Baseball Esoterica

April 21, 2006

Another Big Start!

Sorry I haven't been posting...just got a new job.

I remember a couple of years ago when Kaz Matsui homered in his MLB first plate appearance, that was pretty cool. Then, last year, when he did it again, that was really cool. So I was looking forward to his return to the Mets lineup. First time up tonight? Not out of the park...but he circles the bases for an inside-the-parker! I don't have the data, but I bet no one's ever hit homers in his first plate appearance of the year three years in a row, never mind in his first three years. I mean, if Albert Pujols did it, nice--but Matsui is no home run hitter. This is a guy who hits a home run once every hundred plate appearances when not leading off the season. So the tally stands at: 3 homers in 3 first-of-the-year PA's, 8 homers in 805 non-first-of-the-year PA's. Wow. Interestingly, Matsui's trifecta occurred in the same game as Julio Franco becoming the oldest player to ever hit a homer.

Extra Esoterica
In 2004, Matsui went 88 plate appearances until his next homer. In 2005, it took him 110 plate appearances to hit another one.

April 03, 2006

What's So Special About Opening Day?

Happy Opening Day, aka, Christmas!

We're always hearing about team's won-lost records in season openers, like the Red Sox not having won since 2000, or the Mets being 27-9 since 1970. Yes, it's significant since it's the first game of the year, but looking at teams' records for Game 1 of the season is really no more significant than their records for Game 101. So, I decided to do just that: I have checked the handy-dandy database for the best records for any particular game of the season...and came up with a few awesomely Esoteric tidbits. Here are the top five (since 1960, as usual, for team games).

5. The best record in a particular game for teams that have played in every season, and for games that have been played in every season (the schedule expanded from 154 games to 162 in 1962) is 34-12 (.739), shared by three teams: the Dodgers in Game 62, the Braves in Game 77, and the Reds in game 103.

4. The Yankees are 7-0 in game 163, and 1-1 in Game 164. For the record, there have been 50 Game 163's and five Game 164's (not counting the LA-SF three game playoff in 1962. If you keep that in, there was actually one Game 165!). Oddly, in 1964, almost half of the 20 teams (nine) played in more than 162 games.

3. Despite their .397 winning percentage in all other games, Tampa Bay is a perfect 8-0 in Game 156's!

2. Colorado does even least Esoterically. Since their inception in 1993, they have never won the 21st game of the season, putting up a surprising (even for a bad team) 0-13 mark! Just for good measure, they're also 12-1 in Game 114!

1. Because of the sheer volume of baseball games played, there are always some nice outlier stats. Those are nice. Then there are the extreme cases, which are totally sweet and totally Esoteric! San Diego can proudly claim one of those extreme outliers. Here's why. Since their inception in 1969, they have played the 36th game of the season 37 times...and won...wait for it...five of them! Yep, that's an Esoterially rapturous 5-32 (.135) record. And that's even after winning that game last year. No one else really comes close. The second worst record (in at least 37 games) is Montreal/Washington with 8-29 (.216) record in Game 32.

So, you can see, the arbitrary Opening Day stuff doesn't really mean anything...but that doesn't mean it can't be fun!

Extra Esoterica
The team with the best worst-game-of-the-year record is Boston, whose worst is their not-so-terrible 18-28 (.391) mark in Game 93.

March 31, 2006

2005 Flashback III – Last Licks

A few Random lists and stuff:

HR/RBI Efficiency
Most RBI's with fewer than X HR, 2005.
 X Player          Team  HR(Rank)   RBI(Rank)
40 Gary Sheffield NYY 34(T15) 123(6)
30 Joege Cantu TB 28(T31) 117(T8)
25 Hideki Matsui NYY 23(T53) 116(T11)
20 Garret Anderson LAA 17(T98) 96(32)
15 Garrett Atkins COL 13(T140) 89(T39)
10 Edgar Renteria BOS 8(T220) 70(T89)
5 Jason Kendall OAK 0(T492) 53(T172)

Wait for it...
Bobby Abreu saw 284 more pitches than anyone else (3,159 to Jeter’s 2,875). If you go 284 fewer than Jeter, you'd be in would be 39th place. This is because Abreu led the majors with 4.39 pitches per PA and played in all 162 games. Miguel Tejada also played in 162 games…and saw 669 (21%) fewer pitches (2,490)! Angel Berroa played in 159 games and saw 975 fewer pitches!

Also, oddly, Casey Blake ranked second in pitches per plate appearance with 4.38, but somehow only walked 43 times, compiling a lousy .308 OBP!

Staying on First
Willy Taveras came to the plate 635 times last year and managed only 20 extra-base hits! That's 1 every 32 times up (less than once a week). Historically, believe it or not, both Horace Clark (9 EBH in 602 PA in 1968) and Sandy Alomar, Sr (8 EBH in 504 PA in 1973) actually blow Taveras away here!

