Monday July 06, 2020
Opening Day 2020: Your Active Leaders
SLIDESHOW: Sorry, I just can't see it working. What if a player contracts Covid during the season? How long must he be in quarantine? How long will his team be in quarantine and what will that do to the schedule? Do they forfeit games? Do they try to make them up? What if this happens during the World Series? And imagine if a player dies. The U.S. is currently averaging 50k confirmed cases a day. Just don't see it working. Hope I'm wrong. In the meantime, we‘ll always have stats. Here’s MLB's active leaders.
BATTING AVERAGE: For the sixth year in a row, it's Miggy. He's at .3146 while Jose Altue is a tidge below at .3145. Oddly, Miggy had that .0001 advantage last season as well but they both fell off at the same pace. There are currently 10 active players with career BAs over .300 but for the first time since 2001 one of them is not named Albert Pujols. His eighth season in a row below .300, and fourth overall below .250, finally knocked his career mark to .299. For the record, Miggy's .3146 is 70th all-time, just behind Lew Fonseca.
ON-BASE PERCENTAGE: We‘re about to see a changing of this guard. Joey Votto has been the active leader in OBP since 2013, but last season he posted the worst OBP of his career: .357. True, his OBP over the last four seasons is still .418, and only one other active player is over .400, but that one is Mike Trout, who, over the last four seasons, has an OBP of .445. Right now it’s Votto .421 to Trout's .419. Expect change.
SLUGGING PERCENTAGE: Speaking of: Trout's at .581 and no one else is over .550. Can Trout reach .600 career? At least for a time? Maybe. His numbers for the last three seasons: .629, .628 and .645.
OPS: Again, it's Trout and no one else. He's at .999 while the second-place finisher is Joey Votto 60 points back at .940. The other five active players above .900 are: Miggy (.935), Albert (.927), Paul Goldschmidt (.915), Giancarlo (.905) and Kris Bryant (.900).
GAMES: Only eight players have ever played 3,000 career games (Rose, Yaz, Hank, Rickey, Ty, Stan, Eddie, Cal), but Uncle Albert might join them. He's 177 games short at 2,823 with two years left on his contract. OK, one and a half. Only three other actives have played in more than 2,000 games: Miggy at exactly 2,400, Cano at 2,185 and Nick Markakis at 2,117.
HITS: Same four, same order: Albert (3,202), Cabrera (2,815), Cano (2,570) and Nick Markakis (2,355). Miggy has a shot at three-thou if he stays healthy (he stopped hitting for power last season but didn't stop hitting), while Markakis has never had 200 hits in a season but seems a few good seasons from knocking on 3,000. Has that ever happened? A player with no 200-hit seasons but 3,000 career? Just looked it up. These guys: Cap Anson, Carl Yastrzemski, Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray and Rickey Henderson.
DOUBLES: Pujols is seventh all-time with 661, and just 8 more would put him past Brett and Biggio into fifth place. Only four guys have ever hit 700: Speaker, Rose, Cobb, Musial. Can Albert reach that? He's hit 42 over the last two seasons, but between age and Covid I'm not sure. Miggy's got 577, Cano 562.
TRIPLES: With Curtis Granderson retiring, Dexter Fowler takes over as the active leader in triples with 82. When was the last time the active leader in triples had so few? 1883. When a dude named Tom York had 80. Here's a nice bar bet: Name the 4 active leaders in triples. After Fowler it's Brett Gardner (huh), then Dee Gordon (I can see that), who is tied with ... Hunter Pence??? Those are the only guys with more than 50. Somewhere, Wahoo Sam sheds a tear.
HOMERUNS: Pujols (656) is set to pass Willie Mays (660) for fifth on the all-time list, while Miggy is second on the actives with 477. Last season two guys hit their 400th: Edwin Encarnacison, 414, and my man Nellie Cruz, 401. The only other guys above 300 career are Ryan Braun (344), Robinson Cano (324), Jay Bruce (312) and Giancarlo Stanton (308). Yeah, Jay Bruce. Who knew?
RBIs: One more RBI, just one, and Pujols moves past Cap Anson (2,075) and into sole possession of 4th place on the all-time list. A dozen more and he moves past A-Rod (2,086) for third. Then it gets trickier. At that point he‘ll be 127 from tying Babe Ruth and 210 from Hank Aaron. How does it feel to be among the gods? I guess tiring.
RUNS: He’s less godlike on the runs scored at 1,828 or 17th all-time. Then it's the usual active suspects: Miggy (1,429), Cano (1,234) and Markakis (1,104). Mike Trout, the young buck, is currently 16th among actives with 903 after just nine seasons. Nice ratio. The record is Rickey Henderson: 2,295.
BASES ON BALLS: I used to think Albert had a greating batting eye but it looks like he walked so much because pitchers were afraid of him. Now they‘re not. In St. Louis he averaged 89 walks per season; with the Angels, 43. Yes, his plate appearances are down, but only slightly: 676 vs. 600. His intentional walks are way down. In 2009 he was IBBed 44 times. Last season, once. But he’s still on top here with 1,322 career. Then it's Votto (1,180) and Miggy (1,135). They‘re the only active players with more than 1,000.
STRIKEOUTS: Since Mark Reynolds retired in April, his 1,927 career Ks (9th all-time) is no longer topping our list. Now the honor goes to Chris Davis, whose 1,835 is 18th all-time. Justin Upton is second in actives Ks with 1,798, Miggy third with 1,761. Observation: There was a time when the active leader in K’s was a sure HOFer: Ruth, Foxx, Ott, Mantle, Killebrew, Stargell, Jackson. Now it's just as likely to be a Mark Reynolds, Adam Dunn or Chris Davis.
STOLEN BASES: Ichiro's retired, Jose Reyes and Jacoby Ellsbury are unsigned, and Rajai Davis is ... who knows? So the active leader is the Seattle Mariners' own Dee Gordon with 330. When was the last time the active leader had that few? 1963, when Luis Aparicio had 309. Then Maury Wills zipped past him as active leader before passing the baton to Lou Brock, who passed it onto Campy, and onto Joe Morgan, and onto, yeah, Rickey who owned it for a while. SBs are sadly not a thing anymore. Even Billy Hamilton is slowing down.
GROUNDED INTO DOUBLE PLAYS: The active leader is the all-time leader, Albert with 395. He's 45 ahead of Cal Ripken on the all-time chart and 77 ahead of Miggy on the active list. Then, for active players, it's Cano (277), Yadier (254), Markakis (209), Zimmerman (203).
DEFENSIVE WAR: I have issues with this stat. Andrelton Simmons has 26.7 dWAR after eight seasons while Yadier Molina is second with 25.0 after 16 seasons? Is eight seasons of the best defensive shortstop really worth 16 of the best defensive catcher? You try crouching all day. They‘re also the only actives > 20. Hell, Andrelton is 14th all-time in this category. He just passed Gary Carter and Bob Boone. I guess?
WAR FOR POSITION PLAYERS: What’s a good bWAR cutoff for the Hall? Seems about 70. It's cuspy there: Gary Carter, Barry Larkin, Ron Santo. There are first-ballot guys below you (Tony Gwynn, 69.2) and underrated guys ahead of you (Bobby Grich, 71.1; Lou Whitaker 75.1). But you‘ll definitely be in the conversation. Albert’s in, of course, at 100.8. Trout, too: 72.8. I assume Miggy (69.5) is in for the counting numbers and triple crowns and MVPs. His black ink is 43 vs. 27 for a typical HOFer. Cano (68.0) takes a ding for testing positive for banned substances and for being low on black ink numbers (1).
WINS: Will C.C. Sabathia be the last pitcher to notch 250 career wins or will Justin Verlander, the active leader at 225, bust that mark? He led the Majors last year with 21, and another year like that and he's a cinch. But he's 37 and the cliff can come fast. Second on the active list is Zack Greinke with 205. Then it's Jon Lester (190), Max Scherzer (170) and Clayton Kershaw (169). The probably-done Felix Hernandez also has 169.
ERA: In the last two seasons, Kershaw posted ERAs of 2.73 and 3.03 and his career mark went down: from 2.36 to 2.44. When was the last time his career ERA went down two years in a row? It's never happened. But he's still way up on top here. Second is Jacob deGrom with a shockingly good 2.62. Third is Chris Sale with 3.02. Who was the last starting pitcher to retire with a career ERA under 3.00? Jim Palmer maybe? Anyone?
STRIKEOUTS: Justin Verlander nudged over the 3,000 mark at the end of last season and leads the active parade with 3,006. He also has only 850 walks. Back in the day, the only pitcher with > 3,000 Ks and < 1,000 BBs was Fergie Jenkins. In the last two decades, he was joined by Maddux, Shilling, Pedro. Could JV make it an even five? Maybe. (Last season he gave up 42 freebies.) Second and third in active Ks are neck and neck: Scherzer/Greinke: 2,692/2,622. Both are in the 600s in walks.
BASES ON BALLS: JV's 850, followed by Ubaldo Jiminez's 848 (if he still counts) and then Jon Lester's 820. The last time the active leader had fewer than 850 BBs? When Walter Johnson had 845 in 1920.
INNINGS PITCHED: Verlander needs two complete games to get to 3,000. He's at 2,982. He‘ll be the 137th guy to do it. Greinke’s not far behind. Then it's Felix (if he returns), Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer. The most IPs for someone in their 20s? Madison Bumgarner with 1,846. He's 29, though, and 30 on August 1.
COMPLETE GAMES: Every year of the 20th century some pitcher threw double-digit CGs. Every year. Then the calendar flipped and the CGs just disappeared. It's like in John Updike's “Rabbit Is Rich” when the ‘70s turn into the ’80s and disco just goes POOF. In the 21st century, only two pitchers have thrown double-digit CGs: C.C. in 2008 (10) and James Shields in 2011 (11). Now it's hardly a stat. Who led the league in CGs last season? Two pitchers tied with 3: Rookies Lucas Giolito and Shane Bieber. The active leader is JV with 27—only 722 behind all-time leader Cy Young.
SHUTOUTS: As recently as the ‘90s the active leader (Nolan Ryan) had 60+. As recently as the 2000s the active leader (Roger Clemens) had 40+. Now it’s Clayton Kershaw's 15, and he's been stuck on 15 since 2016. The only other active pitcher w/double digits (if Felix doesn't count) is Adam Wainwright with 10. All-time leader is Walter Johnson with 110.
SAVES: Top 3 are Craig Kimbrel (346), Kenley Jansen (301) and Aroldis Chapman (273). 24-year-old Roberto Osuna is in 7th place with 154. 25-year-old Edwin Diaz is in 12th place with 137. He ran into same issues last season, though. I still miss him.
WAR FOR PITCHERS: Usual suspects: Verlander (72.1), Greinke (65.9), Kershaw (65.3). Are they all HOFers or is the jury still out on Greinke? What about the dude in fourth place: Cole Hamels (58.5). What if he has 3-4 more seasons like his 3.2 WAR season last year? Nah. Like Cano, not enough black ink.
EXIT MUSIC (FOR A SLIDESHOW): Be safe, everybody. *FIN*