Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013 Answer Notes

Q.         Who holds the major league record for the most home runs in a season by a catcher?
Hint:     He is one of only two players to have as many as 75 extra base hits in a season when his primary position was catcher.
Hint:     He was the last player to have an OPS over 1.000 in a season in which he caught at least 120 games.
Hint:     He received only one Hall of Fame vote despite having a higher career Wins Above Replacement total than four HOF catchers.
Twint:    He was a National League Championship Series MVP, leading his team back from a 3-1 games deficit by hitting .542 with a 1.607 OPS.
A.         Javy Lopez
FCR -    J.J. McCoy, Washington, DC


Lopez hit 43 home runs in 2003, one coming as a pinch hitter and 42 as a catcher. Johnny Bench hit 45 homers in1970 but only 38 came when he was in the lineup as a catcher, the others came when he was in the game as an outfielder or at first base.

The previous record was the 41 homers hit by Todd Hundley in 1996.  All 41 were hit while he was in the game as a catcher . Mike Piazza (40, all as a catcher, in both 1997 and 1999) and Roy Campanella (40 as a catcher and 1 as a pinch hitter in 1953) are the only other catchers to break 40 in a season. In Bench’s other 40-home run season in 1972 only 34 of his 40 homers came while he was in the game as the Reds’ catcher.

This was found with the Baseball-Reference Play Index sorting by Home Runs by players catching at east 50% of their games.  Each player’s Game Log was then reviewed to see home many of the homers were hit as a catcher.

Lopez had 29 doubles, 3 triples and 43 home runs in 2003 while catching 120 games.  Bench had 84 extra base hits (35 doubles, 4 triples and 45 home runs) in 1970 while catching 139 games.  The only other player to have 75 extra base hits in a season in which he caught even one game was Jimmie Foxx, with 76 in 1935, a season in which we was behind the plate for 26 of his 147 games.  This was found with the Baseball-Reference Play Index sorting by extra base hits by players catching a minimum of 1 game.

Lopez caught in 120 of his 129 games played in 2003 and had an OPS of 1.065.  Piazza (1997 and 2000), Chris Hoiles (1993) and Hall of Famers Campanella (1953) and Gabby Hartnett (1930) are the only other catchers to accomplish this.  Note that in 2009 Joe Mauer had an OPS of 1.031 but he only caught 109 games.  He was either the DH or a pinch hitter in his other 29 games.  This was found with the Baseball-Reference Play Index sorting by OPS by players catching a minimum of 120 games.

Lopez has a career WAR total of 27.2, more than HOF catchers Rick Farrell (26.3), Ray Schalk (25.0), Al Lopez (14.5) and Wilbert Robinson (11.5), although these last two were almost certainly enshrined for their managerial prowess.  Found with Baseball-Reference Play Index sorting by WAR for Hall of Famers.

Here are the box scores and statistics from the 1996 National League Championship Series.

Q.         Who replaced Barry Larkin as the Cincinnati Reds’ starting shortstop?
Hint:     He was certainly Larkin-like that season.
Hint:     He and a teammate are the only National League duet to each hit switch-hit home runs in the same game.
Hint:     Normally a position player, he once pitched with his team locked in a 0-0 tie.
Twint:    He switched teams in mid-season in each of his last four campaigns, and in five of his last six years.
A.         Felipe Lopez
FCR -    Darrell Hanson, Altoona, IA


Barry Larkin retired after the 2004 season having playing in 111 games at shortstop that year. Lopez had been a backup for the Reds in 2003 (50 games at short including 42 starts) and in 2004 (51 games at short, 42 starts).  He then played 140 games at short in 2005, starting in 133 of them. Lopez’s career statistics can be seen here:

In his first season as a regular Lopez had a slash line of 291/352/486 with 23 home runs, 85 RBI, 97 runs scored, an All-Star appearance and a Silver Slugger Award—by far his best season.

06-Apr-2009 Lopez and Tony Clark accomplished this for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada also did it for the Yankees on 23-Apr-2000.

Lopez did this in his first and third at bats as a Diamondback and they were two of the six home runs he hit in 394 plate appearances over 85 games before he was traded to Milwaukee in July of that year.

On 17-Apr-2010 the Mets and the Cardinals played a 20-inning game that was tied 0-0 going into the 18th inning.  Lopez had started the game at shortstop for the Cards then he moved to third base in the eighth inning as part of a double switch.  After 17 innings, manager Tony LaRussa had used seven relievers for a total of 10 innings and was forced to start sending position players to the mound.

