From Opening Day through the cessation of play, Crooked Numbers faithfully chronicled the strange and quirky moments that occurred on Minor League Baseball fields nationwide. Among many oddities, 2013 saw (at least) three skunk delays, a Winkler vs. Winkler pitching matchup, and of course, a veritable onslaught of instances in which position players were called upon to take the mound.
And now it's come to this, one final Crooked Numbers column before it all goes dark until 2014. This edition takes a peek at some strange playoff occurrences, provides updates on items included in previous columns and finishes with the latest update from Crooked Numbers' most faithful contributor. Enjoy, and please know that the Crooked Numbers inbox is always open for business -- get in touch year round with any and all info pertaining to the virtually infinite world of Minor League Baseball on-field weirdness.
The Arkansas Travelers hit a modest 114 home runs in the regular season, finishing sixth in the eight-team Texas League. But in the playoffs, they held a virtually monopoly on the long ball. Over the first 12 combined games of the Texas League playoffs, the Travs hit eight homers while none of the other three teams involved (Tulsa, Corpus Christi, San Antonio) managed to leave the yard once.
Ah, but it's not how you start -- it's how you finish. In the decisive fifth game of the Texas League Finals, San Antonio's Johan Limonta hit a grand slam as his Missions coasted to a 5-0 championship win. This was, of course, the only home run hit in the playoffs that didn't come off of the bat of an Arkansas player.
Offense? Who needs it?
Upon the conclusion of the regular season, the Trenton Thunder had the worst OPS in the Eastern League at .687 while the Harrisburg Senators possessed the second-worst mark of .696. Naturally, the two teams that met in the Eastern League Finals were those very same Thunder and Senators.
A win's a win
But in order to get to the EL Championship Series, the Senators had to endure a most ignominious semifinal loss to the Erie SeaWolves. In the bottom of the 12th inning of Game 2, Erie's Jamie Johnson scored from first base on a ball hit to shortstop. How did this happen? Just watch:
Let's play two ... even in the postseason
In the Major Leagues, playing a doubleheader during a postseason series would be well-nigh unthinkable. But in the Minors, it is imperative to stay on schedule and thus, every once in a while, fans are treated (or would that be subjected?) to an honest-to-God playoff twinbill. This happened twice in 2013 at the highest (Triple-A) and lowest (Rookie League) levels of play, with both doubleheaders taking place on Sept. 11.
The first instance of this unlikely scenario occurred during the Pacific Coast League Championship Series between the Salt Lake Bees and Omaha Storm Chasers as stormy weather forced the suspension of Game 1 after just 1 1/2 innings (so much for Omaha's alleged storm-chasing abilities). The two teams played the remainder of that game the following afternoon, with Game 2 taking place that evening. The Storm Chasers won both contests en route to securing the league championship in four games.
And then there was the Pioneer League semifinal series between the Idaho Falls Chukars and Grand Junction Rockies. Rain in Grand Junction forced the final two games of that best-of-3 series to be played on the same day. The Rockies made a doubleheader necessary by winning Game 2 of the series, but the ensuing nightcap was won by the Chukars, who went on to win their league championship series against Helena.
So, how'd that pan out?
Through the course of six MiLB.com columns and three blog posts, there sure was a lot of Crooked content this year. The following seven items provide an end-of-season update on information contained in previous dispatches.
- The Opening Day edition of Crooked Numbers noted that the Winston-Salem Dash began the season with a starting rotation comprised entirely of right-handers. This trend ended up holding for the entire season as all 11 individuals who started a game for the Dash in 2013 were of the right-handed persuasion. Meanwhile, only two left-handers appeared for the team in relief (Jarrett Casey and Max Peterson), meaning that 1,124 of the Dash's 1,221 total innings pitched were courtesy of right-handers.
Via Twitter, Dash announcer Brian Boesch offered the following tongue-in-cheek explanation for this oddity: Our last [left-handed] starter was when we lost [Game 4] of the Mills Cup Finals in '12, so I guess we really tried to avoid lefties in '13.
- In other Dash news, April's column mentioned they were the only team in Minor League Baseball to have compiled a losing record when scoring six or more runs in a game. This item, like so many before it, has since been relegated to the Department of Small Samples. Over the remainder of the season the Dash went 34-8 when scoring six or more runs, a mark far less anomalous and, therefore, less Crooked.
