Jim Thome

Jim Thome by the numbers

Along with Chipper Jones, the former Cleveland Indians star, Jim Thome, will most likely be voted in as a first ballot Hall of Famer in January. Thome, who played on six different teams during his 22-year career, is one of the greatest power hitters of all time. His 612 home runs are the eighth most all-time. Unlike the majority of sluggers during his time, Thome was never linked to PED use.

When God created Jim Thome, he constructed someone who comes across as a lumberjack, but hits mammoth home runs with a crazy uppercut swing. If you remember watching him get ready for a pitch, you would recall that he held his bat out with his right hand and would point it towards the outfield. When asked about this, Thome claimed that he acquired this approach from The Natural.

During his career, Thome led his league in home runs eight times. He had 12 seasons with at least 90 walks, which is good for fifth all-time behind Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Thome also had 10 seasons with at least 25 home runs and a .400 on-base percentage, which is sixth all-time behind Bonds, Williams, Ruth, Gehrig and Mel Ott.

PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST 600 HR, 2,300 HITS, .400 OBP
BABE RUTH
BARRY BONDS
JIM THOME

 

Career

James Howard Thome grew up in Peoria, Illinois. As a high school athlete, Thome was all-state in basketball and as a shortstop in baseball.

To say he was born to be an athlete would be an understatement. Thome’s grandmother was hired at a Caterpillar plant merely to play for the company’s softball team. Thome’s dad played slow-pitch softball, and his aunt is a member of the Women’s Softball Hall of Fame. His two older brothers played baseball at the local high school. Apparently, Thome learned how to play baseball from his father on a tennis court.

Jim Thome

One of the best power hitters of all time (Photo from Cleveland.com)

Weighing only 175 pounds, at 6-foot-2, Thome got very little looks from MLB teams as a high schooler. In 1988, he enrolled at Illinois Central College, where he played both baseball and basketball. After just one season, Thome was drafted in the 13th round in the 1989 MLB June Amateur Draft. Clearly, he was heavily slept on.

Thome started out as a third baseman before converting to first. In his first minor-league season, he managed to hit just .237 with no home runs. After this rough season, Thome met Charlie Manuel, who would eventually become his head coach and mentor. Manuel helped fix his swing, and in the next season, Thome hit .340 with 16 home runs.

In 1994, Thome was finally a full-time big-league player. In the abbreviated season, Thome batted .268 with 20 home runs. Little did anyone know this would be the first of 17 seasons in which Thome eclipsed 20 home runs, which is tied for fourth all-time with Willie Mays and behind Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds and Frank Robinson. In 1995, Thome hit .314 with 25 home runs and was a major contributor to the Indians winning the American League pennant. In the fourteen playoff games, Thome hit four home runs and drove in 10 runs.

Breaking down the Stats

From 1997-2004, Thome hit 330 home runs, which was the most by any first baseman during that span. The only players to hit more than him were Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds, who were all heavily linked to PED usage. During this same time period, Thome led all first basemen in offensive WAR. In 1996, Thome finished sixth in the AL in WAR, and in 2002, he finished second.

2002 was also the year in which Thome had one of the best offensive seasons we have seen. He hit 52 home runs, batted .304 and led the league in walks, slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+. Thome became one of four players to have a season at least a .300 batting average, 52 home runs, 120 walks and an OPS+ north of 197. That list includes Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Mickey Mantle.

Throughout his career, Jim Thome had 12 seasons of at least 30 home runs and an OBP of .360. The only players with more than 12 seasons are Barry Bonds, Mike Schmidt, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. Thome had eight seasons of at least 25 home runs, a .280 batting average, .410 OBP and a .995 OPS. He is tied for sixth all-time behind Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.

PLAYERS WITH SEASONS OF AT LEAST 40 HR, .385 OBP, .570 SLG # OF SEASONS
BABE RUTH 11
BARRY BONDS 8
ALBERT PUJOLS 6
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 6
JIM THOME 6
MARK MCGWIRE 5
HANK AARON 5
JIMMIE FOXX 5
LOU GEHRIG 5
WILLIE MAYS 4

 

Later years/ off the field

At age 35 as a member of the Chicago White Sox, Thome had one of his best seasons as a professional. He hit .288, 42 home runs and had an OPS of 1.014. He joined Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth as the only players, 35 or older who comprised a season of 42 home runs, an OPS over 1, an OBP above .415 and a batting average of at least .285. Thome is currently ranked 10th all-time in home runs after turning 35. Simply put, the guy had power throughout his entire career.

Jim Thome

A true professional on and off the diamond. (Photo from MLB.com)

For the entirety of his career, Thome was known as someone with a positive attitude and a gregarious personality. He received two Marvin Miller Man of the Year Awards and a Lou Gehrig Memorial Award for his involvement within the community. In a 2007 poll, he tied with Mike Sweeney for second-friendliest player in baseball.

As a child, Thome snuck into the Cubs clubhouse in hopes of getting an autograph from his favorite player, Dave Kingman. Although he received a handful of autographs from several Cubs, he was unable to retrieve Kingman’s. Because of this, Thome was extremely openhanded with signing autographs for fans during his career.

Thome has two children, and by 2012, had already established funds to put his 10 nieces and nephews through college. Jim and his family, who spoke in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, try “to stay connected with at least one or two organizations in each of the cities” that Thome has played in.

Not only is he a member of the 600 home run club, a five-time All-Star and a Silver Slugger Award winner, Thome is one of the most respected and humble players to ever step on the diamond. Thome is a lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and if there were a Hall of Fame for professional athletes based off personality and friendliness, Thome would be a first-ballot selection.

