Miami Marlins

Remember That Guy: Joe Borchard


Remember That Guy: Joe Borchard

In the 2001 Baseball Prospectus annual, this comment was penned for a White Sox prospect:

“He’s credited with a strong arm and the athleticism to play center field and has been compared to Larry Walker and Dale Murphy.”

It didn’t quite work out like that for Joe Borchard, but he still managed to compile a list of impressive athletic feats.

Borchard was born Nov. 25, 1978 in Panorama City, Calif. His father, Joe, was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 48th round of the 1969 MLB Draft (though he didn’t sign).

Young Joe was a three-sport athlete at Camarillo (CA) High School (baseball, football and basketball) and was originally drafted by the Orioles in the 20th round of the 1997 MLB Draft, but he didn’t sign. A history major, he was recruited by Steve Mariucci to play quarterback at Cal, but ended up at Stanford.

Borchard was a legitimate two-sport star for the Cardinal. In three seasons on the diamond, he hit .346/.446/.594 with 40 homers and 187 RBIs in 186 games. On the gridiron, he tossed 10 touchdowns versus one interception in 16 games, primarily as a backup to Todd Husak. On Sept. 25, 1999, he came off the bench to throw for 324 yards and 5 touchdown passes in a 42-32 win over UCLA. Joe Borchard is included on a very short list of players to appear in both the Rose Bowl (2000) and the College World Series (1999 and 2000).

Three football scouts contacted by then-White Sox GM Ron Schueler projected him as a late first-round or second-round NFL draft pick as a quarterback. White Sox scouting director Duane Shaffer said Borchard had “the best power from a college player since Mark McGwire” 

In the 2000 draft, the White Sox took a gamble on Borchard with the No. 12 overall pick,  and it was a gamble. There was uncertainty as to whether Borchard would play for the White Sox or be the starting quarterback for Stanford in his senior season. He finally signed with the Sox on July 28 – for a healthy $5.3 million bonus — the largest ever given to a player acquired through the draft, at the time. The next largest bonus was given to the No. 1 overall pick, Adrián González ($3 million). González's record bonus would stand until Justin Upton’s $6.1 million topped it after the 2005 draft.

Borchard, a 6-foot-4 center fielder, started on his road to the majors. In 2001 at Birmingham, he hit .295/.384/.509 with 27 homers in 133 games, which landed him 12th overall on the Baseball America top 100 prospect list entering 2002 (between Austin Kearns and Nick Johnson). He had a strong bid to make the team out of spring training in 2002, hitting .375, but a broken foot due to a foul ball sealed his fate. Borchard played in the 2002 MLB All-Star Futures Game in Milwaukee and was eventually called up to the bigs in September.

On Sept. 2, 2002, Borchard became only the fourth player in White Sox history (Russ Morman, Craig Wilson and Carlos Lee) to hit a home run in a MLB debut. Miguel Olivo would join that list less than two weeks later. Matt Skole is the only other one (May 28, 2018). Career hit No. 2 — and career homer No. 2 — came a week later in Kansas City: an inside-the-park homer off Paul Byrd. It was the first Sox inside-the-parker since Chris Singleton on Sept. 29, 2000.

Borchard's first two MLB hits were an over-the-fence home run and an inside-the-park home run. Incredible! After that, he had six starts and seven games where he came in off the bench, finishing his 16-game introduction to the Majors with a .222/.243/.389 slash line, two homers and five RBIs.

Borchard struggled in 2003, starting the season in the minors but earned another 16-game taste of The Show following a May 23 promotion. He took a step back, hitting .184/.246/.265 with one home run with the White Sox, though that long ball was off the pitcher who went on to win the Cy Young Award – Roy Halladay. In early June, Borchard was sent back to Charlotte, where he finished with a .253/.307/.398 slash line, 13 homers and 53 RBIs in 114 games.

2004 found Borchard at Charlotte to begin the season where he regained a little bit of his power stroke, hitting .266/.333/.495 with 16 homers in 82 games. He returned to the White Sox after Magglio Ordoñez went down with what would end up being a season-ending knee injury (ultimately ending his career with the Sox). Borchard couldn’t solve big league pitching, posting a meager .174/.249/.338 line with nine home runs in 63 games for the South Siders.

