Mariners Musings

Musings about, um... well, the Seattle Mariners as well as a love affair with this game baseball. By Peter J. White

Friday, January 02, 2004

Hall of Fame: I Love the 80's Second Base Style

Juan Samuel

CAREER 1983-98

1720 6081 .259 .315 .420 161 550 440 1442 396 143 73% .490 819
6098 .265 .334 .381 109 439 616 916 204 88 70% .484 799

It's become fashionable as of late to compare Alfonso Soriano to three-time All-Star Juan Samuel. On the surface they are eerily similar: power/speed guys with questionable defense and itchy trigger fingers in the batter's box. It's a rare combination of strengths and weaknesses that defies the conventions of baseball's traditional, specialized roles--too free-swinging to leadoff, too fast for the middle of the lineup, at least according to "The Rules." Samuel's career started with a bang, but like the hubris of a Greek tragic hero, that pesky skill of plate discipline would plague him to mediocrity. His career line is little more than league average with his second base contemporaries. Most notable are his below average on-base percentage and above average slugging. Like Soriano, Samuel rarely, if ever, saw a pitch he didn't like.

160 701 .272 .307 .442 15 70 28 168 72 15 83% .550 100
674 .263 .322 .360 7 45 58 91 29 11 73% .462 81

Take your pick between 1984 and 1987. In 1987, Samuel scored 113 runs and drove in 100 with 28 home runs, topped 60 walks for the only time in his career and led the league in extra base hits with 80. I choose '84 as the league was a bit tougher on offensive numbers prior to the post-'87 power binge. He also stole twice as many bases in 1984 with an excellent success rate of 83%. In fact, he set the rookie record for stolen bases this year. Moreover, beginning with '84, Samuel was the first major leaguer to accomplish a quadruple double, of sorts, in his first four major league seasons: double digits in doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases. Despite all this, he was still just the fifth best second baseman offensively in 1984.

3-YEAR PEAK 1984-86

155 652 .268 .304 .442 17 66 29 150 56 16 78% .510 89
643 .267 .332 .367 8 43 61 87 25 11 70% .480 81

In his peak seasons, Samuel was slugging twice as many home runs and stealing twice as many bases as the average second baseman while walking half as often. He did this while playing half his games in Veteran Stadium, which favored hitters through the mid to late eighties.
5-YEAR PEAK 1984-88

157 648 .264 .309 .442 18 66 37 153 47 15 76% .505 90
641 .265 .331 .369 9 44 62 89 23 10 70% .471 80

After hovering around .300 for three consecutive years, Samuel's OBP jumped to .336 with a career high 60 walks (in 660 AB). It would be the only time his OBP would .330 while he played full-time. It's none too pretty to see that at his best, Samuel could get on base just 3 out of 10 tries. Yet despite that, thanks to his power and speed, he still managed to create 13% more runs than the average second baseman.

Samuel was done as a full-time player in 1991 at the age of 30. He still hung around the league as a spare outfielder and DH for another eight years, though. For Alfonso Soriano's sake, one can only hope his promising career can avoid the mediocrity of Samuel's. (For his exploits of October 21, 2001, however, Soriano deserves much worse, but I digress.)If there's a moral to the story of Juan Samuel's career, kids, it's plate discipline.

In addition, Samuel had a career EQA of .268, was worth 53.9 wins above a replacement level second baseman (adjusted for all-time) for his teams, and his defensive was worth 85 runs below replacement. I honestly can't come up with one good defense of why Juan Samuel can be a Hall of Famer.

Ryne Sandberg

And to think the Phillies traded Sandberg to keep Samuel. That has to be a dark day in Phillie history. Sandberg and Samuel could make an interesting compare/contrast study. They were born nine months apart, both developed by Philadelphia, made their debuts two years apart. One became the poster child for the talented free swinger who couldn't steal first base. The other became the elite second baseman of a generation.