 

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A look back at Chipper Jones’ incredible numbers

When you think about the steroid era, you think about guys with over 60 home runs in a season like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. You also think of guys like Roger Clemens, who managed to win seven Cy Young Awards, including one at age 41. Yet, a kid born on April 24, 1972, in DeLand, Florida, played during this same time period and absolutely tore it up.

In his first year on the ballot, Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones Jr. is a lock for the Hall of Fame. Although he did not put up numbers as outlandish as his counterparts who used PEDs, Jones’ stats were absolutely remarkable for someone who was completely clean in a time where baseball was filled with corruption. Jones will be the second player in the history of the amateur draft to be selected No. 1 overall and reach the Hall of Fame.

Early Days

Larry Jr. was given the nickname “Chipper” at a young age by his family. They saw the boy as a “chip off the old block” and the name stuck. His dad, Larry Sr., who idolized Mickey Mantle, taught Chipper to switch hit just like the Yankee legend. In high school, he was a star pitcher, shortstop and outfielder.

As an 18-year-old kid, the Atlanta Braves selected Jones with the first overall pick in the 1990 MLB June Amateur Draft. He was drafted as a shortstop, but as he worked his way up the ladder in the Braves farm system, it was clear that third base was a better fit.

Here is an excerpt from SI’s article, “Chipper Jones is a lock for First-Ballot Hall of Fame election.

Ahead of the 1990 draft, he met with agent Scott Boras, whom he found “brash, abrasive, smug and cocky,” according to his description of their brief meeting in his 2017 memoir, Ballplayer. Instead, he hired childhood friend B.B. Abbott. A day before the draft, Jones ditched his prom weekend to meet with the Braves, who owned the No. 1 overall pick; Cox, then the team’s general manager, had scouted him. Over dinner at an Olive Garden in Daytona Beach, Jones agreed to a bonus of $275,000 with incentives that pushed the total package of $400,000.

Chipper Jones Hall of Fame

Young Chipper. (Photo from Online Athens)

In late 1993, Jones debuted as the youngest player in the league. The following season, after starting left fielder Ron Gant broke his leg in a dirt bike accident, it appeared Jones would have a legitimate shot to start. That was until Jones suffered an ACL tear in the spring of 1994. Jones missed the entire strike-shortened season in 1994.

 

As a rookie in 1995, he became just the fifth qualified rookie to get at least 23 home runs, 85 RBIs, 135 hits and 73 walks. That list includes Ted Williams, Al Rosen, Alvin Davis and Tim Salmon. Recently, both Aaron Judge and Kris Bryant eclipsed these numbers during their rookie seasons.

1995 was also the year that the Atlanta Braves won their third championship, and first since moving to Atlanta. In the NLCS, Jones hit .438. During the entirety of the 1995 postseason, the 23-year-old Jones hit .364 with 10 runs, three home runs and eight RBIs.

In 19 years, all with the Atlanta Braves, Chipper Jones had a career average of .303, along with 2,726 hits, including 468 home runs.

 

Players to hit at least: 460 HR, 2,700 H, .300 BA, .400 OBP
BABE RUTH
MEL OTT
LOU GEHRIG
STAN MUSIAL
CHIPPER JONES

 

Numbers

Jones had five seasons in which he finished in the top 10 for batting average, and seven seasons in the top 10 for on-base percentage. He joined Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Mel Ott, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial as the only retired players to have a career batting average above .300, hit at least 465 home runs and a minimum of 2,700 hits and 1,600 runs.

Chipper Jones Hall of Fame

Eight-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger (Photo from CBS News)

Jones had five seasons in which he had 180 hits, 30 home runs, 110 runs and a slugging percentage above .530. Players who also had five seasons with these numbers include Stan Musial and Ted Williams. The only players with more than five of these monster seasons are Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

From 1995-2008, Jones had 14 straight seasons of at least 20 doubles and 21 home runs. Fourteen straight. His 162-game average, over a span of 19 seasons, was .303, 30 home runs, 177 hits and 105 runs.

In 1999, Jones won the NL MVP award. He hit .319 with 45 home runs and 181 hits. Jones also had a .441 on-base percentage, .633 slugging percentage, and an OPS+ of 169. The AL MVP, Ivan Rodriguez, had an on-base percentage of .356, slugging percentage of .558, and an OPS+ of 125. All stats lower than Jones, who was arguably the best player in the league in 1999.

PLAYERS WITH SEASONS OF AT LEAST 21 HOME RUNS, 20 DOUBLES, .390 OBP, .295 BA # OF SEASONS
TED WILLIAMS 15
BABE RUTH 13
LOU GEHRIG 12
CHIPPER JONES 11
MANNY RAMIREZ 11
ALBERT PUJOLS 10
BARRY BONDS 10
JIMMIE FOXX 10
MEL OTT 10
JIMMIE FOXX 10
STAN MUSIAL 9

During his career (1993-2012), Jones had the fourth most WAR behind Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols. He is currently 23rd in offensive WAR, which has him ahead of George Brett, Robin Yount, Pete Rose, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew and Carl Yastrzemski.

According to the baseball gurus, an All-Star type season means at least 5 WAR. Chipper Jones had eight seasons with 5.5 WAR. His 468 home runs are the most in the NL by a switch-hitter. Jones is arguably the second best switch-hitter of all-time, behind his dad’s idol, Mickey Mantle.

The Hot Corner

Jones spent the majority of his career at the hot corner, but also played left field in 2002 and 2003. He had seven seasons in which he finished in the top three for third basemen in WAR, including first in 1998, 1999 and 2008. From 1996-2001, Chipper Jones was the best third baseman in baseball. During this time, he led all qualified third basemen in WAR with 35.6. The second place finisher, Jeff Cirillo, had only 28.4.

