Amos Otis

Today’s Random Player From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Amos Otis.  Otis was drafted in the fifth round of the 1965 June Amateur Draft by the Boston Red Sox.  This was the first year of the June draft and Otis was arguably the third best player taken.  The other two that rank clearly ahead of him are Graig Nettles (taken in the fourth round) and Johnny Bench (second round).  Rick Monday was a nice player for many years (he was taken first overall), and Andy Messersmith had some nice seasons, too (he was a third round pick), but I think Otis would rank third.

 

Anyway, Otis was left unprotected and was selected by the Mets in the 1966 minor league draft after a brief stay in the big leagues the Mets traded him to the expansion Kansas City Royals in the winter of 1969.  This would turn out to be one of – if not the – worst trade in Mets’ history.  The Mets sent pitcher Bob Johnson with Otis to get Joe Foy in return, hoping to fill a void at third base.  Foy played only 99 games for the Mets and only 41 more after that.  In 1970 Otis started to flourish, hitting .284/353/.424 with a league leading 36 doubles and made his first All-Star team.  The next year Otis led the league with 52 stolen bases while getting caught only eight times as the Royals posted their first winning season in the franchise’s brief history.  By 1973 he had made four All-Star teams and the Royals were becoming the American League’s model franchise.  Otis and pitcher Paul Splittorff were now complimented by young guys such as Frank White, John Mayberry, and George Brett.  By 1975 the Royals had their first 90-win season, though they finished second in the AL West by seven games.  In 1976 the Royals finally reached the postseason, but it would be bittersweet for Otis.  His 1976 postseason last only one at-bat.  Trailing 2-0 after a couple of George Brett errors, Otis led off the bottom half of the first with a bunt attempt.  As he tried to beat Catfish Hunter’s throw to first he sprained his ankle and missed the remainder of the five game series, which was won on Chris Chambliss’s ninth inning homer in Game 5.

 

The following year the Royals won a franchise record 102 games and again faced the Yankees in the ALCS.  The Yankees again took the series in five games and Otis had another postseason to forget, going just 2 for 16 with a double and a couple of walks.  The Yankees got the better of the Royals again in 1978, this despite Otis’ .429/.529/.571 with four steals (also ruined was Brett’s .389 average with three homers a double, a triple and seven runs scored).

 

1980 was Otis’ first down year with K.C., posting an OPS+ below 100 for the first time.  In the playoffs, though, the Royals finally got over a hump, knocking out the hated Yankees in a three game sweep.  Otis was big for the Royals, going 4 for 12 with a couple of stolen bases and a couple of runs scored.  In the World Series Otis was even better, hitting .478/.538/.957 with three homers and a couple of doubles.  Despite his heroics (and George Brett’s .375/.423/.667 or Willie Mays Aikens’ four homers in the six games), the Phillies won their first World Series title over the Royals four games to two.

 

After three more seasons with the Royals, the aging Otis was granted free agency and signed with the Pirates.  In 40 games he provided just a 19 OPS+ and his career was over.

 

Overall in Royals’ history he ranks second in WAR for position players runs scored, stolen bases, total bases, times on base, and sacrifice flies, third in games played, hits, homeruns, triples, and RBI, fourth in doubles and extra base hits, and first in power-speed number.*  Also in that time he won three Gold Gloves, made five All-Star teams, and four times finished in the top ten in the AL MVP voting.

 

*-Power-Speed number is calculated:

 

SB x HR x 2

divided by

SB + HR

 

Obviously, George Brett is the greatest player in Royals’ history.  But the first great Royal?  That’s got to be Amos Otis.  For 14 seasons he patrolled center field in Kan)sas City, and while he falls short of the Hall of Fame credentials (49.42 score for my Hall of Fame Rating), he was a steal of a trade for a young franchise just getting their feet wet.  In his time with the Royals the team was 1167-1033 – a real accomplishment considering he came over in the franchise’s second season.  The franchise is most remembered for George Brett, Dan Quisenberry, Frank White, and Willie Wilson.  Amos Otis should be every bit as remembered.

Buddy Bell

Today’s Random Player From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Buddy Bell.  Bell’s father Gus played 15 years in the major leagues, mostly in Cincinnati.  Though Buddy was born in Pittsburgh, he grew up in Cincinnati and went to Moeller High School where he was drafted by the Indians in the 16th round.  He spent three seasons in the minors, jumping AA completely before making the Indians big league club in 1972.  In 1973 he made his first All-Star team.  Over the next five years in Cleveland he put up a 104 OPS+, 18.2 bWAR, 80 Win Shares, 16.1 fWAR, 16.2 WARP, which was good enough to get him traded to the Texas Rangers.  For six seasons in Texas Bell posted a 123 OPS+ and made four All-Star teams.  In July of 1985 the Rangers sent Bell to his hometown Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Duane Walker and a player to be named later (who turned out to be reliever Jeff Russell).  He would put together a couple more solid seasons for the Reds before being dealt to the Astros.  He finished his playing career with the Rangers in 1989.

 

After a few years as a bench coach for the Reds and Indians, Bell took over as manager of the Detroit Tigers, replacing the legendary Sparky Anderson in 1996.  The Tigers by this time were absolutely terrible, going 60-84 in the strike shortened 1995 season (they managed to give Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker – a combined 75 years old by this time – 540 plate appearances; this was an old team that badly needed an age turnover).  As was expected the Tigers lost 109 games that season, 46 ½ games behind the Indians.  In one of the worst voting selections of all time, Bell finished fifth in the Manager of the Year voting and even received a first place vote.  To put this in perspective, Tribe skipper Mike Hargrove received just two first place votes while Joe Torre and Johnny Oates tied for the award.  The next season the Tigers improved to 79-83, a 26-game improvement.  As a result Bell finished second in the voting behind Davey Johnson.  The following season was a disaster, though as the Tigers went 52-85 before Bell was fired.

 

In 2000 Bell took the job in Colorado, replacing the retiring Jim Leyland.  His first year the Rockies were 82-80 and Bell finished sixth in the Manager of the Year voting.  This would be the apex of his managerial career.  The Rockies declined in 2001 and just 22 games into the 2002 season he was canned again.

 

In 2005 Buddy Bell became the third manager of the season for the Kansas City Royals.  His record of 43-69 was bad, but when you consider his predecessors were 13-37 when he took over, well, you realize just how bad the Royals were for quite a while.  The next season the Royals would go 62-100, the fourth time in five years that this once proud franchise would lose 100 games.  The best moment coming on May 7.  That day the Royals were playing the White Sox in Chicago.  In the bottom of the fourth of scoreless game Joe Crede hit a 1-1 pitch off of Mark Redman to deep center field.  The center fielder for the Royals that day was Kerry Robinson.  Robinson sprinted back to the wall and braced himself.  He then timed his jump and reached out in an attempt to rob Crede of a homerun.  As he leapt the ball bounced ten feet in front of him on the warning track, over Robinson and the wall.  The second base umpire Gerry Davis was so confused by the play that he actually called the hit a homerun.  Buddy Bell had to run out and argue that no, it wasn’t a homerun, but that his center fielder had zero sense of judgement on a fly ball to center.  Ah, the Kansas City Royals.

 

The next year the Royals were 69-93, Bell was fired, and hasn’t managed since.  Of all managers with at least 1,000 games Bell’s .418 winning percentage is the worst.

Frank Viola

Today’s Random Player From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Frank Viola.  Viola was first drafted in the 16th round by the Kansas City Royals in 1978, but opted instead to attend St. John’s.  Three years later the Twins took him in the second round.  After just 25 minor league games (155 innings) he was in the big leagues, starting for a team that would 102 games that season.  Five years into his major league career he was considered an average pitcher (98 ERA+, for those who like the old stats, 63-64 record), but by 1986 he had raised his strikeout rate to 7.0 per nine innings.  He repeated that in 1987 as he led and average Twins team to the 1987 World Series title, winning the series MVP basically because someone had to*.

 

*-I’ll give him credit for going eight innings twice and allowing three runs in those two games, but in between those two he went only 3.1 innings, allowing five runs and the first game was a 10-1 Twins victory, so he hardly had to be great in that game.  Besides, Kirby Puckett hit .357 with an .884 OPS, Steve Lombardozzi put up a 1.121 OPS in six games, and Tim Laudner posted a .944 OPS.  Any of them were more worthy of winning the award.

