The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “Joe Jackson”

Baseball’s Surprising Stats: Hank Aaron

This is the eighth installment of my series, “Baseball’s Surprising Stats.”  Here are links to the first seven parts:  Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Joe Jackson, Roger Maris, Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, and Pedro Martinez.

When you think of Hank Aaron, what comes to mind?  Is it the number 714?  Or perhaps 755?  Is it that you still consider him to be the “true” home run king of all-time (Barry Bonds be damned?)  Or on a more personal level, is it the stoic demeanor he displayed in the face of the bitter racism he faced during his daily assault on Babe Ruth’s career home run mark?

English: Milwaukee Braves outfielder and Hall ...

English: Milwaukee Braves outfielder and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron in a 1960 issue of Baseball Digest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some players are linked forever to one particular season:  Roger Maris in ’61 comes to mind.    Hamerin’ Hank was such a fine, consistent hitter that few people could even tell you which of his seasons was his best.  He won his only MVP award in 1957, but played well enough in several seasons to have won half a dozen more.

But it his home runs that have made him famous.

I was aware that although he broke Ruth’s career home run record, Aaron never reached the 50 homer plateau in any particular season.  That led me to ask the following question:  What was Hank Aaron’s best single-season home run total?

I also thought it might be interesting to compare his career high with some other notable sluggers, minus the obvious ones such as Ruth, Maris, McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds.

It turns out that Aaron’s single-season high for home runs didn’t occur until 1971, when Aaron was already 37-years old.  He slugged 47 that year, good for second place in the N.L. (Willie Stargell hit 48.)

But what struck me as remarkable about this total is that Aaron missed 22 games that year due to injuries.  In ’71, Aaron led the N.L. in slugging percentage (.669), OPS (1.079) and OPS+ (194!)

Here’s something else I thought was interesting about Aaron’s annual home run totals.  Look at his mean, median and mode numbers as far as home runs are concerned:

Mean – 37 (per 162 games)

Median – 36 (if you throw out his final season in which he played only 85 games.)

Mode – 44

So Aaron’s mean and median numbers are remarkably consistent, but he was more likely to hit exactly 44 homers in a season than any other particular number.  In the first three of those 44-home run seasons, by the way, Aaron led the league in home runs.

English: Hank Aaron, former US Baseball player...

English: Hank Aaron, former US Baseball player who set a new record of 755 homeruns, during a visit to the White House on August 15, 1978. Cropped from the source. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now take a look at the number of seasons Aaron reached a particular home run plateau:

40+ home run seasons:  8

30+ home run seasons: 7

20+ home run seasons: 5

Fewer than 20 in a season: 3

For the vast majority of players who have ever lived, to the extent that they could even be represented on a list such as this, you would probably find the opposite result: More 20-homer seasons, then fewer 30-homer years, fewer still 40-homer seasons, and perhaps a season or two reaching the 50 mark.

Here’s Willie Mays, for example:

50+ home run seasons:  2

40+ home run seasons:  4

30+ home runs seasons:  5

20+ home run seasons:  6

Fewer than 20 homers in a season:  4

While his top totals are higher than Aaron’s, his home run pyramid, if you will, is basically inverted; fewer seasons at each succeeding home run level.

Many players have hit more homers in a single season than Hank Aaron.  The list includes Dave Kingman, George Foster, Cecil Fielder, Brady Anderson, Greg Vaughn, Luis Gonzalez, Shawn Green and many others.  Troy Glaus matched Aaron with a career high 47-home runs in the year 2000.

Yet for year-to-year home run consistency at the highest caliber, however, few players in history could match Hank Aaron’s annual efforts.

Keep in mind, too, that Aaron did not play in the best hitter’s era in baseball history, he had to play night games, which did not exist until 1935, and, unlike the sluggers in the pre-Jackie Robinson days, Aaron obviously played in an integrated league facing stiffer competition.