Lopez started the 18th by getting Henry Blanco to pop up before pitcher Raul Valdes singled.  Fortunately for Lopez’ ERA, Valdes was gunned down trying to stretch the hit into a double.  Lopez followed this by walking Angel Pagan before ending a scoreless inning by getting Mike Jacobs to fly out to right.

Lopez would have been the winning pitcher if the Cards had scored in the bottom of the 18th, but they didn’t. Lopez moved back to third base for the 19th inning and Joe Mather moved from third base to the mound.  Mather surrendered a run but the Cards answered in the bottom of the inning.  Mather then gave up another run in the 20th inning and the Mets won the game when the Cards were held scoreless in the bottom of the inning.

And this is a recap of the game:

Lopez travelled a lot in his career.  He came up through the Blue Jays’ system and played parts of 2001 and 2002 in Toronto.  After 2002 he moved to the Reds as part of a four-team transaction and spent the next three seasons in Cincinnati before he started to move around. Here are his stops during the rest of his career:

2006 – Cincinnati (85 games) and Washington (71)
2007 – Washington (154)
2008 – Washington (100) and St. Louis (43)
2009 – Arizona (85) and Milwaukee (66)
2010 – St. Louis (109) and Boston (4)
2011 – Tampa (32) and Milwaukee (16)

Q.         Who, until 2012, had been the only player ever to hit home runs off two pitchers who threw perfect games that same season?
Hint:     He won the 2008 All Star Game Home Run derby at Yankee stadium.
Hint:     In the next day’s All Star Game he scored the winning run in an extra inning, walk-off victory.
Hint:     He was the last major leaguer to play in more than 162 games in a season.
Twint:    He won a league MVP award despite only leading his league at his position  in two categories:  sacrifice flies and assists.
Twint:    He switched his uniform number to have the same one as his boyhood hero, who played another sport.
A.         Justin Morneau
FCR -    Derek Norin, Arlington, VA


In 2010, Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay each threw perfect games, on 09-May and 29‑May respectively.  Morneau homered off Braden on 04‑Jun and off Halladay on 20-Jun.  Amazingly, this feat was repeated twice in 2012—and by teammates no less:  Philip Humber tossed history’s (now) most hidden perfecto on 21-AprFelix Hernandez duplicated the feat in the same ballpark on 15‑Aug.  Hitting home run in the same season off each of these hurlers were Angels Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.  They both went deep on Humber on 03-Aug and then went long individually on Hernandez on 26‑May and 10‑Aug.

Josh Hamilton set a Home Run Derby record in 2008 with 28 home runs in the first round but Morneau outdueled him in the final 5 to 3.  Summary of the derby:

Morneau entered the 2008 AS game in the sixth inning, replacing starter Kevin Youkilis and he played the rest of the game at first base.  He led off the bottom of the fifteenth inning with a single, went to second on Dioner Navarro’s one-out single, to third on J.D. Drew’s walk and scored on Michael Young’s sacrifice fly.

Morneau played in 163 games in 2008, including a one game playoff with Chicago for the AL Central championship.

Since expansion extended the season from 154 to 162 games there have been 33 instances of a player appearing in 163 or more games in a season.  Some are because of a playoff (Tommy Davis, Maury Wills and Jose Pagan in 1962), a team having a tie game (Hideki Matsui with the Yankees in 2003) or a player changing teams mid-season and joining one that had played fewer games than the team he left (Todd Zeile in 1996).  This is becoming rarer: it happened 17 times in the 1960’s, 5 times in the 70’s and 6 times in the 80’s but only 5 times since 1990.

In 2006 Morneau lead the American League with 11 sacrifice flies and 111 assists at first base.  He also had top 5 finishes in total bases (5th), RBI (2nd), putouts (3rd) games at first base (2nd).  He won a very close MVP race over Derek Jeter.  Here are the results of the 2006 American League MVP voting:

Morneau wore 27 in his first three years then changed to 33 after the Twins traded J.C. Romero to the Angels at the end of 2005.  33 was the number worn by Patrick Roy, Hall of Fame goalie for the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche.  In addition to being a baseball player Morneau was a goaltender for his hockey teams, including being the third string goalie for the 1998 Memorial Cup champions Portland Winter Hawks.  His number switch is reviewed in the third paragraph of this article:

This Wikipedia page reviews the 1998 Memorial Cup and shows 17-year-old Morneau on Portland’s roster:

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