A serious argument could be made for Jones as the best third baseman of all time. He is third all time in home runs for third basemen who played at least 1,500 games at the hot corner. When compared to Mike Schmidt, Jones has a higher batting average, more hits, more runs, higher OBP, higher SLG and a higher OPS. Chipper also has more home runs and higher OBP, SLG, and OPS than the great George Brett.

Jones is also one of the best postseason players of all time. He has played the ninth most games and ranks fifth in runs scored, fifth in hits, seventh in total bases, eighth in RBIs, seventh in singles and tied for first in walks.

Later Days

Chipper Jones Hall of Fame

A true legend. (Photo from The Sports Fan Journal)

Once he got a little older, Jones did not slow down. After turning 34, he had three seasons in which he hit .320 with 20 home runs and 20 doubles. The only other players with more seasons, at 34 years or older, are Ted Williams, Barry Bonds and Edgar Martinez.

 

At age 36, Jones won the batting title with a batting average of .364. He joined Tris Speaker, Ted Williams, Zach Wheat, Babe Ruth, Tony Gwynn, Barry Bonds and Eddie Collins as the only players 36 years or older to finish a season hitting at least .360. Jones finished his career with six seasons in the top ten for MVP voting and finished in the top 25 for nine straight seasons (1995-2003).

 

PLAYERS AFTER TURNING 35 WHO HIT .300, 110 HR, 160 2B
BARRY BONDS
STAN MUSIAL
EDGAR MARTINEZ
CHIPPER JONES

 

The 1999 NL MVP, 2008 NL Batting Title Champion, eight-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger and 1995 World Series Champion is an obvious first-ballot Hall of Famer, whose numbers show that he is among the best players in the history of the sport.

 

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MLB’s 40-40 club: Stats, facts and more

In the history of the MLB, there have been 296 no-hitters, and 23 perfect games. Fourty-five times we have seen players hit at least 50 home runs and drive in 100 or more RBIs in the same year. On 60 different occasions, we have seen a player steal 70 or more bases in a season. There have been 104 pitching seasons in which the player won at least 20 games, with an ERA below 2.00.

A signed baseball card commemorating Canseco’s historic feat. (30 Year Old Cardboard)

Only four players in the history of the sport have been able to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same year. The 40-40 club is the most exclusive group in baseball. The four members are Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano. Both Canseco and Rodriguez have admitted to using PEDs, and if you don’t think Barry Bonds used some sort of performance enhancer, then you probably live under a rock.

So why is it so hard to become a member of this hallowed fraternity? Will anyone else ever join? Were any players close? Don’t worry, we have the answers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Athletic Prime

According to an article by RealClearScience, any sprinters, or jumpers, both men and women, peak around 25 years of age. Male Marathoners compete at their best around 29-30 years old. For professional hockey players, their peak is between the ages of 27 and 28. Triathletes peak at around 27-years-old. For baseball, players tend to be in their prime from ages 27-30.

The Boston Globe published an article in 2015 that used Wins Above Replacement (WAR) on offense, to determine when players peak. The piece states that “the greatest likelihood of finding a player worth 2.0 WAR on offense peaks quite clearly between the ages of 26 and 28.” The articles also can confirm that after turning 30, “players experience a clear and steady decline in the likelihood that they’ll be productive offensive contributors.” Long story short, hitting a lot of home runs and stealing a ton of bases can only be done in the first half of your career.

Since 1903, there have been only 32 occasions in which a player stole at least 40 bases, age 34 or older, in one season. Only 22 different players have hit 40 or more home runs after turning 34 years of age. Of players 33 years or older, only three, Davey Lopes, Joe Morgan and Ricky Henderson, had seasons in which they hit 15 or more home run, and stole at least 40 bases. This occurred only a total of seven times at age 32 or older.

 

Who was close?

The 30-30 club has 38 members. On 60 different occasions, some members achieving this more than once, we have seen players hit at least 30 home runs and steal 30 or more bases. Of the four players in the 40-40 club, two of them, Alex Rodriguez and Jose Canseco, both had only one season of at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Luckily, it was their 40-40 seasons. As far as the other two members, Bonds would go on to have five 30-30 seasons, and Soriano had four.

One home run shy of joining the 40-40 club, Vladimir Guerrero (Studious Metsimus)

 

PLAYERS WITH 2 OR MORE 30-30 SEASONS
ALFONSO SORIANO
BOBBY ABREU
BOBBY BONDS
BARRY BONDS
HOWARD JOHNSON
JEFF BAGWELL
RAUL MONDESI
RYAN BRAUN
SAMMY SOSA
VLADIMIR GUERRERO

 

In 2002, Soriano, who would later join the 40-40 club in 2006, hit 39 home runs and had 41 stolen bases. Bobby Bonds, Matt Kemp and Vladimir Guerrero were all also one home run shy of joining the crew. In 1997, Barry Bonds hit the 40 home runs, but only managed 37 steals.

 

Will anyone else join?

Since a handful of players have been inches away, it seems as though someone will get over the hump and become the fifth member. This year, we saw more home runs hit in a single season than ever, so that part should be taken care of right? Yes, a ton of home runs were hit, but only five players hit at least 40 home runs. Of those five, Aaron Judge led the group in stolen bases with a grand total of nine. The number of attempts, as well as successful stolen bases, is decreasing.

In 1987, there was a total of 3585 stolen bases in the MLB. Keep in mind there were only 26 teams. In 1999, we saw that total hit 3,421. That same year, now with 30 teams, 21 different organizations stole at least 100 bases. In 2017, there were 2527 total steals. Only seven teams had at least 100. As you can tell, there were over 1000 more steals in 1987, then there were during this past season.

Since 2000, there has been only one year in which more than 20 players stole at least 30 bases in a season. The outlier, 2012, featured two of the 38 30-30 members, Ryan Braun and Mike Trout.

