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MLB Monday (September 21-27, 2020)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of September 21-27, 2020, the final week of baseball’s 60-game regular season:


Mazel tov

Stats to share

  • Collectively, Jewish pitchers outpitched their peers in 2020, going 10-3 with a 2.80 ERA versus the overall MLB ERA of 4.45. Meanwhile, Jewish batters hit .252, a few ticks above the MLB average of .245.
  • Ryan Sherriff (Rays) was the only MLB pitcher in 2020 to maintain a perfect 0.00 ERA after 10 or more appearances.
  • Kevin Pillar, who began the season in Boston but finished it in Colorado, recorded career bests in batting average (.288) and on-base percentage (.336).
  • ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor has Max Fried (Atlanta) finishing second in the N.L. behind the Cubs’ Yu Darvish.

At the plate

  • OF Kevin Pillar (Rockies) hit .345 (10-for-29) last week with a home run, 3 doubles, 5 RBIs, a hit-by-pitch, 2 stolen bases, and a .406 OBP. For the season, Pillar — who split his time between Boston and Colorado — hit a combined .288 (60-for-208) with 6 HRs, 3 triples, 12 doubles, 26 RBIs, 5 stolen bases in 7 attempts, a .336 OBP, and a .798 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
  • OF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .333 (4-for-12) with a home run, 4 RBIs, and a .429 OBP. For the season, Pederson hit .190 (23-for-121) with 7 HRs, 4 doubles, 16 RBIs, one stolen base in one attempt, a .285 OBP, and a .681 OPS.
  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros) hit .222 (6-for-27) with 2 HRs, a triple, a double, 5 RBIs, and a .313 OBP; the highlight came on September 24, when he came within a single of hitting for the cycle. For the season, Bregman hit .242 (37-for-153) with 6 HRs, one triple, 12 doubles, 22 RBIs, no stolen bases, a .350 OBP, and an .801 OPS.
  • OF Ryan Braun (Brewers) hit .087 (2-for-23), with a home run, a walk, and a .125 OBP. For the season, Braun hit .233 (30-for-129) with 8 HRs, one triple, 7 doubles, 26 RBIs, one stolen base in one attempt, a .281 OBP, and a .769 OPS.
  • 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) remained on the injured list last week with a right knee strain. For the season, Tellez hit .283 (32-for-113) with 8 HRs, 5 doubles, 23 RBIs, one failed attempt to steal a base, a .346 OBP, and a .886 OPS.
  • C Ryan Lavarnway (Marlins) spent last week off of his team’s active roster. For the season, Lavarnway hit .364 (4-for-11) with a .364 OBP and a .727 OPS.
  • C Garrett Stubbs (Astros) spent last week off of his team’s active roster. For the season Stubbs hit .200 (7-for-35) with 3 doubles, 2 RBIs, a .282 OBP, and a .568 OPS.

On the mound

  • Ryan Sherriff (Rays) tossed 3.0 scoreless innings across 3 appearances last week, yielding a hit and a walk while striking out 2. For the season, Sherriff was 1-0 with one save and a 0.00 ERA across 9.2 innings, yielding 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 2.
  • Richard Bleier (Marlins) tossed 1.1 perfect innings across 2 games, striking out one and earning a hold. For the season, Bleier — who split his time between Baltimore and Miami — was 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA across 16.2 innings, yielding 14 hits and 4 walks while striking out 11.
  • Max Fried (Braves) was pulled after one inning with an ankle injury on September 23, having yielded 2 earned runs on 2 HRs, his first and only HRs allowed in 2020. For the season, Fried was 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA over 56 innings, yielding 42 hits and 19 walks while striking out 50.
  • Dean Kremer (Orioles) had a tough start against the Red Sox on September 23, yielding 7 earned runs over 2.2 innings on 7 hits, 3 walks, and 2 strikeouts, thus ballooning his 2020 ERA from 1.69 to 4.82. For the season, the rookie starter was 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA across 18.2 innings, yielding 15 hits and 12 walks while striking out 22.
  • Rob Kaminsky (Cardinals) spent last week off of his team’s active roster. For the season, the rookie reliever was 0-0 with a 1.95 ERA across 4.2 innings, yielding 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3.
  • Robert Stock (Red Sox) spent last week off of his team’s active roster.. For the season, Stock was 0-1 with a 4.73 ERA across 13.1 innings, yielding 16 hits and 10 walks while striking out 14.

Miscellanea

  • Two Jewish starters — Dean Kremer (Orioles) and Max Fried (Braves) — pitched on the same day last week, September 23. Though a rare event, it was not unprecedented. Perhaps the most famous example came on September 25, 1966, when Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax faced off against Ken Holtzman of the Cubs. Holtzman took a no-hitter through 8 innings before prevailing 2-1 (see box score).

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MLB Monday (September 14-20, 2020)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of September 14-20, 2020:

Mazel tov

  • P Ryan Sheriff (Rays) earned his first career save on September 18, pitching a perfect inning of relief on just 9 pitches to preserve a 2-1 win. The southpaw has yet to give up an earned run this season.
  • Ryan Braun (Brewers), the all-time Jewish home run leader, hit his 350th career round-tripper on September 16 (see video). Jewish Baseball News contributor Ethel H. assembled some relevant facts:
    • Braun’s 351 HRs rank fifth among active players, behind Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion and  Nelson Cruz
    • His first home came off Padres right-hander Justin Germano, on May 26, 2007
    • 111 of Braun’s home runs have come with the score tied
    • Braun has had two three-homer games
    • So far in 2020, Braun has homered 7 times in 117 appearances, or 6.0%, the third highest home-run percentage of his career

Stats to share

  • As of today, ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor has Max Fried (Atlanta) tied with the Cubs’ Yu Darvish for the N.L. lead. Fried leads the Majors with a 7-0 record, and according to Forbes, his schedule is tougher than Darvish’s (7-3).
  • Meanwhile, Darvish’s 2020 salary ($22-million) is 39 times Fried’s ($565,000). After prorating for the shortened 2020 season, Fried will be paid just $216,000.
  • After 55 innings this season, Fried has yet to give up a home run. No other MLB pitcher with at least 23 innings under his belt can say the same.
  • P Dean Kremer (Orioles) is only the second pitcher in MLB history to notch the following stats in each of his first three career starts: 5 or more innings, one or fewer runs, 4 or fewer hits, and 6 or more strikeouts (see article).
  • After hitting just .170 in August, Ryan Braun (Milwaukee) is hitting .400 in September, with 5 HRs, 8 extra-base hits, and 16 RBIs in just 40 at-bats.
  • After recording a 5.79 ERA in August and allowing batters to hit .300, Richard Bleier (Marlins) has a 1.17 ERA so far in September, bringing his season ERA down to 2.35.

At the plate

  • OF Ryan Braun (Brewers) hit .409 last week (9-for-22) with 3 HRs, 2 doubles, 9 RBIs, one walk, a hit-by-pitch, and a .458 on-base percentage.
  • OF Kevin Pillar (Rockies) hit .409 (9-for-22) with a double, one RBI, a walk, and a .435 OBP. Since joining Colorado on Sept. 1, Pillar is hitting .290 (18-for-62) with a home run, triple, 2 doubles, 8 RBIs, and a .323 OBP.
  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros) hit .222 (4-for-18) with a double, 2 RBIs, 4 walks, a hit-by-pitch, and a .391 OBP.
  • OF Joc Pederson (Dodgers), who spent part of the week on the paternity list, hit .000 (0-for-6) with 4 strikeouts.
  • 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) remained on the injured list with a right knee strain.

