Tagged: Silver Slugger

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. 

DJ

United States of Baseball-Massachusetts

There is more to baseball in Massachusetts than Fenway Park. The iconic ball park has played a major role in the game’s history, but it is not the Bay State’s only contribution. Massachusetts has sent 667 players to the Major Leagues. The greatest pitcher born in Massachusetts is Tim Keefe. His 89.13 career WAR ranks him 12th among pitching state and territory leaders. Jeff Bagwell is the greatest position player born in the Bay State. His 79.88 career WAR ranks 20th among position player leaders. Massachusetts has a combined 169.01 WAR, ranking the Bay State 16th among states and territories. 

Tim Keefe made the most of his opportunities in baseball. The Cambridge native pitched for 14 seasons with five teams: Troy Trojans (1880-1882), New York Metropolitans (1883-1884), New York Giants (1885-1889, 1891), New York Giants of the Players League (1890), and Philadelphia Phillies (1891-1893). The inspiration for the pitcher in Casey At The Bat, Keefe pitched in 600 career Games, made 594 Starts, threw 554 Complete Games, including 39 Shutouts, Pitched 5,049.2 Innings, allowed 4,438 Hits, 2,470 Runs, 1,474 Earned Runs, 75 Home Runs, 1,233 Walks, 2,564 Strikeouts, posted a 342-225 record, 2.63 ERA, 1.123 WHIP, and 126 ERA+. He won three ERA Titles (1880, 1885, and 1888) and became the second member of the 300 Win Club, joining Pud Galvin. Keefe was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964 by the Veterans Committee. 

The World Series was a postseason exhibition during Keefe’s career, but he still shined. He pitched in three series (1884, 1888, and 1889), helping the Giants win the latter two. Keefe pitched in 8 Games, made 7 Starts, threw 7 Complete Games, Pitched 61.0 Innings, allowed 45 Hits, 36 Runs, 18 Earned Runs, 2 Home Runs, 14 Walks, 46 Strikeouts, posted a 4-3 record, 2.66 ERA, and 0.967 WHIP. He was terrific regardless of the stakes. 

Tim Keefe was one of baseball’s earliest dominant pitchers. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The best season of Keefe’s career was 1888 with the Giants. He pitched in and Started 51 Games, threw 48 Complete Games, including 8 Shutouts, Pitched 434.1 Innings, allowed 317 Hits, 143 Runs, 84 Earned Runs, 5 Home Runs, 90 Walks, 335 Strikeouts, posted a 35-12 record, 1.74 ERA, 0.937 WHIP, and 156 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins, Winning Percentage, Shutouts, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+ to win the Pitching Triple Crown. Keefe established the Major League record, later equaled by Rube Marquard, with 19 consecutive victories from June 23 to August 10. 

Away from the diamond, Keefe stayed busy. In 1885, he helped form the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, an early attempt at a player’s association. Keefe worked to end the Reserve Clause. In his ongoing efforts to break the hold of owners, Keefe helped establish the Players League in 1890. While the league collapsed after one season, Keefe continued fighting for player’s rights. 

Houston’s Killer B’s revolved around Jeff Bagwell. The Boston Native played First Base for 15 seasons with the Astros (1991-2005). In 2,150 career Games, Bagwell collected 2,314 Hits, 488 Doubles, 32 Triples, 449 Home Runs, 1,529 RBI, scored 1,517 Runs, 202 Stolen Bases, 1,401 Walks, 1,558 Strikeouts, .297 BA, .408 OBP, .540 SLG, .948 OPS, and 149 OPS+. Originally drafted by his hometown Red Sox, Bagwell was traded to Houston for Larry Anderson. The Minor Leaguer was heartbroken. However, the Astros gave him the opportunity to win the First Base spot in Spring Training. Bagwell played Third Base throughout his Minor League career, but Ken Caminiti was entrenched at the Hot Corner. Bagwell responded by winning the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year Award, receiving 23 of 24 first place votes. He was named to four All Star teams and won three Silver Slugger awards. Bagwell was a terror at the plate, collecting at least 30 Doubles 10 times and scored 100 Runs nine times. He hit 30 Home Runs with 100 RBI eight times. Despite his ferocious approach, Bagwell drew 100 Walks seven times. He hit over .300 six times and posted a 1.000 OPS five times. He twice produced 30 Home Run 30 Stolen Base seasons. Bagwell appeared in the 2005 World Series, collecting his final career Hit in eight At Bats as shoulder injuries ended his career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2017. 

Jeff Bagwell’s unique batting stance only draw more attention to his At Bats while he terrorized opposing pitchers. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Unquestionably the best season of Bagwell’s career was 1994. In the Strike Shortened season, he played in 110 Games, collected 147 Hits, 32 Doubles, 2 Triples, 39 Home Runs, 116 RBI, scored 104 Runs, 15 Stolen Bases, 65 Walks, 65 Strikeouts, .368 BA, .451 OBP, .750 SLG, 1.201 OPS, and 213 OPS+. He led the National League in RBI, Runs scored, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and Total Bases (300). Bagwell won his first Silver Slugger, the Gold Glove, and was the unanimous National League MVP.  

Massachusetts continues to play an important role in the game. The Bay State’s rich baseball history has seen 15 native sons enshrined in Cooperstown: Jeff Bagwell, Jack Chesbro, John Clarkson, Mickey Cochrane, Candy Cummings (Executive), Leo Durocher (Manager), Tom Glavine, Frank Grant, Tim Keefe, Joe Kelley, Connie Mack (Manager), Rabbit Maranville, Tommy McCarthy, Wilbert Robinson (Manager), and Pie Traynor. Fenway is not Massachusetts’ only baseball legacy. Next week the United States of Baseball heads for the Great Lakes. The Wolverine State is next, Michigan. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Indiana

Indiana is known more for basketball and auto racing than baseball. However, the Hoosier State has a strong baseball legacy. 377 Major League players were born in Indiana. Amos Rusie is the greatest Hoosier pitcher. His 65.20 career WAR ranks 23rd among state and territory pitching leaders. Scott Rolen is the greatest position player from Indiana. His 70.11 career WAR ranks 27th among position player leaders. Combined, Indiana boasts a 135.31 WAR, 23rd highest among all states and territories. 

