Sunday, December 13, 2009

Juan Samuel, 1984 Philadelphia Phillies

Speaking of bizarre seasons for leadoff hitters, Samuel's 1984 season can be seen in one of two ways: (1) one of the great all-around seasons of the 1980s, or (2) one of the decade's strangest melanges of power-hitter and leadoff-hitter tendencies. Samuel was a slugger in a speedster's body, an intriguing mix of good and bad skills who, by 1987, had shown he was never going to become the next Honus Wagner. He did have one hell of an '84 season, though, becoming the only man in history to steal 50 bases and strike out 160 or more times. Further cultivating this schizophrenic skill set, Samuel hit 15 home runs and walked just 28 times (very Jose Hernandez), while also stroking 19 triples at the top of the Phil's lineup (a la Jimmy Rollins). Very strange.

50+ stolen bases, 160+ strikeouts

Orel Hershiser, 2000 Los Angeles Dodgers

It was supposed to be a feel-good story. Hershiser, after a five year absence, returns to the team he won the 1988 Cy Young and World Series MVP for (oh, and he also finished that season with 59 consecutive shutout innings). So what does Bulldog accomplish in his return to the Dodger Blue? He becomes the only man in history to hit 10 or more (11, in his case) batters in under 50 innings pitched. To that end, he became the only man to plunk ten or more in under 25 innings pitched(!), accumulating just 24.2 IP. Sadly, the LA legend finished his career in 2000 with a 1-5 record and an abominable 13.14 ERA.

10+ batters hit, 50- innings pitched

Mark McGwire, 2000 and 2001 St. Louis Cardinals

Mr. Andro started to look pretty damn tired in 2000, just two years removed from his record-setting* 1998 season, which he followed by another monster year* in which he jacked 65 home runs* (see what I'm doing with the asterisks here? Eh!?!?). In 2000, McGwire was 36 years old and, for one reason or another, was only playing half-time. Because Big Mac was still a man mountain, he was able to produce some epic power numbers in just 89 games. How epic? Try a .746 slugging percentage, the second-best of his career. McGwire's limited play and one-dimensional game also led to a pair of very strange (and less praise-worthy) individual achievements. In hitting 32 home runs in only 321 plate appearances, McGwire became the first player to reach 30 taters while failing to collect 200 total bases (he ended up with 176). The fact McGwire only mustered 8 non-homer extra base hits (all doubles), explains all. While McGwire's 176 total bases were unimpressive for someone with so many home runs, they were hugely impressive for someone with fewer than 75 total hits. In a twist that might lend some respect to Mark's 2000 season, McGwire became the only player in history to accumulate 175 or more total bases while rapping out fewer than 75 hits (he had 72). Does this redeem McGwire? Well, consider it in context...

Big Mac's 2001 season was like his 2000 campaign, but in mono. McGwire's body was failing him. The red-haired goliath was creaking, snapping, and popping every time he shambled up to the plate. Still, McGwire had some pop and the Cardinals let him play another half season. Continuing his descent into Billy Ashley-hood, McGwire set another two records in 2001, similar to those he set a year earlier. Riffing on a theme, McGwire was a one-dimensional savant, becoming the first player to ever hit 25 or more home runs with 5 or fewer doubles (he finished with 29 homers, 4 doubles, and 0 triples). Such a performance was a testament to the fact that McGwire wasn't simply slow (even Cecil Fielder was more amenable to doubles). No, McGwire was a broken man, racking up a .187/.316/.492 slash line, mainly on the strength of his home runs and 56 walks. Yep, McGwire looked tired, whiffing 118 times (32.4% of the time) and playing hideous defense. Still, he showed some power, setting a record that was similar to his 2000 TB/H milestone. In 2001, he was the first player to accumulate 135 or more (147, in his case) total bases with fewer than 60 hits (56). McGwire was still massive and, if you put the ball on his bat, he could take it yard. Still, it was clear the end was nigh and, after the 2001 campaign, McGwire retired, ready to take his rightful place in Cooperstown.

