MLB Notebook: A's catching duo quite a force
Over the last 60 full years (1954-2013), the three highest OPS seasons for any team's catchers (among the teams for which the data is complete) are owned by the 1997 Dodgers (1.004), 2000 Mets (.961) and 1996 Dodgers (.959). The primary catcher for all three of these clubs: Mike Piazza, who caught 139, 124 and 146 games, respectively, in those three campaigns. Thanks to the overwhelmingly balanced partnership between the Athletics' John Jaso and Derek Norris, Oakland's backstops are currently posting a .927 combined OPS. It's the best mark for any big league team in 2014 and a level that has never been attained by the A's catchers at the end of the season in any year since the team moved to Oakland.
The Athletics defeated the Nationals, 9-1, on Sunday, with Norris hitting a pair of three-run home runs.
The six RBIs are the most for an Athletics catcher since Joe Astroth drove in six on Sept. 23, 1950 (funnily enough, against the Washington Senators). The only other Athletics backstop since 1914 to produce a six-RBI game was Mickey Cochrane on July 30, 1931.
In that 1931 season, Cochrane produced a .441 weighted on-base average (wOBA) -- the second highest for any qualifying A's catcher. The only higher mark comes from Cochrane in 1933, and the Hall of Famer also owns the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh highest spots. Norris' current .466 would top all of Cochrane's marks (it would top all catchers' marks for all teams since 1901; Piazza's .452 in 1997 comes out on top, with Cochrane's .449 in 1933 the second highest).
Norris and Jaso have played a significant role in Oakland's offense (currently tied for second in runs in the American League), combining for a .336/.419/.507/.927 slash line. In addition to the OPS being the highest for any team, Oakland's catchers can also currently claim the highest batting average and on-base percentage, with Reds catchers (Devin Mesoraco, Brayan Pena and Tucker Barnhart) collectively slugging .534.
Here and there
• In the Reds' 4-1 win over the Rockies, Aroldis Chapman made his season debut and did what he usually does when he comes into a game: pile up some K's. Chapman faced four and fanned three, issuing a leadoff walk to Troy Tulowitzki. Chapman has 327 career K's within the 796 batters he has faced for a strikeout percentage of 41.08.
Highest K percentage through first five seasons, minimum 200 appearances
• The Rockies' lone run in their loss to the Reds came from a Charlie Blackmon home run. Blackmon has nine home runs while batting in the leadoff slot this season, giving him as many as any Rockies No. 1 hitter has had in one year. Last season, Dexter Fowler set the high mark when he hit nine.
• Getting six innings of two-run ball from starter Aaron Harang, the Braves defeated the Cubs, 5-2. Atlanta is 21-15, and in its 36 games the club has 23 instances of its starter finishing with at least six innings and no more than two runs allowed. In the past 20 seasons, no team has had more through 36 games, with the 2011 A's, the '11 Braves and the '12 Phillies all having 23.
• In the Indians' 6-5 win over the Rays, Carlos Santana drew a pair of walks (giving him 32 bases on balls for the season) and had a double and a single (giving him 36 total bases). Conceptualizing Santana's season so far -- at least from this particular perspective -- his BB/TB ratio (.89) is, to say the least, uncommon.
1901-2013: players qualifying for batting title, BB:TB ratio of at least .83
• With New York trailing Philadelphia, 4-1, in the bottom of the ninth, Daniel Murphy played a key role in the subsequent rally, delivering a two-run home run that was part of an eventual 11-inning victory for the Mets. Murphy finished the day with two doubles and the home run, and also had a pair of walks. It's the first time in Mets history a No. 2 hitter has had an offensive line with three or more extra-base hits and two or more walks, and the first time any two-hole hitter has authored such a line since Shane Victorino did so on Sept. 11, 2009, while playing for the Phillies. In a fun twist, that game was against the Mets (and twisting even more, Cole Hamels was the Phillies' starter in both of these games).
• Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw put together his second consecutive nine-strikeout, no-walk game. He joins Dazzy Vance (Sept. 11 and 16, 1930) as the only Dodgers pitchers since 1914 to post back-to-back efforts of at least nine K's and no free passes. Kershaw is already the third pitcher to do this in 2014, joining Oakland's Jesse Chavez and Miami's Jose Fernandez. Since 1914, Kershaw is the 41st pitcher to do it in a single season, and the 13th southpaw among the group.
• Brandon Hicks hit his seventh home run of the season in the Giants' 7-4 win over the Dodgers, giving the club 45 dingers for the season. The total is the most for San Francisco through 38 games since the 2001 team had 51. Hicks is the fourth Giants player with at least seven homers, joining Brandon Belt (nine), Michael Morse (eight) and Buster Posey (seven). The Giants and Rockies (with Justin Morneau, Tulowitzki, Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez) are the only Major League teams able to claim four players with at least seven.
• Padres left fielder Seth Smith had a double and a single and drove in a run in a 5-4 win over the Marlins. Smith is currently slashing .330/.419/.575, making him one of six qualifying Major Leaguers to be at .300/.400/.500 for the year. Five of the six are playing in the NL, and four of the six -- including Smith -- have never been an All-Star. The sextet (beginning with the two former All-Stars): Colorado's Tulowitzki (.395/.497/.766); Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen (.321/.438/.511); Texas' Shin-Soo Choo (.333/.465/.523); Washington's Adam LaRoche (.319/.421/.504); San Diego's Smith (.330/.419/.575); and Los Angeles' Yasiel Puig (.318/.401/.535).
In their win, the Padres' pitching staff recorded nine strikeouts to give them 48 in their four-game series against Miami. Those 48 -- according to the Padres' game notes -- are the most for the team in a four-game series, eclipsing the 44 the team amassed against the Expos in late August 1998.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.