The Hoosier Thunderbolt terrified batters. Many batters never saw Amos Rusie’s fastball, but it sounded fast. The Mooresville native so scared opposing teams the pitcher’s box was moved back from 55 feet to the familiar 60 feet 6 inches. Batters wanted extra time to avoid taking a fastball to the head. 

Rusie pitched for 10 seasons in the Majors with three teams: Indianapolis Hoosiers (1889), New York Giants (1890-1895, 1897-1898), and Cincinnati Reds (1901). The talents of some players are easily recognizable. Rusie pitched just four minor league games before reaching the Majors with the Hoosiers, who folded after the 1889. In 463 career Games, he made 427 Starts, threw 393 Complete Games, including 30 Shutouts, pitched 3,778.2 Innings, allowed 3,389 Hits, 2,068 Runs, 1,288 Earned Runs, 75 Home Runs, 1,707 Walks, 1,950 Strikeouts, posted a 246-174 record, 3.07 ERA, 1.349 WHIP, and 129 ERA+. Foul balls were not counted as strikes until 1901, making Rusie’s strikeout total even more impressive. 

Baseball is a business. In 1895, Rusie was twice fined $100 for breaking curfew and not trying hard enough. Angered by the large fines, his salary was $3,000, Rusie sat out the 1896 season and sued the Giants owner for $5,000 and his release. Ultimately the matter was settled for $5,000 as baseball owners did not want the Reserve Clause challenged in court. 

Rusie’s career was derailed after injuring his shoulder making a pickoff move in 1898. The injury prevented him from pitching in 1899 and 1900. The Giants traded Rusie to the Cincinnati Reds in 1901 for a young pitcher named Christy Mathewson. Rusie only lasted until June, Mathewson went to Cooperstown. 

Amos Rusie’s fastball terrified batter, so much that the baseball diamond was changed. (www.fromdeeprightfield.com)

Rusie set an unbreakable record, walking 289 batters in 1890. He pitched the Giants’ first No Hitter in 1891. Rusie won two ERA titles (1894 and 1897) and the Pitching Triple Crown in 1894. He led the National League in Strikeouts and Walks five times, and Shutouts four times. Rusie was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977 by the Veterans Committee. 

Amos Rusie’s best season was 1894 with the Giants. He pitched in 54 Games, made 50 Starts, threw 45 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitched 444 Innings, allowed 426 Hits, 228 Runs, 137 Earned Runs, 10 Home Runs, 200 Walks, 195 Strikeouts, posted a 36-13 record, 2.78 ERA, 1.410 WHIP, and 188 ERA+. He led the National League in Starts, Wins, Shutouts, Walks, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. At his peak, few pitchers baffled and intimidated hitters like Rusie.

Third Base is under-represented in Cooperstown. The hot corner does not receive the same respect as the rest of the infield. Evansville native Scott Rolen should be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the coming years. He played 17 seasons with four teams: Philadelphia Phillies (1996-2002), St. Louis Cardinals (2002-2007), Toronto Blue Jays (2008-2009), and Cincinnati Reds (2009-2012). Drafted by the Phillies in the 2nd Round, Rolen was one At Bat short of losing his rookie status in 1996 when he was injured by a Hit By Pitch. He returned from the injury to win the 1997 National League Rookie of the Year award and launch a Hall of Fame career. 

Rolen played 2,038 career Games, collected 2,077 Hits, 517 Doubles, 43 Triples, 316 Home Runs, 1,287 RBI, scored 1,211 Runs, 118 Stolen Bases, 899 Walks, 1,410 Strikeouts, .281 BA, .364 OBP, .490 SLG, .855 OPS, and 122 OPS+. He was elite with the glove. At Third, he played 17,479.1 Innings, had 5,745 Chances, made 1,478 Putouts, 4,081 Assists, committed 186 Errors, turned 355 Double Played, with a .968 FLD%, 2.86 RF9, 2.75 RFG, and 140 Rtot. Rolen was a seven time All Star, won eight Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and the 2006 World Series with the Cardinals. Despite his great play, his departures from Philadelphia and St. Louis came after run-ins with managers Larry Bowa and Tony LaRussa

Scott Rolen is among the greatest defensive Third Basemen ever and he was solid at the plate. (Dubois County Herald)

The best season of Rolen’s career was 2004 with the Cardinals. He played 142 Games, collected 157 Hits, 32 Doubles, 4 Triples, 34 Home Runs, 124 RBI, scored 109 Runs, 4 Stolen Bases, 72 Walks, 92 Strikeouts, .314 BA, .409 OBP, .598 SLG, 1.007 OPS, and 158 OPS+. He was an All Star for the third time and won his sixth Gold Glove. Rolen finished fourth for the National League MVP. While he did not lead the league in any statistical category, it was another solid season in Rolen’s consistent career. 

