Not-so-Hot in Cleveland

The Tribe dropped another extended contest to Toronto by 7-4 in 12 innings Saturday, after losing their opener in 16 frames.

But take heart, Indians fans: The last team to start its season with two losses of 12+ innings wound up winning 97 games and easily capturing its division.

The 1969 Twins, coming off a 7th-place finish, opened against the freshly minted KC Royals. The upstarts won their franchise inaugural in the 13th, when Joe Keough (brother of Marty and uncle of Matt) singled home Joe Foy for the only game-ending RBI of his 6-year career.

  • A couple of future Yankee managers worked in that game: Billy Martin made his managerial debut for the Twins, en route to 97 wins, the first AL West division crown, and his first abrupt firing. And Lou Piniella led off for KC and got the first 4 hits of his career, a good start to his ROY campaign.
  • Charlie Manuel made his MLB debut, grounding out as a pinch-hitter.
  • Rod Carew, a modest .283 hitter over his first two seasons, had 2 hits en route to a .332 BA and the first of his seven batting titles.
  • Minnesota’s first run came on a HR by Graig Nettles, batting 5th and playing LF. Due to a logjam in the form of Harmon Killebrew, one of the greatest defensive third basemen in MLB history played mostly OF while with the Twins.
  • The win went to Moe Drabowsky, the only man from Poland ever to play more than 22 games in the majors. How stacked were the Orioles at that time? Drabowsky in 1967-68 averaged a 1.72 ERA/180 ERA+ in 78 IP, but was exposed in the expansion draft.
  • Oddly, less than 18,000 fans turned out for the Royals’ first game. Perhaps they were still a little gunshy after seeing the A’s leave town not two years before.

The next day, Piniella went just 1 for 7, but the hit was a game-winning RBI single in the 17th. The scoring chance was abetted by a productive groundout by KC hurler Tom Burgmeier, who had just come into the game to quell a threat in the top of the inning.

  • Burgmeier was a respectable hitter who went 14 for 66 before the DH rule; he also was used 39 times as a pinch-runner during his long career. You don’t hear much about him, because he rarely served as “closer.” But Burgmeier had one of the best late careers of any reliever, averaging a 2.50 ERA, 167 ERA+ and 78 IP from age 35 to 40. He never did lose his effectiveness, posting a 2.35 ERA in his final season; I guess he just decided he’d pitched enough. When he retired after ’84, he was 9th on the career list with 742 relief outings.

Another note to cheer Clevelanders: The last team to win a game in 2011 was the Tampa Bay Rays, and their season still wound up all right.

41 thoughts on “Not-so-Hot in Cleveland

  1. 1
    Ed says:

    Thanks for trying to cheer us up John, but I’m pretty sure we won’t win 97 games this year. Anyway, I posted this in the new Lobby, but thought I’d mention it here as well:

    1) Both starters last night gave up more runs than hits. Wonder if that’s happened before?

    2) Both starters had essentially the same line: 7IP, 1 hit, 2 runs, 3 walks, 3 Ks. Only difference is that the runs Morrow gave up were unearned.

    • 5
      Doug says:

      The answer is No, it’s never happened before (since 1918) that both starters have gone 7 innings and both have allowed more runs than hits.

      I also posted this in the Lobby, so I’ll repeat here as well that this was only the 6th game since 1918 that both starters have allowed 1 hit or less in appearances of 7 innings or more, and the first of those 6 times that neither starter finished the game.

      So, two firsts today.

      I found only one other game where a starter had a 7 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 H, 3 BB, 3 SO game (the same as Jimenez). It was Jimmy Haynes of Milwaukee against the Giants on Apr 20, 2001.

      • 10
        John Autin says:

        Oh my god, a Jimmy Haynes sighting!!!

        Haynes actually took a loss in that game, en route to an 8-17 record. And outside of that game, he pretty much deserved his record; his ERA in the 17 losses was 7.35.

        As Fernando Rodney is to MLB relievers, Haynes was to starters, and then some. His 83 ERA+ is among the 10 worst ever by a pitcher with over 1,000 career innings.

        On a brighter note — Nice work, Ed & Doug.

      • 11
        Ed says:

        Thanks Doug! Unfortunately, comments in the Lobby don’t show up under “Recent Comments”. Maybe Andy can adjust that?

        • 14
          John Autin says:

          I haven’t spoken to Andy about the brand new Lobby, but I suspect that restricting those comments to that page is intentional. It seems like it’s meant for a running conversation of perhaps more volume but less depth than we tend to get on the other threads.

          • 16
            Ed says:

            You’re probably right John. At the same time, I’m personally disinclined to check out the Lobby if I have no idea whether/when there are new comments or posts. Maybe others feel the same. Or maybe I’m the “odd duck”.

          • 22
            bstar says:

            No I had the same thought Ed.

        • 24
          Neil L. says:

          I should weigh in since I may be partly responsible for Andy implementing the lobby.