On the mound

  • Dean Kremer (Orioles) pitched 5 innings of one-run ball on September 17, yielding 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out six. After three starts, the rookie has a 1.69 ERA.
  • Max Fried (Braves), back from the injured list, improved his record to 7-0 on September 18. The 26-year-old pitched 5 innings of one-run ball, yielding 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3 and hitting one batter. His ERA is a slim 1.96.
  • Ryan Sherriff (Rays) tossed 3.1 innings of scoreless ball across 3 games, yielding 3 hits and a walk while earning a save.
  • Richard Bleier (Marlins) tossed 2.2 innings of scoreless ball across 3 appearances, yielding a hit and a walk while striking out 2.
  • Rob Kaminsky (Cardinals) pitched 0.2 innings of relief on September 15, yielding an earned run on 2 hits and a walk in an 18-3 loss to Milwaukee. St. Louis later sent the rookie — who has a 1.93 ERA across 5 appearances — to the team’s alternate training site.
  • Robert Stock (Red Sox) tossed 4 innings of scoreless relief across 2 games, yielding a hit and 2 walks while striking out 3.

Miscellanea

  • Cardinals pitcher Rob Kaminsky faced off against Brewers batter Ryan Braun with the bases loaded on September 15. C Yadier Molina was called for interference when Braun’s bat struck his glove hand, forcing in a run (see video).
  • In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, John Thorn, the official historian for Major League Baseball, talks about being born to Holocaust survivors in a displaced persons camp, going to an Orthodox Hebrew school, and how Judaism is “a central part of my life and my worldview, though I am no longer religious.”

Minor League notes

Injured list

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MLB Monday (September 7-13, 2020)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of September 7-13, 2020:

Mazel tov

  • MLB.com columnist Jonathan Mayo ranked Orioles rookie Dean Kremer #9 last week on a list of baseball’s hottest rookies.
  • MLB.com gave manager Gabe Kapler credit for inspiring his San Francisco Giants to come back from their early-season woes to reach the eighth and final N.L. postseason spot with less than 20 games to play (see article).

Stats to share

  • There’s a good reason Max Fried (Braves) is #2 in ESPN.com’s ranking of pitchers most likely to win the N.L. Cy Young Award. As Jewish Baseball News reader Jack W. points out, the southpaw leads all MLB pitchers in lowest exit velocity, lowest barrel percentage, and lowest hard-hit percentage.
  • Through September 13, Jewish pitchers were a combined 9-2 with a 2.39 ERA and 83 strikeouts over 90.1 innings. The combined ERA for all MLB pitchers is 4.41.
  • A hefty percentage of Jewish ballplayers are likely to compete in this year’s playoffs. According to ESPN.com, the Dodgers (Joc Pederson), Rays (Ryan Sherriff), and Braves (Max Fried) all have a 100 percent chance of making the postseason, while the Blue Jays (Rowdy Tellez) have a 98.3 percent shot, the Astros are at 94.3 percent (Alex Bregman, Garrett Stubbs), and the Cardinals (Rob Kaminsky) have a 77.9 percent chance.
  • Don’t forget: for Jewish players’ season totals — both current and historical — visit the Season Stats box on the Jewish Baseball News home page.

At the plate

  • OF Ryan Braun (Brewers) hit .364 (4-for-11) last week with 2 HRs, 6 RBIs, a walk, and a .385 on-base percentage.
  • OF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .200 (1-for-5) with a double and a .200 OBP.
  • OF Kevin Pillar hit .190 (4-for-21) with a double, one RBI, and a .190 OBP.
  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros), back after nearly three weeks on the injured list, hit .125 (2-for-16) with a double, one RBI, 2 walks, and a .222 OBP. Bregman’s 2020 season has been a far cry from 2019, when he finished second in the American League MVP vote.
  • 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) hit .125 (1-for-8) with a double and 2 RBIs before going on the injured list September 9 with a right knee strain.
  • C Garrett Stubbs (Astros) was optioned to Houston’s alternate training site on September 9.

On the mound

  • Dean Kremer (Orioles) pitched well again in his second Major League start on September 12, yielding one earn run on 4 hits and 3 walks over 5 innings while striking out seven Yankee batters. His ERA is a slim 1.64.
  • Cardinals rookie Rob Kaminsky (Cardinals) maintained his perfect 0.00 ERA, pitching 2 scoreless innings on a combined 2 hits, no walks, and a strikeout.
  • Ryan Sherriff (Rays) tossed 1.1 innings of scoreless ball across 2 games, yielding two hits and no walks.
  • Max Fried (Braves) suffered his only subpar outing of the 2020 season on September 5, yielding 3 earned runs on 5 hits and 3 walks over 5 innings while striking out 4. Did a spasm in his lumbar spine muscle play a role? Fried went onto the injured list on September 8.
  • Richard Bleier (Marlins) went 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA across 3 appaerances, yielding one earned run on 4 hits and 2 walks over 1.2 combined innings.
  • Robert Stock (Red Sox) pitched 1.2 innings of relief on September 11, giving up 2 earned runs on 2 hits and a walk while striking out 2.

Injured list

Miscellanea

  • Over the decades, we’ve seen plenty of articles opining on whether Jewish athletes should play on the High Holidays. In an article for the Forward, Florida International University law professor Howard Wasserman instead did a deep statistical dive into a different question: when Jews have played on Yom Kippur in the past, how have they performed?
  • The Forward also published a fascinating article on Sam Nahem, a Syrian Jew from New York who played on and off in the Majors and minors from 1938 to 1948. A self-avowed Communist who obtained a law degree between seasons, Nahem played an early role in the racial integration of baseball. In addition to encouraging his white teammates to consider the idea, Nahem insisted — in defiance of the military establishment — on having Negro league players on a military team he played for and managed.
  • P Ryan Sherriff (Rays) and P Robert Stock (Red Sox) faced off against one another on September 11. The Rays got the last laugh, slaughtering Boston 11-1.

Minor League notes

  • Several athletes who have played in the Majors this season are now at their team’s so-called alternative training site:

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MLB Monday (August 31-September 6, 2020)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of August 31-September 7, 2020:

Mazel tov

  • The Orioles threw rookie P Dean Kremer into the deep end for his Major League debut on Sunday (September 6), making him start against the Yankees on less than 24 hours’ notice. Kremer delivered a dominant performance, starting off by striking out the first two batters he faced and retiring nine New York batters on a total of 20 pitches across the third, fourth and fifth innings. By the time he’d completed his one-hit, six-inning start, Kremer — whose parents are natives of Israel — had allowed just one earned run and struck out 7 (see video). Baltimore went on to win 5-1. “He just attacked the strike zone and stuck to his strength,” Orioles catcher Bryan Holaday said. “You wouldn’t have been able to tell it was his first time out there.” Kremer conducted part of his post-game interview in Hebrew.

Stats to share

  • Max Fried led the Braves to a win over the Red Sox on August 31, but he wasn’t the only Jewish pitcher on the mound at Fenway Park that day. Robert Stock pitched a scoreless inning of relief for Boston.
  • When the Red Sox traded OF Kevin Pillar to Colorado on August 31, he became only the fifth Jewish player in Rockies history, and the first since 2009. The others are P Jason Marquis (2009), P Jason Hirsh (2007-08), OF Gabe Kapler (2002-03), and P Mike Saipe (1998).

At the plate

  • 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) had hits in 6 of 7 games last week, leading to an overall .500 batting average (12-for-24) with 2 HRs, a double, 3 RBIs, a hit-by-pitch, a .552 on-base percentage, and only one strikeout. He leads all Jewish batters with 8 HRs, 21 RBIs, and a .295 batting average.
  • OF Ryan Braun (Brewers) hit .429 (3-for-7) with a triple, RBI, and .429 OBP.
  • OF Kevin Pillar hit .263 (5-for-19) with the second grand-slam home run of his career (see video), a triple, 6 RBIs, stolen base, and a .333 OBP in his first week with the Rockies.
  • OF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .077 (1-for-13) with a home run and a .143 OBP.
  • C Garrett Stubbs (Astros) hit .000 (0-for-2).
  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros) remained on the disabled list with an injured right hamstring.

On the mound

  • Dean Kremer (Orioles) won his Major League debut on September 6 (see above).
  • Richard Bleier (Marlins) went 0-0 with a hold and an 0.00 ERA across 4 appearances last week, yielding 3 hits and no walks over 4.1 combined innings while striking out 2 and holding opposing batters to a .231 OBP. The strong week trimmed Bleier’s ERA with Florida from 5.79 to 3.38.
  • Max Fried (Braves) improved his record to 6-0 on August 31, giving Atlanta a perfect 8 wins in Fried’s first 8 starts this season. But the Braves suffered their first loss under Fried on September 5; he did not get the decision.
  • Robert Stock (Red Sox) went 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA across 4 appearances, yielding 2 earned runs on 5 hits and 3 walks over 3.1 combined innings while striking out 4. He was optioned to Boston’s alternate training site on September 6.
  • Ryan Sherriff (Rays) did not pitch. He was optioned to Tampa Bay’s alternate training site on September 4.
  • Rob Kaminsky (Cardinals) did not pitch.

Injured list

Minor League notes

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MLB Monday (August 24-30, 2020)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of August 24-30, 2020:

Mazel tov

  • Ryan Sherriff (Rays) earned a win in his Tampa Bay Rays debut on August 26, pitching a perfect inning of relief on 11 pitches, 10 of them strikes. It was the Team Israel veteran’s first MLB appearance in more than 2 years. A February 2020 profile detailed Sherriff’s hardscrabble childhood and his grandparents, who were concentration-camp survivors.

Stats to share

  • Max Fried (Braves) continued to achieve new heights last week:
    • According to ESPN.com, Fried is ranked #2 in the race for the N.L. Cy Young award, one slot behind Yu Darvish (Cubs).
    • Fried’s 1.35 ERA is tied for the Major League lead, as is his 2.5 Wins Above Replacement (see rankings).
    • After giving up 21 HRs and throwing 11 wild pitches in 2019, his first full season in the Majors, Fried has yet to yield a single one in 2020.
  • The hardest-hit home run in the Major Leagues this season was struck by Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) on August 20. The 429-foot shot left his bat at an exit velocity of 117.4 mph (see list). Tellez’s longest home run this season was a 459-footer on August 12.
  • Rob Kaminsky (Cardinals), who was called-up for the second time this season on August 29, shares the dugout with two teammates who have Jewish fathers but don’t identify as Jewish: Paul Goldschmidt, and Harrison Bader.

At the plate

  • OF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .286 (4-for-14) with a home run, 2 doubles, 3 RBIs, a hit-by-pitch, and a .333 OBP.
  • 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) hit .267 (4-for-15) with 2 home runs, 5 RBIs, and a .353 OBP. Both home runs came during a 3-for-4 performance on August 26 (see video).
  • OF Kevin Pillar (Red Sox) hit .250 (5-for-20) with a 435-foot home run (see video), triple, double, 2 RBIs, and a .250 OBP.
  • OF Ryan Braun (Brewers) hit .118 (2-for-17) with a home run, double, 3 RBIs, and a .167 OBP.
  • C Garrett Stubbs (Astros) played two innings as a defensive replacement on August 24 but did not get to the plate.
  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros) is on the disabled list with an injured right hamstring.

On the mound

  • Max Fried (Braves) improved his record to 5-0 on August 26, yielding one earned run on 4 hits and one walk over 6.0 innings while striking out 5 (see video).
  • Richard Bleier (Marlins) went 1-1 with a 20.25 ERA across 3 appearances, yielding 3 earned runs on 3 hits and zero walks across 1.1 combined innings while striking out one. Bleier’s August 25 win was an interesting one: he tossed only one pitch in the game, inducing a groundout.
  • Robert Stock (Red Sox) pitched 2 innings of relief on August 28, yielding an earned run on 3 hits and a walk.
  • Rob Kaminsky (Cardinals) did not pitch last week.

Injured list

Minor League notes

  • Because the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled, some teams are letting players play elsewhere. Among those taking advantage of the opportunity is Kansas City Royals prospect Alex Katz (P), who is playing for the independent New Jersey Blasters. Joining Katz are teammates Zach Racusin (OF) and Zach Lipshitz (IF).
  • Ryan Lavarnway (Marlins) is at Miami’s alternate training site.

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MLB Monday (August 17-23, 2020)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of August 17-23, 2020:

Stats to share

  • Alex Bregman (Astros) has safely reached base in 40 straight games, dating back to 2019 (see rankings). The next best current streak? Mike Yastrzemski, at 20 games.
  • One of the knocks on Kevin Pillar (Red Sox) has been his plate discipline, but he’s turning things around. After drawing just 18 walks in 628 plate appearances in 2019 (a career low of 2.8%), so far this season the star outfielder has 8 walks in 106 plate appearances (a career high of 7.5%). The current MLB average is 9.2%.
  • Max Fried (Braves) leads the National League with a 1.32 ERA. By comparison, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax had a career-best 1.73 ERA in his final season (1966). But Fried certainly won’t match Koufax’s win-loss record that year: 27-9.

At the plate

  • C Ryan Lavarnway (Marlins) hit .500 (1-for-2) last week. Despite playing well since his August call-up — he hit .364 (4-for-11), made no errors, and tossed out one of two attempted base stealers — Lavarnway was designated for assignment on August 21.
  • OF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .333 (4-for-12) with a home run, double, RBI, two hit-by-pitches, and a .467 on-base percentage.
  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros) hit .300 (3-for-10) with 2 doubles and a .300 OBP. He joined the injured list on August 20 after hurting his right hamstring (see video).
  • 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) hit .214 (3-for-14) with a massive home run (see video), 3 RBIs, and a .267 OBP.
  • OF Kevin Pillar (Red Sox) hit .200 (6-for-30) with a home run, double, 2 RBIs, a stolen base, and a .314 OBP. Although Pillar historically has played center field, he has spent most of this season in right.
  • OF Ryan Braun (Brewers) hit .200 (4-for-20) with a home run (see video), double, 3 RBIs, and a .273 OBP. Although Braun played nearly 100% of his 2019 games in left field, so far this season he is playing in right field.
  • C Garrett Stubbs (Astros) hit .000 (0-for-2) with a sacrifice.

On the mound

  • Max Fried (Braves) improved his record to 4-0 on August 21, yielding one earned run on 5 hits and 2 walks over 5.0 innings while striking out 5 (see video).
  • Much like his MLB debut, Rob Kaminsky (Cardinals) pitched a perfect inning of relief on August 17, striking out one and retiring all three batters on 14 pitches. St. Louis optioned Kaminsky back to minor-league camp on August 18, but hopefully he’ll return to Busch Stadium soon.
  • Robert Stock (Red Sox) was called-up for the second time this season but had a rough go of it on August 23, yielding 2 earned runs on 3 hits over one inning. A two-run double that sailed over teammate Kevin Pillar’s head did the damage (see video).
  • Back from the injured list, Richard Bleier (Marlins) earned his fourth straight ‘hold’ on August 22, yielding one hit and no walks over 0.2 scoreless innings.

Injured list

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MLB Monday (August 10-16, 2020)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of August 10-16, 2020:

Mazel tov

  • P Rob Kaminsky was called up by the COVID-depleted St. Louis Cardinals on August 15 and made his MLB debut the following day. A 1st-round pick out of St. Joseph Regional High School (Montvale, NJ) in the 2013 draft, the 25-year-old southpaw has accumulated a 29-21 record with 6 saves and a 2.82 ERA over seven minor-league seasons with St. Louis and the Cleveland Indians. Kaminsky is the 11th Jewish player in the Majors this season and the sole rookie.
  • The Boston Red Sox called up P Robert Stock on August 11 and put him on the mound the same day. A 30-year-old flamethrower, he compiled a 2-1 record with a 4.11 ERA for the San Diego Padres in 2018 and 2019.

Stats to share

  • With a 1.24 ERA this season, Max Fried (Braves) leads the National League and ranks #2 in the Majors. He also is one of just two MLB pitchers with 3 pickoffs in 2020, including this one on August 15. Meanwhile, Fried has yet to yield a home run.
  • Collectively, Jewish pitchers are 3-0 this season with a 1.25 ERA and 37 strikeouts across 36 innings. Major League pitchers overall have a combined 4.40 ERA.
  • Kevin Pillar (Red Sox), playing in his first season with Boston, leads the team with a .313 batting average.
  • Joc Pederson (Dodgers) is the only Jewish player to steal a base so far this season. Kevin Pillar (Red Sox), Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays), and Garrett Stubbs (Astros) each tried once but were tossed out.

At the plate

  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros) hit .444 (8-for-18) last week with a home run, 2 doubles, 3 RBIs, and a whopping .600 OBP. Houston won 5 of 6 games during the stretch.
  • 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) hit .412 (7-for-17) with 2 HRs, 2 doubles, 5 RBIs, and a .412 OBP.
  • OF Kevin Pillar (Red Sox) hit .320 (8-for-25) with a home run, triple, double, hit by pitch, and a .393 OBP.
  • C Ryan Lavarnway (Marlins) hit .333 (1-for-3) with a .333 OBP.
  • Back from the injured list, LF Ryan Braun (Brewers) hit .188 (3-for-16) with 2 doubles, one RBI, and a .235 OBP.
  • OF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .056 (1-for-18) with a .150 OBP.
  • C Garrett Stubbs (Astros) hit .000 (0-for-1).

On the mound

  • Max Fried (Braves) pitched 6.1 scoreless innings on August 15, holding the Marlins to 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 7 on 103 pitches (see video). Fried didn’t get credit for the 2-1 win, however.
  • Rob Kaminsky (Cardinals) pitched a perfect inning of relief in his MLB debut on August 16, striking out one (see video) and retiring all three batters on a total of just 8 pitches.
  • In his Red Sox debut on August 11, Robert Stock tossed 1.1 innings of relief, yielding 2 walks, 3 hits, and no earned runs while striking out 3, all on a total of 42 pitches.
  • Richard Bleier (Marlins) remained on the injured list with a left triceps strain.

Injured list

Miscellanea

  • Former L.A. Dodgers star Shawn Green used to toss his batting glove into the stands after a home run. Click here to read the origin story.
  • Lou Gehrig was of German heritage and not Jewish. But in 1938, the New York Yankees great spoke before 20,000 at a Madison Square Garden fundraiser for Jews fleeing Hitler. “I’m glad to be in a country where I can wear the World’s Fair emblem on my sleeve and play baseball, and not in a country where I’d have to wear the swastika,” Gehrig said.
    Last Ride of the Iron Horse author Dan Joseph discusses the event in this interview.

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MLB Monday (August 3-9, 2020)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of August 3-9, 2020:

Mazel tov

  • C Ryan Lavarnway was called-up by the Marlins on August 4 and played the next day, making Miami his seventh MLB team in nine seasons. Lavarnway’s debut also marked his first MLB appearance since obtaining Israeli citizenship in late 2019, thus making him the first Israeli-American to play in the Major Leagues. He and roughly a dozen other Jewish-American players have become dual Israeli-American citizens in order to represent the country in international competition, including the upcoming Summer Olympics.

Other news

  • Retired ballplayer Cody Decker made news on August 6 when he publicly criticized Oakland A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson for making what appeared to be a Nazi salute outside the dugout. “As a Jewish (now former) player, I cannot stress how quickly someone at @MLB need to address this,” Decker tweeted. “Perpetuating the same antisemitism that I dealt with throughout my career. This is truly disgusting.”

Stats to share

At the plate

  • C Ryan Lavarnway (Marlins) hit .333 (2-for-6) with a .333 on-base percentage
  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros) hit .200 (6-for-27) with a home run, 3 doubles, 4 RBIs, and a .259 OBP (see video).
  • OF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .158 (3-for-22) with 3 HRs, 6 RBIs, and a .273 OBP. He blasted two of his home runs in a 7-6 win over the Padres on August 5 (see video).
  • OF Kevin Pillar (Red Sox) hit .091 (1-for-11) with an .091 OBP.
  • 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) hit .071 (1-for-13) with a double and a .250 OBP. We failed to mention last week that Tellez was ejected on July 29 for protesting a called third strike (see video).
  • C Garrett Stubbs (Astros) hit .000 (0-for-2) with one RBI and a .000 OBP.
  • LF Ryan Braun (Brewers) has not played since July 29, due to an infection in his right index finger.

On the mound

  • Max Fried (Braves) went 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA across 2 games, striking out 9 batters and walking 3 over a combined 11 innings (see video). Sports Illustrated wrote that Fried is “proving to be Atlanta’s ace pitcher.”
  • Richard Bleier (Marlins) went 0-0 with 3 holds and a 0.00 ERA across 3 appearances, yielding a hit and an unearned run over a combined 1.2 innings. Bleier was placed on the injured list August 8 with a left triceps strain.

Injured list

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MLB Monday (July 23-August 2, 2020)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the period beginning Opening day (July 23, 2020) through August 2, 2020:

Mazel tov

  • CF Kevin Pillar, playing for his third team in the past 2 seasons, went 3-for-5 with a double and 3 RBIs in his Red Sox debut on July 24. His .387 batting average ranks #5 in the American League.

Other news

  • P Richard Bleier, who amassed an 8-1 record with 4 saves and a 3.15 ERA since joining Baltimore in 2017, was caught by surprise August 1 when the O’s traded him to Miami (see article, interview). The Marlins haven’t played since July 26, thanks to coronavirus infections.