[Enter Jose Canseco]
[March 2005: Congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball]
[January 2007: 23.5% HOF support]
[January 2008: 23.6% HOF support]
[2005-2009: McGwire avoids media; becomes Bobby Crosby's hitting coach]
[2009: Signs on with Cardinals as hitting coach]
"I regret having lived in the Steroid Era"

30+ home runs, 200- total bases
175+ total bases, 75- hits
25+ home runs, 5- doubles
135+ total bases, 60- hits

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Roger Clemens, 2001 New York Yankees

Note: This stupidly angry post may not be suitable for children, the elderly, or members of the Roger Clemens legal defense team.

Inflated record (20-3) pitching for the richest, most mercenary teams in baseball? Check. Acting like a whiny, prissy, cry-baby bitch-cakes douche? Check. So what's so strange about this season? Well, I'm glad you asked. This was the year the "Rocket" became the first 20 game winner to not throw a single complete game. Combine Roger's porcelain arm with his 3.51 ERA and it looks like he could challenge Vuckovich and Colon for the worst Cy Young-winning season in history. Bastard.

Special 2001 Cy Young Supplement:
Roger Clemens, 5.4 WAR (87% Cy Young share, 17% MVP share)
Mike Mussina: 6.5 WAR (1% Cy Young share, 0% MVP share)

20+ wins, 0 complete games

Mike Schmidt, 1973 Philadelphia Phillies

We think of the Steroid Era as the defining period of the Three True Outcome slugger. Considering the generally balanced period (the '70s), the Vet's place as one of the great hitter's parks, and Schmidt's well-documented hatred of the strikeout, it's surprising that Schmidt's the one player to collect more than 135 strikeouts and fewer than 75 hits in a season. Though 18 of Schmidt's 72 hits in 1973 left the park, the fact that he struck out 136 times and batted only .196 suggests that the greatest third sacker of all time just wasn't ready for The Show in '73.

135+ strikeouts, 75- hits

Chris Hoiles, 1992 Baltimore Orioles

Remember when, on August 14, 1998, Chris Hoiles became the ninth player ever to hit two grand slams in one game? No? Remember his "ultimate grand slam" (down by three, two out, bottom of the ninth) on May 17, 1996? No? Really? Dude, it was even a 3-2 count...Still no? Clearly you've never visited the Eastern Michigan University Hall of Fame.

Unfairly forgotten due to the brevity of his career and the fact he played in an American League stacked with decent-to-excellent hitters - Tettleton, Pudge, Steinbach, Brian Harper, etc - Chris "The Tractor Mechanic" Hoiles (seriously, that was his nickname. So bad) does have a peculiar record-setting achievement to his name. Homers mean ribbies not always. Hoiles is the only player in history to hit 20 or more jacks, along with 40 or fewer RBIs in the same season. Hitting exactly 20 HR in '92, Hoiles also collected exactly 40 RBIs, showing what a statistical outlier, a lame Orioles' lineup, and 10 doubles will get you.

20+ HR, 40- RBI

Tony Fossas, 1992 Boston Red Sox

Tony "The Mechanic" Fossas [no relation to Chris "Tractor Mechanic" Hoiles] has long been held out as the worst situational pitcher cliche. An undistinguished "lefty specialist" who somehow managed to worm his way into over 500 games despite a merely decent ERA (3.90), Fossas is the only pitcher in history to appear in 60 or more games in a season and fail to reach 30 innings pitched. To be exact, Fossas pitched in exactly 60 games and accumulated just 29.2 innings, despite a sparkling 2.43 ERA. One suspects Fossas' (and all lefty specialists') place on the roster was something of a false economy, though, given the southpaw's ugly 1.517 WHIP.