CAREER 1981-94, 1996-97

2164 8385 .285 .344 .452 282 761 761 1260 344 107 76% .566 1335
8043 .263 .330 .373 130 556 773 1168 250 111 69% .467 1014

Ryne Sandberg defined second base for the eighties and well into the next decade. He was selected to the All-Star team 10 consecutive seasons. He won nine straight gold gloves. He placed top ten in the MVP balloting three times and won it once. Just those merits alone leave me scratching my head wondering why we even need this discussion this year. He should have been enshrined last year. In his 16-year career, he hit .285--well above average. His career .344 on-base percentage, while nothing outstanding, still stands above his peers. He slugged nearly twice as many home runs than his contemporary second basemen. His walks and strikeouts are right at average. He was a far superior baserunner with 100 more stolen bases over his career and fewer caught stealing than the average. In addition, he created 32% more runs than the league average second baseman over his career.

156 636 .314 .367 .520 19 74 52 101 32 7 82% .680 126
582 .263 .322 .360 6 39 50 78 25 9 74% .462 70

Like Samuel and Orwell, Sandberg's best season was 1984, and it was Sandberg who was the best at his position that season, as he earned the most valuable player honors. He led the league in triples. His .887 OPS was third in the league. He placed second in hits, second in extra base hits and second in total bases. He created 80% more runs than the average second baseman. He also hit .368/.455/.474 in 19 AB in the National League Championship Series, which the Cubs lost to the Padres in five games.

3-YEAR PEAK 1990-92

157 604 .300 .368 .519 31 66 68 82 21 7 75% .671 117
568 .262 .331 .372 9 39 58 84 17 8 69% .484 72

While Sandberg's best single season was 1984, his three-year peak occurs some years later, at ages 30-32. He wasn't the same baserunner later in his career, but despite the power spike of the era, Sandberg was slugging three times as many home runs as the average second baseman. Of course, playing in hitter-friendly Wrigley Field didn't hurt one bit.
5-YEAR PEAK 1989-93

149 575 .300 .364 .497 26 58 60 79 18 6 76% .647 106
540 .262 .330 .371 9 37 53 78 15 7 69% .477 68

At his peak, Sandberg's game was vastly superior to his contemporaries, creating 56% more runs for his team. The Cubs reached the NLCS again in 1989 where Sandberg hit .400/.455/.800 in 20 AB, and still they lost in five games, this time to the Giants.

For his career, Sandberg put together seven seasons that can be called excellent and just two (his first and last) that could arguably be called poor. In addition, Sandberg had a career EQA of .282, was worth 112.7 wins above a replacement level second baseman (adjusted for all-time) for his teams, and his defensive was worth 95 runs above replacement. Ryno is a definite Hall of Famer.

And Jim Caple has my back on choosing a full ballot this year. Furthermore, Rich Lederer makes the indisputable case for Bert Blyleven.
|| Peter @ 1/02/2004

Thursday, January 01, 2004

The great Hall calleth

Friday is the final day for voting in the Internet Hall of Fame. Here's my ballot, and I'll continue to justify my choices throughout the month:

Bert Blyleven
Dennis Eckersley
Rich Gossage
Keith Hernandez
Paul Molitor
Jim Rice
Ryne Sandberg
Lee Smith
Bruce Sutter
Alan Trammell

Hmm... Relievers. I really, really want to fit Dave Stieb in there, too, but you only get 10 slots. Maybe I'm being generous. Regardless, I reserve the right to change my mind by the time I'm through with my commentary.
|| Peter @ 1/01/2004

Happy New Year!

Somewhere the sun is shining. Somewhere the grass is green. Somewhere a bat cracks against a ball, sending it soaring. Somewhere children are cheering. Somewhere fans proclaim 2004 the Year of the Mariners. Let me know where exactly that is. I haven't found it yet in my atlas.

I truly hope your Christmas was merry and your holidays happy. Mine were at once both truly wonderful and horrible as only time with family can be. Wonderful in the obvious ways of spending time with loved ones I see far too rarely and reconnecting with old friends. Horrible that it was too short, among other reasons better left unsaid in this forum.

