Category Archives: 1980s stars

The Power Outage of 1988


You think we don’t have home runs today.  Think about baseball fans of 1988.  The entire National League saw just two players hit 30 long balls.  No team averaged one HR/game that season.

This was on the heels of a record-setting 1987 when 19 teams averaged one homer per night.

Twenty-eight players hit thirty bombs in ’87 including:

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Tom “Big Hall” Verducci

Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci was interviewed today on The Dan Patrick Show.  When Dan asked about hall-of-fame voting (specifically comparing the baseball vs. football HOF process) Verducci replied with:

“I don’t know that anyone has been voted info the Hall-of-Fame that doesn’t deserve to be in there, as far as the baseball writers go.”

I would say that Tom Verducci’s statement is mostly correct.  Of course this depends upon how big you like your hall.  A “Big Hall” guy would include the writers’ recent inductees Jim Rice, Kirby Puckett, Tony Perez, Bruce Sutter and Catfish Hunter.  If you are a “Small Hall” guy then these five inductions from the past three decades conflict with Verducci’s statement.

If Tom is a “Big Hall” guy then his statement is accurate and he would support the hall cases of Tim Raines, Kenny LoftonTommy John, Curt Schilling, Billy WagnerLou Whitaker, Larry Walker, Trevor HoffmanFred McGriff, Jeff Kent and Alan Trammell.  Consistency would merit eliminating the cap on the number of players that the writers could vote for leading to a much larger Hall.

What In the World Are These Voters Waiting For?

Great post by Dave Cameron over at FanGraphs on the dearth of baseball hall-of-famers elected recently.  Myself and many others have been saying for years that the writers need to begin voting great players into the HOF. Isn’t that the point of The Hall?

Writers have made clear that the only late 80’s stars that need apply are Kirby Puckett and Dennis Eckersley.

Let’s hope that we see Tim Raines, Fred McGriff, Alan Trammell, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Mark McGwire, Larry Walker get some major vote totals increases this year.

Finally, how they whiffed on Kenny Lofton is just beyond me.  According to fWAR Lofton provided as much value as Duke Snider.  Would these voters not put Duke Snider in if he had played during the “steroid era”?

The Terry Francona You Don’t Know

First off congrats to Terry Francona for taking home the 2013 AL Manager of the Year award.  Coming into the season with a rotation that included lost causes Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir no one thought that this Cleveland Indians team was going to win 92 games.  Props to Tito and a pitching staff that far exceeded expectations!

Speaking of pitching…did you know that Terry Francona posted the lowest ERA on the 1990 Louisville Redbirds?  After ten major league seasons which included 474 hits and a .274 batting average the slick fielding first baseman was released by the Brewers after four at-bats in April of 1990.

Francona was 31 years old and coming off a season where he backed up Greg Brock on the ’89 Brewers squad.  It appeared to be the end of the line for the former first round pick of the Montreal Expos.  Tito was picked one slot ahead of uber prospect Billy Beane in the 1980 MLB draft.

So two weeks after Francona is released by the Brewers he signs his final playing contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.  He is sent to triple A Louisville to bring a veteran presence into a clubhouse full of future MLB all-stars.  The ’90 Redbirds team featured Ken Hill, Ray Lankford and Bernard Gilkey. Francona would get three-hundred at-bats on the ‘Birds while hitting a solid .263.

As triple-A managers are bound to be, Gaylen Pitts found himself in a few late inning binds that season.  He needed an arm to get a few outs.  Fortunately he realized that his fourth outfielder Terry Francona had major league pitching experience.  The ’89 Brewers found themselves getting blown-out by the powerhouse Athletics team in mid-May.  Milwaukee manager Tom Trebelhorn turned to Francona to get through the 8th inning in Oakland.  How did he do?

Terry got Terry Steinbach and  Tony Phillips to make the first two outs of the inning on flyballs before strike-ing out Stan Javier to end the inning. 1-2-3 go the A’s.  Armed with this awesome performance and a career ERA of 0.00 in the majors Terry volunteered to help out Pitts on five occasions during the summer of 1990 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Terry Francona would end his playing career as the relief ace for the Redbirds.  He pitched 7 2/3 innings in five games for Louisville that year. The future world series winning manager whiffed six batters and allowed just one run to post a 1.17 ERA.