 

In 1988 Viola was every bit as good as he was in 1987 (8.1 bWAR in 1987, 7.7 in 1988), but because his record was 24-7 instead of 17-10 he won the Cy Young Award as he collected 27 of the 28 first place votes (Mark Gubicza, whose 7.7 bWAR matched Viola’s, didn’t receive even one first place vote).  Viola had become one of the big name pitchers in all of baseball.

 

In 1989 his strikeout rate remained strong (7.3 K/9), but on July 31 – with the Twins sitting at fifth place, 12 ½ games out – he was traded to the Mets for four pitchers and a player to be named later.  Two of the pitchers (Kevin Tapani and Rick Aguilera) would help the Twins two years later capture their second World Series title.

 

In 1990 Viola rebounded record-wise to 20-12, and though his strikeout rate dropped Shea Stadium helped keep his homerun down.  The following year he made his second straight All-Star team (third overall), but he – like the Mets – collapsed.  His ERA doubled and in the end of the year the Mets opted out of his contract.

 

He signed with the Red Sox for the 1992 season and during his three years in Boston he had the dreaded Tommy John surgery (well, it was at the time).  He pitched with the Reds and Blue Jays for a season each and his career was over.

 

It’s funny what can constitute a Hall of Fame career.  By my evaluations he falls short (HOFR of 54.46), and there never was any serious consideration for him (he received two votes in 2002).  He did, however, have a peak that rivaled Justin Verlander’s (20.0 five year WS average, 5.8 bWAR, 5.1 fWAR, 6.5 WARP, 44.4 JAWS).  The peak wasn’t good enough, but he was damn good for a time.

May 17, 1979

Today’s Game From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is May 17, 1979, the Philadelphia Phillies versus the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field.

 

The Phillies were the three time defending NL East champions, coming off of three straight NLCS defeats and hoping to finally get over the hump.  The Cubs were a so-so team that had recently pulled off zero postseason appearances despite having Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and an aging but still effective Ernie Banks on the same roster (that’s four Hall of Famers).  The Phillies had gotten off to a terrific start (23-10) and had a three and a half game lead on the up and coming Montreal Expos, while the Cubs were already six games back at 16-15*.

 

*-Again, no one in professional sports until the 1990’s owned a map or knew a thing about North American geography.  Here were the division alignments in the National League in 1979:

 

East West
Chicago Cubs Atlanta Braves
Montreal Expos Cincinnati Reds
New York Mets Houston Astros
Philadelphia Phillies Los Angeles Dodgers
Pittsburgh Pirates San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals San Francisco Giants

 

Chicago and St. Louis, both further west than Cincinnati and Atlanta, were placed in the East.  MLB owners will never be confused with Lewis and Clark, that’s for sure.

 

There are always stories about the wind blowing out in Wrigley and how crazy things happen.  This was one of those games.  We’ll note all of the wackiness later, but let’s get started.

 

Not that it is really worth noting, but the starters for each team were Randy Lerch (Phillies) and Dennis Lamp (Cubs).  Bake McBride led off the game with a single and Larry Bowa followed that up with a double as the ball skipped past Dave Kingman (should not be a surprise to anyone).  Pete Rose hit one back up the box that was snagged by Lamp, and after a brief rundown McBride was out at home.  Mike Schmidt then hit a towering homerun to left for a 3-0 lead.  Del Unser and Garry Maddox hit back-to-back singles after that Bob Boone launched on onto the street in left and it was 6-0.  Lamp’s day was done after just one third of an inning.  Donnie Moore came in to relieve Lamp and after a strikeout of Rudy Meoli, starting pitcher Randy Lerch stepped up and homered to the left center net.  Lerch was thrilled to be coming out to a 7-0 lead.  So thrilled in fact that he seemed to want to just be done with it right away.  Ivan de Jesus, Mike Vail, and Bill Buckner started the bottom half of the inning with singles to make the score 7-1.  Kingman then crushed a towering homerun of his own and the game was 7-4.  Steve Ontiveros then grounded out, but Jerry Martin doubled and Lerch’s day was done.  He also lasted just one third of an inning.  Doug Bird replaced Lerch and promptly got Barry Foote to line out to right, but a single by Ted Sizemore and a triple by Donnie Moore scored two more runs to make the score 7-6 after just one inning.

 

Shockingly, nothing happened in the second inning, but the third returned to the conga line on the base paths.  Maddox doubled to lead off and Boone scored him with a single.  After Meoli flew out Bird drew a walk (keep track of these) and McBride singled in Boone.  Bowa singled to load the bases and Rose hit a two-run double to chase Moore from the game.  Willie Hernandez came in to relieve Moore and intentionally walked Schmidt*.  After giving up a ground out to first to allow another run, Garry Maddox hit a three run shot to make the score 15-6.  Hernandez then hit Boone and surrendered a single to Meoli before striking out Bird to end the inning.

 

*-I never understand this.  Why not just have Moore walk the guy and then bring in your reliever?

 

After keeping the Cubs off the board in the bottom of the third the Phillies went right back at it.  Bowa had a one out single and scored from first on Rose’s double.  Schmidt was intentionally walked for the second straight appearance and a ground out put men on the corners with two out.  Maddox doubled to drive in Rose and the score was 17-6 after three and a half.  In the bottom half Mike Vail had a one out single and with two out Kingman again put one out on the street.  Ontiveros followed that up with a blast of his own and the score was 17-9 after four.

 

Not to be phased, Philly came right back in the fifth.  Greg Luzinski pinch hit for Bird, drew a walk, and was pinch ran for with Nino Espinosa (more on this later).  McBride singled and Bowa blooped in a double to score Espinosa.  Rose reached on an error to score another run, then Schmidt was walked for the third time in a row (this time unintentionally) and a couple of sac flies were added to make the score 21-9.

 

The Cubs weren’t going to go away, though.  Foote led off the bottom half with a single off of Phillies’ fireman Tug McGraw and Sizemore reached on an error.  Tim’s dad then walked pinch hitter Steve Dillard and de Jesus to force in a run, and after Vail flew out to center, Buckner lined one into the bleachers in right center for a grand slam.  McGraw then walked Kingman and struck out Ontiveros, but Jerry Martin homered to make sure that he couldn’t prevent any further damage and chased him before he could close out the inning.  After five the score was 21-16.

 

Despite a Bowa single and another Schmidt walk (four straight) the Phillies didn’t score, and the Cubs continued to chip away.  After the first two reached and a pair of ground outs scored them, Kingman hit his third homerun of the day, again reaching the street.  The score was now 21-19.  Greg Gross had pinch run for Maddox earlier in the game and led off the seventh with a triple and scored on Boone’s double to make the score 22-19.

 

It remained that way until the eighth.  De Jesus and pinch hitter Scot Thompson started the bottom of the frame with singles, then Buckner added one of his own and the score was 22-20.  Then after Kingman flew out and Ontiveros hit into a fielder’s choice, Martin and Foote added clutch two-out singles and suddenly the game was tied.

 

Bruce Sutter came in to shut down the Phillies in the ninth and then Rawley Eastwick did the same to the Cubs.  In the top of the tenth Sutter got Bowa and Rose to start the inning, but on a full count Mike Schmidt blasted the next pitch over the seats and onto the street in center to give the Phillies the lead again.  Eastwick came on in the bottom frame to retire the side in order and the Phillies took the wild one, 23-22.

 

As for the rest of the season, the Cubs basically remained so-so, finishing the year 80-82.  The Phillies went into the tank, though, going 41-57 until manager Dan Ozark was fired and replaced by scouting director Dallas Green.  The Phillies would finish 19-11, but it was far too late as they finished in fourth place, 14 games behind the eventual World Series champion Pirates.

 

Now for the crazy stats in this game:

 

  • Both starters lasted one third of an inning.
  • Despite lasting only one third of an inning, Philly’s starting pitcher was still 1-1 with a homerun.
  • The 1984 AL MVP (Hernandez) went 2.2 innings, surrendering 8 runs (6 earned) on 7 hits and 7 walks (4 intentional), and the man he replaced (Moore) gave up one of the most famous postseason homeruns in baseball history (1986 Dave Henderson).
  • The pitchers combined for a homerun, a triple – in the first inning.
  • Dave Kingman in a losing effort was 3-6 with 3 homers, 4 runs scored and 6 RBI.
  • Mike Schmidt was 2-4 with 4 walks and 2 homeruns.
  • Both teams hit five homeruns.
  • Not a single sacrifice bunt attempt (had to note that).

