Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Adventures of Player X

Today we'll talk about player X. You can draw your own conclusions about what to think of his career.
Player X Started his career in 1988 and pitched during the entire 1990s, at the same time as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens were playing. Player X had a very good run in the first full nine years of his career, posting a 3.37 ERA, but then something peculiar happened. After he turned 35, he started rolling out consecutive dominant seasons. In a four year stretch, he went 81-27 with a 2.48 ERA. Keep in mind he's 35 when he begins this excellence and 38 when he ends it. Much like a Giants slugger at the same time. I know it's like comparing apples and oranges, but here're their stats from when Bonds was ages 36-39 and that four year stretch.
Bonds: .349, .559 OBP, 1.368 OPS, averages 52 homers a year.
Player X: 2.48 ERA, 1.044 WHIP, averages a record of 20-7 and 354 strikeouts.
Pretty interesting, especially considering they were both north of 35, the time most players are in decline.
Player X is Randy Johnson. For the record, I'm not accusing Randy Johnson of taking steroids or other PEDS. I just thought it was interesting that some players naturally have a shadow of doubt cast over them while others are ignored. Just  about a month ago in my top ten pitchers article, I mentioned that he was a perfect example of how pitchers age differently. Many get smarter with age, quarterbacks are like that as well, and there's a very good chance that that's what Johnson did. Call me cynical, but if you do what he did in that era, there's a very good chance there will be some suspicion.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Thoughts From Twinsfest

I went to Twinsfest on Saturday with my buddy Charlie. Here are some thoughts in no particular order.
Twinsfest at Target Field is infinitely better than at the Metrodome. Players aren't confined to certain spots, they just walk around. If they're feeling friendly, they'll talk to you. There was a mini basketball game there, like something you would see at an arcade. I was eating lunch and glanced up to see a person wearing a Chris Colabello jersey. A second passed, and I realized that was Colabello. There were some other people playing with him,so Charlie and I walked up. We said hi and gave him a high five. After shooting for a couple minutes, we told him good luck this year and left. That was just the way the players were.
Mudcat Grant, Jim Perry and Rollie Fingers were at a table signing and selling things. Fortunately, just walking up and talking to one of them was free. I got to talking with Grant, he was fun. He talked and acted exactly how one would expect a 78 year old former southern baseball player to. When we asked about his nickname, his response was, (deepen your voice and put on a gentle southern accent) "When I first started, they thought I was from Mississippi, so they began calling me Mississippi Mudcat. Because there are lots of Mudcats in the Mississippi River, ya know" Impressive. We didn't have much time, so I wasn't able to press on about why they thought he was from Mississippi and why everybody else from there isn't called Mudcat. Baseball culture is weird sometimes.
We spotted Miguel Sano. He wasn't wearing a uniform, but it was pretty easy to tell who it was. You don't see too many 6' 3" 195 people just walking around. He was looking at his phone when we passed him in the hallway. "Mr. Sano!" we shouted, he looked up from his phone for about half a second and gave us a high five. Amazing.
Alex Meyer is huge. We saw him standing next to Parmelee, whose 6' 1". I'm 5' 5", you can do the math.
Back at the basketball hoops, Deduno and Eric Fryer were shooting with others. Fryer was a great guy. When we asked for a picture, he answered, "Yeah," in a tone as if saying "Why wouldn't I take a picture with you?" Instead of, "You're lucky I'm even considering taking this picture instead of telling you to get lost."
The most interesting part was seeing Mauer. We were about to hop in an elevator when he just appeared. It was crazy. I was in such a surprise I was barely able to get out, "Hi Mr. Mauer,"
"Hey guys," was his response. He reached down, high fived us and calmly strode away. I felt like I had just seen a god.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Top Ten: Third Basemen

1. Mike Schmidt: Excellent at getting on, one of the best power hitters of all time, solid defense, Schmidt had it all. Did you know he lead the league in homers when he was 37? That was before the 90s when you hit your prime at 37.
