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Only 75 more days
until Opening Day!

November 17, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Max Scherzer wins NL Cy Young Award

For the first time in the team's twelve-year history (since the "rebirth" in Washington) a Nationals pitcher has won the Cy Young Award: Max Scherzer. I was watching with bated breath when the announcement was made on MLB TV at about 6:20 last night, and shared "vicariously" in Max's celebration with his buddies. That guy sure knows how to have fun! It was his second Cy Young Award, the first being in 2013 when he was with the Detroit Tigers. Max therefore becomes just the sixth pitcher in history to have won Cy Young Awards in both leagues.

Scherzer beat out two Cubs pitchers: Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, and I was as surprised as anyone that he received 25 of 30 first-place ballots. I thought it might be closer, but apparently postseason stats are excluded. With a 20-7 record, Max was the only National League pitcher to reach the 20-win level. His 284 strikeouts were 30 more than the number two MLB pitcher, Justin Verlander. (The late Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins threw 253 strikeouts.) He also led the NL in innings pitched, with 228 1/3. In terms of ERA, Scherzer only ranked eighth in the NL, with 2.96; see below. His one clear weak spot was in allowing home runs, and he tied for seventh place (with 31) among all MLB pitchers, dubious distinction. Today's Washington Post had a full page devoted to graphs showing all the measurements of pitching performance.

Here's an oddity to ponder: How many Cy Young winners in history have not recorded the lowest ERA among regular starting pitchers on their team? Well, Scherzer's one of them: his ERA was 2.96, compared to 2.83 for Tanner Roark.

Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer, pitching against the Mets on June 29. He threw ten strikeouts that day, as the Nats won, 4-2.

Porcello wins AL Cy Young

Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox won the American League Cy Young Award, even though he received fewer first-place votes than the Tigers' Justin Verlander. Porcello led the majors with 22 wins (versus 4 losses), and had a solid ERA (3.15), with 189 strikeouts.

There has been a lot of talk about another AL pitcher who was contending for the Cy Young Award, Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox, and where he might end up next year -- perhaps even with the Nationals. Sale threw 233 strikeouts this year, tied with Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays for second place in the AL. (Verlander was number one; see above.)

Bryant, Trout win MVP Awards

Kris Bryant was overwhelmingly chosen as the National League Most Valuable Player, getting 29 of 30 first-place votes. The lopsided voting shocked me. Daniel Murphy came in a distant second, even though he was within an inch of leading the majors in batting average (.347) as well as other measures of batting success such as OPS (.985). His mere 57 strikeouts in 531 at-bats are the best in the majors, from what I can tell. Subjectively, Murphy has shown himself to be a true leader on the Nationals, fitting in very well and carrying the team into the postseason. Bryant had 39 home runs but his average (.292) was not near the top of the league. He was the fourth player to win an MVP Award a year after being named Rookie of the Year, and if it weren't for the one first-place vote for Murphy, he would have been the first-ever player to win those two awards by unanimous acclamation. I still think Bryant should have been named the World Series MVP, but that went to Ben Zobrist.

In the American League, Mike Trout of the L.A. Angels was named MVP. He wasn't ranked near the top in either home runs (29) or batting average (.315), but his OPS of .991 was second place behind David Ortiz, who of course was "just" a designated hitter. This comes four years after Trout was chosen as AL Rookie of the Year, and two years after his first AL MVP Award. It is also the first time in several years that this award has gone to a player whose team did not make it to the postseason.

Seager, Fulmer: Rookies of the Year

To the surprise of no one, the L.A. Dodgers' Corey Seager, won the NL Rookie of the Year Award by a unanimous vote. Seager had a batting average of .308 and hit 26 home runs, which is just insane for a rookie. I became acquainted with the young Mr. Seager in a most unpleasant way, watching his feats of slugging and fielding during the National League Divisional Series against the Nationals. It's a shame that the Nationals' star rookie, Trea Turner, didn't have much of a chance against Seager. Turner didn't join the roster until July, and yet he hit 13 home runs in barely half a season. I read somewhere that Turner actually surpassed Seager in one of those new-fangled obscure stats.

The AL ROY winner, Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers, had an 11-7 record and a 3.06 ERA, which would be admirable numbers for a veteran. He is one of the few bright lights for the Tigers this year. Former National Jordan Zimmermann pitched very well early in the season, but ended up with a middling 9-7 record and a 4.87 ERA, which is not very good.

