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Monday, February 9, 2015

Home Runs v. Batting Average: Willie Mays, Rocky Colavito and Ichiro Suzuki.

Willie Mays was Rookie of the Year in 1951 then played only 34 games in 1952 when he was drafted into the U.S.Army.  Mays missed all of the 1953 season.

 SABR bio:

Willie estimated that he played 180 games while in the service. When he returned to the Giants in the spring of 1954, he was a half-inch taller and ten pounds heavier, now 5-feet-11 and 180 pounds...

Batting .326 and ahead of Ruth’s 60-homer pace when he hit his 36th on July 28, Durocher asked him to stop trying for the fences and go for base hits for the good of the team. Willie hit only five more homers the rest of the year, but batted .379 down the stretch...

sportswriters named him the league’s Most Valuable Player, at 23. He is the third youngest National Leaguer to receive the award.
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Willie Mays Baseball Digest
front cover, September 1954
via Wikimedia Commons
Mays had 36 homers on July 28, 1954, then didn't hit number 40 until Sept. 16 and only one more after.  Mays led the National League in:
3B 13
BA .345
SLG .667
OPS 1.078
OPS+ 175

The Giants won the 1954 pennant and swept the 111 win Cleveland Indians in the World Series.  So was Giant manager Leo Durocher correct in asking Mays to forego homers for singles?

It's difficult to argue with success and Mays may have slowed down on his home run hitting anyway.  The point is that Durocher valued BA over HR.

Should Oakland have fired the manager and kept its best player, Josh Donaldson?  Tuesday, December 2, 2014

This reminds me a bit of this infamous trade: Rocky Colavito April 17, 1960: traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn.

In 1959 Colavito had tied Harmon Killebrew of the Washington Senators for most home runs in the American League (AL) with 42.  Colavito was the young 25 year old star of the Cleveland Indians.  Colavito's 1959 batting average (BA) had dropped to .257 from .303 in 1958 when he finished one behind Mickey Mantle for most homers: 42-41; Mantle had two inside the park homers.  Colavito was a rising star...

28 year old Harvey Kuenn had the highest 1959 AL BA: .353.  Cleveland GM Frank "Trader" Lane was responsible for removing Cleveland's star player.  Have Cleveland's fans recovered?  What Cleveland player has superseded Colavito as a home grown fan favorite?  GMs seem to never consider fan interest in players.
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Frank Lane valued BA over HR.

Today BA might not trump HR but what about On Base Average?  What about OBA v. SLG?  And what about the reverence for Ichiro Suzuki, assumed to be a Hall of Famer solely because of his BA?  How much has really changed?

Ichiro Suzuki: is he the most overrated player this millennium?  Thursday, July 26, 2012

His career OPS+ is only 113...

It's batting average (BA), the venerable baseball stat that won't die.  Ichiro has .322 career BA with a modest .366 OBP, which is really low considering his BA.  Plus, Ichiro led the American conference two of his first four seasons: .350 and .372.  Also, .351 and .352 in later seasons.  People are still really impressed with BA.

But the guy does not walk and does not hit home runs.  He gets on base.

On Base Percentage career: Ichiro is tied at number 366 with two Jasons: Kendall and Thompson.  Derek Jeter, another get on base guy, is number 158.
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Ichiro Suzuki:his power is very isolated.  Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Isolated Power or ISO ... Slugging Percentage minus Batting Average, which removes all the singles that are included in SLG%. The final result measures how many extra bases a player averages per at bat.

I ran a query at baseball-reference.com for batters 1901-2012 with at least 5,000 AB and ISO at least .095 to include Suzuki whose ISO is currently .096.  666 batters were found, led by Babe Ruth at .348.
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