Dodgers' No-No Redux
On Sunday night, the Dodgers were no-hit by the Cubs' Jake Arrieta, the second time in a 10-day span that they've been held hitless, as the Astros' Mike Fiers victimized them on Aug. 21. That dubious achievement makes them just the 12th team since the start of the 1914 season to wind up on the short end of multiple no-hitters in a year, and it underscores their current fragility.
If there's good news beyond the fact that the Dodgers still maintain a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL West, it's that two of those other teams went on to make the postseason nonetheless, with one winning a World Series. Via Baseball-Reference's Play Index, here are the other 11 teams to be blanked twice:
Ernie Koob, Browns (5/5)
Bob Groom, Browns (5/6)
First, won World Series
Sam Jones, Yankees (9/4)
Howard Ehmke, Red Sox (9/7)
Lew Burdette, Braves (8/18)
Warren Spahn, Braves (9/16)
Jim Maloney, Reds (8/19)
Sandy Koufax, Dodgers (9/9)
Steve Barber and Stu Miller, Orioles (4/30)
Joel Horlen, White Sox (9/10)
Ken Holtzman, Cubs (6/3)
Rick Wise, Phillies (6/23)
Steve Busby, Royals (4/27)
Nolan Ryan, Angels (7/15)
Dennis Eckersley, Indians (5/30)
Bert Blyleven, Rangers (9/22)
Al Leiter, Marlins (5/11)
Hideo Nomo, Dodgers (9/17)
A.J. Burnett, Marlins (5/12)
Bud Smith, Cardinals (9/3)
Dallas Braden, A's (5/10)
Edwin Jackson, D-backs (6/25)
The list is a fascinating one from an historical standpoint. At the extremes, it features perfect games by Koufax and Braden and the only no-hitter in Coors Field history (by Nomo), plus Burnett's nine-walk slog and Jackson's eight-walk, 149-pitch marathon. Wise hit two home runs in his no-hitter. Ryan's no-hitter was his second of the season and of his all-time-record seven. Four years later, his Angels were no-hit by future Hall of Famers Eckersley and Blyleven. The White Sox were no-hit on back-to-back days by the Browns, who wound up just seventh in the AL at 57–97. The second no-hitter came in the nightcap of a doubleheader, so the two games weren't back to back, but it still marks the only time one team has no-hit another multiple times in one season. Nonetheless, the Sox went on to win the World Series—the last time they would do so until 2005. Also notable in terms of proximity, the 1923 A's were no-hit twice inside of a week, and the 1971 Reds were no-hit twice in the same month.
Without a doubt, the team that suffered the most for winding up being no-hit twice was the Tigers, who finished one game behind the Red Sox in a thrilling four-team race that went down to the season's final day. Horlen's no-hitter knocked the Tigers out of a first-place tie with the Twins; he owned Detroit that year, holding them to a 1.53 ERA across four starts en route to the AL ERA crown at 2.06 and a second-place finish in the Cy Young balloting behind Boston's Jim Lonborg.
More recently, the 2010 Rays managed to edge the Yankees in the AL East by a game despite having been no-hit twice. That team is of some significance, in that current Dodgers president Andrew Friedman was Tampa Bay's general manager at the time and also presided over the team when they were on the short end of perfect games by the White Sox's Mark Buehrle (July 23, 2009) and the Mariners' Felix Hernandez (Aug. 15, 2012). In other words, Friedman's teams have been on the short end of six of the past 31 no-hitters, though it's a stretch to suggest that those teams are somehow indicative of a common flaw. While the 2010 team ranked 14th in the AL in batting average at .247, their 4.95 runs per game ranked third. The '09 Rays were fifth in scoring and eighth in batting average, and the '12 model was 12th in scoring and 13th in batting average.
The current Dodgers are sixth in the NL in scoring at 4.12 runs per game, and despite the two no-nos, they're fifth in batting average at .254. As with the Rays, a good deal of that has to do with their pitcher-friendly ballpark, and once their league-best .329 on-base percentage and second-best .421 slugging percentage are taken into account, their 106 OPS+ is tops in the Senior Circuit. They came into Sunday night riding a five-game winning streak, including the previous two games over the Cubs; that offset their preceding five-game losing streak, but even so, they're 14–12 this month, and their current 3 1/2-game lead over the Giants matches their largest of the second half.
What the Dodgers are not, however, is at full strength. Both Howie Kendrick (.296/.341/.418) and Yasiel Puig (.256/.324/.440) are on the disabled list due to hamstring injuries; the latter was lost for the second time this season last Thursday, interrupting a 10-game hitting streak over which he had hit .342/.390/.526. The Dodgers have additional cause for concern given that Kiké Hernandez's left hamstring tightened up as he attempted to leg out an infield hit in the eighth inning on Sunday night, forcing him from the game. Hernandez was playing third base for the first time this season in order to give Justin Turner a day off, but he has recently supplanted the slumping Joc Pederson (.147/.295/.257 in 166 PA since July 1) in centerfield.
Meanwhile, Chase Utley has gone just 5-for-29 since being acquired from the Phillies to fill in for Kendrick after a torrid 15-for-31 stretch with six extra-base hits between returning from the disabled list and being traded. Utley made his Dodgers debut in Fiers's no-hitter and was the final out of Arrieta's no-hitter. Via ESPN Stats & Info, that placed him on a short list of players to be the final out of multiple no-hitters, along with Hank Aaron, Ted Williams and unspecified others. Utley was previously the finishing touch on Josh Beckett's May 15, 2014 no-hitter for the Dodgers against the Phillies.
Utley is hitting just 212/.285/.331 overall, while his middle infield counterpart Jimmy Rollins is hitting .218/.274/.359. Add those two to Pederson (.211/.354/.435 overall, albeit for a 117 OPS+), and the Dodgers are the only team besides the Astros with three players hitting under .220 with at least 300 PA overall, though at least with Pederson, the Dodgers have the one player in the majors whose production has been above average despite that low batting average.
If and when the Dodgers get healthy, manager Don Mattingly can limit the exposure of that trio via the use of Hernandez, Kendrick and perhaps top prospect Corey Seager, who's currently at Triple A Oklahoma City, but at the moment, that appears to be a big if. That's also hardly the only headache for Mattingly given the ongoing struggles at the back of the rotation, where July 31 acquisitions Mat Latos and Alex Wood have combined for a 5.08 ERA, an average of 5.4 innings per start and just three quality starts out of 10, as well as a bullpen that’s carrying a 5.24 ERA and 1.5 homers per nine since the All-Star break. Hey, $300 million only goes so far.
Go north, Mark Shapiro
In a month that's already seen Dave Dombrowski move from the Tigers to the Red Sox, another high-level executive is on the go. After 24 years in the Indians' front office, team president Mark Shapiro is heading for Toronto, where he will become president and chief executive officer of the Blue Jays and Rogers Centre. Shapiro, who will replace the retiring Paul Beeston in that capacity at season's end, is expected to attempt to retain general manager Alex Anthopoulos, whose wheeling and dealing over the past year has Toronto on track to end the majors' longest postseason drought with its first appearance since 1993.
The hiring of the 48-year-old Shapiro ends a lengthy quest to replace the 70-year-old Beeston, who was expected to step down last winter. The team courted White Sox vice president of baseball operations Kenny Williams, who wasn't allowed to interview, as well as Orioles general manager Dan Duquette, but an attempt to land the latter fell apart over Baltimore's demands for multiple top prospects in exchange for letting Duquette out of his contract. More recently, the team talked to Dombrowski after he was fired by the Tigers earlier this month, ending a 14-year run in Detroit, but he instead chose to go to Boston.
A graduate of Princeton University, Shapiro joined the Indians in 1991 and worked his way up the player development ranks. He spent five seasons ('94–98) as the team's director of minor league operations, then three more ('99–2001) as vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager before being promoted to the GM spot to replace John Hart, under whom the Indians emerged as a powerhouse, winning five AL Central titles and two pennants. Shapiro's nine-year tenure as GM ('02–10) required him to undertake a rebuilding process as that powerhouse was dismantled; it featured just one postseason appearance, in '07, but he was named The Sporting News Executive of the Year in both '05 and '07, seasons in which the Indians won at least 90 games. After the '10 season, he was promoted to the team presidency, with assistant GM Chris Antonetti taking over as GM.
In addition to presiding over the Indians' 2013 Wild Card team—a squad that ended a four-year, sub-.500 run—Shapiro kicked off a $26 million multi-phase renovation of the 21-year-old Progressive Field, an effort that has drawn positive reviews but had little impact at the gate: The team, currently 63–66, ranks 14th in the league at in attendance, up 4% over last year but still down about 5% from '12–13 levels; they’re ranked among the league’s bottom three for four straight years. The Progressive renovation experience is one draw for the Blue Jays, as their owners, Rogers Communications, are said to be planning to renovate the Rogers Centre, which opened in 1989, a move that could include the replacement of their artificial turf with natural grass in time for the '18 season.
In moving from the Indians to the Blue Jays, Shapiro will gain much more financial latitude. Via Cot's Contracts, the Indians' $88.0 million Opening Day payroll ranked 26th in the majors this year; the team hasn't been above 20th since 2002. The Blue Jays' $126.9 million payroll ranked 10th, the third straight year that it's been among the top 10. That payroll has no doubt increased given the late July additions of David Price, LaTroy Hawkins and Ben Revere, and while Troy Tulowitzki is making less than Jose Reyes this year ($20 million compared to $22 million), the team's long-term commitment to their new shortstop ($98 million from '16 to '20, including buyout) is about twice that of their old one ($46 million).
Those in-season additions have helped make the Blue Jays the hottest team in baseball. On July 28, the Jays were 50–51 following a loss to the Phillies, but that night, Anthopoulos completed the trade for Tulowitzki. Since then, the team has gone 24–5 and outscored opponents by 99 runs; the offense, already the league's most potent, has averaged 6.48 runs per game during that stretch, and the pitching has clamped down to 3.07 runs per game. The surge pushed the Jays from eight games behind the Yankees in the AL East to 1 1/2 ahead, and turned Anthopoulos, who added Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson this past winter, into a hot commodity, as he's currently in the final year of his contract. Anthopoulos joined the Blue Jays as scouting coordinator in 2003 and worked as an assistant to GM J.P. Ricciardi and then VP of baseball operations/assistant GM before taking over for Ricciardi in late '09. Via CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, sources in the Blue Jays' organization have indicated that Shapiro intends to keep Anthopoulos, who is said to prefer to remain in Toronto.
During Anthopoulos's six seasons, the Blue Jays have two finishes above .500 and one right at it, but they've never placed higher than third in the AL East. In fact, only once in the previous 21 years have they even placed second, that back in 2006. For a team that won what was once a seven-team division five times from 1985 to '93, that's quite a slump. Beeston, who in '76 became the first employee of the Blue Jays, oversaw the franchise's heyday as president/CEO from '90 through '97, a span that included back-to-back World Series wins in '92 and '93, with Pat Gillick as general manager and Cito Gaston as manager. Beeston left the Blue Jays in '97 to serve as president and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball. He served in that capacity for five years, most notably helping to centralize MLB Advanced Media rights, and returned to his current post in late '09.
As for the Indians, owner Paul Dolan said via statement on Monday that he "will not be seeking an external replacement" for Shapiro. That could hint at the possible promotion of Antonetti to the presidency, with assistant GM Mike Chernoff, whose name has surfaced as a potential candidate for other GM openings, taking Antonetti's position.