Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Somethingiest Something of the Aughts: The Hitters

Funny thing about writing a daily blog with no remuneration and no one to hold you accountable: sometimes life gets in the way and you don't really feel like writing anything. Sorry about my absence on Tuesday, but real-life Monday sucked like you wouldn't believe. Things now are...not okay, but they're not getting any worse, so here's your new thing.

As he often does, Rob Neyer made me think of something today. He pointed out (via some link to somebody else) that there's something of a race for the batting champion of the decade, with Ichiro! and Pujols running pretty much neck-and-neck. Which left me wondering who led in all the various other categories, and by how much. And as long as I was wondering, I thought I might as well write about it. Verducci, the "somebody else" in Neyer's post, did much the same thing, but I don't care about that, and I'm going to look at some different categories and in a different way. So away we go, stats through Monday night:

Home Runs: Alex Rodriguez, 430
No surprise here. A-Rod led his league in homers five times this decade, and this is the first year he's likely to finish out of the top eight (and he's only four out of the top ten, with at least two of the dudes in front of him out for the rest of the season). What's a little surprising is by how much A-Rod leads: he's up by 62 over Jim Thome's 368, meaning he's hit about 17% more homers than anybody else this decade. The 1990s' leader was Mark McGwire, with 405. The 1980s? Mike Schmidt, with 313. Eight players have hit more than 313 homers from 2000 through 2009, and I suppose Andruw Jones or Lance Berkman could make it nine or ten with a couple hot weeks.

Runs Batted In: Rodriguez, 1227
That's right, the unclutchiest choker ever leads the decade in the lazy man's ultimate clutchy stat, by a comfy 125 over Pujols (approximately one season's worth, which is appropriate since Pujols didn't start playing until 2001). Your 1990s leader was Albert Belle (really?) with 1099, and 1980s was Eddie Murray with 996. Murray's total would place 10th in the 2000s, right between Big Papi and Bobby Abreu.

Runs Scored: Rodriguez, 1181
That A-Rod guy? He's a good player. And one who stayed pretty healthy for an entire numerological decade, which has at least as much to do with it. This is a closer contest than the ones above, with Johnny Damon close behind at 1110. Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu mean that four of the top five have spent at least some of the decade as Yankees. 1990s: Barry Bonds, 1091. 1980s: Rickey Henderson, 1122. Hey, score one for the eighties, almost!

On-Base Percentage (min. 3000 PA): Barry Bonds, .517
What what what? Bonds OBP'ed over .500 for the whole decade? Somehow that shocks me. But I guess OBPing .559 in 2001-2004, four of his five full years in the decade, will do that. Todd Helton is a distant second with a Coors-aided .439, with only three other players within 100 points of Bonds. Frank Thomas led the nineties at .440 (Bonds just behind at a merely fantastic .434); 1980s, Wade Boggs at an equal but more dominant .440.

Slugging Percentage: Bonds, .724
Naturally, and well ahead of Pujols at .630 (though Pujols will end up with nearly 2000 more plate appearances in the decade). 1990s: McGwire, .615 (Bonds right behind again at .602); in the 1980s, Schmidt at .540. In the aughts, you'd have to go to #19 before you drop below .540; Schmidt slots between Teixeira at .542 and Bagwell at .534.

OPS+: Bonds, 221
Well, duh. Pujols second at 173, then Manny at 160. Theoretically, this should be pretty constant across the decades, and it almost works that way, but doesn't. Bonds paces the nineties again at 179, Schmidt the 80's at 153.

Stolen Bases: Juan Pierre, 455
That surprised me a little, but Pierre has played since 2000 and was a regular from 2001 until late 2008, while Carl Crawford (#2 but way behind at 359) didn't play full time until 2003 and missed about a third of 2008. 1990s: Otis Nixon, 478; 1980s: Rickey Henderson, 838. Rickey led that decade by a whopping 255 (over Tim Raines) and missed leading the 1990s by 15, coming in second place. He was #105 in the 2000s.

Hit By Pitch: Jason Kendall, 155.
Up by 17 on Jason Giambi. I never thought of A-Rod or Jeter as guys who get plunked a lot, but they're both in the top ten; lots of plate appearances -> lots of stray inside fastballs, I guess. Chase Utley has been hit 104 times despite not becoming a regular until 2005. Craig Biggio was hit 147 times in the 90s (and was fourth in the 2000s at 132). Don Baylor crushed everyone else in the eighties with 160, 52 more than Chet Lemon and more than three times as many as #8 Lloyd Moseby.

Sacrifice Flies: Mike Lowell, 76.
Now that's a surprise. One leadoff triple by Denard Span could mean that Lowell gets tied by the even more surprising Orlando Cabrera, now at 75, and don't count out the less surprising Carlos Lee (74). After that, you hit Abreu at 66, and I don't think he's getting ten sac flies in three weeks. Frank Thomas had 82 in the nineties, Andre Dawson 74 in the eighties.

Double Play Groundouts: Miguel Tejada, 222.
Again, the identity of the leader is surprising, but even more surprising is the margin; Miggy is crushing Paul Konerko and his 193. Belle led the 1990s at 172, and Jim Rice predictably dominated the 1980s with 224. Rice's 224 trumps Tejada's 222 by more than it looks like, considering that (a) Julio Franco was second in the eighties at 166, which would've been seventh in the aughts, and (b) Tejada took over a thousand more plate appearances than Rice did to arrive at his total.

Plate Appearances: Bobby Abreu, 6864
This one could very easily change hands before the end of the decade, as Derek Jeter is only six behind Abreu and is batting leadoff for the best offense in the majors. Next is Tejada, a hundred behind Jeter. Biggio had 6794 in the nineties and Dale Murphy had 6540 in the eighties.

Hits: Ichiro!, 2005
He's 85 ahead of Jeter or anyone else for the decade, which is especially impressive when you consider that he was in Japan for the year 2000. Going down the rest of the list, Pujols is the next one you'll see that did not play at least a little big-league ball in both 2000 and 2009 (he's ninth at 1697), and to find the next such player, you'd have to go all the way down to #33 and Jeff Kent, who retired after last season and may end up 600 hits behind Ichiro for the decade.


  1. "Slugging Percentage: Bonds, .724
    Naturally, and well ahead of Pujols at .630 (though Pujols will end up with nearly 2000 more plate appearances in the decade)."

    There is nothing "natural" about Bonds....

  2. Good stuff, Bill. Those categories are much more interesting than the standard ones you'll see in a piece like Verducci's.

    I don't find the Tejada GIDP thing all that surprising. The GIDP leader is always one of the players who played the most games, and Tejada played a lot of baseball (where did his consecutive game streak end? ~850?)

    I do find it interesting that Abreu shows up so highly on all the different categories (including the more standard ones that Verducci lists), but it makes perfect sense: he's a good player who lined up, age-wise, with the decade perfectly. It's not really anything to be impressed by, of course. It more just shows the utter randomness of these kinds of lists. Not that I need to tell you that...