Joe Jacques had an anything-but-ordinary big-league debut with the Boston Red Sox on Monday at Fenway Park. The 28-year-old southpaw not only entered a game against the Colorado Rockies with two outs and the bases loaded in the 10th inning; he did so in a downpour. Moreover, the first of the five pitches he threw came on a 1-0 count. Unbeknownst to Jacques until he returned to the dugout, he’d committed a pitch clock violation before the 20-second countdown had started. More on that in a moment.
Drafted 984th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016 out of Manhattan College, Jacques had been claimed off of waivers by the Red Sox last December. Almost exclusively a reliever since coming to pro ball, he’d made 146 appearances down on the farm, including 23 with Triple-A Worcester this season. If there were any nerves associated with his taste of high-leverage MLB action, he wasn’t letting on.
“Honestly, I didn’t have that much of an adrenaline spike,” the Shrewsbury, New Jersey native told me on Wednesday. “That’s not the time to be panicking. With the bases loaded, in the rain, you’ve just got to come in and pound the zone. Plus, having been in Yankee Stadium the previous three days — I got hot once — definitely helped my nerves. I was pretty locked in.”
That wasn’t necessarily the case in terms of a pitch clock rule that many fans aren’t even aware of. What happened was initially a mystery to the left-hander.
“When I was out there, I didn’t even know that it had happened,” admitted Jacques. “The umpire raised his hand and gave me like a ‘one’ signal, and I thought he meant one warmup pitch left. I guess he was saying, ‘That’s an auto ball.’ After I threw my first pitch, which was a ball, I looked up and saw 2-0.”
Jacques proceeded to induce a full-count ground ball from Nolan Jones that first-baseman Triston Casas couldn’t handle. The error made the score 4-2 Colorado, at which point the umpires stopped the game amid sheets of rain that were turning the playing field into a morass. When Jacques returned to the dugout, Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush approached him and asked if he knew why he’d been called for an automatic ball. He told him he didn’t.
Unlike Jacques, Jones did know what happened. Waiting to hit, the Rockies slugger heard the home plate umpire state, “Ball one; he threw a pitch under 30 seconds.”
Don’t feel bad if that has you scratching your head. While pitchers failing to go into their motion within 15 seconds — 20 with a runner(s) on base — has resulted in a multitude of violations, what occurred in Boston has been a rarity. Here is an explanation.
Pitchers have historically been allowed eight warmup pitches prior to the start of an inning, or when entering as a reliever, but that is no longer the case. Since the introduction of the pitch clock, there isn’t set number of warmups, but rather a window of time in which to throw them. Between-innings breaks are two minutes and fifteen seconds — 2:40 for nationally televised games — and the same applies to pitching changes. That clock begins ticking once the bullpen door opens and the reliever steps off the warning track dirt and onto the grass.
And then there is the rule in question. While a pitcher can throw as many warmups as he wants, none of them can come after the 2:15 clock has ticked down to 30 seconds. For relievers, that means running in from the pen and getting your tosses in within a 1:45 window. Reasonable or nor — common sense suggests more time should be allowed — plate umpires are instructed to give a signal at, or just before, 40 seconds in order to help prevent this violation from taking place.
That Jacques was called for this uncommon violation before throwing his first big-league pitch — in the pouring rain with the bases juiced, no less — is something he can tell his grandchildren about some day. As for his parents, they were there to see it, and subsequently to talk about it. Late in a Boston night — the game ended after midnight thanks to a two-hour rain delay — Jacques and family celebrated his unique debut with glasses of champaigne at a nearby watering hole.
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Glen Perkins was known as a pitching nerd when he played for the Minnesota Twins. Now a TV analyst for his former team, he wishes he knew then what he knows now.
“The best example is 2015, when I was trying to improve my slider,” said Perkins, who logged 35 wins and 120 saves for the Twins from 2006-2017. “We had one guy in our stats department at the time. I could get TrackMan reports after the game, with spin rates, and from there I could tell if I was moving in the right direction; I could see if the spin went up. But it probably took me six weeks to get it to where I wanted it, because it was only when I pitched that I would get that data. Now I could maybe do in one bullpen session, with 10 or 15 pitches.
