The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Major League Baseball All-Star Game Records

William Miller:

Hey Gang, I decided to re-blog this post I did last year regarding the All Star Game. Hope you don’t mind.

Originally posted on The On Deck Circle:

The first MLB All-Star Game was played at Comiskey Park in Chicago on July 6, 1933.  Babe Ruth hit the first All-Star Game home run, leading the A.L. to a 4-2 win over the N.L.

Here are several MLB All-Star Game records which may peak your interest.

Original description: Willie Mays, standing, w...

Willie Mays batted .307 in 24 All-Star Game appearances.

Most All-Star Games played:  24 (Three players)

1)  Stan Musial

2)  Willie Mays

3)  Hank Aaron

Most All-Star Game At Bats:  75, Willie Mays

Most All-Star Game Hits:  23, Willie Mays (.307 All-Star Game batting average)

Highest All-Star Game career Batting Average (minimum, 5 games):  .500, Charlie Gehringer (10 for 20)

Most All-Star Game Runs Scored:  20,Willie Mays

Most All-Star Game Stolen Bases:  6, Willie Mays

Most All-Star Game Home Runs:  6, Stan Musial

Most All-Star Game RBI:  12, Ted Williams

Number of batters who led-off an All-Star Game with a home run:  5

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Saves, No-Hitters and Homers: Oh, My!

Consider this a follow-up to my last post.

Several of my readers made many fantastic additions to my previous list of players who had thrown a shutout and earned a save in the same season.  One of my readers wondered how often a pitcher tossed a no-hitter, (as opposed to merely a shutout), and earned a save in the same campaign. So, of course, I did a little more research.

Let me say, once again, that I don’t pretend that my research here is necessarily comprehensive.  I may have missed a few guys, but I hope not very many. Here are a couple of dozen pitchers who, at the very least, pitched a no-hitter and earned a save in the same season.  As you’ll see, I broke them down into a bit more specific categories.

Also, I’m only going back as far as 1900.  And no, chronological order doesn’t much interest me.

Pitchers Who Threw a No-Hitter and Earned a Save:

1)  Nolan Ryan:  Ryan pitched seven no-hitters in his career, four with the Angels.  The first two of those no-hitters occurred in 1973.  Also that same year, Ryan earned a save, one of just three he would record in his 27-year career.

2)  Jeff Tesreau:  Tesreau was an excellent rookie pitcher on the great 1912 New York Giants.  He tossed his only career no-hitter that year, and earned a save.

3)  Jim Bunning:  Bunning threw two no-hitters in his career.  The first one was when he was a member of the Tigers in 1958.  His second no-hitter came against the Mets, while pitching for the Phillies, in 1964.  He also earned a pair of saves in the 1964 season.

George Leroy "Hooks" Wiltse, of the ...

George Leroy “Hooks” Wiltse, of the New York (NL) baseball team, winding up for pitch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4)  Chris Bosio:  Bosio pitched the second no-hitter in the history of the Seattle Mariners franchise, in 1993.  Later that same year, he also earned a save.

5)  Hooks Wiltse:  Wiltse, a left-handed pitcher out of Hamilton, NY, enjoyed his finest season in 1908, recording a 23-14 record for the Giants.  He no-hit the Phillies on the 4th of July that season, one of his career-high seven shutouts on the year, and recorded a couple of saves along the way that season.  In his career, he threw 27 shutouts and earned 33 saves.  

6)  Dean Chance:  On August 25, 1967, Dean Chance of the Minnesota Twins defeated the Cleveland Indians on the road by the score of 2-1.  Oddly, Chance actually pitched a complete game no-hitter that day, but his five walks, a wild pitch and an error by Twins third baseman Cesar Tovar led to the lone Indians run in the first inning.  Tovar later scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning on a balk by Indians pitcher Sonny Siebert.  Chance also acquired one save in ’67.

7)  Allie Reynolds:  If there is such a thing as an underrated Yankee, I submit Allie Reynolds as Exhibit A.  Reynolds tossed a pair of no-hitters in the 1951 season, about ten weeks apart.  Already 34-years old that season, Reynolds won 17 games for the Yanks in ’51, leading the A.L. with seven shutouts.  He also recorded seven saves that same year.  In 1952, he led the A.L. in ERA (2.06), won twenty games, and led the league, again, with six shutouts.  He matched those six shutouts by registering six saves.

8)  Gaylord Perry:  Facing Bob Gibson in Gibson’s unbelievable ’68 season (1.12 ERA), Perry actually bested him by no-hitting Gibson’s St. Louis Cardinals.  (How would you like to have been anywhere near Bob Gibson in the Cardinal’s clubhouse after that game?)  Perry also earned a save that year.  He didn’t hit a homer in ’68, but he did hit exactly one homer in ’69, ’70, ’71 and ’72.

9)  Carl Hubbell:  In just his second Major League season, Hubbell tossed the only no-hitter of his fine career, an 11-0 victory over the Pirates at the Polo Grounds in 1929.  He also saved a game that year.

10)  Paul Dean:  Like Jeff Tesreau 22 years earlier, Paul (Daffy) Dean, (brother of Dizzy Dean),  pitched a no-hitter in his rookie season (1934.)  Paul won 19 games in each of his first two Major League seasons, then won just 12 more in his career.  He also saved two games in 1934.

11)  Dutch Leonard:  Leonard tossed a pair of no-hitters in the early years of the Boston Red Sox, one in 1916 and one in 1918.  In addition to his six shutouts in ’16, he also saved half a dozen games.

12)  Carl Erskine:  “Oisk” tossed a couple of no-hitters for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the first one in 1952 and the second one in 1956.  In ’52, he also saved two games, but he saved none in ’56.  His one career homer came in 1955.

