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Jewish HR records fell in 2012

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

If it seemed like Jewish ballplayers were smacking a lot of home runs this season, it wasn’t your imagination. Several records were broken or matched in 2012.

Jewish major leaguers (excluding pitchers) hit a combined 116 HRs, topping the prior record of 109 in 2011. Home-run hitting is a growing trend among Jewish players, with seven of the 10 biggest one-year totals coming since 2000 (see table).

Most Jewish HRs, by year*

YearTotal HRsBiggest contributor
2012116Ryan Braun (41)
2011109Ryan Braun (33)
1999102Shawn green (42)
2009101Ryan Braun (32)
200898Ryan Braun (37)
193887Hank Greenberg (40)
201085Ryan Braun (25)
200783Ryan Braun (34)
195377Al Rosen (43)
200173Shawn Green (49)
* Excluding Jewish pitchers
Source: JewishBaseballNews.com

Two key figures behind this year’s home-run barrage were Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun, who smashed a career-high 41 HRs, and New York Mets 1B Ike Davis, who hit a career-high 32. Kevin Youkilis, who split the season between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox, hit 19, and Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler followed with 18.

Braun’s 41 dingers made him the No. 1 home-run hitter among National League players in 2012. The last time a Jewish ballplayer led a league in HRs was 1953, when Cleveland Indians 3B Al Rosen hit 43 to lead the A.L.

Davis hit 19 HRs as a rookie in 2010 and spent much of the 2011 season on the disabled list. By the 2012 All-Star break he had 12 HRs, then pounded 20 more during the rest of the season to rank No. 5 among N.L. hitters (tie).

Braun and Davis made quite a pair. The only other time two Jewish players have hit at least 40 and 30 HRs, respectively, in a single MLB season was 2002, when Los Angeles Dodgers RF Shawn Green crushed 42, and Philadelphia Phillies C Mike Lieberthal hit 31. Braun (37) and Youkilis (29) came close in 2009, as did Al Rosen (37) and Boston Braves LF Sid Gordon (27) in 1950.

Braun’s 41 HRs launched him into a tie with Sid Gordon for No. 3 on the all-time Jewish HR leaders list, with 202. Detroit Tigers 1B Hank Greenberg leads the list with 331, followed closely by Shawn Green with 328.

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Good news Monday (8/27/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, nor even pesky tropical storms, shall stay this website from its appointed rounds:

  • Ike Davis was mobbed by New York Mets teammates Sunday after hitting his second round-tripper of the day, a walk-off HR against the Houston Astros. The New York Mets 1B has 22 HRs this year, tied for 7th best in the N.L. By the way, if you plan to be in New York City on Sept. 9, Davis is hosting a benefit concert to raise funds for childhood-cancer research.
  • Just three months into his professional career, St. Louis Cardinals prospect Jeremy Schaffer has been named an Appalachian League all-star. The 22-year-old Tulane University alum is hitting .271 with 10 HRs and leads the league both in doubles (20) and RBIs (51) in just 229 at-bats.
  • Kevin Youkilis hit a grand-slam HR against the New York Yankees on Tuesday (8/21/2012) to break a 2-2 tie. The third slam of his career, it sent the Chicago White Sox’s home crowd into a frency (see video). Later in the week, Youk told Israel Sports Radio he’ll play for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic if the team makes it past next month’s qualifying round, presuming he’s healthy. Click here for tickets to the qualifiers in Jupiter, Fla.
  • Nate Freiman leads all AA players with 102 RBIs. It’s the second straight 100 RBI-plus season for the 6’7″ San Diego Padres prospect. A first baseman with the San Antonio Missions, Freiman is hitting .292 with 23 HRs. Talk about consistent: he had 20 RBIs in April, 22 in May, 21 in June, 20 in July, and 19 so far in August.
  • Former Cleveland Indians prospect Alex Kaminsky is making a name for himself in the independent Frontier League. A 24-year-old righty with the Gateway Grizzlies, Kaminsky hasn’t allowed a run in his past three starts, including a 6-and-one-third-inning stint Thursday (8/23/2012) en route to a 1-0 win over the Windy City ThunderBolts. He’s 10-4 this season with a 3.43 ERA.
  • Ben Guez has had only 265 at-bats at the AAA level this year, but that hasn’t stopped the Detroit Tigers prospect from collecting six triples, tying him for 4th-highest in the International League. Guez is hitting a combined .297 in AAA and AA this year, with 8 HRs, 44 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, and a. 414 on-base percentage.
  • Tampa Bay Rays prospect Sean Bierman is quietly racking-up quite a rookie season. A 10th-round draft pick this June, the 6’0″ lefty recently was promoted to the Bowling Green Hot Rods (A) from the Hudson Valley Renegades (A-short season). In a combined 12 games, Bierman is 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 39 strikeouts, and just 6 walks in 57-and-a-third innings — less than one base on balls per 9 innings.
  • Ian Kinsler went 3-for-5 Saturday (8/25/2012) with a HR and a three-run triple in a 9-3 rout of the Minnesota Twins. Kinlers hit .308 in his last 10 games, with 2 HRs, 9 RBIs, and 8 walks. ESPN.com notes that he’s hitting outside balls far better than inside balls this season.
  • Sam Fuld sparked another win last week (8/20/2012), leading the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals. The Tampa Bay Times said it best: “Fuld delivered a spark with two great catches and two hits, including stretching a single into a double in the eighth, then lighting the Captain Morgan lamp as the player of the game. ‘Sammy does everything right,’ manager Joe Maddon said.”

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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Good news Monday (7/2/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Get ready to kvell, brothers and sisters. It’s Good news Monday!

