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Insight and Opinion of the National Pastime    

#5 May 19, 2000

The Greatest Hitter You Never Gave A Moment’s Thought Of!

There’s an active player right now with the following impressive batting:


AVG .291

G 2732

AB 9648

R 1279

H 2811

2B 479

3B 49

HR 376

RBI 1595

BB 1029

OBP .357

SLG .468


Is it Barry? No!

Junior? Wrong again?

Would you beleve thesr numbers have been posted by a man who has only played 80 or so games on the field since 1987. The man is DH-extraordinaire Harold Baines!

Still going strong at age 40 (albeit he is only batting .262 in the early part of this season), Harold seems to have quietly amassed batting numbers worthy of Cooperstown.

The purists froth in the mouth with such a thought. How can a man who never plays the field and seldom broke into the Top-10 of any significant batting stat even be considered. There’s much spirited debate about Harold Baines entry into the Hall of Fame. I just want to present some factual data on the issue.

First off, we generally look at Baines as striclty a D.H., having virtually abandoned his glove by his 28th birthday. It's may be a bit troubling that he has played a total of 81 games in the field since the start of 1987. If a D.H. wants to be regarded as a Hall of Fame candidate, he better be a darn good D.H. - a la Edgar Martinez.

This was not totally a voluntary move by Baines. In 1986 Baines suffered a serious knee injury that required two operations, and forced him to the DH role. Hence the lack of games on the field and the low number of stolen bases after the ’86 season.

Just for argument’s sake, here’s a look at Harold’s defensive statistics up to 1986 – the year of his injury:




1980 137 229 6 9 1 .963 -7

1981 80 120 10 2 1 .985 0

1982 161 326 10 7 4 .980 +2

1983 155 312 10 9 3 .973 0

1984 147 307 8 6 1 .981 0

1985 159 318 8 2 2 .994 +7

1986 141 295 15 5 5 .984 +12



As you can see, other than his rookie year, Baines was a fairly reliable flycatcher with above average range and outfield arm. His 1986 season was particularly good.

Baines does own a few accolades. Some of which are listed below.


Shares major league single-game record for most plate appearances_12 (May 8, finished May 9, 1984, 25 innings). ... Shares A.L. record for longest errorless game by outfielder_25 innings (May 8, finished May 9, 1984). .... Shares A.L. single-game record for most innings by outfielder_25 (May 8, finished May 9, 1984).


Named outfielder on THE SPORTING NEWS A.L. All-Star team (1985). ... Named designated hitter on THE SPORTING NEWS A.L. All-Star team (1988-89). ... Named designated hitter on THE SPORTING NEWS A.L. Silver Slugger team (1989).


Hit three home runs in one game (July 7, 1982; September 17, 1984 and May 7, 1991). ... Led A.L. with 22 game-winning RBIs in 1983 (a then-record for the no-longer recorded stat). ... Led A.L. with .541 slugging percentage in 1984. ... Career major league grand slams: 13.

Certain numbers are sacrosanct for Hall of Fame selection. 500 home runs, 300 wins and 3,000 hits seem like sure-fire numbers for hall of fame selection. Though Harold Baines is not a household name, to sustain such above-average performance for so long is impressive. I don’t think the Hall of fame would, in any way, be sullied by the presence of Mr. Baines.



#4: May 10, 2000





TOM KELLY of the micro-market Minnesota Twins.


Did you know, Kelly played for the Twins in 1975 and batted .181 in 49 games. He joins illustrious company as current managers who batted below the Mendoza line in their careers as players. The others (not counting pitchers):

  • Tony La Russa (.199)
  • Charlie Manuel (.198)
  • Jerry Manuel (.150)


#3: May 8, 2000




Do you want some proof that run production is at an all-time high [as if the 17-16 Texas/Oakland game this weekend wasn't enough]. You gotta go back…back…back to the year 1930 to compare it with. Though the stock market was depressed back then, not so on the field of play; in an average NL game, teams scored 11.37 runs per game. The AL averaged 10.82 runs per tilt. As of 8 May, 2000 AL games average 10.59 runs; NL games average 10.42 runs.

