Charlie Manuel made things official Thursday, announcing that Brad Lidge will try to get back on track in “low-stress” situations while Ryan Madson takes over at closer. Manuel showed incredible patience with Lidge, allowing him to go 0-7 with 10 blown saves and a 7.11 ERA in 51 innings before losing his job. That also means that he’ll probably be quick to give Lidge another chance in the ninth inning if he pitches well.
In the meantime Madson will have tons of fantasy value down the stretch. He’s been one of the NL’s elite setup men since shifting to the bullpen full time in 2007, posting ERAs of 3.05, 3.05, and 3.10. He should have little trouble getting the job done one inning later than usual, but if Madson struggles or needs any days off Brett Myers will likely be asked to be step in now that he’s off the disabled list and looking healthy.
While the defending champs take advantage of their five-game lead in the NL East to get the bullpen right for October, here are some other notes from around baseball …
* Eric Young Jr. went 2-for-3 with a walk and two steals Thursday, finally showing off the blazing speed that enabled him to swipe an amazing 80 bases per 150 games in the minors. Young’s father played 15 seasons in the majors, retiring just three years ago after hitting .283/.359/.390 with 465 steals over 1,730 games. Junior is a similar player, hitting .293/.385/.416 in the minors while showing modest power.
Young’s long-term position remains unclear, as he played almost exclusively second base until shifting to center field literally a few weeks ago, and was back in the infield Thursday for the Rockies. However, he’s batted at least .290 in each of the last four seasons and has always shown good patience, giving him the on-base skills needed to thrive without much pop. If he plays, his speed makes him a big fantasy asset.
* Luke Hochevar turned heads in July by racking up 22 strikeouts versus zero walks over a two-start stretch, but has gone 0-6 with an 8.12 ERA in eight starts since then. At this point back-to-back strong starts look like the clear aberration for a guy who’s 12-22 with a 5.61 ERA overall, but the former No. 1 overall pick got a little reason for optimism this week after discovering that he’s been tipping pitches. We’ll see. AL Quick Hits: Chien-Ming Wang (shoulder) said Wednesday that he hopes to begin playing catch in January, but his future with the Yankees remains uncertain … Jarrod Washburn returned to the rotation Thursday, allowing three runs in five innings … Gil Meche (shoulder) is unlikely to pitch again this year after going 6-10 with a 5.09 ERA in 23 starts … As expected, Carlos Pena underwent surgery Thursday on his broken fingers and won’t resume baseball activities for several months … Brian Bannister is seeking a second opinion on his injured shoulder, which likely isn’t good news … In his final start before being shut down for the season, Brett Cecil tossed six innings of two-run ball Thursday to finish at 7-4 with a 5.30 ERA … Switch-hitter Carlos Guillen (shoulder) will be limited to batting from the left side of the plate for the remainder of the year … David Robertson (elbow) has been shut down for two weeks, but hopes to come back in October … Alex Gordon homered Thursday as the last-place Royals swept the first-place Tigers. NL Quick Hits: Joe Blanton was knocked around for eight runs Thursday, snapping a streak of 11 straight Quality Starts … Garrett Atkins went deep at home Thursday for the first time since April … Mark DeRosa said Wednesday that he’ll need offseason surgery to fix a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist … Troy Tulowitzki missed his third straight game with back stiffness Thursday and Ian Stewart also sat out with a back problem of his own … Adam Rosales went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Thursday and is now hitting below .200 in 216 at-bats … Ian Desmond homered, doubled, and knocked in four runs Thursday in his first career start, making quite a first impression with the Nationals … Lance Berkman homered Thursday night for the first time in 33 games dating back to July 9 … Brian McCann snapped his 0-for-17 slump Thursday with four hits … Jose Contreras exited Thursday’s start after straining his quadriceps running out a ground ball.
Today is the anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s Iron Man streak ending
Today is a significant baseball anniversary. On this day in 1939 Lou Gehrig asked out of the lineup as the Yankees played the Tigers in Detroit. It both ended his Iron Man Streak at 2,130, but also marked the beginning of Gehrig’s very public acknowledgement of ALS, the disease which would come to bear his name. Gehrig would never play again.
While it was clear that Gehrig’s body was betraying him and his baseball skills were abandoning him in the first few games of the 1939 season, some say the ultimate impetus for Gehrig asking out of the lineup happened earlier that day. The story goes that Gehrig collapsed on the grand staircase of the Book-Cadillac hotel where the Yankees were staying and that later, as he sat in the hotel bar, he told manager Joe McCarthy that he couldn’t play anymore.
The Book-Cadillac is still there. It deteriorated over the years and then was renovated. It’s a Westin now — the Westin Book-Cadillac. It’s a wonderful hotel and the bar area still has much of its old charm, but the grand staircase is gone, replaced with a couple of escalators. I stay there whenever I’m in Detroit. I’m friends with one of the Book-Cadillac’s bartenders and I try to see him whenever I’m there. When I sit in that bar I often wonder if Gehrig sat near where I was, telling McCarthy that he just couldn’t do it anymore. There are a lot of ghosts in Detroit. Gehrig’s is mostly in New York, but there’s a little bit of him in Detroit too.
Cal Ripken would later break Gehrig’s record. I doubt anyone breaks Cal’s. But in some cases the record holders are less interesting than those who were surpassed.
At the end of March we linked a story from Rob Arthur and Ben Lindbergh at FiveThirtyEight which sought to figure out why home run rates have spiked. Their theory was that it was either randomness or a juiced ball. They tested baseballs and found no evidence of a different ball, so that seems to have ended that.
It’s all based on exit velocity of baseballs, which Passan notes has spiked. He doesn’t come to any conclusions — just not enough data — but the very act of asking the question in a column and Passan’s acknowledgment that he sounds like a conspiracy theorist tell you that that’s his hunch. And it could be the case. I still think the ball got juiced in 1987 and again, on a more permanent basis, in 1993, but there’s no evidence to really support that. Just one of those “can’t think of anything better” sort of situations.
For now, though, it’s May 2. And I suspect that for as long as there have been May 2nds in a baseball season, people have looked at the stats and suspected something weird was afoot. Maybe something weird is afoot. We just can’t really know.
Alex Rodriguez had a big night in a losing effort last night. He homered and drove in four. In the past week or so he’s raised his average over 50 points and may be finally shaking off the offseason rust. When you’re over 40 it takes you longer to do everything.
But even if it takes his reflexes some time to get up to speed, you can never take away the knowledge and experience of a savvy veteran with a high baseball I.Q. For example, whether he’s hitting or not, the man knows that it’s important to keep your bat dry on a rainy night:
In early April the Dodgers agreed to a minor league contract with pitcher Sean Burnett after he didn’t make the Washington Nationals’ roster out of spring training. He was assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City. As is usually the case, veterans like him have an opt-out if they don’t make the big club after a certain amount of time, and Burnett has opt-ed out, realizing that he’s likely not in the Dodgers’ plans.
But he could be in the Braves’ plans. They stink on ice. Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that he’s signing with them and will report to Triple-A Gwinnett tomorrow.
Burnett, 33, hasn’t appeared in the majors since he pitched three games for the Angels in 2014 and hasn’t pitched regularly in the bigs since 2012. Tommy John surgery will do that to a guy. He did toss eight and two-thirds scoreless innings for the Nationals during spring training and has allowed only two earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings of relief work for Oklahoma City. There may still be something there. Innings will need to be eaten in Atlanta this year. Burnett may be able to eat them.