end my objective is to develop a mechanism by which we can measure pitchers across the eras. So stay tuned as I will be pecking away at this for quite a while.

And so it is on this day in Fenway history, July 1, 2016. The summer is here!

 

 

 

 

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Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax and a Comparison in Dominance…

My son has, on various occasions, uttered the phrase, “Kershaw is the most dominant pitcher of all time.” Factored into this is his firm belief that todays baseball players are better than the superstars of yesteryear. There is validity in this contention for there is no doubt that todays athletes are bigger, faster and stronger. When you add those three ingredients together we have to come to terms with the fact that it should logically, equal better.

For purposes of full disclosure, I’m an old school guy. I’m not easily willing to jump on the “next best thing” mentality of our society of instant gratification. There are several reasons for this and one, I must confess, is that when it comes to my baseball heroes of bygone days, I get very protective. There’s a gazillion reasons for that and I would need a psychiatrist’s couch to sort through them all.

But that’s my issue. What I do love to do is search for ways to level the field in evaluating todays players with the greats of those bygone days.

What better place to start than these two? I dare say this will be the most extensive breakdown of these two greats you will find anywhere.

                                       Clayton Kershaw and Sandy Koufax.

At this moment the Dodger 27 year old lefty sits with an 11-2 record and an ERA of 1.79. He leads the league in strikeouts (145) and he has walked NINE! That’s a strikeout to walk ration of 16 to 1. To gain some perspective on this consider the following. The first pitcher to have a double digit SO/W ration was old “Grasshopper” Jim Whitney hurling for the Boston Beaneaters (Braves) in 1884. It was a 10-1 ratio and he held that record for 110 years until Bret Saberhagen threw up an 11-1 ratio in 1994. Cliff Lee hit the double digit mark in 2010 with a 10.2/1 deal and in 2014 Phil Hughes set a new mark with an 11.6/1 ratio. But I digress.

Back to dominance. In my lifetime the three most dominant pitchers I have seen are, in order of appearance on the scene: Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. The Dodger connection of Kershaw and Koufax is the most intriguing at this point and here is why. First, duh, their both Dodger southpaws but more importantly is the fact that each present six comparable successive seasons to be examined. So here goes.

Sandy Koufax made his major league debut in 1955. A mega talent, he “arrived” in the 1961 season which he entered with a record of 36-43 and an ERA of 4.04.

During his six seasons (1961-1966) he was 119-47 (.717) with a 2.19 ERA. He threw 1632.2 innings in 221 starts. Of those 221 starts, 115 were complete games of which 35 were shutouts; that is 30% of his complete games. He led the league in ERA for five straight seasons, wins three times and strikeouts four times, three times with over 300 K’s with a high of 382. Three times he topped the league in both wins and shutouts, twice in innings pitched and twice in complete games with 27 in both 1965 and 66. He pitched over 300 innings in three separate campaigns.

Koufax was the unanimous Cy Young Award winner three times (1963, 65 and 66), when there was only one pitcher selected for the honor. He won the MVP Award in 1963 garnering 14 of 20 first place votes. He threw four no-hitters in four years including a perfect game.

Clayton Kershaw’s rookie season was 2008 and his “arrival” in terms of dominance came in 2011. From that season until June 23, 2016 his record is 89-34 (.724) with a 2.06 ERA. he has pitched 1.243 innings in 174 starts. Of those starts, 23 of them were complete games with 14 of those shutouts, 61% of his complete games. He led the league in ERA four years in a row, wins twice, and strikeouts three times, hitting the 300 mark once (301 in 2015). Twice he topped the league in wins and shutouts, once in innings pitched and twice in complete games.

Kershaw has won three National League Cy Young Awards (2011, 13 and 14). He was a unanimous choice in 2014, the year in which he was also named the NL MVP receiving 18 of 30 first place votes. He tossed a no-hitter in 2014.

POST SEASON COMPARISON…

Sandy Koufax pitched in four World Series, 1959, 1963, 1965 and 1966. He had seven starts and one relief appearance and was 4-3 with a 0.95 ERA in 57 innings of work. He hurled four complete games and two shutouts, striking out 61 and walking 11. He was the World Series MVP in 1963 and 1965 and in 1963 struck out 15 Yankees in game one (a record he held until 1968).

