Written by Bjoern Hartig (Contact & Archive) on May 25, 2009
The inimitable Joe Posnanski talks about Jack Cust and the .400 hitter and as usual, he is delivering a combination of entertainment and insight:
Last year, Jack Cust came up 598 times.
He struck out 197 times: That's about 1/3 of the time. He walked 111 times. That's about one out of every five times. Total: Jack Cust walked or struck out more than 50 percent of the time he came to the plate last year.
Best I can tell, only two players in baseball history who have qualified for the batting title have done the Jack Cust dance -- that is, walk 100 times, strike out 100 times and not make contact half of the time they came to the plate. The first, of course, Jack Cust in 2008.
I'm not a big Cust fan, but that mostly has something to do with the fact that he plays for the A's while I'm rooting for the Angels, but nevertheless, I find him (like Adam Dunn) highly fascinating. For me, he is a little piece of softball in the big leagues. Walk, hit it out or die trying.
In any way, Joe most elegantly leads over to his other topic, the .400 hitter and why he most likely is a thing of the past:
The ball just got put in play a lot more in the olden days. This may be one quick reason to explain why batters hit for so much higher average in years past. Take the National League in 1930 -- you know, the whole league hit .303 that season. That was the year Bill Terry hit .401, the year Hack Wilson drove in 191 runs, the year 23 out of the 44 batters who qualified for the batting title hit .320 or better.
Well, that year the whole league only struck out about 8 percent of the time.
To give you an idea, last year in the National League batters hit .260 and struck out 18 percent of the time.
How much of a difference is that? Well, if batters had struck out at the 1930 strikeout rate, there would have been 10,000 more balls hit in play. Yikes. TEN THOUSAND more balls in play. We know that, generally speaking, about 30 percent of balls in play turn into hits but to prove the point, let's take it down a notch and say that only 25 percent of those balls hit in play would have been hits.
If you make that adjustment, the league would have hit .288 last year instead of .260. Chipper Jones only struck out 11 percent of the time last year ... but if you drop that down to 8 percent and make the adjustments, he would have hit .376. Matt Holliday would have put 50 more balls in play and might have hit closer to .350. And so on.
And thinking about that led me to wonder ... everyone talks about why no one will ever hit .400 again. And I've heard many, many reasons: Night games, travel, the slider, the split-fingered fastball, improved fielding, the intense media pressure, on and on and on and on.
BUT ... could it just come down to the fact that batters strike out a whole lot more than they did in the .400-hitting days? I do realize that all of the above reasons would contribute to more strikeouts, but I am still wondering here: Is that what it comes down to?
There have been nine .400 seasons since 1920 (when strikeouts are counted on Baseball-Reference). As you might imagine, none of the batters struck out even 8 percent of the time the year they hit .400. Rogers Hornsby hit .401 in 1922 and struck out 7 percent of the time. That was the most. George Sisler hit .407 and .420 in 1920 and '22, respectively ... and he struck out 19 times the first year, 14 times the second. Basically, the guy struck out 3 percent of the time.
"Night games, travel, the slider, the split-fingered fastball, improved fielding, the intense media pressure", how did people come up with those explanation before they thought of the strike out? It is so obvious (but most things are in hindsight).
However, since we probably won't see a low-strike out, high average guy who is able to challenge .400 any time soon, maybe we should pay more attention to the BABIP (batting average on ball in play)? Crown a Batted Ball Champion next to the batting champion and see if someone can challenge the big four oh oh if we waive the Ks.
Written by Adam Adkins (Contact & Archive) on May 25, 2009
Here are your AL OPS leaders, where high batting averages wish to live long and prosper, Vulcan style.
1-Kevin Youkilis 1.178.
Youkilis is a fine player, a really tough batter and a solid defender at first. But he is not, nor was he ever, a near 1200 OPS man. He's a comfortable .900 guy. His batting average is about to dive, oh, 100 points or so.
2-Justin Morneau 1.082
This is sustainable, but it's a little on the high side. I'd imagine he'll drop about 150 points in OPS. Virtually the same player as Youk, just less OBP and more SLG.
3-Adam Jones 1.068
Sorry, Adam, I really like you--you're already the best center fielder in the AL East--but you are not the next Barry Bonds. That OPS is going to drop like a rock, just like your batting average.
4-Joe Mauer 1.400
Whoa, Joe, come on, even Bonds only did that once (2004). But I tell you, Mauer is on a hall of fame path. Mauer's career OPS+ is 133. Reggie freaking Jackson's career mark was only... 139. Just sayin'. In case you've forgotten... Mauer is a catcher, Jackson a right fielder. Okay. See the significance? Good.
5-Jason Bay 1.036
Bay is a really good hitter, but that would be a new career mark for him, but I'd say out of all the 5 he's the most likely to stay. Contract year. $$$ talks. Maybe if he stays like this all year he'll just go ahead and be a Red Sox for a while.
