Hot Stove: 12/28

Not much happened in terms of free agent signings, but one of the best two-country hitters of all time retired and Boston and Pittsburgh engaged in a six player trade.

Blog begun in Jeffersonville, Indiana, continued in Charleston, West Virginia, and finished back in Vienna, Virginia.  I got to go to the Louisville Slugger factory and museum and see the world's larget baseball bat.  I also got to hold game used bats from Cal Ripken Jr., Mickey Mantle, and Joey Votto.  Just a quick note. 

Stat of the Day: Walks/Base on Balls (Batter)

Abbreviation: BB.  Leaders: All Time: Barry Bonds (2558).  Single Season: Barry Bonds (232 in 2004).  Active: Jim Thome (1747).  2012: Adam Dunn (105).

The walk is one of the most boring occurrences in baseball, but it can be very important to the game's outcome.  A walk gives the offensive team confidence, forces the pitcher to throw more strikes, and can offset the defense with an extended time of no action.  Walks also run up pitchers' pitch counts, which can knock them out of the game earlier.  Players like Adam Dunn and Ben Zobrist, who routinely post high walk numbers, are crucial to their teams' success.  Walks used to be extremely rare.  From the game's inception to 1879, it took nine balls for a walk.  From 1880-1883, a walk took eight.  From 1884-1885, six balls were required.  In 1886, the number was up to seven.  From 1887-1888, it took only five balls for a walk.  In 1889, the number was reduced to four, where it stands today.  Of course, nobody ever walked more than 20 times in a season while the ball number was nine.  In 1881, the second year where walks required eight balls, John Clapp of the Cleveland Blues became the first player to reach 30 walks in a season, finishing with 35.  When the walk number was reduced to six in 1884, the number of walks exploded.  Ten players broke the previous single season record of 37, and Candy Nelson of the New York Metropolitans lead the pack with 74.  Ned Williamson set a new record with 75 walks in 1885, and in 1886, teammate George Gore became the first player in baseball history with 100 walks in a season.  He finished with 102.  In 1890, the Brooklyn Ward's Wonders' third baseman, Bill Joyce, reached 120 walks.  Shortly later, in 1892, the Cardinals' Jack Crooks smashed the record by walking 136 times, setting a record that would stand for 19 years.  He batted only .213, so his OBP was just .400.  With his 11th walk of the 1897 season, Roger Connor became the first player with 1000 career walks.  His seat on the walk throne would be short lived, as Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton walked for the 1000th time in 1899 and broke Connor's record of 1002 that same year.  By the time he finished in 1901, Hamilton had racked up 1187 walks, a record that would stand until 1923.  In 1911, the Cubs' Jimmy Sheckard smashed the single season record by walking 147 times, a mark that would stand until 1920.    That year, Babe Ruth walked 150 times, a number that has only been reached eleven times in the game's history to this day.  In 1923, Ruth walked 170 times, today's fourth best number and the best by a player not named Bonds.  By recording over 100 walks thirteen times in his career, he established the 2000 walk club in 1934, and would finish with 2062.  In 1960, Ted Williams became the second member of the 2000 walk club, reaching 2019 for his career on the back of six straight seasons of more than 125 walks.  In 1947 and 1949, he topped out at 162.  Fast forward to 2000, when Rickey Henderson became the third player to reach the 2000 club.  In 2001, he broke Babe Ruth's 71 year old record by walking for his 2063rd time, and in 2003, finished his career with 2190 walks.  Henderson never walked more than 125 times in a season, rather, he posted 22 straight seasons with at least 64 walks from 1980-2001.  From 1980-1994, he posted 15 straight seasons finishing in the American League's top eleven in walks.  Despite breaking a 71 year old record, Henderson's 2190 walks stood as the standard for only three years before Barry Bonds walked for the 2191st time in 2004, already the fourth member of the 2000 walk club.  Three years earlier, in 2001, Bonds had broken Babe Ruth's record of 170 walks by tallying 177.  The following year, he walked an incredible 198 times, finishing just two walks shy of reaching 200.  In 2004, he achieved that goal, posting a video game number of 232 walks.  That year, every time he walked to the plate, there was a 38% chance that it would end in a walk.  Pitchers simply refused to pitch to him.  120 of his 232 walks were intentional.  On June 23rd, he walked for the 100th time of the season, and on August 4th, he was already at 150 walks.   On September eleventh, he set a new record with his 199th walk, and in the same game, he reached 200.  As far as walks go, he season was highlighted on a June 12th double-header in Baltimore.  In Game 1, he went 3-6 with a home run, so in Game 2, the pitchers decided to simply not pitch to him.  In five of his six plate appearances, he was given the free base, and in four of those instances, the walk was intentional.  


