Baseball Book Reviews – For the Baseball Fan on Your Holiday Gift List

Looking for a gift for the baseball fan on your holiday gift list – or some entertaining reading for yourself.  Here are links to several past Baseball Roundtable book reviews (Or baseball volumes old and new, non-fiction and fiction) that may help.  

Just click on the book’s image to find the review.  

 

Last BestThe Last Best League – One Summer, One Season One Dream (Tenth Anniversary Edition),

by Jim Collins

 

 

summer of beerThe Summer of Beer and Whiskey – How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America’s Game,

by Edward Achorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

veeck 13Bill Veeck:  Baseball’s Greatest Maverick,

by Paul Dickson

 

 

 

stanSTAN MUSIAL – An American Life,

by George Vecsey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

summer of 68Summer of ’68: The Season that Changed Baseball, and America, Forever,

by Tim Wendel

 

 

down_to_last_pitchDown To The Last Pitch – How the 1991 Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves Gave Us the Best World Series of All Time,

by Tim Wendel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19541954 – The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Baseball Forever,

by Bill Madden

 

yogiDriving Mr. Yogi:  Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry and Baseballs’ Greatest Gift,

by Harvey Araton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

59Fifty-nine in ’84,

by Edward Achorn

 

 

ganThe Great American Novel,

by Philip Roth

 

one sjhot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Shot At Forever … A Small Town, An Unlikely Coach, And A Magical Baseball Season,

by Chris Ballard

 

killerHarmon Killebrew – Ultimate Slugger,

by Steve Aschburner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cracker JackThe Cracker Jack® Collection … Baseball’s Prized Players,

by Tom Zappala and Ellen Zappala

/

 

BBRT presents a guest post from journalist/author Larry LaRue.

.

 

Major League Encounters,

by Larry LaRue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

calicopotoCalico Joe,

by John Grisham

 

 

Chin1Chin Music,

by Lee Edelstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Baseball Hall of Fame – Golden Era Voting – BBRT’s Take

baseball_hall_of_fame-300x225We are just days away (Monday, December 8) from the announcement of the Golden Era candidates (if any) who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015.  In this post, I will share how BBRT’s ballot would look (if I had one), as well as my predictions as to who the committee will chose to send on to the Hall of Fame.

Selecting from among the Golden Era candidates proved more challenging then working my way through BBRT’s predictions and preferences for the regular Baseball Writers Association of American Hall of Fame voting.  (For BBRT’s regular Hall of Fame Ballot predictions, click here.) There were several reasons for that:

  • Since the Golden Era candidates were prescreened by an Historical Overview Committee, they all had some very deserving achievements and attributes;
  • Since I grew up in the Golden Era, I was able to see all the nominated players on the field – and find my choices mixing emotion with reason;
  • You can only vote for five of ten candidates, no matter how deserving you feel six or seven may be; and
  • Predicting how the Committee will vote is complicated by the fact that its membership changes so much from election to election (only four of the 16 members of the previous Golden Era Committee are back this year).

 

By way of background, the Hall of Fame Eras Committees consider candidates passed over for election to the HOF in the annual Baseball Writers Association of America – BBWAA –  balloting. The committees, which meet on a rotating basis (each committee meeting once every three years), are the: Pre-Integration ERA (prior to 1946); Golden Era (1947-72); and Expansion Era (1973 forward). Players to appear on each year’s ballot are selected by an Historical Overview Committee and candidates must receive 75 percent support from Era Committee members to achieve election.  Era Committee members may vote for or up to five candidates.   Candidates whose careers overlap eras are considered on the basis of the time frame in which they made their most significant contributions to the national pastime.

There are ten candidates on this year’s Golden Era ballot and, unlike the regular Hall of Fame election, their fate is not in the hands of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Instead, their election depends on garnering 75 percent of the votes from a16-member panel that, this election cycle, includes:

  • Already enshrined Hall of Famers: Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Pat Gillick (executive), Ferguson Jenkins, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith and Don Sutton
  • Baseball executives: Jim Frey, David Glass, Roland Hemond and Bob Watson
  • Historian: Steve Hirdt
  • Media representatives: Dick Kaegel, Phil Pepe and Tracy Ringolsby

The returning members from 2011 are Gillick, Kaline, Hemond and Kaegel.

Note:  The last time the Golden Era Committee convened (2011), only former Cubs’ third baseman Ron Santo received the required 75 percent of the vote.

2014 Golden Era Baseball Hall of Fame Voting (for 2015 induction)

Candidates – Those returning from the 2011 voting are in bold face, with voting percentages for the top vote-getters noted.

Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges (56.3%), Bob Howsam (executive),  Jim Kaat (62.5%), Minnie Minoso (56.3%), Tony Oliva (50.0%), Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills.

 

How BBRT would use its five votes – if I had a ballot.

When considering players, it’s difficult to put sentiment aside.  Being born in the initial year of the Golden Era, I grew up watching all of these players.  I can find a reasons – beyond basic statistics – to vote for every one.

Beyond overall statistics (more on those later), here are just a few of the candidates’ unique achievements:

  • Maury Wills, Ken Boyer and Dick Allen have all won league MVP Awards
  • Jim Kaat shares the MLB record for consecutive Gold Gloves won (16) with Brooks Robinson
  • Gil Hodges is one of only 16 MLB players to hit four home runs in one game
  • Tony Oliva is the only player to win his league batting title in his rookie and sophomore seasons
  • Maury Wills, in 1962, not only became the first player to steal 100 bases in a season (104), he topped the next highest player’s total by 72 – and the Dodger shortstop actually stole more bases than every other MLB team
  • Minnie Minoso led the AL in hit by pitch an MLB record 10 times
  • In 1962, Billy Pierce (traded to the San Francisco Giants in the off season), proved to really like home cooking – going 11-0 in eleven Candlestick starts, with  his overall 15-6 record helping the Giants tie the rival Dodgers for the pennant. Pierce started Game One of the three-game playoff and ran his 1962 home record to 12-0 (beating Sandy Koufax, tossing a three-hit shutout in an 8-0 win).
  • Dick Allen is one of only 39 players since 1900 to hit two inside-the-park homers in a one game. Since Allen hit his two inside-the-park HRs on May 31, 1972, the feat has been equaled only once in MLB – by the Twins’ Greg Gagne in 1986. (Three inside-the-park homers in a game has been achieved only once, by Tom McCreery of Louisville of the NL in 1897.)

The uniqueness of this class of candidates goes beyond the numbers. Consider:

  • Tony Oliva’s knees bent-in stance – and ability to hit pretty much any pitch (in or out of the strike zone)
  • Luis Tiant’s twisting (and deceptive) delivery
  • Minnie Minoso’s groundbreaking efforts on behalf of Latin American players
  • Dick Allen’s fierce presence and personality on and off the field

I could go on and on, but the point is – each of these players offers up good (and diverse) reasons to secure the votes of the Golden Era Committee (and BBRT).  Still, the Committee members are limited to five votes, so I decided to follow the same rules for BBRT’s “ballot.”   I did my best to focus on exceptional performance in relation to their Golden Era peers – league leadership in key categories, All Star selections, individual awards (Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, MVP, etc.)  I recognize that my selections, which I will present in priority order, may make me look like a bit of a “homer.” (I’m from Minnesota and two of my selections are former Twins.) I do, however, think my reasoning will stand up to evaluation.

 

1. Minnie Minoso (OF/3B, 1949-1964*)

*Minoso also made brief publicity-focused appearances for the White Sox in 1976 and 1980 – which allowed him to appear in MLB in five different decades.

GEMinosoIn his first full MLB season (split between the Indians and the White Sox), Minoso hit .326, leading the AL in triples (14), stolen bases (31) and hit by pitch (16) – finishing second to Yankees’ infielder  Gil McDougald in the Rookie of the Year balloting.

BBRT note: Minoso’s statistics for the year – 146 games, 530 at bats, 173 hits, 34 doubles, 14 triples, 10 home runs, 76 RBI, 31 steals and a .326 average – topped McDougald in every category except home runs.

Minoso went on to a 17-season MLB career in which he made seven All Star squads, earned three Gold Gloves, led the AL in hits once, doubles once, triples three times, stolen bases three times, total bases once and hit by pitch an MLB-record ten times. He finished with 1,963 hits and a .298 average (topping .300 eight times), 186 home runs (hitting 20+ in a season four times), 1,136 runs (scoring more than 100 runs in a season four times), 1,023 RBI (besting 100 four times) and 205 stolen bases. In addition to those offensive marks, Minoso also led AL leftfielders in assists six times, putouts four times and double plays four times.  Minoso was well into his career when the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards were established in 1957; yet he still earned a Gold Glove in left field in 1957, 1959 and 1960.

Adding to Minoso’s Hall of Fame resume is the fact that he was a groundbreaking “Black Latino” in major league baseball.  He was the first player of color for the Chicago White Sox, the first Black Cuban to play in the major leagues and the first Cuban to play in the major league All Star game.  His baseball legacy is further enhanced by the fact that he played (and starred) not only in the major leagues, but in the Negro Leagues (where he played in the East West All Star Games of 1947 and 1948) and Cuban League – and is a member of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame, the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame and the Hispanic Heritage Hall of Fame.

All of this puts Minoso at the top of the BBRT Golden Era ballot – plus I’d like to see his full name Saturnino Orestes Armas (Arrieta) Minoso on that HOF plaque.

Minnie Minoso played for: Cleveland Indians (1949, 1951, 1958-59); Chicago White Sox (1951-57, 1961, 1964, 1976, 1980); Saint Louis Cardinals (1962); Washington Senators (1963).

Minnie Minoso’s best season:  1954 Chicago White Sox … 153 games, .320 average, 182 hits, 29 doubles, 18 triples (league-leading), 19 home runs, 119 runs scored, 116 RBI, 18 stolen bases.

 

2. Jim Kaat (LHP, 1959-83)

GEKaatJim Kaat – 283 wins, 3oth all-time.  That might say enough right there.  Kaat, however, also is among MLB’s top 35 hurlers in games started (625, 17th), innings pitched (4,530 1/3, 25th) and strikeouts (2,461, 34th). One of the criticisms of Kaat raised during regular BBWAA balloting was that he his win total was inflated by the length of his career (Kaat average 11.3 wins per season over 25 seasons).  From a different perspective, BBRT believes the fact the Kaat had the skills and determination to compete on the major league level from age 20 to age 44 contributes to his Hall of Fame credentials.

Overall, Kaat went 283-237, 3.45.  He was a three-time All Star, and won 20 or more games three times. He led his league in games started twice and wins, complete games and shutouts once each. Then, of course, there are those sixteen (consecutive) Gold Gloves.  Kaat finished second (with 62.5 percent of the vote) in the previous Golden Era balloting.  This should be his year.

Jim Kaat played for the: Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins (1959-73); Chicago White Sox (1973-75); Philadelphia Phillies (1976-79); New York Yankees (1979-1980); Saint Louis Cardinals (1980-83).

Jim Kaat’s best season: 1966 Twins … A league-leading 25 wins (13 losses), with a 2.75 ERA. That season, Kaat also led the AL in starts (41) and complete games (19). Kaat might have that all-important Cy Young Award on his HOF resume, except for the fact that MLB gave out only one CYA in 1966 (the move to a CYA for each league came the following year) and it went to National Leaguer Sandy Koufax (27-9, 1.73 for the Dodgers).

 

3. (Tie) Tony Oliva (OF-DH, 1962)

GEOlivaOkay, having two former Twins on my ballot may make me look like a “homer,” but hear me out.  First, it’s ironic that Jim Kaat’s HOF qualifications have been criticized in the past because his career was too long (283 wins over 25 seasons), while Oliva’s HOF credentials have been criticized because – due to injury – his productive career was too short (only 11 seasons in which he played at least 125 games, only seven of 140 games or more).

Oliva gets BBRT’s vote because when he played he was simply one of the best. In his first eight seasons full seasons (1964-71), he made the All Star team every year.  During that span he produced an annual average of 182 hits (.313 batting average), 22 home runs, 89 runs scored, 90 RBI and ten stolen bases.

Oliva won three batting titles (and the 1964  Rookie of the Year Award) – and is the only player to win the batting crown in both his rookie and sophomore seasons.  He also led the AL in base hits five times, doubles four times, and topped the AL one time each in runs scored, slugging percentage, total bases and intentional walks.   Tony-O also showed speed on the bases, finishing in double-digit in steals six times, with a high of 19 in 1965.

Oliva also was a “’plus” defender with a rifle arm in right field, capturing a Gold Glove in 1966. Even after knee issues forced to serve primarily as a DH (1972-76), he continued to be a feared hitter.  Oliva played in 15 major league seasons, retiring with a .304 career average, 1,917 hits, 220 home runs, 870 runs scored and 947 RBI.

Tony Oliva played for:  Minnesota Twins (1962-76)

Tony Oliva’s best season:  1964 Twins … In his rookie year, Oliva led the AL in batting average (.232), hits (217), doubles (43), total bases (374) and runs scored (109). He threw in 32 home runs, 94 RBI and 12 stolen bases for good measure.  Oliva did not fall prey to the “sophomore jinx.” The following season, he again led the AL in hits and batting average.

 3. (Tie) Dick Allen (1B/3B, 1963-77)

GEAllenDick Allen’s traditional HOF candidacy suffered from a combination of career-shortening injuries and career-complicating (often racially motivated) controversy.  The fact is Allen had a fierce presence both on and off the field.  It is on-the-field performance – specifically his at-the-plate performance – that earns Allen BBRT’s Golden Era vote.  It is generally agreed that none of his peers hit the ball as consistently hard (and far) as Allen did in the pitching-dominated 1960s.

Allen came on with a bang in his first full season, leading the NL in runs scored (125), triples (13) and total bases (352), while hitting .318 with 29 home runs and 91 RBI.  His performance earned him the Rookie of the Year Award.  He went on to a 15-year career during which he was a seven-time All Star and collected 1,848 hits, 351 home runs and 1,119 RBI.  His career batting average was .292, and he topped .300 seven times.  He led the NL in home runs twice (hitting 30+ HRs six times), RBI once (besting 100 three times), walks once, on base percentage twice, slugging percentage three times and total bases once.

