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Archive for the tag “Kenny Lofton”

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.

Billy Hamilton, and the New Stolen Base Record

On Tuesday night, Reds prospect Billy Hamilton, a shortstop with the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos, set a new professional baseball record for stolen bases in a season.  He now has 147 steals in 2012.

Hamilton broke the old record set in 1983 by Vince Coleman, then an outfielder on the Cardinals Single-A Macon baseball team.  Coleman, of course, went on to steal over 100 bases in each of his first three MLB seasons, and he led the N.L. in steals in each of his first six years.  He also led the N.L. in times caught stealing three times during that period (1985-90.)

Coleman went on to steal 752 bags in his career, sixth best all-time.  More impressively, Coleman’s successful steal percentage for his career was about 81%.

Yet Vince Coleman ultimately was not a very valuable baseball player.  His career WAR was just 10.5, and he never reached 3.0 WAR in any of his 13 seasons.  His career OPS+ of 83 is even less impressive.  Coleman never reached 25 doubles or even seven home runs in a season, and despite all the plate appearances he accumulated, especially in his first half-dozen years, he reached a hundred runs scored just twice.

All of which brings us back to Billy Hamilton.  (And yes, it is a bit ironic that he has the same name as a famous 19th-century baseball player who also stole a lot of bases.)

While his stolen base totals are impressive, there are four things that will enable Hamilton to be a truly valuable MLB player.

1 On-Base Percentage:  If he knows how to draw a walk (say, 70-80 per year), those walks will add significant value, as long as he can hit above .275.

 2) Gap power:  Even though reaching first base appears to be a virtual automatic double with him, he should still (in his prime) be able to drive the ball into the gaps and leg out at least 25-35 doubles and double-digit triples.  50-60 extra base hits per year should be his baseline.

3) Stolen Base percentage:  Loads of steals are nice, but the goal is not simply to reach second base (or even third base), it is to score runs.  A caught stealing is much more harmful than a stolen base is helpful.  If he can steal at something very nearly at (or, preferably, above) an 80% success rate, then all the running will be worthwhile.  If he gets caught 30% or more of the time, then this is all much ado about nothing.

 4) Defense:  Will his quickness on the base-paths translate into good range in the field?  Will he end up being a defensive asset?  If so, then he becomes much more valuable.  If not, then we are looking at a fast guy without a real position, and that means a glorified pinch-runner.

At least three out of these four aptitudes will be necessary for him to be a useful ball player.  Two will allow him to hang around for a while.  One means a future career as a pinch-runner who ends up back in Triple-A for good before he turns 30.  On the other hand, if he hits all four of the above benchmarks, then we might be looking at the next Kenny Lofton or Tim Raines.

It’ll be interesting to see how much the Reds allow him to develop as an actual baseball player before he is let loose on the base-paths.  They might be sorry if they rush this kid before he is ready, because though he’d be fun to watch with the one skill he was born with, he’ll be a lot more useful when he is truly Major League ready.

Baseball’s Doppelgangers

Ralph Kiner

Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite features of Baseball-Reference.com can be found near the bottom of every player’s  profile.  It appears in a red box and is called “Similarity Scores.”  Directly below that heading, you will find the sub-heading, “Similar Batters” or “Similar Pitchers,” depending on the given player’s specific occupation.  Also listed are the players who are most similar by age to the player you are researching.

It is a fantastic tool, and often provides an excellent perspective to a particular player’s career.

How great, for example, was Kenny Lofton?  According to his Similarity Scores, three of the ten players he was most similar to are in the Hall of Fame:  Harry Hooper, Max Carey, and Fred Clarke.  A fourth player on this list, Tim Raines, should also probably be in The Hall.

Without this useful context, it is a bit more difficult to begin to construct the foundation of an argument that Kenny Lofton just possibly deserves to be in The Hall.

Just for fun, I constructed a list of dozens of currently active Major League ball players, and I researched each of their respective baseball doppelgangers, the players most similar to each of them.  I found the results to be interesting and useful, and I decided to share some of them with you.

I decided not, however, to research players who have been active fewer than five years in the Major Leagues because their career profiles are likely to change significantly as they accumulate more playing time.

In each pair of ball players listed below, the first player is still currently active, and the second name in the pair is his retired doppelganger.