60+ games pitched, 30- innings pitched

Andres Galarraga, 1994 Colorado Rockies

You couldn't talk about statistical anomalies without talking about the Blake Street Bandbox, right? It's true that Coors Field pumped up power numbers by 25%, turned Vinny Castilla and Preston Wilson into RBI champs, and made Kaz Matsui look worth a damn, but there are some things it couldn't hide. For instance, Galarraga showed it couldn't give you a batting eye, as he became the only man in history to accumulate 30 or more home runs and 20 or fewer walks in the same season. You might have been able to blame the Big Cat's low walk totals on the strike-shortened season, but you'll notice that, while his HR (31) and BB (19) totals look a little sparse, his strikouts (93) would be impressive for even a full season of play.

30+ home runs, 20- walks

Omar Daal, 1995 Los Angeles Dodgers

Omar Daal's not remembered for much. He was the second best, and least known, starter on the '99 D-Backs and...well, that's about it. In '95, however, he permanently etched some sort of name for himself. That year, Daal became the only man to pitch in 20 or more times without getting to start or finish the game. The Dodger's nervousness in letting Daal pitch in any sort of key situation in any of his 28 appearances makes some sense, given his egregious 7.20 ERA. But...but...but...he went 4-0!

20 games, 0 games started, 0 games finished

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Zoilo Versalles, 1967 Minnesota Twins

Poor Johnny Mize. First he's compared to Miguel Dilone and now Zoilo Versalles, a man who did what Mize never could - win a Most Valuable Player Award (the result of an embarrassing 1965 vote that saw Versalles perservere over his more worthy teammate Tony Oliva). The mighty are known to fall from grace, though. Versalles saw his career quickly disintegrate after winning the the MVP. While he turned in a merely-bad 1966, Zoilo completely fell apart in '67, while the cache of his recent MVP kept him in the lineup full time. As a result, Versalles became the only player to ever score 60 or more runs with an on-base percentage of under .250. The fact Versalles could accumulate 63 runs (if only incidentally) with a slash line of .200/.249/,282 was more a testament to Mangers Sam Mele and Cal Ermer's willingness to give him 626 plate appearances than anything else. Mercifully, Versalles was traded to the Dodgers the next year, and bounced around between the Padres, Indians, Senators, and Braves before retiring after the 1971 season.

60+ runs, .250- on-base percentage

Johnny Murphy, 1943 New York Yankees

Johnny Murphy's '43 season makes it seem like the New Yawk native could squeeze blood from a diamond if he put his mind to it. While Pollet was dominating the shit out of the NL, Murphy was finding a way to rack up his own Nintendo-like stats in his limited opportunities. Murphy, who had a 1.088 WHIP in '43, was clearly a good pitcher, though his 1.399 WHIP and 116 ERA+ between 1932 and 1942 indicate he wasn't "great" by any measurement. Who needs greatness, though? Everything just fell into place in '43, as Murphy went 12-4 and racked up 8 saves in only 68 innings, becoming the only player to ever win 12 or more games in 70 or fewer innings. This isn't to say that his season was the equivalent of going 36-12 in 204 innings (clearly that would be more impressive). Still, whether you ascribe it to skill, luck, or both, wringing 12 wins out of 68 innings almost makes you want to believe in the cliche about some pitchers "knowing how to win." Almost, but not quite.

12+ wins, 70- innings pitched

Jack Heidemann, 1970 Cleveland Indians

A year after Fernandez' spent a half-season impersonating Nick Swisher, Jack Heidemann set out to show off his best Neifi Perez. Now, nobody expected Heidemann, a light-hitting shortstop from Brenham, Texas, to set the world aflame with his bat. One would think, however, that the 1967 first-round draft pick might at least hit LIKE A SHORTSTOP. Rather, Heidemann seemed bent on trying to prove that he too could be a slugger, leading the league in sacrifice flies (a stat normally reserved for sluggers). It should be noted, however, that these sacrifice flies, which presumably netted Heidemann 10 RBI, were accumulated by a man who only collected 37 RBI all season! Heidemann, in turn, became the first player in history to collect 10 or more sac flies and have fewer than 40 RBI. This, of course, begs the questions: (1) How the hell did Heidemann get more sac flies than teammates Vada Pinson and Graig Nettles and (2) What was manager Alvin Dark smoking?