Wall-Banging Shortstops

Continuing the power-hitting shortstops theme, I am interested in determining who hit the most career doubles at the position.

Looking only at games played at SS, we rule out Robin Yount and Alex Rodriguez. Each has over 500 career doubles but both split them at two different defensive positions.

We run into issues with a few old-time greats, Joe Cronin and Honus Wagner. Both guys hit over 500 doubles but they played in seasons that Baseball-Reference is missing many box scores and thus splits.  Cronin probably hit just under 500 as a SS and Wagner is estimated to have 550 doubles at the SS position.  Honus is very likely the all-time leader for doubles by a shortstop but since we don’t know for certain I have left he and Cronin off this list.

The nearly 100% accurate list follows:

Career Doubles Hit While Playing Shortstop

  1. Derek Jeter – 514

  2. Cal Ripken – 470

  3. Jimmy Rollins – 441

  4. Orlando Cabrera – 440

  5. Barry Larkin – 438

  6. Edgar Renteria – 435

  7. Miguel Tejada – 434

  8. Omar Vizquel – 426

  9. Luke Appling – 422 *est*

  10. Ozzie Smith – 400

Give the Voters a Little Bit of Credit

Earlier in the week I compared the careers of Fred McGriff and Sammy Sosa.  The contributions to their teams were nearly identical.  Given these facts I have to give the voters some credit today.  McGriff received 47 more hall-of-fame votes than Sosa.  Considering they were near equals as players the 47 extra votes for Crime Dog could be viewed as bonus points for “playing clean”.

Of course I can not explain Kenny Lofton falling off the ballot after one year.  18 votes for Lofton is disgraceful.  His career value is on par with Andre Dawson, Richie Ashburn and Max Carey.  Should these three guys be removed from the Hall?

The bigger question is are we at a more permanent level of smaller hall?   With all-time greats like Alan Trammell and Lofton dropping like flies it’s a fair question.

Not to mention Curt Schilling unable to crack 40% of the vote.  If voters keep Schilling out then there is no way they can vote Tom Glavine in next year.  Unless of course they aren’t paying attention.

Was Orel Hershiser the Dodgers Ace in 1988?

Every baseball fanatic knows about Orel Hershiser‘s dynamic end to the 1988 regular season. In his last 9 starts the Los Angeles Dodgers won 7 while Orel tossed 8 straight complete games. In his final start of the season LA lost to San Diego 2-1 in 16 innings, Hershiser pitched 10 shutout innings before being pulled for Jesse Orosco.  The Padres Andy Hawkins essentially prevented Orel from tossing 9 straight complete games as Hawkins held the Dodgers scoreless in 10 innings of his own.

Here is an average start that Hershiser produced during 9 outings from Aug 19-Sep 28, 1988:

9.11 Innings Pitched

6.3 K

1.7 BB

0 HR Allowed

0.44 Runs Allowed

0.47 Win Probability Added (Orel accounted for half of the Dodgers win/start)

2.3 Dodgers Runs Scored

What people don’t know is that the eventual World Series champion Dodgers had another sterling starting pitcher in 1988.  Compare the full season numbers of their top two pitchers.































The Rk #2 line above belongs to a former 2nd overall pick of the New York Mets.  He had a 20-31 career record coming into 1988 before this former UCLA standout broke-out at age 29 with LA.  He had a tremendous 9 start run of his own during which time the Dodgers won 7 games and cemented their NL West title before Orel went bonkers.  LA was 4.5 games ahead of the Houston Astros by the time Hershiser kicked into his Hall-of-Fame worthy stint.