A)  Paul Konerko:

365 HR, 1156 RBI, .280 BA, .854 OPS, 119 OPS+, 22.1 WAR

B)  Joe Adcock:

336 HR, 1122 RBI, .277 BA, .822 OPS, 123 OPS+, 34.2 WAR

A)  Adam Dunn:

354 HR, 880 RBI, .250 BA, .902 OPS, 133 OPS+. 27.1 WAR

B)  Ralph Kiner:

369 HR, 1015 RBI, .279 BA, .946 OPS, 149 OPS+, 45.9 WAR

Kiner is in the Hall of Fame.  He played ten seasons.  He hit 40+ homers in five consecutive seasons, followed by a 37 home run season.  He retired at age 32.

Dunn has played ten seasons.  He hit 40+ home runs in five consecutive seasons, followed by two 38 home run seasons.  He is 31 years old.

A)  Magglio Ordonez:

289 HR, 1204 RBI, .312 BA, .883 OPS, 128 OPS+, 36.9 WAR

B)  Chuck Klein:

300 HR, 1201 RBI, .320 BA, .922 OPS, 137 OPS+, 39.2 WAR

Hall of Famer Klein played 17 years and retired at age 39.  If Ordonez plays three more seasons, he will have played 17 years and will have retired at age 39.  They each won a batting title.  They each topped 20 stolen bases one time.  And they each hit at least 25 home runs in a season six times.

A)  Tim Hudson:

165 wins – 87 losses, 3.42 ERA, 1541 S.O., 1.247 WHIP, 128 ERA+, 46.3 WAR

B)  Jimmy Key:

186 wins – 117 losses, .3.51 ERA, 1538 S.O., 1.229 WHIP, 122 ERA+, 45.7 WAR

A)  Jorge Posada:

261 HR, 1021 RBI, .275 BA, .856 OPS, 123 OPS+, 46 WAR

B)  Gabby Hartnett:

236 HR, 1179 RBI, .297 BA, .858 OPS, 126 OPS+, 50.3 WAR

Hartnett retired at age 40.  Posada, nearing the end of the line, is 39 years old.  Hartnett played in six All-Star Games; Posada has played in five.  It required several years on the ballot before Hartnett was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame.  One can foresee a similar fate awaiting Posada.

A)  Mark Teixeira:

275 HR, 906 RBI, .286 BA, .913 OPS, 134 OPS+, 36.7 WAR

b)  Hal Trosky:

228 HR, 1012 RBI, .302 BA, .892 OPS, 130 OPS+, 26.2 WAR

Migraine headaches forced Trosky into retirement at age 28.  Twice he came out of retirement, but he was just a shadow of the player he had been over the first several years of his career.

A)  Roy Oswalt:

150 wins – 83 losses, 3.18 ERA, 1666 S.O., 1.184 WHIP, 135 ERA+, 44.6 WAR

b)  Dizzy Dean:

150 wins – 83 losses, 3.02 ERA, 1163 S.O., 1.206 WHIP, 131 ERA+, 39.6 WAR

At first, when I noticed that their career win-loss records were identical, I thought I must have made a mistake.  But those are the correct numbers, folks.  Now that’s what I call a baseball doppelganger.

Dean’s career lasted about a decade.  Oswalt has ten complete seasons under his belt.  Dean is in the Hall of Fame.  Can you tell me why Oswalt, then, shouldn’t be once he retires?

There are many more pairs I found interesting:  Mark Buehrle / Johnny Podres, Carlos Lee / Del Ennis, and Matt Holliday / Chick Hafey are but a few examples of these doppelganger pairs.

In general, it was more difficult to find reasonably similar pitchers across time than it was to find pairs of hitters who matched up well with one another.

Take from this research what you will.  As for me, I have come to recognize that there are several more players than I realized who have built strong Hall of Fame cases for themselves over the past decade.  Once they retire, these kinds of comparisons will go a long way to buttressing arguments regarding their respective Hall of Fame worthiness.

Friendly Reminder: I invite you to check back in to this blog on Friday of this week for the third of twelve planned installments of the series, “Baseball’s Best of the Worst,” that Graham Womack of Baseball Past and Present and I are collaborating on.

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