October 4, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Scherzer throws another no-hitter!
It is of great consolation that the Washington Nationals are not going out with a whimper this year. Yesterday they won both games of a double-header against the NL East Division champion New York Mets, on the road in miserable wet, damp conditions at Citi Field. In the first game, Gio Gonzalez pitched six scoreless innings, and was in line for the win but the Mets tied it 1-1 in the seventh inning. In the top of the eighth, Bryce Harper crushed a two-run home run into the upper deck near the bullpens in right-center field, and the Nats held on to win, 3-1.
But the big drama came in the nightcap, when Max Scherzer took the mound. For the fourth time this year, he was virtually flawless, going deep into the game without giving up a hit. In Milwaukee on June 14, he had a perfect game going into the seventh inning, and ended up with a complete game shutout one hitter, on June 20 he actually did throw a no-hitter at home against the Pirates [ ], and at home against the Reds on September 28, he didn't allow a hit until the eighth inning. [This time he not only had another no-hitter going,] he struck out nine of the last ten batters, getting the final out on a popup to third base hit by Curtis Granderson. YES!!! Scherzer struck out 17 Mets batters altogether, setting a team record. The Mets actually struck out more Nationals batters, 18 total, so that game had the highest number of total strikeouts in any nine-inning game ever. WOW! The only Met player to reach base was Kevin Plawecki, who hit a groundball to third baseman Yunel Escobar in the sixth inning, and Escobar's throw bounced before it reached Clint Robinson at first base. E-5! It was about as close to a perfect game as can be imagined. See washingtonpost.com.
Today Tanner Roark takes the mound for the Nationals' final game this season. It means nothing but pride for either team, since the Dodgers have already claimed home field advantage from the Mets in the NLDS. Roark has had a difficult year (he's 4-7), not adjusting well to becoming a relief pitcher after the acquisition of Max Scherzer.
The real excitement this afternoon will come in the American League West, where the Texas Rangers are clinging to a one-game lead over the Houston Astros, who are in turn one game ahead of the L.A. Angels for the second wild card spot. The Rangers are hosting the Angels, in what may be a decisive showdown, while the Astros are playing against the D-Backs in Phoenix. (The Yankees will host the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday.)
The curse of Taylor Swift?
I recently heard of an explanation for the downward fortunes of the Houston Astros since August: Taylor Swift gave a concert at Minute Maid Field. The same thing happened at Nationals Park, where she performed in mid-July. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, she also had a concert in Rogers Centre, which may explain why the Blue Jays blew a lead in the bottom of the ninth inning yesterday. It doesn't matter, they still have home field advantage in the ALDS against whoever wins the AL West.
Rogers Centre tweaks
I added a new second-deck diagram to the Rogers Centre page, and that led me to make a few minor corrections and enhancements. For example, the support columns in the first and second decks are now shown, as are the small "cranes" that suspend the "foul poles," which are actually small nets or big yellow ribbons.
My estimate of foul territory at Rogers Centre has been raised to 30,500 square feet, rather than 29,000 square feet.
I've also been hard at work making revisions to the Turner Field diagrams, and since the Braves are playing a double-header today (because yesterday's game was rained out), I may just finish them before the last out in Atlanta this year.
October 7, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Nationals' manager Matt Williams is fired
It was really just a matter of time, and no one was surprised when Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo announced on Monday that Matt Williams was no longer the team's manager. It was a fitting end to a disappointing season. I wasn't as harshly critical of Williams as some people were, but he did show poor judgement many a time, and whenever things go as badly as they did this year, the guy at the top has got to take responsibility.
This sums it up pretty well: "Seven Decisions That Doomed Matt Williams" by Chelsea Janes in the Washington Post,
- Oct. 4, 2014: Game 2, 2014 National League Division Series: Pulling Jordan Zimmermann in the ninth inning of a 1-0 game to bring in Drew Storen.
- Oct. 7, 2014: Game 4, 2014 National League Division Series: Bringing Aaron Barrett into a seventh-inning jam with Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard available.
- July 31, 2015: Series opener at Citi Field: Not using Jonathan Papelbon in a tie game.
- Aug. 1, 2015: Second game against the Mets at Citi Field: Leaving Joe Ross in to begin the seventh, not using Drew Storen or Jonathan Papelbon.