He did manage to etch his name in the White Sox record book on Aug. 30, when he launched a Brett Myers offering 504 feet to the right field concourse. It remains the longest home run in New Comiskey Park (now Guaranteed Rate Field) history. Consider that, in 2019, what was termed the 'Year of the Home Run,' nobody came within 30 feet of Borchard’s blast at Guaranteed Rate Field all season.

While the White Sox went wire-to-wire in 2005, Joe Borchard hit .265/.338/.484 with 29 home runs… in Charlotte. He played seven games after being called up in September, going 5-for-12 in what would end up his last action with the White Sox. Borchard was dealt to the Mariners in exchange for lefty reliever Matt Thornton on March 20, 2006. Six games and nine plate appearances later he was claimed off waivers by the Marlins and ended up having what would be his finest season. He played 114 games (108 with Florida) and hit .230/.319/.393 with 10 home runs.

A fun piece of trivia: Borchard is the last player to homer off Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz in the same season, although by now, only Smoltz was pitching for the Braves. Glavine was now with the Mets and Maddux had returned to the Cubs. Either way, that’s three Hall of Famers and quite an achievement. On Sept. 6, Borchard hit a solo homer to give the Marlins a 1-0 lead. It would be all they needed, as Anibal Sánchez completed a no-hit 2-0 win against the Diamondbacks that day.

Borchard continued with the Marlins in 2007 before minor league stints with the Braves and Giants from 2008-10. He missed a chunk of time after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2008. On May 3, 2010 he became the second player in Fresno Grizzlies history to hit for the cycle. After 24 games with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League in 2011, he hung up the spikes for good.

Borchard never attained All-Star status, but his career had some memorable moments. There are only 30 active MLB ballparks and he can claim the longest home run ever hit at one of them, and that’s pretty cool. Besides, not too many players can boast a 500-foot home run AND an inside-the-park home run on their résumé. He was inducted into the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 and in 2019, he was inducted into the Charlotte Knights Round Table of Honor. After his playing career he worked as a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual in Charlotte and he’s currently the Director of Sales at Ventura Coastal, LLC, which sells customized blends of citrus juices, pulps, oils, purees and more.

Joe Borchard. Remember that guy? 

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Marlins pitcher puts White Sox on Perfecto Watch on anniversary of Mark Buehrle's perfect game

Marlins pitcher puts White Sox on Perfecto Watch on anniversary of Mark Buehrle's perfect game

Rick Renteria called it "eerie."

Ten years to the day after Mark Buehrle delivered one of the most memorable moments in White Sox history with a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays, there was another Perfecto Watch on the South Side.

Miami Marlins starting pitcher Caleb Smith didn't reach "call your neighbors" territory, but he retired the first 17 batters he faced in order, taking a perfect game into the sixth inning Tuesday night against the White Sox.

"I'll be honest, it was a little eerie for us," Renteria said after the 5-1 loss. "I kept thinking, I wasn't here 10 years ago for that. And he was working that, and I was like, 'Hey, (pitching coach Don Cooper), I don't like what I'm seeing here.'"

Smith was excellent, striking out nine of those first 17 hitters he put down in order. On a night when White Sox fans were celebrating the anniversary of Buehrle's feat, this was not the type of celebration they had in mind.

"You start to see," White Sox shortstop Ryan Goins said. "Anybody says they don’t feel it, he can say he doesn’t feel it but everybody knows the perfect game is going on. ... But he did a god job keeping us off-balance today."

The White Sox broke up the Perfecto Watch with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Adam Engel putting an end to Smith's stretch of five consecutive strikeouts with a walk. Leury Garcia followed that with a walk of his own, and Jon Jay put an end to the no-hit bid and the shutout with an RBI single.

Smith gave up a base hit to AJ Reed the following inning, but he finished his effort with one run and just four base runners allowed over seven innings. Smith's had himself a nice season for the last-place Marlins, his ERA down to 3.30 after Tuesday night's game.

The four base runners the White Sox got against Smith were the only ones they had on a silent night for the bats. A pair of Marlins relievers followed up Smith's work with two 1-2-3 innings. The White Sox struck out 10 times.

