Tagged: AL MVP

United States of Baseball- Michigan

The Great Lakes dominate the landscape of Michigan. The Wolverine State is an outdoor playground in every season. While the snow piles up in Winter, it has not prevented Michigan from sending 444 players to the Majors. The greatest pitcher born in Michigan is John Smoltz. His 68.96 career WAR ranks 17th highest among state and territory leaders. The greatest Michigan born position player is Charlie Gehringer. His 83.75 career WAR ranks 19th highest among state and territory leaders. The Wolverine State has a combined 152.71 WAR, ranking Michigan 18th highest. 

John Smoltz is forever tied to Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as they led the Atlanta Braves to an unprecedented stretch of dominance in the 1990’s. The Detroit native pitched 21 seasons with three teams: Atlanta Braves (1988-2008), Boston Red Sox (2009), and St. Louis Cardinals (2009). Despite missing all of 2000 due to Tommy John Surgery, Smoltz pitched in 723 career Games, made 481 Starts, Finished 204 Games, threw 53 Complete Games, including 16 Shutouts, 154 Saves, Pitched 3,473 Innings, allowed 3,074 Hits, 1,391 Runs, 1,284 Earned Runs, 288 Home Runs, 1,010 Walks, 3,084 Strikeouts, posted a 210-147 record, 3.33 ERA, 1.176 WHIP, and 125 ERA+. Originally drafted in the 22nd Round by his hometown Detroit Tigers in 1985, he was traded to Atlanta for Doyle Alexander two years later. Smotz’s skills on the mound allowed him to lead the National League in Wins at age 29 and 39, and Saves at age 35. He was an eight time All Star. He was named the 1992 National League Championship Series MVP and won the 1995 World Series with the Braves. Smoltz won the Cy Young award in 1996 and the Silver Slugger award in 1997. After transitioning to the Closer role, he won the 2002 Rolaids Relief award. Smoltz received the 2005 Roberto Clemente Award. In 2015, Smoltz was elected to the Hall of Fame, becoming the then lowest drafted Hall of Famer.

John Smoltz helped the Braves win 14 consecutive division titles. (www.georgiasportshalloffame.com)

Smoltz helped Atlanta reach the Postseason and continued his success in October. In 41 career Postseason Games, he made 27 Starts, Finished 11 Games, threw 2 Complete Games, including 1 Shutout, 4 Saves, Pitched 209 Innings, allowed 172 Hits, 67 Runs, 62 Earned Runs, 17 Home Runs, 67 Walks, 199 Strikeouts, posted a 15-4 record, 2.67 ERA, and 1.144 WHIP. Smoltz gave the Braves an opportunity to win every time he took the mound. 

Smoltz’s best season was 1996. He made 35 Starts, threw 6 Complete Games, including 2 Shutouts, Pitched 253.2 Innings, allowed 199 Hits, 93 Runs, 83 Earned Runs, 19 Home Runs, 55 Walks, 276 Strikeouts, posted a 24-8 record, 2.94 ERA, 1.001 WHIP, and 149 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins, Winning Percentage, Innings Pitched, and Strikeouts. He was named an All Star, finished 11th in MVP voting, and won the Cy Young. Pure dominance. 

Detroit fans voted Charlie Gehringer as the greatest second baseman in the storied history of the Tigers. Fan chose Gehringer over the beloved Lou Whitaker. Gehringer played 19 seasons for the Detroit Tigers (1924-1942). The Fowlerville native played in 2,323 Games, collected 2,839 Hits, 574 Doubles, 146 Triples, 184 Home Runs, 1,427 RBI, scored 1,775 Runs, 181 Stolen Bases, 1,186 Walks, 372 Strikeouts, .320 BA, .404 OBP, .480 SLG, .884 OPS, and 125 OPS+. Gehringer hit over .300 13 times in 14 seasons, with his .298 BA in 1932 as the lone exception. He was named to the first six All Star games, helped the Tigers win the 1935 World Series, and won both the American League Batting Title and MVP in 1937. Gehringer was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949 in a special runoff election, but was unable to attend as the ceremony coincided with his own wedding. He served on the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee from 1953 to 1990. The Tigers retired his #2 in 1983.

The Mechanical Man was consistently brilliant for the Tigers. (Getty Images)

Gehringer’s success helped the Tigers reach the World Series three times (1934, 1935, and 1940), winning in 1935. In the World Series, Gehringer played in 20 Games, collected 26 Hits, 4 Doubles, 1 Home Runs, 7 RBI, scored 12 Runs, 2 Stolen Bases, 7 Walks, 1 Strikeout, .321 BA, .375 OBP, .407 SLG, and .782 OPS. Detroit twice lost Game 7, the Tigers were close to dominating all of baseball not just the American League. 

The best season of Gehringer’s career was 1934. He played in 154 Games, collected 214 Hits, 50 Doubles, 7 Triples, 11 Home Runs, 127 RBI, scored 135 Runs, 11 Stolen Bases, 99 Walks, 25 Strikeouts, .356 BA, .450 OBP, .517 SLG, .967 OPS, and 149 OPS+. He led the Junior Circuit in Games played, Hits, and Runs scored. Gehringer finished second in MVP voting while leading the Tigers to the American League Pennant.  

Michigan’s proud baseball legacy continues to grow. The Wolverine State has sent seven native sons to Cooperstown: Kiki Cuyler, Charlie Gehringer, Larry MacPhail (Executive), Hal Newhouser, Ted Simmons, John Smoltz, and Tom Yawkey (Executive). More will surely follow. Next week the United States of Baseball continues it’s exploration of the water in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Minnesota is next. 


United States of Baseball- Maryland

Baseball has a long and proud history. There are legends from every American state and territory. The best pitcher born in the Old Line State is Lefty Grove. His 113.31 career WAR ranks fifth among pitching leaders. The best Maryland born position player is arguably the greatest player of all time. Babe Ruth’s 182.47 career WAR is the highest for any player ever. Maryland’s combined 295.78 WAR ranks first among all states and territories. 

Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove was born in the west Maryland town of Lonaconing. He pitched for 17 seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics (1925-1933) and Boston Red Sox (1934-1941). Grove began his professional career in Martinsburg before the Minor League Baltimore Orioles bought him in exchange for an outfield fence. Grove spent five years in Baltimore before Connie Mack paid $100,600 for the future Hall of Famer. Once in the Majors, Grove was electric. In 616 career Games, he made 457 Starts, threw 298 Complete Games, including 35 Shutouts, pitched 3,940.2 Innings, allowed 3,849 Hits, 1,594 Runs, 1,339 Earned Runs, 162 Home Runs, 1,187 Walks, 2,266 Strikeouts, posting a 300-141 record, 3.06 ERA, 1.278 WHIP, and 148 ERA+. Grove led the American League in Strikeouts in his first seven seasons. He was named to six All Star teams, won nine ERA Titles, and back to back Pitching Triple Crowns in 1930 and 1931. Grove’s .680 Winning Percentage is the best of any 300 Game winner. He was elected to Cooperstown in 1947. 

Left Grove dominated the American League all the way to Cooperstown. (www.bostonmagazine.com)

Grove led the Athletics pitching to three consecutive American League pennants between 1929 and 1931. Grove pitched in all three World Series, appeared in 8 Games, made 5 Starts, threw 4 Complete Games, pitched 51.1 Innings, allowed 46 Hits, 12 Runs, 10 Earned Runs, 0 Home Runs, 6 Walks, 36 Strikeouts, posted a 4-2 record, 1.75 ERA, and 1.013 WHIP. The Athletics won the World Series in 1929 and 1930. 

Unquestionably the best season of Grove’s career was with the 1931 Athletics. He pitched in 41 Games, made 30 Starts, threw 27 Complete Games, including 4 Shutouts, pitched 288.2 Innings, allowed 249 Hits, 84 Runs, 66 Earned Runs, 10 Home Runs, 62 Walks, 175 Strikeouts, posted a 31-4 record, 2.06 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, and 217 ERA+. He led the Junior Circuit in Wins, Winning Percentage, Complete Games, Shutouts, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. He won the Pitching Triple Crown and the American League MVP. 

Easily the most written about baseball player ever, there is little left unsaid about Babe Ruth. George Herman Ruth was born in Baltimore. The elite pitcher and all time great hitter played 22 seasons with three teams: Boston Red Sox (1914-1919), New York Yankees (1920-1934), and Boston Braves (1935). Fully appreciating Ruth’s greatness means examining his pitching and hitting. On the mound, Ruth appeared in 163 Games, made 147 Starts, threw 107 Complete Games, including 17 Shutouts, pitched 1,221.1 Innings, allowed 974 Hits, 400 Runs, 309 Earned Runs, 10 Home Runs, 441 Walks, 488 Strikeouts, posted a 94-46 record, 2.28 ERA, 1.159 WHIP, and 122 ERA+. At the plate, Ruth played in 2,503 Games, collected 2,873 Hits, 506 Doubles, 136 Triples, 714 Home Runs, 2,214 RBI, scored 2,174 Runs, 123 Stolen Bases, 2,062 Walks, 1,330 Strikeouts, .342 BA, .474 OBP, .690 SLG, 1.164 OPS, and 206 OPS+. He was twice an All Star. Ruth was the American League MVP in 1923 and won the Batting Title in 1924. He remains the all time leader in SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Ruth was among the five members of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s first class in 1936. 

Babe Ruth is arguably the greatest baseball player ever. (Trenton Daily)

The Great Bambino appeared in 10 World Series. He won seven championships, three with the Red Sox and four with the Yankees. On the mound, Ruth pitched in 3 Games, made 3 Starts, threw 2 Complete Games, including 1 Shutout, pitched 31 Innings, allowed 19 Hits, 3 Runs, 3 Earned Runs, 1 Home Run, 10 Walks, 8 Strikeouts, posted a 3-0 record, 0.87 ERA, and 0.935 WHIP. His record 29.2 scoreless World Series innings was later broken by Whitey Ford. At the plate, Ruth played in 41 World Series Games, collected 42 Hits, 5 Doubles, 2 Triples, 15 Home Runs, 33 RBI, scored 37 Runs, 4 Stolen Bases, 33 Walks, 30 Strikeouts, .326 BA, .470 OBP, .744 SLG, and 1.214 OPS. In 1926, he became the first player to hit three Home Runs in a World Series game. Ruth repeated the feat two years later. 

Ruth’s career on the mound was cut short because of his bat. His best season pitching was 1916 with the Red Sox. Ruth pitched in 44 Games, made 40 Starts, threw 23 Complete Games, including 9 Shutouts, pitched 323.2 Innings, allowed 230 Hits, 83 Runs, 63 Earned Runs, 0 Home Runs, 118 Walks, 170 Strikeouts, posted a 23-12 record, 1.75 ERA, 1.075 WHIP, and 158 ERA+. He won the American League ERA Title. Ruth’s best season at the plate was not his MVP season, but two seasons before. In 1921, coming off his record shattering first season in the Bronx, Ruth playing in 152 Games, collected 204 Hits, 44 Doubles, 16 Triples, 59 Home Runs, 168 RBI, scored 177 Runs, 17 Stolen Bases, 145 Walks, 81 Strikeouts, .378 BA, .512 OBP, .846 SLG, 1.359 OPS, and 239 OPS+. He broke his own Home Run record set the season prior. He led the American League in Home Runs, RBI, Runs scored, Walks, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. He hit more Home Runs than five American League teams. He passed Roger Connor’s 139 career Home Runs to become the Home Run King. Ruth set single season records for Extra Base Hits (119) and Total Bases (457). There was little Ruth could not do on a baseball field.

Maryland has given more to baseball than just Grove and Ruth. The Old Line State has 11 native sons in the Hall of Fame: Harold Baines, Frank Baker, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Judy Johnson, Al Kaline, Bowie Kuhn (Commissioner), Cal Ripken Jr., Babe Ruth, John Schuerholz (Executive), and Vic Willis. Maryland reigns supreme as the state with the highest combined WAR from its best pitcher and position player. Next week the United States of Baseball returns to New England. The Bay State is next, Massachusetts. 