Dick Allen played for: Philadelphia Phillies (1963-1969; 1975-76); Los Angeles Dodgers (1971); Chicago White Sox (1972-74); Oakland A’s (1977).

Dick Allen’ best season:  1972 Chicago White Sox … Played in 148 games, hitting .308, while leading the AL in home runs (37), RBI (113), walks (99), on base percentage (.420) and slugging percentage (.603).  Won the AL MVP Award.

 

5. Gil Hodges (1B, 1943-63 – military service 1944-45)

GEHodgesGil Hodges was a slick-fielding first baseman. (Rawlings launched the Gold Glove Award in 1957 and Hodges, already in his 12th MLB season at age 33, began a streak of three consecutive Gold Gloves at first base.) Hodges was also a potent offensive force – an RBI machine.  For the seven seasons from 1949 to 1955, he topped 100 RBI every year – averaging 112 runs driven in per campaign.   He also logged 11 consecutive seasons of 20+ home runs (1949-59), with a high of 42 in 1954.

In 18 MLB seasons, Hodges was selected for eight All-Star teams, and helped his Dodgers capture seven NL pennants and two World Series championships.  In post season play, he is best remembered his 21 hitless at bats in 1952, but in his other six World Series he hit .318, with five home runs and 21 RBI in 32 games.

Hodges’ put up a career average of .273, with 370 home runs, 1,274 RBI and 1,105 runs scored.  Without losing those two years to military service, he may well have exceeded the 400 home run, 1,500 RBI marks. After his playing days, he also managed the Washington Senators (1963-67) and New York Mets (1968-71), leading the “Miracle Mets” to the World Championship in 1969.

Gil Hodges played for: Brooklyn/LosAngeles Dodgers (1943-61); the New York Mets (1962-63).

Gil Hodges’ best season:  1954 Dodgers … Hodges played in all 154 games that season, providing sparkling defense along with a .304 average, 42 home runs, 130 RBI and 106 runs scored.

Note: Hodges finished third in the previous Golden Era voting, with 56.5 percent.

 

So, there’s the BBRT Golden Era ballot.  But I can’t resist taking just a little liberty.  If I only had one more vote, it would go to:

 

Ken Boyer (3B/1B/CF … 1955-69)

GEBoyerKen Boyer was a Gold Glove fielder at third base.  In fact, he won five Gold Gloves in a six-season span (1958 to 1963).  He led all NL third baseman in assists twice, putouts once and double plays five times. And I guess he was able to console himself for losing the 1964 Gold Glove to the Cubs’ Ron Santo with the fact that Boyer was voted the NL MVP that season.

You may have heard about (or witnessed) Boyer’s defensive skills at the hot corner, but did you know his MLB career also included time in centerfield (111 games), as well as at first base (65 games) and shortstop (31 games)? In fact, in 1957 – with the Cardinals wanting to develop infield prospect Eddie Kasko and facing a gap in centerfield – Boyer agreed to move to the center of the outfield. In 105 games there, he made just one error and led NL outfielders with a .993 fielding average.

Note: A combination of an injury to Kasko and the Cardinals acquisition of outfielder Curt Flood sent Boyer back to third base in 1958 (and he began a streak of four consecutive Gold Gloves).

In his fifteen-year MLB career, Boyer became known not just as a fine defensive player, but also as a consistent, quality hitter. He retired with 2,143 hits, a .287 average, 282 home runs, 1,104 runs scored and 1,141 RBI – topping .300 five times (with a high of .329 in 1961), hitting 20 or more home runs eight times (with a high of 32 in 1960), driving in 90 or more runs eight times (with a league-leading high of 119 in 1964) and scoring 90 or more runs five times (with a high of 109 in 1961).  The quality of Boyer’s play – in the field and at the plate – earned him seven All Star selections.

 

WHAT WILL THE GOLDEN ERA COMMITTEE DO?

With only four of the sixteen members from the previous Golden Era Committee (which elected on Ron Santo) returning, this becomes a tough call. Given the make-up of the 2014 committee, I expect they will be a little more generous in the balloting.

Likely to be elected:  I expect Jim Kaat (who came so close in 2011) and Minnie Minoso to receive the necessary support.

Dark horse candidates:  I also think Tony Oliva (thanks to Rod Carew’s presence on the panel) and Gil Hodges (who got 56.3 percent last time around) have a chance – but I am less confident they will garner three-quarters of the votes.

So, in order of likelihood, Kaat, Minoso, Oliva, Hodges.

 

BBRT invites your comments on the Golden Era ballot.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

2015 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot – BBRT’s Take

Cooperstown - home to 1987 Salt Lake City Trappers memorabilia.

The Baseball Hall of Fame.

The 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot is now in the hands of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, with the results to be reported January 7, 2015.  As in 2014, there are some strong newcomers and, also like last year (when first-timers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine headed the ballot), this year’s most likely first-ballot electees are pitchers – Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. Other big names making their first appearance on the ballot include: Nomar Garciaparra, Gary Sheffield, John Smoltz, Carlos Delgado and Troy Percival.

In this post, I’ll take a look at how BBRT would vote (if I had a ballot), as well as BBRT’s predictions for the actual BBWAA results. By way of review, each BBWAA member can vote for up to ten players, and a player must receive 75 percent support to earn election. In an upcoming post, BBRT will look at the Golden Era Hall of Fame voting.

If recent balloting is any indication, we can expect a significant number of writers will decline to vote for players suspected of (or having admitted to) PED use, which seems a legitimate reason.  Others will hold back votes from first-timers to make a statement on “what it takes to be a first-ballot inductee” (a less legitimate reason than the PED issue) and still others may send in blank ballots (for no apparent reason). So, let’s start with a quick list of what BBRT’s ballot would look like.  Then we’ll move on to my predictions for the actual BBWAA results and, finally, take a more detailed look at the players who would garner BBRT’s votes.

BBRT’s Hall of Fame Selections – if I had a vote – In Priority Order

First a quick list, later a more detailed look at BBRT’s selections.

Group One – Should Be No Doubt

1. Randy Johnson– 303 wins, 4,875 strikeouts (second all-time), five Cy Young Awards (including four consecutive 1999-2002)

2. Pedro Martinez– 219 wins, three Cy Young Awards, five-time ERA leader

3. Craig Biggio– 3,060 hits, 1,884 runs scored, 291 HRs, 414 steals

Group Two – Debatable, But Clearly Deserving Support

4.  John Smoltz – Only pitcher in MLB history to top both 200 wins and 150 saves, led NL in wins as a starter (24 in 1966) and saves as a reliever (55 in 2002), compiled a 15-4 post-season record (with four saves for good measure)

5. Lee Smith– 478 saves (third all- time), three times league saves leader

6. Mike Piazza – .308 career average, most home runs by a catcher, 12-time All Star

7. Jeff Kent – Most home runs by any second baseman, nine more RBI than Mickey Mantle, 2000 NL MVP

Group Threee – More Debatable, But Would Get BBRT’s Vote

8.  Jeff Bagwell – 449 HRs, 202 steals, 1,529 RBI, 1991 NL Rookie of the Year, 1994 NL MVP, twice recorded seasons of 40 or more HRs and 30 or more steals

9.  Mike Mussina – 270 wins, five-time All Star, seven-time Gold Glove winner, six times finished in top five in Cy Young voting

10.  Tim Raines– 808 stolen bases (fifth all time), 2,605 hits (.294 career average), 1,571 runs scored.

 

BBRT Predictions as to Whom the Baseball Writers Will Vote In

BBRT projects that the BBWAA, being  stingier than BBRT with their votes, will elect:

  • Randy Johnson,
  • Pedro Martinez
  • Craig Biggio

I also see two dark horse candidates for 2015, in this order of likelihood:

  • John Smoltz’ post-season record may give him just the push he needs to become a “first-ballot” inductee, but BBRT expects it to be very close
  • Mike Piazza, with 62.2 percent of the vote one year ago, is a potential dark horse candidate to make the jump to 75 percent – but will more likely move up to about 66-68 percent  

Big names associated with the PED issue – they will not be named here, but the vote totals will tell you – are likely to remain on the sidelines, as emotions related to PED-use continue to run high. (In BBRT’s line of thinking, there is a difference between proven and suspected PED use – and between solid evidence and rumors.)   In addition,  players like Nomar Garciaparra (1997 Rookie of the Year, six-time All Star, two-time batting champion), Carlos Delgado (473 home runs, 1,512 RBI)  and Troy Percival (358 saves, ninth all-time) are likely fall victim to the higher standards some voters require of first-ballot inductees.

I expect a handful of players to move closer to the 75-percent mark, including Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza (if he doesn’t get in), Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Jeff Kent.   Note:  All five of these players would get BBRT’s vote this year.

 

A More Detailed Look at BBRT’s Selections from This Year’s HOF Ballot

Should Be Elected Easily

BBRT believes this first group of players should be locks for 2015 Hall of Fame induction.

 

 

Randy Johnson (LHP, 1988-2009 – first time on ballot)

The Big Unit should be headed for the Hall of Fame.

The Big Unit should be headed for the Hall of Fame.

Maybe a good nickname helps (especially if you notch 300 wins on the mound). Last year’s HOF ballot was headed by Greg “The Professor” Maddux and his 355 career victories.  This year’s ballot features Hall of Fame shoo-in Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson, who notched 303 wins (versus 166 losses) and 4,875 strikeouts (second all-time) in 4,135 innings pitched.  The 6’ 10”, 225-pound Johnson was an intimidating specter and force on the mound. He was known for a blazing fastball and hard slider, and his 10.61 strikeouts per nine innings ranks number-one among qualifying starting pitchers.  Johnson, who held hitters to a .221 average (eighth all-time), was a ten-time All-Star and five-time Cy Young Award winner (second only to Roger Clemens). He led his league in strikeouts nine times (topping 300 in a season six times), ERA four times, complete games four times, winning percentage four times and victories once.  He ran off four straight NL Cy Young Awards (1999-2002) and, over those four seasons, went 81-27, 2.48 with 1,417 strikeouts in 1,030 innings pitched.  Johnson threw two no-hitters (one – on May 18, 2004 – a perfect game.) He was also the 2001 World Series MVP – going 3-0. 1.04 in three starts (striking out 19 in 17 1/3 innings).

Johnson pitched for the  Montreal Expos (1988-89); the Seattle Mariners (1989-98); Houston Astros (1998); Arizona Diamondbacks (1999-2004 and 2007-08); the New York Yankees (2005-06); and the San Francisco Giants (2009).

Randy Johnson’s  best season: 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks … Johnson earned his fourth consecutive Cy Young Award while leading the NL in wins (24 – versus just five losses),  winning percentage (.828), ERA (2.32), complete games (eight), innings pitched (260) and strikeouts (334). It was also his fourth consecutive season of 300+ strikeouts.

Randy Johnson’s most unusual season: In 1998, Johnson started the season with the Seattle Mariners (for whom he had won 20 games the year before – not to mention the Cy Young Award in 1995). There had been some conflict over his contract and both Seattle and Johnson got off to a slow start.  On July 31, the Mariners traded Johnson to Houston for three talented minor leaguers (Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama), who went on to put together a combined 38 major league seasons.  At the time, the Mariners were at the bottom of the AL West with a 48-60 record, while the Astros led the NL Central at 65-44.  Johnson ended July with a 9-10, 4.33 ERA record in 23 starts.  He turned his season around with the Astros, going 10-1, 1.28 in 11 starts – helping Houston to a 102-60 record and the Division title.

Pedro Martinez (RHP, 1992-2009 – first time on ballot)

Pedro Martnez brought an arsenal of "plus" pitches and elite control to the mound.

Pedro Martnez brought an arsenal of “plus” pitches and elite control to the mound.

Pedro Martinez, like Randy Johnson, was known as a power pitcher – twice topping 300 strikeouts in a season.  He brought his power from a different platform, generously listed at 5’11’, 170-pounds.  Martinez mowed hitters down by coupling excellent control with a “plus” fastball, cutter, curveball and circle change.   Early in his career, Martinez’ fastball was clocked in the mid-to-high 90s, while later he used his combination of pitch selection and control to continue to win with a fastball in the high 80s.

Martinez ran up a 219-100 record, a 2.93 ERA and 3,154 strikeouts in 18 seasons.  Among qualifying starting pitchers, only Randy Johnson recorded more strikeouts per nine innings than Martinez’ 10.04. He captured three Cy Young Awards (1997, 1999, 2000) and was an eight-time All Star.  His HOF resume also includes a league-low ERA in five seasons, and a league-high in strikeouts three times.  Martinez, with 760 career bases on balls, is one of only four pitchers to log 3,000+ strikeouts with fewer than 1,000 walks (Curt Schilling – 3,116 Ks/ 711 BBs; Fergie Jenkins – 3,192/997; Greg Maddux – 3,371/999). Martinez held opposing hitters to a .214 average over his career – the fourth-lowest in MLB history.  His .687 winning percentage is the third-highest all-time and second-highest in the modern era (behind Whitey Ford’s .690; 238-106). Martinez logged a 6-4 post-season record, with a 3.46 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 96 1/3 innings.

Martinez pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1992-93); Montreal Expos (1994-97); Boston Red Sox (1998-2004); New York Mets (2005-08); and Philadelphia Phillies (2009).

Pedro Martinez’ best season: 1999 Boston Red Sox … Martinez led the AL in wins (23), winning percentage (23-4, .852), ERA (2.07) and strikeouts (313 in just 213 1/3 innings), while winning his second Cy Young Award.

Pedro Martinez’ remarkable run:  After going 17-8 with an NL-best 1.90 ERA for Montreal in 1997, Martinez was traded to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Carlos Pavano and a Player to Be Named Later (Tony Armas, Jr.). In his time with the Red Sox, Martinez went 117-37, with a 2.52 ERA and 1,683 strikeouts in 1,383 1/3 innings.