Indiana continues to build a proud baseball history. The Hoosier State is well represented in Cooperstown with 10 Hall of Famers: Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, Max Carey, Oscar Charleston, Ford Frick (Commissioner), Billy Herman, Chuck Klein, Sam Rice, Edd Roush, Amos Rusie, and Sam Thompson. Rolen should soon join this elite group. Next week the United States of Baseball moves to the final member of the former Three I League. The Hawkeye State, Iowa. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Illinois

The Land of Lincoln is one of the most fertile states for producing Major League players. Illinois has sent 1,069 players to MLB. There are great players born in Illinois. Robin Roberts is the greatest pitcher born in Illinois. His 86.05 career WAR ranks him the 14th among all state and territory leaders. Rickey Henderson is the greatest position player born in Illinois. His 111.20 WAR ranks him 8th among state and territory leaders. Combined Roberts and Henderson give Illinois 197.25 WAR, ranking the Land of Lincoln 11th among all states and territories. 

Robin Roberts was born in Springfield. The Right Handed Pitcher spent 19 seasons in the Majors, pitching for four teams: Philadelphia Phillies (1948-1961), Baltimore Orioles (1962-1965), Houston Astros (1965-1966), and Chicago Cubs (1966). Roberts was dominant during his time in Philadelphia and continued pitching for several more seasons as a crafty veteran. In his career, Roberts appeared in 676 Games, made 609 Starts, threw 305 Complete Games, including 45 Shutouts, pitched 4,688.2 Innings, allowed 4,582 Hits, 1,962 Runs, 1,774 Earned Runs, 505 Home Runs, 902 Walks, 2,357 Strikeouts, posted a 286-245 record, 3.41 ERA, 1.170 WHIP, and 113 ERA+. Roberts was an All Star in seven consecutive seasons, 1950-1956. He finished in the top seven for the National League MVP in five of the seven All Star seasons. Roberts was the only pitcher to win against the Braves in their three home cities: Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976. 

Robin Roberts’ easy motion hide the fierce competitor on the mound. (www.mlb.com)

There are plenty of great seasons in Robin Roberts career, but 1952 was the most consequential. Pitching for the Phillies, Roberts appeared in 39 Games, made 37 Starts, threw 30 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitched 330 Innings, allowed 292 Hits, 104 Runs, 95 Earned Runs, 22 Home Runs, 45 Walks, 148 Strikeouts, posted a 28-7 record, 2.59 ERA, 1.021 WHIP, and 141 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins, Games Started, Complete Games, Innings Pitched, and Hits allowed. Roberts won 20 of last 22 Starts and 17 of his last 18. He also began a streak of 28 straight Complete Games from July 20, 1952 to June 14, 1953. Roberts was named an All Star and finished a close second to Hank Sauer for National League MVP. Commissioner Ford Frick later told Roberts he wanted to create an award, the Cy Young award, to honor pitchers, in part due to Roberts’ 1952 MVP snub. 

Robin Roberts was a terrific player on the field and served as the Phillies player representative during negotiations with the owners. He fought for higher pay, better pensions, and benefits. Roberts later served at the head of the National League players representatives. He, along with fellow future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, approached Marvin Miller about serving as the first Executive Director of the Players Association. They knew the players needed a full time advocate. This choice of Miller led to greater benefits, free agency, and higher salaries, among other areas of progress for the players. 

The Man of Steal never lacked self confidence. Everyone in the stadium knew Rickey Henderson was going to steal, yet the opposing team could rarely stop him. The Chicago native played 25 seasons with nine teams: Oakland Athletics (1979-1984, 1989-1993, 1994-1995, 1998), New York Yankees (1985-1989), Toronto Blue Jays (1993), San Diego Padres (1996-1997, 2001), Anaheim Angels (1997), New York Mets (1999-2000), Seattle Mariners (2000), Boston Red Sox (2002), and Los Angeles Dodgers (2003). Henderson was a one man wrecking crew. In 3,081 career Games, he collected 3,055 Hits, 510 Doubles, 66 Triples, 297 Home Runs, 1,115 RBI, scored 2,295 Runs, 1,406 Stolen Bases, 335 Caught Stealing, 2,190 Walks, 1,694 Strikeouts, .279 BA, .401 OBP, .419 SLG, .820 OPS, and 127 OPS+. He is the All Time leader in Runs scored, Stolen Bases, and Caught Stealing. Henderson was a 10 time All Star, won a Gold Glove in 1981, three Silver Slugger awards, the 1989 American League Championship Series MVP, won two World Series (1989- Athletics and 1993- Blue Jays), and the 1990 American League MVP. He led the league in Stolen Bases 12 times and stole at least 50 Bases 14 times. Henderson led the league in Runs scored five times and scored at least 100 Runs 13 times. He led the league in Walks four times and drew at least 100 Walks seven times. He struck out more than 100 times just once, at age 39, but also drew 118 Walks that season. Henderson hit over .300 eight times. His unequalled resume earned him induction into the Hall of Fame in 2007. 

No player in baseball history was as feared on the bases as Rickey Henderson (www.mlb.com)

Rickey Henderson’s MVP season may not be his greatest season, but it is still worth examining. Playing for the Oakland Athletics in 1990, he appeared in 136 Games, collected 159 Hits, 33 Doubles, 3 Triples, 28 Home Runs, 61 RBI, scored 119 Runs, 65 Stolen Bases, 10 Caught Stealing, 97 Waks, 60 Strikeouts, .325 BA, .439 OBP, .577 SLG, 1.016 OPS, and 189 OPS+. He led the American League in Runs scored, Stolen Bases, OBP, OPS, and OPS+. He was eight seasons removed from his record 130 Steal campaign, and was combining his otherworldly speed with power. In his 12th Major League season, many assumed Henderson was at his peak. Few imagined his career would continue for more than a decade after his MVP season.

