Baseball era matters when evaluating stats
On Friday night in the Bronx, Alex Rodriguez joined Major League Baseball's 3,000-hit club. On the other coast, in Seattle, Mariners left-hander Roenis Elias became the latest pitcher to strike out at least 10 batters in a game without a walk.
Rodriguez reached a career-oriented, offensive milestone. Elias attained a single-game accomplishment. White Sox ace Chris Sale also accomplished the feat on Friday with 14 strikeouts.
Both, however, underscore why considering the era is mandatory in evaluating baseball accomplishments.
The expansion of Major League Baseball from 16 franchises in 1960 to 30 franchises today has expanded baseball from 15 marketplaces to 26 marketplaces. It has expanded active Major League rosters from 400 players to 750 players.
It also has expanded the differential in ability between the players.
Rodriguez became the 29th player to collect 3,000 hits.
Rodriguez is also the 21st member of the 3,000-hit club to spend all or the majority of his career playing after the onset of the expansion in 1961. There were six players in the 3,000-hit club who played some if not all of their careers prior to World War I, beginning with Cap Anson, who became the first member of the club on July 18, 1897.
Only two members of the 3,000-hit club had careers in the years between the onset of World War I and 1963 -- Paul Waner, who collected No. 3,000 on June 19, 1942, and Stan Musial, whose 3,000th hit came on May 13, 1958.
Both Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, who became members of the 3,000-hit club in 1970, had careers split between the expansion and pre-expansion eras. Aaron played 16 of his 23 big league seasons after the initial expansion, and Mays had 13 of his 22 seasons during that era. They both finished their careers with expansion teams -- Aaron with the Brewers and Mays with the Mets.
Elias and Sale, meanwhile, provided baseball with the 1,055th and 1,056th games in which a pitcher struck out at least 10 batters without issuing a walk since 1914, according to baseball-reference.com. It was, however, already the 23rd and 24th times it has happened this season, which ties the 2015 season for the 14th most in history, and the All-Star break is still three weeks away.
The top three seasons for games in which a pitcher struck out 10 or more batters while not issuing a walk have been the last three -- 55 times in 2014, 45 times in '13 and 43 times in '12.
Forty-six of the 47 seasons since expansion began in 1961 are among the top 53 in terms of games in which the pitcher struck out 10 or more without a walk. The lone exception was the strike-marred 1981 season, when it happened only four times.
Randy Johnson holds the all-time record with 36 such games, followed by Curt Schilling (27), Roger Clemens (21), Pedro Martinez (18) and Cliff Lee (13). Dazzy Vance, who is tied for 21st with seven games, is the top pitcher from the pre-expansion era.
The single-game record of 20 strikeouts without a walk was set by Clemens on April 29, 1996, and equaled by Clemens on Sept. 18, 1996, Kerry Wood on May 6, 1998, and Johnson on May 8, 2001.
Elias' game was the 32nd such start in the history of the Mariners. Felix Hernandez is the franchise leader with 10 games, two ahead of Johnson. Arizona set the team record with nine such efforts in 2001 -- five by Johnson and four by Schilling.
LaTroy Hawkins, who will retire at the end of this season -- his 21st in the big leagues -- appeared in his 1,012th regular-season game on Friday night. The only pitcher who has made more appearances in the big leagues since Hawkins' debut on April 29, 1995, is Mariano Rivera, who appeared in 1,115 regular-season games from May 1995 until his retirement after the 2013 season.
How long has Hawkins been in the big leagues? Well, Matt Wisler made his big league debut for Atlanta on Friday night, becoming the 4,818th player to appear in a big league game since Hawkins arrived, according to Stats, Inc.
Since Hawkins' first season, 1995, the all-time leaders in various categories are Derek Jeter (2,747 games), Rodriguez (667 home runs and 2,002 RBIs) and Rivera with 652 saves. Hawkins has 125 saves in his career, which is tied for 54th among pitchers in that span. Greg Holland of the Royals also has 125.
• Saturday is the 114th anniversary of John W. "Jack" Taylor pitching the first of what became his 187 consecutive complete games. The streak, during which he also made 15 relief appearances, saw him work 1,727 innings before it ended in August of 1906.
• Tuesday will be the 27th anniversary of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner firing manager Billy Martin for the fifth time.
• Thursday will be the 112th anniversary of Boston Beaneater Wiley Pratt becoming the only pitcher since the formation of MLB in 1901 to lose two complete games in one day. Pratt and Boston lost to the Pirates, 1-0 and 5-3.
• Bud Black managed 1,362 games over nine seasons before he was let go by the Padres on Monday. During that time, he worked for general managers Kevin Towers (2007-09), Jed Hoyer (2009-11), Josh Byrnes (2011-14) and current GM A.J. Preller.
• Jeter had been the last player to join the 3,000-hit club before Rodriquez. There was a three-year, 346-day lapse between the two reaching 3,000. The shortest time span between players getting their 3,000th hit was in 1999 when Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs did it on back-to-back days, Aug. 6 and 7. The longest stretch was between Anson and Honus Wagner, who became the second member of the 3,000-hit club on June 9, 1914, 16 years, 38 days after Anson.
• The matchup of 42-year-old Bartolo Colon (Mets) and 40-year-old R.A. Dickey (Blue Jays) on Thursday (which Dickey won, 7-1) was the first between 40-year-old pitchers since 45-year-old Jamie Moyer (Phillies) beat 42-year-old Greg Maddux (Padres), 1-0, on August 15, 2008, according to notes guru Bill Arnold.