Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Obsessed with OPS?

1. Hank Greenberg - 1.121 (1938, Detroit Tigers)
2. Hank Greenberg - 1.104 (1937, Detroit Tigers)
3. Hank Greenberg - 1.103 (1940, Detroit Tigers)
4. Hank Greenberg - 1.042 (1939, Detroit Tigers)
5. Hank Greenberg - 1.039 (1935, Detroit Tigers)
6. Al Rosen - 1.035 (1953, Cleveland Indians)
7. Hank Greenberg - 1.004 (1934, Detroit Tigers)
7. Ryan Braun - 1.004 (2007, Milwaukee Brewers)
8. Hank Greenberg - .977 (1946, Detroit Tigers)
9. Shawn Green - .972 (1999, Toronto Blue Jays)
10. Shawn Green - .970 (2001, Los Angeles Dodgers)
11. Mike Epstein - .965 (1969, Washington Senators)
12. Sid Gordon - .960 (1950, Boston Braves)
13. Kevin Youkilis - .959 (2008, Boston Red Sox)
14. Al Rosen - .948 (1950, Cleveland Indians)
14. Hank Greenberg - .948 (1945, Detroit Tigers)
15. Shawn Green - .943 (2002, Los Angeles Dodgers)
16. Phil Weintraub - .936 (1944, New York Giants)
17. Sid Gordon - .927 (1948, New York Giants)
18. Buddy Myer - .919 (1938, Washington Senators)
19. Al Rosen - .911 (1952, Cleveland Indians)
20. Al Rosen - .910 (1954, Cleveland Indians)
21. Sid Gordon - .909 (1949, New York Giants)
22. Buddy Myer - .908 (1935, Washington Senators)
23. Ron Blomberg - .893 (1973, New York Yankees)
24. Ian Kinsler - .892 (2008, Texas Rangers)
25. Ryan Braun - .888 (2008, Milwaukee Brewers)

Special Mention:
Lou Boudreau - .987 (1948, Cleveland Indians)
Mike Lieberthal - .914 (1999, Philadelphia Phillies)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Congratulations are in Order

Ryan Braun and Kevin Youkilis each finished 3rd in MVP voting in their respective leagues. Ian Kinsler finished 20th in MVP voting (How the Hell did Jason Bartlett finish ahead of him?).

Here's how the voting broke down for both leagues:

The last time 2 Jews finished in the top 5 of MVP voting was 1935 when Buddy Myer finished 4th and Hank Greenberg won. If you consider Lou Boudreau Jewish, it also happened in 1940; Boudreau finished 5th, Greenberg won, and Harry Danning finished 7th. In 1948, Sid Gordon finished 4th and Boudreau won.

There is also some precedence for 3 Jews finishing in the top 25 of MVP voting. In 1938, Greenberg finished 3rd, Myer finished 24th, and Danning finished 16th. In 1939, Greenberg finished 18th, Danning finished 9th, and Morrie Arnovich finished 18th. In 1945, Boudreau finished 8th, Goody Rosen finished 10th, and Greenberg finished 14th. See above for 1940. In 1952, 3 Jews finished in the top 30 for MVP voting. Al Rosen finished 10th, Saul Rogovin finished 27th, and Sid Gordon finished 30th.

Even though Youk didn't win MVP, he was the recipient of the Hank Aaron Award.

Braun won Silver Sluggers. Personally, I think Youk was deserving of Silver Sluggers as well, but if I talk about it it'll sound like I have sour grapes. Morneau had a great season, so it's hard to be too upset. Hell, Miguel Cabrera could have also won. But I will say that Youk should have won another gold glove. You can't compare Carlos Pena's glove work to Youk's. Pena doesn't have Youk's range, picking ability, or versatility. It's really not even close. But that's ancillary. Braun, Youkilis, and Kinsler should all be congratulated for the standout seasons they had in 2008. Here's to an even better 2009!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg

(From Left to Right: Ted Williams, Eddie Pellagrini, John F. Kennedy, Hank Greenberg)

So I just saw it. And I have to say it was time well spent. If you're a baseball fan, this documentary is must-see. You don't have to be Jewish to appreciate what this larger-than-life baseball immortal did over the course of his storied career. Of course, it helps (for frame of reference), but it's certainly not a prerequisite for liking this film. I would recommend it to anyone who has ever stepped onto a baseball field and saw more than just grass and dirt and chalk.

I'm a numbers man myself, but the human interest angle is too good to pass up, so I'll talk about Greenberg's absurd numbers some other time, if it's all the same to you.