“Guys now are working on pitches — the sweeper is an example — and the team has a reason behind it, or Driveline has a reason behind it, so they’re getting pointed in the right directions. It’s not just trial and error anymore. I started throwing fastballs up, because I realized that every time I tried to throw it down, A: It got hit, or B: I missed up and got a positive result. If I were to get drafted by the Twins now, and put in the minor leagues, I would throw one bullpen and they would say, ‘Don’t ever throw the ball below the bottom third of the strike zone with your fastball.’
“Basically, I spent the first five years of my career pitching in a way that I shouldn’t have been pitching. I don’t have any regrets about my career — I was happy with how I did — I just wish that I would have had the information that these guys have.”
Gene Mauch’s 1,902 wins are the most for a manger whose team never won a World Series. Which manager without a title has the second-most wins?
The answer can be found below.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced that Carl Erskine is the 2023 recipient of the Buck O’Neil Award, presented to an individual for extraordinary efforts to enhance baseball’s positive impact on society. Erskine, 96, will be honored on Saturday, July 22, as part of Hall of Fame Weekend.
Saberseminar has begun announcing speakers for this summer’s can’t-miss event. Named so far are Chicago Cubs Assistant General Manager Ehsan Bokhari, Milwaukee Brewers VP of Baseball Research & Innovation Dan Turkenkopf, and Katie Krall, who serves as Senior Product Manager of Baseball Strategy for Hawk-Eye Innovations. Saberseminar will be held in Chicago on August 12-13. More information can be found here.
Don Hood, a left-handed pitcher who made 297 appearances from 1973-1983, died earlier this month at age 73. Hood went 34-35 with six saves and a 3.79 ERA playing for the Orioles, Indians, Yankees, Cardinals, and Royals.
Danny Young, a left-handed pitcher who appeared in four games for the Chicago Cubs in 2000, died last Sunday at age 51. The Smyrna, Tennessee native made his MLB debut in a game played at the Tokyo Dome and allowed a grand slam to New York Mets outfielder Benny Agbayani in his first inning of work. Young finished his three-inning big-league career with a 21.00 ERA.
Manabu Kitabeppu, who won 213 games while pitching for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp from 1976-1994, died Friday at age 65. A native of Soo-Gun in the Kagoshima Prefecture, he is a member of the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.
The answer to the quiz is Buck Showalter, with 1,684 wins.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have been even better than expected this season. An up-and-coming team that Eric Longenhagen, Meg Rowley, and I predicted would capture a Wild Card berth, they currently lead the NL West with a record of 43-28. Why are they as good as they are? I recently asked that question to the manager of one of their division rivals.
“I think their strength is their balance, both with the pitching and the position players,” said Bud Black, whose Colorado club has played Torey Lovullo’s team seven times this year, most recently on June 1. “They’ve got an ace in [Zac] Gallen. They’ve got a capable Merrill Kelly. They’ve got a couple of good arms with [Tommy] Henry and [Ryne] Nelson. The bullpen has some guys with experience.
“Position player-wise, you’ve got to like their balance. They’ve got speed. They’ve got guys who hit for average. They’ve acquired some power. [Ketel] Marte, [Corbin] Carroll, [Christian] Walker, [Evan] Longoria.. [Emmanuel] Rivera has made a big difference. It’s a good team. It’s a team with a blend of a lot of different ways to beat you.”
The D-Backs have won six of the seven games they’ve played against Black’s last-place club.
The Chiba Lotte Marines and Chunichi Dragons played to a 1-1, 12-inning tie on Thursday. The Marines have an NPB-high four ties this year, while the Hiroshima Carp, Nippon-Ham Fighters, and Yomiuri Giants are the only teams without a tie.
Yomiuri Giants closer Taisei Ota is 2-0 with 13 saves and a 2.74 ERA over 23 innings. The 23-year-old right-hander had 37 saves and a 2.05 ERA last year in his rookie season.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto is 6-2 with a 1.59 ERA in nine starts with the Orix Buffaloes. The 24-year-old right-hander is 60-25 with a 1.94 ERA in his NPB career.