 

Meet the 40-40 Club

Jose Canseco (1988)

The first to ever do it, Canseco is also the only one to win the MVP award the same year as his 40-40 season. In April of 1988, Canseco guaranteed he would hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases, even though no player had accomplished this. By the end of the season, the 23-year-old had a .307 batting average, 120 runs scored, 124 RBIs, 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases. He carried his A’s all the way into the World Series, eventually losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.

Barry Bonds (1996)

Despite his 40-40 season, Bonds finished fifth in NL MVP voting (SI.com)

Bonds would go on to become the first National League player to join the club. That same season, Bonds joined the 300-300 club, having hit his 300th home run on April 27th. The only other members of the 300-300 club are Bobby Bonds, Willie Mays, Andre Dawson, Carlos Beltran, Reggie Sanders and Steve Finley. Bonds finished the ’96 season with 42 home runs, 40 stolen bases, 129 RBIs, 151 walks and a .308 batting average. He finished fifth in MVP voting, as Chipper Jones captured his first, and only, MVP trophy.

Bonds was 31 years old at the time, the oldest any of the four members accomplished this feat. Did someone say PEDs?

Alex Rodriguez (1998)

A-Rod, who was 22 years of age, stole 46 bases, the most of the four players. He also set the record for most home runs by an AL shortstop with 42. Rodriguez joined Ernie Banks and Rico Petrocelli, as the only shortstops to hit 40 or more home runs in a single-season. Somehow, Rodriguez finished ninth in MVP voting. The winner of the award, Juan Gonzalez, hit 45 home runs and drove in 157 RBIs.

Alfonso Soriano (2006)

After three 30-30 seasons from 2002-2005, Soriano, at age 30, became the fourth member of the club. Realistically, Soriano is the only “clean” member of this club, having never been accused of PEDs. 2006 was also his first year as a member of the Washington Nationals.  In March, Manager Frank Robinson decided to play Soriano in left field. At first, Soriano refused to take the field, but once he realized sitting out would affect his salary, he gave in. This was a wise decision, and by the All-Star break, Soriano led the league in outfield assists. At the time, the only players to be named an All-Star at more than one position, were Stan Musial, Pete Rose, Robin Yount and, in 2006, Alfonso Soriano.

In August, he became the fastest player to reach 200 home runs and 200 stolen bases. On September 16, 2006, Soriano stole his 40th base, and became the only member to join the club while playing at home. He would later go on to become the only player to hit 40 home runs, steal 40 bases and reach 40 doubles in one season.

Featured image by SI.com

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Ronald Acuna

Why has Ronald Acuna not been called up?

Background

Ronald Acuna

Acuna is currently on a 14-game hitting streak, where he is slashing .406/.418/.672. (Photo by Last Words on Baseball)

Ranked eighth by MLB.com on the 2017 prospect watch list, Ronald Acuna has continued to prove himself at every professional level. The Venezuelan international was born on Dec. 18, 1997, and was signed in 2014 by the Atlanta Braves as a 16-year-old for $100,000.

This deal was an enormous steal for Atlanta, as they spent a combined seven million dollars on prospects Kevin Maitan and Abraham Gutierrez, who are both 17-year-olds playing in the Gulf Coast league.

At 17 years old, Acuna spent time in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian Leagues, where in 55 games he batted a combined .269 with four home runs, 18 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. He took a huge leap forward in 2016, batting .312 in 42 games in primarily the South Atlantic League, proving he is one of the Braves top prospects moving forward.

In 2017, Acuna began the year in high-A, although after batting .287 with 19 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 28 games, he was called up to double-A. Acuna continued his tear, batting .326 with nine home runs, 30 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 57 games for the Mississippi Braves.

The 19-year-old was then called-up to triple-A Gwinnett, where he has since batted .358 with eight home runs, 27 RBIs and eight stolen bases in 43 games. Acuna is currently on a 14-game hitting streak, where he is slashing .406/.418/.672 with four home runs, 13 runs scored, 14 RBIs and five stolen bases.

His heroic rise up the minor league ladder has been halted, as he has yet to receive a call to the majors despite his incredible levels of success.

Give this man a chance

Ronald Acuna

According to MLB.com writer Mark Bowman, former Atlanta Brave Superstars Chipper and Andruw Jones had “raved about Acuna” during spring training. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Acuna has continuously decreased his strikeout rate, while increasing his home run to fly ball rate at each succeeding level. He has also shown the ability to hit the ball to all fields, as he is currently hitting 36.8 percent of balls to the opposite field.

His speed is worth noting, as his speed score has ranked anywhere from 5.4 to 9.3 in his career, which is recognized as above average to excellent according to Fangraphs.com. His batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, measures over .400 in 2017, although this seems to be more skill based than luck, as BABIP has not dropped .359 since rookie ball in 2015.

According to MLB.com writer Mark Bowman, former Atlanta Brave superstars Chipper and Andruw Jones had “raved about Acuna” during spring training. The five-tool prospect has been compared to the likes of Starling Marte, who is a two-time Gold Glove winner and one-time All-Star.

With the Braves 19 games back of the Washington Nationals in the National League East, and 11 games back in the wild card race, it seems like a perfect time to bring up the red-hot 19-year-old.

With Ender Inciarte being the everyday center fielder, and veterans Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis in the corners, there is no place for Acuna to play, hence why he has been kept in the minors, as they want him to get as many at-bats as possible.

With no real chance at making the playoffs, the Braves should give Acuna a chance to begin his major league career. He will undoubtedly need to make an abundance of adjustments, so why not allow him to begin progressing, and/or struggling, now when the results do not matter?

The Braves would be stupid to allow veterans like Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis to steal major league at-bats away from their up-and-coming prospects like Acuna, which is why Acuna will likely be called up in September, rather than getting his first shot with the big league club next April.