You don't have to be a Buffalo SABR to know that run-production is at hyper-levels. What has all abuzz is as to why. While I am not about to make a bold statement as to the root cause, here are some widely viewed hypotheses [My thanks to SABR member Mark Armour for compiling much of this data]:

  1. Watered Down Pitching. This is not surprising, since the media seems to have embraced this conclusion, but it is generally accompanied by a lack of evidence. There are more runs, so the pitchers must be lousy. Subconsciously, this may be related to the old notion that pitching is 90% of baseball. When the Baby Boomers and older generations pine about the game of late-1960s/early-'70s [when a run was a run], you rarely hear it mentioned that the hitters were lousy. Using the assumption that pitching is watered-down, we would still expect the best pitchers in the game today to stack up well against the best of recent years. Take a look at the 15th-ranked pitcher in ERA over the past 30 years:
  2. YR









































    K. BROWN
























    This table indicates a trend that even the upper-shelf pitchers are giving up more runs. The 15th best pitcher in each league in 1999 gave up nearly 1/3 more earned runs than his counterpart did 30 years earlier. And 1969 was an expansion year! Other than a Pedro and "Big Unit," it seems that they hitters are feeding off of "all" pitchers -- good, bad, and ugly!

    Add to the mix the fact that some of your best pitchers are relegated to reliever roles as set-up men or closers. That is the modern-day strategy, after all. Managers are taking away quality innings from ace relievers, who would probably be better suited as a team's #2 starter.

  3. Smaller Ballparks. Three ballparks (Enron, Pac Bell, and Camden Yards) have outfield fences less than the ML rulebook minimum spec. of 325'. Yes, there are Comericas and Safecos in the mix, but future ballparks will be getting smaller, not bigger. Big hitters in small parks equates to the crowd-pleasing and ESPN appeasing home run
  4. Smaller Strike Zone. If the umpires called the strike zone in the rule book, offense would decrease. The knee-high and letter-high strike are just not called anymore. It seems as if today's strike zone is from the mid-thigh to just above the belly button. This causes pitchers to get behind in the count and have no recourse but to throw one into the batter's wheelhouse.
  5. Larger Players. Athletes in all sports are getting larger, but baseball is different in that increased strength and power favors the hitter. Yes, more pitchers throw in the high-90s these days and strikeouts are more prevalent. But arm mechanics and physical limitations of the elbow and shoulder joints pretty much precludes that we will ever have a 110 MPH pitcher without. Hitters do not face these potential injuries, allowing the ball to be hit harder and further. Hitters work out with weights nearly year-round. Jim French, a former reserve catcher for the Washington Senators once told me that he (nor anyone on the team) never lifted a weight since no one knew of the benefits. "They [the coaches] just ran, ran, ran our asses off," said French.
  6. Decreased Premium on Defensive Skill. This is both real (defensive skill is easier to find) and perceived(managers consider defense less when making personnel decisions). Throughout baseball history, the importance of tangible defense skills has continually decreased. Gloves are bigger, fields are perfect, balls are perfect. Defense is easier to play, and therefore there is a less of a premium on defensive skill. Do you think a career .175 hitter like Ray Oyler would be a starter today? Even at the skill positions, managers have more freedom. Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Carl Yastrzemski - all played middle infield in the minor leagues. Were they to come up today, some of them might have continued to play the infield. Conversely, were ARod (who is larger than all of the above players) to have come up in the 1950s, wouldn't he have been made an outfielder? Taking the positions in aggregate, a 1996 first baseman was 55% more likely to homer than his 1976 counterpart (home run rate of .042 vs. .027), whereas a 1996 middle infielder was 175% more likely to homer than a 1976 middle infielder (.0184 vs. .0067).
  7. Harder Baseballs. One former Major Leaguer admitted to me that today's balls are like rocks compared to the balls he swung at in the '80s. While scientists claim the compression tests don't support this, the Costa Rican ball is probably wound tighter than the Haitian ball.


What are your opinions on this topic?