          Assuming Andy keeps it, the lobby is my first stop when I cone to High Heat Stats, even though there is no record of number of comments or recent activity in the sidebar.

          I just want to see what real-time, short comments were made during games, to get a sense of what shoot-from-the-hip thoughts people had, without a lot of statistical depth. (Besides I can’t wait for the bar to open on the far side of the lobby from where I’m standing 🙂 )

          I don’t think there is anything wrong with comments made in the lobby, even meaty statistical ones, being reposted in a specific blog if they are relevant.

          Perhaps a typical lobby comment could be something like “Hey, check out the good discussion between bstar, Ed and Doug over in such and such a blog.”

          John’s comment @14 comes closest to my vision for a virtual lobby. Admittedly, it takes a certain amount of traffic through the site to make it interesting.

          Perhaps, it is just a case of making it the first stop when arriving at HHS or maybe the home page could default to the lobby discussion.

          Not trying to be defensive about it, just constructive.

          • 26
            AlbaNate says:

            Didn’t know about the lobby until just now. Is it a new feature? Don’t know how I missed this, as I’ve read just about every post on this site.

          • 27
            Neil L. says:

            Just follow the tinkle of glasses and you’ll find the lobby. You’ll love the 90-inch large-screen H-Def screen behind the bar. 🙂

          • 34
            nightfly says:

            The lobby… nice idea. It sounds like the game threads on our hockey board: much more instant reaction while we all watch in our separate abodes, a virtual bar where nobody tries to change the channel to basketball.

            Those posts tend to rack up 500+ comments; of course no NHL team plays every single day, so you might not get that volume here. But I still think it will be a welcome addition.

          • 36
            Ed says:

            I understand where you’re coming from Neil and it does sound like an interesting idea. I also have a feeling it will become unwieldy very quickly, as the comments pile up. Time will tell.

          • 37
            bstar says:

            I have changed my mind a bit and now think posting Lobby comments in the “Recent Comments” column would quickly overwhelm the regular article posts, making it harder to follow the meatier threads.

    • 23
      Neil L. says:

      Indeed, Ed, I was thinking while listening to the game that the pitching lines, collectively, were going to be unusual.

      Jiminez was still no-hitting the Jays after 6.7 innings until Brett Lawrie’s big single (or should I say, bingle, JA?).

  2. 2
    vivaeljason says:

    Somehow I don’t think Cleveland’s season is heading in the same direction as the Twins’ ’69 season did, what with the Tigers set to dominate the division. Then again, there’s always the second wild card.

    As for teams yet to win this year, I’d say the Yankees are the team that probably shouldn’t worry. It’s still way too early to be talking about that, though.

  3. 3
    Steven says:

    Only one of the four franchises added in 1969 drew over a million fans (Montreal) in their first season. San Diego barely passed 500,000. As for the Indians, they probably won’t match the 14-2 start of 1966, but maybe they’ll end up 81-81, which is what that team “accomplished.”

    • 6
      John Autin says:

      OK, Steven, that’s a good point. Still, the Expos drew 29,000 to their home debut, the Padres had 23,000 and the Pilots … well, they were a mistake from the get-go, right?

      • 9
        Steven says:

        The name of their ballpark said it all…Sick’s Stadium.

        • 15
          John Autin says:

          Yeah, but I still like it better than Irresponsible Financial Institution Field.

          • 19
            Steven says:

            Used to be cookie-cutter stadiums that resembled each other. Now, with all the naming-rights junk, once again, it’s hard to tell which ballpark belongs to which team.

      • 13
        Doug says:

        The Pilots drew just under 15,000 to their home opener. Their biggest crowd of the season was 23,567 to see the 5th place Yankees on the first Sunday in August.

        For the season, Seattle drew just under 678,000, more than both the Indians and White Sox. Eight years later, the Mariners almost doubled that total, including crowds over 50,000 on opening day and two other occasions, one in late August when the Mariners were 50-75.

        • 20
          Steven says:

          The White Sox were rumored to be headed to Milwaukee, until the Pilots got there. Chicago played some home games at County Stadium in the late sixties.

          • 32
            vivaeljason says:

            The White Sox were rumored to be moving everywhere at some point or another, weren’t they?

            I remember hearing about a Tampa Bay move that never materialized, for instance.

    • 38
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      Here’s the obligatory mention of Jim Bouton’s classic book “Ball Four”, which chronicles much of the 1969 Seatle Pilots season. It really does give you a great feel for what it was like to be a player on that club.

      • 39
        Neil L. says:

        Lawrence….. I remember you as a regular poster from B-Ref days. ~jumps and down~ 🙂

        And I see you are number four in the “top ten” list. Now I’m really glad I found HHS. ~sucks up to LA and sees his nickname initials match the California city~

        • 40
          Lawrence Azrin says:

          Hey Neil L, –
          Welcome Back!! – I remember you also, from the “days of yore” at B-R. I see you are already up to 125 posts, you’ll probably pass me in a month or so.