 At the plate

  • CF Kevin Pillar (Red Sox) hit .387 (12-for-31) with a HR, 4 doubles, 5 RBIs, and a .406 OBP.
  • C Garrett Stubbs (Astros) hit 1.000 (1-for-1) with an RBI, sacrifice fly, and a .500 OBP.
  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros) hit .211 (8-for-38) with 2 HRs, 2 doubles, one hit-by-pitch, 7 RBIs, and a .333 OBP.
  • LF Ryan Braun (Brewers) hit .231 (3-for-13) with a double, 2 RBIs, and a .286 OBP.
  • LF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .227 (5-for-22) with one RBI, a stolen base, one hit-by-pitch, and a .346 OBP.
  • 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) hit .182 (4-for-22) with a HR, 4 RBIs, and a .240 OBP.

On the mound

  • Max Fried (Braves) went 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA over 2 starts, yielding 5 hits over 11.2 combined innings while striking out 12 and walking 3. His 0.69 walks/hits per inning rank #6 in the National League.
  • Richard Bleier (Orioles) went 0-0 with a perfect 0.00 ERA over 2 games, yielding one hit and no walks over 3 combined innings while striking out 4.

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MLB teams sign two undrafted amateurs

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Two undrafted collegians have signed contracts with MLB teams.

Matt Mervis (1B/P) signed with the Chicago Cubs

Matt Mervis (1B/P) signed with the Chicago Cubs

Matt Mervis of Duke University was picked up by the Chicago Cubs this month. A two-way ballplayer who bats left but throws right, Mervis was co-captain of the Blue Devils during the abbreviated 2020 season, hitting .304 while leading the team in hits, home runs and total bases. The 6-foot-4 Maryland native turned heads last year in the Cape Cod league, which unlike collegiate ball uses wood bats. There, Mervis hit .325 with 4 home runs and 24 RBIs in just 77 at-bats, and from the mound he went 1-2 with a save and a 3.24 ERA.

Also signing a deal this month was University of Washington reliever Leo Nierenberg. A 6-foot-tall reliever who was picked up by the Cincinnati Reds, Nierenberg saw little action during the shortened 2020 season but went 3-1 with a 6.84 ERA as a junior, striking out 33 batters across 25 innings.

Leo Nierenberg (P) signed with the Cincinnati Reds

Leo Nierenberg (P) signed with the Cincinnati Reds

Mervis and Nierenberg both received $20,000 signing bonuses, the flat rate paid to all undrafted signees in 2020. Because of the COVID pandemic and related financial and labor issues, it’s unlikely they or any other minor leaguers will see any action this year.

Jared Shuster, a left-handed pitcher chosen by the Atlanta Braves in the first round of this year’s five-round amateur draft (see article), recently finalized a contract that includes a $2.2-million signing bonus.

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Braves draft Jared Shuster in 1st round

By Scott Barancik, Editor

This year’s MLB draft is limited to just five rounds versus the normal 40, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and related financial concerns.

But that didn’t prevent a Jewish player from cracking Round 1.

Yesterday, the Atlanta Braves chose lefty Jared Shuster with the 25th overall pick. A native of New Bedford, MA, Shuster made big strides in his junior year with Wake Forest, going 2-1 with a 2.76 ERA, 43 strikeouts, and only 4 walks across 26.1 innings before the season was cut short.

Sports Illustrated says the 6-foot-3-inch Shuster “made improvements last summer in the Cape Cod League, improving his control and command. His fastball was in the 92-94 mph range and hit 97 mph. His best pitch is his changeup,” although his curveball reported needs work.

Together with our friends at Jewish Sports Review, Jewish Baseball News will identify other Jewish draftees, if any. Be sure to follow our social-media accounts for updates.

And for those who have asked: Max Meyer, the draft’s 3rd overall pick, is not Jewish.

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By Scott Barancik, Editor

Team Israel Baseball FundraiserIf you could assemble the greatest Jewish baseball team of all time, who would you pick to play?

On June 21, Jewish fans around the world will get to watch live as five celebrity duos — including Team Israel member and former MLB All-Star Ian Kinsler — compete to select the best squad. Eligible players include any Jewish athlete who has reached the Major Leagues, a group that runs the gamut from outfielder Lip Pike (who led the National Association in home runs from 1871 to 1873) to Alex Bregman (who finished 2nd in the A.L. MVP vote in 2019).

The fantasy draft will take place at 2 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday, June 21, and can be livestreamed here.

The draft will help raise funds for Team Israel’s medal quest at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. Although you can watch the draft for free, fans willing to pay $50 for a ticket will appear on-screen in the players’ Zoom Room and join them and other celebrities in side chats. And on June 14, a 10-day eBay auction of player jerseys and mitts will take place on eBay (details forthcoming).

Participants in the draft will include five current members of Team Israel, plus their partners:

  • Ian Kinsler — four-time All-Star second baseman, who retired in 2019 with 1,999 career hits (Instagram)
  • Jon Moscot — former Cincinnati Reds pitcher (Twitter)
  • Danny Valencia — former infielder for seven MLB teams (Twitter)
  • Ty Kelly — former New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder (Twitter)
  • Ryan Lavarnway — Miami Marlins catcher (Twitter)
  • Justine Siegel — fexecutive director of Baseball for All (Twitter)
  • Gabrielle Starr — Girl at the Game blogger and Red Sox fan (Twitter)
  • Cory Provus — radio voice of the Minnesota Twins (Twitter)
  • Jaxon Stone — pro wrestler and former Atlanta Braves prospect (Twitter)
  • A lucky fan to be named later

Here’s how the draft will work. Five two-person teams will select from the pool of all-time Jewish players listed on Jewish Baseball News. Round by round, each team will pick one player at catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base and designated hitter, along with three outfielders, two starting pitchers and two relievers.

Between draft picks, host Rabbi Jeremy Fine (The Great Rabbino) will conduct live interviews with past, present and future players.

Once full teams have been selected, a panel of judges will evaluate the picks and name a winning squad based on how each team theoretically might perform in a bracket tournament. The judges’ panel will include MLB.com draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, Houston Astros beat writer and MLB.com correspondent Alyson Footer, and Chicago Dogs play-by-play announcer Sam Brief.

For updates, follow Jewish Baseball News’ social-media pages. See you there!

Items to be auctioned on eBay include gloves signed by Team Israel’s Ian Kinsler

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MLB Monday (October 7-13, 2019)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of October 7-13, 2019, the second week of the playoffs:

Mazel tov

  • Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Andy Yerzy, a 21-year-old first baseman and a native of Canada, is on the roster of the Canadian national team, which is pursuing a berth in the 2020 Olympics.
  • Danny Valencia, who helped propel Team Israel to a spot in the 2020 Olympics, discussed the team — and his Jewish upbringing — in this article. ““I loved it,” he said of Team Israel. “It was a great group of guys, and I am grateful for the experience.”
  • Sam Fuld, a former Major Leaguer who serves as player information coordinator for the Philadelphia Phillies, is one of a number of rumored candidates to replace Clint Hurdle as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • Orioles prospect Dean Kremer and Mariners prospect Sam Delaplane both pitched in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game on October 12. Kremer yielded one hit in a scoreless inning, while Delaplane struck out the only batter he faced. For the season, Kremer is 0-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 12 strikeouts in 10 innings, and 0.70 walks/hits per inning, while Delaplane is 0-1 with 2 saves, a 1.13 ERA, 15 strikeouts in 8 innings, and 0.75 walks/hits per inning.