Speaking of EBH, Jason Kendall gets another mention for another interesting feat: getting hit by a pitch almost as often as getting an extra-base hit. He was hit 20 times while hitting 29 EBH. Here are the top ten seasons (min 400 AB), with an unsurprising king:

Ron Hunt 1971 50 28 -22
Ron Hunt 1973 24 14 -10
Ron Hunt 1972 26 20 -6
Ron Hunt 1968 25 21 -4
Ron Hunt 1974 14 15 1
Ron Hunt 1969 25 29 4
Wally Gerber 1926 3 8 5
Alex Cora 2004 18 23 5
Dave Chalk 1976 10 15 5
Ivy Griffin 1920 11 16 5

And that's about it for 2005. See you on Opening Day...and find out an amazing and Esoteric record the Padres have been building since 1969.

Extra Esoterica
Paul Molitor is the last player to amass more than 100 RBIs with fewer than 10 home runs. He drove in 113 runners with only 9 homers in 1996.

March 30, 2006

2005 Flashback II – Scarily Bad (And Good) Baserunning

Just a quick follow-up to my previous post on Doubles and Homers, in which I listed the players who hit at least 40 more two-baggers than round-trippers. So, as a proper Esotericist, you must have been asking yourself, "Well, what about the opposite situation?" Well, funny you should ask. Here are those with 35 or more homers than doubles.
Name              Year    2B  HR Diff
Mark McGwire 1998 21 70 49
Sammy Sosa 1998 20 66 46
Roger Maris 1961 16 61 45
Mark McGwire 1999 21 65 44
Barry Bonds 2001 32 73 41
Sammy Sosa 1999 24 63 39
Harmon Killebrew 1964 11 49 38
Mickey Mantle 1961 16 54 38
It's interesting, if unsurprising, that Maris and Mantle from the '61 home run chase as well as McGwire and Sosa from the '98 and '99 editions all make the list. McGwire is the king, though. He hit 20 more homers than doubles eight times in his career. Killebrew tops the under-50HR group with crazy-low total of 11 doubles. Interestingly, Maris actually hit more doubles (34) than home runs (33) in '62.

A couple of Honorable Mention seasons:
Name          Year  2B  HR Diff
Dave Kingman 1982 9 37 28
Mark McGwire 2001 4 29 25
Kingman actually led the league in homers in '82, while compiling an astonishingly miniscule nine 607 trips to the plate! McGwire? Well, 2001, his last season, was just a bizarre (and shortened) year for him.

Robles and Runnels
No, that's not the newest online fantasy game, it brings us to today's topic. 2005 saw some historic stolen base futility. Imagine attempting to steal for the first time and getting caught. And then the second time, too. And then the third and fourth time. I'd think you would get discouraged, or (at least, if I were the manager) that you would get a big fat don't-even-run-on-a-hit-and-run red light! But apparently Jim Tracy had unbelievable faith in rookie Oscar Robles and let him run into a ball-filled glove eight times! Robles' 0-for-8 was the second worst o-fer of all time, next to his friend in futility (and alliteration) Pete Runnels' 0-for-10 fiasco in 1952 (he definitely did not put the "Run" in Runnels :). This followed an 0-for-3 rookie campaign for Runnels, meaning he began his career by being thrown out each of the first 13 times he tried to steal (and maybe worse)! Hopefully, Robles won't follow in his, ahem, footsteps and better Runnels' career 42% (37-for-88) stolen base percentage. For the record, the only other SB shutout of that magnitude was turned in by Jose Offerman in 2000, who was also 0-for-8.

Just a hair behind Robles was Angel Juan Rivera, whose pathetic 1-for-10 effort was also historic. Check out the 10% club:
Name           Year SB  CS  SB Pct
Zeb Terry 1921 1 13 7.1%
Eddie Yost 1957 1 11 8.3%
Jose Vizcaino 1994 1 11 8.3%
Bobby Doerr 1939 1 10 9.1%
Juan Rivera 2005 1 9 10.0%
Soup Campbell 1941 1 9 10.0%
Hod Ford 1924 1 9 10.0%
Eddie Mayo 1948 1 9 10.0%
Elliott Maddox 1980 1 9 10.0%
I love these kinds of lists: some notable names mixed in with Hod Ford, Soup Campbell, and Eddie Mayo. Man, what was Vizcaino thinking in '94?

The Good Guys
There was also some historic and near historic base-stealing in 2005, including a much-larger-than-usual number of near-perfect seasons. Check it out.
Player             SB   CS   SB Pct
Jason Bay 21 1 95.5%
Johnny Damon 18 1 94.7%
Reggie Sanders 14 1 93.3%
Willie Bloomquist 14 1 93.3%
Mike Cameron 13 1 92.9%
Vladimir Guerrero 13 1 92.9%
Joe Mauer 13 1 92.9%
Craig Biggio 11 1 91.7%
Emil Brown 10 1 90.0%
There were a total of nine 10+ SB near perfect seasons, the most ever. The previous high was eight in 1995. As many of you know, Kevin McReynolds set the record for a perfect season in 1988, going 21-for-21. But did you know that Paul Molitor nearly matched him in 1994 with a 20-for-20 mark (and then went 12-for-12 the next season!)?