United States of Baseball- Maine

Everyone needs a vacation from time to time. Few states can compete with the beauty of Maine. Vacationland is a natural playground from the sea to the mountains and forests. Major League Baseball has seen 78 Mainers take the field. The greatest pitcher born in Maine is Bob Stanley. His 23.86 career WAR is the 48th highest among pitcher state and territory leaders. George Gore is the greatest position player born in Maine. His 39.94 career WAR is 41st highest among state and territory leaders. Maine has a combined 63.80 WAR, ranking Vacationland 46th among states and territories. 

Bob Stanley was a critical part of Boston’s attempt to break the Curse of the Bambino. The Portland native played 13 seasons with the Red Sox (1977-1989). Stanley pitched in 637 career Games, made 85 Starts, 377 Games Finished, threw 21 Complete Games, including 7 Shutouts, 132 Saves, 1,707 Innings Pitched, allowed 1,858 Hits, 797 Runs, 690 Earned Runs, 113 Home Runs, 471 Walks, 693 Strikeouts, posting a 115-97 record, 3.64 ERA, 1.364 WHIP, and 118 ERA+. He was twice an All Star. Stanley was the American League Pitcher of the Month in August 1980. His 115 Wins are the most for a pitcher born in Maine. Stanley’s 33 saves in 1983 and 132 career Saves set then Red Sox records. He retains the Boston record for most career pitching appearances. 

Bob Stanley took the mound more than any pitcher in Red Sox history. (Associated Press)

In the 1986 World Series, Stanley did his best to break the Curse. He pitched in 5 Games, Finished 4 Games, with 1 Save, Pitched 6.1 Innings, allowed 5 Hits, 0 Runs, 0 Earned Runs, 1 Walk, 4 Strikeouts, posting a 0-0 record, 0.00 ERA, and 0.947 WHIP. Boston was close to ending its World Series drought before the team collapsed.

Stanley’s best season was his sophomore season. In 1978 he pitched in 52 Games, made 3 Starts, 35 Games Finished, including 10 Saves, Pitched 141.2 Innings, allowed 142 Hits, 50 Runs, 41 Earned Runs, 5 Home Runs, 34 Walks, 38 Strikeouts, posted a 15-2 record, 2.60 ERA, 1.242 WHIP, and 160 ERA+. He finished 7th for the American League Cy Young and 25th for the MVP. While Stanley never surpassed 1978, he was a key arm in Boston for another decade. 

George Gore was one of baseball’s earliest stars. The Saccarappa native patrolled Centerfield for 14 seasons with four teams: Chicago White Stockings (1879-1886), New York Giants (1887-1889, 1891-1892), New York Giants of the Players League (1890), and St. Louis Browns (1892). He was a feared presence at the plate. In 1,310 career Games, Gore collected 1,612 Hits, 262 Doubles, 94 Triples, 46 Home Runs, 618 RBI, scored 1,327 Runs, 170 Stolen Bases, 717 Walks, 332 Strikeouts, .301 BA, .386 OBP, .411 SLG, .797 OPS, and 136 OPS+. His career began by conducting baseball’s first holdout, A.G. Spalding offered Gore $1,200 to sign with the White Stockings. He countered with $2500. The sides eventually agreed to $1900. It was money well spent as Gore led the National League in Runs scored twice (1881-1882) and Walks four times (1882-1884, and 1886). His career 1.01 Runs scored per Game far exceeds many Hall of Famers including Henry Aaron and Ted Williams. Gore brought excitement to every game he played.

Gore played in four World Series. He lost in 1885 and 1886 with the White Stockings and won in 1888 and 1889 with the Giants. In his four trips to the Fall Classic, Gore collected 16 Hits, 2 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 Home Run, 3 RBI, scored 15 Runs, 4 Stolen Bases, 9 Walks, 5 Strikeouts, .276 BA, .373 OBP, .397 SLG, and .770 OPS. He helped lay the groundwork for the World Series we know today.

George Gore was one of baseball’s first stars. (www.SABR.org)

Gore’s best season was 1880 with the White Stockings. He played 77 Games of a 82 Game season, collected 116 Hits, 23 Doubles, 2 Triples, 2 Home Runs, 47 RBI, scored 70 Runs, 21 Walks, 10 Strikeouts, .360 BA, .399 OBP, .463 SLG, .862 OPS, and 185 OPS+. He led the National League in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Gore is the only Mainer to win a Batting Title, which came in a season so dominated by pitchers that the Pitcher’s Box was moved from 45 to 50 feet after the season.  

Maine does not have a representative in Cooperstown. However, Vacationland has contributed greatly to the growth of baseball. Next week the United States of Baseball heads down the Atlantic coast to the Old Line State. Maryland is next. 


United States of Baseball- Kansas

Fly over states may not have the large cities that attract Major League teams, but they play plenty of baseball. Kansas does not lack for baseball talent with 218 MLB players born in the Sunflower State. The best Kansas born pitcher is one of the greatest of all time. Walter Johnson has the most career WAR, 164.54, for a pitcher born in Kansas. He has the second highest WAR for any state and territory pitching leader. Johnny Damon is the greatest position player born in the Sunflower State. His 56.33 career WAR ranks 35th among state and territory leaders. Johnson and Damon give Kansas 220.87 WAR, 8th highest among all states and territories. 

Walter Johnson is on the Mount Rushmore of Major League pitchers. Few pitchers can compare to the Humboldt native. The Right Hander pitched 21 seasons for the Washington Senators. In 802 career Games, Johnson made 666 Starts, threw 531 Complete Games, including 110 Shutouts, pitched 5,914.1 Innings, allowed 4,913 Hits, 1,902 Runs, 1,424 Earned Runs, 97 Home Runs, 1,363 Walks, 3,509 Strikeouts, posted a 417-279 record, 2.17 ERA, 1.061 WHIP, and 147 ERA+. On July 1, 1920 against the Red Sox Johnson threw his only career No Hitter. Four years later, he helped propel the Senators to their only World Series victory. The Big Train holds the record for most career 1-0 Wins (38) and Losses (26). He is likely the permanent all time leader in Shutouts.

