Don't Short A-Rod's All-Time Ranking
News Item: Alex Rodriguez hits home run #40 for the sixth year in a row, the second longest 40-HR streak ever. With another 40-HR campaign in 2004, Rodriguez will tie Babe Ruth at seven for the most consecutive seasons of 40 or more homers.
Two weeks ago, I compared A-Rod's standing in baseball history among 27-year-olds and all-time home run sluggers (including mentioning the likelihood of reaching the above milestone). This week, the focus is on Alex The Great and how he rates among shortstops.
A comparison of A-Rod vs. his peers at SS follows. Rate stats are based on a minimum of 4,000 plate appearances. The source for these lists is the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia.
RATE STATS, 1900-2002
OBP OBP 1 Arky Vaughan .406 2 Luke Appling .399 3 Honus Wagner .394 4 Johnny Pesky .394 5 Joe Sewell .391 6 Joe Cronin .390 7 Derek Jeter .389 8 Lou Boudreau .380 9 Alex Rodriguez .380 10 Barry Larkin .372
Working on a .394 OBP this year, A-Rod has passed Lou Boudreau on a real-time basis. Unless Derek Jeter falters, it may prove difficult for Rodriguez to move up on this list. Still, there is nothing pedestrian about ranking among the top ten all-time in a category that perhaps is Alex The Great's weakest.
OBP DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Arky Vaughan .068 .406 .338 2 Honus Wagner .067 .394 .328 3 Derek Jeter .047 .389 .342 4 Luke Appling .045 .399 .354 5 Johnny Pesky .045 .394 .349 6 Alex Rodriguez .038 .380 .342 7 Barry Larkin .036 .372 .336 8 Lou Boudreau .034 .380 .347 9 Julio Franco .034 .366 .332 10 Kid Elberfeld .032 .353 .321
A-Rod moves up to sixth when measured by the difference in his OBP vs. the league average. Arky Vaughan, perhaps the most underrated infielder of all time (at least up until the days of Bill James), sits atop the list for the second consecutive category.
Parenthetically, I'm not really comfortable with Julio Franco as a shortstop given that he played fewer than half of his games at that position. However, he played more games there than anywhere else on the diamond, so shortstop it is. Franco was a good-hitting SS although he enjoyed his best years as a 2B. Julio ran well and had decent range as a middle infielder, but he also made a lot of errors. As a result, he has been a DH/1B almost exclusively from 1992-on.
OBP RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner 120 .394 .328 2 Arky Vaughan 120 .406 .338 3 Derek Jeter 114 .389 .342 4 Johnny Pesky 113 .394 .349 5 Luke Appling 113 .399 .354 6 Alex Rodriguez 111 .380 .342 7 Barry Larkin 111 .372 .336 8 Julio Franco 110 .366 .332 9 Kid Elberfeld 110 .353 .321 10 Lou Boudreau 110 .380 .347
The five shortstops above Rodriguez rank ahead of him in all three OBP measurements. Among players eligible for the Hall of Fame, only Johnny Pesky is on the outside looking in. Pesky lost three full years to World War II, which probably cost him 600 hits and the opportunity to exceed 2,000 for his career. According to Bill James in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Pesky's 1942 season was the best ever by a rookie shortstop. He finished third in the MVP voting that year, went off to war, and then returned in 1946 and was fourth in the MVP voting.
Norman Elberfeld, who ranks in the top ten in OBP relative to the league based on difference and ratio, played from 1898-1914. Elberfeld, nicknamed "The Tabasco Kid" for his fiery play, was 5'7", 158 pounds and led the league in HBP twice.
SLG SLG 1 Alex Rodriguez .579 2 Ernie Banks .500 3 Honus Wagner .468 4 Joe Cronin .468 5 Derek Jeter .463 6 Vern Stephens .460 7 John Valentin .454 8 Arky Vaughan .453 9 Jose Valentin .448 10 Barry Larkin .448
Everyone knows that power is A-Rod's strong suit, and he ranks number one in career slugging percentage among shortstops. Rodriguez is slugging at a .600 clip this year and is adding to his huge lead over Ernie Banks, who captured back-to-back MVPs in 1958 and 1959 even though the Cubs had losing records and ended up in fifth place both years. Ironically, A-Rod seems to have been penalized by voters the past couple of years for playing on a team with a losing record. If the trend continues, Rodriguez could end up being one of the best players in the history of baseball never to win an MVP Award.
If I relaxed the number of plate appearances from 4,000 to 3,000, Nomar Garciaparra would place second in slugging percentage. Garciaparra had a SLG of .562 entering the 2003 season and is roughly maintaining that level this year. Upon retirement, A-Rod and Nomar stand an excellent chance of being 1-2 in SLG.
SLG DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Alex Rodriguez .144 .579 .434 2 Honus Wagner .122 .468 .346 3 Ernie Banks .097 .500 .402 4 Vern Stephens .078 .460 .382 5 Arky Vaughan .064 .453 .390 6 Joe Cronin .051 .468 .417 7 Rico Petrocelli .045 .420 .375 8 Cal Ripken .036 .447 .411 9 Robin Yount .036 .430 .394 10 Barry Larkin .035 .448 .412
Once again, A-Rod ranks number one in the slugging department, heading a list of mostly Hall of Famers and HOFers to be. Only Vern Stephens and Rico Petrocelli, two of the many great Boston Red Sox shortstops over the years, never made it to Cooperstown. Stephens placed in the top ten in the A.L. MVP voting six times during the 1940s in an era that featured Luke Appling, Lou Boudreau, Johnny Pesky, and Phil Rizzuto as rival shortstops.
SLG RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner 135 .468 .346 2 Alex Rodriguez 133 .579 .434 3 Ernie Banks 124 .500 .402 4 Vern Stephens 120 .460 .382 5 Arky Vaughan 116 .453 .390 6 Joe Cronin 112 .468 .417 7 Rico Petrocelli 112 .420 .375 8 Robin Yount 109 .430 .394 9 Cal Ripken 109 .447 .411 10 Barry Larkin 109 .448 .412
A-Rod slips to second based on the ratio of slugging percentage to the league average. Honus Wagner slugged a remarkable .468 during the Dead Ball era when the league average was only .346 and the positional average was .321.
OPS OPS 1 Alex Rodriguez .958 2 Honus Wagner .862 3 Arky Vaughan .859 4 Joe Cronin .857 5 Derek Jeter .852 6 Ernie Banks .830 7 Barry Larkin .820 8 Vern Stephens .815 9 John Valentin .814 10 Joe Sewell .804
A-Rod shows his absolute prowess in OPS similar to SLG. Nomar, at .937, would rank second if he met the minimum number of plate appearances. Rodriguez is increasing his lead this year with a .993 SLG, while Nomar is holding his own at .923.
Joe Sewell was a 21-year-old rookie when he replaced Ray Chapman as the Cleveland Indians shortstop in 1920 after the latter was killed by a pitched ball. Sewell committed 15 errors in only 22 games that first season, then made six more in the World Series. Sewell, who was the most difficult man to strike out in baseball history by far (fanning once every 63 AB), had more than seven time as many walks as strike outs in his career.
OPS DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner .189 .862 .674 2 Alex Rodriguez .182 .958 .776 3 Arky Vaughan .132 .859 .728 4 Ernie Banks .098 .830 .732 5 Vern Stephens .087 .815 .728 6 Joe Cronin .083 .857 .775 7 Derek Jeter .075 .852 .776 8 Barry Larkin .072 .820 .748 9 Lou Boudreau .061 .795 .734 10 Rico Petrocelli .055 .752 .697
Wagner overtakes Rodriguez when it comes to OPS minus the league average, but A-Rod is within striking distance of The Flying Dutchman.
OPS RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner 128 .862 .674 2 Alex Rodriguez 123 .958 .776 3 Arky Vaughan 118 .859 .728 4 Ernie Banks 113 .830 .732 5 Vern Stephens 112 .815 .728 6 Joe Cronin 111 .857 .775 7 Derek Jeter 110 .852 .776 8 Barry Larkin 110 .820 .748 9 Lou Boudreau 108 .795 .734 10 Rico Petrocelli 108 .752 .697
Wagner makes it three-for-three on all three major rate stats (OBP, SLG, OPS) when it comes to the ratio vs. the league average. By comparison, Rodriguez ranks sixth, second, and second, respectively. Attention future Hall of Fame voters: There are only four SS who rank in the top ten in all three of these measurements--Wagner, Rodriguez, Vaughan, and...Barry Larkin.
TOTAL AVERAGE TA 1 Alex Rodriguez 1.005 2 Honus Wagner .957 3 Arky Vaughan .892 4 Joe Cronin .859 5 Derek Jeter .858 6 Barry Larkin .836 7 John Valentin .785 8 Joe Sewell .778 9 Luke Appling .774 10 Vern Stephens .765
Once again, A-Rod jumps to the top of the pack when it comes to absolute levels (in this case Total Average). Rodriguez is extending his lead this year with a TA of 1.063 through the end of August. Wagner and Vaughan, the only other shortstops to rank number one in any of the rate stat categories, follow at two and three.
Given that John Valentin made his mark just prior to today's big, powerful shortstops, it is easy to forget how good his career year was in 1995 when he finished 9th in the MVP voting as a result of hitting .298/.399/.533 with 27 HR, 20 SB, and more than 100 runs and 100 RBI in only 135 games.
TOTAL AVERAGE DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner .309 .957 .648 2 Alex Rodriguez .273 1.005 .732 3 Arky Vaughan .229 .892 .663 4 Barry Larkin .138 .836 .699 5 Joe Cronin .127 .859 .732 6 Derek Jeter .126 .858 .732 7 Ray Chapman .108 .750 .643 8 Vern Stephens .104 .765 .660 9 Lou Boudreau .080 .748 .667 10 George Davis .077 .701 .624
A-Rod slides to number two based on the difference between TA and the league average. Wagner, Rodriguez, and Vaughan are 1-2-3 and well ahead of the rest of the pack.
George Davis, whose career spanned the late 1800s and the early 1900s, had his best year before the modern era. In 1897, Davis hit .353 with 31 doubles, 10 triples, and 10 home runs, along with 65 stolen bases, 112 runs scored, and a league-leading 136 RBI. Davis wasn't elected to the HOF until 1998 when the Veterans Committee finally saw fit to enshrine the switch-hitting great from a bygone era.
TOTAL AVERAGE RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner 148 .957 .648 2 Alex Rodriguez 137 1.005 .732 3 Arky Vaughan 135 .892 .663 4 Barry Larkin 120 .836 .699 5 Joe Cronin 117 .859 .732 6 Derek Jeter 117 .858 .732 7 Ray Chapman 117 .750 .643 8 Vern Stephens 116 .765 .660 9 George Davis 112 .701 .624 10 Rico Petrocelli 112 .702 .625
The top eight players remain in the same order, giving a pretty good indication of their relative TA merits--no matter how it's measured.
BPA BPA 1 Alex Rodriguez .623 2 Honus Wagner .582 3 Joe Cronin .530 4 Arky Vaughan .530 5 Derek Jeter .525 6 Barry Larkin .523 7 Ernie Banks .513 8 Jose Valentin .509 9 John Valentin .496 10 Ray Chapman .490
Surprise, surprise. Rodriguez finds himself in first place in another absolute rate stat (Bases per Plate Appearance). The Texas Rangers SS is widening the gap between himself and Wagner with a league-leading BPA of .673 this year. Joe Cronin edges out Vaughan for third place.
BPA DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Alex Rodriguez .147 .623 .476 2 Honus Wagner .145 .582 .437 3 Arky Vaughan .097 .530 .432 4 Ernie Banks .075 .513 .438 5 Barry Larkin .064 .523 .459 6 Vern Stephens .060 .489 .429 7 Ray Chapman .057 .490 .433 8 Joe Cronin .055 .530 .475 9 Derek Jeter .049 .525 .476 10 Rico Petrocelli .041 .458 .417
Rodriguez maintains a slim advantage over Wagner in BPA minus the league average.
BPA RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner 133 .582 .437 2 Alex Rodriguez 131 .623 .476 3 Arky Vaughan 122 .530 .432 4 Ernie Banks 117 .513 .438 5 Vern Stephens 114 .489 .429 6 Barry Larkin 114 .523 .459 7 Ray Chapman 113 .490 .433 8 Joe Cronin 112 .530 .475 9 Derek Jeter 110 .525 .476 10 Rico Petrocelli 110 .458 .417
Wagner returns to his customary #1 spot when it comes to ratios, a sign that he was slightly more dominant vs. the players from his era than his closest pursuer 100 years later.
RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G 1 Honus Wagner 8.31 2 Alex Rodriguez 8.16 3 Arky Vaughan 7.61 4 Derek Jeter 6.92 5 Joe Cronin 6.81 6 Barry Larkin 6.34 7 Luke Appling 6.26 8 Joe Sewell 6.03 9 Johnny Pesky 5.98 10 Vern Stephens 5.93
Wagner, Rodriguez, Vaughan. A-Rod is improving his career average this year at 8.58 RC/G.
RUNS CREATED/GAME DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner 3.85 8.31 4.46 2 Alex Rodriguez 2.93 8.16 5.23 3 Arky Vaughan 2.75 7.61 4.86 4 Derek Jeter 1.68 6.92 5.24 5 Barry Larkin 1.46 6.34 4.88 6 Joe Cronin 1.24 6.81 5.57 7 Vern Stephens 1.15 5.93 4.78 8 Johnny Pesky 1.05 5.98 4.93 9 Ernie Banks 0.98 5.56 4.59 10 Luke Appling 0.94 6.26 5.32
This is a recording. Wagner, Rodriguez, Vaughan.
RUNS CREATED/GAME RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner 186 8.31 4.46 2 Arky Vaughan 156 7.61 4.86 3 Alex Rodriguez 156 8.16 5.23 4 Derek Jeter 132 6.92 5.24 5 Barry Larkin 130 6.34 4.88 6 Vern Stephens 124 5.93 4.78 7 Joe Cronin 122 6.81 5.57 8 Johnny Pesky 121 5.98 4.93 9 Ernie Banks 121 5.56 4.59 10 Lou Boudreau 119 5.81 4.90
Wagner, Vaughan, Rodriguez this time. Almost tripped me up there.
CUMULATIVE STATS, 1900-2002
TOTAL BASES TB 1 Cal Ripken 5168 2 Robin Yount 4730 3 Ernie Banks 4706 4 Honus Wagner 4228 5 Joe Cronin 3546 6 Luke Appling 3528 7 Luis Aparicio 3504 8 Alan Trammell 3442 9 Rabbit Maranville 3423 10 Barry Larkin 3290
With 2845 TB (and counting), Rodriguez should pass Cronin for fifth place by the end of 2005 when he will be just 30 years old.
Cal Ripken goes to the head of the class when it comes to career total bases. Ripken failed to make the top ten on any of the above absolute rate stats although he placed 8th and 9th in the two SLG categories relative to the league. His cumulative stats and peak production rank among the best, but he was no better than an average hitter the last ten years of his career (except for 1999 when he hit .340/.368/.584). Cal's longevity helped his counting stats immensely, but it hurt him in the area of rate stats.
TOTAL BASES DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner 1400 4228 2828 2 Ernie Banks 977 4706 3729 3 Alex Rodriguez 729 2535 1806 4 Vern Stephens 603 2991 2388 5 Arky Vaughan 589 3003 2414 6 Robin Yount 537 4730 4193 7 Nomar Garciaparra 514 1771 1257 8 Cal Ripken 503 5168 4665 9 Joe Cronin 421 3546 3125 10 Barry Larkin 370 3290 2920
A-Rod should pass Banks for second place by the end of 2004 or early 2005. If, and when, he catches Wagner will depend upon his health and his future production. Garciaparra should catapult into fourth place by the end of this season.
TOTAL BASES RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner 149 4228 2828 2 Alex Rodriguez 140 2535 1806 3 Ernie Banks 121 4706 3729 4 Vern Stephens 125 2991 2388 5 Arky Vaughan 124 3003 2414 6 Derek Jeter 114 2031 1788 7 Joe Cronin 113 3546 3125 8 Robin Yount 113 4730 4193 9 Barry Larkin 113 3290 2920 10 Rico Petrocelli 112 2263 2013
The top five names remain the same, but this time A-Rod is already ahead of Banks.
RUNS CREATED RC 1 Honus Wagner 2011 2 Cal Ripken 1709 3 Robin Yount 1644 4 Luke Appling 1511 5 Ernie Banks 1496 6 Joe Cronin 1448 7 Arky Vaughan 1331 8 Barry Larkin 1298 9 Alan Trammell 1246 10 Joe Sewell 1218
With 1097 RC (and counting), A-Rod should enter the top ten sometime during the second half of 2004. He is on pace to pass Ripken by the time he reaches his early 30s and stands a good chance of catching Wagner before his playing days are through.
RUNS CREATED DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner 933 2011 1078 2 Arky Vaughan 482 1331 849 3 Alex Rodriguez 350 975 625 4 Barry Larkin 298 1298 1000 5 Joe Cronin 263 1448 1185 6 Ernie Banks 260 1496 1236 7 Robin Yount 258 1644 1386 8 Luke Appling 226 1511 1285 9 Nomar Garciaparra 222 656 434 10 Vern Stephens 207 1070 863
The top three names should be familiar to all of us by now. A-Rod may pass Vaughan by the end of next year, but he has a long ways to go to reach Wagner (who ranks 14th all time in the modern era and 11th if one also includes his pre-1900 stats).
RUNS CREATED RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Honus Wagner 187 2011 1078 2 Arky Vaughan 157 1331 849 3 Alex Rodriguez 156 975 625 4 Derek Jeter 132 818 619 5 Barry Larkin 130 1298 1000 6 Vern Stephens 124 1070 863 7 Joe Cronin 122 1448 1185 8 Johnny Pesky 121 776 639 9 Ernie Banks 121 1496 1236 10 Robin Yount 119 1644 1386
Wagner, Vaughan, Rodriguez with A-Rod once again within earshot of second but quite a distance from first.
RCAA RCAA 1 Honus Wagner 938 2 Arky Vaughan 478 3 Alex Rodriguez 347 4 Robin Yount 284 5 Barry Larkin 274 6 Joe Cronin 243 7 Luke Appling 239 8 Nomar Garciaparra 217 9 Derek Jeter 213 10 Ernie Banks 207
Wagner, Vaughan, and Rodriguez sit atop the all-important stat of runs created above average. Garciaparra has leapfrogged Appling and Cronin into sixth place this year and may become worthy of junior partner status in the law firm of Wagner, Vaughan, and Rodriguez by scaling the heights into fourth by the end of 2004.