10+ sacrifice flies, 40- runs batted in

Mike Myers, 1997 Detroit Tigers

While Frank Williams showed that one could pitch 85+ games without losing, Myers proved the rather less-inspiring lesson that one could pitch in 85+ games without winning. In 1997, playing on the least-bad of a string of bad Tigers teams, Myers earned his place in history by pitching in a league-leading 88 games and going 0-4 with a 1.547 WHIP. Myers, a "lefty specialist" in the mould of the dreaded Tony Fossas (whose oeuvre we've already explored) pitched for 13 seasons, spanning 883 games but only 541.2 innings. Ugh. To make matters worse, Myers was once traded for Jack Cust (who's actually, y'know, productive) and made over $10 million throughout his career. Does MLB know something about this southpaw with the career 4.29 ERA that I don't?

85+ games, 0 wins

Frank Williams, 1987 Cincinnati Reds

Frank Williams' 1987 was bad-ass. Following a series of productive seasons, Williams was traded from the Giants before the '87 season for Eddie Milner (whose career was all but over by that time). The Reds likely didn't know that Williams was about to turn in a phenomenal year that would result in the righty becoming the only player in history to pitch in 85 or more games without incurring a loss. Williams' 4-0 record, 2.30 ERA, and 105.2 IP, all in relief, showed enormous talent that, under different circumstances, could have made Williams the NL's answer to Tom Henke. It was not meant to be, however, as Williams was out of the big leagues completely by 1990. Moving to Victoria, BC to explore his aboriginal roots, Williams fell into alcohol and substance abuse, dying as a street person in January, 2009.

85+ games, 0 losses

Eddie Robinson, 1955 New York Yankees

If I had to describe journeyman slugger Eddie Robinson to someone, I'd say he's like Wally Gerber, but with power. Then I'd explain Gerber. For some reason it just seems easier that way. A multiple-time MVP candidate and All Star, Robinson played first base for 13 seasons with a variety of teams, most notably the the Indians and White Sox. So how is this Paris, Texas native, who reached 20 home runs four times and 100 runs batted in thrice, similar to Gerber? Well, he's not. Robinson's 1955 season, however, showed a truly Gerber-like antipathy for total bases, as Eddie became the only player to ever hit 15 or more home runs (he had 16) while collecting 90 or fewer total bases (finishing with 85). That is one tricky feat. Robinson plugged 16 home runs in 215 plate appearances, but was otherwise Alex Cole without the speed, gaining just one (one!!!) extra base hit that wasn't a homer. In turn, Robinson finished with a .208/.358/.491 slash line that, if a few of those home runs died on the warning track, could have looked really, really ugly.

15+ home runs, 90- total bases

Stu Flythe, 1936 Philadelphia Athletics

I had no idea what a "flythe" was until recently. Intuitively, it sounds like a bird. The speckled flythe. How would I know that it was a Durham-born NC State pitching product who lasted all of one season with a miserable Athletics team? It certainly didn't resemble a ballplayer. Flythe became the only pitcher to throw 15 or more (16) wild pitches in under forty innings (39.1), tossing pitches into the dirt, the stands, and the backstop on his way to accumulating a comical 13.04 ERA and 2.797 WHIP. On the plus side, Flythe posted batting numbers (.579 OPS) that put Hal Lanier to shame. I do apologize to the family of Mr. Flythe, but that's the only sheen I can give to this ridiculous career.

