Five superstars off to tremendous starts in 2018

(All stats as of 4/24 10AM)

Early on in the 2018 MLB season, we have witnessed some historic performances, from some not so historic figures. Sean Manaea of the Oakland Athletics threw a no-hitter against the hottest offense in baseball, the Boston Red Sox. San Diego’s Christian Villanueva homered three times in an April victory over the Colorado Rockies, and is currently leading the league in SLG and OPS.

Ryan Flaherty, utility man for the Atlanta Braves, is slashing .339/.446/.468. Keep in mind, Flaherty is a lifetime .223 hitter. Nobody in baseball has more hits than Oakland’s Jed Lowrie. In four starts, Astros RHP Charlie Morton is 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA.

Still, a lot of the top superstars in today’s game are on pace for monster years. The sections below are comprised of five megastars who have started the season exactly how we expected, if not better. All five of these players have yet to turn 27, and, by the numbers, are all on pace for historic careers.

Mike Trout

Over the last seven days, Mike Trout is hitting .417 (10-for-24), with three steals, four runs, and five extra-base hits. Three of his five XBH are home runs, as Trout homered in three consecutive games, during the series with the San Francisco Giants. This brought his home run tally up to nine, which means he is on pace for 63 this season.

Currently, Trout leads the league in WAR, and home runs. The 26-year-old ranks fifth in XBH, seventh in SLG, steals, runs, and hits, and ninth in OPS. Obviously, Trout is a once-in-a-generation type of player, but if he retired today, he would have a legitimate case at making the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Just take a look at these facts.

Trout is on pace for 63 HRs. (SportingNews)

During his rookie season, Trout would go on to, statistically, have the highest WAR season by any rookie in the history of baseball. He was the first position player since Barry Bonds in 2004 who had a WAR above 10.0. He joined Albert Pujols, Hal Trosky, and Ted Williams, as the only rookies to hit 30 or more home runs with a batting average better than .325.

The kid from Millville, NJ has five seasons of at least 7.9 WAR. That is tied with Wade Boggs, Joe Morgan, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, and Mike Schmidt.  His six seasons of OWAR greater than 7 has him tied with Honus Wagner, and ahead of Frank Thomas, Wade Boggs, and Mel Ott to name a few.

# OF SEASONS REQUIRING BA>= .305, HR>= 25, SB>= 22, OPS+>= 168

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
MIKE TROUT 4
BARRY BONDS 4
WILLIE MAYS 2
AROD + NINE OTHERS 1

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts is the ringleader behind Boston’s incredible 17-4 start. Betts, who finished second behind Trout in the 2016 AL MVP voting, is making a strong case early on as the best player in the AL. The highlight of his season so far came against Trout’s Angels, as the 25-year-old Betts went 3-for-3 with three home runs, three runs scored, and a pair of walks. He already has eight multi-hit games, and has three leading-off the inning home runs.

Betts leads the league in batting average (.366), runs scored (23), doubles (8), and OPS (1.191). He also ranks fourth in SLG, fifth in OBP, and eighth in total bases. While his career is not as decorated as Trout’s, the Boston outfielder has a chance to go down as one of the greats.

# OF SEASONS WITH 18HR, 20SB, 402B, 160H (BEFORE TURNING 25)

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
MOOKIE BETTS 3
DAVID WRIGHT 2
HANLEY RAMIREZ 1
GRADY SIZEMORE 1
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 1
NOMAR GARCIAPARRA 1
ROBIN YOUNT 1
VADA PINSON 1

 

Bryce Harper

Baseball’s “Chosen One”, Bryce Harper has lived up to the expectations that were set for him as a teenager. Harper, who will be a free agent following the 2018 season, is in line to get the biggest contract in MLB history, if he stays healthy and has a big year. So far, Harper has an NL-leading 8 home runs, with 19 RBIs, 20 runs scored, and a .462 OBP. When the game is tied, Harper is hitting .412 (7-for-17), including four home runs.

