Sunday Notes: Dave Raymond Has a Good Willie Mays Story

David Laurila


David Laurila
blogs.fangraphs.com

Dave Raymond has fond memories of June 13, 2012. Then in his final year as a broadcaster for the Houston Astros, the now TV play-by-play voice of the Texas Rangers got to call a historic pitching performance — and it wasn’t even his biggest thrill of the day. Prior to the game, he was in the presence of a legend.

Raymond had an inkling that the season would be his last with the Astros. He was in the final year of his contract, and an ownership transition was resulting in numerous changes throughout the organization. With his future up in the air, Raymond decided that he was going to “hit all the high notes,” making sure to enjoy aspects of his job that can sometimes be taken for granted. That’s how he met Willie Mays.

“In San Francisco, Willie was always down in the clubhouse, just available to chat,” recalled Raymond, who graduated from Stanford University before becoming a broadcaster. “I’d never wanted to bother him all those years, but I decided to make it a point to talk to him, whether that was for five minutes, 10 minutes, or whatever. So I went to the ballpark early, hoping to ask him some questions and hear a few stories. For instance, he’d hit his 500th home run at the Astrodome, and they’d brought him a cake afterwards.”

The hoped for five-to-10 minutes ended up being far longer. Mays held court for hours, to the point where Raymond had to tell the iconic Hall of Famer that he needed to head upstairs, as the game was about to start. As he was getting up to leave, he added that the Astros would be returning to San Francisco right after the All-Star break, and maybe they could talk again. Mays responded by saying, “Well, you’ve got to come over to my house then.”

Equal parts thrilled and anxious, Raymond raced up to the booth and was barely seated before the first pitch was thrown. He had to fill out his lineup card while calling the first inning, one in which all three Astros batters who came to the plate against Matt Cain were retired. It was a harbinger of things to come.

“To see a perfect game is one of the most incredible privileges you get,” said Raymond. “It was just electric. And then, after the game… the first game I’d ever done in the big leagues was with the Giants, thanks to Jon Miller. Jon has been a mentor to me over these years, and Dave Flemming is an old college buddy, so we hung out afterwards for probably another hour, having a beer and talking about the game. We watched the umpires take a picture out on the mound. We watched Matt Cain bring his wife out to the mound to take a picture. We watched them dig up the mound to send to the Hall of Fame. It was, without question, the most magical day that a guy like me was ever going to have at a big-league ballpark.”

Less than a month later, Raymond experienced another day he’ll never forget. Accompanied by Flemming, he spent a day at Willie Mays’s house.

“Willie showed us around,” recalled Raymond, who’d brought his family to the Bay Area for an All-Star break vacation. “He has an entire garage filled with artifacts and collectibles — he actually gave me some stuff to take back to the kids — and he has another room, which is in a separate building on his property, where he has his batting crowns, bats from All-Star games, jerseys that he’s collected from other ballplayers over the years. Stuff like that. He even has a declaration on the wall from Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and Louie Armstrong. It’s signed by all three of them. It’s this personal little thing where they wanted to recognize him as ‘The Greatest.’ And he is. Willie is a wonderful, wonderful guy.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Babe Herman went 24 for 59 against Sheriff Blake.

Babe Ruth went 25 for 62 against Dixie Davis.

Dixie Walker went 20 for 40 against Hal Schumacher

Salvador Perez is 10 for 18 against Matt Shoemaker.

Eduardo Perez went 6 for 9 against Nate Robertson

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Taylor Ward is having career-best season with the Los Angeles Angels. That he’s doing so as an outfielder is something he wouldn’t have expected as recently as five years ago. Selected 26th overall in the 2015 draft, the 28-year-old Fresno State product was almost exclusively behind the dish prior to the 2018 season. He’d been wearing the tools of ignorance from a young age.

“My dad was a catcher, and that’s kind of why I wanted to be a catcher,” explained Ward, who was born in Dayton, Ohio and attended high school in Indio, California. “I did that growing up, in high school, in college, and then was drafted as a catcher. But they have different metrics in pro ball — how they measure and grade you — and I didn’t necessarily fall into the catcher category. Third base or the outfield is where they saw me moving forward.”

The position switch came in Ward’s third professional season, and his initial relocation was to third base. In 2019, a year after receiving his first big-league call-up, he transitioned to the outfield. Three years later, he’s slashing .270/.356/.442 with 18 home runs and a 128 wRC+. The reasons behind his emergence are equal parts physical and mental.

“A few mechanical adjustments I made in the offseason have helped, basically things to make me more efficient with my swing,” said Ward. “Determining what I could eliminate and still have power was the main focus there. There’s also been some mental-strengthening stuff to help me stick with my approach in the box. There’s a process I use every day.”

