Monday, January 21, 2013

The Under-.300 OBP / Over-.500 SLG Club

Recent Scott Hairston rumors have him deciding between the Braves, Phillies, Cubs, or either New York team any day now. I took a quick glimpse at his stats and thought "The under-.300 OBP and over-.500 SLG Scott Hairston posted last year's gotta be kinda rare." As you will see, this whole discussion/monlogue gets out of hand in a hurry. Although there's plenty of incoherent babbling below, I can savor the satisfaction of knowing that my man's intuition was right this time.

How rare is the under-.300 OBP/over-.500 SLG achievement?

According to Baseball-Reference, among seasons with at least 300 plate appearances, it is a relatively new phenomenon that has only happened eight times, and never happened before 1976.

The club's founding father was Dave Kingman of the 1976 Mets.

Player OBP SLG Year ▴ Tm
Dave Kingman .286 .506 1976 NYM
Jesse Barfield .296 .510 1983 TOR
Tony Armas .298 .514 1985 BOS
Cory Snyder .299 .500 1986 CLE
Tony Clark .299 .503 1996 DET
Marcus Thames .292 .516 2008 DET
Mike Jacobs .299 .514 2008 FLA
Scott Hairston .299 .504 2012 NYM
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/15/2013.

Fans knew Dave Kingman as a one dimensional player who could do little more than hit towering home runs.

Kingman's only trip to the postseason was his rookie year of 1971. That year, his San Francisco Giants only won 1 game in the best-of-five NLCS against Roberto Clemente's Pittsburgh Pirates. Kingman went just 1-for-9, with a single, a walk and 3 strikeouts, but he helped the Mets get to the postseason by hitting 37 home runs.

In 1976, Dave Kingman played in his first of three All-Star Games and received MVP votes for the second straight season - one of five seasons in which he would receive MVP votes.

Although Kingman's one dimensional production didn't often translate to victories, GM's dig the long ball. Over his 16-year career, Kingma hit 442 home runs but did little else of value on the field. According to Baseball-Reference, Kingman's career was 14.8 Wins Above Replacement, but a negative-6.5 Wins Above Average. He had 6 years of above average production and 10 years where he was below average.

In Dave Kingman's last season with the Mets, 1983, the Blue Jays' Jesse Barfield became the first player to join Dave Kingman in The -.300 OBP/+.500 SLG Club.

Barfield played eight-and-a-half seasons for the Blue Jays and three-and-a-half for the Yankees to make up his 12-year career, and was only 23-years old in 1983. Unlike Kingman, Barfield played good outfield defense and was a better hitter, with patience in the batters box. Comparing Jesse Barfield's Career bWAR and WAA stats with Dave Kingman's 14.8 and -6.5, respectively, Barfield shines with a 37.2 bWAR and 21.8 WAA.

The #4 Overall pick in the June 1984 Amateur Draft was Cory Snyder, the star shortstop from Brigham Young and the '84 US Olympic team. Like most #4 overall picks, Cory Snyder was an emerging star. He starred everywhere he played.

Cory Snyder was so talented. He went to BYU as a pitcher but hit a Home Run in his first three at bats. He made the All-Conference Team (WAC) in '82 and '83. He starred at Invitationals and the elite Summer Leagues of Cape Cod and Alaska, winning MVP and/or All-Star honors everywhere he went. A consensus All-American his Junior year, Cory Snyder set BYU career records in total bases and RBI, plus finished 2nd All-Time in NCAA Career Home Runs. We'll get to Snyder's pro career in a minute. First, we should recognize the contributions to our club from 1985.

Some of us remember Tony Armas as a powerful, pinch-hitting star on the "Bo" team in Nintendo's "R.B.I. Baseball". It was strange that this team was a representative of the 1986 Red Sox, but they gave Armas his home run total from 1984, when he lead the lead with 43. His OBP in '84 was .300 on the nose, so he delayed making our club until '85, when his .298 OBP coincided with a .514 SLG.

As an illustration of how these rare seasons happen, check out a few rate stats for Tony Armas in 1985, his career, and the league averages over his career:

Year Age SO% BB% XBH% X/H% SO/BB AB/HR IP%
1985 31 22.0% 4.4% 11.0% 44% 5.00 16.7 68%
14 Yrs 21.8% 4.7% 9.0% 38% 4.62 20.6 68%
MLB Averages 13.7% 8.5% 6.6% 29% 1.62 43.0 74%
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/19/2013.

The best case for playing time from Armas is that 1 out of every 9 plate appearances results in an extra base hit. 5-to-1 strikeout to walk ratios don't get your name written in the lineup very often, unless you can get just enough hits to be palatable and something like 44% of your hits are for extra bases.

When Cory Snyder made his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians on June 13, 1986, the team was surprisingly decent after losing 102 games the year before. They called him up and put him in right field to get his bat in the lineup.

