Did John Baker just have the best position player/pitcher performance of all time?

Did John Baker just have the best position player/pitcher performance of all time?


On a night when I attended the memorial service for Adam, a night where his brother Sam told us to say what we want because Adam was at the Cubs game anyway,  it seems only appropriate that we could once again laugh about what was otherwise a very dismal Cubs game.

Despite not getting home until 9 pm that night, there was plenty of baseball left.  It was the longest game in Cubs history at 6 hours and 27 minutes. Edwin Jackson got tagged for 3 runs early just to set the stage for what was to come.  The Cubs eventually rallied to tie the game -- in the 4th inning.  Then, save for what was a catch for the ages, a diving snare in the gap by Rockies CF Charlie Blackmon that would have ended the game in the bottom of the 10th, what ensued was 11 innings of dreary baseball and Lionel Richie infused Budweiser Lime-A-Rita commercials.

All Night Long.

But then John Baker came into pitch and it became must-see baseball again.  Not that Baker could pitch.  He couldn't.  He threw his first fastball at 76 and then on the next one, really reached back for something extra, a max effort release that yielded.... a 79 mph fastball well off the plate.  He didn't even have great control, especially with a pitch that looked like it was supposed to be a slider...or something.  Who really knows?

But it turned to be what could have been the best player position performance in Cubs history and maybe the best all-around performance of all time.

When it comes to Cubs position player pitchers, you can't help but think of 5'8" outfielder Doug Dascenzo, who pitched 4 times in his MLB career and never allowed a run in 5 innings.  His career line reads like a typical Dae-Eun Rhee outing: 5 IP, 3 H. 0 R, 2 BB, 2 Ks.  If you were to go by best career Cubs position player pitcher, you'd probably have to go with Dascenzo.  When it comes to players pitching, 5 innings is a pretty large sample size.

But... he never won a ballgame.  He never pitched in anything but blowouts. And as Matthew Kory of Sports on Earth points out, pitcher wins by position players are rare. Only 139 position players have won games as pitchers while there have been 282 no-hitters.  In my lifetime, (except for Rick Ankiel, whose career started on the mound) there have been only 4 position players win games on the mound: Brent Mayne, Wilson Valdez, Chris Davis, and now John Baker.  In fact, those 4 are the only ones to win games for about the past 60 years.  And, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago, "Cubs historian says last true non pitcher to pick up a win for them was in 1885."

Kory makes the argument that Davis was the best position player pitcher of all time because of the win, the two-inning performance, and the fact that he didn't walk anyone and struck out one.  Sure, if you are going to get all metricky about it, it probably is Davis.

Adam would certainly have made fun of me for breaking this game down that way.  And rightfully so.  This was not a game to be taken so seriously. If it was, he would have picked out a better music/beverage combo for us than Lionel Richie and Lime-A-Rita.  Position players pitching in general can't be taken all that seriously.  And when we talk about Chris Davis, we are leaving an important part out of the equation -- the position player part.  Davis went 0 for 8 as the game's DH prior to his mound stint.  If he would have done his normal job and hit HRs, he never would have had to pitch in the first place.  And besides that, his win was over another position player, Darnell McDonald.  John Baker defeated a real MLB pitcher for this win, a pretty good one actually in Tyler Matzek.

John Baker proudly represented both parts of the position player/pitcher label.  Not only did he pitch a scoreless inning, he then completed the second half of the equation by leading off the next inning with a walk and eventually coming around to score the game winning run on Starlin Castro's bases loaded sac fly.

So I think the tale of the tape is pretty clear on this one...

Scoreless inning and a win?  Karamu!

Getting on base and scoring the game winning run? Fiesta!

Best all-around player position/pitching performance of all time? Forever!

C'mon and sing along.

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  • I must say - I'm a child of the '80s, and have a soft spot for that Lionel Richie song (fond memories of a certain teen girl in particular,....) despite my general foundness (even at the time) for Hair Bands and the musical style that eventually morphed into Grunge a few years later,...... And absolutely HATE the idea that it is now a song associated with beer for people that don't like beer so have to make it taste like a half-thought-out Margarita,....

    But that's neither here nor there.

    Loved watching the recaps from 4 innings after I bagged it and went to bed last night,..... Nice work by Baker both on the mound and on the basepaths.

    I had myself a nice cold shot of Uzo about the 9th inning last night and am thinking that is always a better choice than just about any Bud product.

