Yeah, this stuff really happened!
Jayson Stark [ARCHIVE]
ESPN.com
December 26, 2012
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All this stuff really happened in the Strange But True season of 2012:
- There was a rain delay in a domed stadium (in Milwaukee).
- The Pirates hit back-to-back homers that clanked off the same foul pole.
- Jonathan Lucroy had two seven-RBI games -- or two more than Chipper Jones had in his entire 2,499-game career.
- The Mariners -- yes, the Mariners -- scored 21 runs in one game on May 30 in Texas, then ripped off five straight series in which they didn't score 21 runs.
- Pedro Alvarez unfurled a Golden Sombrero (0-for-4 with four whiffs) -- in a game he didn't start.
- In one week in May, Josh Hamilton put 16 fair balls in play -- and nine of them left the park.
- Todd Frazier lost the grip on his bat in midswing and still hit a home run -- even though he wasn't holding the bat in his hands at the moment he hit it.
- Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario committed four passed balls in one game -- without a single knuckleball being thrown.
- Michael Morse hit a grand slam, trotted three-quarters of the way around the bases, then reversed himself and circled the bases backward after a video review, returned to home plate, pantomimed his home run swing with an invisible bat and ball, and then rounded the bases again.
- And there were so many no-hitters (seven) pitched this year, even the Mets threw one.
Yes, it was one improbable turn of events after another, all right. So fasten those seatbelts securely around your waist, low and tight, and settle in for another turbulent, regular-season edition of the Strange But True Feats of the Year:
Strangest But Truest Player of the Year
Has there ever been a stranger but truer baseball player than Adam Dunn? I mean, seriously. At least he didn't hit .159 again. But he still did all this:
- In 328 of Dunn's always-entertaining trips to home plate, the ball never got around to leaving the batter's box (222 strikeouts, 105 walks, 1 HBP)! So who else has ever had that many trips like that in one season? Nobody, obviously.
- Dunn also worked only 110 hits into his repertoire (amid those 222 strikeouts). That means he's now had back-to-back seasons with at least twice as many punchouts as hits. So how many other position players have done that two years in a row? You guessed it. Zero.
- In yet another bid for swing-and-miss history, the Big Donkey had more strikeouts (156) than the pitcher who was leading the big leagues in strikeouts, Justin Verlander (152), as late as Aug. 5! Alas, a late-season oblique strain got in the way of that quest. …
- But not this one: Dunn struck out at least once in every one of his first 32 games of the season, barely squeaking by the old record -- of 14!
- In yet more unprecedented Human Air Conditioner developments, Dunn became the first man in history to whiff 134 times before the All-Star break. Would you believe Albert Pujols has also whiffed 134 times -- in the past two seasons combined?
- In non-strikeout news, this man hit his 30th homer this year before he hit his 30th single! And kids, all we can say is, don't try that at home.
- But finally, here's this important question: Who had the better year -- Dunn or his "hot-hitting" teammate, Alex Rios? Don't answer too hastily now. Dunn hit .204 in 649 trips to the plate. Rios hit .304 in 640 trips. But Dunn still reached base more times (216) than Rios did (214)? You can look it up!
Strangest But Truest Game of the Year
Here we go. Orioles 9, Red Sox 6, in 17 surreal innings at Fenway, back on May 6.
- Your winning pitcher that day: the Orioles' starting DH, Chris Davis. Naturally, he won a game this year before Cliff Lee, Josh Johnson or Ryan Dempster.

- Your losing pitcher that day: the Red Sox's DH, Darnell McDonald. So when was the last game in which the winning and losing pitchers were both position players? Let's not go to the videotape, because the Elias Sports Bureau reported it was played on Sept. 28, 1902: Sam Mertes (White Sox) over Jesse Burkett (Browns).
- But before Davis ever reached the mound (in the 16th), he'd already struck out five times and grounded into a double play. Only two other players in the live ball era (Jim Thome and Bobby Darwin) had ever done all that in any game. But no previous humans had ever done it in a game their team had won, let alone a game where they were the winning pitcher!
- Ever seen a guy whiff five times, go 0-for-8 and wind up as the winning pitcher? Not if you aren't, like, 110 years old, you haven't. According to Elias, the last fellow to go 0-for-8 and end up as the winning pitcher in any game was Rube Waddell on July 4, 1905.
- J.J. Hardy got five hits in this game -- and got the fifth off a position player (McDonald). … Adam Jones became the first Oriole in 45 years to hit a home run in the 17th inning (or later) in this game -- and launched that bomb off a position player (McDonald). … Meanwhile, Adrian Gonzalez went 0-for-8 -- and put the perfect capper on that debacle by striking out against a position player (Davis) in the bottom of the 17th.
- And in case you didn't catch this, 16 guys pitched in this game who weren't position players. Which meant that only one American League game in history had ever featured more pitchers than this one: a 19-pitcher Rays-Yankees tussle on the final day of the 2011 season -- a game that, come to think of it, was way more memorable for, heh-heh, other developments.
Strangest But Truest Team of the Year
The 2012 Houston Astros wouldn't be the first team to rebuild on the fly. There was just one minor difference between them and pretty much all the other teams in modern history that went into that rebuilding mode:
At least those other teams worked in a win once in a while. The Astros, on the other hand …
- Went through a 2-25 stretch in June and July. Last NL team to do that: Pancho Herrera's 1961 Phillies.
- Went through a 38-game stretch in June, July and early August in which they went 4-34. Last team to do that: Dizzy Sutherland's 1949 Senators. Last NL team to do that? The legendary 1899 Cleveland Spiders juggernaut that finished up its historically inept season by going 1-40.
- Went through a 50-game span in June, July and August in which they went 7-43. The Mariners won eight times in one homestand in August. The Astros won seven times in 50 games.
- Went 38 straight days in July and August without having any starting pitcher not named Lucas Harrell win a game. Opposing starters, on the other hand, went 23-3 against them in that time.
- Won four road games between June 14 and Labor Day (4-31). They played 11 road series in that time -- and got swept in seven of them.
- And after all that, you know what might have been the strangest but truest thing that happened to the Astros all year? They had a better record after Labor Day (13-13) than the Rangers (13-14).
Strangest But...
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