Whitey Ford Batting in the 1961 World Series

This is a little photo I got from the newspaper archives, of Whitey hitting the dirt after getting hit by a ball he’d foul-tipped off his bat. He was in the midst of extending his scoreless innings pitched in the Series streak, with the Yankees winning game 4, 7-0, before just 32,589 at Crosley Field.

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Published in: Uncategorized on April 23, 2015 at 10:27 am  Comments (1)  

The First Seattle Mariners Media Guide: 1977

This is a small curiosity: the first Mariners media guide pictured the Kingdome prominently on its cover, and told everybody “We can do it together!” 38 years later, the Kingdome is long gone, and the Mariners are still trying to win their first A.L. pennant.

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Published in: Uncategorized on April 11, 2015 at 1:29 pm  Comments (3)  

The 1995 “Miracle” Seattle Mariners

This is the Seattle Times section, featuring Ken Griffey’s slide into home plate to win the 1995 ALDS over the Yankees, that celebrates what’s still the best moment in Mariners history:

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I post it here, now, because of enthusiasm that the M’s will finally make it back to the playoffs in 2015, and because it’s 20 years since that ’95 season.

Published in: Uncategorized on March 20, 2015 at 10:39 am  Comments (1)  

A Few Notes on Jimmie Foxx’s Hitting in 1938

These are some features I noticed, looking through Foxx’s game log. In 1938, Foxx achieved each stop from 1 to 8 RBIs in a game, which I could see being a feat no one else has achieved in MLB history. Foxx twice drove in 6 runs in one game, drove in 4 runs in six games, and closed out the 149-game season with 7 RBIs vs. the Yankees on October 1. He had a streak of 14 RBIs over 5 games, and a streak of 13 RBIs in 4 games. He drew 6 walks in one game, vs. the Browns on June 16.

He did these things without the benefit of Ted Williams: the Red Sox who finished  second to Foxx’s 175 RBIs was Pinky Higgins with 106, and second behind Foxx’s  50 homers was Joe Cronin with 17.

Published in: Uncategorized on February 23, 2015 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Team Sub-.300 Winning Percentages

Wikipedia has a convenient page listing the 34 sub-.300 winning percentages posted by MLB teams from the 1870s to the present. Here are a few observations gleaned from that list.

The only sub-.235% teams played before 1900: 5 of them.

There have been 20 sub-.300% teams from 1900 onward, versus 14 before 1900. 16 of those 20 teams were in the Northeast (that is, from D.C. to Boston and west to Pittsburgh).

Eight of the 34 teams have been editions of the Philadelphia Phillies or Philadelphia A’s. The St. Louis Browns (3) are the only team west of the Mississippi River on the list.

Three of the 34 teams played after the end of World War II; 3 played during WWII (all of them Phillies teams), and 4 played during the ’30s. The Phillies had 5 seasons from 1938-1945 of sub-.300 records. In those 5 seasons, they cumulatively went 221-539, for a .291 winning percentage. I don’t know the franchise’s history in detail, but it sounds like it suffered from malfeasance or severe incompetence during those years. All that losing explains the fervor and exhilaration that surrounded their pennant-winning Whiz Kids team in 1950.

Finally: in light of the recent scarcity of teams losing more than 105 games in a season-even the 2013 Astros only lost 111 games-the fact of the 2003 Tigers going 43-119 (.265%) is almost inexplicable.

Published in: Uncategorized on February 8, 2015 at 10:12 am  Comments (2)  

Some Notes on Walter Johnson

You probably have a decent, but somewhat vague, idea of exactly what the Big Train accomplished in baseball. You can look through his career numbers, but it’s worth spelling out some of his more remarkable stats to highlight his uniqueness and some of the best arguments his backers can make for declaring him the greatest pitcher ever.

Johnson threw 110 shutouts, including 8 years with 7 or more shutouts. He had 12 years of 20 or more wins, including 69 wins in 1912 and 1913 combined. His 1.59 ERA for the decade of the 1910s, when he averaged 7 shutouts a year, was good for a cumulative ERA+ of 183, which, as his Baseball-reference Bullpen entry notes, would rank as ten of the top 100 single seasons for ERA+ if you divided it into 10 individual years. In the 1910s, Johnson had an average of 343 innings pitched per year. And, he recorded 20 saves. (He finished in the top 10 in the A.L. for saves 11 times.)

He was first in the A.L. in strikeouts 12 times. His 2.17 career ERA is first among starting pitchers who spent a sizable amount of their careers after the deadball era ended, with Pete Alexander’s 2.56 the next closest among starters.

Johnson had 5914 1/3rd innings pitched, the equivalent of 30 seasons at 200 innings a year, which strikes me as similar to thinking of how matching Rickey Henderson’s 1406 steals would require 50 steals a year for 28 years. His two years of >300 strikeouts, in 1910 and 1912, were the last in MLB until Bob Feller came along, and he was the last to do it twice until Sam McDowell and Sandy Koufax in the mid-1960s.

