Does flurry of no-hitters mean there are no hitters?
Is it a coincidence that there have been five no-hitters, including two perfect games, pitched in the major leagues this season, which is not even 40 per cent over yet?
After our Houston Astros were victims of a perfect game thrown by San Francisco Giants right-hander Matt Cain last week, some of the baseball writers from the Houston Chronicle have been analyzing the situation about why the pitchers have such a command over the batters.
Since the end of the 2007 major league baseball season there have been 18 no-hitters thrown in just 4½ seasons and three already pitched just in this month of June.
Cain’s gem, pitched last Wednesday night in San Francisco, was the 22nd perfect game in major league history. Oddly, only 14 no-hitters were notched during the 10 seasons of the “Steroid Era” (1998-2007) but 29 were logged in the 10 years before this era (1988-1998).
In fact it was during the summer of the 1998 season that alleged performance-enhancing drug users Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa obliterated the single-season home run record, according to last Friday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle.
“But this isn’t the year of the no-hitter because of so many great pitchers in the game,” the article points out. “It is the year of the no-hitter because baseball is going back to what it used to be.
“As the old saying goes, good pitching beats good hitting. We learned in the Steroid Era that good juicing beats good pitching. The pitchers were juicing too, which is why Roger Clemens is in the nation’s capital awaiting the verdict on his perjury trial.”
Major League Baseball officials believe the game has its good name back and that the rash of no-hitters proves that cheating has been eradicated, according to the article.
The big question now is will America really like steroid-free baseball? Because fans really flocked the stadiums to get a glimpse at McGwire, Barry Bonds and Sosa launching mammoth home runs and a 40-plus year-old Roger Clemens baffling opposing teams with his sub-2.00 Earned Run Averages.
The no-hitter has always been fascinating to most baseball fans. There always seems to be a side story or an unsung hero in each game. The New York Mets’ Johan Santana used 134 pitches for his recent no-hitter. It came about when an umpire blew a fair-foul call and outfielder Mike Baxter went on the disabled list after making a spectacular catch to save Santana’s gem.
Two years ago Edwin Jackson walked eight batters and threw 149 pitches and Ubaldo Jimenez issued six walks and threw 127 pitches the same season.
Since the beginning of the 2010 season, a pitcher has taken a no-hit bid into the seventh inning 27 times according to this week’s issue of USA Today Sports Weekly. A total of 48 one-hitters have been pitched since the beginning of 2010, including six this season.
Some pitchers swear they weren’t aware that the other team hadn’t gotten a hit off him yet, but let’s face it, they sit on a bench for a half-inning at a time with 10-foot high lights reminding them how many hits the other team has.
Perhaps one reason why there is an abundance of no-hitters in today’s game is that there also is an abundance of young hitters without much major league experience.
Proof of the wide trend toward pitching is that in the National League the earned run average slipped from a peak of 4.64 in 2000 to 3.93 so far in 2012. Strikeouts are up 40 per cent than in past years, with a strikeout rate of 7.7 batters per nine innings, which would be a record if it holds up.
Oddly enough, three of the top American League hitters—Boston’s David Ortiz, New York Yankees Derek Jeter and Chicago White Sox Paul Konerko—are all veterans on the wrong side of 35 years old. The age-defying secret to their success this season is making small adjustments in both technique and approach, according to this week’s issue of ESPN The Magazine.
When Jeter went on the disabled list last season, he was sporting a .260 average. While rehabbing, Jeter reconnected with Gary Denbo, his first minor league manager, who told him he was lunging forward too much when he swung and should stay back in his stance longer.
Patience did the trick, the article stated. In 69 games after rehab, Jeter hit .331 and through the first week of June this season his .329 average was among the top five in the American League.
Konerko has honed his ability to adjust mid-at-bat, foul off borderline pitches, work the count into his favor and then hit the good pitches.
Big Papi (Ortiz), had trouble hitting southpaws—hitting .218 from 2008-2010. After the 2010 season he hired a left-handed pitcher in the Dominican Republic to throw him batting practice and figured out for a left-handed hitter to have success against a left-handed pitcher he must learn to hit the ball to the opposite field. Now Big Papi has a better batting average against southpaws than right-handers.
KWICKIES…Churchill Downs announced a new points system pegged to three dozen races that will set the field for the future Kentucky Derbies. The track scrapped a more complicated system in place since 1986 based on graded stakes earnings that determined which horses reached the Derby starting gate. The discarded system was tied to 185 stakes races worldwide that confused the average racing fan. The Derby is limited to 20 horses. Perhaps one of the reasons for the quick change is the fact Paynter won the grueling Belmont Stakes and DIDN’T qualify for the Kentucky Derby under their old system.
As of last Friday, Division I men’s basketball coaches were able to send unlimited texts and make unlimited phone calls to recruits who have wrapped up their sophomore year’s of high school. The NCAA also will allow coaches to send private messages to prospective players through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. It looks like the straight-laced NCAA hierarchy has finally recognized the evolving nature and value of communications with student/athletes.
Last week Houston Texans’ billionaire owner Bob McNair rewarded head football coach Gary Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith with new contracts for finally getting the team into the NFL playoffs last season. Kubiak turned down a four-year pact for one for three years claiming—probably tongue-in-cheek—that with the level of success he’s going to have that he’s going to be worth a lot more money in three years than in four. The next goal for the Texans is to negotiate a long-term contract with quarterback Matt Schaub, who is in the final year of his contract in 2012.
LaDanian Tomlinson signed a one-day contract with the San Diego Chargers Monday for the purpose of retiring from the team with which he spent the first nine years of his 11-year career. He was the NFL’s MVP in 2006 and was the fifth-leading rusher in league history with 13,684 yards, trailing only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin. He also is third in touchdowns behind Jerry Rice and Smith and his 145 rushing touchdowns ranks second behind Smith (164).
The Oklahoma City Thunder needed to reciprocate by beating the Heat in Miami last night to even the NBA championship series at 2-2. Otherwise LeBron James is going to get his wish and win that elusive ring, making the third time for him the charm.
It’s a shame the way Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk choked away their chances to win last weekend’s U.S. Open title on successive days. Tiger began feeling the pressure on the back nine Saturday and really took the gas on the first three holes Sunday (bogey, bogey, double-bogey) while Furyk waited until the tourney’s 70th hole to duck hook his tee shot and lose the lead he either shared or held for nearly two days. Webb Simpson, who had finished the event nearly two hours earlier, won with one-over par on that difficult golf course.
Lance McCullers, Jr., who was drafted by the Houston Astros as the supplemental first-round pick earlier this month, was in Houston Monday ready to sign his contract for a rumored $2.5 million. McCullers was the standout pitcher for Tampa Jesuit High School in the Class 5A semifinal round of the Florida state high school baseball tournament and started against American Heritage, coached by Orange native and former West Orange-Stark standout athlete Bruce Aven. American Heritage won the game 3-0 in extra-innings but McCullers wasn’t involved in the decision. Aven’s team then went on to win the state championship.
JUST BETWEEN US….Of all the various baseball, basketball and football camps that are being held this summer for youngsters, the football camp being hosted under the direction of former West Orange-Stark, University of Texas and current Seattle Seahawks star Earl Thomas is uniquely different than all of the rest—it’s FREE!!! The camp is for youngsters 8-18 years old at West Orange-Stark High School July 6-7 from 8 a.m. until noon each day. For more information call (409)-745-3119 or (409)-779-6736.