Let’s get to it:
- Minutes after falling to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Memorial Day 5-3 after another poor performance by the Mets bullpen, the New York Mets fired hitting coach Dave Hudgens. The 57-year old Hudgens had a brief cup of coffee with the Oakland A’s in 1983 and spent a total of five seasons in the minor leagues in the late 70s and early 80s. He promptly began his coaching career in the A’s minor league system with notable stints including Assistant Director of Player Development for the A’s from 1996-98 and 2000-02 as well as the A’s Hitting Coach in 1999 and 2003-05. Hudgens is a good friend of Sandy Alderson, so one might have been a bit surprised that Alderson would fire him. Oh but of course, Alderson was put up to it. Howard Megdal of Capital New York is reporting that Alderson was overruled by Mets C.O.O Jeff Wilpon, who ordered Alderson to fire Hudgens. Firing the hitting coach or pitching coach is one of the least original moves in Major League Baseball and is never a great sight to see. There are rare exceptions like Tino Martinez, who was accused of physically abusing Marlins player Derek Dietrich in his time as the hitting coach in Miami. Generally speaking, it is widely accepted that hitting coaches do not have an incredibly significant impact on the offensive production of a baseball team. Moreover, they can always be overruled by the team’s manager. Moreover, players could always just choose to disregard the advice or suggestions of their hitting coach. When a hitting or pitching coach is fired, it’s often because that aspect of a team’s’ performance has been lacking and the situation isn’t dire enough to fire the manager or general manager, but a scapegoat is needed and firing someone simply because you need a scapegoat is never acceptable.
- Hudgens’ replacement, 63-year old Lamar Johnson, played for nine seasons in the majors including eight with the White Sox with a career line of .287/.326/.358 and 64 home runs. He has spent time as hitting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers (1995-98), Kansas City Royals (1999-2002), and the Seattle Mariners (2003). He’s worked in the Mets organization since 2005, first as a roving hitting instructor and then as a minor league hitting instructor. He’ll be the hitting coach for a Mets team that entered Tuesday ranked tied for 28th in home runs (34), 25th in team batting average (.237), 28th in OPS (.662), and the 7th-highest team strikeout percentage (22.0%). His first game as Mets hitting coach saw the Metropolitans get back on the winning course, defeating the Pirates 4-2.
- Though I am by no means the first to point this out, the Toronto Blue Jays are really hot. Toronto defeated the Rays 9-6 on Tuesday for their eighth consecutive win, improving to 31-22 including 13 of their last 15, and 15-11 at home. The Blue Jays are atop the AL East by three games and their +31 run differential ranks second in the American League behind only Oakland. How have they done it? The Blue Jays’ offensive triumvirate of Jose Bautista (.289/.421/.524), Edwin Encarnacion (.262/.338/.574) and we’re-all-certainly-hoping-it’s-former steroid user Melky Cabrera (.322/.366/.514) have combined for 35 homers and 104 RBI through the first 53 games of the season. Encarnacion has gotten especially hot, hitting 14 of his 15 home runs this month with his 15 home run mark tying him for 2nd in the bigs so far this year. Tuesday saw Edwin hit a homer for the third straight game, something he has done three times so far this season. Bautista joins Encarnacion in the Top 10 in MLB in home runs, while Jose’s .421 OBP ranks 5th in the majors.
- Furthermore, the Jays’ team on base percentage of .331 ranks 4th in the majors while their .450 slugging percentage is 2nd in MLB. Toronto also leads the majors in home runs with 76 with long balls in 10 straight games.
- On the mound the Blue Jays have been a bit less than stellar, posting a 4.17 team ERA (24th in MLB) while allowing 3.82 BB/9 (2nd-worst in MLB). Jays starters however have posted a 7.8% HR/FB rate (3rd-best in MLB) and a 0.82 HR/9 (6th in MLB). Toronto’s starters have had to carry the weight over their relievers as their bullpen has posted a 4.92 ERA, 2nd worst in MLB. Mark Buehrle (9-1, 2.33 ERA), has been quite effective for Toronto through two months, though his 5.40 K/9 rate is 5th-lowest among qualified AL starters and ranks below his marks each of the last two seasons (5.56 in 2012, 6.14 in 2013). However, Buehrle’s 0.27 HR/9 rate is 2nd best among qualified AL starters and would quite easily be a career best for him. Mark Buehrle has also done well when it comes to stranding runners who have gotten on base against him, posting a 81.1 LOB% so far this year, good for 6th among qualified AL starters.
- Tuesday night saw Phillies CF Ben Revere hit his first career home run in his 1,466th at-bat and 1,566th plate appearance, a 357-foot shot to right field. Revere had already set the post-integration record for most plate appearances without a home run, a mark that had previously been held by former Brewers and Blue Jays infielder Tim Johnson from 1973-79. Revere now ranks 5th all-time in most plate appearances before hitting his first career home run (table courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau):
Most PA Prior to 1st Career HR
Non-Pitchers to Debut in 1960 or Later Woody Woodward 1,945 1963-70 Greg Gross 1,890 1973-77 Frank Taveras 1,779 1972-77 Larry Bowa 1,744 1970-72 Ben Revere 1,565* 2010-14 Duane Kuiper 1,532 1974-77 Alex Cole 1,508 1990-94 *Hit 1st HR in 4th plate appearance on Tuesday
- One more bit of baseball craziness that must be shared with you, as I wrap things up here Tuesday evening. The Milwaukee Brewers and Baltimore Orioles did battle at Miller Park tonight and the Brew Crew jumped out to a 5-0 lead after four innings thanks to home runs by Carlos Gomez, Mark Reynolds and Khris Davis. The Orioles would rally back over the next few innings however – including Nelson Cruz’s major league leading 17th home run (damn you Biogenesis Bastards) – and after a Jonathan Lucroy RBI infield single in the 9th, free baseball was in order. K-Rod shook off his last poor outing and got through the 10th fairly smoothly. The first two Brewers would ground out, bringing Mark Reynolds to the plate. Buck Showalter chose to intentionally walk Reynolds with no one on base and two outs to bring up the pitcher’s spot in the order. How would Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke respond? By pinch-hitting with tomorrow’s scheduled starter, Yovani Gallardo (1-for-14 this season) of course. Gallardo worked a 2-0 count before sending a double to deep left center, scoring Reynolds from first and giving the Brewers the win. Gallardo becomes the first pitcher with a pinch-hit walkoff hit since Glendon Rusch on April 19, 2003 against the Astros — also for the Brewers.
That’s all for tonight, folks.