You wouldn't think that Doug Mientkiewicz would have something in common with Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle. That's why we keep Steven Goldman around.
This is, of course, not the first time that a team has implemented an unskilled/skilled transition during the season with little advance notice or preparation. Some of these moves worked out quite well. In 1968, Detroit Tigers center fielder Mickey Stanley moved to shortstop so that Ray Oyler's .135/.213/.186 averages could take a well-deserved seat on the bench (baseball rule: all shortstops named "Ray" or "Rey" cannot hit), a move that led directly to a Tigers championship. In 1986, the Chicago White Sox relocated future Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, 38, to left field for reasons never explicated, probably because they were poorly understood (Ron Karkovice?). There were statues in the Louvre more mobile than Fisk and the experiment was officially abandoned soon after.
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It's been a couple of weeks since the 30th anniversary of Hank Aaron's historic 715th home run and the accompanying tributes, but Barry Bonds' exploits tend to keep the top of the all-time chart in the news. With homers in seven straight games and counting at this writing, Bonds has blown past Willie Mays at number three like the Say Hey Kid was standing still, which--
Baseball Prospectus' Dayn Perry penned an affectionate tribute to Aaron last week. In reviewing Hammerin' Hank's history, he notes that Aaron's superficially declining stats in 1968 (the Year of the Pitcher, not coincidentally) led him to consider retirement, but that historian Lee Allen reminded him of the milestones which lay ahead. Two years later, Aaron became the first black player to cross the 3,000 hit threshold, two months ahead of Mays. By then he was chasing 600 homers and climbing into some rarefied air among the top power hitters of all time.
Aaron produced plenty of late-career homer heroics after 1968. From ages 35 (1969) through 39, he smacked 203 dingers, and he added another 42 in his 40s, meaning that nearly a third of his homers (32.4 percent) came after age 35. The only batters other than Aaron to top 200 homers after 35 are Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro.
With all due kudos to Barry Bonds for passing Willie Mays on the all-time home run leaderboard, I'm hoping his efforts to fell Hank Aaron's mark of 755 come to grief. I'm not wishing injury upon Bonds, and this sentiment of mine is not borne of any animus toward Bonds himself. I'm gleefully untroubled by the steroids issue, and I'm also not one of these who levels his selective misanthropy at the modern ballplayer. I'm just someone who has a deep and abiding admiration for Hank Aaron, such that I want to see him cling to this record until we do a collective header back into the primordial soup whence we came.
I'm not wishing injury upon Bonds, and this sentiment of mine is not borne of any animus toward Bonds himself. I'm gleefully untroubled by the steroids issue, and I'm also not one of these who levels his selective misanthropy at the modern ballplayer. I'm just someone who has a deep and abiding admiration for Hank Aaron, such that I want to see him cling to this record until we do a collective header back into the primordial soup whence we came.
The Braves' bench looks ugly. The Dodgers make some nifty deals. The Mets inexplicably hand starting jobs to Tyler Yates and Scott Erickson. The Rangers unload Einar Diaz on the Expos. These and other happenings in today's Transaction Analysis.
Every March, there's some college basketball team that climbs on the back of some player and makes a run deep into the tournament. It happens nearly every year and probably always has, but it's burned into my memory with the Kansas Jayhawks' championship run behind Danny Manning. Now known as "Danny and the Miracles," Manning simply carried an inferior team to the top. Baseball has similar runs from time to time--Orel Hershiser's amazing run through the 1988 season comes to mind. But as the Giants essay in BP04 shows, General Manager Brian Sabean and Assistant General Manager Ned Colletti are expecting more from Barry Bonds, even as he becomes less likely to be able to deliver. Bonds' homers may defy gravity, but there's a point where his body will no longer be able to defy age.
Dr. Chris Yeager: I finished my Ph.D. at Southern Miss and my study was on the biomechanics of the baseball swing--specifically the effect of the stride and weight shift in the swing. Based on that and my research is where I draw my philosophy and conclusions on how force is produced in the baseball swing.
Dr. Chris Yeager is one of the brightest minds looking at the science of hitting. His scientific approach, based on the principles of physics, is detailed in a video he has made available. We spoke to him by phone from his home near the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
In today's article, I'll look at those two cases and the other system misses
from during the period 1946-1993, beginning with the times when a
non-candidate won, and then examining the years in which the tiebreaker's
prediction was wrong. Next week, I'll examine the recent MVPs, and describe
trends that may--or may not--change the criteria by which MVPs are decided
in the future.
In the past, I had believed that the system would not extend to the period
before divisional play in 1969, for three reasons. First, pitchers appear
eligible before 1969, but not after; second, voters might have treated
pennant winners differently than division winners; third, I had believed
(following comments by Bill James) that there was a period in which
up-the-middle players were favored by the voters more than seemed to be the
case after 1969.
It wasn't that long ago, really. In 1992, 30 homers would have placed a
hitter fourth in the National League. These days, a player could hit 30
home runs and never show up on the typical fan's radar. We're in the middle
of the biggest home run jump in baseball history. (Big news, to you all,
I'm sure. Tomorrow's feature: the Pope wears a skullcap!)
If the sportswriters of the future aren't careful, then hitters of the '90s
are going to be seriously overrepresented in the Hall of Fame, the same way
that hitters of the '20s and '30s are today. People looked at the gaudy
batting averages of the era (Freddy Lindstrom hit .379 in 1930! Ooooooh!)
and instinctively viewed then through the prism of their own era (a .379
average in 1976, when the Vets' committee inducted Lindstrom, would have
been 40 points higher than any major leaguer actually hit that year).