RCAP RCAP 1 Honus Wagner 981 2 Arky Vaughan 598 3 Barry Larkin 478 4 Joe Cronin 432 5 Alex Rodriguez 419 T6 Robin Yount 408 T6 Cal Ripken 408 8 Luke Appling 377 9 Alan Trammell 365 10 Joe Sewell 348
Rodriguez falls to fifth place and Larkin rises to third in runs created above position because this stat compares a player vs. the specific league rather than the overall majors. As a whole, A-Rod's competition has been more difficult within his league (given the presence of Garciaparra, Jeter, and Miguel Tejada) than Larkin (Jay Bell, Jeff Blauser, and Ozzie Smith). Nonetheless, Alex The Great should surpass Larkin by the end of this year or perhaps early next year.
I have also included the top ten for those who like the Baseball Prospectus stat of Equivalent Average (EqA). EqA is a measure of total offensive value per out, with corrections for league offensive level, home park, and team pitching. The scale is deliberately set to approximate that of batting average with a level of .260 the norm.
EQUIVALENT AVERAGE EQA 1 Honus Wagner .321 2 Alex Rodriguez .320 3 Nomar Garciaparra .313 4 Arky Vaughan .312 5 Derek Jeter .302 6 George Davis .294 7 Lou Boudreau .293 8 Barry Larkin .292 9 Joe Cronin .291 10 Robin Yount .288
Given the importance of defense at the shortstop position, I would be remiss if I didn't discuss this aspect of the equation. No matter whether one uses the raw fielding stats (such as assists, putouts, double plays, and range factor), fielding runs as determined by Total Baseball, or the more sophisticated stats used by Baseball Prospectus or those incorporated into Win Shares and Zone Ratings, it doesn't change the fact that a great-hitting, average-fielding shortstop is still better than an average-hitting, great-fielding shortstop. In other words, I would take Ernie Banks at his peak over Ozzie Smith at his peak.
As best as I can determine, the following lists rank the premier fielding shortstops by the more advanced metrics.
FIELDING RUNS ABOVE REPLACEMENT FRAR 1 Bill Dahlen 1094 2 Rabbit Maranville 927 3 Honus Wagner 916 4 Ozzie Smith 887 5 Bobby Wallace 867 6 Joe Tinker 847 7 George Davis 844 8 Cal Ripken 766 9 Luis Aparicio 745 10 Mark Belanger 708
To score well here, players need to be strong defensively and benefit from long careers. For what it's worth, A-Rod stood at 252 prior to the 2003 season.
FIELDING RUNS ABOVE AVERAGE FRAA 1 Bill Dahlen 354 2 Joe Tinker 338 3 Ozzie Smith 325 4 Mark Belanger 302 5 Art Fletcher 271 6 Honus Wagner 258 7 Bobby Wallace 242 8 George McBride 232 9 Marty Marion 224 10 George Davis 222
This defensive stat is similar to the one above except with a higher hurdle rate (vs. an average player rather than a replacement level player). A-Rod came into the current season with 19, meaning that he was slightly above average defensively at shortstop for his career.
RATE 1 Joe Tinker 118 2 Art Fletcher 117 3 Mark Belanger 116 4 Bill Dahlen 116 5 Dal Maxvill 116 6 Marty Marion 115 7 Lou Boudreau 114 8 George McBride 114 9 Everett Scott 114 10 Ozzie Smith 113
The Baseball Prospectus "Rate" stat is another way to look at the fielder's rate of production. A player with a rate of 110 is 10 runs above average per 100 games, a player with an 87 is 13 runs below average per 100 games, etc. A-Rod's rate stat is 102 or two runs above average per 100 games.
Lastly, shortstops who received letter grades of "A+" by Bill James according to Defensive Win Shares (in alphabetical order):
A-Rod was rated "C+" by James through the 2000 season in his Win Shares book. A-Rod's defense has improved since then and would probably rate a "B-" today.
There are very few players who appear in the top ten in various offensive and defensive rankings. Given that Honus Wagner ranks number one the most times offensively and is generally regarded as among the top ten defensive shortstops of all time, I believe it follows that John Peter Wagner is the best shortstop ever.
Here is Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT's top ten shortstops of all time (minimum of 10 or more seasons):
1. Honus Wagner 2. Alex Rodriguez 3. Arky Vaughan 4. Cal Ripken 5. Robin Yount 6. Ernie Banks 7. Barry Larkin 8. Joe Cronin 9. Lou Boudreau 10. Luke Appling
I feel strongly about the order of my top four, and I believe the other six are worthy of being named in the top ten. However, I don't have strong convictions about the order of the last three (SS from the 1930s and 1940s whose careers overlapped).
Just Missed: Pee Wee Reese, Joe Sewell, Ozzie Smith, and Alan Trammell.
Luis Aparicio, Jim Fregosi, and Maury Wills were the best shortstops between Banks and Yount. Aparicio and Wills were renowned for stealing bases more than anything else with the former leading the A.L. every year from 1956-1964 and the latter topping the N.L. annually from 1960-1965. Stolen bases were worth more in the lower run-scoring environment but still are generally overrated when it comes to evaluating the merits of players.
Does Alex Rodriguez have a chance of becoming number one? Yes, if A-Rod can maintain today's level of productivity for another 7-8 years, he may wind up supplanting the immortal Honus Wagner as the best offensive shortstop of all time. Whether Rodriguez can overtake Wagner as the most complete SS is debatable. In any event, Alex The Great will most likely end up no worse than the second best SS ever and, quite possibly, the number one home run hitter among all players in terms of cumulative totals.
2004 Awards Already
After yesterday's column on the 2003 awards, I got a suggestion from Rich Lederer about a new article. Instead of talking about the 2003 awards, keep my futuristic hook going by making some early predictions on next season's awards. Here's my best shot...
GARY SHEFFIELD- YANKEES
What George wants, George gets. The Yankees lose significant salary off their payroll this season (Mondesi, Hitchcock) and have the money to sign Sheff. He is supposedly favored in the Big Apple to Vladimir Guerrero. Here's a look at Sheffield's 2003 vs. Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, A-Rod, and Nomar Garciaparra:
Sheffield: .322/.427/.611 34HR 108RBI 110R 17SB in 476AB
So Sheffield doesn't lead in HR, but leads in BA, OBP, SLG, RBI, R, and SB. Historically moving to the American League helps a player, as the quality of pitching isn't as great. This season, for example, the American League has a cumulative ERA of 4.53 against the National League's 4.28. That is a huge discrepancy, and for the record, the American League gives up more hits and home runs per nine innings.
In conclusion, Sheffield's numbers would rank as the best in the American League this season. His main competition would come from A-Rod, Ichiro, and possibly Vladimir Guerrero.
BRIAN GILES- PADRES
It was between Giles and Bonds, and although I'm wrong, I keep forecasting a slight Bonds dip. But mark my words, when the Padres make the playoffs next season, Giles won't be underrated anymore. The only thing that bothers me:
And for what doesn't concern me:
If a 39-year old Bonds flirts with sixty home runs, the MVP title is his. Giles must regain the power he's had the last few years, and finally break 40 homers. He will have the chance for RBIs, with Ryan Klesko protecting him in the lineup.
And what about Pujols? Well, I don't see him having quite as good of a season, and I think these two will dominate the voting. If Giles comes up with a .300/.450/.550 season with 40HR and 120RBI, he'll definitely get some votes. But nowadays the MVP voting goes through San Francisco, and through the bat of Bonds.
AL CY YOUNG
PEDRO MARTINEZ- RED SOX
OK, not quite an out-on-a-limb, Esteban Loaiza-like prediction. But in his contract year, you think Martinez will sit out on starts? Do you believe he'll allow Grady Little to let him pitch only 98 pitches per start? No way.
Consider that Pedro hasn't had an ERA in the 3's since 1996 when he was pitching in Montreal. Since the Boston trade he's been a God:
With Boston: 87-27 2.27 823H/1129.6IP 1416K/242BB
Amazing. But look at his recent K rates:
Although, that's not bad at all. It proves that even a bad Pedro is great. He needs to last longer in games to get more wins, and a steadier 2004 bullpen will also help. Lock in Pedro for 20 wins and a sub-2.50ERA next season.
NL CY YOUNG
19-11 2.82 235H/284.1IP 332K/76BB
These are unprecedented statistics, no pitchers start out like this. Doc Gooden is the only name I can think of that has had this kind of beginning, so quick. Prior is living up to his billing as the Greatest College Pitcher Ever, and will soon have some hardware. His record is because of bad Cubs offenses, but its improving every month and every season. For example, consider his last five starts:
Last 5: 5-0 0.69 21H/39IP 35K/4BB
I've watched almost all of these games, and it isn't even the best he can pitch. His strikeout numbers are lower than normal, as he isn't quite back to full strength. But to make up for it, he's really not walking anybody. The Cubs offense is putting up runs for him, and they are winning games. Remember 39 innings in five starts is almost eight a game, which usually ensures victory.
Prior keeps getting better, and smarter, after every start. He has the best mechanics in baseball, and the perfect pitcher's body. He throws all of his pitches for strikes, and thinks like a mix between Tom Seaver and Greg Maddux. Prior will win the 2004 Cy Young, and then proceed to win the next five after that.
JUSTIN MORNEAU- TWINS
It is feasibly, and actually likely, that the Twins will have the next two great rookies. The key to picking the Rookie of the Year is a player who is talented, and will get significant at-bats. With the likely non-tender of Mientkiewicz, Morneau will get the full-time call-up. Although he struggled in his first Major League stint, this was a great season. Here's all you need to know:
Morneau's 2003 HR total prorated to 500AB: 33.74
And as Jim Callis points out in his newest Ask BA, power tends to go up as you move through the levels. Morneau won't hit 35 homers next season, although I wouldn't bet against it. The 2003 class is kind of weak, and a .275/.360/.520 season with 30 homers might be enough.
Honorable Mention: Joe Blanton, Matt Riley, Travis Blackley, Jeremy Reed
GARRETT ATKINS- ROCKIES
A look at Atkins in AAA:
.325/.383/.490 with 13HR, 302B, 67RBI in 431AB
Atkins' stock took a major jump this Spring Training, when he hit .525 in 40AB with the Major League team, including seven doubles and 12RBI. The team held back though, because he hadn't exactly been earth-shattering before then:
2000 Rookie League: .303-7-17, 12 2B in 251AB
So while Atkins showed fairly good plate discipline, and doubles power, there wasn't much hope. But he kept it going after Spring Training, and has had a great 2003. Remember he'll get 300AB in Coors next season, where you can be sure that some of those doubles will become home runs.
Honorable Mention- Kaz Matsui will make noise if he comes over, as will the Korean slugger whose name eludes my grasp. I like Khalil Greene, Terrmel Sledge, Chase Utley, and Joel Hanrahan also.
I'm pretty sure I'll be posting a notes column this weekend (think Sunday), and will be back on Labor Day. Have a good weekend, and if you find yourself bored, head over to Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT or For Rich or Sporer.
2004 NL Awards
I recently got into an argument with a friend on two National League awards, the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year, and have decided to write about it. I should mention that I chose Eric Gagne and Brandon Webb, respectively, while he chose John Smoltz and Dontrelle Willis. This content is justifiable on this site simply because its my prediction of the award. Enjoy...
1st- Rookie of the Year- Brandon Webb vs. Dontrelle Willis
A look at the overall basic numbers:
Webb: 22GS 8-6 113H/143.2IP 2.51ERA 141K/51BB
These translate to these stats:
Webb: 6.4IP/GS 1.14WHIP 2.76K/BB 7.08H/9 8.83K/9
We know that Webb is more of a workhorse, going almost two-thirds of an innings more per start. The K/BB and K/9 ratios are too close to count against Willis, but he is well behind in both WHIP and hits per nine innings. Let's see who is steadier by analyzing their month-by-month splits:
Webb May: 1-1 2.65 28/34 24/12
So, he has been very consistent throughout all of his months, not taking any serious hits in that ERA. His august walk total is nearly doubled of the next highest, but he has figured out the strikeout more in July and August. Now to Willis...
Willis May: 3-1 3.72 31/29 34/12
What? A 7.29 ERA in the month of August? Both Willis and Marlin brass are blaming this on Willis' constant attention, and say that he's tired. His first three months were sensational, especially a June when he really came after hitters. But in August his ERA, H/9, K/9, and K/BB are all very far off.
So, both were very steady pitchers, although Willis has started to tail off. A good September will keep him in this race, but Webb is clearly ahead. Webb was ranked #1 on Baseball Prospectus' steadiest pitcher statistic. There are a couple of things that point in Willis' favor: his high win total, outstanding charisma, and attendance charts.
First, the wins. There's no question that an 11-4 record is better than that of 8-6. But Webb has a better ERA, and is the 6th unluckiest pitcher in all of baseball. And despite all the smiles and media attention, there are people taking notice of Webb. In this week's Sports Weekly, Bobby Cox calls Webb the best starter on his team, and basically states he wouldn't think twice about the Rookie of the Year award. Remember, there was one point this month that Webb used his sinker to get 73 consecutive outs before a flyball putout. He's the type of pitcher you consider bringing a fifth infielder for, and has the best sinker in the Majors (better than Lowe and Brown).
Finally, you can't argue with attendance. Here's a look at his last five starts, and the attendance of those games:
7/30 ARI= 37,735
So, in his last five games, Willis has brought an average of 31,595.4 people to the stadium. The Marlins were desperate for fans before his arrival, now have the best marketing tool in Flordia. In one start against the Braves, Peter Gammons reported it was the most watched non-playoff baseball game in five years. Willis is helping baseball, but is that enough to win an award for?
Finally, some oddball stats:
So, when using park effects and what not, Webb is drastically a better starter. The difference in OPS isn't substantial, but Willis has definitely faced easier pitchers in route to his 11-4 record. While the media sometimes tends to vote on their favorite player, there's no question that Brandon Webb has been this season's best rookie.
2nd- NL CY Young- Eric Gagne vs. John Smoltz
First, a look at overall stats:
Gagne- 63G 43SV 30H/66IP 113K/17BB 1.50ERA
Which converts to these more complicated stats:
Gagne- 0BS 0.71WHIP 6.65K/BB 4.09H/9 15.4K/9
By far the more difficult argument, since it takes the importance of reliever ERA into question. In terms of ERA, Smoltz is the superior; Gagne wins many other categories. He has less blown saves, a far better WHIP, and his strikeout rates are insane. Both are threatening Thigpen's record, but aren't likely to break it.
One record that should be broken, is the consecutive saves record. Gagne has forty-three straight this season, and his streak dates back to August 2002. He has been a savior in Los Angeles, and truly makes it an eight-inning game. An aberration in the All-Star Game may actually hurt him, although it shouldn't.
Smoltz has been fantastic, and his K/BB rate is the best anyone could have. His ERA is his best asset, and will probably be the 2nd Atlanta reliever in two years with a sub-1.00 ERA.
Baseball Prospectus' reliever rankings have Smoltz in the fourth spot, while Gagne is 6th. This appears to rely heavily on ERA, as Shigetoshi Hasegawa is in the first spot. Reliever ERA weighs way too much in current society, as the Smoltz-Gagne earned run spread is only five.
I hardly have a great argument against Smoltz, other than the dominating WHIP and K/9 numbers Gagne has. That's all for now folks...
Editor's Note- Since writing this article, I discovered John Smoltz was placed on the 15-day DL, and won't be back until September. This should give Eric Gagne ample time to surpass Smoltz in saves, and will give Bobby Thigpen some rest.
SoCal So Happy
I was in the midst of preparing today's fantasy entry when word came the Padres had acquired Brian Giles and traded Rondell White. The fantasy idea was quickly deleted, and my mind shifted to that of the San Diego Padres. Can Kevin Towers build another World Series team? Will PETCO Park attract enough fans to keep a bloated payroll afloat?
First, let's analyze what the Padres are in possession of, then come up with methods of improving the team. The lineup is almost complete, with bats surrounding their newest star. Ryan Klesko is etched in at first base, and Mark Loretta will team with him on the right side. Khalil Greene went from 2002 College Player of the Year, to a 2003 where he is hitting .303/.359/.466 in 290 AAA at-bats. Sean Burroughs made up for a bad rookie season, although his five home runs is less than expected. Giles and Mark Kotsay are locks in the outfield, and there's competition in right. Xavier Nady, a farm system prize, has had mixed results in the Major Leagues. And while Phil Nevin has proved everything, the Ken Griffey for Nevin rumors meant his job isn't safe.
The catcher position is wide open, since neither Gary Bennett nor Wiki Gonzalez has gotten it done. The team has been toying with this position for years, without any real success. Here's a mock 2004 lineup:
1. Greene- SS
Actually, a playoff-type lineup. The catcher should be good defensively, as its obvious that scoring runs won't be a problem for this team. In fact, its preventing runs that will hold this team back. What was once the best group of pitching prospects around has turned into trade bait (see Oliver Perez), or just flunked out (Dennis Tankersly).
The team has three good arms this season: Brian Lawrence, Jake Peavy, and Adam Eaton. Lawrence, the 2002 ace, isn't having a great season (6-14, 4.54ERA), but has promise (166H in 170.2IP). Peavy is gradually improving, and allowing 148 hits in 159.1 innings against 124 strikeouts is a great sign. Eaton did well coming back from surgery, and actually pitched the best. His 119K showed his great curve was still there, and he also allowed less hits than innings. These three could sit in any rotation, although there isn't a clear ace.
So, what's available within the organization? Not much. Kevin Jarvis has been Towers' greatest bust, and the contract will continually hurt the team. Clay Condrey, Carlton Loewer, and Mike Bynum have all been tried in the rotation, but none possess great potential. Ben Howard was just brought up from AAA, where he allowed 118 hits in 130.1 innings. Another encouraging player is AA southpaw Cory Stewart, who is 12-7 with 3.72ERA in the Southern League. He also has struck out 133 men in 125.2 innings, while surrendering only 104 hits and 50 walks. Let's say, to be conservative, that one of these five players will impress Padres' brass enough to be counted on every fifth day. That leaves:
1- Brian Lawrence
What was once a great bullpen, has lost its hype with Trevor Hoffman's injury-plagued season. Rod Beck has filled in nicely, not blowing a save in his first eighteen attempts. These two players are the Padres two significant free agents, and dictate a lot of what they do in the winter. Rod Beck wants 300 career saves, and will likely only sign somewhere that he is promised to get all the saves. That won't happen if the Padres retain their all-time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman. San Diego's favorite player has an expensive option for next season, and Towers has no choice but to decline. Both sides have reported interest, and are in the midst of working on an extension. Count on one of these two men closing games in San Diego next season.
