The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “Vada Pinson”

Players With At Least 50 Doubles Through Their Age-21 Seasons

Angels outfielder Mike Trout recently reached the 50 career doubles plateau.  As of this writing, he has 53 doubles.  He is, of course, now about half-way through his age 21 season.  That got me to wondering how many other players in baseball history managed to accumulate at least 50 doubles through age 21.  While I can’t say for sure that I’ve managed to list every single player in history who reached that number, I doubt I missed very many.  As you’ll notice, it is quite an impressive list.  A bit more than half the players on this list (57%) are already in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  At least a couple of others are likely to make it in as well.

In general, it is rare for a player on this list, who has been retired for more than ten years, to NOT be in the HOF.  In fact, I count only four names on this list who fit that description.  That would seem to bode well for Mike Trout’s future as a potential Hall of Famer.

Here is the list, beginning with the most doubles accumulated through a player’s age-21 season:

1)  Mel Ott – 106

2)  Cesar Cedeno – 100

3)  Alex Rodriguez – 100

4)  Robin Yount – 95

5)  Ken Griffey, Jr. – 93

6)  Vada Pinson – 91

7)  Ted Williams – 87

8)  Ty Cobb – 85

9)  George Davis – 84

10) Sherry Magee – 75

11) Al Kaline – 74

12) Orlando Cepeda – 73

13) Mickey Mantle – 72

14) Adrian Beltre – 66

15) Hank Aaron – 64

16) Jimmie Foxx – 61

17) Ivan Rodriguez – 60

18) Andruw Jones – 58

19) Jimmy Sheckard – 57

19) Justin Upton – 57

21) Frank Robinson – 56

21) Ron Santo – 56

23) Eddie Mathews – 54

24) Roberto Clemente – 53

24) Mike Trout – 53

26) Miguel Cabrera – 52

26) Joe Medwick – 52

28) Roberto Alomar – 51

If you want to exclude George Davis, who played half his career in the 19th century, and Jimmy Sheckard, whose age 21 season occurred in 1900, you are down to 26 players.

Sherry Magee’s appearance on this list is no fluke.  He was a very fine player for the first two decades of the 20th century for whom a legitimate Hall of Fame case can be made.

Ken Griffey, Jr. is a lock to be elected into The Hall, and Ivan Rodriguez should be as well.  Adrian Beltre’s glove, as well as his bat, already place him among the top ten third basemen in baseball history.

Alex Rodriguez might spend the rest of his natural days in a kind of baseball limbo.  Does he even really care?

Every team that passed on Justin Upton this off-season (I’m talking to you, New York Mets) should be kicking themselves that they didn’t sign him to a long-term contract when they had the chance.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Braves are in first place in their division.

By the end of the 2014 season, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will also have completed their age-21 seasons.  Machado leads the A.L. with an amazing 27 doubles already this year, and has 35 for his career.  For Bryce Harper, whatever he doesn’t hit over the wall he’ll probably just hit through the wall.  At any rate, he has 33 career doubles and is also likely to surpass 50 career doubles by the end of next season, if not sooner.

Although they are extremely young, and at a very early stage in their respective careers, it may not be unreasonable to assess the likelihood of Trout, Harper and Machado someday making it into The Hall at somewhere around 50-60 percent each.

Position Players’ WAR Analysis: The First Five Years

A couple of months ago, I did a post on Pitching WAR Analysis:  The First Seven Years. I chose seven as the magic number because this often represents the entire first half of many pitchers’ careers, and because it sometimes takes pitchers several years to fully harness their talent.

Ty Cobb safe at third after making a triple, 8...

Ty Cobb safe at third after making a triple, 8/16/[19]24. 1 negative : glass ; 4 x 5 in. or smaller. This is a cropped version of File:Ty Cobb sliding2.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now we turn to Position Players’ War.  This time I chose to focus only on the first five years of various players’ careers.  I am of the opinion that although many hitters develop slowly, hitters often arrive a bit more fully formed than pitchers.

Also, with the recent call-up of Nationals outielder Bryce Harper, of whom many people are already predicting a Hall of Fame career, it is instructive to look at other players in their extreme youth to gauge whether or not it is useful to begin making those sorts of predictions so soon.