15+ wild pitches, 40- innings pitched

Art Shamsky, 1966 Cincinnati Reds

How fitting to bookend this installment of Fun With Baseball Stats with another Jewish baseball icon. Before Art Shamsky became famous for being a marginally-important member of the '69 Miracle Mets, he was a marginally-successful outfielder on the Cincinnati Reds. Certainly, if he were never traded to the Mets for Bob Johnson, Shamsky's main claim to fame might have been his status as the 'sixties version of Eddie Robinson. In '66, Shamsky outdid Robinson's penthouse-or-outhouse performance in '55, becoming the only player to hit 20 or more home runs while collecting 125 or fewer total bases. Really, Shamsky's output just looks as if Robinson's season had been allowed to continue for another month, as Shamsky spanked 21 home runs and 47 ribbies in 271 at-bats, collecting just 122 total bases on 5 doubles and 0 triples. I'm guessing that, if you told Reds Manager Don Heffner in '66 that Shamsky would become an icon three years later on the World Champion Mets, he would have replied "There's no way! I know talent and he's a bum. By the way, did you see how I scored Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson? There's no way I'll come to regret that."

20+ home runs, 125- total bases

Bill Terry, 1934 New York Giants

Continuing our exploration of historically light hitters, we come to someone who actually was a very good hitter, Hall of Fame catcher "Memphis" Bill Terry. In a career spanning over 1700 games, 2193 hits, and a lifetime batting average of .341, Terry was a splendid hitter whose accomplishments are perhaps not adequately celebrated today. All deference aside, how slow was Memphis Bill? I mean, c'mon. Reportedly a strapping 6'1 and 200 pounds, Terry didn't have to drag some Cecil Fielder-like frame around the diamond. So why is it that Terry, in 1934, became the only player to hit 165+ singles while not stealing a single base. Terry somehow managed to combine the batting average of Ichiro (.354) with the singles-hitting ability of Juan Pierre (169) and the speed of...ummmm...Billy Butler (or, really, anyone with an 'ample' frame). Now, this isn't to say Terry didn't have an excellent year (he did) or that it isn't excusable for a 35 year-old catcher to go a season without stealing a base (it is). I suppose I'm just surprised that, as Player-Manager of the 93-60 Giants, Terry never game himself the green light. "Ready Bill? Yes. Sure? Uh huh. Okay, on the count of three..."

165+ singles, 0 stolen bases

Wally Gerber, 1926 St. Louis Browns

Wally Gerber's success in Major League baseball is a mystery to me. In 1923, Gerber came fourth in AL MVP voting after having racked up 1 home run, 62 ribbies, and a .281/.342/.339 slash line. For some reason, that put him just behind Babe Ruth, Eddie Collins, and Harry Heilmann in voting, and ahead of Cleveland's Joe Sewell (109 RBI, .935 OPS) and teammate Ken Williams (29 HR, 1.062 OPS), who finished 15th. Three years after his first flirtation with the MVP, Gerber came 23rd in MVP voting in what many sensible people would call a truly awful season. It may be that I'm missing something in retrospect, but usually I don't think of a shortstop from a 62-92 team, who has 8 double, 37 runs scored, and 0 stolen bases as MVP material. The icing on the cake was that Gerber became the only player in history to collect 110+ hits (111) and fewer than 120 total bases (119). How hard is that? Well, it required Gerber to get all of 8 extra-base hits in 473 plate appearances. In what may be history's least amazing twist of fate, perennial MVP candidate Gerber was out of baseball by 1930.

110+ hits, 120- total bases

Friday, November 20, 2009

Johnny Mize, 1938 St. Louis Cardinals

Remember Miguel Dilone (he of the fifty swipes and zero triples)? Well, Mize was, in a number of ways, the anti-Dilone. Certain differences between Dilone (800 games, 530 hits, .265/.315/.333) and The Big Cat, version 1.0 (1884 games, 2011 hits, .312/.397/.562) are obvious. Mize's Hall of Fame status is one indicator. Dilone sucking is another. The least obvious difference between them, however, relates to their triple:stolen base ratio. While Dilone became the only player to go 50/0, Mize explored the opposite idea - that a triple hitter needn't steal. In '38, Mize became the only player to hit 15+ triples (16) and steal zero bases. These 16 triples were part of a three year output (43 triples between 1938 and 1940) that seem especially puzzling, considering Mize's 28 CAREER stolen bases. It seems like Mize was only hitting triples to buff up his crazy strong .562 career slugging average. "If a double's good, then a triple..."

