Some pitching feats in tonight’s action

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A.J. Burnett turned in his third consecutive solid effort, holding the Reds to three runs over six innings tonight, striking out eight.

Since 2000, there are only ten occurrences of a pitcher tossing at least five innings and striking out eight or more in at least his first three starts of the season. Randy Johnson had 15 such starts to open the 2000 season and only six have done it four or more times. With his start tonight against the Cincinnati Reds, Burnett has three such starts in a row and now sits on 27 strikeouts in 16 innings. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s an average of 15 strikeouts per nine innings. As a percentage of batters faced, Burnett’s strikeout rate is 36 percent. The highest strikeout rate among starters last year belonged to Max Scherzer at 29 percent. Small sample size caveats apply, of course.

Burnett also accomplished the feat in 2002 when he was with the Florida Marlins. Click here for the full list.

Meanwhile, Twins starter Vance Worley lasted just one inning against the New York Mets in snowy, 34-degree weather in Minnesota tonight. The bespectacled right-hander allowed nine runs (seven earned) on seven hits and two walks while striking out only one. Five of the runs came in the first inning, and four more were credited to Worley as he failed to retire a batter in the second inning.

John Buck, arguably the hottest hitter in baseball right now, hit a grand slam off of Pedro Hernandez, who came in to relieve Worley. Buck now has six home runs, tied for the Major League lead with Chris Davis, Mike Morse, and Justin Upton. The four RBI also bring him into a tie for the MLB lead with Davis as well.

In Cleveland, it was quite the pitcher’s duel. For seven innings, White Sox starter Jose Quintana and Indians starter Justin Masterson traded goose eggs. Quintana was lifted after seven innings, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out seven. Masterson tossed a full nine innings, allowing five hits and one walk while striking out seven. His ERA on the season is now 0.45. The Indians walked off in the bottom of the ninth when Nick Swisher drove in Michael Bourn with an RBI single.

We’ve also had a triple play turned tonight. And the night isn’t even over yet.

The Nats are sniffing around for relief pitching help

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The Nationals began the year with Blake Treinen as their closer. That didn’t last long, and now Koda Glover seems to be Dusty Baker’s man in the ninth inning. He earned a save for the second consecutive game yesterday. Glover has been pretty darn good in the early going, posting a 2.35 ERA and striking out six batters and walking only one in seven and two-thirds. That obviously a small sample size, and anything can happen. If it does, Baker has Shawn Kelley as an option.

Not many household names there, which is probably why the Nationals are reported to be interested in the White Sox’ David Robertson and Alex Colome of the Rays. That report comes from Jim Bowden of ESPN, who also notes that the A’s have a number of guys with closing experience on staff and are likely to be sellers too. The David Robertson thing may have more legs, though, given that Mike Rizzo and Rick Hahn pulled off a pretty major trade in the offseason. If you know a guy well, you call that guy first, right?

As far as problems go this isn’t a huge one. The Nats sit at 13-5 and, as expected by most prognosticators, are in first place in the National League East. The Cubs had some questions in the pen this time last year too. They had the luxury of trying to figure it out before making a massive trade for a closer. The Nats do too, and likely will. But expect them to be a part of any trade rumor conversation for the next couple of months.

 

The big flaw in modern ballparks

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Travis Sawchik writes about the post-Camden Yards generation of ballparks over at FanGraphs. The ones everyone loves because they’re nice and clean and friendly and are full of amenities. And that’s true! They are nice! But they all have a huge flaw: unless you’re in expensive seats, you’re too far away from the action.

Sawchik uses cross sections of ballparks — available at Andrew Clem’s website — to show that fans sitting in the upper decks of ballparks are way higher and way farther back than they used to be at many old ballparks such as Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Old Comiskey, Tiger Stadium and Ebbets Field.

A lot of this has to do with an admirable impulse: to eliminate the beams which obstructed the view of many seats in those old parks. If you want to move that upper deck closer to the field, you have to have the beams because one can only achieve so much via cantilever effect. But that’s not the only impulse and probably not the primary one. More expansive lower bowls — which feature more expensive tickets — push the upper deck back and up. As do the luxury suites and club level amenities in between the lower and upper decks. Exacerbating this is the fact that most newer parks are built on vast tracts of land with few architectural constraints. If you can sprawl, you will, which leaves the most affordable seats in the land of binoculars.

I don’t agree with everything Sawchik writes here. He spends a lot of time talking about how much better neighborhood parks like Wrigley Field are and how it’d be better if newer parks were built in neighborhoods. I agree, neighborhood parks are ideal, but the fact is, most places don’t have mass transit like Chicago does. In most cities you have to have a place for 40,000 people to park.

That’s a quibble, though. Mostly, it’s a good look at an important thing most folks overlook when they praise the new parks. Important because, if you don’t have an enjoyable experience at the ballpark, you’re not likely to come back. And if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to buy expensive tickets, you may not have a great experience at the ballpark.