- Sept. 1, 2015 vs. Cardinals at Busch Stadium: Bringing in Janssen to pitch the bottom of the ninth of a tie game against the Cardinals.
- Sept. 8, 2015: vs. Mets at Nationals Park: Asking Anthony Rendon to bunt on a 3-1 count in the bottom of the ninth
- Sept. 27, 2015, vs. Phillies at Nationals Park: Allowing Jonathan Papelbon to pitch the ninth inning after choking Bryce Harper in the dugout.
As for replacements, I have heard many names mentioned. I don't think Cal Ripken would work out very well, since he is so closely tied to the Orioles. Dusty Baker is probably too old, whereas Ron Gardenhire may be OK. Jim Riggleman? I don't think Mike Rizzo would approve.
2015 (brief summary):
Injuries + managerial goofs = bitter disappointment
The following paragraph, which appears on the Washington Nationals page (which has statistical updates on head-to-head matchups for this year and the entire 2005-2015 history), is my quick-and-dirty version of the season that just ended:
The acquisition of free agent pitcher Max Scherzer in January raised hopes for yet another baseball postseason in Washington, if not a World Series. (Bryce Harper: "Where's my ring?") The departure of Adam LaRoche and the shift of Ryan Zimmerman from third to first base were the most notable changes in the Nats lineup for 2015. The new third baseman Yunel Escobar was acquired from Oakland (in exchange for Tyler Clippard), while Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth switched places between right and left field. But pre-season injuries to Anthony Rendon and Denard Span, as well as surgery to Jayson Werth, seriously depleted the Nationals' lineup in the early weeks of the 2015 season. After a mediocre start, the Nats surged ahead, replacing the New York Mets as division leaders by the latter part of May. Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer both had spectacular success, and both were selected for the All-Star Game. Scherzer pitched no-hitters on June 20 and October 3, and Harper shared the National League home run title (42 total) and was a close second in the NL batting race (.330 average). But Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, and Jayson Werth suffered injuries that kept them out of the lineup until late July. Meanwhile, Stephen Strasburg was plagued by ailments until late in the season, while the bullpen repeatedly let the team down. August was just awful, as the Nats fell out of first place, replaced by the New York Mets, and were officially eliminated from postseason contention on September 26. One day after the final game (October 4), Matt Williams was fired as manager.
Astros knock out Yanks
It's strange having the Houston Astros in the American League, and it's even stranger that they eliminated the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday night. Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez hit solo homers, and Jose Altuve added an RBI single, while the Astros' ace pitcher Dallas Keuchel (pronounced Kikel) allowed only three hits over six innings. Final score: 3-0. It is Houston's first postseason appearance since they made it to the World Series in 2005, when they were swept by the White Sox. It is the Yankees' first postseason appearance since 2012, [the first year] the extra wild card slot was added.
Turner Field update
The Turner Field diagrams have been revised, with several notable changes in the outfield and the grandstand. I realized that the straight portion of the wall in right field angles out more sharply, and that the bullpen out there is about 15 feet to the right of where I had thought it was. Those changes, in turn, affected many other things. [Getting the angles in the grandstand near the right field corner proved to be a particular challenge.] New details include the creases in the grandstand, and the small stairs from the lateral walkway to the aisles in the rear portion of the lower deck.
October 21, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Blue October: Cubs, Mets, Royals, Blue Jays advance
And now for something completely different: No matter who wins the American League and National League Championship Series this year, one thing is certain: the team that ends up winning the World Series will be wearing blue uniforms! When the 2015 season got underway, most baseball fans probably expected a "Red October," with teams like the Cardinals, Nationals, and Angels going deep into the postseason. Not quite. With only one of the four surviving teams having made it to the postseason last year (the Kansas City Royals), it is certainly a refreshing change of pace. The Royals themselves were a big surprise last year, and among the other three teams this year, the most recent postseason appearance was by the Cubs in 2008. (They actually won the NL East two years in a row.) The Mets' only postseason appearance over the last decade was in 2006, when they made it to the NLCS and lost to the Cardinals. And of course, the Blue Jays' last postseason appearance was in 1993, when they won the World Series.