 

Craig Biggio (2B/C/OF, 1988-2007 – third time on the ballot)

Craig Biggio getting his bat on the ball for 3,000+ hits should be his ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Craig Biggio getting his bat on the ball for 3,000+ hits should be his ticket to the Hall of Fame.

It takes 75 percent of the vote to enter the “Hall” and, last year, Biggio just missed at 74.8 percent (two votes shy).  This should be his year.  In 20 seasons, Biggio recorded 3,060 base hits (20th all time), 1,884 runs (154h all time), hit 291 home runs and stole 414 bases.  He was a seven-time All Star and a four-time Gold Glove winner, who spent notable time at second base, catcher and in the outfield.  He led the NL in runs twice, doubles three times, stolen bases once and hit-by-pitch five times.  His 668 doubles are the most ever by a right-handed hitter (and fifth all time). He holds the NL record for home runs to lead off a game (53) and for hit-by-pitch (285).  Biggio played his entire 18-year MLB career with the Houston Astros.

Craig Biggio’s best year:  1998 Houston Astros … 160 games,  .325 average , 210 hits, 123 runs, 20 HRs, 88 RBI, league-leading 51 doubles, 50 stolen bases.

Craig Biggio fact:  Biggio is one of only two players to hit 50 doubles and steal 50 bases in the same season.

 

Deserving Candidates Who Also Would Get BBRT’s Vote (If I had one)

This next group of candidates consists of players whose entrance into the Hall of Fame might prompt some discussion and debate – but when the discussion is done, BBRT is confident they should be seen as deserving of election.

John Smoltz (RHP, 1988-2009 – 1st time on ballot)

Smoltz is the only MLB hurler to notch 200+ wins (213) and 150+ saves (154) in his career – as well as one of only two pitchers to have a 20-win season and a 50-save season.  In 1996, he went 24-8 as a starter for the Braves, leading the NL in wins, winning percentage (24-6, .750), strikeouts( 276)  and innings pitched (253 2/3). Five seasons later, after Tommy John surgery, Smoltz led the NL in saves with 55, while going 3-2, 3.25 with 85 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings as the Braves’ closer.   The eight-time All Star won the NL Cy Young Award in 1996 and was the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year in 2005. He led the NL in wins twice, winning percentage twice, strikeouts twice, innings pitched twice and saves once.  He finished his career at 213-155, 3.33, with 154 saves and 3,084 strikeouts in 3,473 innings pitched.  Smoltz was a beast in the post season, appearing in 41 games and recording 15 wins (versus just four losses), four saves, 199 strikeouts (in 209 innings pitched) and a 2.67 ERA.

Might be a little shy of support from those who place heavy emphasis on first-ballot selection, but has a chance to make it in this year.

Smoltz’ best year:  1996 Braves … League-leading wins (24), winning percentage (24-6 .750), and strikeouts (276). Won the Cy Young Award.  Followed up by going 4-1, 0.95 in the post season – striking out 33 in 38 innings.

Smoltz’ fact:  Smoltz was pretty much equally effective at home and on the road.  In 363 home appearances, he went 108-77, 3.29.  In 360 road appearances, he went 105-78, 3.37.

 

Lee Smith (RHP, 1980-97 – 13th time on the ballot)

I’d love for this to be lucky number thirteen for Lee Smith.  However, last year Smith got only 29.9 percent of the vote, and that’s a lot of ground to make up.  Smith’s  478 saves put him third on the all-time list (he was number-one when he retired after the 1997 season).  He recorded 13 consecutive seasons (in an 18-year career) of 25 or more saves, a 3.03 lifetime ERA and 1,251 strikeouts in 1,289 innings pitched; led his league in saves four times; made seven All Star teams; and was the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year in three seasons.  Smith pitched for the Chicago Cubs (1980-87); Boston Red Sox (1988-90); St. Louis Cardinals (1990-93); New York Yankees (1993); Baltimore Orioles (1994); California Angels (1995-96); Cincinnati Reds (1996); Montreal Expos (1997).

With the third most saves all time, Smith gets BBRT’s vote.

Lee Smith’s best season:  1991, Cardinals … 6-3, 2.34 ERA, 47 saves, 73 innings pitched, 67 strikeouts.

Lee Smith fact: Smith is one of only 16 pitchers to appear in 1,000 or more games.

 

Mike Piazza (C, 1992-2007 – Third year on the ballot)

Mike Piazza’s stat sheet includes a .308 career average, 427 home runs (a MLB-record 396 as a catcher), a Rookie of the Year Award, 12 All Star Selections and ten Silver Slugger Awards as the best hitter at his position. Over his career, he collected 2,127 hits, 1,335 RBI and scored 1,048 runs. He hit .242, with six home runs and 15 RBI in 32 post season games.  Piazza got 62.2 percent of the vote last year and should improve this year – maybe even to the required 75 percent.

Piazza’s best year: 1997, Dodgers – .362 avg., 201 hits, 104 runs, 40 HR, 124 RBI.

Piazza fact: Piazza’s career defied expectations:  He was the 1,390th player selected in the 1988 MLB draft (62nd round). Five years later, he was a major league All Star, NL Rookie of the Year and a Silver Slugger winner.

 

Jeff Kent (2B/3B/1B, 1992-2008 – second year on the ballot)

Despite the fact that only 15.2 percent of the writers voted for Kent last year (his first on the ballot), BBRT believes Kent is a deserving candidate.  Kent holds the all-time MLB record for home runs by a second baseman (351 of his 377 career round trippers were hit while playing second base). He has a healthy .290 career batting average and his 1,518 RBI are 51st  all time (for perspective, Kent drove in nine more runs than Mickey Mantle). Kent was a five-time All Star, four-time Silver Slugger winner and 2000 NL MVP.  He hit .276, with nine home runs and 23 RBI in 49 post-season games.

Kent has the credentials, but BBRT has a hunch the writers will make keep him waiting – a couple of Gold Gloves, at this traditionally defense-oriented position, would have really helped his case.

Jeff Kent’s best season: SF Giants, 2000:  159 games, 196 hits, .334 average, 33 home runs, 125 RBI, 114 runs, 12 steals. NL MVP.

Jeff Kent fact: Kent hit .276, with nine home runs and 23 RBI in 49 post-season games.

 

More Debatable, But Would Still Get BBRT’s Vote

More debate is likely to swirl around this group.  They may be on the cusp when it comes to election (some for this year, some overall); but BBRT would use all ten votes.

Jeff Bagwell (1B, 1991-2005 – fifth year on the ballot)

Jeff Bagwell earned Hall of Fame consideration with a 15-year career that included 2,314 hits, 449 home runs, 202 stolen bases and a .297 average – along with a Rookie of the Year Award, a Most Valuable Player Award, one Gold Glove and four All Star selections.  He also twice recorded seasons of 40 or more homers and 30 or more steals. Bagwell’s chances are hurt a bit by the fact that first base has been manned by so many power hitters over time.  Bagwell played his entire career with the Houston Astros.

BBRT would vote for Bagwell, who picked up 54.3 percent of the vote last year and should improve this season.

Bagwell’s best season:  Bagwell really gives us two good choices here.  1994 Astros …  Baggy hit .368, with 39 homers and 15 stolen bases, while leading the NL in runs (104) and RBI (116) and earning a Gold Glove.  Bagwell also won the NL MVP Award despite playing just 110 of the Astros’ 144 games in the strike-shortened season.   2000 Astros …  .310 average, 183 hits, 152 runs, 132 RBI, 47 home runs.

Bagwell’s durability: Jeff Bagwell played all 162 of the Astros’ regular season games in four of his fifteen seasons – and topped 155 games ten times.

 

Mike Mussina (RHP, 1991-2008 – second year on the ballot)

It’s another tough year on the ballot for Mike Mussina.  In his first year (2014), he was overshadowed by fellow first-timers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine  (both 300-game winners). This year, Mussina must contend with the first HOF ballot appearances of Randy Johnson (another 300-game winner) and Pedro Martinez.  The writers are likely to ask Mussina to wait, but BBRT would cast a vote for “Moose.”  Last year,  Mussina garnered just 20.3 percent of the vote.  Expect improvement this year.

Mussina built a 270-153 record, a career 3.68 ERA and 2,813 strikeouts over 18 seasons. While only a 20-game winner once (in his final season, at age 39), Mussina won 18 or 19 games five times, leading the AL with 19 wins in 1995. He was a five-time All Star and a seven-time Gold Glove winner. While the lack of a Cy Young Award on his resume may hurt him, he finished his career 117 games over .500 – and history says 100 or more wins than losses is good for a ticket to the HOF.

Mike Mussina’s best season:  2008 New York Yankees … Mussina may have saved his best for last.  In his final season, at age 39, he recorded his first twenty-win campaign.  That year, Mussina went 20-9, 3.37 – and proved his durability by leading the AL in starts with 34.

Mussina fact: In his first three full seasons  in the major leagues (1992-94) Mussina put up a .700 or better winning percentage each year (.783, .700, .762). His record over that span – for the Orioles – was 48-16.

 

Tim Raines (OF, 1979-2001 –  eighth year on the ballot.)

Tim Raines hit .294 over his 23-season MLB career, collecting 2,605 hits, 1,571 runs scored, 170 home runs, 980 RBI and 808 stolen bases (#5 all time).  Raines was successful on 83.5 percent of his career steal attempts. He was a seven-time All Star, led the NL in stolen bases four consecutive years (1981-84), had a streak of six seasons with at least 70 steals, won the NL batting title in 1986 with a .334 average, led the league in runs scored twice and doubles once. In 34 post-season games, he hit .270 with one home run, six RBI, 18 runs scored and three steals.

More debatable than Piazza or Bagwell, but Raines would get BBRT’s vote.

Raines’ best season: BBRT did not select Raines’ 1986 batting title year, but rather his 1983 season with the Expos … 156 games, 179 hits, .298 average, league-leading 133 runs scored, 11 homers, 71 RBI, league-leading 90 steals.

Raines was always running:  Over 23 seasons, Raines average 35 steals a year (and that included six seasons in which he played in less than half his team’s games).  Over his MLB career – from age 19 to 42 – Raines averaged 52 stolen bases for every 162 games played.

So, there’s  BBRT’s regular Hall of Fame “selections.” Again, coming soon, a look at the Golden Era HOF election.

BBRT invites your comments on the 2015 Hall of Fame election.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

photos by: & , ,

The Babe Ruth of the Minors – Buzz Arlett

Buzz Arlett - the minor league's greatest player - during his time with the Minneapolis Millers.

Buzz Arlett – the minor league’s greatest player – during his time with the Minneapolis Millers.

Russell Loris “Buzz” Arlett made his major league debut (for the Phillies) on Opening Day (April 14) 1931 – and he made the most of it.  A 32-year-old rookie, with 13 minor league seasons (the first five as a pitcher) under his belt, Arlett started in right field, batting sixth.  He went two-for-four, with a double and a run scored.  He went on to play in 121 games (RF/1B) that season, hitting .313, with 18 home runs (fourth in the NL) and 72 RBI.  Despite showing this promise, Arlett was back in the minor leagues in 1932, where he remained for six more seasons before leaving the professional ranks.

So, why did I choose to dedicate this BBRT post to Buzz Arlett? The decision was based on his minor league accomplishments, but also influenced by my current geography.

First, his minor league accomplishments.  While Arlett made a pretty good “splash” in his lone MLB season, he was a big fish in a small pond in the minor leagues – as a pitcher and a hitter. In fact, baseball pundits (including sabermetrics guru Bill James) have labeled Arlett the Babe Ruth of the minor leagues.

As a pitcher, Buzz Arlett picked up 106 minor league wins – and, while at the top of his game (1919-1922), he went 95-71 for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. His best PCL season on the mound was 1920, when he pitched a league-leading 427 1/3 innings, won a league-high 29 games (17 losses), and notched a 2.86 ERA. When Arlett’s strong right arm succumbed to overwork, he switched to the outfield/first base. In his first season as primarily an OF/1B, Arlett hit .330, with 19 home runs and 101 RBI. He went on to hit .341, with 432 home runs and 1,786 RBIs in his minor league career. His 432 home runs are still the U.S. minor league record (second only in the minors to Hector Espino, who hit 484 home runs in the Mexican leagues).

In 1984, the Society for American Baseball Research named Arlett (already a member of the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame) the “All-Time Greatest Minor League Player.” 

Then, there is the influence of geography. BBRT calls Minnesota home and Arlett’s Minnesota-ties piqued my interest.  Arlett spent three seasons at the end of his playing career with the American Association’s Minneapolis Millers – hitting .334, with 81 home runs and 285 RBI in 312 games. Arlett joined the Millers in late May of 1934, coming over from the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association, yet still managed to league the American Association in home runs with 41, while hitting .319 with 132 RBI in 166 games. The following season, at the age of 36, he hit .360, with 25 home runs and 101 RBI in 122 games for the Minneapolis squad.

After retiring from professional baseball,  Arlett (who served as a minor league manager and major league scout after his playing days) settled in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/Saint Paul) and operated a successful restaurant and bar (Arlett’s Place, near Nicolett Park, where he had played for the Millers.) His final resting place is Lakewood Cemetery (Minneapolis) about 45 miles from my hometown of Cannon Falls.

And the impact of geography goes further. As I noted in my most recent post, I am on a family road trip from Cannon Falls to Davis, California.  As I write this I am in Davis – about 2,000 miles from home, but just 18 miles from Arlett’s Elmhurst, California birthplace and 70 miles from Oakland, where Arlett played most of his minor league career.  Seems like serendipity to me.

So, here’s a look at Buzz Arlett’s baseball story.

Russell Loris Arlett was born January 3, 1989 in Elmhurst, California – a Sacramento suburb, which also happened to be about 85 miles from the home of the Oakland Oaks Pacific Coast League (PCL) baseball team.    Russell had three brothers and the boys were known to be avid and talented baseball players.  His oldest brother Al – eight years Russell’s senior – began playing professionally in 1911, primarily in the Pacific Coast League. In 1918, Al “Pop” Arlett, was playing for the Oakland Oaks and the Arlett family, including 18-year-old Russell, decided to make a family trip and join Al at Spring Training.  By this time, the youngest of the Arlett brothers had grown to a strapping (for the times) 6’3”, 185-pounds – and had shown some amateur pitching prowess (his nickname “Buzz” came from his ability to cut through opposing lineups like a buzz saw).

