Top 100 Baseball Blog

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Joe Grahe: Baseball's Comeback Kid

Former pitcher Joe Grahe saw extreme highs and lows during his professional baseball career that are seldom experienced by the same player. For better or for worse they helped shape his seven-year major league career, which as it turned out was a complete success.

The right-handed Grahe was taken in the second round of the 1989 draft by the California Angels out of the University of Miami after having been drafted and failing to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1986 and Oakland Athletics in 1988. He made quick work of the minors, getting called up to the big leagues after just 23 minor league appearances.

Grahe started and relieved (including serving in the closer role 1992-1994)for the Angels over the next five seasons before signing with the Colorado Rockies as a free agent in 1995. Unfortunately, injuries derailed his career and he was out of baseball in 1996 and 1997. However, he fought back and made it back to the majors with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1999, where he pitched in an additional 13 games and was able to finish his major league career on his own terms.

In his seven-year career, Grahe went a combined 22-30 in 187 games (39 starts) with a 4.41 ERA and 45 saves. His best season came in 1992 when he had a 3.52 ERA and 21 saves, but truly impressed in the second half of that season, as evidenced by his 2.17 ERA and 17 saves in 29 games after the All Star break.

Grahe has a lot of interesting insight on his career and time in baseball. Keep reading for more on this great example of perseverance.

Joe Grahe Interview

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Johnny Bench. Was a huge Reds fan in the ‘70s. I was in heaven when the Reds came to West Palm Beach for a night spring training game and I got to see him in person. My respect for him was cemented further when I saw him on the Baseball Bunch TV show. Seemed like a great guy. I wish I could have met him.

How did you arrive at your decision to attend the University of Miami (and then return there) after being taken in the draft by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1986 and Oakland A's in 1988?: Toughest decision I ever made. For the Brewers it just came down to me not thinking I was ready to go across the country and away from home. With the A’s they really didn’t get serious about signing me until late in the summer so I figured I might as well just go back to school. Plus I felt I was better than fifth round.

You were promoted to the majors with less than one full year of minor league ball under your belt. Do you believe you were rushed, and how did getting called up so quickly impact your career?: I’d have to say that I was probably rushed, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It was tough at first getting over the fact that I’m now pitching to guys that are on my baseball cards at home. It made them a little too “larger than life” and caused me sometimes to give them too much credit and not trust myself. It was definitely a trial by fire but I thought I handled it pretty well.

What do you remember most about your major league debut?: Getting out to the mound and thinking “damn these lights are bright.” Also I remember the feeling of pitching in a beehive. There were I believe 52,000 people there that night and the constant din was remarkable.

In your opinion, who was the most underrated player you ever played with or against, and if you are feeling bold, is there anyone you can think of who was overrated?: Larry Walker- best all-around player I ever played with. Could do it all.  The only thing I could possibly comment on as far as being overrated was the season that Barry Larkin had in his 1995 MVP season. Dante Bichette should have won it.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: When we clinched the wild card in 1995 in Colorado. Coors Field went nuts. 1A would be taking the mound at the Vet when I made it back in 1999. My first thought was “wow, I did it.”

What was the difference in pitching in the Colorado atmosphere compared to lower elevations for you?: I actually liked pitching there. My goal when I started was to go seven innings and give up five runs or less. With our lineup that gave you a good chance to win. As far as pitching goes the altitude made my sinker cut, and the curveball will back up on you. You really had to get on top of that pitch to make it work. It’s not a myth about altitude affecting your stuff. Plain fact.

How did your journey back from injuries impact you as a person?: I cried like a baby when I got the call from our AAA manager Marc Bombard that I was being called up with the Phillies. I had gone from having decent success in the majors to being back on buses with kids just barely out of junior college ball (Northeast League 1997). And then I made it back up. It was a long road and taught me simply that hard work and persistence does in fact pay off.

What are you up to since retiring as a player?: I am a realtor with ReMax in Jupiter, Forida. And I also coach high school. I would like to coach in college if the opportunity arises and I may at least try to get back into pro ball once my two kids are on their own. I saw the sacrifices many coaches made when I was playing in regards to their family life and decided that I wasn’t willing to pay that price and leave my kids while I coached. But I do wonder what could have been had I stayed in pro ball as a coach since I see other teammates that have done quite well for themselves in the pro coaching ranks.

Who is a current player you wish you had the chance to pitch again, and how would you approach that at-bat?: I would like to face Giancarlo Stanton. To me he seems very pitch-able on TV. But apparently not since he is still launching!