His 4-3 record is a winning percentage of .571, considerably lower than the .717 mark he held during his six years of dominance. It’s worthwhile to take a look at his three World Series losses. The first game in game six in 1959; he was a loser in a 1-0 game with the White Sox run coming on a double play in the fourth inning. His second loss came in game two in 1965. He surrendered two runs in six innings (one unearned) in a game eventually won by the Twins 5-1. He struck out nine in those six innings. His third loss came in game two in ’66’ when the Orioles tabbed him for four runs (in six innings), one earned as the Dodgers committed a record six errors and hall of famer Jim Palmer became the youngest pitcher to hurl a World Series shutout. This would turn out to be Koufax’s last game.

Image result for sandy koufax world series

Koufax pitches to Harry Bright with two outs in the ninth inning of the first game of the 1963 World Series. Bright became Koufax’s 15th strikeout victim. He was the first player to win two World Series MVP’s. Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson are the only other players to do so.

Clayton Kershaw has pitched in seven post-season series in five seasons. He has 10 starts and three relief appearances. He is 2-6 with an ERA of 4.59. He has thrown 64.2 innings with 77 strikeouts and 23 walks. In four NLDS he is 2-3 with a 3.52 ERA. Three times he has pitched in a NLCS in which he is 0-3 with a 7.32 ERA, he has 17 strikeouts and 11 walks in NLCS action. He has never pitched in a World Series.

Image result for clayton kershaw post season

Kershaw’s best post season series was the 2013 NLDS against the Braves. In two starts he was 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA. He struck out 18 Braves and walked four in 13 innings.

The discerning eye will note that all these comparisons involve the traditional evaluators: wins, ERA etc. It is only fair to compare them using the modern sabermetric evaluators which are at play today. It provides a vehicle which levels the field and allows us to transcend the generations of players.

First and foremost the greatest difference between the baseball eras is innings pitched. When Sandy Koufax took the ball every fourth game (not fifth), a large part of his job was to finish the job…Pitch nine innings. When Koufax broke in, bullpens were largely comprised of pitchers who could no longer complete games.

Kershaw’s entire career has been played in this era where the vast majority of big league pitchers have thrown their entire professional careers with the goal to not exceed 100-110 pitches per outing.

Lets take a look at the first Cy Young seasons of both men.  First Kershaw; in 2011 he went 21-5 with an ERA of 2.28 He pitched 233.1 innings and in his 33 starts he averaged 105 pitches thrown. Twice during the year he topped 120 pitches hitting a high of 125.

When Koufax won his first Cy Young Award in 1963 he went 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA. He pitched 311 innings and in his 40 starts he averaged 123 pitches. Within that season were two outings of over 160 pitches, both 12 inning complete game wins. And to go along with those: seven outings between 130-140 pitches and one outing each in the 140s and 150s.

Koufax’s pitch counts per outing have yet to be totally compiled so the career totals are incomplete; leaving us to work with innings pitched. However it is obviously clear that Koufax threw far, far more pitches than Kershaw and that is manifested in the innings pitched category. So lets go there.

In Koufax’s six seasons of dominance he averaged pitching 272 innings a season. He had 211 starts of which 115 were complete games. That means that 55% of the time Sandy took the ball he completed the start.

Kershaw has averaged 207 innings per season in his six seasons of dominance and in his 174 starts he has completed 23 games, 13% of them. The most innings Kershaw has pitched in a season is 236, 36 innings less than Koufax’s average.

From 1961 through 1966, the major league leaders in innings pitched averaged throwing 316 innings per year. Included in that was Koufax himself throwing 335.2 in 1965 and 323 in 1966.

Since 2011 the average leader in innings pitched is about 240 innings. Kershaw led the majors last year (232.2) and was second in 2014 with his career high 236. In all fairness it must be noted that to consistently hurl 200+ innings in this era; one will earn the designation as a horse, an innings eater.

