The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Dear Diary

As most of you reading this are aware, I'm a TiVo evangelist, and never moreso than when it comes to the postseason on Fox. Nonetheless, last night I watched Game Two of the World Series -- the I [Heart] NY matchup between faield Yankees Jeff Weaver and Kenny Rogers -- more or less in real time so that I could cover the game in live diary format for Baseball Prospectus. Riding shotgun with me for most of the way was Steven Goldman, and Neil de Mause interjected a bit as well, though his best line, impugning Weaver's literacy, got left on the cutting-room floor.

Anyway, the game was a tight one, unlike the opener, with Rogers carrying a one-hit shutout through seven frames. There's a lot of talk today about the substance on his thumb and its disappearance prior to the second inning, as well as who said what when. I didn't delve to deeply into that, nor do I intend to here; as I understand it La Russa never formally asked the umps to inspect Rogers, and the gunk was moved at the umps' request. It didn't help the Cards solve the Gambler; they managed just two hits off of him all night, and one of them came with the offending substance in place. Move along.

My chat with Steve took us on all kinds of tangents, and I was able to back up and add a bit of Retrosheet-flavored debunkery to a couple of Fox's statistical nuggets:
10:11: Rogers retires Eckstein on a grounder to Inge, and at 20.1 consecutive scoreless postseason innings, he's now sixth all time:

1. Christy Mathewson, 1905, 27 innings
2. Lew Burdette, 1957, 24
3. Jerry Reuss, 1981, 23
4. George Earnshaw, 1930 22
5. Orel Hershiser, 1988, 21.1
6. Kenny Rogers, 2006, 20.1

A fun list, that, representing the two Dodger World Championships of my lifetime. Everybody remembers Hershiser in 1988, coming off of that record-breaking 59-inning scoreless streak; after being touched up by the Mets in his first LCS appearance, he went right back to shutout ball, and over a span of 101.2 innings between the regular season and post, he allowed just four earned runs. Reuss, on the other hand, is somewhat forgotten. In the strike-induced Division Series against the Astros, he tossed nine innings of shutout ball in Game Two, but the Dodgers didn't score for him, and the 'Stros won 1-0 in 11 innings. Undaunted, Reuss came back in Game Five against Nolan Ryan and threw up nine more zeroes, while the Dodgers scrapped for four runs and advanced. In Game Three of the LCS, Reuss then blanked the Expos for five before allowing four runs in the sixth, three on a Jerry White homer... wait a second. There were two outs before any of the runs scored, so that total should be 23.2. Damn it, Fox, I WILL LOOK IT UP! Don't trust those totals, kids.
About an hour later...
11:04: Returning from the commercial break, the camera cuts to the Tiger dugout, where Rogers appears to be accepting job-well-done congrats. Those 23 scoreless innings, we're told, tie him with Reuss, but I know better.

The appearance of Hershiser and Reuss on that scoreless list has prompted an ongoing background discussion between Steve and myself about Rogers' place in history.
steve: There are so many pitchers in that 200-250 win zone they're in, where you have to take them seriously historically, but they're not quite all-timers. Orel [204 wins] is on the high side of that zone, Reuss [220 wins] on the low...
jay: agreed on the 200-250. I mean, David Cone and Dwight Gooden [both with 194 wins, oddly enough] didn't get there, but at their peaks were better than a lot of those guys
steve: A shame Cone tapped out so fast. He might have made it.
jay: that missed year [2002] at the end cost him
steve: At 207 wins, Rogers is in that group too, though to this point I would have said he was disqualified by cowardice under fire.
jay: he's closer to David Wells than David Cone or some of those other guys, but with poorer surroundings.
steve: That's probably right. Cone won a Cy... Rogers has never been mentioned on a ballot. If you look at, btw, David Wells is high on the list of Rogers comps.
jay: Wells-Rogers makes sense. Was Boomer ever on a Cy ballot?
steve: Twice. 1998 and 2000. Distantly.
steve: And Orel... and... Charlie Root? Did Rogers give up a called shot to anyone?
jay: No, but he punched a camera man.
Real time is a scary place both on Fox and in front of my laptop; by the end of the game my fingers were aching, I was soaked with sweat, and I'd seen far too many commercials. Still, and particularly with Steve to liven things up, it was good fun, if not something I'm eager to try again tonight. Enjoy.

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