          I post here a lot, depending on my level of interest. I’m more “historically” interested (HOF arguments, “all-time” teams, etc…), but do follow MLB (esp. the Red Sox) day-to-day during the season.

  4. 4
    MikeD says:

    I had to go back and take a look at Carew’s first two years, since it didn’t seem possible he could have been as low as a .283 hitter. That’ll happen when season two happens to be 1968, the year of the pitcher.

    Anyway, I best call it a night. I’m on baseball overload, just happy to see real games that matter the past few days. Perhaps it was the staggered start with Japan and then the week off between, but this season seemed to take forever to get off the ground.

    • 7
      John Autin says:

      For your a.m. perusal: True that Carew’s .283 BA for 1967-68 was in a very low-BA environment. Still, his OPS+ for those years was just 105, compared to 134 both in 1969 and for the rest of his career from ’69 on. So there really was a turning point, even if the BA numbers are somewhat misleading.

      • 35
        MikeD says:

        He certainly did progress, which makes sense. His debut in 1967 was solid enough with a .292 BA and 114 OPS+, but ’68 brought a sophmore slump coupled with, well, 1968, and a very un-Carew-like .273 BA. His 95 OPS+ would end up being the worst of his career.

        For those of us who came of age baseball wise in the 1970s, the idea of Carew not hitting well into the .300s seemed almost impossible, although as happens with almost all hitters, he would once again revisit those sub-.300 years at the very end.

        I used to reguarly debate who was the best pure average hitter I’ve seen, Carew or Gwynn. By OPS+, they are very similar, at 131 and 132. The stats all favor Gwynn slightly, but batting titles, highest seasonal batting average, maintaining peak longer. Yet I still think I’d say Carew, if I had to pick one guy at his peak and I needed to pick a hitter who could lash a ball over the infield for a hit. Couldn’t go wrong with either.

  5. 8
    Doug says:

    As noted in another post a week or so ago, those ’69 Twins also had a game where they scored two runs in an inning via a steal of home, including consecutive steals of 2nd, 3rd and home by Carew. Oh, and all of that happened during the same plate appearance. By Harmon Killebrew.

    Billy-ball indeed.

    • 12
      John Autin says:

      Billy really was a terrific manager for any team ready to win right now.

      Alas, when your motivational style boils down to making everyone so pissed off that they play better just to shut you up, you’re not likely to stay long in one place.

      • 18
        Ed says:

        I think Martin’s managerial skills went far beyond just pissing people off. But let’s face facts. The man was clearly an alcoholic. Nowadays it’s doubtful that he would have been given so many opportunities without first getting himself clean.

        • 21
          Steven says:

          He was a “hands-on” manager. 1969 was the year he punched 20-game winner Dave Boswell.

          • 28
            Paul E says:

            Yeah, Billy did real well with that approach until he tried it with Ed Whitson and the younger man took no mercy on the drunken asshole.
            I’m no Reggie Jackson fan, but for younger man to mention he pretty much anticipated Martin “sneaking” him at some point, says just loads about Billy. Didn’t he end up in a ditch somewhere?

          • 29
            Neil L. says:

            Easy, Paul @28. Every human being deserves respect (or at least their memory does).

          • 31
            Paul E says:

            Tell that to the marshmallow salesman….

  6. 17
    Doug says:

    Not only did the Twins lose those first two games in KC, they lost the next two as well to fall 3 games behind. But, that’s as far back as they would get all season.

    The Twins then went on a 16-3 run for a 2.5 game lead. After bouncing around through May and June between 3.5 up and 1.5 down,the Twins moved into first place alone on July 5th and remained there the rest of the way.

  7. 25
    Neil L. says:

    JA, thanks for the snapshot back in time to 1969. No one knew than about the individuals involved in the KC-Twins game what we know now.

    Minnesota certainly prospered with the change to two divisions in 1969, winning the first two west division titles. They must have been glad not to have had to contend directly with the powerhouses Baltimore or Detroit to make the AL post-season.

    Hmm 1969 … the first year of non-WS playoffs. And look where we are today. A wild-card “round” added to everything else.

    Not that I’m complaining, mind you, being a Blue Jays follower.

  8. 30
    Phil Gaskill says:

    Dunno if I’d call .283 for 1967 and ’68 “modest.” In ’67, Carew hit .292, sixth in the league, whose overall BA was .236; and in ’68, when the AL’s BA was .230, Carew hit .273, which looks like it would have been 11th in the league. Not vintage .388 Carew, but still not too sloppy for the first two years of a guy’s career. His OPS+ the two years was 111 and 95.

    Sorry if someone else has already commented on this. I just got pulled off this project by my wife, the ol’ spoilsport. 😉

    • 33
      John Autin says:

      I could have said “an unaccustomed .283,” except they were his first 2 years in the bigs. Any other construction I can think of sounds awkward, especially as I can’t figure out the adjectival form of “Carew.” (“Shaw” is “Shavian,” but “Carevian” would just leave folks puzzled.)

      Guess I should have left the number bare.

      See also my #7 above.

  9. 41

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