Teams did some strange things in 2010
The Mariners and Pirates had a long year, and two teams in April had a long night
Any time a team gets 11 two-out hits in a row, another team blames Air Horn Night for batting out of order and yet another team gets outscored by 35 runs in one SERIES, you can tell it was another Strange But True kind of baseball season. So let's look back at the Strangest But Truest team efforts of 2010:
Strange But True Lineup Of The Year
The Seattle Mariners filled all nine spots on their lineup card in all 162 games last season. You could look that up. They even filled one of those spots with the great Ichiro Suzuki. But it didn't stop them from being the Strangest But Truest Offensive Team of Modern Times. And here's the proof:
• It took the Mariners 151 games to score 481 runs. That's as many as the Red Sox scored before the All-Star break.
• A total of 32 Mariners made it into the old batter's box last season. They combined to score a mere 513 runs. That wasn't just a record for fewest runs scored by an American League team, over a full season, in the DH era. It was even fewer than any National League team has ever scored, over a full season, in the DH era. The former AL record was 530, by Mitchell Page's 1978 A's. The NL record is 531, by Bombo Rivera's 1976 Expos.
• The Mariners also had a .298 team on-base percentage. Think about that. Only 10 hitters in the entire sport (who qualified for the batting title) had an OBP that low. Yet the Mariners' TEAM somehow had an OBP that ugly. You won't be shocked to learn that no AL team in the DH era had ever had an OBP less than .300 in a full season -- until now.
• If you went to a Mariners game, there was a heck of a chance of a World Cup score breaking out, because this team scored three runs or fewer an astounding 103 times. No team in the American League was within 20 of that. And no team in the American League had done it more than 98 times in any full season in the DH era -- again (repeat after us) until now.
• Finally, this is an author's warning that the next Strange But True fact is one we love so much, we're going to bring it back again later this week. But there's no single fact that sums up the ineptitude of this offense more than this: This team was so incapable of scoring runs that Ichiro -- the guy who was first in the American League in hits -- still managed to score fewer runs (74) than Mark Reynolds (79), the guy who was last (among qualifiers) in the National League in hits. Friends, that just shouldn't be possible. But it was that kind of season for the Mariners.
Strange But True Road Warriors Of The Year
If there's any team in baseball we hope stays home for the holidays, it's those Pittsburgh Pirates -- because they were MLB's version of the Griswolds. When they hit the road, nothing good seemed to happen. For instance:
• This team went 17-64 away from home last season. Yeah, 17-64. That tied the Buccos with Choo Choo Coleman's 1963 Mets for the worst road record by any team in the 50-season expansion era. Hard to do.
• After the All-Star break, the Pirates won exactly six road games. Six. That's the fewest by any National League team since Downtown Ollie Brown's '69 Padres went 6-26 after the break, and the fewest by a non-expansion team since Otto Bluege's 1933 Reds went 5-26.
• Want more? How 'bout this? The Pirates were swept in half the road series they played (13 of 26) -- including 12 sweeps just in their last 18 series.
• Or this: 10 different Pirates pitchers had road ERAs of 9.00 or higher. Yep, you read that correctly -- 10.
• And finally, there's this, courtesy of loyal reader Eric Orns: After May 25, the Pirates went 8-50 away from home. Right -- 8 and freakin' 50. The Cubs won eight games on one September road trip. The Pirates won eight road games in fourt months. And friends, it doesn't get any Stranger But Truer than that.
Stranguest But Truest Game Of The Year
Yeah, there were many, many insane baseball games in 2010. But for seven mind-boggling hours of pure, cue-the-Twilight-Zone-theme-music strangeness, you couldn't beat this classic: Mets 2, Cardinals 1, in 20 seemingly never-ending innings April 17.
• This game began with neither team scoring for 36 consecutive half-innings -- after which, of course, the same two teams scored in three half-innings in a row! First time in history anything like that had ever happened.
• The winning team (the Mets) went all 20 innings without getting a hit with a runner in scoring position (0-for-7).
• The Mets also made it through all 20 innings without an extra-base hit -- and won. (Only two other teams in the past century pulled that off, according to the Elias Sports Bureau: the 1971 A's and 1940 Dodgers.)
• How 'bout this: The Mets won this game even though one of the first 37 hitters they sent to the plate got a hit, and they got eight times as many hits in extra innings (8) as they got in regulation (1). Try that trick on your Xbox sometime.
• The winning pitcher (Francisco Rodriguez) was the only guy on his team who gave up a run -- in 20 innings.
• This was the first game since 1979 in which a pitcher (emergency Cardinals outfielder Kyle Lohse) recorded two putouts in a game he wasn't pitching in.
• And it was the first game in the history of baseball in which a position player (Mather) took the loss, a closer (K-Rod) got the win and a starter (Mike Pelfrey) wound up with a save. So if you can beat that one for Strange-But-Trueness, let us know.
