Runs and Bases: the 2010's

Discussion in 'Other Sports' started by SWC75, Dec 26, 2016.

  1. SWC75

    SWC75 Bored Historian

    Aug 26, 2011
    Likes Received:
    (This is my last post in this series on the history of Major League Baseball, as seen by base and run production. In a while I'll start a similar series using "net points" on the history of professional basketball. )


    I’ve said that a hidden reason for the offensive explosion of the 1990’s and 2000’s was that players started being more patient at the plate, drawing more walks and hitting for higher averages. Hitting the ball more consistently allowed their natural power to produce more home runs. It wasn’t the only reason for the big numbers but guys like Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Chipper Jones, Gary Sheffield, Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Mike Piazza and Miquel Cabrera hit for higher averages than the Reggie Jacksons and Mike Schmidts of the previous generation. Even guys like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who were not .300 hitters and struck out a lot, walked more than they had previously. They were being more patient and looking for better balls to hit and so they got more productive. “Triple Crown numbers” were not uncommon, although the number of players who had them made Triple Crowns hard to win, (Cabrera eventually got one). For a generation before that, nobody won Triple Crowns because nobody had Triple Crown numbers. But now baseball had gotten smart again.

    Then, about 2010, I read an article in Sport Illustrated, (which I cannot now find), by a young writer who lauded a slugger with a low batting average and a lousy walk to strike-out ratio for being an “old fashioned slugger” who didn’t care about batting averages or how many times he stuck out, as long as he was hitting home runs. I called the writer ‘young’ because he yearned for the 70’s and 80’s when the top sluggers hit .250 with 150 strike- outs and 30-40 homers because they knew that homers were what mattered. He seemed to be ignoring the previous two decades when hitters who seemed to have read Ted Williams’ books re-wrote the record book. I actually got angry enough to fire off a letter to SI about the article that, as I recall, wound up in the circular file.

    After that, everybody in baseball seemed to read the article as strike-outs soared, batting averages declined, (which, naturally, was attributed to the “post steroid era”). Suddenly pitchers started to be the dominant players in the game, producing not only great ERAs and winning percentages but also strikeout totals we hadn’t seen since the 1960’s, when Ford Frick raised the mound and increased the strike zone in the wake of Roger Maris breaking his old pal Babe Ruth’s home record.

    This past season I was bemoaning the Met’s limpid offense, which was based entirely on hitting home runs, (until they regained the services of Jose Reyes). They set a team record for hitting homers but at one point, they’d scored the fewest runs of any Met team in 28 years. We were getting 1-2 home runs a game and scoring 2-3 runs per game. I decided to compare the 2016 Mets:
    2016 New York Mets Batting, Pitching, & Fielding Statistics |

    to my beloved 1986 Mets:
    1986 New York Mets Batting, Pitching, & Fielding Statistics |

    The 2016 Mets hit .246 as a team. (The all-time composite major league batting average is .262 / in 1968 the National league batted .243, the nadir of the Frick Era). They had an on-base percentage of .316 and a slugging percentage of .417, despite hitting 218 home runs. To use my favorite stat, they produced 2,833 bases, (total bases plus walks and steals) and scored 671 runs in 162 games. For every 700 plate appearances, they had 154 hits that produced 260 total batting bases, walked 59 times and struck out 149 times. They produced 328 bases overall per 700PA.

    The 1986 Mets hit .263 as a team. They had an on-base percentage of .339 and a slugging percentage of .401, having hit only 148 home runs. To use my favorite stats, they produced 2,978 bases and scored 783 runs in 162 games. For every 700 plate appearances, they had 161 hits that produced 246 total batting bases, walked 70 times and struck out 107 times. They produced 341 bases overall per 700PA. They hit 70 fewer home runs but scored 112 more runs because they played the whole game. They got more hits, ran the bases more aggressively, (stealing 118 bases to 42), got more doubles and triples, (261/31 vs 240/19), walked more, (631 to 517) and had fewer unproductive outs, (968 strikeouts to 1,302).

    The 2016 Mets numbers are not unusual. The National League hit .254. Per 700 plate appearances, National League hitters had 159 hits which produced 258 total bases, 58 walks and 150 strikeouts. They produced 327 bases. The teams scored an average of 718 runs. The 1986 Mets had a great season but they were no an historical great offensive team. They were just a good deal better than what we are seeing today.

    Ted Williams still speaks to us today:


    Baseball and sports in general are about eternal hope. Most of us live lives centered around assembly lines, fast food kitchens or in and out baskets. You just try to keep up with the pace of things and find pleasure in other aspects of life. In sports we have goals and dreams that might actually be achieved someday. Is this the year we might finally win it all? At least we can hope that this year will be better than last year and next year will be better than this year.

    In recent years in baseball, a number of ships have come in that finally rewarded the fans of certain teams for their eternal hope and loyalty. It started with the 2004 Red Sox who ended 86 years of futility following the selling of Babe Ruth’s contract to the Yankees, during which they’d made the World Series four times and lost classic series each time, became the first team in baseball history to overcome an 0-3 deficit against the hated Yankees. They then swept the Cardinals who had won 105 games and also had twice beaten the Sox in those World Series for the title. They’d not only ended an 86 year drought, called “The Curse of the Bambino” but made history with that comeback and then beaten exactly the teams they would have wanted to beat in the process. Having broken the lock, they went on to win two more World Series in 2007 and 2013.

    The next year the Chicago White Sox, (with less fanfare), broke an even longer drought, 88 years, in winning their first championship since 1917. I suppose this would be “The Curse of the Black Sox”. In 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies won their second ever World Series and their first in 28 years. Then, the San Francisco Giants won the 2010 World Series, their first since Willie Mays made that great catch in New York, 56 years before. Like the Red Sox, once they’d broken through, the got the hang of winning and won two more in 2012 and 2014. And they gave the Cubs plenty of trouble in 2016 but their “even number” magic ran out. The Kansas City Royals won their first title in 30 years when they subdued my Mets in 1985.

    Then there were the Cubs. For decades they were one of the most successful franchises in the game. They were a member of the original National Association. They won the first National league Pennant in 1876 and won three in a row from 1880-82 and two more in 1885 and 1886, when the participated in the original “World Series” against the American Association champions, the St. Louis Browns, who later joined the National League and changed their color to Cardinal, inaugurating the Cubs’ greatest rivalry. The two teams tied the first year as one game of seven was allowed to end in a tie due to darkness. Another was forfeited to the Cubs after the Browns manager pulled his team off the field in an argument. The Browns won the Series 4 games to 2 the next year.

    The team was called the White Stockings until 1890, when they became the Colts. In 1898 they became the “Orphans” and finally, in 1903 the Cubs, just in time to enjoy the franchise’s greatest period.

    Bill James:
    “The Chicago Cubs in 1906 won 116 games. This remains the record for the most wins in one season. The Cubs also won 223 games in two years, (1906-07), which is the record for wins in a two season span, and 322 games over three years (1906-08), which is the record for wins over a three season span,. They won 426 games over a four season span (1906-09), which is the record for the most wins over a four year span, and they won 530 games over a five season span (1906-10), which si the record for wins over a period of five years. The Cubs won 622 games over a six year period (1905-1930), which si a record, by far….The Cubs won 715 games in seven years (1904-1910); this is also a record. They won 807 games in an eight year period (1904-1911) which, again is a record…. They won 898 games from 1904-1912, which is a record for wins over a nine year period, and they won 986 games between 1904 and 1913, which is a record for wins over a ten year period. “

    He stops there, but you get the idea. Those Cubs that went 116-36 in 1906, (the highest winning percentage ever at .763) were upset by the “hitless wonder” White Sox in 6 games in the third ever modern World Series. But they came back to win the next two series and it looked as if they would win many more. But the Pirates won 110 games to beat them out in 1909, (the Cubs were 104-50, the bets record ever for a second place team), and the Athletics beat them in five games in 1910. That ended their peak years. But they were back in the series in 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945 – and lost every time. They and the Brooklyn Dodgers, (1916-52) are the only two franchises to lose seven straight World Series.

