Bill Baer

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals tosses his helmet after striking out to end the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on April 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. Philadelphia won the game 4-3. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Ryan Zimmerman left 14 runners on base, setting a new record


Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman did not have as productive a Sunday afternoon at the plate as teammate Bryce Harper. The veteran went 1-for-7 with an RBI double in the Nationals’ 13-inning, 4-3 loss to the Cubs. Zimmerman left 14 runners on base, setting a new major league record.

The previous record for runners left on base was 12, held by four players: David Ortiz (2009), Trot Nixon (2003), Todd Helton (1998), and Glenn Beckert (1972).

Zimmerman, 31, is having a rough go of it thus far in the 2016 season. He’s hitting .236/.293/.340 with one home run and 12 RBI in 116 plate appearances.

The Cubs walked Bryce Harper six times on Sunday

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26:  Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals walks to the dugout after making the final out in the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on April 26, 2016 in Washington, DC.  Philadelphia won the game 4-3. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Cubs seemed to figure out how to handle reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper: don’t pitch to him. Harper, whose Nationals were swept in a four-game series against the Cubs, was walked 13 times — four times intentionally — in 18 plate appearances. Of his five official at-bats, Harper registered just one single. Six of those walks came in Sunday’s game, and Harper was hit by a pitch in the other plate appearance. The last player to walk six times in a game was Jeff Bagwell in 1999. It’s only been done two other times by Andre Thornton in 1984 and Jimmie Foxx in 1938. Baseball Reference didn’t yield any results when searching for batters who reached base (without the help of an error) at least seven times without an official at-bat in a game, so he might be the first since at least 1913 to accomplish the feat.

Barry Bonds was famously walked during his reign of terror in the early 2000’s. Saberist Tom Tango, one of the co-authors of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, created a chart with which one determines whether or not to intentionally walk Bonds in a road game. In the early innings, one would only walk Bonds if first base was open and there were two outs. There were only 12 situations in which it was advised to walk Bonds, most of them involved a tied or one-run game in the eighth or ninth inning and first base open. Tango had five conclusions:

  • Walk now!: a no-brainer
  • Walk: a situation that favors the intentional walk
  • Go with gut: Based on other circumstances, you can make a case either way
  • Face him: A situation that favors not walking him
  • Do not walk: A no-brainer

With the caveat that Bonds was a much more productive hitter than Harper and played in a different type of offensive environment, I decided to apply Tango’s chart to Harper’s walks in the series against the Cubs.

Date Inning Outs Base State Score Tango
May 5 T1 2 0-0 Go with gut
May 5 T4 0 0-0 Do not walk
May 5 T9 0 0-5 Do not walk
May 6 T8 1 2-8 Face him
May 7 T1 2 0-0 Go with gut
May 7 T5 2 1– 2-2 Go with gut
May 7 T7 1 –3 4-5 Do not walk
May 8 T1 1 1– 0-0 Face him
May 8 T3 1 0-0 Face him
May 8 T4 2 -23 2-0 Walk
May 8 T8 2 3-3 Go with gut
May 8 T10 2 12- 3-3 Go with gut
May 8 T12 2 12- 3-3 Go with gut

There were no “walk now” conclusions; only one “walk”; six “go with gut”; three “face him”; and three “do not walk”. In other words, Cubs manager Joe Maddon had his pitcher correctly intentionally walk or “unintentionally-intentionally” walk Harper once, and six gray areas. It was demonstrably wrong to walk Harper in six of the 13 situations. I’d imagine, since Harper is an inferior hitter to Bonds, that even the lone pro-walk situation and six “gut” situations become “do not walk” or “face him”.

Still, the Cubs got the series sweep — thanks to a Javier Baez walk-off home run in the bottom of the 13th inning — and now sit with a dominant 24-6 record.

The Dodgers are considering calling up Julio Urias

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 13:  Julio Urias of the World Team during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Target Field on July 13, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group reported on Saturday that the Dodgers are considering promoting pitching prospect Julio Urias to work out of the bullpen. Manager Dave Roberts said, “We’re looking through options and Urias is definitely at the top of the list.” Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times added that the club is also considering Jharel Cotton and Jose De Leon, but Urias is “leading discussions.”