Illinois has been critical in the development of baseball. Cooperstown is filled with 23 natives from the Land of Lincoln: Al Barlick (Umpire), Ed Barrow (Executive), Jim Bottomley, Lou Boudreau, Charles Comiskey (Executive), Jocko Conlan (Umpire),  Billy Evans (Umpire), Warren Giles (Executive), Will Harridge (Executive), Rickey Henderson, Whitey Herzog (Manager), Freddie Lindstrom, Joe McGinnity, Hank O’Day (Umpire), Kirby Puckett, Robin Roberts, Red Ruffing, Ray Schalk, Red Schoendienst, Al Spalding (Executive), Jim Thome, Bill Veeck (Executive), and Robin Yount. Growing the game happens on and off the diamond. Next week the United States of Baseball visits Illinois’ neighbor. The Hoosier State is next, Indiana. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Delaware

Delaware is often forgotten. Sitting on the Atlantic coast between Philadelphia and the Washington-Baltimore Metro, the state hides in plain sight. While the First State does not have a Major League team, it has sent 56 players to baseball’s highest level. Delaware punches above its weight for its place in baseball. Sadie McMahon is the greatest pitcher born in Delaware. His 43.55 WAR is the 36th highest among all state and territory leaders. Paul Goldschmidt has the highest WAR for position players born in Delaware. His 45.11 WAR ranks him 40th. McMahon and Goldschmidt have a combined 88.66 WAR, ranking Delaware 39th among all states and territories. 

John Joseph McMahon was born in Wilmington. He earned the nickname Sadie during his baseball career, but the exact origins are unclear. McMahon pitched for nine seasons with three teams: Philadelphia Athletics (1889-1890), Baltimore Orioles (1890-1896), and Brooklyn Bridegrooms (1897). He played during a time of great change for pitchers with the introduction of the pitchers mound in 1893. McMahon pitched in 321 career Games, made 305 Starts, throwing 279 Complete Games, including 14 Shutouts, in 2,634 Innings, allowing 2,726 Hits, 1,592 Runs, 1,026 Earned Runs, 52 Home Runs, 945 Walks, 967 Strikeouts, 98 Wild Pitches, posting a 173-127 record, 3.51 ERA, 1.394 WHIP, and 118 ERA+. He was forced to retire before turning 30 after a shoulder injury derailed his career. 

Sadie McMahon was a great pitcher in the early days of professional baseball. (www.sabr.org)

Pitching from the flat pitchers box, McMahon enjoyed his best season with the 1891 Baltimore Orioles. He appeared in 61 Games, with 58 Starts, throwing 53 Complete Games, including 5 Shutouts, in 503 Innings, allowing 493 Hits, 259 Runs, 157 Earned Runs, 13 Home Runs, 149 Walks, 219 Strikeouts, 16 Wild Pitches, posting a 35-24 record, 2.81 ERA, 1.276 WHIP, and 131 ERA+. He led the American Association in Starts, Wins, Complete Games, Shutouts, and Innings Pitched. His 35 Wins were nearly half of the Orioles 71 victories

Sadie McMahon was an elite pitcher before injuries quieted his arm. In the twilight of his career, McMahon went pitch for pitch against Cy Young and the Cleveland Spiders in the 1895 Temple Cup. The Temple Cup was a postseason exhibition series. While McMahon is not an all time great, he was a terrific pitcher in the early days of professional baseball. 

Paul Goldschmidt is the greatest position player born in Delaware. The Wilmington native is the first active player to lead a state or territory in the United States of Baseball. The star First Baseman is entering his age 33 season, having played 10 seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks (2011-2018) and St. Louis Cardinals (2019-present). Goldschmidt has played 1,311 career Games, collected 1,395 Hits, 305 Doubles, 20 Triples, 249 Home Runs, with 828 RBI, 837 Runs scored, 128 Stolen Bases, 770 Walks, 1,268 Strikeouts, .293 BA, .392 OBP, .522 SLG, .914 OPS, and 141 OPS+. He is a six time All Star, four time Silver Slugger, three time Gold Glover, 2017 World Baseball Classic champion, and twice finished second for the National League MVP (2013 and 2015). 

Paul Goldschmidt continues to be a force for the St. Louis Cardinals. (www.calltothepen.com)

Goldschmidt’s best season, thus far, was in 2015 with the Diamondbacks. In 159 Games, he collected 182 Hits, 38 Doubles, 2 Triples, 33 Home Runs, 110 RBI, 103 Runs scored, 21 Stolen Bases, 118 Walks, 151 Strikeouts, .321 BA, .435 OBP, .570 SLG, 1.005 OPS, and 168 OPS+. He was an All Star, won both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove, and finished second for the MVP award. This was not a one season flash as Goldschmidt was just as dominant in 2013, either season could be his best. Now playing for the ever competitive Cardinals, Goldschmidt will be a force for many more seasons.  

The First State is not the biggest state, nor has it sent the most players to the Majors. However, it plays its part in the continuing story of baseball. Delaware has one native son in Cooperstown, Bill McGowan. Surely the legendary umpire will someday be joined by a fellow Delawarean. The United States of Baseball takes a short drive west next week to the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia is next.

DJ

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. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Colorado

Colorado is better known as an outdoor playground than a hub for baseball. The mountainous terrain in the western half of the state and cold winters are not conducive to year round baseball. Nevertheless, the Centennial State has sent 97 players to the Major Leagues. Colorado may trail other states in sheer numbers, but the state makes up for it with quality. Roy Halladay has the highest WAR among Colorado born pitchers, 65.37, and ranks 22nd among state and territory leaders. Chase Headley leads all Colorado born position players with 25.92 WAR, ranking him 48th among all leaders. Halladay and Headley’s combined 91.29 WAR ranks Colorado 38th highest. More and more baseball talent comes from the Centennial State each year, it will undoubtedly continue climbing higher in the rankings.