    Onwards! And let's make it 3 in a row against the Rocks tonight.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    That was fun...between writing the recaps and the usual insomnia I got caught up in that crazy game.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Am an East Coast guy - and somehow staying up until 2 am+ when I had to be up about 6:30 seemed like a bad idea if I wanted to be coherent at work.

    I rarely go to be before 1:00 am,.... but lacked the grit to hang until the end last night.

  • Very nicely done, John. Adam is surely smiling at this one.

    It was dreary baseball. I started watching when in the 7th and somehow sat transfixed, unable to turn away as each inning and numerous scoring chances evaporated. Alas, I fell aspleep after Ruggiano struck out in the bottom of the 15th so I missed this performance for the ages. Mark Gonzalez has a neat write up of the game in the Trib. When I read it this morning, I said to myself, "I love baseball!"

  • In reply to TTP:

    Thanks. Can't ever truly do Adam justice, but I'd like to think he would have loved this game.

  • I fell asleep in the 15th. And I live on the west coast!

    On another note, Scott Feldman outduels Jeff Smardzija last night, although the A' went on to win.

    Addison Russell is our Ernie Broglio payback.

  • In reply to JB55:

    Sammy Sosa was our Ernie Broglio payback. Sandberg too.

    Russell would be more fitting as a Joe Carter redemption. Hopefully Shark pitches as well for the A's as Sutcliffe did for the Cubbies.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Those deals are good calls and I'd also like to throw the Fergie Jenkins deal in for consideration. We netted a HOF and Cy Young starter that won 20 or more games for six consecutive seasons with a lifetime WAR over 80 for a couple of middling pitchers.

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    In reply to JB55:

    That was a painful loss for my fantasy teAm as well as my pocket.

    6 runs in top of the ninth? Made me sick until of course the cubbie win got my stomach n pocket going ....

    All hail the mighty John baker!!!!

    As if there was any chance the cubs would lose on the day of Felz

  • Great perspective as usual. I didn't see the last 7 innings, but you made me smile!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Thanks :)

  • I watched it on, so I didn't get the pleasure of the Lime-a-Rita commercials. WGN always seemed to be the worst about repetitive commercials.

    I was kind of waiting for the Arguello report on the Cubs' latest pitcher. "Baker has a max effort delivery on his fastball that sits 76-79. His secondary pitches are limited to a slider/changeup/thingy that drops low and away to right handed hitters, but does not control well. Neither project as a plus pitch at the major league level."

    It was not a great game to watch - but after 12 innings, and no work today, I decided to hang in for the duration. It ended up being very entertaining, if for no other reason than the John Baker story. He showed a great sense of humor after the game, too. "I had to shake off Welly because we just weren't on the same page." He sounds like a pretty cool, down to earth kind of guy, and if the team isn't going to be all that great, at least the fans have that root for.

  • Bakers ERA is 0. Hmm, better than E Jax, Russell, Wright Travis Wood and the Grimm reaper. Maybe we need to find Dascenzo and see if he can still pitch.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    He's EZ to find... Dougie's the Braves 3B coach.

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    There's always a job for soft tossing lefties out of the 'pen :)

  • I came very close to e-mailing WGN and BEGGING them to stop showing that commercial again. I've used my mute button on it since the first time I watched it, and my remote control really got a work-out last night.

  • 8 man bullpen and they were still forced to use a position player before the Rockies. Unbelievable. Nice BP management.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    The starter was knocked out early due to a high pitch count.

    What would you have done?

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Really nothing different. More of a complaint about 8 man bullpens in general than the way they handled it on this particular day.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    what you should be complaining about is bad starting pitchers, not 8 man bullpens.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Why not both? No one could argue the Cubs starting pitchers (well, two of them anyway) are bad. But 8 man bullpens are just stupid. I get why they are doing it, the young bullpen arms they have right now are more valuable in the lon run then the starters and bench guy they have so they want to protect them. It just makes my skin crawl. Unless a game is tied or a one run difference there is no reason to use 2-3 relievers in an inning. And a guy like Justin Grimm should be making 2 appearances a week, both of the 2 inning variety, with the occasional 1 inning stint in extra inning or starter meltdown games.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    no argument from me

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Yeah the only thing I could question is pulling the Moosetache after 2 and change cuz he was locked in and we know he can go longer... But RR has to consider future games, offensive sub's etc., I can't really pick on his BP management. In fact, his whole PT & Sub/platoon, and game-situation management has been head & shoulders above Sveum's. I don't think I could be happier with R.R. right now.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I haven't minded his platoons or PT splits among the position players like most people (though the Schierholtz getting every start against RHP while Ruggiano sits is beginning to get ridiculous). I'm not saying Ruggs should be a full time guy, but against certain righties he would be more effective than Schierholtz has been .

