Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The greatest night in baseball history, plus some Dodgers' tidbits

Tonight just proved what a fantastic game the sport of baseball is. While the Dodgers (as a team) were playing for nothing (finishing 82-79), the Braves, Cardinals, Rays and Red Sox were all fighting for playoff spots.

In the span of what seemed like an hour, we witnessed the greatest night in baseball history.

The Cardinals won their game handily against the 105-loss Astros. St. Louis was waiting for the result of the Phillies'-Braves' game, which was 3-2 in the ninth inning at first check.

Craig Kimbrel, the odds-on favorite for National League Rookie of the Year, blew a one-run ninth inning lead for the Braves, which eventually lost in 13 innings.

That was the least interesting thing from this evening.

The Rays, which have been on a tear this month, trailed the Yankees 7-0 tonight in the eighth inning. They reeled off six runs in the eighth, including a 3-run bomb from Evan Longoria, to get to within one run. In the ninth, old friend Cory Wade came in to close for the Yankees. He got the first two outs without consequence. Then Dan Johnson, who was hitting just .108 on the season, smacked a ball down the right field line, with the ball hitting the fair/foul pole for the game-tying homer.

"Oh my God," I said aloud to myself.

After this, Matt Kemp hit his 39th home run of the season. James Loney followed up with a single, ensuring Kemp another at-bat and shot at a the 40-40 club.

Meanwhile in Baltimore, the Orioles were staging a comeback of their own against the Red Sox after a rain delay. The Orioles trailed 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth. Jonathan Papelbon struck out Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds to start the ninth. He gave up a double to Chris Davis before giving up a game-tying ground-rule double to Nolan Reimold. Then, Robert Andino finished off the Red Sox with a game-winning single.

"Wow!" I said in disbelief.

Back to Tampa, literally two minutes later, Longoria hit a low-liner down the left field line that crept over the wall for a playoff-clinching home run, which prompted this tweet:
"This all cannot be real"
Quite the poor sentence construction, I know. But I was in utter disbelief.

I then tweeted:
"Kemp has to homer now"
He had to, right? It would have just been the proverbial cherry on top of the most amazing night in baseball history.

Unfortunately, Kemp struck out on three pitches. To the Diamondbacks' credit, they didn't pitch around him. He swung through two 94 MPH fastballs from Ryan Cook.

Tonight just confirmed to people on the fence that baseball is the greatest sport in the world. I mean, what other sport could give you that much drama and emotion in a 60-minute span? Football is nice and basketball is cool, but baseball takes the cake.


Looking back at my 2011 predictions, it seems the two teams I picked to be in the World Series suffered two of the biggest collapses in MLB history.

Of the six playoff teams, I picked two correctly (Yankees/Phillies, though not as division winners).

I whiffed big-time.


The Dodgers finished their season tonight by beating the Diamondbacks 7-0. As mentioned above, Kemp hit home runs No. 39 on the night. He finishes with a ridiculous .324/.399/.586 triple slash line. His .324 average and .586 slugging percentage are the highest since Adrian Beltre's .334 average and .629 slugging in 2004. His .399 on-base percentage is the highest since Gary Sheffield .417 in 2001. No Dodger has cracked the .400-OBP plateau in a full season of games since that season (Manny Ramirez has a .418 OBP in 431 PAs in 2009).

His 39 home runs are also the most since Beltre hit 48 in '04. His 126 RBI are the most since Shawn Green drove in 125 runs in 2001.

In short, the man had a remarkable season. He's my choice for MVP and should be the favorite.


Kenley Jansen set the MLB record for strikeouts per nine innings at 16.1. He came into tonight's game at 16.3 K/9 before inducing two non-strikeouts in the ninth to rescue Ramon Troncoso from blowing the game. It'll be a shame when he doesn't get any votes for NL Rookie of the Year.


For all the bitching everyone did about Loney (myself included), he finished with a .288/.339/.414 triple slash -- all of which were significantly better than last season's .267/.329/.395. Now, it's still not good enough for a traditional power position like first base, but it isn't all doom and gloom with James.

Loney has an incredibly hot August and September to thank for the numbers, though. He hit .367/.433/.633 in August and .348/.400/.587 in September. Quite the stark contrast to the rest of his season, but he just might have bought himself at least one more season in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers aren't likely to be in the market for Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, so Loney at $6 million isn't as horrible as it once looked.


Ted Lilly continued his torrid by throwing seven shutout innings against Arizona in the season finale. He finishes with a respectable 3.97 ERA and solid 1.16 WHIP. If he could just pitch like that for an entire season, he'd be worth the contract he was signed to last winter.


Jerry Sands finished the season on a high note himself. He hit .342/.415/.493 in September (when he was recalled from Triple-A), finishing with a .253/.338/.389, 4 HR, 26 RBI, 15 2B and a 25/51 BB/K ratio. Not bad for a guy who was hitting .200 when he was demoted.


With the Dodgers' late-season surge, they've locked up the No. 18 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. If they want to sign any Type-A free agents in the off-season, they will have to forfeit the pick to the player's previous team, as it is unprotected. At one time, they were in line for the No. 7 overall pick, so the improvement is nice, but not so nice at the same time.


A big shout-out to Baseball-Reference. Without this website, finding stats -- current and historical -- would have been a lot tougher. It's by far the best website for baseball stats.

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