    But they were still a respected power in the game. Then came what Mike Royko and a saloon-owning friend, William Sianis later retroactively dubbed the “curse of the goat”. Sianis allegedly had been denied entrance to the 1945 series because he brought his pet goat with him and declared “"Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more", which was supposed to mean either that they wouldn’t win another pennant or another World Series. Multiple generations of Cubs fans dealt with 20 years of bad teams after the war, star-laden contenders in the late 60’s and early 70’s that could never break through and playoff teams in 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007-08 and 2015 without breaking through to even get to the World Series. They endured black cats, balls going through fielder’s legs and even fans interfering with balls that could have been caught as well as a stream of jokes about their futility.

    Finally, in 2016 they overcame everything: beating the Giants with their even year mojo, coming back from a 1-2 deficit against the Dodgers and then a 1-3 deficit against the Indians to end their 108 year drought. Presently the Indians, who haven’t won since 1948 head the list of teams who have been waiting the longest for their ship to come in, along with the Rangers, (since 1961), the Astros (since 1962), the Padres, Brewers and Nationals, (all since 1969), the Seahawks (since 1976) and Pirates (since 1979). And thanks to the Red Sox, the White Sox, the Phillies, the Giants, the Royals and the Cubs, they all have hope. And hope is what sports are all about.
    cuseattle and AccuRater like this.
  2. SWC75

    SWC75 Bored Historian

    Aug 26, 2011
    Likes Received:

    2010 National League

    Runs Produced
    Carlos Gonzalez COL 194
    Albert Pujols STL 191
    Joey Votto CIN 182
    Ryan Braun MIL 179
    Dan Uggla FLA 172
    Matt Holliday STL 170
    Rickie Weeks MIL 166
    Ryan Howard PHI 164
    Jayson Werth PHI 164
    Corey Hart MIL 162

    Bases Produced
    Albert Pujols STL 467
    Joey Votto CIN 435
    Carlos Gonzalez COL 417
    Adrian Gonzalez SD 395
    Matt Holiday STL 395
    Jayson Werth PHI 390
    Rickie Weeks Mil 389
    David Wright NY 383
    Kelly Johnson AZ 382
    Chris Young AZ 366

    2010 American League

    Runs Produced
    Miguel Cabrera DET 199
    Mark Teixeira NYY 188
    Robinson Cano NY 183
    Carl Crawford TB 181
    Jose Bautista TOR 179
    Evan Longoria TB 178
    Alex Rodriguez NY 169
    Vladimir Guerrero TEX 169
    Michael Young TEX 169

    Bases Produced
    Jose Bautista TOR 460
    Miguel Cabrera DET 433
    Robinson Cano NY 394
    Paul Konerko CHI 392
    Carl Crawford TB 390
    Mark Teixiera NY 382
    Josh Hamilton TEX 379
    Evan Longoria TB 378
    Shin-Soo Choo CLE 371

    2011 National League

    Runs Produced
    Matt Kemp LA 202
    Ryan Braun MIL 187
    Prince Fielder MIL 177
    Joey Votto CIN 175
    Albert Pujols STL 167
    Ryan Howard PHI 164
    Justin Upton AZ 162
    Hunter Pence HOU 159
    Carlos Gonzalez COL 158
    Brandon Phillips CIN 158

    Bases Produced
    Matt Kemp LA 467
    Joey Votto CIN 436
    Prince Fielder Mil 430
    Ryan Braun MIL 427
    Justin Upton AZ 393
    Albert Pujols STL 383
    Andrew McCutcheon PIT 373
    Hunter Pence HOU 368
    Michael Bourn HOU 367
    Lance Berkman STL 361

    2011 American League

    Runs Produced
    Curtis Granderson NY 214
    Adrian Gonzalez BOS 198
    Robinson Cano NY 194
    Jacoby Ellsbury BOS 192
    Miguel Cabrera DET 186
    Michael Young TEX 183
    Paul Konerko CHI 174
    Dustin Pedroia BOS 172
    Miguel Cabrera DET 171
    Ben Zobrist TB 170

    Bases Produced
    Jacoby Ellsbury BOS 455
    Jose Bautista TOR 453
    Miguel Cabrera DET 445
    Curtis Granderson NY 432
    Adrian Gonzalez BOS 420
    Ian Kinsler TEX 415
    Dustin Pedroia BOS 413
    Alex Gordon KC 391
    Robinson Cano NY 378
    Ben Zobrist TB 372

    2012 National League

    Runs Produced
    Ryan Braun MIL 179
    Chase Headley SD 179
    Andrew McCutcheon PIT 172
    Aramis Ramirez MIL 170
    Matt Holliday STL 170
    Hunter Pence PHI 167
    Ryan Zimmerman WAS 163
    David Wright NY 163
    Freddie Freeman, ATL 162
    Buster Posey SF 157

    Bases Produced
    Ryan Braun MIL 449
    Andrew McCutcheon PIT 418
    Chase Headley SD 404
    Aaron Hill AZ 384
    David Wright NY 382
    Jose Reyes MIA 381
    Matt Holliday STL 377
    Buster Posey SF 361
    Aramis Ramirez MIL 361
    Jason Heyward ATL 360

    2012 American League

    Runs Produced
    Miguel Cabrera DET 204
    Josh Hamilton TEX 188
    Mike Trout LA 182
    Robinson Cano NY 166
    Curtis Granderson NY 165
    Edwin Encarnacion TOR 161
    Adrian Beltre TEX 161
    Prince Fielder DET 161
    Josh Willingham MIN 160
    Albert Pujols LA 160

    Bases Produced
    Miguel Cabrera DET 447
    Mike Trout LA 431
    Robinson Cano NY 409
    Edwin Encarnacion TOR 399
    Prince Fielder DET 393
    Josh Hamiilton TEX 391
    Curtis Granderson NY 378
    Adrian Beltre TEX 377
    Adam Jones BAL 377
    Ben Zobrist TB 375

    2013 National League

    Runs Produced
    Matt Carpenter STL 193
    Paul Goldschmidt ARZ 192
    Matt Holliday STL 175
    Freddie Freeman ATL 175
    Jay Bruce CIN 168
    Brandon Phillips CIN 165
    Andrew McCutcheon PIT 160
    Daniel Murphy NY 157
    Alan Craig STLs 155
    Joey Votto CIN 150

    Bases Produced
    Paul Goldschnmidt ARZ 446
    Joey Votto, CIN 426
    Andrew McCutcheon, PIT 401
    Shin-Soo Choo, CIN 395
    Hunter Pence SF 378
    Matt Carpenter STL 376
    Jay Bruce CIN 369
    Carlos Gomez MIL 348
    Freddie Freeman ATL 343
    Justin Upton ATL 342

    2013 American League

    Runs Produced
    Miguel Cabrera DET 196
    Chris Davis BAL 188
    Mike Trout CAL 179
    Adam Jones BAL 175
    Dustin Pedroia BOS 166
    Prince Fielder DET 163
    Robinson Cano NY 161
    Edwin Encarnacion TOR 158
    Josh Donaldson OAK 158
    David Ortiz BOS 157

    Bases Produced
    Mike Trout CAL 471
    Miguel Cabrera DET 446
    Chris Davis BAL 446
    Robinson Cano NY 384
    Edwin Encarnacion TB 372
    Adrian Beltre TEX 370
    John Donaldson OAK 370
    Evan Longoria RAYS 369
    Jason Kipnis CLE 361
    Adam Jones BAL 361

    2014 National League

    Runs Produced
    Anthony Rendon WAS 172
    Adrian Gonzalez LA 172
    Hunter Pence SF 160
    Giancarlo Stanton FLA 157
    Matt Holiday STL 153
    Freddie Freeman ATL 153
    Jayson Werth WAS 151
    Matt Carpenter STL 150
    Andrew McCutcheon PIT 147
    Yasiel Puig LA 145

