On Dean Chance, and Utley’s suspension

Dean Chance

Dean Chance, who died Sunday at age 74, had one of the great seasons of the 1960s. He won the only Cy Young that didn’t go to Sandy Koufax in a four-year period from 1963-66, and Chance earned it: he won 20 games for the fourth-year Los Angeles Angels, and led the AL in ERA (1.65), innings pitched (278.1), complete games (15), shutouts (11) and ERA+ (200). He allowed just seven home runs in those 278.1 innings, or one every 39.2. His OPS against was .505. There was only one Cy Young winner for both leagues in those days, but Koufax, whose season was cut short by injury, would have been hard-pressed to beat Chance. Chance’s ERA was lower than Koufax’s 1.74, and lower than any Koufax had in his career. Chance won six games that season by 1-0 (he lost two by 1-0, four by 2-1 and 1 by 2-0) and beat the AL champion Yankees four times, three by shutouts. In the 50 innings he worked against the AL’s best team that year, Chance had an 0.18 ERA and allowed just 14 hits in 50 innings. Nineteen-sixty-four wasn’t Chance’s only good year. He won 74 games over five years for the Angels before they traded him to the Twins, and he was an All-Star again in ’67, winning 20 games with a 2.73 ERA and leading the AL in complete games (14) and innings pitched (283.2). He threw two no-hitters in’67: a five-inning perfect game, shortened by rain, which lost its status, and a nine-inning 2-1 win in which he walked five and gave up a run. He was 16-16 with a 2.53 ERA over 292 innings in ’68, the year of the pitcher, but that was his last big season. Chance averaged 256.1 innings per season from ’62-68, and he threw his last major-league pitch shortly after he turned 30. Remember Dean Chance the next time someone says the modern-day pitcher is babied. Chance accomplished all his success on the mound without ever getting to pitch to … Dean Chance. He was, to be charitable, not a good hitter. In 662 big-league at-bats, Chance fanned 420 times and had just two extra-base hit and an .066 average. He was also renowned for his friendship with the less accomplished but more provocative Bo Belinsky. “We’re in the dugout in Washington, D.C., in 1962, and (Angels manager Bill) Rigney says, ‘Listen, there’s a guy here from the FBI. You guys are to be at the FBI office at 9 o’clock tomorrow,’ ” Chance said, according to a 2012 Associated Press story. “(Bo and I) looked at each other and said, ‘What the hell did we do?'” Nothing serious, as it turned out. Chance’s career numbers: 128-115, 2.92 ERA, 2147.1 innings, 1,864 hits, 1,534 strikeouts, 83 complete games, 33 shutouts, 23 saves, 119 ERA+, .625 OPS against, 34.9 WAR (9.3 in ’64, when he was fifth in the MVP voting).

  • Blue Jays 5, Rangers 1: The Blue Jays hit solo homers in Games 1 and 2 and lost. They hit one three-run homer in Game 3 and won easily. Somewhere Earl Weaver is smiling. Game 4 is entrusted to knuckleballer R.J. Dickey to get the series back to Toronto and David Price for Game 5. That’s quite a leap of faith. A lot more will be fluttering than Dickey’s pitches.
  • Astros 4, Royals 2: It’s nice to have a great bullpen, but what good does it do if you never have the lead? Royals starters have given up 10 runs in 13.2 innings in the first three games of the series (that’s a a 6.58 ERA), which is why the Astros have led in 19 of the 27 innings played (the Royals have led five and they’ve been tied for three). And why the Astros lead 2-1. They’ll start 21-year-old rookie Lance McCullers in Game 4; he’s the son of a pitcher by the same name who toiled effectively if wildly for 10 years in the majors but never in the postseason. 
  • Mets vs. Dodgers: Joe Torre acted on Chase Utley in the manner he did with the Yankees’ bullpen: quickly and decisively. That might have worn out Tom Gordon, but Utley deserves his suspension. Credit to Torre. There may not be precedent for Utley’s punishment, but there was cause, and someone has to be first. Everyone can stipulate that Utley didn’t intend to injure Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada, but that he did was a foreseeable consequence of his reckless act. All of the hullabaloo over Utley meant Mets manager Terry Collins wasn’t asked — or if he was, it was barely reported — why righty Addison Reed was permitted to pitch to Adrian Gonzalez with two out and two on in a tie game in the seventh. Was he too disoriented by the ruling on Utley’s slide? If you’re not going to use your left-handed reliever to pitch to the opponent’s best hitter with the game at stake, when will you? Gonzalez’s two-run double was a foreseeable result, too.
  • Cubs vs. Cardinals: As if 107 years of failure couldn’t cause enough angst, the Cubs’ eighth-inning pitcher is now Trevor Cahill. If you missed the last month of the season, Cahill had a 7.52 ERA  with the Braves before they released him and a 5.61 ERA with the Diamondbacks in 2014. Anyone in June who saw Cahill being the main setup guy for a playoff team is probably winning big at one of those fantasy games. Or making real money. The Braves did a lot of things wrong this year, but ridding themselves of Cahill didn’t seem to be one of them. Except Cahill pitched 17 late-season innings for the Cubs, allowed just eight hits and four runs and fanned 22. His first postseason inning was a 1-2-3 eighth Saturday, fanning two. As Cahill proves yet again, successful relievers can come from strange places. Houston’s Will Harris, who pitched to a 1.90 ERA and .525 OPS against in 2015, was a waiver claim. The Dodgers’ Chris Hatcher was a big-league catcher; the Red Sox’s Koji Uehara, nearly perfect in 2013, became closer only after two season-ending injuries.  Cahill has a 4.13 career ERA, but he’ll apparently be pitching the eighth for the Cubs until someone proves he can’t.
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