Breven’s Blog: Tony Gwynn’s Early August Successes and Defeats

Tony Gwynn swings and hits a baseball

Early August meant a lot to Mr. Padre.

August 6 was his mother’s birthday and on that same day 26 years ago, he recorded his 2,000 career hit at Qualcomm Stadium. Six years later to the day in 1999, he would record his 3,000-hit in Montreal.

But 25 years ago, the 1994 Major League Baseball season was good and bad.

The strike ended the season (including the Montreal Expos’ franchise and Michael Jordan’s baseball career), and to add more fuel to the fire, it was the first time since 1904 that the World Series was not played. The National League, however, won the All-Star Game for the first time in six years (Gwynn scored the winning run).

In addition, the hitters did not allow the season to go into a full disappointment. For example, Gwynn had a season for the ages, as he attempted to achieve a feat that has not been accomplished since 1941 – have a .400 batting average by the final game.

The strike stopped Gwynn from accomplishing a historic feat.

August 11, 1994, was the final day of the season due to the strike and Gwynn finished six points behind a mark that has inevitably stood since San Diegan Ted Williams hit. 406 for the Boston Red Sox, 78 years ago. He missed .400 by just three hits. 

Before Gwynn passed away in 2014, the question arose: Would he have hit .400 in ’94?

With (supposedly) six weeks left in the regular season, Padres fans and those who followed Gwynn (media personnel, MLB executives, etc.) knew that nothing would stop him from achieving that feat. 

Nothing but a strike that would end the season early.  

Gwynn finished the 1994 season with a .394 batting average, 165 hits, 35 doubles, 79 runs, and (only) 19 strikeouts. He had an on-base percentage of .454 and a slugging percentage of .568. He also finished seventh in the National League MVP voting but received one of his seven Silver Sluggers that season.

The key stat that stands out, besides the batting average, is the strikeouts.

Just 19 strikeouts. Today, 19 strikeouts for a player comes within a few weeks. But Tony Gwynn was that good to put the ball in play and not go down by way of the ‘K’. 

The Hall of Famer only struck 434 times in his career and struck out three times only once during his career. Some players get to 434 strikeouts in 2.5 seasons. Never once did Gwynn strikeout to the arguably-best pitcher of his generation, Greg Maddux, which Gwynn hit .429 off him.

So the question is not just, “What if Tony Gwynn hit .400 in 1994,” but it is, “Could you imagine the season Tony Gwynn could have ended up with had the entire season been played?”

Written by: Breven Honda

Breven’s Blog: MLB Trade Deadline Recap

MLB Team Logos

The July 31 trade deadline for all 30 Major League Baseball teams has come and gone, but this year was different from the years past.

Before 2019, teams had the opportunity to make trades in August, but it was eliminated before the start of the season. Now teams have to decide two months in advance what piece(s) they need to progress in the playoffs and have a chance to win the World Series. Teams also use this deadline to improve the depth of the franchise, whether it is at the major league level or in their minor league farm system.

Today we are going to recap this year’s trades. 

The San Diego Padres were involved in two trades. 

The Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, and Padres combined on a three-team trade. The big names of this trade included Yasiel Puig going to the Indians, Trevor Bauer going to the Reds, and the Padres got the Reds’ top prospect Taylor Trammell (No. 30 overall, according to MLB.com). In addition, Padres’ outfielder Franmil Reyes and pitcher Logan Allen were sent to Cleveland.

In the other deal, the Padres received Carl Edwards Jr. and cash from the Chicago Cubs for Brad Wieck. So, it was a bullpen switch for both clubs.

On July 31st alone, there were almost 30 trades and close to 70 players went to another team.

Things started to heat up in the final hour as teams were looking to upgrade any needs they have. From starting pitching to adding bullpen depth, every type of move was made ranging from minor moves to blockbuster deals.

Before the Wednesday deadline, the big names going to new teams included Marcus Stroman going to the Mets from the Blue Jays and the Padres-Indians-Reds trade.

Then, there were some players that were projected to help a team make a playoff push but in the end, didn’t get traded. Both Giants’ pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith didn’t go; New York Mets’ starting rotation trio of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom and Zach Wheeler stayed together.

Two teams make big moves.

The major blockbuster move on Wednesday was the Houston Astros getting Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitcher Zack Greinke.

In return, the D-Backs got the Astros’ 3, 4 and 5 top prospects in the Astros’ farm system. The move gives the Astros not one, not two, but three reliable starting pitchers for the rest of the season and into the playoffs (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Greinke). The Astros also got Aaron Sanchez and reacquired catcher Martin Maldonaldo. These transactions pushed them into favorites to win the World Series. 

Another winner from the trade deadline was the Atlanta Braves. They filled the hole of the lack of bullpen depth. They got three relievers including Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Shane Greene. Green has converted 22 out of 25 saves chances and will help out the Braves bullpen. 

While two teams made none.

Two teams that were looking to make big moves that didn’t were the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Many analysts said each team needed to add to their bullpen depth, but decided to stay with what they have. 

With no August trades in 2019, July 31 was the last day for teams to get a player that could be the difference-maker in the playoffs.

Written by: Breven Honda

Breven’s Blog: MLB Ballpark Netting

Baseball Netting

One of the biggest topics of discussion over the past couple of years in Major League Baseball has been ballpark netting.

We have seen people get hit by foul balls and players have called to extend the netting. However, players still want to have the connection with fans, whether it is through fans receiving autographs, a ball, a bat, batting gloves, or even just a high five or a fist bump. This issue arises the question: What is more important, fan safety or fan interaction?

