MILWAUKEE — Christian Yelich got a big reward for a little extra early work.
“He put in some work today. He probably hit longer than he was anticipating, but it paid huge dividends,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Give the guy credit. He went and tried to fix himself. The great ones get answers quicker than everybody else, and he had a lot of answers tonight.”
Yelich, the reigning NL MVP, hit his first three-run homer to cap a six-run second inning. After St. Louis tied it with three runs in the sixth, Yelich answered in the bottom half with a towering, three-run blast to right off Mike Mayers (0-1).
Yelich capped off his night with his eighth homer this season, going deep to lead off the eighth. He also lined out in the first and was walked intentionally in the fourth.
Seven of his eight homers this season have come against the Cardinals.
“We have to find a solution, and it starts with me figuring it out,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “Candidly, I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. We know he’s a good player. I’ve managed against a lot of really good players who do it every night … you have to tip your hat. It’s unbelievable. It’s almost like he’s psychic.”
On the Brewers’ recent West Coast road trip, Yelich was 7-for-25 with no homers and two RBIs. His first home run snapped an 0-for-9 streak.
“It wasn’t even about hitting homers, it was just about trying to swing at good pitches and hit the ball hard,” Yelich said “I really think I got away from that over the last week or so. Just kind of expanding and pressing a little bit.”
In the sixth, the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out. Guerra entered, and his first pitch to Paul Goldschmidt sailed past catcher Yasmani Grandal for a run-scoring passed ball. Goldschmidt and Ozuna followed with RBI singles to tie it.
The Brewers erased a 2-0 deficit with six runs in the second off Dakota Hudson. Mike Moustakas opened with his sixth homer. Eric Thames, Ben Gamel, pitcher Freddy Peralta and Lorenzo Cain each singled to account for two runs. Yelich then lined a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left-center.
St. Louis made it 6-3 in the third on Yadier Molina‘s RBI double.
The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead in the first on consecutive one-out homers by Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong. Goldschmidt has hit five of his seven home runs this season at Miller Park, including a three-homer game on March 29.
Cain robbed Matt Carpenter of a two-run homer with a grab above the center-field wall to end the second inning.
Neither starter was effective. Peralta allowed three runs on four hits with three walks in 3 1/3 innings. Hudson was tagged for six runs on eight hits with three walks in 3 2/3.
Cardinals: OF Harrison Bader sat out a second consecutive game after tweaking his right hamstring Saturday against the Reds in Mexico. He will be re-evaluated Tuesday. … RHP Carlos Martinez threw a bullpen session for just the second time since the first week of spring training when he was sidelined with shoulder weakness. … CF Tyler O’Neill left in the third inning with right arm soreness. … 3B Drew Robinson was recalled from Triple-A Memphis, and RHP Giovanny Gallegos was optioned to Memphis. RHP Luke Gregerson, dealing with a right shoulder impingement, was sent on a rehab assignment to Class A Palm Beach.
Brewers: RHP Jeremy Jeffress, who began the season on the injured list with a sore right shoulder, is scheduled to be activated Tuesday.
Home plate umpire Ron Kulpa left in the sixth inning after being struck directly in the mask with Guerra’s first pitch. Third-base umpire Jerry Meals moved behind the plate.
Cardinals: RHP Jack Flaherty (1-0, 2.93 ERA) looks to build on consecutive solid starts, having allowed one run in 11 innings in his previous two outings.
Brewers: RHP Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 6.00) makes his fourth start and second against the Cardinals.
Mo wasn’t afraid to chew out ‘somebody who needed it. Like me’ — A-Rod on Mariano Rivera
Editor’s note: Alex Rodriguez has a unique relationship with the four players voted into the 2019 Hall of Fame class. He was teammates with three of them (Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina) and played against Roy Halladay throughout their careers. In the days leading up to their enshrinement in Cooperstown, A-Rod shares the stories of those stars — as teammates, competitors and friends — in his own words.
Mariano Rivera will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, the greatest relief pitcher ever, the first unanimous selection. What fans will always remember about him was how unflappable he was on the mound, how stoic, in victory or in those rare moments of defeat.