  • San Diego Padres prospect Nate Freiman won the Texas League Home Run Derby last Thursday (6/28/2012). A 6’7″ first baseman with the San Antonio Missions (AA), Freiman’s first swing of the contest reportedly was “the sweetest.” He launched a shot that not only struck the scoreboard but hit the “i” in “Freiman.”
  • Talk about cleaning up your own mess. When Augusta GreenJackets (A) reliever Andrew Berger entered Friday’s (6/29/2012) game against the Savannah Sand Gnats in the 7th inning, he promptly gave up a single and double. But the 24-year-old San Francisco Giants prospect didn’t lose hope. Instead, Berger struck out the side, knocked down the Sand Gnats in order the following inning (one of them by strikeout), and struck out the side again in the 9th.
  • Texas Rangers reliever Scott Feldman and his wife hosted a softball game at Rangers Ballpark yesterday (7/1/2012) for  injured soldiers. The couple previously has hosted families of deployed soldiers as well as patients from a local veterans’ hospital.
  • Baseball fans voted two Jewish players into next week’s All-Star game. Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler, who also played in 2008 and 2010, will be the back-up to New York Yankees 2B Robinson Cano on the A.L. squad. On the opposing team, Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun was chosen for the 5th consecutive year, this time as a reserve player.
  • Today is the deadline for Team Israel to turn in its 50-player roster for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in September. According to a person involved in the process, the roster includes players who have committed to play (including player/coaches Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler) as well as players who the team wants who have not yet committed.
  • Boston Red Sox prospect Ryan Lavarnway had a heck of a June. A catcher with the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA), the Yale University alum erupted with a .405 batting average, 4 HRs, 18 RBIs, 10 doubles, a .469 on-base percentage, and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.136.
  • New York Mets prospect Josh Satin probably wishes he could play against the Durham Bulls every day of the season. As Jewish Baseball News writer Zev Ben Avigdor pointed out in his Twitter feed, the Buffalo Bisons (AAA) first baseman was on fire during a recent 4-game series against the Bulls, going 10-for-14 with 2 HRs, 4 RBIs and 4 walks.
  • When Tampa Bay Rays OF Sam Fuld had surgery on his right wrist during Spring Training, doctors predicted he wouldn’t return to the lineup before August. But after taking batting practice Friday (6/29/2012), his first time doing so since March, Fuld was optomistic. “I think we can be looking at the end of this homestand,” he said.
  • New York Yankees prospect Jeremy Bleich, who hadn’t pitched a shoulder injury sidelined him in 2010, is back. In three short appearances with the rookie-league GCL Yankees, the 25-year-old Stanford alum is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. Bleich has given up 3 hits and one walk in 5-and-2/3 innings while striking out 7.
  • In case you missed it, here is a clip of President Barack Obama, a Chicago native, teasing Boston Red Sox fans for trading Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox. Judging from the boos, the joke was too soon.

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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Good news Tuesday (6/26/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Because our website was down on Monday, gosh darn it:

  • If cats have nine lives, Jason Marquis may be a close second. After the Minnesota Twins unceremoniously dumped the 33-year-old journeyman and his 8.47 ERA last month, he was picked up by his 8th MLB team, the San Diego Padres. Since then Marquis has excelled. Although poor run support has cost him three losses in four starts with San Diego, he has kept a trim 2.05 ERA and struck out 26 batters in 26-and-one-third innings, including a career-high 10 against the Texas Rangers last Monday (6/18/2012).
  • Ryan Braun is on a tear. The reigning N.L. MVP’s hitting streak reached 18 games on Sunday (6/24/2012), and he leads the league in HRs (20/tie) while ranking 3rd in RBIs (52). In his last 10 games alone, the 28-year-old Milwaukee Brewer hit .366 along with 5 HRs and 11 RBIs. Not surprisingly he ranked 4th among N.L. outfielders in All-Star voting as of 6/19/2012, a shade behind Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants.
  • Speaking of All-Stars, Ian Kinsler was leading all A.L. second baseman in votes as of 6/18/2012, but not by much. The Texas Ranger had 2,580,306 votes, versus 2,565,046 for New York Yankees 2B Robinson. Voting ends Thursday (6/28/2012); cast your votes here.
  • What slump? Ike Davis continued his recovery last week with two decisive HRs. On Monday (6/18/2012) he hit his first MLB grand slam HR, giving the New York Mets all it needed to knock off the Baltimore Orioles 5-0 (see video). On Friday (6/22/2012) he smacked a 3-run home run in a 6-4 victory over the crosstown New York Yankees. Though Davis’ .190 batting average still needs improving, he’s hit .290 in his past 10 games and nevertheless ranks 3rd on the Mets in HRs (8/tie), RBIs (36), and walks (26).
  • Philadelphia Phillies reliever Michael Schwimer is making a strong case for remaining in the Majors. Earlier this season, the Phils demoted the 6’8” reliever after he went 0-1 with a blown save and a bloated 8.53 ERA. But in nine starts since returning this month, Schwimer has put up stellar numbers, including a 2.08 ERA, 0.81 walks/hits per inning, and a .138 opposing-batter average.
  • Nate Freiman hit a walk-off HR on Thursday (6/21/2012) to give the San Antonio Missions (AA) a 5-3 win over the Corpus Christi Hooks in extra innings. Luckily the 6’7” first baseman didn’t connect off Hooks reliever Josh Zeid, who pitched 2 scoreless innings earlier in the game. Freiman leads the Texas League with 63 RBIs in 74 games, ranks 2nd with 16 HRs, 3rd in slugging percentage (.512), and 5th in OPS (.861).
  • Danny Valencia showed some pop in his bat Saturday (6/23/2012), homering twice in the Rochester Red Wings’ (AAA) 12-1 win over the Charlotte Knights. Valencia is averaging .247 since being demoted by the Minnesota Twins but had a nice run in his past 10 games, hitting .310 with an on-base percentage of .447.

