Go Figure: Some odds and ends two-thirds into the MLB season

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish delivers against the Chicago White Sox earlier this season.

    Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish delivers against the Chicago White Sox earlier this season. Associated Press

 
By Matt Baron
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/6/2020 8:11 AM

What are the odds?

Heading into Friday's action, the White Sox, at 23-15, were a half-game behind the 23-14 Cleveland Indians.

 

A century ago, on Sept. 6, 1920, the Chicago White Sox swept a doubleheader over the Detroit Tigers. On the same day, the Cleveland Indians likewise won both of their contests against the St. Louis Browns.

With about two dozen games to play in the regular season, the Indians maintained their one-game lead over the White Sox.

Q1. Before they went on to defeat the Brooklyn Robins in the 1920 World Series, what was the Indians' eventual pennant-winning margin over the Sox?

(1 game; 2 games; 6 games)

Q2. Playing in his final Major League season in 1920, who led the White Sox with 121 runs batted in and a .382 batting average?

(Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Collins, Happy Felsch)

A Clogged Home Run Race

Something about abbreviated seasons sets the stage for shared glory.

In the strike-shortened 1981 campaign, when about two-thirds of the 162-game slate was played, four American League players shared the home run crown. Tony Armas, Bobby Grich, Dwight Evans and Eddie Murray each slugged 22 homers; two others, Greg Luzinski and Gorman Thomas, were right on their heels with 21 round-trippers.

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Nearly two-thirds into this season's 60-game schedule, there was a four-way tie for home runs in the American League heading into Friday's games.

Knotted at 13 were the Twins' Nelson Cruz, the Angels' Mike Trout, the Yankees' Luke Voit and the Blue Jays' Teoscar Hernandez. In all, a pack of 11 AL players had at least 10 home runs through Thursday's games.

Meantime, the Padres' Fernando Tatis Jr., also at 13 homers, led 10 NL players who had swatted at least 10 round-trippers.

Q3. Five Chicago players have at least 10 home runs (Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs and Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert of the Sox). Who are the only two with at least 10 other extra-base hits heading into Friday action?

Home Alone

Without fans in the stands, what kind of home-field advantage exists this year? Less than usual, but success for the home team is trending up. Three weeks ago, the cumulative MLB home-field edge was minimal (155-152), according to an analysis by Mike Petriello at MLB.com.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Since then, through Thursday's games, home teams went 131-106 (55%), by my count. For the season, the 52.6% rate is still shy of the 54% norm that prevails with almost perennial precision.

Both the White Sox and Cubs have winning records at home and on the road -- a relatively rare feat pulled off by only six other teams: the Dodgers, A's, Padres, Blue Jays, Rays and Indians.

A Tale of Two Pitchers

Riding a six-game winning streak, Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish shares the MLB lead for wins and has a path to a 10-win season (a 27-win pace for a 162-game season). It would mark a dramatic turnaround from his first two seasons in Chicago, when he notched only seven wins in 39 starts.

It's enough to ponder how Jake Arrieta is faring over in Philly. The 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner and one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, Arrieta was allowed to walk before the 2018 season as the Cubs signed Darvish to fill his spot in the rotation.

He compiled a mediocre 18-19 mark for the Phillies in 2018-19, with elbow woes halting his '19 season in mid-August. This season, his key figures stood at 2-4 with a 6.49 ERA after an especially atrocious outing on August 30th. Against the Atlanta Braves, he secured only four outs while giving up six hits and walking three.

Rough Start for Seaver

This week, baseball lost a legend with the death of Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, who played most of his career for the New York Mets, but also recorded his 300th win in 1985, his second season in a White Sox uniform.

In his MLB debut in 1967, the reigning NL batting champion was the first batter Seaver faced -- and doubled off the 22-year-old rookie. Seaver later walked him, then hit him twice -- the only time the player was ever hit twice in the same game.

Q4. Who was this nemesis whose career mark against Seaver included 28 hits in 78 at bats, for a .359 average?

(Pete Rose, Roberto Clemente, Matty Alou)

Answers:

1. 2 games; 2. Shoeless Joe Jackson; 3. Ian Happ and Jose Abreu; 4. Matty Alou

• Matt Baron is an Oak Park-based freelance writer. He supplements his baseball brainpower with Retrosheet.org for research.

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