But the Mo I know is fully capable of bluntly chewing out somebody who needed it. Like me.
One of the worst places on earth to be was in the Yankees clubhouse, in innings one through five, if we happened to be losing or playing poorly, because that’s where Mariano would be, watching everything. As part of his routine, he’d remain in the clubhouse in the early part of the game, preparing to pitch in the later innings, and if we fell behind early and I would walk back to my locker during our turn at-bat, he would be all over me. “What were you thinking, swinging at that pitch over your head?” he’d demand. Or, “What kind of a play was that? Get back out there, you moron.”
He quoted George Steinbrenner a lot, and in our clubhouse, it was like he was the embodiment of what Steinbrenner demanded from the Yankees, in comportment and style. He remembered everything he learned from George and Don Mattingly, and had so much Yankee pride. He was always perfectly shaved — I can’t remember seeing a 5 o’clock shadow on him, ever — and on every road trip, his tie was knotted tightly, perfectly, like he was a drill sergeant.
When I was with the Mariners and didn’t really know him, Edgar Martinez and I viewed him with great respect for how he went about his business, how elegant and classy he was on the mound. He never tried to embarrass you as a hitter, or show you up. Watching him from across the field, there was always a sense of mystery there, and you’d almost think he was shy and timid because of how emotionless he was on the mound. That impression was reinforced by my interaction with him in the American League clubhouse in All-Star Games, because he said so little, barely making eye contact.
But what I learned after I joined the Yankees was that the reason why he kept his distance at All-Star Games was because he was so competitive — he didn’t want to get too close to players he expected to beat — and perhaps the two words in the language that least applied to him were timid and shy. He became an integral part of my baseball world, but also one of the greatest friends of my lifetime.
“One of the worst places on earth to be was in the Yankees clubhouse, in innings one through five, if we happened to be losing or playing poorly, because that’s where Mariano would be, watching everything … if we fell behind early and I would walk back to my locker during our turn at-bat, he would be all over me. ‘What were you thinking, swinging at that pitch over your head?’ he’d demand. Or, ‘What kind of a play was that? Get back out there, you moron.'”
Alex Rodriguez on Mariano Rivera
I don’t think people realize what a phenomenal athlete he was. Late in our careers, there was testing done at the Yankees’ spring training facility, and Mariano had the highest vertical leap of any player there — 35 inches. He could jump like a rabbit, with the flexibility of a gymnast. When he was in his early 40s, he could still drop down into a split. Joe Torre would always say that Mariano was the best center fielder on the team, because of how much ground he covered running balls down in batting practice, and at that time, we had a Gold Glover in Bernie Williams.
Everybody knew what he was going to throw — a cutter — and yet they couldn’t hit it because of that late movement. He has long fingers, like Pedro Martinez, and flexibility in his wrists, and I think that gave him almost like a buggy-whip action when he released the ball. But he also had incredible extension when he released the ball, striding out, and I think that contributed to the late life on this pitch that nobody could hit. I was always fascinated by how smooth his delivery was, how explosive. Science shows that a hitter can’t track a pitch all the way to home plate, and the dramatic movement on his cutter was in the last eight inches. Hitters couldn’t see it, they couldn’t hit it.
I had some problems throwing from third base after I first joined the Yankees — some yips. It wasn’t a Chuck Knoblauch situation, but it wasn’t great. So he and I started long-tossing together every day, to help me. I would stand on the right-field foul line, and he would back up, drifting back until he got to the 399-foot mark in left-center field. I’d have to run into my throws to even have a chance to get it close to him, and he would mock me by maintaining a pitcher’s delivery, like he was throwing out of the stretch — and he would launch the ball so high, like a javelin, and it would go so far up. It would never come down, it seemed. And then it would drop right into my glove.
About 80 percent of our conversations were in Spanish. When Mariano would throw his last warm-up pitch, I’d always be the infielder to flip it to him, as the third baseman, and I’d cajole him in Spanish, calling him muerto — Let’s go, scrub.
I’d say to him, “Mo, if you had my balls, you’d have 800 saves.”