Image result for kershaw koufax

Who would you take?

With that said, lets move into the modern evaluation stats and lets begin with WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for pitchers.

Kershaw has averaged a WAR of 7.0 going into this season, twice having led the majors. At this writing he leads all pitchers with a 4.8 which projects to a 2016 WAR of between 7 and 8. From 1961-1966 Koufax averaged a WAR of 7.7 and twice led the majors with a WAR better than 10.

Next up is ERA+. Now don’t let your head explode because all this does is give a measure of how much better a pitcher’s ERA is compared to the rest of the league.  Here is an example of its simplicity. An ERA+ of 100 is average. The highest modern day ERA+ belongs to Pedro Martinez at 291, meaning his ERA was 191% better than the league average. Let that sink in.

While that sinks in, Kershaw has led the league in ERA+ three times and twice led the majors. His lowest since 2011 is a 150 in 2012. Currently he leads the majors with a mark of 247.

Koufax led the National League twice and the majors once in ERA+. His lowest mark was a 122 in 1961. His highest was a 190 in 1966, the year he retired.

The number one objective of a pitcher is to keep runners off the bases, get outs. The stat known as WHIP best measures that function. It is calculated by simply adding walks and hits and then dividing the total by the number of innings pitched. Obviously the lower the number the better.

Kershaw  led the NL in WHIP in 2011, 12,13,14 and led the majors in 2013 and 14. He leads the majors to date this year, 0.727. Koufax led the major leagues four successive years, a feat that has never been duplicated. Clayton Kershaw is fourth on the all-time list of career WHIP, behind hall of famers Addie Joss, “Big Ed” Walsh and soon to be hall of famer Mariano Rivera.

The lowest single season WHIP was 0.7373 by Pedro Martinez in 2000. His ERA+ that same season (291) was the best in modern baseball history. (since 1901)

Spinning off of WHIP and an illustration of dominance are the stats of hits and strikeouts per nine innings. Obviously the more dominant is a pitcher, the least amount of hits will be allowed and there is no more indication of pitcher dominance than the strikeout.

In the hits per nine category, Kershaw led the NL in 2011 and 12, leading the majors in 2012. Koufax led the NL five straight years 1961-65 and the majors in 62 and 65. Kershaw’s best season was in 2013 when he allowed 6.25 hits per nine innings while Koufax’s best came in 1965 when opponents mustered 5.79 hits per nine.

In the strikeouts per nine department, Kershaw led the NL in 2014 and the majors in 2015. Koufax on the other hand led the NL every year from 1961 through 1966 and the majors in 1961 and 62.

So there you have it. A rather extensive, exhaustive look at these two pitchers measured and compared in their six seasons of dominance. Kershaw is, in fact in the midst of his sixth season of dominance.

Can we conclude anything from this? Does it clearly indicate which one of them was more or less dominant? Each of us will bring our own subjectivity to this argument; for what we are still left with is a vast difference in eras. But guess what? I’m not done.

Coming soon, my attempt to level their playing fields.

To be continued…

                  And so it is on this day in Fenway Park history, June 27, 2016.

                                             18 years and with me every step

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.” Terrence Mann

I have been a teacher for a quarter century now and I have often said that one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is that it encompasses the past, the present and the future. I interact with kids every day and each day is spent cultivating those relationships. Drawing on past experience in every walk of my life, I work daily with kids who are navigating their way through the daily, often turbulent, waters of childhood and adolescence. And in so doing, hopefully, in some way, I help to prepare them for the future, their future and in a small way the future of this nation.

I am a passionate historian! This blog was born on the 100th birthday of Fenway Park. There have been some in my life who have suggested I spend too much time in the past. I suppose that is a matter of personal opinion, however this I know, that often the past can be paralyzing. Events, decisions and experiences which remain unresolved will influence us, our choices, our behavior and our self worth.

There are times in life when the patchwork quilts of past and present meet. Times when an event, an experience revisit us. There is nowhere where this is more prevalent than in the game of baseball and it is within that greatest of games where often events of my past have been brought home to me.

It happened last week as I was making my way across the southeastern United States with the Collegiate Diamond Tour. The Collegiate Diamond Tour took 29 high school baseball players from the state of Florida, covered 2500 miles in seven days and visited 28 colleges.

http://www.collegiatediamondtours.com/home.html

The Collegiate tour is a product of the Florida Burn; (http://www.floridaburn.com/burn-store.html) a travel ball organization in Florida founded and run by these two guys,

Mark Guthrie

and

Craig Faulkner.

It is a tour that is filled with great moments as a group of high school baseball players who aspire to take their game to the next level. These young men get an incredible opportunity to see 25 or more colleges and get to hear first hand the rigors of that endeavor.

Some of the moments…

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First day, stop, two was at the University of Florida in Gainesville where two former Collegiate Diamond Tour participants play a big role in the Gators success.

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Coach Faulkner “interviews” Gator shortstop Dalton Guthrie who gives the boys an idea of what it takes to compete in college.

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At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, we ran into two other former Diamond Tour participants. Austin Bergner (L) and Brandon Elmy are introduced to the boys at UNC. Elmy is entering his junior year at Furman University in South Carolina and Bergner is entering his freshman year at UNC. Austin was drafted in June by the Red Sox.

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Duke University is always a favorite stop with the visit to the legendary Cameron Indoor Stadium a highlight and it provides a surprising link to baseball.

Dick Groat’s number 10 was the first Blue Devil basketball number retired in 1952. He was the third overall pick in the draft by the Fort Wayne (Detroit) Pistons and he played with them a year.

An All-American baseball and basketball player at Duke, Groat was a five time all star, the 1960 MVP for the World Champion Pirates and the 1960 NL Batting Champ. Groat played 14 years in the big leagues and won a ring with the Cardinals in 1964 as well.

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A stop was made to pay respects to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in Greenville South Carolina. The baseball sitting atop the O in Jackson, was signed by all the boys on the tour.  

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Charleston Southern University head coach Adam Ward, (second from left) addresses the boys at the school’s baseball field. It was here where real life intersected with the great game of baseball.

The most poignant moments of the trip came when we visited the campus of Charleston Southern University.  It was Fathers Day, two days from the day when one year ago, an evil monster attended a bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. An hour into the session, he rose and opened fire into the class killing nine of them. One of them was Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, the mother of Charleston Southern’s right fielder, Chris Singleton.

Chris Singleton held a press conference on the Charleston Buccaneer baseball field. And in it he set the tone for how the community chose to respond to hate. An invaluable lesson for the boys on the tour, for the men on the tour…For the nation.

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Tyler Zupcic (L) Director of Baseball Operations at Eastern Carolina University and Coach Faulkner.

The visit to Eastern Carolina provided an intersection of lives all brought about by three decades of baseball.

                           

Tyler’s dad Bob played against Coach Faulkner in the minor leagues. They faced each other in the NY Penn League in 1987, the Carolina League in 1988 and both the Eastern and International Leagues in 1989.

On September 7, 1991, Bob Zupcic made his big league debut when he pinch ran for Mo Vaughn. He would bat 25 times that month and he launched his first home run into Fenway’s old left field screen as well. His official rookie season would take place the following year.

This is where I step in.

It was Tuesday night June 30, 1992 and I made my way into Fenway Park to watch the Sox take on the Tigers. My daughter Beth was with me, she was eight years old. The Sox lineup that night included Jody Reed, Jack Clark, Phil Plantier, Luis Rivera, Tom Brunansky, Mo Vaughn, Tony Pena, Wade Boggs, who was coming to an end of his time in Boston and in centerfield the rookie, Bob Zupcic.

After two innings the Tigers led 5-3. It would stay that way until the Red Sox added one in the eighth narrowing the lead to 5-4 going to the ninth. With men on second and third with one out, Tiger manager Sparky Anderson, ordered a walk to Jody Reed, loading the bases and bringing up Bob Zupcic. On a 3-1 pitch the kid launched a fast ball over the screen at Fenway sending the Faithful into delirium.

Zupcic’s mates greet him at home plate following his walk-off grand slam.