    Bases Produced
    Giancarlo Stanton FLA 406
    Andrew McCutcheon PIT 399
    Freddie Freeman ATL 373
    Anthony Rendon WAS 365
    Carlos Gomez MIL 355
    Anthony Rizzo CHI 354
    Hunter Pence SF 354
    Jayson Werth WAS 346
    Yasiel Puig LA 346
    Justin Upton ATL 346

    2014 American League

    Runs Produced
    Mike Trout LA 190
    Miguel Cabrera DET 185
    Ian Kinsler DET 175
    Michael Brantley CLE 171
    Jose Bautista TOR 169
    Yoenis Cespedes OAK/BOS 167
    Albert Pujols LA 166
    Josh Donaldson OAK 162
    Brian Dozier MIN 160
    Victor Martinez DET 158

    Bases Produced
    Mike Trout LA 437
    Jose Bautista TOR 400
    Jose Altuve HOU 391
    Victor Martinez DET 390
    Michael Brantley CLE 384
    Nelson Cruz BAL 381
    Miguel Cabrera DET 381
    Jose Abreu CHI 377
    Josh Donaldson OAK 361
    Brian Dozier MIN 359

    2015 National League

    Runs Produced
    Nolan Arendo COL 185
    Paul Goldschmidt ARI 180
    Bryce Harper WAS 175
    A J Pollack ARI 167
    Andrew McCutcheon PIT 164
    Anthony Rizzo CHI 164
    Kris Bryant CHI 160
    Matt Kemp LA 157
    Matt Carpenter SLC 157
    Buster Posey SF 150

    Bases Produced
    Bryce Harper WAS 468
    Paul Goldschmidt ARI 462
    Joey Votto CIN 449
    A J Pollock ARI 395
    Anthony Rizzo CHI 395
    Nolan Arenado COL 390
    Andrew McCutcheon PIT 385
    Matt Carpenter SLC 375
    Curtis Granderson NY 367
    Todd Frazier CIN 365

    2015 American League

    Runs Produced
    Josh Donaldson TOR 204
    Jose Bautista TOR 182
    Eric Hosmer KC 173
    Chris Davis BAL 170
    Edwin Encarnacion TOR 166
    Kendrys Morales KC 165
    Jose Abreu CHI 159
    Xander Bogaerts BOS 158
    Lorenzo Cain KC 157
    J. D. Martinez DET 157

    Bases Produced
    Mike Trout LA 442
    Josh Donaldson TOR 431
    Jose Bautista TOR 409
    Chris Davis BAL 408
    Manny Machado BAL 408
    Nelson Cruz SEA 396
    J. D. Martinez DET 375
    Edwin Encarnacion TOR 374
    David Ortiz BOS 369
    Jose Altuve HOU 364

    2016 National League
    Runs Produced
    Nolan Arenado COL 208
    Kris Bryant CHI 184
    Paul Goldschmidt ARI 177
    Anthony Rizzo CHI 171
    Joey Votto CIN 169
    Daniel Murphy, WAS 167
    Wil Myers SD 165
    Charlie Blackmon COL 164
    Carlos Gonzalez COL 162
    Matt Kemp, SD/ATL 162

    Bases Produced
    Freddie Freeman ATL 430
    Paul Goldschmidt ARI 425
    Joey Votto CIN 422
    Nolan Arenado COL 422
    Kris Bryant CHI 417
    Jonathan Villar MIL 410
    Anthony Rizzo CHI 394
    Jean Segura ARZ 390
    Brandon Belt SF 379
    Corey Seager LA 378

    2016 American League

    Runs Produced
    Mookie Betts BOS 204
    Mike Trout LAA 194
    Josh Donaldson TOR 184
    Edwin Encarnacion TOR 184
    Xander Bogaerts BOS 183
    Jose Altuve HOU 180
    Ian Kinsler DET 172
    Ian Desmond TEX 171
    Robinson Cano SEA 171
    George Springer HOU 169

    Bases Produced
    Mike Trout LAA 448
    Mookie Betts BOS 434
    Josh Donaldson TOR 433
    Jose Altuve HOU 430
    David Ortiz BOS 415
    Brian Dozier MIN 415
    Miguel Cabrera DET 410
    Edwin Encarnacion TOR 407
    Robinson Cano SEA 396
    Carlos Santana CLE 394

    Cumulative Historical Run Production Top 25
    (10 points for finishing 1st, 9 for 2nd etc.)

    Honus Wagner (1897-1917) 137
    Ty Cobb (1905-28) 126
    Cap Anson (1871-97) 119
    Stan Musial (1941-63) 119
    Lou Gehrig (1923-39) 111

    Babe Ruth (1914-35) 109
    Hank Aaron (1954-76) 105
    Willie Mays (1951-73) 100
    Sam Crawford (1899-1917) 96
    Rogers Hornsby (1915-37) 89

    Ted Williams (1939-60) 89
    Mel Ott (1926-47) 85
    Albert Pujols (2001-16+) 84
    Alex Rodriguez (1994-2016) 83
    Mickey Mantle (1951-68) 82

    Tris Speaker (1907-28) 81
    Barry Bonds (1986-2007) 80
    Joe Medwick (1932-48) 79
    Mike Schmidt (1972-89) 79
    Frank Robinson (1956-76) 78

    Joe DiMaggio (1936-51) 77
    Nap Lajoie (1896-1916) 77
    King Kelly (1878-93) 76
    Hugh Duffy (1888-1906) 75
    Eddie Collins (1906-30) 74

    Comments: Albert Pujols has made it to 13th on the list with Alex Rodriguez right behind him. Alex is done but Albert is not and he’s only five points short of Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby. He’s already passed Barry Bonds and Mickey Mantle. Pretty good company.

    Cumulative Historical Base Production

    Barry Bonds (1986-2007) 135
    Ty Cobb (1905-28) 129
    Hank Aaron (1954-76) 127
    Babe Ruth(1914-35) 125
    Stan Musial (1941-63) 121

    Lou Gehrig (1923-39) 120
    Willie Mays(1951-73) 118
    Ted Williams(1939-60) 115
    Honus Wagner (1897-1917) 112
    Tris Speaker(1907-28) 110

    Mel Ott (1926-47) 107
    Rogers Hornsby (1915-37) 98
    Jimmie Foxx (1925-45) 96
    Mickey Mantle(1951-68) 96
    Ricky Henderson (1979-2003) 94

    Mike Schmidt(1972-89) 94
    Cap Anson (1871-97) 91
    Billy Hamilton (1888-1901) 89
    Eddie Collins (1906-30) 89
    Harry Stovey1880-93) 88

    Sam Crawford (1899-1917) 86
    Alex Rodriguez (1994-2016) 84
    Dan Brouthers (1879-1904) 83
    Ed Delahanty (1888-1903) 79
    Frank Robinson (1956-76) 79

    Comment: The top 25 didn’t budge. Albert Pujols got to 74 points and could still crack the top 25. Miguel Cabrera has 69 points and is three years younger so he may even have a better shot.
    cuseattle and AccuRater like this.
  3. SWC75

    SWC75 Bored Historian

    Aug 26, 2011
    Likes Received:

    MIGUEL CABRERA finally did something that Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, Juan Gonzalez, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols and all the top hitters of the previous 20 years had threatened to do and failed to do: win the Triple Crown. He did it in 2012 by hitting .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs. The truly impressive thing is that this was not an exceptional season for Cabrera: the next year he hit .348 with 44 homers and 137 RBIs but got beat out in the last two categories. The year before he was .344-30-105. He’s hit over .320 nine times, hit over 30 home runs ten times, driven in over 100 runs twelve times. A big key, besides his obvious talent, is the fact that he goes against the trend by having good judgement. He started out striking out a lot, as many as 148 times in 2004. But he cut it down to 89 by 2011 and increased his walks from 68 to 108.