English: Pitcher Jimmy Lavender of the Chicago...

English: Pitcher Jimmy Lavender of the Chicago Cubs at the Polo Grounds in New York City, 1912. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

13)  Jimmy Lavender:  Nope, I’d never heard of him before, either.  Lavender was a decent pitcher on a mediocre Cubs team in 1915, but he did have one big day.  He fired a no-hitter against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, defeating them 2-0.  Former Giant Roger Bresnahan was his catcher, and his manager.  Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem was behind the plate.  Lavender also earned four saves in ’15.

Those Who Did a Bit More:  A no-hitter, a save, and a home run (or two.)  

14)  Bob Feller:  Feller hurled three no-hitters in his legendary career.  The first one occurred on Opening Day, 1940 (the only Opening Day no-hitter in MLB history.)  His second no-hitter was in 1946, after he arrived home from WWII.  His third and final no-hitter was recorded in 1951.  Feller also earned four saves in both 1940 and ’46.  In 1940, Feller also slugged two home runs.  He was one of only six pitchers on this list to toss a no-hitter, earn a save and hit a home run in the same year.

15)  Walter Johnson:  You might think 1920 was one of Johnson’s best years because he accomplished what Feller did, pitching a no-hitter, earning three saves and hitting a home run that season.  But 1920 was otherwise a rare bad year for Johnson, as he posted just an 8-10 record.  A fine hitting pitcher, he slugged 24 homers in his career.

"Smokey" Joe Wood, Boston AL (baseball)

“Smokey” Joe Wood, Boston AL (baseball) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

16)  Smoky Joe Wood:  As a 21-year old stud on the Red Sox in 1911, Joe Wood would pitch a no-hitter and save three games.  The following year, he would enjoy his legendary 34-5 season, leading the Red Sox to a World Series triumph over the Giants.  Oh, and he also hit a pair of homers in ’11, and two more in ’12.

17)  Lew Burdette:  The best player ever to come out of Nitro High School, West Virginia, Milwaukee Braves pitcher Burdette pitched a no-hitter on August 18, 1960 against the Phillies, winning by a score of 1-0.  Burdette also led the N.L. with 18 complete games, won 19 games, saved four games, and hit two home runs in 1960.

18)  Warren Spahn:  That same 1960 season, Burdette’s teammate, Warren Spahn, virtually matched Burdette’s trifecta.  Spahn pitched the first of his two career no-hitters at age 39, saved a pair of games, and hit three homers.

19)  Phil Niekro:  Thirteen years after Burdette and Spahn, Atlanta Brave Phil Niekro did his best to emulate those Braves pitchers of the previous generation.  Though 1973 wasn’t one of Niekro’s very best seasons, he did toss the one and only no-hitter of his career, (his only shutout of 1973), recorded four saves, and even hit one of his seven career home runs.

One of a Kind:  a perfect game and a save.  

20)  Addie Joss:  On October 2, 1908, Joss pitched the second perfect game in American League history.  It came against the Chicago White Sox.  He also earned two saves that season.  Less than two years later, in April of 1910, he again no-hit the White Sox.  He won both games by the score of 1-0.  Almost exactly one year later, on April 14, 1911, Joss died of meningitis.  Until Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum no-hit the Padres last week for the second time in his career, Joss had been the only pitcher in history to toss two no-hitters against one team.

From Another Dimension:  a perfect game, a no-hitter, saves and homers.

21)  Sandy Koufax:  Koufax was the first pitcher to throw four no-hitters.  He tossed one each over four consecutive seasons beginning in 1962.  His final no-hitter in ’65 was also a perfect game.  In ’62, in addition to his first no-hitter, he also saved a game and hit a home run.  In ’63, he threw a no-hitter, won 25 games, and hit a homer.  In ’64, he threw a no-hitter and saved a game, but didn’t hit a homer.  In ’65, Koufax enjoyed his perfect game, saved two additional games, but did not hit a home run.  All in all, not a bad four-year stretch.

Cy Young.

Cy Young. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All That, and a Bag of Chips:  A perfect game, a save, and a home run.

22)  Cy Young:  Like Bob Feller, Cy Young recorded three no-hitters in his career.  He tossed his first one in 1897, his second one in 1904, and his last one in 1908.  But his ’04 no-hitter was also a perfect game.  He earned a save as well in ’04, and a couple of more saves in ’08.  In ’04, he also hit a home run.

23)  Jim “Catfish” Hunter:  Before he was Catfish, he was just a young phenom pitcher named Jim Hunter.  In 1968, he actually matched Cy Young’s ’04 performance.  Hunter tossed a perfect game, earned a save, and hit a home run.  Young and Hunter are the only two pitchers I’m aware of who accomplished this feat in one year.     

If you can find more pitchers to add to this list, O Faithful Readers, I welcome any and all additions.  I’m sure there are a few more out there.

Pitchers Who Tossed a Shutout and Earned a Save in the Same Season

In days of yore, before the set-up man, the LOOGY and the closer, you had pitchers.  Sometimes, these pitchers mostly started.  Sometimes, they mostly relieved.  Beyond that, there was often a great deal of flexibility regarding at what point a pitcher entered any particular game.

A bit like the uncle you grew up with who could remove an entire engine from a car, take down a gnarled old tree in his backyard, teach the neighborhood kids how to grip a curve-ball, and, in his spare time,  re-wire your house, pitchers of earlier generations were not above tossing a complete game one day, then coming in to pitch 1 2/3 innings of relief a couple of days later.