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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Good news Monday (6/18/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Monday-morning blues be damned:

  • After crushing minor-league pitching during a 15-game rehab stint,  Ryan Kalish is back with the Boston Red Sox, and boy did he make a good entrance yesterday (6/17/2012). In his first big-league game since 2010, the 25-year-old outfielder broke up a 3-3 tie in the 7th inning with an RBI single, and the Sox went on to defeat the Chicago Cubs 7-4. He later scored on a suicide squeeze. Kudos to Ryan for his grit and courage in overcoming shoulder and neck surgery.
  • Texas Rangers fans recently were asked to name the franchise’s all-time greatest players in honor of its 40th anniversary. The top second baseman? Ian Kinsler, of course. Only two other active position players were named to the all-time squad: SS Michael Young, and reigning A.L. MVP Josh Hamilton. Kinsler is particularly popular among the younger set. Little Leaguers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area reportedly emulate the 29-year-old by pulling their socks up high.
  • After a season-long slump that had people speculating on a possible demotion, Ike Davis is hitting again. The New York Mets first baseman batted .478 over the past 8 games, contributing 1 HR, 7 RBIs, and 7 walks.
  • Jewish players had a bellwether day Saturday (6/16/2012). Of the 17 Major- and minor-leaguers who came to the plate, 16 got at least one hit, 10 had two or more hits,and together they collected a total of 3 HRs, 16 RBIs, and 7 walks in 67 at-bats.
  • It’s been a good couple weeks for Detroit Tigers prospect Ben Guez. A 25-year-old outfielder with the Toledo Mud Hens (AAA), Guez hit a grand-slam HR, gamely tried (and failed) to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park HR, hit 2 doubles in two consecutive games, and raised his average and on-base percentage in Toledo to .287 and .380, respectively.
  • Also on fire is Baltimore Orioles prospect Robbie Widlansky. An outfielder and designated hitter with the Bowie Baysox (AA), the 27-year-old batted .450 over his past 10 games and had hits in every one of them, along with 10 RBIs. Widansky’s 41 RBIs and 17 doubles are tied for 3rd highest in the Eastern League.
  • San Diego Padres prospect Nate Freiman, a 6’7″ slugger who leads the Texas League with 57 RBIs and is #2 in HRs with 15, is winning off the field, too. Freiman is engaged to marry fellow athlete and Duke University alum Amanda Blumenhurst, a professional golfer.
  • Two members of the Stony Brook University team that made an unlikely appearance at the 2012 College World Series are Jewish: Maxx Tissenbaum, a junior drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 11th round of this months’ draft, and freshman Steven Goldstein. Stony Brook was eliminated Sunday (6/17/2012) by Florida State University. Tissenbaum finished the season with a .390 average, 3 HRs, and 51 RBIs, second-highest on the team. Goldstein hit .337 with 4 HRs and 34 RBIs. He ranked second in stolen bases with 14.

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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CLICK TO ORDER


Authors: Peter Ephross, Martin Abramowitz

Published: 2012

Pages: 227

Price: $35 (Amazon.com or McFarland Publishing/800-253-2187)

Our rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Reviewed by Stuart M. Katz for Jewish Baseball News

Overview

In Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words, authors Peter Ephross and Martin Abramowitz present oral histories of 23 of the Jewish players who were on Major League rosters between 1918 and 2005. Beginning with Bob Berman, who played for the Washington Senators in 1918, and ending with Adam Greenberg, who played one fateful game for the Chicago Cubs in 2005, the book provides an unusual window into America’s pastime.

What’s Jewish about it

Some interesting and common themes emerge in the book. Most of the players from the first half of the 20th century identify themselves as traditional Jews, say they experienced anti-Semitism (although not as virulent as the discrimination they saw African-American players suffer), and typically didn’t play on the High Holidays. Jews who played more recently were more likely to be from mixed marriages and less likely to take the High Holidays off.

Jesse Levis, who played for the Indians and the Brewers, recalls playing on Yom Kippur in 1996. He explains that because he wasn’t a superstar, he didn’t feel he had a choice, although he did fast that day. “I’m not Sandy Koufax…I’m a Major League player trying to make a living,” he says. As it happened, Levis didn’t get a hit that day — or for that matter, he says, the rest of the season. “God punished me anyway.” Former 1st-round draft pick Ron Blomberg recalls playing in a game in 1973 that lasted into the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “The game was tied with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, but we had a man on third base. I had to make the decision: quit the game for Rosh Hashanah, or get a base hit….I got a clutch base hit to win the game – the biggest hit of my career. I cherish that at-bat more than anything else in my life.”

Regardless of the era, Jewish pride resonates throughout many of the interviews. Hank Greenberg, who died in 1986, said that when a Jew hears about a gifted Jewish athlete, statesman or artist, “you take a certain pride in the fact that one of your own people (has) made good.”

My take

Although much has been written about Greenberg and Koufax, far less is known about the careers of others featured in the book, men like Sam Nahem, Cy Block and Mike Epstein. Their stories as non-superstars are no less interesting. Among the most compelling chapters are the ones devoted to Elliott Maddox and Jose J. Bautista, whose Judaism was less obvious because they are African-American and Hispanic, respectively.

The obstacles that Jewish ballplayers faced in the 20th century resembled the assimilation struggles that most American Jews faced during that era. But as these oral histories reveal, maintaining Jewish traditions remained extremely important to the players. I look forward to a future volume featuring interviews with Braun, Youkilis, Breslow, Ian Kinsler, Gabe Kapler and other more recent players. I wonder if they will describe their connection to Judaism as clearly and proudly as those who blazed the trail for them.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Stuart M. Katz is a die-hard Yankees fan. An attorney at Cohen and Wolf in Bridgeport, Conn., he chairs the firm’s Employment & Labor Group and represents employers as well as executives.
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Good news Tuesday (5/29/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Because Monday was Memorial Day, dontcha know:

  • Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler broke out of a 27-game HR slump on Sunday (5/27/2012) with a HR, double, and four RBIs in a 12-6 triumph over the Texas Rangers. Despite the drought, Kinsler leads the majors with 41 runs scored. Sunday’s two-hit game was his fifth in six starts.
  • After an impressive debut with the Boston Red Sox in 2010, neck and shoulder surgery sidelined LF Ryan Kalish for the better part of the past year. But in the first game of a rehab stint with the Salem Red Sox (A-advanced) last week, the 24-year-old celebrated his return with a HR and a single, and yesterday (5/28/2012) he even stole a base. Way to go, Ryno.
  • Success has split up the power duo of San Diego Padres sluggers Nate Freiman and Cody Decker. While playing for the San Antonio Missions (AA) this season, the pair led the Texas League with 14 HRs apiece. Alas, Decker was promoted to AAA last week. So far he’s earned his keep: through 6 games and 22 at-bats, he is hitting .364 with a HR, three doubles, two RBIs, and an OPS of 1.098.
  • Ryan Sadowski led the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization to victory Saturday (5/26/2012) with a 3-hit, complete-game performance. The 6’4″ hurler, whom Korean fans call “Dow,” is enjoying his third season with the team after completing one of the more unusual MLB careers. Called up in 2009 by the San Francisco Giants, the University of Florida alum promptly delivered two shutouts, followed by four less-impressive outings that led him back to AAA. Rather than try returning to The Show in 2010, Sadowski indulged his wanderlust by signing with the “other” Giants. At age 29, he’s young enough to revisit American baseball, but so far the iconoclastic Florida native is staying put. To learn more about this clever young man, see these 2011 and 2012 interviews.
  • It’s no fun being sent down to the minors, but Minnesota Twins 3B Danny Valencia is making the best of an opportunity to retool his mechanics. The 27-year-old started out slow with the Rochester Red Wings (AAA) but has hit .325 with 2 HRs and 9 RBIs in his past 10 games.
  • Second-year player Jack Marder of the High Desert Mavericks (A-advanced) is tearing up the California League. The Seattle Mariners prospect ranks among league leaders with a .368 batting average (2nd), .413 on-base percentage (3rd), and .566 slugging percentage (7th), to go along with 4 HRs and 24 RBIs in 136 at-bats. On Sunday (5/27/2012), Marder’s two-run single with two outs in the 12th inning earned the Mavericks a 3-2 win over the Modesto Nuts.
  • Released last week by the Minnesota Twins, P Jason Marquis is a free agent. Could the Twins’ loss be Team Israel’s gain?
  • Tampa Bay Rays OF Sam Fuld may be on the disabled list, but that didn’t stop him from appearing as a sabermetrics expert on a recent Rays broadcast. The Stanford alum is a former STATS Inc. intern who applied for the position after reading Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball.
  • And now our favorite headline of the week, from the San Francisco Chronicle: All Eyes are on Ryan Braun’s Groin. San Francisco’s reputation notwithstanding, the headline concerned a recent injury suffered by the reigning N.L. MVP.
Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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Good news Monday (5/7/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Mondays bite. So feed yourself something pleasing:

  1. Add this name to our ever-growing list of players: Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson. Drafted out of high school in 2010, the 20-year-old outfielder wowed the rookie Pioneer League last year by batting .353 with 11 HRs, 64 RBIs, 24 stolen bases, and a .997 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) in only 266 at-bats. Now with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (High-A), Pederson is hitting .253 with 1 RBI in 31 at-bats this season. A tip of the cap to Ephraim Moxson for verifying Pederson’s lineage.
  2. Aric Weinberg, whose mother hails from Tel Aviv and whose father is a former ESPN and New York Times sports reporter, signed a contract with the Kansas City T-Bones of the American Association, an independent league. The 26-year-old outfielder is assistant coach of the Tarbut V’Torah baseball team in Irvine, Calif., which went 11-2 last season.
  3. Washington Nationals prospect Danny Rosenbaum continued his extraordinary season with a 2-1, complete-game victory on Saturday (5/5/2012), facing just two batters over the minimum 27. A 24-year-old starter with the Harrisonburg Senators (AA), Rosenbaum saw his 28-inning scoreless streak end during the 6th inning, but you’d hardly know it by looking at his 0.81 ERA, 4-0 record, and strikeout/walk ratio of 27/3. Local news media variously described Rosenbaum’s Saturday performance as “sparkling,” “outstanding,” and “dominant.”
  4. Leadoff hitter extraordinaire Ian Kinsler has scored 28 runs in the Texas Rangers’ first 28 games this season, putting him on pace for 162 if he remains injury-free. The only player since 1939 to reach that plateau is Manny Ramirez, who scored 165 with the Cleveland Indians in 1999.
  5. San Diego Padres prospect Nate Freiman continues to dominate Double-A pitching in his first season at that level. The San Antonio Missions first baseman is hitting .313 (5th-highest in the Texas League) with 11 HRs (1st), 26 RBIs (2nd), and a 1.032 OPS (3rd/tie) in 115 at-bats.
  6. Baseball America’s most recent Prospect Hot Sheet listed two Jewish players among last week’s hottest 13: Washington Nationals prospect Danny Rosenbaum (see above), and Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Jake Lemmerman, a 23-year-old shortstop who is hitting .316 with the Chattanooga Lookouts (AA). The same Hot Sheet described 6’7″ Padres prospect Nate Freiman (see above) as “monstrous” and a “man among boys.” Both Lemmerman and Freiman are Duke University alums.
Have any good news about Jewish athletes and teams? E-mail them to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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Good news Monday (4/30/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

My 8-year-old says Mondays are among her favorite days of the week because she has ‘running club’ after school. For the rest of humanity, Mondays can be hellish. May these tidbits make your day a little easier:

