Daily Dose: Nolasco goes out with a bang

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Ricky Nolasco put on a show Wednesday, setting a Marlins record with 16 strikeouts and nearly made history with nine punchouts in a row. Tom Seaver holds the all-time record with 10 straight strikeouts, but Adam LaRoche snapped Nolasco’s streak with a double. Jake Peavy in 2007 and Mickey Welch in 1884 are the only other pitchers in baseball history to get nine straight strikeouts. And yes, that says 1884.
Nolasco followed up his breakout 2008 by getting off to a brutal start this year, going 2-5 with a 9.07 ERA in nine outings to earn a demotion to Triple-A. Since returning in early June he’s been fantastic, going 11-4 with a 3.82 ERA and 158/31 K/BB ratio in 141.1 innings. Not only are his 16 strikeouts Wednesday the most of any pitcher this year, Nolasco now has 381 strikeouts in 397 innings since the beginning of 2008.
While his 5.09 ERA makes it likely that Nolasco will be tremendously undervalued for 2010, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Boston trotted out the junior-varsity lineup Wednesday after clinching the Wild Card and Roy Halladay predictably tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout. He finished nine of 32 starts this year to lead baseball, going 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA and AL-high 239 innings. If the Blue Jays shop him again this winter and decide on a reasonable asking price this time Halladay will have at least ended his Toronto career fittingly.
* Justin Masterson suffered his sixth straight loss Wednesday as Mark Buehrle and a couple relievers combined to shut out the Indians, but finished his disappointing year by allowing one run and racking up a career-high 12 strikeouts in a complete game. He may still eventually end up in the bullpen, but Masterson has a 4.32 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 144 innings spread over 25 career starts.
* Earlier this week John Russell confused a lot of people by yanking Zach Duke from a blowout when he was one out short of a complete game. Duke had thrown just 103 pitches, which is why it was amusing to see the Pirates’ skipper leave Charlie Morton in for a 119-pitch complete game Wednesday. Morton blanked the Cubs after giving up 10 runs in his previous start against them, finishing with a 4.55 ERA in 18 starts.
* Not that he would’ve had much of a role anyway, but Jamie Moyer is officially out of the Phillies’ playoffs plans after being diagnosed with three torn muscles in his groin and abdomen. Moyer suffered the injury while pitching in relief Tuesday and finishes the year at 12-10 with a 4.94 ERA in 162 innings. He turns 47 years old next month, but the Phillies are on the hook to Moyer for $8 million in 2010.
AL Quick Hits: Carl Pavano had been 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA against Detroit this year, but the Tigers roughed him up Wednesday while all but clinching the division … Joba Chamberlain needed 91 pitches to record 11 outs Wednesday, failing to make it out of the fourth inning to finish 9-6 with a 4.78 ERA … Cleveland fired Eric Wedge and his entire coaching staff Wednesday after seven seasons on the job … John Buck hit his fourth triple of the year Wednesday after managing a grand total of three through his first 525 games … Tim Wakefield allowed five runs in three innings Wednesday, making him a question mark for the playoffs … Randy Ruiz continued his impressive audition for 2010 by going 4-for-6 with two bombs Wednesday … Carl Crawford said Wednesday that he hopes to work out a long-term deal with the Rays … A day after hitting three homers, Adam Lind was out of Wednesday’s lineup due to a Jonathan Papelbon pitch to the elbow … Josh Beckett (back) threw a 62-pitch bullpen session Wednesday in preparation for Saturday’s start.
NL Quick Hits: Raul Ibanez smacked his seventh homer of the month Wednesday as the Phillies clinched their third straight division title … Jose Reyes tore his hamstring while running the bases earlier this week and may need surgery … Bronson Arroyo tossed 8.1 innings of one-run ball Wednesday, finishing the season with 13 straight Quality Starts … Hiroki Kuroda has been scratched from Saturday’s start with a sore neck, so Clayton Kershaw will take his place … John Smoltz allowed six runs and a season-high five walks in four innings Wednesday, putting his playoff rotation spot in doubt … Freddy Sanchez underwent season-ending knee surgery Wednesday and aims to be ready for spring training whether or not the Giants pick up his $8.1 million option … Corey Hart may be done for the season after X-rays revealed two fractured fingers … Pedro Martinez rejoined the rotation Wednesday by giving up three runs in four innings, including a pair of J.R. Towles blasts … Justin Maxwell’s walk-off grand slam Wednesday handed Francisco Rodriguez his seventh blown save.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: