A Short Note on Hit By Pitch Leaders

This, from Baseball-reference, is a little list of the top 10 (11 including the tie for 10th) batters for most career hit by pitch in MLB, as of the end of 2015:

1. Hughie Jennings+ (18) 287 R
2. Craig Biggio+ (20) 285 R
3. Tommy Tucker (13) 272 B
4. Don Baylor (19) 267 R
5. Jason Kendall (15) 254 R
6. Ron Hunt (12) 243 R
7. Dan McGann (12) 230 B
8. Frank Robinson+ (21) 198 R
9. Minnie Minoso (17) 192 R
10. Jake Beckley+ (20) 183 L
Chase Utley (14) 183 L

Utley has taken over 10th by himself in 2016. Four of these guys are Hall of Famers, as noted by the + after their names: everyone but Utley and Beckley either switch-hit or batted only from the right side. I do not know why left-handers would be hit less often, but maybe they see the ball more clearly, due to the swooping, down and up elegant swing many lefties have.

Published in: Uncategorized on July 20, 2016 at 11:01 am  Comments (1)  

Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts seems to be the least remembered great pitcher of the 1950s and ’60s. He won 286 games with incredible, by today’s standards, complete game totals throughout the ’50s: 33, 29, 21, 19, and so on. But, he also lost 245 games, threw primarily for Phillies teams that were not good and were obscured by the Dodgers, Giants, and Braves, and had only one really spectacular season, 1952 (two years after the Whiz Kids pennant-winning season of 1950). He died in Florida in 2010.

Here are a few notes on Roberts’ career: Baseball-Reference has him with 83.1 WAR, 22nd among pitchers, and leading the NL in WAR from 1950 through 1954. He is 38th in career complete games, with 305, but just 45th in strikeouts, with 2,357.

Robin threw 3475 2/3rd innings from 1949 through 1960, 290 per season, over 36 starts per year, with 49 more relief appearances in the 12 years. Those 49 games, which included 24 saves, are in a way more impressive than all the innings thrown: this guy fairly regularly would throw 18 innings in his two starts in a given week, and come into a third game to secure a victory. The saves didn’t come in pennant races or the postseason: they were apparently cases of the Phillies’ manager looking at his bullpen and deciding that Roberts was the best guy to hold onto a lead. People talk about pitchers being workhorses: Roberts is probably the least heralded and most impressive workhorse in baseball since World War II. It was his misfortune to pitch for a lot of Phillies teams that weren’t very good and didn’t even have the virtue of being memorably bad.

Published in: Uncategorized on July 9, 2016 at 2:55 pm  Comments (3)  

Hitting .400

In 1993, John Olerud hit .400 as late as August 2, as his Retrosheet game log shows. By comparison, that same year Andres Galarraga was hitting .400 as late as July 5. They are, so far as I know, the two hitters from 1990 onward to get to .400 after June of a given season. You might think Tony Gwynn got there in 1994, since he hit .394 in that shortened season-but, he peaked at .400 on May 15.

The window for someone to achieve a .400 batting average opened quite a bit in the ’90s and 2000s with the general offensive surge in those decades, but now seems to have closed, or at least narrowed to a crack.

Published in: Uncategorized on June 23, 2016 at 9:14 am  Comments (4)  

All the MLB Pitchers With Two or More No-Hitters

Here, via Baseball-Almanac, is a list of the 31 pitchers who have thrown 2 or more no-hitters.

Nolan Ryan, 7
Sandy Koufax, 4

Three with 3 no-hitters:
Larry Corcoran        
Bob Feller        
Cy Young        

And the 26 with 2 no-hitters:
Jake Arrieta
Homer Bailey
Mark Buehrle
Jim Bunning
Steve Busby
Carl Erskine
Bob Forsch
Pud Galvin
Roy Halladay
Ken Holtzman
Randy Johnson
Addie Joss
Dutch Leonard
Tim Lincecum
Jim Maloney
Christy Mathewson
Hideo Nomo
Allie Reynolds
Max Scherzer
Frank Smith
Warren Spahn
Bill Stoneman
Virgil Trucks
Johnny Vander Meer
Justin Verlander
Don Wilson

How many of these guys are unfamiliar names to you?

Published in: Uncategorized on June 4, 2016 at 6:48 pm  Comments (5)  

A Look at Bob Welch’s 1990 Season

Welch’s 27 wins and fairly comfortable 1990 Cy Young award, despite him quite possibly not being the best pitcher on his team, gave rise to one of the cause célèbres of sabermetrics.