  1. Washington Nationals prospect Danny Rosenbaum recently was named the Eastern League’s player of the week, and it’s no surprise why. Although the 24-year-old Harrisburg Senators (AA) starter barely registers a blip on Baseball America’s list of top Nationals prospects, he’s 3-0 with a 0.94 ERA and two shutouts this season and has struck out 18 batters while walking just two. Rosenbaum is adept at getting players to ground out. When he blanked the Altoona Curve last week, a local newspaper said Curve batters spent more time in the sand than former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff. If he continues to excel — Jewish Baseball News named him its top minor-league starter last year — Rosenbaum could be called-up to the Majors this September. Said Washington Nationals director of player development Doug Harris to the Washington Post: “We think he’s a major-league pitcher, without a doubt.”
  2. In baseball, pitchers have a reputation for being introspective thinkers, engineers of their own mechanics. But Philadelphia Phillies reliever Michael Schwimer takes the cake. In an interview with FanGraphs — the chosen website for those who prefer here.
  3. Not every Jewish player is so left-brained. Baltimore Orioles prospect Tyler Kolodny is known more for turning a wet tarp into a slip-and-slide, doing full splits to snare balls tossed in the dirt, and cutting-up for his teammates. See the full story here.
  4. San Diego Padres prospect Nate Freiman is on another power-trip this season. After hitting 22 HRs and driving in 111 runs last year — good enough to earn him an honorable mention in Jewish Baseball News’ most valuable minor-league player award — the 6’7″ first baseman was moved up to AA ball, where he continues to batter the rawhide. Freiman leads the Texas League with 9 HRs and ranks 3rd in RBIs (18), eighth in batting average (.313), and 13th in slugging percentage (.699).
  5. Also excelling early in 2012 is Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Jack Marder. Now in his second season with the High Desert Mavericks (High-A), he ranks 4th among California League players in batting average (.360), doubles (7/tie), and runs (18/tie), and  is tied for 7th in RBIs (13).
  6. Research by Jewish Baseball News contributor Jack W. shows just how good today’s Jewish MLB stars are. Milwaukee Brewers RF Ryan Braun has the second-best career fielding percentage among left fielders since the statistic debuted in 1954. Among active players, the N.L.’s reigning Most Valuable Player ranks 1st in fielding percentage, 4th in slugging percentage, 9th in OPS (slugging percentage plus on-base percentage), and 10th in batting average. Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler ranks 1st among active second basemen in range factor per game and ranks 6th in career stolen-base percentage of any player since 1951. Boston Red Sox 3B/1B Kevin Youkilis ranks 2nd among active first basemen in career fielding percentage and 13th among all active players in career on-base percentage.
  7. Youkilis is no slouch when it comes to recognizability, but he recently married into New England royalty when he wed the sister of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Does that make him Julie Brady’s Giselle Bundchen? If you’ve ever seen Youk’s mug, you’d know he was no supermodel. But definitely a super guy. No word whether a Rabbi presided over the ceremony, though we kind of doubt it.
Have any good news about Jewish athletes and teams? E-mail them to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

In 2010, the year Jewish Baseball News debuted, MLB’s Opening Day rosters included 10 Jewish players. In 2011 there were nine.

This season? Only seven. It’s enough to make an M.O.T. cry in his $9 ballpark beer.

Thanks to injuries (Sam Fuld, Ryan Kalish), flips of a coin (Ryan LavarnwayMichael Schwimer), a veteran’s departure (John Grabow), and a freak family accident (Jason Marquis), the number of Jewish players on Opening Day rosters will be the lowest in years.

The seven are:

  1. Ryan Braun (LF), Milwaukee Brewers
  2. Craig Breslow (P), Arizona Diamondbacks
  3. Ike Davis (1B), New York Mets
  4. Scott Feldman (P), Texas Rangers
  5. Ian Kinsler (2B), Texas Rangers
  6. Kevin Youkilis (3B/1B), Boston Red Sox
  7. Danny Valencia (3B), Minnesota Twins
More players are likely to be called in later this season, however. They include:
  1. Josh Satin (IF), New York Mets. After getting his first 25 MLB at-bats at the end of 2011, Satin was invited this season to Spring Training, where he batted a respectable .259 with a .323 on-base percentage. When he’ll come back: definitely in September, possibly sooner if the injury-prone Mets lose an infielder.
  2. Jason Marquis (P), Minnesota Twins. Marquis was slotted to be the Twins’ fifth starter on Opening Day. But when his 7-year-old daughter was seriously injured two weeks ago in a bicycle accident, he admirably chose to go home and care for her. Now back after 9 days, the Twins sent him down to the minors for a tune-up. When he’ll come back: as long as he doesn’t screw up badly in the minors, Marquis should be back before the end of the month.
  3. Ryan Lavarnway (C), Boston Red Sox. Lavarnway is a far better hitter than Boston’s #2 catcher, Kelly Shoppach. Take this year’s Spring Training, where Lavarnway outhit .him .429 to .258. Now he just needs to prove he can catch half as well as Shoppach. When he’ll be back: if Shoppach and his teammates fail to produce at the plate, Lavarnway could return before the All-Star break.
  4. Sam Fuld (CF/LF), Tampa Bay Rays. Fuld underwent surgery this week after reinjuring his right wrist. The Rays won’t miss his bat, but they will miss his fielding prowess, baserunning skill, and crowd-pleasing hustle. When he’ll be back: Early reports say Fuld’s likely to be out 4-5 months, meaning an August or September return. A lot will depend on not only on the speed of his recovery but how well rookie outfielder Stephen Vogt and veteran outfielder Luke Scott perform in their Rays debuts.
  5. Michael Schwimer (P), Philadelphia Phillies. A September call-up last season, Schwimer went 1-0 in Spring Training with a 3.86 ERA, one save, five strikeouts, and just one walk in 4-and-two-thirds innings. When he’ll be back: Definitely by September, if not sooner. Schwimer’s misfortune is that the Phillies have an abundance of strong relievers.
  6. Ryan Kalish (RF), Boston Red Sox. After neck surgery in September and shoulder surgery in November, Kalish is starting 2012 on the 60-day disabled list. When he’ll be back: Probably September, but only if he performs well in the minors after completing rehab.
  7.  Brett Lorin (P), Arizona Diamondbacks. For someone who hasn’t even reached AA, Lorin had a remarkable Spring Training, holding opposing batters to a .194 average and going 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA, 7 strikeouts, and one walk across 9 innings. When he’ll be back: MLB teams are loathe to call-up players who lack AAA experience. But if Lorin performs as well with the Mobile BayBears (AA) as he did this Spring, a September taste is possible.

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Today’s news scraps (3/29/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Here’s what’s happening in the world of baseball today (Thursday, Mar. 29, 2012):

  • INJURY: Sam Fuld told the Tampa Tribune he’s going to get a second medical opinion on his injured right wrist and may end up facing surgery and/or rehab. The Tampa Bay Rays outfielder injured his wrist last September in Baltimore.
  • TRIUMPHANT: Scott Feldman pitched masterfully in the Texas Rangers’ 12-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday (3/26/2012). The 6-foot-7-inch right-hander scattered three hits and no walks over 6 innings while striking out nine. Teammate Ian Kinsler contributed a HR.
  • FAMILY EMERGENCY: Minnesota Twins right-hander Jason Marquis left Spring Training more than a week ago to care for his 7-year-old daughter, who was seriously injured when she fell off a bicycle.
  • REASSIGNED: The Philadelphia Phillies optioned reliever Michael Schwimer to the franchise’s AAA team last week. After making his MLB debut last season, the 26-year-old hurler spent most of Spring Training 2012 with the Phillies, where he recorded a 3.86 ERA and one save in four-and-two-thirds innings.
  • CONTRACT TALKS: Ian Kinsler is in talks with the Texas Rangers about extending his contract. His current contract ends after this season, although the team has a $10-million option for 2013.
  • CONFIDENT: After hitting .311 and placing 3rd in balloting for A.L. Rookie of the Year in 2010, the 2011 season was a “humbling” one for Danny Valencia. But the Minnesota Twins 3B says he’s regained some confidence and is trying to have fun again on the field.

