erik lundegaard

Thursday March 28, 2024

Opening Day 2024

  • SLIDESHOW: Opening Day! Whooo! ... OK, so technically it was last week, when the Dodgers beat the Padres 5-2 in Seoul, South Korea. Great idea, poorly executed. I barely heard about it until it was over. But now that everyone is playing, let's figure out who our active leaders are. We don't have Albert and Miggy to kick around anymore. Also: No Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Adam Wainwright, Eric Hosmer, Andrelton Simmons and Mike Zunino, to name some of the official retirees. Then there's the question marks. Is Evan Longoria done? Zack Greinke? Will Joey Votto rehab that ankle injury and make the Blue Jays roster? Either way, a lot of NEW! faces on the active leaderboard. Let's get to it.

  • NEW! BATTING AVERAGE: Altuve (at .307) finally took the title from Miggy midway through last season, so even if Miggy hadn't retired it would've changed hands. Altuve still gets boos for his part in the trash-can scandal but I'm a fan of the short and scrappy. Sad fact? There are only two other actives in the .300s, and one of those, Mike Trout, isn't much of a threat to Jose—less because of the .300 BA than because he doesn't hit .300 anymore. (Just once in the last five seasons.) The other guy, Freddie Freeman, at .301, is a threat, since he's been hitting at a .328 clip since joining the Dodgers. After them it's: Trea Turn at .296, Charlie Blackmon at .295, Mookie at .294. 

  • NEW! ON-BASE PERCENTAGE: Last year I assumed Juan Soto would get the 333 PAs needed to reach the qualifying 3,000 career and take the mantle from Trout, and he did just that. Shame about the new uniform, though. Like with BA, there are just three actives above the magic number: Soto (.421), Trout (.412), and Joey Votto (.409). Then it's Judge, Harper, Goldschmidt, Freeman, Acuna Jr. 

  • NEW! SLUGGING PERCENTAGE: I guessed Trout might get usurped here, too, by Aaron Judge, and lo and behold. If BA and OBP have few actives at the benchmark number, SLG isn't suffering: 17 active guys are above .500: Judge (.586), Trout (.581), Acuna Jr. (.536), Stanton (.529), Arenado (.527), Betts (.526), Soto (.524), etc. Though he's fallen a bit from his lofty heights, Trout is still the only active with a career .300/.400/.500 line.

  • OPS: Which is why he's on top here at .993. Judge is about 10 points behind (.982) and Soto about 40 behind him (.945). Then Votto (.920), Acuna Jr. (917), Harper (.911), Goldschmidt (.907), and Freeman (.902). Those are our only .900+s. All-time, Trout is 12th. That includes the recently adde Negro Leagues, otherwise he's ninth.

  • NEW! GAMES: Counting numbers! Who had Elvis Andrus on their bingo card for this one? Not me, but he's atop the ... Whoops, no, the D-Backs released him. OK, so then it's Joey Votto at 2,056. Is he still with the Blue Jays? He's followed by Andrew McCutchen at 2,007. Those are the only guys above 2,000. After them it's Carlos Santana, Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Heyward. 

  • NEW! HITS: This is the first year since 2010 we don't have an active member of the 3,000-hit club. Votto's total (2,135) is actually the lowest active since ... wow ... 1952, after Joe DiMaggio retired and Stan Musial took over with 2,023, on his way to 3,630. That's assuming Votto's active. Second active (or first, depending) is Freddie Freeman at 2,114. The way Freeman's come on, I'm reminded of my feelings about Adrian Beltre from 10-12 years ago: from “Great career, but probably not HOF...” to “Wow, maybe,” to “JFC, the guys' first-ballot.” Be interesting to see where FF's numbers finally land. 

  • NEW! DOUBLES: Freeman is also a doubles machine. He's led the league four times, including last year when he nearly became the first player in 80 years to hit 60, falling one short. Career, he's at 473, and 88th all-time. Barring catastrophe, he'll become the 65th player with 500 career doubles. Could he become the 19th player to 600? Or the fifth to 700? Goldschmidt's second at 413, Altuve is third with exactly 400. 

  • TRIPLES: For most of the 10+ years I've been doing this, the triples numbers have gone down down: from the 120s (Carl Crawford, Jose Reyes) to the 90s (Ichiro) to the 80s (Dexter Fowler) to, last season, the 50s with Charlie Blackmon. The good news? Blackmon is still hitting triples at age 37. Last year he ripped five more for a total of 63. Kevin Kiermaier is second at 57, with Starling Marte and Mike Trout tied for third with 52.

  • NEW! HOMERUNS: Giancarlo hit his 400th career homer on Sept. 5 and finished the season with 402. He also finished with a .191 BA after hitting .211 the previous season, so one wonders how much longer he's going to be around. He's been having so many troubles he has me rooting for him. Trout is second among actives at 368. Then it's Goldschmidt (340), Arenado (325), and Freddie Freeman (321). Where's Aaron Judge? Believe it or not, 12th at 257. 

  • NEW! RBIs: Albert retired No. 2 on the all-time list (2218), and Miggy went 13th (1881). Which leaves? It would be Evan Longoria, 183rd, with 1159 RBIs, if he signs with anyone. Then it's Joey Votto, at 1144 if he makes a team. And if it's neither of them, then it's ... Freddie Freeman at 1143—a guy who's batted No. 2 most of his career. When was the active RBI leader above the No. 3 slot in the lineup?

  • NEW! RUNS: The top (or second) RBI guy actually has more runs scored, too: 1217. After FF, it's Andrew McCutchen (1173), Votto (1171), Goldschmidt (1134), Trout (1106). 

  • BASES ON BALLS: Can you guess No. 2 on the list? It's Carlos Santana, now with the Twins, at 1231. He's about 150 behind Votto but younger by 2 1/2 years, so this might be his title soon. Career, Votto is 34th while Santana is 60th. That's right: In BBs, Carlos Santana is just behind guys named Dave Winfield and Ty Cobb. How cool is that? 

  • NEW! STRIKEOUTS: I will always be grateful to Giancarlo Stanton for being on top of the world, 59s HRs and 1.000+ OPS in 2017 with the Marlins, and then going to the Yankees and vastly underperforming. He's also our active leader in Ks with 1820. It's not the title Yankee fans want, but it's the title they get. They haven't had the K title since A-Rod's final season. Before that—Reggie? No, he was with the Angels when he took the crown. Gotta go back to Mantle in '68. No. 2 is Goldschmidt (1706), then McCutchen (1642), Freeman (1536), and Trout (1458).

  • STOLEN BASES: Last year I didn't know if Dee Strange-Gordon was done (he was ... I think), and this year I don't really know if Elvis Andrus and his 347 steals is done (he got cut by the D-Backs March 22). So let's just assume, with Baseball Reference, that the active leader is Starling Marte (338). Whither Billy Hamilton (326)? Two plate appearances last year for the ChiSox, no hits, cut in August. Altuve is fourth (or third, or second) with 293. Then it's the man with the smoothest slide in baseball history: Trea Turner at 260.

  • HIT BY PITCH: Anthony Rizzo is eighth all-time here, with 213, but yes it was an HBP too far last season and he lost half of it with a concussion. Wait, no, that was a pickoff attempt, right? That's some irony. All these HBPs but it's a Fernando Tatis hip that does him in. No active player, btw, is close to Rizz. Second is Starling Marte (154), and if you can guess the third active on this list, kudos. Ready? It's Mark Canha. Of Detroit. Used to be with Oakland. Then the Mets. Canha. I know.

  • NEW! DEFENSIVE WAR: With Andrelton Simmons gone (whoosh), the active leader is ... NOT Nolan Arenado? That's weird. No, it's high-wire act Kevin Kiermaier with 19.9 bWAR (and four GGs), followed by Arenado at 19.1 (and 10 GGs). Then: Sally Perez (15.5), Brandon Crawford (14.3) and Manny Effin' Machado (14.0).

  • WAR FOR POSITION PLAYERS: Not exactly news, but Mike Trout is already in the Hall of Fame. His 85.2 bWAR is the 33rd greatest ever for position players, ahead of the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Rod Carew and Joe DiMaggio. Is Mookie in the Hall yet? He's second active with 64.8. Paul Goldschmidt is at 61.5 but he's five years older than Mookie. Even so, a few more 3 seasons and he might get there. Then it's Freddie Freeman at 56.1.

  • WINS: A few years back, when he was at 226 victories, Justin Verlander said he would win 300. I guess never doubt the man who won the Kate Upton sweepstakes. He's now at 257 and playing for a team that wins. After JV, it's a bit of a dropoff: Max Sherzer has 214, Clayton Kershaw has 210. Then it's a BIIIIG dropoff: Gerritt Cole is fourth with *140*. Where are all the wins going? To middle relievers, I guess. There are only 10 actives in triple digits and one of them is Kyle Gibson. Exactly.

  • ERA: No surprises, really, among the top six: Kershaw (2.47), deGrom (2.52), Sale (3.10), Scherzer (3.14), Cole (3.16) and Verlander (3.24). Then a few surprises, at least to me: Zack Wheeler is seventh at 3.44, followed by Sonny Gray (3.47) and Kyle Hendricks (3.47). I would've thought No. 10, my man Luis Castillo (3.54), would've been ahead of them.

  • STRIKEOUTS: In the 1970s, Minneapolis kept flipping mayors. Republican Charles Stenvig was replaced by Democrat Albert Hofstede, who was replaced by Stenvig, who lost it to (yes) Hofstede. Leading to a great cartoon by Dick Guindon: a middle-aged man in his doctor's office. Doctor says, “You need to lower your stress level. Why don't you run for mayor?” Well, Verlander and Scherzer are the Stenvig and Hofstede of the active strikeouts title. Verlander had it in 2021, Scherzer in 2022, Verlander again in 2023, and now Scherzer. And no, I'm not going to update his photo.

  • BASES ON BALLS: JV has been No. 1 in this non-hit parade for several years now but he's 146th all-time with 925. He barely walks anyone anymore. Then it's Scherzer at 746, Charlie Morton at 722 and Kershaw at 669. The best don't walk anyone anymore.

  • WHIP: Three qualifying players have career WHIPs below 1.00: Addie Joss (.967), Big Ed Walsh (.999), and sandwiched between them is the oft-injured Jacob deGrom (.993). God, if he could only stay healthy.

  • NEW! COMPLETE GAMES: Verlander is at 26 and Kershaw is at 25, and one wonders if they're the last guys with 20+ complete games in baseball history. Our great hope is the Marlins' Sandy Alcantara, who has 12 at 28 years old, and is usually among the league leaders. Scherzer also has 12, while Chris Sale has 16. They're the only actives in double digits. I'd tell you where Verlander's 26 is on the all-time list, but Baseball Reference's career list only goes to 1,000. It's literally off the charts.

  • HIT BY PITCH: In which category did Charlie Morton just pass Cy Young? Hint: It wasn't complete games. Yes, Morton, with 168 HBPs, is now 12th all-time and fourth among post-WWII pitchers. The recents ahead of him? Two guys you wouldn't mind getting hit by, Charlie Hough at 174 and Tim Wakefield at 186, and one you would: Randy Johnson at 190. Randy's fifth all-time. Who's No. 1? The great Gus Weyhing! Among actives, three other guys are 100+: Sale and Scherzer (111) and Verlander (109). Where's Kershaw? 33rd! Clay don't play that.

  • NEW! SAVES: There are two guys at 400+, Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel (420 and 417), three at more than 300 (+ Aroldis Chapman at 321), and four at more than 200 (+ Edwin Diaz at 205). And that's it. Jansen and Kimbrel keep racking up saves, Chapman seems pretty much done with that portion of his career, Diaz, we hope, is just getting started. BTW: I don't think we talk enough about this: Aroldis was with the Yankees longer than any other team (seven seasons), but to get rings he had to pitch for the Cubs and the Rangers. When was the last time something like that happened? Never.

  • WAR FOR PITCHERS: It's the big three, Verlander (81.4), Kershaw (76.8) and Scherzer (74.1), Hall of Famers all, and then a big drop-off to the oft-injured (Sale and deGrom at 47.2 and 42). Gerrit Cole, shockingly, is back at 40.7 despite having pitched more innings. Is bWAR off? Or how off is bWAR? Last season, the Braves' Spencer Strider led the league in wins, strikeouts, and FIP, and he didn't finish in the Top 10 in Pitcher bWAR. He didn't even crack 4.0! Seems wrong. Should be more of a conversation around this. Maybe there is.

  • EXIT MUSIC (FOR A SLIDESHOW):  That's the NEWS from Lake Woebegon. See you in Section 327. *FIN*
Posted at 06:40 AM on Thursday March 28, 2024 in category Baseball  
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