The Phillies’ Cliff Lee, already with a major league-leading five shutouts, was denied a shot at No. 6 on Tuesday. Having thrown 124 pitches, he was removed after eight scoreless innings in what turned out to be a 2-1 win over the Dodgers.
Ryan Madson closed it out in the ninth, but not before giving up an RBI single to Casey Blake.
At least Lee did have more than the win to celebrate: he hit his second homer of the season off Ted Lilly.
Lee could have become the first pitcher to throw six shutouts in a season since Randy Johnson finished with that many in a 1998 campaign split between Seattle and Houston. Besides Johnson, the last pitcher to record more than five shutouts in a season was Tim Belcher, who had eight for the Dodgers in 1989.
Lee’s homer was his second in five starts. He went 107 career at-bats without one before homering for the first time against the Braves on July 9. He’s the first Phillies pitcher since Randy Wolf in 2004 to hit multiple homers in the same year.
Despite his remarkable success when it comes to shutouts, Lee remains a big long shot in the NL Cy Young competition. He has just seven wins that weren’t shutouts, and he’s 12-7 with a 2.83 ERA for the season. His ERA ranks seventh in the NL and third on his own team behind Roy Halladay’s 2.51 mark and Cole Hamels’ 2.53.
The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.
Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.
Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.
Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.
Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.
There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.
Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.