Here is an average start of their “other Ace” during his 9 start run in the middle of the summer:

8.1 Innings Pitched

6.4 K

1.4 BB

0.22 HR Allowed

1.67 Runs Allowed

0.28 Win Probability Added

3.44 Dodgers Runs Scored

Obviously both of these streaks are super and the full season value of each starter was nearly identical.  So why do you know about Orel’s streak and not the awesome performance of the World Series champs “other ace”?

I believe there are three reasons:

  1. The Dodgers played in lower scoring, tighter games during Hershiser’s streak thus giving him more of a chance to shine and appear clutch.
  2. The timing of games.  Orel’s ended the season and literally put the Dodgers in the playoffs.  The other streak was during the dog days of summer.
  3. The performance of each pitcher after 1988.  Orel won 121 more games after ’88 compared to just 41 for the other ace.

Astute Dodgers fans probably know who the other ace is but one last hint for the rest of you, he shares a name with 1960’s counter-culture icon and LSD advocate.

Tommy Lasorda had a 1 and 1A in 1988.  You can decide which slot Orel fits in and which slot is for Tim Leary.

Ike is Nice #AllStar

Not only is Ike Davis the NL first baseman for the 2nd half All-Stars, he has to be the in-season comeback player of the year.

In the last 66 games Ike is on a 45 HR pace (550 ABs).  He’s posted a .230 ISO Power each of the last 4 months (versus .125 the first two months).  Just imagine if the season was played in reverse order (game 162 first, game 1 last).  Davis would be spoken about like the next Fred McGriff.

So what’s happened to the 25 year old lefty bopper?  Doubles into long balls…

1st half – 14 2B, 12 HR

2nd half – 9 2B, 18 HR

“at the Hot Corner for the Senior Circuit” in the 2nd Half All-Star game…


Over the last month the Brew Crew from Milwaukee have been scorching hot.  Going from twelve games under .500 to five games over in thirty days is quite the feat.  So how do you get a team to play .793 baseball while staring a fourth place finish in the face?  Hard ASH!

During the 29 game stretch they have scored eight or more runs in 10 games and 6+ runs in 14 games.

Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez have been major contributors to the offensive surge but the keystone to the barrage is 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez.  While posting a 1.000 OPS since the All-Star break Aramis is doing his best Doug DeCinces circa 1982 impression:

.330 BA

36 HR (550 AB pace)

46 2B (pace)

Second year manager Ron Roenicke deserves credit as well for not letting a third place finish get in the way of guys playing for long-term contracts.


A history of base stealing through the eyes of Jose Reyes and Davey Lopes

The best SS in MLB 2010-2011:

Rk Player WAR/pos Age PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG Pos Tm
1 Troy Tulowitzki 11.4 25-26 1135 170 310 68 5 57 107 157 20 5 .308 .376 .555 *6 COL
2 Jose Reyes 8.0 27-28 1189 184 340 60 26 18 74 104 69 17 .309 .352 .460 *6 NYM
3 Jhonny Peralta 7.6 28-29 1191 128 294 55 5 36 93 198 1 2 .273 .327 .434 *65/D3 TOT-DET
4 Alexei Ramirez 6.5 28-29 1310 164 330 60 4 33 78 166 20 13 .275 .321 .415 *6/D CHW
5 Yunel Escobar 6.3 27-28 1157 137 276 43 3 15 117 127 9 5 .273 .353 .366 *6/D TOT-TOR
6 Jimmy Rollins 5.4 31-32 1025 135 237 38 5 24 98 91 47 9 .258 .331 .389 *6/D PHI
7 J.J. Hardy 5.4 27-28 942 120 233 46 3 36 59 146 1 1 .269 .314 .453 *6 MIN-BAL
8 Erick Aybar 5.1 26-27 1194 140 290 51 12 15 66 149 52 14 .266 .314 .376 *6/D LAA
9 Cliff Pennington 4.9 26-27 1146 121 263 52 10 14 92 200 43 14 .257 .319 .369 *6 OAK
10 Alex Gonzalez 4.9 33-34 1233 133 285 69 4 38 53 244 3 2 .246 .282 .411 *6 TOT-ATL
11 Asdrubal Cabrera 4.8 24-25 1092 126 270 48 4 28 69 179 23 9 .274 .330 .416 *6/D CLE
12 Elvis Andrus 4.6 21-22 1339 184 320 42 6 5 120 170 69 27 .272 .345 .331 *6/D TEX
13 Stephen Drew 4.6 27-28 987 127 238 54 17 20 92 182 14 9 .269 .339 .436 *6 ARI
14 Hanley Ramirez 4.2 26-27 1004 147 245 44 2 31 108 159 52 20 .278 .361 .438 *6/D FLA
15 Rafael Furcal 4.2 32-33 797 110 192 38 7 16 68 99 31 9 .268 .335 .408 *6 LAD-TOT
16 Clint Barmes 3.9 31-32 927 90 200 48 0 20 73 154 6 3 .240 .309 .370 *6/45 COL-HOU
17 Marco Scutaro 3.8 34-35 1140 151 292 64 1 18 91 107 9 6 .284 .343 .401 *6/4 BOS
18 Brendan Ryan 3.5 28-29 980 101 206 38 6 5 67 147 24 7 .235 .296 .310 *6 STL-SEA
19 Starlin Castro 2.6 20-21 1221 144 346 67 14 13 64 167 32 17 .304 .343 .422 *6 CHC
Rk Player WAR/pos Age PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG Pos Tm