Roenis Elías is 3-1 with a 2.42 and 21 strikeouts in 26 innings for the KBO’s SS Landers. A veteran of seven MLB seasons, the 34-year-old, Cuban-born left-hander was released by the Chicago Cubs on May 2.
Derrick Loop has a 1.93 ERA over 23-and-a-third relief innings for the Mexican League’s Olmecas de Tabasco. The 39-year-old southpaw — a guest on FanGraphs Audio in February 2021 — has pitched in 835 games over 18 professional seasons that include stints in the Cleveland, Boston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations.
Yankees reliever Albert Abreu retired all four batters he faced on Wednesday, two by way of the K… and was tagged with a loss. The righty was replaced on the mound in the 10th inning, only to have lefty Nick Ramirez promptly allow a walk-off double that scored the zombie runner who’d been stationed on second base. Per official-scoring rules, Abreu was responsible for the runner, even though he’d fanned him to end the previous inning.
The undeserved loss was Abreu’s second on the season, the first having come on May 7 when he entered a game in the 10th inning, got an out, then allowed an opposite-field single that scored a zombie runner. IMO, both losses should be assigned to the team, not to the pitcher who had no role in putting them on base, I’ve offered this opinion before, and it bears repeating. The official-scoring rule is dumb, and should be changed.
The Clearwater Threshers, at 42-18, boast the best record in the minors. Philadelphia’s Low-A affiliate has been led by 23-year-old left-hander Jonh Henriquez who is 9-0 with a 2.62 ERA, and 19-year-old outfielder Justin Crawford who is slashing .333/.391/.438 with 28 stolen bases in 31 attempts. Crawford was drafted 17th overall last year by the Phillies out of Los Vegas’s Bishop Gorman High School.
Reggie Crawford has four hits, including a home run, in 16 at-bats as a DH for the Low-A San Jose Giants. He’s made five pitching appearances and has allowed the same number of runs, with 15 strikeouts, in nine innings. The 22-year-old left-hander was drafted 30th overall last year by San Francisco our of the University of Connecticut.
Sterlin Thompson is slashing .396/.453/.693 with six home runs in 117 plate appearances with the High-A Spokane Indians. The 21-year-old outfielder/third baseman was drafted 31st overall last year by the Colorado Rockies out of the University of Florida.
Termarr Johnson is slashing .252/.420/.400 with four home runs in 174 plate appearances with the Low-A Bradenton Marauders. The 19-year-old middle infielder was drafted fourth overall last year by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Atlanta’s Mays High School.
Victor Bericoto is slashing .312/.363/.558 with 13 home runs in 248 plate appearances with the High-A Eugene Emeralds. The 21-year-old outfielder.first baseman was signed out of Venezuela by the San Francisco Giants in 2018.
Connor Phillips has a 3.57 ERA to go with 101 strikeouts in 58 innings with the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. A second round pick in 2020 out of Waco, Texas’s McLennan Community College by the Seattle Mariners, the 22-year-old right-hander was acquired by the Cincinnati Reds as part of the March 2022 Eugenio Suárez trade.
Kyren Paris has a little bit of Javier Báez to his game. No. 19 our recently released Los Angeles Angels Top Prospects list, the 21-year-old Oakley, California native displays plus athleticism at both shortstop and second base, pairs sneaky pop with a troublesome strikeout rate, and he believes in expressing himself on the field. In 263 plate appearances with the Double-A Rocket City Trash Pandas, Paris is slashing .241/.364/.427 with 11 home runs and 87 punchouts. A threat on the basepaths, he has 19 steals in 20 attempts.
When I talked to him during his Arizona Fall League stint with the Scottsdale Scorpions, Paris described his offensive approach as “looking to shoot the ball gap-to-gap,” and his defensive game as “having fun out there and trying to put on a show.” He told me that he prefers short over second, as the position is “kind of the captain on the field, and I’m able to show off my arm a little bit.” Combining weight training and yoga, he’s remained agile while adding strength to what is now a 6-foot, 185-pound frame.