A decade later, Renteria might have been one of the few in the White Sox dugout putting the history together with what was happening on the field Tuesday night, but that didn't make Smith any less dominant on the anniversary of Buehrle's dominance.

"I don’t think we are thinking that far back," Goins said. "We are just trying to go up there and have good at-bats, honestly. He did a great job of not really leaving anything in the middle of the plate to hit, mixing his pitches up and throwing everything for a strike. And then throwing chase pitches when he needed to."

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As Yu Darvish struggles again, Cubs search for answers

As Yu Darvish struggles again, Cubs search for answers

Yu Darvish might be one of the first pitchers in history to hear boos from fans during a no-hit his own ballpark.

However, is it possible to actually call an outing a "no-hit bid" if the starter doesn't even throw a pitch in the fifth inning?

Darvish managed just 4 innings in the Cubs' 4-1 victory Thursday afternoon but allowed only 1 hit — a groundball through the right side with 2 outs in the fourth inning. That single — off the bat of .188-hitting outfielder Rosell Herrera — also drove in the only run off the Cubs starter, so Darvish was actually able to lower his season ERA to 5.40 on the afternoon.

But his walk rate is going in the opposite direction after doling out 6 free passes against a Marlins team that ranks dead last in Major League Baseball in just about every offensive category.

Darvish has now walked 33 batters in 36.2 innings in 2019, which leads baseball. For perspective, Tyler Chatwood walked 32 batters in his first 37.2 innings of 2018 en route to leading the league in free passes.

Darvish carries an 8.1 BB/9 rate on the season, though he came into 2019 with only a career rate of 3.4 BB/9.

Joe Maddon said before the game he's seeing better stuff from Darvish this year than last year and the strikeouts tease that potential — 7 whiffs in 4 innings Thursday and 44 in 36.2 innings on the season. Right now, it's just that Maddon and the Cubs feel Darvish is thinking too much on the mound and trying to be too fine.

"Yeah, until last outing, I was thinking too much, like 'I have to throw a strike,'" Darvish said. "But today, I was focusing more on attacking hitters. Just command was off, that's it.

"I'm a thinker over my almost 15-year career, but absolutely it's too much. I want to be better, so it's my challenge, but I think it's good for me."

The Cubs have tried everything to make this successful, including pairing Darvish up with Taylor Davis after the two worked well together and got good results (6 innings, 1 run) in Arizona on the last road trip. Davis was behind the plate for both of Darvish's starts on this homestand, but the 32-year-old pitcher has managed just 8 innings — and walked 11 batters — combined in those outings.

"I don't know if it's as much thinking too much as it is caring too much, if that sounds crazy," Davis said. "He just really wants to make the perfect pitch when he doesn't have to. So that's kinda what I reiterate to him, like 'Look, man, your stuff is so good that you don't have to make the perfect pitch.' He's starting to get that."

For all the talk of a brand new and comfortable Darvish this year, the results have been worse than last year. To date, it hasn't affected the Cubs as a team much — they boast the best pitching staff and have the best record in baseball since April 8.

"I think the sensitivity's lessening. I think he's really being able to focus on just pitching a lot more this year than I've seen in the past," Maddon said before Thursday's game. "Again, conversationally, he's saying and doing all the right things. I think the stuff we've seen already, we did not see last year at all. Just purely stuff which I think is a great place to start with him. 

"I contend that if we could just turn [his brain] off a little bit and just go play, you're gonna see a great result. Honestly, I've said it almost every time — just to become a little bit more visceral and just stay out of the intellectual part of this thing and just permit his talents to take over. They are that good. His stuff is that good. 

"So if we could just arrive at that point, and I think we can. As I saw him walk in here [over a year ago] and where he's at right now, I've seen significant improvement. That would be the last step for me to really, truly gain the most out of his abilities."

We'll see if he can do that the next time out, as Maddon confirmed the Cubs are not entertaining the thought of skipping Darvish's turn in the rotation or anything like that.

"I honestly don't think so," Maddon said. "You just gotta keep putting him out there. He also struck out 7 guys. Physically, it's all good. It's frustrating for him, of course, but we gotta just keep working it.

"I don't have any solid answers. He's healthy, the ball coming out of the hand really well, we've just gotta be more consistent in the zone. it's not that complicated."

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