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Mel Stottlemyre dies at 77

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Former big league pitcher and big league pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre has died at age 77. He had been battling cancer for several years before his passing.

Stottlemyre pitched for 11 seasons, all for the Yankees, between 1964 and 1974. He served as the club’s ace in the post dynasty years, retiring just two seasons before the club returned to the postseason in the George Steinbrenner-Billy Martin era.

He didn’t play his entire career for also-rans, of course. Indeed, Stottlemyre debuted in the bigs as a key member of the last pennant-winning Yankees team of the Mickey Mantle era, almost single-handedly saving the Yankees’ 1964 season thanks to an excellent stretch run after being called up from Triple-A to cover for multiple injuries on the Yankees’ staff. He was the winner of Game 2 of that year’s World Series, going the distance and allowing three runs while outdueling Bob Gibson. He’d face Gibson again in Game 7 of the series, but this time Hoot got the better of the rookie on the last day of the Yankee dynasty.

While that would be the first and only postseason Stottlemyre would see as a player, he had a fine career, going 164-139 with a 2.97 ERA (112 ERA+). He won 20 games three times and made five All-Star teams for generally non-contending, and sometimes just bad, Yankees clubs. He led the American league in complete games twice, with 18 in 1965 and a staggering 24 in 1969. He twice led the league in losses too, speaking more to his health, his durability and the fact that the Yankees did not surround him with very good players all that often in those lean middle years than it did to his pitching skills.

After his playing career was over Stottlemyre, who grew up and resided in Washington state, began a long and distinguished coaching career as a roving pitching instructor with the expansion Seattle Mariners. In 1984 he joined the New York Mets as their pitching coach, lasting in that role for a decade, which included their 1986 World Series title-winning season. He joined the Yankees as Joe Torre’s pitching coach in 1996, picking up four more World Series rings, before resigning following the 2005 season amidst disagreements with George Steinbrenner. Stottlemyre’s last coaching assignment came with the Mariners in 2008, lasting only a season.

Stottlemyre is survived by his wife Jean and his sons, Todd and Mel Jr., each of whom were major league pitchers themselves. Mel Jr. was also a pitching coach, just like his old man.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.