Roy Halladay is one of the great pitchers in recent baseball history. The Denver native pitched 16 seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays (1998-2009) and Philadelphia Phillies (2010-2013). In 390 career Starts, Halladay posted a 203-105 record, throwing 67 Complete Games, 20 Shutouts, 2,749.1 Innings Pitched, allowed 236 Home Runs, 592 Walks, 2,117 Strikeouts, with a 3.38 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, and 131 ERA+. He was an 8 time All Star, finished in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award seven times, won 2 Cy Youngs (2003 and 2010), and was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame in 2019. 

Roy Halladay threw the second no-hitter in postseason history on the way to Cooperstown. (Mel Evans/ AP)

Halladay’s career numbers reflect the era in which he pitched. Pitching continues to evolve, gone are the days of massive innings totals, double digit Complete Games, and the ability to contain most teams inside the ballpark. Hall of Fame voting for pitchers is changing and Halladay helped lead the charge. 

Unquestionably Halladay’s greatest season was his 2010 campaign with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 33 Starts, he posted a 21-10 record, throwing 9 Complete Games, 4 Shutouts, in 250.2 Innings, allowing just 68 Earned Runs, 30 Walks, 219 Strikeouts, with a 2.44 ERA, 1.041 WHIP, and 167 ERA+. Halladay led the National League in Wins, Complete Games, Shutouts, and Innings Pitched on his way to his second Cy Young and finishing 6th in MVP voting. His crowning achievement was Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Halladay missed the zone with a full count in the 5th Inning. This Jay Bruce walk was all the offense the Reds could muster. He pitched 9 Innings, allowing 0 Hits, 1 Walk, 8 Strikeouts, faced 28 batters, and threw 104 pitches. Halladay became the second pitcher to throw a No Hitter in the Postseason after Don Larsen’s Perfect Game in the 1956 World Series. Halladay was nearly unhittable in 2010 and was in Game 1 of the NLDS.

Chase Headley played 12 seasons for the San Diego Padres (2007-2014, 2018) and New York Yankees (2014-2017). The Fountain native appeared in 1,436 Games, collected 1,337 Hits, 272 Doubles, 16 Triples, 130 Home Runs, 596 RBI, scored 637 Runs, 93 Stolen Bases, 574 Walks, 1,298 Strikeouts, .263 BA, .342 OBP, .399 SLG, .742 OPS, and 106 OPS+. Playing primarily Third Base, Headley played 9,643.1 Innings, had 2,888 Chances, made 703 Putouts, 2078 Assists, 107 Errors, and turned 173 Double Plays. Both his career .963 Fld% and Range, 2.60 RF/9, were above average. Headley was a solid hitter and above average Third Baseman. While his numbers will not see him inducted into Cooperstown, he was a productive player throughout his long career. 

Chase Headley was a solid Third Baseman with the glove and the bat throughout his career. (The Athletic)

Headley’s best season was in 2012 with the Padres. In 161 Games, he collected 173 Hits, 31 Doubles, 2 Triples, 31 Home Runs, 115 RBI, scored 95 Runs, 17 Stolen Bases, 86 Walks, 157 Strikeouts, .286 BA, .376 OBP, .498 SLG, .875 OPS, and 145 OPS+. He led the National League in RBI, and won his only Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. Headley peaked in San Diego before he was traded to the Yankees who re-signed him as a free agent to a 4 year, $52 million contract. Players are rewarded for past performance and Headley cashed in.

Colorado has sent two players to Cooperstown. The WAR leader, Roy Halladay, and Goose Gossage. Undoubtedly more Coloradans will follow as the Centennial State continues building its baseball legacy. Next Week the United States of Baseball heads east to the Constitution State, Connecticut. 

DJ

Awards Season

The 2020 season was undoubtedly the most unusual in MLB history. The regular season was played in empty stadiums. Several teams had games postponed due to positive Covid tests, forcing them to play numerous makeup doubleheaders. The sense that games could be postponed at any moment always lurked around the corner. Even the Dodgers celebrating their World Series victory was not seamless, as Justin Turner returned to the field despite a positive Covid test. Despite all of these hurdles, plus the usual injury issues, the 2020 season was a success. 

Completing the season and entering the offseason means recognizing the season’s best players. The awards voters are not always right, however this season the best players won. The condensed season allowed the elite players, enjoying long hot streaks to rise to the top. These players have built solid careers and are reaching their peaks.

Manager of the Year

The Manager of the Year award often goes to the managers who make deep runs in October. Despite Dave Roberts leading the Dodgers to their first World Series title since 1988, he did not win his second Manager of the Year award (2016). Instead, Don Mattingly won the 2020 National League Manager of the Year award after guiding the Marlins to the National League Divisional Series. Coming off back to back 98+ lose seasons Mattingly guided Miami to a 31-29 record. The Marlins dealt with a Covid outbreak, which required them to play multiple double headers. Despite the challenges, Mattingly guided his young team through trials and tribulations no other team has faced before.

Don Mattingly has seen it all as the Marlins manager. From the death of Jose Fernandez to Covid Mattingly has led Miami through the storms (Jeff Roberson/ AP)

Kevin Cash led the Tampa Bay Rays to the American League pennant and the best record in the Junior Circuit, 40-20. Tampa easily won the American League East by seven games over the Yankees with baseball’s fourth lowest payroll. People will focus on Cash’s handling of Blake Snell in the World Series, but he pushed all the right buttons to set Tampa up for October success. The Rays responded to Cash and excelled throughout the shortened 2020 season.

Rookie of the Year

Devin Williams won the National League Rookie of the Year award. He is the first pitcher to win the award without making a start or recording a save. Williams appeared in 22 Games for the Brewers, 4-1 record, pitched 27 innings, allowed 8 Hits, 1 Earned Run (solo Home Run to Colin Moran), 9 Walks, 53 Strikeouts, 0.33 ERA, 0.630 WHIP, and 1,375 ERA+ (not a typo). He allowed more than one hit in an appearance once, his last appearance of the season. Williams pitched two innings and both hits were erased by double plays. Devin Williams was simply dominated. 