One thing I happened to notice while looking at the career stats of some pitchers from earlier generations is that several of them managed to toss a shutout and pick up a save in the same season.  At first blush, it might not seem to be that big a deal, but if you stop to consider how few pitchers today are used as “swing-starters,” pitchers who might be used as a fifth-starter, and who would pitch in relief in between, shutouts and saves are not a combination we are used to modern pitchers producing.

I have compiled an admittedly random list of pitchers who did earn a save in the same year they pitched a shutout.  Some of the names may surprise you.  Some of the pitchers may be men you’ve never heard of before.  Each of them demonstrated a flexibility that we don’t see much anymore.

1)  Tom Seaver – In Tom Terrific’s sophomore season, 1968, he made 35 starts and pitched 278 innings.  On July 7th, at Philadelphia, Seaver was tapped to close out the second game of a double-header.  With one runner already on base when he entered the game, Seaver struck out Dick Allen looking, then retired Johnny Callison and Tony Taylor on fly-balls.   It was the one and only save he recorded in his entire career.  That same season, Seaver hurled five shutouts.

Catfish, Billy, and Brad Gulden

Catfish, Billy, and Brad Gulden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2)  Jim “Catfish” Hunter – Oddly, 1968 was the year Catfish Hunter also recorded the only save in his career.  The first season the A’s were in Oakland (having moved from Kansas City), the 22-year old Hunter was already in his fourth Major League season.  Though Hunter had pitched a few games in relief in his first couple of seasons, by ’68, he was a regular starter in the A’s rotation.  Jack Aker led the A’s with only 11 saves that season, so the A’s didn’t really have a closer, per se’.  Hunter just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  Incidentally, he also threw a couple of complete game shutouts that year.

3)  Bill Bonham – In 1974, 25-year old Cubs right-hander Bill Bonham led the N.L. with 22 losses.  He really wasn’t as bad as that.  His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was 3.12, while his actual ERA was 3.86.  In other words, he was particularly unlucky with balls in play.  Regardless, in addition to his 36 starts, of which he completed 10, he also appeared in eight games in relief.  He had already recorded a total of ten saves during the previous two years, but he would record his eleventh and final career save in the ’74 season.  His two shutouts in ’74 provide some indication that he was not a useless MLB pitcher, despite his 22 losses.

4)  Walter Johnson – For sixteen consecutive seasons (1908-23), Johnson recorded at least one save in each season, posting a high of four saves in 1915.  In each of those 16 years, he also recorded at least one shutout, tossing a career high of 11 in 1913.  In addition to his all-time record of 110 shutouts, he also saved 34 games.  For good measure, he belted at least one home run in 12 of those sixteen seasons, hitting nearly as many home runs as he surrendered.  Oh, and he managed 41 career triples as well.

English: Baseball pitcher Rube Waddell in 1901

English: Baseball pitcher Rube Waddell in 1901 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5)  Rube Waddell – When not chasing fire trucks, being distracted by shiny objects or going fishing without telling anyone, Waddell started 36 games for the 1908 Browns, and made seven relief appearances as well.  In his last outstanding season, the 31-year old Waddell pitched five shutouts, and posted a 1.89 ERA.  He also saved three games, which led the team.  He also hit a homer in ’08, one more than he surrendered  the entire year.

6)  Lynn McGlothen – McGlothen pitched for several teams during the decade 1972-82, most successfully for the Cardinals, where he was named to the 1974 N.L. All Star team.  Used almost exclusively as a starter for the first seven years of his career, he landed on the Cubs for the ’78 season, and 1979, he was a swing-man, alternating between the bullpen and the rotation.  He completed six of 29 starts, posting a record of 13-14 along the way.  One of those complete games was a shutout, one of 13 he would pitch in his career.  That same season, he recorded the only two saves he would ever earn.  Three years later, at the end of the 1982 season, McGlothen was killed in a fire in a mobile home while visiting his girlfriend in his native Louisiana.   According to his New York Times obituary, she died when she ran in to save him after saving her daughters.  In his lifetime, it would have been the only save that truly mattered.

7)  Steve Barber – Barber was a very good pitcher for the Orioles during the early to mid 1960′s, winning a career high 20 games in 1963.  In 1961, he won 18 of 34 starts, leading the A.L. with eight shutouts.  He also appeared in three games in relief, saving one ballgame.  The previous season, he had saved two games while throwing one shutout.  After the ’61 season, despite playing for thirteen more years, he would never again toss a shutout and save a game in the same year, though he recorded more of each category in different subsequent seasons.

8)  Rollie Fingers –  It’s hard for me to think of Rollie Fingers as anything but a relief pitcher.  But even Mariano Rivera made ten starts (in his rookie season), so obviously things can change drastically, given enough time.  Fingers appeared in 944 games in his career, but started only 37 times.  About half of those starts (19) came in one year, 1970. Fingers tossed one shutout in eight starts in 1969, and one more shutout, again in eight starts, in 1971.  Those were the only two shutouts of his career.  He would save 12 and 17 games, respectively, during those two years, on his way to 341 saves for his career.

English: Phil Niekro signing an autograph in 1982.

English: Phil Niekro signing an autograph in 1982. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

9)  Phil Niekro – In a way, Niekro was the Walter Johnson of his era.  What I mean by that is even though Niekro was generally the ace of the staffs on which he pitched for many years, his team was not afraid to use him in relief, even in save situations a surprising amount of times.  In fact, in eight seasons Niekro recorded at least one shutout and one save.  He recorded a high of nine saves in 1967, a season in which he made 20 starts and pitched in relief in 26 other games.  He tossed one shutout that season.  Several years later, in 1974, he threw a career high six shutouts in 39 starts, yet also managed to find the time to save one game.  In his 24-year career, Knucksie threw 45 shutouts and saved 29 games.

10)  Hoyt Wilhelm – Wilhelm didn’t throw his first shutout until he was already 35-years old, with the Orioles in 1958.  Earlier that same year, he also pitched for the Indians, where he was credited with five saves.  In 1960, still with the Orioles, he threw one more shutout, the last of his career, and saved seven games.  Already 37-years old at this point, his career wasn’t even half over.  Wilhelm would go on to record double-digit saves nine times over the next decade, on his way to over 1,000 appearances in relief.  By comparison, he started just 52 games, and recorded five career shutouts.

11)  Roy Halladay –  O.K., so there is at least one modern pitcher who recorded a shutout and a save in the same season.  In the second year of his career, 1999, Halladay pitched in 36 games, divided exactly evenly between starting and relieving.  He pitched one complete game shutout that year, and recorded the only save of his career.  After the 2001 season, Halladay would never pitch in relief again, making 390 starts in his career, and completing an impressive (for our era) 67 of them.  Twenty of those were shutouts.

12)  Bill Lee – In his first four seasons with the Red Sox, Lee was primarily a relief pitcher, managing just nine starts in his first 125 appearances.  Not necessarily the team’s closer, however, he also recorded just eight saves during those four years.  In 1973, however, Lee was a full-time member of the Red Sox starting rotation (supplanting the aforementioned Lynn McGlothen, who was traded to St. Louis.)  Lee made 33 starts, against just five relief appearances, pitching 18 complete games, including one shutout.  He also saved one game in those five relief appearances.  From that point on, Lee threw nine more shutouts in his career, and saved ten more games, on his way to a record of 119-90.

I’m sure you can come up with many more pitchers who recorded a save and a shutout in the same season at least once in their careers.  Let me know who you find.

 

 

 

Greatest Pitchers vs. the Greatest Hitters

What happens when you put a pair of superstars on opposite teams on the same field?  One superstar happens to be a pitcher, and the other one is a batter.  How well do some superstars perform against others?

I decided to take a look at some of the best pitchers of all-time, and see how well they performed against high level competition.  Specifically, I have listed the stats of a fine hitter a pitcher performed well against, and a HOF-caliber batter who hit them hard.  Although there may be individual batters who hit certain pitchers even better than the ones I’ve listed, generally speaking, those hitters weren’t normally considered superstar level performers.

Here are the results:  (Minimum of 50 at bats.)

1)  Sandy Koufax vs. Hank Aaron:

116 at bats, 42 hits, 6 doubles, 3 triples, 7 homers, 16 RBI, 14 walks, 12 strikeouts.  .362/.431/.647  OPS:  1.077

2)  Sandy Koufax vs. Lou Brock:

65 at bats, 12 hits, 4 doubles, 0 triples, 0 homers, 1 RBI, 3 walks, 28 strikeouts.  .185/.232/.246  OPS:  .478

3)  Bob Gibson vs. Eddie Mathews:

95 at bats, 31 hits, 5 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers, 13 RBI, 21 walks, 14 strikeouts.  .326/.448/.526  OPS:  .975

4)  Bob Gibson vs. Roberto Clemente:

125 at bats, 26 hits, 1 double, 2 triples, 4 homers, 16 RBI, 2 walks, 32 strikeouts.  .208/.219/.344  OPS:  .563

5)  Tom Seaver vs. Joe Morgan:

109 at bats, 32 hits, 8 doubles, 0 triples, 5 homers, 11 RBI, 23 walks, 17 strikeouts.  .294/.415/.505  OPS:  .919

6)  Tom Seaver vs. Johnny Bench:

84 at bats, 15 hits, 7 doubles, 0 triples, 2 homers, 8 RBI, 11 walks, 27 strikeouts.  .179/.271/.333  OPS:  .604

7)  Warren Spahn vs. Stan Musial:

291 at bats, 95 hits, 21 doubles, 6 triples, 14 homers, 45 RBI, 43 walks, 28 strikeouts.  .326/.417/.584  OPS:  1.001

8)  Warren Spahn vs. Duke Snider:

80 at bats, 19 hits, 3 doubles, 0 triples, 4 homers, 12 RBI, 8 walks, 18 strikeouts.  .238/.315/.425  OPS:  .740

9)  Robin Roberts vs. Ernie Banks:

121 at bats, 41 hits, 4 doubles, 3 triples, 15 homers, 31 RBI, 7 walks, 22 strikeouts.  .339/.377/.793  OPS:  1.170

10)  Robin Roberts vs. Orlando Cepeda:

63 at bats, 16 hits, 3 doubles, 0 triples, 2 homers, 11 RBI, 1 walk, 12 strikeouts.  .254/.262/.397  OPS:  .658

11)  Steve Carlton vs. Gary Carter:

116 at bats, 36 hits, 9 doubles, 0 triples, 11 homers, 24 RBI, 18 walks, 7 strikeouts.  .310/.400/.672  OPS:  1.072

12)  Steve Carlton vs. Tony Perez:

108 at bats, 21 hits, 5 doubles, 0 triples, 3 homers, 10 RBI, 16 walks, 26 strikeouts.  .194/.294/.324  OPS:  .618

13)  Nolan Ryan vs. Carl Yastrzemski:

50 at bats, 17 hits, 1 double, 0 triples, 4 homers, 14 RBI, 12 walks, 7 strikeouts.  .340/.469/.600  OPS:  1.069

14)  Nolan Ryan vs. Robin Yount:

69 at bats, 16 hits, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 2 homers, 10 RBI, 8 walks, 16 strikeouts.  .232/.329/.406  OPS:  .735

15)  Greg Maddux vs. Tony Gwynn:

94 at bats, 39 hits, 8 doubles, 1 triple, 0 homers, 9 RBI, 11 walks, 0 strikeouts.  .415/.476..521  OPS:  .997

16)  Greg Maddux vs. Mike Piazza:

80 at bats, 19 hits, 1 double, 0 triples, 4 homers, 10 RBI, 1 walk, 12 strikeouts.  .238/.247/.400  OPS:  .647

 

Player Narratives, and the Hall of Fame

Do me a favor.  Take a look at these final career numbers, and tell me if you think the player who compiled these numbers is probably in the Hall of Fame or not.  Do not try to guess who the player is, because we’ll come back to that later.  Please allow the numbers to speak for themselves:

2,460 Games

2,490 Hits

441 Doubles

493 Home Runs  (27th)

1,550 RBI  (42nd)

1,349 Runs

1,305 Walks

4,458 Total Bases (50th)

1,704 Runs Created (49th)

Triple Slash Line:  .284 / .377 / .509

OPS+    134

1,447 Assists (10th at his position)

1,775 Double Plays Turned (5th at his position)

I’m choosing not to include this player’s WAR because it has become too easy to simply go directly to that one statistic and form one’s judgment based on that stat alone.  I will tell you that it is better than some HOF’ers, and not as good as some others.

At this point, you are probably withholding your final judgment based on who the player is.  I would probably do the same.  But why do we do that?  Why does the player’s identity matter so much in our final evaluation as to whether or not he belongs in The Hall?  Shouldn’t the numbers speak for themselves?

The truth is, we tend to place a great deal of weight on the player’s particular narrative.  Did he play for one team his entire career?  Was he beloved by millions, or was he a surly jackass who alienated press and public alike.

Certainly, we want to know, too, in which era the player performed.  Were his numbers special for their time, or were they more representative of a good but not necessarily a great player?

What about intangibles such as playoff performance, overcoming significant personal or professional handicaps, being a suspected cheater, or suffering a tragic, career-ending injury at a relatively young age?

What position did he play?  Historically, more offense has always been expected from outfielders and first basemen than from middle infielders or catchers.

If I told you the numbers listed above belonged to Duke Snider, (they do not, but they plausibly could have), you, too, would probably choose to enshrine the well-respected slugger from the legendary Boys of Summer.  The Brooklyn narrative and the lure of baseball’s so-called Golden Era would be too strong to resist.  Mickey, Willie and The Duke, and all that.

Similarly, if I told you those are Willie Stargell’s numbers, (again, they are not), once again, you would allow that those statistics are sufficient to make the case that “Pop” Stargell, the lifelong Pirate and spiritual leader of the 1979 We Are Family championship ball-club, belongs in the Hall of Fame.

On the other hand, if I told you that these numbers belonged to Dick Allen, Jose Canseco, Carlos Delgado, or Joe Carter, for various reasons, you might very well come to an opposite conclusion regarding their HOF-worthiness.

The truth is, when it comes to whom we deem to be HOF-worthy, we love our narratives.  We tend to work backwards, I think, and use statistics to rationalize our preconceived prejudices regarding who does or does not belong in The Hall.

Certainly, there are a handful of players who obviously belong in The Hall, are there not?  Lou Gehrig comes to mind.  Gehrig slugged 493 home runs, (as many as the player whose stats are listed above.)  He died young and tragically, and was a fabled member of the ’27 Yankees.

Mike Schmidt also comes to mind.  A dominant player in his era, Schmidt compiled 54 fewer total bases than did the mystery player joining us today.

No one I’ve ever heard of has ever argued that Willie “Stretch” McCovey doesn’t belong in The Hall.  A tremendous run producer, McCovey drove in just five more runs in his career than did our soon-to-be revealed player.  McCovey topped 30 homers seven times.  Our Mystery Player accomplished that feat ten times in his career.

Here’s another example.  When I was a kid growing up in the 1970′s, it was clear and obvious to all of the neighborhood boys that Catfish Hunter was a Hall of Famer long before he became eligible, while Bert Blyleven was merely a fine pitcher, but not a particularly interesting one.

For those of us now in our early 50′s, that narrative remains powerful to this day.  While more recent stats point to Blyleven being far more valuable than Hunter, all I remember about Blyleven is that he pitched in Minnesota for lots of bad Twins ball clubs.  It wasn’t until later that I became aware of his reputation as a great prankster, though I doubt even that information would have been enough to sway my opinion of his worthiness for the Hall of Fame.

I now see that as far as his numbers are concerned, Bert Blyleven does belong in the Hall of Fame.  Yet, although I recognize that Hunter’s numbers may ultimately appear to be lacking, his narrative remains superior.  He was the mustachioed ace of first the great A’s clubs of the early ’70′s, then the ace of the fine Yankees teams of the later ’70′s.  He had a great nickname, was always good for a quote, won at least 20 games five consecutive seasons, and died relatively young at age 53.

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that there’s room for both pitchers in the Hall of Fame.  Sometimes, if we remain open-minded enough, life can be a win-win.

O.K., enough of that.  Who is our Mystery Player?

He is none other than Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff.

Fred McGriff was well-respected, and generally well-liked, and his numbers appear to be worthy of HOF induction, but there are a few problems with his narrative.

For one thing, unlike Schmidt, McCovey, Gehrig, Gwynn, Ripkin, Kaline, Clemente and so many other Hall of Famers, it is difficult to associate McGriff with any one team.  He started out as an extremely productive Toronto Blue Jay, became a highly productive Padre, then moved on to become a reliably productive Brave.  Once he left Atlanta, he moved on to Tampa Bay, where, now in his mid-30′s, he provided solid punch in their batting order.

