Baseball enjoyed a moment so rare this week that the last time someone performed the feat regularly was in 1894.
The Oakland A’s called up relief pitcher Pat Venditte from the minors. What’s so special about Venditte? He is the first pitcher in more than 120 years to successfully throw at any time with either his left or his right hand (a guy named Greg Harris was a righty who threw lefty once in 1995, but never utilized both arms on a consistent basis in his career).
In his debut on Friday, he pitched as a lefty once and then went right-handed for the next four batters. To put in perspective how unusual this is, while there have been 23 pitchers who have thrown perfect games since 1900, Venditte stands alone in his achievement in that span. While it’s unlikely anyone will do anything as special over the next seven days, let’s nevertheless see who will make a mark in Week 10 of the MLB season:
Channeling Bill James. This week I’m going to rely quite a bit on one of baseball’s great statistical sages, Bill James. The man is the father of sabermetrics, which is the advanced number crunching that really changed the way we look at sports. Among his many, many creations was the Bill James Game Score for pitchers. It considers both recent performance (last 21 days) along with historical data over the past three years. A score of 70 or higher on this scale is considered a dominant pitching performance, while a total below 50 is generally defined as something less than a quality start.
In perusing various projections for this week, Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale has an expected number that jumps off the page. As a result, look for the White Sox to win on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday. Sale’s expected Game Score is a dazzling 83. While his opposing pitcher Nate Karns is slated for a respectable 52, if Sale dominates as expected that will be enough for the White Sox to carry the day.
Bill James, the sequel. While Sale represents one of the best expectations for a pitcher in Week 10, the Colorado Rockies’ Eddie Butler represents one of the worst. Butler’s Game Score projection for next Thursday is a woeful 35. Still, I wouldn’t necessarily bet against the Rockies. Instead, on Thursday when the Rockies visit the Miami Marlins, I’d expect a high-scoring affair. The reason: not only should you expect a bad show from Butler but also one from Miami pitcher David Phelps. The 28-year-old Marlins starter is slated for a 46 in that game. If both pitchers throw as projected, then the scoreboard should be busy.
Detroit’s demise. While I don’t expect it to last the season, the Detroit Tigers have been in freefall over the past couple of weeks. During one recent stretch, the club lost eight straight. Injuries have been a big reason for their poor play and the team should get back start Victor Martinez this week, nevertheless, on Wednesday they will likely lose to the Chicago Cubs at home.
Simply put, the Tigers remain wobbly at the moment and they face an ace that day in Jake Arrieta. The right-hander is coming off a fantastic start on June 4, where he held the Washington Nationals to just six hits and one run (no walks) in six innings of work. Adding to the Cubs’ odds is the Tigers’ choice of pitching assignment. Shane Greene has really struggled this year. He has a 5.40 ERA and in his past three outings, he’s a jarring 0-3 with an 11.57 ERA.