Urias, 19, is considered by MLB Pipeline — and many others — to be the Dodgers’ best prospect. MLB Pipeline ranks Urias second among all prospects behind only Lucas Giolito of the Nationals.

In four starts and one relief appearance with Triple-A Oklahoma City, Urias has a 1.88 ERA with a 29/3 K/BB ratio over 24 innings. He’s considered to have plus stuff across the board and is believed to be close to major league ready despite still being a teenager.

If Urias does get the call, he would become the first teenager to debut in the majors since 2012 when Dylan Bundy, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Jurickson Profar each made their debuts.

Aroldis Chapman: “We Latin people are loud when we argue.”

New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman throws a ball during a spring training baseball workout Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is set to return on Monday from a 30-game suspension handed down from Major League Baseball. Chapman was disciplined under MLB’s domestic violence policy for an offseason incident in which he allegedly pushed and choked his girlfriend, then fired off a gun in his garage at least eight times.

Even after sitting out the first five weeks of the 2016 regular season, Chapman doesn’t sound apologetic, according to Billy Witz of the New York Times. He maintains his innocence, saying,  “We make a lot of money, everyone wants a piece of it, and we end up looking bad. When I had the problem, everyone thinks I did something wrong; in social media, people are saying I hit my girlfriend.”

Chapman continued, “It was just an argument with your partner that everyone has. I’ve even argued with my mother. When you are not in agreement with someone, we Latin people are loud when we argue.”

As the Times describes, however, Chapman’s girlfriend called 911 while hiding in the bushes out of fear. That sounds like the altercation escalated far beyond “loud”.

Prosecutors declined to file charges in part because Chapman’s girlfriend was uncooperative. It is not unheard of for victims of domestic violence to be uncooperative because they fear further potentially physical repercussions from their partners, or for myriad other reasons.

Chapman also implied that Latin players are targets because they make money and aren’t familiar with how things work in the U.S. He can absolutely be right about that without it, in any way, excusing what he allegedly did during the offseason.

Bartolo Colon exemplifies why the DH rule should be abolished

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - MAY 7:  Bartolo Colon #40 of the New York Mets, right, is congratulated by Tim Teufel #11 after hitting a two-home run home run for the first of his career during the second inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on May 7, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Facing the Padres on Saturday night, Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon slugged the first home run of his 19-year career. It was a majestic 365-foot shot down the left field line at Petco Park off of a James Shields fastball.

One knew it was a big deal simply from the excitement in SNY broadcaster Gary Cohen’s voice. Colon, a veteran of 19 seasons, turns 43 years old later this month. He’s taken 249 plate appearances in his career, 145 of them coming within the last three years with the Mets. With the exception of 2002, when he spent half the season with the Montreal Expos, Colon didn’t take regular at-bats until he was 40 years old.

Colon’s lack of hitting prowess has often been a punchline, even here. We spoke of it as if we would never see him hit a home run during a regular season game. We settled for a batting practice home run, and a line drive foul ball. And yesterday, Christmas came early.

This is why pitchers hitting makes baseball so fun. We expect a bona fide slugger who can’t field at any position to have skill at the plate. Nelson Cruz or Prince Fielder slamming a baseball 450 feet isn’t novel. Colon homering is novel. How about the time in 2012 when then-Phillies ace Cole Hamels and Giants pitcher Matt Cain traded home runs off of each other?

How about Joe Blanton‘s World Series home run? Or Madison Bumgarner outclassing many hitters who are paid to do just that?

Pitchers make outs approximately 85 percent of the time they come to the plate. The other 15 percent makes it all worth it, as does the half a percent chance that the pitcher hits one out of the park. When we go to the ballpark, there’s always the chance we’ll see something that’s never been done before. During Colon’s 473rd career start — most among active players — he did something he’d never done before in his career.