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Spring Training surprises: An update

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Given that he’s the reigning National League MVP, you might think Ryan Braun would be tearing up Spring Training pitching.

And you would be wrong.

Opening Day is little more than a week away, but 2012 already has already delivered a few surprises, as well as some more predictable performances.

The Surprising

  • John Grabow has yet to give up an earned run. After a second mediocre season in Wrigley Field made him a target of fan frustration, the nine-year veteran seemed on the verge of Washed Up, and the best he could get for 2012 was a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. But now, Grabow has a fighting chance at filling the final spot in the Dodgers’ regular-season bullpen. In six appearances this Spring, the 33-year-old has given up no runs, one walk, and only four hits across six innings, while striking out 7.
  • In Arizona, veteran reliever Craig Breslow has been outperformed by a low-level minor leaguer. With a lifetime ERA of 3.06, the odds are good that Breslow will find his form during the regular season, but so far this Spring he’s been ineffective, running up a 7.11 ERA in five appearances. The real shocker has been teammate Brett Lorin, a 6’7″ starter who has yet to play even Double-A ball yet. In 7 relief appearances this Spring, the 24-year-old is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA, five strikeouts, and nary a single walk.
  • Minor-leaguer Nate Freiman has 5 RBIs in just 5 at-bats. He’s yet to reach Double-A. He wasn’t on the San Diego Padres’ Spring Training roster, or among its non-roster invitees. But the 6’7″ first baseman has made the most of his limited opportunities this Spring. In 3 appearances, none of them as a starter, Freiman hit a three-run HR, an RBI single, and a sacrifice fly. Only two Jewish players — Danny Valencia (7 RBIs, 45 at-bats), and Ike Davis (6 RBIs, 35 at-bats) have driven in more runs.
  • Ryan Braun is hitting just .095. Narrowly escaping a 50-game suspension under MLB’s drug policy probably hasn’t helped Braun’s psyche any. But who would expect the N.L.’s 2011 MVP to have just 2 hits in 21 at-bats so far this Spring? To be fair, the Milwaukee Brewers’ 28-year-old left fielder has drawn 6 walks, giving him a respectable if modest .321 on-base percentage. Still…
  • The “other” Ryan is hitting .455. Boston Red Sox C Ryan Lavarnway, who made his Major League debut last August, has always swung a good bat. But his performance this Spring will make the Red Sox think twice about sending him down to AAA next week.

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The Predictable

  • Ian Kinsler is off to a fast start, hitting .368 with 3 HRs and 5 RBIs.
  • Sam Fuld is hitting .217, identical to his average across seven MLB Spring Trainings. Notwithstanding his remarkable start last April, Super Sam hits only slight better during the regular season, with a career average of .244.
  • Jason Marquis is struggling with his control. In 4 Spring stars, the newly-arrived Minnesota Twin is 1-1 with an 8.53 ERA, and he’s walked nearly twice as many batters (9) as he’s struck out (5).
For more detailed Spring Training stats, see the tables below.

Hitters

Spring training games played through March 25, 2012
 BatterTeamPosABHHRRBIBBSOAVGOBPSLG
1Ben OrloffHOU2B210100.500.500.500
2Ryan LavarnwayBOSC33150435.455.486.515
3Nate FreimanSD1B521501.400.3331.000
4Ian KinslerTEX2B38143515.368.385.684
5Jake LemmermanLADSS310000.333.333.333
6Danny ValenciaMIN3B45123729.267.298.533
7Josh SatinNYM2B2770239.259.323.296
8Ike DavisNYM1B3581677.229.357.371
9Sam FuldTBLF2350055.217.357.217
10Kevin YoukilisBOS3B2860246.214.333.250
11Ryan BraunMILLF2121265.095.321.238
TOTAL260739343152.281nana

Pitchers

Spring Training games played through March 25, 2012
 PlayerTeamWLERAIPHRERBBSO
1John GrabowLAD100.00640017
2Daniel BerlindCHC000.00100010
3Brett LorinARI102.57742205
4Michael SchwimerPHI103.864.252215
5Scott FeldmanTEX024.50141777211
6Craig BreslowARI007.116.165534
7Jason MarquisMIN118.5312.219121295
TOTAL434.8851.25528281737

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Spring Training update (3/11/12)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Spring Training 2012 is in its second week, and a number of Jewish players are in the mix.

Fifteen Jews — including 6 pitchers and 9 position players — were invited to participate in Major League Baseball’s annual rite this year. They include all 13 who played MLB ball in 2011, plus former major league OF Ryan Kalish (Boston Red Sox) and current minor league P Brett Lorin (Arizona Diamondbacks). Fourteen of the 15 are on their teams’ 40-man roster. P John Grabow, who recently signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles dodgers, is the lone non-roster invitee.

The Boston Red Sox have the highest Jewish population of any team at Spring Training, with three players, followed by the Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets, and Texas Rangers, each with two.

Through games played March 10, Jewish batters were hitting a combined .253, with 2 HRs and 10 RBIs in 75 at-bats (see table below). New York Mets 1B Ike Davis led the group with a .400 average and .500 on-base percentage. Minnesota Twins 3B Danny Valencia showed some power with a HR, two doubles, and a .357 average. National League MVP Ryan Braun was off to a slow start, with four strikeouts and just one hit in his first 8 at-bats, a home run.

Boston’s Kalish, who had off-season surgery on his neck and left shoulder, isn’t expected to play until June.

