The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “baseball statistics”

Baseball’s Nice Round Numbers, and the Near Misses As Well

Often while I’m looking up the statistics for a particular player, I notice the number of times a player either reaches a particular milestone, or just barely misses it.  As someone who loves stats, I enjoy it when a player posts a nice, round number, such as 300 wins, 3,000 hits, or 500 doubles.  For one thing, I’m sure Hall of Fame voters also take note of these statistics.  So, for example, they should take a second look at John Olerud’s very productive career when they notice (assuming they take the time to actually analyze a player’s stats at all) that Olerud slammed exactly 500 doubles in his career.

I’m also intrigued, however, when a player comes ever-so-close to reaching one of these milestones, but falls just short.  Would Kenny Lofton, for example, have received more serious scrutiny during the most recent HOF voting if he’d batted .300 for his career, rather than .299?

What follows is an overview of the players who posted those nice round numbers as well as those who fell just short.  Several players appear on one or more of these lists.  Some are Hall of Famers while others are all but forgotten.  A few players on these lists are still currently active.  There are, perhaps, a few surprises.

Let’s begin with Doubles:

John Olerud is one of two players to hit for t...

John Olerud is one of two players to hit for the cycle in both the National and American Leagues. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Goose Goslin and John Olerud each netted exactly 500 doubles.  Goslin is in the HOF.  Will Olerud, with a career WAR of 58.0, a batting title, a 200-hit season, four 100 RBI seasons, three Gold Gloves and more walks than strikeouts merit serious consideration?

Rusty Staub ended his fine career with 499 doubles.  One of the most underrated players of all-time, would Staub have garnered a few more HOF votes if he’d grabbed an additional two-bagger?  Bill Buckner, Al Kaline and Sam Rice each ended up with 498 doubles.

Further down the list, we find Babe Herman, Gee Walker and Paul Hines settling in at 399 doubles.  (Did you know Babe Herman’s middle name was Caves?  What’s up with that?)

Gee Walker also managed to strike out exactly 600 times in his career, a nice round number.  Hines won a couple of batting titles in the 19th century.

Remember back in the late ’80’s when Mets phenom Gregg Jefferies’ rookie card was skyrocketing in value?  Well, though Jefferies’ career fell short of expectations, he did manage to reach exactly 300 career doubles, as did the Yankees’ Roy White and a couple of other guys.   White once led the league with 99 walks, his career high, just missing that nice, round 100.

Five players fell just short of 300 doubles.  Wally Berger, one of the five, batted exactly .300 for his career, in addition to his 299 doubles.  Nine other guys reached exactly 200 doubles, and six more just missed at 199.  Joey Votto currently has 201, probably fewer than half the number he’ll finally tally.

Now let’s turn to Runs Scored:

English: 1934 Goudey baseball card of Gerald &...

English: 1934 Goudey baseball card of Gerald “Gee” Walker of the Detroit Tigers #26. PD-not-renewed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cap Anson ended up with 1,999 runs.  If I was that close, I’m pretty sure I’d bribe someone to let me play long enough to reach 2,000.  Either way, he’s in the Hall of Fame.   Ed Delahanty reached 1,600 runs scored on the nose.  The underrated Tony Philips got to 1,300, one ahead of the unfortunate Harold Baines, stuck at 1,299.

Edgar Renteria had a tidy career, scoring exactly 1,200 runs.

No player in baseball history ever finished his career with exactly 1,000 runs scored.

Adam Dunn currently has 999 runs scored, and will probably jack another solo homer soon enough to reach a thousand.

Jorge Posada tallied 900 runs scored, while Don Kessinger and Vernon Wells each managed 899.

As for Triples, there’s a bit less of interest to notice here, though two players, Dan McGann and Hi Myers each reached exactly 100 for their respective careers.  Three other players notched 99.

Many baseball fans have long been fascinated by Runs Batted In.  To wit,

A-Rod, apparently allowed to resume baseball activities, has 1,950 RBI.  Will he play for someone long enough to reach 2,000?  Does it matter at this point?