During spring training that year, the Oaks were hit hard by injuries and found themselves short of players for an intra-squad game. Buzz Arlett boldly offered to fill the gap and  Oaks” manager Del Howard decided to give the youngster an unplanned chance to pitch. The kid showed good stuff – earning a few more opportunities spring training and, eventually, a spot on the team.

With Arlett’s signing a PCL legend was about to be born, but it didn’t look that way at first, as Arlett won four and lost nine that first season.  In 1919, however, Arlett mastered a devastating spitball (to complement a solid fastball and curve) and came into his own as a pitcher. His record over those four seasons was 95-71, 3.20.  Here’s a look at Arlett’s four best seasons as a hurler:

  • 1919 … 22-17, 3.00 ERA
  • 1920 … 29-17, 2.89
  • 1921 … 19-18, 4.37
  • 25-19, 2.77

More important, Arlett tossed 1,468 1/3 innings in 212 games over those four seasons – an average of 367 innings per year.  By 1923, his right arm was pretty much worn out, and that season he took the mound in only 28 games, duplicating the 4-9 record of his rookie campaign. Not content to sit on the bench and wait for his arm to recover, Arlett, who had been used as a pinch hitter over the previous five seasons, begged his way into the everyday lineup as an outfielder. Still favoring his lame right arm, the natural right-handed hitter also spent hours in the batting cage developing left-handed hitting skills.  (Arlett is considered to be one of – if not the first – power-hitting switch hitters.) In his first primarily  “offensive” season, Arlett hit .330, with 19 homers and 101 RBI.  That was just the beginning. Consider these offensive stats.  As a minor leaguer (19 seasons), Buzz Arlett:

  • Hit over .300 twelve times, with a high of .382 for the Pacific Coast League Oakland Oaks in 1926.
  • Topped 30 home runs eight times (including two seasons of forty-plus homers and a high of 54 for Baltimore of the International League in 1932).
  • Drove in more than 100 runs in a season twelve times, with a high of 189 for the PCL Oakland Oaks in 1929.
  • Recorded a 1929 Oakland Oaks’ season of 200 games played, 270 hits, a .374 average, 39 home runs, 189 RBI, 146 runs, 70 doubles and 22 stolen bases.
  • Playing for the International League Baltimore Orioles in 1932, Arlett hit four home runs in a single game twice in one season (June 1, July 4). Each game featured three left-handed and one right-handed blast from Arlett’s 44-ounce bat.
  • In a July 4, 1932 double header, Arlett hit home runs in the last four at bats of game one (see above bullet) and another in his first plate appearance of game two – giving him home runs in five consecutive at bats.

So, why did a player with all this talent spend so little time in the major leagues?

Arlett was unfortunate enough to play at time when there was no draft and minor league teams controlled their own players.  Further, the Pacific Coast League (PCL) was considered one of the top – if not the top – regional minor leagues.  Quality players, solid attendance figures and a weather-aided long season (sometimes more than 200 games) enabled the PCL to pay major league-level salaries and offer major league playing conditions.  Teams demanded high compensation for top players (who not only won games, but put fans in the seats) and the Oaks were reportedly asking the princely sum (at the time) of $100,000 for Arlett.  While Arlett garnered some interest as a pitcher, the fact that he relied heavily on the spitball (banned at the ML level in 1920) diminished his value.  Further, as interest from ML teams began to rise, Arlett’s arm problems were also on the rise.  Later, Oakland’s high asking price kept the power-hitting Arlett in the minors until – facing a changing major league draft policy,  and an aging (and now up to a conservatively estimated 230 pounds) and somewhat injury prone Arlett – the Oaks sold Arlett to the Phillies before the 1931 season.

Why did Arlett last only one year in the big leagues?

Again, age and injury were taking their toll.  That, coupled with the now “larger” Arlett’s reputation (correct or not) as a less than adequate fielder, resulted in his release by the Phillies.  The fact that, after being released, Arlett played six more minor league seasons (actually five, in his final season – for Syracuse of the International League – he logged just four at bats) and hit .337, with 177 home runs and 598 RBI (in 657 games) indicates MLB gave up on Arlett when there was still plenty of lightening left in his bat.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Ten Reasons Why I Love Baseball

I’m currently on a road trip – helping my daughter and son-in-law move to Davis, California – so new posts are less frequent.  BBRT will be back in full swing in early December (or sooner). In the meantime, here’s an encore presentation of the first words I wrote for this page – a look at why I love baseball (and why BBRT exists). Hope you like it!


1.  Baseball comes along every spring,  accompanied by sunshine and optimism.

Baseball is the harbinger of better times.  It signifies the end of winter (not a small thing if you’re from Minnesota like BBRT) and the coming of spring, a season of rebirth, new life and abundant optimism.   Each season, you start with a clean slate.   Last year’s successes can still be savored, but last year’s failures can be set aside (although rival fans may try to refresh your memory), replaced by hope and anticipation.   On Opening Day, in our hearts, we can all be in contention.

 2.  The pace of the game invites contemplation.

Between innings, between batters or pitchers, and even between pitches, baseball leaves us time to contemplate what just occurred, speculate on what might happen next and even share those thoughts with nearby spectators.  Baseball is indeed a thinking person’s game.

3.  Baseball is timeless and, ultimately, fair in the offering of opportunity.

The clock doesn’t run out.  There is no coin flip to determine who gets the ball first in sudden death overtime.  No matter what the score, your team gets its 27 outs and an equal opportunity to secure victory.  What could be more fair?   And then there is the prospect of endless “extra” innings, bonus baseball for FREE.

4.  Plays and players are distinct (in space and time).

Baseball, while a game of inches, is also a game of considerable space.   The players are not gathered along an offensive line or elbow-to-elbow under a basket. They are widely spaced, each with his own area of responsibility and each acting (as part of a continuing play) in their own time frame.  (The first baseman can’t catch the ball, for example, until after the shortstop throws it.)   This enable fans to follow, understand  and analyze each play (maybe not always accurately) in detail.   And, baseball’s distinct spacing and timing makes it possible to see the game even when you are not there.  A lot of people grinned at President Gerald Ford’s comment that he “watched a lot of baseball on the radio.”  In my view, he was spot on.  You can see baseball on the radio – you can create a “visual” of the game in your mind with minimal description.    That’s why on summer nights, in parks, backyards and garages across the country, you’ll find radios tuned to the national past time.

 5. The scorecard.

Can there be anything more satisfying than keeping an accurate scorecard at the ball park?  It serves so many purposes.  The keeping of a scorecard ensures your attention to the happenings on the field.  Maintaining the score card also makes you, in a way understandable only to fellow fans, more a part of the game.   That magical combination of names, numbers and symbols also enables you to go back and check the progress of the game at any time.  “Oh, Johnson’s up next.  He’s walked and grounded out twice.”  It’s also a conversation starter, when the fan in the row behind you asks, “How many strikeouts does Ryan have today?”   And, it leaves you (if you choose to keep it) with a permanent record of the game, allowing you to replay it in your mind (or share it with others) at will.  Ultimately, a well-kept score card enhances the game experience and offers a true post-game sense of accomplishment.

6.  The long season.

Baseball, so many have pointed out, is a marathon rather than a sprint.  It’s a long season with ample opportunity to prove yourself and lots of chances to redeem yourself.  For fans, the long season also represents a test of your passion for the game.  Endurance is part of the nature of the true baseball fan.  And, and in the end, the rigors of a 162-game season prove your mettle and that of your team.   Not only that, but like a true friend … baseball is there for you every day.

 7.  Baseball invites, encourages, even demands , conversation.

Reason number two hinted at the importance of conversation, noting that the pace of the game offers time to contemplate the action (past and future) and share those thoughts with others.   I love that about the game, but I also love the fact that whenever baseball fans gather, their passion comes out in conversation – and they find plenty to talk about:

  •  Statistics,  statistics, statistics.  Baseball and its fans will count anything.  Did you know that Yankee Jim Bouton’s hat flew off 37 times in his 2-1, complete-game victory over the Cardinals in game three of the 1964 World Series?  More seriously, statistics are part of a common language and shared passion that bring baseball fans together in spirited conversation.  As best-selling author Pat Conroy observed “Baseball fans love numbers.  They love to swirl them around in their mouths like Bordeaux wine.”  I agree, to the fan, statistics are intoxicating.
  • Stories, stories, stories.  Baseball and its fans celebrate the game’s history.  And, I’m not talking just about statistics.  I’m talking about the stories that give this great game color, character and characters.  Ty Cobb sharpening his spikes on the dugout steps, Babe Ruth’s called shot, Louis Tiant’s wind-up, Willie Mays’ basket catch, Dock Ellis’s LSD-fueled no-hitter.
  • Trivia, trivia, trivia.  This may fall close to the “stories, stories , stories” category, but fans cherish the trivia that surrounds our national past time – whether that trivia is iconic or ironic.  For example, it’s ironic that the iconic Babe Ruth holds the best winning percentage against the Yankees of any pitcher with 15 or more decision against them (17-5, .773).

Basically, I took a long time to say I love the fact that baseball fans will talk with passion about something that happened in today’s game, yesterday’s game, over time or even in a game that took place on August 4, 1947.  And, as a bonus, all this conversation – all the statistics, stories and trivia – make the games, moments within the games and the characters of the game (heroes, goats and mere participants) as timeless as baseball itself.

 8.  The box score. 

BBRT editor’s  mother used to refer to an accordion as “an orchestra in a box.”  That’s how I view the daily box score – the symphony of a game recorded in a space one-column wide by four inches deep.   Some would say the box score reduces the game to statistics, I would say it elevates the game to history.  What do you want to know about the contest?   Who played where, when?  At bats, hits, stolen bases, strikeouts, errors, caught stealing, time, attendance, even the umpires’ names?   It’s all there and more – so much information, captured for baseball fans in a compact and orderly space.  I am, of course, dating myself here, but during baseball season, the morning newspaper, through its box scores, is a treasure trove of information for baseball fans.

 9. The irony of a team game made up of individual performances.

While baseball and baseball fans live for individual statistics and, while the spacing of the players drives individual accountability, the game is, ironically, deeply dependent on the concept of “team.”

Consider the offense.  Unlike other sports , where you can deliver victory by giving the ball or puck – time and time again (particularly as the clock runs down) –  to your best runner, skater, receiver or shooter, in baseball, your line-up determines who will be “on the spot” and at the plate when the game is on the line.  It may be your .220-hitting second basemen, rather than your .320-hitting outfielder.  Yet, even as the team depends on the hitter, he is totally alone in his individual battle with the pitcher.  And, achieving individual statistics that signify exceptional performance also demands a sense of team.  You don’t score 100 runs without a team mate to drive you in (although the statistic remains your measure of performance) …  and, you don’t drive in 100 runs if no one gets on base in front of you.   And, can you think of any other sport that keeps track of – and honors – the team-oriented “sacrifice.”

On defense, the story is the same.  A ground ball pitcher, for example, needs a good infield behind him to optimize his statistical presence in the “win” column.  And the six-four-three double play requires masterful teamwork as well as individual performance –  duly recorded in the record books as an assist for the shortstop, a putout and an assist for the second baseman and a put out for the first baseman.  Then there is the outfield assist – a perfect throw from a right fielder to nail a runner at third earns an assist – even if the third baseman drops the ball and earns an error.  Two individual results (one good / one bad) highlighted, but without the necessary team work – a good play on both ends – a negative outcome in terms of the game.

Ultimately, baseball is a game of individual accomplishments that must be connected by the thread of “team” to produce a positive outcome.

10. Baseball’s assault on the senses.  (Indoor ballparks fall a bit short here).

The sight of a blue sky and bright sun above the ballpark or a full moon over a black sky above a well-lit stadium.  The feel of the warm sun or a crisp evening breeze.  The scent of freshly mowed grass or steaming hot dogs.  The taste of cold beer and peanuts.  The sound of the crack of the bat, the cheers (or moans) of the crowd, the musical pitch of the vendors.  Baseball assaults all the senses ―  in  a good way.

Now, I could go on and on, there are lots more reasons to love this game: its combination of conformity (all infields are laid out the same) and individualism (outfield configurations not so much); its contributions to culture (literature and movies); its strategy (hit-and-run, run-and-hit, sacrifice bunts, infield / outfield positioning, pitching changes, etc.); triples; the 6-4-3 double play; knuckleballs; and more.  But to protect myself – and BBRT’s readers – I’ve limited myself to ten.   I probably could have saved a lot of time and words  had I just started with this so-perfect comment from sportscaster Bryant Gumbel, “The other sports are just sports.  Baseball is love.”  That says it all.

Do you have some reasons of your own for loving baseball?  Or something to add to these observations?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

photo by: jbrownell

Kershaw in Good Company – 22 Pitchers have Won MVPs

Clayton Kershaw - 22nd hurlr to win a league MVP Award.

Clayton Kershaw – 22nd hurlr to win a league MVP Award.

In Baseball we count everything, so – with Clayton Kershaw’s recent MVP recognition –  it’s appropriate to note that Kershaw set a new mark for the fewest games appeared in by a league MVP at 27. The previous mark was 30 games – by the Yankees’ Spud Chandler in 1943.  Like Kershaw, Chandler led his league in victories, earned run average, won/lost percentage and complete games.  (Chandler also led in shutouts.)

As always, there was some controversy over a pitcher winning the MVP – particularly a pitcher that (due to injury) started only 27 games.  There is however, plenty of precedence for a pitcher to be recognized as a league’s Most Valuable Player.  Kershaw, in fact, is the twenty-second pitcher to capture a league Most Valuable Player Award (denoted at different times as the MVP Award, League Award or Chalmers Award). With Walter Johnson (1913, 1924), Carl Hubbell (1933, 1936) and Hal Newhouser (1944, 1945) each winning the MVP award twice, a total of 25 MVP Awards have gone pitchers.

