Odds are, if you opened this article, you likely did so with a perplexed, if not slightly bemused expression on your face. After all, the headline is fairly ridiculous. PTERODACTYLs? Come on. However, as you may be familiar, here at Pitcher List we are large proponents of obnoxious and unnecessarily complex acronyms. So much so, that we have to include our own glossary of slang terms and other abbreviations for the site. There you’ll find explanations for terms such as TATIAGA, TIARA, and HAISTFMFWT?, to name a few of the most egregious examples.
But PTERODACTYL? Isn’t that just the slightest bit pretentious? Maybe, but stay with me here. When spelled out, it stands for Players That Embrace Riling Onlookers, Demanding Attention, & Causing Them to Yell Louder. It’s an award to be bestowed upon the players that demand our attention week to week with their performance and personality. Is it an overly convoluted acronym? Probably. Is it entirely silly? Definitely. Is it also the most highly vaunted and prestigious award we offer here at Pitcher List? No. (Or at least, I haven’t run that by Nick yet). But it is cool!
Essentially, this weekly series will seek to recognize the players and performances that truly captured the baseball spotlight, as well as a few that deserve greater attention. It’s to celebrate the awe-inspiring, as well as the downright bizarre moments that make each new season memorable. It’s to showcase the games and storylines that define a season: scorching hot rookies, pivotal home runs, and under-the-radar heroes. At the same time, we will take a step back to embrace the chaos: flying pizza, giant bubble gum bubbles, massive bat flips, and more. It’s for the moments that make you look up from your phone and reinvest in the game.
If you’re still a little unclear, that’s okay. You’ll get a feel for it as we go. So let’s go.
Presenting the first installment of the 2021 PTERODACTYL Awards. Strap in, because it’s about to get weird.
Jaw-Dropper of the Week
4/4/2021 — Shohei Ohtani
451ft, 115.2 mph, 21° launch angle
The Jaw Dropper of the Week PTERODACTYL is dedicated to the play each week that brings the baseball world to a standstill, and nothing got more people talking in the first week than Shohei Ohtani’s monster home run in his first pitching start of the year. It was a moment fans and analysts around the league had been waiting for: a glimpse at the young star’s ability to make an impact on both sides of the ball in the same game. Injuries have delayed that dream in the two seasons since Ohtani debuted in America, but he now appears to be near full strength to give it a run over the course of a full season. Whether or not he can weather the strain of pitching and hitting over 162 games remains to be seen, but right now, all of his starts are must-watch TV.
When was the last time this happened, and who will be the next person to do it that isn't named Ohtani? pic.twitter.com/rojKlLY2uG
— Scott Chu (@ifthechufits) April 5, 2021
King of the Hill
4/9/2021 — Joe Musgrove
9 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 10 Ks, 0 BB, 34.8% CSW%
Narrowing down the single best pitching performance of the week isn’t always a straightforward task. With so much incredible talent to choose from, it can sometimes be splitting hairs to favor one gem over another. This week, however, Joe Musgrove made it easy.
In the second record-setting display of the week, Joe Musgrove shut down the Rangers to the tune of 10 Ks and no walks over nine nearly-perfect innings, completing the Padres’ first-ever no-hitter in the process. The only blemish came from Musgrove’s own hand, when a rogue cutter ran inside and hit Joey Gallo for the sole baserunner of the game. Still, it was a masterful performance nonetheless. After 8,206 franchise games, the Padres finally had their first no-hitter, courtesy of a San Diego local.
Joe Musgrove said he drank 11 or 12 bottles of water during the no-hitter yet somehow held it in. "That was the one thing I didn’t want to break the superstition of," he said. "I didn’t want to have to use the bathroom in the middle of a start."
— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) April 10, 2021
If we’re already kicking things off with a no-no, we’re in for a rollercoaster of a season.
