Seven Baseball Stories You May Have Missed in 2012
There were lots of great stories this year. The unexpectedly strong showings of the Orioles and the A’s, as well as the Nats, probably top the list. Also, many people thought that no one would ever win another Triple Crown. In past years, I’ve read articles that sought to “prove” that it could never happen again. Miguel Cabrera’s remarkable achievement may be the last time many of us ever witness this event in our lifetimes.
Mike Trout’s historic rookie season was one for the ages. No other rookie in history ever produced a 30 homer, 40 steal season, leading the league with 49 steals. He also led the A.L. in runs scored (129) and in OPS+ (171). It’ll be interesting to see how the vote for the A.L. MVP award turns out.
But there were several other “smaller” stories, if you will, that were no less worthy of notice. Some of you will already be aware of some of these facts, stories, and other tidbits of information. But, in general, the items that follow were each, in my estimation, a bit under-reported. Then again, I’m attracted to relatively useless trivia, so please bear with me.
1) Craig Kimbrel: Kimbrel accomplished something this season that no pitcher, not Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Mariano Rivera, Rob Dibble, Dick Radatz, or any other flamethrower, ever did before. Kimbrel struck out half the batters he faced (116 out of 231.) How crazy is that? He also struck out about four batters for every hit (27) he surrendered in his 62.2 innings pitched. His ERA of 1.01 and ERA+ of 399 are just cartoonish. Oh, and did I mention he led the league in saves with 42? Displaying impeccable control, he walked just 14 batters, and hit just two. So yes, he’s a pretty good pitcher.
2) Carlos Beltran: Beltran became the eighth player in baseball history to join the 300 homer, 300 stolen base club. He is the only switch-hitter in history to have both 300 homer and steals. Currently, he has 334 homers (which puts him in the top 100 all time), and 306 stolen bases. His outstanding 86.7 career stolen base percentage ranks 3rd best of all time. Finally, Beltran’s career WAR of 62.3 — about the same as Ernie Banks — certainly places Beltran in the conversation about future Hall of Famers.
3) Joe Blanton: I love Joe Blanton. I have a separate post in mind devoted entirely to Joe Blanton. I might even get around to writing it. In the meantime, you might not find Blanton’s 10-13 record, 4.71 ERA or ERA+ of 84 to be awe-inspiring. But did you know his strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.88), ranked 2nd in the entire National League? Did you know that his 1.6 walks / 9 innings was third best in the league? How about that he had more shutouts (1) than Cy Young candidate Johnny Cueto? In fact, Cueto had only four more strikeouts than Blanton (170 to 166) in 2012, and it took Cueto 26 more innings to top Blanton. Did you know these little bits of trivia? Well, know you do. And don’t you feel better knowing them?
4) New York Yankees: So the Yankees made the playoffs again. Did you know the Yankees have now made the playoffs fifty-one times in their history? All fifty-one times have occurred since 1921. That means that over the past 92 seasons, the Yankees have made the playoffs 55% of the time. No other team is particularly close.
The Dodgers, for example, have made the playoffs 26 times since 1916. That’s about 27% of the last 97 seasons. The Cardinals have made the playoffs 25 times since 1926. That’s about 29% of the best 87 seasons. Not a bad showing. The Giants and the A’s have each made the playoffs 24 times since 1905. The Braves have been there now 22 of the past 99 seasons. The Red Sox, 20 times since 1903. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, no other team has ever made the playoffs as many as 20 times.
So the Yankees have made the playoffs about twice as often as the next best set of teams. Even to someone like me who is not a Yankees fan, that’s an impressive run of success.
5) Colorado Rockies: On the other end of the spectrum, the Rockies have now existed for twenty seasons, and 2012 was their worst one yet. Their .395 win-loss percentage was the lowest in team history. You know you’ve had a bad year when the highest WAR recorded on the team was accumulated by a relief pitcher (Rafael Betancourt: 2.6.) Their attendance this year was down to 2.6 million, not a bad total, but this once proud franchise topped well over three million spectators per year every season from their debut in 1993 through 2001. In fact, in ’93, they drew about 4.5 million fans.
The Rockies are long past the point where it can be said that they’re a young franchise going through growing pains. Now they are simply painful to watch.
6) Alex Rios: A fair amount has been written about the comeback season enjoyed by White Sox D.H., Adam Dunn, and rightly so. Yet his teammate, outfielder Alex Rios, also managed a remarkable turnaround in 2012. In 2011, Rios batted just .227, slugged .348, and posted an OPS+ of 63. He hit 13 homers, stole eleven bases, and drove in 44 runs. In 2012, he bounced back in a big way, batting .304, slugging .516, and posted an OPS+ of 124. He also slugged 25 homers, stole 23 bases, and drove in 91 runs.
In other words, Rios was essentially twice the player in 2012 as he was in 2011. Considering he was playing his age 31 season, that has to rate as one of the more unlikely comeback seasons in baseball history. Considering the ChiSox are on the hook with Alex Rios for the next three years, they’ll have ample opportunity to find out which one is the “real” Alex Rios.
7) Omar Vizquel: At age 45, Omar Vizquel is finally calling it quits. He has certainly compiled some impressive stats over the course of his career, especially with his glove. The three-time All Star won eleven Gold Gloves in his career, and his .985 career fielding percentage as a shortstop is the best in baseball history (minimum, 4,000 chances.)
Vizquel’s 28.4 dWAR is also among the top ten players in baseball history whose primary position was shortstop. He ranks third all-time in assists, with 7,676, and 11th in putouts with 4,102.
As an offensive player, Vizquel accumulated 2,877 hits, good for 40th place in baseball history. His 2,264 singles are 16th best. His 456 doubles are more than HOF’ers Joe Morgan, Rod Carew, Barry Larkin and Luke Appling. He also stole 404 bases, and scored 1,445 runs.
Does Vizquel belong in the Hall of Fame? On that issue, I abstain. I’ll leave that decision up to the BBWAA to decide five years from now.
So there you have it, seven items you may not have known about. I hope you feel much more enlightened by this trivia I have shared with you.
- Blue Jays’ Vizquel passed Ruth on hits list (miamiherald.com)