 

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Century

Best MLB Franchises of the 21st century

Methodology

In order to figure out who truly deserves to be one of the best MLB teams of the century, I factored in several aspects to evaluate each team. I am including every game during the regular and postseason from the beginning of the 2000 season up until the 2017 All-Star break. I created a point system that is calculated as follows:

Win-Loss Differential- 1 point per game

Playoff Appearances- 10 points

Division Title- 10 points

League Champions- 30 points

World Series Champions- 50 points

Consistency- 20 points for every three consecutive playoff appearances + 10 bonus points for each consecutive year after that

Teams should get credit for being able to sustain success for an extended period of time, rather than having one year where they played exceptional followed by several bad years. It’s also important to distinguish playoff appearances from division titles.

For example, the Phillies should get more credit for winning their division with 102 wins in 2011 than the Cardinals winning the wild card with 90 wins. It’s also important to reward playoff success, therefore teams received a lot of credit for being able to win their league and/or winning the World Series.

It’s also pivotal to give teams credit for being successful during the regular season even if they have struggled in postseason play.

With the point system out of the way, here are the 10 best MLB teams of the 21st century thus far.

10. Texas Rangers

best mlb teams 21st century

Beltre, Hamilton and Young were at the heart of the Rangers lineup when they made their runs to the World Series (Zimbio)

Win-Loss: 1,439-1,404 (.506) = 35 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 5= 50 points

Division Titles: 4= 40 points

League Champions: 2= 60 points

World Series Champions: 0= 0 points

Consistency: 2010-2012 = 20 points

Total= 205 points

The Rangers did not start to show up until about a decade into the century. They might have had a World Series championship under their belt if they did not run into hot playoff teams like the Giants and Cardinals. If Nelson Cruz would have been a few steps back and didn’t let a ball go over his head then they would definitely have a championship.

It is somewhat surprising to find the Rangers this high on the list. They did not crack 90 wins or make the playoffs in the 21st century until 2010. They did have playoff success starting that year and that is what gets them to No. 10.

9. Philadelphia Phillies

Win-Loss: 1,439-1,401 (.506) = 38 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 5= 50 points

Division Titles: 5= 50 points

League Champions: 2= 60 points

World Series Champions: 1= 50 points

Consistency: 2007-2011= 40 points

Total= 288 points

best mlb teams 21st century

The Phillies rotation was advertised to be unstoppable in 2011 (USA Today)

The Phillies seemed to be a juggernaut around the same time the Rangers were taking off. They have had some of the most talented players in the past 20 years like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. On top of that, they had what was thought to be the best pitching rotation in a generation.

When Philadelphia signed Cliff Lee in 2011, they were described as the best rotation in baseball hands down. This was after they had been to two consecutive World Series in 2008 and 2009.

The Lee signing made the top four in their rotation Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Especially with their core hitters still intact, it was hard to imagine anyone stopping them given they had an ace pitching almost every game.

Even with 102 wins in 2011, the Phillies were expecting to win more games in that season.

They ended up getting knocked out by St. Louis in the divisional round of the playoffs in 2011. They have yet to reach the playoffs again since that year largely because of their aging core. Philadelphia appeared to be close to having an uptick with some of their young prospects recently, but they have backslid as they are the worst team in baseball in 2017.

8. Oakland Athletics

Win-Loss: 1,499-1,342 (.542) = 157 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 8= 80 points

Division Titles: 6= 60 points

League Champions= 0= 0 points

World Series Champions: 0= 0 points

Consistency: 2000-2003, 2012-2014= 50 points

Total= 347 points

Thanks to Billy Beane, the Athletics were dominating baseball for the first few years of the 21st century. He found a way to revolutionize the game using “moneyball”. Through his sabermetrics and smaller salary cap, he built a rotation that rivals the Phillies one I mentioned earlier.

Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito made up a powerful rotation that led the team to 392 wins in the four-year stretch that they made the playoffs from 2000-03. They have been a great regular season team most seasons since 2000, but they have yet to translate that to playoff success. They have not made it to the World Series since 1990.

While they showed promise of possibly making a run a few years ago, they have regressed once again. It looks like it may be a while before the Athletics return to the postseason especially considering the juggernaut that is rising in Houston.

7. Atlanta Braves

Win-Loss: 1,518-1,320 (.534) = 198 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 9= 90 points

Division Titles: 7= 70 points

League Champions: 0= 0 points

World Series Champions: 0= 0 points

Consistency: 2000-2005= 50 points

Total= 408 points

best mlb teams 21st century

Freeman has taken the reigns from Jones in Atlanta (MLB)

If we included the 1990s, the Braves would shoot up this list in a hurry. Atlanta went to the playoffs 10 consecutive years that included three National League championships and one World Series championship. However, half of those seasons are not going to count towards this list. Despite that, many of their successful players carried over into the 21st century and still dominated.

While the Braves have yet to make a World Series since 2000, they still have had a good run of making the postseason and doing well in the East. Their nine playoff appearances are second most in the National League behind the Cardinals.

Bobby Cox led the club until 2010 with the likes of Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Andruw Jones and John Smoltz. These players made up a Braves core that rivaled the best.

Their lack of postseason success is what keeps them from moving up the rankings. However, they are showing signs of improving as they have proven to be a team that will fight with the best of them.

6. Los Angeles Dodgers

Win-Loss: 1,540-1,303 (.541)= 237 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 8= 80 points

Division Titles: 8= 80 points

League Champions: 0= 0 points

World Series Champions: 0= 0 points

Consistency: 2013-2016= 30 points

Total= 427 points

best mlb teams 21st century

Kershaw is making a case to be one of the greatest pitchers of all-time (Baseball Essential)

The Dodgers have had a similar story to the Braves. They have managed to have regular season success and have been reaching the playoffs, however they have trouble getting past the league championship. It is still surprising to see them this high on the list, but that goes to show just how good they have been in the regular season as opposed to the postseason.