After 20 years in professional baseball, Hideki Matsui decided to retire.  He is 38.

Casey McGehee joined the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan.

Matsui, who spent ten years apiece in Japan and the US and is affectionately known as Godzilla, will go down as one of the greatest Japanese major leaguers in history.  Among Japanese players in the US, he has the most home runs at 175.  When he was a kid playing on his older brother's baseball team, he hit so well that his brother forced him to bat left handed in order to stop embarrassing him.  It wasn't long before Matsui developed into one of the best left handed hitters in Japan, and by 1993 at just 19 years old, he ended up on the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball League, Japan's version of the MLB.  That year, he hit eleven home runs and batted .223.  In 1994, he improved to 20 home runs and a .294 average.  After more of the same in 1995, he broke out in 1996 at the age of 21-22 (his birthday is midseason on June 12th), he busted out with 38 home runs and a .314 average, cementing himself as one of the top hitters in Japan.  From 1996-2002, he posted seven straight seasons with at least 34 home runs, and he reached 40 for the first time in 1999.  That year, he hit 42 home runs, knocked in 95, and batted .304.  He was even better in 2000, when he hit 42 home runs, knocked in 108, and batted .316.  Despite hitting just 36 home runs in 2001, he batted .333, which set a then-career high.  In 2002, his final year in Japan, he posted some of the best offensive numbers since Sadaharu Oh.  That year, he hit 50 home runs, knocked in 107, and batted .334 despite just 500 at bats.  Concluding his Japanese career, he finished with 332 home runs.  He signed with the Yankees after the season, and proceeded to become a centerpiece of New York's lineup.  He extended his consecutive games played streak to 1768 games between both Japan and the US.  After a decent 2003, Godzilla broke out in 2004.  Playing in all 162 games, he hit 31 home runs, knocked in 108, and batted .298.  He posted another great season in 2005, hitting 23 home runs, knocking in 116, and batting .305.  His 45 doubles placed just five behind Derek Lee and Miguel Tejada for the major league lead.  Matsui broke his wrist in 2006 and was limited to just 51 games, but bounced back in 2007 with 25 home runs, 103 RBI, and a .285 average.  He posted a rough 2008, but bounced back again in 2009 by hitting 28 home runs and batting .274, leading the Yankees to the World Series Championship.  2010, his only season with the Angels, proved to be his final big year.  Over 141 games, he hit 21 home runs and batted .274.  Joining the A's in 2011, he finished with just 12 home runs and a .251 average, though he still drove in 72 runs.  In his final year in 2012 at the age of 37, he batted just .147 with a pair of home runs in 34 games for the Rays.  He concluded his ten year major league career with 175 home runs, 760 RBI, and a .282 average.  Added to his 332 home runs in Japan, he finished with 507.  

Free Agent Signings

Yankees agreed to terms with Matt Diaz (2 HR, 13 RBI, .222 AVG, 0 SB, 2013 age: 35) on a minor league deal.

Mets signed Aaron Laffey (4-6, 4.56 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 2013 age: 28) to a minor league deal.

Cubs agreed to terms with Hisanori Takahashi (0-3, 5.54 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 2013 age: 38) on a minor league deal.

Matt Diaz will bring the Yankees increased stability on the bench.  His best years in 2007 and 2009, the former of which he hit 12 home runs and batted .338 in 135 games for the Braves.  In 2009, he hit 13 home runs and batted .313 with 12 stolen bases in 125 games.  He has been inconsistent since then, having hit just two home runs and batted .251 through 167 games over the past two seasons. Over his ten year career, he hit 45 home runs and batted .291 with 33 stolen bases through 726 games.


Pirates traded Joel Hanrahan (5-2, 2.72 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 36 saves, 2013 age: 31) and Brock Holt (0 HR, 3 RBI, .292 AVG, 0 SB, 2013 age: 25) to the Red Sox for Mark Melancon (0-2, 6.20 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 1 save, 2013 age: 28), Ivan De Jesus (0 HR, 4 RBI, .220 AVG, 1 SB, 2013 age: 26), Jerry Sands (0 HR, 1 RBI, .174 AVG, 0 SB, 2013 age: 25) and minor leaguer Stolmy Pimentel (6-7, 4.59 ERA, 1.36 WHIP at AA, 2013 age: 23).

