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.

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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

 

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MLB greatest seasons

A look back at some historic seasons in the MLB

Baseball has been around since the late 1800s, yet only a handful of players have put up numbers to qualify for the following lists. As we take a look at some of the top seasons in MLB history, we will also attempt to predict if any of the active players have a shot at making one of these lists in 2018.

.300 batting average, 50 Home runs, 50 doubles

MLB greatest seasons

Albert Belle is the only player to hit 50 home runs with 50 doubles in a season. (Photo from BestSportsPhotos)

Although this may come as a surprise to some, Albert Belle is the only player in MLB history to bat at least .300 with 50 home runs and 50 doubles. In 1995, despite playing just 143 games because of the previous year’s strike, Belle hit .317 with 50 home runs and 52 doubles, while also leading the American League in runs, home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases. Despite all that, he finished runner-up to Mo Vaughn for the AL MVP Award. It is assumed he lost this race because of his reputation, and most notably the 1994 bat burglary, in which Belle was caught using a corked bat.

Was anyone close? In 2001, Todd Helton was a home run shy of joining Belle on this exclusive list. In Lou Gehrig’s 1927 AL MVP season, he hit .373 with 47 home runs and 52 doubles. Both Derrek Lee (2005) and Albert Pujols (2004) were four home runs away.

Nolan Arenado has the best shot out of all active players to join this list. Like Helton, Arenado is at an advantage by playing 81 games at Coors Field. Over the last three seasons, Arenado is averaging 40 doubles and 40 home runs. He hit a career-best .309 last year, and is only 26 years old.

30 Home runs, 20 triples

Only three players in MLB history posted a season with at least 30 home runs and 20 triples. The first player to do this was 1928 NL MVP, Jim Bottomley with 31 home runs and 20 triples. 29 years later in 1957, Willie Mays hit 35 home runs and 20 triples. 50 years later in 2007, Jimmy Rollins joined these two, and like Bottomley, was named NL MVP.

Less than 120 players have ever hit 20 triples in a season, so you can see why only three players made this list. In 2007, Curtis Granderson hit 23 triples, but clubbed only 23 long balls. If I was a betting man, I would guess that no active players will ever reach this milestone. It is not because these players are not talented, but because the triple is vanishing. In 1921, with only 16 MLB teams, 1,364 triples were hit. By 1950, that number was down to 793, and just 795 were hit in 2017.

Teams are not utilizing speed like they used to, and more players are swinging for the fences than ever before. In 2017, the Toronto Blue Jays hit just five triples, the fewest by a team in MLB history. Will we ever see a fourth member on this list?

200 hits, 30 Home runs, 30 Stolen bases

This is a far more common list. In the history of the sport, we have seen eight players post a season with at least 200 hits, 30 home runs and 30 steals. Below is the eight players sorted by year.

Hank Aaron, 1963

Ellis Burks, 1996

Larry Walker, 1997

Alex Rodriguez, 1998

Alfonso Soriano, 2002

Vladimir Guerrero, 2002

Jimmy Rollins, 2007

Jacoby Ellsbury, 2011

The best season among these eight men had to be Larry Walker’s in 1997. The NL MVP that year, Walker smacked 49 home runs and batted .366 with his 33 steals. Historically, this was one of the greatest offensive seasons we have ever seen. The only other player to hit at least .365 with 49 home runs, an OBP greater than .450, and a SLG of at least .710 was Babe Ruth. However, Alex Rodriguez, in 1998, became one of four players to ever post a season with 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases, so you could make an argument.

MLB greatest seasons

Will one of these men join this coveted list? (Photo from USA Today)

This list is a good mix of players with speed, power and durability. You cannot miss too many games if you expect to get 200 hits in a season while hitting at least 30 bombs. All of these studs played in at least 153 games.

Last year, Charlie Blackmon had 213 hits, including 37 home runs, but stole just 14 bags. The 2017 AL MVP, Jose Altuve, had 204 hits and stole 32 bags, but needed six more home runs to join this club. With that said, Altuve has a very good shot in 2018.

Mike Trout, arguably the game’s best player, is averaging 33 home runs and 27 steals over his last six seasons. His highest hit total was 190, which came in 2013.

At some point in the near future, Trout or Altuve will be added to this list. A dark horse to put up these numbers is Ronald Acuna. One of the top prospects in the game, Acuna had 181 hits with 21 home runs and 44 steals in 139 games in the minors.

250 Strikeouts, 250 ERA+

Pitching seasons are tough since the game has changed so much, but we had to throw in at least one. In the history of the sport, only two pitchers have posted a season with at least 250 strikeouts and a 250 ERA+. Those two men are Hall of Famers Bob Gibson (1968) and Pedro Martinez (2000).

