Sunday Notes: Craig Lefferts Has a Place in World Series History
Craig Lefferts has a place in San Diego Padres history, and a good story that goes along with it. The 65-year-old veteran of 12 big-league seasons shared it with me prior to a recent Arizona Fall League game.
“My rookie year was 1983, with the Chicago Cubs,” said Lefferts, who is now a pitching coordinator in the Oakland Athletics organization. “We had two left-handers in the bullpen, myself and Willie Hernandez, and the two of us would play catch every day, trying to work on a changeup. We had a right-hander in our pen by the name of Bill Campbell who threw a screwball. He taught, or at least attempted to teach, us how to throw a screwball. Mine was terrible and Willie’s wasn’t very good either. [Pitching coach] Billy Connors told me, ‘I don’t want you to ever use that in a game. I want you to pitch with the stuff that got you here. You’re a rookie, so don’t go out there and try and throw a new pitch.’ So I didn’t, but I kept working on it. After the season, I went to winter ball and perfected it.
“The next year, Willie got traded to the Tigers and I got traded to the Padres,” continued Lefferts. “Both of us threw a screwball as our best pitch. He won the Cy Young Award and I had arguably the best year of my career. I had 10 saves, but was mostly setting up Rich Gossage. Then Willie and I met in the World Series.”
That is where Lefferts’s place in Padres history resides. The southpaw entered Game 2 in the top of the seventh inning with the Padres clinging to a 5-3 lead over a powerhouse Detroit Tigers team that had started the season 35-5 on their way to a 104-58 record. He proceeded to allow one baserunner over three scoreless frames.
That the Tigers went on to win the next three games is part of the story.
“I got the save in the only win the Padres have had in the World Series,” explained Lefferts. “San Diego has played nine World Series games and is 1-8. I threw three shutout innings that night, with five strikeouts. Alan Trammell got the only hit I allowed. It was on the biggest stage, and probably my biggest thrill.”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Dusty Baker went 22 for 69 against Steve Carlton.
Mike Schmidt went 33 for 82 against Bob Knepper.
Terry Puhl went 16 for 45 against Dick Ruthven.
Lenny Dykstra went 13 for 35 against Mike Scott.
Willie Montanez went 13 for 39 against Larry Dierker.
Adam Macko saw a limited amount of action this season. He threw just 38-and-a-third innings, all with High-A Everett, and prior to joining the Arizona Fall League’s Peoria Javelinas he hadn’t pitched in a game since late May. Last weekend, I asked the No. 8 prospect in the Seattle Mariners organization about his extended stint on the injured list.
“It was mostly precautionary,” Macko told me. “I was having some discomfort, so I had to go back to [the team’s training facility in] Arizona for a little bit and kind of get myself together. I feel good now. I wouldn’t be out here if I didn’t feel 100%.”
Asked to elaborate, the 21-year-old Slovakia-born, Canada-raised southpaw said that the discomfort wasn’t arm-related, but rather his “body was just really tired, so it was kind of everything.”
Per MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo, Macko had dealt with “an elbow strain and then meniscus injury” during the 2022 season.
Macko’s unique backstory was a primary focus when I interviewed, and subsequently wrote about him, in May of last year. We’d also addressed his plus curveball, so I asked in our recent conversation if he still considers it his best pitch.
“I was actually thinking about that myself, not too long ago,” replied Macko. “It’s tough to say, because I’ve changed my repertoire a little bit. I’m always evolving. While my curveball is technically my bread and butter, I’m not sure what my best pitch is right now.”
Macko currently throws the curveball, a fastball, a changeup, and a slider that he’s worked to make both harder and tighter. Neither a gyro nor a sweeper, he wants the pitch to have cutter characteristics. More recently, he’s been “playing around with the curveball a little bit,” the primary objective being more diversity in velocity. Depending on the count, he wants to be able to throw his hook “as slow as 68-70, and as firm as 80-81 [mph].”
The Vauxhall (Alberta) Baseball Academy product is also upping his mental game.
“A big change has been getting from internal to external thinking,” explained Macko. “I’m being mindful of every single pitch, rather than thinking about my mechanics and always just trying to throw hard. I’m becoming more of a pitcher.”