Strangest But Truest Inning Of The Year
Bottom of the eighth inning. July 30. Cubs-Rockies. Coors Field. (Where else?) The Rockies took a 5-2 lead into the inning. Their first two hitters in the eighth made an out. Now here's what happened next:
• The Rockies then got 11 hits in a row. Just to put that in perspective, the Diamondbacks went more than three weeks (and 20 straight games) without getting 11 hits in a game in August and September.
• The Twins made it from Opening Day until the last series of the season without allowing 12 runs in any game. But the Cubs allowed 12 runs with two outs in this inning.
• The Rockies had just come off a road trip in which, over the final six games, 223 hitters came to the plate and combined to score 13 runs. Then they headed home and, after making two outs in the eighth, 14 hitters came to the plate and (naturally) put up 12 runs. Gotta love that Coors Field.
• And how did the Cubs finally manage to stop that streak after giving up 11 straight hits? They walked the next two hitters. Of course.
Strangest But Truest Day Of The Year
So what was so strange about Aug. 25? The Braves and Reds both blew 10-1 leads on the same day (and practically at the same time, for that matter). That's what. According to Elias, it was the first time since 1912 that two different teams made nine-run leads disappear on the same day. But there was one big difference between those two teams. At least the Reds scrambled back to win -- 12-11, in 12 crazy innings.
In Other Strange But True News
• What were the odds of this? In the first game Lou Piniella managed in 2010 (i.e., Opening Day), the Cubs lost to the Braves 16-5. And on Aug. 22, in the final game Lou managed in 2010, the Cubs lost to the Braves by a score of (yep) 16-5. Before that, no other team in the live-ball era had ever lost two 16-5 games to the same opponent in the same season.
• On the way to winning the World Series, the Giants had themselves possibly the weirdest five-game stretch by any offense ever. From Aug. 23-25, they scored in double figures three games in a row. And what they did do on either side of those three games? They got shut out, naturally. So how many teams have ever been bookended three consecutive double-figure scoring games with shutouts? That would be none, according to Elias.
• And another great feat in Strange But True history by those Giants: They became the first World Series champs in the live-ball era -- and just the third team of any size or shape -- to lose two games in the same season in which their pitchers threw one-hitters.
• Here's to the Orioles, for their part in leading Buck Showalter down the road to managerial history. Even though he didn't take over until Aug. 3, Showalter won more games (34) than the two Orioles managers who preceded him (Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel) put together (32). Which wasn't easy, considering the other two managed a combined 105 games and he managed only 57.
• Another unforgettable managerial moment: The Marlins got called for batting out of order June 19 -- because it was Air Horn Night (in tribute to those World Cup vuvazelas). So plate ump Lance Barkdale couldn't hear the lineup spots when manager Freddy Gonzalez was trying to make a ninth-inning double-switch.
• No truth to the rumor the Cubs made all their August waiver deals based on which teams they happened to be playing. Nevertheless, they traded Mike Fontenot to the Giants in the middle of a series in San Francisco. Then, a week later, they traded Derek Lee to Atlanta just before they started a series with the Braves.
• But the Cubs could be just as inventive on the field. In an Aug. 7 game against the Reds, they had a stretch in which they sent eight hitters to the plate -- and not one of them put a ball in play. Here's what they did do: walk, strikeout, walk, walk, hit batter, strikeout, walk, strikeout. And here's the amazing part: It was impossible for them to face Carlos Marmol.
• The Mets could have had a whole Strange But True column all to themselves. For one thing, they threw 19 shutouts -- but went 60-83 when they made the mistake of giving up a run -- making them the first team since the '89 Dodgers to throw that many shutouts and finish with a losing record.
• Another incomprehensible Mets feat: They allowed 12 grand slams (most in the big leagues) -- but hit zero grand slams (fewest in the big leagues, obviously). Not surprisingly, no team in history has ever served up that many slams while forgetting to hit at least one salami, according to Elias.
• As ESPN Stats & Information guru Mark Simon never gets tired of reporting, the Mets also had a thing for Tuesdays. They went 13-0 at home on Tuesdays -- but only won 34 home games on all those other days on the calendar.
• And one more: The Mets made it all the way from Opening Day to Aug. 22 before they finally won a series on the road against another team in their league. (Of course, they didn't get to visit the Pirates before that.)
• In a year in which they finished second in the league in runs scored, scored in double figures more times (18) than any NL team except the Rockies and got within two games of the World Series, the Phillies scored a total of 14 runs over an 11-game stretch from May 22-June 4. The last time they scored that few runs in that many games, in 1961, they did it in the middle of a 23-game losing streak.
• Finally, there couldn't possibly have been a Stranger But Truer series all year than the Brewers' visit to Pittsburgh on April 20-22 -- seeing as how the Pirates got outscored in it 36-1 (at home yet). That made them the first team to give up at least 35 more runs than they scored in any three-game series since Doc Newtown's 1901 Reds got steamrolled by the Dodgers, 50-10.
Coming Wednesday: "Pitch"-ing in for Strange But True madness.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.
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