April 5, 2000
Doctoring The Numbers
Royals, Running and Reduction
The Best Young Offense Ever?
Despite their 64-97 record last season, the Kansas City Royals set a franchise record with 856 runs, and did so almost entirely with youngsters. Mike Sweeney, who turned 26 last July, was the senior member of a group that included Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, Rookie of the Year Carlos Beltran, Carlos Febles and Jeremy Giambi.
How impressive was that group? Combined, Royals hitters under the age of 26 (as of July 1, 1999) produced 523 runs, where "runs produced" is simply the average of runs scored and RBIs. This led baseball easily; the Montreal Expos were the only other team with more than 400 runs produced from their under-26 crowd, and most teams had fewer than 200.
Where does this rank historically? The top teams of the 20th century:
Year Team Runs Produced 1999 Kansas City 523 1942 Boston (AL) 521.5 1921 Philadelphia (AL) 516.5 1937 St. Louis (NL) 515.5 1928 New York (NL) 502.5 1929 New York (NL) 495 1935 Chicago (NL) 485 1962 Los Angeles (NL) 480.5 1930 Philadelphia (NL) 469 1929 Philadelphia (NL) 468 1979 Montreal 465That's right--the Royals had more production from hitters aged 25 and under than any team in history. Or at least since 1894, back when pitchers were still getting used to the idea of throwing 60 feet, 6 inches and the entire Phillies' outfield hit over .400.
The best young offense ever? I'm too biased to answer that question; I'm just supplying the data. But if the criteria are changed to include all hitters under age 27--the traditional peak year for a hitter--last year's Royals still rank ninth, and they have a chance to move up on that list this season.
When Eric Davis went just 5-for-9 in stolen base attempts last season, his career stolen base percentage slipped from 85.1% to 84.4%, just enough to let Tim Raines retire with the all-time record.
The six players in history who were successful on at least 83% of their attempts (minimum 200 stolen bases):
Player SB CS SB% Tim Raines 807 146 84.7 Eric Davis 347 64 84.4 Barry Larkin 345 65 84.1 Willie Wilson 668 134 83.3 Stan Javier 231 47 83.1 Davey Lopes 557 114 83.0Raines's reign may not last long; Tony Womack is currently at 87.0%, and with 194 steals, he should crash the party by the end of April.
The Incredible Shrinking ERA
Russ Springer broke in as a rookie with the California Angels in 1993 with a not-so-impressive 7.20 ERA. He improved the following year--he didn't have much choice--to a 5.52 ERA, and followed that up with ERAs of 5.29, 4.66, 4.23, 4.10 and, last season, a 3.42 ERA. That marked the sixth consecutive season he had improved his ERA. How rare is that? Take a look at this list:
ERA Player Years Start Finish Chief Bender 7 (1903-10) 3.07 1.58 Bill Dineen 6 (1898-04) 4.00 2.20 Ed Walsh 6 (1904-10) 2.60 1.27 Johnny Niggeling 6 (1938-44) 9.00 2.32 Sandy Koufax 6 (1958-64) 4.48 1.74 Claude Osteen 6 (1959-65) 7.05 2.79 Russ Springer 6 (1993-99) 7.20 3.42Keep in mind that this list includes all pitchers, regardless of whether they threw 200 innings or two. Some notable names, no? What's most impressive about Springer's achievement is that all six of the other pitchers turned the trick at a time when the baseball environment was turning towards the pitcher: the strike zone change after the 1962 season (and the move to Dodger Stadium), the use of dead balls (and the departure of most great players) during World War II, and the steady downturn in offense at the turn of the century. Springer has cut his ERA steadily in an era of ever-increasing offense, and his ERA last season is much higher than any of the other members of the list. This could make it easier for him to tie Chief Bender this season for the longest such streak in history.