2. Miguel Cabrera: Yeah, I know, I already put him in as a first baseman, but Miggy was just so amazing that I felt the need to put him here. My biggest question is what team would trade him? Oh, yeah, the Marlins. It's easy to look back at that and say it was terrible, but It was awful then too. The Tigers were getting Cabrera, who was coming off of hitting .320 with 34 homers, and Dontrelle Willis, who was just 25 and had had a 2.63 ERA a few years earlier. For who? Andrew Miller, who had had an ERA north of six the year before and a bunch of unproven prospects.
3. George Brett: Brett had eleven seasons of hitting over .300, was a solid fielder and came closer than anyone else to hitting .400 in 1980.
4. Wade Boggs: Boggs was a moneyball guy before moneyball existed, leading the league in OBP six times, being over .400 nine times and only once dipping under .350. When I went to Fenway Park for the first time two summers ago, my favorite part was the retired numbers. The requirements a player to have his number retired by the Sox was that they had to be in the Hall of Fame and they had to spend their entire career with the Red Sox. But they did make exceptions... for about half of the players. (Johnny Pesky, Joe Cronin, Carlton Fisk) What it pretty much was was an excuse to not retire Boggs or Clemens numbers. It got me thinking what do Sox fans think of him? My uncle Alex lives in Boston so I'll give the rest of this section to him.
Well, I recall that he got his share of boos when he returned to Fenway with the Yankees, but in my view, there was always this funny attitude towards Boggs - that he was kind of a jerk, kind of a maniac (ate chicken every game day, and his wife had 23 recipes for it) but very dedicated to hitting.  So I’m not sure many fans felt betrayed when he left.  Also, it was a long time ago now, so if he showed up at Fenway today, I think he’d have the fans’ support.  In fact, I’ll bet that has already happened in the last few years. 
5. Eddie Mathews: Mathews spent his entire career being solid. It's one of the reasons he's one of the more underrated players of his era. If he was on your team, every year you're getting a .270 hitter who'll hit 35 homers. The one thing he doesn't get enough credit for is being able to draw a walk. He led the league in walks four times and has a career .376 on base percentage.
6. Brooks Robinson: Robinson's often perceived as an all field no hit third baseman, which couldn't be farther from the truth. He hit at least 20 homers six times, including on fantastic season in which he hit .317 with 28 round trippers.
7. Chipper Jones: One of the best switch hitters of all time had over 100 RBI ten times. Ok, I'm done. (This may seem weird to you, but I do these out of order and am now beginning to sound really repetitive. Sorry for the inconvenience.)
8. Pie Traynor: It's always great to have a guy named Pie on any list. This Pie happened to hit over .300 in ten of his seventeen years. He also hit at least 10 triples eleven years. On a side note, how did he get the name Pie? Did he just really like Pie or something?
9. Ron Santo: There isn't a lot you need to know about Santo, but here's a quick rundown, he hit cleanup in a lineup that featured Billy Williams and Ernie Banks, he hit at least 25 homers eight times, and that he's possibly the best defensive third baseman of all time who the second letter of his first name isn't an R.
10. Frank "Home Run" Baker: Reason number 371 the dead ball era was awesome: Someone could get the nickname "Home Run" just by hitting two clutch homers in one game. That doesn't quite top the Cleveland Naps, but it comes pretty close.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Top Ten: Second Basemen

1. Rogers Hornsby: Good way to look at how good a player was is to look at his stats and see how many are in bold. It gives you a good general idea of what the player was like compared to everyone else in his era. I don't think I need to say anything else.
2. Charlie Gehringer: Along with having quite possibly the greatest nickname of all time. (The Mechanical Man) Gehringer hit over .300 thirteen times in his career. That takes some serious consistency. TMM was also an underrated fielder. having the 31st most errors is misleading because of his excellent range. He's second all time in assists at second base and in the top 40 in range factor. So lots of those errors are from plays where he missed balls that most second basemen wouldn't have come close to.
3. Eddie Collins: Collins was a lot like Gehringer. He hit over .300 sixteen times, covered lots of ground at second base and played during the '20s.
4. Joe Morgan: Morgan's .271 batting average is one of the most misleading numbers in sports. Too many people look at it and just decide right there that's he's not an all time great. If someone does that, they're choosing to ignore a career on base percentage of .392, 689 stolen bases and even, four seasons of hitting at least 20 homers. 