Other news

  • The Phillies fired manager Gabe Kapler after his second season with the club. Under his  leadership, Philadelphia went 80-82 in 2018 and 81-81 in 2019.
  • Our condolences to the family of Bob Tufts, a Princeton alum, Yeshiva University professor and former Major League pitcher who lost a lengthy battle with cancer earlier this month. Ken Davidoff published a heartfelt article about Tufts in the New York Post.

Stats to share

At the plate

  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros), the only Jewish player remaining in the 2019 playoffs, hit .250 (4-for-16) with a double, 2 RBIs, and a .400 on-base percentage over 5 playoff games. He also made a spectacular leaping catch. Houston and the Yankees are tied 1-1 in the A.L. Championship Series.

  • LF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .250 (2-for-8) over 2 playoff games, including a double that initially looked like a home run. Los Angeles was ousted by the Nationals in the N.L. Division Series.

On the mound

  • Max Fried (Braves), who was relegated to the bullpen for the playoffs, gave up 4 earned runs over 1.2 innings of relief on October 9. Atlanta was knocked out by the Cardinals in the N.L. Division Series.

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MLB Monday (September 30-October 6, 2019)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of September 30-October 6, 2019, the first week of the playoffs:

Mazel tov

  • Kevin Pillar is San Francisco’s nominee for the 2019 Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the outstanding offensive player in each league (see article).

Stats to share

  • By one measure, Max Fried may be the best-fielding pitcher in the Majors. According to FanGraphs, Fried’s defensive play saved Atlanta six more runs in 2019 than the average pitcher would have. Meanwhile, his 34 assists were tied for the MLB lead.
  • Alex Bregman swung at only 18.8% of all pitches that arrived outside the strike zone in 2019, the best rate of any MLB batter (see table). The worst rate? Kevin Pillar held that dubious honor, at 48.8%.
  • Joc Pederson’s home run in Game 1 of the N.L. Division Series had an exit velocity of 114.9-mph, the second-fastest by a Dodger since 2015.
  • Though several respected journalists have argued for naming Alex Bregman the A.L. MVP, at least one oddsmaker has him finishing a distant third in the voting, behind Mike Trout and DJ LeMahieu.
  • Special thanks to JBN reader Jack W. for many of today’s statistics.

 At the plate

  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros) hit .500 (3-for-6) with a HR, double, RBI, and a .625 on-base percentage. Houston leads Tampa Bay 2-0 in the A.L. Division Series.
  • LF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .286 (2-for-7) with a HR, double, RBI, and a .444 on-base percentage over three playoff games. Los Angeles leads the Nationals 2-1 in the N.L. Division Series.
  • LF Ryan Braun (Brewers) went 1-for-4 in Milwaukee’s Wild Card loss on October 1, ending his season.

On the mound

  • Max Fried (Braves) pitched 2.1 scoreless innings across 3 games, yielding a hit and 2 walks while striking out 4. Atlanta leads the Cardinals 2-1 in the N.L. Division Series.

Arizona Fall League

  • Orioles prospect Dean Kremer tossed 4 innings for the Surprise Saguaros in an October 4 start, yielding one earned run on 2 hits and a walk while striking out 2.
  • Mariners prospect Sam Delaplane pitched 2 scoreless innings over 2 games for the Peoria Javelinas, yielding 2 hits and no walks while striking out 4. He is one of just 8 pitchers in the AFL with 2 or more saves.

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MLB Monday (September 23-29, 2019)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of September 23-29, 2019, the final week of the regular season:

Mazel tov

  • CF Kevin Pillar, playing in his first season with San Francisco, won the 2019 Willie Mac award. The honor is given to the Giants’ most inspirational player, as voted by players, coaches, trainers and fans (see article).

Other news

  • The Los Angeles Angels fired manager Brad Ausmus on September 29. The team’s 2019 record was its worst in 20 years (see article).

Stats to share

  • Max Fried, who finished the 2019 season with a 17-6 record, is just the seventh jewish player in MLB history to win at least 17 games in a season. The last one was Scott Feldman, who went 17-8 for the Texas Rangers in 2009.
  • At least four Jewish players – Alex Bregman (Astros), Ryan Braun (Brewers), Max Fried (Braves), and Joc Pederson (Dodgers) – are playoff-bound. If Garrett Stubbs were to make Houston’s roster, he would be the fifth.
  • Alex Bregman, who finished the season with 41 HRs, is only the fifth Jewish player in MLB history to reach that mark — and the first to do so since Ryan Braun hit 41 in 2012. The other three are Shawn Green (three times), Al Rosen (once), and Hank Greenberg (four times).
  • Bregman drew an MLB-best 117 walks in 2019, and he did so while striking out just 83 times, a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 1.43. He is only the second player since 2010 to have more than 100 walks and a walk-to-strikeout ratio of more than 1.4. The other was Joey Votto, in 2017.
  • Meanwhile, yet another columnist – this one from USA Today – is arguing that Bregman should be named American League MVP over Mike Trout (see article).
  • Rowdy Tellez hit his 20th and 21st home runs on September 25 to become the record 5th Jewish player with more than 20 HRs in 2019. Amazingly, each of the four Jewish players with enough at-bats to win the batting title this season had at least 20 HRs. Tellez — who is just the 4th rookie in Blue Jays history to hit at least 20 HRs — fell just short of the minimum.
  • Those last two home runs Tellez hit, on September 25? They came after a 6-year-old child told him he had to hit one (see article).

 At the plate

  • LF Ryan Braun (Brewers) hit .667 (4-for-6) with 2 HRs, 6 RBIs, and a .750 on-base percentage. Braun enjoyed his best season since 2016, hitting .285 with 22 HRs, 75 RBIs, a .343 on-base percentage, and a .505 slugging percentage.
  • LF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .375 (6-for-16) with 4 HRs, 6 RBIs, and a .421 OBP. Pederson set multiple career highs in 2019, hitting .249 with 36 HRs, 16 doubles, 3 triples, 74 RBIs, a .339 OBP, and a .538 slugging percentage.
  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros) hit .368 (7-for-19) with 2 HRs, 2 doubles, 4 RBIs, and a .538 OBP. Bregman reached career highs in multiple categories in 2019. Overall, he hit .296 with 41 HRs, 37 doubles, 2 triples, 5 stolen bases in 6 tries, a .423 OBP, and a .527 slugging percentage.
  • 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) hit .348 (8-for-23) with 2 HRs, 3 doubles, 5 RBIs, and a .423 OBP. For the season, the rookie first baseman hit .227 with 21 HRs, 19 doubles, 54 RBIs, a .293 OBP, and a .449 slugging percentage.
  • CF Kevin Pillar (Giants) hit .182 (4-for-22) with a triple, 3 RBIs, and a .240 OBP. For the season, he hit .259 with 21 HRs, 37 doubles, 3 triples, 88 RBIs, 14 stolen bases in 19 tries, a .287 OBP, and a .432 slugging percentage.
  • C Garrett Stubbs (Astros) hit .000 (0-for-3). The rookie catcher finished the season with a .200 batting average, 3 doubles, 2 RBIs, a stolen base, a .282 OBP, and a .286 slugging percentage.
  • 2B Ian Kinsler (Padres) missed the final six weeks of the season with a herniated cervical disk. Kinsler finished 2019 with a .217 batting average, 9 HRs, 12 doubles, 22 RBIs, a .278 OBP, and a .368 slugging percentage.
  • C Ryan Lavarnway (Indians) spent the final two months of 2019 in the minors. In 5 games with the Reds before being traded, he hit .278 with 2 HRs, 2 doubles, 7 RBIs, and a .316 OBP.

