Sunday, June 17, 2007

Baseball - Statistics

In spite of playing the game, the real reason I have become an avid fan of baseball is that I am fascinated by statistics, always have been. There is no sport in which statistics are more important. Baseball records are some of the most hallowed in the sport’s world. That brings me to the point of this blog. I am going to make a statement that will cause many baseball aficionados a knee jerk reaction. The two most overrated players in the history of baseball are Hank Aaron and Pete Rose. What? It will be considered blasphemous by many, but I have statistics to back my claim. I will bet you I am right (Pete Rose joke). These two were great players, don’t get me wrong. But each has a career record that is based on longevity over achievement.

I am going to compare their records with some current players and see how they measure up. I am purposely not including the steroid boys, such as Bonds, McGuire, and Sosa. I believe they have tainted the record book and do not acknowledge their numbers. That is my choice. It is my blog. If you want to give these jakals credence, get your own blog. Give me a break. Bonds shoe and hat size have even increased. Athletes in any sport do not get better at 40 years old. Have you seen Mark McGuire since he retired from baseball? I saw him recently playing in a golf tournament. He looks like he has spent the last few years on chemotherapy. He is literally half the man he used to be. Sammy Sosa is still playing, but looks like he could be eaten by the turn of the millennium version of himself. He had to take the entire 2006 season off to clean out his system as they now test for steroids. In my opinion, the single season home run title still belongs to Roger Maris. He hit 61 in 1961. Roger was 6’ tall and weighed 197. If he was performance enhanced, it wasn’t a very good product.

Back to my topic. Let’s begin with Hank Aaron, the career home run leader with 755. If Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. had as many at bats as Hank they would have 852 and 843 home runs respectively. The most home runs Aaron ever hit in a season was 47. Arod and Griffey have exceeded that season total 4 times each and are both likely to do it again this season. Arod may do it by the all-star break. No one has ever brought either of these athletes into the human growth hormone or steroid discussion. Hank was a nice player and totally deserves being in the hall of fame, but I don’t rate him in the same class as the aforementioned players. Griffey has been hampered by injury, but before his unfortunate move to Cincinnati, he was the most exciting player in baseball.

Moving on to Pete Rose. He is the all-time major league baseball hits leader He amassed 4256 hits but batted only .303 for his career. This stat would not rank him in the top 100 of all time. As with Aaron, I believe he is a great player and should be a sure bet to enter the hall of fame some day (sorry, another Rose joke) but I am less impressed by his numbers than most people. Using my previous logic, if current players Ichiro Suzuki and Todd Helton had the number of at bats that Rose had, they would both have about 4700 hits. They have lifetime averages that hover around .333, top 20 all-time. The measure of a great season for a hitter is 200 hits. Pete achieved that number in less than half of his 24 seasons Ichiro has done it every season he has played. Granted, that Helton plays half of his games in the rarified air of Colorado, but he also hits in a much weaker line-up than Rose ever did. Pete had 3 future hall-of-famers batting behind him. Helton has none. This allows pitchers to pitch around him more. Albert Pujols has not played enough seasons yet, but I believe that barring injury, he will become an all-time great.

But I may be wrong.

Note: Since I originally wrote this post Alex Rodriguez has admitted to using steroids, much to my disappointment. I still believe that Rose and Aaron were stat compilers and when I think of the greatest players in baseball history, neither name comes to mind.

1 comment:

Pinehurst in my Dreams said...

I am not a baseball stat aficionado, but I think you have a valid point. Sometimes the way the numbers are kept need to be changed to reflect the changes in the game and the averages probably tell a lot more than overall numbers.