Posts Tagged ‘Henry Aaron’

Adding it up

April 30, 2019


Baseball has a ton of stats. There are stats for everything. You have hits, runs, number of strings on the webbing of a first baseman’s mitt, and other assorted great things. Some are pretty much ignored, others almost worshipped.

One of my favorites, which sits somewhere between ignored and worshipped, is Total Bases. For those who don’t know the stat is singles+ (doublesx2)+(triplesx3)+(homerunsx4)=total bases. It’s a quick way of seeing exactly what a player has done on the basepaths. The higher the total bases, the more hits and the more slugging a player has contributed to his team. I like it because it’s simple and it does its job well. It has a huge flaw and if you’re quick, you’ve already noticed it. It doesn’t include walks, which is sort of equivalent to a single. Despite what you may have been told in Little League by a coach saying “A walk is as good as a hit,” it’s not exactly the same because with a man on base a walk gives him one base. A single might give him two or more.

So I decided to take a look at the men at the top of the total base list. Their names are Aaron, Musial, Mays, Bonds, Cobb, Alex Rodriguez, Ruth, Rose, Pujols, and Yastrzemski. You’ve probably heard of them. What I did was take their total bases (as given by and add to that number their walks (same source). I didn’t factor out intentional walks because they are not complete for early players like Cobb. I also didn’t add in hit batsman or catcher’s interference (other ways to get on base) because those numbers are so small that they didn’t make a difference in the calculations. If you’re interested in doing this yourself, feel free to add them in (and to factor out intentional walks if you think that’s best). The list above (Aaron, Musial, Mays, is in order of total bases. With walks factored in, the list reads:

Barry Bonds-8534

Henry Aaron-8258

Babe Ruth-7855

Stan Musial-7733

Willie Mays-7530

Carl Yazstremski-7484

Pete Rose-7318

Alex Rodriguez-7151

Ty Cobb-7103

Albert Pujols-6946

A couple of quick points. First, Pujols is still active so will rise up the list probably. Second, I didn’t look at the total bases and walks of players not in the top 10 in total bases. It is entirely possible that someone listed 11th or lower would, when walks are added, move ahead of one of the current top 10.

I found this interesting and thought I’d pass it along.


An Overlooked and Flawed Stat

September 28, 2017

The second best Cardinals player ever

With the end of the season pending it’s time to look over the current crop of players and note both their seasonal and career statistics and see how they compare to each other and to the greats of the game. One of my favorite stats is total bases. It’s often overlooked and shouldn’t be.

For those unfamiliar with the stat it goes TB (total bases)=singles x 1 + doubles x 2 + triples x 3 + home runs x 4. So if you hit for the cycle in one game you get 10 total bases. Got it?

Essentially total bases tells us how many bases a player touched in a game/week/season/career or whatever period of time you choose while the guy is playing. I like it because, quite simply, the more bases you touch, the more likely you are to score a run. Now that doesn’t always work. For instance a player can get 100 singles and no one ever advances him a base and no runs score (which is why I still think RBIs are a worthwhile stat). But deep down I know the stat is flawed, because it doesn’t take account of how many bases a player touches by means other than a hit. Mostly its bases on balls that are missing, but so are bases gained by a steal and bases advanced by another player moving you along by a hit or a walk. And of course you’re missing catcher’s interference and hit batsmen, but neither occurs very often. So I’d like to see the stat corrected to add in at least the walks (so you get TB= singles x 1 + doubles x 2 + triples x 3 + home runs x 4 + walks x 1) and maybe even the stolen bases.

I really like total bases because it’s an easy way to quickly note how often a player gets on base and how far he gets without benefit of another player helping him out (except of course walks are left out). There are other stats that measure important things like this, but I like this simple one. It’s easy to calculate and easy to understand. And for those curious, the current all time leader is Henry Aaron at 6856. The current active leader is Albert Pujols at 5455 (good for 10th all time). And Charlie Blackmon of Colorado is this year’s current leader at 376.


Hammerin’ Hank vs. The MIck: Milwaukee

July 14, 2016

The 1957 season marked ten years since the Braves won a pennant. In 1948 they lost to Cleveland and were still in Boston. They moved in the early 1950s to Milwaukee and built a powerhouse. In 1957 they finally reached first place in the National League. It was their third championship of the century (1914 and 1948).