Walter Johnson was very close in joining this list, and would have been the first to do so. In 1913, Johnson had an ERA+ of 259, but had 243 strikeouts.

In 1999, Pedro Martinez struck out 313 batters, but his ERA+ was 243. Since 2009, only three pitchers, Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta and Corey Kluber have posted a season with at least 200 strikeouts and a 200 ERA+. Kluber has the best shot to join Gibson and Martinez, but like the 30 home run, 20 triple club, we may never see this again.

 

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Mike Trout Hall of Fame

Would Mike Trout make the Hall of Fame if he retired today?

What if?

Luckily for baseball fans around the world, the 26-year-old from Millville, New Jersey is not planning on hanging up the cleats anytime soon. However, the two-time AL MVP and six-time All-Star has been so elite that if he were to go buy a farm and ride out into the sunset, he would have a legit Hall of Fame case. Let’s take a quick stroll through the illustrious start to Mike Trout’s career.

With the 25th pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, the Angels, who received this compensation pick from the New York Yankees for their signing of Mark Teixeira, selected “The Millville Meteor.”

Here is a look at Trout’s scouting report on MLB.com.

Hitting ability: Trout is a good looking offensive player who just started switch-hitting, but not in games. He is doing it with wood in BP for scouts. He does need some work with his overall approach.

Power: He should have future average power and has shown some more pop this season.

Running speed: Has plus speed and glides on the bases once he gets going, though he’s also got first-step explosion.

Base running: Runs well and should steal some bases.

Arm strength: As a pitcher, he’s touched 90 mph from the mound, so there’s arm strength there, though it’s been hard to get a read on it from the outfield.

Fielding: Is a good center fielder defensively.

Range: His speed allows him to cover plenty of ground.

Physical description: Trout doesn’t look like your typical center fielder and has more of a college running back or safety type build.

Medical update: Healthy.

Strengths: Speed, athleticism, some ability and upside with the bat.

Weaknesses: Still a bit crude at the plate; some teams may not look at him and see him as an everyday Major League center fielder.

Summary: Trout is a toolsy high school center fielder who was gaining momentum as the weather in the Northeast warmed up. He looks more like a football safety — his position in high school — than a center fielder, but has the tools to play there with plus speed. He just started switch-hitting to enhance his offensive value, and with some changes to his approach at the plate should hit for some power down the line. There is some rawness with the bat, but he has the kind of upside many teams look for in a high school position player, and was moving into first-round conversations as a result.

The Beginning

Mike Trout Hall of Fame

2012 AL Rookie of the Year winner (Photo from Pinterest.com)

Let’s look back at Trout’s first year as a full-time starter. After struggling a tad in 40 MLB games during his 2011 campaign, Trout was forced to start 2012 with the Salt Lake Bees of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. The Angels pulled up Trout to take over for Bobby Abreu, who was hitting .208 at the time, and the rest is history.

Trout went on to have the highest rookie season WAR (10.8) in the history of baseball. He was the first position player since Barry Bonds in 2004 who had a WAR above 10.0.

Trout hit .326 with 30 home runs, stole 49 bases and led the league with 129 runs. This was all done in just 139 games. 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. He was the youngest player to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Had Miguel Cabrera not have won the triple crown, Trout would have locked up MVP.

PLAYERS WITH A WAR OF 10.75 OR BETTER IN A SEASON

BABE RUTH

BARRY BONDS

WILLIE MAYS

ROGERS HORNSBY

MICKEY MANTLE

CAL RIPKEN

JOE MORGAN

CARL YASTRZEMSKI

STAN MUSIAL

TED WILLIAMS

MIKE TROUT

LOU GEHRIG

TY COBB

HONUS WAGNER

2013 was more of the same for Trout. After a slow start, hitting just .261 with two home runs in April, Trout finished at .323 with 27 home runs and 33 steals. Again, his 9.3 WAR was highest in baseball. Despite his outstanding season, Miguel Cabrera was named AL MVP for the second year in a row, while Trout was runner-up.

Two MVPs in three seasons

In 2014, Trout finally got over the hump and secured his first AL MVP trophy. He hit .287 with 36 home runs and led the league in runs and RBIs. In the following season, Trout hit .299 with 41 home runs and led the league in slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+. Trout has led in OPS+ for the last three seasons.

2016 was MVP season No. 2. Just another .315, 29 home runs, 123 runs and 116 walks. Oh, and last season, despite getting hurt and playing in just 114 games, Trout joined Barry Bonds (1993) as the only players to have a season with at least 33 home runs, 20 steals, slugging percentage of .629 and an OPS+ of 187.

