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At the other end… June 22, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Although AJ Burnett had a bad first inning last night, the Oakland As had a bad tenth inning. After taking a 2-2 game into extra innings, the Cincinnati Reds knocked three out of the park against pitchers Michael Wuertz and Cedrick Bowers. The first was hit by Ramon Hernandez; Joey Votto and Scott Rolen went deep back to back. Although extra-inning home runs aren’t very rare (there have been 35 so far this year), only three pitchers have surrendered more than one, and neither of the other two (Chad Durbin and Matt Belisle) gave them both up on the same night.

Last year, everyone’s favorite balk-off artist, Arizona’s Esmerling Vasquez, gave up two home runs in extra innings against the Texas Rangers on June 25th. Those were two of 83 free-baseball homers in 2009. Extra-innings home runs are more common in the tops of innings, because in a tied game a home run for the home team is a walk-off whereas the road team will get the chance to capitalize on their momentum, but I would have expected the proportions to be much more different than they are. In 2009, for example, of those 83, only 44 were hit by the away team with 39 hit by the home team (and 33 of those were game-enders).

So far, no batter has more than one extra-innings home run this year, but last year there were several. Andre Ethier led the pack with 3, with a bunch of batters who had 2.

Quickie: Balk-Offs June 1, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Last night, Esmerling Vasquez took the loss in relief for Arizona against the Dodgers. In the bottom of the 9th inning with the score tied, Vasquez balked with a runner on third, bringing in the winning run.

Balks are fun. The rule is designed to keep the pitcher from “deceiving the baserunner,” but also serves to encourage good fundamentals in young pitchers at the lower levels of play. For example, it’s a balk to even accidentally drop the ball.

Walk-off balks (balk-offs) are fairly rare. It’s not surprising that Vasquez, a sophomore in MLB, was fooled by Casey Blake, because balks can result from inexperience, and it’s fairly rare to have an inexperienced pitcher throwing the bottom of the 9th inning in a tied game. I ran a search on Baseball-Reference.com for losing pitchers with at least one balk who finished the game for the visiting team, which are necessary conditions (but not sufficient) to find a balk-off. After wading through the game logs, I found that the most recent balk-off was almost two years ago, when Colorado visited Atlanta in September of 2008. Taylor Buchholz balked in Kelly Johnson to take the loss.

Buchholz was in his third (and so far final) major-league season and is best known for having allegedly failed a trade physical when Houston tried to trade him to the White Sox. He’s still with Colorado and currently on the 60-day DL for Tommy John surgery.