Walter Johnson is possibly the greatest pitcher in baseball history. (Baseball In Color)

Johnson dominated. He had 10 consecutive 20 Win seasons. He led the American League in Strikeouts 12 times, Shutouts seven times, Wins, Complete Games, WHIP, and ERA+ six times, and Innings Pitched five times. The Big Train struck out 300 batters twice and 200 batters seven times. He posted a WHIP below 1.000 nine times. His ERA+ was over 200 four times and 150 eight times. Johnson’s domination included an ERA under 2.00 11 times and winning five ERA Titles. He won the Pitching Triple Crown three times (1913, 1918, 1924) and the American League MVP twice (1913 and 1924). In 1936 Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class. 

Johnson’s best season was 1913. He pitched in 48 Games, made 36 Starts, threw 29 Complete Games, including 11 Shutouts, pitched 346 Innings, allowed 232 Hits, 56 Runs, 44 Earned Runs, 9 Home Runs, 38 Walks, 243 Strikeouts, posted a 36-7 record, 1.14 ERA, 0.780 WHIP, and 259 ERA+. Johnson won the MVP award while leading the league in Wins, Winning %, Complete Games, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, Home Runs, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. Total control on the mound as the Senators won 90 games to finish second for the pennant. 

“We’re idiots.” Boston’s Johnny Damon as the Red Sox marched to their 2004 World Series title. The Fort Riley native was a veteran leader that helped return Boston to baseball glory. The sometimes caveman looking Centerfielder played 18 seasons for seven teams: Kansas City Royals (1995-2000), Oakland Athletics (2001), Boston Red Sox (2002-2005), New York Yankees (2006-2009), Detroit Tigers (2010), Tampa Bay Rays (2011), and Cleveland Indians (2012). In 2,490 career Games, Damon collected 2,769 Hits, 522 Doubles, 109 Triples, 235 Home Runs, 1,139 RBI, scored 1,668 Runs, 408 Stolen Bases, 1,003 Walks, 1,257 Strikeouts, .284 BA, .352 OBP, .433 SLG, .785 OPS, and 104 OPS+. He scored at least 100 Runs 10 times. He was twice an All Star (2002 and 2005) and World Series champion (2004 and 2009). Damon appeared on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot, receiving 1.8% of votes. He is best remembered for his departure in Oakland helping to usher in the Moneyball era and ending the Curse of the Bambino

Johnny Damon is best remembered for helping break the Curse of the Bambino. (The Eagle Tribune)

Damon’s best season was in 2000 for the Royals. He played in 159 Games, collected 214 Hits, 42 Doubles, 10 Triples, 16 Home Runs, 88 RBI, scored 136 Runs, 46 Stolen Bases, 65 Walks, 60 Strikeouts, .327 BA, .382 OBP, .495 SLG, .877 OPS, and 118 OPS+. He led the Junior Circuit in Runs scored and Stolen Bases. Damon set career highs in Plate Appearances, At Bats, Runs scored, Hits, Doubles, Stolen Bases, BA, OBP, SLG, and Total Bases. He was the July Player of the Month as he posted a 6.2 WAR season. Damon finished 19th in MVP voting. The Royals tried to resign him, but the constant losing took its toll. Kansas City traded him to Oakland instead of losing him in Free Agency. 

Kansas has sent two players to Cooperstown, Walter Johnson and Joe Tinker. Damon was a good player, but not quite Hall of Fame worthy. Kansas continues to wait for a third member in Cooperstown. Next week the United States of Baseball heads to the land of horse racing and basketball. The Bluegrass State is next, Kentucky. 


United States of Baseball- Idaho

There is more to Idaho than potatoes. The Gem State is full of unspoiled beauty that everyone who enjoys the outdoors should experience. Idaho has also produced 30 Major League players. The greatest pitcher born in the Gem State is Larry Jackson. His 52.56 career WAR ranks him 26th among state and territory pitching leaders. Harmon Killebrew is the greatest position player born in Idaho. His 60.42 career WAR ranks him 33rd among position players. Killebrew is the only Idahoan in the Hall of Fame. Jackson and Killebrew combined to give Idaho 112.98 WAR, 34th most among all states and territories.

Larry Jackson was born in Nampa. The Right Hander pitched 14 seasons in the Majors for three teams: St. Louis Cardinals (1955-1962), Chicago Cubs (1963-1966), and Philadelphia Phillies (1966-1968). In 558 career Games, Jackson made 429 Starts, threw 149 Complete Games, including 37 Shutouts, pitching 3,262.2 Innings, allowing 3,206 Hits, 1,405 Runs, 1,233 Earned Runs, 259 Home Runs, 824 Walks, 1,709 Strikeouts, posting a 194-183 record, 3.40 ERA, 1.235 WHIP, and 113 ERA+. Jackson was a five time All Star and the first from Idaho. 

Jackson’s best season was in 1964 with the Chicago Cubs. In 40 Games, he made 38 Starts, throwing 19 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitching 297.2 Innings, allowing 265 Hits, 114 Runs, 104 Earned Runs, 17 Home Runs, 58 Walks, 148 Strikeouts, posting a 24-11 record, 3.14 ERA, 1.085 WHIP, and 118 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins. Jackson finished 12th in the MVP voting. He also finished 2nd for the Cy Young award, then given to a single pitcher, not one per league. 

Larry Jackson was just short of elite during his career before turning to politics in retirement. (Belleville News-Democrat)

In Philadelphia, Jackson is most remembered for being part of the trade that sent future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins to the Cubs. Later, the Montreal Expos selected Jackson in their expansion draft. He knew he was close to the end of his career, Jackson wanted to play for a west coast team closer to home. Instead of reporting to Montreal, he retired and returned to Idaho. Jackson served four terms in the Idaho House of Representatives and as the Executive Director of the Idaho Republican Party. He ran for Governor, finishing fourth in the Republican Primary despite campaigning by fellow Idaho players Harmon Killebrew and Vern Law.

Harmon Killebrew struck fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers. The Payette native played 22 seasons for the Washington Senators/ Minnesota Twins (1954-1974) and Kansas City Royals (1975). In his career, Killebrew played in 2,435 Games, collected 2,086 Hits, 290 Doubles, 24 Triples, 573 Home Runs, 1,584 RBI, scored 1,283 Runs, 19 Stolen Bases, 1,559 Walks, 1,699 Strikeouts, .256 BA, .376 OBP, .509 SLG, .884 OPS, and 143 OPS+. Killebrew was a great hitter who opted to forgo hitting for average and use his power to help his team.