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Minor League Baseball and BUSH’S® Beans Donate Over 10,000 Pounds of Canned and Dry Food Goods to Local Food Banks

“Team Up Against Hunger” July Food Drive to benefit more than 75 MiLB communities 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. and KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Minor League Baseball™ (MiLB™) and BUSH’S® Beans today announced they collected over five tons of food for Feeding America and other local food banks as part of their “Team Up Against Hunger” July food drive. The combined efforts will allow Feeding America and other local food banks to provide over 9,000 meals across 35 states. The donation of canned and dry goods comes at an ideal time as the number of food drives traditionally slows down in the summer, and the lack of school-provided meals creates a greater need. 

Participating Minor League Baseball teams worked with food banks in their local communities to encourage fans to bring non-perishable food donations to the ballpark on designated July game dates. BUSH’S Beans developed social media messaging, press releases and in-park materials to help each team in the fight against hunger and create awareness for the national food drive. Teams rewarded fans who donated non-perishable food items with incentives such as tickets to a future game or a buy one, get one free ticket offer. 

“Minor League Baseball, its teams and its partners are dedicated to making a positive impact on children and families in their communities,” said Heather Raburn, Assistant Director of Partnership Marketing for Minor League Baseball. “We are grateful for this partnership with Bush Brothers, and along with our supportive fan base, we have a platform to be able to give back to those in need during these critical summer months.” 

“We are proud to work with nearly 80 Minor League teams from around the country to Team Up Against Hunger. As a family-owned food company, it is important to all of us at BUSH’S to do what we can to help those who are hungry,” said Michael Morris, Senior Brand Manager for BUSH’S Beans. 

In addition to donations from fans, BUSH’S Beans and MiLB Charities plan to match the donation total from the top contributing MiLB team. The Dunedin Blue Jays, the Class A Advanced affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, collected 1,126 pounds of non-perishable food items. BUSH’S Beans and MiLB Charities will match this donation to Dunedin Cares in recognition of the generosity of Dunedin Blue Jays fans. 

BUSH’S Beans was named the “Official Beans of Minor League Baseball” in December 2016. 

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Projecting the 2018 MLB MVP and Cy Young Award Winners

Each Major League Baseball team still has over 40 games left to play in the regular season, as the playoff race is starting to truly take shape. Even though a lot can happen during that roughly quarter of the season, let’s take a look at my picks (at this point in the season) for some of the major end of the season awards.
American League MVP- Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox: With apologies to the amazing Mike Trout, the forever king of WAR (and Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez), this award should go to the best player on the best team. If the difference in play between Betts and Trout was wider, this wouldn’t be my pick, but the Sox outfielder has nearly matched his Angels counterpart, hitting a league-leading .340 with 26 home runs, 58 RBI and 22 stolen bases. He has also scored 93 runs in 95 games and is possibly the best defensive right fielder in the game.
Betts’ bWAR currently stands at 7.1, which is a notch behind Trout’s 7.8. However, he has appeared in 14 fewer games and his team is on pace for 114 wins while the Angels currently languish in fourth place in the American League West with a .500 record. Barring anything drastic changing, Betts seems like a safe bet to get some new hardware for his mantel this autumn.
National League MVP- Javy Baez, Chicago Cubs: Things get a little tougher to pick when moving over to the Senior Circuit. While a number of players have legitimate cases, nobody is running away with it. My pick is Baez, the engine of the Chicago Cubs, which is the best team in the league. The 25-year-old is a transcendent defender who has played all over the infield this year, hitting .298 with 25 home runs, a league-leading 88 RBIs and 19 stolen bases.
Lorenzo Cain of the Milwaukee Brewers (5.3) and Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals (5.2) both have a higher WAR than Baez (4.9), but those numbers don’t tell the whole story. A significant portion of Cain’s value has come from excellent defense, meanwhile Carpenter’s season has been buoyed by red-hot surge that came after he was hitting .140 as late as May 15th.  Baez is perhaps the most exciting player to watch in baseball, and appears to be taking the leap to superstar status while possibly earning his first MVP.
American League Cy Young- Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox: Assuming he is not significantly hampered by a recent minor injury that has shelved him for a short period, this award should be Sale’s to lose. He is 11-4 in 22 starts and leads the American League with a 2.04 ERA, 207 strikeouts, a 216 ERA+ and 2.07 FIP. His primary competition are two guys in Cleveland—right handers Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer; and two guys in Houston—right handers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. All four have been terrific this year and pitch for likely division winners, but they have been a notch below Sale.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for Sale will be himself and avoiding a second half fade that has plagued him during his career. The slender lefty has lit it up in the first half of seasons to the tune of a combined 69-26 record and 2.66 ERA. However, he has found the going tougher in second halves as evidenced by his 33-36 mark and 3.21 ERA.
National League Cy Young- Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals: Before getting into Scherzer, a special shout out to New York Mets starter Jacob deGrom, who has a league-leading 1.77 ERA and 2.20 FIP. However, his team is so putrid, he will struggle to get to 10 wins (he currently has six). Despite his utter dominance, New York is just 9-14 in games he has started. He has been great, but with Scherzer being at a similar level, the tie has to be broken for the pitcher performing at for a team still playing meaningful games (barely in Washington’s case).
Scherzer is 15-5 with a 2.28 ERA in 24 starts, leading the league in wins, innings pitched (161.2) and strikeouts (216). For good measure he also leads in WHIP (0.897). If he wins the Cy Young would be his third in a row and fourth of his career, cementing his eventual enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His one likely opponent is young Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola, who is having a great season, but would have to have a 1988 Orel Hershiser-type run to end this season in order to have any realistic chance to take down Scherzer at this point.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Monday, August 6, 2018