Jewish pitchers were playing admirably well. Five of the six hadn’t yielded a single run through March 10. Texas Rangers starter Scott Feldman, for example, gave up just two hits and a walk over five total innings while striking out three. Jason Marquis, a newly-minted Minnesota Twin, was the sole disappointment. He blew his first start by giving up 4 earned runs and 3 walks to the Red Sox before being removed in the 2nd inning. His second start, against the St. Louis Cardinals, was modestly better: Marquis gave up 1 earned run on 3 hits and 2 walks over 3 innings.

Following are player stats through games played March 10:

Batter Team Pos AB H HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
1 Ike Davis NYM 1B 10 4 0 0 2 3 .400 .500 .500
2 Danny Valencia MIN 3B 14 5 1 4 0 2 .357 .357 .714
3 Josh Satin NYM 2B 12 3 0 1 1 5 .250 .308 .250
4 Kevin Youkilis BOS 3B 9 2 0 1 2 2 .222 .364 .333
5 Ian Kinsler TEX 2B 14 3 0 0 0 2 .214 .214 .214
6 Ryan Lavarnway BOS C 5 1 0 2 1 2 .200 .286 .200
7 Ryan Braun MIL LF 8 1 1 2 1 4 .125 .222 .500
8 Sam Fuld TB OF 3 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
9 Ryan Kalish BOS OF
TOTALS 75 19 2 10 7 20 .253


Player Team W L ERA IP H R ER BB SO
1 Scott Feldman TEX 0 0 0.00 5 2 0 0 1 3
2 Craig Breslow ARI 0 0 0.00 2.1 1 0 0 0 2
3 Brett Lorin ARI 0 0 0.00 2 0 0 0 0 1
4 Michael Schwimer PHI 1 0 0.00 2 2 0 0 0 3
5 Jason Marquis MIN 0 1 9.64 4.2 6 5 5 5 2
6 John Grabow LAD 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 0 0 1
TOTALS 1 1 16.3 11 5 5 6 12


To track the performance of Jewish players during Spring Training, check the Jewish Box Score on our home page every day.

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Ian Kinsler finishes 11th in A.L. MVP vote

Ian Kinsler" src="http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/kinsler-mug-150x150.jpg" alt="2B Ian Kinsler" width="150" height="150" />

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler finished 11th in voting for the 2011 American League MVP, Major League Baseball said Monday.

The two-time All-Star came in just behind Tampa Bay Rays 3B Evan Longoria and received one 4th-place vote, according to MLB.com. Detroit Tigers P Justin Verlander won the award with 13 first-place votes.

A number of columnists (see example) had observed that the only thing holding back Kinsler, 29, from a stronger finish in the Most Valuable Player race was his .255 batting average. He excelled behind the plate in 2011, joining the elite “30-30” club (at least 30 HRs and 30 stolen bases) for the second time, drawing 89 walks, scoring 121 runs, and finishing among league leaders in multiple categories. He was above-average in the field. And he excelled during the playoffs, including leading all World Series batters with a .360 average and .500 on-base percentage.

Rangers teammate Michael Young finished 8th in the MVP voting.

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Playoffs recap: How they did

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS –Now that the 2011 season is officially over, let’s review how Jewish players did during the playoffs:

  • Ian Kinsler (2B), Texas Rangers. Playing in the postseason for the 2nd time in his 6-year career, Kinsler performed his leadoff-man magic, finishing 1st among A.L. players in walks (14), 3rd in hits (20/tie), and 6th in on-base percentage (.438). He was even hotter during the World Series, leading all hitters in average (.360) as well as on-base percentage (.500). But the power (32 HRs) and speed (30 stolen bases) Kinsler displayed in 2011 escaped him during the playoffs. Though he did finish with 11 RBIs, Kinsler hit just 1 HR during the postseason and was caught stealing in 4 of 7 attempts — as many times as he was caught the entire regular season.
  • Ryan Braun (LF), Milwaukee Brewers. A candidate for the N.L. MVP award this year, Braun was nearly as impressive during the playoffs. Despite getting only 42 at-bats — the Brewers lost in the N.L. Championship Series — he ranked 3rd among N.L. players in doubles (7), 5th in RBIs (10), and 4th in both average (.405) and on-base percentage (.468). Less impressive were his stolen bases (1) and strikeouts (9).
  • Scott Feldman (P), Texas Rangers. The 6-foot-6 pitcher, converted to a relief role after spending the first half of 2011 on the disabled list, was like two different men during the playoffs. Through Game 1 of the World Series he was almost untouchable, giving up no runs, no walks, and just 4 hits over 10-and-a-third innings while striking out 10.
    But Feldman was abysmal in the rest of the World Series. Over 4 games and 3-and-a-third innings he had a 13.50 ERA, giving up 4 hits, 6 walks, hitting a batter, and striking out just one.
  • Sam Fuld (LF), Tampa Bay Rays. In his first-ever postseason, the second-string outfielder went 0-for-3 as a pinch-hitter.

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Jewish duo gives Rangers winning edge

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Jewish duo Ian Kinsler and Scott Feldman helped lead the Texas Rangers to a 7-3, extra-inning win over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night in Game 4 of the A.L. Championship Series.

Texas was down 2-0 in the 6th inning when second baseman Kinsler hit an RBI double to cut the deficit in half. Moments later, the two-time All-Star stole 3rd and then scored on an Elvis Andrus single.

Feldman, a 6-foot-6″ right-hander sporting a positively rabbinic red beard, pitched one inning of no-hit relief in the 10th to earn the win. Though Feldman did make one mistake, hitting Tigers CF Austin Jackson with a 94 mph sinker, Kinsler erased the baserunner moments later when he tagged Jackson out on an attempted steal.

After spending the first half of 2011 on the disabled list while recovering from knee surgery, Feldman has had a remarkable postseason (see ESPN.com article). In three bullpen appearances spanning a total of 8-and-a-third innings, the 28-year-old has held opposing batters to a .111 batting average, struck out 9, and has yet to give up a walk or a run. His appearance in Game 2 of the A.L.C.S. marked the first time since 1999 that an MLB reliever pitched more than 4 innings of scoreless ball in a post-season game.

