Welcome to the first post of 2021 C.E. here on Bless You Boys and we cannot tell you how happy we are that the past year is finally in the rearview mirror. While there are still plenty of hurdles in the coming months, our collective fingers are crossed that things will get better.
To kick off the new calendar, we have a couple of tender morsels for your reading pleasure, featuring a quick review of how Tigers players have fared in the various winter leagues as well as a look back on one of the weirder parts of an already fever dream-like year that was 2020.
Winter league roundup
The cold weather months bring baseball to a halt in the more temperate regions of the world, but in the topics — as well as the continent “down under” — the sport is running strong as several winter leagues continue their seasons. The Dominican Winter League is a bit ahead of the rest having started its playoffs last Sunday and features Tigers on five of the six teams competing for the championship. Detroit has third baseman Jeimer Candelario playing for Toros del Este, left-hander Gregory Soto for Águilas Cibaeñas and right-hander Jose Cisnero for Gigantes del Cibao, among others.
Across the straights dividing the two islands in Puerto Rico, outfielder Daz Cameron is 0-for-7 with an RBI, a walk and four strikeouts in two games for Indios de Mayagüez. The team was vying for a top seed in the playoffs but reportedly kept Daz mostly on the bench to keep him healthy for the postseason.
Meanwhile in Mexico, the Mexican Pacific Winter League regular season ended on Wednesday, with Isaac Paredes’ Venados de Mazatlán sneaking into the playoffs in the eighth and final spot. The 21-year-old third baseman is hitting .379 (55-for-145) with 17 doubles, four home runs and 26 RBIs, with 27 walks — five intentional — against 12 strikeouts.
Strange but true: Tyler Alexander’s nine-straight strikeouts
Speaking of strikeouts, on Wednesday Jayson Stark at The Athletic published his strange but true feats for 2020, which contains a treasure trove of incredibly interesting factoids from the past year. One entry stood out from the rest, as it pertained to a very-much unexpected feat by a former Tigers farmhand hardly known for his strikeout skills.
Tyler Alexander in his second year of major league play did something nobody has ever done as a reliever: strike out nine-straight batters. Here is what Stark had to say.
Did you know that Nolan Ryan never struck out nine hitters in a row? What about Sandy Koufax? Bob Gibson? Randy Johnson? Pedro? Nope, they never did, either. But you know who did punch out nine straight hitters this year? That would be the Tigers’ Tyler Alexander, because of course he did.
On Aug. 2, Alexander whiffed the first nine Reds he pitched to. And that would be Strange But True enough, even without this incredible subplot: He did it in relief. Which is not a thing that Josh Hader, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Billy Wagner or any other reliever in history has ever done. But Tyler Alexander did — in a season in which it took him 58 more batters to strike out his next nine hitters … because baseball!
Tyler Alexander strikes out 9 consecutive batters, tying Doug Fister for the AL record. pic.twitter.com/qMQLfDuIpv— MLB (@MLB) August 2, 2020
Of course, we should not be quick to forget Doug Fister and his nine-straight Ks back in 2012. Much like Alexander, Fister was a bit of an afterthought when it came to his strikeout ability and somehow found a way to whiff three-straight innings worth of batters. In a season full of the mysterious, the Tigers certainly had a worthy entry on this list — especially given how poor the pitching staff was as a whole last summer.
Around the horn
Original Minnesota Twin Elmer Valo saw a lot of baseball history. Twenty images that sum up the 2020 Cubs season. Undaunted Padres showing rest of MLB how it’s done by shoving all chips to the middle. Trading Blake Snell offered yet another sobering reminder of how the Rays operate under their self-imposed constraints. The Forrest Gump of baseball? How Clyde Sukeforth played a pivotal role in baseball’s biggest moments. MLB roundtable: What was your favorite baseball moment of 2020? Vote in the second annual South Side Sox Veterans Committee Hall of Fame election!