    RR bullpen management has aggravated me at times though. He goes through stretches where he over manages it and burns through relievers to quickly. But he is a rookie manager so that is kind of expected. BP management is probably the most difficult task an MLB manager has.

  • Kind of like not being able to look away when a car crash is inevitable, I stayed up and watched the entire game. Game was on WGN who ran the ________ (add your own adjective) Bud A Rita spot all night long, but if it was on the Sports net channel we would have been inundated with thoughts of beef jerky. I for one think Baker should take the ball next time it comes around to E Jax.

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    In reply to Dave S:

    or at least someone should take the ball and hide it from Ejax....

  • In reply to SKMD:

    He's got me pining for seeing Villanueva getting another crack at being a full time member of the rotation. Even though I know that that man with the Mustache is better suited for the role he is in right now.

    EJax has Just,.... Been,.... BAD,.... almost every start this season and a lot of last season.

  • I fell asleep no less than 3 times watching this game from my living room floor.

    I've been craving a margarita all morning.... Strange.

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    I took a nap around 10. When I woke up an hour later it was in the 12th. I still couldn't make it til the end. I wonder what the actual attendance was in the 16th?
    I'm going tonight...second game in less than a week. I on the edge. I know one thing. I will NOT be there in the 16th inning.

  • That was about as entertaining as a game could be between two bottom dwellers. Just as amazing as Baker's performance was that Houdini act by Blake Parker in the 10th... was pure luck that he threw an impossible pitch to bunt during a suicide squeeze. John Baker will have a cult following from now on after that game.

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    Collin Cowherd broadcasting from Chicago this morning after singing the 7th inning stretch last night, came up with a classic "who you crappin'?" moment:
    Opens his show with effusive praise for wrigley - it's quaint, it's a gem, you have to think VERY carefully about making any changes to this stadium, it's one of the "few stadiums that matter any more," the scoreboard is an old push button model, but it's great and charming and and to hell with (sic) you technophiles who want to change it.
    Then he segues into a rant about why football is popular and baseball is not - football is flexible, football embraces the changing culture, football finds ways to market itself and its players while baseball is old and ossified and refuses to change. So let's get this straight - football is good because it's flexible and open to changing to fit the culture, and it markets well; baseball is bad because it doesn't do any of these things - but let's not change this 100 year old stadium with its 1914 technology scoreboard and virtually no avenues for marketing because it's one of the few stadiums that are relevant. Got it, Collin.

  • The only thing that would have made Baker's performance any better would have been if he threw it and then ran behind the plate to catch it.
    I would have loved to have seen the finish but ended up but nodded off around the 8th.

    Ajax is still a mystery. Great stuff but...

  • BTW, Baker becomes only the second catcher this century to win a game as a pitcher... Brent Mayne was other one.

    I wonder which pitcher let him use their mitt?

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    In reply to Paulson:

    Any relation to Kenny mayne ?

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    comment lost in space, if you have time to free it, john

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    Thank you for the Lime-a-rita reference. I wasn't sure if I was going crazy or too drunk. I felt like i was in Groundhog Day. Not that I was ever going to, but last night took me from a 99.9% chance of never drinking one of those things to a 100% chance that I will never drink or touch one of those cans of plutonium.

  • It took over an hour to get through the first two innings, which I watched. Over a hundred pitches in the first two innings. Crazy stuff. Came back in the 10th and saw the remainder. Was happy to see history.

  • I woke up this morning and was surprised the game was still going. Watched thru breakfast and like many, I was transfixed. Had to get to work, so I missed the 16th.

    As soon as I got home, I logged onto and watched the 16th. Giggled like a schoolgirl the whole time. Simply amazing.

    I watchd the WGN feed via MLBTv, but I only got Jaguer and Capt Morgan's commercials. Again, and again, and ...

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    BTW, I loved how what was left of the crowd was all crammed in behind home and chanting "Baker, Baker!" During each pitch of his AB. A new fan fav for sure.

  • Alas, I went to bed in the 10th. I guess Bonny was still a triple short of the cycle then (I almost said Mendy there, they seem so similar). Yeah, too lazy to peruse the box score.

    My favorite position player pitching moment was Mark Grace pulling the act that one specific reliever used to do. He'd start with his chin facing third base, then yank it violently toward home just before the pitch. I don't remember the RP who did that, but Grace doing the same thing at that time was hilarious!

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Was it Jose Lima?