    There is a debate as to who is the greatest player of this era, (the 2010’s) but not who is the greatest hitter. Cabrera is 33 now and showing some signs of age. His strike-outs are back up, (to 117 in 2016), and his walks down to 75. Still, after a slow start he rallied to hit .316 with 38 homers and 108 RBIs. I just feel a slump is due, such as what happened to Thomas and Pujols, (who also had been punching out the big numbers year after year), at a similar stage

    JOSE BAUTISTA was hardly recognized as a great hitter early in his career, and indeed, he really isn’t. He showed up in 2004 and set a record for appearing on five different major league rosters in one season. His total contribution to those five teams: a .205 batting average with 40 strike-outs and zero home runs in 96 plate appearances. In 2005, he was worse, hitting .143 with 1 homer in 31 appearances, although his strikeouts were down to 7. He finally made it as a regular in 2006, playing 117 games for the Pirates and hitting .235 with 16 homers. His production remained on that level for the rest of the decade.

    He was traded to the Blue Jays late in the 2008 season and nobody took much notice. Nor did they the next year when he hit .235 again, this time with 13 home runs. But when the decade turned, Bautista suddenly became a very different player. In 2010 he hit 54 home runs in 161 games after having hit 59 in 575 previous career games. He also had a career high batting average but it was only .260. He had 116 strike outs but was patient enough to draw 100 walks. He wasn’t “giving into the pitcher” with two strikes by worrying about plate coverage. He was looking to drive the ball to the last pitch of every at bat. But that helped him get those 54 home runs, driving in 124 of his teammates and score 108 times.

    He actually hit the .300 mark the next year at .302 but hasn’t come close since. He kept hammering those homers with 43 more and walked 132 times. Since then he’s continued going deep into counts, walking a lot and his strike outs aren’t so bad compared to some of his contemporaries. He hits 35-40 home runs when fully healthy and drives in runs. But his lifetime batting average is only .255. He’s a strong-armed outfielder and certainly a strong asset to the Blue Jays teams that have again become contenders in recent years. He’s also 35 years old and his success should decline as his bat slows down and he’s not able to make the adjustments that older hitters have to make.

    He’s been somewhat of a controversial figure. This is supposed to be the post-steroid age but that sudden emergence as a big-time power hitter at age 29 produces a lot of suspicion. Some people are troubled by his attitude. On umpires: "Sometimes I have trouble more than other players dealing with my production being affected by somebody else's mediocrity. It's just the way that I am as a person. It's a tougher pill to swallow for me sometimes." ( In 2015: “In the Division Series against the Texas Rangers, he hit a key three-run home run off Sam Dyson in the 7th inning of Game 3, majestically flipping his bat after smashing the ball to oblivion….Emotions were still running high between the Rangers and Blue Jays when they met a number of times early in the 2016 season, and in the last of those contests on May 15th, Jose was at the center of things. He was plunked by a Matt Bush pitch in the 8th inning, then slid hard into second baseman Rougned Odor, (who smelled red), in an attempt to break up a double play. He was called out, as was batter Justin Smoak, according to the Chase Utley rule, but his action triggered a large brawl, which saw Odor punch him in the jaw, and both players, teammate Donaldson and Rangers coach Steve Buechele all get ejected.” But he has his good side, too, “In 2011, he set up a program that assists athletes from the Dominican Republic to attend universities in the United States.” (Wikipedia)

    BRYCE HARPER is the guy is supposed to be the great player of his generation. People were comparing him to Mickey Mantle or even Roy Hobbs coming up, marveling at his power, this arm and his speed. And he was doing it so young. They called him “The Natural”. As a 17 year old he was the #1 pick in the 2010 draft. He showed promise but was not astounding in the low minors, hitting .297 with 17 homers and 26 steals in 199 games with two teams in 2011. He started 2012 in Syracuse, where we’d had 80 degree temperatures in March but it was 29 degrees with a cold north wind on opening day, (I was there and took refuge in the men’s room to get away from the cold wind). Bryce played as if he wanted to be anywhere but Syracuse and I don’t blame him. The Las Vegas native hit .243 with 1 home run in 23 games before being delighted to be called up to Washington.

    In Washington the now 19 year old Harper hit .270 with 22 homers and 18 steals. He scored 98 runs but hit walk to strikeout ratio, (let’s call it WSR), was poor 56 to 120 and he drove in only 59 runs. Still, I read an article comparing Harper’s rookie year favorably to that of other famous teenagers, including Met Ott and Mantle, when considering league norms.

    He didn’t seem to progress the next two years, hitting .274 and .273 with 33 homers and 90 RBIs- but over two years and 218 games. He did score 112 runs in those games but his WSR was still bad at 99-198. But he was only 21 years old, a time when many players are just beginning their career in the low minors. He finally broke through into superstardom in 2015, hitting .330 with 42 home runs, (only 6 steals- perhaps to avoid the injuries that had cost in in the two previous years), 99 RBIs and 118 runs scored, numbers very similar to Mantle’s best years. Harper was named National League MVP at age 22. It helped that he had become more patient, with a WSR of 124-131. Like Bautista he refused to ‘give in’ to pitchers but did it with more talent.

    Then came 2016. Harper played in just 6 fewer games and had a similar WSR, (108-117), but his batting average plunged to .243, a drop of 87 points. His other numbers were down as well: 24 homers 86 RBI and 84 runs. What happened? For one thing, he’s getting the “Barry Bonds treatment” of not being pitched to, (20 intentional walks), and doesn’t seem to respond to it as well as Bonds, (who famously choked up on his bad and refused to swing at anything not in his wheelhouse). But he was only 23 years old, an age when most major leaguers are not yet major leaguers. Harper himself is an admirer of Pete Rose and wants to emulate Pete’s hard-nosed play, which could make staying healthy an issue. He also seems to have a fiery temperament and was suspended briefly for brawl last year. If he can control himself, stay healthy and make successful adjustments to the strategies employed against him, he can still be the superstar baseball wants him to be.

    MIKE TROUT arrived at the same time, a year older but with much less ballyhoo and much more production. He had been picked 25th in the 2009 draft. He played for two Class A teams in 2010, hitting .341 with only 10 homers but 47 extra base hits and 56 steals, (and Mike’s a big guy at 6-2 235 vs. Harpers 6-3 215). He only drove in 58 runs in in 131 games but scored 106. He had a good WSR at 73-895. In AA he had similar numbers the next year he hit .326 with 42 EXB and 33 steals in 91 games. He was called up to the Angels but was less than angelic, hitting only .220 in 40 games. That sent him back to AAA, where he, like Harper spent a month and hit 1 home run. But he hit .403 instead of .243. He was called back to the Angels at age 20 and became an Immediate star , hitting .326 with 30 home runs and 49 steals, 83 RBIs and 129 runs scored. His WSR was bad at 67-139 but that didn’t last long. The next year it was 110-136 and he hit .323BA-27HR-33SB with 97 RBI and 109 runs. In 2014 he slumped to .287 and struck out an appalling 184 times. But he still had 36HR, 111 RBIs and 115 runs. He cut his strikeouts to 158 in 2015 and hit .299 with a career high 41 homers. Last year his strike-outs came down again to 137, his walks were at a career high 116, (which led the league), his homers were down to 29, (with 30 steals), but his batting average was .315. He drove in 100 and scored 123.

