Sunday, February 27, 2022


How much overlap would you expect from leader lists that cover the semi-related concepts of on-base percentage (OBP) and bases-on-balls percentage (BBP)? Semi-related is probably the right term here: you can have a high (if not stratospheric) OBP without a lot of walks, if your BA is high enough. And you can fail to register on an OBP list of .350 or higher and still have a lot of walks, if your BA is low enough.

It's one more testament to how the game has changed in the century since the introduction of the lively ball that our first "outlier scenario" above was mostly clustered in the 1920s-1930s, and the second such scenario is building to a peak since the bottom dropped out of the offensive explosion in 2009.

But let's not dwell on that--particularly with so much strife around us at the moment--a senseless, reprehensible war in the Ukraine, and a stupid, cynical "war" perpetrated by the baseball owners. (And then there's the great retreat from WAR evinced by the neo-sabes, who've finally signaled that the construct they've been trying to cram down people's throats for the past twenty-five years is not ready for the real world...assuming, of course, that a "real world" still actually exists.)

OK, that was a bit more "dwelling" than we'd suggested, but so it goes. Before seeing our latest "alpha" charts for OBP and BBP, ask yourself: how many players will be in the "leaders" sections for both? We have twenty-four letters with enough data to produce substantive leaders lists--will we average the equivalent of one match per letter? Let's find out.

Here is the chart for OBP...remember, players in red type are Hall of Famers. And remember as well that this list includes only players with at least 5000 lifetime plate appearances...

Note that there are 50 players in the leaders list for this chart who are in the Hall of Fame. That doesn't correlate exactly with the players who have a .400+ OBP; several of those guys (Todd Helton, Manny Ramirez, Mike Trout, Joey Votto) are either still active or are still on the HOF ballot. And there are a few .400+ OBP guys who are never going to get in for one reason or another (Max Bishop, Joe Jackson, Billy Nash, Eddie Stanky, Riggs Stephenson, Roy Thomas).

Now let's look at the players who walk a lot. Here's the distribution of BBP by percentage of plate appearances (BB/PA) and the accompanying leaders list:

So how many players are on both leaders lists? Count up the number of players whose names are underlined. The answer is 28. So it's a reasonably robust overlap. many of these high-BBP players shown in the above chart are also in the HOF? Remember that the high-OBP guys numbered 50. 

It turns out that there are only 21 high-BBP players on this leader list in the Hall of Fame. Of course, we're missing some folks, because the leaders list is not comprehensive. If we define a high-BBP player as someone who walks at least 12% of the time, that produces a list of 35 high-BBP players with plaques in Cooperstown.

Which is still way below the number of high-OBP players in the Hall. 

The conclusion is clear: walking remains an unsung skill. While it is clearly not as significant as getting on-base via other means (particularly the extra-base hit), it is much more difficult to walk your way into Cooperstown. 

And it's become almost impossible to do in the time frame after the game expanded. The only player with low power totals and high walks to make it into the Hall of Fame in the past sixty years is...

Wade Boggs.

A game where such an offensive combination is possible for more than one player in sixty years is a much better version of the game than what we have today. Baseball needs to address this--but...

...see our third paragraph above. 

And the beatdown goes on. (Sigh.)

[EDIT: Note that some of this is indeed simply structural to the game...the distribution totals for the two charts confirm this. Note that it's half again as easy for 5000+ PA career players to achieve an OBP of at least .350 than it is for them to walk at least 10% of the time. Players like Boggs have always been infrequent; but it's imperative that they don't become extinct.]

Monday, February 7, 2022


Homer-happy folks be sad again, and be it ever so beatific that we have lots of other categories to examine in what our high-falutin' PR department wants us to call the "alpha actuarials"--and we be humoring them while they're still Zooming us, but as soon as that screen goes dark...


Actuarially speaking, though, stolen bases by age for the leading guys on the table that will (eventually) make an appearance here would be interesting to look at, fitting in with some of the "speed score" studies Bill James did before his insurance policy lapsed and his dependents lost their shot at that "double indemnity" clause... (and you be wondering just how long I can prolong this pseudo-patois before I have to bite the bullet and fork over the numbers, right?) Right, as is "so right to be left on the doorstep craving taters when the man be giving me three-week old collard greens"...goddam you, Malcolm, I got enough fiber in my diet already... (some unintelligible swear words here: fill in your favorites or pick one from column A, two from column B, three from...)

...OK, OK!

Let's look at the levels of exclusiveness here...168 players have stolen 300 or more bases in their careers over the 151-year span of MLB (1871-2021), but only 18 have stolen 600 or more bases; 75 players have stolen 400 or more bases, but 364 have stolen 200 or more bases.

