Cheetahs in the dugout and other bizarre trends we hope continue during baseball's second half
It's hard to believe, but MLB's regular season is already halfway done. We know, we're upset about it too -- we were just getting to know you and your scoreboard-bashing, chocolate syrup-dumping goodness, 2015, and now it feels like goodbye is right around the corner. But as a wise doctor once (allegedly) said: Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened. So, not ones to question professional medical advice, we take this time to pause and reflect on the wacky and wild games that were, and to look forward to the baseball still to come.
Sure, 2015 has been chock full of all kinds of traditional excellence -- Chris Sale might never stop striking people out, Billy Hamilton is stealing bases at a pace we haven't seen since Rickey Henderson, and Max Scherzer is working on one of the best WHIPs for a starting pitcher in the modern era.
But baseball is no stranger to the bizarre, and this season has been no exception. In that spirit, let's use the weirdest highlights from MLB's first half to see what the next few months have in store. We're not exactly math majors, but multiplying by two is right up our alley, so here are some (admittedly pretty lazy) full-season predictions that probably won't happen -- but hey, a baseball fan can dream.
Anthony Rizzo is on pace to join a rare and strange (and painful) 30/30 club
Anthony Rizzo has been raking this year, slashing .297/.405/.552 with 15 dingers. But he's also mastered another, slightly less conventional skill (you know, other than "sliding like a ninja") -- getting hit by pitches. Like, a lot of them:
If 15 plunkings seem like a ton, they are: It already ties his total from last year, and his combination of unfortunate pitch placement and hitting excellence has rarely been seen in baseball history. If this pace holds, Rizzo will be just the second player to enter that other 30/30 club -- 30 dingers and 30 HBP. The other? Don Baylor, in 1986.
Steven Souza is whiffing a whole lot
Steven Souza has been a solid contributor for the Rays in his first full big league season, regularly hitting balls into orbit while doing whatever it takes to make plays in right field -- up to and including invading the personal space of Tropicana Field diners:
So we really don't mean to pile on when we say the following: Steven Souza is on pace to strike out more than any rookie, ever. He's got 104 through 76 games, and no first-year player has ever recorded more than 200 punchouts in one season.
Hey, maybe Souza sacrificed the occasional whiff to become humanity's Defender of No-Hitters, in which case we politely retract the preceding paragraph.
What do Kyle Kendrick and Jose Lima have in common? Earned runs!
Remember Jose Lima? Of course you do, because anyone who pitches like every game is a meringue concert will forever hold a place in our hearts:
Unfortunately, in addition to making every game in which he appeared at least 30 percent more fun, Lima did not have a very good 2000 season, allowing 48 home runs and 145 earned runs.
Rockies starter Kyle Kendrick saw this and despaired, and has made it his mission to keep Lima Time company in the record books. Through 16 starts, Kendrick has given up 65 earned runs, and if he finishes at 130, it'll be the highest total for any starter in the new millennium. At least he's got some mad soccer skills to fall back on.
2015 has been one giant POSITION PLAYER PITCHING ALERT!
You may have noticed a recent uptick in position players pitching, including three separate instances on one single, glorious night:
As it turns out, your wildest hopes and dreams have been confirmed, for we are truly in the Golden Age of Fielders Pitching -- there have been 13 (!) instances so far in 2015, and if the trend holds, it'll be the most since at least 1960 (before that, distinctions between "pitchers" and "position players" get a bit fuzzier). This can only mean one thing -- lots more warmup pitches to the backstop:
Walk-off + balk = balk-off
A riddle: What's rarer than a perfect game, and can win a game without anyone leaving the batter's box? If you answered "walk-off balk," congratulations! You have correctly read the above headline. Here's a GIF as your reward, from the Rangers-Dodgers game on June 18:
This has only happened 18 times in baseball history, and only twice (1965 and 2000) has it happened twice in the same season. We're just one away, pitchers! Keep on flinching!
Rookies debuting like it ain't no thing
Have we covered this ground before? Sure. Do we end up proclaiming most years as the "Year of the Rookie?" Probably. Does that make 2015 any less awesome? Absolutely not.
Joey Gallo's first home run in The Show (in just his second at-bat) still hasn't landed yet:
30 percent of Joc Pederson's hits are home runs. I repeat: 30 percent of Joc Pederson's hits are home runs:
And Byron Buxton wasted no time coming to the Majors and immediately running all over the place:
And that's not even including actual wizard Francisco Lindor or Dinger God Kris Bryant or Astros phenom Carlos Correa or ... okay, you get the point, kids these days apparently don't think baseball is all that hard. And with studs like Miguel Sano arriving on the scene and Corey Seager waiting in the wings, the prospect revolution shows no signs of slowing down during the dog days of summer.
Tim Lincecum is tripping and falling like no pitcher's tripped and fallen before
Sure, this one is cherry-picking a bit -- all three instances of Lincecum losing his footing on the mound came from one bizarre game against the Reds. But you know the saying: GIF first, question your statistical responsibility later:
Big Time Timmy Jim is on pace for six of these beauties on the season, so it's fair to wonder what the second half holds for our intrepid hero. An entire at-bat? A Guinness World Record for mound malfunction? Does that even exist? And if not, who is responsible for such a grave oversight? The truth is out there.
It's safe to say we're on pace for the most cheetah dugout sightings in history
In preparation for Wildlife Education Day at Globe Life Park on June 25, this happened:
A little terrifying? Sure. But everyone involved should count themselves lucky, because it could've been an entire family of skunks. The Twins are the early second half cheetah sighting frontrunners, if only because Byron Buxton is at least 15 percent jungle cat:
Andrew McCutchen is determined to clothe all of Pittsburgh with his batting gloves
When Andrew McCutchen gave two adorable Pirates fans his batting gloves after a game in San Diego, the world gave a collective "d'aww" and figured that was that. But then, just a few days later, Cutch was at it again, this time in Atlanta:
We can only assume that the former MVP has big plans for the second half. Why stop at batting gloves? Who wouldn't want some boutique McCutchen socks? Here's hoping he'll go full Miracle on 34th Street and create an entire ballpark full of mini-Cutches.