At age 38, clearly his best years behind him, all he did was slam 30 homers, drive in 103 runs and slug .505 with the Cubs.  He hit his 490th home run as a Dodger, then retired as a Devil Ray at age 40 in 2004.

McGriff also had the misfortune to have his best seasons in the first half of his career (pre-1994), when hitting 35 homers per season still meant something.  By the time he got the opportunity to play before a national audience on TBS with the Braves, every third player seemed to be enjoying 30 homer seasons.  His production began to be viewed by that point as ordinary, the norm of what a first baseman should be producing.

That McGriff finished in the top ten in MVP voting six times, that he reached an OPS+ of at least 140 in ten seasons, and that the first time he went on the Disabled List was in his 18th season at age 39 (talk about an Iron Man) is apparently no match for the overall lack of gripping drama, personal tragedy, or single-uniform predictability that sports fans love.

Fred McGriff has now been on the HOF ballot five years.  Last year, he was named on just 11.7% of all votes cast.  At this point, it seems unlikely that McGriff will be voted into the HOF anytime soon.  You, too, may believe that McGriff just doesn’t quite belong in the Hall of Fame.

But if that’s the way you feel, ask yourself this.  Is it the numbers or is it the narrative that prevents you from considering him to be a worthy Hall of Famer?

Tampa Bay Devil Rays first base coach Fred McG...

Tampa Bay Devil Rays first base coach Fred McGriff during a Devil Rays/New York Mets spring training game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Top Ten Things For Which Mets Fans Can Be Moderately Satisfied

Though I’ve been a Mets fan since 1974, and have been writing this blog for nearly five years now, I don’t often indulge myself in all things Mets (probably because there’s not a great deal for which to indulge.)  Yet, given the declining interest among the fan base (do they still make Mets fans?), I thought I would do my best to try to cheer up my fellow refugees here in Mets-Land.

English: Citi Field with Shea Stadium's Home R...

English: Citi Field with Shea Stadium’s Home Run Apple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To that purpose, here is my list of the top ten things for which Mets fans can be moderately satisfied:

1)  Through 276 plate appearances, Curtis Granderson has not yet hit into a single double-play this season.

2)  Jon Niese’s 2.67 ERA ranks 8th-best in the N.L., and his 1.15 WHIP ranks 11th in the senior circuit.

3)  Compared to the San Diego Padres (210 runs scored), our offense (273 runs scored) looks like the ’27 Yankees.

4)  Through 274 plate appearances, Mets prospect Brandon Nimmo has an outstanding .449 on-base percentage in Single-A for the St. Lucie Mets in the Florida State League.

5)  Matt Harvey is still undefeated this year.

6)  If it’s true that with age comes wisdom, then Mets G.M. Sandy Alderson (66), manager Terry Collins (65), and team owner Fred Wilpon (77), are Major League baseball’s version of the Oracle at Delphi, if the Oracle at Delphi featured poor infield defense, and looked at lots of 2-1 fastballs down the middle.

7)  The Mets home attendance average of 27,823 fans per game (17th-best in MLB), means that there is normally plenty of leg and elbow room for the fans who actually do show up, not like out in San Francisco, where the park is 99.5% filled to capacity.  Being a Mets fan attending a game at Citi Field is, then, like enjoying a first-class deck cabin on the Lusitania.

8)  Mets third baseman David Wright still has a perfect driving record.  And, according to another blog I read recently, Wright plays baseball “above the neck.”  That might put him at a competitive disadvantage, however, in a league where most other players use their hands, feet, legs and arms.

9)  No Mets pitcher appears to be on track to match the team record of 24 losses in a season accumulated by retired Mets pitchers Roger Craig and Jack Fisher.  Zack Wheeler currently has just seven losses to lead the team, so he’ll have his work cut out for him if we wishes to join Craig and Fisher in the pantheon of Mets infamy.

10)  With just six triples as an entire team so far this season, the Mets appear to be on pace to at least match the all-time team low of 14 triples the team legged out in 1999.  But at least management will have to spend less money on footwear during the next off-season.  No doubt they’ll put that money to good use signing marquee free agents for the 2015 season, and beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Welch: Rest in Peace

You may have heard the news this afternoon that former Dodgers and A’s pitcher Bob Welch has died of an apparent heart-attack at age 57.

Bob Welch was born in Detroit, Michigan on November 3, 1956.  He went to Hazel Park High School, and attended Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, MI.  He was the Dodgers first round pick in the 1977 amateur draft, the 20th pick overall.  He debuted for the Dodgers in 1978 at age 21, appearing in 23 games that season.  In 111 innings pitched, he posted a 7-4 record, and recorded a 2.02 ERA.

1981 Fleer Baseball Card

1981 Fleer Baseball Card (Photo credit: Jasperdo)

Welch pitched well for the Dodgers for ten seasons, from 1978 through 1987, inclusive.  He made the 1980 All-Star team, and pitched in both the 1978 and 1981 World Series’ against the Yankees.  As a Dodger, Welch posted a 115-86 record in 292 games with a 3.14 ERA.

When he was 31-years old, Welch became a member of the Oakland A’s (as part of a three-team trade) in 1988, just in time to join the Bash Brothers as they headed towards the World Series.  Welch pitched against his former Dodgers teammates in Game 3 of that Series, performing well but receiving a no-decision for his efforts.  The Dodgers ultimately won the Series in five games.

His career record for Oakland over seven seasons was 96-60, with a 3.94 ERA.  He made the 1990 All-Star team, and won the A.L. Cy Young award that season as well, posting an incredible 27-6 record in 35 starts.  No pitcher since then has won as many as 25 games.