One particular highlight was watching a news segment my brother Jason had recorded from his local Oklahoma City CBS newscast. Jason's a 22-year-old nursing student at the University of Oklahoma and happens to share the very same name as a certain Hesiman Trophy winner. In true Lebowski fashion, the local news thought it'd be great to interview the REAL Jason White. Now lil' bro was out taking a final when the news crew came knocking on his door, so they spent an hour interviewing his roommate. If you only knew Barnes you'd realize what classic stuff this could be. Apparently, they receive around ten calls a day at the house for the OTHER Jason, and they played a phone message of an eager fan from Wisconsin on the news cast. One of the highest forms of entertainment at the house is saving and playing back all such congratulatory, football-related messages left throughout the day. Even one of the team's wide receivers has called the house looking for QB Jason. Lil' Bro says he's had a class with said receiver and he's not that bright. All in all, 'twas a fun family moment, and I'm quite proud.

I must have been good this year. Santa brought a brand new library of books and a handful of DVDs. Two extended families and the only clothes I received was a scarf. I've no idea how that happened. It was also the first Christmas I can ever remember that I don't need to return anything. Mom absolutely loves themes. My Yankee-lovin' sister (God bless her; I convinced her to get me a Red Sox cap) got nearly every baseball movie ever put to film along with a number of Yankee memorabelia. Mine was baseball books--Giamatti's Take Time for Paradise that I've been looking for, Larry Dierker's book, an old hardback of No Cheering in the Press Box, among others. I also got some vintage hardbacks of Roth's Great American Novel and Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls in addition to some Nick Hornby. To top that, I found a copy of Flannery O'Connor's complete short stories at the used book store for $1.45. That was one of those rare Holy Grail moments. Anyway, I'll keep busy reading for awhile.

So I come home, and what's the deal with all the Carlos Guillen hatin'? I realize that asking 162 games from Carlos in a year is ridiculous, but how does that alone justify the front office's bulldog determination to replace him? All the potential shortstop upgrades have been taken. Colorado? Milwaukee? Detroit? Prospects? Aaaaaahhhh!!!!! (I just had to let that out.)

Also, I feel compelled to share my Best Buy fiasco as a sort of public service announcement for those who may not be aware of a certain little kink. Santa also brought me a Best Buy gift card, so I braved the after-Christmas mob and took it with me to the store in Tulsa. The Seven Samurai had been on my list and my father-in-law had relayed to me that he had seen a Kurosawa boxed set there. Thus, I was curious to know what else might be in this set. "Is that anime?" replies the blue shirt. The kid was asking to get smacked around. They don't have any Death Cab for Cutie, either, which is something else I'm looking for. It's recommended I look online. I find no Kurosawa boxed set, but I do find Transatlanticism for $10.99, and that's cheaper than anywhere else I've found online, even used. So, this morning I'm browsing BestBuy.com's selection and decide I'll take the CD and Jeunet's City of Lost Children (I scored massive points with the boss at the Christmas party bringing that up in the Favorite Films discussion). It was at this point that I discovered "The Kink." Best Buy gift cards are not redeemable online. Now how exactly can this be? You can use any major credit card, even Best Buy credit, online. So why not a gift card? And why refer customers online when not all purchasing options are available? Someone's not thinking here.

So this afternoon I venture to my nearest Best Buy 'round Potomac Mills. I specifically ask for CLC. Remarkably, the blue shirt knows what I'm talking about, but predictably, they don't have it. They don't have Death Cab, either, though I'm told they're receiving a shipment Saturday, and they'll be $15.99. $15.99! And it's $10.99 online. No thank you, sir. So while I'm wallowing through the movie section trying to find something to spend my gift card on, jumpin' Jehosophat, there's the Decalogue. I didn't even realize that was available on DVD in the States. So all is not lost. Though Best Buy really should rememdy that gift card online kink for next Christmas. I'm serious. And beef up their foreign film section, too, while they're at it.

"Those stupid, fat, drunken hobbitsess makeses a silly game out of the precious. We hates it! *gollum*" Might just have to try this one. Minus the homo-erotic options, of course.

63 more days until the first Spring Training Mariner game. Tick. Tick. Tick.
|| Peter @ 1/01/2004