If you look at Welch’s 1990 game log, you see two starts in which he did not pitch at least 5 innings. He lost both of those games. He pitched 7+ innings in 23 of his 35 starts. He allowed 7 runs, all earned, in 2 innings in a Metrodome game on July 28 (on 3 days rest). In ’90, Welch had a 2.95 ERA, allowing 78 earned runs in 238 innings (12 of the 90 runs he allowed were unearned). Throwing out that late July game in Minneapolis, his season total was 71 earned runs allowed in 236 innings, for a 2.71 ERA.

Welch was 27-6 in 35 starts. He threw shutouts in both of his complete games. He allowed more than 4 runs in 5 different games, lost 4 of those games, and got a no-decision in the fifth game. Welch had 2 games in which he was a hard-luck no-winner: he allowed 2 runs in 2 different games in April, getting a loss and a no-decision in the 2 games. My guess is that Welch “deserved” about a 21-10 season in 1990, but he was playing for the league’s best team, with a fine bullpen and a great closer having a great year.

Compare him to Dave Stewart, who went 22-11 in 1990, with a 2.56 ERA. Stew was much more erratic. He allowed 5+ runs in 6 different starts, but allowed 0 earned runs in 9 different starts. He also was more of a workhorse, pitching 267 innings, with 11 complete games; and, went into extra innings 3 times.

In 1990 Roger Clemens, who seems to be the consensus sabermetric A.L. pitcher of the year, had a 1.93 ERA in 228 1/3rd innngs, allowing 49 earned runs (10 of the 59 runs he allowed were unearned), with 4 shutouts, and 7 complete games. He went 21-6 in 31 starts. Clemens’ worst start was allowing 6 earned runs in 6 innings

But, Clemens’ 4 shutouts came after the All-Star break, and he missed most of September, not contributing while the Red Sox were in a tight race with Blue Jays for the A.L. East (Boston won 88 games in 1990, beating out Toronto by 2 games). By late July, Welch was already 15-3, had had a sub-2 ERA deep into May, and won 9 straight starts in May and June. He’d established himself quite solidly as the pitching story of the year well before Clemens made his 2nd half push. Meanwhile, the A’s were steamrolling to a 103-win season, clearly the best team in MLB, and seemingly poised to become one of the top few dynasties of the post 1936-1964 Yankees time frame.

In 1990, if you covered baseball and considered the Cy Young to be the pitchers’ equivalent of the MVP, Welch was not a hard choice on your ballot. Remember that in 1990 most people had very little access to computer-based coverage of baseball, and sabermetrics was at best a sidelight. Imagine that you were a reporter, columnist, or TV talking head somewhere in the two eastern time zones. You didn’t see the A’s often, either in person or on TV, but you knew they were really good, and most mornings, looking through the newspaper or watching ESPN, you saw that they’d won yet another game late last night. Almost every time Welch made a start he won, and put up a solid line score to show that he deserved the win. The few times you watched him pitch, it was the same story. At the end of the year, looking down the stat lines, you saw Welch had put up the most wins since 1968, pretty much had the numbers to back up the 27 wins, had a great backstory (alcoholism, his duel with Reggie Jackson in the 1978 World Series, a decade as a fine Dodgers pitcher, a turbulent 1989 in which he became a father, lost his mother, and had his new home in the Marina district of San Francisco damaged in the Loma Prieta quake), and, for the 1990 season anyway, seemed to be the best pitcher on a surging dynasty. Did you have enough good reasons to go against all that and vote for Clemens or Stewart instead of Welch?

Welch got 107 points on the Cy Young ballot, to Clemens’ 77 and Stewart’s 43 (Dennis Eckersley got just 2 points, compared to Bobby Thigpen’s 20).

Published in: Uncategorized on May 22, 2016 at 4:09 pm  Comments (2)  

Out of Obscurity, One Great Shining Moment

A Milwaukee Brewers player named Tim Unroe hit a 9th-inning pinch hit grand slam for his 1st MLB homer in a May 3, 1997 17-4 win over the Mariners in the Kingdome. He hit a total of 3 big league homers, with 11 RBIs, in 95 at-bats, 1995-2000. It got me thinking about other short-term big leaguers who did one spectacular thing in an otherwise obscure career. Phil Humber’s perfect game is a better example, but in a slightly longer career. And, Humber is in no danger of being forgotten.

The negative side of this is Ron Wright, who, as a Seattle Mariner, struck out, hit into a double play and hit into a triple play in his three MLB at-bats, on one day, April 14, 2002. Judging from this 2007 New York Times article on Wright, he recovered from the experience pretty well.

Do you have any players to add to these ranks?

Published in: Uncategorized on April 26, 2016 at 1:31 pm  Comments (7)  

The Disappearance of Sammy Sosa

Presumably Sosa’s five-year stretch, 1998 through 2002, in which he hit 292 homers, set a record for slugging that we won’t see eclipsed for a long time. It was an average of 58 homers per season. Sosa missed a combined 23 games in the five seasons, and drew 92 walks per season: the 292 homers came in 3,005 at-bats, for nearly a 10% homer rate. He had 10 triples total, and 135 doubles total: the 292 homers more than doubled his 145 other extra base hits. The absurd statistics Barry Bonds put up in various seasons in the 2000s have obscured some of Sosa’s 2001 stats: a .737 slugging percentage, league-leading 37 intentional walks, 160 RBIs in 160 games, along with 146 runs scored. (Sosa also hit 3 homers in 3 different games in August and September of ’01.)

Considering these kinds of performances, it is amazing the speed with which Sosa vanished from the minds of baseball fans and journalists. He got 12.5% of the vote on his first Hall of Fame ballot, in 2013, then 7.2%, then 6.6%, and 7% in 2016. This wasn’t just because of steroids: Gary Sheffield, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro are among the offensive players who’ve exceeded Sosa’s 6.6% low-water mark in the past 4 years.

Published in: Uncategorized on April 15, 2016 at 3:09 pm  Comments (1)  

The Most Exciting Player You’ve Ever Seen

When talking about sports, the most interesting debates tend to be those that rest on idiosyncrasies and complete subjectivity. Not “who was the best player ever?” but “who was the most infuriating player?” or “which manager do you most dislike?” When we can’t objectively point to a number that at least pretends to settle the argument, it opens up the argument in all kinds of ways, and creates opportunities to be surprised. This question is one of those very subjective and open-ended debates: Who is the most exciting baseball player you’ve ever seen?

My impulse is to say Rickey Henderson. There’s his speed, his power, that batting crouch; but more than that, his personality, and the way he acted. He was a bit like Dennis Rodman in the 1990s, but Rodman was clearly looking for attention and not really a fully formed personality; Rickey managed to be very self-contained and assured, but also, in his own odd way, highly engaged with the media and fans. Compare him to some great players in other leagues during Rickey’s time: Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice, Wayne Gretzky, John Elway, Barry Sanders, Magic Johnson, Mario Lemieux, Larry Bird. I don’t think any of them combined greatness, charisma, and inscrutability, along with unpredictability, to near the extent that Rickey Henderson did. It seems to be quite rare for great athletes to really embrace their fame, as Babe Ruth and Magic Johnson did; Rickey didn’t quite embrace his fame, but he was, apparently, comfortable with his status.

 

Published in: Uncategorized on March 27, 2016 at 1:17 pm  Comments (2)  

The Best Player of the 1970s

Some of the players who come to mind as possibly the best of the decade are: Seaver, Reggie, Stargell, Morgan, Pete Rose, Carlton, Carew, Bench, Nolan Ryan, Schmidt. Without looking up stats, I’d guess Seaver, or maybe Carlton, was the best, as Seaver was in his prime pretty much throughout the decade. Briefly looking at the stats, Seaver did win 178 games, with a 2.61 ERA, from 1970-79, but I’m not seeing a place that ranks players of the ’70s by WAR or any other comprehensive stat. This article nominating a ’70s All-Star team helps flesh out the debate.

Published in: Uncategorized on February 23, 2016 at 11:25 am  Comments (1)  

What Will Be the Next Franchise Move in MLB?

The move by the St. Louis Rams back to Southern California for the 2016 NFL season-they might soon be accompanied by the Raiders or San Diego Chargers-reminds you that the last MLB franchise to change cities was the Montreal Expos moving to D.C. after the 2004 season. Which franchise will be the next to move? The Tampa Bay Rays and/or Oakland A’s seem most likely, with their older stadiums and stated desire to have taxpayers pay for new ones. It seems that in pro sports, once a franchise has moved once, it’s fairly likely to move again.

Published in: Uncategorized on February 2, 2016 at 12:15 pm  Comments (4)  
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