The Game Stopper
Baseball is purrfect. pic.twitter.com/dwFdyJrsXf
— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 3, 2021
4/2/2021 — “Coors Cat”
Occasionally, something happens on the baseball diamond that stops the game in its tracks. Sometimes it’s a fan making a circus catch on a foul ball that causes the entire stadium to applaud. Other times, it’s a rogue beach ball that finds its way onto the outfield grass. A weird amount of the time though, it’s because of a loose animal.
There was the famous rally squirrel from the 2011 Cardinals’ World Series run. There was the bald eagle that landed on James Paxton during the National Anthem in 2018. And of course, the unlucky dove that flew in front of Randy Johnson’s fastball.
This brings us to the wild dash of the Coors Cat. It took just two games this year for an animal to run loose across the field, much to the amusement of the fans and players in attendance.
Cat on the field in the Dodgers-Rockies game. 😂🤣 (via @MLB) pic.twitter.com/JVVXqFrhMA
— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) April 3, 2021
It’s entirely ridiculous that renegade animals are a recurring issue for major league ballparks in 2021. However, such distractions can provide a needed and whimsical break in the action for spectators. Perhaps the league goes all-in on the animal attractions moving forward to draw in additional fans? While an undoubtedly unorthodox idea, nearly anything beats the runner on second in extra innings rule.
Shoulda Walked Him
4/2/2021 — Yermín Mercedes
CWS @ LAA: 5-5, 4 RBI, R, 2B
After just a single at-bat in 2020 (he grounded out), Yermín Mercedes made his first career start for the White Sox on the second day of the 2021 season, and suddenly became the team’s next great hope seemingly overnight. Mercedes’ historic night started innocently enough, with a third-inning single to center off of Andrew Heaney. Over the course of the evening, however, Mercedes would go on to reach base four more times, and ended up becoming the first player to go 5-for-5 in the first start of their career.
But this was only the beginning.
Yermín Mercedes on the White Sox home opener
“I want to see my people, I want to see the Yermín fans, the Yermínator fans. I’m so excited. I can’t wait. We will see you on Thursday" pic.twitter.com/xPcD0OmgRq
— James Fegan (@JRFegan) April 6, 2021
In his next game, Mercedes got hits in his first three trips to the plate, including his first career home run. His hit streak ballooned to a remarkable 8-for-8 to start the season, and he made history again as the first player to start a season with eight straight hits in the modern era.
Mercedes hasn’t slowed down in the games since, either. In a little over a week, he’s leading the league in both batting average and on-base percentage (with a 298 wRC+?!), and has become something of a cult hero on the South Side. It may just be a handful of games, but Mercedes is undoubtedly a player to keep an eye on moving forward. However, if he keeps hitting this well, he’ll be instead someone you can’t take your eyes off.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan McMahon, J.D. Martinez
Rockin’ Role Player
11-for-28, 3 HR, .393/.452/.750, 224 wRC+
Admittedly, I have a soft spot in my heart for role players. You know, the utility guys that teach themselves to play all over the field just for a chance to crack the starting lineup. They can often be overlooked for the depth and flexibility they provide their teams in the field, and sometimes wait all game for just a single at-bat that can turn the tide of the contest. They are the David Fletchers of MLB, players who may not be superstars, but that hold the team together over the course of the grueling 162 game campaign. This award is dedicated to those bench players, who deserve their time in the sun for their contributions to the team.
This week’s Rockin’ Role Player (please hold your pun-related groans until the end) is none other than Pittsburgh’s Phillip Evans. Not to be confused with Baltimore’s Evan Phillips, the Pirates’ backup third baseman stepped up in a big way to fill in for the injured Ke’Bryan Hayes and posted a 1.202 OPS, the eighth-best mark in MLB to start the season. It was an elite start for Evans, who may force manager Derek Shelton’s hand to keep him in the lineup once Hayes returns.