Additionally, Alfonso Soriano finished a fabulous 30 out of 32. Here's where Soriano fits in with history with other 30-base stealers since 1920.
Name            Year  SB  CS  SB Pct
Brady Anderson 1994 31 1 96.9%
Carlos Beltran 2001 31 1 96.9%
Max Carey 1922 51 2 96.2%
Doug Glanville 1999 34 2 94.4%
Amos Otis 1970 33 2 94.3%
Jack Perconte 1985 31 2 93.9%
Alfonso Soriano 2005 30 2 93.8%
One last flashback tomorrow, and then come back and celebrate Opening Day (woo-hoo!) Esoteric-style with some Fun With Meaningless Stats!

Extra Esoterica
Between 2000 and 2004, Carlos Beltran was an unbelievable efficient stolen base machine, giving catchers fits in both leagues. In that five-year span, he
AVERAGED 34 steals and only 3 times caught!! That's an almost unfathomable 162-for-177 (91.5%)!!! Sometime this season, I will try to find out if, or, rather, by how much, this is a record.

March 28, 2006

Join Baseball Esoterica Group on Yahoo!

I've started a Yahoo! Group to provide a forum for "special" people like us to discuss the Esoterica that only we can appreciate. Go to the following link and click the "Join This Group!" button on the upper right.


March 27, 2006

I'm Baa-aack!

Hey all! Sorry for my extended hiatus. I got busy with other things, but I’m back, ready, and psyched for a fresh season of Esoterica. What wild, unbelievable “achievements” do we have waiting for us in the next six months? Well, we all know that with 2,430 games to be played; 22,365 innings to pitch*; 188,568 batters to come to the plate**; and more than 650,000 pitches to be thrown…yeah, you know tons of crazy stuff is gonna happen. Keep it here to keep up with all the Esoterica 2006 gives us!

*based on the average game length since 1960: 9.204 innings
**based on the average PA/game since 1994 (the power/steroids era): 77.6

2005 Flashback I – Doubles and Homers

What better way to start off 2006 than with…one last look at last season. Yes, this is the stuff I was promising at the end of last season, but, well, better late than never.

Brad Wilkerson and Marcus Giles hit a lot of doubles in 2005, with 42 and 45, respectively. But, contrary to what you’d think (like everything I ever write about, come to think of it!) they had below-average power, with only 11 and 15 homers. With both of these guys hitting 30 more doubles than homers, it got me thinking…is that historically significant? So I went back the ol’ players database and came up with the following list of seasons with the largest double/homer discrepancy, and it turns out that 30 is not exactly historic. Since 1950*, there have actually been 18 seasons of 40 or more doubles than homers.
Player              Year  2B  HR  Diff
Mark Grudzielanek 1997 54 4 50
Wade Boggs 1989 51 3 48
George Kell 1950 56 8 48
Brian Roberts 2004 50 4 46
Jeff Cirillo 2000 53 11 42
Dave Cash 1977 42 0 42
Ferris Fain 1952 43 2 41
Pete Rose 1980 42 1 41
Lou Brock 1968 46 6 40
Jody Reed 1990 45 5 40
Ozzie Smith 1987 40 0 40
Craig Biggio 1999 56 16 40
Chuck Knoblauch 1994 45 5 40
Wade Boggs 1988 45 5 40
Matty Alou 1969 41 1 40
Pete Rose 1975 47 7 40
Grudzielanek takes this one hands down. You know, it’s tough to hit 54 two-baggers and not even slug .400, but Grudzie did it, slugging only .384 that historic year. But that’s not all. He also tallied more doubles than RBIs, an even rarer feat. Since 1950, this has only been done 10 times (min. 400 AB).
Player             Year  2B  RBI   Diff
Frank Baumholtz 1953 36 25 11
Mark Grudzielanek 1997 54 51 3
Billy Hatcher 1990 28 25 3
Ron Hunt 1972 20 18 2
Jody Reed 1989 42 40 2
Frank Taveras 1980 27 25 2
Don Blasingame 1959 26 24 2
Mickey Morandini 1997 40 39 1
Eric Young 2002 29 28 1
Eric Young 2001 43 42 1
Grudzie almost takes this one, too. But a dude named Frank Baumholtz destroys the comeptition in this bizarre category. Just how is it possible to bat .306 with 159 hits--including 36 doubles and a league-average .778 OPS--and only drive in 25 runs all year? His few stolen bases and unimpressive runs scored totals tell me that he probably wasn’t a leadoff hitter. Too bad we don’t have the batting-with-men-on-base splits for the Fifties! And by the way, in true Esoteric style, he never came close to duplicating that “magical” season (his second best was 19 doubles and 30 RBIs in 1948).

As usual, we ended up a ways away from where we started. You just never know where the Esoterica will take you! Tune in next time for some top-notch--and some decidedly lower-notch--baserunning from 2005. It was a delightfully Esoteric year in both directions!

*1950 is somewhat arbitrary, but when comparing home run stats, I prefer modern-day comparisons.

Extra Esoterica
Oddly, four years after his landmark 1997 campaign, Grudzielanek's put up only 21 two-baggers, but "exploded" for 13 dingers (a difference of only 8!), both career extremes for a full season.