PLAYERS, BEFORE TURNING 25, WHO HAVE HIT 150 HR, 500 RUNS, 1400 TOTAL BASES, 780 HITS

(In no particular order)

ALEX RODRIGUEZ
MEL OTT
JIMMIE FOXX
MICKEY MANTLE
KEN GRIFFEY JR
MIKE TROUT
FRANK ROBINSON
ALBERT PUJOLS
BRYCE HARPER

 

While his career has been affected by injuries, Harper is still on a Hall of Fame pace. Before he turned 25, he already had five seasons with 20HR, 20 doubles, and a .340 OBP. The only other players with five seasons mirroring that stat line, before turning 25-years-old, were Trout, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Orlando Cepeda, Frank Robinson, and Mel Ott.

Harper leads the NL with 8 home runs. (New York Post)

In 2015, at age 22, he became the youngest player in MLB history to post a season with 40 HR, .330 BA, .450 OBP, and .640 SLG. Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Jimmie Foxx, who held this record before, all accomplished this at the age of 24.

 

 

 

 

Manny Machado

Like Harper, Machado is 25-years-old and is also an impending free agent after this season. Over the past week, Machado hit .500 (12-for-24) with five home runs, seven runs scored, and eight RBIs. He, along with Manaea, were named AL Co-Players of the Week.

Overall, Machado is slashing .360/.447/.708 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs. He leads the league in OPS+ (218), and total bases. Now a full-time shortstop, Machado is very similar to a young Alex Rodriguez, without the steroids.  He and ARod are the only two players in MLB history who posted a season with at least 50 doubles before turning 21. In 2015, he joined Rodriguez as the youngest players in MLB history (both 22 at the time) to post a season with 35 home runs, 30 doubles, 20 steals, and a batting average north of .285.

Heading into the 2018 season, Machado had three seasons, before turning 25, with 30 home runs, 30 doubles, and 160 hits, which is tied with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Hal Trosky for second all-time. Albert Pujols had four such seasons before he turned 25.

PLAYERS, BEFORE TURNING 25, WITH H>=860, HR>=130, 2B>=170 AND TB>=1470
ALEX RODIGUEZ
MANNY MACHADO
MEL OTT
KEN GRIFFEY JR
MIKE TROUT

 

Aaron Judge

After hitting .179 during his first taste of the bigs in 2016, Judge went on to have, historically, one of the best rookie seasons of all-time. He set the rookie record in home runs with 52, passing Mark McGwire’s previous record of 49. His 8.1 WAR was the fourth best all-time for a rookie, behind Trout, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Dick Allen.

He became one of five players, joining Barry Bonds, McGwire, Babe Ruth, and Mickey Mantle, to post a season with 50 home runs, 120 runs scored, 120 walks, and 340 total bases. This year, Judge has picked up right where he left off, batting .325 with 20 runs scored and six home runs. He currently leads the league in walks (20) and OBP (.469). While it is too early on in his MLB career to compare him to some of the greats, Judge could very well go down as one of the top power hitters in the history of the sport.

Featured image by Newsday

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Ichiro Albert Pujols milestones

Milestones that Ichiro and Albert Pujols could reach in 2018

The winners of the 2001 AL and NL Rookie of the Year Awards, Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols, have had tremendous careers. Both are worthy of first-ballot nominations to the National Baseball Hall of Fame whenever they decide to hang up the cleats.

Ichiro, the 2001 AL MVP, 10-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger, 10-time Gold Glove Award winner and two-time batting champ is back in Seattle and is only 42 runs away from becoming the Mariners all-time leader in runs scored, passing Edgar Martinez. Pujols, a three-time MVP, 10-time All-Star, six-time Silver Slugger, two-time Gold Glove Award winner and former batting champ sits just 25 hits away from 3,000.

Below, we will examine some other possible milestones these two could reach in 2018, as well as what this means for their legacy, as all-time greats.

Ichiro

In 2016, Ichiro hit a triple off Colorado Rockies pitcher Chris Rusin, which marked his 3,000th career hit in the MLB. Currently, he sits just 27 hits away from 3,110, which would tie him for 21st all time with Dave Winfield. If Ichiro can string together 71 more hits, he would tie George Brett at 16th all time.

Ichiro Albert Pujols milestones

In 2004, Ichiro hit .372 with 262 hits and 36 steals, one of the best seasons we have ever seen. (Photo from SBNation)

If he was an everyday player, this would be like brushing his teeth. Unfortunately, Ichiro has not had more than 100 hits in a season since 2014. Because of injuries to Seattle’s outfield, Ichiro has gotten 16 at-bats in the team’s first five games. In all honesty, even with the lack of playing time, Ichiro’s chances at jumping Brett on the hits leaderboard look good.

3,987 is the amount of bases Ichiro has crossed during his 18-year career. If he crosses 12 more, and he will become the 90th man in MLB history to reach 4,000. He will accomplish that in the near future.

Although he had just one steal last season, Ichiro needs to swipe five more bags to tie Barry Bonds for 33rd all time. In 2016, he managed to steal 10 bases, so don’t sleep on the 44-year-old’s legs. He is also just four triples away from 100 on his career.

Barring a season-ending injury, Ichiro will most certainly reach 3,100 hits and 4,000 total bases. When Ichiro reaches these marks, he will join Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins and Paul Molitor as the only players in baseball history with 3,100 hits, 4,000 total bases, 500 or more steals and a career batting average above .305.

 

Ichiro’s Legacy

Even if he were to never play another game, Ichiro has already solidified himself as one of the best lead-off hitters this game has ever seen. He is one of four players to have won 10 Gold Glove Awards while compiling at least 3,000 hits. Joining him on this list is Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays and Al Kaline. In 2004, he became the only player in MLB history who posted a season with a batting average of at least .370 with 260 or more hits.

During his rookie season, in which he won the AL MVP, Ichiro joined Ty Cobb and George Sisler as the only three players with a season of at least 50 steals, .350 batting average and 240 hits. Below is a table to illustrate Ichiro’s greatness.

 NO. OF SEASONS WITH AT LEAST 200 HITS, .300 BATTING AVERAGE and 30 STOLEN BASES

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
ICHIRO SUZUKI 9
TY COBB 7
WILLIE KEELER 6
TONY GWYNN 4

 

Albert Pujols

As stated earlier, Pujols needs 25 more hits to reach the 3,000 milestone. Although he batted just .241 last year, “The Machine” compiled 143 hits. With that said, it is possible that he could reach the 3,115 mark, which would tie him for 20th all time with Alex Rodriguez. Pujols also needs just 15 home runs to tie Ken Griffey Jr. for sixth all time.

Ichiro Albert Pujols milestones

Three-time NL MVP, Albert Pujols (Photo from SBNation)

In three of the last four seasons, Pujols has driven in over 100 runs. Currently, he is just 79 RBIs shy from 2,000 for his career. The only players who have 2,000 RBIs under their belt are Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez and Cap Anson. That is quite the list.

The three-time MLB Player of the Year needs 23 more doubles to tie Honus Wagner for ninth all time. He is 57 runs shy of tying Paul Molitor for 20th on the all-time runs list. All of these milestones are easily reachable in 2018. Pujols could join Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez as the only players in baseball history with 3,000 career hits, 2,000 RBIs and 600 home runs.

 

Pujols’ Legacy

Statistically, this is one of the best MLB players we have ever seen. In each of the first 10 years of his career, Pujols hit at least .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. Hank Aaron is the only other player to hit at least 600 home runs with a career batting average of at least .300. Pujols, along with Lou Gehrig and Larry Walker, are the only players to post a season with at least 45 doubles, 45 home runs, .440 OBP, 1.100 OPS and 370 total bases.

Below are two tables which exemplify Pujols’ legacy and present a strong case for him as the best first baseman of all time.

 

NO. OF SEASONS WITH AT LEAST .300 BATTING AVERAGE, 30 HOME RUNS, 100 RBIS and 95 RUNS

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
BABE RUTH 12
ALBERT PUJOLS 10
LOU GEHRIG 10
BARRY BONDS 9
JIMMIE FOXX 9

 

PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST 2,900 hits, 1,700 RUNS, 5,400 TOTAL BASES, 600 HOME RUNS, .370 OBP (IN ORDER OF HIGHEST OBP)
BARRY BONDS
ALBERT PUJOLS
WILLIE MAYS
ALEX RODRIGUEZ
HANK AARON

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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Larry Walker Hall of Fame

Larry Walker by the numbers

One of the most complete baseball players of this generation, Larry Walker could do anything on a baseball field. He hit for average, winning the batting title three times. He hit for power with over 380 home runs. He was an outstanding fielder with seven Gold Glove Awards. He could even run the bases with 230 steals to his name.