15+ triples, 0 stolen bases

John Wathan, 1982 Kansas City Royals

The one-time fourth overall draft pick (come to think of it, it's unlikely he'd be drafted fourth overall more than once...) was supposed to anchor the Royals powerhouses of the '70s and '80s. Surprisingly, KC managed to win a crown in spite of, not because of, the efforts of Mr. Wathan. 1982, though his most productive season in some respects, was also Wathan's nadir, as he became the only man to steal 35 or more bases (36) and ground into 25 or more double plays (26). I'm not sure how many sharply-hit balls to the second baseman it took to accomplish this absurd feat, but the singularity of the accomplishment certainly shows up in his bizarre .270/.343/.328 slash line. Aren't speedsters (even speedy catchers?) supposed to prevent GIDPs?

35+ stolen bases, 25+ ground into double plays

Rich Rodas, 1983 Los Angeles Dodgers

Never heard of Rich Rodas? Think of his career as a microcosm of Scott Williamson's record-setting season. Rodas only lasted two partial seasons in the bigs in a career that spanned a total of 9.2 innings. So what's so special about his '83 season? Think of it as Rodas making the most of the 4.2 innings available to him. If you wanted to set a record in half a game, you could try to strike everyone out (nearly impossible) or give up a hundred runs (you'd get pulled). Rodas slyly combined an attainable record with a strong performance, however, becoming the first player ever to throw five wild pitches in under five innings pitched. How hard is that? Juan Guzman holds the modern record for wild pitches in a season (26 in 1993). In 1932, Washington's Alvin Crowder threw 327 innings WITHOUT a wild pitch! Rodas seized his opportunity, delivering an ERA-WHIP split (1.93/1.500) that is among the most ridiculous in history. Who says there are no heroes left?

5+ wild pitches, 5- innings pitched

Eddie Lake, 1947 Detroit Tigers

"Sparky" Lake seems to have been a pretty decent middle infielder for the Red Sox and Tigers throughout the 1940s, though it's fair to say he had some holes in his game. First of all, he was caught stealing 46% of the time. Though that sucks quite hard, Lake only attempted 97 steals throughout his career, so the damage isn't crippling. Another limitation of Lake's was that, despite owning a phenomenal eye and great patience at the plate, he managed to find a way NOT to get on base. Case in point, Lake became the only player in history in 1947 to draw 120 or more walks but have an on-base percentage under .350 (.343, to be exact). Wow. Despite hitting 12 home runs in an era where slugging shortstops were rare, Lake was one crappy hitter, batting .211 and, interestingly, having a lower slugging average (.322) than OBP. Like Juan Samuel's '84 season, Lake sure produced a strange mishmash of stats.

120+ walks, .350- on-base percentage

Sandy Koufax, 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers

Look, I love Koufax. He was the only real Jewish icon in baseball between Hank Greenberg and Ryan Braun (don't give me that Mike Epstein stuff) and, for history-minded members of the tribe - like self - that's of no little import. Therefore, it is with some reluctance that I discuss Sandy's shortcomings. His short career length and the fact he spent all of his dominating years in an extreme pitcher's park are unfortunate realities and they give baseball people reluctance to finger Koufax as the greatest southpaw ever. Moreover, before moving to LA, Koufax had three unexceptional years in Brooklyn, in which he set, to my knowledge, just one record. In his rookie season, Sandy set a record by becoming the only player in history to strike out in every single at-bat (minimum 10 plate appearances). Yep, one of the greatest strikeout pitchers ever was, at first, a strikeout batter. For those of you keeping score at home, that's 0 for 12, all strikeouts, with a perfect -100 OPS+. Obviously, this doesn't mean too much because Koufax was a pitcher, but it's funny to think that he actually improved his hitting over time, retiring with a hearty .097 average.