The alpha leaders are more displaced in time than is usually the case, so we've tracked it in the added column at the right edge of the table (called L's LY to give you the "leader's last year")--where you can see that 11 of the 26 letters have leaders whose careers ended during the years after expansion, while 12 of the teams have leaders whose careers ended in the Deadball Era or earlier.

Rickey Henderson and the original Billy Hamilton (beware of cheap imitations, y'all...) get the H's off to a rousing start, but they peter out rather quickly after that. The M's have the most players with 100+ steals in their careers, but because the C's have a lot of guys with 500+ SBs in their career compared to everyone else, they actually have the most total SBs among their players with 100+ steals, with a total of 20,446 to the M's 19,928. 

And as is usually the case with these types of breakouts, X does not mark the spot.

Finally, one really must love a list that has Walt Wilmot on it. Walt appears to have been overpaid by the Chicago White Stockings during a large portion of his career (did he have "daguerreotypes" of the execrable Cap Anson in compromising positions? Did the aging Anson have enough flexibility left to even get into a compromising position?) but he is the holder of three insanely obscure records. Walt is the only player to be hit by a batted ball twice in the same game; he's the only player to steal eight bases over two consecutive games (Rickey H. only managed seven in two games); and he was the first player ever to walk six times in a game (the only other guy to do it: Jimmie Foxx...who was, of course, a compromising position unto himself).

Of course, it's really a shame that he didn't do all these things in the same game, but there are limits to what even a guy named Walt Wilmot is capable doing. (Apparently.)

...and we might never get to those home runs, chillun!

Saturday, February 5, 2022


And here you probably thought that we were going to "go JoePo" and produce our own version of "tater alphabet soup," now, didn't you? We will do so....eventually.

Face it--we all need to get our minds off HRs. They have been toxic in nature for almost a quarter of a century now, thanks to the backlash against the McGwire-Sosa extravaganza of 1998-99. And yet they've become even more inescapable: talk about "American carnage."

As we quoted from Bill James' Twitter poll taken back in November 2020 (back when "fraud" was just a legal term and not the fever dream of fascist wannabes...), folks would rather see a triple in a ball game than a home run. (As a certain man possessed of surreal syntax once said: "You could look it up.") We need more than a few good men (and women, for that matter...) in this country; but we need even more triples.

So we're sticking with the three-bagger (which is not the new size of peanuts that might not be available at ballparks until the lockout turns into Rob Manfred's one-way ticket back to law practice). Whether hit by an eighteen year old Phil Cavarretta, or a forty-two year old Honus Wagner, the triple is the most exciting event involving a batted ball that can occur on a baseball diamond. 

And so we're going to shift the focus from "alpha soup" to the tossed salad of age. Who hit the most triples at age 18? Well, we just told you. Age 42? Ditto. But there are twenty-three ages of man (or, rather, ballplayer) left to anatomize...and so we will. Here. Right now:

As you can see, the age leader in triples undergoes a rise and fall that follows a most systematic pattern analogous to the theories of "peak age performance" for batters: the age-year in which the most triples were hit is 28 (tied in with the major league record of 36 triples in a season, as achieved back in 1912 (one hundred ten years ago...) by Owen "Chief" Wilson.

The rise and fall of the triples leader by age would have a shape roughly reminiscent of a bell curve--though its manifestation as the primary nineteenth-century instrument of power would produce a kind of sawtooth effect in the mid-to-late 30s.

We've shown the leader and those hitters who were next in line for each age-year in question. By combining the leader with "those next in line," we can then see who appears on the triples-by-age leader list the most often. And we don't think you'll be surprised to discover that all-time triples leader Sam Crawford appears on the list in either capacity seven times--which is not too far off from the total number of times that hitters from post-expansion times show up collectively (there are eleven such instances; only one of which--age-32 Lance Johnson in 1996--was actually the leader).

Of the 28 age-leaders (the number is higher than the actual 25-year age range due to a couple of ties, one of which is a three-way tie...), eleven are from the nineteenth century, and another eleven are from the Deadball era. There are two instances where the leader repeats as leader in the next age-year: Sam Thompson (the power-hitting triples masher) in 1894/1895 at ages 34-35; and Honus Wagner, in 1915/1916 at ages 41-42. Wagner and Jake Daubert have probably the most impressive feats amongst triples hitters, with their totals of 17 and 22 triples respectively, both past the age of 35. 

The takeaway: we really, really need another guy like Sam Crawford again. And we need some ballparks to be realigned in order for someone to have a chance to be Sam Crawford. 

And we need it sooner than later, because it is later than you think...

Friday, February 4, 2022


We enter the "lost zone" of hitting when we turn our attention to the triple, increasingly orphaned as baseball continues to devolve into a variant of Home Run Derby.

(The old--and we do mean old--TV series that faced off a series of early 60s sluggers, such as the somewhat unlikely duel here between the immortal Willie Mays and the journeyman Jim Lemon, has turned out to be all-too-prescient in showing us the way to the last five years, the Age of Launched Juice--or is that Juiced Launch? It likely matters not...)