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Mike Fetters

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    In reply to cubsker:

    Correct. Grace was emulating the rotund Fetters' trademark headsnap.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Yes that's it! Mike Fetters was the guy, I couldn't remember. I think there was actually a medical reason for why he did it, not to pick on him, but it was funny when Grace did it. Was Grace with the Dbacks at the time, or still with the Cubs? I think he was with the Dbacks, but not sure.

  • Fun article John! Now I'm sad that I missed Baker's performance as I fell asleep sitting up somewhere in the 14th-15th innings. Maybe Baker could be the Cubs secret weapon? Imagine a game where Arrieta starts and is throwing gas all day, then put in baker for an inning with that "sneaky" slow stuff, followed by Ramirez & Rondon throwing gas again....throw the other teams timing completely off. ;-)

  • I live in Colorado and was listening to the Cubs MLB audio feed at work, then the Rockies AM radio feed driving home, to get home and see my brother watching the Rockies TV feed. I asked him why he wasn't watching on WGN? (I know the answer, he's lazy) we switched over just in time to see the Lionel Richie song commercial our first time to start the tenth inning. He commented that he loved the commercial because it made him laugh every time he saw it. Famous last words, by the 14th he said remember when I did this commercial always makes me laugh, I hate it now. One would think Bud Light would have more than one commercial to rotate. And I've never seen it, but for some reason I feel like the TV show Manhattan is the greatest show ever made...

  • RHP Jonantan Martinez PTNL from Dodgers for Barney, has FB, Change, and Slider all projected to be MLB average pitches at least.

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    Cards trade for Masterson.

  • In reply to Ray:

    I personally am not that high on Masterson, so to me, the Cards trading a 24 year old 2012 first round pick who has put up good numbers this year for a risky pitcher is a win for the Cubs.

    Then again, as a Cubs fan, I have learned to pretty much expect the worst. Masterson will probably win 3 Cy Youngs now for the Cardinals.

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    In reply to nukee:

    Can't disagree with you.

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    I too will sample one of those concoctions either. I am old enough to remember Larry Biittner coming into game 1 of a doubleheader and being so exhausted after his pitching effort that they had to take him out of the lineup for game 2. I always wanted to see Shawn Dunston pitch. Reminds me of what Whitey Herzog said about Dunston. He understood why they chose Dunston over Gooden because Dunston had the better arm.

  • In reply to Terry Huebner:

    I remember the Biittner pitching performance too. Seem to recall Brickhouse touting him all season, just in case we needed an emergency arm. Not sure if it was exhaustion that kept him out of game 2 or an injury, think he may have pulled a neck muscle turning to watch all of his pitches leaving the yard.

  • Masterson to the cardinals and Lester pulled from his start tonite.

  • OT: But Cards getting the Masterson rental is a really good deal for them. Ramsey was their 2012 1st round draft pick (23rd overall), but he is a 24 year old doing well in AA in his 2nd time through the league. Seems to profile as a 4th OF, so they didn't really give up much in my opinion. Masterson, while he has a 5.51 ERA, his FIP is only at 4.08, which actually pretty impressive considering he is walking batters at 5.1 per 9 rate (1.5-2pts higher than career avg.). He also has a .355 BABIP against this year (.296 is league avg.) so their could be some bad luck playinginto it too. If the Cards think they can get his walks back down to his normal rate and with likely progression back to the mean with the BABIP, he could end up pitching better in the stretch. In any case, it hurts them less in the long term as they didn't have to give up any of their top prospects to get him. (unfortunately) Although it's being reported that this deal doesn't take the Cards out of the running for Lester so it could still happen. Also Wacha was placed on the 60 day DL to make room for Masterson.

  • Masterson has to happy. Goes to a contender and I am sure he hopes to follow Weaver and Suppan to a big contract and almost immediate oblivion thereafter.

  • I was fortunate enough to fall asleep early in the game and to wake up just in time for the 16th inning. Hilarious.

  • The John Baker Game shall live on as a metric for differentiating casual/bandwagon fans from the insane who follow this season just as hard as if the Cubs were in a pennant race.

  • I took a walk in the park with my gal, we watched the 6th through 8th innings and decided to get on up to something more interesting. I got up after midnight to check the final score, and it was the 13th. So I watched the rest, almost hitting the hay before Baker's inning. It really seemed like Cubs were conceding the game. Baker looked like a myopic physics teacher looking down over his glasses, mouth distractedly open. I couldn't stop laughing, and was in tears watching him streak home at the end and throw his arm up in triumph. One of the most magical games I've ever seen, unforgettable. So much for "meaningless ballgames."

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