 

How much did Schmidt like hitting in Wrigley?  In 138 games (611 plate appearances) Schmidt hit .307/.396/.653 with 50 homeruns, 124 RBI, and 118 runs.  In every other road park he his .257/.365/.497 and averaged 21 homeruns, 59 RBI and 55 runs.  Clearly he hit well just about everywhere, but in Wrigley he was Babe Ruth.  Seven times he homered twice in Wrigley and once homered four times.  Seven of his 50 Wrigleyville homers were off of the Reuschel brothers (4 off or Rick, 3 off of Paul).  His 50 homers were 21 more than in any other road park.  His 78 career homeruns against the Cubs overall was 16 more than he had hit against any other team.  His career OPS of .985 against the Cubs is his third highest (1.010 against the Reds, 1.002 against the Padres).

 

Wrigley has been host to some wild games, but this one might just take them all.

Tony Conigliaro

Today’s Random Player From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Tony Conigliaro.  Conigliaro was born in Revere, Massachusetts in 1945.  Signed by the hometown Red Sox as a 17-year old.  The kid was about to become a hero.  Ted Williams had just retired a few years earlier, they hadn’t finished better than third since 1949, and the only other player of substance on the team was a 22-year old in his second season named Carl Yastrzemski.  Tony made his debut in Yankee Stadium on Opening Day in 1964.  In his first at-bat in Fenway he homered.  He finished the year hitting .290/.354/.530 with 24 homers in just 111 games.  The next year he led the Junior Circuit with 32 homeruns.  He hit 28 more in 1966.  In 1965 he recorded “Little Red Scooter”, which became a local hit in Boston, and “Why Don’t They Understand”, which I think he was singing about the producers (as in “Why don’t they understand that no one will enjoy this five years from now except for some idiot who looks for absurd clips?”).  In 1967 he was starting to really blossom.  He had made his first All-Star team.  On the morning of August 18 he was hitting .284/.338/.517 with 20 homers, 67 RBI, and 59 runs scored.  More importantly the Sawx were in a pennant race.  The American wasn’t especially strong that season, and Boston was caught up in what turned out to be a terrific four-team race that came down to the last day of the season.  On this fateful day, though, the Red Sox were hosting the California Angels.  The game was 0-0 in the bottom of the fourth with two out when Conigliaro stepped into the plate.  Jack Hamilton delivered a pitch up and in that literally crushed Conigliaro’s face.  He suffered a broken cheek bone, a dislocated jaw, and damage to his left retina.  The Red Sox would win the game and the pennant, but Conigliaro’s season was over.  As was his 1968 season.

 

Many people saw this as ruining his career, and in fact, many believed that his career was over.  But in 1969 he won the Comeback Player of the Year Award, hitting 20 homers with 82 RBI.  The next year he hit .266/.324/.498 with 36 homers and 116 RBI.  He played a year in California of all places for a year, then hung them up.  He made a brief restart back in Boston in 1975, but he was through.  He became a sportscaster for a TV station in Rhode Island.  He later moved to the west coast, but on his way back home for an interview he suffered a heart attack.  Then he suffered a stroke and went into a coma.  He remained in that state until his death in February of 1990.  He was only 45 years old.  He star at a young age for his hometown team.  He was a hero to the local fans.  Basically he was a comet; soaring through for a gleaming moment.  But he did have that moment.  I mean, he had an .849 OPS in the peak of a pitchers’ era (132 OPS+).  He was the youngest player in American League history to hit 100 homeruns.  He had a recording career.  You can’t take those away from him.  Ever.

Larry Yount

Today’s Random Player That Sticks Out To Me In My Research Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Larry Yount.  Yount was a fifth round pick of the Houston Astros in 1968.  After posting a 3.68 ERA in 558 minor league innings he got to make his major league debut in September of 1971.

 

The exact date was September 15, 1971.  The game was against the Atlanta Braves on a Wednesday in the Astrodome.  It wasn’t in the thick of a pennant race (the Braves were just 75-74, 8 ½ games out coming in, the Astros were 73-75, 10 games out), and the crowd reflected that (6,513 fans “packed” the place), but this was still fun.  And here’s why . . .

 

Two days earlier, Joe Niekro took the hill against the Orioles for the Tigers and couldn’t get out of the first inning.  His brother Phil started that Wednesday game for the Braves and had a complete game win and an RBI single.  Hank Aaron hit his 44th homerun of the season.  Hank’s brother Tommie came into the game in the ninth as a defensive replacement.  And that brings us to Larry Yount.  This was Yount’s major league debut.  He was coming on in the ninth with the ‘Stros trailing 4-1.  He was warming up in the bullpen but started feeling pain.  It wasn’t nerves or just tightness, either.  His elbow was killing him.  He went to the mound and tried to warm up – how do you pass up your chance at the big leagues? – but to no avail.  He couldn’t pitch.  He was pulled for Jim Ray.  He never reached the big leagues again.  His career stat line is one that would make Mark Titus proud:

 

G GS IP TBF H R ER BB SO HBP NP
1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

 

Now for the twisted bit of fate.  September 16, 1971, was the 16th birthday of Larry’s little brother Robin.  Twenty-one months later Robin would be the third overall pick for the Milwaukee Brewers.  He would go on to play 2,856 games in the majors, win the AL MVP as a shortstop (1982) and a centerfielder (1989), lead the Brewers to their only pennant to date (1982), rack up 3,142 hits (one more than Tony Gwynn), and would become the first player to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Milwaukee Brewer (and the hat has the cool logo with the mitt and baseball forming the letters “M” and “b”).

 

Think about the seven guys mentioned (eight in a moment).  Hank Aaron hit 755 homeruns, had over 2,200 RBI; his brother Tommie had 13 homers and 94 RBI.  Phil Niekro had 318 wins, 3,342 strikeouts, and a 3.35 ERA pitching most of his career in the “Launching Pad”.  Joe had 97 fewer wins, half as many strikeouts, and a higher ERA despite pitching in better pitchers parks for the most part.  I just went through the Yount’s careers.  And Tony Gwynn, 3,141 career hits, a .338 career average; his brother Chris had 263 hits and a .261 average.  How does that happen?

 

Who knows.  But at least Larry Yount can say something the vast majority of us will never say.  He got into a major league game.

Matt Williams

Today’s Random Player From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Matt Williams.  The grandson of former big leaguer Bert Griffith (.737 OPS in 620 plate appearances), Williams was the third overall pick of the 1986 draft out of UNLV by the Giants.  A strong showing in the PCL in 1987 (.809 OPS) landed him a brief time with the big league club as the Giants won their first division title in 16 years.  He went back to Phoenix and would bounce back and forth for a bit until making the club for good in July of 1989 as the regular third baseman.  The Giants won the division again that season and also won their first pennant since 1962.

 

On October 17, 1989, the Giants and A’s were preparing for Game 3 of the World Series at Candlestick Park.  At 5:04 PM Pacific Time, the earth shook almost endlessly.  Those of us old enough to remember can still see the footage of the Interstate 880 over the way in Oakland – the upper deck had collapsed.  In all, there were 63 deaths and over 3,700 injuries as a result of the quake that registered at 6.9.  For 10 days the World Series was put on hold.

 

When the series resumed 10 days later, Matt Williams came to the plate in the bottom of the second trailing 2-0.  He homered to left to cut the lead in half, but that wouldn’t matter.  The A’s were just too much offensively and would win 13-7 and the next night sweep the series.

 

In 1990 Williams made his first All-Star team, leading the league with 122 RBI while hitting 33 homers and finishing sixth in the MVP voting.  In 1991 he won his first Gold Glove while hitting 34 homers.  He slumped to .227/.286/.384 in 1992, but rebounded with the rest of the team in 1993 as Barry Bonds joined them in the offseason.  Williams hit .294/.325/.561 with 38 homers and 110 RBI, but despite 103 wins, the Giants fell one game short on the last day of the season.  Williams would end up with a great what if in 1994.