Reyes has the lowest K rate (9%) & 2nd highest BABIP (33%) among SS the last 2 seasons. Total Zone & UZR show him slightly below average at SS but with the bat he is on par with the likes of Justin Upton, Hunter Pence and Billy Butler which is obviously terrific for a 28 year old shortstop.

The big question is how much value will Ozzie Guillen and the Miami Marlins get out of his legs?  In 2010 Reyes was successful in 75% of his base stealing attempts and took the extra base on a batted ball 56% of the time. Last year he improved to 85% of attempted bags and held steady at 53% XBT (both rates above league averages of 72% SB and 40% XBT). Fangraphs tags him with 2 base-running runs the past 2 years combined. This is good but lags far behind speedsters Michael Bourn (7 BsR), Dexter Fowler and Darwin Barney (5 each).

Further, to provide just 1 win via base-running is nearly off the charts. Many of the GOAT wheels haven’t achieved this and most tend to peak at a younger age than Reyes is today (including the new Miami SS himself):

Alex Rodriguez, peak base-running season at age 21 (7 Runs from Base-running, developed by Sean Smith published on Baseball-Reference)

Edgar Renteria, age 22 (7 Runs)

Jose Reyes, 23 (9)

Tim Raines, 23 (14)

Willie Wilson, 23 (18)

Vince Coleman, 24 (17)

Luis Castillo, 24 (7)

Luis Aparicio, 25 (11)

Cesar Cedeno, 25 (9)

Bobby Bonds, 26 (14)

Kenny Lofton, 26 (14)

Omar Moreno, 26 (11)

Derek Jeter, 27 (7)

Chone Figgins, 27 (7)

Rafael Furcal, 27 (8)

Bert Campaneris, 27 (10)

Delino DeShields, 28 (8)

Chuck Knoblauch, 28 (10)

Jimmy Rollins, 29 (9)

Juan Pierre, 29 (7)

Maury Wills, 29 (18)

Rickey Henderson, 29 (17)

Lou Brock, 27, 29 & 34 (9)

Davey Lopes, 30 (14)

Paul Molitor, 31 (7)

Barry Bonds, 31 (7)

Brett Butler, 31 (8)

Ron LeFlore, 32 (13)

Roberto Alomar, 32 (8)

Ozzie Smith, 33 (11)

Best case scenario Reyes takes the path of Molitor, Smith, Lopes and Brock who provided 5 runs from wheels through their late 30’s. Even at this pace Reyes adds 35 total runs over the life of his contract with Miami (through age 35).

The Marlins need more than just a good base-runner and decent SS to make the 7 year, $128m contract worthwhile. In fact Reyes better come up with 150+ runs with the bat to keep the sabermetrically inclined Marlins fans (both of them) happy.