The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

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.

craig kimbrel

craig kimbrel (Photo credit: taylor magnone)

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.

Joe Blanton

Joe Blanton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Hilltop Park, home of the Highlanders

Hilltop Park, home of the Highlanders (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Omar Vizquel, with the Cleveland Indians

Omar Vizquel, with the Cleveland Indians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

You’re welcome.

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18 thoughts on “Seven Baseball Stories You May Have Missed in 2012

    • Thanks so much, Jackson!

      • Not a problem, Will. I’m always up to reblog an article about my religion (baseball), especially one that doesn’t cover the usual 2012 stories — Oakland, The Nationals, Melky Cabrera, The Triple Crown, etc. etc. Not that those stories aren’t important.

        And GO YANKEES — we’ll just see everybody next year. We never “rebuild,” just “reload.” 😉

        — Jackson

  1. Northern Narratives on said:

    I did not realize that Colorado was having so many troubles. I thought that Houston was in worse shape.

    • Hello, and thanks for reading.
      Yeah, both teams have a long way to go. A couple of sad stories, but who knows, perhaps success is just a few years away for both teams. Their fans can only hope so.

  2. Allan G. Smorra on said:

    Well-written and informative as usual, Bill. I am no fan of the NY Yankees and I agree that they have one impressive record of being in the playoffs.

  3. Great stuff, Bill–and I’d say I missed over half of these–at least in regard to their actual significance.

    I probably could have guessed with some accuracy the playoff appearances of the Yankees, Dodgers and Cards, but would have thought that the Red Sox had more appearances than they do, and moreover that more teams would have more than 20 appearances.

    I appreciate your take on Joe Blanton. Heretofore I had been in agreement with Bumba. I don’t know that my overall opinion has changed, but at least now I have some perspective.

    The Rockies are a funny team. They never seem to play to their ability. I don’t think they’re as s****y as their record would indicate, but a couple years ago when they went on that fantastic winning streak that took them all the way to the World Series, they weren’t that good.

    I think Omar Vizsuel probably does belong in the HoF, but should lose bitch points for that time he held up a game insisting that Arthur Rhodes remove his earrings because the glare hurt Omar’s eyes.

    • I thought the same thing regarding the number of times other teams have made the playoffs. The Sox have had some long droughts, as have the Pirates, Cubs, White Sox (no surprises there), and a few others. Interesting how some teams seem to be able to get their act together at least every few years, while others go an entire generation or two flailing away pointlessly, wasting everyone’s time.
      The Rockies do seem like a team still in search of an identity. To me, they are an excellent reason why baseball doesn’t need to expand any further.
      Always appreciate the comments, man.

  4. Is Rios AL Comeback Player of the Year? What about Derek Jeter? I think Andy Pettite would have been a shoe-in if he didn’t miss 8 weeks with a broken foot.

    • Hi Mark, I don’t believe they’ve named the winners of any awards yet, but I think Rios would be an excellent candidate for Comeback Player of the Year award, though his teammate, Adam Dunn, is also quite deserving of the award. As for Jeter, he was better in ’12 than he was in ’11, but the difference between those two seasons for him wasn’t nearly as great as it was for either Dunn or Rios.
      Thank you very much for reading,

  5. Terrific article. Enjoyed it. One thing that I didn’t know was that Joe Blanton was a good pitcher. When he first came to the Dodgers he looked more like a batting practice pitcher. But he pitched a couple of strong games at the end of the season when they needed it.

    • Hey Bumba, Thanks for reading. Blanton is, overall, a pretty average MLB pitcher who has some good starts, and some real clunkers. But he goes out there every fifth day and gives it his all. I admire him because he just keeps persevering. He is the “Every Man” of pitchers.
      Cheers, Bill

  6. Excellent Work, Mr. Bill!
    Please Keep It Up!
    This One Was Great!

  7. Reblogged this on "You Jivin' Me, Turkey?" and commented:
    Loved This Piece!
    Excellent Work By Mr. Bill, Once Again!!! 😀

  8. First things first, I ALWAYS enjoy feeling more enlightened by whatever you share with us, Bill. I especially liked this post because the stories are very current.

    I remember on March 31st being a guest on the Mets Musings podcast with Barry and Gary. We made out Mets predictions and then took on the divisions. While discussing the NL West I said “I want someone to sit me down and explain exactly what the Colorado Rockies are doing.”

    Now I know the answer, which is, they don’t!

    I DID, however, learn one thing from them this season. If my “Honorary 1962 New York Mets” team ever needs a General Manager, I know where I can find one.

    Kindest Regards,
    Michael, AKA: Grubby Glove.

    • Hi Michael, Yeah, once in a while I return to this century and write something more or less current. I don’t know what the hell the Rockies are up to, but they are one of several teams (Red Sox, Mets, Astros, Cubs, Indians, etc.) that need to go back to the drawing board.
      I, too, have enjoyed reading your current posts, and I hope that all is well with you these days. Email me sometime, if you get a chance.
      Cheers, Bill

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