Clayton Kershaw already seems to be able to get into the Hall-of-Fame before reaching the age of 30. However, he has been part of the problem in the postseason. Kershaw is 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA in 14 starts in postseason play.

Especially with how much the Dodgers rely on him to be the ace that he is known to be, it is difficult for them to be able to make it very far in the playoffs.

This year may rewrite the script in terms of the Dodgers postseason woes. Their young lineup mixed with a spectacular pitching staff makes the Dodgers a force to be feared. If the article was to be written a year or two from now, the Dodgers may be moved up a couple spots on this list.

5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Win-Loss: 1,535-1,311 (.539)= 224 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 7= 70 points

Division Titles: 6= 60 points

League Champions: 1= 30 points

World Series Champions: 1= 50 points

Consistency: 2007-2009= 20 points

Total= 454 points

Since 2009 the Angels have only made the playoffs once. They were successful in the regular season leading up to that, but have not been able to reach the World Series since winning it in 2002.

Anaheim currently may have the best baseball player since Willie Mays in Mike Trout. However, they have not been able to do much with him on the team despite also signing Albert Pujols. The Pujols contract may be what is keeping them back though. The amount of money they have invested in him may prevent them from being able to resign Mike Trout when that time comes. These big contracts are showing why they don’t work since it is difficult to build a good team around these mega deals.

Even with some of the legendary players on the Angels it seems that their future is at an interesting juncture. I expect them to move down this list in a few years while others rise.

4. San Francisco Giants

Win-Loss: 1,496-1,345 (.526)= 151 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 7= 70 points

Division Titles: 4= 40 points

League Champions: 4= 120 points

World Series Champions: 3= 150 points

Consistency: No consecutive playoff appearances three years in a row= 0 points

Total= 531 points

The Giants managed to gain the reputation of winning the World Series only in even years, as they won in 2010, 2012 and 2014. They have not been as good of regualr season teams as others on this list. San Francisco has only one four division titles since 2000 which is low compared to others on this list. However, there may not be much debate in saying they have had the most playoff success out of all these teams.

One of the biggest names for San Francisco since the turn of the century is Barry Bonds, who even though is tainted by the steroid era could still be one of the best hitters of all time. Much of their success has come from their pitching staff though. Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, and at one time Tim Lincecum have all been big contributes to the Giants success in the playoffs. Overall though, during their stretch of winning championships they were able to work well as a team. There were not a whole lot of big names outside of Bumgarner or Posey, but they had a supporting cast that did what they had to do and took them all the way.

Things are different this year. The Giants are currently in the midst of one of their worst years in the history of their franchise. Which is really saying a lot seeing as they are one of the oldest organizations in baseball. It is hard to see what is in store in the future for the Giants, but knowing them they will find away to make it back to the playoffs soon.

3. Boston Red Sox

Win-Loss: 1,557-1,285 (.547)= 272 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 8= 80 points

Division Titles: 3= 30 points

League Champions: 3= 90 points

World Series Champions: 3= 150 points

Consistency: 2003-2005, 2007-2009= 40 points

best mlb teams 21st century

Boston broke their World Series drought by sweeping St. Louis in 2004 (Boston Globe)

Total: 662 points

In 2004 the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. Since then, they have won another two championships. They also had perhaps the greatest comeback in playoff history, coming back from 3-0 against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.

The Red Sox have also been playing in the toughest division in baseball since 2000. If you look at their division titles they only have three, which is as many World Series wins they have. This is largely because of who they have been competing with, rather than their lack of ability to perform in the regular season. It is odd to see the third place team on this list only with three AL East titles but it is the way the game goes.

Boston has had some stellar hitters including David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. They also have had some of the greatest pitchers of all-time in Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. Their success can also be largely attributed to the supporting cast of their team. Players like Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury are the less well known players on these teams that are able to have a significant impact.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Win-Loss: 1,593-1,248 (.560)= 345 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 12= 120 points

Division Titles: 9= 90 points

League Champions: 4= 40 points

World Series Champions: 2= 100 points

Consistency: 2000-2002, 2004-2006, 2011-2015= 80 points

Total= 775 points

The Cardinals have been called the Yankees of the National League. Since 2000, they have been one of the most consistently great organizations in baseball. This is because they have had a great mix of star performers and supporting players.

best mlb teams 21st century

Known as “MV3”, this legendary trio led the Cardinals to be one of the best teams of the 21st century (InsideSTL)

Albert Pujols came from the Cardinals system and had the best 10 year start to career in the history of the game. After he left the Cardinals in 2011, they have yet to figure out a way to fill the void that Pujols left in 2013. Despite the fact that they made it to the World Series in 2013, they have still been missing that spark in the lineup. Yadier Molina has been the best catcher since Ivan Rodriguez and is also a product of the Cardinals’ farm system, however he was never entrenched at the three spot in the lineup quite like Pujols was. Pujols provided the intimidation factor that has been missing and may contribute to why the Cardinals are struggling in 2017.

The 2004 Cardinals won a monstrous 105 games. This is largely thanks to the stellar middle of their lineup in Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen. There hasn’t quite been a trio as good as them for a long time. Each one of them was the full package with offense as well as defense. They are a big reason why the Cardinals were so successful from 2004-2006.

With the combination of Hall of Fame managing in Tony La Russa as well as great upper management, the Cardinals have some of the best sustained success since the turn of the century.