The next day I took the troops to one of our favorite places. The baseball card store in South Weymouth Mass. We loaded up on Bob Zupcic rookie cards.

The baseball thread of decades past wove its way through the campus of Eastern Carolina University last week.  I related this story to Tyler which brought a smile. “My dad will be happy to hear that story” he told me and he was pleased to learn from Coach Faulkner that “your dad was one of the nicest men I met in all my years playing.”

Tyler played at Appalachian State and spent a year playing in the Frontier League with the River City Rascals.

Tyler had just turned a year old the night Beth and I watched his dad launch a bomb into the Fenway night. But a quarter century later the baseball thread that is Craig Faulkner, Raymond Sinibaldi and Bob Zupcic found its way to Greenville North Carolina and the campus of Eastern Carolina University where Tyler will play his part in taking that program to Omaha… And probably sooner than later.

And along the way hearing how his dad brought smiles to his fans, and commanded the respect of the men against whom he competed.

As Terrance Mann sat in the bleachers at the Field of Dreams he turned to Ray Kinsella and said, “This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

On Fathers Day, I was reminded of all in the game that was good and as I met the men who guide the likes of Chris Singleton and our boys on the bus, I was mindful of just how good it can be again.

                        And so it is on this date in Fenway history, June 22, 2016.

                                                       Happy Birthday Rach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A half Century of the Red Sox and the Amateur Draft…

Yesterday the Boston Red Sox made Jason Groome their overall number one pick in the 2016 Amateur draft.

The 6’6″ left-handed pitcher from Barnegat High School in New Jersey was the 12th overall pick. His fastball sits between 90-94 and has touched 97 and he sports a “biting” curveball in the high 70s. He also has a change-up in his arsenal. The 17 year old southpaw struck out 81 batters in 35 innings of work his senior year.

Groome was Baseball America’s number one rated prospect for a number of weeks this spring. He was the 34th Red Sox first round pick to come out of high school. He is the 11th left-handed pitcher selected by the Red Sox in the first round and he is only the 8th high school player taken since the year 2000, a total of 31 picks.

Since 1965, the Red Sox have made 74 number one picks in the draft. The first one was a local kid from Swampscott High School, Billy Conigliaro. The fifth overall pick, Conigliaro was drafted behind Rick Monday (first) and ahead of Bernie Carbo (16th). In fact their were three Massachusetts High School kids drafted in the first round that year. Billy spent five years in the big leagues, making it to Boston in 1969 and he shared the outfield with big brother Tony in 1970. It was his best year, hitting .271 with 18 homers and 58 RBI.

Billy Conigliaro played three years with the Red Sox, one with the Brewers and was a member of the 1973 World Champion Oakland A’s.

Of the 74 players drafted in the first round, 29 of them have not seen a day in the major leagues, 39% of them. Now in all fairness, four of them include the last four number ones, one of whom is Andrew Benintendi, recently elevated to Portland and their number two ranked overall organizational prospect.

What does the future hold for Groome, this years number one? Obviously it remains to be seen but let’s take a look back at some of the past number ones. Some of them will ring familiar having made significant contributions and impact on the organization.

Bruce Hurst, the 1976 number one pick, had a 15 year big league career. Nine of them came in Boston where he won 88 games and nearly won the 1986 World Series MVP Award. Hurst was the Red Sox most successful southpaw taken in the top spot.

Mo Vaughn was the 1989 selection out of Seton Hall. The “Hit Dog” hit 230 homers and batted .301 in eight years with the Red Sox and was the 1995 American League MVP.

In 1993, Trot Nixon was the number one out of New Hanover High in Wilmington NC. The original “Dirt Dog”, Nixon was a popular player with the Red Sox for 10 years. He is forever endeared to Red Sox fans as the right fielder on the 2004 squad which unleashed the joy of a World Series Championship.  

The 1994 number one out of Georgia Tech came to be known simply as “Nomah.” He hit .323 in eight years in Boston. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1997 and won back to back batting titles in 1999 and 2000. At his peek he was one of the most popular players in franchise history.