Devin Williams was nearly unhittable out of the Brewers bullpen all season. (Jeff Haynes/ Associated Press)

Kyle Lewis was the unanimous American League Rookie of the Year. He hit .262, .364 OBP, .437 SLG, .801 OPS, and 126 OPS+. Lewis had 54 Hits, 3 Doubles, 11 Home Runs, 28 RBI, scored 37 Runs, 5 Stolen Bases, 34 Walks, and 71 Strikeouts. He skipped AAA going straight to Seattle in 2019, appearing in 18 Games for the Mariners. In 2020, Lewis saw 4.06 pitches per plate appearance, higher than the 3.94 league average. Lewis’ talent will show through at the plate as he sees more pitches and he solidifies Centerfield in Seattle for the foreseeable future. 

Cy Young Award

Trevor Bauer is not afraid to operate outside the box. He only cares about being the best pitcher he can possibly be, as chronicled in The MVP Machine. Bauer enters free agency winning his first Cy Young Award (27 of 30 first place votes). He went 5-4 with a league leading 1.73 ERA. In 11 starts, Bauer threw 2 Complete Games, 2 Shutouts in 73 innings, allowing 41 Hits, 14 Earned Runs, 9 Home Runs, 17 Walks, 100 Strikeouts, 0.795 WHIP (led league), and 276 ERA+. Bauer helped propel the Reds back to the Postseason for the first time since 2013. Trevor Bauer was going to command a king’s ransom in free agency, winning the Cy Young Award only raises his price.

Shane Bieber dominated on his way to winning the Pitching Triple Crown. (Paul Sancya/ Associated Press)

Shane Bieber was the unanimous American League Cy Young Award winner. No other American League pitcher could have won the award. Bieber led the league in Wins, Strikeouts, and ERA to win the pitching Triple Crown. Overall in 12 starts he went 8-1, throwing 77.1 innings, allowing 46 Hits, 14 Earned Runs, 7 Home Runs, 21 Walks, 122 Strikeouts, a 0.866 WHIP, and a 281 ERA+. He dominated opposing hitters, striking out at least 10 batters 8 times. Bieber pitched masterfully despite the constant uncertainty throughout the season.

Most Valuable Player

Freddie Freeman has been in the Most Valuable Player conversation for several seasons, finishing in the top 10 three times. He finished second to teammate Craig Kimbrel for the 2011 National League Rookie of the Year. Freeman is a two time Silver Slugger and has a Gold Glove on his resume. In 2020, Freeman collected 73 hits 23 Doubles (led league), 1 Triple, 13 Home Runs, 53 RBI, scored 51 Runs (led league), 45 Walks, 37 Strikeouts, hit .341, .462 OBP, .640 SLG, 1.102 OPS, and a 186 OPS+. He is the clear leader of the Braves. Freeman’s elite bat often overshadows his elite defense. He is arguably the best first baseman in baseball, a career .995 Fld%, making just one Error in 460 Chances in 2020. Freeman now has the hardware to prove he is among baseball’s elite.

Freddie Freeman is now officially recognized as among the elite players in baseball. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Jose Abreu is a three time All Star, three time Silver Slugger, and 2014 American League Rookie of the Year. His talent was never questioned, as his rise to stardom has been long and steady. Abreu displayed his talents in 2020 winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Playing in all 60 games, Abreu was the clear choice. He collected 76 Hits (led league), 15 Doubles, 19 Home Runs, 60 RBI (led league), scored 43 Runs, 18 Walks, 59 Strikeouts, hit .317, .370 OBP, .617 SLG (led league), .987 OPS, and a 166 OPS+. He is the leader of the White Sox need to contend every season for the American League Pennant. Abreu is only 33 years old, he has several more peak seasons ahead. 

The 2020 season was wild. Covid, no fans, divisional schedules. MLB managed to successfully navigate the season when many, including myself, thought they would fail. Recognizing the best in the game shines a light on the players and managers who rose to the top because of their skill and drive to be their best. Hopefully Covid is under control when baseball returns in the Spring and 2021 is closer to normal. Despite all the challenges, 2020 was a season to remember, especially for these winners. 

DJ

The Most Patient Man in Baseball

Baseball teaches patience. One of the worst things a baseball player can do is hurry. The harder you try, the less success you find on the diamond. Larry Walker might be the most patient man in baseball. He was elected to Cooperstown in his final year on the ballot. Walker will finally have his moment in the sun as he joins the Hall of Fame. Now he must wait again as the Covid-19 Pandemic has delayed his induction until 2021. He waited 10 years to be elected, now he has to wait one more. Even the retirement of his #33 by the Rockies was postponed due to the delayed Major League season. 

Larry Walker’s baseball resume is extensive. He is a 5 time All Star (1992, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001), 3 time Silver Slugger (1992, 1997, 1999), 7 time Gold Glove winner (1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002), 3 time Batting Champion (1998, 1999, 2001), and the 1997 National League Most Valuable Player. Walker won the Tip O’Neill award 9 times (1987, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002) as the Canadian baseball player “judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to the highest ideals of the game of baseball.”

Hall of Fame careers are built through season after season of consistency. In 17 Major League seasons Walker played for the Montreal Expos (1989-1994), Colorado Rockies (1995-2004), and St. Louis Cardinals (2004-2005). In 1,988 Games he collected 2,160 Hits, scored 1,355 Runs, 471 Doubles, 62 Triples, 383 Home Runs, 1,311 RBI, 230 Stolen Bases, 913 Walks (117 Intentional), 1,231 Strikeouts, 3,904 Total Bases, 138 Hit By Pitch, .313 BA, .400 OBP, .565 SLG, .965 OPS, and 141 OPS+. 