    Mike is now almost universally regarded as the best player in the game. He’s won two MVPs, (2014 and 2016) and the 2012 Rookie of the year award. Like Harper he’s at an age when most major league careers haven’t even begun yet, (24). He needs to cut down on those strike-outs but still has time to learn not to do the pitchers as many favors as he does. Let’s look at the career of Harper and Trout in terms of bases produced, (one for a single, two for a double, three for a triple, four for a home run, one for a walk and one for a steal), and runs produced, (RBI + runs scored – home runs so they don’t count twice):

    2012: Harper 328 bases and 134 runs in 139 games Trout 431 bases and 182 runs in 139 games
    2013: Harper 278 bases and 109 runs in 118 games Trout 471 bases and 179 runs in 157 games
    2014: Harper 189 bases and 60 runs in 100 games Trout 437 bases and 190 runs in 157 games
    2015: Harper 468 bases and 175 runs in 153 games Trout 442 bases and 153 runs in 159 games
    2016: Harper 352 bases and 146 runs in 147 games Trout 448 bases and 194 runs in 159 games
    Total: Harper 1,615 bases and 624 runs in 657 games Trout 2,229 bases and 898 runs in 771 games.

    Harper has produced 2.46 bases and 0.95 runs per game. Trout has produced 2.89 bases and 1.16 runs per game. He’s stayed healthier and made better use of his talent. Harper has been a superstar for one year, Trout in every year.

    JOSH DONALDSON and PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT are, in a sense, contemporaries of Harper and Trout and in a sense they aren’t. Donaldson came up with the A’s in 2010 but played only 14 games then spent 2011 in the minors and started 2012 there as well. He played the last 75 games of that season with the big club but left a minimal impression, hitting .241 with 9 home runs. He turned 27 shortly after that season ended, an age Trout will reach in 2018 and Harper in 2019. Goldschmidt turned 25 in 2012, his first full season with the Diamondbacks, (he’d played 48 games the year before. Paul hit a solid .286 with 20 home runs that year. But the noise was all about Trout and Harper.

    In 2013 Goldschmidt broke out with .302-36-125, 15 steals and 103 runs scored. He also walked 99 times, although like everyone these days, he struck out too much with 145. Donaldson didn’t do as well but made his presence felt with .301-24-93, 89 runs, 76 walks but only 5 steals, (speed is not his primary skill). The next year Goldschmidt was injured and played only 109 games, (just over 2/3 of a season), but hit .300-19-69 with 64 walks and 75 runs. Donaldson hit only .255 but blasted 29 homers, drove in 98 and scored 93. In 2015 and 2016 both were healthy. Goldschmidt hit .321-33-110 with 21 steals and 118 walks. He scored 103 runs in 2015 and, after a slow start in 2016, recovered to .297-24-95 with 32 steals 100 walks and scored 106 runs. Donaldson, by now playing for Toronto, won the AL MVP by hitting .297 with 41 homers, 123 RBI and 122 runs scored. He still had only 73 walks and 133 strike-outs but improved on those figures the next year with 109 walks and 119 strikeouts. He hit .284-37-99 and scored another 122 runs.

    I saw these two guys appearing at or near the top of the bases and runs produced standings but, until 2015, I didn’t hear much about them. That year, sports illustrated did articles on each and Goldschmidt’s didn’t have a picture that showed his face. A reader wrote in about it asking them to show his face and they printed a small picture of Goldschmidt in response.

    Let’s take a look at Donaldson’s and Goldschmidt’s bases and runs production for the same years Trout and Harper have been in the league:

    2012: Donaldson: 127 bases and 58 runs in 75 games Goldschmidt: 330 bases and 144 runs in 145 games
    2013: Donaldson: 370 bases and 158 runs in 158 games Goldschmidt: 446 bases and 192 runs in 160 games
    2014: Donaldson: 361 bases and 162 runs in 158 games Goldschmidt: 293 bases and 125 runs in 109 games
    2015: Donaldson: 431 bases and 204 runs in 158 games Goldschmidt: 462 bases and 180 runs in 159 games
    2016: Donaldson: 433 bases and 184 runs in 155 games Goldschmidt: 425 bases and 197 runs in 158 games
    TOTALS: Donaldson: 1,722 bases and 766 runs in 704 games Goldschmidt: 1,956 bases and 725 runs in 731 games

    Donaldson averaged 2.45 bases and 1.09 runs per game while Goldschmidt averaged 2.68 bases 0.99 runs per game. Both have produced more bases and runs than Harper but are behind Trout. Their averages are comparable to Harper but again behind Trout, but not by a huge amount.

    The question is: why have heard so much about Harper and Trout and relatively little about Donaldson and Goldschmidt? For one thing, they were less heralded. Donaldson was the 48th pick in the 2007 draft and Goldschmidt wasn’t picked until the 8th round in 2009. Both went to college: Donaldson to Auburn and Goldschmidt to Texas State. Players drafted out of high school like Trout and Harper tend to get more advance publicity because they are regarded as greater talents and thus hotter prospects. They played for western teams, Oakland and Arizona, neither of whom won championships. Goldschmidt’s numbers may be influenced by playing in Arizona, like Colorado, a place above sea level where the air is thinner, although the difference is not as great. Neither makes a lot of noise in the press. Since they were not the prodigies Trout and Harper have been, their productive careers won’t be as long and their career numbers probably won’t measure up. But for now and the next few years, they seem capable of putting up comparable numbers.

    KRIS BRYANT and ANTHONY RIZZO are two young stars who helped achieve the impossible- making the Cubs World Series champions. They should be the cornerstones for contenders for that franchise for years to come. Bryant was the second pick of the 2013 draft and labeled as a coming star from day one. He played for three lower minor teams in 2013 and hit .336 with 9 home runs in only 36 games. He spent 2014 in double A and Triple A and hit a monster .325-43-110 with 15 steals, 86 walks and 116 runs scored. He struck out 162 times but who’s counting? He was still in triple A to start the 2015 season- for a week. He hit .321 with 3 homers in 7 games. He then joined the Cubs and was rookie of the year, hitting .275-26-99 with 13 steals, 77 walks and 87 runs scored. How such a talented player could strike out 199 times I don’t know. Imagine what he could accomplish if he cut that, say in half? This past season he cut it a little- to 154, and hit .292-39-102 with 75 walks and 121 runs scored while winning MVP and leading the Cubs to the title. The future isn’t just bright for Bryant- its white hot, especially if he becomes more patient and discerning at the plate. Like Bryce Harper, (who he is actually older than), he grew up in Las Vegas and they are close friends and friendly rivals.

    But when my Mets face the Cubs, the guy I’m most afraid of is Rizzo. He seems to be the leader of the team on the field and in the clubhouse and he gets big hits. He was only a 6th round pick in the 2007 draft. He started out in the Red Sox organization and was traded to the Padres, then to the Cubs in 2012 after hitting only .141 for San Diego in his 49 game debut there in 2011. He slowly built up his numbers from year to year in Chicago: .285 with 15 home runs in 87 games in 2012; a slump to.233 in 2013 but with 23 homers in 160 games ; .286 with 32 homers and 78 RBI in 140 games in 2014; .278-31-101 in 2015 and .292-32-104 and 43 doubles in the championship year. He also broke out of a slump and hit the big home run that turned around the Dodgers series. He hit .320 in that series and .360 in the World Series.

    Rizzo has reduced his strike-outs from 127 to 108, (remember when that was a lot?). He clearly doesn’t have Bryant’s great natural talent but has worked hard to maximize his skills. After hitting 12 home runs in 119 games in his first minor league season, he upped that to 25 homers in 136 games the next years. Wikipedia: “He credited the easing of his swing and making better use of his legs for his power surge.” He’s learned to let the bat do the work and that it’s his job to put the bat in positon to do so.

    Rizzo is a cancer survivor. Wikipedia: “Rizzo was diagnosed with limited state classical Hodgkin's lymphoma in April 2008.[48] Rizzo went through chemotherapy for six months. His grandmother was battling breast cancer at the same time. On September 2, 2008, Rizzo's doctor told him he was in remission. He still had six weeks left of treatment and had some follow-up testing. On November 18, Rizzo's doctor told him he "could live a normal life." In 2012, The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation began. It is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, benefiting cancer research and the families fighting the disease. The foundation is run entirely by Rizzo's family, his close friends and his management team. Rizzo provides oversight and leadership.” He does the same thing for the Cubs.

