Tim Anderson

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

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USA TODAY

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

This past weekend Ian Happ rocked Cincinnati harder than anyone since Dr. Johnny Fever, and the White Sox from last Sunday to yesterday posted a winning 4-3 record.

It’s Monday, so let’s examine the box scores from the previous seven days for another edition of Who Knew?

Leading off

Tim Anderson started this season 5-for-5 in plate appearances leading off games: double, single, single, home run, single.

He finally made a leadoff out on Sunday.

Déjà Vu

On Monday, Ozzie Albies hit a leadoff home run off José Quintana for the second time this season. 

It was rare enough that a batter had multiple leadoff home runs against the Cubs in the same season. The last batter to do that was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio in 2006 (one each off Greg Maddux and then-starter Carlos Marmol).

But multiple leadoff home runs against the same Cubs PITCHER in the same season? Quite rare. At first, I believed it to be the first such occurrence since at least the 1880’s, but there was one other time since that I initially missed.

Prior to Ozzie Albies (off Quintana), the last batter with multiple leadoff home runs against a single Cubs pitcher in a season was Heinie Sand of the Phillies, who led off two games in 1924 with home runs off Cubs right-hander Vic Keen.

Before Sand, you DO have to go back to the 1880s. Hall of Famer Buck Ewing hit two leadoff home runs off Fred Goldsmith (who claimed to have invented the curveball, but likely did not) in 1883.  It may have happened in 1884, but there are some missing details in the home run database and I can’t be certain. But it’s rare!

Saves without Strikeouts

Cubs closer Brandon Morrow has 10 saves this season. In half of them (including his latest save Tuesday), he did not record a strikeout.

Only Wade Davis, who closed out games for the Cubs last season, has more strikeout-less saves in 2018 (no punchouts in seven of his 16 saves). Davis, for the record, saved 32 games for the Cubs last season, but in only nine of those 32 did he not strike anyone out.

Meanwhile, up in the Pacific Northwest, Edwin Díaz of the Mariners has 15 saves this season and has at least one strikeout in all 15.

National Treasure

Leury García took Jameson Taillon deep Wednesday in Pittsburgh, giving him 13 career home runs, all in a White Sox uniform.

The thing is, seven of those 13 home runs have been against National League teams!  Check out his career splits with the Sox:

Versus NL 26 games .325/.373/.636 7 home runs
Versus AL 225 games .227/.267/.306 6 home runs

Uncanny!

Hit Bonanza

The Cubs started Friday’s game in Cincinnati like this:

Zobrist single, Bryant double, Rizzo single, Contreras single, Russell single.

It was the first time the Cubs started a game with five straight hits since Sept. 8, 2009 when they had EIGHT straight hits to start a game. They started that game as follows:

Ryan Theriot single, Milton Bradley single, Derrek Lee single, Aramis Ramírez single, Jeff Baker single, Geovany Soto double, Kosuke Fukudome double, Bobby Scales single. A Ryan Dempster sacrifice bunt snapped the streak, giving up an out in the first inning with a 6-0 lead.

Palka Dots

Sox slugger Daniel Palka has made an impact so far in the Majors. Half of his 16 hits have been of the extra-base variety.

In only 18 career games, Palka already has multiple doubles (three), triples (two) and home runs (three). Through 18 career games, Frank Thomas could check off two of those three boxes, although maybe not the two that you think.

The Big Hurt had six doubles and THREE TRIPLES in his initial dozen-and-a-half career games, but no home runs! The last White Sox player who had at least two of each type of extra-base hit through his first 18 career Major League contests?

Go back to Greg Walker, who collected two doubles, two triples and three home runs in an 11-game taste of the Majors in 1982 and his first seven games of 1983.

Ace of On-Base

Ian Happ returned to his old stomping grounds (kind of… he attended the University of Cincinnati) over the weekend and had quite a four-game series:

Friday 1 hit 3 walks
Saturday (Game 1) 3 hits 1 walk
Saturday (Game 2) 1 hit 2 walks
Sunday 0 hits 3 walks

Now granted, there aren’t as many four-game series as there used to be, but Happ was the first Cub to reach base at least three times in each game of a four-game series since Mark Grace during a four-game set versus Mets at Wrigley Field Aug. 9-12, 1991.Five hits and nine walks; Happ reached base at least three times in all four games!

Happ’s season slashline was boosted from .233/.301/.417 to .254/.361/.509 in those four games alone. His nine walks (five intentional, four unintentional) in the series is better than Javier Báez (six walks: four intentional, two unintentional) has for the entire season.