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A quiz:

Mike Schmidt led the National League in home runs six times from 1974-1983. Two other players led the NL in home runs during that 10-year stretch, each doing so twice. Who were they?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

The Society for American Baseball Research announced recently that next year’s national convention will be held in Chicago from July 5-9. A rundown on SABR’s convention history can be found here.

Justine Siegel was announced as the winner of this year’s SABR Dorothy Seymour Mills Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors women in baseball. A tireless advocate for women in baseball, Siegel is the founder of Baseball for All.

Anthony Varvaro, a right-handed reliever whose MLB career spanned the 2010-2015 seasons, died in an automobile accident last Sunday at age 37. The Staten Island native made 153 of his 166 appearances with the Atlanta Braves.

John Stearns, who appeared in one game for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1974, and in 809 games for the New York Mets from 1975-1984, died earlier this week at age 71. A catcher during his playing days, he went on to scout, coach, and manage.

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The answer to the quiz is George Foster (in 1977 and 1978) and Dave Kingman (in 1979 and 1982).

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Mike Trout falling just short of matching the MLB record of home runs in eight consecutive games brings to mind a player who, one century ago, went deep in six straight games — and it wasn’t his most-notable feat that season. In 1922, St. Louis Browns outfielder Ken Williams went deep 39 times and stole 37 bases, becoming the game’s first 30/30 player.

Also notable in Williams’s career is that he twice had more RBIs than games played. He had 155 RBIs over 153 games in his record-setting 1922 season, and in 1925 he had 105 RBIs in over 102 games. The Grants Pass, Oregon native played from 1915-1929 and finished with a .319 batting average and a 134 wRC+.

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Which of Dusty Baker, Terry Francona, Brandon Hyde, and Scott Servais would get your American League Manager of Year vote? I asked that question in a Twitter poll a few days ago, and the results weren’t at all what I expected. Servais won going away, garnering a hefty 67% of the 648 votes cast. Hyde (19.8%), Francona (9.9%) and Baker (3.4%) were left in the dust.

I anticipated both a far closer contest and a different winner. To my mind, Brandon Hyde — the man at the helm of baseball’s most surprisingly successful squad — presented as the odds-on favorite. As for the forthcoming BBWAA balloting, Hyde would presumably have to be considered the favorite. Or would he?

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Yakult Swallows slugger Munetaka Murakami has 55 home runs. The Chunichi Dragons have 60 home runs as a team.

Conner Menez earned his first NPB win on Friday as the Nippon-Ham Fighters beat the Orix Buffaloes 6-3. The 27-year-old left-hander appeared in one game for the Chicago Cubs this year before being released in late June.

Hiroya Shimamoto has made 117 appearances over five NPB seasons and has yet to be charged with a loss. The 29-year-old Hanshin Tigers left-hander is 5-0 with a 3.36 ERA over 115-and-a-third career innings.

Yuki Matsui recorded his 30th save last Sunday and has now reached that total in five of his nine NPB seasons. The 26-year-old Rakuten Golden Eagles left-hander has 196 career saves to go with a 2.48 ERA, 782 strikeouts, and 397 hits allowed in 598-and-a-third innings.

Dae-Ho Lee is slashing .340/.385/.506 with 20 home runs for the KBO’s Lotte Giants. The 40-year-old first baseman has 2,897 career hits, including 485 home runs, over 22 professional seasons (17 in the KBO, four in NPB, and one in MLB).

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I asked Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny a question on Friday, expecting that his answer might be Luis Arraez. I wanted to know which opposing hitter stood out most against his team this year, and the sweet-swinging Minnesota Twins infielder had gone 25 for 56 with a 1.000 OPS in 16 games against his club.

“The most impressive displays of talent were [from] Shohei Ohtani,” was Matheny’s response. “When we faced [the Angels] he almost singlehandedly changed the game at the plate. And then, the next day he completely dominated us on the mound.”

Ohtani went 8 for 19 with three home runs and a 1.499 OPS in six games against the Royals this season. On the mound, he worked eight shutout innings, allowing just a pair of hits and a walk, with 13 strikeouts.

As for Arraez, “He’s hit against everybody,” said Matheny. “He’s a good hitter.”

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Who is the toughest pitcher you’ve faced this season? I asked that question to Tampa Bay Rays outfield prospect Mason Auer following Game 1 of the South Atlantic League playoffs, which saw Auer’s Bowling Green Hot Rods fall to the Rome Braves 3-2 in 10 innings.

“It would have to be the guy we faced last night,” said Auer, referring to Royber Salinas. “Every time I’ve faced him, I’ve thought he was tough. He has really good off-speed stuff and mixes well. His fastball plays up really well.”