Bob Welch retired after the 1994 season, posting a career win-loss record of 211-146 with a 3.47 ERA.  He won two World Series rings as a player, one with the Dodgers in 1981 and the other with the A’s in 1989.

He was also a pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he won a third World Series ring in 2001.

Welch is survived by an eighteen-year old daughter, and two sons in their 20′s, as well as his former wife, Mary Ellen.

My condolences go out to his family.  It is truly sad that he passed away at such a young age.  May he rest in peace.

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Is the Wrong Giants First Baseman in the Hall of Fame?

A while back, I asked the question, “Is the Wrong Red Sox Outfielder in the Hall of Fame?”  This is a follow-up of sorts, though the intent is not necessarily to turn this into a new series.  Nevertheless, I do become intrigued from time-to-time by the often haphazard approach the various Hall of Fame voting groups take to selecting their Hall of Famers.  This is one of those times.

Player A is in the Hall of Fame.  He gained entry into the Hall of Fame in his 15th-year on the ballot, receiving 77.4% of the votes cast that year.  In his first year on the ballot, he received just 4% of the vote, but there was apparently no rule at the time that a player must receive at least 5% to remain on the ballot.

Player A spent his entire career with the Giants.  He batted and threw left-handed.  He was a Southerner.  He stood 6’1″ and weighed 200 pounds.

Player B is not in the Hall of Fame, having fallen off the ballot in his first year of eligibility when he received 4.4%, a bit more than did Player A on his first year on the ballot.  But as it stands today, if a player doesn’t receive 5% of the ballot, he drops off the ballot.

Player B spent the first half of his career as a Giant, and it is the team he is still primarily associated with.  He batted and threw left-handed.  He, too, was a Southerner.  He stood 6’2″ and weighed 190 pounds.

Now let’s compare their respective career statistics:

Player A:                            Player B:

Career Hits – 2,193          Career Hits – 2,176

Doubles – 373                    Doubles – 440

Triples – 112                      Triples – 47

Home Runs – 154              Home Runs – 284

RBI – 1,078                        RBI – 1,205

Runs – 1,120                      Runs – 1,186

Batting Average – .341    Batting Average – .303

On-Base % – .393            On-Base % – .384

Slugging % – .506             Slugging % – .497

OPS – .899                        OPS – .880

OPS+ – 136                       OPS+ – 137

Walks – 537                      Walks – 937

Strikeouts – 449               Strikeouts – 1,190

WAR – 54.2                       WAR – 56.2

As you can see, they were close in a few statistical categories, and each “won” seven categories.  If you throw in their respective Black Ink scores, which indicates the number of times a player led his league in a statistic in a particular season, Player A scored a 12, while Player B scored a 13.

Neither player won an MVP award.  Player A finished third twice in the voting, while Player B once finished runner-up in the voting.

So, have you guessed the identities of each of these players?

English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Bill Ter...

English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Bill Terry of the New York Giants #20. PD-not renewed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Player A is Bill Terry.

Player B is Will Clark.

If you think Terry’s .341 career batting average should give him the edge, keep in mind that Terry won just a single batting title in his career, and generally played in a much hitter-friendlier era than did Clark.

It appears to me that if one of them is in the Hall of Fame, then so, too, should be the other.  Whether you believe either of them belongs in the HOF is another matter.

But it does raise the question as to whether or not the 5% rule should be abandoned.

After all, clearly a player’s stature can grow significantly over time, as it did with Bill Terry (not to mention Bert Blyleven, Jim Rice, and several other Hall of Famers.)

 

Will Clark preparing to bat during seventh inn...

Will Clark preparing to bat during seventh inning of 12 August 1992 game between San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Game boxscore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

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Whatever Happened to Home-Field Advantage?

The idea that home-field advantage is of special value in providing a given baseball team a competitive edge is an old one, and may once upon a time have been largely true (though I haven’t done enough historical research to actually verify this.)  While it may have been generally true in the past, it doesn’t seem to be the case so far this season.  Nearly half of all Major League teams actually have fewer wins than losses at home, with only a few teams enjoying a truly decisive edge on their home turf.

Home Field Advantage (album)

Home Field Advantage (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a list of teams from worst to best at home based on win-loss percentage.  Granted, some of the teams with sub-.500 home records are just bad teams to begin with, but there are clearly some surprises on this list.  (Games are through Friday night, June 6, 2014):

1)  Arizona – 9-23  (yet somehow 17-14 on the road)

2)  Philadelphia – 12-19

3)  Dodgers – 13-19  (but 19-11 on the road)

4)  Mets – 13-17  (Since Citi Field opened, the Mets are 204-229 at home)

5)  Houston – 14-18

6)  Yankees – 13-16

6)  Tampa Bay – 13-16

8)  San Diego – 15-18

9)  Baltimore – 11-13

10) Cincinnati – 13-15

11)  Kansas City – 14-16

11) Minnesota – 14-16

13) Boston – 15-17

14) Seattle – 14-15

15) Texas – 15-15

16) Detroit – 15-14  (But 17-11 on the road)

17) Cubs – 14-13

18) Cardinals – 16-14

19) Angels – 16-13

20) White Sox – 17-14

21) Atlanta – 18-14

22) Pittsburgh – 17-13

23) Washington – 19-15

24) Oakland – 17-12   (Nice, but they’re an even better 21-11 on the road)

25)  Colorado – 16-11 (But just 12-21 on the road)

26)  Milwaukee – 19-13

26)  Toronto – 19-13  (slightly better on the road at 19-11)

28)  Cleveland – 21-11 (Only 9-20 on the road, so clearly, home-field advantage is important to them)

29)  Miami – 22-11 (10-18 on the road)

30)  San Francisco – 20-9  (as well as a respectable 20-12 on the road)

As you can see, there appear to be few teams who benefit decisively from home-field advantage.  As good as even Oakland and Toronto are at home, they are even better on the road, and the Giants are only slightly better at home than they are on the road.