 

April 4 was Opening Day of the 1994 season and the Giants hosted the Pirates.  Williams homered twice as the Giants won 8-0.  On April 10 he hit his third.  At the end of April he had 10 homers.  While not at the pace that Griffey was on, he still had 19 homeruns by the end of May.  He added 10 more in June and going into the series finale on Sunday, July 31, he was sitting on 38 homeruns.  Williams homered in the fourth with two on and again in the fifth.  He became the first player ever with 40 homeruns before August 1.  He hit three more in August and was on a pace for 60, but then the strike hit, and so his chance at immortality was gone.

 

How differently would we be looking at Williams’ career had he hit 19 more homeruns in 1994?  Remember, Jeff Bagwell had broken his wrist and Williams already had a four homer lead at the time of the strike.  Sixty-two homeruns that year, without a running mate (like Sosa and McGwire four years later), one could realistically believe that he would have won the MVP (Bagwell beat Williams out for the award but again, they lost 50 games and Bagwell was gone for the season).  Winning the MVP and setting the single season homerun record?  Sounds an awful lot like Roger Maris, and there is a small group of Hall of Fame supporters for him.  I’m not saying Williams is a Hall of Famer – what I’m saying is that we may very well be thinking of Williams differently than we currently do.

 

After the 1996 season, Williams was traded to the Indians for Jose Vizcaino, Julian Tavaras, and Jeff Kent.  In his one year in Cleveland he hit .263/.307/.488 with 32 homeruns and 105 RBI, won both the third base Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards as the Indians underachieved but still managed to win their third straight division title and upset the Orioles in the ALCS. In Game 4 of the World Series with the Indians trailing the series 2-1 but leading 8-3 in the eighth, Williams hit a two-run homerun to make it 10-3.  We all know what happened after that.

 

After the season Williams – who was shocked earlier in the year when his wife filed for divorce – was traded to the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks for Travis Fryman and Tom Martin at his request so that he could be closer to his children.  The Diamondbacks became competitive quickly and in 2001 won the NL on the backs of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson.  In Game 2 with the Diamondbacks leading both the game and the series 1-0 in the seventh, Williams hit a three-run homerun to put the game away.  Arizona won the series in seven games, and Williams became the first player to hit a homerun in three different World Series for three different teams.

 

Williams retired after the 2003 season with a career .268/.317/.489 line, 113 OPS+, 378 homeruns, 5 All-Star appearances, 3 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers, and 4 Top 10 MVP finishes.  In 2007 it was reported that he had purchased HGH back in 2002.  Later in 2007 he was named in the Mitchell Report.

 

In his one year on the Hall of Fame ballot (2009) he received 1.3% of the vote.

 

In 2014 he was named manager of the Washington Nationals.  The Nationals went 96-66, won the NL East, but lost in four games to the Giants.  Williams was named NL Manager of the Year, for his efforts.  Plus, the team featured 21-year old Bryce Harper and 25-year old Stephen Strasburg, plus they signed Max Scherzer so expectations were high going into the 2015 season.

 

Then at the trade deadline the Nationals traded for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon.  It turned out being a disaster (4.87 FIP) that culminated with Papelbon going after Harper.  The Nationals collapse officially finished at 83-79 and Williams was fired.  It wasn’t the shortest span between winning the award and being fired – Joe Girardi hadn’t won it yet when the Marlins canned him – but he became another example of how strange awards voting can be.

1975 World Series

Today’s Postseason Series From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is the 1975 World Series.  The 1975 season was actually rather stressful for Sparky Anderson and the Cincinnati Reds.  They were arguably the most talented team in the entire National League, but in 1970 they lost the World Series in five games to the Baltimore Orioles (Brooks Robinson’s legendary performance).  In 1972 they lost to Oakland in seven games.  In 1973 they were upset in the NLCS by the 82-win Mets.  And then in 1974 they finished four games behind the Dodgers in the NL West despite winning 98 games.  Despite averaging 95 wins for the first half of the decade, the Reds didn’t have a World Series to show for it.  Things didn’t help when they got off to a sluggish start to the season.  After splitting a two-game series with the Mets Cincy stood at 21-20, five games behind the Dodgers and in third place.

 

They won six of seven to close out the month of May.  After sweeping a double header from the Cubs on June 8 the Reds had a game and a half lead in the division.  They would never trail again.  After that 21-20 start the Big Red Machine motored to an 87-34 record the rest of the way, finishing with a 108-54 record, 20 games ahead of the Dodgers.  For more details about their season I highly recommend “The Machine” by Joe Posnanski.

 

 

Even most fans my age know that this team was about scoring runs.  That season they score 840 runs (5.2 runs per game), 105 more than any other team in the league.  They finished third in homeruns and slugging percentage (ironically behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in both – all three played in virtually the same ballpark.  The three slugging percentages:  Philly .402, Pitt .402, Cincy .401).  They also led the league in stolen bases and stolen base percentage (the Mets were caught stealing 10 fewer times, but only stole 32 bases as opposed to the Reds’ 168).  The lineup that made the team famous (and gave them the nickname):

 

3B Pete Rose
RF Ken Griffey, Sr.
2B Joe Morgan
C Johnny Bench
1B Tony Perez
LF George Foster
CF Cesar Geronimo
SS Dave Concepcion

 

That’s three Hall of Famers, one would be if not for his transgressions, 65 total All-Star appearances, 26 total Gold Gloves, six guys with over 2,000 career hits, three guys with over 300 homeruns, five guys with over 1,000 runs (and Concepcion and Foster fall just short), including one of only seven guys with 2,000.

 

But with all that, the team still finished third in the league in ERA.  The team did it as a full staff, though.  Sparky Anderson had earned the nickname “Captain Hook” since he pulled his starters at the slightest sense of trouble.  The Reds were dead last with 22 complete games*.  Only two starters cleared 200 innings while their top four relievers combined for nearly 400 innings.  Not a big deal today, but 40 years ago this was a drastic shift.

 

*-To put that number in perspective the NL average in 1975 was 36 complete games.  This past season the Giants were the only team with 10 complete games and the two leagues combined for 83.

 

After taking the first two games of the NLCS handily the Reds needed two runs in the top of the tenth to sweep the series.

 

The Red Sox were a somewhat different story.  While compiling winning records, they had cleared 90 wins only once since 1951.  In 1975, though, things started to click.  First off, the lineup featured five players under 25, and they produced.  Designated hitter Cecil Cooper (25 years old, .311/.355/.544, 143 OPS+), right fielder Dwight Evans (23, .274/.353/.456, 120), and left fielder Jim Rice (22, .309/.350/.491, 128) all played key roles, but were overshadowed by another youngster.  Fred Lynn got a brief cup of coffee as a September call-up in 1974 and rapped 18 hits (12 for extra bases) and six walks in 51 plate appearances.  He carried that over and earned the everyday job in 1975.  In 145 games he hit .331/.401/.566, led the league in doubles, runs, slugging, and OPS, becoming the first player ever to win MVP and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season, making the All-Star team and winning a Gold Glove as well.  Another spark was former Rookie of the Year Carlton Fisk coming back.  In June of the previous year he was severely injured in a collision at home plate, ending his season.  He needed reconstructive knee surgery and the common thought was that his career was done.  Well, 12 months later he was back, hitting .331/.395/.529 in 79 games.  This team led the American League in runs, average, OBP, slugging, and OPS.

 

Unlike the Reds, though, the Red Sox were very dependent on their hitting.  The pitching staff was ninth in the league in ERA (their 3.96 FIP was right in line with their 3.98 ERA).  Also, they relied heavily on their starters, particularly veterans “Spaceman” Bill Lee, Luis Tiant, Rick Wise, and Reggie Cleveland.  While their ERA was four percent better than the league average they allowed a league high 145 homeruns.

 

In the ALCS the Red Sox swept the three-time defending World Champion Oakland A’s, trailing for only three innings, to make it back to the Fall Classic.

 

Game 1 was in Boston as the 34-year old Tiant went against Don Gullett.  Gullett got into an early jam in the first when Dewey Evans led off with a single, was bunted over (34 points) by Denny Doyle*, and then Yaz walked.  Carlton Fisk then popped out to Joe Morgan (infield fly rule), bringing up Fred Lynn.

