By OPS anyway.
Adam Dunn and Curtis Granderson both entered Wednesday’s season finales with .800 OPSs. Dunn didn’t play and thus avoided overtaking Mark Reynolds for the single-season strikeout record (he had 222, Reynolds finished with 223 in 2009). Granderson did play and hit two more homers to finish with 43 homers and an .811 OPS.
Those two marks rank was the worst OPSs ever for a 40-homer guy.
.800 – Adam Dunn (2012, CWS) – 41 HR
.811 – Curtis Granderson (2012, NYY) – 43 HR
.827 – Tony Batista (2000, Tor) – 41 HR
.831 – Tony Armas (1984, Bos) – 43 HR
.833 – Juan Gonzalez (1992, Tex) – 43 HR
.833 – Dick Stuart (1963, Bos) – 42 HR
.836 – Jose Canseco (1998, Tor) – 46 HR
.849 – Rocky Colavito (1959, Cle) – 42 HR
.855 – Adam Dunn (2006, Cin) – 40 HR
.860 – Cecil Fielder (1991, Det) – 44 HR
Going by OPS+ instead, Batista’s season still ranks as the worst, since there was quite a bit more offense back in 2000 than there is now. Batista had just a 102 OPS+, meaning he was barely a league-average hitter with his .263 average and .307 OBP. Dunn’s OPS+ this year is 112, while Granderson was at 113 entering the night (it’ll probably climb to 115 or so as a result of his big game). No one else came in below Dunn’s 112, but the Rockies’ Vinny Castilla also finished at 112 as a 40-homer guy in Coors Field in 1996.
At .204, Dunn also has the lowest batting average ever for a 40-homer guy. Granderson’s .232 is the second lowest, squeezing in below two other Dunn seasons (he hit .234 in 2006 and .236 in 2008 with exactly 40 homers both years).
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.