On the mound

  • Max Fried (Braves) pitched 3.2 innings of scoreless relief on September, yielding a hit and a walk while striking out 5. Fried finished the 2019 season with a 17-6 record, 4.02 ERA, 1.33 walks/hits per inning, and 173 strikeouts.
  • Richard Bleier (Orioles) went 0-0 across 3 games, yielding 3 hits over 3.1 combined innings while walking none and striking out 4. For the season, Bleier went 3-0 with 4 saves, a 5.37 ERA, 1.32 walks/hits per inning, and 30 strikeouts.
  • Robert Stock (Padres) missed the final three months of 2019 with a right bicep strain. For the season, he went 1-0 with a 10.13 ERA, 2.06 walks/hits per innings, and 15 strikeouts.

Arizona Fall League

  • Orioles prospect Dean Kremer tossed 3 innings for the Surprise Saguaros in a September 27 start, yielding one earned run on a hit and a walk while striking out 5.
  • Mariners prospect Sam Delaplane pitched an inning of scoreless relief on September 28, yielding no hits and one walk while striking out 3 for the Peoria Javelinas.

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MLB Monday (September 16-22, 2019)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of September 16-22, 2019:

Mazel tov

  • Led by 1B Danny Valencia and P Joey Wagman, Israel’s national baseball team won an Olympic qualifying tournament in Italy last week, earning it a berth in the 2020 games in Tokyo (see article). The last time Israel played a team sport in the Olympics was 1976, when its soccer squad competed in Montreal.
  • Two Jewish pitchers are competing in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, which features the top 7 prospects from each Major League franchise. Orioles prospect Dean Kremer, a dual Israeli-American citizen, pitched 2 scoreless innings in a September 20 start for the Surprise Saguaros, yielding 2 hits and no walks while striking out 3. Mariners prospect Sam Delaplane pitched 2 scoreless innings on September 18 to earn a save for the Peoria Javelinas. He pitched well on September 22, too, but gave up one hit — a home run that earned him a loss.

Stats to share

  • Alex Bregman (Astros) has 39 home runs so far. If he gets to 40, he’ll be just the fifth Jewish player to reach that mark and the first to do so since 2012, when Ryan Braun (Brewers) hit 41. The others are Hank Greenberg, Shawn Green and Al Rosen.
  • Correction: last week, we erroneously wrote that Ryan Braun (Brewers) and Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) each hit their 20th home run, when Tellez in fact had hit only 19. Even so, four Jewish players have reached the 20-HR mark so far this season, a new record.

At the plate

  • LF Ryan Braun (Brewers) hit .389 (7-for-19) with 4 doubles, 3 RBIs, and a .421 on-base percentage.
  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros) hit .235 (4-for-17) with 3 HRs, 4 RBIs, and a .381 OBP. The third and final home run, his 39th of the season, came as Houston clinched the A.L. West title on Sunday.

  • CF Kevin Pillar (Giants) hit .259 (7-for-27) with a double, 5 RBIs, and a .310 OBP.
  • 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) hit .222 (2-for-9) with a double and a .500 OBP.
  • LF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .111 (1-for-9) with an RBI and a .385 OBP. He played just one complete game last week.
  • C Garrett Stubbs (Astros) hit .000 (0-for-1) with a walk.
  • 2B Ian Kinsler (Padres) is out for the rest of the season with a herniated cervical disk.

On the mound

  • Max Fried (Braves) rebounded from two straight losses with a scoreless gem on September 21, yielding 5 hits and no walks over 5.1 innings while striking out 2 to earn his 17th win.

  • Richard Bleier (Orioles) went 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA and a save across 3 games. Over 5 combined innings, he yielded 5 hits and no walks while striking out 2.
  • Robert Stock (Padres) is out for the rest of the season with a right bicep strain.

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Unbelievable

By Scott Barancik, Editor

A veteran oddsmaker wouldn’t have taken the bet. A Hollywood producer wouldn’t have entertained such a preposterous plot line.

No one — except perhaps Israel Association of Baseball president Peter Kurz, the eternally optimistic uncle you might dismiss as delusional — would have believed the Israeli national baseball team could earn a berth in the 2020 Olympics, where it likely will face powerhouse teams such as the United States, Japan, and the Dominican Republic.

As a whole, Israel’s current roster is far less experienced and polished than even the “has-beens and wannabes” who led the team to unlikely success in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, a run that inspired the documentary Heading Home.

rickles

(Credit: Margo Sugarman)

The last time an Israeli team from any sport reached the Olympics was 1976, when its men’s soccer team competed in Montreal. No one from Israel’s current baseball team — not even 40-year-old Tel Aviv native Shlomo Lipetz — was alive back then.

But in its long slog from obscurity, Israel’s baseball team has repeatedly beaten the odds, and this past week was no different.

On Sunday, the team defeated South Africa by a score of 11-1 to win a six-team Olympic qualifying tournament in Italy, thus earning the right to represent Europe and Africa in Tokyo (see full-game replay). Among the teams Israel (4-1) vanquished during the September 18-22 tourney were top seeds Netherlands, Italy and Spain, each of which had soundly beaten Israel a week earlier at the European Championships.

israel tokyo

Despite hitting only .234 in the qualifiers, Israel was the highest-scoring team. Danny Valencia, a former Major Leaguer who last played in 2018, led all tournament players with 3 home runs and 9 RBIs, while his .375 average ranked #5. Former minor-league prospect Nick Rickles hit .316 with 2 home runs and 6 RBIs. (Click here to see complete stats.)

Israel truly shone on the mound, where it maintained a tournament-best 2.25 ERA. The clear standout was starter Joey Wagman, an independent-league player who finished 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA and a complete-game shutout against Spain.

Ben Wanger also turned heads. A 2019 graduate of Yale University, he hit a respectable .231 with 2 doubles and 3 RBIs while playing first base and designated hitter. But the two-way player also pitched, tossing 4.1 scoreless innings against the Czech Republic.

What will the baseball team’s Olympic berth mean to rank-and-file Israelis? Hard to know. Ending a 44-year drought in Olympic team sports has to be worth something. On the other hand, most Israelis remain unfamiliar with baseball, and it’s unclear how much pride they will take in the team’s players, a group largely led by Americans who obtained Israeli citizenship this year in order to qualify.

But there’s no question how much it all means to teammates like Alon Leichman, a pitcher and native Israeli.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this: We are Olympic athletes,” he tweeted.

 

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For Israel, the road to Tokyo goes thru Italy

By Scott Barancik, Editor

After finishing 4th in the 12-team European Championship in Germany last week, the Israeli baseball team is moving on to Italy.

Starting today (9/18/2019), Israel will compete with five other countries — Netherlands, Italy, Czech Republic, South Africa and Spain — for the right to represent Europe and Africa at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. Only one team will make it.

Israel takes on Spain this afternoon in Game 1. Click here to watch the game live, or here to see the box score.