#2: May 7, 2000




Not only is Barry the king of launching depth charges (See May 4), "Stat-Guru" Bill James determined that Barry Bonds is baseball’s greatest combination of speed and power in baseball history. How so? Using a formula called the Career Power-Speed Number (PSN), which can be derived by looking at a player’s home run and stolen base totals:

PSN = (2)*(HR)*(SB)/(HR+SB).

The numerator ensures that a player is prolific in both hitting homers and steals to keep the Harmon Killebrew’s and Omar Moreno’s of the world out.

As of May 1st: Barry had 456 HR and 465 SB for a PSN of 460.5. Just behind him is Rickey Henderson (278 HR, 1336 SB, and 460.2 PSN).

Say Hey Willy Mays was the previous owner of the highest figure with a 447.0 PSN. My only question: What about triples?



With Buddy "To Owners" Selig at the helm, some form of realignment is inevitable. As the purists froth at the mouth at the radical notion that the Yankees may become a National League team soon (as if today’s game resembles much of the game as it was played in, let’s say, 1910), the majority of us expect something that may be good for cutting down owners’ traveling expenses, but not necessarily good for baseball.

I have already heard about proposed 4-6-4 realignment for the American>League. In it’s simplest form, an AL East team (say the Tampa Bay Stink Rays) would move to the AL Central, which would become a six-team division. Playoffs would be composed of three division winners and wild card. The NL, with 16 teams, would go to a 4-4-4-4 realignment, adding new division (possibly, a "South" made up of Atlanta, Florida, Houston and Arizona). Pittsburgh could slide into the East. Each NL division champion goes to the playoffs.

Advantages: For the first time since 1976, when there were 24 teams in four six-team, schedules were designed so that each team played nothing but divisional opponents in the final weeks of the season. This made for better season-ending rivalries -- impossible to do now with all the unbalanced divisions.

The author would love to hear your theories on realignment, if it is truly required, and how best to do it

#1: May 4, 2000


U-571, Starring Barry Bonds:

It took awhile, but Barry (Bones) Bonds becomes the first to hit a regular season home run, at Pac Bell Park, to go over the right field wall and into the portion of the San Francisco Bay dubbed "McCovey's Cove." Everyone predicted a lot of homers into the Cove, especially down the right-field line, where the fence is just 309 feet away -- little league distance. However, Bonds contends the odd field angles create the illusion for left- handed hitters that they're swinging for foul territory if they aim for the short porch. The more natural straightaway right-field swing is toward the 365-foot sign, where the wall starts to angle back toward home plate a bit, Bonds said, and homering into the water that far will require a mighty poke. A 25-foot wall in right field may also curtail the number of balls going into the Bay.

Is Barry's splash the first Major League home run ever to land in water? Yes and No. If you remember old Jarry Park in Montreal had a swimming pool in right field. The Arizona Snakes' Bank One Ballpark also has a swimming pool just over the outfield wall. The Class-AA Trenton Thunder plays their games at Waterfront Park by the Delaware River; a few home runs have been taken into the River.

Barry is also the first player to land a ball in McCovey's Cove during Spring training, in an exhibition game (off Yanks' pitcher Andy Pettite). Each water-bound shot triggers a water-cannon salute and earns $2,000 for the Giants Community Fund.


The Age of Aquarius?

You may have heard the term, "When the planets are aligned just right, (fill in your incredulous event -- "i.e. Rafael Belliard will hit a home run." You may not realize that tomorrow at 4:08 AM EDT, eight major bodies in the solar system (Earth, moon, sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) will all be aligned. Ye Gods!! Will tidal waves bring the eastern coastline to Detroit (that would be the best thing for the Tigers)?

Fear not, a baseball held at arm's length has a greater gravitational pull than this celestial event (or about the same force of a typical Philadelphia Phillies batter these days). I got a C- in physics (my prof was an arse), but I recall that gravitational force of two objects is directly proportional to the mass and inversely proportional (Squared!) to the distance.




 Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)

 John Vukovich: Another website by the author

 Bill Plummer: Another website by the author

 The Mendoza Line: Another website by the author

 Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers

NetShrine - Baseball Best

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