The best season of Killebrew’s career was his 1969 MVP season with the Twins. In 162 Games, he collected 153 Hits, 20 Doubles, 2 Triples, 49 Home Runs, 140 RBI, scored 106 Runs, 8 Stolen Bases, 145 Walks, 20 Intentional Walks, 84 Strikeouts, .276 BA, .427 OBP, .584 SLG, 1.011 OPS, and 177 OPS+. He led the American League in Games played, Home Runs, RBI, Walks, OBP, and Intentional Walks. Killebrew season was a terror at the plate. His MVP came in the middle of Killebrew’s five year run where he finished in the top five for the MVP four times. 

Harmon Killebrew terrorized the American League with every swing. (Associated Press)

Killebrew was a 13 time All Star, finished in the top 10 for the MVP six times, won the 1969 American League MVP award, the 10th player to join the 500 Home Run Club, and the first Twins player elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984. He was the first player elected as an All Star at three different positions (Third Base, First Base, and Left Field). Killebrew posted eight 40 Home Runs seasons, second only to Babe Ruth’s 11. Killer had nine 100 RBI seasons and seven 100 walk seasons, leading the Junior Circuit four times in free passes. When he retired Killebrew had the fifth most Home Runs. The legendary slugger became a beloved broadcaster for several teams in retirement. 

Idaho has given baseball several solid players and a Hall of Famer. The Gem State continues building its baseball legacy and hopes to send more players to Cooperstown. Next week the United States of Baseball heads east across the plains to the Land of Lincoln. Illinois is next.


United States of Baseball- Georgia

Major League Baseball continues to see a steady stream of players from Georgia. The warm weather for much of the year combined with the Braves dynasty in the 1990’s and early 2000’s created a generation of baseball crazed players and fans. The Peach State has sent 390 players to MLB. The Hall of Fame has welcomed six Georgia natives: Ty Cobb, Josh Gibson, Johnny Mize, Jackie Robinson, Bill Terry, and Frank Thomas. Kevin Brown is the greatest pitcher from the Peach State. His career 68.21 WAR ranks 20th among all state and territory leaders. Ty Cobb is the greatest position player. His career 151.02 WAR is the 4th highest among position players. Brown and Cobb’s combined 219.23 WAR ranks Georgia 9th highest among all states and territories.

Kevin Brown was born in Milledgeville. He played 19 seasons in the Majors for six teams: Texas Rangers (1986, 1988-1994), Baltimore Orioles (1995), Florida Marlins (1996-1997), San Diego Padres (1998), Los Angeles Dodgers (1999-2003), and New York Yankees (2004-2005). On the mound, Brown pitched in 486 Games, making 476 Starts, throwing 72 Complete Games, 17 Shutouts, pitching 3,256.1 Innings, allowing 3,079 Hits, 1,357 Runs, 1,185 Earned Runs, 208 Home Runs, 901 Walks, 2,397 Strikeouts, posting a 211-144 record, 3.28 ERA, 1.222 WHIP, and 127 ERA+. Opposing hitters knew they were in for a rough day with Brown pitching. 

Kevin Brown throws the ball to San Francisco batter William VanLandingham during his No Hitter against the Giants. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Brown’s elite pitching earned him six All Star selections, the 1997 World Series, and two ERA titles (1996 and 2000). He finished sixth in the 1989 National League Rookie of the Year voting. He finished in the top six for Cy Young voting five times (1992- 6th, 1996- 2nd, 1998- 3rd, 1999- 6th, and 2000- 6th). He threw a No Hitter against the Giants in 1997. A year later, Brown’s success on the mound saw him rewarded with the then largest contract in MLB history. He signed a seven year free agent contract with the Dodgers for $105 million. It was baseball’s first $100+ million contract. He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2011. He received 2.1% of the vote, failing to reach the minimum 5% to remain on the ballot. 

Unquestionably, Brown’s best season was in 1996 with the Florida Marlins. In 32 Starts, he threw 5 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitched 233 Innings, allowed 187 Hits, 60 Runs, 49 Earned Runs, 8 Home Runs, 33 Walks, 159 Strikeouts, posted a 17-11 record, 1.89 ERA, 0.944 WHIP, and 215 ERA+.  Brown led the National League in ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. He was an All Star, finished second for the Cy Young award, and 22nd for the MVP. Kevin Brown was outstanding and was among the National League’s best in 1996. 

No player was ever more fanatical about baseball than Ty Cobb. He was born in Narrows and played 24 seasons for the Detroit Tigers (1905-1926) and Philadelphia Athletics (1927-1928). In 3,034 career Games he collected 4,189 Hits, 724 Doubles, 295 Triples, 117 Home Runs, 1,944 RBI, scored 2,245 Runs, 897 Stolen Bases, 1,249 Walks, 680 Strikeouts, .366 BA, .433 OBP, .512 SLG, .944 OPS, 168 OPS+, and 5,854 Total Bases. When he retired, Cobb held the record for most Hits, Stolen Bases, and BA. Both Hits and Stolen Bases have since been surpassed, but his record .366 BA seems untouchable.

Ty Cobb was a ferocious competitor, who would do anything to win. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Cobb is perhaps the greatest hitter of all time. He hit over .400 three times. He won 12 Batting Titles in 13 seasons, including nine straight. He led the American League in Hits eight times and collected at least 200 Hits nine times. He led the league in Doubles three times. He hit at least 30 Doubles in 15 seasons and at least 40 Doubles in four seasons. Cobb led the league in Triples four times, legging out at least 10 Triples in 17 seasons, and at least 20 in four seasons. He had seven 100 RBI seasons, leading the American League four times. He led the Junior Circuit in Stolen Bases six times with nine seasons of at least 50 Steals. Cobb was the premier player of his era, winning the 1909 Triple Crown (9 HR, 107 RBI, .377 BA). In 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its first class: Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb. It was Cobb, not Ruth, who received the most votes, with 98.2% for induction into Cooperstown.