- In May's column, it was mentioned that the Beloit Snappers scored a season-high 16 runs against the Cedar Rapids Kernels and still managed to lose by a season-high seven runs. Though the Snappers went on to suffer worse shellackings during the 2013 season, 16 remained their season high in runs scored (in fact, they never scored more than 11 in any other game). Were there any other teams in 2013 who failed to win the ballgame in which they scored a season high in runs? If so, I'd like to know about it.
- The August edition of this column made note of the fact that Trenton Thunder catcher Jose Gil was called upon to pitch in back-to-back days on Aug. 16 and 17. Weirdly enough, this marked the only time that he played on back-to-back days during his entire stint with the Thunder.
- In June's Crooked Nuggets supplementary post on Ben's Biz Blog, I made note of Las Vegas' Gonzalez Germen allowing four home runs in a single inning against Tacoma. This inning of work, horrible as it may have been, turned out to be a complete and total anomaly as Germen didn't allow a home run over his next seven appearances with Las Vegas. Even more impressively, he was then called up to the New York Mets and proceeded to surrender just one long ball over 34 1/3 innings.
- That same blog post also mentioned that, up to that point in the season, Winston-Salem's Chris Beck and Sacramento's Andrew Werner had recorded a decision in every one of their starts to date. While Beck then had three no-decisions during the season (out of 26 starts overall), Werner pulled off the rare feat of earning either a win or loss in each and every one of his starts. The 26-year-old southpaw went 12-14 over 26 starts, though he didn't factor into the decision during his one relief appearance (in which he hurled six innings in the completion of a suspended game).
- July's Crooked Nuggets blog post gave a proverbial tip of the hat to Bradenton Marauders pitcher Matt Benedict, who went 0-9 in 2012 and then lost his first eight decisions of 2013 before finally recording his first win with the team on July 31. Once Benedict finally got that monkey off of his back (which at that point was closer in size to a gorilla), he was a new man. The 24-year-old didn't lose for the remainder of the season, picking up two more wins as well as three saves.
Bradenton late than never
Speaking of the Marauders, broadcaster Nate March recently got in touch with this overlooked Crooked nugget:
Kirk Singer played for the Marauders in 2012 as an infielder, homered in his first ever at-bat [with the team], and was named Florida State League Player of the Week.
This season he was converted into a pitcher, made it back to [the Marauders], and earned a win in his first pitching appearance.
Your Alex Freedman Email of the Month
Crooked Numbers began running on this site in 2009, and in that time, no one has contributed more content to the cause than Oklahoma City RedHawks broadcaster Alex Freedman. Therefore, it's fitting that the final 2013 edition of the column will end with one of his emails. Thanks to all who read the column (and an extra-special thanks to those who have submitted material) and stay tuned for another full slate of Crookedness in 2014. But, in the meantime, take it away, Alex!
Between April 14, 2010 and July 23, 2013, the RedHawks never hit an inside-the-park home run. Between July 24 and Aug. 13, they hit three of them. On July 24, Ruben Sosa hit the first-ever inside-the-park home run at Omaha's Werner Park, for his first career home run. It was also the first inside-the-park home run by any Omaha opponent since Michael Restovich of the Edmonton Trappers on Aug. 28, 2002.
George Springer then pulled off the feat twice, July 27 at home against Iowa and at Tucson on Aug. 13. In the game at Tucson, Springer hit a ball off the top of the 40-foot high batter's eye, which is in play. Tucson outfielder Reymond Fuentes, relatively new to the team, apparently did not know this. He just stood there as the pitcher frantically told him to pick up the ball while Springer dashed around the bases.
* * *
On Aug. 3, the RedHawks defeated Colorado Springs, 24-5. The 24 runs tied a club record and set a new record for most runs ever scored at home. It was also the second-largest margin of victory in club history. (It also turned out to be the most runs the Sky Sox have ever allowed in a road game, as well as their largest margin of defeat in a road game.)
But what really makes this game "crooked" is that Colorado Springs committed five errors, leading to 14 unearned runs. There's really no way to see if that's some kind of record, but if it's not, it's gotta be close.
* * *
Eric Thames was claimed off waivers by the Astros on Sept. 5. He reported to the RedHawks on Sept. 6 and went 2-for-4 with a home run that night. It turned out to be his only game in an OKC uniform -- the team was eliminated from the playoffs in that game.
I think that's it. Here's to a crooked 2014…