Bend Sinister

This past September 26, when Dee Gordon came to the plate as the first Marlins hitter to bat after the passing on September 25 of the team’s young star Jose Fernandez, Gordon, who bats as a left-handed batter, took the first pitch as a right-handed batter. That was done in honor of Fernandez, a righty pitcher and batter. After that first pitch from Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon, Gordon turned around and hit from his usual side, as a left-handed batter. From his normal side, Gordon promptly hit a home run off of Colon, to give Florida a lead, and the Marlins went on to win a game that was deeply haunted by the death of Fernandez the previous morning.

By a strange coincidence, Gordon’s homer as a lefty batter, coming after his first-pitch appearance from the other side of the plate, caused an all-time MLB record, specific to lefty hitters, to be tied (the record was then subsequently broken a few days later).

Here are the pitchers who have allowed, over a career, the most home runs to batters hitting from the lefty side of the plate (including both regular and post-season home runs allowed):

1. Bartolo Colon 231
2. Robin Roberts 230
3. Catfish Hunter 224
4. Jack Morris 214
5. Ferguson Jenkins 213 (or 214)
6. Bert Blyleven 206
T7. Phil Niekro and Don Sutton 203
9. Javier Vazquez 202
10. Dennis Eckersley 198

Bartolo, who himself hit a memorable home run this season (albeit as a right-handed batter), tied the all-time career HRs-allowed-to-lefties record, previously held by Robin Roberts, when he allowed the Dee Gordon homer on September 26. Colon then broke the record when he allowed another memorable homer on October 1, to Ryan Howard. It was Howard’s final HR for the Phillies, and perhaps of his career (I’m not sure Ryan Howard will find another MLB spot next season — he’s been a rather consistently sub-replacement level performer since he badly injured his Achilles tendon making the final out of Philadelphia’s 2011 post-season; the Phillies have not been back to the post-season since that play). That final homer for Howard, the record-breaker for Colon, came as the Mets sought to clinch a post-season berth on the second-to-last day of the season. Howard’s blast off Colon tied the game, and put the Mets’ post-season hopes in jeopardy, but another left-handed hitting first baseman, James Loney — owner of one of the lowest HR per PA ratios of any recent long-term first basemen — hit a homer of his own to restore the Mets lead, allowing Colon, the new all-time leader in homers allowed to lefties, to get the win and the Mets to grab a wild card spot. The Mets then went on to lose the wild card game — on a ninth-inning homer by unheralded lefty batter Conor Gillaspie.

MVP Elections – 1963 AL

elston-howardHowdy, everyone! It’s our first AL post – though, admittedly, we’re still stuck in the early-60s.

1963 was oddly typical (that may be an oxymoron, but I’m going to let it stand). The Yankees won the AL for the 13th time in 15 years (they’d win the next year, too), so that was no change. A Yankee was named MVP for the 10th time in that 15 year span – so again, nothing new, particularly since Yankees catchers won more MVPs in this stretch than their teammates at other positions. Pythagoras had the Yankees and White Sox two games apart, but the Yanks actually won it by 10 in the win column, with each team missing its expected wins by four, but in opposite directions.

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Quiz – HOF Sluggers … and some other guys (solved)

What do three HOFers have in common with several other less celebrated players? In fact, all of them share the distinction of a certain seasonal batting accomplishment of which no others can boast. What is it?

Congratulations to Voomo Zanzibar! He knew that these players have hit the most home runs in a season from each of the nine batting order positions.

The list of players is after the jump.

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MVP Elections: 1962 NL

maury-willsWe just finished up our discussion on the 1960 NL MVP, so you’d figure that we’re going to zip ahead a few years, maybe switch leagues.  But here’s the thing – the next really interesting election is in the same league, just two years later.  Which brings me to our next election:  the 1962 National League.

The NL in 1962 had its first ten-team, 162-game season.  Everyone knows that this was the year of the Mets‘ miserable 40-120 season.  But what else do you know about 1962?

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José Fernandez 1992-2016

jose-fernandezMarlins’ star right-hander José Fernandez has died tragically in a boating accident, aged only 24. The Cuban-born Fernandez, whose family arrived in America only after three attempts to defect, won the 2013 RoY, underwent successful Tommy John surgery in 2014 from which he returned to action in 2015, and posted a stellar 2016 season, leading the majors in FIP and SO/9.

More after the jump on the brief but brilliant career of José Fernandez.

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1960 NL MVP – Who Will Win the HHS Vote?

At the end of the COG, a lot of us were talking about a “next” project. Nothing has yet emerged or, more accurately, I haven’t found the time to follow-up some of the suggestions that were made. Thus, I’m delighted to introduce a new series authored by Dr. Doom, whom many of you will know from his frequent contributions as an HHS reader.

So, without further ado, I’ll let Dr. Doom introduce himself, after the jump.
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Gary Sanchez – So Good, So Soon

Yankee catcher Gary Sanchez has been a sensation since his call-up at the beginning of August. So much so that, on Saturday’s Yankees-Red Sox telecast, Fox broadcaster John Smoltz (whom I much admire for his easy-to-listen-to voice and his thoughtful and often insightful commentary) uncharacteristically gushed something to the effect that Sanchez’s month-and-a-half of stellar play leading the Yankees back into the pennant chase was pretty much unheard of for a rookie. That seemed like quite a bold claim and one that would be worth looking into.

After the jump, more on Sanchez and other rookies who started their careers with a short season but a memorable one.

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Numbers Show Cubs’ Dominance

Whether or not it culminates in a championship, this has been a spectacular season for the Chicago Cubs. They entered Saturday with an MLB-best 90-50 record, and even that understates the team’s dominance.

So in this week’s contribution to USA Today Sports Weekly, I took a look at all the ways that the Cubs have lapped the rest of the league and went searching for comparable clubs. Maintaining their current pace for the next few weeks would put them in impressive company.

Aside from the link above, you can find this column in the print version of the magazine.