Selecting the greatest individual season of Cobb’s career is nearly impossible. He was consistently brilliant. Examining his MVP 1911 season with the Tigers seems the most appropriate. In 146 Games, he collected 248 Hits, 47 Doubles, 24 Triples, 8 Home Runs, 127 RBI, scored 148 Runs, 83 Stolen Bases, 44 Walks, 42 Strikeouts, .419 BA, .466 OBP, .620 SLG, 1.086 OPS, 196 OPS+, and 367 Total Bases. Cobb led the league in Runs scored, Hits, Doubles, Triples, RBI, Stolen Bases, BA, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and Total Bases. He won the first American League MVP award. He finished 7th in 1912, 20th in 1913, and 14th in 1914 after which the award was discontinued. The MVP returned to the Junior Circuit in 1922, but previous winners were ineligible to win again. It is not difficult to imagine the Georgia Peach winning at least five MVP awards if he was eligible. 

Georgia continues to send great players to the Majors every year. The state shows no sign of slowing down. Next week the United States of Baseball goes west, really far west to the  Land of the Chamorro. Guam is next. 


Chasing Milestones

Miguel Cabrera is one of the greatest Right Handed Hitters of all time. The future first ballot Hall of Famer has never possessed great speed. He rarely legs out infield hits, rather he drives pitches into the alleys. As Cabrera prepares for his 19th Major League season, the soon to be 38 year old is within reach of several career milestones. While the Tigers are poised for another summer of rebuilding, Cabrera’s career accomplishments should not be lost within the losing.

The man can still hit. The last four seasons have been trying, as Cabrera dealt with injuries. Despite these challenges, he has averaged 156 Hits, 27 Doubles, 19 Home Runs, 80 RBI, 62 Runs scores, 67 Walks, 133 Strikeouts, .267 BA, .342 OBP, .406 SLG, .740 OPS, and 100 OPS+ per 162 Games played since 2017. Even an injured and aging Cabrera is league average with little protection in the Detroit lineup. 

Lest we forget the threat was in his prime. In his first nine seasons with the Tigers, 2008 to 2016, Cabrera averaged 198 Hits, 41 Doubles, 37 Home Runs, 122 RBI, 103 Runs scored, 82 Walks, 110 Strikeouts, .325 BA, .404 OBP, .573 SLG, .977 OPS, and 161 OPS+ per 162 games played. He added five more Silver Slugger awards to the two he won with the Florida Marlins. Cabrera won four American League Batting Titles (2011-2013, 2015), back to back MVP awards (2012-2013), and the Triple Crown in 2012. Players like Cabrera are rare, and few peak as high and long as he did.

Detroit fans have at least three years left with Cabrera. He could remain a Tiger through 2025 if his vesting options kick in by finishing in the top ten of MVP voting in 2023 and 2024. Regardless, fans should enjoy watching him reach milestones beginning this season. He enters 2021 with 2,866 Hits, 581 Doubles, 487 Home Runs, 1,729 RBI, 1,457 Runs scored, 1,159 Walks, 1,812 Strikeouts, .313 BA, .391 OBP, .540 SLG, .931 OPS, and 147 OPS+. 

If Cabrera stays healthy he will climb higher in the all time rankings in several categories. His .313 BA is 74th highest all time, a .002 rise to .315 would place him in the top 70. Cabrera has scored 1,457 Runs, 80th all time, if he has another post-2017 average season he would reach the top 65. His 79.0 career oWAR is 40th all time, a 2.0 oWAR season would move him to 35th place. Cabrera is ever so close to the magical 3,000 Hit mark, needing just 134 more to seal his induction into Cooperstown. He would also move from 46th to the top 30. Cabrera is just 13 long balls away from joining the 500 Home Run club. If he can connect with 20 dingers, he would move into the top 25. He is 24th all time with 1,729 RBI, a good season will move him into the top 20. Less celebrated, but Miguel Cabrera is just 58 bases away from 5,000 career Total Bases. He should sail into the top 20 with a pedestrian season. Cabrera could collect his 600th Double in 2021, he sits just 19 shy at 581. 

Some of these milestones are more exciting than others. They all tell the same story, Miguel Cabrera can hit and has his entire career. Cabrera is an elite hitter, his peak was amazing and it has placed him among the game’s all time greats. He is heading for the Hall of Fame, but for now we should enjoy every Miguel Cabrera At Bat we can. 


United States of Baseball- Arkansas

Arkansas’ natural beauty is often overlooked. From the Ozarks to the banks of the Mississippi River the Natural State has plenty to offer. The state has also produced 159 Major League players. They have achieved varying degrees of success on the diamond, but two players reign supreme. Dizzy Dean is the greatest Arkansas born pitcher and Brooks Robinson is the greatest position player. Dean’s 43.90 career WAR is the 35th highest among pitching state leaders, while Robinson’s 78.38 WAR is the 20th highest among position players. Their combined 122.28 WAR gives Arkansas the 27th highest WAR. 

Born Jay Hanna Dean, Dizzy Dean and his younger brother Paul “Daffy” Dean are the only Major Leaguers from Lucas, Arkansas. Dizzy played 12 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals (1930, 1932-1937), Chicago Cubs (1938-1941), and St. Louis Browns (1947). He twice led the National League in Wins, was a four time All Star, won the 1934 National League MVP award and World Series, and was inducted into Cooperstown in 1953. 

Dean’s best season was 1934. He pitched in 50 Games with 33 Starts, throwing 24 Complete Games, 8 Shutouts, in 311.2 Innings, allowed 14 Home Runs, 75 Walks, 195 Strikeouts, with a 30-7 record, 2.66 ERA, 1.165 WHIP, and 159 ERA+. He won the National League MVP award, plus led the league in Wins, Shutouts, and Strikeouts. In the World Series against the Detroit Tigers, he won the first and seventh game, a six Hit Shutout, for the Gashouse Gang. He went 2-1 in 3 Starts, pitching 26.0 Innings, including 2 Complete Games, 1.73 ERA, and 0.962 WHIP.  