Salinas was described by Eric Longenhagen this summer as having an explosive mid-90s fastball and a plus-flashing curveball, but also just 30-grade command. The 21-year-old right-hander logged a 3.55 ERA with 175 strikeouts in 109 innings during the regular season. Auer finished with a 134 wRC+.

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FARM NOTES

Vaun Brown leads all minor league players (minimum 250 plate appearances) in both batting average (.346) and wRC+ (175). A 10th-round pick last year by the San Francisco Giants out of Florida Southern College, the 24-year-old outfielder had 23 home runs in 458 PAs between Low-A San Jose and High-A Eugene.

Kyle Manzardo is slashing .329/.426/.621 with a 179 wRC+ between High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery. A second-round pick last year by the Tampa Bay Rays out of Washington State University, the 22-year-old left-handed-hitting first baseman has 22 home runs.

Jaison Chourio slashed .280/.446/.402 with a 141 wRC+ in 175 plate appearances with the Cleveland Guardians’ Dominican Summer League team. The 17-year-old outfielder is the bother of Milwaukee Brewers prospect Jackson Chourio.

Jackson Chourio came into the weekend slashing .296/.350/.556 with 20 home runs and a 143 wRC+ across three levels, mostly Low-A and High-A. Recently promoted to Double-A Biloxi, the 18-year-old outfielder is No. 47 in our Top 100 Prospects rankings.

Brandon Pfaat leads all minor league pitchers with 202 strikeouts. First featured here at FanGraphs a year ago this month, the 23-year-old right-hander in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization has a 3.88 ERA over 155-and-two-thirds innings between Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A Reno.

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Back in spring training, Toronto Blue Jays prospect Hagen Danner was quoted in this column saying that Nick Pratto “threw 90-92 [mph] and his changeup is the nastiest thing I ever caught in high school.” On Friday, I asked Pratto — now a rookie first baseman with the Kansas City Royals — about his pitching prowess.

“I knew how to manipulate the ball and get the movement I wanted,” Pratto said of his days at Huntington Beach High School. “I didn’t know what metrics were at the time, but it would have been interesting to see what I was doing compared to how guys are throwing nowadays. I sat 88-89, and would get up to 93, but I wasn’t overpowering by any means. I also didn’t really focus on pitching.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein wrote about how the New York Mets are “(Mostly) overcoming decades of dysfunction.”

Purple Row’s Joelle Milholm wrote about how the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs are very different teams with almost the same record.

Which teams shift the most? Mark Simon answered that question at Acta Sports.

Arizona Fall League rosters were released this week, and Jim Callis, Sam Dykstra, and Jonathan Mayo provided information on the players and teams for MLB.com.

Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Drey Jameson, first featured here at FanGraphs two years ago, was dominant in his MLB debut on Thursday night. Theo Mackie looked at the performance for AZ Central.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Coming into the weekend, the Detroit Tigers franchise record stood at 9,500 wins and 9,400 losses.

Rod Carew batted over .300 against all 14 teams he played against in his career. His highest average was .363 versus Cleveland, while his lowest was .304, versus the Angels.

Walter Johnson won 20 or more games for the 12th and final time in 1925, going 20-7 with the Washington Senators. He also logged the highest batting average among players who came to the plate at least 100 times that year. The “Big Train” slashed .433/.455/.577 over 107 plate appearances.

Bob Lemon had 147 strikeouts and 10 shutouts in 1948.
Max Scherzer had 284 strikeouts and zero shutouts in 2016.

Joe Black had 15 wins and 15 saves in his 1952 Rookie-of-the-Year season. The Brooklyn Dodgers sight-hander had previously played with the Negro National League’s Baltimore Elite Giants.

On today’s date in 1963, Ron Perranoski tossed six scoreless innings of relief and got the decision as the Los Angeles Dodgers topped the St. Louis Cardinals 6-5 in 13 innings. The win was Perranoski’s 16th of the season, all out of the bullpen. He finished the year 16-3 with a 1.67 ERA and 21 saves.

On today’s date in 1971, Rick Wise’s third hit of the day drove home the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3. Wise went the distance on the mound, running his record to 16-13.

The Washington Senators lost their 18th consecutive game on today’s date in 1948. (The losing streak was snapped the next day with a double-header sweep over the Chicago White Sox). The line, “Washington – first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League” coined by sportswriter Charles Dryden, dates all the way back to 1904.

Players born on today’s date include Dick Dietz, who caught for three different teams from 1966-1973. An underrated player with a career .390 OBP, Dietz slashed .300/.426/.515 with 22 home runs in his 1970 All-Star season with the San Francisco Giants.

Also born on today’s date was Jeff Bronkey, who pitched for the Texas Rangers in 1993, and for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1994 and 1995. A right-hander who appeared in 45 games and logged two wins and two saves, Bronkey is only player in MLB history to be born in Afghanistan.


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