Golden Glove Awards

I was a bit surprised that none of the Nationals won a Golden Glove, since the team as a whole ranked near the top defensively this year. They were in a virtual tie in fielding percentage (.988) with the San Francisco Giants, with just 73 errors (.45 per game), one more than the Giants. Nelson Arenado (Colorado Rockies) beat the Nats' third baseman, Anthony Rendon, despite committing more errors. It must have been Arenado's greater number of double plays: 39 vs. 25. Likewise, even though Jayson Werth ranked at the top among left fielders in fielding percentage, Starling Marte got the Golden Glove, probably because of all the assists he had: 17, which was 5 more than anyone else. I could go on, but probably shouldn't...

For a roundup of all this year's major awards, see MLB.com.

Comparing three successful years

I updated the Washington Nationals page, with the chart Nats' daily winning percentage for the 2016 season shown below, as well as the historical head-to-head table. It is interesting to chart the march toward the postseason in their three division championship years: 2012, 2014, and 2016. There are many similarities between the 2012 season and the 2016 season: In both cases, the Nats were on a hot streak in April, and stayed near the .600 winning percentage level for most of the season. (They were atop the NL East for almost the whole season both years.) In contrast, their other division championship year, 2014, the Nats had a rather dismal month of May, dipping below .500 briefly before making a long climb to just under the .600 level at season's end.

Nats winning percentage 2016

After consulting with baseball-reference.com, I found two errors in my daily compilation of Nationals home game attendance: April 14 and July 17. (I mentioned the discrepancy in my October 2 blog post.) The correct total for the year is 2,481,938 rather than 2,482,218; average home game attendance was 30,641 rather than 30,645.

November 12, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Murphy, Ramos win Silver Sluggers

Two members of the Washington Nationals -- Daniel Murphy (second baseman) and Wilson Ramos (catcher) -- won the 2016 National League "Silver Slugger" awards for their respective positions. Murphy's batting average was a spectacular .347, while Ramos batted a superb .307. As noted at MLB.com, it's the fifth consecutive season the Nationals have had at least one Silver Slugger, the longest such streak in the National League. Murphy remains in contention for the National League MVP award...

Bryce Harper won the Silver Slugger last year, when he also was named NL MVP. In 2014, Shortstop Ian Desmond won the award (his a third time), and third baseman Anthony Rendon won his first Silver Slugger. In 2012, three Nationals received that award: Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche, and Stephen Strasburg, and I was lucky to see the shining hardware on display at NatsFest in January 2013.

Nationals let Ramos go

The Washington Nationals decided not to make a "qualifying" offer to their catcher Wilson Ramos, meaning that he will become a free agent. Under the MLB rules negotiated with the MLB Players' Association, there is a formula to determine the standard salary for a player whose contract is expiring, and in this case it would have been $17.2 million. Given that Wilson's injured knee is not likely to heal until the middle of the 2012 season, it just wouldn't have been worth it for the Nationals. There is a small chance that Ramos won't get a satisfactory offer from another team, in which case he might sign with the Nationals again. See Washington Post.

This is distressing to me, as Wilson was not only among the Nats' most popular players, but also one of the most productive ones at the plate this year. He lost a lot of playing time due to injuries, missing a major part of the season in three straight years: 2012-2014. The September 26 freak injury was a tragic way for his career with the Nationals to end, and I just hope he gets back to normal in due time, and finds championship-caliber success once again -- maybe even with the Nats.

Wilson Ramos

Wilson Ramos, before the August 31 Nats-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park.

San Diego votes NO on stadium

In San Diego on Tuesday, voters failed to pass a bond referendum that would have funded a new stadium for the NFL Chargers. A two-thirds majority was required, but only 43 percent voters said yes. The upshot is that the Chargers are more than likely to seek relocation to Los Angeles, where a new stadium is being built. It's probably just a matter of time. See Washington Post. Ironically, the Chargers' original home was in Los Angeles.

And in other ballpark news, I learned from Mike Zurawski that the "Ballpark Village" on the north side of the Cardinals' Busch Stadium (III) will be expanded; see ballparkdigest.com.

November 6, 2016 [LINK / comment]

World Series 2016: joyous (and bittersweet) aftermath

The victory parade on Friday for the the world champion Cubs filled the streets of Chicago with over 5,000,000 people, one of the biggest human gatherings in history: "Cubstock," they called it.

On Saturday Night Live, Dexter Fowler, David Ross, and Anthony Rizzo appeared in two skits, one which was creepy and one in which they sang "Go Cubs, Go," along with noted Cubs fan (and former SNL regular) Bill Murray. They even had the lyrics on screen, like in that old TV show, "Sing Along With Mitch." That was pretty cool.

Friday's Washington Post had an article about the families of older Cubs fans who passed away in the weeks and months before World Series 2016. That hit pretty close to home for me. They focused on a guy named Louis DeBella, who died on October 5 at the age of 83. Referring to the Place of Eternal Rest, one of his family members said, "Don't worry. He had the best seats in the house."

And along a similar theme, the Washington Post sports page that day hypothesized that "Divine Intervention" was behind the rain delay after the ninth inning ended. Sports writer Barry Svrluga thinks those 17 extra minutes gave the Cubs time to pause and regroup mentally after the stunning game-tying rally by the Indians in the bottom of the eighth inning. Whatever the cause, it seems clear that the "Billy Goat Curse" is a thing of the past, and like the Red Sox since 2004, the Cubs can emerge from under their perennial dark cloud and compete like a normal team at long last. All is forgiven, Steve Bartman! smile

Progressive Field photos

Since I recently added a few more photos to the Wrigley Field page, I thought it would be appropriate to do likewise for Progressive Field page, which has six "new" photos (all from 2012), including this one that shows where Rajai Davis's game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Game 7 landed:

Progressive Field LF corner

Progressive Field left field corner, the "Toyota Home Run Porch." Note that the rows of seats in front of that white car were taken out last year and replaced with terraced table seating.

In one of the other "new" photos of Progressive Field, I noticed that there is (or was) a chair in front of the right field foul pole! So technically, a sharply-curving fly ball could cross the outfield wall in fair territory and still be called a foul ball. A similar situation once existed at Jack Murphy ("QualComm") Stadium in San Diego, according to Green Cathedrals author Phil Lowry.

I'll have to return to Progressive Field in the next year or two and get photos that show the revamped upper deck in right field, where about 3,000 seats were removed prior to the 2015 season. (Likewise for Coors Field.) I wonder if the Indians' front office regrets the decision to downsize their stadium? That would have been a hefty chunk of change from all those postseason games...

Gio Gonzalez will stay

Also in the Washington Post was news that the Washington Nationals opted to extend their contract with left-handed starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who struggled for much of the season but showed some improvement toward the end. However, they declined to do so for reliever Yusmeiro Petit, who became less and less effective as the season wore on.

Web page updates

Since baseball season is officially over, I'm starting to pay a bit more attention to football. I spent much of yesteray filling the numerous gaps in the Football use of baseball stadiums page. The chronological table is pretty much the same as before, but now all the gray text boxes that appear when the mouse hovers above the stadium links are complete, with brief chronological descriptions of the "comings and goings" of baseball and football teams in each stadium. (That's one of the pages that is inherently not suitable for mobile devices.) I also updated the various other Baseball chronology pages with the World Series results, etc. In the process of making those updates, I noticed an interesting pattern on the Annual chronology of baseball page: In each year since 2005, the World Series championship has alternated between American League (odd years) and National League (even years), except for 2010, when the St. Louis Cardinals edged the Texas Rangers in one of the most improbable comebacks ever.

November 3, 2016 [LINK / comment]

The Cubs win the World Series!!!

I'm still in a state of euphoric disbelief over what I saw happen on TV last night. Just to make sure that the Chicago Cubs really did win the World Series for the first time since 1908 (!!??), I watched the postgame show after the game ended, and then the reruns of it again in the morning, and then watched most of the (condensed) rebroadcast game on MLB TV this afternoon.

I had just finished playing my three-song set (beginning with "Go Cubs, Go"!) at Queen City Brewing here in Staunton when the first inning of Game 7 got underway. I saw the first pitch on the TV set behind the bar, but while I wasn't looking, Dexter Fowler hit a leadoff home run that just cleared the center field fence at Cleveland's Progressive Field. That blast quickly helped the Cubs get over the psychological hurdle represented by the daunting Indians pitcher, Corey Kluber. When Kyle Schwarber singled and Kris Bryant hit a fly ball to the warning track in center field, there was a momentary possibility of a three-run first inning, just like in Game 6. But the ball was caught, and the next two batters also flew out to end the inning. Corey Kluber settled down after that, and pitched two scoreless innings. I got home during the top of the third inning.

In the bottom of the third, Coco Crisp once again provided decisive offensive punch, with a leadoff double that resulted in a run two batters later. But the Indians bounced right back in the fourth inning, as Kris Bryant hit a leadoff single and later scored from third base on a sacrifice fly to short left field. The next batter Willson Contreras hit an RBI double, confirming that the momentum had shifted by in Chicago's favor. In the top of the fifth, Javier Baez hit a leadoff homer that forced Kluber out of the game, replaced by Andrew Miller, the usual closing pitcher. Later in the inning, Kris Bryant walked and made it home on a single by Anthoy Rizzo. He got a perfect jump, and just beat the throw to home. That gave the Cubs a 5-1 lead, but almost immediately the Indians started chipping away at it. Kyle Hendricks walked a batter, and Joe Maddon immediately replaced him with Jon Lester, a move which I thought was premature. Indeed, Lester gave up a single to the first batter he faced, and then threw a wild pitch to the next batter, allowing both base-runners to score, making it a 5-3 game. That was just horrendous. In the top of the sixth, David Ross hit a solo homer, making up for the throwing error that was partly responsible for the two runs being scored. In the bottom of the sixth, Brandon Guyer got a pinch-hit single for Lonnie Chisenhall, the first of two hits he had. (I found out on a local TV station that he is a former Virginia Cavalier; until this year he was with the Tampa Bay Rays.)

Then followed an interlude of relative calm, until the bottom of the eighth inning. That's when Jon Lester gave up a two-out single and was replaced by Aroldis Chapman. Under normal circumstances that would have been a good move, but as almost everyone knew, Chapman had been severely depleted by multi-inning appearances in both Game 5 and Game 6. His exhaustion became obvious when he gave up an RBI double to Brandon Guyer (his second hit), and then a home run to Rajai Davis. His line drive just barely cleared the big wall in left field, and almost hit the TV camerman posted there. No-o-o-o-o!!! All of a sudden the score was tied 6-6, and fans in Cleveland roared their approval. After giving up another single, Chapman struck out Yan Gomes to end the inning. Whew! In the top of the ninth inning, Jayson Heyward reached third base with only one out, and Cubs' fans hopes started to rise again. But for some reason, Javier Baez attempted a bunt with two strikes, and thus struck out. Some of the Fox commentators (including Alex Rodriguez and Pete Rose) later said they thought that it must have been Joe Maddon who made that decision, and I agree. In any case, the next batter grounded out, wasting the run-scoring opportunity. To the surprise of many, Aroldis Chapman came back to pitch in the bottom of the ninth, and this time he did fine, getting three straight outs. Extra innings!

But first there was a rain delay, which had some of us worrying about playing after midnight or even being postponed a day or two, like what happened in the 2008 World Series. Fortunately, the delay turned out to be fairly brief. In the top of the tenth, Kyle Schwarber hit a leadoff single to right field, in spite of Cleveland's defensive shift in that direction. Since his legs are still fragile, he was replaced by pinch runner Albert Almora, who made it to second base on a long fly ball to center field -- what could have been yet another home run by Kris Bryant. Then Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked, aiming to set up a double play, but it backfired when Ben Zobrist doubled down the left field line, scoring Almora. The Cubs were back ahead, and the thousands of Chicago fans in Progressive Field made their noisy presence felt! After another intentional walk, Miguel Montero, the third-string catcher, came up to bat with the bases loaded, and hit an RBI single to give the Cubs an 8-6 lead. The Indians got the next two outs, but their prospects were bleak.

In the bottom of the tenth, Carl Edwards took the mound for the Cubs, and he got the first two batters out. But then he walked Brandon Guyer, and none other than Rajai Davis came up to bat. Cleveland fans were giddy with anticipation that he might pull off another game-tying homer, and he almost came through, hitting a line-drive RBI single to center field. Oh, no! Joe Maddon yanked Edwards and put Mike Montgomery on the mound. Michael Martinez then hit a slow ground ball which Kris Bryant managed to grab, and threw it to first base for the final out. Game over!!! Cubs 8, Indians 7.

With all those plot twists, that had to be one of the most riveting and exciting final World Series games ever. It was far from perfect, as there were a few lapses by players and by managers -- especially Joe Maddon, whose trust in his pitchers seemed very low. Ben Zobrist, who hit the go-ahead RBI single in the top of the tenth inning, was named World Series Most Valuable Player. He did fine, but I really think Kris Bryant is more deserving of the award. He was the decisive factor in both Games 5 and 6, and played a major role in the Game 7 victory. Perhaps the two errors he committed in Game 4 explains why he wasn't the MVP.