So who else? Luther Hackman was acquired in the Brett Tomko deal, and the power leftie has done well in 56 games thus far. Scott Linebrink was a great waiver claim, as he is sporting a 3.33ERA in 81 middle relief innings. His future is not in a rotation, but rather in that middle-role. Jay Witasick was signed to set-up Hoffman, and hasn't disappointed. Finally, although rumors are he may be traded, I expect the club to hold onto Brandon Villafuerte. These four players consitute a set-up man, two middle relievers, and a leftie.
Three that won't be retained are Mike Mathews, Jaret Wright, and Charles Nagy. Mathews hasn't done well in a LOOGY role, and there are better options available. Wright was a good idea in theory, but his 8.37ERA in 47.1 innings is pretty uninspiring. And if the 38-year old Nagy doesn't retire, then he has an outside chance at a long relief role. He should battle with some of the rotation losers, like Jarvis and Clay Condrey.
Last season the Padres used more pitchers then any team in history, and have some succeeding in the minors. J.J. Trujillo, who had a brief tour in San Diego, has done decent in 26AA games. He is similar to both Linebrink and Villafuerte though, so he'll likely go to AAA. But Rusty Tucker, who was closing games in Lake Elsinore (high-A) last season, shouldn't. Tucker has closed 28 games for the Mobile Bay Bears, and struck out 63 men in 53 innings. Best of all, he's a leftie. He could move into the bullpen and be the second left-hander, and set-up at the same time. This would give the Padres this:
OK, so that leaves holes behind the plate and one in the rotation. The team could pursue these on the free agent market, although I see no need. Phil Nevin should be traded, as he is expensive, and commands value. The offense will surely score runs without him, and Xavier Nady should do much better next season. Here's my idea:
Phil Nevin and Ramon Vazquez to Dodgers for Koyie Hill and Odalis Perez
This trade would undoubtedly help both teams. For the Dodgers, Nevin would be an extra bat in an offense that needs help. He would likely play first base, and permit Paul Lo Duca from moving there. Lo Duca's presence at catcher would allow Hill, to exit. Odalis has struggled this season, and the Dodgers are loaded in pitching. Vazquez hasn't done much since being a AAA all-star, but is an improvement over Cesar Izturis or Alex Cora.
San Diego would love this deal. Hill is ready to catch in the Major Leagues, and could post a decent average back there. Perez has immense potential, and would be the ace the team needs. It will fill all the regular holes, and leave money to be spent for deadline trades.
What was once the best division in baseball, the NL West should take a hit in coming seasons. Arizona and San Francisco have money problems, and won't lure anymore free agents. Los Angeles is having ownership issues, and will likely fire Jim Tracy and Dan Evans. And Colorado, well no one will ever win in Denver. That leaves space for the Padres, once the laughingstock of baseball, to make another run to the playoffs.
Editor's Note: Since writing this article I learned the player to be named later in this deal is likely Cory Stewart. This doesn't change my stance dramatically, although it may put the Padres in the market for a fifth starter.
Notes Day: Missing a Week
A week away from my computer taught me one thing: a lot happens in August. Today I have a list of notes, everything from transaction analysis to minor league news...
Mike Dejean to Cards for 2 Players to be Named
The Cardinals got the reliever they needed, and will probably keep him next season. The team will lose bad arms like Jeff Fassero and Cal Eldred, but keeping an extra closer around is a good idea.
Sterling Hitchcock to Cards for Justin Pope and Ben Julianel
Hitchcock's next few months will dictate the rest of his career. Either he could have a great stretch run, and get signed like Woody Williams did after he landed in St. Louis. Or he could go down the Jamey Wright route: pitch bad for the Cards and spend a year in AAA. It's all up to him.
Cubs get Womack and Simon
Pirates get Bobby Hill
Eric Young to the Giants
Nice acquisition by the Brewers in Greg Burso. He is a solid prospect, and is flying through the minors fast. Milwaukee will probably be out of the cellar next season, and be making a serious run at things by 2005.
Free Agent News
- Outfield is the most loaded position going into the offseason, with Gary Sheffield and Vladimir Guerrero topping the list. Rumor has it that the Yankees are more interested in Sheffield, and that Guerrero doesn't want to play in New York. The Orioles have made Vlad their number one priority, and his other serious suitors should be Atlanta and Los Angeles. I think the Dodgers will get Guerrero, and the Orioles will turn their attention to Mike Cameron.
- Despite the fact that the Blue Jyas are going to wait to sign an extension with Kelvim Escobar, expect it to happen. He is the best pitcher the Blue Jays have behind Halladay, and they can't allow him to escape to the weak market.
Minor League notes
- 17-year old pitcher Felix Hernandez pitched in low-A yesterday. He did pretty well in his midwest league debut, after dominating the Northwest League. The Mariners could be looking at Hernandez in a couple of years, and the kid is flying through prospect charts. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure he's the youngest player in Professional baseball.
Be back tomarrow, enjoy reading...
Wow, I had quite the week. Seven stadiums in eight days, and I still manage to miss a ton of baseball news. I'll hit everything I missed in the coming days, but first, here's a brief synopsis of my trip:
August 16: Camden Yards
Well, the matchup couldn't get any more uninspiring: Sterling Hitchcock vs. Pat Hentgen. But, in the end it was the best, and most exciting game of the trip. I loved Camden Yards, everything from its old-time feel, to it's Yawkey Way impersonation past the outfield wall. The food was great outside the stadium, although it was disappointing more Yankees fans were there than O's fans.
So, back to the game. In the first inning, following a Luis Matos double, Tony Batista hit a sacrifice fly to give the Orioles the early lead. But I noticed in the third inning that Jay Gibbons, not Batista, hit after Matos. This was a violation of the rules, but wasn't really disputed by Joe Torre. This was the first time I saw a Major League team screw up its lineup, although Little League Baseball is famous for it.
OK, flash to the ninth, when Mariano Rivera has the game one out from ending. Then, for the third time in five chances, he blows it. Luis Matos, by far the most impressive player from the game, hit a towering game-tying blast. The tie lasted until the 12th, when Jason Giambi sent a Henry Carrasco pitch far.
Then came the worst baserunning play ever. Jack Cust walked (as usual), bringing Larry Bigbie to the plate. Bigbie hit a Jeff Nelson pitch into the right field gap, a standup double. Cust was originally waved to home, but decided to stop instead. He lost hit footing, falling down 10 feet from the bad. Alfonso Soriano took the relay throw straight to third, landing Cust in a run-down. The only problem was, after avoiding the catcher, Cust had a straight path to home. Nelson forgot to cover the plate, but only ten feet from home Cust fell, again, leading to an Aaron Boone tag.
Wow. I guess the people who called Jack Cust one-dimensional were right.
August 17- Shea Stadium
Then, after a four-hour drive to New York, we arrived for the only day game of the trip, in the Big Apple. The Mets stadium left me unimpressed, especially the fans who hardly cheered their team. Shea reminded me of U.S. Cellular Field, due to its ugly blue tint. If I don't land in Shea again before I die, no big deal.
The game wasn't that great either, with Jason Jennings getting hit hard. Al Leiter struck out ten in six innings, although he was alarmingly unefficient with his pitches. The two exciting parts were seeing phenom Jose Reyes, and being at Cliff Floyd's last game. Both of those two shined, Reyes going 2-5 with two runs, and Floyd going four-for-four. Cliff Floyd's swing is probably the easiest in baseball, and he is a sensational hitter. Reyes is a superstar in the making, needing a better batting eye to become the best leadoff hitter in the game.
August 18- Yankee Stadium
Lima vs. Weaver! Headcase vs. Headcase! Not exactly expected to be a pitcher's duel, and it lived up to its billing. Both were horrible, and as it turned out, I saw Weaver's last start for a long time. While I was watching this game, Jose Contreras was striking out 15 men in a rehab start.
The game itself wasn't very exciting, with the Yankees outclubbing the Royals 11-6. Hideki Matsui showed dominance over Angel Berroa, hitting his 36th double of the year. Unfortunatly, Matsui is well on his way to winning the Rookie of the Year. Carlos Beltran had a spectacular game, and is possibly passing Vladimir Guerrero on some charts. I'll do a report on this later, but I can't say Vlad is better than Beltran.
August 19- Fenway Park
Sadly, I later found out this was Mark Mulder's final start of the season. His hip led to an early exit, and has ended his season. The A's will struggle without him, needing John Halama to replace him every fifth day. I'm currently reading Moneyball, and it gives way too little credit to the pitching. Without the big 3, Billy Beane would never have been anything to write a book about.
A blister forced Derek Lowe out of the game after six fabulous innings, due to a blister problem. Then, Scott Sauerbeck and Scott Williamson promptly blew the game, giving up three runs in the seventh inning. Moneyball relievers Ricardo Rincon and Chad Bradford set it up, while Keith Foulke delivered the knockout punch. The only bad part? I was in the bathroom for the biggest play of the game, a Ramon Hernandez three-run jack.
August 20- McCoy Stadium
Cory Lidle vs. Bruce Chen! Seriously, I went to a AAA game, and saw two Major League dropouts. How unfortunate. Well both looked decent, Lidle going four innings in his rehab start. He was shaky in two of them, but managed to allow zero runs for the game, handing the ball to Corey Thurman.
Chen was great untill the seventh, when the Blue Jays lit him up. But the PawSox came back, scoring six runs in the final inning for an unprobable finish. Earl Snyder hit a walk off three-run homer that sealed the game.
The only real prospect I saw was the Greek God of Walks, Mr. Kevin Youkilis. Kevin has been struggling since he got to AAA, and had no great day in front of me. In the second inning he took a Lidle pitch to deep center, only to have catcher-converted-center fielder Jayson Werth rob his home run.
August 22- Frontier Field
Baseball America called Rochester the 2002 Baseball City, U.S.A, and it lived up to its billing. More than nine thousand people saw the game, topping most Expos games in Olympic Stadium. The stadium or city isn't awe-inspiring, but its the product of good marketing and passionate fans.
I did get to see Brandon Duckworth's second start since being demoted from Philadelphia. He looked good until his final inning, the sixth, when Rochester lit him up. Minnesota top prospect Justin Morneau played, although nothing special came out of it. Neither team had any other great prospects, as I had just missed Chase Utley (since he is now Philly's 2B).
August 23- Dunn Tire Park
I MET MARK SHAPIRO!
Right outside the stadium a man was nice enough to give us free tickets, which happened to be directly behind home plate, eight rows up. So I'm people watching before the game, when I notice Indians' GM Mark Shapiro is a row behind me. After waiting a few innings I talked to him for awhile, about his breaking in with a baseball team and becoming a GM. He was soft-spoken but a very approachable man, and it was an honor to meet him. I'm easily star-struck, so this was definitly the highlight of the trip.
Also, I saw Brandon Phillips hit a home run. Phillips, supposed to be Jose Reyes' counterpart, is well below the Mendoza line in 150 AAA at-bats. But his towering shot to left field was impressive, as was his defense at second. Although I didn't ask Shapiro, I found myself wondering if Phillips decline has been partially due to moving from shortstop.
Buffalo's stadium didn't draw many fans, but it is the most Major League looking minor league ballpark I have ever seen. No ads along the walls or across the outfield, but they did have luxury boxes located well above home plate. I liked Rochester more, but its a shame more people don't go to Dunn Tire Park.
So that's it. I saw some rehab and some injuries, some heroics and shame, but in the end I loved every minute of it. I'll be back tomarrow hopefully documenting everything I've missed.
News Item: Bobby Bonds died on Saturday at age 57.
The following article is meant to be a tribute to Bobby Lee Bonds in a Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT sort of way.
My attachment with Bonds goes back 35 years. In fact, I watched him hit a grand slam in his first game in the major leagues in 1968--the only player in the modern era to accomplish that feat. The Giants were playing the Dodgers and the game was on TV in the Los Angeles market, as was the custom in those days for all the games the Dodgers played at Candlestick Park.
I also saw Bonds perform in person many times after the Yankees traded him to the California Angels in 1976. Bonds was the Angels best offensive player in 1977 when he hit 37 homers and stole 41 bases along with 103 runs scored and a career-high 115 runs batted in. Expectations were high for the Angels that year as Gene Autry reached into his saddlebags and signed Bobby Grich and Joe Rudi in the dawn of free agency. However, Grich and Rudi got hurt and only played in 116 combined games. The starting rotation was comprised of Frank Tanana, Nolan Ryan, and two days of cryin'. As a result, the Angels ended the season with a disappointing won-loss record of 74-88, fifth in the division. Bonds was traded in the off-season to the Chicago White Sox and was later dealt to the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals, and Chicago Cubs.
I played APBA, the baseball board game with dice and player cards, back in those days and had Bobby Bonds on my team. One look at Bonds' APBA card and seeing the 1s, 5s, 11s, and 14s (especially the 14*s) taught me as much about sabermetrics and the benefits of power, speed, and walks as reading the first edition of The Bill James Baseball Abstract in 1977. While my friends extolled the virtues of high-average hitters such as Matty Alou, Ralph Garr, Ken Griffey Sr., Bill Madlock, and Bake McBride, I began to get a feel for what really created runs well before the runs created stat was developed by James.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG SLG OBA OPS BONDS 7043 1258 1886 302 66 332 1024 914 1757 461 169 .268 .471 .353 .824 LG AVERAGE 6977 876 1826 291 51 159 816 688 1007 129 72 .262 .386 .329 .715 POS AVERAGE 7063 971 1895 313 58 205 901 766 1159 150 83 .268 .416 .341 .757
As detailed above, the strength of Bobby Bonds was his extraordinary power and speed. He hit home runs at more than twice the league rate and stole bases at over three times the league rate. Bonds also walked about 33% more than the league average. Even though Bonds' batting average was about equal to the league average, his unique combination of power, speed, and walks resulted in generating far more runs (382) and RBI (208) than his peers for the same number of outs.
RC RCAA RCAP OWP RC/G ISO SEC BPA BONDS 1216 315 203 .629 5.96 .203 .374 .553 LG AVERAGE 897 0 0 .500 4.40 .125 .231 .428 POS AVERAGE 1010 112 0 .547 4.95 .148 .266 .461
Bonds created 315 more runs than the league average and 203 more than those who played the same position. His Offensive Winning Percentage (.629) and Bases Per Plate Appearance (.553) were significantly above the league and positional norms. What set apart Bonds from the crowd the most was his Isolated Power (.203) and his Secondary Average (.374), highlighting his power, speed, and ability to get on base via walks.
Bobby Bonds is perhaps best known for his 30-30 seasons. He and his son, Barry Bonds, hold the record with five each. Bobby entered the 30-30 club in his first full season in 1969. He repeated the achievement in 1973, joining Willie Mays as the only players to in baseball history to go 30-30 twice. Bonds then passed Mays in 1975 when he became the first Yankee ever to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season--a feat unmatched until Alfonso Soriano turned the trick last year.
NUMBER OF 30 HR - 30 SB SEASONS
T1 Bobby Bonds 5 T1 Barry Bonds 5 3 Howard Johnson 3 T4 Raul Mondesi 2 T4 Ron Gant 2 T4 Willie Mays 2 T4 Vladimir Guerrero 2 T4 Sammy Sosa 2 T4 Jeff Bagwell 2 T10 Dante Bichette 1 T10 Jose Canseco 1 T10 Bobby Abreu 1 T10 Joe Carter 1 T10 Jose Cruz Jr. 1 T10 Eric Davis 1 T10 Ellis Burks 1 T10 Hank Aaron 1 T10 Tommy Harper 1 T10 Preston Wilson 1 T10 Barry Larkin 1 T10 Dale Murphy 1 T10 Alex Rodriguez 1 T10 Alfonso Soriano 1 T10 Darryl Strawberry 1 T10 Larry Walker 1 T10 Ken Williams 1 T10 Shawn Green 1
There have been only 27 players who have put together a 30-30 season in more than 100 years of baseball. These players have performed this combo 43 times. The father-son team of Bobby and Barry Bonds account for 23% of these seasons.
Bonds is also in exclusive company when it comes to career HR and SB as he is one of only four players with 300 of each. Interestingly, when Barry Bonds joined the group in 1996, Bobby was coaching first base and Andre Dawson was playing left field for the Florida Marlins. The game was played at Candlestick so it's possible that Mays may have been among the 15,711 fans to witness this historic event.
PLAYERS WITH > 300 CAREER HR AND SB
HR SB 1 Willie Mays 660 338 2 Barry Bonds 652 500 3 Andre Dawson 438 314 4 Bobby Bonds 332 461
Bobby's son, Barry, became the only player to hit 500 homers and steal 500 bases earlier this summer. Bobby had more SB than Mays and Dawson but hit fewer HR. Bobby Bonds overlapped the end of Mays' career and the beginning of Dawson's career. In my mind, Bonds was a cross between Reggie Jackson and Cesar Cedeno. He ran a little bit better than Reggie but didn't have quite the same power, yet he had more power than Cedeno but not as much speed. As a lead-off hitter, Bonds was the pre-cursor to Rickey Henderson--a player who struck fear in opponents from the first pitch to the last pitch. Eric Davis and Darryl Strawberry had similar tools as Bonds, yet it could be argued that none of these three players lived up to the high expectations that were placed upon them when they became big leaguers.
Bobby Bonds ranks fourth in the power/speed number developed by James, trailing only his son, Rickey, and Willie. The following list is one of the most talented group of players I have ever seen based on one statistical ranking. Eight of the top ten are either in the Hall of Fame or will be as soon as they become eligible. The best outfielders from the 1950s-on are all among the top 20 other than Mickey Mantle, who ranks 44th in power/speed. As a side note, I thought it was interesting to find three second basemen (Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg, and Roberto Alomar) on this list and no shortstops.
POWER/SPEED CAREER LEADERS
1 Barry Bonds 546.49 2 Rickey Henderson 487.50 3 Willie Mays 447.05 4 Bobby Bonds 386.01 5 Joe Morgan 385.90 6 Andre Dawson 365.78 7 Hank Aaron 364.22 8 Reggie Jackson 324.56 9 Paul Molitor 319.61 10 Sammy Sosa 317.67 11 Eric Davis 311.94 12 Ryne Sandberg 309.93 13 Don Baylor 309.25 14 Frank Robinson 302.64 15 Dave Winfield 301.44 16 Cesar Cedeno 292.26 17 Joe Carter 291.79 18 Tim Raines 280.90 19 Roberto Alomar 280.13 20 Jose Canseco 279.15
Although the players mentioned above seem to be better fits, Baseball-Reference.com has determined that the following ten players are the most similar to Bonds in terms of career statistics. Bobby Murcer is an interesting link, given the fact that he was on the other end of the high-profile, controversial deal between the Yankees and Giants--a trade, by the way, that failed to deliver the desired results to either team. It may be fitting that his comparables, like Bonds himself, are all on the outside of Cooperstown looking in. If baseball had a Hall of Fame for good players, then Bonds and most of these players would have made it on the first ballot.