10+ at bats, 100% k rate

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spook Jacobs, 1954 Philadelphia Athletics

If you ever wanted to challenge a St. Louis Brown in a contest for sheer mediocrity, a Philadelphia Athletic would be your best bet. To that end, Robert Forrest "Spook" Vandergrift Jacobs is a fitting challenger to Wally Gerber (if you need any more proof of this serendipitous relationship, consider that Gerber's nickname was 'Spook'). Jacobs had a much less successful (if you could call it that) career than Gerber, premiering as a rookie at the age of 28 and playing just three seasons before retiring in 1956. In his one full season, however, Jacobs found some moderate success and a large dose of record-setting failure. To the good, Jacobs finished fourth in the AL in stolen bases (tearing up the pea patch with 17 swipes) and came sixth in the league in AB per SO, whiffing every 23.091 times at bat. To the bad, Jacobs became the only man to collect fewer than 145 total bases on 130 or more hits. The fact Jacobs came sixth in the league in singles, while only stroking 12 extra base hits (11 2b, 1 3b) helps to explain this anomaly, as Jacob picked up only 144 TB on 131 hits. Why light hitting should damn Jacobs, in spite of a 60:22 strikeouts-to-walk ratio and an acceptable 72 OPS+, remains a mystery. Maybe he didn't have that crappy Ken Williams around to make him look good.

145- total bases, 130+ hits

Frank Fernandez, 1969 New York Yankees

Before Billy Beane's 'Moneyball' model made us all revisit the significance of Rob Deer, the Yankees' Frank Fernandez - the heir apparent to Elston Howard - was going all "three true outcomes" on us. Prior to Fernandez' 1969 season, no player had accumulated 65 or more walks in under 300 plate appearances. Fernandez did just that, though, chalking up 65 BBs in just 298 trips to the plate, ending up with an eye-popping slash line of .223/.399/.415. You'd think this productivity would get Fernandez sufficient chances to play, but big Frank was shipped off to Oakland the next year and, by 1972, his career had finished after only 285 games. By today's standards, Fernandez was remarkably productive and, given his career 162 game averages (22 HR, 66 RBI, .199/.350/.395), he seems like something of a lost opportunity.

65+ walks, 300- plate appearances

Monday, August 31, 2009

Howie Pollet, 1943 St. Louis Cardinals

Jesus Christ. Pollet was a fucking assassin in 1943. Yeah, I know, wartime baseball was diluted, blah blah Hal Newhouser blah blah...whatever. According to Warren Corbett, Pollet was "a pitching prodigy." Well no shit! In '43, Pollet became the only player in history to throw five shutouts in 15 or fewer (14, in his case) games. Yeah. That's nasty. But that's not all. He also completed twelve of those fourteen games, compiling an 8-4 record, a 0.972 WHIP, and winning the ERA crown (he barely qualified) with an electric 1.75. Pollet joined the Air Force after the 1943 season, returning to the majors for the 1946 season and finding that he was still a pretty damn good pitcher (21-10, 2.10 ERA, fourth in MVP voting). Unfortunately, Pollet had a mediocre '47 and, despite finding some later success, his career was never fully realized. His later struggles were certainly due to a combination of prime years lost to war, arm injuries, and the generally-stronger play of integrated, post-war baseball, culminating in his retirement after the 1956 season.

5+ shutouts, 15- games

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Miguel Dilone, 1978 Oakland Athletics

Base stealers get triples, right? Lance Johnson, Christian Guzman, Jimmy Rollins, Brett Butler-mad wheels on all of them. So what the hell was going on with Miguel Dilone in 1978, when he became the only player in history to steal 50 bases without collecting a triple? I mean, he was a professional baseball player, unlike Herb Washington, the A's mid-decade designated pinch runner (1974: 92 G, 0 PA, 29 SB, 16 CS). Alright, he only had 292 plate appearances, but he did have 292 plate appearances. That's half a season and more than enough chances to take an extra base on one of his 8 doubles. Hell, in '79 Dilone collected 2 triples in 137 plate appearances. Over a full 1980 season (566 PA), he collected 9 triples! A paucity of plate appearances only explains why Dilone collected just 14(!) RBIs that year, not why he played like Pete Incaviglia on greenies.