A complete list of pitchers earning the MVP follows, but here’s a few tidbits of info about pitchers and MVP Awards.

  • Of the 25 MVP awards won by pitchers, only four went to relievers: Jim Konstanty (Phillies, 1950); Rollie Fingers (Brewers, 1981); Willie Hernandez (Tigers, 1984); Dennis Eckersley (A’s, 1992).
  • The MVP has been awarded to a pitcher in the AL fourteen times and the NL eleven.
  • Sixteen of the twenty-five MVP winning seasons have been put up by right handers.
  • Nine of the 22 pitchers with MVP Awards are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Wins seem the most critical factors in a pitcher’s ability to capture an MVP Award. Nineteen of the award-winning seasons saw the honored hurler leading the league in victories. Factor out the four MVP Awards that went to relievers and 90 percent of the “starter-winners” led their league in victories. Next was ERA leadership (16), followed by strikeouts and winning percentage (both at 11).
  • The Tigers’ Hal Newhouser is the only pitcher to win consecutive MVP Awards (1944, 1945). His combined record for the two seasons was 54-18, with a 2.01 ERA, 54 complete games and fourteen shutouts. Over the two seasons, he appeared in 87 games (70 starts), pitched 625 2/3 innings and even threw in four saves.
  • The MVP winners in both leagues were pitchers in two seasons: 1924 (Walter Johnson, Senators and Dazzy Vance, Dodgers) and 1968 (Denny McLain, Tigers and Bob Gibson, Cardinals).
  • Pitchers captured at least one league MVP in four consecutive seasons from 1942-45.
  • The fewest appearances (as noted earlier) by a pitcher MVP winner is 27 (Clayton Kershaw, 2014). The most is 80 (The Tigers’ Willie Hernandez, 1984).

Pitchers winning the BBWAA MVP Award (presented 1931-present)

*Denotes relief pitcher

2014 - Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers

21-3/1.77 ERA … Led NL in wins (21), ERA (1.77), W/L percentage (.875), complete games (6).

2011 – Justin Verlander, RHP, Tigers

24-5/2.40 ERA … Led AL in wins (24), W/L percentage (.828), ERA (2.40), games started (34), innings pitched (251), strikeouts (250).

1992 – Dennis Eckersley, RHP*, Athletics

7-1/51 saves/1.91 ERA … Led AL in saves (51). Allowed six walks versus 93 strikeouts in 80 innings.

1986 - Roger Clemens, RHP, Red Sox

24-4/2.48 ERA …. Led AL in wins (24), W/L percentage (.857), ERA (2.48).

1984 - Willie Hernandez, RHP*, Tigers

9-3/32 saves/1.92 ERA … Led AL in games pitched (80). Allowed eight walks versus 112 strikeouts in 140 1/3 innings.

1981 – Rollie Fingers, RHP*, Brewers

6-3/28 saves/1.04 ERA … Led AL in saves (28). Allowed five walks versus 61 strikeouts in 78 innings.

1971 – Vida Blue, LHP, Athletics

24-8/1.82 ERA … Led AL in ERA (1.82), shutouts (8).

1968

Denny McLain, RHP, Tigers

31-6, 1.96 ERA … Led AL in wins (31), starts (41), complete games (28), innings pitched (336).

Bob Gibson, RHP, Cardinals

22-9/1.12 ERA … Led NL in ERA (1.12), shutouts (13), strikeouts 268.

1963 – Sandy Koufax, LHP, Dodgers

25-5/1.88 ERA … Led NL in wins (25), ERA (1.88), shutouts (11), strikeouts (306).

1956 – Don Newcombe, RHP, Dodgers

27-7/3.06 … Led NL in wins (27), W/L percentage (.794).

1952 – Bobby Shantz, LHP, Athletics

24-7/2.48 ERA … Led AL in wins (24), W/L percentage (.774).

1950 – Jim Konstanty, RHP*, Phillies

16-7/2.66 ERA … Led NL in games (74), saves (22).

1945 – Hal Newhouser, LHP, Tigers

25-9/1.81 ERA … Led AL in wins (25), ERA (1.81), starts (36), complete games (29) shutouts (8), innings pitched 313 1/3, strikeouts (212).

1944 – Hal Newhouser, LHP, Tigers

29-9/2.22 ERA … Led AL in wins (29), strikeouts (187).

1943 - Spud Chandler, RHP, Yankees

20-4/1.64 ERA … Led AL in wins (20), W/L percentage (.833), ERA (1.64), complete games (20), shutouts (5).

1942 – Mort Cooper, RHP, Cardinals

22-7/1.78 ERA … Led NL in wins (22), ERA (1.78), shutouts (10).

1939 – Bucky Walters, RHP, Reds

27-11/2.29 ERA … Led NL in wins (27), ERA (2.29), starts (36), complete games (31), innings pitched (319), strikeouts (137).

1936 – Carl Hubbell, LHP, Giants

26-6/2.31 ERA … Led NL in wins (26), ERA (2.31), W/L percentage (.813).

1934 – Dizzy Dean, RHP, Cardinals

30-7/2.66 ERA… Led the NL in wins (30), W/L percentage (.811), strikeouts (195).

1933 - Carl Hubbell, LHP, Giants

23-12/1.66 ERA … Led the NL in wins (23), ERA (1.66), shutouts (10), innings pitched (308 2/3).

1931 – Lefty Grove, LHP, Athletics

31-4/2.06 ERA … Led AL in wins (31), ERA (2.06), W/L percentage (.886), complete games (27), shutouts (4), strikeouts (175).

League Award (presented 1922-29)

1924

Dazzy Vance, RHP, Dodgers

28-6/2.16 ERA … Led NL in (wins 28), ERA (2.16), complete games (30), strikeouts (262).

Walter Johnson, RHP, Senators

23-7/2.72 ERA … Led AL in wins (23), ERA (2.72), W/L percentage (.767), starts (38), shutouts (6), strikeouts (158).

 

Chalmers Award (presented1911-14)

1913 - Walter Johnson, RHP, Senators

36-7/1.14 ERA … Led the AL in wins (36), ERA (1.14), W/L percentage (.837), complete games (29), shutouts (11), innings pitched (346), strikeouts (243).

 

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MLB Players to Win a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in the Same Season

Adrian Gonzalez - only player to earn a Gold Glove AND a Silver Slugger in 2014.

Adrian Gonzalez – only player to earn a Gold Glove AND a Silver Slugger in 2014.

The 2014 Rawlings Golden Glove and (Hillerich and Bradsby) Silver Slugger Awards – honoring the best defensive and offensive  players in each league at each position are on the books – and Dodgers’ first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was the only player to capture both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger for this past season.  The 2014 season, in fact, marks the first time (since 1980, when the Silver Sluggers were first awarded) that only one player has earned both a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in the same campaign. Note:  The Gold Glove award was established in 1957.

Since 1980, the combination of a Gold Glove/Silver Slugger has been achieved 169 times by 90 different players.  You’ll find a complete list of the players who have earned recognition as the offensive and defensive leader in their respective leagues at the end of this post. Since the Silver Slugger is awarded to three outfielders annually regardless of their position (LF, CF, RF), the lists in this post do not break outfielders out by position.  Before, we take a look at the full list, here are few SS/GG combination “factoids.”

 

  • Ivan Rodriguez (C), Ken Griffey, Jr. (OF) and Barry Bonds (OF) have each won the double (Silver Slugger/Gold Glove) crown in a season an MLB-record seven times.
  • Ivan Rodriguez won the SS/GG combo for his position a record six consecutive seasons (1995-1999).
  • Roberto Alomar (2B) is the only player to win the single-season Gold Glove/Silver Slugger combo with three different teams (Blue Jays-1992; Orioles-1996; Indians-1999, 2000)
  • Ivan Rodriguez has the longest time period between his first and last SS/GG double crown (11 seasons – 1994-2004).
  • Mike Hampton is the only pitcher to win the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in the same season (Braves – 2003).
  • Scott Rolen (3B) is the only player to win the SS/GG combo in a season in which he played for two different teams (2002, Phillies/Cardinals). Rolen was traded from the Phillies to the Cardinals on July 29. He played 100 games for the Phillies and 55 for the Cardinals in his only SS/GG combo season.
  • Adrian Gonzalez (1B) and Matt Williams (3) are the only players to capture a SS/GG single-season combination in both the AL and NL. Gonzalez – Dodgers-2014; Red Sox-2011. Williams – Indians-1997; Giants-1993-1994.
  • 2014 saw the fewest SS/GG combination winners (1); 1994 saw the most (10).
  • Outfielders have achieved the SS/GG combo most often (65 times), but if you factor in the potential to achieve three combos each season, second baseman have been most successful, putting up 27 SS/GG seasons.
  • The only team to have three SS/GG winners in the same season is the 1993 Giants (Robby Thompson (2B), Matt Williams (3B), Barry Bonds (OF).
  • The top three teams in terms of SS/GG seasons are the Yankees (13); Rangers (12) and Mariners (11). The Cardinals lead the NL with nine. The White Sox and Marlins are the only teams to never have a player win a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in the same season.
  • Eighteen players have captured a total of 22 MVP Awards in the same season they also won Silver Sluggers, led by Giants’ outfielder Barry Bonds, who achieved the MVP/SS/GG three times (1990, 1992, 1993). Two-time winners of the MVP/SS/GG include: Mike Schmidt (Phillies, 1981, 1986); Dale Murphy (Braves, 1982, 1983); Those accomplishing the MVP/SS/GG once are: Robin Yount (Brewers-1982); Ryne Sandberg (Cubs-1984); Willie McGee (Cardinals-1985);  Cal Ripken, Jr. (Orioles-1991);  Jeff Bagwell (Astros-1994); Barry Larkin (Reds-1995); Ken Caminiti (Padres-1996); Ken Griffey, Jr. (Mariners-1997); Larry Walker (Rockies-1997); Ivan Rodriguez (Rangers-1999); Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners-2001); Alex Rodriguez (Rangers-2003); Jimmy Rollins (Phillies-2007); Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox-2008); Joe Mauer (Twins-2009)

 

Ivan Rodriguez - did it behind the plate and at the plate.  King of the Silver Slugger/Gold Glove combination winners. Seven overall, six consecutive.

Ivan Rodriguez – did it behind the plate and at the plate. King of the Silver Slugger/Gold Glove combination winners. Seven overall, six consecutive.

Here are your single-season SS/GG combination winners by year (with position and team).

 

Gold Glove/Silver Slugger Winners by Season

2014

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers

2013

Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks

J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles

2012

Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees

Chase Headley, 3B, Padres

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates

2011

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox

Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

Jacob Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox

Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers

2010

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

Carl Crawford, OF, Rays

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies

2009

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Mark Tiexeira, 1B, Yankees

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals

Deterk Jeter, SS, Yankees

Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

Torii Hunter, OF, Angels

2008

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Dustin Perdroia, 2B, Red Sox

David Wrights, 3B, Mets

Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians

2007

Russell Martin, C, Dodgers

Placido Polanco, 2B, Tigers

David Wright, 3B, Mets

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies

Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

2006

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees

Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets

2005

Jason Veritek, C, Red Sox

Mark Tiexierea, 1B, Rangers

Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs

Andruw Jones, OF, Braves

 

2004

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Tigers

Jim Edmonds, OF, Cardinals

2003

Brett Boone, 2B, Mariners

Edgar Renteria, SS, Cardinals

Alex Rodriguez, SS, Rangers

Mike Hampton, P, Braves

2002

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies

Scott Rolen, 3B, Cardinals/Phillies

Eric Chavez, 3B, A’s

Edgar Renteria, SS, Cardinals

Alex Rodriguez, SS, Rangers

2001

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

2000

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Indians

Darin Erstad, OF, Angels

1999

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Robert Alomar, 2B, Indians

Larry Walker, OF, Rockies

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

Shawn Green, OF, Blue Jays

1998

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Rafael Palmeiro, 1B, Rangers

Ken Griffey, Jr. OF, Mariners

1997

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros

Chuck Knoblauch, 2B, Twins

Matt Williams, 3B, Indians

Larry Walker, OF, Rockies

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr, OF, Mariners

1996

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Orioles

Ken Caminiti, 3B, Padres

Barry Larkin, SS, Reds

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr. OF, Mariners

1995

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Craig, Biggio, 2B, Astros

Barry Larkin, SS, Reds

1994

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Jeff Bagwell, 1B, Astros

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros

Matt Williams, 3B, Giants

Wade Boggs, 3B, Yankees

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

1993

Robby Thompson, 2B, Giants

Matt Williams, 3B, Giants

Jay Bell, SS, Pirates

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr, OF, Mariners

1992

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Blue Jays

Larry Walker, OF, Expos

Andy Van Slyke, OF, Pirates

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1991

Will Clark, 1B, Giants

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Cal Ripken, Jr., SS, Orioles

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

1990

Benito Santiago, C, Padres

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Kelly Gruber, 3B, Blue Jays

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Ellis Burks, OF, Red Sox

1989

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Eric Davis, OF, Reds

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

1988

Benito Santiago, C, Padres

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Andy Van Slyke, OF, Pirates

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1987

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Ozzie Smith, SS, Cardinals

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

Eric Davis, OF, Reds

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

Andre Dawson, OF, Cubs

1986

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Frank White, 2B, Royals

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1985

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Tim Wallach, 3B, Expos

George Brett, 3B, Royals

Willie McGee, OF, Cardinals

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

1984

Lance Parrish, C, Tigers

Keith Hernandez, 1B, Mets

Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Buddy Bell, 3B, Rangers

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

1983

Lance Parrish, C, Tigers

Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

1982

Gary Carter, C, Expos

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Robin Yount, SS, Brewers

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

1981

Gary Carter, C, Expos

Manny Trillo, 2B, Phillies

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

Rickey Henderson, OF, A’s

Dwight Evans, OF, Red Sox

Dusty Baker, OF, Dodgers

1980

Keith Hernandez, 1B, Cardinals

Cecil Cooper, 1B, Brewers

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

Willie Wilson, OF, Royals

 