5. Ryne Sandberg: Either the greatest or second greatest power hitting second baseman of all time. At his peak, an average season for Ryno was .295, 24 homers, and 29 stolen bases. No modern second baseman has had that combination of power and speed. Add a slew of gold gloves to that, and you have one of the best of all time.
6. Nap Lajoie: See Cap Anson last week. Nap lead the league in 34 relevant categories when he played. Oh, and he gets bonus points for being so popular that Cleveland named their team after him. What are the odds of that happening today? One in seven hundred billion? I think everyone on the Cardinals would have a heart attack.
7. Rod Carew: Ok, I might be a little biased in writing this section. I'll admit it, Rod Carew is one of my favorite players of all time, but it's justified. In a nine year stretch he averaged .344 and 8 triples a year. He also stole home 7 times in his career. Oh, yeah, Billy Martin taught him that, so he should get credit. (For those of you who have never read Martin's book, Number One, go out and read it. It will make you hate Martin about 17 times more than you do right now. Whenever something bad happens to one of his teams, he finds someone else to blame, but that doesn't keep him from taking all of the credit for anything good that happens.)
8.`Jackie Robinson: The fact that Robinson broke the color barrier largely overshadows the fact that he was a really good player too. People tend to forget that he has a career batting average of .311, an OBP of .409 and was one of the best base runners of all time.
9. Frankie Frisch: Hey, speaking of base runners take a look at Frisch. He swiped at least 20 bases eleven  times in his career. He could also hit the ball, ending his career with a .316 batting average.
10. Player A: Let's do the old player A player B comparison.
Player A: .290, .356 OBP, 377 HRs, .855 OPS, 1518 RBI
Player B: .292, .380 OBP, 178 HRs, .846 OPS, 1194 RBI
Slight edge to A, right? That's Jeff Kent. Player B is Tony Lazzeri. So why is Lazzeri in the Hall of Fame and  Kent isn't? Because Lazzeri was a Yankee on the Murderers Row. As always, the lesson is, play for the Yankees. You'll get more attention.
That's mine. What's yours? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Top Ten: First Basemen

1. Lou Gehrig: .349, 38 homers, 152 RBI, .458 OBP. That's a pretty good season, right? Well, from 1927 to 1937 all of those numbers were slightly below average for Gehrig. Do I really need to say anything else?
2. Jimmie Foxx: Foxx's extreme power numbers overshadow the fact that he had a career batting average of .325, hit over .300 11 times and over .350 5 times.
3. Albert Pujols: I have absolutely no idea what to say about Pujols that I didn't say about Foxx. Really, compare their stats. They each hit lots of homers and have an abnormally high on base percentage.
4. Miguel Cabrera: I changed my mind over Cabrera about 17 thousand times over where to put him. I don't know weather he should count as a third baseman or a first baseman. Here's what I do know: During the years he played first base he hit .323 and averaged 35 homers per year. He'll also be playing there next year. By the way, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the top ten third basemen list.
5. Jeff Bagwell: Why isn't this man in the Hall of Fame? Oh, yeah, damn steroid controversy. I talked about Bagwell a few years ago, here's what I said.  Bagwell had everything you could want in a player, power, (449 homers) hitting for average, (career .297 hitter) fielding, (won a gold glove in '93) durability, (played 162 games four times) and even speed, (stole 30 or more bases twice).
6. Cap Anson: I generally tried to avoid including pre 1900 players because the game has evolved so much. However, during his career, Anson lead the league in some category 23 times. That's how far ahead of his peers he was.
7. Hank Greenberg: Greenberg didn't make it to the 500 homer club, and isn't usually talked about in the best sluggers of all time discussion but what's often forgotten, the guy lost almost five seasons to the war. Now that is how you make a point, italics and bold? Is it even possible to respond to that? Okay, back to the point. Greenberg hit 41 and 53 homers, respectively before leaving the next season. When he came back he hit 44. Let's say in some alternate universe where he doesn't go overseas. Maybe he hits 37 homers per year in that time. That's 141 homers, putting his career total at 476. Does his reputation change then? I'll let you decide.
