Howard Megdal thinks so, arguing that Greenberg experienced an uncharacteristic spike in walk rates towards the end of his 1938 season. Megdal says “the American League didn’t seem exactly thrilled with Greenberg’s
pursuit,” and concludes that “the statistical record stands as evidence that Greenberg’s religion
might have been an additional barrier” to him in surpassing Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a season.
Jack Marshall simply isn’t having it. He notes just how small a sample size Megdal is looking at, notes that Greenberg’s 1938 walk total isn’t exactly a big outlier for him and notes that other record-challenging sluggers walked and awful lot, likely due to the fact that their home run tears struck fear in pitchers’ hearts. Marshall acknowledges that Greenberg had to deal with significant anti-Semitism during his career, but sees no evidence that it had anything to do with him hitting 58 homers in 1938 instead of 60.
I’m with Marshall on this one. The antisemitic mood of the nation in general and baseball in particular in the late 30s is beyond dispute, but the evidence Megdal presents here is less than compelling. Is it possible that Greenberg wasn’t getting anything to hit because he was a Jew? Most definitely. It’s just not the sort of thing, I think, that can be divined from the statistical record alone. At least this record.
Houston made one unexpected change to the roster for the ALDS, leaving off veteran reliever Chad Qualls.
Qualls warmed up but never appeared in the Wild Card game win over the Yankees and during the regular season the 36-year-old right-hander logged 49 innings with a 4.38 ERA and 46/9 K/BB ratio. Qualls was on the Astros’ last playoff team in 2005.
Utility man Jonathan Villar has been bumped off the roster in favor of outfielder Preston Tucker, as the Astros opted for a good left-handed bat off the bench versus the Royals rather than Villar’s speed.
It’s been a tough season for the mythology of Jonny Gomes‘ veteran clubhouse savior reputation.
First he signed with the rebuilding Braves and performed poorly while Atlanta fell apart after a surprisingly decent start. Then he was traded to the Royals, for whom he played just 12 games and hit .167. And now Kansas City has left Gomes off the ALDS roster.
It makes sense, though. Gomes’ only real use to the Royals would be as a pinch-hitter versus left-handed pitching, but manager Ned Yost rarely pinch-hits and will no doubt be more willing to use 25th man Terrance Gore as a pinch-runner in the late innings.
Beyond that, not many surprises on the Royals’ roster for their series against the Astros. They went with 11 pitchers, which means both Chris Young and Kris Medlen are on the roster. Jeremy Guthrie is not.