As fate would have it, Cleveland fans suffered the agonizing heartache of losing after having come so close to winning -- both in this game, and in the World Series as a whole. They have much to be proud of, nonetheless, and much to be hopeful for in the future, with a strong roster full of young stars. World Series 2016 was very evenly matched, with both teams scoring exactly 27 runs over the seven games.

Notwithstanding the whole point of getting "home field advantage," the home team only won in two of the seven World Series games: Game 1 in Cleveland, and Game 5 in Chicago. It was the worst World Series for home teams since 1996, when the Braves won the first two games in New York, after which the Yankees won the next three games in Atlanta and then won Game 6 in New York.

And as many people observed, the whole concept of "home field advantage" seemed in doubt as Chicago fans seemed almost as numerous as Cleveland fans at Progressive Field last night. Tickets were going for several thousand dollars on the resale market, and apparently a lot of upscale Chicagoans outbid fans in Cleveland.

On a personal note, this World Series was emotionally draining for me as I unabashedly rooted for my late father's favorite team. Everybody was joking about fans on both sides having heart attacks after the various twists and turns in last night's game. Then it occurred to me on a more serious note that had my father lived another seven months to see this World Series, he quite literally might not have survived watching the latter innings of Game 7. That's almost too much to contemplate. Perhaps this is an example of "things happen for a reason..."

November 2, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Comeback! Cubs even series with Tribe, 3-3

For only the fourth time over the past 15 years (2002, 2011, and 2014 being the others), there will be a Game 7 in the World Series. The Chicago Cubs came charging out of the gate with a three-run rally in the first inning. Just like in Game 5 (except in a different inning), Kris Bryant started it with a solo home run. That one swing of the bat changed everything. The Indians starting pitcher got the first two batters (Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber) out in quick order, and had an 0-2 count on Bryant. Almost a 1-2-3 inning, but after Bryant's homer Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist singled, and then the Indians outfielders botched what should have been a relatively easy fly ball out, and two runs scored. With a three-run cushion, the Cubs' starting pitcher Jake Arrieta took care of business calmly and efficiently. Two innings later, Addison Russell hit a grand slam to take a decisive 7-0 lead, and the Indians barely had a chance after that. Arrieta was replaced in the sixth inning after the Indians scored a second run. Joe Maddon once again called upon Aroldis Chapman to pitch in the seventh inning, and this time Chapman himself had to be replaced. Like many others, I question Maddon's lack of faith in his regular [(non-closer) relief pitchers]. Isn't a five-run lead enough? But just to make sure, the Cubs added two runs in the top of the ninth, on a home run by Anthony Rizzo. The Indians rallied for one run in the bottom of the ninth, and the final score was 9-3.

So now as the ultra-tense drama reaches a "fever pitch" (the name of a good baseball movie, by the way), everyone wonders whether they Cubs can repeat the almost miraculous comeback of the Pittsburgh Pirates in Baltimore in the 1979 World Series. It's Kyle Hendricks up against the almost unbeatable Corey Kluber, and anything can happen!!!

Before Game 7 starts this evening, I plan to play (at a local brew pub) this tune by Steve Goodman, which I mentioned on October 25:

Go Cubs, Go!

I think it's safe to say that the 2016 World Series will be remembered for many decades to come. But whether Chicago or Cleveland wins, let's not forget that there will be no joy in the other city, since fans in both cities have been waiting several decades for a World Series victory. They'll just have to "wait till next year!"

From October through December, a table of all Postseason game scores is shown here.

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Baseball books:

See Sources for a brief description of the above books. Also see more specialized books on the Ebbets Field, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium pages.

Coming Attractions

(Includes major revisions, minor revisions, pages with additional diagrams, and future stadiums that are under construction. This is only a rough guide; the sequence is subject to change.)

Stadium construction

Between March 2012, when Marlins Park was completed, and September 2014, there were no major league baseball stadiums under construction. It was the first time since September 1986 that this situation existed. But in light of the recent groundbreaking on the future home of the Braves, the table that had been removed from this space is being restored.

Stadium construction

Franchise /
Opens % done
Atlanta Braves
Sun Trust Field
2017 40%
Oakland (San Jose?) Athletics
Cisco Field (?)
2020? 0%
Tampa Bay Rays
Rays Stadium (?)
2020? 0%
NOTES: This table includes stadiums that are currently under construction or are being contemplated.

Research department: