Brewers right-hander Johnny Hellweg actually finished his season on a high note Thursday against the Mets. Despite throwing just 37 of his 80 pitches for strikes, he allowed only one run in four innings. Plus, he actually managed three strikeouts to go along with his four walks, improving his K/BB ratio from 6/22 to 9/26.
Too bad that 9/26 mark is still the worst by any pitcher, min. 30 innings, in over 30 years.
The last to go over Hellweg’s 2.89 walks for every strikeout was Oakland’s Mike Morgan in 1979. Morgan, pitching in the majors at the tender age of 19, posted a 17/50 K/BB ratio in 77 1/3 innings that year.
Before that, the Pirates’ Steve Blass had an 27/84 K/BB ratio in 88 2/3 innings in 1973. His sudden inability to throw the ball over the plate resulted in a “disease” being named after him.
Hellweg probably won’t emulate either Morgan or Blass going forward. Morgan ended up pitching in the majors until age 42 and setting a record by playing for 12 teams (later broken by Matt Stairs). Blass, on the other hand, made just one more appearance after 1973, walking seven in five innings. He later found a home in the Pirates’ broadcast booth.
The 24-year-old Hellweg never even should have been brought to the majors this year after he walked 81 and hit 14 batters in 125 2/3 innings in Triple-A, though he was 12-5 with a 3.15 ERA even with all of the wildness. Both the Angels and Brewers have tried tightening up his mechanics with limited success. He does have the arm to be of use as a third starter or a late-game reliever if he ever figures it out, but the Brewers risked injury to to every hitter he faced when they put him on the mound this season.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?