We all know Ronald Acuña Jr. is special. How special? Well, he had, before tonight, 395 games played in the major leagues. Comparing him to the other 3,928 players who managed to play 395 games or more after their first 395 games (thanks, Stathead), he ranks:
- Fourth in homers, behind only Ryan Howard, Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. So he is performing better than every member of the HOF.
- 23rd in total bases, behind 13 HOFers and only two active players: Albert Pujols and Ryan Braun.
- He is only 49th in OPS, which I find a little surprising, but it is no slight to note that RAJ trails the leader, Ted Williams, whose first 395 games sported a gaudy 1.086. (RAJ is at 0.925, which is only a little ahead of Ryan Klesko.) That said, 19 of these players are in the HOF, and another half a dozen or so are on the short list of guys who will get in eventually. You’d be hard-pressed to find a much better prediction from a one-dimensional tool.
But what strikes me is that these lists, dotted as they are with many HOF members, also contain a bunch of guys who had a great first 400 games, but whose careers for one reason another never quite reached legendary status – guys like Klesko and Jim Gentile and Travis Hafner. Gary Sanchez is not likely to make the Hall of Fame. RAJ is a great baseball player, is great fun to watch, and is still odds-on to rescue the Braves’ current lethargy. But it’s amazing how far he has to go to be an alltime great. We’ve missed you Ronald. Stick around this time.
Austin Riley was sufficiently unnerved by RAJ’s return that he put the first pitch he saw from Drew Smyly in the left field seats. The Cubs tied the game up on a pickoff play in which the guy picked off first lasted long enough between the bases to allow a man from third to score. I though you were supposed to practice this stuff in spring training. I guess that was one of the days they missed.
Drew Smyly, who some of you will remember as a guy with a World Series ring, had a problem with the gopher ball last season. When you have a problem with the gopher ball, you’re the sort of guy who gives up homers to Dansby Swanson. That gave us the 2-1 lead. Last season, about halfway through, I said Drew Smyly was dead to me. As long as he pitches against us though, I suppose I can accept Zombie Smyly. He ended up pitching 4 2/3, giving up two dingers and leaving men on 2nd and 3rd.
Smyly made 23 starts last year. He went less than 4 2/3 in 8 of them. He gave up more than 2 runs in 13 of them. He gave up 2 homers or more in 7 of them. This was a slightly above average 2021-vintage-Smyly appearance, but not so much that I miss him… particularly not given that he has been replaced by the magnificent Kyle Wright who pitched efficiently and well for 7 very strong innings. His ERA increased to a Gibsonesque 1.13.
Smyly was replaced by Scott Effross who Avilaned the two inherited runners. It is not well known how he became a Cub. Apparently, Cubs Manager David Ross said he needed another arm in the bullpen and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said “F… Ross!” and he was taken literally.
A big tension moment of the game came after RAJ’s first hit in the 7th when Riley faced yet another recent ring-bearer, Chris Martin, with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 7th. Martin turned Riley’s bat to Goop with a weak grounder to 3rd. (That is hopefully my last lame Gwyneth Paltrow reference.)
Travis d’Arnaud and Adam Duvall conspired to deprive Will Smith of a save with three runs knocked in in the 8th. With him out of the closer role, and given his success in the postseason last year, we may have to retire the Hancock thing for a while. No need to slap him around any more than necessary.
I am not yet ready to weigh in on the baseball aerodynamics question. And I won’t be until at least June. I suspect that this is not the difference between night and day… more like the difference between standard time and daylight savings.
I feel safe in saying that we weren’t going to repeat as World Champions if we failed to win a series this year. Indeed, I suspect we need to win more than one series a month. But the road to another ring starts with the first series win. On to Arlington.
Sports jacket. OMG. Paging a 1970’s prom. (Was there a worse period for fancy dress in world history?)
In the last two days, Frenchy has done a great job telling Chip he has no idea what he’s talking about. Frenchy’s genius in this regard is to do this so much more amiably than I would. My favorite in this game is when Chip commented on a fly ball and was (per his normal procedure) shocked that a ball that sounded so loud was short of the track. Frenchy first said “yeah, it was loud, but he hit it too high.” This then made Chip (who has always equated sound with distance) say that the problem was that the wind caught the ball. Frenchy then repeated, ever so gently, his original remark, rather than pointing out (as I screamed at the screen) that little short of a hurricane could change a fly ball’s landing spot by 30 feet.
Another good one: “Is there a psychological trap in saying the savior is back?” “No.” Don’t even acknowledge that this is a good question, Frenchy.