But if there were an award category for the best under-the-radar guy who has affected a pennant race, Joe Kelly would probably be the front-runner in the National League. “Huge,” said St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak, in assessing Kelly’s importance to the 2013 Cardinals.
Kelly opened the season in the bullpen and wanted an opportunity to pitch more, and contribute more, and when the Cardinals developed a rotation hole in midseason, Kelly stepped in. Going into his start against the Brewers on Sunday night, he has a 2.14 ERA in 14 starts for the Cardinals, allowing only five homers in 340 plate appearances. Since the All-Star break, the only three pitchers in the majors with a lower ERA are some you might’ve heard of:
Jose Fernandez, the presumptive front-runner for NL rookie of the year, at 1.32.
Dan Otero, Oakland Athletics: He’s bounced around the Giants organization in recent seasons, before they finally moved him this past spring -- and he has become a fixture for Oakland. Otero is 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA in 30 appearances and 36 2/3 innings, and has taken on greater responsibilities given the struggles of Ryan Cook.
Billy Hamilton, Reds: He might not qualify as an under-the-radar guy, because he certainly has been noticed by opposing players, and his impact has been distinctly over the radar, with 10 stolen bases.
From ESPN Stats & Info: Of Hamilton's seven scored runs for the Reds this season, all of them have counted.
• Five of the seven have been tying, go-ahead or winning runs.
• Six of the seven have come in the seventh inning or later.
• Three of the seven have come in extra innings.
• Six of the seven have come after a stolen base.
In conversations with players, scouts and execs in recent days, some have expressed surprise that Hamilton is not getting a few days to play center field, with Shin-Soo Choo moving to left, just so the Reds can assess that option for a starting lineup going into the postseason. Choo is regarded as one of the worst defensive center fielders because of his limited range.
• Matt Adams, the Cardinals’ first baseman for the foreseeable future, is wearing a brace to help him with the issue in his right elbow -- doctors have told him he can’t make the injury worse by playing -- and he said Saturday afternoon that hitting with the brace actually helps him keep his hands inside the ball.
From Elias: Adams, who was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the Cardinals’ win over the Brewers, is now batting .412 (14-for-34) with five home runs and 10 RBIs versus Milwaukee this year. The last Cardinals rookie to bat at least .400 with five or more home runs and at least 10 RBIs against one team was Johnny Mize in 1936 versus the Cubs (.449 BA, 5 HRs and 21 RBIs).
Mozeliak told reporters that Craig is not close to returning, and indicated that it’s unlikely he will play before the end of the regular season.
• My two favorite Andy Pettitte stories from the years that I covered him as a beat writer working for The New York Times: First, in the middle of 1999 -- an awful season for him -- George Steinbrenner told his baseball operations people to take offers for the left-hander. Steinbrenner told me he was concerned that Pettitte would become too expensive through arbitration.
Before I wrote the story that he was being put out on the market, I went to Pettitte to give him a heads-up about the story that would be in the next day’s paper. (This was pre-Twitter, of course, when stories broke in the morning pages.) Pettitte, as earnest as always, listened carefully to the details, and without a lot of experience with the arbitration process, he had a very logical question: Why, if he was having a bad year, would his salary go up in 2000?
This was a question that some owners continue to ask all the time.
Story No. 2: Pettitte made his first start after 9/11 in Chicago, on Sept. 20, and in the top of the first inning Kip Wells drilled Bernie Williams in the head with a fastball. There was no reason to think that it was done on purpose, but in the moment, Williams’ injury looked awful -- he writhed around on the ground before being helped off the field -- and it was a situation that called for retaliation of some sort.
But in the past, Pettitte had declined to retaliate because he didn’t like hitting opposing batters. Early in the 1998 season, Pettitte had failed to retaliate after Seattle pitchers had thrown inside to Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez, and there had been a team meeting to discuss it. Pettitte was, in short, a conscientious objector.
But in the bottom of the first inning, Magglio Ordonez came to bat -- and Pettitte smoked him, right near the belt line.
It was a surprising moment, at a really emotional time for everybody, and after the game, Pettitte was alone at his locker when I asked him the question that needs to be asked in this situation: Did you throw at Ordonez on purpose?
Roger Clemens was on that team and had mastered the art of answering that question, saying that, hey, he was just trying to establish the inside part of the plate, or that the ball got away. And that is fully what I expected to hear from Pettitte.
But Andy is earnest, and he wouldn’t look at me; instead, he just said quietly, “I don’t want to talk about that.”
The Oakland sewage situation looms as a potential national embarrassment for Major League Baseball if the Athletics reach the World Series -- at a time when the plumbing in the old Coliseum is usually at its worst, in the middle of football season. It’s like a perfect storm of ... stuff ... is gathering: It has been raining; the Raiders are playing; and the Athletics are a threat to play deep into the postseason.
This is when you don’t want naming rights to a stadium.
A. Kershaw threw 74 percent fastballs before two strikes and 62 percent breaking balls with two strikes. Nine of the 10 outs he recorded on his breaking balls came with two strikes, including seven via strikeout (four curveballs, three sliders).
B. Put hitters away: Kershaw took 14 hitters to a two-strike count and struck out 10 of them (71 percent), his third-highest percentage this season. He didn’t allow a hit with two strikes for just the fourth time this season.
C. Kershaw threw just 44 percent of his pitches in the strike zone, his second-lowest percentage this season. The Padres swung at only 14 pitches out of the zone, but those swings resulted in eight outs, Kershaw’s fifth-most this year.
23 -- A.J. Burnett’s swings and misses with his curveball Saturday, tied for the most by any pitcher on any pitch type in a game in the past five seasons.
29 -- Home runs by Raul Ibanez this season, tied with Ted Williams for the most by a player in his age-41 season or later.
9 -- Starts by Clayton Kershaw this season with at least 7 scoreless IP (most in MLB).
54 -- Doubles by Matt Carpenter this season, passing Stan Musial for the most by a left-handed hitter in Cardinals history.