Windy City blues
The Cubs showed they are for real when they beat the St. Louis Cardinals three games straight after dropping the opener in St. Louis last week. Jake Arrieta, Kyle Schwarber, and [Javier Baez]
Josh Donaldson* all proved themselves worthy of a championship, and spirits were high on the north side of Chicago. Schwarber's home run to the very top of the new scoreboard in right field was particular impressive, as was his home run into the Allegheny River two weeks ago, when the Cubs beat the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game. But because of the flukey MLB playoff system, the Cubs had to start the NLCS on the road, even though they had a much higher regular-season winning percentage than the Mets, and even though they were in the higher-seeded bracket, beating the team with the highest winning percentage in all of baseball. But solid pitching from Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Jason DeGrom proved too much for the Cubbies, who just could not get hits. That combined with the awesome slugging of Daniel Murphy, who has tied a major league record by hitting a home run in five consecutive postseason games, have put the Cubs on the brink of elimination.
But lest you lose all hope for the Cubs this year, bear in mind that another team with a long history of bad luck and losing records (the Boston Red Sox) was in a similarly hopeless position in the  American League Championship Series, being down three games to none against the New York Yankees. And the rest was history...
And if you are still a skeptic, keep in mind the movie Back To the Future: Part II, in which they travel 30 years forward to the year 2015, when the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. (They beat an imaginary Miami team, which did not come into existence until the 1990s, and was not called "Miami" until a few years ago.) Science!
* UPDATE / ERRATUM: D'oh! Josh Donaldson is also worthy of a championship, but obviously he plays for the Blue Jays, not the Cubs! The Blue Jays avoided elimination this afternoon with a 7-1 victory over the Royals, as Chris Colabello put the Blue Jays on top in the second inning with a solo home run. Nobody scored after that until the bottom of the sixth inning, when Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez loaded the bases with nobody out on two walks and a hit-by-pitch, after which the home team scored four runs, capped by a three-run double by Troy Tulowitzki. The five-run lead proved to be more than enough for the Blue Jays to hang on to win ALCS Game 5, so the series returns to Kansas City with a 3-2 balance in favor of the Royals.
Wrigley Field update?
If I can possibly manage it, I will finish updating the Wrigley Field diagrams before game time at 8:00 EDT. I have also been putting a lot of work into the stadiums of other postseason teams, including the Mets and Astros.
October 27, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Mets and Royals advance to World Series
Well, here we are at the beginning of another World Series, and you can't deny that it's a top-notch matchup. Both the Mets and the Royals deserve to be playing for a championship title. Both League Championship Series provided plenty of excitement, although on the National League side, the outcome was pretty lopsided. Game 1 of the 2015 World Series has just gone into extra innings, with the score at 4-4, so I'll wait until tomorrow or Thursday to comment on that.
The last team to reach the World Series two years in a row was the Texas Rangers, who ended up losing in both 2010 (to the Giants) and 2011 (to the Cardinals). The Philadelphia Phillies did likewise in 2008 and 2009, winning the first time only.
Mets sweep the Cubs
The New York Mets beat the Chicago Cubs 8-3 in the deciding NLCS Game 4 last Wednesday night, therby advancing to the World Series for the first time since 2000 -- 15 years ago. It would have been the Cubs' first World Series appearance since 1945, i.e. 70 years ago. I wonder when the last time was that two teams in a League Divisional Series had such a high combined cumulative World Series "drought" (85 years)? I'll have to check on that.
As if the Mets' young starting rotation with Matt Harvey, Jayson DeGrom, and Noah Syndergaard wasn't impressive enough, some young guy name Matz outpitched the Cubs' Jason Hammel. After such a thrilling above-expectations season, capped with a victory over their arch-rivals in St. Louis in the NLDS, getting swept four games straight by the Mets was a melancholy win. In Game 4, Daniel Murphy set a new MLB record by hitting a home run in six consecutive postseason games. As for the Cubs, it's "Wait till next year!"
Royals defeat the Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays had an uphill battle as the ALCS returned to Kansas City behind the Royals three games to two, staying alive after an impressive 7-1 Game 5 victory in Toronto. Jose Bautista hit two home runs, the second of which tied the game 3-3 late in the game, but the Royals still beat them 4-3 to finish the series.
It's a shame that David Price was charged with seven losses in seven postseason starts. After giving up two early home runs in ALCS Game 6, he settled down and went deep into the game before the Royals pounced on him to take the lead for good.