Fred Haney

Fred Haney

The Braves were led by Fred Haney who had a short playing career in the 1920s, then went into coaching. He’d been a not particularly successful manager never finishing higher than sixth when, in 1956, he took over the Milwaukee team. He led them to second place and broke through the next year  with 95 wins. The Braves led the NL in runs, triples, home runs, total bases, and slugging. They were second in hits, average, and OPS; third in OBP. In an eight team league they were next to last in stolen bases. The staff gave up the least home runs in the league while finishing second in hits and ERA. They were second in run scarcity, but they were next to last in walks.

The Braves infield changed during the season. The most important change was the addition of second base Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst from the Giants. He solidified the middle of the infield, added veteran leadership to the team, and gave Milwaukee a top part of the order hitter (he did a lot of leading off). He hit .310 with an OBP of .348, tops behind the big power hitters. His 3.9 WAR was fourth among everyday players. Johnny Logan was his middle infield mate. Logan hit .273 with 10 home runs and 135 hits. He was a competent shortstop whose 4.1 WAR was third among the hitters. Second among the hitters at 7.4 WAR was Hall of Fame third sacker Eddie Mathews. He hit .292, had 94 RBIs, 32 home runs, 167 hits, and scored 109 runs. First base was supposed to be a platoon position with Joe Adcock being the big slugger and hitting right-handed while Frank Torre (Joe’s brother) hit lefty and was a much better fielder. The problem was that Adcock broke his leg and was reduced to playing in only 65 games. He hit .287 with 12 homers and 38 RBIs. Torre, forced to do most of the work at first hit .272, but with only five home runs and 40 RBIs in almost exactly twice as many games. The bench wasn’t particularly strong. Danny O’Connell (who Schoendienst replaced as the starter) and Felix Mantilla both hit in the .230s and had five home runs between them. At first, the Braves had Nippy Jones to replace Adcock he hit .266 and, much to the Yankees regret, had a penchant for shining his shoes.

When the season started, the outfield was supposed to be set. It turned out it wasn’t. Right field was secure in Henry Aaron. The Hall of Famer hit .322, had 44 home runs, 132 RBIs, a .600 slugging percentage, and led the team in WAR at 8.0. That earned him the National League MVP Award for 1957. The problem was the other two spots. Billy Bruton was supposed to be the regular center fielder and the leadoff man, but he banged up his knee and only got into 79 games. He still managed to lead the team with 11 stolen bases. Needing a new outfielder, the Braves shifted Aaron to center and brought up a career minor leaguer named Bob “Hurricane” Hazle. He became one of the greatest (and most famous) “90 day wonders” ever. In 41 games he hit .403 with seven home runs, 27 RBIs, 26 runs scored, 87 total bases, an OPS of 1.129, an OPS+ of 209, and 1.9 WAR (which is pretty good over only 41 games). The other problem was left field. Bobby Thomson of “The Giants Win the Pennant” fame and Andy Pafko of “The Boys of Summer” fame were sharing time. Together they had 12 home runs, 50 RBIs, and hit around .250. Haney decided to go with second year man Wes Covington to solve his left field problem. Covington responded with a .284 average, 21 home runs, 65 RBIs, and 2.6 WAR. In addition to these six, the Braves got 28 games and six RBIs out of 28-year-old Chuck Tanner. He went on to lead the “We Are Family” Pirates to the 1979 World Series as manager.

Three men did most of the catching. The regular was Del Crandall. He hit only .253, but had 15 home runs, 46 RBIs, a .718 OPS, and 1.6 WAR. The backups were Carl Sawatski and Del Rice (making the Braves probably the only team ever to have two catchers named Del–I didn’t check). Between them they equaled Crandall’s 15 home runs (with Rice having nine of the 15), but only 37 RBIs.