Larry Walker hits a two-run double
Larry Walker was a pure hitter but never gets the credit he deserves because of playing in Colorado during the Steroid Era. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Larry Walker was an elite hitter, especially during his peak. He rarely receives the credit he deserves for two reasons. First, his peak was during the height of the Steroid Era. His excellence was often overshadowed by juiced sluggers. Second, critics often credit much of his success to playing at altitude in Colorado. Examining Walker’s career Home/Road Splits does show he hit better at home. In  986 career home Games, Walker collected 1,193 Hits, including 268 Doubles, 39 Triples, and 215 Home Runs, with a .348 BA, .431 OBP, .637 SLG, 1.068 OPS, and 121 OPS+. In 1,002 career road Games, he collected 967 Hits, including 203 Doubles, 23 Triples, and 168 Home Runs, with a .278 BA, .370 OBP, .495 SLG, .865 OPS, and 80 OPS+. There is no denying Walker benefited from hitting at Coors Field. However, why should he be penalized for playing in Colorado? If playing for the Rockies disqualifies a player from the Hall of Fame, MLB should never have placed a team in Denver. Also, Walker played 7 of his 17 seasons away from Colorado.

Baseball is about more than what a player can do with the bat, they must use their glove too. Walker played 1,718 Games in Right Field. In 15,678.2 Innings he had 4,246 Chances, made 3,976 Putouts,  with 213 Assists, turned 92 Double Plays, and committed 57 Errors for a .987 Fielding %. Gold Gloves are rarely given to undeserving players, and winning 7 of them is proof Walker was more than a hitter.

1997 was Larry Walker’s best season. He won the National League Most Valuable Player award, becoming the first and so far only Rockies player to do so. Walker won in a landslide, beating second place Mike Piazza by almost 100 points and received 22 of 28 first place votes. In 153 Games Walker collected 208 Hits, including 46 Doubles, 4 Triples, 49 Home Runs, scored 143 Runs, 130 RBI, 33 Stolen Bases, 78 Walks (14 Intentional), 90 Strikeouts, 409 Total Bases, 14 Hit By Pitch, a .366 BA, .452 OBP, .720 SLG, 1.172 OPS, and 178 OPS+. He led the Senior Circuit in Home Runs, Total Bases, OBP, SLG, OPS, and finished second in BA only .006 behind Tony Gwynn

Dispelling the naysayers, Walker’s road numbers in 1997 were elite. In 75 Road Games, he collected 92 Hits, 16 Doubles, 29 Home Runs, scored 61 Runs, 62 RBI, 16 Stolen Bases, 42 Walks (7 Intentional), 56 Strikeouts, 5 Hit By Pitch, 195 Total Bases, .346 BA, .443 OBP, .733 SLG, 1.176 OPS, and 213 OPS+. While he hit 9 more Home Runs on the Road than at Home, in 3 fewer games, Walker’s numbers were even better at home. MVP’s have stats that jump out at you. Larry Walker played out of his mind on the road in 1997. He was on another planet at Coors Field.

Hall of Fame players are not always successful in the Postseason. Larry Walker reached the Postseason three times, in 1995 with Colorado and 2004 and 2005 at the end of his career with St. Louis. The Cardinals were swept by the Red Sox in Walker’s only World Series in 2004. In 28 career Postseason games, Walker hit .230, with 5 Doubles, 1 Triple, 7 Home Runs, 15 RBI, scored 18 Runs, 2 Stolen Bases, 16 Walks, 28 Strikeouts, with a .350 OBP. While he did not play his best in October, the majority of his Postseason play was at the end of his career as a part time player.

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Larry Walker was a Hall of Fame player and heard the news of his election to Cooperstown while wearing a legendary shirt. (@Rockies)

After retiring following the 2005 season Larry Walker began waiting the five years to be on the Hall of Fame ballot. The Maple Ridge, British Columbia native was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009. He first appeared on the ballot for Cooperstown in 2011, receiving just 20.3% of the vote. Walker floated between 22.9% in 2012 and 10.2% in 2014 until 2017. The Hall of Fame looked just out of reach. In his final three years of eligibility, Walker’s fortunes changed. In 2018, his 8th year on the ballot, he received 34.1% of the vote. In 2019 he was up to 54.6%. 2020 was Walker’s 10th and final year on the ballot. If he was not elected his enshrinement would be determined by a future Veterans Committee, a long shot process at best. Derek Jeter was one vote shy of unanimous, receiving 396 of 397 votes. Walker needed 298 votes to make it to Cooperstown. When the results were revealed, Walker received 304 votes, 6 more than he needed. His place among the games legends was secure. He joins Ferguson Jenkins as the only Canadians elected to the Hall of Fame. Walker is also the first Rockies player enshrined.

Patience is key in baseball. Wait for your pitch, stay down on a ground ball, camp under a fly ball. Baseball is about waiting and no one understands this better than Larry Walker. He used every possible moment of the Hall of Fame election process to secure his place in Cooperstown. He cleared the bar by 6 votes. Now he has to wait a little longer due to the Covid-19 Pandemic for his day in the sun as he is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

DJ

Mundane Greatness

There are several ways to define greatness. No single definition will satisfy everyone’s understanding of the word. One definition of greatness in baseball, and in life, is doing the unthinkable while also doing the basic things extremely well. There are several super star players in baseball at the moment, but Mike Trout rises above the others for his greatness and his ability to do the basic things well.