Ron Gant (907)
Unfortunately, based on the Hall of Fame standards set by Bill James, Bobby Bonds comes up a tad short. He was a very good player in his day, but his peak and career numbers don't quite measure up to the players in the HOF.
Black Ink: Batting - 6 (Average HOFer ~ 27)
Source: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia
Although Bobby will never be enshrined in Cooperstown, he will most definitely be enshrined in my mind as one of the truly special players I had the privilege of watching.
"...and Bobby Bonds can play for everyone."
--Terry Cashman, "Willie, Mickey & The Duke (Talkin' Baseball)"
Thank you for the memories, Bobby. You will be missed by us all.
Following Up On Passing The Time...
The Other Alex The Great, Alex Belth of Bronx Banter, informed me that "Bang the Drum Slowly" was not Robert DeNiro's first starring role. Alex, who is an expert when it comes to films as his background includes having worked on the Ken Burns "Baseball" documentary, pointed out DeNiro was the lead in two of Brian DePalma's early movies--"Greetings" and "Hi Mom". Alex indicated these movies were "low-budget cheapies so, for all intents and purposes, you weren't wrong". Nonetheless, my email exchange with Alex made me reassess my Top Ten Baseball Movies because I had left out documentaries altogether.
Baseball (A Film By Ken Burns)
Despite some flaws, Baseball is the most important and enjoyable film I have ever seen in regards to the national pastime. I believe all baseball enthusiasts and students of the game's history should have this masterpiece in their movie library. The PBS Gold collection features over 25 hours on 10 DVDs. There are "nine innings" plus an "extra inning". The first inning begins with baseball origins through 1900 and each subsequent inning is produced on a decade-by-decade basis through 1970 with the eighth inning covering the period from 1970-1994. The extra inning is The Making of Baseball. The film is awesome in the use of archival photographs and clips along with outstanding narration by John Chancellor.
When It Was A Game
My second favorite baseball documentary of all time is "When It Was A Game". I wholeheatedly endorse purchasing the Triple Play Collection, a three-part series spanning 1925 through the 1960s. "When It Was a Game" is composed entirely of never-before-seen 8 and 16 mm footage taken by fans and the players themselves. The documentary does as good a job of transporting the viewer to a time gone by as any I've ever seen. The music, narration, and interviews with several players and celebrities add to the nostalgia and bring back to life baseball when it was a game.
The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg
A third documentary that is worthy of a Top Ten mention is "The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg". I don't own the DVD but saw the film in a movie theatre in the first week of its limited release in 2000. The documentary does an outstanding job of telling the true story of baseball's first Jewish star in the face of prejudice and isolation during the Great Depression and the War Years. The black and white newsreels from the 1930s and 1940s help us understand the obstacles Greenberg had to overcome in a story that previously had never been told to the mainstream public.
Lastly, speaking of Alex The Great Belth, be sure to check out his two most recent interviews with Jane Leavy (the author of "Sandy Koufax--A Lefty's Legacy") and Jim Bouton (former pitcher and author of "Ball Four" and "Foul Ball"). Alex has developed a well-earned niche in this area and his interviews are all must reads.
Check back this weekend for more on the other Alex The Great, aka A-Rod.
Fool Me Once, Shame On You...
"It's deja vu all over again!"
Sean McAdam wrote an article for ESPN.com on Wednesday, August 20, entitled Ichiro leads long list of AL MVP candidates. Although Ichiro Suzuki is not at the top of most sabermetricians' lists of MVP candidates, he apparently is the choice of many baseball writers and analysts (including ESPN's Peter Gammons, Joe Morgan, Tom Candiotti, and Tony Gwynn).
I don't have a problem with Ichiro's inclusion per se. However, I cannot for the life of me understand how Alex Rodriguez could be overlooked again. In fact, A-Rod wasn't even mentioned as one the top seven candidates by McAdam. Not only is he worthy of serious consideration this year, a strong case could be made on behalf of Alex The Great winning the MVP in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2002. Amazingly, A-Rod has never won the award despite the fact that the talented and productive shortstop has clearly been the A.L.'s best player over the past seven-plus years.
RCAP 1 Alex Rodriguez 425 2 Manny Ramirez 363 3 Edgar Martinez 331 4 Bernie Williams 319 5 Jim Thome 302 T6 Derek Jeter 283 T6 Jason Giambi 283 8 Nomar Garciaparra 266 9 Roberto Alomar 242 10 Ken Griffey Jr. 225
Ichiro vs. A-Rod
Forget for a moment about whose team is in first place. Instead, ask yourself, "Which player do I want on my team?" Do you really think Seattle wouldn't still be in first place and Texas in last place if they switched teams? Or is the difference in won-loss records more a function of pitching (5.70 ERA for Texas, 3.77 ERA for Seattle) than anything else?
THE TALE OF THE TAPE
BA OBP SLG OPS Ichiro .338 .379 .464 .842 A-Rod .305 .400 .602 1.002
Oh, and another thing, the guy with the higher OPS also plays the more demanding position (SS vs. RF). Granted, Ichiro is a Gold Glove outfielder (and arguably one of the best defensive right fielders of all time), but A-Rod is a Gold Glove shortstop (and an excellent defensive player in his own right).
OK, what about the fact that Ichiro plays in an extreme pitchers' ballpark and A-Rod plays in an extreme hitters' park? Good question. Let's examine that a bit closer.
ICHIRO'S HOME-ROAD SPLITS
BA OBP SLG OPS Home .341 .392 .473 .865 Road .336 .366 .457 .823
Is Ichiro really hurt by playing his home games at Safeco Field? Although the Mariners in general hit better on the road (.289/.358/.451) than at home (.266/.341/.402), Ichiro's stats are actually better at home across the board.
Perhaps a more fair comparison would be to compare Ichiro's numbers on the road vs. A-Rod's.
ROAD STATS ONLY
BA OBP SLG OPS Ichiro .336 .366 .457 .823 A-Rod .287 .391 .574 .965
A-Rod's OPS advantage over Ichiro barely declines from .160 overall to .142 on the road, suggesting the difference in home ballparks is not that great of a factor.
I guess I really shouldn't be too surprised if Ichiro were to win the MVP Award over A-Rod. He won it in 2001 despite having similarly inferior stats so why not repeat the mistake in 2003?
ICHIRO VS. A-ROD, 2001
BA OBP SLG OPS Ichiro .350 .381 .457 .838 A-Rod .318 .399 .622 1.021
I think I could better handle the voters' bias toward Suzuki over Rodriguez if the former were the middle infielder and the latter the outfielder. But, with Ichiro being an OF and A-Rod a SS, I find it a bitter pill to swallow. Don't get me wrong. I believe Suzuki is a fantastic player--a high average hitter who can run extremely well and field his position with the best of 'em. There is no doubt in my mind that Ichiro is underappreciated when viewed through the looking glass of sabermetrics. The irony though is that A-Rod seems to be even more underappreciated by the MVP voters.
The fact that Ichiro's salary ($4,697,000) is substantially lower than A-Rod's ($22,000,000) may make him a more affordable player but not necessarily a more valuable player. And isn't it the latter that we're voting on here?
Does the MVP have to be on a winning team? How do we define "winning"? Does a team have to win the World Series? Or the pennant? Does finishing first in one's division qualify? How 'bout just making the playoffs? Or is it enough to be on a team with a winning record? Rather than being so vague, let's add some definition here, folks. If baseball wants to change the "Most Valuable Player" award to the "Best Player on the Best Team", then I say fine, go ahead and call it that. But let's not kid ourselves anymore and allow that player to call himself the MVP. "BPBT", yes; "MVP", no.
Phor Phillie Phans
This is part-two of my series of answers to e-mails. Today I'll be saying what the Phillies should do this offseason. My baseball trip has me in Boston today, seeing the deadly Boston vs. Oakland series.
The Phillies have made a decision over the last few years that they want this team around a long time. Mike Lieberthal, Jim Thome, David Bell, Pat Burrell, and Bobby Abreu are all signed in the long-term. Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd are still young enough to be on the roster for awhile before they reach free agency, so that leaves one position...second base. Placido Polanco is under contract next season, but the team has a great prospect at AAA in Chase Utley. Utley, formerly a standout at UCLA, is back at second base this season and tormenting the International League. He will play second base next season, leaving Polanco in the utility role.
Larra Bowa has verbally challenged Jimmy Rollins this season, basically to use his talent to the best of his abilities. The Phillies have altered Rollins so much since his entrance to the Majors, he's a different player. Unfortunately, he's the type of player who wears his heart on his sleeve, and will let offensive slumps effect his defense. The team will try him again next season, but he's on a shorter leash then ever. They can't take a .320 or less OBP from their leadoff hitter.
The rotation will remain mainly in tact. Vicente Padilla, Randy Wolf, and Brett Myers are guaranteed to be back. The team will lose $10M player Kevin Millwood, putting them in the market for an ace. Expect Ryan Madson or Taylor Buchholz to take the fifth starter job from Brandon Duckworth. But at the ace spot, the team will have two options: Millwood or Curt Schilling. Since early this season when rumors started that Arizona needed to dump salary, Philly has been a potential destination. The team has the minor league depth to make this type of trade, and bringing back Schilling would give a nice start to the new field.
But what Ed Wade has in front of him is piecing together a new bullpen. This season has seen great things from a bullpen that has expectations low, and we will see how many players he re-signs. Here is the status of each:
Jose Mesa- Team option- expect Philly to finally let Mesa go
Ed Wade took a career gamble the last few years. He wanted Phillie Phield to open like Jacobs Field did, to a team with great potential. That will be true in 2004, whether Schilling or Millwood pitches Opening Day.
I recently got a couple of e-mails requesting my breakdown of the future on the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. I'm still on my baseball trip, but here's my response for the Mets. The Phillies will come tomorrow....
The Mets are in a flux: the team should be rebuilding but has too many overpriced veterans to do so. For every Jose Reyes and Aaron Heilman, there's a Cliff Floyd and Tom Glavine. The Steve Phillips era ended horribly, and the team is going to need time to recuperate.
The first thing on everybody's list is always to move Piazza to first. I think this should be a gradual movement, and that it shouldn't happen full-time next season. The team has carried two other catchers this season, Vance Wilson and Jason Phillips. Wilson has gotten the brut of the time behind the plate, as he's sound defensively and has a little bit of pop. Phillips is a good-hitting player, but more like Craig Wilson and Rob Fick, he simply outgrew the position. He's hitting .324/.394/.470 this season, mostly spotting Mo Vaughn at first base. The team's top first base prospect, Craig Brazell, is doing well in AA. The leftie is hitting .292/.331/.470. He doesn't walk as much as you'd like, but he looks to be a great platoon candidate with Phillips. Art Howe's ability to juggle Piazza, Wilson, Phillips, and Brazell next season will be important.
I also believe one key is moving Ty Wigginton back to second base. While his .269/.322/.410 numbers aren't great at third base, its solid for a second basemen. He may also be able to steal 20 bases per season, which would greatly help this team. His middle infield partner, Jose Reyes, will be there for a long time. Reyes is a rich man's Luis Castillo, he has 50SB speed, will lead the league in triples, and play some great defense at short. He may not be the best player to sit atop the lineup, with an OBP of .318, but he's deadly in the two-hole.
That opens a hole for third base next season that Duquette may fill. Looking into the market, he should target young players on the rise who would be cheap. Well, that sounds like Adrian Beltre to me. While Beltre's numbers have been going down for three seasons, he still has amazing potential and is super young. Since his cost will be low, the Mets will be one of many teams in the market. But how many other clubs could offer Beltre something in the line of a two-year, $3M deal?
The outfield has big question marks. Roger Cedeno must be released. His only true position is left field, which is also true for slugger Cliff Floyd. And what are Cedeno's strengths anyway? He can't sit atop a lineup anymore, and plays awful defense. He sounds more like a pinch runner than an everyday player. Floyd is locked in at left, but that's it for the outfield. While Raul Gonzalez walks a lot, and Timo Perez can post a decent average, neither has what it takes to play everyday. Jamie Duncan was tried in the outfield, but in the end that proved a failure.
So, Phillips must find two outfielders? One must be able to lead off, and be relatively young so the team can stay in tact. I think the right fielder should have a good arm, and a solid bat. Not Vladimir Guerrero, but someone that still has a decent name. The right fielder that jumped off the page for me was Jose Guillen. He still won't be expensive, as the one-year fluke rumors will still be flying. But New York should have no problem outbidding Oakland, and the risk/reward is one to take. There are no genuine leadoff centerfielders available, so Duquette must target that through a trade. Landing Randy Winn from Seattle would be a good idea, and it shouldn't cost them too much.
On to the rotation. It seems like the rotation is actually set for next season. The team will lead with Tom Glavine, whether his struggles reflect a decline in his career or a fluke. They like Steve Trachsel a lot, and will pay him $5M to stay around next season. Al Leiter has pitched good since coming back from injury, dropping his ERA from 5.57 to 4.68. He will be much better next season, when he is healthy. Aaron Heilman has proved to not be ready for the Majors, but will get a chance at landing a spot. Jae Seo was making a Rookie of the Year bid in June, before going on a bad streak. He's the type of flyball pitcher that should succeed in Shea Stadium and Dodger Stadium, but struggle in smaller stadiums. The team should be in the market for a 5th starter/long reliever.
Giving a Sterling Hitchcock, Wilson Alvarez, or Andy Ashby one last shot to succeed wouldn't be the worst idea for this franchise. While Heilman prepares better at AAA, these veterans get a chance to boost their trade value and to become effective pitchers again. It helps when you're learning from Leiter and Glavine too.
The bullpen is ugly. The team will be in the market for a closer, and they hope that the San Francisco Giants don't pick up Felix Rodriguez's option. If not, he fits the prototype of a young, high risk/reward player the team should be after. Having Mike Stanton, Grant Roberts, and Dave Weathers in a bullpen is a good start, so they'll have to build from there.
This team isn't going to be good anytime soon, but by getting young risk/reward players, there's a chance that the ball will bounce their way.
Where Does Alex The Great Rate as of This Date?
As I wrote last week in Drilling Deeper Into The Greatest HR Hitters Ever, there is one player who has the potential of becoming the all-time home run leader on a cumulative basis before he retires--yet has not appeared on any of the lists thus far because his career plate appearances prior to the 2003 season were below the 5,000 minimum I required for inclusion. There is no need for a little drumroll here. Not surprisingly, Alex Rodriguez is his name. Hitting home runs (among other things) is his game.
Rodriguez turned 28 years old on July 27. Using the universally accepted cut-off date of July 1st to determine age for a given season, A-Rod will be classified as a 27-year-old in 2003. Alex the Great hit his 33rd home run tonight vs. the Chicago White Sox and has now hit 331 HR in his career, far surpassing all of the other players in baseball history in homers through age 27.
1 Alex Rodriguez 331 2 Jimmie Foxx 302 3 Eddie Mathews 299 4 Ken Griffey Jr. 294 5 Mickey Mantle 280 6 Mel Ott 275 7 Frank Robinson 262 8 Juan Gonzalez 256 9 Hank Aaron 253 10 Johnny Bench 240
Earlier this season, A-Rod became the youngest player to hit 300 home runs and is likely to be the youngest to reach each of the next several century marks, provided he remains healthy. According to 756watch.com (which uses the "Favorite Toy" method created by Bill James), A-Rod is projected to hit 683 HR in his career and has a 35% chance of passing Hank Aaron. By comparison, Barry Bonds is estimated to hit 740 HR and has a 47% chance of passing Aaron's record. Despite comments by Bonds that could be interpreted to the contrary, it is highly unlikely that he will end his career 15 short of the all-time record unless, of course, he is unable to play due to injury or poor health.
NUMBER OF SEASONS WITH HOME RUNS > 40
1 Babe Ruth 11 T2 Hank Aaron 8 T2 Harmon Killebrew 8 4 Ken Griffey Jr. 7 T5 Willie Mays 6 T5 Mark McGwire 6 T5 Barry Bonds 6 T5 Sammy Sosa 6 T9 Alex Rodriguez 5 T9 Ralph Kiner 5 T9 Juan Gonzalez 5 T9 Lou Gehrig 5 T9 Jimmie Foxx 5 T9 Duke Snider 5 T9 Ernie Banks 5
A-Rod is within striking distance of hitting 40 HR in a season for a sixth time this year. Similarly, Bonds is only three away from doing it a seventh time and Sammy Sosa has an outside chance of hitting 40 for a seventh time as well. Alex the Great and Ernie Banks are the only non-OF/1B to slug 40 HR in at least five separate seasons--and both happened to do it as shortstops, arguably the most difficult defensive position on the field.
NUMBER OF CONSECUTIVE SEASONS WITH HR > 40
1 Babe Ruth 1926-32 7 T2 Alex Rodriguez 1998-02 5 T2 Ralph Kiner 1947-51 5 T2 Duke Snider 1953-57 5 T2 Ken Griffey Jr. 1996-00 5 T2 Sammy Sosa 1998-02 5 T7 Ernie Banks 1957-60 4 T7 Harmon Killebrew 1961-64 4 T7 Mark McGwire 1996-99 4 T10 Jimmie Foxx 1932-34 3 T10 Ted Kluszewski 1953-55 3 T10 Eddie Mathews 1953-55 3 T10 Frank Howard 1968-70 3 T10 Jay Buhner 1995-97 3 T10 Juan Gonzalez 1996-98 3 T10 Vinny Castilla 1996-98 3 T10 Andres Galarraga 1996-98 3 T10 Barry Bonds 2000-02 3
If, and when, A-Rod hits his 40th roundtripper this year, he will be in second place all by himself and only one behind Babe Ruth's record of seven for the most consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs. Repeat after me. If, and when, A-Rod hits his 40th roundtripper this year, he will be in second place all by himself and only one behind Babe Ruth's record of seven for the most consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs..
Not a One-Trick Pony
Setting aside home runs for a moment, A-Rod is simply one of the best players of all time through age 27. Using two comprehensive stats invented by Lee Sinins of the ATM Reports and the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia--Runs Created Above Average and Runs Created Above Position--Alex The Great ranks among the most elite players in baseball history. (RCAA is the difference between a player's runs created and the total for an average player who used the same amount of his team's outs. A negative RCAA indicates a below average player in this category. RCAP is just like RCAA, except the comparision is to players at his position.)