They caught a staff that used five men to make a four man rotation. The star and ace was all-time winningest left-hander and Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. He pitched 39 games (35 starts), went 21-11, had an ERA of 2.69, had a 1.177 WHIP, an ERA+ of 130, and 4.6 WAR. Sort of your standard every season Spahn year. Lew Burdette was the second pitcher amassing a 17-9 record with a 3.72 ERA with only 78 strikeouts. Bob Buhl was the third starter. His record was 18-7 with an ERA of 2.74 and 2.9 WAR. To cover the fourth hole the Braves used Gene Conley and Bob Trowbridge. They pitched a total of 67 games, starting 34 (about half). Conley was, at the time, about equally famous as one of the last two sport stars because he played for the Boston Celtics basketball team when not on the mound. He was 9-9 while Trowbridge was 7-5 (a combined 16-14, not an untypical record for a fourth pitcher). The Closer was Don McMahon. He was, with 47 innings over 32 games, something like a modern Closer (which wasn’t that typical in the era). His ERA was 1.54, he had 46 strikeouts in the 47 innings, and produced 1.7 WAR. Later Reds stalwart Joey Jay, at age 21, got into one game for Milwaukee. He got a save.

The Yankees may have been favored, but the Braves were a formidable team. Aaron was a rising star, Mathews already a star, and Spahn an icon. As an aside, I considered, when I was much younger, the Braves the best team up and down the roster that I ever saw (I go back to the early 1950s). Not sure that’s true any longer, but they were one of the teams that had both hitting and pitching to go along with good fielding and a bench.


RIP Frank Torre

September 15, 2014
Frank Torre

Frank Torre

I saw over the weekend that Frank Torre died. Today he’s most famous as Joe’s big brother. That’s kind of a shame because he was a pretty good ballplayer in his own right (but his younger brother was better).

I remember him from the late 1950s Milwaukee Braves. He was a tall first baseman who carried an enormous glove. There was a joke going around that Red Schoendienst (the Braves second baseman) covered the thirty feet closest to second, Torre took the thirty feet closest to first, and Torre’s glove covered the middle thirty feet between first and second. He was a very good first baseman, not Keith Hernandez good, but still darned good. He didn’t hit a lot; going .273 with 13 home runs for his career, although in 1957 he scored six runs in a game. It was an era of big hulking first basemen who hit the ball a long way and did an adequate job at first. Milwaukee’s answer to that was Joe Adcock. In 1957 Adcock got hurt and Torre did most of the first base work late in the season. He got into the World Series and hit .300 with two home runs (only Henry Aaron had more). The Braves won and got back to the Series in ’58. They lost and Torre did poorly with the bat (but still played well at first). He ended up spending a lot of time coming into games late to spell Adcock when the Braves wanted a good defense to protect a lead.

He ended up playing a couple of years in Philadelphia. He hit .300 one year, but still had no power. His last year was 1963 and he was through by then. He was 31. I lost track of him after that until he resurfaced with the heart problems in 1996. It made a great story with him in a hospital bed, his younger brother managing his old nemesis team the Yankees against his old team the Braves. But after New York won, he slipped back into obscurity.

I always liked that 1957-’59 Braves team. I think it’s one of the great teams ever and it gets totally lost behind the New York teams. Torre was a major member of that team and I always kind of liked him (although Spahn, Burdette, Aaron, and Mathews were the guys I liked best). RIP, Frank, you will be missed by the baseball community.

The Arrival of a Legend

July 11, 2014
The Babe while still a Red Sox

The Babe while still a Red Sox

Today marks one of the most significant anniversaries in Major League baseball history. One hundred years ago on 11 July 1914 the Boston Red Sox gave the ball for the first time to a rookie pitcher nicknamed “Babe” Ruth. It was the start of the most legendary of all baseball careers.

For the day, Ruth pitched seven innings against the Cleveland Naps giving up three runs (two earned). Joe Jackson (“Shoeless Joe”) knocked in a run early and catcher Steve O’Neill knocked in two in the seventh for the Cleveland runs. Ruth struck out one and walked none to pick up the win. At bat he went 0-2 with a strikeout. Better hitting days were to come for the Babe.

Most everyone knows the name Babe Ruth, many without knowing what it was he did. If you do know what he did, odds are you know about the home runs and the hitting feats. But Ruth was also a heck of a pitcher. If you look at the left-handed hurlers of the decade between 1910 and 1920 you could make a pretty fair argument that Ruth was the best left-hander of the decade. You might look at Eddie Plank or Rube Marquard early in the decade, or at Hippo Vaughn later in the decade (and he and Ruth faced each other in the 1918 World Series with the Babe picking up a 1-0 win), but Ruth is equally in the argument.

