You asked, we answered (Part 2)

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Tim Thompson
Saturday, August 18, 2012

Here is the second of what will now be a three-part series of questions and answers. If you missed the first installment, click here. If you want to submit a question or, for whatever reason want to understand why we are doing this, click here.

So, without further adieu ...

(TT = Tim Thompson; TB = The Bullpen)

Q: Why aren't pick-off attempts while runners are on base counted against the pitcher's total pitch count for the game? (submitted by Molson711)

TT: Good question. I love stolen bases and generally will take an above-average speedster over an above-average power hitter. Sure, both players bring a different, game-changing element to the team but personally, I love the stolen-base factor.

With a runner on base, the pitcher delivers the ball from the stretch rather than the windup. A speedster on base diverts a portion of the pitcher’s attention away from the batter.  As usual I don’t have any stats to back up my argument, but I ‘d bet the majority of "mistake" pitches happen when a pitcher is dealing with a fast runner on first or second base.

Anyway, back to your question. While the throws a pitcher makes to keep a base-runner close don’t put as much stress on his arm than a pitch, but over time will help multiply the fatigue factor. My guess is that those throws do not count toward a pitch count because they are not pitches. I promise you, though, that the pitching coach keeps mental note of the number of throw-overs his pitchers make over the course of a start.

TB: I’ve never thought about this question, but my immediate response is that warm-up pitches before the game and between innings do not count toward the total, and are much more stressful on the arm than a toss to first base. But what do I know? My lifetime pitching line looks something like 1/3 IP, 1 K, 2 BB, two hits and two runs allowed. I was 14 and as surprised as anyone on the field when the coach handed me the ball.

Q: Why didn't Milwaukee ever retire the numbers of Warren Spahn and Eddie Mathews? (submitted by oldtimer)

TT: The Milwaukee Brewers have retired five numbers: Nos. 4 (Paul Molitor, although I guess the hot dog gets an exemption), 19 (the legendary Robin "The Kid" Yount), 34 (1981 AL MVP and Cy Young winner Rollie Fingers), 42 (retired throughout baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson) and 44 (all-time home run king -- not counting the guy with the inflated head/stats -- Henry Aaron. The Crew also features No. 50 (honoring Bob Uecker’s 50 years in baseball) in the franchise’s "ring of honor" at Miller Park, but the number is not retired.

Not counting No. 42, the common thread amongst the four retired numbers is they were all worn on the backs of a Brewers player at one time or another. Warren Spahn and Eddie Mathews both had hall-of-fame careers for the Milwaukee Braves. I would love for the Brewers to retire their numbers because then that means they are part of OUR history, which also means we could claim to have won a world championship.

Unfortunately that’s not how it works. The records, the players, championships and all stats left twon with the Braves. When the Braves left Milwaukee for Atlanta at the end of the 1965 season they took everything and the city of Milwaukee was left to start over. Both numbers are in fact retired by the Braves organization, as they should be.

Q: Has there ever been a game in which a batter has made "all three outs" in the same inning? (submitted by Bdgrlvr)

TT: Uhhh … The Bullpen?

TB: This is a good one! I recall hearing this question bandied about in the past, but don’t remember the answer. So, thanks to Google I was quickly able to find out that, despite ridiculous odds against it happening, an independent league player made all three outs in an inning during a 2003 game. I could not find any examples of an MLB player accomplishing that feat, although several players have made two outs in a single inning.

I also found this comment in a couple of places:

"For a player to make all three outs, at least 19 players would have to come to the plate in the inning. With three outs and three men left on base, the minimum scoring in that inning is 13 runs."

I have no idea if it is true, but just quickly doing the math in my head it seems to make sense. It underscores just how ridiculous the odds are against such an occurrence.

Q: What's your favorite double-play combination? I like to see the strikeout and snap throw to first to get the runner who's a little too far from first base.  (submitted by UrbanAchiever)

TT: Another excellent question. I’m a big fan of any catcher with the confidence and the arm to make that snap throw from his knees to any base to pick-off a lazy runner. When they are successful, especially following a strike-out, it is a thing of beauty. Really, a double play in any form is a thing of beauty, but that beauty can be elevated to an art form with a flip of the glove. And there is a chance at any baseball game to see the fluke 5-1 double play, in which both outs are made at third base.

Asking me to pick a favorite double-play combo is like asking me to pick a favorite ice cream -- the answer is whichever happens to be in front of me. I’d be better off listing my top-three imaginary double plays:

  1. There is one out in the bottom of the ninth inning in St. Louis. The Crew leads 2-1 over the Cards, who have the tying run on third base in the form of speedy Carlos Beltran. David Freese hits a fly ball to left center field and once the ball hits the glove, Beltran bolts for home plate. Of course, the Crew has 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun patrolling left field and he has a different plan. He steps into the catch and fires the ball home, all in one fluid motion. Mr. Baseball exclaims, "Braun with the throw. There’s gonna be a play at the plate! Lucroy with the tag and he is … OUT. THEY GOT HIM AND THE BREWERS WIN!"
  2. After losing 45 straight games, the Cubs come to town looking to bust their six-week slump. Trailing 17-0 in the top of the ninth, the Northsiders finally show a little life when their No. 8 batter draws a six-pitch walk. With the bullpen and bench empty, manager Dale Sveum has no choice but to let the pitcher bat. On the first pitch, the pitcher grounds it softly towards second base. Rickie Weeks charges, stops, turns and throws it to Jean Segura covering the bag, who then relays it to Hart at first to send the Cubs to their 46th-consecutive loss. Like Pete Rose’s all-time hits record, this is one that will never be broken!
  3. The Cincinnati Reds are in town for opening day and the Crew is in complete control, leading 3-0 in the top of the ninth. We all love drama, and it’s a tense moment as the Reds load the bases with one out. Their $250-million man, Joey Votto, chops a first-pitch fastball back to Brewers closer Jim Henderson, throws home to Lucroy for the second out, and onto first for the double play and the win.

TB: Is Jim Henderson really our closer now? I was hoping that was just a bad dream. Anyway, I thought about this question a little differently at first; I started thinking about famous double-play combos. The first one that comes to mind, ironically, is Tinker to Evers to Chance of the hated Chicago Cubs. I guess when your franchise hasn’t won a world championship in more than a century, the fans tend to wax nostalgic about that bad-ass DP combo from 1910.

By and large, I agree with this list and their rankings – especially their No. 1 selection of the Detroit Tigers’ Alan Tramell and Lou Whitaker. (I realize this isn't a double play nor does it involve Alan Trammell, but it literally is the only clip I could find on the interwebs ...)

Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, my family would attend a handful of games each year at the old Milwaukee County Stadium. Because of my young age, many of these games run together in my mind, but one in particular stands out. It was probably 1988 or 1989 against the Tigers, and we sat in the right-field general admission section. I recall having a pretty good angle of Whitaker’s flip to Tramell covering, and vice versa, which even at that age I knew was a special thing to witness.

Stay tuned for the third and final installment of this series early next week!

Last updated: 10:43 am Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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