The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

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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18 thoughts on “Strange and Interesting Baseball Facts and Stats For 2014

  1. Your note about Johnny Cueto got me very curious about Bob Gibson’s 1968 season… after 9 starts, come to find out, Gibson was an astonishing 3-4, 1.34 … that’ s an INCREDIBLE combination of bad luck and lights-out pitching… including a walk-off loss at Connie Mack Stadium on May 17th where Bill White snapped a 0-0 tie with 2 outs in the 10th inning, scoring Woodie Fryman (to whom Gibson astonishingly surrendered a hit…)

    Also, does anyone know Mordecai Brown’s ERA after 9 starts in 1906 — the year he finished up at 1.04? Retrosheet doesn’t have individual game data for that year, but you’d think he was better than Cueto after 9 starts, given where he finished…

    • Hi Jason, I’d heard that before about the beginning of Gibson’s ’68 season, but, yeah, it’s mind-boggling. And he still finished with a 1.12 ERA, but somehow won “just” 22 of 34 starts. He should have won closer to 30. Good point about Mordecai Brown. Sometimes, when we read that so-and-so has the best this or that of all-time, we have to stop and consider that not all old-time stats are complete, so we can’t always be too sure about those kinds of statements. But I have to say, I was surprised that Cueto has been quite that good so far.

      • Ooh, I just found an even better one — this one dredged up by a childhood memory. Phil Niekro on the 1984 Yankees, after 9 starts, had a 1.32 ERA — even better than Bob Gibson, and just a run behind Cueto. After 8 starts, Knucksie had been at 1.04, but the Angels roughed him up during the 9th start (on May 19th, 30 years ago today) — he gave up improbable RBI hits to Ron Jackson and Rob Wilfong. He finished the year at a much less impressive 3.09 …

      • Jason, I think you are well on your way to being the official statistician for this blog. 🙂
        You know, even though I know that Niekro once pitched for the Yanks, I still can’t picture him actually doing it. All those years collecting his baseball card back when he was a Brave creates a kind of psychological dissonance when I try and picture him as a Yankee. Digging a little further, turns out in the first half of ’84, Knucksie was 11-4 with a 1.84 ERA. In the second-half he went 5-4 with a 5.06 ERA. I guess, seeing that he was 45-years old, the wear and tear of the season just caught up with him.
        BTW, regarding your Dr. Who blog, in my household, we are all huge David Tennant fans.
        Thanks again,

  2. Since the Mets already dragooned Abreu from the nether reaches of the past-tense, can Bobby Bo’s addition to the 25-man roster be far behind?

    • What do ya say, W.K.? Yeah, they might as well make him a pinch-hitter or something, and get something for all those bucks they’re paying him. Or maybe they could just let him collect tickets at the gate. Kind of a side-show kind of thing like in the old-time fairgrounds. Bearded Lady, The Boy With No Body, and the Man Who Makes Millions of Dollars Doing Nothing. Perhaps the late Tod Browning could replace Sandy Alderson as the Mets next G.M.
      Take care, man

  3. I have no stats to add, but it is perfect irony that Bonilla, who I’d guess never attended a college course, got such an advantageous contract (even if it was thanks to his agent) from the team whose primary owner got sandbagged by Bernie Madoff.

    • Sometimes you have to wonder how rich guys ever managed to get rich in the first place.
      Thanks, Arne

      • Did you see the “New Yorker” profile on Fred Wilpon which ran, I think, early in the 2010 season? The one where he threw Jose Reyes under the bus in a pre-emptive bid to prevent Jose from cashing in big with a free agent deal? That article goes into a bit of Wilpon’s history, and how he was able to buy the team in a fire sale from Joan Whitney Payson’s daughters in 1980. Essentially, Wilpon was NEVER rich in the first place… then, as now, he remained nothing more than a scam artist…

      • You know, I read ABOUT that profile, but I didn’t read the profile itself. I think I would have found it just too damned depressing. Still, I’m not surprised to find out that the man is basically a con-artist, who got out-conned by Madoff. Wonderful, this capitalist system of ours, if you have no conscience. Maybe I’ll go back and try to find the article. I’m sure it’s an eye-opening read.
        Thanks again,

  4. The actual leader in lack of patience thus far is all star Adam Jones with 169 at bats and 4 walks, but Steve Lombardozzi will maybe top that. He has 0 walks in 72 at bats. Both players are on the Orioles. Hmph! But when it comes to Khrush Davis, the extra innings batting average trumps the free swinging. He’s 6 for 8 with a home run and 2 rbi’s.

    Prince Fielder’s slugging percentage has declined significantly since he left Milwaukee, so that’s not a big shocker. Rickie Weeks stole his underpants.

    The Cubs have 5 team saves after yesterday’s combined shutout and Hector Rondon has emerged as one of the league’s most effective relievers. The Cubs are better than they appear in my estimation, but I’m biased because I love the Cubs.

    Puig is of course not alone in OPSing his way. There’s a Trout dueling his banjo, but in terms of previous generations, Ralph Kiner was 24 when he broke in, but his OPS exploded for all 10 years he played.

    But all that aside, this was fun, but really Bill, come on. Do you recommend “Signs” or was that just an appropriate reference?

    • Hey, I enjoyed the movie, “Signs.” Looking at Kiner’s numbers, he wasn’t nearly as good as Puig over his first 600 plate appearances, though as you say, he then become an OPS monster for about a decade. Nothing against the Cubbies, and they have some fine young players coming up, but a 14-27 record would make even a Mets fan reach for another bottle of whiskey. Rickie Weeks stole Fielder’s underpants? What’s up with that?

      • oh, i see signs is with mel gibson. that could be tough to watch, but i liked him in conspiracy theory, so why not, I’ll give it a try. It’s got crop circles. that’s always interesting. Thank you.

      • Can’t say I’m a huge Mel Gibson fan, but I do like him in the right role. Conspiracy Theory is a good one, too. And let’s not forget Mad Max!

  5. I gotta get me one of those Bobby Bonilla deals. Where do I sign?
    Now I understand why the Mets are losing. Sorry, Bill.

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