Thursday April 07, 2022
Opening Day 2022: Your Active Leaders
SLIDESHOW: Albert is still with us, as is Miggy and Nellie, as is (sadly) the 10th-inning ghost runner. Who's gone? Mostly guys who didn't factor in on the active leaderboard: Nick Markakis, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun and Wade Davis. Oh, and Kyle Seager, of course. Next year we'll get huge turnover, since Albert, now back with St. Louie, says this is his final season. In the meantime, be prepared to scroll through a lot of Albert. And Mike, and Justin, and Clayton.
BATTING AVERAGE: Almost every year I expect Miggy to tumble and almost every year he kind of does—but not enough. Before the start of the 2019 season, for example, the difference between him and second-place Jose Altuve was razor-thin: .3165 vs .3164. And Miggy was seven years older. And since then, he's hit just .266. But Altuve hasn't hit well, either, so here Miggy stands, ahead .310 to .307. They're the only active players with career BAs over .305. Trout is third with .3048, then it's a scattering of guys between .303 and .300. Last year, I wrote that Miggy's .313 was “the lowest active batting average since ... ever.” Rinse. Repeat.
ON-BASE PERCENTAGE: Just three years ago, active leader Joey Votto's .427 OBP was tied with Tris Speaker for 13th all-time. It's a still an impressive .416, 26th all-time, but Mike Trout has eclipsed him at .419. No one else is close. Bryce Harper is at .391, then you got three guys in the .380s. Come Opening Day 2024, though, expect some competition. Baseball Reference has a 3,000 PA minimum for active leaders and Juan Soto is 2/3 of the way there. And he's at .432. And it's rising.
SLUGGING PERCENTAGE: Only 17 active players have career slugging percentages above .500, but only one of those, Mike Trout, is above .550—and he's at .583. So a bit of a gap. He'll get some competition when players like Aaron Judge (.554) and Juan Soto (.550) get their qualifying 3,000 plate appearances (2,465 and 2,003, respectively). Until then, can't touch this.
OPS: Same story. Seven active players have an OPS above .900. Joey Votto is second with a .936 mark, while Mike Trout is first with 1.001. A bit of a gap. A year or two from qualifying, Aaron Judge is at .940 and Juan Soto is at .981. More junior achievements: Vlad Jr. is halfway to qualifying with .884, Acuna Jr. also halfway with .925, and Tatis Jr. is one-third of the way to qualifying with .965.
GAMES: Only nine players in baseball history have ever played 3,000 games: Rose, Yaz, Henry, Rickey, Ty, Stan, Eddie Murray, Willie, Cal. With 29 more games, Albert joins the club. It's a pretty cool club even if no one knows it exists. Go, Albert.
HITS: Another milestone to look forward to: Miguel Cabrera is just 13 hits shy of 3,000. Barring a horrific start, he should do it in April. Serious question: Might he be the last to do this? Robinson Cano is 376 shy and he's only banged out 248 hits since 2018. Then it's Yadier Molina at 2112 and no one young seems on the trajectory. Getting hits feels like a lost art. Last season, the NL averaged 8.04 hits per game, which is the lowest since 1909. Oh, and yes, Albert is the active leader with 3301—12th all-time. Barring disaster, he'll wind up 10th: Paul Molitor is currently that with 3319.
DOUBLES: Albert has 672, 5th all time, but we're nearing another Miggy miletone: He's just three doubles from becoming the 19th player in baseball history with 600 doubles. That means he'd have 3,000 hits, 500 HRs and 600 doubles. How many guys in baseball history have done that? Talk about your exclusive clubs. It's just Hank Aaron and Albert Pujols.
TRIPLES: Not even sure who to put here. Dexter Fowler (82 triples) signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays but he could be let go at any moment. Brett Gardner (73) is in pinstripe limbo. No. 3 Alcides Escobar (56) is apparently assured playing time on the awful Washington Nationals. The one thing that's certain? The most exciting play in baseball is the saddest of stats, because it's disappearing. Last year I wrote: “Fowler's 82 is the lowest for an active leader since 1883, when a dude named Tom York had 80.” Rinse. Repeat.
HOMERUNS: Albert's No. 1 with 679. Does he have 21 more in him? Last year, split between So Cal teams, he hit 17. Miggy, at 502, is on his last legs. No. 3 is interesting: Nelson Cruz. He turned 41 last July and between Minnesota and Tampa Bay hit 32, giving him 449 career. Does he have 51 more in him? I can't imagine a baseball fan in the world rooting against him.
RBIs: Seven active players have more than 1,000. Albert is first with 2150 (third all-time), Miggy is second with 1804 (22nd all-time) and a distant third is Robinson Cano with 1302 (114th all-time). Fun stat: Asdrubal Cabrera has more RBIs than Mike Trout: 869 to 816. I guess that's what happens when the best player in baseball spends most of his career leading off or batting second.
RUNS: Same top three, more evenly spaced: Albert at 1872, Miggy at 1505, Cano at 1257. Trout is the first twentysomething on the active list: 967. The all-time record is Rickey Henderson, 2295, 50 more than second-place Ty Cobb. Albert is 14th. Eleven more and he passes Tris Speaker.
BASES ON BALLS: Four guys have more than 1,000: Albert at 1345, Joey Votto on his heels at 1294 and Miggy at 1199. Any guesses as to the fourth guy? I wouldn't have gotten it: Carlos Santana with 1077. All-time, Albert is tied for 34th with Willie McCovey but doesn't walk much anymore: just 14 last season.
STRIKEOUTS: There was a time when the active leader in K’s was a sure HOFer: Mantle, Killebrew, Stargell, Jackson, Schmidt. Now it's just as likely to be an Adam Dunn, Chris Davis or, this year, Justin Upton, who's whiffed 1948 times, good for seventh all-time. This is another question-mark active leader, though, since Upton was let go by the Angels a week before Opening Day. If no one picks him up, then insert Miggy. He's got 1930: 10th all-time.
STOLEN BASES: Here's a Washington Post headline from a week ago: “Dee Strange-Gordon hopes to impress Nationals with 'lost art' of base running.” Truer words. The “lost art” part. If Strange-Gordon makes the team, he's the active leader with 333. If he doesn't, Elvis Andrus has entered the building with 317. Either way, it'll be the lowest active leader since Luis Aparicio in the early '60s. Last player to steal 50+ in a season? That would be Dee with 60 in 2017. Last to steal 75+? Jose Reyes, 78, 2007. How about 80+? You gotta go back to Rickey Henderson with 93 in 1988.
GROUNDED INTO DOUBLE PLAYS: As hits go down, will GDPs go down, too? It feels like it. Last season, the AL was near historic lows in GDPs, with only the hitless '60s comparing, while the NL was the same, but playing second fiddle to the early '90s for some reason. Anyway, if true, then this record is Albert's forever. Career, he's got 413, 63 ahead of second-place Cal Ripken, Jr. Second on the actives, and third all-time, is Miggy with 342.
DEFENSIVE WAR: Andrelton Simmons's 28.1 dWAR is 13th all-time. Meaning, according to Baseball Reference, Simmons has provided as much value defensively as Paul Konerko did everywhere. Second on the active dWAR list is Yadier Molina with 26.8. They're the only actives above 20. Fun stat: No. 1 in dWAR last season is the guy who replaced Simmons at shortstop for the Twins: Carlos Correa with 2.9.
WAR FOR POSITION PLAYERS: Of the top five guys, two of them had their career numbers drop last season. No. 1 Albert went from 100.8 to 99.6, while No. 4 Miggy went from 69.6 to 68.7. Mike Trout played only 36 games, but they were stellar, and he improved from 74.5 to 76.1. Robinson Cano got bumped up a bit, too, 69.1 to 69.6, as did Joey Votto: 62.0 to 64.6. So which of the five is a HOFer? Albert, Trout and Miggy, obviously. Cano, sadly, no. Votto is the question mark.
WINS: Seven active pitchers have 150+ wins, but only two have 200+ wins. The leader of the pack, Justin Verlander, who turned 39 in February, is also promising to become the first 300-game winner since Randy Johnson in 2009. More power to him. Currently he's at 226, and has won exactly one game in the last two years. Zack Greinke is second on the actives with 219. Verlander is currently 70th on the all-time list, three behind Luis Tiant and Sad Sam Jones.
ERA: This stat used to be Clayton Kershaw's and no one was close. Now someone is. During his heyday, after the 2016 season, Kershaw's career ERA stood at an insane 2.37, and now it's a still stellar 2.49, but Jacob deGrom has all but caught up. Or down? After the 2017 season, his ERA stood at 2.98, and since then he's gone: 1.70, 2.43, 2.38, 1.09 (in a half season). All that adds up to a career ERA of 2.497. Third is Chris Sale (3.03), fourth Max Scherzer (3.16), fifth Corey Kluber (3.19).
STRIKEOUTS: This used to be Verlander's but if you miss a few seasons people catch up—in this case Max Scherzer, who now has 3020 Ks to JV's 3013. Verlander doesn't walk much, just 851 free passes, but Scherzer is even better: just 677 BBs. Back in the day, the only pitcher with > 3,000 Ks and < 1,000 BBs was Fergie Jenkins. In the last two decades, he's been joined by Maddux, Shilling, and Pedro. These two could make it six.
BASES ON BALLS: Last season, Verlander was leading with 851 career passes but two guys were close on his tail: Jon Lester and Francisco Liriano. Lester passed him up, but both men retired, so it's Verlander's again. Ervin Santana is second with 776 and Oliver Perez(?) is third with 761.
INNINGS PITCHED: Last season, Zack Greinke became the 137th pitcher to reach 3,000 innings pitched. Verlander will join that club in April: He's sitting on 2988. Then it's Max Scherzer, 2586, Ervin Santana, 2486, and Clayton Kershaw at 2454. The all-time record is Cy Young: 7356. The modern record, Phil Niekro, 5404.
COMPLETE GAMES: Last season, his age 39 season, Adam Wainwright pitched three complete games, leading the Majors, and is now the active leader with 27. Verlander is second with 26, Kershaw third with 25. But as you know, this is barely a stat now. The all-time leader is Cy Young, with 749. How much is no one going to touch this? If you count every CG for every active pitcher in the Majors, you get 528.
SAVES: The Dodgers let the No. 2 active saves leader, Kenley Jansen (350) test the free-agent waters, then traded for the No. 1 active saves leader, Craig Kimbrel (372). Will be interesting to see how this turns out. After several pretty horrific seasons, Kimbrel was Mariano-good for the first half of 2021, giving up only 2 earned runs in 36.3 innings. The Cubs then traded him across town. And in his third appearance with the ChiSox, Kimbrel gave up 3 earned runs. Against the Cubs! He did it again later that month—also against the Cubs. His splits last season are like Jekyll/Hyde: 0.49 ERA for the Cubs, 5.09 for the ChiSox. So who shows up at Chavez Ravine?
WAR FOR PITCHERS: Verlander's barely pitched for two seasons and he's still on top here with a 72.2. Then it's Kershaw (69.1), Greinke (68), Scherzer (66.2). After that quartet, no one is above 50. Are all four going into the Hall? To me, the only question mark is Greinke, who never dominated the way the others did. But he was fun.
EXIT MUSIC (FOR A SLIDESHOW): And exit music for baseball? The way the current lords are running the show, sometimes it feels like it. *FIN*