Jim Thome, whom I’m led to believe is basically retired, has 1,699 RBI in a probable HOF career.  Napoleon Lajoie got to 1,599, and Eddie Collins drove in 1,300.  Jim Edmonds, one of my favorite center-fielders, accumulated 1,199.

English: 1933 Goudey Baseball Card of Babe Her...

English: 1933 Goudey Baseball Card of Babe Herman of the Chicago Cubs #5 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Darryl Strawberry drove in exactly 1,000 runs.  For him, there should have been so many more.

Wally Pipp, Gee Walker and Babe Herman all drove in 997 runs.  Walker and Herman, you’ll remember also appeared together on the doubles list with 399 a piece.

Bases on Balls:

Stan Musial walked 1,599 times in his career.  As a side note, you may or may not know that of his 3,630 hits, exactly 1815 were accumulated at home, and another 1815 occurred in road games.

Eddie Collins drew 1,499 walks.

Tod Helton has drawn 1,299 walks thus far.  Helton also has hit exactly .320 for his career, but how much will HOF voters discount his career due to the so-called Coors Field effect?

No player ever drew exactly 1,000 walks in his career.  Boog Powell walked 1,001 times, and Jim Edmonds drew 998.

How about Base Hits?

Roberto Clemente was, of course, halted by tragedy at 3,000 career hits.  No other player accumulated exactly 3,000 hits.  In fact no player stopped at 2,000 hits, either.  Shawn Green topped out at 2,003, while HOF’er Jimmy Collins swatted 1,999 hits.  Apparently, not reaching 2,000 hits (let alone the supposedly magical number of 3,000) didn’t hurt Collins chances of making it into The Hall.

Second baseman Joe Gordon played in exactly 1,000 games for the Yankees (before moving along to Cleveland.)  In those 1,000 games, he accumulated exactly 1,000 hits.

Wally Berger of the Braves

Wally Berger of the Braves (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

As far as Batting Average is concerned, a .300 batting average has always been a significant level of accomplishment for baseball purists.  Some players have managed to hit exactly .300 for their careers, including Wally Berger (who also had 299 doubles, and a career high 199 hits in 1931), John (I ain’t an athlete lady, I’m a baseball player) Kruk, Roberto Alomar, Oyster Burns, Billy Goodman and the still active Josh Hamilton.

Meanwhile, in addition to Kenny Lofton, other players who ended their careers at .299 include Carl Furillo, Rico Carty and Bake McBride.  The Royals Billy Butler is currently also a .299 career hitter.

Enos Slaughter batted .2999 for his career, which rounds up to .300.

They say chicks dig the long-ball.  I have’t seen any objective studies on this, but has a home run ever been hit where at least a few fans didn’t stand up and cheer (except perhaps when Barry Bonds played on the road late in his career?)

Mark McGwire will probably be the first and last player ever to hit exactly 70 homers in a season.

Babe Ruth, of course, hit exactly 60 in a season.  He also once hit 59.

Six players have hit exactly 50 homers in a season.  Jimmie Foxx of the ’38 Red Sox was the only player to hit exactly 50 up until 1995.  Since 1995, five players have reached that total, including the improbable Brady Anderson.

19 players have hit 49 homers in a season.  Gehrig and Killebrew did it twice each.

English: Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pl...

English: Major League Baseball Hall of Fame player Al Kaline in his official 1957 Detroit Tigers photo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Exactly 50 players have hit exactly 40 homers in a season.  Adam Dunn has reached that number four times.

For a career, Willie Mays reached 660 for his career.  I’ve always liked that number because that’s how many baseball cards Topps used to feature annually in its sets for us kids to strive to collect.  (Norm Miller anyone?)

Andres Galarraga and Al Kaline slugged 399 each.  Remember that Kaline also had 498 doubles. Seems like he could have stuck around another week or so to pop a few more extra base hits.

Chuck Klein slugged 300 homers.  Tim Salmon reached 299.  Torii Hunter, by the way, is at 298 homers.

Four players hit exactly 200 career homers.  Three have hit 150, including Kevin Youkilis.  Seven players have hit 149, including Lou Brock, and the still active Ian Kinsler, Alex Rios and Jayson Werth.

