Saturday, April 18, 2009

Something Old, Something New

That's right: "daily" means seven days a week around these parts. But frankly, life is hard when you have a more-than-full-time job and a young child and are writing 1500 words a day. Daddy needs a break today--the Expectation Management series will continue tomorrow. Today, I just wanted to take a second and point out what happened (or what almost happened) last Wednesday, April 15.

And like everything that happened that day, it has to do with the number 42. That's Tim Wakefield's age, and on April 15, he came within five outs of throwing a no-hitter. Wakefield would have been the oldest mortal to throw a no-hitter since at least 1954 (which is as far back as we have game-by-game data); Nolan Ryan did it at 43 and 44, but only two other 40 year olds have done it, Randy Johnson and Warren Spahn, both a little over 40 at the time. Ever the team player and typical knuckleball-throwing workhorse, Wakefield saw the game to its conclusion, ultimately giving up four hits and two runs (and walking away with an easy win), which keeps me from being able to say that he had the highest Game Score of anyone X old since Y and so forth, but still, it was a hell of a game, and was awfully close to really being something special.

Meanwhile, having just turned 21, Clayton Kershaw is very close to being exactly half of Wakefield's age right now. Taking the mound in LA at about the time that Wake was finishing up his shut-down of the A's in Boston, Kershaw had what looks like could have been the breakout game everyone has been waiting for from him, going 7 innings and surrendering just one hit and one walk while racking up 13 strikeouts. You have to kind of JaysonStarkify these numbers to make them sound historically special, but I think it tells you a little something. There are two pitchers since 1954 who have thrown at least 7 innings, allowed at most one hit, and struck out at least 13 in a game before their 22nd birthday--Kerry Wood and Kershaw. And true, Wood had maybe the best game anyone's ever had in that game--going the distance, giving up just the one hit and striking out 20 while walking none--so to compare Kershaw's performance to Wood's is a bit misleading. But it says something that no one else has done it, doesn't it? And Kershaw threw only 105 pitches, and might still be starting games regularly in five or seven or ten years. So he's got that going for him.

I wish there was a point to be made here. But all I've got is this: in the same night, we saw one of the best performances you'll ever see by a really old guy and one of the best you'll ever see by a really young guy; one a right-handed knuckleballer who throws standing up almost stick-straight and tops out at around 70 MPH, and one a lefty flamethrower who throws like his very life hangs on every pitch. And that's nothing if not something.

1 comment:

  1. You don't need an explicit point, Bill. Just pointing out the two back-to-back feats was interesting enough. They were two pretty cool games, and it hadn't even occurred to me to juxtapose them like that. Kershaw has to be feeling pretty good about his game, esp. since you can compare it so positively to Woods' game (of course, I don't think he wants to end up just like Kerry...)

    Oh, and I'm glad you're recognizing how difficult this type of blogging can be. As long as you can recognize it early and figure out a way to make it work, I don't think you'll burn out. I was afraid you might find it too hard to keep up the pace and give up... no one wants that.

    I'm enjoying the stuff so far. Keep it up.