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on May 24, 2009
Scott Kazmir hasn't been the ace many projected him to be. At 25, his career ERA is 3.85, yes, but his WHIP is an atrocious 1.40. His average innings per start is less than 6. He's only broken 200 IP once in his career.
When he pitches, Kazmir nibbles too much and throws too many balls. At this rate, he'll never be an ace or a No. 2. Instead, he's end-of-the-rotation fodder. Gary Shelton of the St. Petersburg Times writes Kazmir's disabled list stay may help Kazmir get his groove back.
For Kazmir, this season has been like getting trapped in hell's outhouse. He has been embarrassed by his ERA. He has been whipped by his WHIP. Magically, he has acquired the ability to transform pedestrian hitters into Ted Williams.
Keeping all that in mind, what's a little stopover on the disabled list?
This could be a good thing for Kazmir, a good thing for the Rays, a good thing for everyone involved. Kazmir can use the break because of his sore thigh, and everyone else can use it because of their sore eyes.
For some time, it has been obvious the mound is no longer Kazmir's friend. His mechanics have been so out of whack, he can't fix them on the fly. And the more he has tinkered, the worst things have gotten. In some ways, Kazmir is lucky it is his leg that hurts, not his arm.
When you consider the other options - the bullpen, the minors - the DL might give Kazmir the best chance at a fresh start. Think of it like this: Going on the disabled list might end Troy Percival's career, but it might save Kazmir's.
For Kazmir to save his career, he'll have to get healthy, clean up his delivery and trust his quality stuff much more. Kazmir needs to attack hitters more often. Otherwise, he's going to be a five-inning starter who never lived up to ace billing.
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on May 24, 2009
In the wake of Jake Peavy rejected a trade to the White Sox, Paul Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes the Brewers could be an option to land Peavy. I discussed this last season when I suggested the Brewers needed another ace to pair with Yovani Gallardo after the departures of Sheets and Sabathia.
Though San Diego ace Jake Peavy exercised his no-trade rights to veto a deal to the Chicago White Sox, you have to figure the cost-cutting Padres will continue to seek a trade.
Don't be surprised if the Milwaukee Brewers jump in at some point.
It was obvious by what the Sox put on the table that the Padres are looking for good, young pitchers in any deal for Peavy. Clayton Richard and Aaron Poreda, the top young pitchers in Chicago's system, were in the four-player package offered to San Diego.
That would seem to count out the Brewers, who have no pitching prospects to trade at the top of their farm system.
But, as suitors fall by the wayside because of Peavy's no-trade rights, the cost eventually could come down. Peavy backed the Padres farther into a corner by vetoing the White Sox trade and making it clear he prefers to stay in the National League.
That's where the Brewers might make their second bold move in two seasons. Peavy certainly would bend their finances, with an $11 million salary in 2009 and $52 million remaining on his deal over the next three years (including a buyout for 2013).
But owner Mark Attanasio makes his living in the financial world and knows how to be creative. Some payroll space will be created when Jeff Suppan's $12.5 million salary comes off the books after next season.
Despite his high salary, Peavy is more attractive in a trade because he'll be around at least three more years. Last season, the Brewers knew when they acquired CC Sabathia from Cleveland they'd probably lose him to free agency afterward.
Whether the Brewers could come up with the players it would take to do such a deal is debatable. General manager Doug Melvin has said he has no inclination to trade his top two prospects, third baseman Mat Gamel and shortstop Alcides Escobar.
For the Brewers to make the deal last offseason, I suggested they part with Gamel and Escobar. In hindsight, that was too much. Once the Padres back off on their demands -- after all, they need to move Peavy pretty bad -- Escobar and a few other quality prospects could get this deal going.
The Padres need to rebuild and Escobar would give them a solid base in the infield to do that. San Diego's doesn't have many pitching prospects, but its home stadium makes average pitchers good and good pitchers great.
Besides, San Diego still has a great bargaining chip after Peavy: Adrian Gonzalez.
This deal would give the Brewers an opportunity to content all season long in the weak National League Central. Because Peavy's deal lasts through 2012, that would give them a few more seasons to reap the benefits of having traded for this ace.
Don't expect Peavy to the Brewers to be a foregone conclusion, but it's a deal that makes plenty of sense for both sides involved.
Written by Adam Adkins (Contact & Archive) on May 24, 2009
Hey, Adam here, just wanna let you know that I am tweeting (twittering?) today's titanic struggle between Sabathia and Hamels. Should be a beaut.
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on May 21, 2009
Jake Peavy declined a trade to the Chicago White Sox, reports the Chicago Sun Times and Jon Heyman of SI.com.
The White Sox would've received Peavy, who has a complete no-trade clause through 2010 and a partial no-trade clause in 2011 and 2012. He has a $22 million option for 2013.
Two left-handed pitching prospects, Aaron Poreda and Clayton Richards were rumored to be heading to San Diego.