MOST RUNS CREATED ABOVE AVERAGE IN THE A.L. THROUGH AGE 27
AMERICAN LEAGUE RCAA 1 Ty Cobb 657 2 Mickey Mantle 645 3 Jimmie Foxx 643 4 Babe Ruth 547 5 Ted Williams 526 6 Lou Gehrig 506 7 Joe DiMaggio 463 8 Joe Jackson 443 9 Frank Thomas 420 10 Tris Speaker 417 11 Ken Griffey Jr. 385 12 Alex Rodriguez 384 13 Eddie Collins 365 14 Hank Greenberg 325 15 Rickey Henderson 317 16 Charlie Keller 281 T17 Hal Trosky 274 T17 Goose Goslin 274 T19 Al Simmons 256 T19 George Brett 256
Whaddya know? Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas are the only active players ahead of A-Rod. Readers of Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT shouldn't be surprised to see Griffey's and Thomas' names among these greats. Of note, every player listed above A-Rod who is eligible for the Hall of Fame has already been enshrined. A-Rod is the highest-ranked non-OF/1B. Eddie Collins and George Brett are the only other 2B-SS-3B.
Charlie Keller and Hal Trosky are the only eligible players on the list not in the HOF. Keller, a lefthanded-hitting slugger who played RF for the Yankees in the 1940s, was headed to Cooperstown after his first five years with OPS+ scores of 144, 141, 162, 163, and 168. However, Keller lost nearly two years to World War II at his peak, returned and played 150 games in 1946 (with an OPS+ of 159), and then never played 100 games in a season the rest of his career due to back troubles. He retired with an OPS+ of 152, tied for 29th all time. Trosky, a lefthanded-hitting 1B with the Indians, enjoyed one of the greatest rookie seasons ever in 1934 (.330/.388/.598 with 35 HR and 142 RBI). He knocked in more than 100 runs in each of his first six campaigns, including a league-leading 162 in 1936. Trosky retired at the age of 28, then returned for three seasons and hit only 23 HR the rest of his career.
MOST RUNS CREATED ABOVE AVERAGE IN THE MAJORS THROUGH AGE 27
MAJOR LEAGUES RCAA 1 Ty Cobb 657 2 Mickey Mantle 645 3 Jimmie Foxx 643 4 Babe Ruth 547 5 Mel Ott 545 6 Ted Williams 526 T7 Rogers Hornsby 506 T7 Lou Gehrig 506 9 Stan Musial 464 10 Joe DiMaggio 463 11 Joe Jackson 443 12 Frank Thomas 420 13 Eddie Mathews 419 14 Tris Speaker 417 15 Hank Aaron 392 16 Ken Griffey Jr. 385 17 Alex Rodriguez 384 18 Arky Vaughan 374 19 Eddie Collins 365 20 Johnny Mize 363
All of the players on the above list eligible for Cooperstown have been inducted. That should speak well for the three active players (Thomas, Griffey Jr, and A-Rod) who are not yet eligible.
MOST RUNS CREATED ABOVE POSITION IN THE A.L. THROUGH AGE 27
AMERICAN LEAGUE RCAP 1 Mickey Mantle 602 2 Ty Cobb 575 3 Babe Ruth 515 4 Jimmie Foxx 479 5 Ted Williams 475 6 Alex Rodriguez 465 7 Lou Gehrig 428 8 Joe DiMaggio 409 9 Ken Griffey Jr. 375 10 Joe Jackson 372
A-Rod has created the sixth most runs above the average player compared to one's position through age 27 in A.L. history. He should surpass Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx before the season is out, placing him fourth behind only Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, and Ruth. Rarefied air indeed.
MOST RUNS CREATED ABOVE POSITION IN THE MAJORS THROUGH AGE 27
MAJOR LEAGUES RCAP 1 Mickey Mantle 602 2 Ty Cobb 575 T3 Rogers Hornsby 515 T3 Babe Ruth 515 5 Jimmie Foxx 479 6 Ted Williams 475 7 Alex Rodriguez 465 8 Arky Vaughan 456 9 Mel Ott 449 10 Lou Gehrig 428
Source: sabermetric baseball encyclopedia
At the conclusion of the season, A-Rod should rank as the fifth most productive offensive player relative to his position through age 27 in major league history, behind only Mantle, Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Ruth. If Rodriguez can maintain a similar pace throughout his career, he will enter baseball's pantheon as one of the truly most outstanding players ever.
I will continue with Alex The Great Part II next weekend with more detailed information on his current year and career stats as well as how he stacks up in the rankings vs. the greatest shortstops of all time.
Frank's Rank in Baseball's All-Time Bank Revisited
As a follow-up to the Let's Be Frank About The Big Hurt article last month, I compiled four extra screens to highlight his standing among the hitting greats of the game. For anyone who remains skeptical about the White Sox slugger's place in baseball history, I believe they should take note of the following lists:
NUMBER OF SEASONS WITH OBP > .400 AND SLG > .600
1 Babe Ruth 12 2 Ted Williams 10 T3 Jimmie Foxx 9 T3 Lou Gehrig 9 5 Barry Bonds 7 T6 Frank Thomas 6 T6 Stan Musial 6 T6 Hank Greenberg 6 T6 Rogers Hornsby 6 T10 Larry Walker 5 T10 Mickey Mantle 5
Could that be right? Wow! Only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, and Barry Bonds have put together more seasons of .400+ OBP and .600+ SLG than Frank Thomas. Granted, Big Frank is unlikely to catch Ruth, Williams, Foxx, Gehrig, and even Bonds (who is well on his way to his eighth such season), but, c'mon now, those players just might be the five greatest hitters in baseball history. Ranking only behind these giants of the game and being on par with Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, and Hank Greenberg is impressive company indeed.
Let's scroll down and take a look at the next list for additional proof as to how awesome Thomas has been over the years.
NUMBER OF CONSECUTIVE SEASONS WITH OBP > .400 AND SLG > .600
1 Babe Ruth 1926-32 7 T2 Frank Thomas 1993-97 5 T2 Lou Gehrig 1930-34 5 T2 Jimmie Foxx 1932-36 5 T5 Hank Greenberg 1937-40 4 T5 Ted Williams 1946-49 4 T5 Manny Ramirez 1999-02 4 T8 Babe Ruth 1919-21 3 T8 Johnny Mize 1938-40 3 T8 Joe DiMaggio 1939-41 3 T8 Eddie Mathews 1953-55 3 T8 Duke Snider 1953-55 3 T8 Mickey Mantle 1955-57 3 T8 Larry Walker 1997-99 3 T8 Barry Bonds 2000-02 3
Let me see now, only Ruth has had more consecutive seasons of .400+ OBP and .600+ SLG than Thomas? Holy cow! That should leave a greater impression than Dolly Parton falling face first on you.
Ruth also had a streak of six seasons (1919-1924) in addition to the one listed above but failed to qualify based on coming up just shy of the minimum requirement of 500 plate appearances in 1922. Similarly, Hornsby would have joined Thomas, Gehrig, and Foxx with five seasons in a row (1921-1925) had he not fallen a tad below the minimum number of PA in 1923.
By definition, if a player reaches .400 OBP and .600 SLG in a single season, then he will also have an OPS of 1.000 or more. However, it's also possible that a player could get to that magical mark by having an OBP of, say, .375 and a SLG of .625 or an OBP of .425 and a SLG of .575. Therefore, so as not to be biased toward .400-.600 seasons, let's delve deeper into OPS as a standalone category.
NUMBER OF SEASONS WITH OPS > 1.000
T1 Ted Williams 13 T1 Babe Ruth 13 3 Lou Gehrig 11 T4 Jimmie Foxx 9 T4 Barry Bonds 9 6 Stan Musial 8 T7 Frank Thomas 7 T7 Rogers Hornsby 7 T7 Mel Ott 7 T7 Ty Cobb 7 T7 Mickey Mantle 7
For the most part, the names remain the same. Mel Ott and Ty Cobb appear for the first time, but the other players are repeats.
NUMBER OF CONSECUTIVE SEASONS WITH OPS > 1.000
1 Lou Gehrig 1927-37 11 2 Babe Ruth 1926-33 8 T3 Frank Thomas 1993-97 5 T3 Jimmie Foxx 1932-36 5 T5 Ty Cobb 1910-13 4 T5 Johnny Mize 1937-40 4 T5 Hank Greenberg 1937-40 4 T5 Ted Williams 1939-42 4 T5 Ted Williams 1946-49 4 T5 Stan Musial 1948-51 4 T5 Mickey Mantle 1955-58 4 T5 Barry Bonds 1995-98 4 T5 Mark McGwire 1996-99 4 T5 Sammy Sosa 1998-01 4 T5 Manny Ramirez 1999-02 4
Source: sabermetric baseball encyclopedia
Gehrig...Ruth...Thomas. What can I say? The names and the ranking speak for themselves.
Williams, who is listed at four seasons twice, should arguably be given credit for at least eight consecutive years with an OPS of 1.000 or better. However, he fails to qualify on a technicality owing to not playing in 1943-1945 when he was serving in the military. Remarkably, The Thumper actually had an OPS of 1.000+ every year of his career except 1959. Accordingly, if it weren't for the missing seasons or falling short of the minimum requirement of 500 plate appearances, a case could be made that Williams had 17 straight campaigns with an OPS of 1.000+.
Bonds is working on a run of 11 consecutive seasons with an OPS > 1.000, but he fell short of the minimum requirement for plate appearances in 1994 and 1999 in order to qualify for the list above. Likewise, Ruth had a streak of six seasons (1919-1924) in addition to the one listed above but just missed meeting the minimum number of PA in 1922.
Manny Ramirez, who is on the bubble with a .998 OPS this year, will tie Thomas and Foxx for third place if he can finish with a bang similar to 2002.
Look, folks, these stats are what it's all about. On base percentage and slugging average. Scoring runs is about getting on base and driving the runners around the bases. Players who rank among the best at both are quite simply among the most valuable offensive players of all time.
If there is no disputing the greatness of Ruth, Williams, Foxx, Gehrig, Bonds, Musial, Greenberg, Hornsby, Ott, Cobb, and Mickey Mantle, why would anyone argue against Thomas and his accomplishments?
We need to recognize that the best players in baseball history didn't just come from the first half of the last century. Instead, we should realize that many of the very best players ever are active today. So, if you missed the opportunity to watch any of the above do their thing in person, make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to witness and appreciate some of the greatest players in baseball history while you can.
I am going on vacation today, a baseball trip that will bring me to these places:
Saturday- Baltimore Orioles
Not bad, eh? So next week there will be a minimum of two posts, although I may add another one or two.
Recently, to the subject of much hoopla, the best player in Baseball talked about being traded. Alex Rodriguez was prepared to finish his career in Arlington when he signed a 10-year, $252 million contract in December of 2000. This was by far the largest contract in history, and no other deal has flirted with the $200 million barrier since.
The reason teams are hesitant to devote so much money to one player is the result Texas has had since signing A-Rod:
2001: 73-89, last place
It is unfair to say that A-Rod contributed to this failure, especially considering how the team's pitching staff did in those seasons:
2001: 5.71 team ERA last in Majors (5.29 is next)
Those are horrid numbers, and the reason behind those horrible numbers. I mean, you mean to tell me Alex Rodriguez has hurt this franchise? C'mon:
2001: .318/.399/.622 52HR/135RBI 18SB
And remember that he missed significant time this season with a back injury, one which he recently recovered from. He's giving teams a reason to consider him this August, posting numbers of .405/.537/.952, hitting 7HR in just 42AB.
What's really not fair of the Texas franchise is to say that A-Rod has hurt them become true players on the free agent market. The team's payroll this season was $72.941,367, or about $49M after A-Rod. If Billy Beane can consistently build a contender with $49M, why can't John Hart put 24 players around Rodriguez? I can answer that:
Chan Ho Park- 5-years, $65M
Bad contracts have killed this franchise. The team has consistently overpaid for pitchers, and re-signed hitters at insane prices. Greer is on the payroll for more than $7M next season, showing a huge mistake Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin made in his tenure. This team must allocate its funds better to compete, which John Hart should be able to do.
One positive for the Rangers is that Grady Fuson has assembled one of the best minor league systems in the minor leagues. The team has four great youngsters in their lineup with Hank Blalock, Mark Teixeira, Lance Nix, and Ramon Nivar. They also have Michael Young and Kevin Mench in their lineup to go with Rodriguez.
The team made some great trades at the deadline, getting talent that will help them for years to come. They acquired future 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SP Ryan Snare, and 4th OF Will Smith all for Ugueth Urbina. Carl Everett yielded them Frankie Francisco, Josh Rupe, Anthony Webster.
All that young hitting will come cheap for a few seasons, allowing the team to become big players on the free agent market. If Roger Clemens doesn't retire, the team should try to tempt him to come to his home state, as they did with Nolan Ryan. Clemens is still effective, and could teach these youngsters a lot. Pitcher Jose Dominguez made his debut this week, after being heralded as having the best changeup in all of the minor leagues.
Although these are all examples of why not to trade A-Rod, what if they did? What if John Hart is ordered to look at the bounty he could get for the best player in the world? Here are the team's that could do so fiscally, and have it be feasible in an organizational sense.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Majors worst offensive team desperately needs an offense, and Alex Rodriguez can provide that immediately. They play in the nation's second largest city, and have another new owner committed to winning. Unfortunately, the team has a ton of money committed to pitchers over the long-term.
Here's a small list of the Dodgers major free agents in terms of money, not including Hideo Nomo, whom I'm going to assume has his option get picked up:
Brian Jordan- 9M
The team will have 20M off the books this season, but will be left with holes in left, and on the corners, assuming Adrian Beltre is non-tendered. But, if they can add a bat like A-Rod's to the team, everything else isn't important. Here's my proposed trade to get A-Rod in Dodger Blue:
Los Angeles gets:
Texas gets a good defensive shortstop to play in their offensive minded-lineup, and an expensive, veteran pitcher with a lot of upside. They also get one of the Majors' best prospects in the 19-year old Jackson, a potential left fielder in Chen, and another good pitcher with Pilkington.
Los Angeles would then have about 7M more to spend on the team, which is just enough. They could move Paul Lo Duca to first, putting prospects Koyie Hill and Dave Ross behind the plate. Evans then would get a 3B at a decent price, possibly re-signing Robin Ventura. Then, trade Odalis Perez, yielding J.D. Drew from the Cards. They would have to spend their final money on a fifth starter, anyone from Wilson Alvarez to Rick Reed. LA's potential lineup:
1. Dave Roberts
1. Kevin Brown
I guarantee that team would win the NL West, and give LA the best marketing tool they could've imagined.
2. Chicago Cubs
This is really the only other team that could afford adding A-Rod, and giving up solid pitchers in return. Alex Rodriguez would solve the offensive woes that plague the team, and give Chicago a playoff team. Although, it would cost a lot for the team to get the young shortstop, and may do some harm to the vaunted pitching staff.
When my site premiered, I wrote a guest column over at the Cub Reporter. The article stated the Cubs had about $12M to spend on free agents, and the $24M that Rodriguez costs is well over that figure. But, not if this was the trade:
In this trade, Kerry Wood has the chance to pitch in his home state, where he could get advice from legends like Nolan Ryan and Orel Hershiser very often. It would give the Rangers a great arm at the top, and one capable of taking the franchise on his shoulders. Gonzalez is a good defensive shortstop with just enough pop to keep in a lineup. Kelton could be the left fielder next season, or be used in the DH role. And finally, Justin Jones is a second-tier Cubs prospect, but would probably make the Rangers top 10.
All in all, I think this trade would help both franchises. The Tribune Company would be reluctant to drop Wood, who has drawn so much attention. But if they are going to do it for anyone, its Alex Rodriguez.
I was trying to add more teams to this list, but it doesn't make sense. Here's why:
- Padres- Apparently have the cash, but not the pitching
Trading Alex Rodriguez would do harm to his franchise, John Hart should spend his time worrying about getting the youngsters in his lineup while building a pitching staff. This team has playoff potential in about two seasons, but need to add some arms first.
"We're going to be better next year than we are this year. "My experience in baseball is the mark of a good young player is that he gets better each year.
I read this quote at the Kansas Star website yesterday, in which esteemed owner Daniel Glass predicted future success for his club. The quote is funny in its own, as experience in baseball and Glass don't belong in the same sentence. This was a man destroying the club who stumbled across a great manager and good farm system.
Whie Allan Baird gets a lot of flack around the baseball world, there's no question his system produced prospects. While the loot wasn't great for Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye, they did get Angel Berroa, possibly the Rookie of the Year. Stars like Ibanez, Beltran, Sweeney, and MacDougal are products of good trades or good teaching. There is more on the way, as Jimmy Gobble has shown in his first two starts.
Today's article is geared at deciding if Glass may be correct, could be better next year. In doing so, we must look at what has worked this season. A look at some stars from every month this season:
Raul Ibanez- .345/.408/.575 4HR/12RBI
Carlos Beltran- .301/.404/.538 7HR/17RBI
Mike Tucker- .300/.385/.500 3HR/14RBI
Carlos Beltran- .323/.395/.535 4HR/21RBI
So far this month we're looking at...
Mix of Dan Carrasco, Curt Leskanic, Kris Wilson, Al Levine, Jason Grimsley...
40IP 34H 9ER 15BB 28K
Aaron Guiel- .310/.400/.500 1HR/7RBI
That, all in all, is what has kept Kansas City stay afloat. There are many different pitchers in the different months, portraying what KC has gone through this season. The first month Hernandez and Lopez were very good, but then Runelvys got hurt, and Albie sucked. Jose Lima and Kevin Appier were good finds on the free agent market, and the team added some good bullpen depth. But Grimsley, Levine, Lloyd, and Leskanic are all free agents at the end of the season, along with Lima and Appier from the rotation. The offense has Raul Ibanez, Mike Tucker, Mike Diefelice, Brent Mayne, and Joe Randa as free agents. Is the team likely to get so many finds next season? No.
Kansas City management insists they will re-sign Ibanez, despite the price. This may make them trade Carlos Beltran, which would get a solid return. They have David DeJesus, an OBP machine, waiting in the centerfield wings at AAA. A trade for Beltran could yield, from Los Angeles: Joel Hanrahan, Koyie Hill, and Wilken Ruan. Hanrahan would step in the rotation right away, as Hill would replace Mayne behind the plate. Ruan could platoon with the left-handed DeJesus in center.