50+ stolen bases, 0 triples

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rod Scurry, 1988 Seattle Mariners

I'd never heard of Rod Scurry before yesterday, something I now regret. How could I have never heard of King Balk? Stuck on one of the inevitably crummy pre-Griffey Seattle teams, Scurry, a 32 year-old journeyman reliever, formerly of the Yankees and Pirates, was coming off a lost 1987 season (he was in the minors, not injured). Returning to the majors, Scurry may very well have thought "wouldn't it be fun to be the first pitcher to accumulate 10 or more balks in under 35 innings?" He certainly seems to have pursued that goal, chalking up 11 balks in just 31.1 innings pitched. Surprisingly, this had little discernible effect on his ERA (4.02 - just 0.13 above his career average). Scurry was out of the majors for good after the '88 season, though. While some might blame his 1.596 WHIP, his 1992 cocain-induced heart attack death suggests other possible career complications.

10+ balks, 35- innings pitched

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Scott Williamson, 2000 Cincinnati Reds

I like Scott Williamson a lot. The 1999 All-Star and NL Rookie of the Year was a throwback to old-school Hoyt Wilhelm- and Mike Marshall- type pitchers who could toss a ton of innings in relief, serve as closer, and even start in a pinch. Williamson pitched in 110 games in his first two seasons, going 17-15 with 25 saves and 243 strikeouts over 205.1 innings. So what's the record this man among men set? Well, I'm aggrieved to tell you it is an ignominious (though perhaps incidental) one. In the '00 season, Williamson became the first pitcher to throw 20 or more wild pitches (21) in under 115 innings (112.0). Considering Williamson's very healthy career total of wild pitches (72), in over just 439.1 innings of work, this may have only been the nature of the flame-throwing beast. His 3.29 ERA and 1.491 WHIP certainly paint a confusing picture as to how effective he was. Or maybe I'm just kidding myself.

20+ wild pitches, 115- innings pitched

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hal Lanier, 1968 San Francisco Giants

Sometimes I feel like, if you wanted to manage in the Major Leagues before 1998, you'd be best served taking a few rising fastballs to the head first. I mean, you'd think that Giants manager Herman Franks, who had led his club to a 279-206 record over the previous three seasons, would have the wherewithal to look at the Twins and mutter "what the shit is Ermer doing keeping Versalles in the lineup?" Apparently this was not the case, however. Enter: Hal Lanier, 25 year-old starting shortstop and son of former All Star Max Lanier. Though Hal wasn't prohibitively terrible with the bat his rookie year (75 OPS+ in 1964), he had gotten worse each of the following three years (51, 50, 48), culminating in a 38 OPS+ in 1968. How bad is a 38+ OPS? Well, in 2008, Andruw Jones's historically terrible season gained him a 34. Meanwhile, Kenji Johjima's craptacular season yielded a 64. But Lanier's cancer bat didn't concern Coach Franks, and Lanier became the only player in history to accumulate 500 or more plate appearances (518) with an on-base percentage of .225 or lower (.222). This didn't have to be the case, but Lanier didn't want to fuck up his .461 OPS by walking more than twelve times. God, Herman Franks was a moron.

500+ plate appearances, .225- on-base percentage

A Short Introduction

As you may or may not know, I'm a very active member of the Society of American Baseball Research, a big proponent of SABRmetrics, a shameless stat-head, and a student of history.

What does that mean, practically speaking? Well, for one thing, I yearn to lay some absurd pieces of trivia on y'all. These shards of knowledge may just rock your world. Or win you a bar bet. Or be forgotten about five minutes from now. That's the thing about living in a free country - it's your choice.

Nonetheless, who are you to spurn knowledge wrought from the straining muscles and grinding gears of time? Only one can could get away with that, and his name is Tony Tarasco.