    ADRIAN GONZALEZ was the subject of the article referenced above where the SI writer was praising hitters who are unwilling to “give in” to pitchers and swing aggressively at anything that they think they might be able to hit, sacrificing batting average for power and accumulating all those irrelevant strike-outs. The irony is that Gonzalez, by modern standards, is an intelligent hitter. He’s hit .290 for his career with a high of .338 in 2011. He led the National league with 119 walks that year, although both statistics are well above his career norm: per 162 he’s averaged 67 walks. He’s consistently had 100 strike-outs, which sued to be bad but is now average. He hasn’t had more than 119 since 2008. He’s had four 30 home run years, including one when he hit 40. He’s had seven 100 RBI seasons, (and another of 99). He’s scored 100 runs three times. He also has good extra base power: he’s hit 30+ doubles 11 times, four of them over 40.

    The Red Sox acquired him and Carl Crawford in 2011. Terry Francona has an interesting theory as to why: “In his autobiography published in 2013, Adrian's former manager with the Red Sox, Terry Francona, explained the thinking behind the acquisition of Gonzalez and fellow marquee player Crawford before the 2011 season. Francona claims that the Sox's owners were concerned about declining ratings for Sox games on NESN and decided that they needed a "s e xier" team to appeal to more women viewers. This prompted the decision to acquire the two handsome players at great cost, a move that upset the chemistry of a winning team and eventually led it to the cellar.” (

    Besides being a handsome slugger, Adrian seems to be a good guy with his own charitable foundation and a religious one: “Gonzalez is a Christian and engraved on his bats is "PS 27:1" for verse 1 from Psalm 27. Gonzalez has spoken about his faith saying, "I don't want to be remembered in baseball. I want to be remembered as a good witness for Christ. ... I’m just trying to use this platform to bring people to Christ." (Wikipedia) Maybe that’s where he gets his power.

    The name “Gonzalez” seems to lend itself to nicknames: Juan Gonzalez was “Juan Gone”. Adrian Gonzalez is “A-Gone” or “Gonzo”. CARLOS GONZALEZ is “Cargo”. Whereas Adrian was born in San Diego, Carlos is from Venezuela. He came up with the Athletics but was traded to Colorado after one year and has bene their leading star since. His hitting numbers look kind of like Adrian’s. He’s .291 lifetime with a high of .336. His home run high is 40. He’s missed a lot of time due to injuries, missing 244 games this decade, but he’s averaging 31 homers per 162 games, (Adrian’s only at 28). He’s had only two 100 RBIs and one 110 runs scored seasons but that’s again the injuries: per 162 games he’s averaged exactly 100 of each. He has more speed than Adrian with four 20 steals years. He has a wprse WSR: 51-146 per 162 games.

    He gets the usual Colorado boost: He’s hit .323 with 124 homers at home and only .258 with 77 homers on the road. By comparison Adrian has hit .280 with 127 homers at home in his career vs., 300 with 181 homers on the road. He is an outstanding outfielder with a strong and accurate throwing arm and has won three Gold Gloves. At sea level, this might be what he would be best known for.

    The trickle of Cuban defectors has started to make a real impact in the game and it may become a deluge as things open up in the next few years. One the first big hitting stars to find his way to states in this era was YOENIS CESPEDES. Then there was YASIEL PUIG. Then there was Yoenis Cespedes again.

    Cespedes made his splash first, arriving with the A’s in 2012 after making a speedboat dash with six others to the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2011. . He hit .292 with 23 homers and 16 steals in 129 games. Beyond that he showed a throwing arm which immediately became legendary:

    Off that I would say that he’s got an amazing arm but isn’t an amazing outfielder. Still, “Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus declared Céspedes "arguably the best all-around player to come out of Cuba in a generation." (Wikipedia) He won both the 2013 and 2014 home run derbies at the All-star game. His batting average plunged to .240 and .260 and his walk to strike ratio was poor, (37-137 and 35-128), but he reached the 100 RBI level for the first time in 2014. He also got traded to Boston that year.

    Being an east coast National League fan, I’d heard Cespedes’ name, (but couldn’t quite remember it: he was that guy with the A’s with the weird name), but was mostly unaware of him. However, I was made aware of Yasiel Puig, another Cuban defector with an even weirder name who played for the Dodgers. He made national headlines, both for his adventures trying to get out of Cuba and his play for the Dodgers on the field. He had no less than 13 different attempts to escape Cuba and was imprisoned for a time. On one occasion his boat was intercepted by the US Coast Guard and forced to turn back. He finally was smuggled out by a Mexican drug cartel. The captain of the boat he was on was later found dead. He was “sold” to a notoriously crooked Florida businessman. This guy began offering him to agents in exchange for 20% of all his future earnings. Puig also testified against one of the crooks, only to be sued by him for lying about him on the stand.

    With all this hanging over his head, Puig signed with the Dodgers and quickly moved up their farm system. He made his debut in 2013 and was a sensation, hitting two home runs and a double in his second game. He hit a grand slam two games alter and a homer in the next game, too, for 4 homers in his first 5 games. “In 26 games in June, Puig hit .436 with a .467 on-base percentage and a .713 slugging percentage.” (Wikipedia) His 48 hits in his first month was the second most in baseball history, behind Joe DiMaggio. Puig also had a great throwing arm:
    Yasiel Puig's Cannon Arm: Four Big Throws

    I remember seeing stories on Puig in the national news, both about his dramatic background and the dramatic way he played baseball. He got over 800,000 write-in votes for the all-star game and there was a great debate about whether he should be a part of that event on such a short sample. He seemed like an immediate superstar. I remembered that the A’s had had a guy like this- I couldn’t recall his strange name – but that Puig seemed like an even better player. He cooled off after that but still finished his first season hitting .319 with 19 homers, 42 RBIs and 66 runs scored in 104 games. Again his walk-to strike out ratio was poor: 36-97. But it was a first year and he had a chance to improve.

    The problem is, he didn’t. He played 148 games in 2014 and was certainly productive: .296 with only 16 homers but 37 doubles. He had only 69 RBIs, (they’ve used him as a leadoff batter despite being 240 pounds because of his speed), but scored 92 runs. But that’s a bit short of being a superstar. He had 67 walks and 124 strikeouts. The next year he started to have problems with his hamstrings, (also with the cops: he was caught speeding twice, once 110 mph). He only played 79 games and hit .255 with 11 home runs. In 2016 he was actually demoted to the minor leagues. There was talk he was about to be traded. But the Dodgers held onto him. He wound up hitting .263 with another 11 home runs in in 104 games. He has developed a reputation for lackadaisical play, sometimes not making defensive plays quickly enough or getting caught in bad situations on the base paths. He’s still only 26 years old so he has a chance to get back on track and become the superstar people envisioned. Whether he’ll do it with the Dodgers remains to be seen.

    In 2105 Cespedes again got traded to the Tigers for the beginning of the 2015 season, making you wonder how valuable a player he was or if he had “baggage” that didn’t show up in the stats. But he was having his best season date for the Tigers – until he get traded again to the Mets. In Detroit he hit .293 with 18 home runs and 61 RBIs in 102 games. But for the Mets he was even better, hitting .287 with 17 homers and 44 RBI in just 57 games, during which the previously punchless Mets became the highest scoring team in the league and blew past the Nationals the in the Division and slug their way to the World Series. It wasn’t all Cespedes but he plugged a hole in their line-up and when he started to tear the cover off the ball, his new teammates joined in.

    It was assumed Cespedes would be on his way after the season as a free agent but the Mets were able to resign him, (and then did it again this year). He followed up a 35 home run year with a 31 home run year. He’s now 31 and his WSR continues to be terrible, which is not a good indicator for an aging player maintaining his production. . He insists on playing center field when he clearly is not as good a center fielder than Juan Legares, despite his arm. He misses games due to various injuries, (30 of them last year, including one when he was observed on the golf course). It’s concerning that he has played for four teams in 5 seasons and did not get the offers he thought he was going to get as a free agent. But since the Mets acquired him, the Mets are 32 games over .500 with what Mets fan Jerry Steinfeld calls a “Cespedes for the rest of us” and they are 5 games under .500 in the games missed. He likes playing in New York and good “New York” players are heard to find, so I’m glad the Mets have held onto his services.