Six players, including John Kruk (appearing again) and Bruce Bochte hit 100 home runs.  Bochte also had exactly 250 doubles, drove in exactly 100 runs in 1979 and batted .300 on the nose in 1980.

Seven players have hit 99 homers, including the Pirates current catcher Russell Martin, and HOF’er Monte Irvin.

Swinging for the fences often leads to strikeouts.

Tony Philips struck out 1,499 times.  Shawon Dunston and Jeffrey Leonard each reached exactly 1,000 career strikeouts.  David Justice retired having been struck out 999 times.

Adam Dunn struck out 199 times in 2010.

[Eddie Collins, Philadelphia, AL (baseball)]  ...

[Eddie Collins, Philadelphia, AL (baseball)] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

If you’re not a power hitter, perhaps you prefer the Stolen Base.

Cesar Cedeno stole 550 bases in his career, a nice, tidy sum.

Bill Lange (whose nickname, for unknown reasons, was “Little Eva”) had 400 steals, 350 walks, a .330 batting average and a .400 on-base percentage.  Bill, thanks for keeping those numbers nice and clean.  Just please don’t try to explain to us how you became “Little Eva,” thank you.

Bobby Abreu looks like he’s going to finish with 399 career steals.

Shortstop Frank Taveras stole 300 bases in his career, including 70 in 1977.

Several players stole exactly 200 bases, including Ken Griffey, Sr., Jose Canseco (I know, I know), and Don Buford.

In 2009, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley was a perfect 23 for 23 in stolen base attempts.  In 2011, he was successful in all 14 of his steal attempts.

In 1988, Mets outfielder Kevin McReynolds successfully stole 21 bases in 21 attempts.  He also drove in 99 runs that year, missing by one what would have been his only one-hundred RBI campaign.

For the Sabermetric fans among us, how about career WAR?

Bob Gibson just missed 90 career WAR (89.9), while Curt Schilling just missed 80 career WAR (79.9.)

Rick Reuschel and Scott Rolen each retired with at 70.0 career WAR.  They each have a better case for the HOF than you might think.

Hall of Fame outfielder Zack Wheat accumulated a 60.0 career WAR.  Tony Lazzeri and Eddie Rommel each came in at 50.0.  Freddy Lynn (one of my boyhood heroes) walked away from the game at 49.9.

And there’s Kevin McReynolds again, one of several players to retire at exactly 30.0 career WAR

Tired of looking at position players?  How about the pitchers.

Let’s briefly look at Wins and Losses:

Early Wynn and Lefty Grove each won exactly 300 games.  There have been four pitchers (including the Braves Tim Hudson) who are listed at 200 victories.  Russ Ford won 199 games.  Dizzy Dean won 150 games.  Don Newcombe won 149.

There have been a dozen 100-game winners and eleven 99-game winners.

Joey Jay of Middletown, CT won 99 games, struck out 999 batters, and posted an ERA+ of 99 for his career.

Bert Blyleven lost 250 games.  Eight pitchers had exactly 150 losses.  Two pitchers lost 149.  Ralph Terry lost 99 games.  Terry also accumulated exactly 1,000 strikeouts and 20 shutouts.

Tom Browning of the Reds made 300 career starts, struck out exactly 1,000 batters, lost 90 games, and, as a hitter,  struck out exactly 200 times.

Bob Caruthers who, despite the fact that he was born in Tennessee was nicknamed “Parisian Bob,” fanned 900 batters, posted 99 losses, and hit 99 batters.  He also led his league with exactly 40 wins twice, in 1885 and 1889.  As a hitter, he legged out 50 triples (yes, 50 triples for a pitcher!) and slugged an even .400.

Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, one of the last decent nicknames, struck out 799 batters in his career.

Looking a bit more specifically at strikeouts for pitchers, Andy Benes struck out exactly 2,000 batters in his career.  Billy Pierce fanned 1,999.  Amos Rusie struck out 1,950.  Charlie Buffinton (born Buffington, but his family couldn’t afford the extra G, so he dropped it) K’d 1,700.  Rollie Fingers struck out 1,299.  The aforementioned Ralph Terry and Tom Browning posted 1,000 strikeouts each.  Bill “Spaceman” Lee got to 998.  Joe Blanton currently has 994 as of this writing.