Your  Gold Glove/Silver Slugger combo winners listed alphabetically:

 Alomar, Roberto … 1992; 1996; 1999; 2000

Baker, Dusty … 1981

Bagwell, Jeff … 1994

Bell, Buddy … 1984

Bell, Jay … 1993

Beltre, Adrian … 2011

Beltran, Carlos … 2006; 2007

Biggio, Craig … 1994; 1995; 1997

Boggs, Wade … 1994

Bonds, Barry … 1990; 1991; 1992; 1993; 1994; 1996; 1997

Boone, Brett … 2003

Brett, George … 1985

Burks, Ellis … 1990

Caminiti, Ken … 1996

Cano, Robinson … 2010; 2012

Carter, Gary … 1981; 1982

Chavez, Eric … 2002

Clark, Will … 1991

Cooper, Cecil …1980

Crawford, Carl … 2010

Dawson, Andre … 1980; 1981; 1983; 1987

Davis, Eric … 1987; 1989

Edmonds, Jim … 2004

Ellsbury, Jacob … 2011

Erstad, Darin … 2000

Evans, Dwight … 1981

Gonzalez, Adrian … 2011; 2014

Gonzalez, Carlos … 2010

Green, Shawn … 1999

Griffey, Ken Jr. … 1991; 1993; 1994; 1996; 1997; 1998; 1999

Gruber, Kelly … 1990

Gwynn, Tony … 1986; 1987; 1989

Hampton, Mike … 2003

Hardy, J.J. … 2013

Headley, Chase … 2012

Helton, Todd … 2002

Henderson, Rickey … 1981

Hernandez, Keith … 1980; 1984

Hunter, Torii … 2009

Jeter, Derek … 2006; 2009

Jones, Adam … 2013

Jones, Andruw … 2005

Kemp, Matt … 2009; 2011

Knoblauch, Chuck … 1997

Larkin, Barry … 1995; 1996

LaRoche, Adam  … 2012

Lee, Derrek … 2005

Martin, Russell … 2008

Mattingly, Don … 1985; 1986; 1987

Mauer, Joe … 2008; 2009; 2010

McCutchen, Andrew … 2012

McGee, Willie … 1985

Molina, Yadier … 2013

Murphy, Dale … 1982; 1083; 1984; 1985

Murray, Eddie … 1983; 1984

Palanco, Placido … 2007

Palmeiro, Rafael … 1998

Parrish, Lance … 1983; 1984

Pedroia, Dustin … 2008

Phillips, Brandon … 2011

Puckett, Kirby … 1986; 1987; 1988; 1989; 1992

Pujols, Albert … 2010

Renteria, Edgar … 2002

Ripken, Cal, Jr. … 1991

Rodriguez, Alex … 2002; 2003

Rodriguez, Ivan … 1994; 1995; 1996; 1997; 1998; 1999; 2004

Rolen, Scott … 2002

Rollins, Jimmy … 2007

Sandberg, Ryne … 1984; 1985; 1988; 1989; 1990; 1991

Santiago, Benito … 1988; 1990

Schmidt, Mike … 1981; 1982; 1983; 1984; 1986

Sizemore, Grady … 2008

Smith, Ozzie … 1987

Suzuki, Ichiro … 2001; 2007; 2009

Thompson, Robby … 1993

Tiexeira, Mark … 2005, 2009

Trillo, Manny … 1981

Tulowitzki, Troy … 2010; 2011

Van Slyke, Andy … 1988; 1992

Varitek, Jason … 2005

Walker, Larry … 1992; 1997; 1999

Wallach, Tim … 1985

White, Frank … 1986

Whitaker, Lou … 1983; 1984; 1985

Williams, Matt … 1993; 1994; 1997

Wilson, Willie … 1980

Winfield, Dave … 1982; 1983; 1984; 1985

Wright, David … 2007; 2008

Yount, Robin … 1982

Ryan Zimmerman … 2009

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MLB Awards Season – Defensive Excellence

Honoring MLB's best gloves.

Honoring MLB’s best gloves.

The World Series is over and “The Awards Season” is upon us.  MLB, along with sponsoring organizations, has already begun recognizing the best in hitting, fielding and pitching – witness the recent Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.  In the near future, we’ll see such recognitions as MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year.  (The Baseball Bloggers Alliance has also announced its honorees in those major categories, which you will find by clicking here.)

In this post, BBRT will focus on the least glamorous, most often overlooked (or undervalued) segment of the regular season awards – those honoring defensive excellence. Why start with defensive recognition?  Several reasons:

1) The awards for defense are already out there.

2) With my favorite ballpark experience being a tightly played 1-0, 2-1 or 3-2 game, defense has always been a personal passion.

3) Defense counts. (Consider:  The Orioles and Royals each had an MLB-best three Gold Glovers and were the last two teams standing in the AL – The Cardinals and Royals led their leagues in Defensive Runs Saved and both made the “final four.”)  

4) As a Twins’ fan, I miss those days when the Twins were dominating the AL Central and Baseball Tonight’s Web Gems.

So, let get on with a look at the 2014 awards for defensive excellence.  The three most significant defensive recognitions are:

  • Rawlings Gold Glove … This is the most senior (and most recognized and publicized) defensive award, established in 1957. It is also considered the most subjective, with 75 percent of the results dependent on a vote of MLB managers and coaches and 25 percent on statistical defensive metrics (provided by MLB and the Society for American Baseball Research – SABR). The Gold Glove is awarded to one player at each position in each league.
  • The Fielding Bible Awards … Established in 2006, the Fielding Bible Awards are considered to be less subjective than the Gold Gloves. These awards are voted on by a panel of “sabermetrically” inclined and experienced journalists (and bloggers) – including such respected observers and reporters on the national pastime as Bill James, Peter Gammons and Joe Posnanski. The Fieldeing Bible Award is given to one player at each position.
  • Wilson Defensive Player(s) of the Year … Established in 2012, this recognition is based on scouting reports, traditional defensive statistics and sabermetric measures like Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), Defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR) and other less self-explanatory statistics. The Wilson DPOY Award is given to one player at each position.

In addition, each year SABR honors the best defensive player in each league (any position) with the Platinum Glove Award – based on sabermetrics and a fan vote. Wilson also selects an overall Defensive Player of the Year – based on traditional and advanced fielding metrics.

If all of this seems clumsily complex or overly metric, that is not without reason.  The increased use of metrics in the awards process is intended to add accuracy and prevent occurrences like Texas Ranger Rafael Palmeiro’s 1999 Gold Glove at first base.

The Strangest Ever Gold Glove Recognition

In 1999, the Texas Rangers’ Rafael Palmeiro had a tremendous offensive year, hitting .324, with 47 home runs and 148 RBI.  He was an All Star and well-deserving of his Silver Slugger Award as the league’s best offensive first baseman. To further add to his reputation, Palmeiro also won his third-consecutive Gold Glove as the AL’s top defensive first baseman.  That recognition, voted by managers and coaches, came despite the fact that Palmeiro was primarily a designated hitter in 1999. He won his Gold Glove while starting just 28 games in the field and handling just 275 chances (with one error). In contrast, Gold Glove contender Tino Martinez (Yankees) handled 1,414 chances with seven errors (.995 percentage) and slick fielding Twins’ first sacker Doug Mientkiewicz recorded 930 chances with just three errors (.997 percentage).  Maybe they just didn’t want to spend all that time and money engraving Mientkiewicz’ name on the award.

Even with the added metrics, there is still controversy and there is not always agreement on the top defender – even among the three award programs.  The chart below shows the 2014 winners for each Award. Following the chart is BBRT’s take on MLB’s top defender at each position.  Note:  Unless otherwise noted, the metric rankings are for each position and include only players with at least 100 games at that position.

fldg chart

Now let’s look at the 2014 award winners.

Catcher

No agreement among the three awards here – with the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina, Royals’ Salvador Perez and Pirates’ Russell Martin all claiming a share of the honors.  In the NL, the Gold Glove at backstop went to the Molina, his seventh consecutive such honor. (Molina also has won six Fielding Bible and two Wilson DPOY Awards.) Molina finished tied for fourth in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) with eight, despite missing seven weeks due to injury. He finished fifth in dWAR (1.5). He also threw out 47.7 percent of attempted base stealers and achieved a 3.20 Catcher’s ERA, both best among players starting at least 100 games behind the plate.  In the AL, the Gold Glove went to the Perez, his second consecutive GG (in his second full MLB season). Perez led all MLB catchers in games started behind the plate (143) and in Defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR) at 2.1. He tied Molina for fourth in DRS at eight; threw out 30.5 percent of attempted base stealers and had MLB’s fourth-best full-time Catcher’s ERA (3.26).  The Fielding Bible Award winner was Jonathon Lucroy, who finished second in DRS (11) and tied for second in dWAR (2.0).  The Wilson DPOY went to Russell Martin of the Pirates, who finished number-one in DRS (12), despite starting only 106 games behind the plate.  Martin also threw out 38.5 percent of attempted base stealers and tied for second in dWAR at 2.0.  Martin won a Wilson DPOY Award in 2013.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina

BBRT’s Choice:  Yadier Molina.  It was a close contest between Gold Glovers Molina and Perez – both adept at calling a game, blocking errant pitches, “framing” a pitch and stopping base stealers.  Three factors swung my choice: Molina had the same number of Defensive Runs Saved as Perez in fewer games; Molina’s had a significant edge in throwing out potential base stealers; In eleven season, Molina has thrown out more than 40 percent of potential base stealers nine times – averaging 45 percent, with a high of 64 percent in 2005; while, in four season, Perez has thrown out an average of 33 percent of potential base stealers, with a high of 42 percent in 2012 – and his percentage has dropped in each of the past two seasons.

Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina and Royals left fielder Alex Gordon were honored with the Platinum Glove Awards as the top defensive players in their respective leagues. The award, presented by the Society for American Baseball Research, is based on a combination of sabrmetrics and a fan vote.

 First Base

Adrian Gonzalez

Adrian Gonzalez

Dodgers’ first sacker Adrian Gonzalez captured the NL Gold Glove, the Fielding Bible Award and the Wilson DPOY recognition.  It was Gonzalez’ fourth Gold Glove and first Fielding Bible and Wilson DPOY Awards, Gonzalez topped all first baseman with 12 Defensive Runs Saved and finished second overall and led NL first baseman in dWAR (0.2).  Gonzalez also showed good range, leading all of MLB first baseman with 1,442 total chances (six errors).  The Royals’ Eric Hosmer picked up the AL Gold Glove, his second. Hosmer finished sixteenth in DRS among first basemen (3).

BBRT Choice:  Adrian Gonzalez.

 

Dodgers’ first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was the only player to win both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger Award in 2014.

 

Second Base

Ian Kinsler

Ian Kinsler

Boston’s Dustin Pedroia took two honors here – The AL Gold Glove and Fielding Bible Award.  It was Pedroia’s fourth Gold Glove and third Fielding Bible Award. Pedroia has also won two Wilson DPOY Awards. Pedroia finished second among second basemen in DRS at 17 and dWAR at 2.5  He committed  just two errors in 654 chances – an MLB best .997 fielding percentage at the keystone sack. The Rockies’ DJ LeMahieu was the NL Gold Glover, finishing third in DSR (16) and dWAR (2.2).  LeMahieu committed six errors in 676 chances for a .991 fielding percentage. LeMahieu won a Wilson DPOT Award in 2013. Detroit’s Ian Kinsler earned the Wilson DPOY honor and topped all MLB second baseman with 20 DRS, as well as in dWAR (2.0). He also was first in MLB among second baseman in total chances (766) and second in assists (467).

 

BBRT Choice:  Tough call, but BBRT gives a slight edge to Kinsler over Pedroia, thanks to Kinsler edge in DRS, dWAR and total chances.

Third Base

Kyle Seager

Kyle Seager

Another major split among the defensive awards – four possible winners, four different choices.  The Gold Gloves went to the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado in the NL and the Mariners’ Kyle Seager in the AL.  Arenado finished third in DRS (16) and fourth in dWAR (1.9).  Seager finished seventh in DRS (10), fifth in dWar (1.7) He also made only eight errors in 422 chances, leading all MLB third sackers in fielding percentage at .987.  The Fielding Bible recognition went to the A’s Josh Donaldson, who led all of MLB third baseman in DRS with 20 and dWAR with 2.7. Donaldson did make 23 errors, but he also handled the most chances (482) of any third baseman (outdistancing Seager by 60 chances, while playing seven fewer games). The Wilson DPOY honoree at third base was Juan Uribe – who also won Wilson recognition in 2013. Uribe finished second among third basemen in DSR (17) and dWAR (2.0), despite playing only 102 games (starting 98) at third base.

BBRT Choice: Kyle Seager – on the basis of sure hands and top fielding percentage.  Could easily have gone to Josh Donaldson on the basis of range or Uribe on the basis of impact in only 102 games.

Shortstop

Andrelton Simmons - top the backhand.

Andrelton Simmons – top the backhand.

A sweep here, as the Braves’ Andrelton Simmons outran the field, winning the NL Gold Glove, Fielding Bible Award and Wilson DPOY honors. It his first two full seasons, Simmons has captured two Gold Gloves, two Fielding Bible Awards and two Wilson DPOY recognitions. Simmons finished first in all of MLB among shortstops with 28 defensive runs saved, first in dWAR at 3.9. The Orioles’ J.J. Hardy earned his third-consecutive AL Gold Glove, finishing fourth overall – and first in the AL – in DRS (10) at the shortstop position.  Similarly, he finished fifth overall and first in the AL in dWAR (2.1).

BBRT Choice: Andrelton Simmons.

Left Field

Alex Gordon as top left fielder - as clear as black and white.

Alex Gordon as top left fielder – as clear as black and white.

The Royals’ Alex Gordon won the AL Gold Glove, Fielding Bible Award and Wilson DPOY.  For Gordon, who switched to the outfield in 2010, after three seasons primarily at third base, it was his fourth-consecutive Gold Glove and third-consecutive Fielding Bible Award. How good was Gordon?  His 27 defensive runs saved were more than double nearest competitor – NL Gold Glove Winner Christian Yelich of the Marlins (13 DRS). Gordon also finished fourth in OF assists (8) and first in total chances (351). Yelich was no slouch finishing (a distant) fourth in dWAR (0.4), second in DRS and third in total chances (262).

BBRT Choice:  Alex Gordon is the top fly chaser in left field.

Center Field

Lorenzo Cain - covers a LOT of ground.

Lorenzo Cain – covers a LOT of ground.

The Mets’ Juan Lagares captured the NL Gold Glove and Fielding Bible Award.  The speedy, far-ranging Lagares notched an MLB CF-leading 28 Defensive Runs Saved – 13 more than his closest competitor (13 DRS each for the Diamondbacks’ Ender Inciarte and Rangers’ Leonys Martin). Lagares also was the MLB CF  leader in dWAR (3.4).  It was the first Gold Glove and second Wilson DPOY Award for Lagares, in just his second MLB season. The Royals’ Lorenzo Cain captured the Wilson DPOY Award (his third) and might have picked up the Fielding Bible honors if he hadn’t split time between LF and CF. Cain had 14 DRS in CF and 10 more DRS in right field.  (As the chart shows, Cain did win a Fielding Bible Award for multi-position player.) The Orioles’ Adam Jones won the AL Gold Glove, but lagged in DRS (2.0) and dWAR (0.8). Despite those metrics, Jones is known for sure hands and a strong arm. Note: Jones selection has been criticized by some analysts, but he did finish among the AL’s top-five center fielders in putouts, assists and double plays – and his reputation and past record may have boosted his support.  Jones led all AL CFs in putouts and assists in 2010, 2012, 2013.  The 2014 Gold Glove was Jones’ third-consecutive and fourth overall.   BBRT note: Keep an eye on Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. in the future.  In 2014, he led MLB centerfielder in assists with 13 – in just 113 games – and made just one error in 307 chances.

BBRT Choice: Lorenzo Cain – I know he split time between center and right, but given the choice, he’s the player I’d put in the center of my outfield garden.

Right Field

Jason Heyward - number-one in Defensive Runs Saved.

Jason Heyward – number-one in Defensive Runs Saved.

The Braves’ Jason Heyward led all of MLB defenders (any position) with 32 Defensive Runs Saved and captured the NL Gold Glove, Fielding Bible Award and Wilson DPOT Award. It was Heyward’s second Gold Glove and second Fielding Bible Award. Heyward also finished first in dWAR (2.8). He led all RFs in total chances (375) – while making just one error. The Orioles’ Nick Markakis earned his second AL Gold Glove. Like Adam Jones, Markakis’ advanced metrics aren’t flashy – just one Defensive Run Saved and a dWAR of -0.5.  However, Markakis led all right fielders with 11 assists, finished fifth in total chances (206) – and did not make a single error.  Markakis, in fact, is on a 328-game errorless streak – going back to August 10, 2012.

BBRT’s Choice:  Jason Heyward.

Braves’ right fielder Jason Heyward was selected as the Wilson (overall) Defensive Player of the Year.

Pitcher

Dallas Keuchel

Dallas Keuchel

The Astros’ Dallas Keuchel took the AL Gold Glove and Fielding Bible Award, leading all pitchers with ten Defensive Runs Saved (the only pitcher in double digits). Keuchel led all MLB hurlers in total chances (66) and assists (47).  Zach Grienke of the Dodgers took the NL Gold Glove, notching five DRS and the Reds’ Johnny Cueto won the Wilson DPOY at the pitcher spot (six DRS).

BBRT Choice: Dallas Keuchel

 

Coming Soon – A look at the Silver Slugger Awards – and players that have won a Sliver Slugger and Gold Glove in the same season..

 

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Bumgarner’s Performance – In Perspective

On the surface, the 2014 World Series wasn’t a fall “classic” –  the average margin of victory was five runs.  Still, it had a tight and tense Game Seven, plenty of dazzling (at times game-changing) defensive plays, some outstanding bullpen work, Pablo Sandoval looking like Pablo Picasso at the plate (12 hits in seven games) and Hunter Pence cashing in a dozen safeties as well.  But most of all, it had a truly classic performance by Giants’ “ace” Madison Bumgarner – and that made this a Series for the age.

Madison Bumgarner - historic performance by Series MVP.

Madison Bumgarner – historic performance by Series MVP.

Madison Bumgarner claimed his place in MLB World Series’ annals with 21 innings pitched (two starts and a relief appearance in Game Seven) and only one run allowed (0.43 ERA).  His two victories and a save earned Bumgarner World Series MVP honors.  (The scorer at first gave Bumgarner the win in Game Seven – which would have enabled him to tie the MLB record for victories in a single Fall Classic, but later changed that to a save.) The superlatives were flowing freely during the game coverage and still continue in the traditional and social media.  And, rightfully so.  The Series MVP started Game One and threw seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball; followed up with a three-hit complete-game shutout in Game Five; and wrapped it up by coming on in relief in Game Seven to toss five innings of two-hit ball in the Giants’ 3-2 victory. Over his twenty-one innings of work, Bumgarner allowed just one run, nine hits and one walk, while striking out seventeen.  For the Giants: No doubt, no Bumgarner, no Series title.

It was clearly a performance for the ages.  In fact, it may have been the best World Series pitching performance ever (particularly given the futility of the rest of the Giants’ pitching staff and Bumgarner’s short-rest Game Seven shutdown of the Royals).

All the talk about Bumgarner got BBRT to thinking about past World Series pitching performances – the likes of which we’ll likely never see again.   I’m talking about achievements like:

  • Starting five games in a single World Series (best-of-nine Series) in just 13 days – completing them all.
  • Throwing three complete-game shutouts – in a five-game series.
  • Notching three complete-game wins in a single World Series – as a rookie.

Why aren’t we likely to see these kinds of numbers in the future?  First, “going the distance” is no longer a priority, seven innings is considered going deep; second, the increasing adherence to pitch counts; third, “closers gotta close,” setting up your designated 7th, 8th and 9th inning hurlers has become integral game strategy; and, fourth, the extended post-season means starting pitchers have thrown a considerable number of high-pressure playoff innings by the time they get to the World Series.  (Bumgarner had started four 2014 post-season games before Game One of the World Series; going 2-1, 1.42 in 31 2/2 postseason innings before throwing his first World Series pitch.)  Applause and thanks to Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy for ignoring all these factors – and to Madison Bumgarner for rewarding his confidence.

Given all that, BBRT decided to look back on those World Series’ performances in which a pitcher not only notched three victories in a single Series, but also limiting the review to those instances in which all three wins were complete games.

Despite Bumgarner’s magnificent 2014 achievements, BBRT’s vote for the number-one World Series pitching performance ever still belongs to:

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1905 – Christy Mathewson  – Three complete-game shutouts in six days

In 1905, the great Christy “Big Six” Mathewson tossed a record three complete-game shutouts in a single World Series – and he did it in a five-game Series.  In just six days, the future Hall of Famer started and finished Games 1, 3 and 5 – tossing 27 innings, giving up just 13 hits and one walk, while fanning 18.

On October 9, in Game One, Mathewson tossed a four-hitter, never allowing more than one base runner in an inning (singles in the fourth and sixth innings, ground-rule doubles in the eighth and ninth), as the Giants prevailed over the Athletics 3-0.  Mathewson allowed no walks and fanned six.

On October 12, Mathewson tossed a second four-hit shutout in an easier 9-0 victory.  In this game, all four hits were singles and Mathewson also hit one batter and walked one (while fanning eight).

Then, on October 14, Big Six tossed a five-hitter (four singles and a double) in a 2-0 win. In this game, he logged no walks and four strikeouts.

Mathewson’s dominance was no surprise.  In his prime – and on the way to 373 MLB wins – he was coming off a league-leading 31 wins (9 losses), NL-best eight shutouts, league-high 206 strikeouts and league-low 1.28 regular season ERA. Just how good was Mathewson?  In 17 MLB seasons, he logged four seasons of 30+ wins and another nine campaigns of 20+ victories – while leading the his league in victories four times, ERA five times, and strikeouts four times.

Now, here’s a look – in chronological order – at all the other hurlers to log three complete-game victories in a single World Series.  Hall of Famers are first referenced in Bold Face/Red/Italics.

1903 World Series – Bill Dinneen AND Deacon Phillippe

Considered the first official AL/NL World Series, the 1903 Boston Americans/Pittsburgh Pirates match-up was a “best five-of-nine” that went eight games (and saw two pitchers win three World Series games).

The hero of the 1903 World Series was Boston Americans’ right-hander Bill Dinneen, who picked up three victories in four starts  – tossing four complete games in the process.  That the 27-year-old Dinneen was the Americans’ pitching star came as a bit of a surprise, since the Boston staff was led by righty Cy Young – who had just rung up a league-leading 28 regular season victories (nine losses), the 36-year-old veteran’s fifth time leading the league in wins. Of course, Dinneen was no slouch, having gone 21-13, 2.26 in the regular season (after a 21-21 record in 1902). The Americans’ staff boasted a third 20-game winner in Tom Hughes, who finished 20-7, 2.57 (his only twenty-win campaign). Young did have a good post-season 2-1, 1.85 in three starts and one relief appearance – while Hughes lasted only 2 innings in his only start.

It was Dinneen, however, who brought the World Championship to Boston, starting games 2, 4, 6 and 8 and picking up three wins versus one loss (Game Four, 5-4). His efforts included four complete games, as well as two shutouts (Game two and the Game Eight clincher). Dinneen gave up just eight earned runs in his four starts (2.06 ERA), pitching 35 innings – with 29 hits, eight walks and 28 strikeouts. The 1903 World Series was pretty much the highlight of the hard-throwing Dinneen’s 12-year MLB career, in which he went 170-177, 3.01 and made it to the post-season just the one time.  He did, however, win 20 or more games four times.

On the Pittsburgh Pirates’ side of the field, right-hander Deacon Phillippe did all he could to bring the first World Championship to Pittsburgh – starting, and completing, a still Series-record five games in 13 days (October 1 – October 13). Phillippe was truly the Pirates’ ace. He had gone 25-9, 2.43 in the regular season – his fifth straight twenty-win campaign. In the Series, he started Games 1, 3, 5, 7, and 8 (when he came up against the hot hand of Dinneen). Phillippe won his first three starts, but lost the final two.  Phillippe finished the Series 3-2, 3.07, tossing 44 innings, giving up 38 hits, 15 earned runs, three walks, and striking out 22. While Phillippe would have only one more twenty-win season after 1903, he did finish his 13-year MLB career with a 189-109, 2.59 record and led the NL in winning percentage (14-2, .875) in 1910 (at the age of 38).

1909 World Series – Babe Adams, the rookie

Although he had the proverbial “cup of coffee” in the major leagues in 1906-07 (appearing in five games), Charles “Babe” Adams still qualified as a rookie when he went 12-3, 1.11 for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1909.  The rookie right-hander went on to pitch three complete-game victories for Pittsburgh (over Detroit) in the World Series, including a six-hit shutout in the final game (an 8-0 Pirates’ win). For the Series, Adams gave up just four earned runs, with 18 hits, six walks and 11 strikeouts. Adams went 194-140, 2.76 in 19 MLB seasons – walking only 430 hitters in 2,995 1/3 innings.  On July 17, 1914, Adams pitched a 21-inning complete game without issuing a single walk, which remains the longest game without a walk in MLB history.

1910 World Series – Jack Coombs, three wins in six days

Philadelphia Athletics’ Jack Coombs matched Christy Mathewson’s three complete-game victories in a five-game Series in 1910, as the Athletics topped the Cubs.  Coombs pitched Games 2, 3 and 5 giving up ten earned runs in his 27 innings of work (24 hits, 14 walks, 17 strikeouts). Like Mathewson, Coombs was coming off a spectacular regular season (his 31-9 mark was identical to Mathewson’s 1905 stats and he led the AL in wins). Coombs also had a minuscule 1.30 regular-season ERA. The 27-year-old rightly led the AL in wins again in 1911 with 28 and won 158 games in a 15-season MLB career.

1920 World Series – Stan Coveleski and three five-hitters

In 1920, the Cleveland Indians topped the Brooklyn Robins four games to three, with Stan Coveleski throwing three, complete-game five-hitters – winning Game Two 3-1, Game Four 5-1, and Game Seven 3-0.  The thirty-year-old Coveleski went 24-14, 2.49 in 1920 – the third of four consecutive twenty-win seasons.  He had perhaps his best season in 1925 (age 35), going 20-5 for Washington, leading the AL in winning percentage (.800) and ERA (2.84).  In 14 MLB seasons, he went 215-142, 2.89

1957 World Series – Lew Burdette leads underdog Braves

The 1957 Milwaukee Braves surprised the heavily favored Yankees behind the fidgety right-arm of Lew Burdette (who pitched in his first MLB game as a Yankee). Burdette started and completed Games 2, 5 and 7 of the Series.  In Game Two, he gave up seven hits and two runs, as the Braves won 4-2. He followed up with a pair of seven-hit shutouts (1-0, 5-0).  Burdette seemed an unlikely World Series “ace.”  At 17-9, 3.72, he was actually third on the Braves’ staff in regular season wins behind lefty Warren Spahn (21-11, 2.69) and righty Bob Buhl (18-7, 2.74) and fourth among starters in ERA (Gene Conley’s ERA was 3.16).   Burdette went 203-144, 3.66 in 18 MLB seasons – winning twenty or more games twice.

1967 World Series – Bob Gibson brings the heat

Cardinals’ ace Bob Gibson notched three complete-game victories over the Red Sox in the 1967 World Series (Games 1, 4 and 7), including a Game Four shutout.  For the Series, Gibson threw 27 innings, giving up just three runs on 14 hit and five walks, with 26 strikeouts.  In 1967, Gibson went 13-7, 2.98 – a mid-season leg injury limited him to 24 starts.   In the 1968 Series, while “only” going 2-1 in three starts, Gibson set the record for  strikeouts in a single World Series (35) and for a World Series game (17 in Game One). In a 17-year MLB career, Gibson went 251-174, 2.91 – with 3,117 strikeouts.

1968 World Series – Mickey Lolich on the big stage

In 1968, Detroit Tigers’ Mickey Lolich took a back seat to teammate Denny McLain – who went 31-6, 1.96 in the “Year of the Pitcher.”  Lolich, who had a solid season at 17-9, 3.19, however, stole the spotlight with three complete-game victories in the World Series.  Lolich’s 16-season MLB totals were 217-191, 3.44, including a 25-14, 2.92 season in 1971.

Very honorable mention in this post goes to four pitchers who earned three victories (just not complete-game victories) in a single World Series:  Joe Wood (1912 Red Sox/eight-game Series); Red Faber (1917 White Sox); Harry Brecheen (St. Louis Cardinals, 1946); and Randy Johnson (2001, Diamondbacks).

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Baseball Bloggers Alliance 2014 Player Awards

 

GAME ONE:  Giants Find Missing “Sock” – use extra base hits to down Royals in K.C.

GAME TWO: How Do You Spell Relief ?   Not G-I-A-N-T-S – as Royals “Lorde” it over SF’s Relief Corps.

We now interrupt the World Series for this important announcement regarding the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) 2014 Awards.

After each season, members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (an organization of 200+ bloggers dedicated to the national pastime) vote on a series of awards for each league.  Those recognitions, announced in increments during the month of October, include:

  • Willie Mays Award (top rookie)
  • Walter Johnson Award (top starting pitcher)
  • Stan Musial Award (top player)
  • Goose Gossage Award (top relief pitcher)
  • Connie Mack Award (top manager)

The results for all the awards are now in and, in this post, BBRT will share the winners – and top five finishers – in each of the BBA categories, as well as  few comments on areas where the full BBA results differed from BBRT’s early-October ballot.  For a detailed look at BBRT’s entire ballot, click here. 

 

WILLIE MAYS AWARD – top rookie

Jose Abreu dominated BBA rookie balloting, but did not top BBRT's ballot.

Jose Abreu dominated BBA rookie balloting, but did not top BBRT’s ballot.

Chicago White Sox’ first baseman Jose Abreu was an overwhelming selection for the BBA Willie Mays Award for top rookie in the American League.  Abreu hit 36 home runs and drove in 107, while putting up a .317/.383/.964 line and an OPS+ of 169.

Note: OPS+ is a player’s On Base Percentage plus his Slugging Percentage adjusted for the park and the league in which he played. An OPS+ of 100 equals the league average. The higher the OPS+, the stronger the performance.

In the National League, New York Mets’ pitcher Jacob deGrom outdistanced runner-up Cincinnati Reds’ outfielder Billy Hamilton in the BBA balloting.  DeGrom went 9-6, 2.69, with better than a strikeout per inning in twenty-two 2014 starts.

While BBRT’s NL vote went to deGrom, my choice in the AL did not even make the BBA’s top five. My selection for top AL rookie was Los Angeles Angels’ pitcher Matt Shoemaker, who turned in a 16-4 record, with a 3.04 ERA (20 starts, seven relief appearances). Shoemaker moved passed Abreu (and others) on the BBRT ballot thanks to his performance under the pressure of the pennant race.  From August 1 to season’s end, Shoemaker went 8-1, with a 1.66 ERA.

The top five in the BBA Willie Mays Award voting:

American League

  1. Jose Abreu, White Sox
  2. Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees
  3. Collin McHugh, Astros
  4. Dellin Betances, Yankees
  5. Mookie Betts, Red Sox

National League

  1. Jacob deGrom, Mets
  2. Billy Hamilton, Reds
  3. Ender Inciarte, Diamondbacks
  4. David Peralta, Diamondbacks
  5. Ken Giles, Phillies

For the complete 2014 BBA top rookie voting, click here.  It may take a second click to reach the article. 

Prior BBA Willie Mays Award winners:

  • 2013: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay; Jose Fernandez, Miami
  • 2012: Mike Trout, Los Angeles of Anaheim; Bryce Harper, Washington
  • 2011: Eric Hosmer, Kansas City and Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay; Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
  • 2010: Neftali Feliz, Texas; Buster Posey, San Francisco
  • 2009: Andrew Bailey, Oakland; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh

 

WALTER JOHNSON AWARD – top pitcher

Clayton Kershaw captured his fourth BBA top pitcher recognition.

Clayton Kershaw captured his fourth BBA top pitcher recognition.

The BBA vote for top pitcher in the AL was a close one, with the Indians’ Corey Kluber barely outpointing the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez (2010 Walter Johnson Award winner).  Kluber, who went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA (152 ERA+), finished among the leaders in ERA (third), complete games (second, tie), strikeouts (second) and innings pitched (third).

Note: ERA+ adjusts a pitcher’s earned run average (ERA) according to the pitcher’s ballpark (whether the ballpark favors batters or pitchers) and the ERA of the pitcher’s league. Average ERA+ equals 100; a score above 100 indicates that the pitcher performed better than average, below 100 indicates worse than average.

It was a much different story in the National League, as Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers won his third Walter Johnson Award in four years – more than doubling the voting total of the runner-up, the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. Kershaw missed a month of starts and still led the NL in wins (21), ERA (1.77 – his fourth consecutive ERA title) and complete games (6), while finishing third in strikeouts.

Kershaw was a shoe-in for the NL top pitcher on BBRT’s ballot as well, but I went “outside-the-box” with my top AL vote.  The BBA’s number-one and number-two choices did finish near the top of my ballot (second and third), but my number-one vote went to the Twins’ Phil Hughes.  Now, I am from Minnesota, but this is just not a “homer” vote. Hughes won 16 games for a team that went 70-92. Only three players in the AL won more games (they each had 18 victories), and all three pitched for teams with winning records.  Hughes, who went 16-10, 3.52, also set a new MLB record for strikeouts to walks ratio (11.63) and recorded the fewest walks ever for any hurler to reach 200 innings pitched in a season.

The top five in the BBA Walter Johnson Award vote:

American League

  1. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  2. Felix Hernandez, Seattle
  3. Jon Lester, Boston/Oakland
  4. Chris Sale, Chicago
  5. David Price, Tampa Bay/Detroit

National League

  1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
  2. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis
  3. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati
  4. Jordan Zimmerman, Washington
  5. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia

For the complete 2014 BBA top pitcher voting,click here.    It may take a second click to reach the article. 

Prior Walter Johnson Award winners:

  • 2013: Max Scherzer, Detroit; Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
  • 2012: Justin Verlander, Detroit; R.A. Dickey, New York
  • 2011: Justin Verlander, Detroit; Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
  • 2010: Felix Hernandez, Seattle; Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
  • 2009: Zack Greinke, Kansas City; Tim Lincecum, San Francisco

 

STAN MUSIAL AWARD – top player

Mike Trout, five-tool player, now a three-time Stan Musial award winner.

Mike Trout, five-tool player, now a three-time Stan Musial award winner.

Los Angeles Angels centerfielder Mike Trout easily captured his third straight BBA American League Stan Musial Award, finishing far ahead of runner-up Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley.  Trout, who hit .287, finished in the top five in the AL in runs scored (115, first), RBI (111, first), home runs (36, third), slugging percentage (.561, third), walks (83, fourth) and triples (nine, third). He also added 16 steals in 18 tries and showed Gold Glove defensive skills.

In the National League, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw executed a BBA double steal this year, taking both the Walter Johnson Award and Stan Musial Award (see the Walter Johnson Award text above for Kershaw’s statistics).  The race was closer than in the AL, with the NL’s second-place finish going to Pirates’ centerfielder Andrew McCuthchen.

BBRT’s ballot had Trout at the top of the AL, but listed the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen ahead of Kershaw in the NL.  Explanation? In past award announcements, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance has referred to this award as recognizing the “top” or “premier” player in each league (as opposed to the Most Valuable Player). That distinction, coupled with the fact that the BBA has an award for the top pitcher (named after a pitcher) and this award for top player is named after a position player, swayed my vote.  (If the award had been labeled MVP, I would have gone with Kershaw.  This same controversy, by the way, influences MLB’s MVP and the Sporting News Player of the Year Awards.) Like Trout, McCutchen exhibits Gold Glove skills in the field, along with power and speed on offense. He finished 2014 (146 games) with a .314 average, 25 home runs, 83 RBI and 18 steals (in 21 attempts).

The Top five in the BBA Stan Musial Award vote:

American League

  1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles
  2. Michael Brantley, Cleveland
  3. Jose Bautista, Toronto
  4. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  5. Victor Martinez, Detroit

National League

  1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
  2. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
  3. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
  4. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee
  5. Anthony Rendon, Washington

For the complete 2014 BBA top player voting click here.   It may take a second click to reach the article. 

Prior Stan Musial award winners:

  • 2013: Mike Trout, Los Angeles; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
  • 2012: Mike Trout, Los Angeles; Buster Posey, San Francisco
  • 2011: Jose Bautista, Toronto; Matt Kemp, Los Angeles
  • 2010: Josh Hamilton, Texas; Joey Votto, Cincinnati
  • 2009: Joe Mauer, Minnesota; Albert Pujols, St. Louis

GOOSE GOSSAGE  AWARD – top reliever

Craig Kimbrel - four straight Goose Gossage Awards.

Craig Kimbrel – four straight Goose Gossage Awards.

Atlanta Braves’ Craig Kimbrel continued his run as the BBA’s top National  League reliever, capturing his fourth-consecutive Goose Gossage Award – although this season he did get a bit of a challenge from Cincinnati Reds’ triple-digit closer Aroldis Chapman.  Kimbrel, who led the NL in saves for the fourth-consecutive year, finished 0-3, 1.61, with league-leading 47 saves and 95 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings.  To show how dominating Kimbrel has been, BBA reports that his sparkling 227 ERA+ was actually significantly lower than his ERA+ in the two previous seasons (399 and 311, respectively). ERA+ explained in the Walter Johnson Award section of this post. 

In the American League, Yankees’ rookie reliever Dellin Betances edged out Kansas City reliever Wade Davis for Goose Gossage Award honors.  Betances, appeared in 70 games for the Yankees, putting up a 1.40 ERA (and a 277 ERA+), while striking out 135 in 90 innings.

BBRT’s ballot listed Kimbrel as the NL’s top reliever, but opted for the Royals’ Greg Holland – who went 1-3, with 46 saves, a 1.44 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings pitched – in the AL.

The top five in the BBA Goose Gossage Award vote:

American League

  1. Dellin Betances, New York
  2. Wade Davis, Kansas City
  3. Greg Holland, Kansas City
  4. Zach Britton, Baltimore
  5. Sean Doolittle, Oakland

National League

  1. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
  2. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati
  3. Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles
  4. Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh
  5. Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia

For the complete 2014 BBA top reliever voting click here.   It may take a second click to reach the article. 

Prior Goose Gossage Award winners:

  • 2013: Koji Uehara, Boston; Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
  • 2012: Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay; Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
  • 2011: Jose Valverde, Detroit; Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
  • 2010: Rafael Soriano, Tampa Bay; Brian Wilson, San Francisco

 

CONNIE MACK AWARD – top manager

Pirates' Manager Clint Hurdle - a second consecutive post-season berth and a second consecutive Connie Mack Award.

Pirates’ Manager Clint Hurdle – a second consecutive post-season berth and a second consecutive Connie Mack Award.

Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter and Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle were named the 2014 Connie Mack Award winners, recognized as MLB’s top managers by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

This is the second straight year Hurdle has taken home the BBA’s top manager recognition in the NL.  After breaking the Pirates’ two-decade playoff drought in 2013, Hurdle again led Pittsburgh into the post season, securing a wild-card berth and finishing just two games shy of the Central Division Champion Cardinals.

Over in the American League, Showalter led the unheralded Orioles to their first American League East divisional title since 1997, winning the division by 12 games over the second-place New York Yankees. Baltimore won 96 games this season, despite injuries to key players (Matt Weiters and Manny Machado) and the sub-par season and later suspension for 2013 star Chris Davis.

BBRT’s vote went to Showalter in the AL, but I differed from my BBA peers in the NL, where my top selection was Bruce Bochy of the Giants. Bochy led his squad to an 88-74 record (and Wild Card spot), despite the difficulties facing Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum and injuries to Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan.  Counting on youngsters like Joe Panik and Andrew Susac, Bochy San Francisco on track.

The top five in the BBA Connie Mack Award vote:

American League

  1. Buck Showalter, Baltimore
  2. Ned Yost, Kansas City
  3. Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles
  4. Lloyd McClendon, Seattle
  5. Bob Melvin, Oakland

National League

  1. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh
  2. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco
  3. Matt Williams, Washington
  4. Don Mattingly, Los Angeles
  5. Mike Matheny, St. Louis

For the complete 2014 BBA top manager voting click here.   It may take a second click to reach the article. 

Prior Connie Mack Award winners:

  • 2013: John Farrell, Boston; Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh
  • 2012: Bob Melvin, Oakland; Davey Johnson, Washington
  • 2011: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay; Kirk Gibson, Arizona
  • 2010: Ron Washington, Texas; Bud Black, San Diego
  • 2009: Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles of Anaheim; Jim Tracy, Colorado

 

BaseballBloggersAlliance-thumb-200x155-12545The Baseball Bloggers Alliance was formed in the fall of 2009 to encourage cooperation and collaboration between baseball bloggers of all major league teams, as well as those that follow baseball more generally. As of the awards voting, the organization consists of 215 blogs spanning most of the 30 major league squads, as well as general baseball writing.

The BBA is organized under a similar structure as the Baseball Writers of America, where blogs that follow the same team are combined into “chapters” and only two votes from the chapter on an award are counted. The blog chapters that are focused on general baseball were allowed two votes as well, which they could use both on the same league or split between the two leagues.

Chapters generally followed one of two methods when casting their ballot.  Either representatives of the chapter were given the ballots for voting or a “group ballot” was posted, accounting for both of their votes.  Notably, though the BBA’s awards come out well before their official counterparts, the BBA selections have matched those of the Baseball Writers of America in many instances over the past five years.

 

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