    Every neighborhood has its gang of kids who in the summer grab a bat and a ball and start playing some version of the National Pastime. I’ve always thought that two current starts, BUSTER POSEY and MOOKIE BETTS have names that sound like they might have been on your neighborhood team.

    Gerald Dempsey Posey III is not a kid anymore at 6-1 220. He’s a catcher for the San Francisco Giants, who have won three World Series since he started crouching behind the plate for them. I’ve always argued that in looking for an MVP candidate the first thing to do is to look at a manager’s willingness to play a guy consistently at a positon even if he can’t hit. That tells you what the most important posiitons in the field are. By that measure #1 is obviously pitcher but that’s a shared positon. At one time shortstop might have been #2 but we are in an era of slugging shortstops. So now it’s clearly catcher, a player who is literally in on every play and has a lot to do with how other players play their positons. If a quality catcher is also a superior hitter, then you have a very valuable player. And if his team is winning championships, you have a major contender for MVP. That’s Buster Posey, who has won rookie of the year, a batting title and an MVP and at age 29 is far from done yet.

    He had star power from the very beginning. In high school he pitched and played shortstop and as a senior he was 12-0 with a .462 batting average and 14 home runs and a 3.94GPA.In college he started out as a shortstop and won the Johnny Bench award as the nation’s best catcher, the Dick Howser Award as the best player and the Golden Spikes award as the best amateur player in the US. On August 16, 2008, the Giants signed him with a $6.2 million signing bonus, the largest they’d ever given. He flew through their minor league system, batting .385 in the rookie league, .326 in the California League and .321 in the PCL. In 172 minor league games, he hit 49 doubles, 25 home runs, drove in 118 runs and scored 125. And he actually had a decent walk-to-strikeout ration: 98-102.

    Late in the 2009 season Giants catcher Benjie Molina, (who could also be on your neighborhood team), got hurt and Buster was called up. He got two hits and 17 at bats and started the 2010 season back in the PCL, where he hit .349 in 47 games before being called up for good. The Giants started him at first base for a while before trading Molina. He had a ten day stretch in July where he hit .514 with 6 home runs. The Giants put him in the clean-up spot and he’s been there ever since. He had a 21 game hitting streak. He hit .305 with 23 doubles, 18 homers and 67RBI in 105 games and was named National league Rookie of the Year. He hit .375 as the Giants won their first World Series in 56 years.

    But life can’t be perfect and it’s less likely to be so if you are a catcher. Posey was injured in a collision at home plate on May 25, 2011. “Posey suffered a fractured fibula and torn ligaments in his ankle, requiring season-ending surgery.” (Wikipedia). It ended his season and threatened his career. It was one of those events that caused Major League Baseball too look at limiting player-to-player contact, especially since they were paying players so much money.

    But Posey was able to mount a successful comeback – in a big way. Posey finished second on the team in batting average at .336. But he won both the National League and Major League batting titles because teammate Melky Cabrera, (another guy form the neighborhood team) was suspended 50 games for steroid use. Posey had 39 doubles, 24 homers and 103 RBIs and was named National League MVP. In the post season he hit a grand slam against the Reds to help the Giant overcome an 0-2 deficit in games. He hit another homer in World Series sweep of the Tigers and directed his pitchers to shut-outs in the last three games of the series. A third World Series victory in the first five full seasons of his career came in 2014 over the Royals.

    It’s hard for a catcher to maintain strong offensive numbers due to the physical demands of his positon but Buster has hit between .288 and .318 since then and has a lifetime average of .307, very high for a catcher. He’s maintained a reasonable walk-to-strike out ratio, (62-80).He’s shown good extra base power with an average of 34 doubles and 21 home runs per 162 games. He also won his first Gold Glove in 2016. If they don’t switch him to a less demanding positon, his production will probably slip in his 30’s but he can still have some good years. And he’ll always have those three rings to keep him company.

    Markus Lynn Betts is a lot lost smaller than Buster Posey, (5-9 180) but there appears to be just as much talent in that package. He was not as heralded coming out of high school and was drafted in the 5th round by the Red Sox, who paid him $750,000 in 2011. He didn’t make it to the big club until 2014. He came up as a second baseman that year but was switched to center field in 2015 and to right field in 2016. That’s not as promising a start as Posey got but that didn’t matter. Mookie hit .291 with 5 homers and 7 steals in 52 games in 2014. He stayed at .291 the next year but showed real power and speed for a small man with 68 extra base hits including 18 homers and 21 steals.

    Then he had a huge bust-out year in 2016, hitting .318 with 42 doubles, 31 homers and 26 steals. He scored 122 runs and drove in 113. He also won a Gold Glove and a Wilson “Defensive Player of the Year” award. He finished second to Mike Trout in the MVP voting. He looked every bit like a super star and one that will be for a long time. By the way, he was named after basketball player Mookie Blaylock, not baseball’s Mookie Wilson.

    But the greatest little man of this era is JOSE ALTUVE of the Astros. He’s quietly putting together a Joe Morgan-like career and should get more national attention once he gets a chance to play on championship teams, which I’m sure he will do. He’s the smallest player in the major leagues at 5-6 165, (officially). But good things come in small packages.

    The Venezuelan first tried out for the Astros in his home country but was rejected because he was too short. He tried again the next year and either had grown taller or the Astros could no longer ignore how he could play baseball. He hit .343 for the team the Astro field in the Venezuelan league at age 17 in 2007 and came to the US the next year. He didn’t make much noise in 2008, hitting .284 with 8 stelas in the Appalachian League. But the next year he played for two teams and hit .324 with 28 steals and 56 runs scored in 66 games. He played for two more teams, still in the lower minors, in 2010 and hit .301 with 42 steals and showed surprising power with 15 home runs. He went through the roof in 2011, playing for two more minor league teams, one in AA, and hitting an astronomical .389 with 42 extra base hits and 24 steals in 87 games. That got him called up to the Astros where he’s bene a mainstay ever since.

    He started off his career with a 7 game hitting streak. His first major league home run was an inside the park job. He hit .346 in his first 21 games but the pitchers caught up with him and he wound up at .276 with 2 home runs and 7 steals in 57 games. He was an interesting player, no more, at this point to the baseball world. He got more interesting on 5/1/2012 when he faced the Mets’ Jon Rauch, the tallest player in major league history at 6-11. The 17 inch height differential was the most since 6-0 Bob Cain threw to 3-7 Eddie Gaedel in St. Louis all those years ago. Gaedel walked, (because Bill Veeck had said he would shoot him with a rifle if he swung). Altuve lined out to first:
    5-foot-5 Jose Altuve faces 6-foot-11 Jon Rauch

    Jose became much more than an interesting player after that hitting .290 with 33 steals in 2012 and .283 with 35 steals in 2013. But he was just starting to figure out major league pitching. In 2014 he exploded for 225 hits and a .341 batting average, (which won him the batting title), and 47 doubles while stealing 56 bases in 65 attempts. This came just as baseball was getting back into balance in the post- steroids era and the stolen base was returning as a weapon. The next year he added some home run power, hitting 15 of them, along with 40 doubles and 38 steals while hitting .313 with 200 hits. He had his best season yet in 2016: .338BA, (another title), 216H 42D 24HR, 30SB producing 96RBI and 108 runs scored. He also had a good walk-to-strikeout ratio, (the best of his career) at 60-70. Is that the best he can do? Who knows?

    What’s Jon Rauch doing these days?

