Roger Maris

Here are a few things about Maris’s career you might find interesting. He hit 14 homers in 116 games in his first season, 1957 with the Indians. He led the league in slugging percentage (.581) in 1960, but did not in 1961 (he slugged .620 that year). He played in 7 World Series, which, thinking offhand, may tie the record for most Series played in by anyone from 1960 on to the present day. Those 7 World Series happened in a 9-year stretch, 1960 through 1968. He played for 4 teams, quite unusual in his time for a two-time MVP, as was being traded three times.

He hit 275 homers, out of 1325 total career hits, for a 20.7% homer percentage. Also, Maris played 140 games in a season only 4 times: in 1960 for example, his 39 homers and 112 RBIs came in 136 games and 499 at-bats. For his career, he played in an average of 122 games per season.

Published in: Uncategorized on September 20, 2016 at 10:07 am  Comments (1)  

A Few Notes on Northeast Baseball Coach Tom O’Connell

Tom O’Connell pitched for the University of Connecticut’s baseball team in the ‘50s, for military teams after college, and starting in the mid-‘60s coached the high school baseball team in Braintree, Mass., Brandeis University’s team in the bulk of the ’70s, then Princeton’s team in much of the ’80s and ’90s. I doubt you’ve heard of him, but he is one of the bigger names in Northeast college coaching in recent decades.

I’ve heard of him because a while ago I obtained some memorabilia-primarily news clippings-that O’Connell had gathered over the decades, from the 1950s to the 1990s: a mix of material from his professional life in baseball and material from his life as a fan of the Red Sox and Celtics. As Brandeis noted in its story on O’Connell’s death, he “led Brandeis baseball to six-straight NCAA Division III tournament appearances, including a berth at the 1977 Division III College World Series.” Princeton added: “The Tigers went to the NCAA Tournament three times during O’Connell’s tenure (1985, 1991, 1996), won two Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League championships (1985, 1991) and one Ivy League title in 1996.” Here is his obituary. I won’t pretend to have great unique insights into O’Connell, but this 1985 New York Times article on O’Connell’s work at Princeton jibes with the impression of the man that’s created by thumbing through other news articles on what he did at Braintree High, Brandeis, and Princeton. The impression is that he was a baseball lifer dedicated to winning and sustaining the sport’s ideals not by presenting a warm, understanding personality to his players, but by disciplining them and always asking them to do more. O’Connell, it seems, was one of those coaches who make up the backbone of organized amateur baseball.

Published in: Uncategorized on September 8, 2016 at 1:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Times on Base

Here, from Baseball-reference, is a list of the top 11 hitters in terms of times getting on base in their career (years played in parentheses, and the + denotes Hall of Famers):

1. Pete Rose (24) 5929
2. Barry Bonds (22) 5599
3. Ty Cobb+ (24) 5532
4. Rickey Henderson+ (25) 5343
5. Carl Yastrzemski+ (23) 5304
6. Stan Musial+ (22) 5282
7. Hank Aaron+ (23) 5205
8. Tris Speaker+ (22) 4998
9. Babe Ruth+ (22) 4978
10. Eddie Collins+ (25) 4891
11. Willie Mays+ (22) 4791

It is a shame that the two leaders aren’t in the Hall. It’s also surprising that Rose is on top by more than 300-an entire season-even though he’s no higher than 79th for times on base in a single season.

Published in: Uncategorized on August 20, 2016 at 1:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Babe Ruth and Stephen Curry

Some people have said that Stephen Curry’s 2015-2016 season, in terms of shooting (and making) 3-pointers, was similar to Babe Ruth hitting great bunches of home runs in the early 1920s, in that both showed the rest of the league a new way to play offense. Here are a few comparisons between Curry and the Warriors in 2015-16, as they related to the rest of the NBA, and Ruth and the 1920 Yankees, as they related to the rest of major league baseball.

In 15-16, the Warriors made 1077 3-pointers, while the NBA as a whole made 20,940. The Warriors made 5.14% of the NBA’s 3s. Second in the NBA was the Cavaliers, who made 880 3s. 1077 of the Warriors field goals were 3s, out of 3489 total field goals. The 1920 Yankees hit 115 homers, while the 16 MLB teams hit 630 homers total. 2nd in MLB in homers was the Philadelphia A’s, with 64. The Yanks had 1447 hits, and MLB had 23,275 hits total.

In 1920, Ruth hit 54 homers, and in 15-16, Curry hit 402 3 pointers. The previous records had been 29 homers hit by Ruth in 1919, and Curry’s 286 3-pointers in 14-15.

After the 15-16 season, the “Splash Brothers”-Curry and Klay Thompson-have the four highest 3-point seasons in NBA history. The record for a non-Splash Brother is Ray Allen, 269, in 2005-06 with the Sonics. Thompson had 276 3s this year, and James Harden, with 236, was 3rd. Second in the AL in homers in 1920 was George Sisler, 19, and Cy Williams led the NL with 15 for Phillies.

It took until 1922 in the NL for someone to hit more than 25 homers-Rogers Hornsby hit 42. It took until 1931 (Gehrig tied with Ruth at 46 homers) for someone besides Ruth to hit more than 40 homers to lead the AL.

Published in: Uncategorized on August 8, 2016 at 10:07 am  Leave a Comment  

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)