And if that weren’t all, Evans even pitched a scoreless inning of relief! He came on in the eighth inning of a 14-1 shelling at the hands of the Reds, and sent down Kyle Farmer, Nick Senzel, and Jonathan India in order on three straight fly balls. It ended up being one of just two scoreless innings thrown by a Pirates reliever in the series, where they were outscored by a margin of 30-8. Shohei Ohtani who?
Honorable Mentions: Jordan Luplow, Zach McKinstry
That’s Gotta Hurt
Since 2018 Jacob deGrom has a 2.06 ERA in 78 starts.
The Mets are 36-42 in those starts. pic.twitter.com/FxfY6FLANc
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) April 10, 2021
2 GS, 0-1, 14 IP, 0.64 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 42.9 K%, 4.1 BB%, 39% CSW
Some days, you can do everything right and still wind up with an ‘L’ in the box score after all is said and done. This award commemorates the players that do all that they can to put their team on their back, but still come up just short due to reasons beyond their control. Perhaps no player is more familiar with this feeling than Jacob deGrom, the current best pitcher in baseball who is sitting on an 0-1 record despite having only surrendered one earned run through his first 14 innings of 2021. deGrom has picked up right where he left off in 2020, when he among the league’s best with a 2.38 ERA and 2.70 SIERA in 12 starts.
deGrom has been masterful in his two starts to kick off the campaign, and currently has nothing to show for it as the Mets seem intent on stealing defeat from the jaws of victory when he takes the mound. He’s even had to resort to generating the offense himself, and has actually been one of the Mets’ most productive bats when he starts without a DH. What more do you want this man to do?
We see you, Jacob. While it’s not as good as an MLB win, maybe this PTERODACTYL will help ease the pain.
There are also some plays and moments that completely befuddle the mind as to how they could occur on a major league diamond. It’s when weird hops, obscure rules, and unfortunate errors all compound to produce a series of events that leave an exasperated fan without any rational explanation other than a resigned, “That’s baseball.”
This award seeks to recognize the moments when baseball defies all expectations to produce a truly weird and unexpected outcome. Case in point: the Dodgers’ very strange home run luck to start the year.
Exhibit A: Cody Bellinger’s (Very) Long Single
Cody Bellinger hit a home run with Justin Turner on base, but Turner thought it was caught for an out and ran back to first base.
Bellinger passed Turner on the bases and was ruled out.
The home run counted for one run instead of two. pic.twitter.com/ErecD0td3d
— ESPN (@espn) April 1, 2021
Cody Bellinger thought he was off to a hot start to the season when he (and Raimel Tapia) punched this would-be home run over the fence for what he thought was a two-run blast on Opening Day. Unfortunately, Justin Turner failed to get the memo and inadvertently took away his teammate’s round-tripper when he got turned around and passed Bellinger on the basepaths, thinking the ball was a long fly out. So despite leaving the yard, Bellinger received just an RBI single on the play. He’s still waiting to notch his first home run on the young season, so Turner probably owes him dinner for his mix-up.
Exhibit B: Zach McKinstry’s Inside-the-Park HR
THIS IS WILD 🤯
A crazy inside-the-park HR by Zach McKinstry gives the @dodgers the lead! pic.twitter.com/Gg1yuSKf48
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 4, 2021
The Dodgers would not hit their first home run until two days later, when rookie Zach McKinstry teed off on a 1-1 fastball from Mychal Givens. Once again, the ball found Tapia in left field, but this time he actually knocked it back in the park when he attempted to catch it. McKinstry couldn’t tell if the ball had gone over, and so he kept running all the way around to score. So just so we are on the same page: the Dodgers now had hit a single that went over the fence, as well as a home run that stayed in the park.
Because “that’s baseball.”
That will just about do it for the first week of PTERODACTYLs, though it feels like there was enough excitement to last an entire season. Be sure to check back next week for more of the best performances and strangest events to grace the MLB diamond. See you then!
Featured image by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)
Fun stuff, but Wow look at Kershaw digging for gold at 00:30 on the McKinstry clip.
This is pure gold.