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Michael Lorenzen crashes into the record books, a ball crashes into a light bulb, and we assess how things have gone for the recent shortstop free-agent classes. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to The Windup!
Untouchable, burning brighter than the sun
It wasn’t so long ago that Michael Lorenzen was best known for two things: being the guy who wore Vans spikes on the baseball field and being a relief pitcher who was good enough at hitting (.710 career OPS with seven home runs in 133 at-bats) that he played six games (five of them complete games) in center field for Cincinnati in 2019.
By now, those facts have undoubtedly been pushed a bit farther down his Wikipedia page. He threw a 124-pitch no-hitter in his first home start as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies last night.
Jayson Stark has the full write-up, and he leads with the fact that was also my first thought as I watched the final out on my phone. The last Phillies no-hitter was in 2015, when Cole Hamels no-hit the Cubs in his last start for the Phillies before being traded to Texas at the deadline. Lorenzen’s came in his first (home) start after this year’s deadline, when he was acquired from the Tigers.
One other fun fact: The last time the Nationals were no-hit, they weren’t even the Nationals. They were still the Montreal Expos on July 18, 1999, when David Cone threw his perfect game against them.
It wasn’t a dream pic.twitter.com/mWDJfkWQ0V
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) August 10, 2023
Ken’s Notebook: The Philly I know
I grew up in New York but went to college in Philadelphia. One glorious Sunday afternoon in the early 1980s, as I drove with New York plates into the old Veterans Stadium for a Giants-Eagles game, my car was pelted with rocks, bottles and other assorted projectiles.
That’s the Philly I know.
One of the first baseball games I ever covered, in June 1985 while working for the Courier-Post in South Jersey, was the day Mike Schmidt took the field in sunglasses and a shoulder-length wig, fearing the wrath of fans after calling them a “mob scene … uncontrollable … beyond help.”
That’s the Philly I know.
This Philly? The one that gave the Phillies’ struggling $300 million man, Trea Turner, standing ovations Friday night as a show of support? The one that Michael Lorenzen saluted Wednesday night after pitching a no-hitter in his first home start, saying he has never been part of an organization where the fans are part of the team?
This Philly is softer than a soft Philly pretzel. This Philly might as well be Kansas City, the way it’s practicing Midwest Nice. And you know what? This Philly, the kinder, gentler version, is getting results.
The Night of the Standing Ovations propelled Turner to a six-game hitting streak, producing a homer, four doubles and 1.112 OPS. And Lorenzen said the roaring crowd gave him a boost of energy in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings Wednesday night, pushing him to complete his 124-pitch outing.
An old college friend from Philly texted me after the game, saying, “Maybe the standing O thing works?!”
I replied, “You guys would have, like, 12 rings if you weren’t so bitter all those years!”
Kidding aside, what a night it was in Philadelphia, from longtime minor leaguer Weston Wilson hitting a home run in his first major-league at-bat to Nick Castellanos crushing his 199th and 200th career homers to Lorenzen completing his no-no. What a display of passion and emotion throughout the game. What an atmosphere the fans created at Citizens Bank Park.
I’ll admit it. That’s the Philly I know, too.
These things don’t come overnight
Over the last two offseasons, seven star shortstops have hit the market (not counting Marcus Semien, who moved off the position a year before hitting free agency). With Aaron Gleeman writing about Carlos Correa’s season-long slump, it seemed like a good time to check in on how those signings have worked out. (All stats are through Wednesday afternoon.)