For each of these reasons, then, if you are asked what comes to mind when you hear the name Hank Aaron, and you should reply, ” Home Run King,” no one can reasonably assail your choice.

Baseball’s Surprising Stats: Pete Rose

To perhaps tide you over until I return with some new material, here is a post I wrote about a year and a half ago about Pete Rose.  Some of you haven’t seen this one before.  If not, I hope you enjoy it.  

This is Part 5 of my series, “Baseball’s Surprising Stats.”  To link to any of the first four parts, click on the links to the right under “Recent Posts.”

The object of this series is to revisit players most of us already know something about, then to uncover one fact or statistic that isn’t widely known.

Pete Rose, like Joe Jackson before him, made some personal choices regarding baseball that came back to haunt him, and from which his personal reputation will probably never recover.

Rose walks onto the field with the Cincinnati Reds

Rose walks onto the field with the Cincinnati Reds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the fact remains that, on the baseball field, Pete Rose accomplished some very impressive things.  He is, of course, baseball’s all-time hits leader with 4,256 safeties.  His 3,215 singles are also the most in history.

Rose is also in second place on the all-time doubles list with 746.  He had ten 200-hit seasons, won three batting titles, and played in more games (3,562) than any other man in baseball history.

Perhaps most impressively, though, Pete Rose reached base safely more times (5,929)  than any other player ever did.

That’s a lot of at bats.  That’s a lot of plate appearances.

Which inevitably leads me to the question, “How many outs did Pete Rose make in his career.”

First, some perspective.  Babe Ruth made 5,758 outs in his entire career.  Mickey Mantle made 5,899 outs.  Richie Ashburn, who was primarily a lead-off hitter for most of his career, and who played in parts of three decades, made 6,096 outs.

Willie McCovey broke into the big leagues when Eisenhower was President, and he didn’t retire until the eve of Ronald Reagan’s first term.  McCovey made 6,259 outs.

Carlton Fisk, who would probably still be playing today if someone hadn’t hidden his catching gear from him (1969-93!) made 6,767 outs.

Ty Cobb, to whom Pete Rose in often compared, made 7,748 outs.

Peter (Charlie Hustle) Rose made 2,580 more outs than Ty Cobb.  (Imagine if he hadn’t hustled?)

Pete Rose made about as many outs in his career as Babe Ruth and Phil Rizzuto combined.  He made  approximately as many outs as Mike Piazza and Edgar Martinez combined.  He made just a few less outs than Bobby Murcer and Kirby Puckett put together.

Pete Rose at bat in a game at Dodger Stadium d...

Pete Rose at bat in a game at Dodger Stadium during the 1970s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The answer to my original question as to how many outs Pete Rose made in his career is that Rose made exactly 10,328 outs.  He is the only player in history to have made more than 10,000 outs.

Another way of looking at this is that if you take Rose’s 162 game average of 723 plate appearances per season, and divide 10,328 by 723, you end up with equivalent of 14  seasons where Rose did absolutely nothing but make outs!

Rookie outfielder Bryce Harper is 19-years old.  If Harper began next season going 0-4 in his first game, and then kept doing absolutely nothing but making outs UNTIL HE WAS 34 YEARS OLD — not a single hit, walk, or hit by pitch — he would then begin to approach the number of outs Rose made in his career.

Would the Washington Nationals be patient enough to wait out a 14-year super-slump from this year’s phenom?  I’m guessing probably not.

So here’s a thought.  If Pete Rose’s job was basically to do nothing other than to get on base (for he was by no means a slugger, nor was he much of a base-stealer), then do we consider him a success for reaching base more times than any man in history?

Or do we shake our collective heads in disbelief regarding the overwhelming number of outs he made and ask, was it really necessary for him to play as long as he did?

In short, were those 5,929 times on base really worth the 10,328 outs it took to get him there?

Let’s hope Bryce Harper doesn’t have to find out the answer to that question the hard way.

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