And he’d retort, “If you had my balls, you’d have 1,000 home runs.” After Mariano retired and I played out the last years of my career, he’d joke that he was going to Federal Express — to mail me his testicles, so that I would have some.
He always wanted to teach, and like a pastor, he’s always got a Bible, but he never overdid it; he’s great about messaging. He wanted me to do things right, and look out for me, encouraging me to attend the Sunday morning services they have at ballparks, and on some Sundays, I’d be exhausted and beg off. He’d get annoyed, punishing me with silence for a day. I hated letting him down.
In the worst of my trouble with the commissioner’s office, Mariano called me all the time. He got on a plane, flew down to Miami to see me and was very direct: “What the hell are you doing?” He never supported the crap that I did. He is filled with conviction, and was always true north.
I made a lot of mistakes and he called me out directly, looking me in the eye and chastising me. But he never did it in a way that made me feel like he looked down on me; he made me feel that it was possible that I could find my way through, if I made better choices. Mariano never turned his back on me, and he gave me hope.
Eventually, I owned my mistakes. Mariano texted and asked, “Why weren’t you doing this your whole career?” After I returned to the Yankees in spring training of 2015, Mariano arrived as a guest instructor and picked me apart good-naturedly, as old friends will do.
Then he looked at me and said, “You’re doing really well.”
I get goosebumps thinking about those words and how much they meant in that moment, coming from somebody with as much depth and character as Mariano Rivera.
I’ve never really been into music, but it felt like I was standing in the wing of a concert stage when Mariano came into a game at Yankee Stadium, with “Enter Sandman” thumping out of the speakers and the roar of the crowd in response, and Mo jogging in for the final act, head down. I’d tell myself how lucky I was to be there to see him, the greatest pitching weapon in baseball history.
Why Mariano Rivera is two Hall of Famers in one
Mariano Rivera was the greatest regular-season reliever of all time and the greatest postseason reliever of all time. That’s why he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Simple enough.
But Bill James’ old line about Rickey Henderson — “If you could split him in two, you’d have two Hall of Famers” — got us wondering: If Mariano Rivera had never thrown a postseason pitch, would he still have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer? And, similarly, if he’d somehow never thrown a regular-season pitch, would he still have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
We think we can answer these questions, which — considering this article made it to print — are almost certainly going to be answered “yes.”
1. If Mariano Rivera had never thrown a regular-season pitch, would he have been a Hall of Famer? Would he have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
Just get past the basic unreasonableness of the premise. You don’t watch the whole movie saying, “But why would a radioactive spider bite give him spidey sense?” He never threw a regular-season pitch because he just didn’t.
In which case, here’s the guy’s career: 141 innings. No pitcher has ever made the Hall of Fame throwing fewer innings, unless you count Stan Musial and George Sisler. But these are the instructions given to voters:
5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
His playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship and character are unaffected in this scenario. His record would obviously be limited but still something to behold:
His postseason ERA (0.70) is the lowest in postseason history, minimum 30 innings. (The only people even close all threw about 31 innings, or were Sandy Koufax.) Put it this way: There have been only three seasons in history in which a pitcher had a regular-season ERA of 0.70 or lower with a minimum 50 innings pitched; Rivera’s postseason career was essentially two of those, in the highest stakes and against the best teams.
He has the most saves in postseason history, almost two and a half times as many as the next guy and almost triple the active leader.
He has the most win probability added in postseason history, and this one’s a doozy: Rivera’s postseason WPA is 11.7. The next-highest player had 4.1 WPA. The highest by a hitter — of all the hitters in history! — is 3.2. Rivera, in fact, had more WPA than the second-, third- and fourth-best postseason careers put together. Remember Madison Bumgarner‘s postseason run in 2014, when he seemed to single-handedly pitch the Giants to the title? Rivera’s career WPA is like seven of those.
That all fits under “record,” but it’s not exactly intuitive how much that translates to the final factor in the Hall of Fame instructions, “contribution to team.” It’s a contribution to a team, but how do we possibly put those 141 innings on a scale alongside Hank Aaron’s 10,000 (regular-season) plate appearances, or on a scale alongside Bob Gibson’s 4,000 regular-season innings and 81 postseason innings? We do it, friends, with championship win probability added (cWPA).