The same player has both the most runs scored, and the most RBIs, in World Series history. Who is it?
The answer can be found below.
The Cincinnati Reds announced this week that Bronson Arroyo has been elected to the team’s Hall of Fame, making him the 82nd person so honored. The right-hander spent nine of his 16 seasons with the Reds, going 108-100 with a 4.18 ERA.
Miami Marlins infielder Jon Berti has been inducted in to the Bowling Green State University Athletic Hall of Fame. The Troy, Michigan native played at the Mid-American Conference school from 2009-2011.
The Altoona Curve have promoted Michelle Gravert to the position of Assistant General Manager. A graduate of St. Ambrose University, Gravert has been with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Double-A affiliate since 2016.
The answer to the quiz is Mickey Mantle, with 42 runs scored and 40 RBIs. The Commerce Comet also has the most home runs (18) and total bases (123) in World Series history.
Three tidbits from Tyler Kepner’s excellent The Grandest Stage: A History of the World Series:
Four players have homered in the only World Series at-bat of their careers: Jim Mason of the 1976 Yankees, Geoff Blum of the 2005 White Sox, Bobby Kielty of the 2007 Red Sox, and Michael A.Taylor of the 2019 Nationals.
Kansas City Royals closer Dan Quisenberry faced 43 batters in the 1980 World Series and struck out none of them.
Dusty Rhodes walked off Game 1 of the 1954 World Series with a pinch-hit, three-homer that traveled just over 270 feet into the right-field stands at the Polo Grounds. The New York Giants legend went 4 for 6 with two homers over the first three games, then didn’t play in the clincher of the four-game sweep of heavily-favored Cleveland. Per Kepner’s book, Rhodes later told sportswriter Ira Berkow, “I was drinking to everyone’s health so much that I about ruined mine.”
Yoshinobu Yamamoto was honored with the Sawamura Award — NPB’s equivalent to the Cy Young Award — for the second consecutive season. The 24-year-old Orix Buffaloes right-hander finished the year 15-5 with a 1.68 ERA, and 205 strikeouts in 193 innings.
The Orix Buffaloes beat the Yakult Swallows 3-0 in Saturday’s Game 6 and need one more win to capture the franchise’s first Japan Series title since 1996. The Osaka-based club leads the series three games to two (Game 2 ended in a 12-inning tie).
Yasiel Puig homered as the Kiwoom Heroes beat the LG Twins 4-1 on Friday to advance to the Korean Series. SSG Landers received a bye to the best-of-seven championship series by posting the KBO’s best regular season record.
Citing contractual issues, MLB announced during World Series Game 1 that they are cancelling the four exhibition games that were to be played in South Korea next month. The games were to have featured MLB players versus KBO players.
Nate Pearson has appeared in five games and thrown five hitless and scoreless innings for Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League. The 26-year-old Toronto Blue Jays right-hander was limited to 15-and-a-third minor-league innings this season due to injury issues.
Justyn-Henry Malloy was a guest on Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio, and one of the subjects addressed by the 22-year-old Atlanta Braves outfield prospect was batting practice power. Malloy is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League, and I wanted to to know which of his Scottsdale Solar Sox teammates puts on the best show. His answer came with little hesitation.
“Heston, [Kjerstad]” replied Malloy. “Period. Hands down, Heston. He puts on an absolute display. I’ll be in the outfield, trying to get my work in, but I can’t really get much outfield work in when balls are going over the wall. At the same time, he’s not trying to hit home runs in BP. Now, I’m not in Heston’s head, but it’s like he could clip balls — he doesn’t get [them] well — and they’re still homers. That’s just a strong human. Credit to him and what he does. He’s special.”
Kjerstad, whom the Baltimore Orioles drafted second overall in 2020 out of the University of Arkansas, has five home runs and a 1.010 OPS in 81 Fall League at-bats. Malloy, Atlanta’s sixth round pick in 2021, began this year in High-A and advanced to Triple-A before joining the Solar Sox.
Connor Thomas has a 1.53 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 17-and-two-thirds innings for the Arizona Fall League’s Salt River Rafters. The 24-year-old left-hander in the St. Louis Cardinals system spent the regular season with Triple-A Springfield.