Mike Trout Hall of Fame

MVP SZN (Photo from SB Nation)

Trout 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. Trout is currently tied for eighth all-time in seasons with 10 WAR or better.

He is one of nine players to have multiple seasons of 10.45 WAR or higher. That list includes Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Carl Yastrzemski and Rogers Hornsby. Trout is one of 25 players to win multiple MVPs.

“The Millville Meteor” already has five seasons of 27 doubles, 100 runs, .285 batting average and an OPS above 167. That is the same amount of seasons as Hank Aaron and Tris Speaker and more than Hank Greenberg, Mel Ott, Honus Wagner, Carl Yastrzemski and Frank Robinson. Along the way, he has also picked up two All-Star MVP Awards.

His 55.2 career WAR would rank 82nd out of 173 Hall of Fame position players. If he retired today, Trout would be one of eight players with at least a .305 batting average, .976 OPS, .566 SLG and .410 OBP. That list includes Babe Ruth, Manny Ramirez, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg and Rogers Hornsby.

Here are four tables to exemplify how extraordinary this guy has been.

TROUT DATA

NUMBER OF SEASONS WITH BA>= .305, HR>= 25, SB>= 22, OPS+>= 168

PLAYER NUMBER OF SEASONS
MIKE TROUT 4
BARRY BONDS 4
WILLIE MAYS 2
ALEX RODRIGUEZ AND NINE OTHERS 1

 

NUMBER OF SEASONS WITH HR>=25, BA>=.285, OPS>=.935 and OPS+>=168

PLAYER NUMBER OF SEASONS
BABE RUTH 14
BARRY BONDS 13
TED WILLIAMS 11
LOU GEHRIG 10
ALBERT PUJOLS 7
MICKEY MANTLE 7
JIMMIE FOXX 7
MIKE TROUT 6
FRANK THOMAS 6
HANK AARON 6
WILLIE MAYS 6
MEL OTT 6
STAN MUSIAL 5
ROGERS HORNSBY 5

 

NUMBER OF SEASONS WITH HR>=25, SB>= 20, BA>= 300, BB>= 90

PLAYER NUMBER OF SEASONS
BARRY BONDS 5
MIKE TROUT 3
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 2
BOBBY ABREU 2
JEFF BAGWELL 2
CHIPPER JONES AND EIGHT OTHERS 1

 

PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST A .305 BA, 200 HOME RUNS, 165 STEALS AND .370 OBP
HANK AARON
VLADIMIR GUERRERO
LARRY WALKER
DEREK JETER
GOOSE GOSLIN
MIKE TROUT

Would you vote him in?

 

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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.

 

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World Series baseball fans need

The World Series baseball fans need

The Houston Astros are off to a blistering start taking the opening two-game leg of their Division Series with Boston, winning both games in lopsided fashion 8-2. The Washington Nationals however, find themselves on the ropes early against the Cubs. Of the teams left in this year’s postseason, only Washington and Houston have never brought home a World Series title. This is the World Series baseball fans need.

Why not the Indians

The Indians are a popular pick this year to take home the hardware. After last night’s 13th inning emotional 9-8 win in which the Indians surged back from six runs down, it’s hard to argue they won’t win it all. At least for the moment, they look unbreakable.

world series

Tris Speaker hit 792 career two-baggers, still the most in MLB history. (Photo courtesy of: Charles Conlon / National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

While it is true the Indians have a longer drought of championship seasons than both Houston and Washington,the fans in Cleveland still have Bob Feller and the 1948 series. They still have the glory of 1920 when player/manager Tris Speaker, all-time doubles champ, guided the Indians to the title. Behind Speaker’s steady hand, the Indians beat Brooklyn five games to two in a best of nine series.

Cleveland experienced the bitter taste of Game 7 defeat in last year’s World Series against Chicago. What’s more is that it happened on home soil. Ouch. The Indians came oh so close coming off the deck from three runs down and pushing the game into extra’s. It turned out only a tease however, as the Cleveland faithful watched Chicago exorcise that billy-goat voodoo that had kept them down for so long.

The novelty of an Indians World Series resonates with many, but this year we have real chance at seeing something none of us has ever seen. A World Series title in a city that’s never had one. Cleveland has had three shots at the title since 1995, let’s see someone else give it a go.

Why not the Yankees

No.

Futility in Washington… or is it Montreal?

Not wanting to put the horse before the carriage, there is still a long road to travel for both Washington and Houston. Reaching that promised land of World Series glory takes a focus and commitment that few realize. On top of that, it can take an incredibly long time to get there.