Yet somehow, he has come up short on the Hall of Fame Ballot for seven straight years. Last year, Walker received just 21.9 percent of the vote, which is not very close to the 75 percent mark. Some may hate on the fact that his career was cut short due to injuries, or even the fact that his best years were played in Colorado, the most favorable hitting park in the MLB. But when it comes down to the numbers, Larry Walker is a Hall of Famer.

The Come-up

As a kid growing up in Canada, Larry Walker liked to play hockey more than he did baseball. Walker dreamed of becoming an NHL goalie and would always practice with his pal, Cam Neely. Some NHL fans may have heard of him. Since his high school did not have a baseball team, Walker would only play a few baseball games in the summer.

Larry Walker Hall of Fame

(Photo from The Trading Card Database)

At 16, Walker tried out for two Junior A hockey teams, but was cut from both. From this point on, baseball became his main focus. In fact, Walker can be credited for dramatically increasing the popularity of baseball in Canada. The shorter summers in Canada made it hard for Walker to get the experience he needed, but he clearly made it work.

Walker made this statement in an interview according to Society of American Baseball Research (SABR).

“I’d never seen a forkball, never seen a slider. I didn’t know they existed. I had never really seen a good curveball. In Canada, as a kid, we’d play 10 baseball games a year. 15 tops. Some pitchers had a thing they’d call a spinner, but nothing like this. Baseball just wasn’t big. The weather was against it. Nobody ever played baseball thinking about making the major leagues.”

Walker also was unfamiliar with a lot of the rules in baseball, further showing his lack of experience.

Although Walker went undrafted (Canadians were not yet eligible to be selected in the MLB draft), Montreal Expos scouting director, Jim Fanning, saw potential in him at 18 years old when Larry was playing for the Canadian team in the World Youth Championships in Saskatchewan. Fanning was in awe when Walker hit a home run with a wooden bat, mainly because all of the others players were using aluminum bats. He was signed as an amateur free agent to a contract worth $1,500, which is $3,457.9 in USD today.

Pro Ball

In his first spring training, Walker showed right away that he was not used to the pitching. He was looking for a fastball every time and would swing at basically anything. In the New York-Penn League, an independent league team made up of rookie league prospects who got cut, Walker hit .223 with two home runs in 62 games.

After this disastrous season, Walker was sent to the Florida Instructional League to develop his game. A tough, hardworking kid, Walker wound up becoming a top prospect in the Expos’ system. As a 19-year-old in A ball, Walker hit .288, with 33 home runs. The following season, in AA, he hit .287 with 26 home runs and stole 24 bases. He struck out over 120 times in both seasons, which wound up being something Walker never did in his 17-year MLB career.

After missing the 1988 season due to reconstructive knee surgery, Walker was sent to AAA, and it was clear he was ready for the show. For a kid who barely played baseball growing up, Walker ended up alright, hitting 380 home runs and making around $110,466,931 in the big leagues.

Numbers never lie

Larry Walker Hall of Fame

(Photo from SI)

Walker played for the Expos, Rockies and Cardinals. As an Expo, he had two seasons in which he finished in the top 15 in MVP voting. In 1994, during the strike season, Walker hit .322 with 19 home runs, a league-high 44 doubles, 86 RBIs and stole 15 bases in just 103 games. Had the season not been cut short, Walker was on pace to hit around 30 home runs, 69 doubles, 24 steals and 135 RBIs. In his six seasons in Montreal, Walker made one All-Star team and won two Gold Glove Awards and a Silver Slugger Award.

His best seasons were, by far, as a member of the Colorado Rockies. He made four of his five All-Star teams as a Rockie and was named the NL MVP in 1997. Among position players in 1997, Walker was clearly the best player in the league. He led the league in WAR at 9.8, and his stats were outlandish. In 153 games, Walker hit 49 home runs and batted .366 with a .452 OBP, a .720 SLG and a 1.172 OPS. He led the league in all of those categories except batting average, finishing second behind Tony Gwynn, who hit .372.