Finally, working more or less backwards, four pitchers struck out 250 batters in a season.  Justin Verlander is one of them.  Curt Schilling struck out exactly 300 pitching for the Phillies in 1998.

And the immortal Toad Ramsey struck out an amazing 499 batters in 588 innings for Louisville in the American Association in 1886.  That total, by the way, did not even lead the league.

That’s all for today, folks.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this romp through the world of Baseball Stat-Geekdom today.  I’m sure you’ll catch some mistakes, for which I alone take responsibility.  Go easy on me, boys and girls.  I’m 49-years old, rounding up to exactly 50 later this month.


Welcome to The On Deck Circle

I always end up reading a lot more about baseball during the off-season than I do during the season, perhaps because my highly competitive fantasy baseball league takes up most of my free time from late March through September.

I especially find myself gravitating to any books about baseball history.  As someone who taught history in high school for a dozen years, I’m always intrigued about how the history of baseball shadows the history of our country, at least since the end of the Civil War.

Like the history of our nation, the history of baseball is part statistics, part first-person narrative, and part mythology. Sometimes, these three elements swirl around together to create a new, dynamic compound called Memory.

Memory is what keeps most of us (those of us who love baseball), hooked on this sport.  That is to say, we remember what we loved about baseball in our youth, and we try, sometimes a little too hard, to pass these memories on to our own children.

This historical connection is also why we take the statistical element of this game so seriously.  Numbers, whether in the form of dates, or used as a measurement of success or failure, have always been an important element of our historical memory.

Just as we remember what happened on July 4th, 1776, or on December 7th, 1941, we also remember that the Brooklyn Dodgers won only a single World Championship in 1955.  Babe Ruth was the first baseball player to hit 60 home runs; Norman Schwarzkopf won Operation Desert Storm in 100 days.

Some of these numbers or dates have even been set to music, or read as poetry:  “Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue, in fourteen hundred and ninety-two.”  “The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day….”

Numbers allow, even encourage, the impression of objectivity and historical certainty that allows mythology to take shape.  And mythology is at the core of what almost all historical arguments, including arguments about baseball history, are about.

Here in Greenville, South Carolina, for example, the Confederate Museum looks and feels like most any other American war museum.  The tour guides who received me in this quaint and interesting place were not, however, content to just show me around.

What I received from the two gentlemen who sidled along with me from room to room was a heartfelt, emotional soliloquy about how most people, especially people who are not kith or kin to the South, simply don’t know The Truth about the history of the Civil War.  The South was purely the victim, not the aggressor, and had only sensible, reasonable grievances that fell on deaf ears in Washington, thus the final step of secession.

Growing up as a child in the north, I often heard a different story regarding the causes of the Civil War, and these often frail, old female teachers held President Lincoln up as a secular saint.

Essentially, these disparate people living in two different parts of one nation were not arguing over history–we know where the first shots were fired and who won the war–they were arguing about mythology: Heroes and Villains, Bravery and Treachery, or, as my six-year old son would put it, Good Guys and Bad Guys.

Baseball is not immune to these sorts of arguments.  In fact, who does or does not belong in the Hall of Fame, that Great Cluttered Closet in Cooperstown, is, at its core, an argument about baseball mythology:

Does Jim Rice belong on Mt. Olympus with Honus Wagner?

Could Andre Dawson step onto the field of battle with Lefty Grove the way Hector and Achilles fought to the death thousands of years earlier?

Is the crafty Trevor Hoffman baseball’s historical parallel to the Swamp Fox of the Revolution, Francis Marion, a man whose historical reputation lies primarily in the realm of mythology?

There are actually two questions here, important to both American history proper, and to baseball history:

  1. Who deserves to be remembered?
  2. How do they deserve to be remembered?

The answers to these questions comprise the collective historical mythology that we pass down through the generations, from father to son.

In my next blog entry, I will focus on these issues as they pertain to the never ending debate over who truly belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Thank you for reading.

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