Early in his career, Cory Snyder hit for great power. He hit 24, 33, and 26 home runs his first three seasons, even though he was in the minor leagues for the first two months of his rookie year, so it's basically 83 home runs in 2.6 years. How many people have hit at least 83 Home Runs in their first 3 MLB seasons? Eighteen. That's it. In the history of Baseball, only eighteen ballplayers have hit as many home runs in their first three seasons as Cory Snyder. For your reference, here is the Top 25:

Rk Player HR From To Age
1 Albert Pujols 114 2001 2003 21-23
2 Ralph Kiner 114 1946 1948 23-25
3 Eddie Mathews 112 1952 1954 20-22
4 Mark Teixeira 107 2003 2005 23-25
5 Joe DiMaggio 107 1936 1938 21-23
6 Ryan Braun 103 2007 2009 23-25
7 Frank Robinson 98 1956 1958 20-22
8 Chuck Klein 94 1928 1930 23-25
9 Giancarlo Stanton 93 2010 2012 20-22
10 Bob Horner 91 1978 1980 20-22
11 Ted Williams 91 1939 1941 20-22
12 Dan Uggla 90 2006 2008 26-28
13 Mark Reynolds 89 2007 2009 23-25
14 Mark McGwire 84 1986 1988 22-24
15 Tony Conigliaro 84 1964 1966 19-21
16 Cory Snyder 83 1986 1988 23-25
17 Joe Gordon 83 1938 1940 23-25
18 Bob Johnson 83 1933 1935 27-29
19 Evan Longoria 82 2008 2010 22-24
20 Ryan Howard 82 2004 2006 24-26
21 Pat Burrell 82 2000 2002 23-25
22 Darryl Strawberry 81 1983 1985 21-23
23 Prince Fielder 80 2005 2007 21-23
24 Pete Incaviglia 79 1986 1988 22-24
25 Eddie Murray 79 1977 1979 21-23
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/21/2013.

Not to get even more hopelessly off track, the group of people ahead of Cory Snyder tell their own fascinating stories. Of the 15 people who hit more homers than Snyder their first three seasons, we have...

Six Hall of Famers:
Ralph Kiner hit 294 Home Runs before
turning 30, but only 75 afterwards.

Six active players:

Three (Other):
Tony C.
Bob Horner

When Cory Snyder's body began to break down, he was never able to return to the levels of production he found in his early 20's. Unfortunately, Snyder was never a very good defensive player in the big leagues, and retired with some cringe-worthy numbers, like a .291 OBP and 992 strikeouts, compared with only 904 hits.

This is a great example of two phenomena ...
(1) The S.I. Curse and (2) God Hates Cleveland

Fast forward ten years, to 1996, and the club welcomes Tony Clark, also taking part in his first full season in the Big Leagues. As a 24-year old in 1996, Tony Clark played 100 games for the Detroit Tigers. This was not a good team. This was the team that lost 109 games. Their pitching staff, which included the likes of Felipe Lira, Greg Gohr, and Todd Van Poppel, combined for a 6.38 ERA. The 1,103 runs that pitching staff gave up is 175 more runs than the 2003 Tigers, who lost 119 games! Those 1,103 runs given up are also the 7th most all time and the most since 1930.

"Hi, I'm Tony Clark."
Unlike many of the other members of The under-.300 OBP/over-.500 SLG Club, Tony Clark learned to harness his patience at the plate rather quickly. After his .299 OBP in 1996, he followed up with OBP's of .376, .358, .361, .349, and .374 from 1997 through 2001.

In 2002, Marcus Thames made his Major League debut with the Yankees. In June of the following year, the Yankees traded him to Texas for Ruben Sierra. Texas must have regretted the move, somewhat, as they granted him free agency in October.

Marcus Thames signed with the Tigers in 2004 and spent the bulk of his career there in Motown. During the 2008 season, Thames made our group by clubbing 25 HR's while only reaching base safely a grand total of 100 times (76 hits, 24 walks, 0 HBP).

Marcus Thames celebrating after an RBI

Mike Jacobs had a good agent.
The same year Marcus Thames was crusading for our .299/.499 crew in the American League, Mike Jacobs was doing a similar job in the senior circuit. 1998 was the last time Mike Jacobs received 500 plate appearances in a season. He did not have a good season, as his sub-.300 OBP attests. The sadly unsurprising thing is that the Kansas City Royals gambled on him being an impact first baseman for them in 2009. He was not.

Mike Jacobs's ratio stats were even more heavily skewed to feast or famine than the Tony Armas numbers we saw above. 52% of Mike Jacobs's hits in 2008 went for extra bases.

Perhaps the sting of what Mike Jacobs did to the Royals, or the general lack of stardom from any of the eight players we've highlighted in this demented group, is what is keeping many General Managers away from Scott Hairston.

There's no reason to think that Hairston is a bad player, by any means. His defense is better than every single other person in the group. Plus, he is a bonafide situational right-handed hitter, who can hit well against lefties. His split OPS+, as a RHB vs LHP last season was 126, meaning he was 26% better than the average RHB vs a LHP. Over his career, he is a .276/.325/.500 hitter against left-handers. If used in the correct way, Scott Hairston can be one of the best 4th Outfielders in the game.

Who will it be? Mets? Yankees? Phillies? Cubs? Braves? Mystery team?

Stay tuned. We'll soon learn if he is going to be paid more or less.

Thanks for reading!

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