But, it will be re-building third base, the rotation, and the bullpen that will decide Baird's future. Desi Relaford was a good signing, and is the 2004 KC second basemen, can Baird find a player like that to replace Randa? Can the veteran foursome be replaced in the bullpen? Probably not. Here's a hypothetical 2004 lineup, with Tony Batista in as the third basemen:
1. David DeJesus- CF
And the rotation, with Jeremy Affeldt moving back into it:
Then, you could lock MacDougal and Kris Wilson into the bullpen. Ultimately, expect Affeldt to stay as a power set-up man in the 'pen, with May being left in the rotation.
Glass' Royals have caught a lot of breaks in 2003, having rookies and Independant Leaguers all perform over their heads. The club will need much more consistency to do better next season, and for the Twins to not improve.
Glass: if you couldn't properly own a team for ten years, don't start talking trash now.
Passing the Time...
In between weekend posts, I would like to refer readers to some of the other great baseball blogs and sports websites out there. There are numerous well-known and well-written blogs that should become a part of your daily reads. There are also a handful of sites that may be under the radar screen but should be worthy of your attention.
My son, Joe Lederer, and his best friend, John Kumpart, are the co-authors of Soapbox Sports, a fun and sometimes irreverent look at the world of sports. If you like editorials, opinions, point/counterpoint discussions, and top ten lists, then this website is right up your alley. Speaking of the latter, Joe and John have ranked their top ten sports movies of all time. Check these lists out and tell them what you think.
In the meantime, here are my top ten BASEBALL movies of all time:
1. Field of Dreams (1989). An adaptation of W.P. Kinsella's fantasy novel, Shoeless Joe. Starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, and Burt Lancaster. "If you build it, he will come." It's not so much a baseball movie as it is a story about pursuing your dreams, no matter the cost--literally and figuratively. "The one constant through all the years has been baseball...It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again." Poignant scene of son (Costner) and father (Dwier Brown) playing a game of catch at the end. One of the few movies that gets better with each viewing.
2. The Pride of the Yankees (1942). The Lou Gehrig Story. Starring Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, and Walter Brennan. Cameo roles by Babe Ruth, Joe McCarthy, Bill Dickey, Bob Muesel, and Mark Koenig. The movie was nominated for Best Picture and Wright for Best Actress. "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for." A must own DVD for any Gehrig fan or sentimental baseball enthusiast.
3. Bang the Drum Slowly (1973). Baseball's version of "Brian's Song". Starring Michael Moriarty and Robert DeNiro. OK, I'm a sucker for tear jerkers. Moriarty plays the star pitcher, Henry Wiggen, and DeNiro (in his first starring role) plays the simple-minded rookie catcher, Bruce Pearson, stricken with Hodgkin's Disease. "Everybody would be nice to you if they knew you were dying." A pre-cursor to the great baseball movies of the 1980s and 1990s.
4. Bull Durham (1988). Starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon. Written and directed by Ron Shelton, who spent five years in the minor leagues. An accurate look at the game, both on and off the field. Minor league journeyman catcher Crash Davis (Costner) tutors the hard-living and hard-throwing Nuke LaLoosh (Robbins), while attempting to court groupie Annie Savoy (Sarandon). "I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days." Fun and entertaining.
5. Eight Men Out (1988). Based on Eliot Asinof's book by the same name. The story of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Great cast including John Cusack and Charlie Sheen. Writer and director John Sayles does a masterful job of recreating the period, bringing the complexity of the gambling conspiracy to the screen, and playing a cameo role as baseball writer Ring Lardner. "Say it isn't so, Joe! Say it isn't so!" A good two-hour investment, if for no other reason than to learn more about the game's storied past.
6. The Natural (1984). Based on a novel by Bernard Malamud. An all-star lineup of actors and actresses, including Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, and Barbara Hershey. Redford stars as Roy Hobbs, the quintessential baseball hero. The game-winning HR off the scoreboard clock is probably one of the most memorable baseball film moments. "God, I just love baseball." Generally overrated but an enjoyable fable nonetheless.
7. A League of Their Own (1992). Based on the Women's Professional Baseball League in the 1940s. Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, and Jon Lovitz. Hanks and Davis star as the drunken manager Jimmy Dugan and star catcher Dottie Henson, respectively. Movie brought attention to a nearly forgotten part of baseball history. "There's no cryin' in baseball" has become part of the game's vernacular.
8. The Sandlot (1993). Tale of a kids' pickup team in the 1960s. James Earl Jones heads a cast of unknowns. One of the least known and underrated baseball movies ever. "Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid, and you'll never go wrong." Brings back fond memories of simpler times when my neighborhood friends and I played baseball and games like Over-The-Line, Home Run Derby, and Whiffleball. Fun for the whole family.
9. 61* (2001). Docudrama by Director Billy Crystal about the 1961 home run battle between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Starring Barry Pepper as Maris and Thomas Jane as The Mick. Pepper and Jane are perfectly cast in their roles with the former looking eerily like his character. Although pitted against one another in the newspapers, Maris' and Mantle's friendship is at the heart of the film. Great technical advice from former ballplayers adds reality. Insightful from a "behind the scenes" vantage point. Straightforward without a lot of the fluff that generally finds its way into such movies.
10. Bad News Bears (1976). Baseball comedy about Little League baseball. Starring Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal. The story line is simple: the coach is waiting for his next beer; the pitcher is waiting for her first bra; and the team is waiting for a miracle. Matthau, O'Neal, and all the foul-mouthed misfits are superb in their roles. "Hell no, Coach. I want to play ball." Big hit with kids in its day. Avoid the sequels, which are not even of replacement level caliber.
I also have a soft spot in my heart for Safe At Home (1962). It was the first baseball movie I remember seeing. I haven't watched it since I was a kid but am reluctant to do so again because my sense is that I would be disappointed the second time around. The M&M Boys (Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris) star as themselves with cameos by Whitey Ford and Ralph Houk.
I'd like to point out I missed a few names that mentioned me in blogs this past week. Paul Sporer, of Rich and Sporer and the Southpaw are the two I'd like to mention. After you're finished with this, get over to those sites for more baseball knowledge.
Many publications, namely Baseball Prospectus, don't really believe in taking stock in a young player until he hits AA. That being said, I think even Prospectus believers would be blown away by Greg Miller's last start for the Jacksonville Suns:
7IP 2H 0ER 14K
What could possibly make that line more impressive? How about the fact that it was his second start in AA, and he is at the ripe age of eighteen years. Truly amazing. How about his numbers for the season:
AA= 1-0 0.00 5H/14IP 20K/2BB
One of last season's late first-round selections, Miller is quickly shooting up prospect charts with his great stats. Before June 2002's amateur draft, Miller was a high-school leftie topping out at 92MPH with a loopy slider. In an offseason shoulder strengthening program he lifted his fastball to 95MPH, tightened his slider, and added a changeup. Those three 'new pitches' have helped him to become the youngest pitcher in AA.
Coincidence that the third youngest pitcher in AA is also a Dodger? No way. Edwin Jackson has also gained notice this season, as he is holding up in the Southern League, despite turning 19 before the season. Jackson attended the Futures Game, although he didn't pitch in the contest. His season statistics:
7-6 3.37ERA 109H/136.1IP 143K/47BB
So, the Dodgers have two teenagers in AA? And combined they've allowed 114 hits in 150 innings, while striking out 163? Amazing. The two have blown past James Loney and Franklyn Gutierrez in prospect charts, and likely are two of the top ten pitching prospects in all of baseball....
TINSTAPP. That was the subject of Joe Sheehan's "Prospectus Today" yesterday for Baseball Prospectus premium subscribers. Sometimes better known as "There Is No Such Thing As a Pitching Prospect," Joe spoke of his lack of belief in young pitchers. As shown by my own hyping of teenagers Miller and Jackson above, I am going to have to disagree with Joe on that one.
Yes, there are an astounding number of pitchers who get injured every season, and a number of hyped players don't spend time at the Big Show. But, isn't waiting for the next Mark Prior, the next Roger Clemens or Greg Maddux worth talking about these players? Isn't one Dontrelle Willis worth the hyping of ten Ryan Andersons? While the number of pitching prospects is hardly what Baseball America and even I document it to be, there's reason to hope. For example, I hope none of you heard of Greg Miller before today. But after today's column you'll remember the southpaw in the Dodger's farm system. And if one day Miller reaches Steve Carltonesque status, you can say, "I remember him striking out 14 in AA." That's what makes it worth it....
One belief I do share with Baseball Prospectus, sometimes, is that drafting college players is 'safer' than high school amateurs. For that reason, I argued many times this season that Richie Weeks was a better option than Delmon Young. Well, Weeks signed last week, and made his low-A debut yesterday with the Beloit Snappers. He immediately becomes the number two second base prospect in all of baseball, sitting right behind Josh Barfield. That gives the Brewers a pretty mean infield of the future:
1B- Prince Fielder- Ranked at the top of my first base rankings
Not bad. I will be giving my positional prospect rankings next week, but you can be sure to read those names in all of them. Throw in Dave Krynzel, Mike Jones, Luis Martinez, and others, and the Brewers will contend before 2010....
While Weeks may be the draft's best prospect, no one has done better from the June draft than Arizona 3B/LF Conor Jackson. The first-round pick has thrived in rookie-ball, showing gap power and a watchful eye:
Yakima Bears: .315/.405/.565 30 2B 51RBI 6HR in 51 games
That's right, Jackson is averaging one RBI a game, and more than .5 doubles per game. A college hitter, it should be noted that Conor was expected to succeed at this level, but not at this rate. He is hitting the cover off the ball, and it will be interesting to see if those doubles ever become home runs as he rises through the system....
The draft's best pitching prospect has now arrived. Kyle Sleeth signed with the Tigers over the weekend, with Detroit giving him $3.35M. It's good to know that Major League Baseball is trying to control signing bonuses, as giving a college pitcher $10M is crazy. Sleeth won't rise through the system like Mark Prior did in Chicago, but don't be surprised if he finishes 2004 in AA. Hopefully the team won't push him like they did Jeremy Bonderman.
Sleeth became the fourth to last player in the first round to sign. First pick Delmon Young, fourth choice Tim Stauffer, and Lastings Milledge (12th), are all yet to sign. Young and Milledge have both used the college card to threaten the D-Rays and Mets, but it won't work. These two players won't pass up the big bucks now, but don't expect to see them soon. It will be good for Stauffer to take the summer off, as he was worked too hard in college. The Padres will get this deal done soon, and should see results as soon as 2005....
Quickly a look at the next K-Rod:
Seattle: 2-0 1.42ERA 17/31.2 40K/6BB
Sensational numbers for Seattle's best reliever, Rafeal Soriano. I believe the bullpen is a better home for Soriano, as he could then throw his high-90s heat and hard slider more consistently. The team would be smart to make him the 2004 closer, but will likely put him in Freddy Garcia's spot in the rotation, the subject of tomorrow's column....
And lastly, the line of my favorite prospect, now pitching in the Northwest League:
7-1 1.84ERA 30H/44IP 55K/22BB
Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners has dominated this league, and won't turn 18 until next March. The hype on him may be premature, but there's more upside in his right arm than anyone in the minor leagues.
Debuts for Neal Cotts and Jose Dominguez yesterday, and neither was horrible. Come back tomorrow as I analyze the future of two players whom are depressingly underperforming.
Rebuilding the Reds
The 1990s Cleveland Indians were lucky enough to open Jacob's Field at the exact time the team started to succeed. This created an immense fan base, and led to one of the great consecutive sellout streaks of this generation. That's not exactly how Carl Lindner's Reds are doing things this season.
Cincinnati's new and publicly funded stadium, the Great American Ballpark, opened this season to subpar response from the community. The fans simply didn't want to see a team lacking an identity: half the team was seasoned veterans ready to win, the other half were youngsters part of some rebuilding plan. The team had one of the National League's great offenses with an outfield of Dunn-Griffey-Kearns, but one of the worst rotations, as it led Haynes-Graves-Dempster. Bob Boone made some bad decisions as manager, and Jim Bowden struggled to give the team pitching. So when July came around this season, Lindner dumped Boone and Bowden, and dealt away Aaron Boone, Scott Williamson, Jose Guillen, and Gabe White.
Dealing Aaron Boone was actually a smart move: he'll hit arbitration this year, was blocking top-prospect Brandon Larson, and yielded pitcher Brandon Claussen. I think this move does loads for the 2004 Reds, giving the team a real bona fide pitching prospect. The Guillen and White deals made some sense, as Cincinnati wasn't in the bidding for either at season's close, they might as well land some prospects. But the Williamson deal didn't make sense. Phil Dumatrait? The team couldn't even land the Sox best pitching prospect, Jorge De La Rosa, for their best pitcher?
Well, a lot of the money that was lost this season came back in those deals, giving Lindner about $5-6M more than the Opening Day payroll. Hopefully the tight-fisted owner will put that money back into the baseball team, as I believe there is a way for this team to contend soon. The young pitching of the Cubs, along with good markets in Houston and St. Louis will make this division very tough in the next few seasons, but the Reds aren't out yet. Let's examine a step-by-step way to get this team in contention:
1. Trade Sean Casey
Barring injury, Livan Hernandez will pitch 217 innings this season, adding another year to his deal, at $6M in 2004. While common thought of Hernandez was the paltry San Francisco version, Livan isn't a bad addition:
Since All-Star Break: 3-1 1.80 30/40 35/7, 8IP/GS
Eight innings per start! Two complete games in five starts! A 0.93 WHIP! Hernandez has become the pitcher he was in Florida again. That being said, Casey makes more money than Hernandez in 2004, and has an extra 2005 year. So while he does fill a hole for Omar Minaya's Expos, the team simply can't afford that much. The team will need to add another expensive player, possibly Mike Barrett in the deal. That trade gives the Reds an innings-eater to ease the bullpen, and a backup catcher for Jason La Rue.
2. Trade Ken Griffey Jr.
I predicted in yesterday's entry that the Yankees would sign Vladimir Guerrero, but that doesn't change the interest they may have in Griffey. The team has been hesitant to go with Nick Johnson consistently at the designated hitter, and would welcome the bat of Junior. Brian Cashman should take advantage of his low trade value and get him this winter, despite the price.
What can Cincy get in exchange for their center fielder? Well since his failures in the fifth starter spot, the Yanks have itched at getting rid of Jeff Weaver. It wasn't long ago that Weaver was an ace in Detroit, and his high salary will lessen the blow of adding Junior. The Yanks would have to throw in Juan Rivera, which shouldn't faze them dramatically. Rivera is a good prospect, but New York has been hesitant to play him everyday, although he has the necessary skills.
This move would put Rivera in left field, and move Adam Dunn to Sean Casey's open vacancy at first base. It would open center, which brings me to....
3. Trade Steve Smitherman for Jay Payton
Not bad numbers. I saw Smitherman play at the Futures Game, in which he ended hitting the go-ahead home run. He's very big, and has more raw power than most players in the minor leagues. He could immediately replace Payton in Coors Field, at a cheaper cost and with more potential production.
Payton still has the legs to play center, but has proven to have the bat of a left fielder. He would come into this lineup in the second hole, and make an impact right away. It would cost some money, but as I said, Lindner made some extra this season.
4. Release Jimmy Haynes, Paul Wilson, and Ryan Dempster
5. Sign Bartolo Colon
Colon eats innings like he does food, and can throw in the triple digits in every inning. I believe he's a better pitcher than his win total indicates this season, as the White Sox haven't scored enough runs. Bartolo would go to the top of the rotation, and really soften the bullpen. The same could be said for Livan Hernandez and Jeff Weaver, so it will leave the relievers fresh.
The fourth spot of the rotation should go to Brandon Claussen. He has recovered from Tommy John surgery miraculously, and without his fastball dominated every level he's faced. Claussen is hardly a fourth starter, but in this rotation his expectations would be low. It would give the Reds a leftie in the rotation, and right now Claussen is likely their top prospect.
Finally, the fifth hole is yet to be determined. Jose Acevedo has done great in a few spot starts, but now sees himself on the DL. Chris Reitsma is seemingly in the competition every season, and has great stuff. He never wins the battle, and will finally end up in middle relief. Other competitors are Aaron Harang, recently acquired for Jose Guillen, and Josh Hall, who's made one good start this year. My belief is Acevedo will get the job to start, with Hall making a few starts in Louisville first.
6. Leave Ryan Wagner in the bullpen
There's talk the Reds will stretch Wagner out this offseason in the hope of making him a starter, a move that seems unnecessary. I have diagrammed a good rotation, not in need of help. But, with Scott Williamson getting dealt, the team will need a closer. That's where the Wagner comes in. I love the idea of having Wagner pitching the eighth and ninth to close out games, and his endurance is good enough to do so.
If they do move Ryan to the rotation, it will invoke memories of 2000. In 1999, the Rookie of the Year went to the Reds' own Scott Williamson. Scott had thrown 93.3 great innings in the 'pen, grabbing 12 wins. The team moved him to the rotation the next season, which looked like a good move. But, Williamson was able to throw only two-thirds of one inning in 2001, thanks to arm problems due to moving to starting. While converting Wagner seems to be good for everyone, its not good for Wagner's right arm.
Around Wagner in the bullpen will be failed starters Danny Graves and John Riedling. Both are effective pitchers the first three innings, but are annihilated when hitters get to see them a second time. They would be great middle relievers, and Graves could go back to short relief. Joe Valentine, whom was also acquired from the A's for Guillen, will be in the running for set-up man. No one will question his stuff, but Valentine struggles with command. Don Gullet is a revered pitching coach, and will surely work to fix those problems. Finally, the team should sign a leftie, as they did with Felix Heredia and Kent Mercker, for cheap off the free agent market. Graeme Lloyd may come in a minor league deal, or they could re-sign Heredia.
Let's recap. Here's the lineup and rotation for my 2004 Reds:
1. D'Angelo Jimenez- 2B
1- Bartolo Colon
CL. Ryan Wagner
Now tell me that team can't compete. I'll be back tomorrow with my first minor league report on this site. Be sure to check back.
I'd like to thank Dave Pinto and Michael Blake for mentioning my site yesterday, and all those whom e-mailed a 'Good Luck'. I'd also like to give a shout out to Christian Ruzich, who let me write a guest column on the Cub Reporter as a debut for my site. If you haven't read it, here's the link. Thanks everyone.
2004 Effect of Deadline Deals
Ventura- .255/.350/.408 with 11HR and 0SB in 306AB
While the differences between Aaron Boone and Robin Ventura aren't earth shattering, Boone has more power and speed, Aaron may have been most helped by his contract situation: he's on board through the 2004 season. With Raul Mondesi and Ventura, the Yankees had two spots in their lineup that would be open next season. Boone will close off the third base position, and also send a message to Drew Henson reading, "Go Play Football!"
