Thursday March 29, 2018
Opening Day 2018: Your Active Leaders
SLIDESHOW: There's been a lot of big, gladhanding retirements in the last few years that altered the active leaderboard: Mo after 2013, Derek Whatshisface a year later. Both Big Papi and A-Rod bowed out after the 2016 season. So which big names retired after 2017? None, really. It's all gray area. Jose Bautista? Mark Reynolds? Will they be back? Maybe? And how about Bartolo? He's on, then off, then on. That said, the big shift on the active leaderboard is mostly because of one guy, Albert Pujols, who's still playing, of course, and still on top of those counting numbers—like HRs. But his percentage numbers? It‘s the old Springsteen song.
BATTING AVERAGE: Miggy had the worst season of his career last year, hitting just .249, and dropping his career BA four points. But he remains on top. Barely. He’s at .3168, while up-and-comer Jose Altuve, last year's batting champ, is at .3164. Those two are followed by Joey Votto (.313) and Ichiro (.311); then nine guys between .300 and .310. When was the last time the active leader had a lower BA than .317? At the tail-end of the raised-mound era, when Rod Carew was at .316. It's the only other time in baseball history that the active leader in BA was this low.
ON-BASE PERCENTAGE: In 2010, Albert Pujols was the active leader in OBP with a .426 career mark. He's now in the seventh spot with a .386 career mark. His 2017 OBP was actually below .300—at .286. Meanwhile, Joey Votto's numbers keep going up. Last season's .454 raised his career mark to .428. That's 11th best all-time. The only other active player with a .400+ career OBP is Mike Trout at .409.
SLUGGING PERCENTAGE: Speaking of... In 2006, when Trout was a sophomore at Millville Senior High School, the active leader in slugging was King Albert with a .628 mark. How good was that? Fourth best all-time—behind a couple of schlubs named Ruth, Williams and Gehrig. Now he's been dethroned even on the active list—by his own teammate no less. Trout is at .565, Albert is at .561. Giancarlo is third with .554.
OPS: And one more time with feeling. Back in the day, Albert had a 1.049 mark, which was fourth best all-time. At .947, he's still fourth-best ... but on the active list—behind Trout (.975), Joey V (.968) and Miggy (.9477). For someone so close to the 1.000 mark career, it's odd that Trout has only had one 1.000+ season: last year's 1.071. But it's because he's Mr. Consistent. His other marks: .963, .988, .939, .991 and .991. He's 26.
GAMES: Only eight players have ever played in 3,000+ games: Rose, Yaz, Aaron, Rickey, Cobb, Musial, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken. Could Beltre be the ninth? He's 186 away, but that's a steep 186. Last season, for the first time since his rookie year, he played in fewer than 100 games (94). Second on the active list is Ichiro at 2,626, which isn't startling until you realize he didn't play in the Majors until he was 27. He had a whole other career before then. Combine his Japan and U.S. games, and he's at 3,587. The all-time MLB record holder? Rose at 3,562.
HITS: In each of the last three seasons, a former Mariner has joined the 3,000-hit club, and together they‘re a single short of the cycle. A-Rod did it in June 2015 with a homer; Ichiro, the current active leader (3,080), followed in August 2016 with a triple; last July Adrian Beltre joined with a double. This year, King Albert starts the season at 2,968. So ... a single in May or June? Or is he not part of the cycle since he’s not a former Mariner? Quick trivia: When was the last time four guys joined the 3,000-hit club in four consecutive seasons? Answer: It's never happened.
DOUBLES: Albert and Adrian are first and second on the active list (619 and 613), and they‘re 12th and 13th on the all-time list. They’re sputtering, though. Last season, Albert managed 17, Adrian 22. After them it's Miggy at 545, then Robinson Cano at 512. Only four guys have ever smoked 700+ doubles lifetime: Speaker, Rose, Musial, Cobb.
TRIPLES: Last year, his age-34 season, Jose Reyes hit more triples (7) than in the previous three seasons combined (6) to raise his career total to 128. Second on the active list? Ichiro at 96. Reyes is a throwback. The last time the active leader had more career triples? Brett Butler, who retired with 131 in 1997. Before him, Willie Wilson, who retired with 147 in 1994. Before that? Robert Clemente, who ended his career with 166 in 1972. It's a lost art. Keep practicing it, Jose.
HOMERUNS: Career OBP and OPS may drop, but you can't undo a man's homeruns. King Albert crushed his 600th last June—a grand slam—and now stands at 614: seventh all-time. Second place on the active list is a tie between Miggy and Beltre: 462 each. Behind them? Edwin Encarnacion at 348. Enjoy Albert's big career numbers while you can.
RBIs: For all his problems last season (negative WAR, sub .300 OBP), King Albert still drove ‘em in, adding another 101 to bring his career RBI total to 1,918. That’s 10th all-time. And if he can get to 2,000, he'd be only the fifth man to cross that rubicon. Cap Anson was the first, in 1896, then Babe Ruth in 1932. Forty years later, Hank Aaron joined them; 43 years after that, A-Rod did it. So not something you see every day. Closest active players to Albert? Beltre (1642), Miggy (1613), and, of all players, Robinson Cano (1183).
RUNS: Pujols on top again, with 1,723. At the same time, it's a different list than RBIs: Ichiro is third, Jose Reyes fifth, Ian Kinsler sixth. So who's on the top 10 active list for both RBIs and Runs Scored? Five guys: Pujols, Beltre, Miggy, Cano and Chase Utley.
BASES ON BALLS: For all the “Moneyball” talk, only two active players have north of 1,000 career walks—Albert (1,251) and Miggy (1,065)—and both are pretty far back in the all-time charts: 53rd/94th. Third among actives is Joey Votto (996), followed by Joe Mauer (888). When was the last time the active BBs leader had fewer than Pujols' 1,251? In 1969: Willie Mays with 1,186. When was the last time the active leader in this category had less than 1,000? Donnie Bush's 932 in 1918.
STRIKEOUTS: Ryan Howard would‘ve been last year’s active leader but he couldn't catch on with anyone, so stayed stuck at 1,843, 13th all-time. Ditto this year's active leader, Mark Reynolds, stuck at 1,806 (18th all-time). I might see Reynolds catching on—he had a better season last year than Howard‘s in 2016—but in the meantime our active leader is Curtis Granderson, now with the Toronto Blue Jays, with 1,712 career Ks (31st all-time). He’s followed by Beltre (1,636), Miggy (1,626), Justin Upton (1,544) and Chris Davis coming up on the outside (1,504).
GROUNDED INTO DOUBLE PLAYS: Last season, Albert led the league (26) and became the all-time leader (362), crushing Ripken's career mark of 350. Cal Who? Albert's got another four more years to pad his record, too. Behind him? Usual suspects: Miggy (294), Beltre (266), Cano (252).
STOLEN BASES: A year ago, Ichiro was on top with 508, followed by Jose Reyes with 488. During the season, Reyes stole 24 bases, Ichiro ... one. So now it's Reyes by three. They‘re the only two actives above 500. Or 400. Anyone want to guess third place? Rajai Davis with 394. Then Jacoby Ellsbury with 343. Two guys moving up fast? Dee Gordon, 278, and Billy Hamilton, 243.
DEFENSIVE WAR: Here’s what I don't buy about WAR. I't's not Beltre's career 28.4 defensive WAR, which is 12th all-time. Sure, why not? It's the viritual tie between No. 2 on the active list, Yadier Molina, at 23.9 after 14 years of catching, and Andrelton Simmons, at 22.1 after six years at shortstop. WAR has always dissed the catcher position, and this is the lastest example. No disrespect to Andrelton, but no way is his six years of fielding 5-6 ground balls per game worth 14 years of Yadier being involved in every single pitch. Do over.
WAR FOR POSITION PLAYERS: In 2016, Albert finally climbed over triple-digit WAR with a 101.2 tally. Last season, he climbed right back down again. The Master of WAR in the 2000s actually had a negative WAR last season, -1.8, so he starts this season at 99.4. That's still 21st-best of all-time, but it's heading in the wrong direction. His nearest active rival, Beltre, missed a good chunk of season but pulled in another 3.7 to raise his total to 93.9—tied with Cap Anson for 27th-best. BTW: Seventh on the active list? Mike Trout with 55.2. Meaning, according to WAR, seven years of Mike Trout has been worth more than the entire careers of every active position player save six guys. Hmm...
WINS: Bartolo Colon has won an amazing 69 games since turning 40 in 2013. In the same period, C.C. Sabathia—seven years younger, and pitching for the always-winning Yankees—has managed only 46. That's why Bartolo's on top: 240 to 236. They‘re the only actives above 200. Third place is Justin Verlander, 35, who wins all the time, and who still has only 188. Can anyone get to 300 again? The way to do it, it seems, is to pull a late-career Big Sexy. Those are rare.
ERA: Madison Bumgarner, third on the active list (3.01), ranks 176th all-time. Chris Sale, second on the active list (2.98), ranks 167th all-time. And No. 1 Clayton Kershaw? His 2.36 ERA ranks 24th all-time. The only pitcher from the modern era ahead of Kershaw is Mariano Rivera, who is 13th with a 2.20 ERA. The only starter from the modern era ahead of Kershaw? None. Everyone else is a deadball-era pitcher. He’s up there with the ghosts.
WIN-LOSS %: Meanwhile, his 69% win-loss percentage (144-64) is third all-time—behind only Albert Goodwill Spalding, who pitched between 1871 and 1877 and won 79% of his games (going 54-5 in 1875 helped); and Spud Chandler, winner of 72% of his games for the ‘30s/’40s Yanks. Again: Kershaw's up there with the ghosts. No. 2 on the active list is a statistical dead-heat between Max Scherzer (.6528), David Price (.6513) and Stephen Strasberg (.6512).
STRIKEOUTS: Could C.C. become the 17th man in baseball history to reach 3,000 strikeouts? He's at 2,846. Last season he struck out 120, the year before 152. The 3,000-strikeout boys go in bunches. For 100 years it was just Walter Johnson until Bob Gibson joined him in 1974. Then between 1978 and 1986, 10 guys barged in: Gaylord, Nolan, Tom, Steve, Fergie, Don, Phil, Bert. Then nothing until 1998-2008 when we got six more: Roger, Randy, Greg, Curt, Pedro, John. Nothing since Schmoltzie. But here are the actives who have between 2100 and 2500 Ks: Clayton, Max, Cole, Zack, Felix, Justin. Expect more barging.
BASES ON BALLS: C.C.'s the only guy with more than 1,000 career walks, and just barely: 1,009. He joined that group on August 31 against Boston: a first-inning walk to Andrew Benintendi. Did they stop the game? Flash it on the screen? Give him a standing o? Probably not. And in the scheme of things, it's not much: CC ranks 112th all-time here. Second active is Bartolo with 923, followed by Justin Verlander at 771.
INNINGS PITCHED: I wish these guys would make up their minds. At the start of ‘16, the active leader was C.C. by 8 IP; at the start of ’17 it was Bartolo by 4. Now it's C.C. again ... by 1 2/3 IP. After them, it goes Justin, Felix, Zack. All-time, C.C.'s 3,317 IP is 89th, just behind Vida Blue.
COMPLETE GAMES: Every year of the 20th century some pitcher threw double-digit CGs. Every year. Even strike-shortened ‘94 when Greg Maddux threw 10. Even ’99 when Randy threw 12. And then it was as if the lights went out. The calendar flipped and the CGs disappeared. In the 21st, only two pitchers have thrown double-digit CGs: C.C. in 2008 (10) and James Shields in 2011 (11). Last season, only 59 CGs were thrown in all of baseball, and the team leader was Cleveland with 7. It's a disappearing stat. Among our top three, it's been stasis since 2016, when it went CC (38), Bartolo (36) and Felix (25). Last year, we finally got movement—and from Bartolo, of all people. The blessed event occurred Aug. 4th vs. Texas.
SHUTOUTS: No movement in the top 3: It's Kershaw with 15, Bartolo 13, C.C. 12. But last season Ervin Santana tied Corey Kluber for the league lead with 3, vaulting him into a tie for fourth on the active chart with Felix: 11. No one's thrown more than 3 in a season since 2012, when King Felix threw 5. Last guy to throw double-digit shutouts in a season? John Tudor, ‘85, with 10. Before him, Jim Palmer, ’75, also 10. If you discount the deadball era and raised-mound era (‘62-’68), 10 is the record, also accomplished by Carl Hubbell (‘33), Mort Cooper (’42), Bob Feller (‘46), Bob Lemon (’48).
WILD PITCHES: Of all the categories to find King Felix leading. And not by a little, either. He's got 140, tied with Sudden Sam McDowell for 45th all-time. Second among actives is Tim Lincecum with 107. They‘re the only dudes above 100.
SAVES: If Francisco Rodriguez catches on with someone, this stat is his. Seems unlikely, though, after his horrible, truncated 2017 season (2-5, six blown saves, 7.32 ERA), and a late spring 2018 release by the Phillies. That’s why the unlikelier F-Rod, Fernando Rodney, the man with the invisible arrows and skewed cap, is on top here. He's got 300 career saves and a two-year deal with the Twins that's making M's fans do a double take. Roaring up behind? Craig Kimbrel with 291. I'm guessing Kimbrel overtakes Rodney in June. And where he stops nobody knows.
WAR FOR PITCHERS: At some point this season, Kershaw will take over. C.C. is at 59.8, Kershaw is at 58.8. There are a few dudes nipping at both their heels: Verlander at 57.6, Zack at 57.4, Felix at 52. 2. For the record, only nine pitchers have career WARs over 100: Cy, Kid, Walter, Grover, Lefty, Tom, Roger, Greg and Randy.
EXIT MUSIC (FOR A SLIDESHOW): ABY. *FIN*