Thursday, May 1, 2014


That wild-ass Aussie, Grant Balfour, back with the Tampa Bay Rays after a three-year detour in Oakland, has started out the merry month of May with a rare feat.

What is it? Just what the title says. Today, in Boston, Balfour recorded saves for the Rays as they swept a doubleheader against the Red Sox. The scores were 2-1 and 6-5.

How rare a feat is this? It certainly seems that it should be rare in today's game, which hardly ever schedules a doubleheader. The ones that do occur are only as a result of weather issues, as was the case today in Minneapolis and Baltimore as well as in Boston.

It turns out that it happened three times last season. Two of 'em were turned in by the Royals' Greg Holland (on April 21st and August 16th) en route to one of the very best reliever seasons in baseball history. The Brewers' Jim Henderson bagged the other "double save" on July 19th; he's been rewarded for that feat by being demoted to a setup role (Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez has reclaimed the closer role in Milwaukee).

Interestingly, this feat seems to be just about as rare in past seasons, even back in the days when there were a plentiful number of doubleheaders. Only two such feats occurred in 1969, for example, despite many more doubleheaders. Twenty years later, the number of "double save days" totaled only three.

When you think about it, though, the extreme scarcity of such a feat makes sense. Few doubleheaders, fewer swept doubleheaders. Even in the past, these were not that common--and until complete games went into their death dive, it wasn't unusual for starters to go the full nine in such games. (It would be interesting to track the CG% in doubleheaders from the 50s to the 80s to see if it is elevated with respect to the overall average--our hunch is that it is.)

There is more than a slight chance that Balfour's "double save day" might well be the only one of 2014.  Clearly, the fans at Fenway won't be wanting to remember it, but it's never a bad thing to single out singularity.