Of course, there was a time in baseball when triples were the most significant measure of power for a hitter. That period, which began at the dawn of the game and managed to continue for a few precious years after the advent of Babe Ruth, has produced a subset of Hall of Fame players who continue to move farther away from the average with every game played. (Even as the opposite, of course, is happening with the home run.)

But enough acidulous past-as-prologue, already. You're here to see another spiffy chart, and who can blame you? So sans ado (adieu?), here are triples as rendered via (avec?) "alphabet soup"...

Just as there used to be only one hitter with 700+ HRs, there still is only one man (Sam Crawford) with 300+ triples. And it is likely to stay that way until (or unless) Hell freezes over. 

As is now the custom for our displays, we show you the names of players who are not in the Hall of Fame in red ink. Which leads to the question--who is the hitter with the most triples who is not enshrined in Cooperstown?

The answer: Ed Konetchy, with 182 triples and in need of a ticket to enter through the front door at the Hall. Hot on his heels is Harry Stovey, with 176, and with a list of statistical accomplishments beyond his robust triples totals strongly suggesting that he deserves enshrinement. Then there's Tommy Leach (172), a third baseman-outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates during their early powerhouse days in the 1900-12 time frame, who batted at or near the top of the lineup and was a notch or two above journeyman.

And then there's Joe Jackson (169)--who would doubtless have gone over the 200 mark save for a certain obscure incident.

He's followed by Sherry Magee (166), with a Hall of Fame case about as strong as Stovey; Jake Daubert (165), who hit 22 triples at the age of 38, the most ever at that age (beating out Honus Wagner); Bill Dahlen (163), maybe the most deserving 19th-century player not yet in the Hall; Mike Tiernan (162), whose career petered out dramatically after reaching the age of 30; and George Van Haltren (161), one of the late nineteenth century's best leadoff men. Finally, there's Jimmy Ryan (158), another fine outfielder in the 1880s-90s who might deserve a plaque in Cooperstown for feuding with the execrable Cap Anson.

And in case you were wondering, we left the Babe off the list, in hopes that some of you would wonder where he was...since he hit 136 triples in his career (a total that certainly could provoke disbelief).

We will let you discover the players closer to own time who are on this list...

Thursday, February 3, 2022


We continue "up the food chain" with our alphabetical leaderboard displays. This one gives you a singular view of the two base hit:

As before, the names in red ink represent the players who are not in Hall of Fame.

Some "combinatoric" stats: 

1) There are no players with 700+ doubles and 500+ HRs.  

2) There are only four players with 600+ doubles and 500+ HRs: Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, David Ortiz and Albert Pujols

3) Two of those players--Aaron and Bonds--have 500-599 doubles and 700+ HRs; they are joined on this list by Babe Ruth

4) Players with 500-599 doubles and 600-700 HRs: Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays, and Ken Griffey Jr.

5) Players with 500-599 doubles and 500-599 HRs: Ted Williams, Manny Ramirez, Frank Robinson, Miguel Cabrera, Rafael Palmeiro, and Eddie Murray. (Cabrera is just 3 doubles away from joining the 600/500 group.)

Looking at the leaders, the names that stick out the most in terms of doubles are: Adrian Beltre (632), Todd Helton (592), Bobby Abreu (574), and Jeff Kent (560). Helton was helped by his career-long tenure at Coors Field; Beltre, Abreu and Kent moved around, and had a good bit less help from their home parks. Beltre is an odds-on choice for induction on the first ballot. 

Long-time readers know that we remain high on Kent as a Hall of Fame candidate, and his achievement in doubles is just one more reason why he belongs in Cooperstown. 

But it looks like we'll need another of those damned "committees" to pull that off. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022


As promised (threatened?), more charts with various stats broken out by the first letter of a player's surname. We stick with our "retro" stance for a bit longer and focus on singles--a stat that rarely gets broken out by itself.

If you are cross-walking between posts, you'll note that the number of players with 1000+ singles in their career is a bit more than half of the number who have 1000+ hits. And if you aren't cross-eyed or color blind, you'll note that we inadvertently shifted the shade of red in the middle of the table where we were designating the players on the singles leader boards who are not in the Hall of Fame.

It would seem that getting two thousand singles is a good bet for making it into the Hall, however; only two players with such a quantity of one base hits (Doc Cramer and George Van Haltren) are on the outside looking in at Cooperstown. (There's also Ichiro Suzuki, but we're figuring that he'll make into the Hall at some point in the next decade.)

Of course, the man with the most singles--Pete Rose--is also MIA for the HOF. 

As is usual, the B's, C's, M's and S's are the most populous letters.

Doubles coming next...stay tuned.