Dizzy Dean was a great showman and pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. (AP Photo)

Dean’s career was derailed after a comebacker broke his toe during the 1937 All Star game. He returned too quickly, altering his pitching motion to compensate for the injury. Dean’s effectiveness began declining after he was traded to the Cubs in 1938. He pitched in 317 career Games, Starting 230, throwing 154 Complete Games, 26 Shutouts, in 1,967.1 Innings, with 453 Walks, 1,163 Strikeouts, a 150-83 record, 3.02 ERA, 1.206 WHIP, and 131 ERA+. His final appearance was on September 28, 1947 for the St. Louis Browns. Dean was an announcer for the Browns and complained he could pitch better than the team’s pitchers. On the last day of the season, he proved he was right, pitching 4 Shutout Innings before injuring himself running the bases. A fitting end to a Hall of Fame career

The Human Vacuum created a black hole in Baltimore. The Little Rock native Brooks Robinson played his entire 23 season career with the Orioles, 1955-1977. He was elected to 18 consecutive All Star Games, won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves (1960-1975), helped the Orioles win two World Series, won the 1964 American League MVP, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.  

Robinson’s best season was 1964. In 163 Games, he collected 194 Hits, 35 Doubles, 3 Triples, 28 Home Runs, 118 RBI, scored 82 Runs, 51 Walks, 64 Strikeouts, .317 BA, .368 OBP, .521 SLG, .889 OPS, and 145 OPS+. Robinson won the American League MVP award and led the league in Games played and RBI. 

If Brooks Robinson could not make the play it was impossible. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Baltimore played in four World Series during Robinson’s career, winning in 1966 and 1970. He played in 39 Postseason Games, collecting 44 Hits, 8 Doubles, 5 Home Runs, 22 RBI, scored 17 Runs, 6 Walks, 9 Strikeouts, .303 BA, .323 OBP, .462 SLG, and .785 OPS. His success in October was a continuation of his success in the Regular Season. 

In 2,896 career Games, Robinson collected 2,848 Hits, 482 Doubles, 68 Triples, 268 Home Runs, 1,357 RBI, scored 1,232 Runs, 860 Walks, 990 Strikeouts, .267 BA, .322 OBP, .401 SLG, .723 OPS, and 105 OPS+. His offensive numbers were good, but were overshadowed by his elite defense at Third Base. In 25,083 Innings, he had 9,196 career Chances, made 2,712 Putouts, 6,220 Assists, 264 Errors, and turned 621 Double Plays. Robinson was an elite fielder, .971 vs .953 lgFld%, with better Range, 3.20 RF9 vs 3.09 lgRF9. The Human Vacuum’s skill with the glove propelled Robinson to finish in the top four for MVP voting five times.

Arkansas has produced excellent baseball players. The Natural State has sent six players to the Hall of Fame. Dean and Robinson are joined in Cooperstown by Lou Brock, Travis Jackson, George Kell, and Arky Vaughan. Elite players come from everywhere, but the United States of Baseball’s next stop is a hot bed. We head west to California next.


Unsteady Hands

2020 has been a long year for baseball. Covid nearly canceled the MLB season, as did the disagreement between MLB and the Players Association about player salary and the number of games. Minor League Baseball was canceled and now MLB has gutted the game from many cities. There have been plenty of issues surrounding the game, but once games began the attention was on the field. 

Bad years are made up of bad days. Rafael Devers has long been regarded as part of the Red Sox future core. His bat has delivered for Boston, posting a career .279 BA, with .332 OBP, .498 SLG, .830 OPS, and 115 OPS+. The damage done is 443 Hits, 108 Doubles, 5 Triples, 74 Home Runs, 254 RBI, 254 Runs scored, 16 Stolen Bases, 117 Walks, and 364 Strikeouts in just four seasons. In 2019, Devers led the American League with 54 Doubles, while slugging 32 Home Runs to finish 12th in MVP voting

There are bad days, and then there was Rafael Devers’ day in the field on August 13th at Fenway Park against the Tampa Bay Rays. He was productive at the plate, going 1 for 5, with an RBI Single and Run Scored in the 1st. Devers’ day went downhill from there. In the top of the 4th with no outs, Red Sox Pitcher Phillips Valdez induced a soft bouncing ball to Third from Hunter Renfroe. Devers easily gloved the ball and turned to start a 5-4-3 Double Play. Devers never had a solid grip on the ball after transferring the ball from his glove to his hand. His throw was wide of Second Baseman Jonathan Arauz and into Right Field. The errant throw allowed Yandy Diaz to go from First to Third. The next batter, Brandon Lowe, Singled up the middle scoring Diaz, unearned, and moved Renfroe to Second. Tampa led 8-4. 

Rafael Devers needs to improve his defense to help the Red Sox return to competitive baseball. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

Unearned runs are the price a team pays for committing Errors. The Rays’ next batter, Willy Adames, struckout. Boston could limit the damage with a Double Play. Valdez induced Manuel Margot to hit an even softer bouncer to Third, which Devers charged, bareheaded, and fired to First. Everyone knows the feeling when they release the ball and it does not go where they intended. The moment Devers released the ball, everyone knew it was a bad throw. Red Sox First Baseman Mitch Moreland unsuccessfully dove for the throw. The ball rattled around in foul territory allowing Renfroe to score, unearned, Lowe to go First to Third, and Margot to reach Second. Devers had two Errors on two Chances in the inning, both plays a Major League Third Basemen should make. His throwing Errors allowed three unearned runs to score; Diaz, Renfroe, and eventually Lowe. Boston trailed 10-4. 

Devers’ was not over. In the 7th, Tampa led 16-5. Renfroe led off against Josh Osich. He hit a hard ground ball a step towards the line. Devers fielded the ball cleanly with plenty of time to throw across the diamond. However, the throw sailed high and new Red Sox First Baseman Michael Chavis jumped to catch the throw and attempted a tag. The bad throw allowed Renfroe to reach. Luckily, Devers’ third Error did not hurt Boston further as Renfroe was stranded at Third.

