Mark Bowman of MLB.com explains how Takashi Saito’s bad vision cost the Braves in last night’s loss to the Rockies:
Turns out, the passed ball that gave Dexter Fowler a chance to deliver a two-run single was directly attributed to the vision problem that Takashi Saito experiences during night games. Because of Saito’s limited vision at night, the Braves catchers are unable to call pitches by simply placing a certain number of fingers between their legs.
They are instead forced to signal pitch selection by touching different parts of their body, much like a third-base coach. After McCann signaled for a breaking ball, Saito delivered the fastball that drilled plate umpire Lance Barksdale in the right shoulder and then made its way toward the backstop.
Interesting, but it’s also worth noting that on a per-inning basis Saito has thrown fewer wild pitches in night games (passed balls are attributed to catchers) and has also been every bit as effective as he is during day games.
Saito has appeared in 208 career night games, posting a 2.15 ERA and 262 strikeouts versus just 151 hits in 213 innings. Not bad for a guy who can barely see which pitches are being called.
Not only has Jim Thome switching from the White Sox to the Twins had a massive impact on the AL Central race, Baseball-Reference.com’s blog points out that he’s having one of the best seasons ever by a 39-year-old. Here are the all-time leaders in adjusted OPS+ at age 39:
AGE 39 YEAR PA OPS+
Barry Bonds 2004 617 263
Ted Williams 1958 517 179
Hank Aaron 1973 465 177
JIM THOME 2010 273 162
Babe Ruth 1934 471 161
Thome has fewer plate appearances than everyone else on that list, but he’s on pace to finish with approximately 350 and any time you can make a top-five list alongside Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth you’re doing something really right.
And since Minnesotans are already thinking about the Twins possibly re-signing Thome for next season, here are the all-time leaders in adjusted OPS+ at age 40:
AGE 40 YEAR PA OPS+
Willie Mays 1971 537 158
Carlton Fisk 1988 298 155
Edgar Martinez 2003 603 141
Moises Alou 2007 360 137
Dave Winfield 1992 670 137
That’s a much different and less impressive list in terms of both names and numbers, which is a good reminder of how tough it is to dominate at age 40. In fact, based on OPS+ no hitter in the history of baseball has ever been as productive as a 40-year-old as Thome has been as a 39-year-old, which is something to keep in mind when it comes to 2011 expectations for the future Hall of Famer.
Bobby Cox said yesterday that Kenshin Kawakami will be used as a reliever when he returns from his stint at Triple-A, which is no surprise given how impressive rookie Mike Minor has been in three starts since stepping into the rotation.
Minor, who was the seventh overall pick in last year’s draft out of Vanderbilt, has racked up 22 strikeouts versus just four walks in 18 innings since being called up earlier this month. He also had a 3.15 ERA and 163/46 K/BB ratio in 134 innings as a minor leaguer, so the 22-year-old southpaw figures to be in the Braves’ rotation for the next decade or so.
As for Kawakami, despite already making four starts at Triple-A he’s unlikely to rejoin the team until rosters expand on September 1. Prior to the demotion he pitched quite a bit better than his ugly 1-9 record, posting a 4.75 ERA and 57/28 K/BB ratio in 83.1 innings, but with Minor more than holding his own and the front four of Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, and Derek Lowe set in stone there’s just no room for Kawakami.
Or as Cox put it: “We still need him, in case someone’s sick or whatever.”
Juan Rivera made his first career start at first base Monday and manager Mike Scioscia said yesterday that he’ll split time there with Mike Napoli for the rest of the season.
Scioscia has used seven different players at first base since Kendry Morales went down for the season in May and Rivera is available for the switch because of Bobby Abreu moving to left field while Torii Hunter shifts to right field and rookie speedster Peter Bourjos takes over in center.
Napoli has done a decent job filling in for the injured Morales, hitting .255/.318/.446 with eight homers in 176 plate appearances at first base and because both he and Rivera are right-handed hitters a traditional platoon won’t work. Instead, when Rivera plays first base perhaps Scioscia will shift Napoli back behind the plate occasionally instead of Jeff Mathis, who’s hitting just .196.