For some reason, last night the odd nature of the baseball schedule particularly struck me.
I was watching the Braves and the Diamondbacks battle in the 13th inning. It was 11:33 where I live (not far from a really big ocean) which means it was 2:33 back in Atlanta, the home of the Braves. And so I wondered, how many people back in Atlanta -- not counting the unemployed or college students -- were sticking with this game to the end?
Those who did stick around got sent to bed happy, as Kerry Ligtenberg -- hey, remember when he was the Braves' closer? -- retired Craig Counsell to end the game, at 2:44 in the morning, Eastern Time.
Too, there was something compelling about this game, even aside from all the free baseball. It's thrilling to see the teams with the two best records in the league square off, even if, as is the case here, the game is close to meaningless, because both clubs have very nearly locked up postseason berths. That's especially true of the Braves, of course; seems like they're going to clinch yet another division title any day now. But the Diamondbacks have a six-and-a-half game lead over the Giants, and not many teams have blown leads that big in the last two months of the season.
A couple of things about the Diamondbacks (the Braves will have to wait, as I still am too shocked by their record to actually write about them) ...
Early during Monday's Mets-Diamondbacks game on ESPN, Rick Sutcliffe was asked for his choice as National League Cy Young.
His response? "Well, it has to be Curt Schilling. He's got more wins."
True, but Schilling finished last season with more wins than Johnson, yet it was Johnson who won the big award. What's more, in the last 48 hours, Johnson pitched a shutout and Schilling didn't, leaving their Triple Crown stats looking like this:
W-L 16-4 18-4
ERA 2.63 2.87
K's 226 230
They're so close that you have to look beyond the wins and losses, and beyond the ERAs. And when you do that, Schilling actually looks just a tad better. Schilling's pitched four more innings than Johnson, and they've each allowed exactly 60 runs; Johnson's slight advantage in ERA is due to the seven unearned runs he's allowed (against only one for Schilling).
Schilling's allowed two fewer homers than Johnson, and he's also allowed 32 fewer baserunners. ERA notwithstanding, it looks like Schilling has outpitched Johnson, if ever so slightly. And of course, he's on track for perhaps the most amazing strikeout-to-walk ratio in history.
Mike Koplove took the loss for Arizona Tuesday night, but otherwise he's done quite well since arriving in early June. I hadn't seen him pitch before. My first reaction was, "Gosh, he's small," and my second reaction was, "Another one?"
As in, another unorthodox Diamondbacks reliever? Just running through the ones I know about ...
Byung-Hyun Kim, as you know, is the first submarine-throwing power pitcher we've seen in quite some time.
Mike Myers, in addition to writing and starring in mega-hit film comedies, is a lefty specialist who throws from roughly the same angle as Kim, though not nearly as hard.
Koplove isn't a submariner, but he's certainly an extreme sidearmer.
And then you've got Bret Prinz and Eddie Oropesa. Both of them have been up with the big club this season, but both got hammered and are now attempting to rehabilitate their reputations by pitching for the Tucson Sidewinders.
And would you believe that both of these Sidewinders are sidewinders? It's true. I saw both Prinz (who looked good) and Oropesa (who didn't) pitch in Portland last Thursday.
All of which leads me to wonder, has any other team in recent memory employed five pitchers who throw sidearm or lower in one season? (Note to self: Call Diamondbacks and see if they do this on purpose, or if it's just dumb luck. Also, find out if Duaner Sanchez is a freak, too.)
You know, 50 or 60 years ago there were a lot of pitchers who threw sidearm. Sometimes. It was a standard part of many pitchers' repertoires, having the ability (and willingness) to drop down in certain spots. Now, though, for the most part if a guy throws sidearm, he throws sidearm. If he throws three-quarters, he throws three-quarters. David Cone used to occasionally drop down for his "Laredo" curve, but half a century ago nobody would have noticed because everybody was doing it.