Baseball

Jair Jurrjens: Greg Maddux Reincarnated?

Greg Maddux

I’ve joked this year several times that if I believed in reincarnation and if Greg Maddux were dead, I would think that Jair Jurrjens is a reincarnation of the former great Braves right-hander. Last night’s 1-hit complete game masterpiece against the Baltimore Orioles is a perfect example of the comparison that I’ve been trying to make. It reminded me of a game which Greg Maddux would have pitched, in particular his July 2, 1997 start against the New York Yankees (Joe Posnanski’s favorite Maddux game).

Jair Jurrjens

The two games were both their team’s 83rd game of the season and occurred almost fourteen years to the day apart (July 1, 2011 and July 2, 1997 respectively). In last night’s win, Jurrjens moved to 11-3 on the year. In the 1997 game, Maddux moved to 11-3 on the year. Both wins were against an American League team (though the 1997 New York Yankees were bit more formidable than are the 2011 Baltimore Orioles). Both Jurrjens and Maddux struck out 8. Uncanny similarities, huh? (Chipper Jones presence in the line-up was another constant between the two games.)

Like snowflakes and fingerprints however, no two baseball games are exactly alike, so there were a few differences in the games. Jurrjens walked one man, Maddux walked none. Jurrjens only gave up one hit, Maddux gave up three (But Maddux picked off a runner from second base and induced a double-play making him face one less batter [28] than Jurrjens [29].). With the nine scoreless innings, Jurrjens lowered his Earned Run Average (ERA) to a league leading 1.89 and Maddux lowered his to 2.37. It took Jurrjens 112 pitches (77 strikes for 69%) but only took the always economical Maddux 84 pitches (61 strikes for 73%).  The complete game effort by Jurrjens lasted 2 hours and 19 minutes, Maddux’s masterpiece lasted 2 hours and 9 minutes (the ten minutes could probably be explained by the fact that the Braves scored two additional runs for Jurrjens).

To be honest, it wasn’t the statistical similarities that made me think of this comparison. I only realized the remarkable details when I looked up the boxscores for both games this morning. What really triggered the comparison was by watching both men pitch and seeing the same precision on the inside and outside corners of the plate. The called strikes that were perfectly placed where the batter wouldn’t swing, but the umpire would call the strike. The unusual amount of groundballs back to the pitcher and the steadiness with which they were handled.

The point is that, not only are these two games very similar, Jurrjens is having a Greg Maddux type year. Anyone who watched them both pitch regularly will easily recognize the similarities. Neither have an over-powering fastball. Both rely on movement and location. The amazing thing about Maddux, of course, that he was able to replicate this type of performance start after start, year after year. It remains to be seen if the young Jurrjens (only 25 years old), will even be able to finish out this year with the same consistency he has shown in the season’s first half.  Maddux did this over a remarkable 23 year career which produced 355 wins and guaranteed first ballot election to the Hall of Fame as soon as he’s eligible in 2014.

But watching the game last night it was all of the sudden the mid-1990s again. The Braves once again had the best pitching staff in the National League, led by a 25 year old reincarnation of the ace of the 1990s teams.

Video Highlights of Jurrjen’s 1-hitter

July 2, 1997 Boxscore

July 1, 2011 Boxscore

Review of Pujols: More Than the Game

I love baseball.  I love books.  I love books about baseball.  Naturally, I was interested in a book about arguably the greatest player in baseball today, Albert Pujols.  The St. Louis Cardinal star has set himself apart from the class in every major area of statistical analysis for offensive production.  Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth have written a book that certainly makes the case for Pujols’ baseball greatness, but also asserts that for Albert there is something bigger than the game.  For Albert Pujols the game of baseball is merely a platform on which to bring glory to His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Lamb and Ellsworth have carefully researched and masterfully woven together newspaper accounts, interviews with friends and teammates, and the multitude of measures of statistical analysis to tell the remarkable story of the rise of the boy from the Dominican Republic who has become an American citizen and one of the greatest players in the history of America’s pastime.  Pujols: More Than the Game (Thomas Nelson, 2011) is an immensely enjoyable guided tour of Pujols’ life and baseball career.  It is highly readable, my 11 year-old-son has begun reading the book and has regaled me with stories of Pujols’ exploits.  Written by two lifelong baseball fans, the book is also baseball-savvy enough to keep the attention of the most seasoned student of the sport.

Perhaps one of the greatest tributes I can give to Pujols is that, although I am a friend of both of the authors, when I first read the draft of the book several months ago I was able to forget who the authors were and was able simply to enjoy the book on its own merits.  Lamb and Ellsworth have written a baseball book, and I love baseball and books.

Baseball and Biblical Manhood

The “Haddog” at the Great American Ballpark

Last Friday night I took my oldest son to the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati to see our favorite team, the Atlanta Braves, play the Cincinnati Reds. It was great opportunity to see two future Hall-of-Famers face one another (Griffey vs. Glavine), as well as Mr. 400, “Chipper” Jones. Well, the game turned into the Jay Bruce show. I had never heard of the rookie until the game, and now virtually every baseball fan knows who Jay Bruce is. Anyway, in light of my love for baseball and my desire to see my sons grow up to be godly men, it was with great interest that I have read Randy Stinson’s articles on Baseball and Biblical Manhood on the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood‘s Gender Blog. The articles are good read on the lessons on life and godliness that a father can teach a son through baseball. The series is available in four parts:

Chipper better than Mickey

It’s always interesting to me when a player goes from being considered a good or great player to being recognized as a living legend, one of the all-time greats.  Well, as Chipper Jones continues posting his .400 average and is quickly approaching 400 career home runs, that time has apparently now come for him.   A shocking article today by AJC sports columnist Terrence Moore that compares the Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones favorably with the legendary Mickey Mantle.  The most shocking thing about the article is how the numbers actually support the idea that Chipper is already, or soon will be, a better hitter than Mickey Mantle.

See here for another great article explaining “How Chipper became this era’s greatest switch hitter.”

An Opening Day Ode to Baseball

Baseball is my favorite sport.  I love baseball in general and the Atlanta Braves in particular. I am thankful that God has permitted this game to be invented and to be enjoyed. I don’t think there is any other game that equals baseball in its quality. I think that the popularity of sports like basketball and football over baseball represent a decline of all that is good and honorable. I cringe when I hear someone say that baseball is boring, because they obviously do not understand the complexities of the game that take place on every single play! I regret that football and basketball are attempting to eclipse baseball as the national sport, because I think this is a symptom both of our societies constant need to be entertained every single second and  our inability to slow down, think and relax.

I know many will be offended by my strong opinions about baseball. If you want to argue for your sports supremacy in the comments section, you may. I, however, will continue to believe that baseball is the greatest American sport, the national pastime and the game that I will pass down to my three sons.

By the way, a few respected baseball writers have written promising things about the Braves post-season chances this year recently.