1. New York Yankees

Win-Loss: 1,637-1,199 (.577)= 438 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 13= 130 points

Division Titles: 10= 100 points

League Champions: 4= 120 points

World Series Champions: 2= 100 points

Consistency: 2000-2007, 2009-2012 = 100 points

Total= 988 points

best mlb teams 21st century

Not many would debate Derek Jeter being the face of the Yankees success (MLB)

The Yankees had a reputation for a long time for spending big money to get the best players in baseball. They did this with Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texiera, and C.C Sabathia. However, that culture has been starting to get phased out and New York has been growing their own players in their farm system. The best example of this is Aaron Judge who is busting onto the scene and may be one of the greatest rookies ever. Other homegrown players such as Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and Bernie Williams made a big impact this century as well. I haven’t even mentioned that the best closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, racked up more saves than anyone during this time and came from the Yankees system.

Just by naming all of these players who have played in New York tells the story of how successful they have been. They have won 2 World Series titles since the turn of the century, which is low for them considering they have won 27 all together. Their heated rivals, the Red Sox, have won more championships since 2000. However, the Yankees continued success coupled with their excellent ability to get top-notch players in a variety of ways, makes them the best franchise of the 21st century…so far.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Fredi Gonzalez Fired as Braves Manager

It felt inevitable with the way things had been going that Fredi Gonzalez wouldn’t last much longer in a Braves uniform. Atlanta was just 9-28 when they decided to release their manager of five-plus years. Gonzalez sported a 434-413 record in his time with the Braves, as well as leading the team to two postseason appearances in 2012 and 2013.

With the way things have gone for Atlanta over the past two seasons, I don’t think it’s a great surprise to anybody to see Gonzalez relieved of his duties. His situation in Atlanta certainly hasn’t been ideal, but Gonzalez knows as well as anybody that it’s a tough life for baseball managers, and moves like this can occur at any time during a season like this.

It’s hard to gauge exactly why the Braves chose this moment to release Gonzalez, as that would require a much greater understanding of internal factors within the Braves organization that an outsider simply doesn’t have. Gonzalez, who was made aware of his firing Monday night when his flight itinerary showed him returning from Pittsburgh on Tuesday despite the team’s series lasting through Thursday, has been the sacrificial lamb for the Braves over the past few years. He’s seen his organization trade away established veterans (Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel) as well as some up and coming studs (Andrelton Simmons, Shelby Miller) in the hopes of establishing the bulk of a team by the time the Braves move to SunTrust Park next season.

Despite his lack of star power, Gonzalez had nothing but praise for the 2016 Braves roster when he spoke to the Atlanta Journal Constitution following his firing:

“I will tell you this, through all this stuff, my team played hard. They busted their asses. They had to answer questions that they shouldn’t have to answer about the manager, and per man they all handled it with class, and they played their asses off.”

The Braves are near the bottom of the MLB in nearly every single statistic in 2016. The Braves have scored just 123 runs through their first 38 games, and have just 13 home runs on the year, 17 homers below the next closest team in Philadelphia. On the pitching side of things, a staff ERA of 4.70 is 25th in the Majors.

Brian Snitker was named Atlanta’s interim manager on Tuesday. Image courtesy of alchetron.com

So from here the question is, what happens now in Atlanta? The Braves have promoted Triple-A manager, Brian Snitker, to interim manager for the foreseeable future. It wouldn’t make sense to me for the Braves to make a major hire before 2017, as Snitker at least has some past experience with Atlanta, serving as bullpen coach in 1985 and from 1988-1990. Snitker’s 2016 debut was inauspicious to say the least, as starter Aaron Blair surrendered seven runs in the first inning against the Pirates on Tuesday. According to ESPN, Snitker is the first manager in 68 years, since Joe Kuhel with the Washington Senators, to have a debut that poor.

The good news about Snitker’s debut is that Mallex Smith had two home runs on Tuesday night. Smith is just the second Brave to record multiple homers on the season, now with three. As the former Triple-A manager, Snitker has already worked with several of the young arms that Atlanta is now working with in the rotation. This could help the players, most of which are still learning the ropes at the big league level, be a little bit more comfortable in their still new environment.

Snitker is not the Braves endgame at manager however, so the question remains who Atlanta will attempt to bring in to fill the void at the position. Chipper Jones is a name that Atlanta fans have certainly been discussing. While it would be a dream come true to have the former Braves legend third baseman return to the diamond, Jones has already allegedly, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, stated he is not interested in being the next Braves manager. I think Jones would not be the wisest move, anyways. Despite the huge publicity it would get with the Atlanta faithful, Jones has no former managerial experience and is working with a team full of young and developing talent that would benefit greatly from having a long-time manager at the helm.

Bud Black is one potential managerial candidate for the Braves in 2017. Image courtesy of timesofsandiego.com

Two men with plenty of managerial experience would be Bud Black and Ron Gardenhire. Black, who was formerly a manager with the Padres, is a name who has come up often, as he is know for being a strong developer of pitching. Black was in the mix for Washington’s manager vacancy this offseason, but the Nationals eventually decided on Dusty Baker. The biggest problem the Braves would have pulling one of these more experienced managers is their apparent lack of a timetable on when they think they can start competing again. Black and Gardenhire probably wouldn’t want to come in and develop a young team when they could instead wind up on a team with potential to make a playoff run then and there.

So, the Braves may have to look for someone lower on the radar. One name who has come up, and even received a vote of confidence from Chipper Jones on the matter, is former player Mark DeRosa. DeRosa was a utility player for a number of different teams. While he doesn’t have past managerial experience, he seems more open to the possibility than Jones on the job and, due to having no other past experience as a manager, may be willing to take on a young and developing team.