Players to have a season of BA>=.365, HR>=49, OBP>=.450 and SLG>=.710 YEAR(S)
BABE RUTH 1920, 1921
LARRY WALKER 1997

 

Players who had seasons of: BA>=.350, HR>=35, OBP>=.420 and SLG>=.600

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
BABE RUTH 8
LOU GEHRIG 5
LARRY WALKER 3
TED WILLIAMS 3
JIMMIE FOXX 3
ROGERS HORBSY 3
ALBERT PUJOLS 2
BARRY BONDS 2

Even in his later years as a member of the St Louis Cardinals for his 37 and 38-year-old seasons, Walker continued to find success. In 144 games with the Cardinals, Walker hit .286 with 26 home runs. In 2004, in his only World Series appearance, Walker hit .357 with two home runs and three RBIs.

 

Seasons in the Top 10 by Statistic

STAT NO. OF TOP-10 APPEARANCES
WAR 3 (1ST in 1997)
Batting Average 6 (1ST in 1998, 1999, 2001)
OBP 6 (1ST in 1997, 1999)
SLG 8 (1ST in 1997,1998)
HR 5 (1ST in 1997)
OBPS 8 (1ST in 1997, 1999)

Here are two tables to illustrate how amazing this guy was.

PLAYERS WHO, FOR THEIR CAREERS, HAD: BA>=.310, HR>=380, OBP>=.400 and 2B>=470
BABE RUTH
MANNY RAMIREZ
LARRY WALKER
TED WILLIAMS
LOU GEHRIG
STAN MUSIAL

 

PLAYERS WHO, FOR THEIR CAREERS, HAD: TB>=3900, OPS>=.965 and SLG>=.560
BARRY BONDS
BABE RUTH
MANNY RAMIREZ
JIMMIE FOXX
TED WILLIAMS
LOU GEHRIG
LARRY WALKER
JOE DIMAGGIO
ROGERS HORNSBY

 

Featured image by SI.com

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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.

 

Featured image from USA Today

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Vladimir Guerrero’s Hall of Fame Case

If anyone in baseball were to be considered must-see TV, it would be Vladimir Guerrero. The nine-time All-Star would swing at anything, yet somehow had a career batting average of .318. Growing up watching “SportsCenter”, I would constantly see highlights of Guerrero getting base hits off balls that bounced before reaching home plate. Vlad also had arguably one of the strongest arms this game has ever seen. If you somehow forgot, go to YouTube and watch him throw a ball 370 feet at Yankee Stadium.

Last year, his first time on the Hall of Fame ballot, Guerrero finished 15 votes shy of becoming the 53rd player inducted as a first ballot Hall of Famer. Luckily for Guerrero, history says this will be his year. Over the last 10 years, Roberto Alomar is the only player who reached at least 70 percent of the vote in his first year and was not elected the following year. For Alomar, the third time was the charm, receiving over 90 percent of the vote.

If Guerrero’s name is called in January, he will join Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez as the only players from the Dominican Republic to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet, after breaking down the numbers, it is mindboggling how Guerrero was not a first ballot selection. Let’s take a look back through his eminent career.

Started from the Bottom

Guerrero, one of five children, grew up dirt poor in the Dominican Republic.  He would constantly drink from puddles because the shack he lived in had no running water or electricity. The word “shack” is used because, after a hurricane blew the roof off, his seven family members had to share one room, with only two total beds. When his mother was three months pregnant with him, his father abandoned the family.

From puddles to Cooperstown? (AZ Quotes)

Guerrero was forced to stop going to school after fifth grade because he, according to Sports Illustrated, “missed so many classes while instead harvesting vegetables in the field.”

The lack of education was a main reason why Guerrero shied away from interviews during his career, as his English was not where it should have been.

As a teenager, Vlad drew interest from the Los Angeles Dodgers, who, according to Sports Illustrated, saw Guerrero as “a slow, fat player with a long swing.”

When Guerrero was invited to a try-out with the Montreal Expos in 1993, he “hitched a ride on the back of a friend’s motorcycle, showed up with a mismatched pair of spikes with a sock jammed into one that was too big,” according to Sports Illustrated. Ultimately, the former Expos scout, Fred Ferrera, signed Guerrero for $2,000.

Guerrero would go on to hit 449 home runs and make $125,541,455 in the MLB.

Numbers Never Lie

In his 16-year career, Guerrero was an eight-time Silver Slugger, nine-time All-Star and 2004 AL MVP. He is one of only three right fielders to have at least 2,500 hits, 400 home runs and a batting average over .300. Joining Guerrero on that list are Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Mel Ott.