    ANDREW MCCUTCHEN has been compared to Willie Mays. That’s not fair- he’s not Willie Mays. But he’s a 5 tool player who has helped Pittsburgh, after the longest stretch of losing seasons in history, to become a respectable organization again. Like Buster Posey, he was a high school phenomenon, hitting .474 for his high school career and a ridiculous .709 with 16 home runs his senior year. “He was also a part of a state title-winning 4 × 100 m relay his freshman year of high school.” (Wikipedia-W) He had a productive but not phenomenal minor league career, playing for 5 different teams in four years and hitting .286 with 43 home runs and 125 steals in 511 games.

    His debut with the Pirates was 2009 and he again hit .286 with 47 extra base hits and 22 steals in 108 games and was named rookie of the year. “"He's an impressive looking young player. He really is", said Indians manager Eric Wedge…. "He's an All-Star. This year, probably", said Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox. "Hitting. Running. Defense. Throwing. He's got it all. He catches the ball like Andruw Jones did when he was 19. You can't hit a ball [past him] out there. He's got lightning in that bat too." (W)

    The next year he hit - .286!. This time he had 56 EXB and 33 steals and scored 94 runs. The typically cash-strapped Pirates signed him to a 6-year, $51.5 million contract extension. He rewarded them with his best season to date: .327BA, 31 home runs, 20 steals, 96RBI, 107 runs scored, a gold glove for the way he played center field . His next two years were similar: .317-21HR-27SB-84RBI-97RS, .314-25-18-83-89. Since then he’s slumped a bit to .292-23-11-96-91 and .256-24-6-79-84. He’s 30, right in the middle of his prime and he should still have several good years left. But he has to get back to the level he was in 2012-2014

    The well-named RYAN BRAUN proved that the steroid era may never be over. Braun came out of the University of Miami “where he was named "National Freshman of the Year" by Baseball America in 2003” (W). He was drafted by the Brewers in 2005 and was their minor leaguer player of the year hitting .289 with 31 doubles, 22 homers and 26 steals for their A and AA teams. He was hitting .342 with 10 homers for their PCL team when he was called up in 2007. He kept right on slugging for the Brewers, hitting .324 with 34 homers in only 113 games and was named rookie of the year. in the two stops he had 186 hits, doubles, 6 triples, 44 home runs, 19 steals, 199RBI and 119 runs scored in 147 games. A star was born!@. The only issue seemed to be his WSR: 44-123. Braun was noted for his great throwing arm and was switched from 3rd base, where he had the highest error rate in the league to left and then right field.

    But who cared? He kept tearing the cover off the ball. He hit only .285 the next year but still had 37 homers and 106 RBI. In 2009, he was back up to .320-32-114 with 113 runs. 2010: .304-25-103-101 with 45 doubles. 2011: .332-33HR-33SB-111-109. 2012: .319-41HR-30SB-112-108. His WSRs didn’t improve much: 58-93 in his best year, 2011 but back to 63-128 the next season. But he was a smarter hitter than that suggests: “Against starting pitchers, Braun hit .244 the first time he faced them in a game, .331 the second time, and .328 with a .672 slugging percentage the third time.” He was named National league MVP in 2011.

    The first crack in the armor came in 2011, when he failed a test for elevated testosterone. The Daily News quoted a source who said that the test results were "insanely high, the highest ever for anyone who has ever taken a test, twice the level of the highest test ever taken." (W) He faced a 50 game suspension. “A second test conducted by an independent laboratory showed normal testosterone levels.[171] Braun appealed the positive drug test in January 2012, and a three-member panel overturned the results on a 2-to-1 vote on February 22, 2012.It was the first time that a MLB player had successfully challenged a drug test result.” (W) Braun had questioned how his urine sample was handled. It was too late in the day to ship them to the testing center via Fedex so the person in charge had stored them in his home in a Rubbermaid container, which he put in a refrigerator.” MLB argued that there was no evidence of tampering of the sample, and the United States Anti-Doping Agency said the testosterone levels in the samples would not grow in a refrigerator over a weekend.” (W) But Braun won his appeal.

    He had been getting a lot of publicity for being a Jewish baseballs tar and a modern Hank Greenberg and alleged that the people trying to frame him, including the guy who handled the sample were anti-Semitic. “Braun said "I am Jewish", and "I'm extremely proud to be a role model for young Jewish kids." "It's something I'm really proud of. But I don't want to make it into something more than what it is. I didn't have a Bar Mitzvah... I didn't celebrate the holidays." He reiterated: "It's something that draws a lot of interest and something I take pride in." Braun's mother, however, said he is not Jewish…. "He's totally not Jewish. I heard some organization started called him ‘The Hebrew Hammer.’ I said, ‘Oh no.’ My mother would be rolling over in her grave if she heard that.” (W)

    “In February 2013, Yahoo! Sports reported that Braun's name appeared three times in records of Biogenesis of America, a Coral Gables clinic alleged to have distributed performance-enhancing drugs to a number of Major League Baseball players who tested positive for banned substances. One entry noted that Braun owed the clinic between $20,000 and $30,000. Braun's name was not listed next to any specific PEDs, unlike some of the other players mentioned in the records. Braun released a statement maintaining that his attorneys had retained the clinic's operator, Anthony Bosch, as a consultant during his appeal of his positive drug test the previous season, and denied any further dealings with the clinic.” (W) But the Biogenesis records showed otherwise and “On July 22, 2013, MLB suspended Braun for the remaining 65 games of the regular season, plus the entire postseason, for his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic. Braun, who lost $3.25 million as a result, did not appeal the suspension. In a statement, he said, "I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions." (W) the extra 15 games were for his actions to avoid punishment for his first offense. Ralph Sasson, a law student who knew Braun from his school days, sued Braun for non-payment for work he had done in support of Braun’s appeal as a law student. He stated Braun had been “using” since he was at the University of Miami.

    Braun continued to be a productive player after his suspension, but not on the same level. He played 61 games in 2013 and hit .298 with 9 home runs. In 2014 it was .266 with 19 homers and 11 steals. In 2015 he hit with 25 homers and 24 steals. He made a bit of a comeback in 2016 with .305-30HR-16SB. He hasn’t reached the 100 mark in RBIs or runs scored in those years. He just turned 33 and his walk to strike out ratio continues to be poor so it’s probable that his best years are behind him.

    JOEY VOTTO is a Canadian from Toronto who grew up to be a baseball player rather than a hockey player. He grew up with a picture of Ted Williams on his bedroom wall. He was drafted by the Reds #44 all in 2002 and spent 5 years making his way through the Reds minor league system, carrying William’s book “The Science of Hitting” with him everywhere he went. He eventually got called up in 2007 and made the most of it, hitting .321 in in 24 games. He became the Reds regular first baseman in 2008 and hit .297 with 24 home runs in 144 games. Ol’ Ted wouldn’t have been impressed with his WSR of 59-107. But the next year he improved to .322 with 25 home runs and 70-106. And in 2010 he really broke out with .327-37-91-125. He had 113 RBIs and 106 runs scored. He was named National league MVP.

    He broke the 100 walk mark in 2011 with 106. He still had too many strike-outs with 129. But he hit .309 with 40 doubles and 29 homers with 103 RBI and 101 runs. In 2012 he missed 51 games due to a knee injury but in the 11 game she played, he hit .337 with only 14 homers but 44 doubles. The next year he was fully healthy and played in all 162 games, hitting .305 with 24 home runs. Strangely, he had only 73RBI but scored 101 runs because he walked 135 times, (19 of them intentional walks). Teddy Ballgame would be proud!

    The 2014 season was pretty much of a wash-out due to a strained left quadriceps that limited Joey to 62 games and limited his production in those games to .255 with 6 home runs. But he’s bene back to his old self since then, hitting .314 and .326 with 29 homers each year. He had a career high 143 walks in 2015. He still strikes out too much, as everybody does these days. He’s 33 now so he’s not going to get better but his patience may allow him to extend his prime a few years. He’s no Ted Williams but he sure knows who Ted Williams was and how he played the game. There may be hope for the National Pastime yet.
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