Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Baseball Trivia: Did I Hurt My Bone or Fascia?

*Be on the lookout for phonetic rhyming clues to the player’s name!

On Monday, May 17th, 2021 the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox played a baseball game. Man, some shit happened in that game that really shouldn’t have been a talking point deep into the rest of the week. Yermin Mercedes continued to be awesome and fun to watch despite his dinosaur of a manager taking exception. Something else happened in that game that I think deserved some attention, but it was buried by the frenetic chatter surrounding the “sanctity of the game” and the unwritten rules.

In the top of the third inning, Nick Madrigal took a 90.6 mph, 1-2 fastball from J.A. Happ and smacked it to left-center field for his first career major league homer.

It left the bat at 99.9 mph, which is Stantonian for a guy who ranks in the first percentile in xISO and third percentile in exit velocity, according to Baseball Savant. This is a guy whose FanGraphs prospect rankings put him at a 35 for Raw Power and 30 for Game Power on the 20-80 Scale. Madrigal has three 3-hit games so far this season and this was one of his best, falling just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle, something I believe he’ll do someday. Pretty much everybody who gets to the majors can crank a donger here and there, but some guys just don’t have the expectation imbued into their bats; not everyone needs to be a slugger. But it’s momentous, it’s a milestone for Madrigal. So, it got me thinking…

I started thinking about low-power guys with career longevity (and I’m assuming Madrigal will have some measure of longevity, given his skillset). I found that, in this century, there are currently only four players to have exactly ONE home run in their first 200 career games (minimum 700 PAs). Madrigal, whose homer came in his 64th career game, will need to hold off on homering again for at least 136 more games to join this list.

For a number of reasons, that may not be too difficult. Two of the four players on this list got their first career homer around the same number of games played, at games 57 and 61. That’s definitely in the neighborhood, so we know hitters in this era can live in that neighborhood.

Of this quartet, Juan Pierre has the most career bWAR (17.3). Now, the guy who’s the answer to today’s trivia has never played alongside Pierre, but they were both teammates with Paul Lo Duca. They’ve also both played for the Florida Marlins, albeit not at the same time, obviously.

A right-handed, multi-position player – second, third, and outfield – he’s second to Pierre in hits (2,217 and 669) and homers (18 and 13), but third in career bWAR, with Rubén Tejada beating him for second place at 4.5 to 3.2 career bWAR. He is currently playing in the Washington Nationals’ Minor League system after just three big league plate appearances last season and doesn’t look likely to make it back to the bigs at age 36. His younger brother also played in 2020, netting 30 games as an outfielder with the Detroit Tigers.

He and Andruw Jones can attend the same birthday parties – socially distanced, please – although The Curaçao Kid is eight years his elder. In an unfortunate turn of historical events, the Coca-Cola Company would not announce this player’s birth on April 23rd, 1985, but rather that they were debuting New Coke, changing its secret formula and quickly thereafter public favor, as New Coke was met with uproarious disdain. Yet, the universe would balance that out when he became the first starting centerfielder for the newly re-branded Miami Marlins in 2012; he went 0-3 with a hit-by-pitch that April 4th.

On April 6th, 2009 (three Opening Days previous), this all speed, no stick outfielder hit that lone home run in his first 200 games. Dig this! It was a two-run inside-the-park homer off of Julián Tavárez! He and Tavárez are fellow countrymen, both hailing from the Dominican Republic. Only the correct answer can ameliorate your trivia pain.