As published by The Baseball Gauge, cWPA takes the premise of win probability added but applies it across a season: Given the standings, or the stage of the postseason, and the situation of the game, how likely is a given play to affect a team’s chances of winning the World Series? A bases-empty single on Opening Day is worth only a tiny bit of cWPA; a single that drives in David Justice and Sid Bream in Game 7 of the NLCS — turning a ninth-inning deficit into a walk-off win — is worth .340 cWPA, more than a third of a whole championship, because those 1992 Braves’ chances of winning it all improved from roughly 1 in 6 before the hit to roughly 1 in 2 after it.
Rivera’s championship win probability added, just in his postseason appearances, adds up to 1.792 — meaning that if an average pitcher instead of Rivera had been New York’s closer, the Yankees could have expected to have won two fewer World Series. That 1.792 is a record, unsurprisingly, well ahead of second-place Bumgarner’s 1.230 cWPA in postseason play and third-place Rollie Fingers’ 1.150 and fifth-place Babe Ruth’s 0.905. Rivera’s cWPA is higher than the combined cWPA of the pitchers with the second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-most saves in postseason history. Double, in fact.
But Rivera, in this scenario, has no regular-season contribution, while everybody else would. So add in the regular season — the thousands and thousands of plate appearances Hall of Famers racked up in their careers — for everybody except Rivera, and Rivera’s cWPA would still be among the all-time leaders:
1. Mickey Mantle, 3.099
2. Ruth, 2.887
3. Lou Gehrig, 2.217
4. Willie Mays, 1.916
5. Stan Musial, 1.814
6. Rivera, postseason only, 1.792
7. Duke Snider, 1.779
Now we’re on the same scale: In terms of adding championships, relative to average players, Rivera’s contribution to his team in the postseason alone is topped by only five players, all five of them among the dozen greatest players of all time. Assuming in this weird premise that voters don’t hold it against Rivera for limiting his brilliance to the postseason, it’s clear his contribution ranks among the very, very inner circle of major leaguers. Further, his place on the cWPA leaderboard isn’t the result of a single start (à la Jack Morris) or a single play (like Hal Smith) but sustained greatness over 16 postseasons, 96 appearances and five World Series titles. He’s in!
2. If Mariano Rivera had never thrown a postseason pitch, would he have been a Hall of Famer? Would he have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
The answer to the first part is easy. Trevor Hoffman is an uncontroversial Hall of Famer from the same era as Mariano Rivera, and their Hall of Fame arguments are roughly similar/clearly in favor of Rivera:
Hoffman: 1,089 innings, 2.87 ERA, 601 saves, seven All-Star games
Rivera: 1,283 innings, 2.21 ERA, 652 saves, 13 All-Star games
Rivera threw almost 200 more innings than Hoffman and allowed 38 fewer runs. The difference between Rivera’s ERA+ and Hoffman’s is bigger than the difference between Hoffman’s and Todd Van Poppel’s. It’s not even close. And while in this scenario Rivera threw a pitiful zero postseason innings, Hoffman’s case depended not one bit on his postseason performance: 13 innings, 3.46 ERA, four saves and two blown saves. And no rings.
But Hoffman didn’t get in until the third ballot. Other than Dennis Eckersley — who won 150 games as a starter, and serves as the exception to prove this rule — no reliever has ever made it in on the first ballot:
Rollie Fingers, second vote
Hoyt Wilhelm, eighth vote
Goose Gossage, ninth vote
Bruce Sutter, 13th vote
Lee Smith was never voted in, but was elected to this year’s class by the Today’s Game Era committee. So maybe too many voters just won’t vote for even an elite closer — a mere relief pitcher — on the first ballot unless they have no other choice. In which case our no-postseason Rivera has to be not just as good as these Hall of Famers, but much better. He has to be as valuable as a non-reliever.