Happ on Friday became the first Cub to be walked three times intentionally in a game since Andre Dawson (FIVE times) on May 22, 1990. Back then, it actually required pitches to intentionally walk a batter.

Happ was also the first Cub to homer in both ends of a doubleheader since Chris Coghlan July 8, 2014 – also at Cincinnati. But Happ was able to do something Coghlan didn’t: in both games, Happ hit the lone Cubs home run! That’s something no Cub had done since Alfonso Soriano hit the lone Cubs' home run in each game of a doubleheader in St. Louis on Sept. 15, 2007.

Extra Extra!

José Abreu continues to produce. He doubled and homered Saturday night, making him the 23rd player in White Sox history to reach 300 career extra-base hits. He reached 300 extra-base hits in only 655 career Major League games, a number surpassed in White Sox history only by Frank Thomas (626). 

It was also Abreu’s 222nd career multi-hit game in a White Sox uniform, matching our “Beltin’” Bill Melton.

Not only is Yolmer Sanchez making his case to be a part of White Sox future, he could become a leader of those teams

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USA TODAY

Not only is Yolmer Sanchez making his case to be a part of White Sox future, he could become a leader of those teams

The big question for Yolmer Sanchez coming into the 2018 campaign was whether he could become a part of the White Sox long-term plans.

And while mid May is far too early to say "mission accomplished," Sanchez has looked like a potential piece of the organization's bright future over the first month and a half of the season.

Sanchez entered Wednesday's game in Pittsburgh with a .295/.329/.432 slash line, mostly as the team's everyday third baseman. He's batting .364 in the month of May. And though he might not project to be the kind of middle-of-the-order bat that has White Sox fans so excited to see Eloy Jimenez hit the big leagues, Sanchez is most definitely taking advantage of this opportunity the rebuilding effort has afforded him at the major league level.

"He finally got his shot, and he's making the most of it," shortstop Tim Anderson said last weekend at Wrigley Field. "Everything, he's hitting the ball, and good defense. He's a good player. I feel like he's underrated, but now he got his shot and he's killing it."

White Sox fans will surely point to free-agents-to-be Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson or Nolan Arenado as the hoped-for long-term answers at the hot corner. But Sanchez's long-term value might be closer in line to Jose Abreu's than the average Sock during this rebuilding effort.

Abreu, advancing in age, is extremely productive but would need a new contract to stick around for the planned glory days of the rebuild. The White Sox might be inclined to give it to him because of his value in the clubhouse, as a role model for younger players. Sanchez, a force in the clubhouse with his gigantic personality, could play a similar role for players reaching the South Side from the minor leagues.

"He leads by example and he's also a person that carries a voice in the locker room," manager Rick Renteria said. "He's an individual that in spite of what might be happening every single day, he goes out and shows you he still has the energy, the focus, the commitment to do everything he possibly can to beat you. Ultimately you want 25 guys who want to feel like every single day they're going to give you their best effort and they're going to try to beat you. That's the example that he's shown through his actions, through his routines, through his work, through his body language, through his character. Ultimately you want a major league club that every single player does that. These guys are learning how to do that. They're driving toward that personality individually, and hopefully it's something that collectively comes together."

"I personally see Abreu as a model because he's a guy that works hard every day, he can hit, he does everything right. And anytime I think about something, I go ask him, 'What do you think about this, Pito?'" Sanchez said. "But I think if I can help anybody, I will."

Fans have enjoyed plotting out the team of the future, and many of the team's highly ranked prospects seem to have certain spots on the field on lock. Jimenez and Luis Robert figure to speak for two of the three outfield spots. Yoan Moncada and Anderson seem entrenched in the middle of the infield. Zack Collins, should he reach his full potential, would be the catcher of the future.

Third base, though, is suddenly much more of a mystery after Jake Burger's pair of Achilles tear, the most recent one resetting his recovery and throwing a wrench in his development. Most fans would probably say they'd like to see a free-agent fix there over anything else, especially with the quality of names set to hit the market. But Sanchez is perhaps providing a homegrown alternative with his improved play and clubhouse presence. Even if the White Sox added a big-name third baseman in free agency, Sanchez's versatility would make him a nice utility infielder — a possibile future that would keep him in the clubhouse.

"I would love to stay here because I know the talent that we've got here and in the minor leagues today. And I know how good this team's going to be for the next couple years," Sanchez said. "But it's not my call, it's not my choice. I cannot control that. I just play hard every day, and we'll see what happens. This is the organization that gave me the opportunity to play in the major leagues, stay in the big leagues. So I would love to stay here, but it's not my call.