It’s hard tell at this point who the Braves are planning to have at the helm in 2017, but it will have to be a guy who is willing to work with a young team and help them develop into a contending ball club. Atlanta will also have the new SunTrust Park in 2017. Combine that with a brand new manager and the hype surrounding the Braves coming into the 2017 season could be very real, especially if they’re able to mature quickly and put up a season similar to Philadelphia this year. For now, however, the Braves just have to scrape on and see how far Brian Snitker can take them.

Information from ESPN.com was used in this report.

Adrian Beltre: Future Hall of Famer

adrian-beltre-onlineathens

Photo Courtesy of OnlineAthens.com

Adrian Beltre is a future Hall of Famer who does not get the credit or recognition that he deserves.

Discussions of the best hitters of the past two decades often see Beltre left out of the picture. Someone who is good, but, not good enough to be mentioned with other elite hitters of the 21st century.

Since debuting for the Los Angeles Dodgers at the ripe age of 19 in 1998, Beltre has been one of the best players in all of baseball.

He has racked up 2,767 career hits, well on his way to becoming a member of the 3,000 hit club. The only two players to join the 3,000 hit club that have not been elected to the Hall of Fame are Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro. Both of whom have been kept out of the Hall because of their own poor decisions, not because of their on-field credentials.

To go along with the possibility of 3,000 hits, he is also likely to top 500 career home runs. He needs only 32 more big fly’s to reach the 500 plateau. The only players to hit 500 HR’s not currently in the Hall of Fame are either accused/confirmed steroid users or not yet eligible for induction.

The only HOF eligible player to have both 3,000 hits and 500 HR’s that has not been inducted is the aforementioned Palmeiro.

Beltre is the best 3rd baseman of his era not named Chipper Jones or Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez’ career will always be looked upon with a dark shadow due to steroid use. Meanwhile Beltre has already surpassed Jones career hit total.

When discussing a player who debuted in 1998, and led the league in HR’s in 2004, it is impossible to not bring up the steroid discussion. Despite playing right in the middle of the steroid era, Beltre maintains a squeaky clean reputation.

The only claims against Beltre in the steroid department are a few naysayers that believe he had to have been using to hit 48 home runs in 2004. This anomaly of a season in the power department can be more reasonably attributed to a HR/FB ratio of 23.3%, which is much higher than his career total of 13.4%.

His clean name makes him an even stronger candidate for the HOF. In an era where steroid allegations ran rampant, it appears as though Beltre was one of the good guys who stayed clean.

Beltre also plays the game with a smile on his face and a child-like enthusiasm. This certainly does not make his case for the HOF stronger, it just makes him more fun to watch.

Whether it be arguing with Elvis Andrus about who catches a pop up, playfully calling for time out at 3rd base, or getting agitated when someone touches his bald head, Beltre’s love of the game is contagious.

Despite his impressive resume, Beltre has always seemed to fly under the radar. He has only been an All-Star 4 times in his 18 year Major League Career. He has also won 4 Gold Gloves.

When talking about the great hitters of his era, Beltre’s name is unfairly left out. He is treated as an afterthought, someone who is pretty good, but, not elite.

This is far from the truth. Beltre’s longevity, consistency, and talent put him in an elite class in Major League history.

An elite enough class that Beltre will rightfully have a plague in Cooperstown someday. Finally putting him in the discussion he belongs to be in.

The Atlanta Braves Era Continues with Chipper Jones

Courtesy of, bleacherreport.com

Courtesy of, bleacherreport.com

Sometimes darkness can gloom over a sport organization that can weaken the hearts of those belonging to that organization. However, that same darkness can unite an organization that supplies the strengths of perseverance to continue the desires, dreams, and aspirations of what once was. I would like to give my dearest sympathies to the family and friends of Robert Walter “Bobby” Dews and the Atlanta Braves organization, whom have lost a legend who not only spent the last 35 consecutive seasons with the Atlanta Braves, but an additional 14 years spent as a coach on a major league. He helped establish some of the most respected names in MLB’s franchise history.
Although words cannot describe Bobby Dews’ loss to the MLB organization, the strength of endearment that Bobby Dews provided to fuel the players to not only play their absolute best with the skills that they practiced to perfection for, but for the passion and love for the sport. To find an individual to fill Bobby’s shoes is easier said than done. After all, it takes more than skills, passion, and experience within the sport. It takes pure heart.
When I think of the Atlanta Braves, my initial thought is of Bobby Dews, but my second thought is of Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones Jr. After all, Chipper Jones, a well-known third baseman who spent his entire MLB career with the Atlanta Braves as well as a total of 23 years as a professional baseball player in the Atlanta Braves organization. As a notable switch hitter, he originally played shortstop, left field, and third base. The Atlanta Braves recently retired his number on June 28, 2013 and has offered him to continue his relationship with the Atlanta Braves by extending the special assistant to baseball operations to him.
Chipper Jones ended his career with a .304 career batting average with 468 home runs; 1,512 walks; and 1,623 RBI’s in 2,499 games with 8,984 at bats. He holds the current record for the most career RBI’s for a third baseman. As a switch hitter, he has reached a collection of milestones which have consisted of a .300 batting average; 400 or more home runs; amassed 5,000 at bats; had a batting average of .300; a .400 on-base percentage; and a .500 slugging percentage. These statistics are absolutely remarkable and are true accomplishments that were earned with hard work, dedication, and vast amounts of practice perfecting their skills. It is a well-known fact that Chipper Jones knows the strategies to successfully execute a baseball game. In addition to, his skills as a baseball player, his knowledge of the sport as well as his experience as a special assistant to baseball operations have only advanced his career within the Atlanta Braves organization.
Other than Bobby Dews, no one has more passion and love for the Atlanta Braves, the MLB, and the love of the sport, but Chipper Jones. It just makes sense to fill Bobby Dews shoes’ with Chipper Jones. I think Bobby Dews would have wanted it that way.