And some, like Washington, are still waiting to make their first appearance.

The Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, have more combined city swaps and name changes than they do World Series appearances. They’ve never been there a single time in 48 years of existence, though they were close once.

world series baseball fans need

Gary Carter and some his 1981 Expos teammates pose for a photo prior to first pitch. (Photo courtesy of: ESPN)

In 1981 the Expos lost a best-of-five NLCS. Due to the lockout occurring during the middle of the season, the playoff format was restructured. What sprang out of it were the first League Division Series’ in MLB history. All credit to Montreal, they dispatched the Phillies in five games.

This led to their first ever appearance in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It might seem unusual to us now, but until 1985 the League Championship Series were only best-of-five. Montreal lost in that 1981 NLCS series deciding Game 5 by a score of 2-1. Their hopes dashed by a ninth inning blast off the bat of Rick Monday.

The Nationals’ fortunes have been changing lately however. It’s amazing what a stable full of pitchers who are capable of winning a Cy Young Award will do for your hopes of taking home a championship. Washington’s nasty mixture of starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer make up a doomsday rotation that uses opposing bats to build a funeral pyre.

The Nationals can hit the lights out too. They are led by the exceptional Bryce Harper and a resurgent Ryan Zimmerman. Sprinkle in a few good breaks on the diamond and Washington might be cooking up some championship stew in 2017.

Houston Strong

Houston has been through a lot this year and that’s putting it lightly. A World Series win would be a welcome distraction from all that has happened, if only for a brief period. It would right the wrong of 2005, when the White Sox were hoisting the trophy before Houston even realized the series was on. The south-siders bounced them in four.

Houston has a spotty playoff history that seems to happen in waves, but this is undoubtedly the best grouping of players since the times of the Killer B’s.

world series baseball fans need

Sweet-swinging Jose Altuve won his third AL batting title this season hitting at a .346 clip. (Photo courtesy of: Baselinetimes.com)

Out is Jeff Bagwell, in is Jose Altuve. The 2017 edition of the Houston Astros is about as complete a team as you will see. If they do have an Achilles’ heel, it will be in the field. This season they rank number 24 of 30 teams in defensive efficiency. If defensive woes are going to be their undoing though, they certainly aren’t showing up right now. This team is playing like a team on a mission.

And it has been a long, hard, cruel road.

Consider this, Houston has had a franchise since their inception as the Colt .45’s in 1962. In the years since, they’ve been renamed as many times as they’ve appeared on baseball’s biggest stage; once. For those scoring at home, that’s 55 years without a title. That’s 55 years yielding only one World Series appearance. It’s time Houston, it’s time.

Should Houston and Cleveland match-up in the ALCS this year, the Indians will make the Astros earn it every step of the way. Unless you count the one-game wild card in 2013 as a sweep, you must go all the way back to 1954 to find the last, and only, time that Cleveland has ever been swept in any playoff series. That year, it was Willie Mays and the Giants who did the damage.

It would also be the first time since the Yankees battled the Royals for the AL pennant in 1977 that two 100+ win teams square off in the ALCS.

The World Series baseball fans need 

Washington versus Houston. Why is this the World Series we need? Because it’s something new. It’s something unique, and it’s something that’s never happened before. Heck, Washington hasn’t even been there before.

We need this World Series because of the match-ups it poses.

world series baseball fans need

Stephen Strasburg is planning a vacation to his favorite locale; Blew Bayou. (Photo courtesy of: AP / Mark J. Terrill)

Washington’s pitching versus Houston’s potent lineup is a story line just waiting to unfold. Who will win the day? Stephen Strasburg and his overpowering stuff? Or will it be the wily three-time American League batting champion, Jose Altuve finding the gap with the game on the line?

These two teams have unfinished business to attend to as well. In the regular season, Houston and Washington played a three-game set at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Washington took two of the three games, but both losses for Houston were one-run games that could have easily swung the other way. One was an 11 inning affair that slipped through Houston’s fingers in that final frame. Let’s have some more of that please.

An Astros versus Nationals World Series wouldn’t just be another sports novelty. It will be an epic World Series if it does indeed happen. So, if you’re on the fence, let this be your call to action to jump on either the Washington or Houston bandwagon. I’m sure both team’s fan-bases will be happy to have the extra hands on deck.

In a season that has offered us a lot of remarkable firsts, like rookies named Aaron Judge that hit 52 homers in a year. It would only be right to see another first for MLB. A new champion and “Leading City of Baseball” that has never before been crowned.

Let’s crown a champion that none of us has ever seen before in 2017. Let’s go you Astros! Let’s go you Nationals!

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: doin-work.com)

 

 

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