People interviewed in the documentary other than Greenberg include Hal Newhouser (Hall of Fame), Charlie Gehringer (Hall of Fame), Harry Eisenstat, Walter Matthau (who is hilarious), Alan Dershowitz (Josh Lyman anyone?), Michael Moriarty, Maury Povich, Greenberg's children, and Dick Schaap. My only complaint was Al Rosen's conspicuous absence; he only had one sound bite. Would've been nice to hear from Greenberg's heir apparent. I know they had a falling out over money, but still. Also would have been nice to hear from Bill Veeck, Greenberg's longtime friend and front office partner.

What really struck me as I watched the film was how hard Greenberg worked - and how hard he swung. As a young man, he was described as being very raw and sort of lanky. Obviously, he eventually filled out; you'd have to in order to hit 58 homers. But he didn't get from Point A to Point B overnight. It took a lot of elbow grease. Greenberg's work ethic is almost as impressive as his production. The fact that he was able to make the transition from first base to left field - and not miss a beat - is astonishing. The fact that he was willing to even do this speaks volumes about his character. Here you have the face of the franchise swallowing his pride for the sake of the team and a promising (but unproven) youngster named Rudy York. Can you imagine Edgar Martinez or Frank Thomas doing that? Didn't think so. And to top it all off, Greenberg actually won an MVP from both positions.
And then when you consider what Greenberg might have been able to do had he not missed 4.5 years because of the war - during his prime, mind you... You can speculate and you can extrapolate, but believe me you'll only aggravate yourself. It's a crying shame that Greenberg and others of his ilk (Ted Williams comes to mind) had to sacrifice some of their best years for the war. Not that it wasn't a worthy cause. Just... we would have won without them. So, from a selfish fan's standpoint, it's somewhat maddening.

One of my favorite anecdotes from the film describes Greenberg's innovation in the creation of the modern-day first baseman's mitt. Another great anecdote comes from the bonus features when Greenberg's son, Stephen, relates how Dave Winfield called Hank Greenberg his hero after reading his biography. Winfield was amazed that Greenberg could come back after the war and lead the American League in home runs with 44 in 1946. I was amazed that Greenberg said he "played from memory" when he came back. He was essentially saying that he wasn't the player he was when he left in 1941. And yet he finished 8th in MVP voting in 1946. And yet he finished with an OBP of .408 in 1947 for the Pirates, in spite of a career-low .249 average.

That's another thing that struck me: Greenberg ending his career in Pittsburgh. It should never have happened. The man deserved better. He deserved to be a lifelong Tiger. He deserved their loyalty. Be that as it may, there was one good thing that came from it. Greenberg had a chance to meet Jackie Robinson when he first entered the National League. Talk about a poetic revolving door. Now, that's something I would have liked to have seen. Two players who faced more prejudice you would be hard-pressed to find. After their encounter, Robinson said: "Class tells. It sticks out all over Mr. Greenberg." High praise, indeed, coming from Mr. Robinson. (From Left to Right: Lou Boudreau, Lary Doby, Hank Greenberg)

After Greenberg retired, he became the Cleveland Indians' farm system director and later their general manager and part-owner along with Bill Veeck. During his tenure, he assembled more African American players than any other team executive in the Majors. Just another stat that adds to his legacy. Listen to the story about how he desegregated a hotel for his players on the Indians, and tell me that doesn't warm the cockles of your heart.

See The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg. Take it from me: you won't regret it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gold Glove Gripe

Time to air my gold glove grievances. Well, grievance. As most of you already know, Ryan Braun got no love for his glove this season. The three NL outfielders who did win were Carlos Beltran, Shane Victorino, and Nate McLouth.

What do they all have in common? Each of them patrols center field. And here I thought our country was leaning to the left. Sorry, bad joke. Couldn't resist... just like Matt Stairs can't resist a good cheesesteak. Wow... I'm 2 for 2.

While it's generally accepted that the center fielder is the "captain" of the outfield, that's still no reason to ignore the corner outfielders. If you applied the same logic to the infield, only shortstops and catchers would win gold gloves.

And while it's true that Milwaukee's scorekeeper was somewhat generous this year with Braun on some judgment calls, the fact remains he didn't commit an error all year. He also led all NL left fielders in putouts (275), was 2nd in the league in range factor (1.95), and was 4th in assists (9). Last year as a rookie, Braun left a lot to be desired at third base. And when I say "left a lot to be desired," what I really mean is he was atrocious. 26 erros in 112 games. Ouch. So contextually, what Braun did this season was really quite extraordinary.

And just so I can't be accused of being totally Jew-centric, I also think Hunter Pence should have won a gold glove in right field. He only made 1 error all season and led the NL in assists with 16. He may look like he's 12 years old, but the kid can play.

