At most, the trade deadline completely consumed you. Like a gas, it expanded to fill the entire volume of your being, and you lost everything but your unwavering anticipation. Family, friends, loved ones, employment — sacrificed, all of them, cast aside, so you could commit yourself to figuring out whether your team would trade for Bud Norris. At least, the trade deadline was a partial distraction, something besides the games to take your attention away from the games somewhat. We have only so much attention to give, and the deadline caused that attention to be divided. Only now can we get back to something approximating normal.
Because of the deadline, you might’ve missed what happened. Already this week, baseball has seen at least three highly unusual things take place on the field. I thought I’d take this opportunity to note all of them, just to make sure they didn’t slip by un- or under-noticed. I say “at least three” because it’s entirely possible I’m missing more rare events. If there is something I missed, you can blame the deadline. It divided my attention, too, and I couldn’t really help it. Now let’s get to appreciating the incredible.
The Rangers just finished off a three-game sweep of the Angels, in Texas. That’s remarkable enough — sweeps are hard — but what’s more is that all three wins came on walk-off dingers. In the first game, Geovany Soto went yard off Ernesto Frieri. In the second game, Leonys Martin went yard off Daniel Stange. In the third game, Adrian Beltre went yard off Michael Kohn. This year, there have been 50 walk-off home runs, and in one series the Rangers just contributed three of them. You can already predict this is historically rare.
But it might be even more rare than you think. As far as I can tell, this is only the fifth time a team has ever won three consecutive games on home runs. The list:
- 1998 Tigers
- 1999 Diamondbacks
- 2000 Royals
- 2004 Tigers
- 2013 Rangers
Because the list begins in 1998, I’m a little bit skeptical, but even if there have been more than five instances, it’s clear this doesn’t happen often. Of those teams, only the 2013 Rangers and the 1999 Diamondbacks did it all against the same team in a sweep. Arizona swept Montreal, thanks to Jay Bell, Luis Gonzalez, and Matt Williams. Or, thanks to Bobby Ayala, Guillermo Mota, and J.D. Smart. Who is ultimately most responsible? Many are partially responsible.
The record for consecutive walk-off wins is five, and that one, the Rangers probably won’t reach. But it seems they’ve already tied the record for consecutive walk-off wins on dingers, and if people love baseball events in large part for the rarity, then this was a series Rangers fans won’t soon forget. And Angels fans. The Angels have a worse record than the Padres, Cubs, and Mets. Close losses are still losses, and in some sense they’re the worst losses.
Wednesday night, the Mariners played the Red Sox, and in the 15th inning, Jonny Gomes robbed Michael Saunders of a hit with a sliding catch. That’s already rare on its own, and it came in a big spot, with one out, the game tied, and two runners on. But then the Red Sox completed an inning-ending double play, and it was Gomes who did it all by himself, from the outfield.
So, that’s an unassisted double play, by an outfielder. It’s the second of this season, as Desmond Jennings turned one against the A’s back in April.
According to our leaderboards, there wasn’t a single unassisted outfielder double play in 2012. There were three in 2011, and two in 2007. There have been 11 overall since 2003, and there were allegedly 11 in 2002, but that number makes me instantly skeptical. I don’t know how you wrongly score an unassisted outfielder double play, but either there’s something wrong with the 2002 data or the internet just completely missed a year of base-running hilarity.
And about those double plays in 2011 — this one was given to Fred Lewis, but it gets an asterisk, because a trailing runner out-ran the lead runner on the bases. I can’t find the one that’s been credited to Brian Bogusevic, so that didn’t happen. And this one was given to Colby Rasmus, even though, again, a trailing runner out-ran the lead runner. So unassisted double plays like Gomes’ are even more rare than the numbers suggest. True, Gomes could’ve just fired to the base instead of walking the ball in himself, and he would’ve gotten the same result. The same goes for Jennings. They didn’t need to be unassisted outfielder double plays, and all they are are statistical quirks. But all any of us are are statistical quirks. Quit over-thinking and just think about Jonny Gomes recording not one, but two outs from the outfield on one play. Good luck figuring that one out, UZR formula.
Delabar pitched the bottom of the eighth against the A’s late on Tuesday. Here’s how he did:
This is how he did that:
- 3 pitches
- 3 pitches
- 3 pitches
Delabar struck out the side on nine pitches, giving himself a literally perfect inning, and such an inning is referred to as an “immaculate inning” in case you didn’t know that before. It was, apparently, just the 51st immaculate inning in baseball history, and no pitcher’s ever recorded more than two. There have been well more than 200 no-hitters in baseball history, and of course no-hitters rely on defensive players, in addition to the pitcher. An immaculate inning is more rare, and an immaculate inning has more to do with the guy on the mound, even if the extraordinary effort isn’t sustained quite as long.
You might notice how many immaculate innings are recent. There were just eight before 1953. There have been 21 since 2001, and nine over just the last five years. It’s possible these things just weren’t recorded as closely in the old days, and some details were missed. But then there’s also this:
That’s strikeouts, overall. In 1988, the three-pitch strikeout rate was 2.5%. This year, the three-pitch strikeout rate is 3.5%. Using those odds very simply and misleadingly, the general chance of an immaculate inning now is about three times higher than it was 25 years ago. These are never going to be common, but it makes sense that they’ve become more common, because it fits in with bigger trends.
If you want to be annoying about it, Delabar probably got a little help. Here’s his last at-bat, against Young:
The first called strike was borderline. The second called strike was inside, off the plate. As for the check swing, neither broadcast ever gave a side camera angle, but maybe Young didn’t commit. In this way, you could choose to discredit what Delabar did, but at that level of detail baseball isn’t going to be fun anymore. He threw nine pitches and all of them were recorded as strikes and three of them led to strikeouts. His second pitch to Young looked good enough to make an umpire think it was in the zone. That’s not just luck.
As Delabar walked off the mound, neither broadcast remarked on his accomplishment. The A’s guys said only that he struck out the side. The Jays guys spent the inning talking about the trade deadline.
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