Kinsler is hitting .258 in the playoffs with 1 HR, 3 doubles (2nd highest among Rangers players), 6 RBIs (2nd), 2 stolen bases (1st/tie), and a .378 on-base percentage (2nd)

Texas’ victory left it one win away from a second straight World Series berth. Game 5 takes place today (Thursday) at 4:00pm ET on Fox.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Some pro ballplayers shine during the regular season but wilt under the pressure of playoff games.

So far, Milwaukee Brewers RF Ryan Braun isn’t one of them. Two games into the 2011 playoffs, the MVP candidate is 6-for-8 with two doubles, a HR (see it here), and 3 RBIs. His .750 batting average is the MLB’s highest.

Braun’s only other playoff stint came in 2008, when the Brewers battled the Philadelphia Phillies for a division championship. He hit .313 that series, 28 points higher than his .285 season average.

Texas Rangers P Scott Feldman showed similar grit in Friday night’s pitched 9-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Coming in for starter C.J. Wilson, who surrendered 6 earned runs on 8 hits (including 3 HRs) over 5 innings, Feldman shut down the Rays, giving up just 2 hits over 3 stellar innings while striking out 4.

Also participating in the 2011 playoffs is Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler, who is hitting a more modest .250 with 1 double, 1 walk, and two RBIs. Rays OF Sam Fuld flied out in his sole playoff at-bat to date, a pinch-hit opportunity.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun clubbed 2 HRs in Friday night’s 6-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds — and launched himself into the record books.

Braun’s HRs (see video) were his 29th and 30th of the season. Combined with his 31 stolen bases, Braun now joins one of the most exclusive groups in baseball history: the 30/30 club. He is just the 36th player in MLB history, and the second Brewer, to have at least 30 HRs and 30 stolen bases in a single season.

Remarkably, three of the 36 club members are Jewish. RF Shawn Green had 35 HRs and 35 stolen bases for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998, while Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler had 31 HRS and 31 stolen bases in 2009. Jewish fans will also appreciate that Braun is the 36th club member — 36 being double ‘chai.’

Speaking of Kinsler, the 29-year-old is threatening to become a 2-time member of the 30/30 club. With 11 games remaining in the 2011 season, he has 29 HRs and 25 stolen bases.

The 30/30 club’s 36 members have accomplished the feat a total of 55 times. The all-time leaders are father/son duo Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds, who had five 30/30 seasons apiece. The leader among active players is Chicago Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano, who has accomplished the feat four times for three different teams.

Soriano belong to an even more exclusive club. He is one of just four players in MLB history with at least 40 HRs and stolen bases in the same season, having accomplished the feat in 2006 with the Washington Nationals. The three other members Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez.

Also joining the 30/30 club this season is Los Angeles Dodgers CF Matt Kemp.

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Kinsler hits 2 more HRs, has 7 in past 7 games

Ian Kinsler" src="http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/kinsler-mug-150x150.jpg" alt="2B Ian Kinsler" width="150" height="150" />

Ian Kinsler

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler continued his recent HR tear, belting two more Wednesday in a 10-inning, 5-4 heartbreaker to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Kinsler’s 2nd dinger of the night sent the game into extra innings. Wednesday’s barrage left him with 28 HRs, tied for 5th highest in the American League and the most among MLB Jews. Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun has 27.

Like grapes, Kinsler’s HRs come in bunches.

The 29-year-old has 7 round-trippers in his past 7 games, including two multi-homer games. His five multi-homer games this season are tops in the Majors; 7 other players have had four multi-homer games in 2011, including MLB home-run leader Jose Bautista.

With 18 games left on the first-place Rangers’ regular-season schedule, Kinsler is a legitimate threat to join the 30/30 club — players who have reached 30 HRs and 30 stolen bases in the same season — for the second time. In 2009, he hit a career-high 31 HRs and stole 31 bases.

Dodgers CF Matt Kemp is the only player to reach the 30/30 plateau so far this season, with 32 HRs and 37 SBs. Braun, who has 27 HRs and 31 SBs, also is on target to join the club. The only other Jewish player in the 30/30 club is Shawn Green, who became a member in 1998.

The 30/30 club is highly exclusive. Only 35 of the roughly 17,000 players in MLB history are members.

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Ryan Braun, shown on cover of Aug. 29, 2011 issue

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — It’s good to be Ryan Braun.

This week’s issue of Sports Illustrated features the 27-year-old outfielder on its cover, along with Milwaukee Brewers teammates Prince Fielder and Nyjer Morgan. The headline refers to Braun and Fielder as “two wallbanging MVP candidates.” (Braun was 3 years old the last time SI devoted a cover to the Brewers, in 1987.)

Braun’s Brewers are 78-54 and lead the N.L. Central division by 10 games over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals, the largest cushion in baseball.

What’s more, Braun is closing in on one of baseball’s most exclusive fraternities, the 30/30 club. Since 1901, only 34 MLB players have had one or more seasons in which they tallied at least 30 HRs and 30 stolen bases (see table). With 30 games remaining in the 2011, Braun has 25 HRs and 29 stolen bases.

The only Brewer so far in the 30/30 club is Tommy Harper, who joined in 1970. If successful, Braun would join two other Jewish members: Shawn Green (1998), and Ian Kinsler (2009).

Calling Braun an MVP candidate may be premature, but it’s not a huge stretch. The fifth-year player is among N.L. leaders in multiple categories, according to baseball-reference.com:

  • 1st in slugging percentage (.586)
  • 1st in on-base plus slugging (.985)
  • 1st in runs scored (90)
  • 1st in offensive win percentage (.798)
  • 2nd in batting average (.328)
  • 2nd in wins above replacement (6.2)
  • 2nd in power/speed number (26.4)
  • 3rd in doubles (31)
  • 3rd in fielding percentage among left fielders (.995)
  • 5th in RBIs (85)
  • 5th in on-base percentage (.399)
  • 7th in stolen bases (29)

Braun, the 2007 N.L. Rookie of the Year, has been here before. In 2008 he finished 3rd in the MVP vote, behind Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals and Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies.

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