Wrigley Field major update
In hopes that the Cubbies might somehow stage a historic comeback in the NLCS, I put everything else aside and got to work on the Wrigley Field diagrams. As of today, they are now fully up to date, showing the enlarged bleachers which were added added this year, along with a new video scoreboard. There is a new upper-deck diagram, as well as a October 1932 diagram of when they built temporary bleachers over the adjoining streets (Waveland and Sheffield) for the extra big crowds. Of course, the inclusion of entry portals was a crucial part of getting the details just right. For example, the position of the "creases" in the grandstand, the bullpens, etc. are all now much more accurate than before. There are other enhancements (such as more prominent display of the support beams) as well. As usual, it took longer than I expected, but the results paid off. Enjoy!
For the record...
During the National League Wild Card Game (Cubs vs. Pirates, a.k.a. "Bucs") I wondered how many other team-pairs contain exactly the same letters? Cubs & Bucs.
While looking at some old photos of the Astrodome, I noticed that that the lateral walkway in the upper deck was not continuous, i.e., that there was an extra row of eight seats between each successive entry portal. The walkways were longer on the right of entry portal than on the left. So, I made that minor correction to the Astrodome diagrams.
I was watching a recorded Nats Xtra program from the final week of the season, in which Johnny and Ray pointed out that Max Scherzer was the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan to throw two no-hitters in one season, and that Max and Nolan are the only two who ever threw 17 strikeouts in a no-hitter.
October 30, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Kansas City takes two-game World Series lead
Game 1 of the 2015 World Series started off with a bang on Tuesday night, as Kansas City's Alcides Escobar hit an inside-the-park home run on the first pitch from the vaunted Mets ace Matt Harvey. The Mets managed to prevent further damage, and later pulled ahead 3-1 with one run each in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. The Royals rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to clutch RBIs by Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, cheering the home crowd, but then the Mets took the lead in the top of the eighth inning after Hosmer failed to stop a ground ball to first base, reminisicent of the Bill Buckner error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The Royals were on the verge of what would have been a devastating loss, when Alex Gordon hit a solo home run to tie the game 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, sending the game into extra innings. Finally, the Royals wore out Mets veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon, loading the bases in the bottom of the 14th inning, and all it took was a long sacrifice fly to right field by Eric Hosmer to win the game, 5-4. Amazin'!
In World Series Game 2, Johnny Cueto pitched a superb two-hit complete game, in which the only two hits were by Lucas Duda, whose solo homer in the fourth inning was the Mets' only score. As expected, Jacob deGrom was almost unhittable -- until the fifth inning. All of a sudden, the Royals started to connect, and before you knew it, four runs had crossed the plate. They added three more runs in the eighth inning to wrap up a huge 7-1 victory. Interestingly, none of the Royals had a home run in that game. And so, the Mets return to New York in a rather desperate situation, down two games to none. But that happens to be the exact same situation they were in versus the Boston Red Sox in 1986, and we all know how that turned out!
By amazing coincidence, I saw Johnny Cueto pitch a two-hit complete game on July 7 in Washington, when the Cincinnati Reds shut out the Nationals, And that leads to this "slightly edited" photograph which I took that day:
Royals' pitching ace Johnny Cueto, winner of World Series Game 2. (Photo taken July 7, when Cueto was pitching for the Reds. Roll your mouse over the image to see the unaltered original. )
Admit it, you'd never guess that the above photo was a complete fake, would you? The Royals' uniform in it was "borrowed" from a photo I took of Billy Butler on July 25, 2014.
Citi Field update
Right on schedule, I finished updating the Citi Field diagrams yesterday. The main thing was getting the precise configuration of the bullpens just right, and contrary to my earlier supposition, it is no different than before this year, when the fence in right center field was brought in several more feet. On one of the NLCS games, I saw a good view of the back end of the bullpens, which lie beneath the "bridge." That pretty much cleared up my remaining uncertainties. There is an all-new second deck diagram, which draws attention to the complicated multi-level configuration behind home plate. As before, the lower-deck diagram shows the small triangular seating sections added just inside of each bullpen for games with high attendance -- such as tonight's World Series Game 3! Otherwise, there are a few minor corrections here and there. My estimate of fair territory is now 109,600 square feet, or 1,000 square feet less than was the case from 2012 through 2014. For the first three years (2009-2011), fair territory was about 114,100 square feet.