Ruth’s conversion from pitcher to outfielder is key to his career. But if you look around, you’ll find that while it wasn’t common, it wasn’t unheard of in baseball. George Sisler did the same thing and went to the Hall of Fame. So did Lefty O’Doul (without the Hall of Fame being attached). A lot of years later Stan Musial hurt his arm in the minors and switched from the mound to the outfield and ended up in Cooperstown. Bob Lemon went the other way, from third base to pitcher and made the Hall. Bucky Walters also went from third to pitching and won an MVP. Darren Dreifort, while at Wichita State, served as the DH when he wasn’t pitching, but didn’t play in the field (although he did pinch hit) in the Majors. I’m sure that’s nowhere near a complete list.

For his Boston career, Ruth was 89-46, a .659 winning percentage, with a 1.142 WHIP, a 2.19 ERA, and a 122 ERA+. He had 17 shutouts, 483 strikeouts, and 425 walks for his Red Sox years (there were also a handful of games with the Yanks). Ruth’s pitching WAR (Baseball version) is 20.6.  His World Series record is equally good. He was 3-0 with a shutout and eight strikeouts. He did, however, walk 10. His consecutive scoreless streak in the Series was a record until Whitey Ford finally passed him in the 1960s.

I know over the years that a lot of people have tried to tell us that someone else (Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Henry Aaron, etc.) was better than Ruth. And maybe as a hitter they were (although I wouldn’t bet on that in Vegas), but ultimately you have to decide that Ruth was the overall superior player because he could also pitch very well. Aaron was Aaron, Williams was Williams, and Bonds was Bonds, but Ruth was a combination of any of them and Walter Johnson. Top that crew.


The Solid Man

August 20, 2012

There are stars, there are superstars. There are bums, there are journeymen. There are also good solid ball players who make up the majority of most good teams. There’s no shame in being “solid”, it describes most players. It was certainly used to describe Sid Gordon.

Gordon was born in Brooklyn in 1917 to a Jewish family. His father ran a coal business with Sid driving one of the trucks. The son was good at baseball, got a tryout with the hometown Dodgers, didn’t make it, and went back to driving the truck. The Giants saw him playing locally and signed him. The assigned him to the Milford, Delaware team but between the signing and his reporting date, his father died. He asked out of the contract in order to take over the family business. In one of those moments only Hollywood could dream up, his mom decided she would run the business while her son went off to pursue his baseball career.

He did well at Milford, well at Clinton, well in Jersey City. That got him a late season call up by the Giants in September 1941. He got into nine games, hit .258, and walked six times in 37 plate appearances. The Giants sent him back to Jersey City in 1942 (he got into six games with the Giants late in the season). By 1943 he was in the big leagues to stay. His fielding numbers were OK, but nothing special, so he spent the season wandering from position to position playing 53 games at third, 41 games at first, and 28 in left (with three token appearances at second). He hit .251 with nine home runs, 63 RBIs, 50 runs scored, and led the National League grounding into 26 double plays (obviously his nickname wasn’t “Speedy”). It was a good solid year, it was better than his previous stints, and it looked like he was going to hang around for a while.

Of course World War II was raging and Gordon lost both 1944 and 1945 to the war. He spent his time in the Coast Guard. It cost him two critical years in his career (ages 26 and 27) and significantly reduced his final statistics.

Back in 1946, he  became the Giants regular left fielder. That lasted through 1947, when he was shifted to third base. He stayed the primary Giants third baseman through 1949. Beginning in 1947 he began to pull the ball more (he hit right-handed) and his power numbers increased. He hit between 25 and 30 home runs each year through 1952. His runs and RBI totals both peaking in 1951. He didn’t manage to lead the NL in any category, except again in grounding into double plays (1949 and 1951), but finished as high as fourth in the MVP voting in 1948 (his next highest position in MVP voting was 16th in 1951). He made the All-Star team in both 1948 and 1949. In 1950 he hit four grand slams during the season to tie the existing record.

In 1950 he was traded to the Boston Braves. The new Giants leadership (principally Leo Durocher) wanted more speed in the lineup and that was never Gordon’s forte. He went back to left field for the Braves, did well, and went with the team when it moved to Milwaukee. As such, he became the first man to play left field for the Milwaukee Braves in 1953. Unfortunately, his career was on the down slide. He hit .274, but had only 19 home runs (and still managed an OPS+ of 121). There was a new kid in the minors who looked pretty good, so Gordon was traded to Pittsburgh. 