8. Eddie Murray: Quick, three of the 3,000 hit and 500 homer club are Aaron, Mays and Palmeiro. Who's the third? That's right, it's Mr. Eddie Murray. Steady Eddie (which would be an awesome nickname if it wasn't the nickname given to everybody named Eddie) may have just broken the threshold on the 500 homer club, but keep in mind he played through both strike years. In '81 he hit 22 homers through 99 games, and in '94 he hit 17 through 108 games. If he plays an entire season he probably makes it up to about 520-530 homers, career.
9. Harmon Killebrew: Even as a huge Twins fan, I underrated Harmon for a while. Turns out he's not just a home run hitter. If you're going to scoff at his .256 career batting average look at his on base percentage. .376 career, was over .360 twelve times in his career. Oh, and he could hit for some power too.
10. Johnny Mize: The Big Cat averaged .312 with 24 homers throughout his career. He was also a very good fielder, leading the league in zone rating one year. I don't know what else to say, in case you haven't noticed I stopped being funny awhile ago. Wait? you say I never was funny? Dang it.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Hey everybody, something crashed on the site today, so I lost the top ten first basemen list. Sorry about that, it'll be up tomorrow.  Never mind, it's up now.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Top Ten: Catchers

1. Johnny Bench: In his prime, Bench was nothing short of spectacular. In an era where catchers didn't hit much he averaged 23 homers and 81 RBI per year. As if that's not enough he's one of the greatest defensive catchers of all time.
2. Mike Piazza: As I said in my Hall of Fame column, Piazza is the best hitting catcher of all time, bar none. He has more homers than any other catcher ever and has a career .308 batting average. The only reason he's not in the top spot is the fact that he was a liability defensively.
3. Mickey Cochrane: Here we have the second greatest hitting catcher of all time. Cochrane could draw a walk too. Along with his .320 career batting average, he never had a season with a OBP under .395.
4. Josh Gibson: Gibson's a tough case. Almost no statistics exist from the Negro Leagues, so all there are are stories. If you ask many former Negro Leaguers, they'll tell you that Gibson was one of the greatest players of all time. Had they kept track of stats there, there's an extremely good chance Gibson would be number one.
5. Yogi Berra: In the midst of all the Yogisms, it's often forgotten that Berra was also a fantastic player. Here's how consistent Berra was: In every single full season except one, Berra got a vote for MVP. That takes incredible consistency and durability, especially for a catcher.
6. Roy Campanella: Despite having his career cut short by a car accident, Campy managed to still have a Hall of Fame caliber career. He has the highest slugging percentage of any catcher of all time and is underrated defensively. He doesn't get enough credit for throwing out 69% of base stealers not once but twice. To put that into perspective, Ryan Hanigan lead the league in caught stealing percentage last year but gunning down 45% of base runners. In other words, had Campanella been playing today, he would have finished in first by over 20%.
7. Bill Dickey: People always talk about Yogi, but a real case could made that Dickey's the Yankee's best catcher of all time. After all, Dickey had a higher batting average, on base percentage and a higher slugging percentage. So why put Berra higher? At Dickey's best season, ('37) he was in the same lineup as Lou Gehrig, who hit .351 with 37 homers, and Joe DiMaggio, who hit .346 and 46 homers. With Berra, he "only" had Mickey Mantle as the only other player who hit over .300 with more than twelve round trippers.
8. Carlton Fisk: While thinking about Fisk, I bet about 99.999999999999% of people would picture him frantically trying to wave the ball fair in game six of the 1975 World Series. Along with that, Fisk was one of the most steady catchers of all time, averaging .284 and 18 homers in the '70s.
9. Gabby Hartnett: Dickey's contemporary had a batting average sixteen points lower than him, an on base percentage twelve points lower, and a slugging percentage three points higher than him.(Now is where you would expect me to make some joke about them being separated at birth or something, but my New Years resolution is to avoid corny jokes at all costs. Sorry for the inconvenience.) 
10. Ernie Lombardi: Why doesn't Ernie Lombardi get more discussion as the best hitting catcher of all time? Doesn't anybody find it interesting that before Joe Mauer came along, he and Bubbles Hargrave were the only catchers who won batting titles in the first century and a half of organized baseball?
Honorable Mention: Ivan Rodriguez: From a strictly statistical standpoint, Rodriguez should be on this list. He had a .296 career batting average and was one of the most feared catchers to base stealers of all time. However, sigh, steroid allegations have put his career in doubt.