Rafael Devers had a day every baseball player wants to forget. His 3 Errors helped him lead baseball with 14 in the shortened season. Devers struggled in 2020, posting the lowest Fld% of any player with at least 100 innings in the field. His defense is a liability and 2020 was a continuation of his career at the hot corner. In 1,034 career Chances, Devers has 232 Putouts, 728 Assists, and 74 Errors for a .891 FLD%. The average MLB Third Baseman had a .959 Fld% in 2020, a -.068 difference. The difference of 27 successful plays made in 400 Chances, literally an entire game worth of outs. Devers’ bat is his calling card, but it is not good to have as many career Errors as Home Runs.

The Errors are coming as quickly as the Home Runs for Rafael Devers. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Errors and Fld% do not show the full picture of a player’s defense. Range and Runs Saved help show a player’s impact with their glove and arm. Devers is not the next Brooks Robinson. Both his RF/9 (Range Factor per 9 Innings) and RF/G (Range Factor per Game) are below league average. In 2020, Devers made 2.16 plays per 9 innings and 2.00 per game, while the league averaged 2.57 and 2.48. He made 0.41 and 0.48 fewer players, roughly 25 fewer plays made in his 57 games played. His lack of range hurts the Red Sox by being involved in and converts fewer plays at a critical position. 

It was not just a tough season for Devers. His defense has been below average since arriving in the Majors. His career RF/9 (2.58 vs 2.64), RF/G (2.52 vs 2.60), and Fld% (.928 vs .958) are all below average. His rTOT (the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made) was -13 in 2020 and -44 in his career. There is no evidence suggesting Devers will ever become a league average Third Baseman. 

Devers’ bat got him to the Majors at 20, but his glove needs a new home where it is less damaging to Boston’s opportunity to win. He has a career 9.3 oWAR, but a -2.4 career dWAR. The simple solution is to DH him, but JD Martinez, and his own lack of defense, occupies that role. The Red Sox need to keep Devers in the lineup, but how long can his bat compensate for his glove. 

Watching a player struggle is never fun and without question Devers is trying to get better. He is still young, just 24 years old. He is still learning, after rocketing through the Minors. Devers has time to learn the hot corner as the Red Sox rebuild. However, when the Boston faithful return to Fenway they expect him to contribute with his bat AND glove.


Bo Knows

The debate about who is the greatest athlete of all time never ends. Jim Thorpe, Michael Jordan, Jim Brown, and on and on and on. One name that always comes up in the debate is Bo Jackson. The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner was a two time All American for the Auburn University football team, while posting a career .338 BA with the baseball team. An elite Athlete in multiple sports is once in a generation, Bo Jackson was even more rare. 

Bo Jackson was selected three times in the MLB Draft. The New York Yankees selected him in the 2nd round  of the 1982 Draft out of high school. The California Angels selected him in the 20th round of the 1985 Draft, months before his Heisman season. The Kansas City Royals selected Jackson in the 4th round of the 1986 Draft as he refused to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after they selected him first overall in the 1986 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay lied to Jackson about clearing a team visit with the NCAA in part to end his college baseball eligibility. Jackson never played for the Buccaneers, instead playing for the Los Angeles Raiders who selected him in the 7th round of the 1987 NFL Draft. Football was Bo Jackson’s hobby. His Raiders contract allowed him to play the entire baseball season before shifting to football, even though he would miss several Raiders games. 

The Royals sent Jackson to AA to start his professional baseball career. After just 53 games for the Memphis Chicks he was called up to Kansas City. He debuted on September 2, 1986, batting 6th, and playing Right Field against the White Sox. Chicago’s starter that night was future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. Jackson went 1 for 3, with an infield single in his first at bat. The legend had arrived. 

In 8 Major League seasons Bo Jackson played 694 Games; playing at least 100 games four times, 1987 to 1990. He collected 598 Hits, 86 Doubles, 13 Triples, and 141 Home Runs, 415 RBI, scored 341 Runs, Stole 82 Bases, 200 Walks, with 841 Strikeouts. He hit .250, with a .309 OBP, .474 SLG, .784 OPS, and 112 OPS+. 

The 1989 season was a glimpse of Jackson’s potential. In 135 Games, he collected 132 Hits, 15 Doubles, 6 Triples, and 32 Home Runs. He scored 86 Runs, Stole 26 Bases, with 105 RBI. Jackson was named an All Star where he batted first. He wasted no time announcing himself by launching Rick Reuschel’s second pitch of the game out of Anaheim Stadium. He reached on a Fielder’s Choice in his second at bat against John Smoltz, driving in Ruben Sierra, before stealing second. In his third at bat, he singled off Tim Burke. Jackson won the All Star Game MVP and would finish season 10th in the 1989 American League MVP voting

The future was bright for Jackson and Kansas City until January 13, 1991. The Raiders hosted the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Divisional Round Playoffs. Running down the sidelines, Bengals Linebacker Kevin Walker tackled Jackson. On an otherwise normal play, Bo Jackson dislocated his left hip. His football career was over and once the severity of the injury became apparent the Royals released him in Spring Training. Jackson’s baseball future was in doubt even after the White Sox signed him a few weeks later. 

Jackson’s hip injury limited him to 23 games as a September call up. After the season, the injured hip was replaced. He missed the entire 1992 season, but Jackson and his power returned in 1993. He played 85 games in 1993, slugging 16 Home Runs, but his blazing speed was gone. Natural talent always reveals itself, even if the person is no longer at full strength. Jackson signed a free agent contract with the California Angels for the 1994 season. He played 75 games with the Angels, hitting 13 Home Runs with a .279 BA. The Player’s Strike ended the season and Jackson’s career. 

Bo Jackson remains one of the greatest athletes of all time despite his athletic career begin cut short by a hip injury. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Bo Jackson had the talent to be a Hall of Fame baseball and football player. Competing simultaneously at the highest level of two demanding sports is nearly impossible, yet Bo Jackson did it. His brief careers showed the world his talents and solidified his place in the greatest athlete of all time debate. It is easy to focus on his careers being cut short by injury, but life is not perfect. Instead we should focus on what he accomplished. Towering Home Runs, blazing speed on the base paths and down the sidelines. Bo knows, and so does everyone else, that there may never be another athlete like him. Over 25 years since he last competed and Bo Jackson is still the benchmark for athleticism, not of a day gone by but of today.

Happy 58th Birthday Bo Jackson. The G.O.A.T.