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June 4, 2014

Pebble Hunting

The Baseball Bloodlines Project

by Sam Miller


A word you’re going to hear during this week's draft is “bloodlines.” Nick Gordon will get drafted early in the first round, and noted will be his bloodlines—son of Tom, brother of Dee. Cobi Johnson will get drafted in the supplemental round, and noted will be his bloodlines—son of Dane, who you’ve never heard of, but still, bloodlines. If last year is a good guide, around 100 of the 1,200 players drafted will have been sired by pro ballplayers. (Many others will be brothers or nephews of pro ballplayers.)

That’s one way of doing the math. I wondered about the other way of doing the math: If you start with a ballplayer and make him mate, what are the chances his offspring will be drafted? I’ll warn you right now that the front end of this research took much longer than I anticipated, the result being that I’ve got a couple things to say that you can read in about 15 seconds, and then the article will be over. You’re warned.

I went back to 1978. I pulled up all of the major leaguers who appeared that season. I wanted something close to a random sample of them, so I sorted by plate appearances and selected every fifth name. Then I tried to find their kids.

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