Bailey Horn has thrown 10-and-two-thirds scoreless innings for the Mesa Solar Sox. The 24-year-old left-hander in the Chicago Cubs system made 28 of his 33 regular-season appearances with Double-A Tennessee.
Edouard Julien is slashing .373/.536/.706 with four home runs in 69 plate appearances with the Glendale Desert Dogs. Featured here at FanGraphs last October, the 23-year-old infielder in the Minnesota Twins system played at Double-A Wichita this season.
Johan Rojas has 13 hits in 42 at-bats and is a perfect 13-for-13 stolen base attempts with the Surprise Saguaros. The 22-year-old outfielder in the Philadelphia Phillies system split the 2022 season between High-A Jersey City and Double-A Reading.
Jordan Lawlar — featured here at FanGraphs earlier this week — provided an unexpected answer when I asked him which of the pitchers he faced this season stood out the most. When I pose this question to minor-league hitters, the answer is typically a higher-profile prospect. Lawlar cited an unranked, recently-turned-20-year-old right-hander who logged a 5.88 ERA this year in Low-A
“I’d say Eric Silva, with the San Jose Giants,” said Lawlar, who faced the 2021 fourth-round pick twice in April. “It was early in the season, probably the second week of pro ball for me, and all three of his pitches were working. He was commanding them, and any time you’ve got a pitcher with two or three pitches that he can command in the zone, it’s going to be a little tougher at the plate.”
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
Prospects Live’s Joe Doyle thinks that University of Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander might be a generational talent.
Blue Bird Banter’s Tom Dakers looked back at the career of former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Juan Guzman.
Viva El Birdos’s J.P. Hill looked both backward and forward at the St. Louis Cardinals catching position.
Federal Baseball’s Patrick Reddington looked back at the blockbuster deal that sent Juan Soto to San Diego and brought a bevy of prospects to Washington in return.
Over at The Washington Post, Frederic J. Frommer wrote about how World Series day games went extinct.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Bill Dinneen (35) and Cy Young (34) combined to pitch all but two innings for the Boston Americans when they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates five games to three to win the first modern-era World Series in 1903. Dineen threw a four-hit shutout in the clincher, with Hobe Ferris driving in all three of Boston’s runs.
The 1906 World Series was won in six games by the Chicago White Sox, who’d finished the regular season with a record of 93-58-3. The “Hitless Wonders” prevailed over the 116-36-3 Chicago Cubs, whose .763 winning percentage remains the highest in MLB history.
The Philadelphia Phillies lost eight of the first nine games they played in the World Series. The scores in those losses were (in 1915): 2-1, 2-1, 2-1, 5-4, and (in 1950): 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 5-2.
The first season for the Houston Astros franchise was 1962. The then-named Colt .45s went 1-17 against the Philadelphia Phillies that year.
Irish Meusel played in the 1921, 1922, and 1923 World Series for the New York Giants and went 22 for 74 with 16 RBIs. His brother, Bob Meusel, played in the 1921, 1922, and 1923 World Series for the New York Yankees and went 19 for 76 with 13 RBIs.
Tommy Bond won 40 or more games in each of the 1877, 1878, 1879 seasons while pitching for the National League’s Boston Red Stockings. The Granard, Ireland native went 123-55 with a 2.03 ERA and 174 complete games over the three-year stretch.
John “The Count” Montefusco was named National League Rookie of the Year on today’s date in 1975. The San Francisco Giants right-hander went 15-9 with a 2.88 ERA. Montreal Expos catcher Gary Carter, who hit 17 home runs and had a 113 wRC+, finished second in the voting.
On today’s date in 2013, the Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 to capture third World Series title in the past decade. Shane “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” Victorino hit a bases-clearing, three-run double in the third inning to key the win.
Players born on today’s date include Mark Ettles, a right-handed pitcher who appeared in 14 games for the San Diego Padres in 1993. The Perth, Australia native had a 6.50 ERA in 18 innings and was on the winning end of his only decision.
Also born on today’s date was Roe Skidmore, whose big-league career comprised one plate appearance for the Chicago Cubs in 1970. Pinch-hitting for Joe Decker, the Millikin University product singled off of St. Louis Cardinals southpaw Jerry Reuss.