Perhaps, then, making home-field advantage for the World Series contingent on which league wins the All-Star Game   is an overrated concern.  After all, even last year’s World Champion Boston Red Sox won just two of their four victories at home.  And in 2012, the Giants swept the Tigers, winning two first in San Francisco, then winning Games Three and Four in Detroit.  The way the Giants played, they might have won four straight even if all four had been played in Detroit.

I suppose it’s often psychologically comforting to be able to enjoy the comforts and familiarity of home, but it appears that when it comes to actually winning baseball games, being at home may be largely irrelevant.

 

 

 

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Strange and Interesting Baseball Facts and Stats For 2014

In every baseball season, unexplainable  situations and statistics occur.  Despite all that we know and understand about the game, including all the advances we can attribute to sabermetrics, the human element still has a way of intruding on the actual outcomes of the ballgames.  Large sums of money are paid to athletes both for what they have accomplished and for what a hopeful team expects them to accomplish in the future.  Obviously, the best laid plans…well, you know how it goes.

Having said that, here are some weird numbers I’ve noticed as I’ve researched the 2014 season to this point.  Of course, the season is still young — we’re only a quarter of the way through it — and some of these players and teams will revert back to their norms, but the fact remains that odd and fascinating things have been happening all over baseball this season.

For example:

Prince Fielder, who has hit 288 home runs in his career and has a career slugging percentage of .522, has “slugged” just .360 this season, 95 points lower than Mets second baseman Danny Murphy, who is slugging a career high .455.  Fielder has three homers and 16 RBI.  Murphy has three homers and 17 RBI.

Francisco “K-Rod Rodriguez has recorded 17 saves in the 42 games the Brewers have played this season, meaning he has saved a game in 40% of the games they’ve played.  In 2008, when the set the Major League record for saves in a season with 62, he recorded a save in 38% of the Angels 162 games.  So basically, K-Rod is on pace to break his own single-season save record.

Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon is on pace to steal 100 bases this year.  No one has stolen a hundred bases in a season since Vince Coleman last did it for the Cardinals in 1987.

Averaging 7.6 strikeouts per walk this season, Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon has the best K/ BB ratio of his career (38 strikeouts against just five walks.)  Yet, by almost every other measure, he’s having one of his very worst seasons thus far:  2-5, 5.84 ERA in eight starts, 1.439 WHIP, ERA+ of 58.  Perhaps one really can be too careful.

Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano, who over the past five seasons hit 25, 29, 28, 33 and 27 homers, is on pace to hit four this year, as many as Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez.

With a record of 6-0, and an ERA of 2.17, Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is off to a fantastic start.  He also leads the A.L. with an 0.914 WHIP.  Oddly, though, batters are hitting .318 against his four-seam fastball, and a robust .326 against his two-seam fastball.  But they are hitting just .172 against his slider, and only .141 off his splitter.

Through nine starts, Red pitcher Johnny Cueto has an ERA of 1.25 and a batting average against of .135.  In all of Major League history, no pitcher has ever had an ERA that low and an opponent batting average that low through the first nine starts of a season.

The Cubs entire bullpen as recorded just four saves this season.  Meanwhile, Tampa Bay Rays closer Grant Balfour recorded two in one day.

Is it time to start paying closer attention to the season Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is putting together?  As I type this, he is currently batting .398 with an on-base percentage of .503, and a slugging percentage of .767.   Tulo leads the N.L. in batting, of course, and also in home runs, with 12.  Not only does he have a chance to become the first N.L. player to win the Triple Crown since Ducky Medwick in 1937, but he may become the first player since Tony Gwynn batted .394 twenty-years ago in 1994.  Could even a .400 batting average be within his reach?

Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, 23-years old, has now logged exactly 600 MLB plate appearances.  Try as I might, I was unable to find any player from previous generations of batters whose stats through their first 600 plate appearances were truly comparable to Puig’s.  He has hit 27 homers, and has posted a triple slash line of .323 /.400/.549.  Puig’s career OPS+ is 165.

One player I did research who also got off to a nice start to his career homered 31 times in his first 675 plate appearances (a rate roughly similar to Puig’s), and posted a triple slash line of .327 / .436 / .609, while playing his home games in a friendlier hitter’s park than Puig’s Dodgers Stadium.  His career OPS+ through his first 149 games (Puig has played 141) was 160, a bit lower than Puig’s 165.  The other player’s name?  Ted Williams.

As far as I can tell, Brewers outfielder Khris Davis has drawn fewer walks per 150 plate appearances than any other player in the Majors this season.  So far, he has drawn just three walks in 152 plate appearances, down even from last season’s 11 walks in 153 plate appearances.  Clearly, the man likes to swing the bat.  On a visceral level, there’s something to be said for a man who takes his chances, who won’t be cheated, and who isn’t satisfied with a mere trot down to first base.  “Felt wrong not to swing.” -Merrill Hess (Joaquin Phoenix), from the movie, “Signs.”

The Mets tenth-highest paid player this season is, (are you ready for this?),  Bobby Bonilla!   Bonilla hasn’t worn the uniform of any MLB team for the past 13 years.  Bonilla, now 51-years old, will continue to be paid one million dollars per year by the Mets (1.19, to be exact), through the year 2035.  He will be 72-years old when they stop sending him checks.  The Mets could have bought him out for 5.9 million in the year 2000, but failed to do so.  On the back of such improbably horrible decisions are legacies made.

If there are any other oddities you’d like to share with me, by all means, please do so.

 

 

 

 

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