The right field situation is the more interesting one. The team has many options the rest of the season: Karim Garcia, Ruben Sierra, David Delucci, and Juan Rivera. But Yankees management has been hesitant to give Rivera significant playing time, decreasing the probability of locking down the 2004 full-time job. And with all-star Vladimir Guerrero readily available over the winter, trading Rivera seems definite. Guerrero will have a hard time finding suitors, as many teams don't have the money to go after the Dominican slugger. But the Yankees and Dodgers might, with New York having more money and exposure to offer Vlad.
Trading Brandon Claussen makes the rotation race a little more interesting for next season. Technically, the team has four starters signed for next year: Mike Mussina, Jose Contreras, Jon Lieber, and Jeff Weaver. The team has had it with Weaver though, and he will be in the first trade Brian Cashman can make. Also, expect the team to sign two of their three free agents, Roger Clemens, David Wells, and Andy Pettite. My guess is Clemens and Wells will re-sign, both taking less money and deferring payments.
The yield for Mondesi and Ventura was unique, as the Bronx Bombers got younger in the two deals. David Delucci is a great left-handed hitting bat off the bench, and can play all three outfield positions. Bret Prinz will have a chance at taking Antonio Osuna's job in middle relief, although I believe the team will sign a veteran to block Prinz. Sprowl is a good hitting catcher that needs a position switch and another new organization, as prized prospect Dioner Navarro is in front of him. Bubba Crosby also needs another organization, and should draw interest as he flirted with .400 in the PCL this season. Finally, they got a sleeper in Proctor, who has shined since moving to the bullpen.
Sanchez was penciled in for the 2004 2B job, with Todd Walker being a free agent. Bill Mueller has played second base on ten occasions this season, and is the favorite next season. That is considering Kevin Youkilis, the third base prospect that the Sox basically chose over Sanchez:
Sanchez (AAA): .341/.430/.493 5HR in 211AB
So, Epstein is hoping Youkilis takes third base next season, and Bill Mueller can play second base every single day. But, expect the club to get a super-bench player who can play both positions, someone in the Tony Graffanino mold.
Suppan is a free agent at the end of the season, so his future value is zero. Jeff and John Burkett are likely gone, and the team has a few options for those spots. There are five in-house candidates: Jorge De la Rosa (top pitching prospect), Ryan Rupe, Casey Fossum, Ramiro Mendoza, and Byung-Hyun Kim. The battle should come down to Fossum and Mendoza, with De La Rosa starting in AAA. Expect them to pursue at least one starter, with Bronx Bomber Andy Pettite and the long sought after workhorse Bartolo Colon.
The Williamson addition was a good one, as Dumatrait doesn't quite fit in the Theo Epstein prospect profile. Scott adds versatility to the 'pen, and won't be leaving the team next season. Boston will only lose Mike Timlin from the bullpen, and middle relievers are easily replaceable. Williamson allows the club to have two closers, along with Kim. This is the type of bullpen by committee that works, not the April 1 version.
Baltimore's farm system was believed to be one of baseball's five worst before the season. In 2003, they've added:
In Ainsworth, the team has found a cheap, possible improvement over Sidney Ponson. He'll be over his current injury by next year, ready to sit atop the Camden Yards' rotation. Moss is good at the end of a rotation, as he's a southpaw whom eats innings and changes speeds. The rotation will soon add Riley, who is doing well at AAA, after dominating the Eastern League. Fortunately, the team will lose the insane contracts of Scott Erickson and Pat Hentgen when the season ends.
That money should go towards adding the middle of the lineup hitter this team has lacked for so long. I believe the candidates they're considering to be:
Jose Guillen will not solve Oakland's future offensive woes, as he will leave for bigger dollars in three months. As will the team's biggest threat, and former AL MVP, Miguel Tejada. That means the A's two best right-handed hitters are as good as gone. Bobby Crosby will replace Tejada, while Billy Beane will actively pursue a left fielder to replace Guillen. Packaging Terrence Long's contract with a good prospect would be a very good idea.
What Oakland gave up isn't important, simply replaceable talent. They now have four great starters with the addition of Rich Harden, and some good options next year. Let's look at the options:
Justin Duchscherer- 11-2 3.06 126/132.1 101/13 at AAA
This allows the A's to trade Ted Lilly in the offseason to acquire their left fielder. I have two possible trade scenarios for you:
- Ted Lilly, Terrence Long, John Rheinecker to Cards for J.D. Drew
Releasing Appier and trading Scott Schoenweis will open two holes next year: one rotation slot, and middle relief. Assuming Jarrod Washburn, Ramon Ortiz, John Lackey, and Aaron Sele stay around, it could be quite a race for the fifth spot. The question comes down to when will Ervin Santana be ready for the Show? Likely not next April, allowing current fifth starter Scot Shields to retain the job.
Then, with Schoenweis and Shields gone from the bullpen, two spots are open. Expect the Angels to sign a leftie-killer (like Gabe White), and add a long reliever from their system, possibly Greg Jones. Next year will be important for the former world champs to try again at proving 2002 wasn't a fluke season.
Let me be the first on record to say Dave Littlefield has gotten too much heat. Yes, just Freddy Sanchez is probably not sufficient value for an overachieving Jeff Suppan and Scott Sauerbeck. But what does a rebuilding team need with a veteran innings-eater and LOOGY with a $2M contract?
Sanchez will likely be the 2004 Opening Day 2B, and likely will bat in the second spot. This move has an interesting subplot, as the Pirates are owed Bobby Hill, Frank Beltran, or Steve Smyth from the Cubs. Hill and Smyth will probably get overlooked, as Beltran will become the closer next year. The money that was going to Pat Meares, Pokey Reese, Randall Simon, and Aramis Ramirez will go to finding new power hitters. How about actively pursuing Adrian Beltre and trading for Sean Casey? It wouldn't be too expensive, and those two still have great potential.
This whole report changes if Brian Giles is traded in the next three weeks, although I think the Pirates will ultimately hang on to him.
With the platoon of David Delucci and Danny Bautista slumping, the Diamondbacks couldn't afford not to add another outfielder at the deadline. At first it looks like Delucci, Prinz, and Sprowl is too much for Mondesi, but consider who is in front of Prinz and Sprowl in the organization:
Brian Bruney, AAA- 2-1 1.21ERA 13H/22.1IP 22/10 K/BB
So, with those four players setting Prinz and Sprowl down in the team ladder, the trade was basically Delucci for Mondesi. While the ties to Delucci and Arizona date back to the team's existence, Arizona needed another bat in the lineup. Mondesi has more power, speed, and a better arm than Bautista, Delucci, or Quinton McCracken. This was a good job by Joe Garigiola of using organization depth to acquire Major League talent.
With Brian Jordan done, Fred McGriff not playing and Adrian Beltre not hitting, Dan Evans needed to add another bat. Problem is, Robin Ventura isn't the hitter he was with Evans in Chicago, and can't legitimately help this team. He will be gone at the end of the season, and expect the team to be non-tendering Adrian Beltre as well. With Jordan, Burnitz, Henderson, McGriff, Ventura, and Beltre all likely gone next year, Dan Evans will have the chance to add a big bat. The team will likely consider Vladimir Guerrero and Miguel Tejada, but it would be smarter to add Kaz Matsui, the next Japanese player, and the oft-injured Juan Gonzalez at the same price.
While both Crosby and Proctor may end up playing in the Major League one day, it won't matter to Evans, who wasn't expecting performance from either before the season. This team has a great future with pitchers Edwin Jackson, Greg Miller, and Joel Hanrahan to go along with James Loney, Joel Guzman, and Franlyn Gutierrez. I think it is likely that the Dodgers won't truly contend until these players get established, as Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort's contracts kill flexibility.
What to watch this week
Drilling Deeper Into The Greatest HR Hitters Ever
Trying to rank the greatest home run sluggers in history is no easy feat. Thus far, I have produced lists based on the standard cumulative totals as well as lists with the differences between the individual player and his league average expressed in absolute and relative terms.
My main problem with ranking players based on cumulative totals only is that such rankings tend to be biased toward longevity and those who played in eras favoring that particular stat. As such, I prefer basing my rankings on how a player performed vs. the league average. The question then comes down to whether I should use absolute or relative differences. At the risk of losing those readers who may be mathematically challenged, let me try to explain why I think the best system is a combination of the two.
Although the ratios are the same, hitting 30 HR in a season vs. 10 for league average is clearly worth more than producing 12 HR in a league with an average of 4. As a result, a formula based on the ratio of HR vs. the league average will tend to overvalue hitters who played during the dead ball era and undervalue those who played during the live ball era.
The converse is also true. Although the absolute differences are the same, hitting 12 HR in a season vs. 4 for the league average is clearly more valuable than producing 18 HR in a league with an average of 10. As a result, a system based on the absolute differences of HR vs. the league average will tend to overvalue hitters who played when HR were more prevalent and undervalue those who played when HR were less prevalent.
Accordingly, it seems to me that evaluating the greatest home run sluggers of all time should be based on the combined standings of these two methods. After satisfying myself with the logic behind my system, I proceeded to create two lists. The first one ranked the top 100 HR hitters in modern baseball history by the absolute differences in HR vs. the league average and the second ranked the top 100 by the ratio of HR vs. the league average. To qualify for the next cut, I made it a requirement that a player make both lists. From there, I added the two rankings and then sorted them to come up with Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT's Top 30.
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT's Top 30 HR Sluggers of All Time (1900-2002):
RANK PLAYER HR DIFF RATIO COMB HR TITLES
This list is not meant to be the list. However, it is meant to be a list. I believe it does as good a job as any in measuring the combination of quantitative and qualitative totals, which, as detailed in The Quad articles, is my favorite way of evaluating and ranking players.
Interestingly, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, and Ted Williams are the only players who rank in the top ten based on HR minus the league average and HR divided by the league average. Mark McGwire and Mike Schmidt are the only other players who rank in the top 20 in both cases.
The rankings are dynamic rather than static, but they are not as apt to change as the standard career lists (which seemingly fluctuate on a daily basis). Barry Bonds (currently at #8), Sammy Sosa (#23), and other active players have the potential of moving up on this list although the climb will be much more difficult than rankings based on cumulative totals only. Although Bonds is a good bet to blow by Willie Mays, Ruth, and Hank Aaron in career home runs before he calls it quits, it will be almost impossible for him to supplant The Bambino as the most dominant HR hitter ever (as determined by my system).
There are three players--Frank "Home Run" Baker, Gavvy Cravath, and Harry Davis--who may have been shortchanged based on my formula. The common thread among these players is that they excelled at hitting four baggers during the "dead ball" era of the 1900s and 1910s. These hitters fare extremely well on the ratio rankings but they failed to make the top 100 on absolute differences. Baker (1911-1914) and Davis (1904-1907) each led the American League in HR for four consecutive years, while Cravath (1913-1915, 1917-1919) topped the National League in HR for three straight years twice (for a grand total of six titles).
Cy Williams once again shows up well in this ranking. Like Baker, Cravath, and Davis before him, Williams also played in the "dead ball" era. Of the top 30, only Williams (1916) and Ruth (1918 and 1919) won home run titles prior to the introduction of the live ball in 1920.
On a separate note, I thought it was noteworthy that four of the top ten HR hitters above (Ruth, Foxx, Gehrig, and Hank Greenberg) also ranked in the top ten in HR %, HR/100 Outs, and HR/100 Plate Appearances relative to the league in absolute and relative terms. These lists are shown for information only and were not used in calculating my rankings.
HR% DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Babe Ruth 7.30 8.50 1.20 2 Mark McGwire 6.52 9.42 2.90 3 Jimmie Foxx 4.85 6.57 1.72 4 Ralph Kiner 4.68 7.09 2.41 5 Ted Williams 4.63 6.76 2.13 6 Lou Gehrig 4.60 6.16 1.57 7 Barry Bonds 4.59 7.35 2.77 8 Hank Greenberg 4.52 6.37 1.86 9 Harmon Killebrew 4.42 7.03 2.61 10 Mike Schmidt 4.37 6.56 2.20
HR/100 OUTS DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Babe Ruth 10.80 12.40 1.60 2 Mark McGwire 8.45 12.15 3.71 3 Ted Williams 7.11 9.85 2.74 4 Jimmie Foxx 7.07 9.37 2.30 5 Lou Gehrig 6.87 8.98 2.11 6 Hank Greenberg 6.49 8.97 2.48 7 Ralph Kiner 6.34 9.47 3.13 8 Barry Bonds 6.30 9.84 3.54 9 Mickey Mantle 5.87 9.09 3.22 10 Harmon Killebrew 5.66 8.95 3.30
HR/100 PA DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Babe Ruth 5.67 6.73 1.06 2 Mark McGwire 5.04 7.61 2.58 3 Jimmie Foxx 4.00 5.52 1.52 4 Dave Kingman 3.90 5.95 2.05 5 Hank Greenberg 3.78 5.43 1.65 6 Ralph Kiner 3.76 5.90 2.14 7 Lou Gehrig 3.72 5.10 1.38 8 Sammy Sosa 3.70 6.32 2.62 9 Harmon Killebrew 3.51 5.83 2.32 10 Mike Schmidt 3.49 5.45 1.96
HR% RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Babe Ruth 706 8.50 1.20 2 Lou Gehrig 394 6.16 1.57 3 Jimmie Foxx 382 6.57 1.72 4 Cy Williams 381 3.70 0.97 5 Ken Williams 366 4.03 1.10 6 Mel Ott 353 5.40 1.53 7 Hank Greenberg 343 6.37 1.86 8 Hack Wilson 342 5.13 1.50 9 Tilly Walker 340 2.33 0.68 10 Rogers Hornsby 328 3.68 1.12
HR/100 OUTS RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Babe Ruth 777 12.40 1.60 2 Lou Gehrig 426 8.98 2.11 3 Jimmie Foxx 407 9.37 2.30 4 Cy Williams 390 4.98 1.28 5 Ken Williams 378 5.49 1.45 6 Mel Ott 372 7.54 2.03 7 Rogers Hornsby 365 5.45 1.49 8 Hank Greenberg 362 8.97 2.48 9 Ted Williams 359 9.85 2.74 10 Hack Wilson 351 7.13 2.03
HR/100 PA RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Babe Ruth 635 6.73 1.06 2 Cy Williams 374 3.25 0.87 3 Lou Gehrig 369 5.10 1.38 4 Jimmie Foxx 363 5.52 1.52 5 Ken Williams 361 3.49 0.97 6 Tilly Walker 348 2.08 0.60 7 Home Run Baker 334 1.44 0.43 8 Hank Greenberg 330 5.43 1.65 9 Mel Ott 328 4.51 1.37 10 Hack Wilson 327 4.39 1.34
Source: sabermetric baseball encyclopedia
Next weekend, I will take a look at the one player who has yet to appear on any of my HR lists (due to falling just shy of the minimum number of plate appearances of 5,000) but has the potential of becoming the all-time leader on a cumulative basis before he retires.
The Greatest and Most Obscure...Part II
Extra, Extra! Pinto Collision Results in Recall.
David Pinto, the author of Baseball Musings, responded to last weekend's article on The Greatest and Most Obscure Home Run Hitters of All Time in a post on his widely read blog last Monday. Based on the fact that Cy Williams (who ranks as one of the four most prolific sluggers in baseball history based on the number of HR hit vs. the league average) accumulated 161 four baggers at home and only 90 on the road, David writes that Cy's HR rate at home was 79% higher than for away games. Pinto proceeds to make the case that the power-hitting outfielder's ranking among home run sluggers should be discounted accordingly. David backs up his argument by pointing out that Babe Ruth (347-367) and Hank Aaron (386-370) hit almost the same number of HR at home as on the road.
Although I mentioned that Cy Williams benefited greatly by playing the majority of his home games in the HR-friendly confines of the Baker Bowl (see photo above), David's reply motivated me to determine where Williams would have placed in these same rankings after adjusting the number of HR hit at home to equal those on the road.
The following list ranks the top 25 HR hitters in modern baseball history relative to the league average home run rate:
HOMERUNS RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Babe Ruth 777 714 92 2 Lou Gehrig 426 493 116 3 Jimmie Foxx 407 534 131 4 Cy Williams 390 251 64 5 Ken Williams 378 196 52 6 Mel Ott 372 511 137 7 Rogers Hornsby 365 301 82 8 Hank Greenberg 362 331 91 9 Ted Williams 359 521 145 10 Hack Wilson 351 244 69 11 Home Run Baker 351 96 27 12 Tilly Walker 347 118 34 13 Johnny Mize 336 359 107 14 Mark McGwire 328 583 178 15 Harry Davis 317 69 22 16 Wally Berger 311 242 78 17 Chuck Klein 309 300 97 18 Dolph Camilli 305 239 78 19 Mike Schmidt 303 548 181 20 Ralph Kiner 302 369 122 21 Joe DiMaggio 299 361 121 22 Rudy York 291 277 95 23 Jack Fournier 283 136 48 24 Mickey Mantle 282 536 190 25 Dave Kingman 281 442 157As shown, Williams ranks fourth all time in career HR divided by the league average based on outs. He actually ranks second based on plate appearances. By adjusting Williams' totals to exclude the "extra" HR he slugged by virtue of playing the majority of his home games at the Baker Bowl and give him an equivalent number of HR at home as on the road, it could be argued that Williams would have hit 180 HR in a more normalized environment (rather than 251). This reduced total divided by the league average of 64 results in a rate of 281, or good enough to tie Dave Kingman for 25th all time. Based on this study, I think it is only fair to conclude that Cy Williams wasn't just a great home run hitter because of the ballpark but instead was one of the very best HR sluggers relative to his era ever.
One final note: Among players ranked higher than Cy Williams' adjusted home run rate, only Ken Williams, Tilly Walker, Harry Davis, Wally Berger, Dolph Camilli, Rudy York, and Jack Fournier are not in the Hall of Fame. All of these batsmen led the league in roundtrippers one time with the exception being Harry Davis, who topped the A.L. four consecutive years (1904-1907).
T-minus 3 days
Well, this site will get its official start on Monday, August 11. I will start with writing five articles a week, and hopefully reach no less than four. Some examples of the articles you'll find here:
- How transactions will effect the future
I hope this site offers a unique look into baseball you can't find regularly anywhere else. In the meantime, here's a link to the archives to the Baseball Prospectus set of articles "Can of Corn." Dayn Perry has spend his first six articles analyzing the minor league performance of the stars of today versus that of subpar Major Leaguers.
Another new Baseball Prospectus column is "Prospecting" by U.S.S. Mariner's David Cameron. He's done a great job analyzing some of the minors hottest names, this week taking on the phenom B.J. Upton.
I will be going to the White Sox vs. A's game on Sunday, especially interesting because its Rich Harden vs. Esteban Loaiza. I'll try to put my scouting report of Harden on my sidebar Sunday night.