The list of 50 players that follows is not by any means meant to be some sort of comprehensive overview of baseball history.  It is merely a snapshot of 50 players who went on to have significant, if not necessarily Hall of Fame worthy, careers.

New York Yankees centerfielder and Hall of Famer .

New York Yankees centerfielder and Hall of Famer . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think you will be, as I was, surprised where some of these players rank in the early part of their respective careers.  I left out Babe Ruth, by the way, because he tends to skew all lists in a way that makes almost all other players appear to be irrelevant pretenders.

1)  Ted Williams – 43.3

2)  Eddie Collins – 42.7

3)  Ty Cobb – 42.2

4)  Mickey Mantle – 38.3

5)  Willie Mays – 38.1

6)  Alex Rodriguez – 37.4

7)  Tris Speaker – 37.0

8)  Lou Gehrig – 36.5

9)  Don Mattingly – 36.0

10) Stan Musial – 35.8

11) Albert Pujols – 35.0

11) Mike Schmidt – 35.0

13) Wade Boggs – 34.1

14) Cal Ripkin – 33.7

15) Rogers Hornsby – 33.6

16) Nomar Garciaparra – 33.2

17) Jimmie Foxx – 32.8

18) Joe Jackson – 32.7

18) Jackie Robinson – 32.7

20) Joe DiMaggio – 32.6

21) Johnny Bench – 31.0

21) Barry Bonds – 31.0

23) Dick Allen – 30.4

24) Bobby Bonds – 30.2

24) Frank Thomas – 30.2

26) Johnny Mize – 29.4

26) Dave Parker – 29.4

28) Ralph Kiner – 29.0

29) Andruw Jones – 28.8

30) Ken Griffey, Jr. – 28.7

31) Vada Pinson – 28.6

32) Hank Aaron – 28.3

33) Frank Robinson – 28.0

34) Sal Bando – 27.8

35) Reggie Jackson – 27.2

36) Duke Snider – 27.1

36) Honus Wagner – 27.1

38) Derek Jeter – 27.0

39) Jim Fregosi – 26.9

39) Al Kaline – 26.9

41) Cesar Cedeno – 26.6

42) George Brett – 26.3

43) Freddy Lynn – 25.1

44) Tony Oliva – 24.9

45) Bobby Murcer – 24.7

46) Chipper Jones – 24.6

47) Reggie Smith – 23.8

48) Jim Rice – 22.7

49) Robin Yount – 11.9

50) Roberto Clemente – 9.2

No real surprises among the top five, though a lot of people forget how good Eddie Collins was.  I like that Mantle and Mays are listed so closely together, since they’ve always been linked so closely in the imaginations of baseball fans.

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

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

A-Rod’s listed WAR was compiled entirely in Seattle through his age 24 season.  It is highly unlikely he was using PED’s at that point.  Whether we like him or not, he has always been a legitimately great baseball player.

Clearly, Don Mattingly was on his way to being the next Lou Gehrig before his back problems struck.  Pujols sandwiched between Musial and Schmidt just feels right.  Who was the best Cardinals player ever?  I’ll take Musial by a hair over Pujols.

Look at the infielders listed 13-16.  Nomar was right there with Boggs, Ripkin and Hornsby through his age 28 season, then a wrist injury after his age 29 season reduced him to a shell of his former self.  After his age 28 season, he would accumulate just 9.0 additional WAR over the rest of his career.

Joe Jackson and Jackie Robinson, tied for 18th, are certainly two of the top five written about baseball players of the 20th century.  Robinson arrived, fully formed, in the Majors at age 28.  Therefore, it is highly likely that he would have accumulated significant additional WAR for his career had he broken in at a more typical 22 or 23 years of age.

Joe Jackson, on the other hand, certainly lost some additional career WAR at the end of his career.  Banned from baseball at age 32, his final season in 1920 (not 1919, as some people believe), was one of his finest.  There’s no reason to think  he wouldn’t have added significantly to his career WAR total had he played an additional 3-5 years.

Interesting how close Barry and his father, Bobby, were through their first five seasons.

Look at how close Dave Parker was to Johnny Mize.  Parker could have been great if he’d taken the game more seriously in the early ’80’s.

An image of Major League Baseball Hall of Fame...

An image of Major League Baseball Hall of Fame first baseman Johnny Mize. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you had to pick either Andruw Jones or Ken Griffey, Jr. through their first five seasons, as you can see, it would have been a legitimate toss-up.