He brought up Báez when I asked about players he’s admired and/or modeled his game after.
“When I was growing up, I liked stealing bases like Rickey Henderson,” Paris told me. “I loved Derek Jeter for the way he carried himself on and off the field. Another guy I’ve loved to watch is Javier Báez. He plays with a little bit of flair, and that’s what I like to do. Baseball is tough, and going out there and playing with flair makes the game even more fun.”
As was the case last week, tonight’s ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game will be Red Sox-Yankees. Is that a matchup most fans want, or would they prefer to see other teams? I asked that question in a Twitter poll, and as I expected, “other teams” won handily. Only 19.2% went with Red Sox-Yankees.
Admittedly, a significant percentage of the people who voted are likely to be FanGraphs readers, i.e. serious baseball fans, whereas ESPN is targeting more casual fans. That’s understandable. Even so, today’s other matchups include Cubs-Orioles, Dodgers-Giants, and Cardinals-Mets. Would any of those be just as desirable to viewers across the country? In my opinion, the answer is yes.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
ESPN’s Joon Lee addressed eye-roll-inducing comments that Rob Manfred made on the A’s impending move from Oakland to Las Vegas.
The Score’s Travis Sawchik wrote on how blaming the fans for Oakland’s Las Vegas move — hello, Rob Manfred’s ill-advised snark — is dishonest.
At Milwaukee’s Shepherd Express, Kyle Lobner looked back at the worst teams to sweep the Brewers.
Vendors, made up almost exclusively of young women in miniskirts or shorts, sell an average of about 20,000 glasses of beer during night games played at Tokyo Dome (the home of the Yomiuri Giants). Andrew McKirdy wrote about the uriko for The Japan Times.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Fred Toney threw what remains the longest no-hitter in professional baseball history on May 10, 1909. Pitching for the Class-D Blue Grass League’s Winchester Hustlers, the right-hander held the Lexington Colts hitless for 17 innings in a 1-0 win. Eight years later, on May 2, 1917, Toney tossed a 10-inning no-hitter for the Cincinnati Reds in a 1-0 win over the Chicago Cubs. Southpaw Hippo Vaughn held the Reds hitless through nine innings that day before surrendering a pair of hits in the tenth, the second of which was a Jim Thorpe dribbler that plated the contest’s only run. It remains the only game in MLB history where both starters had a no-hitter through nine.
Cleveland Blues second baseman Erve Beck hit the first home run in American League history when he went deep against Chicago White Sox pitcher John Skopec on April 25, 1901. One day earlier, the two teams played the first game n American League history. The White Sox won both contests.
The Red Sox swept a double-header from the Washington Senators on today’s date in 1961. Boston scored eight runs in the bottom of the ninth innings to win the opener 13-12, then proceeded to take the nightcap 6-5 in 13 innings on a Jim Pagliaroni walk-off home run. Pagliaroni had earlier knotted the opener with a ninth-inning grand slam.
Players born on today’s date include Tom McCarthy, who pitched for the Boston Red Sox in 1985, and the Chicago White Sox in 1988-1989. A native of Landstuhl, the right-hander is one of 44 German-born players in MLB history.
Also born on today’s was Paul Brown, who went 0-8 with a 6.00 ERA while pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1961-1963, and again in 1968. The Phillies lost 31 of the 36 games the right-hander appeared in.
Bob “Fats” Fothergill batted .325 over 3,583 plate appearances in a big-league career that spanned 1922-1933. The Massillon, Ohio native’s .337 average over parts of nine seasons is third highest in Detroit Tigers franchise history behind Ty Cobb’s .368 and Harry Heilmann’s .342.
Teams in the 1923 Michigan-Ontario League included the Flint Vehicles, Grand Rapids Billbobs, and Kalamazoo Celery Pickers. Flint’s Frank Luce got a cup of coffee with the Pittsburgh Pirates in September of that year and singled off of Hall of Famer Rube Marquard in the first of his 14 big-league plate appearances.