I'm Bryan Smith, I used to operate a blog called Bryball. I'm a huge baseball fan, but I struggled to think of new articles to write every single day. I'm a very unique baseball fan, because while you're looking at stats around the web, I might be:
So, I can't stop thinking about the future of baseball, even while the present is interesting. Which brings me to what this blog is:
This blog will update you on prospects, organizational rankings, future free agents, and give predictions on the future of Major League Baseball. Forget today, live tomarrow.
The Greatest and Most Obscure Home Run Hitters of All Time
Every baseball fan knows Hank Aaron is the all-time home run leader with 755. These same fans also know that Babe Ruth is in second place with 714 HR, and they are acutely aware that Barry Bonds may pass them both before he retires. But just who is the greatest home run hitter ever?
There have even been arguments made on behalf of Ted Williams being the most prodigious home run slugger, given the fact that The Splendid Splinter lost at least five seasons during his prime to military service. Williams hit 36 HR in 1942, missed three full seasons to World War I, then came back and hit 38 in 1946. Accordingly, it would probably be fair to credit Williams with an average of 37 HR for each of those lost three years. The Thumper hit 30 HR in 1951, missed almost the entire next two years, then returned and hit 29 in 1954. As a result, it would once again be fair to credit Williams with another 46 HR (30 x 2 = 60 minus the 14 he hit during those partial seasons lost to the Korean War).
Based on the above math, we could easily add 157 more roundtrippers to Teddy Ballgame's career totals--giving him 678. One could also assume that Williams may have continued to play another year or two had he reached that level in order to try and surpass Ruth's record. Given that Williams hit 29 HR in his final year in only 113 games and 310 at bats (with .316/.451/.645), it wouldn't be farfetched to think he could have ripped another 20-25 in 1961 (especially given the expansion that occurred and the plethora of HR hit in the league that year) and perhaps 15-20 in what could have been his final year in 1962. If so, Williams would have ended up with a career HR total just ahead of Ruth.
But what if it turned out that The Kid wasn't even the top home run slugger among those who share the same surname?
To answer the question as to who is the greatest HR hitter of all time (be it a Williams or a player by another name), let's examine the following rankings:
CAREER HOME RUN LEADERS (1900-2002)
Top 20 HR Hitters of All Time (in Absolute Terms):
HOMERUNS HR 1 Hank Aaron 755 2 Babe Ruth 714 3 Willie Mays 660 4 Barry Bonds 613 5 Frank Robinson 586 6 Mark McGwire 583 7 Harmon Killebrew 573 8 Reggie Jackson 563 9 Mike Schmidt 548 10 Mickey Mantle 536 11 Jimmie Foxx 534 T12 Willie McCovey 521 T12 Ted Williams 521 T14 Ernie Banks 512 T14 Eddie Mathews 512 16 Mel Ott 511 17 Eddie Murray 504 18 Sammy Sosa 499 19 Lou Gehrig 493 20 Rafael Palmeiro 490This is the standard way most casual fans rank home run hitters. The list reads like a Hall of Fame roll call.
Top 20 HR Hitters of All Time (HR - League Average Based on Outs):
HOMERUNS DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Babe Ruth 622 714 92 2 Hank Aaron 457 755 298 3 Mark McGwire 405 583 178 4 Jimmie Foxx 403 534 131 5 Barry Bonds 392 613 221 6 Willie Mays 390 660 270 7 Lou Gehrig 377 493 116 8 Ted Williams 376 521 145 9 Mel Ott 374 511 137 10 Mike Schmidt 367 548 181 11 Harmon Killebrew 362 573 211 12 Mickey Mantle 346 536 190 13 Frank Robinson 337 586 249 14 Willie McCovey 334 521 187 15 Reggie Jackson 327 563 236 16 Willie Stargell 305 475 170 17 Sammy Sosa 294 499 205 T18 Eddie Mathews 285 512 227 T18 Dave Kingman 285 442 157 20 Ken Griffey Jr. 272 468 196Another way of evaluating home run hitters is to compare them versus their league average. This ranking is based on the number of home runs hit minus the league average based on outs. The list of players doesn't change appreciably. Willie Stargell, Dave Kingman, and Ken Griffey Jr. displace Ernie Banks, Eddie Murray, and Rafael Palmeiro--three players who prospered from long and injury-free careers. All but Kingman are either in or likely to be in the HOF upon eligibility.
Top 20 HR Hitters of All Time (HR - League Average Based on Plate Appearances):
HOMERUNS DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Babe Ruth 602 714 112 2 Hank Aaron 436 755 319 3 Jimmie Foxx 387 534 147 4 Mark McGwire 385 583 198 5 Willie Mays 367 660 293 6 Lou Gehrig 359 493 134 T7 Mel Ott 355 511 156 T7 Barry Bonds 355 613 258 9 Mike Schmidt 351 548 197 10 Harmon Killebrew 345 573 228 11 Ted Williams 339 521 182 12 Willie McCovey 317 521 204 13 Reggie Jackson 315 563 248 T14 Frank Robinson 313 586 273 T14 Mickey Mantle 313 536 223 16 Willie Stargell 293 475 182 T17 Sammy Sosa 290 499 209 T17 Dave Kingman 290 442 152 T19 Ernie Banks 265 512 247 T19 Eddie Mathews 265 512 247This ranking is based on the number of home runs hit minus the league average based on plate appearances. No new names appear for the first time as the list of players is virtually the same as those above, only in a slightly different order.
Top 20 HR Hitters of All Time (HR/League Average Based on Outs):
HOMERUNS RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Babe Ruth 777 714 92 2 Lou Gehrig 426 493 116 3 Jimmie Foxx 407 534 131 4 Cy Williams 390 251 64 5 Ken Williams 378 196 52 6 Mel Ott 372 511 137 7 Rogers Hornsby 365 301 82 8 Hank Greenberg 362 331 91 9 Ted Williams 359 521 145 10 Hack Wilson 351 244 69 11 Home Run Baker 351 96 27 12 Tilly Walker 347 118 34 13 Johnny Mize 336 359 107 14 Mark McGwire 328 583 178 15 Harry Davis 317 69 22 16 Wally Berger 311 242 78 17 Chuck Klein 309 300 97 18 Dolph Camilli 305 239 78 19 Mike Schmidt 303 548 181 20 Ralph Kiner 302 369 122
Top 20 HR Hitters of All Time (HR/League Average Based on Plate Appearances):
HOMERUNS RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Babe Ruth 635 714 112 2 Cy Williams 370 251 68 3 Lou Gehrig 369 493 134 4 Jimmie Foxx 363 534 147 5 Ken Williams 361 196 54 6 Tilly Walker 346 118 34 7 Home Run Baker 339 96 28 8 Hank Greenberg 329 331 101 9 Mel Ott 327 511 156 10 Hack Wilson 326 244 75 11 Rogers Hornsby 313 301 96 12 Harry Davis 309 69 22 13 Johnny Mize 306 359 117 14 Wally Berger 302 242 80 15 Mark McGwire 294 583 198 16 Chuck Klein 291 300 103 17 Dave Kingman 290 442 152 18 Ted Williams 286 521 182 19 Rudy York 282 277 98 20 Mike Schmidt 278 548 197* All of the above rankings are based on a minimum of 5000 plate appearances.
The latter two rankings are based on the number of home runs hit divided by the league average based on outs and plate appearances. This methodology provides a much different perspective on the greatest home run hitters of all time.
Based on the above, Fred "Cy" Williams was arguably the second or fourth most prolific home run hitter of all time (behind only Ruth and possibly Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx). Williams hit 251 career homers versus 64 for the league average player with the same number of outs or 68 based on the same number of plate appearances.
Williams won four home run titles and finished among the league's top three every year for 13 consecutive years from 1915-1927 (except 1917 when he placed 7th and 1925 when he ended up 13th in just 107 games). Williams graduated from Notre Dame in 1912 (where he starred in baseball, football, and track), signed with the Chicago Cubs, and was immediately placed on the big league roster. He led the league in homers in 1916 while he was with the Cubs but was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after slumping in 1917. A lefthanded pull hitter, Cy's stroke was ideally suited for the short right field porch at the Baker Bowl (named after the Phils owner, William Baker). The power-hitting center fielder's career began to flourish owing to his new home ballpark and the introduction of the lively ball in 1920. The "Williams shift", which was popularized by Cleveland Indians manager Lou Boudreau against the Red Sox great in the 1940s, was first used by several National League teams to counter another Williams 20 years earlier.
Williams hit 41 homers in 1923, 19 more than the National League runner-up and good enough to tie Babe Ruth for the major league lead. He shared his fourth and last HR title with Hack Wilson, hitting 30 in 1927 at the age of 39. When Williams retired after the 1930 season, his total of 251 career home runs was the N.L. record for a lefthanded batter. Cy hit 12 inside-the-park homers and seven grand slams, and his 11 pinch-hit HR were a record until 1960. Despite his accomplishments, Williams never received even one vote for the Hall of Fame.
In each of his first 14 seasons, Williams played for a different manager, including Tinker, Evers, and Chance. Upon retirement, Williams became a prominent architect in Eagle River, Wisconsin. He died in 1974 at the age of 86.
Although Ken Williams and Cy Williams were not brothers, they were related in many other ways. For the most part, they had parallel careers and were two of the greatest home run hitters of their era. Ken Williams slugged 196 homers and ranks as the fifth best HR hitter of all time based on the number of four baggers hit divided by the league average for outs and plate appearances.
Williams was the first American Leaguer other than Ruth to top 30 home runs in a season. He accomplished that feat in 1922 when he led the league with 39 HR and 155 RBI. That very same year, Ken also became the first player in baseball history to hit 30 HR and steal 30 bases in the same season. If that weren't enough, Williams also led the A.L. in extra base hits (84) and total bases (367) and finished in the top five in slugging average (.627), OPS (1.040), runs (128), hits (194), walks (74), times on base (275), and stolen bases (37), topping off one of the most underappreciated seasons ever. In that magical year, Williams became the first player in A.L. history to hit three HR in one game and the first to hit two HR in the same inning. He also homered in six consecutive games, setting a major league record that stood for 34 years. His 30-30 season wasn't matched until 1956 by none other than Willie Mays. And for all that, Williams received nary an MVP vote even though his St. Louis Browns team had its best year in the club's history (finishing one game behind the mighty New York Yankees). As Rob Neyer explains so eloquently in his Big Book of Baseball Lineups, the eight MVP voters from around the league were instructed to list eight players on their ballots: one player from each team, ranked one through eight. That system left Williams on the outside looking in because his teammate George Sisler led the league with a .420 BA and 134 runs scored, garnering seven of the eight votes for Browns players. The eighth vote went to Urban Shocker, a righthanded starting pitcher with a 24-17 record, an ERA of 2.97, and a league-high 149 strikeouts. Like Cy Williams, Ken benefited by playing his home games in a favorable ballpark (Sportsman's Park), especially in 1922 when he batted .373 with 32 taters at home and only .290 with seven homers on the road. For his career, Williams hit 142 HR at home and 54 on the road.
Ken Williams is one of nine players to have more RBI in a season than games played two times. The six retired players (Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Al Simmons, Hank Greenberg, and Joe DiMaggio) are all baseball greats and Hall of Famers and the two active players are Juan Gonzalez and Manny Ramirez. From 1918-1931, Williams and Bob Meusel were the only players other than Ruth to lead the A.L. in home runs.
It is unfortunate that the memory of Ken Williams has faded into the distant past along with baggy flannel uniforms, doubleheaders, and the game of "pepper". As an indication of the lack of respect for his contributions, Ken Williams received only one vote for the HOF in 1956 and 1958. He died in 1959 in his hometown of Grants Pass, Oregon.
Top 10 HR Hitters of All Time (HR/League Average Based on Outs):
HOMERUNS RATE PLAYER LEAGUE 1 Babe Ruth 777 714 92 2 Gavvy Cravath 527 119 23 3 Lou Gehrig 426 493 116 4 Jimmie Foxx 407 534 131 5 Cy Williams 390 251 64 6 Ken Williams 378 196 52 7 Mel Ott 372 511 137 8 Rogers Hornsby 365 301 82 9 Hank Greenberg 362 331 91 10 Ted Williams 359 521 145 11 Hack Wilson 351 244 69 12 Home Run Baker 351 96 27 13 Tilly Walker 347 118 34 14 Johnny Mize 336 359 107 15 Mark McGwire 328 583 178 16 Socks Seybold 327 51 16 17 Charlie Hickman 324 58 18 18 Harry Davis 317 69 22 19 Wally Berger 311 242 78 20 Chuck Klein 309 300 97* The above rankings are based on a minimum of 4000 plate appearances rather than 5000.
Source: sabermetric baseball encyclopedia
The last list also ranks players based on the number of home runs hit divided by the league average based on outs, with the minimum number of plate appearances reduced from 5,000 to 4,000. Based on these factors, Clifford "Gavvy" Cravath can lay claim to being the second greatest home run hitter (trailing only Ruth). Cravath, the leading home run hitter during the Dead Ball era, led the National League in HR six times (1913-1915, 1917-1919) in seven years. Gavvy ended his career with 119 homers vs. a league average of 23 and places second based on outs or plate appearances. Remarkably, he won his first HR title at the age of 32 in what was only his second full season. Cravath outhomered the entire St. Louis Browns team in 1913; the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds in 1914; the Boston Braves, Brooklyn Robins, St. Louis, and Cincinnati in 1915; and Pittsburgh in 1917. Of the eight teams in the N.L., only Gavvy's Philadelphia Phillies team and the Chicago Cubs hit more HR than Cravath in 1915. A righthanded hitter, Gavvy became an opposite-field power hitter to take advantage of playing his home games in the Baker Bowl. When Gavvy led the league in home runs in 1914, he hit all 19 HR at home and none on the road.
Cravath captured The Quad honors in 1915, leading the league in on base percentage (.393), slugging average (.510), times on base (241), and total bases (266). He also led the league in OPS+ (171), thereby achieving The Quad+ status as well. Gavvy led the Phils to their first pennant in 1915 and would have been a natural choice for MVP honors except that the N.L. didn't select a player that year. In 1913, Cravath placed first in three of the legs (SLG, TOB, and TB) and second in the other (OBP), another year in which he led the league in OPS+ (172). Cravath also led N.L. outfielders in assists three times, including 34 in 1914--the sixth highest total by an OF ever.
Cravath hit what was then a modern-day record 24 homers in 1915 and retired as the all-time HR leader in 1920. Ruth broke Gavvy's yearly mark in 1919 and passed him on the career list when he set a single-season record with 59 homers in 1921. Bill James ranks Cravath as the third-greatest right fielder in baseball history from the ages 32-36 (behind Ruth and Aaron). Gavvy received only two votes for the HOF in 1937, 1938, and 1939. According to The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Cravath was elected a local judge in Laguna Beach, California in 1927 and was re-elected every two years after that until his death in 1963. He was the last non-lawyer to serve as a judge in California.
The Envelope, Please...
Based on counting stats, Hank Aaron is currently the most prolific home run hitter of all time. The only question remaining is whether Barry Bonds will ultimately surpass Aaron's career total and become the greatest HR hitter in absolute terms. In relative terms, there is no doubt that Babe Ruth is still the HR champ. The Bambino ranks number one by every measure vs. the league average (be it differential or ratio, outs or plate appearances). The combination of ranking second in absolute terms (and only by a slim margin) and first on all relative measures (and significantly higher than anyone with a high absolute total) leaves very little argument as to who is truly the most prodigious home run hitter in mlb history. However, as this study proves, no discussion regarding the greatest HR hitters of all time would be complete without mentioning all three Williamses as well as Gavvy Cravath. The common thread among the two lesser-known Williamses and Cravath is the fact that they all benefited greatly from their home ballparks, but that shouldn't necessarily in and of itself dismiss these players from the discussions of great home run hitters.
Nobody Asked Me, But...
In the aftermath of the Frank Thomas article, I thought it would be timely to rank my top ten first basemen of all time.
1. Lou Gehrig 2. Jimmie Foxx 3. Mark McGwire 4. Frank Thomas 5. Jeff Bagwell 6. Johnny Mize 7. Hank Greenberg 8. Willie McCovey 9. Harmon Killebrew 10. Eddie Murray
The first two are easy. Lou Gehrig ranks number one by almost every sabermetric measure, whether it be OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, TA, or RC. Jimmie Foxx ranks second in most of these categories. Stan Musial would rank among the top three if he was listed as a first baseman. Stan the Man played more games at 1B than any other single position, but he appeared in almost twice as many games in the OF as 1B.
On the other hand, the next five players are much more difficult to rank. Mark McGwire had the highest peak value. Mac's 1998 season (.299/.470/.752 with 70 HR) was one for the ages, but what is less known is that his 1996 season (.312/.467/.730 with 52 HR) was nearly as good. Those seasons rank as two of the best ever for a 1B. As noted in the Let's Be Frank About the Big Hurt article, Frank Thomas ranks 6th all time among all players in career OBP, 13th in SLG, and 9th in OPS and OPS+. Among 1B, only Gehrig ranks higher in all four areas. Jeff Bagwell and Thomas have had parallel careers. Bags has been a much better fielder and baserunner than Big Frank, but he ranks behind his American League rival in number of seasons with OPS+ of > 150 (six vs. eight) and > 175 (two vs. six) as well as career OPS+ (155 to 163). Thomas-Bagwell or Bagwell-Thomas, I'm OK either way.Johnny Mize and Hank Greenberg both ended their careers with OPS+ of 158, but Mize created 10% more runs and had more seasons with OPS+ of > 150 (ten vs. seven) and > 175 (four vs. zero) than Greenberg.
The case for Greenberg and Willie McCovey is that they led the major leagues in OBP, SLG, OPS, and/or TA for several five-year rolling periods with the latter also having led the N.L. in OPS and OPS+ for three consecutive years (1968-1970). Harmon Killebrew's most comparable player was McCovey, yet the Killer falls short of his N.L. competitor in both peak and career totals. Eddie Murray earned the nickname "Steady Eddie" for his longevity and consistency, which allowed him to accumulate counting stats rivaling those of Gehrig and Foxx without putting up comparable rate stats.
One could also make a case for both Frank Chance and George Sisler. Chance was the best first baseman during the first decade of the 1900s (although he played 100 games or more just six times and never appeared in more than 136 in any single season), and Sisler was the premier first sacker between Chance and Gehrig. That said, Sisler and Bill Terry have generally been overrated throughout baseball history because of their high batting averages.
Just Missed: Dick Allen
Check back tomorrow for a new article on a different method to rank home run hitters. Two of the top five names will shock you.
Photo credit: Matthew Fulling