Minor League Baseball Announces its July Players of the Month

Six players picked in the 17 th round or later and four first round picks claim awards 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Minor League Baseball today announced the Player of the Month Award winners for each of the 16 leagues for the month of July. Each winner will receive an award from Minor League Baseball in recognition of the honor. 

Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies) infielder Mitch Walding batted .326 in July and led the International League in home runs (10), runs scored (21) and total bases (63). Walding recorded 10 multi-hit games, and three multi-homer games in July, highlighted by a July 28 doubleheader in which he was 5-for-7 with a double, three home runs, four runs scored and 10 RBI with three three-run homers on the day. Walding, 25, was selected by Philadelphia in the fifth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of St. Mary’s University in Stockton, California. 

Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals) outfielder Adolis Garcia batted .354 in July and led the Pacific Coast League in extra-base hits (19), total bases (74), home runs (10), slugging (.771) and OPS (1.145), while finishing second in RBI (25). Garcia, 25, was signed by St. Louis out of Ciego de Avila, Cuba, on Feb. 24, 2017. 

Bowie Baysox (Orioles) catcher Martin Cervenka batted .364 in July and led the Eastern League in slugging (.758) and OPS (1.193). He finished second in home runs (seven) and RBI (25). Cervenka, 26, was originally signed by the Cleveland Indians out of Prague, Czech Republic, on June 19, 2011. 

Biloxi Shuckers (Brewers) outfielder Corey Ray led the Southern League in home runs (11), extra-base hits (20), total bases (76), slugging percentage (.628), runs (25) and RBI (27). Ray’s 20 extra-base hits led professional baseball, while he finished second in stolen bases (13) and fourth in OPS (.961). Ray, 23, was selected by Milwaukee in the first round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Louisville. 

Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers) outfielder Jacob Scavuzzo led the Texas League in extra-base hits (18), total bases (75), home runs (10), RBI (30), slugging (.708) and OPS (1.090). He finished third in average (.349) and hits (37). Scavuzzo, 24, was selected by the Dodgers in the 21st round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Villa Park High School in Villa Park, California. 

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Dodgers) shortstop Gavin Lux batted .360 in July and led the California League in hits (41), runs (23) and total bases (64). Lux hit safely in 24 of his 26 games, posting 15 multi-hit games and hitting in 16 straight games from July 1–19. Lux, 20, was selected by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Indian Trail High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

Carolina Mudcats (Brewers) outfielder Weston Wilson led the Carolina League in batting average (.436), hits (41), on-base percentage (.481) and OPS (1.162). He was second in runs (22), total bases (64) and slugging (681) and third in RBI (23). Weston had 12 multi-hit games and a 12-game hitting streak from July 1–13. Wilson, 23, was selected by Milwaukee in the 17th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Clemson University. 

Fort Myers Miracle (Twins) outfielder Alex Kirilloff led the Florida State League in average (.396), hits (40), total bases (62), extra-base hits (16), slugging (.614) and OPS (1.036). He finished second in runs (20) and third in RBI (20). Kirilloff had 13 multi-hit games in July, including six straight, and had a 13-game hitting streak from July 13–29. He also won the Midwest League Player of the Month Award in May with Cedar Rapids. Kirilloff, 20, was selected by Minnesota in the first round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Plum High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Peoria Chiefs (Cardinals) third baseman Elehuris Montero batted .359 in 25 games in July and led the Midwest League in doubles (10) and OPS (1.056), while finishing second in runs (20), extra-base hits (15), total bases (58) and slugging (.630). He was third in homers (five), RBI (20) and average (.359). Montero had nine multi-hit games in July. Montero, 19, was signed by St. Louis out of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on Aug. 29, 2014. 

Greenville Drive (Red Sox) right-hander Denyi Reyes went 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA (34.0 IP, 7 ER) in five starts to claim South Atlantic League Player of the Month honors. Reyes struck out 30 and did not walk a batter in July while holding opponents to a .177 batting average. He allowed only 10 hits over his last three starts (20.0 IP) and threw a seven-inning complete game July 25. Reyes, 21, was signed by Boston out of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, in 2014. 

 Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Indians) outfielder Hosea Nelson batted .340 in July and led the New York-Penn League in RBI (22) and slugging (.553) while finishing second in hits (35), home runs (five), extra-base hits (12) and total bases (57). He recorded 10 multi-hit games in July. Nelson, 21, was selected by Cleveland in the ninth round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Clarendon College in Clarendon, Texas. 

Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Giants) catcher Joey Bart batted .333 in July and led the Northwest League in home runs (nine), RBI (24), extrabase hits (18), total bases (65), slugging (.747) and OPS (1.126). His nine doubles were fourth best in the league and Bart posted a 10-game hitting streak from July 8–19. Bart, 21, was selected by San Francisco in the first round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Georgia Tech University. 

Greeneville Reds first baseman Rylan Thomas batted .316 for the month and led the Appalachian League in home runs (nine), extra-base hits (15), slugging percentage (.734) and OPS (1.230). He was second in total bases (58) and walks (27), while finishing third in on-base percentage (.495). His 1.230 OPS in July led all of professional baseball (Major Leagues and Minor Leagues). Thomas, 21, was selected by Cincinnati in the 26th round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Central Florida. 

Idaho Falls Chukars (Royals) first baseman Reed Rohlman led the Pioneer Baseball League in average (.426), hits (43), total bases (71), extra-base hits (17), RBI (37), on-base percentage (.508), slugging (.703) and OPS (1.211). He finished second in runs (29), third in doubles (10) and fourth in triples (three). Rohlman posted separate hitting streaks of eight and nine games in July and recorded 15 multi-hit games. Rohlman, 23, was selected by Kansas City in the 35th round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of Clemson University. 

Gulf Coast Cardinals outfielder Andrew Warner batted .373 in 21 games in July and led the Gulf Coast League in doubles (12), extra-base hits (17), total bases (54), slugging percentage (.720) and OPS (1.187). He finished second in runs (17) and on-base percentage (.467). He finished third in home runs (three) and RBI (21). Warner, 22, was selected by St. Louis in the 40th round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri. 

Arizona Mariners second baseman Beau Branton led the Arizona League in average (.469), on-base percentage (.587) and OPS (1.220) prior to a July 20 promotion to Class-A Advanced Modesto. Branton walked 10 times while striking out just three times and was second in the league in stolen bases (10). Branton, 22, was selected by Seattle in the 28th round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Stanford University.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

All Hail Max Scherzer, the Clear-Cut Best Pitcher in Baseball

Although star baseball players are covered endlessly in social media and the press, it is possible that the greatest of the great are occasionally not given their full due. Pitcher Max Scherzer seems to be in that category. Recognized as one of the best pitchers in baseball, the truth at this time is that he IS the best pitcher in baseball and is well on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw is most often anointed the best hurler in the game. The southpaw is a worthy choice, but while he has pitched brilliantly around lingering injuries over the past several years, Scherzer has been a dominant workhorse since the 2013 season.
In his last five full seasons (Detroit Tigers 2013-14 and Washington Nationals 2015-present), Scherzer has gone 89-33 with a 2.87 ERA and 1,320 strikeouts. He has finished in the top-five in Cy Young voting each year and has taken home three trophies. Overall, he is at 155-80 with a 3.22 ERA in his 11-year major league career.
A first-round draft choice of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006, it was originally thought he might have his future in the bullpen because of an arm motion that worried some about potential injury over long-term use. However, he is as durable as they come and the right hander has long since proven any detractors wrong. With an arsenal that includes a hearty fastball, a slider and changeup he is currently leading the National league in strikeouts for a third consecutive year.
What makes this all the more impressive is that Scherzer seems better than ever this year at the age of 33. He currently leads the league in wins (14), strikeouts (200) and has a 2.30 ERA. He has his lowest home run rate in four years (0.9) and is striking out more than a third of the batters he has faced (34.4%).
Barring injury or a drastically unforeseen change in performance, Scherzer seems like a good bet to win his third consecutive Cy Young award this year, and at worst finish in the top-5 for a sixth straight year. Only Kershaw with seven straight top-five finishes (and looking unlikely for an eighth in 2018) has had a better run in history when it comes to the award voting.
Scherzer seems to continuously stack up accomplishments like cordwood. In addition to his stellar production this season, he has also recently thrown the second immaculate inning of his career; just the fifth pitcher in history to accomplish the feat. A fair hitter for a pitcher, he even stroked a game-winning extra innings pinch hit to beat the Atlanta Braves earlier this season.
In the baseball of today pitchers at the dominant level of a Scherzer are few and far between. Injuries and high-octane offenses make them a dying breed. With cursory apologies to the small number of aces currently in the game, he is the clear leader of the pack, who instead of slowing down, is actually showing he may have other gears he has not yet reached. Give the man his due and sit back and see what else he can do before he eventually retires from the game that he is making such a huge impact on.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew