erik lundegaard

Wednesday January 31, 2024

Postseason Droughts, .350, and the Ol' Doubles, Triples and Homers Question

Can Shohei do something nobody's done since Johnny Mize in 1941?

I meant to write this in November, then got busy. And then the world fell apart. Now we're just a few weeks from pitchers and catchers. So let's look at the baseball questions that I (and maybe only I?) am interested in:

Did anyone hit. 350 in 2023?

Yes! For the first time in a full season since 2010, when Josh Hamilton hit .359, we had a .350 hitter in the Majors: my man Luis Arráez. He won the AL batting title in 2022 with my Minnesota Twins, hitting. 316, was traded to the Miami Marlins in the off-season, and promptly won the NL title with a .354 average. Don't think that's ever happened before—i.e., winning a title, traded, winning another title. It's rare enough to trade a batting champion, though I guess the Twins did it before under different circumstances. In 1978, Rod Carew won his seventh batting crown with the Twins, hitting .333. Then in the off-season Twins owner Calvin Griffith got drunk at a Lions Club meeting in Waseca and spewed racist BS and called Carew “a damned fool” for accepting below-market value. Carew demanded a trade and got one—to the California Angels, where he continued to excel, hitting .314 over seven seasons, but never won another crown.

Arráez was hitting .400+ as late as June 24, and ended July at .381, so there was actually .400 talk. Then August hit and he didn't; just .236 for the month. But he recovered in September to get above .350. That .350 drought between 2010 and 2023 (for full seasons) is the longest in MLB history. By far. It's 11 seasons, leaving aside the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. The previous record was five seasons: 1962-66.

Oh, and the last guy to hit .360 in a season? Also a Twin: Joe Mauer in 2009. For those scoring at home. 

Is anyone closer to becoming the first player since Johnny Mize to lead the league in doubles, triples and homers at some point in their career?

Yes! And guess who? SHOHEI. Big surprise. If someone is going to do something that hasn't been done in MLB in nearly a century, Shohei always seems to be the guy. 

Here's the background on that stat. Only seven players in modern MLB history (sans 19th c.) have ever led the league in all three extra-base categories—doubles, triples and homers—during their careers, and, yes, Mize was the last to do it, completing the triumverate in 1941. 

Here's the 2023 leaders in those three categories:

AL Corey Seager (TEX) Bobby Witt Jr. (KCR) Shohei Ohtani (LAA)
NL Freddie Freeman (LAD) Corbin Carroll (ARI) Matt Olson (ATL)

Freeman is a doubles machine—he hit 59—and it's the fourth time he's led the league in the category. But he's never led in triples and homer. Ditto Kyle's kid brother, who led the NL in doubles in 2019. Witt Jr. and Carroll were both rookies, so obvious firsts for both of them. It's also the first for Matt Olson.

Shohei, meanwhile, is missing a category, doubles, that seems doable. Up to now, the active players with two of the three were either light-hitting guys that needed homers (Whit Merrifield and Cesar Hernandez, and the latter didn't play last year and seems done), or they were aging slowpokes that needed triples (Nolan Arenado, Bryce Harper).

But Shohei, an impressive combo of power and speed, has already led the league in triples. He did it in 2021 and nearly did it again last year. Add the HR title and he just needs doubles. One wonders if he actually has too much power and too much speed to do this. Mantle and Mays were two such guys who never did the doubles thing. Shohei's career high is 30, from 2022, and that's not going to lead anything, particularly with new teammate Freddie Freeman around. Still, he's got a better shot than Bryce Harper has with triples or Whit Merrifeld with homers. I'll be watching to see if he does it. 

Which team has the longest postseason drought?

For a number of years, this belonged to my Seattle Mariners, who went in 2001 and then not again until 2022. Now it's a tie between the Tigers and Angels. Both last went in 2014. After that? Pirates and Royals, both of whom last went in 2015. The Royals, of course, won it all in '15 so that takes some of the sting out. The Pirates? Oof...

Which team has the longest pennant drought? 

Still my Seattle Mariners, born in 1977 and pennantless ever since. A close second is the Pittsburgh Pirates, who last saw the World Series in 1979.

Which teams haven't won a pennant this century?

Nine teams: M's (n/a), Pirates (1979), Brewers (1982), Orioles (1983), Reds (1990), Athletics (1990), Twins (1991), Blue Jays (1993) and the Padres (1998). 

Which team has the longest World Series championship drought?

Still the Cleveland Indians, who have not won it since 1948, though they've been four times since: 1954, 1995, 1997 and 2016. Then it's a big jump to the Padres and Brewers (b., 1969). Then You-Know-Who.

Which teams have never won the World Series?

A year ago there were six. Now, thanks to the Rangers great October run, there are five: Padres and Brewers (b., 1969), Mariners (1977), Rockies (1993) and Rays (1998).

Posted at 10:57 AM on Wednesday January 31, 2024 in category Baseball  
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