In this six player deal, both teams got what they wanted.  Obviously, everything starts with Joel Hanrahan.  An Iowa native and former National, the 6'4", 255 pound right hander will become the Red Sox' closer.  Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey could not get the job done last year, so Boston had to bring in some reinforcements.  Hanrahan really came into his own in 2009 after a trade from Washington to Pittsburgh, and posted his best year in 2011.  Over 70 appearances, he was 1-4 with a 1.83 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP, and 40 saves.  He was named to his first All Star team that year.  Last year, his ERA spiked to 2.72, but he still saved 36 games and held opponents to a .187 average.  Lefties especially could not figure him out, as they hit just .135, garnering 14 hits in 104 at bats and striking out 42 times.  Over his six year career, Hanrahan is 22-17 with a 3.74 ERA, a 1.39 WHIP, and 96 saves in 353 games (11 starts, all in 2007).  The Red Sox also acquired Brock Holt, a 24 year old second baseman out of central Texas.  Holt does not hit for power, but holds a .317 career minor league batting average.  In 2012, between AA Altoona and AAA Indianapolis, he hit three home runs and batted .344 with 16 stolen bases.  In 24 games for the Pirates, he batted .292 with three extra base hits.  He will start the season either at AAA Pawtucket or in Boston as a backup to Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew.

The main return to Pittsburgh is 27 year old right hander Mark Melancon.  A four year veteran, Melancon had his best year in 2011 for the Astros, when he was 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA and 20 saves over 71 appearances.  He was traded to the Red Sox to set up Andrew Bailey in 2012, but Bailey spent most of the year on the Disabled List and Melancon could not get the job done, struggling to a 6.20 ERA over 41 appearances.  He only walked 12 batters in 45 innings, which helped him keep his WHIP at a solid 1.27.  Opponents also batted just .256 against him, which shows that the reason for his struggles was the inability to keep the ball in the ballpark.  He allowed eight home runs, five of which came in a horrific three game stretch in April where he allowed ten runs in 1.2 innings.  Ivan De Jesus will shore up the middle infield.  A similar player to Brock Holt, De Jesus has played 48 games at the major league level between 2011 and 2012, batting .205 with five RBI for the Dodgers and Red Sox.  Between AAA Albuquerque and Pawtucket last year, he hit .304 with three home runs and a pair of stolen bases.  His career minor league numbers total 30 home runs, a .298 average, and 66 stolen bases over 729 games.  Jerry Sands gives the Pirates another outfielder.  Acquiring him does not make sense to me, as Pittsburgh already has six quality outfielders in Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Alex Presley, Jose Tabata, Starling Marte, and Travis Snider.  This probably means that Sands will begin the 2013 season at AAA Indianapolis.  He has had an outstanding minor league career, having hit 119 home runs and batted .289 in 469 games.  However, his success has not translated to the major league level, where he has batted .244 with four home runs in 70 games.  His best minor league season was 2010, where he hit 35 home runs and batted .301 with 18 stolen bases for Class A Great Lakes and AA Chattanooga. After hitting 29 home runs for AAA Albuquerque in 2011, he hit 26 in 2012 and set a career high with 107 RBI.  The last player acquired by Pittsburgh is right handerStolmy Pimentel, who has 120 minor league starts under his belt and hasn't yet turned 22.  Over a three year stretch from 2007-2009, he was 18-10 with a 3.41 ERA over 51 games (47 starts) for the DSL Red Sox, Short Season Lowell Spinners, and Class A Greenville Drive, all between the ages of 17 and 19.  As he moved to the higher levels, his numbers began to dip.  In 2010 for High Class A Salem, he was 9-11 with a 4.06 ERA, and in 2011, he was just 6-13 with a 6.79 ERA for Salem and AA Portland.  Last year, at Portland again, he was 6-7 with a 4.59 ERA.  He is 39-41 with a 4.37 ERA over 125 games (120 starts) through six minor league seasons.  


Teams followed in this update: Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies

If your team is not included, please leave a comment.

HR: home runs.  RBI: runs batted in.  AVG: batting average.  SB: stolen bases.  ERA: earned run average. WHIP: walks/hits per innings pitched.  K's: strikeouts. WPCT: winning percentage

Zack Silverman

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