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FEBRUARY 9, 2004
Making History & Breaking Hearts
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com

Thanks to baseball’s version of the GFOS*, Bill James, we have “Offensive Winning Percentage.”  James’ puppy, which herein shall be referred to as “OWP,” for a batter, equals the percentage of games a team would win with nine of that player in its lineup, given average pitching and defense.  (The formula is the square of Runs Created per 27 Outs, divided by the sum of the square of Runs Created per 27 Outs and the square of the league average of runs per game.)  It is a swell tool – especially given that it park neutral (meaning that a player’s home ballpark will not skew the number in a negative or positive manner).

For a brief baseline point of reference, when examining OWP, below are the career OWP tallies for some notable baseball batters:

Babe Ruth:  .852
Stan Musial:  .752
Rickey Henderson:  .682
Tony Gwynn:  .656
Pete Rose:  .607

It can be said that anything over .650, in terms of OWP, is excellent.  Since 1900, of all batters with 5,000 or more career Plate Appearances, only 88 men have fashioned a career OWP of .650 or better.

Now, for some fun stuff:  How about an OWP study and applying the question of consistency?  More to the point, how many full time players (as in batters with at least 502 Plate Appearances in a season) have strung together 10 or more consecutive seasons of an OWP of .650 or better? 

The answer is nine – which is always a somewhat numinous number when it comes to an answer to a baseball question.  The complete list of the nine will follow near the close of this composition – as “Who are the nine?” is not the principle objective here.  More so, the aim here is to mention "Who is knocking at the door, this year, to perhaps make the nine into ten or eleven?"

If either the Phillies' Jim Thome or the Red Sox' Manny Ramirez can reach 502 (or more) Plate Appearances this season, and can also generate an OWP of .650 (or greater), they will join “the 10 in a row club.”

What is truly fascinating here is that Ramirez (who bats right handed) and Thome (who bats left handed) were teammates from 1995 through 2000 (with the Cleveland Indians).  Has there ever been a pair of teammates, who produced a “left-right” punch, who were an offensive threat, season after season, longer than Ramirez and Thome?

There may have been some “left-right” teammates who had strings of an OWP of .650 or better – but, none who did it simultaneously, on a full time basis, for six seasons in a row.

No wonder why the Indians finished first in the standings for five years in a row, from 1995 through 1999, and finished second in 2000.  And, there is little astonishment why Tribe fans lament the loss of Ramirez and Thome from their camp via free agency.

The last “modern player” to come this close to making the group was Dick “Crash” Allen – over 30 years ago.  (By the way, nice trick Crash – doing 502/.650 for 9 years in a row while playing for four different teams in the process!) 

In terms of other currently active players, only Gary Sheffield is sort of close – he will need to post a 502/.650 in both 2004 and 2005 to make the list of “10 in a row.”  Impossible?  Not really.  But, considering how few made it to ten or more (9) and how few others had streaks of nine (4 – including Ramirez and Thome) it will be an uphill chase for Sheffield.

The hope scrawled on this scorecard is that Manny and Jim make “10 in a row” this year and turn that list of nine into eleven. Lastly, given the age of both Thome and Ramirez, they both have an outside shot at making the club of “12 years in a row with 502/.650” - - which is even more exclusive.  That group equals five – some guys by the names of Hank Aaron, Mel Ott, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Lou Gehrig.  Mark your 2005 and 2006 calendars to check for that.

Most consecutive seasons with OWP >= .650 and PLATE APPEARANCES >= 502

Player Years Total

Hank Aaron

1955-72

18

Mel Ott

1929-42

14

Willie Mays

1954-66

13

Frank Robinson

1959-71

13

Lou Gehrig

1926-37

12

Honus Wagner

1899-09

11

Stan Musial

1948-58

11

Mickey Mantle

1952-62

11

Tris Speaker

1909-18

10

Roger Connor

1884-92

9

Dick Allen

1964-72

9

Jim Thome

1995-03

9

Manny Ramirez

1995-03

9

 

*GFOS, aka the “God Father of Statistics.”


Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com.  Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season.  Steve can be contacted at sots@netshrine.com

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