To get to Italy, Israel had to finish among the top 5 teams in its first-ever trip to the European Championship. After winning its first four games there, the team lost three of four to finish 5-3 overall and #4 among the 12 competitors.

Joey Wagman led all pitchers in the Championship series with a 0.00 ERA over 10.2 innings. Los Angeles Angels prospect Blake Gailen and former MLB’er Danny Valencia each hit 4 HRs over the series.

If Israel is to conquer the five-day Olympic qualifiers, it will have to do better against the top European teams than it did in the Championship tournament. Israel’s three losses came against #1 Netherlands, #2 Italy, and #3 Spain.

Either way, it’s an impressive and unprecedented step for Israel and its fledgling baseball program, which until this year had never even reached the European Championship.

Representatives from all six teams in the Europe Africa Qualifying tourney for the 2020 Olympics pose together. Included are Israel manager Eric Holtz (rear, second from left) and infielder Mitch Glasser (in front of Holtz)

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Minor-League Monday (September 9-15, 2019)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

The 2019 minor-league season is all but over. Here are all the playoff stats — good and bad — for the week of September 9-15, 2019:

Ryan Lavarnway celebrates after hitting the first of 2 HRs in a September 11 playoff win

Ryan Lavarnway celebrates after hitting the first of 2 HRs in a September 11 playoff win

Mazel tov

  • Israel’s national baseball team finished 4th in the 12-team European Championship that ended Sunday (9/15/2019), good enough to advance to the Olympic qualifiers taking place in Italy from September 18-22.
  • P Sam Delaplane (Mariners/AA/Arkansas Travelers) was named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Year, Second Team. Of the 24 players selected for the First and Second Teams, Delaplane was one of only two not currently ranked among his franchise’s Top 30 prospects, as determined by MLB.com. That could change before long.

Other highlights

  • C Ryan Lavarnway (Indians/AAA/Columbus Clippers) went 2-for-4 with 2 HRs — including a grand slam — and 6 RBIs to win Game 2 of the International League Championship on September 11 (see article, video). It marked Lavarnway’s third two-HR game this season, the first coming in his Cincinnati Reds debut (July 2) and the second in his Clippers debut (August 1). Columbus went on to win the International League Championship and faces the Sacramento River Cats in a one-game, Triple-A National Championship taking place September 17.
  • C Scott Manea (Astros/High-A/Fayetteville Woodpeckers) went 3-for-7 with a home run, a walk, and an RBI over 3 games. Fayetteville went on to lose the Carolina League Championship.
  • LF Tyler Benson (Padres/High-A/Lake Elsinore Storm) went 3-for-7 with an RBI over 2 games. He also threw out a runner at second base. Lake Elsinore went on to lose the California League Championship.
  • 2B Colby Schultz (Royals/High-A/Wilmington Blue Rocks) went 1-for-7 over 2 games. Wilmington went on to win the Carolina League Championship.
  • 1B Andy Yerzy (Diamondbacks/A-short-season/Hillsboro Hops) went 1-for-9 with 2 walks. Hillsboro went on to win the Northwest League Championship.
  • P Noah Davis (Reds/Rookie Advanced/Billings Mustings) pitched 2 innings on September 9, yielding 2 earned runs on 3 hits, a walk, and a strikeout. Billing went on to lose in the first round of the Pioneer League Championship.

Transactions

  • LF Tyler Benson (Padres) was reassigned from the AZL Padres (Rookie) to the Lake Elsinore Storm (High-A) on September 10.

Free agents

  • Players believed to be seeking employment include RC Orlan.

Injured list

  • P Keith Weisenberg (Giants/A/Augusta GreenJackets), since August 22.
  • P Evan Kravetz* (Reds/Rookie/Greenville Reds), since July 1.

* Players marked with an asterisk were drafted in 2019.

Note to readers: Minor-League Monday does not include stats for all current Jewish minor-leaguers. Click here for a complete list of players, and then click on a player’s name to be taken to his stat page.

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MLB Monday (September 9-15, 2019)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your MLB highlights for the week of September 9-15, 2019:

Mazel tov

  • Israel’s national baseball team finished 4th in the 12-team European Championship that ended Sunday (9/15/2019), good enough to advance to the Olympic qualifiers taking place in Italy from September 18-22.

Stats to share

  • Two players — rookie Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) and veteran Ryan Braun (Brewers) — reached the 20-HR plateau last week. That brings to 5 the number of Jewish players with 20-plus home runs this season, smashing the previous record of 3 set in 2009 by Ryan Braun (32), Ian Kinsler (31) and Kevin Youkilis (27), and matched in 2016 and 2018. Jewish home-run hitters have not always been so prolific. From 1980 through 1996, for example, not a single player broke the 20-HR barrier.
  • Braun’s 20th home run was historic. A go-ahead grand slam, it came with 2 outs in the 9th, a full count, and the Brewers trailing. According to Baseball Reference, it was just the 5th grand slam in Major League history to match those criteria.

  • Alex Bregman (Astros) and Joc Pederson (Dodgers) have matched the record for most Jewish players with 30-plus home runs in a single season. Shawn Green (42) and Mike Lieberthal (31) set the record in 1999, which was equaled in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
  • Bregman has more walks this season (109) than anyone but Mike Trout (110). Meanwhile, he is averaging 1.4 walks for every strikeout, by far the best in the Major Leagues. Speaking of Trout, MLB.com columnist Richard Justice makes a strong case for why Bregman should be named American League MVP this season, but it looks like sportswriters rank him second to the Angels centerfielder.
  • When 20-year-old Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. stole his 35th base and stroked his 35th home run of the season recently, he became the youngest player in Major League history to reach the 35/35 plateau, an exclusive club populated by only 15 players. The sixth-youngest player in the club is Shawn Green, who joined it in 1998 at age 25.

At the plate

  • C Garrett Stubbs (Astros) hit .400 (2-for-5) with a double.
  • 3B Alex Bregman (Astros) hit .222 (4-for-18) with 2 HRs, a double, 4 RBIs, an astounding 9 walks, and a .481 OBP.
  • 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays) hit .211 (4-for-19) with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs. He also made a nifty over-the-head catch.

  • CF Kevin Pillar (Giants) hit .250 (6-for-24) with a double. Speaking of catches, how many times has Pillar made this play in 2019? We’re running out of fingers.

  • LF Joc Pederson (Dodgers) hit .250 (5-for-20) with 2 doubles and a .286 OBP.
  • LF Ryan Braun (Brewers) hit just .105 (2-for-19) but he made the most of his two hits, stroking 2 HRs — his 19th and 20th of the season — and driving in 7 runs. Braun now has 10 season of 20-plus home runs, tying him for #4 among active Major Leaguers.
  • 2B Ian Kinsler (Padres) is out for the rest of the season with a herniated cervical disk.

On the mound

  • Richard Bleier (Orioles) went 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA across 3 games. In 4 no-hit innings, he yielded just one walk and struck out one. After going 0-0 with a 7.27 ERA, 2 saves, and 1.50 walks/hits per inning before the All-Star break, Bleier is 3-0 since then, with a 3.86 ERA, one save, and 1.24 walks/hits per inning.
  • Max Fried (Braves) had a rough week, losing two starts while posting a 12.27 ERA.
  • Robert Stock (Padres) is out for the rest of the season with a right bicep strain.

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