The first part is subjective, but Rivera had 12 seasons with an ERA+ over 200 — that is, seasons where his park-adjusted ERA was twice as good as the league average. Hoffman, Gossage, Sutter and Eckersley had two each. Smith had one. Rivera’s 12 best years combined the very best two years of those five Hall of Famers, plus the three best seasons of Aroldis Chapman.
But does that make him as valuable as a non-reliever? His career WAR — 56.2 — is borderline, among the lowest for a non-reliever in the Hall and especially low for a modern candidate. But relievers’ workloads are artificially limited so they can be saved for high-leverage situations. Their low workloads are strategy, not flaws. The WAR scale breaks down for relievers, because teams are essentially saying that one WAR in a close ninth inning is worth more than one WAR in any other generic situation.
They give us an idea of just how valuable, because they offer relievers contracts to sign with them. Over the past decade-plus, teams have spent about $5 million per win from a starting pitcher or a position player. They’ve spent almost $11 million per win from a relief pitcher. Either teams are all terrible at spending their money, or they think high-leverage WAR are a lot more valuable than run-of-the-mill WAR. Maybe even twice as valuable.
If “twice as valuable” is right, then Rivera’s 56 WAR would be, to a front office, to a team, as valuable as around 110 WAR by a starting pitcher or position player. That’s an inner-circle Hall of Famer: Greg Maddux, Mickey Mantle.
Now, that rests on some assumptions, and it might be overly generous to the relievers, but it’s also fairly consistent with Hall of Fame voting. For non-relievers, 60 WAR is about what it takes to get into serious discussion, and 70 or 80 makes a player close to a lock. Some players sneak into serious candidacies with 50 WAR.
For relievers, those standards are all about halved: 25 is the floor (Sutter, Fingers), 30 is a serious candidate (Hoffman and Smith), 35 or 40 makes a lock (Gossage, Wilhelm). The average Hall of Fame reliever had 38 regular-season WAR. Rivera had 50 percent more than that.
Of course, in this scenario he had no postseason appearances. Neither did Ernie Banks, famously, and Rivera’s regular-season cWPA (.341) aces Banks’ (.213). Rivera’s regular-season cWPA is the 131st-highest ever, just behind Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez and just ahead of David Ortiz and Chipper Jones. Indeed, his cWPA — without any postseason contribution — would be just about the median Hall of Famer’s cWPA including the postseason. Not every Hall of Famer improved his contribution in the postseason. Regular-season Rivera would be ahead of the total cWPA contributions of Wade Boggs, Tom Seaver, Greg Maddux, Mike Piazza — and Eckersley, the first-ballot Hall of Famer, whose cWPA took a sizable hit on October 15, 1988.
Rivera’s took an even bigger hit on Nov. 4, 2001, when Tony Womack had (by cWPA) the third-biggest hit in baseball history. A lesser reliever might not have lived that down. But Rivera is the greatest reliever of all time. Both of ’em.
Rangers lefty Minor getting sick of trade talk
Minor, an All-Star for the first time this season, saw his name bubble up again Wednesday, with MLB Network reporting that he is “an increasingly likely trade candidate.” It has the 31-year-old wondering why the Rangers gave him a three-year, $28 million contract in 2018.
“I feel like ever since I signed it’s been a topic,” Minor told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Wednesday. “It’s almost like I signed just so they could trade me.”
On Friday, general manger Jon Daniels would only go as far as to say the Rangers “probably” would not deal Minor before the July 31 deadline.
“I like our team a lot better with Mike on it, but we’re not going to rule anything out,” Daniels told reporters.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward also acknowledged the trade rumbling on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to accept that and embrace that and move on with our day,” he told MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM.
But Minor is just over all the chatter.
“I don’t think that it helps when I go home and I have neighbors asking me about it, too,” he told the newspaper.
Minor, who is 8-4 with a 2.73 ERA in 122 innings over 19 starts, will earn $9.5 million in 2019 and 2020, making him more than just a playoff-run rental. He is set to make his next start for the Rangers on Friday against the Houston Astros.
The Rangers enter Thursday at 50-46, sitting five games back of the second wild-card spot in the American League.
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