If you had to pick between Vada Pinson, Hank Aaron or Frank Robinson after just five seasons of each of their careers, are you sure you would have picked Aaron?  Pinson was a special player through age 26, then merely a decent player after that.

Look at Sal Bando!  He comes in ahead of his flashier teammate Reggie Jackson, and also ahead of fellow third basemen George Brett and Chipper Jones over their five initial seasons.

Back in the 1950’s, it was common to hear people speak of Willie, Mickey and The Duke.  But as you can see through their first five seasons (and this holds true for the most part over the rest of their careers,) although Duke Snider was a very fine ballplayer, he was never really in the same class as his fellow New York center fielders.

Would you have guessed that, through their first five seasons, shortstops Honus Wagner, Derek Jeter and Jim Fregosi were just about equally valuable?

They were each highly productive players from the beginning of their careers.  Wagner is probably one of the top ten players of all-time.  Jeter, of course, has enjoyed a Hall of Fame caliber career.  Fregosi, on the other hand, was pretty much done as a useful player at age 28, after which, of course, the Mets decided to trade away Nolan Ryan to obtain him.  Nice job, guys.

Once upon a time, Cesar Cedeno was a very fine baseball player.

When I was a kid, I thought Freddy Lynn was the greatest thing since Shake a Pudd’n.

Before the Red Sox had Jim Rice, there was Reggie Smith.  I am convinced that if they had kept Smith, he would have gone on into the Hall of Fame.  He was a better all around player than Rice, and he hit into fewer double plays.

O.K., so what’s up with Robin Yount and Roberto Clemente?  Their combined WAR for their first five years each adds up to just barely over 20.0.  Were they overrated?  How did they each manage to recover from such inauspicious debuts to go on to Hall of Fame careers?

Yount broke into the Majors at age 18, clearly before he was ready.  He spent the better part of the 1970’s just learning his craft.  But for the next five seasons, beginning in 1980, he accumulated another 34.7 WAR and won an MVP award.  Those were his age 24-28 seasons.  He won another MVP award in 1989, and finished his career with a HOF worthy 72.0 WAR.

As for Clemente, he, too, just wasn’t quite ready when he was brought up at age 20.  By age 26, however, he was ready to dominate, and dominate he did, winning a Gold Glove each of the next dozen seasons, winning an MVP award (and a World Series ring in ’71), and he finished his career with an outstanding 91 WAR.  Clearly, he was a late bloomer.

So, will Bryce Harper, only 19-years old, follow the career path of a Yount or a Clemente, or will he, alternatively, be the next Ty Cobb or Mickey Mantle?  A third possibility, which none of us hope for, is the Cesar Cedeno / Vada Pinson / Nomar Garciaparra career path.

Generally speaking, if he can accumulate at least 35 WAR in his first five years, he is probably on his way to a HOF career.  So let’s check back in after the 2016 season, and we’ll see how Harper’s career is progressing.

I’ll be waiting here, so don’t be late.

Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons: Part 27 – The Houston Astros

The Bad News Bears

Image via Wikipedia

Perhaps it says something about my shameless immaturity, as well as the uniquely mind-warping experience of having been weened on 1970’s pop culture, that whenever I think of the Houston Astros, Walter Matthau’s “Bad News Bears” come to mind.

I have to admit that I thought Tatum O’Neal (the best pitcher on that team) was pretty cute back then.

This was 1976, when she and I were both just 13-years old.

The movie ends, more or less, with the foul-mouthed, youthful Bears spraying beer (!) all over each other upon finishing the season in second place (they had been expected to finish last.)

In 1977, “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training” follows the Bears all the way to the Houston Astrodome (minus my gal Tatum,) which was still considered an impressive monument to modern engineering in those days.

I remember Cesar Cedeno, the Astros center-fielder, had a cameo role in that film.  While the Bears enjoyed yet another successful season in ’77, the Astros finished 81-81, good for 3rd place in the N.L. West.

Meanwhile, 26-year old Cesar Cedeno — already in his eighth big league season — enjoyed a solid, if unspectacular, year.  He batted .279, stole 61 bases, stroked 36 doubles, and scored 92 runs.

But Cesar Cedeno’s Best Forgotten Season was in 1972.

