Welcome to Notes on Baseball, a Sunday list of the baseball writing and surprises I found interesting over the past week.
The Angels designated Albert Pujols for assignment, ending his run with the Angels in its tenth season:
“There's never a right time for something like this,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said of the move
Minasian said the baseball operations department had been discussing Pujols’ future for the past two weeks, ultimately deciding that Jared Walsh was the club’s best option at first base. With Shohei Ohtani locked in as the Angels’ designated hitter, that left very few at-bats for Pujols, who still views himself as an everyday player.
Pujols may fancy himself an everyday player, but he’s hitting .198 this year and slugging .392.
Gabe Laques at USA Today argues that baseball changed profoundly just as Pujols signed a ten-year deal with the Angels in 2011:
The Pujols deal was among the last of its kind, a make-a-splash pact with a 30-plus talent.
the deal became a harbinger that the greatest production, the greatest value and, eventually, the greatest paydays would go to the young.
Pujols’ deal isn’t The Last Bad Contract, but it’s close. His right-handed hitting demigod contemporary, Miguel Cabrera, is due $102 million from this season through 2023 and Cabrera’s 17-game slash line this year is .098/.179/.213. Chris Davis, buried in Baltimore, will make $23 million this season and next.
Pujols’ contract isn’t the only thing about him that reflects of an earlier era. Will Leitch:
The thing about Albert Pujols is that he fell out of the sky.
We see all our superstars coming these days. I can tell you more about Wander Franco and Adley Rutschman, who haven’t played an MLB game yet, than I can about most of my children’s classmates; Vladimir Guerrero Jr. feels like he’s been a part of our lives forever, and he is 22 years old.There are fans who pay more attention to their teams’ prospects than they do their current rosters. We’re always looking toward the future.
Pujols didn’t have 22 different baseball cards before his first Major League at-bat. No podcasts heralded his arrival years in advance of his Opening Day, 2001 debut.
Things are different now.
And yet not entirely. Ken Rosenthal points out Pujols is far from the only future Hall-of-Famer to be released:
He will not be the first future Hall of Famer to be released; Steve Carlton suffered that fate four times, Jack Morris three. It happened to Rickey Henderson, Frank Thomas and Vladimir Guerrero, too, according to STATS Perform.
It remains to be seen if Pujols will latch on elsewhere. If not, his legacy and Hall-of-Fame enshrinement are secure, no matter if he went out lacking proper pomp-and-circumstance.
What does it all Means?
Oriole fans haven’t had much to cheer about, but John Means’ no-hitter was a big moment on Wednesday.
And in an era of fastball-dominance, Means crosses hitters up with his … changeup:
• All told, opposing hitters are batting just .135 against Means this season. That trails only deGrom (.134) among MLB qualifiers.
• Those opponents are completely flummoxed by Means’ changeup. Batters are just 6-for-59 (.102) against Means’ change this year, with an average exit velocity of just 79.7 mph. Means’ whiff rate with the pitch is 41.5 percent.
But let’s go further. Ryan Wormeli wonders if Means’ no-hitter was the best game ever pitched by an Oriole:
The short answer is, probably yes. At least, if you limit the search to nine-inning games.
In the history of the Baltimore Orioles, dating back to 1954, only three pitchers have thrown complete game no-hitters prior to Means. None were a perfect game, with Means coming the closest by far - a dropped third strike provided the lone baserunner of the day.
Means compiled a Game Score of 99. Game Score is stat created by Bill James to measure individual pitching performance:
John Means became the first Orioles pitcher to earn a Game Score of 99 in a nine-inning game and just the 14th pitcher in MLB this century to do so.
It should be mentioned that Jerry Walker once threw 16 shutout innings in 1959 to earn a Game Score of 111, which is by far the highest in franchise history if you include extra innings. But that was a different era.
No word if Jerry Walker’s arm fell off after his performance.
In any case, a great day for Means, the O’s, and their fans. The Orioles are stacking up some young talent and hanging around .500 in the rough A.L. East.
Bat flip faux pas
Finally, much has been said and written about baseball’s new joviality. Batters and pitchers have more freedom now to celebrate their successes. We saw it recently in the Dodgers-Padres series.
Fernando Tatis, Jr:
But: all this jubilation creates an environment for embarrassment.
No, not embarrassment of an opponent. Embarrassment of the self, when celebration commences a bit too early, and unfolding events warrant other actions.
Take Joc Pederson, for example. Returning from injury, playing his former team in the Dodgers. He smashes a pitch. He’s ecstatic: he’s homered against his old buddies.
He bat flips. He yells into the dugout.
Except … he didn’t homer:
Such are the risks inherent to modern baseball theatrics.
Thanks for reading! See you next Sunday.