 

*-This should be noted about Sawx middle infielders “hitting”

 

2B:  .269/.306/.344

SS:  .246/.298/.322

 

Lynn hit a dribbler past the pitcher that came to Morgan just as Yaz was running past him to second.  Morgan didn’t field it cleanly and the ball kicked towards the bag.  Dave Concepcion picked it up and an alert Morgan called out to Davey to throw home as he saw Evans trying to score.  Concepcion’s throw was on target, and Evans was out at the plate to end the threat.  The Sox put another threat together in the sixth when they loaded the bases with one out.  Cecil Cooper then to shallow center.  Cesar Geronimo circled under it, caught it, and fired a strike to Bench, who tagged Fred Lynn who tried to tag up (for some inexplicable reason), ending the threat.

 

Then in the seventh, the scoreless tie was broken.  Luis Tiant led off with a single (the pitcher batted in this entire series – 1986 was the first year they based the league rules on home ballpark).  Then Dwight Evans went to bunt him over, but Gullett’s throw was late and went into center.  Lynn then singled to left to load the bases.  Yastrzemski then singled to right to score Tiant and break the tie.  Clay Carroll came in to relieve Gullett and promptly walked Carlton Fisk for the second run.  Will McEnaney came in and struck out Lynn for the second out.  Rico Petrocelli then singled to score a pair.  Rick Burelson then singled to score a fifth run.  Cecil Cooper added a sac fly and the game was over.  Luis Tiant went the distance, allowing only five hits as the Red Sox took Game 1, 6-0.

 

Game 2 pitted the Spaceman against Jack Billingham.  Boston struck first when Fisk’s RBI single scored Yastrzemski for a 1-0 lead after the first.  It remained that way until a Tony Perez ground out scored Joe Morgan and the score was tied through four.  Then in the sixth, Yastrzemski singled with one out then Concepcion misplayed Fisk’s grounder and men were on first and second.  After Lynn flied out to shallow right it looked like Billingham might get out of it.  But Rico Petrocelli singled up the middle on a full count to score Yaz and the score was 2-1.

 

The Reds came up for their last chance in the ninth against Bill Lee and Bench led off with a double into the right field corner.  That was all for Lee.  Dick Drago came on in relief and got Perez and Foster while Bench could only get to third.  With two out the potential goat Dave Concepcion came to the plate.  With the count at 1-1 Concepcion bounced one up the middle while second baseman Denny Doyle could do nothing but hold onto it and the game was tied.  Then after several tosses to first Concepcion stole second, sliding in just under the tag.  Then after fighting off a couple of pitches Ken Griffey lined a double into left-center and the Reds had the lead.  Rawly Eastwick finished off Boston in the bottom of the ninth and the series was tied heading to the Queen City.

 

Game 3 started off all about the long ball.  Fisk homered to lead off the second, then Rick Wise hit a two-run shot in the fourth.  The Reds led off the bottom of the fifth with back-to-back homers from Concepcion and Geronimo (the two combined to hit 152 in over 14,000 plate appearances).  The Reds added another run and it was 5-1 after five.  The Red Sox got a run back in the sixth, then the former Red Bernie Carbo homered to make it a two run game.  Then in the ninth Rawly Eastwick came on with one on and one out to finish off the game, but the first hitter was Dwight Evans and he launched a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall to tie the game at 5-5.

 

Now understand, this game was goofy.  I mentioned the aforementioned lack of power from Concepcion and Geronimo, but you have to understand that George Foster and Tony Perez each stole a base.  Those two were a combined 100 for 164 in their combined over 6,300 times on base.  So naturally in a game where a World Series record was set for most combined homeruns in one game, the most remembered play was a bunt.

 

Cesar Geronimo led the bottom of the tenth off with a single to right past the diving Doyle.  Then Ed Armbrister pinch hit for Eastwick to bunt.  Why?  Because he was an excellent bunter according to Tony Kubek*.

 

*-If I was a GM and a manager wanted a guy on the roster because he was a good bunter he would be a former manager.

 

Anyway, Armbrister bunted and then everything went crazy.  The bunt was right in front of home plate and Armbrister took a couple of steps and was in the way of Fisk, who ended up throwing the ball into center field.  Home plate umpire Larry Barnett ruled that Armbrister was not in fair territory, therefore was not guilty of interference.  Barnett was clearly wrong on this call, but it stood, so instead of a runner on first with one out the Reds had second and third with nobody out.  Pete Rose was intentionally walked to load the bases and after Merv Rettenmund struck out Joe Morgan singled up the middle and the Reds had a 2-1 series lead.

 

(Quick side note:  In watching all of these games from 30-40 years ago you realize that the umpires were much worse than now.  It makes me wonder how bad they were 50, 60, even 100 years ago.)

 

The Reds got the scoring started in Game 4 right away.  Rose singled to lead off the bottom of the first then Griffey laced a double into the left-center field gap.  Rose was running on the pitch and scored easily (though knowing how Rose was he probably would’ve score anyway.  Griffey tried to stretch it into a triple but was thrown out at third.  They scored another run in the inning when Joe Morgan singled and later scored on a Johnny Bench double.

 

It remained that way until the fourth.  Carlton Fisk lined a single into left-center to lead off the inning, followed by Fred Lynn singling to right.  After a pop out, Fred Norman threw his first pitch to Dwight Evans in the dirt.  Bench failed to stop it and the runners advanced. Evans made the Reds pay with a triple to right-center*.  That was followed up with a hustle double (with a close call at the bag) from Rick Burleson and Norman was done for the night.

 

*-By the way, as I do this research, I find out just how underrated and overrated a ton of players are.  I believe Dwight Evans belongs in the Hall of Fame and Fred Lynn falls short, both are criminally underrated.

Pedro Borbon came in to face El Tiante, who lined a single to move Burleson to third.  Borbon then jammed Juan Beniquez, but Tony Perez couldn’t field it cleanly and the Red Sox got another run.  Yaz added a two-out single and the score was 5-2.

 

The Reds got a rally going with two outs in the bottom half of the inning.  George Foster lined a ball up the middle.  Denny Doyle nabbed it on one hop and threw to first, but it pulled Yaz off the bag and he couldn’t handle the throw cleanly and Foster beat the throw, otherwise Doyle would’ve gotten him.  Oh, and the throw went into the dugout, so Foster moved to second.  Dave Concepcion then hit a high, high fly ball into left-center.  Somehow, Beniquez, Burleson, and Lynn didn’t collide, but the ball did drop and Foster scored to make it a two run game.  Cesar Geronimo then tripled to score Davey, but that was as close as the Reds got.  The Reds threatened in the ninth, when Geronimo singled to lead off then the Reds wasted an out with a sac bunt* so Pete Rose could draw a walk, putting the winning run on with one out.  Ken Griffey then lined a ball that was still in Fred Lynn’s reach, who caught it over his shoulder on the warning track.  Morgan popped out and the series was tied at two apiece.

 

*-Before anyone wants to yell and scream that my logic is stupid, read this part.  The pitcher’s spot in the order was up, and if Rawly Eastwick was sent up to bunt, fine.  Pitchers can’t hit, so bunt him over.  Instead, Sparky put in a pinch hitter to bunt.  Why waste a roster spot?  Just plain stupid.

 

The pivotal Game 5 started with Red Sox getting the early lead, then Big Dog took over.  With two out in the bottom of the fourth, Tony Perez blasted the first pitch Reggie Cleveland threw his way over the left-center field fence to tie the game.  Then in the sixth Morgan drew a walk.  After 17 throws to first (including seven before Cleveland threw a pitch to the plate – trust me, I counted) Bench singled to right, and Morgan darted for third.  The throw took off, and Bench took second.  Then, Big Dog was at it again.

 

Tony Perez came up and took a ball.  Then he fouled one off into the seats.  Fisk went after it like a rabid dog.  He then fouled another one off.  And then another.  This one was closer, to being in play, though, and Fisk again was all over it.  He threw the mask, chased, and dove into the Reds’ dugout, but the ball was just out of his reach.  When he returned back to home plate Perez had Fisk’s mask and handed it to him.  Perez then launched the very next pitch into the left field seats for a three-run homer and the game was over.  Cincy was heading back to Beantown with a 3-2 series lead.

 

I would say that Game 6 deserves its own chapter, but it already has about 100,000,000 chapters written.  Still, here we go. . .

 

The Red Sox opened up the scoring in Game 6 when after Yaz and Fisk singled Fred Lynn* blasted a three-run homer to give the Sawx an early 3-0 lead.  It would stay that way until the fifth.

 

*-For what 15 games are worth, Fred Lynn in 15 postseason games hit .407/.450/.593 with two homers and 13 RBI.

 

Cesar Geronimo flied out harmlessly to lead off the inning, then Ed Armbrister – the one Sparky used as a pinch bunter – drew a walk.  Yes, a guy who drew five walks and struck out 19 times in 72 plate appearances in 1975 drew a walk.  And yes, he was pinch hitting for the pitcher.  Pete Rose followed with a single, then Ken Griffey Sr. stepped up to bat.

 

Griffey blasted a 2-2 pitch to left-center . . . Actually, more center than left.  As baseball fans know, that’s a long run in Fenway.  Fred Lynn ran back and leapt into the air to catch it.  He also leapt right into the wall.  The ball deflected off of the wall – as did Lynn – and rolled into center field.  Both Armbrister and Rose scored as Lynn laid against the wall.  He later said that he couldn’t feel anything from the waist down, but stayed in the game anyway.  Bench hit a one-out single and the game was tied.

 

Then in the seventh, Griffey and Morgan led off with back-to-back singles.  After fly outs from Bench and Perez, George Foster blasted a shot off the top of the center field wall, scoring both runners and giving the Reds a 5-3 lead.  Then in the eighth, Cesar Geronimo yanked the ball just inside the Pesky Pole in right to make the score 6-3 and the Big Red Machine looked like they just might have their World Series victory.

 

But then in the bottom of the eighth Fred Lynn singled off the mound/Pedro Borbon’s foot to lead off.  Rico Petrocelli followed with a walk and Borbon’s night was done.  In was Rawly Eastwick, who struck out Dwight Evans and got Burleson to fly out harmlessly to left.  This brought up Bernie Carbo, pinch hitting for the pitcher’s spot.  Bernie Carbo had a good major league career (126 OPS+, second in the 1970 Rookie of the Year voting, .264/.387/.427 slash line), but this at-bat defined him.

 

He worked Eastwick to a 2-2 count, then fouled off a couple of pitches (including what he considered the worst swing of his career), and then hit a long fly into center field.  It was long enough for a three-run homer and the game was tied at 6-6.  The former Red had just bit them.

 

The top of the ninth was uneventful, then in the bottom of the ninth Denny Doyle drew a walk and Yaz singled to get him to third with nobody out.  Will McEnany was brought in to replace Eastwick and Fisk was intentionally walked to load the bases* and Fred Lynn came to the plate.

 

*-This is one of those few times that I justify an intentional walk.  The runners on second and first don’t matter and now you have a force at any base.

 

Lynn hit the first pitch towards the third base line seats.  It stayed in play, Foster caught it in foul play, then launched a one-hopper to Bench, who applied the tag just in time to get the tagging up Doyle.  Petrocelli grounded out and the threat was over.

 

The next bit of excitement came in the 11th.  After Pete Rose took a ball and fouled a couple of pitches off Dick Drago threw a pitch up and in.  Rose turned away and went to first because home plate umpire Satch Davidson declared that the pitch hit Rose.  The pitch clearly missed Rose, but the umpires were better back then and so Rose was on first with nobody out.  Then Griffey bunted in an attempt to move Rose to second, but Fisk pounced on it and threw to second in time to get Charlie Hustle.  Joe Morgan came to the plate and hit a 1-1 pitch to deep right.  Dewey Evans caught it just short of the short wall, staggered, threw wide of first, but Yastrzemski was able to get to it and toss it over to Burleson to get Griffey, who was off from the word go.  The ball may or may not have been out, but Evans’ catch clearly prevented Griffey from scoring.

 

Then comes the bottom of the 12th.  Pat Darcy was brought in to pitch and Carlton Fisk came up to bat.  Fisk took the first pitch up around the eyes, then launched a knee high fastball right down the left field line.  Fisk jumped, watched, jumped, watched, waved, jumped, watched it go over the Green Monster, raised his arms, and there was going to be a Game 7.  NBC decided to place a camera inside the scoreboard for the series, and because of their decision, we have Fisk’s memorable urgings to keep in baseball lore.

 

The other famous moment came afterwards, when Pete Rose went up to Sparky Anderson and said, “Wasn’t that a great game?!” Sparky was obviously put off by this.  “How can you say it was a great game when we lost?!?!”  Rose responded, “Don’t worry, we’ll win tomorrow. But wasn’t that great?”

 

Everyone knows my stance on Pete Rose, but no one can ever question his passion for the sport of baseball.

 

Game 7 featured the Spaceman, Bill Lee against Don Gullett.  The game was scoreless until the bottom of the third.  Spaceman struck out then Bernie Carbo drew a walk and went to third on Denny Doyle’s single to right.  Yaz then came up and singled to right to score Carbo, then Yaz took second as Griffey tried to throw out Doyle at third, but was late.  Fisk was intentionally walked to load the bases, then Gullett struck out Lynn for the second out.  Gullett lost the strike zone, however, and back to back walks to Petrocelli and Dewey Evans made the score 3-0.

 

It would remain that way until the sixth.  Rose led off with a single to right, but Morgan flew out harmlessly to right and Bench hit a double play ball to short.  Doyle’s throw, however was almost into the seats and Bench went to second.

 

We all know the old adage about giving a team extra outs.  The Lee then decided with the count 1-0 to Tony Perez to throw his “Space Ball” – a high lob.  Perez timed it and blasted it over the Green Monster, over the netting, over everything.  The game was now 3-2.

 

Then in the seventh Griffey drew a one-out walk and Roger Moret came in to replace Spaceman.  Moret got Cesar Geronimo to pop out to the shortstop.  Griffey then stole second and pinch hitter Ed Armbrister drew a walk*.  Rose then lined a 1-0 pitch to center field, bringing Griffey around to score.  Jim Willoughby came in and got Bench to foul out to end the inning, but the game was tied at 3-3.

 

*-Ed Armbrister had 89 career pinch hit at-bats and had a .236 average with no homers and five RBI.  I love Sparky, but some of his decisions leave me scratching my head.

 

It remained tied until the top of the ninth.  Griffey led off with a walk and Geronimo bunted him to second, giving away an out despite the fact that Rico Petrocelli threw from the seat of his pants.  Dan Driessen came on to pinch hit in the pitcher’s spot and grounded out, moving Griffey to third with two outs.  Rose drew a walk, bringing up Joe Morgan.  With the count 1-2 Morgan hit one off the end of the bat that dropped right in front of Fred Lynn in center.  Rose took third (one of the iconic scenes from this series is his head-first slide at that moment) and Morgan went to second and Lynn’s throw to third wasn’t in time.  Reggie Cleveland came in to finish the inning but the Reds were ahead 4-3.

 

Will McEnaney came on to close out the game for the Reds.  When the Sawx’s last home Yaz flied out to Cesar Geronimo, the Big Red Machine finally had their World Championship.  For the Reds it was their first since 1940.  The Red Sox would take another 11 years until reaching the Fall Classic again, but it would be another 29 until they finally got over the hump.  Pete Rose was the Series MVP, hitting .370/.485/.481 in the seven games.

 

Widely considered the best World Series of all time, the 1975 World Series was the most important World Series of its time.  Football was rapidly surpassing baseball in television popularity (as well as overall popularity).  The series featured crazy moments, controversy, fantastic plays made by big names and small ones.  Five of the seven games were decided by one run.  Two games went to extra innings, and in five of them the winning run was scored in the final inning.  Much like 1986, 1991, 2001, 2011, and 2016, the 1975 World Series was a constant drama.

 

Baseball was starting to make more news off the field than on, as later that year Peter Seitz would rule in favor of the MLBPA, bringing forth the dawn of free agency.  This series brought the attention back to the field.

 

In 1976 the Reds would run the table again, winning 102 games and sweeping the postseason, going 3-0 against the Phillies and 4-0 against the Yankees, and leading the National League in every single major offensive category.  Reds’ GM Robert Howsam described them as the last perfect team.  Within time age and money took the Big Red Machine apart.  But from 1970 through 1978, the Big Red Machine went 863-586 (.595 winning percentage), won five division titles, three pennants, and two World Series championships.  As for that starting lineup, here is how they rate in my Hall of Fame Rating:

 

Johnny Bench 77.53
Tony Perez 54.44
Joe Morgan 87.63
Pete Rose 74.12
Dave Concepcion 44.03
George Foster 54.25
Cesar Geronimo 28.49
Ken Griffey, Sr. 40.73

 

The average for that lineup was 57.65.  I haven’t done a whole lot of lineup data yet, but that team will rank among the best of all time.  Overall in this series, besides the Machine, you had Evans (60.02 HOFR), Lynn (52.56), Fisk (62.69), and Yaz (81.56).

 

A lot has been written about this series, but it is well deserved.

Jim Fregosi

Today’s Random Player From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Jim Fregosi.  Fregosi was signed by Boston Red Sox out of Junipero Serra High School in 1960, but was left unprotected and was the 35th selection of the Los Angeles Angels in the expansion draft of that same year.  As a 19-year old he got 29 plate appearances with the big league club and then got part time duty as a 20-year old and hit .291/.356/.406.  In 1963 he was the full time shortstop and hit .287/.325/.422.  In 1964 he made his first of six All-Star games and on July 28 of that year he became the first Angel to hit for they cycle.  He was one of if not the best hitting shortstop of that time.

 

In 1971 doctors discovered a tumor in Fregosi’s foot.  This limited him to 107 games and his numbers dipped to .233/.317/.326.  In the offseason the Angels traded their star with an uncertain future to the New York Mets for Frank Estrada, Don Rose, Leroy Stanton . . . and Nolan Ryan.  As was typical for the Mets over the years, they made the wrong move.  The injury bug bothered Fregosi during his time in New York and a year and a half later he was sent packing to Texas.  He played better for the Rangers (111 OPS+), but was doing that as a corner infielder as opposed to a shortstop.  On June 15, 1977 the Rangers sent Fregosi to Pittsburgh for Ed Kirkpatrick.  The Pirates were in contention in the NL East, but fell short.  Not because of Fregosi (who only got 71 plate appearances but sported a 141 OPS+), and not because the Pirates didn’t play well (they went 64-42 the rest of the way – that works out to 98 wins over 162 games), but because the Phillies went 70-33 during that same time frame, winning the division by five games over the Pirates.  In 1978 the Pirates released Fregosi to give him the opportunity to pursue managerial positions, most notably the California Angels.

 

Later in 1978 Fregosi took over for the fired Dave Garcia as Angels manager.  He guided them to a 62-54 record (87-75 overall), five games behind the Royals.  The following season he led California to their first division title in franchise history, but were beaten in four games by the Orioles in the ALCS.  They dropped off badly in 1980.  In 1981 he was fired 47 games into the season.  He returned to the big league managerial ranks in 1986 for two and a half bland seasons with the White Sox, then in 1991 he was hired to manage the Phillies.  In 1993 Philly improved by 27 wins from 1992 to win their first division title in 10 years.  In the NLCS they faced the 104-win Atlanta Braves.  With the series tied 2-2 and Game 5 tied 3-3 in the tenth, Lenny Dykstra’s homerun off of Mark Wohlers proved to be the difference and in Game 6 Greg Maddux couldn’t get out of the sixth and the Phillies won the pennant in a shocking upset.  The World Series was famously ended by Joe Carter’s homerun off of Mitch Williams.

 

It would also prove to be Fregosi’s last shining moment as a manger.  Criticized for his perceived lack of ability to develop young players and instead depend on veterans, the Phillies slipped each of the next three years and Fregosi was gone.  He did manage Toronto in 1999 and 2000, but couldn’t get the Blue Jays over the top and was done.

 

In February of 2014 Fregosi was on a cruise as a part of an MLB Alumni event.  While on the ship he suffered multiple strokes.  He was stabilized and was rushed to a local hospital in the Cayman Islands and subsequently moved to Miami.  His conditioned and on Valentine’s Day he died.  He was 71 years old.

 

He was a classic “what if” story of injuries taking their toll.  So much of sports is luck.  He was a good hitting shortstop, but in an era that was difficult on hitters.  In his best seasons (1963-70) he hit .271/.341/.409.  If you normalize those numbers to a more neutral run scoring environment, they would be equivalent to hitting .287/.361/.435.

 

And then there are the injuries.  Here is another shortstop’s stats for the ages as Fregosi’s best years:

 

Regular:  .279/.349/.463

Neutralized:  .283/.353/.469

 

Not too different from Fregosi’s stats, right?  That player is in the Hall of Fame.  Why?  Well, this player played 1,292 games during that stretch, and then proceeded to play 1,751 games afterwards.  Fregosi played 1,253 games during his best stretch, but only 580 afterwards.  That’s why Fregosi fell short and Cal Ripken has his plaque in Cooperstown.

 

Fregosi falls short of the Hall (by my HOFR formula he’s at 54.06, short of my level of 60.00), but he should be remembered for his top years as an elite player in his time.

Hall of Fame Rating

For the last few years – and by few I mean really dozen or so – I have been comparing players and trying to find a good way to compare them, particularly when it comes to the Hall of Fame.  While I get that there is no end all statistical formula to make every decision, I do believe that one can come up with a method better than “He’s a Hall of Famer because I just know it”.

 

I believe that I have a method (at least for position players; I’m still tinkering with the pitchers model) – I call it my Hall of Fame Rating.  What I first did was separate the Hall of Fame players by their primary position (these were the ones selected at players, not former players who were selected as managers).  I took four statistics – well really five, but I’ll get to the fifth one in a moment – and broke those down a little further.  The four stats I used were Bill James’ Win Shares (WS), Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (bWAR), Fan Graph’s Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), and Baseball Prospectus’ Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP).

 

This was a little tricky because Baseball Prospectus only goes back to 1950.  Obviously we shouldn’t punish early players for a website’s lack of data, so we only consider a player’s WARP if they played the majority of their career after 1949.  On other words, Joe Dimaggio doesn’t get docked for playing only two seasons after 1949 (and therefore only accumulated 8.3 WARP), and Richie Ashburn gets credit for playing 13 of his 15 seasons after 1949 (and accumulated 72.2 WARP).  Fortunately this isn’t a big lot and therefore a fairly simple fix.

 

I break those four stats into three separate numbers.  First is the overall career total.  Then, I figure what they averaged per 162 games.  Then I figure out what their best five year average is.  Then I put a count together of how many All-Star level seasons each player had.  By All-Star level, I looked up what each site considered All-Star level.  For Win Shares, it’s 20, for Baseball Reference it’s 5.0, for Fan Graphs and Baseball Prospectus it’s 4.0.

 

Then I added in Jay Jaffe’s JAWS.  JAWS stands for JAffe War Score.  It is simply a hitter’s career offensive WAR plus his offensive WAR in his seven best seasons divided by two.  He uses it to compare players to the average Hall of Famer at each position.

 

What I then did was take every player at each position and get the averages for every category.  The next thing was to take the lowest score of each until I got to the All-Star level seasons.  I had to make one change.  I decided that the low bar for All-Star seasons should be four.

 

First, there are a few in the Hall of Fame that had exactly zero All-Star seasons and my formula involves division and dividing by zero just can’t happen.  Second, the reason so many of the zeros were inducted was that the Veterans Committee – behind the urging of a few, but particularly Frankie Frisch – put those questionable at best players in.  And third, if you’re making a Hall of Fame case for a player, in my opinion you had better have at least four seasons at an All-Star level, Frankie Frisch’s opinion be damned.

 

So we have those figures.  What I did then was looked at those same figures for players, started at 50.00 and divided each figure by the average Hall of Famer.  Then I repeated the process with the minimum totals.  For each percentage I subtracted 1.00 from them, then added that total to the original 50.00.  This is a player’s Hall of Fame Rating.  As for a frame of reference, if a player’s HOFR is higher than the average Hall of Famer’s I consider them a lock on my ballot.  If they score 60.00 or higher, I consider them a solid choice.  If they are below 60.00 but above 50.00 they had better be a catcher or have a reason that blows me away.  If they are below 50.00 don’t even try discussing it with me.  For an example, let’s use Scott Rolen.

 

Rolen played 17 seasons and 2,038 games.  Here are his career numbers:

 

Scott Rolen
Year G WS WS/162 WS5Y bWAR bW/162 bW5Y fWAR fW/162 fW5Y WARP WP/162 WP5Y
1996 37 2 8.8 -0.3 -1.3 -0.2 -0.9 0.0 0.0
1997 156 29 30.1 4.5 4.7 4.2 4.4 5.7 5.9
1998 160 30 30.4 6.7 6.8 7.0 7.1 6.1 6.2
1999 112 15 21.7 4.6 6.7 4.8 6.9 4.9 7.1
2000 128 18 22.8 18.8 4.5 5.7 4.0 4.6 5.8 4.1 4.5 5.7 4.2
2001 151 29 31.1 24.2 5.5 5.9 5.2 5.6 6.0 5.2 6.1 6.5 5.5
2002 155 26 27.2 23.6 6.5 6.8 5.6 6.5 6.8 5.7 5.6 5.9 5.4
2003 154 24 25.2 22.4 4.7 4.9 5.2 6.2 6.5 5.5 5.3 5.6 5.3
2004 142 35 39.9 26.4 9.1 10.4 6.1 9.0 10.3 6.4 9.2 10.5 6.1
2005 56 5 14.5 23.8 1.6 4.6 5.5 1.1 3.2 5.7 1.1 3.2 5.5
2006 142 21 24.0 22.2 5.8 6.6 5.5 5.5 6.3 5.7 6.6 7.5 5.6
2007 112 11 15.9 19.2 1.8 2.6 4.6 2.4 3.5 4.8 2.3 3.3 4.9
2008 115 11 15.5 16.6 3.4 4.8 4.3 2.6 3.7 4.1 2.8 3.9 4.4
2009 128 17 21.5 13.0 5.2 6.6 3.6 4.0 5.1 3.1 4.0 5.1 3.4
2010 133 18 21.9 15.6 4.1 5.0 4.1 4.6 5.6 3.8 4.6 5.6 4.1
2011 65 5 12.5 12.4 1.6 4.0 3.2 1.1 2.7 2.9 0.8 2.0 2.9
2012 92 8 14.1 11.8 0.6 1.1 3.0 1.0 1.8 2.7 0.7 1.2 2.6
  2038 304 24.2 26.4 69.9 5.6 6.1 70.0 5.6 6.4 70.3 5.6 6.1
7 6 11 11

 

The numbers at the bottom indicate the All-Star level seasons.  His JAWS is 56.8.  Now, when comparing him to the Hall of Fame third basemen, their numbers are:

 

  WS WS/162 WS5Y bWAR bW/162 bW5Y fWAR fW/162 fW5Y WARP WP/162 WP5Y
Avg. 330.6 25.2 27.6 66.9 5.1 6.1 65.8 5.0 6.0 77.0 5.2 6.8
Min 190.0 19.9 16.2 28.2 3.0 3.5 30.4 3.2 3.3 20.8 3.4 3.2

 

The Average JAWS is 54.7 while the the lowest was 27.3.  As for the average All-Star level seasons, those are 8.8 20+ Win Share seasons, 5.8 5+ fWAR seasons, 8.1 4+ fWAR seasons, and 9.8 4+ WARP seasons.  When you take those number and do the math with Rolen’s you get 67.72 while the average rating for a third baseman is 65.10.  In other words, next year when the ballot comes out, he’s marked off on mine.  What I did then was look up every player since 1950 who accumulated at least 250 Win Shares and are not in the Hall of Fame.  Here are those figures:

 

Rnk Last First HOFR >HOF Rnk Last First HOFR >HOF
1 Bonds Barry 119.15 Y 62 Ventura Robin 55.33 N
2 Rodriguez Alex 88.79 Y 63 Lemon Chet 55.28 N
3 Pujols Albert 85.44 Y 64 Colavito Rocky 55.15 N
4 Bagwell Jeff 75.32 Y 65 Pinson Vada 55.11 N
5 Jones Chipper 73.10 Y 66 Freehan Bill 55.08 N
6 Ramirez Manny 70.25 Y 67 Clark Jack 54.58 N
7 Cabrera Miguel 69.98 Y 68 Cash Norm 54.38 N
8 Grich Bobby 68.89 Y 69 Foster George 54.25 N
9 Beltre Adrian 68.69 Y 70 Fregosi Jim 54.06 N
10 Rolen Scott 67.72 Y 71 Posada Jorge 53.97 N
11 Utley Chase 67.69 Y 72 Gonzalez Luis 53.91 N
12 Martinez Edgar 66.76 Y 73 McGriff Fred 53.79 N
13 Walker Larry 66.35 N 74 Phillips Tony 53.77 N
14 Edmonds Jim 66.04 N 75 Murphy Dale 53.43 N
15 Bonds Bobby 66.02 N 76 Tejada Miguel 53.42 N
16 McGwire Mark 65.89 Y 77 Delgado Carlos 53.07 N
17 Allen Dick 65.40 Y 78 Mattingly Don 52.83 N
18 Rodriguez Ivan 65.03 Y 79 Staub Rusty 52.78 N
19 Beltran Carlos 64.90 N 80 Strawberry Darryl 52.75 N
20 Smith Reggie 64.68 N 81 Parker Dave 52.74 N
21 Raines Tim 64.55 Y 82 Lynn Fred 52.56 N
22 Thome Jim 64.29 Y 83 Teixeira Mark 52.31 N
23 Cano Robinson 64.25 N 84 Singleton Ken 52.24 N
24 Minoso Minnie 64.05 N 85 Harrah Toby 52.15 N
25 Jones Andruw 63.56 N 86 Ortiz David 52.12 N
26 Abreu Bobby 63.37 N 87 Butler Brett 51.93 N
27 Mauer Joe 63.37 Y 88 Rollins Jimmy 51.92 N
28 Boyer Ken 63.30 N 89 Campaneris Bert 51.01 N
29 Jeter Derek 62.74 Y 90 Howard Frank 50.10 N
30 Torre Joe 62.60 Y 91 Otis Amos 49.42 N
31 Sheffield Gary 62.57 N 92 Fernandez Tony 49.23 N
32 Guerrero Vladimir 62.33 N 93 Canseco Jose 48.93 N
33 Nettles Graig 62.21 N 94 Grace Mark 48.44 N
34 Bando Sal 62.10 N 95 Damon Johnny 48.35 N
35 Berkman Lance 61.90 N 96 Alou Moises 47.96 N
36 Sosa Sammy 61.58 N 97 Burks Ellis 47.60 N
37 Wynn Jimmy 61.35 N 98 Downing Brian 47.50 N
38 Palmeiro Rafael 61.23 N 99 Franco Julio 47.09 N
39 Helton Todd 60.85 N 100 Powell Boog 47.08 N
40 Hernandez Keith 60.83 N 101 Oliver Al 46.93 N
41 Simmons Ted 60.80 N 102 Murcer Bobby 46.92 N
42 Suzuki Ichiro 60.76 N 103 Wills Maury 46.84 N
43 Wright David 60.44 N 104 Finley Steve 45.66 N
44 Trammell Alan 60.33 N 105 Bonilla Bobby 45.30 N
45 Lofton Kenny 60.11 N 106 Hunter Torii 45.28 N
46 Evans Dwight 60.02 N 107 Ramirez Aramis 45.25 N
47 Bell Buddy 59.81 N 108 O’Neill Paul 44.97 N
48 Whitaker Lou 59.62 N 109 Concepcion Dave 44.03 N
49 Evans Darrell 59.57 N 110 Garvey Steve 43.79 N
50 Kent Jeff 58.55 N 111 Baines Harold 41.13 N
51 Randolph Willie 58.52 N 112 Griffey, Sr. Ken 40.73 N
52 Cedeno Cesar 58.18 N 113 Joyner Wally 40.69 N
53 Giambi Jason 57.16 N 114 Davis Chili 39.85 N
54 Cey Ron 56.98 N 115 Galarraga Andres 39.55 N
55 Davis Willie 56.90 N 116 Fairly Ron 39.50 N
56 Holliday Matt 56.40 N 117 Vizquel Omar 39.28 N
57 Clark Will 56.20 N 118 Monday Rick 39.18 N
58 Olerud John 56.11 N 119 Matthews Gary 38.89 N
59 White Roy 56.09 N 120 Baylor Don 37.97 N
60 Williams Bernie 56.07 N 121 Konerko Paul 33.75 N
61 Cruz Jose 56.04 N

 

These numbers seem reasonable.  Now I have to figure out the pitchers . . .