In 2005, Jacoby Ellsbury, out of Oregon State University, was their number one pick and became a key component in winning the 2007 and 2013 World Series.  

He arrived in Boston for the last 33 games of the 2007 season and then hit .438 in the World Series helping the Sox win their second World Series in four years. In seven years in a Red Sox uniform he led the league in stolen bases including a Red Sox record 70 steals in 2009. He was an All Star in 2011, his best year as he hit .321 with 32 homers and 105 RBI, finishing second in the MVP voting to Justin Verlander, won a Gold Glove and led the league with 364 total bases. In 2014 he signed with the Yankees where he has not come close to those numbers.

Jackie Bradley Junior (right) and Blake Swihart (23) were both recent number one picks who are part of today’s Red Sox landscape. Swihart did the bulk of the catching last year and recently was contributing as a left-fielder until felled by a sprained ankle. JBJ has emerged as a star and currently is a top three receiver of votes for an outfield spot at this years all star game.

THE TWO BEST…

There is no doubt that the best everyday player taken number one by the Red Sox was James Edward Rice.

Jim Rice was drafted number one in 1971 out of TL Hanna High School in Anderson South Carolina.

Arriving in 1975 along with Fred Lynn, the “Gold-Dust Twins” as they came to be known, were the greatest rookie tandem in baseball history. The 1978 MVP was among the most feared hitters in the game for five seasons. In 1978 he hit .315 and led the league in hits, triples, home runs, RBI, SLG, OPS, OPS+ and WAR. He also compiled 406 total bases, the only American League player to do so since 1938.

Elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009, Rice’s number 14 joined the elite numbers on Fenway’s right field facade.

The all time number one pick to toe the slab for the Boston Red Sox is Roger Clemens.

Clemens was taken number one by the Red Sox in 1983, the 19th overall pick.

For 13 seasons “The Rocket” toiled on the Fenway mound and he made his mark as one of the Red Sox all time greats at any position. He won 192 games equaling Cy Young for most wins by a Red Sox pitcher, (you know the guy they named the award after). He won three of those awards in a Red Sox uniform. He was the first pitcher in history to punch out 20 guys in a nine inning game and he did it twice in a Red Sox uniform, once at Fenway and once in Detroit. In 1986 he became the seventh pitcher in baseball history to win an MVP and Cy Young Award in the same season. It was a bitter parting when Clemens left the Sox to sign with the Blue Jays in 1997. We all know what transpired with the accusations of PED’s which leaves Clemens today outside the doors of Cooperstown. This despite some of the greatest career numbers any pitcher has accumulated.

The icy relationship between the Fenway Faithful and Roger Clemens has thawed as the years have past and he was well received in a 1986 reunion night at Fenway in May of this year. It is interesting to note that since Roger Clemens left the Red Sox following the 1996 season, no player has worn his number 21.

DRAFT NOTES…SUPPLEMENTAL PICKS

Since these entered the draft equation in 1981 to compensate for players lost through free agency, some interesting picks have emerged.

  • Casey Fossum (LHP) was a pick for the loss of Greg Swindell. He made no great contribution in a Red Sox uniform but was the lynchpin in the trade for Curt Schilling.
  • Clay Bucholz was a 2005 pick for the loss of Pedro.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury was another 2005 pick for the loss of 2004 shortstop Orlando Cabrera.
  • Both Jackie Bradley Junior and Blake Swihart were picks garnered for the loss of Adrian Beltre in 2011.

OTHER TIDBITS…

  • Roger Clemens was drafted by both the New York Mets (12th round in 1981) and the Red Sox. (Imagine the Mets with Clemens and Dwight Gooden?)
  • Jim Rice’s High School TL Hanna High in Anderson SC, claims James “Radio” Kennedy, actor Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson in 42) and astronaut Stephen Thorne as alum.
  • Jason Groome said the Red Sox are his favorite team.

And so it is on this day in Fenway Park History, Draft Day One, 2016.

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Musings Born of “67”…

This morning I awoke with visions of “67” dancing in my head. It happens once in awhile, the year, the magic. My son tells me I give too much reverence to baseball’s bygone days and he may, in fact, be correct; as last night I was lamenting the “state of the game” today.