As for hitting, the Big Train hit at least .270 four times in the 1920s, peaking at .433(!) in 1925, when he went 42-97, slugging .577, with an OPS+ of 163. That, I would guess, is a record for starting pitchers, or at least a record for starters older than 35. Then, in 1927, at age 39, he hit .348 over 46 at-bats. He slugged above .400 five times, twice in the 1910s.

Johnson’s career spanned 1907 through 1927: in that time, the Senators’ cumulative winning percentage was .492, quite a bit better than I would have guessed. The Senators won .506% of their games during the 1910s, his prime, and won 90+ games 4 times in the Big Train’s career. But, they were .325% in his rookie 1907 season, and .276% in 1909, which are probably the two worst records posted by a team with a great, great player who was playing relatively well. The 1935 Braves, at 38-115, had Babe Ruth for a couple months, but he hit .181 in 72 at-bats.

Published in: Uncategorized on January 24, 2015 at 9:48 am  Comments (3)  
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The 20 Leading Singles Hitters in MLB History

I’ve classified the hitters who rank in the top 20 for career singles hit (seasons played in parentheses, followed by the number of singles hit). These three are the sluggers:
Hank Aaron  (23) 2294
Carl Yastrzemski (23) 2262
Stan Musial (22) 2253

These are the “singles hitters”:
Pete Rose (24) 3215
Eddie Collins (25) 2643
Cap Anson (27) 2614
Willie Keeler (19) 2513
Rod Carew (19) 2404
Tony Gwynn  (20) 2378
Nap Lajoie  (21) 2341
Ichiro Suzuki (14) 2311
Omar Vizquel (24) 2264

These are the hitters who, while not great sluggers, mixed all four kinds of hits in relatively even measure:
Ty Cobb (24) 3053
Derek Jeter (20) 2595
Honus Wagner (21) 2424
Tris Speaker (22) 2383
Paul Molitor (21) 2366
Jesse Burkett (16) 2273
Sam Rice (20) 2271
Wade Boggs  (18) 2253

I don’t have a great argument to make here, but it’s interesting to notice things like Jeter having more singles than either Willie Keeler or Rod Carew, and Aaron, Yastrzemski, and Musial being separated by only 41 singles-and, Aaron leading the group of three in singles hit.

Published in: Uncategorized on January 13, 2015 at 9:41 am  Comments (1)  

.400 Hitters Before the 1900s

These are the 15 pre-1900 seasons in which a batter hit .400 or better (ranked from highest to lowest average):
Hugh Duffy
Tip O’Neill
Ross Barnes 
Willie Keeler
Tuck Turner 
Sam Thompson 
Fred Dunlap 
Jesse Burkett (1896)
Ed Delahanty (1899)
Jesse Burkett (1895)
Ed Delahanty (1895)
Ed Delahanty (1894)
Billy Hamilton 
Pete Browning 
Hughie Jennings

How many of these 12 names do you recognize? Seven of them are Hall of Famers. I had never heard of Turner before looking this up.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 19, 2014 at 9:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Fred “Sure Shot” Dunlap’s 1884 Season

In 1884, Dunlap hit .412, and slugged .621, for a 1.069 OPS, good for an 256 adjusted OPS+ ranking. That ranks second only to Barry Bonds’ 3 best seasons in MLB history, and is sandwiched between Bonds’ 3 seasons and 3 Babe Ruth seasons. Dunlap hit 13 homers, 8 triples, and 39 doubles, in just 101 games: he scored 160 runs, or 1.6 per game.

Why is he so little known? He’s not in the Hall of Fame, he played in the 1880s for the most part, and his 1884 season was for the St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association. And, he did not hit better than .326, or a .452 slugging percentage, in any other season.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 2, 2014 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  

A Brief Comparison of the Two Bay Area Dynasties: the 1971-75 A’s and 2010-14 Giants

The A’s cumulative winning percentage was .594, a 95-65 average record. They won 21 postseason games, but all were in the three title years: they were swept in both the 1971 ALCS and the 1975 ALCS, which is, in a way, similar to the Giants not making the playoffs in 2011 and 2013. Their WAR leaders, as Baseball-reference has it, were, from ‘71-‘75, Vida Blue (8.6), Joe Rudi (6.1), Reggie Jackson (7.8), Catfish Hunter (6.9), and Reggie again (6.7). The A’s scored a total of 3,500 runs in the five years, and allowed 2793 runs, an average of 559 per year.

The Giants’ cumulative winning percentage was .538, an 87-75 average record. They won 34 postseason games. Their WAR leaders, as Baseball-reference has it, were, from ‘10 to ‘14, Aubrey Huff (5.7), Pablo Sandoval (6.1), Buster Posey (7.3), Posey again (5.5), and Madison Bumgarner (5.3). The Giants scored a total of 3,279 runs in the five years, an average of 656 per year, and allowed 3115 runs, an average of 623 per year.

Given the sizable regular season advantage, in terms of both run differential and won-loss record, that the A’s have on the Giants, it’s worth noting that the A’s lost eight World Series games, but the Giants lost just four. While the Giant got by with just one manager, Bruce Bochy, in their 5-year stretch, the A’s needed Dick Williams and then Alvin Dark to manage them to the playoffs five times.

Published in: Uncategorized on November 13, 2014 at 10:43 am  Comments (1)  
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