You're welcome to disagree, but I would advise against it. Because I will find you and flog you. Yep, 3 for 3.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The .300 Club

(Minimum 400 ABs) * = Batting Champion
*1. Buddy Myer - .349 in 616 ABs (Washington Senators, 1935)
2. Hank Greenberg - .340 in 573 ABs (Detroit Tigers, 1940)
3. Hank Greenberg - .339 in 593 ABs (Detroit Tigers, 1934)
4. Hank Greenberg - .337 in 594 ABs (Detroit Tigers, 1937)
5. Al Rosen - .336 in 599 ABs (Cleveland Indians, 1953)
6. Buddy Myer - .336 in 437 ABs (Washington Senators, 1938)
7. Hank Greenberg - .328 in 619 ABs (Detroit Tigers, 1935)
8. Goody Rosen - .325 in 606 ABs (Brooklyn Dodgers, 1945)
9. Morrie Arnovich - .324 in 491 ABs (Philadelphia Phillies, 1939)
9. Ryan Braun - .324 in 451 ABs (Milwaukee Brewers, 2007)
10. Ian Kinsler - .319 in 518 ABs (Texas Rangers, 2008)
11. Hank Greenberg - .315 in 556 ABs (Detroit Tigers, 1938)
12. Buddy Myer - .313 in 536 ABs (Boston Red Sox, 1928)
12. Harry Danning - .313 in 520 ABs (New York Giants, 1939)
12. Mike Lieberthal - .313 in 508 ABs (Philadelphia Phillies, 2003)
13. Kevin Youkilis - .312 in 538 ABs (Boston Red Sox, 2008)
13. Hank Greenberg - .312 in 500 ABs (Detroit Tigers, 1939)
14. Shawn Green - .309 in 614 ABs (Toronto Blue Jays, 1999)
15. Harry Danning - .306 in 448 ABs (New York Giants, 1938)
16. Buddy Myer - .305 in 524 ABs (Washington Senators, 1934)
17. Sid Gordon - .304 in 481 ABs (Boston Braves, 1950)
17. Buddy Myer - .304 in 434 ABs (Washington Senators, 1926)
18. Buddy Myer - .303 in 541 ABs (Washington Senators, 1930)
18. Elliott Maddox - .303 in 466 ABs (New York Yankees, 1974)
19. Al Rosen - .302 in 567 ABs (Cleveland Indians, 1952)
19. Buddy Myer - .302 in 530 ABs (Washington Senators, 1933)
19. Gabe Kapler - .302 in 444 ABs (Texas Rangers, 2000)
20. Hank Greenberg - .301 in 449 ABs (Detroit Tigers, 1933)
21. Buddy Myer - .300 in 563 ABs (Washington Senators, 1929)
21. Harry Danning - .300 in 524 ABs (New York Giants, 1940)
21. Al Rosen - .300 in 466 ABs (Cleveland Indians, 1954)
21. Richie Scheinblum - .300 in 450 ABs (Kansas City Royals, 1972)
21. Mike Lieberthal - .300 in 510 ABs (Philadelphia Phillies, 1999)
(Under 400 ABs, Over 100 ABs)
1. Jimmie Reese - .346 in 188 ABs (New York Yankees, 1930)
2. Mike Schemer - .333 in 108 ABs (New York Giants, 1945)
3. Ron Blomberg - .329 in 301 ABs (New York Yankees, 1973)
4. Ron Blomberg - .322 in 199 ABs (New York Yankees, 1971)
5. Phil Weintraub - .316 in 361 ABs (New York Giants, 1944)
5. Ruben Amaro Jr. - .316 in 117 ABs (Philadelphia Phillies, 1996)
6. Phil Weintraub - .311 in 351 ABs (Philadelphia Philles, 1938)
6. Hank Greenberg - .311 in 270 ABs (Detroit Tigers, 1945)
6. Ron Blomberg - .311 in 264 ABs (New York Yankees, 1974)
7. Greg Goossen - .309 in 139 ABs (Seattle Pilots, 1969)
8. Richie Scheinblum - .307 in 283 ABs (Cincinnati Reds/California Angels, 1973)
8. Elliott Maddox - .307 in 218 ABs (New York Yankees, 1975)
9. Sid Gordon - .306 in 363 ABs (Pittsburgh Pirates, 1954)
10. Buddy Myer - .302 in 258 ABs (Washington Senators, 1939)
11. Gabe Kapler - .301 in 229 ABs (Milwaukee Brewers, 2008)
12. Art Shamsky - .300 in 303 ABs (New York Mets, 1969)

* = Silver Sluggers
1. Dave Roberts - .327 in 52 ABs (Chicago Cubs, 1978)
*2. Jason Marquis - .310 in 87 ABs (St. Louis Cardinals, 2005)