Guerrero’s six seasons of at least 30 home runs, 30 doubles and a .300 average are the most among all qualified right fielders. Hank Aaron had five, and Mel Ott totaled three. The only players in MLB history with more than six seasons of .300/30/30 are Albert Pujols, Lou Gehrig, Miguel Cabrera and Jimmie Foxx.

PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST 1300 RUNS, 440 HR, .310 BA, 2580 HITS, 4500 TB

*= ACTIVE

BOLD= HOF

STAN MUSIAL
BABE RUTH
LOU GEHRIG
TED WILLIAMS
JIMMIE FOXX
MIGUEL CABRERA*
VLADIMIR GUERRERO

As a rookie for the Montreal Expos, Guerrero, in 325 at-bats, hit .302 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs. The following season, now a full-time starter, Guerrero hit .324/38/109. At just 23 years of age, Vlad was already one of the best hitters in the game. Over the next nine seasons, Guerrero made eight All-Star teams and was one of the best overall players in the league.

The 2004 AL MVP, Mr. Vladimir Guerrero (The Trentonian)

From 1998-2007, Guerrero ranked 10th in WAR, and was the highest right fielder on the list. Yes, for a 10-year stretch, Guerrero was the best right fielder in the game.

Guerrero’s average season from 1998-2008 was .325/34/111. Let’s emphasize that. For 11 years, Vladimir Guerrero gave you a .325 batting average, 34 home runs and 111 RBIs. Guerrero joined Lou Gehrig, Hank Aaron and Miguel Cabrera, as the only players from their third to 13th season who had 2000 hits, a .320 batting average, and 350 home runs.

He eventually became the best player on the Expos and then was the best on the Angels for his first few seasons as a member of the team. Before turning 30, he joined Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx and Albert Pujols, as the only players, aged 29 or younger, to hit .325 with 270 home runs.

His age 29 season turned out to be his MVP year, as Guerrero led the league in runs and bases while hitting .337/39/126. This would be one of seven seasons in which Vlad hit .300/30/100 with over 330 total bases. Obviously, RBIs are more of a team-based stat, but, nonetheless, here is a list of players, with their amount of seasons, in which they hit .300/30/100 and had at least 330 total bases.

SEASONS WITH .300/30/100 + 330 TB

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
BABE RUTH 10
ALBERT PUJOLS 9
LOU GEHRIG 8
VLADIMIR GUERRERO 7
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 7
HANK AARON 7
WILLIE MAYS 7
JIMMIE FOXX 7
TED WILLIAMS 6
STAN MUSIAL 5
BARRY BONDS 4

Later Years

Did he slow down after hitting age 30? Absolutely not. In fact, Guerrero is one of five players who, from age 30-35, to hit .310, 150 home runs, and had at least 1,000 hits. That list includes Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Dante Bichette and Babe Ruth.

The 35 Year-Old All-Star (Business Insider)

During his age 35 season, now with the Texas Rangers, Vladimir Guerrero made his ninth All-Star team. He would end the year .300/29/115. The only other players, aged 35 or older, who hit .300/29/110 with 175 hits are Babe Ruth, Andres Gallarraga, Edgar Martinez and Manny Ramirez.

Over the span of his career (1996-2011), Guerrero finished second in hits, fourth in RBIs, and third in intentional walks. He had 13 games in which he eclipsed four hits, three RBIs, and one home run. The only other players to have more than 13 games with these numbers are: Lou Gehrig, Miguel Cabrera, Al Simmons, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Dante Bichette, Dave Winfield, Manny Ramirez, Chuck Klein and Babe Ruth.

Seven of those men are Hall of Famers, one is still active and will be their eventually, and Manny, well, we will see this year how he gets treated.

All in all, Guerrero’s offensive numbers are out of this world. He is up there with the greats, and constantly performed even past his prime. As you can tell, he was absolutely snubbed last year. Using Bill James’s point system, the average Hall of Famer scores a 50. Guerrero is at 58. He finished with a higher WAR than guys like Willie Stargell, Hank Greenberg, and Tony Perez.

The fact that Guerrero was not a first ballot Hall of Famer is disappointing, but it will be awesome to see him get enshrined in January.

Featured image by SI.com

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