World Series stadia
Just like last year, and several years before that, I present the home ballparks of the two World Series teams, for easy comparison. Just roll over the thumbnail images to switch between the respective full-size diagrams.
One thing you can notice right away is that, even with the original (2009) dimensions in Citi Field, Kauffman Stadium still had a deeper outfield in almost every direction.
Bud Black to manage Nationals
The rumors broke out during Game 2 of the World Series, and multple reports since then would seem to confirm that Bud Black, current manager of the San Diego Padres, has been chosen to manage the Washington Nationals. I was surprised how quickly the decision was reached, but apparently several teams are head-hunting for new managers, and the Nats front office couldn't afford to wait. In the Washington Post, Tom [Boswell] writes that the Nationals got the managerial experience they were looking for.
Meanwhile, the Miami Marlins have hired as their new manager Don Mattingly, who just ended his tenure as manager of the L.A. Dodgers on mutually-agreeable terms.
October 31, 2015 [LINK / comment]
The Mets strike back!
I was hoping the World Series wouldn't end in a premature sweep, and sure enough the Mets rose to the occasion last night, beating the Royals 9-3
and thereby assuring that there will at least be a Game 6 back in Kansas City. [Oops -- me and my hasty calculations.] The Royals struck first with a run in the first inning, but then David Wright hit a two-run homer for the Mets in the bottom of the inning. The Royals retook the lead in the second inning, and then the Mets did likewise in the third, making it 4-3. The Mets put the icing on the cake with a four-run sixth inning, and the Mets' bullpen held firm for the last three innings, not allowing any hits or walks.
In Game 4 tonight, the Royals' pitcher Chris Young (whose age of 36 belies his name) faces the Mets' Steven Matz (age 24).
Kauffman Stadium tweak
For the record, I made some tiny revisions to the Kauffman Stadium diagrams. All that changed was the entry portals in the upper deck, which are larger than before, and some small "balconies" directly behind home plate and near the far ends of the upper deck. It is not worth considering a diagram update per se.
Mike Zurawski informs me that Tal's Hill [the steep slope in center field in Minute Maid Park] will be around for another year, because of delays in construction and other factors. That's good news to me, but I wish they would just leave it the way it is on a permanent basis. See ESPN.
In Georgia, meanwhile, the shady stadium deal between the Atlanta Braves and Cobb County is revealing some funding gaps that no one seems to want to fill, such as a vital pedestrian bridge over the adjacent interstate. Unless someone shoulders the responsibility soon, the result could be a traffic disaster once Sun Trust Field opens for business in April 2017. Read all about it at streetsblog.org; hat tip to David Finkel.
Monthly links this year:
Culture & Travel
Science & Technology
January 10, 2015 ~ Four stars get tapped for Hall of Fame
January 22, 2015 ~ Nats sign Scherzer, Max out their payroll
January 17, 2015 ~ West by Southwest: Winter wonderland scenery
February 12, 2015 ~ Redistricting reform fails
February 26, 2015 ~ Life bird: Smith's Longspur!
March 10, 2015 ~ GOP senators challenge Obama's foreign policy
April 12, 2015 ~ Play ball! Opening Day Week 2015
May 21, 2015 ~ Harper's homers lift Nationals into 1st place!
June 25, 2015 ~ Hiking up Little North Mountain
June 30, 2015 ~ Virginia wins the College World Series!
June 30, 2015 ~ If it's Tuesday, this must be Bridgewater*
June 30, 2015 ~ Emmett Hanger wins GOP primary election
July 8, 2015 ~ "That's gotta hurt!" Nationals' fans share players' agony
July 18, 2015 ~ Fleetwood Mac in concert!
August 14, 2015 ~ Northwest by North: Baseball road trip, 2015
August 25, 2015 ~ Welcome home to Washington?
September 28, 2015 ~ Papelbon chokes (twice!), Nationals fall apart
November 3, 2015 ~ Hey, Hey Kansas City: Royals are triumphant
November 21, 2015 ~ Unanimous: Bryce Harper is the NL MVP!
December 1, 2015 ~ Zimmermann signs with Tigers