"I just try to take the opportunity and do my best. I love to play every day. So they give me the opportunity, and I try to do my best so I can see name in the lineup every day."

Who Knew: Tim Anderson, Javier Baez make history with White Sox, Cubs

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USA TODAY

Who Knew: Tim Anderson, Javier Baez make history with White Sox, Cubs

I needed a little extra time to digest that crazy Sunday night game in St. Louis. Here’s the latest round of “Who Knew?”

Shortstop with Pop

With two home runs in a losing effort on Saturday night, Tim Anderson is the first shortstop in White Sox history with multiple multi-HR games before turning 25.

Youngest White Sox shortstops with multi-HR game:

Luis Aparicio       23 y, 131 d           September 7, 1957

Tim Anderson    24 y, 279 d           March 29, 2018

Tim Anderson    24 y, 316 d           May 5, 2018

Leury García       26 y, 55 d             May 12, 2017     

He’s the second White Sox shortstop with multiple multi-HR games in a season, joining the greatly underrated (in my opinion) José Valentín.

José Valentín     3 multi-HR games             2000

José Valentín     3 multi-HR games             2002

José Valentín     3 multi-HR games             2003

Tim Anderson    2 multi-HR games             2018

Entering Tuesday, Anderson is one of only four players in MLB this season with at least six home runs and six stolen bases:

Mike Trout          12 HR     6 SB

A.J. Pollock         10 HR     8 SB

Trevor Story       7 HR      7 SB

Tim Anderson    6 HR      10 SB

Digging in

José Rondón made his White Sox debut Saturday night in a pinch hitting capacity, and he made the most of it. His initial plate appearance for the Southsiders was a 12-pitch battle which resulted in a lineout.

It was the longest White Sox debut plate appearance in a while… but maybe not as long ago as you might think.

We need to go back to April 6, 2015 when Second Baseman/Artist Micah Johnson battled for 13 pitches in the first plate appearance of his MLB Debut on opening day.

35th and Shields

On Sunday afternoon, James Shields nearly tossed a no-hitter at a ballpark which stands on the corner of 35th and Shields.

He is one of two pitchers this season age 35 or older to take a no-hitter through six innings. The other one happened to hit his lone career home run off Shields. Of course, it’s Bartolo Colón (April 15 at Houston).

In fact, at age 36 years, 99 days, Shields is the oldest White Sox pitcher to take a no-hitter through six innings since Scott Sanderson (37 y, 332 d) on June 19, 1994.

Báez Bonus Inning Blasts

Lost in a tough loss in St. Louis on Sunday night, Javier Báez did it again. He launched a 14th-inning home run to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead. It checked a box. 

He’s now already the only player in Cubs history to homer in the 12th, 13th, 14th & 15th innings.

The 12th inning HR was in his Major League debut on August 5, 2014

The 13th inning HR was a Mother’s Day walkoff blast on May 8, 2016 – the lone walkoff HR of his career

The 14th inning HR at St. Louis

The 15th inning HR was a grand slam in Cincinnati June 28, 2016

Nobody else in Cubs history can match his four career home runs from the 12th inning on.

Báez’s 14th inning blast came in a game which started on May 6th – Willie Mays’ birthday. Mays is the only player in MLB history to have homered in each inning from 1-16. Although Báez is yet to homer in the 10th or 11th inning, he joins Mays as the only players in MLB history to homer in innings 12-15 (thanks to Ryan Spaeder for that one. Follow him if you aren’t doing so already: @theaceofspaeder). Even the great Babe Ruth can’t make that claim. He never homered in the 13th.

Tough Luck Luke

After allowing a walkoff HR to Kolten Wong on Saturday and a walkoff HR to Dexter Fowler on Sunday, Luke Farrell became the first pitcher in Cubs history to allow walkoff HR in consecutive games.

The last batter to hit walkoff home runs in consecutive games against the Cubs remains Albert Pujols, who did so June 4 (off Jeff Samardzija) and June 5 (off Rodrigo Lopez) in 2011… which was the last time prior to this weekend the Cubs lost consecutive walkoff games in St. Louis.

Bonus walkoff trivia: 

  • Pujols is the only active player with multiple walkoff home runs against the Cubs (those two games in 2011)
     
  • Only one player in MLB history has as many as three career walkoff HR against the North Siders: Bob Aspromonte (all three with the Astros during the 1960s)