Just 21-years old, Cedeno led the N.L. in doubles for the second time with 39 (after swatting 40 the previous year), he scored a career high 103 runs, stole 55 bases, and added 22 homers, eight triples and 82 RBI’s.

Cedeno batted .320 and slugged .537; he would post precisely the same two percentages the following season.

Cedeno’s 8.2 WAR is still the fourth best in Astros history.

His .921 OPS, 162 OPS+, and 300 total bases would all represent the highest totals he would reach in those three categories in his career. 

Cedeno also played in the ’72 All-Star game, won a Gold Glove (one of five he would win in his career), and finished sixth in the N.L. MVP voting.

I always find it interesting when a player like Cedeno peeks at such a young age, remains productive for an extended period of time, but never again produces an MVP caliber season. 

Why is that?  Is there a certain amount of luck involved, coupled with peak physical performance, that accounts for this phenomenon?

True, many players reach their peak-performance years when they are about 27-years old. But baseball history is littered with ballplayers who had careers similar to Cedeno’s: Vada Pinson and Ruben Sierra are just two players who come immediately to mind.

Cedeno enjoyed 17 big league seasons, finishing with a career batting average of .285, 550 stolen bases (26th all-time), 2,087 hits, 1,084 runs scored, 436 doubles, 60 triples and 199 home runs.

His career Win Probability Added (WPA) is 31.7, 77th best in baseball history.

Meanwhile, Tatum O’Neal, after having  dealt with drug and alcohol issues in the past, has made a comeback in recent years starring as Maggie Gavin in the hit T.V. show “Rescue Me,” playing Tommy Gavin’s (Denis Leary) sister.

Going back even further in Houston Astros history, though, back to a time when they were known as the Colt-45’s, and Tatum and I were yet to be born, you may come across the name Turk Farrell.

28-year old Turk Farrell, a big right-handed pitcher born and raised in Massachusetts, had been taken in the 1961 expansion draft by the Colt 45’s after having been left unprotected by the L.A. Dodgers.

Turk Farrell’s Best Forgotten Season was 1962.

For a pitcher on a first-year expansion team, Farrell performed quite well.  In a club-leading 241 innings, he struck out 203 batters, posted a 3.02 ERA, tossed eleven complete games, including two shutouts, and posted a solid WHIP of 1.097, which was second best in the league.

For all of that, Farrell was rewarded by his teammates with a final win-loss record of 10-20.  There were three other 20-game losers in the N.L. in ’62; two of them played for the expansion Mets.

Farrell ended his 14-year big league career after the 1969 season with a career record of 106-111.  His career ERA+ of 104 indicates that he was typically your standard issue, average major league starting pitcher.

His 1962 season has led me to consider starting a new (shorter) series about players who perform well, often for bad or mediocre teams, but whose statistics don’t always tell the full story of their relative success.

That’s another way of saying that this 27-part series “Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons,” has finally come to a merciful end.  After slogging it out for about six months, I have certainly learned a lot more than I ever thought I would about each teams’ forgotten stars.

If you’ve been with me the whole time, or even part of the time, thank you so much for being kind enough to follow along.  For those of you who have left kind comments along the way, I always appreciate the ego-stroking sentiments.

If you are interested in reviewing any of the particular posts from this series, or if there are some you missed along the way, I have included links to each segment of this series below.

Part 1: The New York Mets
Part 2: The Chicago Cubs
Part 3: The New York Yankees
Part 4: The Montreal Expos
Part 5: The Phillies
Part 6: The Brooklyn Dodgers
Part 7: The Los Angeles Dodgers
Part 8: The Cincinnati Reds
Part 9: The Boston Red Sox
Part 10: The Atlanta Braves
Part 11: The Cleveland Indians
Part 12: The Kansas City Royals
Part 13: The Baltimore Orioles
Part 14: The Detroit Tigers
Part 15: The St. Louis Cardinals
Part 16: The Oakland A’s
Part 17: The Pittsburgh Pirates
Part 18: The San Francisco Giants
Part 19: The Seattle Mariners
Part 20: The Minnesota Twins
Part 21: The Chicago White Sox
Part 22: The Texas Rangers
Part 23: The San Diego Padres
Part 24: The Toronto Blue Jays
Part 25: The Milwaukee Brewers
Part 26: The Angels

Meanwhile, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Bill Miller

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