This began in 2017 when then-New York Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier hit a foul ball and struck a young girl in the stands at a game in Yankee Stadium. Luckily, the girl survived, but it brought this issue to the limelight. Following the incident, MLB prompted all 30 stadiums to extend the netting at least to the end of the dugouts before the start of the 2018 season.

Some stadiums has found a balance between the fan safety and fan interaction.

Many places, like Petco Park, have a gap in between the dugout and the batter’s eye where it is impossible for players to hit a foul ball into the stands.

Others have gaps underneath the netting so players can interact with fans just a few feet away. In addition, some stadiums have installed netting where it can be clipped to the dugout to still have the fan-player relationship.

Then there are some places that have extended the netting past the bases in foul territory. Just this past week, the Chicago White Sox extended their netting all the way down to the foul poles.

The issue still stands.

Only a few days ago, Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor hit a foul ball into the stands and hit a three-year-old boy. This event has prompted him to speak out about the issue:

“I encourage every MLB team to put the nets all the way down (to the foul pole). I know it’s all about the fans’ experience to interact with the players. I completely get that. You want to have that interaction with the players, getting autographs and stuff. But at the end of the day, we want to make sure everybody comes out of the game healthy. We’ve got to do something about it. ”

Francisco Lindor

Personal Opinion

I like the stadiums that have the clipped netting because it gives the players and coaches the opportunity to interact with fans in any way possible before and after games. During the game, the netting is clipped to the dugout to prevent injury from baseballs and bats leaving the field of play.

Overall, I am not a fan of the netting. Even though I understand fan safety, players want to have the interaction with the players. Whether it getting a Mike Trout or Bryce Harper autograph, the chances of getting one (especially on a baseball) is very limited with the netting. When I was 11-, 12-years-old, I would be able to get autographs next to the dugout and talk to players like Mat Latos and Heath Bell just a couple inches away.

I think that if people do sit close to the field, they better be ready to get out of way or catch the ball to protect and prevent others from getting hit. The ballpark ushers, ticket personnel and public address announcer can only do so much, but it is the fans that have to pay attention and if they feel that may get hit, then they should sit in a seat where it is more unlikely for a batted ball or bat to hit them.

Written by: Breven Honda

Breven’s Blog: MLB All-Star Snubs

The 2019 MLB All-Star starters and reserves were announced this past week for the annual Midsummer Classic. Every year, there are those that do not get in, but deserved to. They are called snubs.

Typically, there are a few snubs, but this year, there was an unprecedented amount. And they affected more than just the San Diego Padres. The Padres’ closer Kirby Yates, who has an MLB-leading 27 saves (entering July 1), was the only one who made the team. This means no Fernando Tatis Jr., no Manny Machado, no Eric Hosmer and no Hunter Renfroe.

Even if Fernando Tatis Jr. missed a month due to injury, he changes the hometown team from good to great. He does it all. Speed. Strength. Power. Awareness. Energy. The energy that he brings to his teammates, his coaches, the fans and to this organization is electrifying and attracts people to watching him and this team play. Even MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal said Tatis Jr. is an All Star, while CBS Sports has called him “special.”

In his first year, Tatis already has a 3.0 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), has scored from third base on a fly ball to the second baseman and scored from first on a single to right, and he became the first rookie shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra to record ten home runs and ten stolen bases before the All-Star Break. These are remarkable achievements in baseball, and it is unfortunate that his talent (including the other Padres that did not return) cannot be seen to the rest of the sport.   

Throughout MLB, there were snubs all across the league.  

In the National League, one of the biggest names besides Machado to not make the team is Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper, who signed a 330 million dollar contract this past winter. 

There is also Los Angeles Dodgers’ infielder Max Muncy, who hit a walk-off homerun in Game 3 of last year’s World Series. Muncy is tied sixth in the NL in WAR and 18 of the top 21 position players made the roster. 

Furthermore, Milwaukee Brewers’ starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff did not make the team and his numbers are one of the best so far in 2019. Woodruff leads the National League in wins with ten and is also in the top spot in WHIP (Walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) with a whopping 1.14. 

The American League is much of the same, whether a team is in a big-market city or not. 

That includes the New York Yankees. First Baseman Luke Voit, who suffered an abdominal injury last weekend during the London Series, was one of the biggest snubs on the American League side. Voit was outlasted by Chicago White Sox’s Jose Abreu and Seattle Mariners’ Dan Vogelbach. What makes this surprising from this is that Abreu is one of three White Sox (pitcher Lucas Giolito and catcher James McCann) to make the team, despite only having a 39-42 record. 

A couple other snubs comes at the shortstop position with Boston Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts and Yankees’ Gleyber Torres. Both players are hitting over .290, getting on base more than 36% of the time and slugging at least 54%. Torres, along with Voit, were playing and not one to get hurt, like most of their teammates.  

The Minnesota Twins, one of baseball’s surprises in 2019 with a 53-30 record have two All-Stars.  

That was starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi and shortstop Jorge Polanco. However, a couple others from the team had the potential to also be on the team. One of those is outfielder Max Kepler. He already has a career-high 21 home runs. 

It is surprising that the Twins, who are in first place of the AL Central by eight games to the Cleveland Indians, the host team, and 13 games to the Chicago White Sox, only have two players going, but the Indians and White Sox each have three members.  

Even though the reserves were announced this past Sunday, players that had already received the invitation, have the option to decline and not participate in the game for any reason (injury, personal, etc.). Most likely, a couple of players from each side will back out opening it up for some of these players to make a dream turn to reality and be a part of a showcase with the game’s best players. 

Written by: Breven Honda