Q: In the last two weeks, all Angels starting pitchers have an ERA under 2.00. Does this bode well for the playoffs?
— Hector Delgado, Orange, Calif.
A: I’ve written on a couple of occasions about how strange this season has been for the Angels, whose team ERA has ranked in the lower half of the American League most of the way (currently 10th). So anything positive from the Angels’ starters has to be a good thing.
And in fact, the rotation is coming together at just the right time after a season of tragedy and tough injuries. Fourteen different starting pitchers have been used in all, including the late Nick Adenhart, who died in a car crash, and rotation stalwart Kelvim Escobar, who made only one start amidst continuing shoulder woes.
Scott Kazmir has been great (sub-2.00 ERA in his first three starts) since being acquired from Tampa Bay. John Lackey is all the way back after missing the first six weeks due to injury, and pitching like an ace again. Jered Weaver has been consistently outstanding all season, and until a bad start Wednesday night in Boston, Joe Saunders had been on a nice roll.
The hot streak you mentioned actually extended for two weeks, as from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13, the Angels allowed three runs or less in 12 of 14 games, including seven in a row.
One note of caution, however: Those games were against Oakland, Seattle, Kansas City and Chicago — not exactly among the AL’s most-feared offenses.
A better indication of the rotation’s playoff chances is occurring this week, as the Angels lost a makeup game in New York, 5-4, and then lost twice to nemesis Boston — their almost-certain first round opponent — 4-1 and 9-8.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Q: I believe that if Albert Pujols reaches 50 home runs and 40 doubles, he and Babe Ruth in 1921 will be the only players to accomplish that feat? How impressive is that?
— Larry, Scottsdale, Ariz.
A: As the cliché goes, any time you’re mentioned in the same sentence with Babe Ruth, that’s pretty impressive. Through Wednesday, Albert needed one more home run and three more doubles to join The Bambino, who hit 59 homers and 44 doubles in 1921.
Albert Belle is the only member of the 50 homer/50 double club, accomplishing that in the 144-game 1995 season with 50 homers and 52 doubles.
Hank Greenberg (41 HR, 50 2B in 1940), Lou Gehrig (47 HR in 1927) and Chuck Klein (40 HR, 59 in 1930) also are in the 40 HR/50 double club.
But any way you slice it, we’re talking very exclusive territory here.
Q: On average, how many baseballs are used during a regulation game? I see a lot of them thrown to the fans after only one or two pitches?
— Debbie Harris, Tampa, Fla.
A: Unusual given the game’s fascination with statistics, but no exact counts are done when it comes to baseballs used per game. But guesstimates run at about 10-12 dozen per game.
I’ve written once before about how umpires have gone too far when it comes to removing any ball that barely even grazes the ground — even when hitters don’t request the ball to be removed.
That certainly increases the number of baseball used per game, as does the practice of players throwing balls into the stands after the third outs of every half inning — a goodwill gesture started upon the resumption of play after the 1994 strike, when the game needed an image boost.
All I know is, I’d hate to be the clubhouse boy who has to rub up each and every baseball prior to each game with the special mud treatment that removes some of the slickness. That would be quite a task every day.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.