He split time between third and right field and did well enough in Pittsburgh, hitting .306, but his home run production continued to drop. With no speed and only a mediocre glove, his power numbers were critical for his team. And of course Forbes Field was death on power hitters anyway (unless you were Ralph Kiner). Gordon started 1955 with the Pirates, but 16 games in was traded back to the Giants. It was the end of the line. He retired when the season ended.

So what have we got? For his career Gordon hit .283, had an OBP of .377, slugged .466, for an OPS of .843 (OPS+ of 129) in 1475 games. Over 5813 plate appearances he had 1415 hits, scored 735 runs, had 220 doubles, 202 home runs, 805 RBIs, walked 731 times, struck out 356 times (which is an impressive strike out to walks ratio for a power hitter), and had 2327 total bases. Those are the definition of a “solid” player.

While playing softball in New York in 1975 he suffered a heart attack and died that afternoon. He was 57. It’s a fitting way for an ex-ballplayer to die.

Oh, and that promising minor leaguer who led the Braves to trade Gordon? He took over in left field in 1954, then went to right field for the bulk of his career. His name was Henry Aaron and I understand he did well too.

Two Months of Glory

June 18, 2010

Bob Hazle

The Braves didn’t have a particularly distinguished history in the first half of the 20th Century. They won the World Series in 1914, lost it in 1948 and did nothing in between. In the early 1950’s they left Boston for Milwaukee, picked up Eddie Mathews and Henry Aaron to go with stalwart lefty Warren Spahn, and finally became a pennant threat in the National League. They had a pretty good team by 1957, then center fielder and leadoff man Billy Bruton went down with a knee injury. In crisis mode, the Braves called up an undistinguished minor leaguer named Bob Hazle. It worked.

Hazle was from South Carolina, born in 1930. He had a cup of coffee with the Cincinnati Reds in 1955, then went back to the minors where he languished until Bruton banged up his knee. One hundred games into the 1957 season Hazle made his debut for Milwaukee. Over the months of August and September he exploded offensively in such a way as to make fans forget, at least temporarily, both Aaron and Mathews. For the two months he played in 1957 Hazle hit .403 with 27 RBIs and seven home runs over 41 games. It got him the nickname “Hurricane” (a play on his name and the devastating hurricane Hazel which hit South Carolina in 1954) and it got the Braves the pennant. The Braves became the first non-New York team to win the National League pennant since the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies “Whiz Kids”.

The Braves won the World Series, beating New York in seven games. Hazle played in four of the games, batting .154. He had two singles, both in game seven. There were no RBIs, but he did score two runs and picked up a ring.

The World Series was a sign of things to come. He started 1958 horribly (a buck seventy-nine average and no extra base hits), was traded to Detroit, did a little better (.241 and two home runs), then went back to the minors. He retired after the 1959 season and died in 1992.

So he wasn’t much of a player after all. But what a great two months he had. It’s hard to say this about a team that includes Aaron, Mathews, and Spahn, but without Hazle the Braves don’t win.

Quick aside: Today marks the 195th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Advice–bet on Wellington.

A Hall of Fame Absurdity

December 2, 2009

Did you know that no one has ever been elected to the baseball Hall of Fame unanimouly? Isn’t that absurd? That means that some idiot of a writer didn’t think Babe Ruth or Henry Aaron or Lefty Grove was Hall of Fame worthy.

Actually it doesn’t really mean that. When asked, most of these guys argue that they don’t vote for anyone on the first try no matter who it is. Of course they can’t explain how the guy gets better on the second ballot. Can you imagine, “I ain’t voting for Babe Ruth the first time because I never vote for anyone the first time. However, on the second time through I’ll give him a vote. By next year his numbers will have improved enough for me to pick him.”? Well, neither can I so I find the entire idea stupid.

Having said all that, there is one exception I might make. How’s about refusing to vote for any player tainted by steroids the first time he shows up on the ballot? No matter how qualified he otherwise might be, “just say ‘no'” the first time. If the guy gets in later because the writers voted for him, that’s up to the writers. But it will show the jerk exactly what the writers think of him. This sort of thing is already occurring with Mark McGwire. Hopefully it will continue.