• Javier Báez, Tigers: (6 years, $140 million) — 250 games (2 years), 3.0 bWAR, .232/.272/.364 (.636 OPS)
• Xander Bogaerts, Padres: (11 years, $280 million) — 108 games (1 year), 2.4 bWAR, .265/.340/.389 (.729)
• Carlos Correa, Twins: (7 years, $235.1 million*) — 239 games (2 years), 6.5 bWAR, .264/.338/.436 (.774)
• Corey Seager, Rangers: (10 years, $325 million) — 223 games (2 years), 9.0 bWAR, .280/.348/.522 (.870)
• Trevor Story, Red Sox: (6 years, $140 million) — 95 games (2 years), 2.4 bWAR, .235/.300/.429 (.729)
• Dansby Swanson, Cubs: (7 years, $177 million) — 100 games (1 year), 3.8 bWAR, .259/.342/.448 (.790)
• Trea Turner, Phillies: (11 years, $300 million) — 112 games (1 year), 1.2 bWAR, .241/.294/.383 (.677)
It’s still too early to definitively say that any of those contracts have been busts (though Báez might be getting close). There’s too much talent here for some of these numbers to stay where they are. If Story can stay healthy, he should put up better numbers soon, and as Ken said, Turner has looked a lot more like himself of late. But so far, it’s a little shocking to see more OPS numbers under .700 than over .800, given the size of the contracts.
The clear production leader has been Seager, who doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for the leaderboards this year, but if you decrease the minimum to 300 plate appearances, here’s where he ranks:
- Batting average: 2nd (.353)
- On-base percentage: 5th (.412)
- Slugging: 2nd (.657)
- OPS: 2nd (1.070)
Additionally, his defense has vastly improved this year. Last year, he logged -4 Defensive Runs Saved. This year, it’s +6 — the first time it’s been a positive number since he was a +7 in 2017.
*Correa initially signed a three-year deal, opted out after the first year, and — after a soap-opera-worthy saga last winter, signed a six-year deal worth $200 million.
I shoot the lights out, hide til it’s bright out
I wish there were a way to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind each of you so that you could watch this GIF with no prior knowledge of where the ball ended up.
By now, you already know: The ball crashed through the cover of the first “OUT” light on the scoreboard. But watching it without that foreknowledge felt like that moment in a dream where you think, “Hang on a minute, this snake was a coffee cup when I picked it up. Either I’m dreaming, or I need to go to the hospital, because either reality has broken, or I have lost my ability to navigate it.”
As far as anyone knows, it’s the first time that’s ever happened at Fenway Park (which opened in 1912). What’s more, as Chad Jennings tells us, it was a play that actually mattered. The ground-rule double prevented a run from scoring. That runner was stranded at third base, and the Red Sox beat the Royals 4-3.
The win allowed them to keep pace — five games behind the Blue Jays in the wild-card race. They’re still not likely to make the playoffs, but if it comes down to the final day, that light cover will become the latest bizarre legend in Red Sox lore.
Handshakes and High Fives
We’ve mentioned the Giants’ two-man (but really seven-man) rotation before. Andrew Baggarly asks: might that be a subtle selling point for a particular two-way super-mega-star free agent this winter? It wouldn’t be their first time to try to sell him on the franchise.
Mailbags don’t usually get a ton of burn here on the newsletter — they’re usually specifically targeted to hardcore fans of the teams, but Dennis Lin’s Q&A today was pretty insightful on a number of Padres-centric topics with national appeal. Namely: How safe are the jobs of A.J. Preller and Bob Melvin, given the Padres’ disappointing record?
Earlier this week, we wrote about how the Rangers have been overcoming injuries to keep winning ballgames. They’re not the only ones: the Dodgers are 8-2 in their last 10 games, despite a slew of injuries — J.D. Martinez is the latest — but better health news could be coming soon. Oh, and James Outman appears to be back in the saddle.
Josh Bell has been on a tear since arriving in Miami at the trade deadline. He hit two home runs in the Marlins’ win over the Reds yesterday; paired with a Cubs loss to the Mets, the Marlins are back in the third wild-card position in the National League.
“Kyle Tucker will be an Astro for his career,” Houston GM Dana Brown said in a radio interview this week. That’s unusual for a team that has allowed many players to leave via free agency. So how realistic is a long-term extension?
Stephen Nesbitt and I talk about Julio Rodríguez and the Mariners, preview some upcoming matchups, and I do my best to put the Arms Race out of reach on today’s edition of On Deck.
(Top photo: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)