Greatness in a career, not just a singular moment, requires the ability to continually place yourself among other great players. In his first five full seasons in the Majors, Mike Trout has established himself as a consistent and reliable player for the Angels. There have not been any wild swings, up or down, in his statistics. He has scored more than 100 runs, collected at least 172 hits, hit 27 home runs, and hit 27 doubles in every full season. He has played in at least 157 games every season over the last four seasons. His consistency looks like this:

Career (2011-2016)

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB HBP SF IBB
811 3558 2997 600 917 175 37 168 497 143 28 477 784 .306 .405 .557 .963 1670 48 36 46


Average Season

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB HBP SF IBB
154 685 575 116 178 34 7 33 96 28 6 94 151 .310 .410 .564 .975 173 324 9 7 9

 

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Mike Trout makes the extraordinary seem commonplace. (Mark J. Terrill/ Associated Press)

This consistency, season after season, has led Trout to never finish lower than second in the American League MVP voting. He has received a vote on 148 MVP ballots in his first five seasons, out of a possible 148. Trout won the MVP Award in 2014 and 2016. He finished second to Miguel Cabrera in both 2012 and 2013, and to Josh Donaldson in 2015. In his rookie season, Trout received all 28 first place votes for the 2012 AL Rookie of Year Award, far outdistancing runner up Yoenis Cespedes.

The Rookie of the Year Award, two AL MVP Awards, and five Silver Slugger Awards are quickly filling up Trout’s awards case. In some ways, the awards mask Trout’s dominance. He has drawn at least 83 walks in each of the last four seasons, twice leading the league with 110 in 2013 and 116 in 2016. This while sharing the Angels lineup with Albert Pujols. Trout’s discipline at the plate has meant a .405 career OBP. Yes, Trout does strikeout more than he probably should (136 times or more in every season), there are two things to remember. First, his walk rate is increasing while his strikeout rate is decreasing, so he is still learning. Second, Mike Trout is 25 years old. He is still a young ball player.  

Despite all his ability on the field, Trout does not receive the appropriate fanfare he should. He is one of the most visible players in the sport, yet he could be so much more. There are three things that have dampened his rise to supreme super stardom. Above all baseball is a team sport. No individual can truly carry an entire team for a season like a player can in basketball or football. If Mike Trout were to get hurt, the Angels could replace him and still remain competitive. If LeBron James or Tom Brady were injured their team’s season is probably over. This understood, Trout has played on an Angels team that has not consistently competed in the American League West. In his first five full seasons, the Angels have finished as follows: 2012 89-73 (3rd AL West), 2013 78-84 (3rd AL West), 2014 98-64 (1st AL West, swept in ALDS), 2015 85-77 (3rd AL West), and 2016 74-88 (4th AL West). In baseball, great players need to be on competitive teams if they are to achieve the recognition their talents deserve.

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The most common comparison for Mike Trout is to Mickey Mantle, and it is easy to see why. (www.nydailynews.com)

The second issue is that Trout plays on the West Coast. East coast bias is a real thing, and here is one of the main reasons why. Night games in California during the week start too late for people living on the East Coast or in the Midwest to stay up and watch. It is tough to watch a three hour game that starts at 10pm, when you have to be at work by 8am the next morning. Unfortunately, Friday and Saturday nights are really the only time for players like Trout to shine at home before the national audience. Trout and the Angels are also fighting for an audience in Los Angeles. After the eastern half of the country has gone to bed, there are still plenty of baseball fans awake to watch Trout, if they so chose. The Dodgers’ return to competing for a World Series title has meant less attention on the Angels as they seek their own return to consistently competing for the post season. Anaheim will always be the second team in Los Angeles, in part because Angels Stadium is 25 miles from downtown and Dodgers Stadium is two miles from downtown. Anyone who has ever tried to travel 25 miles in Los Angeles traffic can tell you that reaching Anaheim in time for an Angels game often requires divine intervention.

Trout’s greatness is one of a remarkable craftsman. His play makes him a superstar, yet his consistency year after year has him steadily climbing closer to the all time greats. Players like Hank Aaron and Derek Jeter are craftsmen. Aaron hit 25 home runs in all but one season from 1955 to 1973, yet never hit more than 47 home runs in a single season. Jeter averaged 191 hits for 18 of his 20 seasons in the Majors, leading the league in hits twice (1999 and 2012). It is not always easy to see the greatness of these compilers early on in their careers, it is the consistency over an entire career that raises these players from great to legendary. Predicting the future of any player is impossible because the game of baseball is unpredictable. Injuries are the hardest thing to predict. What sort of career would Mickey Mantle have had if he could have stayed healthy? Mantle is already a legendary player, but did he reach his potential? We will never know.

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Mike Trout’s talent should help him rise to the top in baseball and in Los Angeles. (Mark J. Terrill/ Associated Press)

The greatness of Mike Trout cannot be ignored but it is only occasionally celebrated. He is a superstar, yet few people understand the company Trout is in through his first five full seasons in the Majors. Comparing Trout by age has meant comparisons at age 20 to Vada Pinson, Frank Robinson at age 21, and Mickey Mantle from age 22 through 24. The top ten similar batters through their age 24 season are Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr., Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Mel Ott, Miguel Cabrera, Orlando Cepeda, Vada Pinson, Al Kaline, and Jimmie Foxx. Every comparison except for Vada Pinson is a Hall of Fame player, without question. Mickey Mantle is the most common comparison, and the longer these comparisons continue the higher Trout rises in baseball’s pantheon.

Mike Trout’s greatness is known throughout baseball, yet he remains undervalued. A talent like Trout may only appear on the diamond once in a generation. Barring injury or some other unforeseen issue we have many more seasons to enjoy Trout and his greatness. Make sure you take time to watch Trout play, even if it means staying up late or fighting through Los Angeles traffic. Greatness should be appreciated, and looking back you will not remember how tired you were the next morning or sitting in traffic forever but that you were able to watch one of the legends of the game in action.

DJ