I’m not a fan of interleague play, I don’t like the idea that batters put on suites of armor, hang over the plate and the pitcher can’t take back the inside part of the plate. The genie is out of the bottle and only an act of Congress, signed by the president will change that. Oh, and don’t get me started on presidents, candidates and Congress.

The new “rule” on sliding into second and breaking up a double play is, well, one more indication of the softening of America. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that guys should be trying to hurt each other, but breaking up the double play has been one of baseball’s ten commandments since Alexander Cartwright brought baseball’s stone tablets down from Mt. Elysian Fields.

Chase Utley upending Reuben Tejada.

You want to “protect” players from getting injured? How about this for a concept? If a player is determined to have deliberately “injured” a player; said player is “suspended for as long as it takes said injured player to return to the lineup. This would apply to pitchers hitting batters as well.

The immediate reaction may be “no way”, “can’t be done”, “how could you do it”, blah, blah, blah. I’m not unaware of the potential difficulties in its implementation, however would it be any more difficult than all the administrative red tape involved in todays decision making process regarding such matters?

Oh and I HATE, absolutely HATE instant replay. Strong word hate, not one I use much but very applicable here. I simply offer this; has it sped up the game? Made it more entertaining? Nope! A close play takes place, manager comes to the top step of the dugout, waits for the call from his replay people, walks out to the ump, everybody stands around while people miles and miles away watch a screen and call back. AND, very often leaves those of us watching along on TV  puzzled, and scratching our heads.

Would you rather that? Or this?

Earl Weaver and Ken Kaiser going nose to nose.

Billy being Billy.

Sweet Lou…

What’s more entertaining?

Oh and by the way, this or waiting for replay takes at least the same amount of time.

Anyway, I digress….Back to my musings.

On April 23, 1967 Boston had a most unusual day. Temperature in the 40s with thunder and lighting. Mickey Mantle had his last Fenway Park RBI. Yaz homered on his way to his Triple Crown and he and Dick Williams were both ejected. The Sox lost, but a new energy force arrived at Fenway, hailed by lightning and trumpeted by thunder. An energy force that would ignite a city, transform a franchise and the Greater Boston area would never be the same.

A lot of interesting events mark April 23rd. At Fenway, Ted Williams’ first career homer was struck on April 23rd 1939. In 1954 Hank Aaron hit his first career homer at Sportsman Park and at Ebbetts Field Jackie Robinson stole second, then third and then home leading the Dodgers to an extra inning victory. 032514-MLB-Babe-Ruth-Jackie-Robinson-Hank-Aaron-Ted-Williams-TV-Pi

Jackie, Hank and Ted.

Warren Spahn of 363 career wins (more than any other southpaw in history) and World War II combat service, was born on April 23, 1921.

Spahn was a 14 time All Star, four time NL shutout leader and nine times he led the league in complete games. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973.

 

 

Spahn played a German soldier in a cameo appearance on the TV Show Combat in 1963. He fought at the Battle of the Bulge and was wounded as part of the force taking the Remgen Bridge.

And this guy was also born on April 23rd, a few years earlier than Mr. Spahn.

Willie also died on his birthday and something tells me that if he were alive in America today he would have written a great tragedy involving baseball.

On this day in 1989, this guy…

Nolan Ryan

passed this guy…

Walter Johnson

as the all time major league strikeout leader. A position he still holds!

I woke up this morning with visions of “67” dancing in my head. My son tells me that I give too much reverence to baseball’s bygone days and in fact he may be correct.

So I got up and went to the baseball field to practice with these guys…And to revel in the hope of their dreams…The hope of their tomorrows.

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And then I went to the golf course with these guys to revel in the hope that lives over each golf shot, each swing, each putt. The hope of now.

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I woke up this morning with visions of “67” dancing in my head. My son tells me that I give too much reverence to baseball’s bygone days and in fact he may be correct. Maybe it’s time to just let it go…

But damn, that song was so sweet…

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So very, very sweet….

And so it is on this day…April 23rd the day someone once told me was, “the best day evah.”

 

 

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