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Trivia challenge

Posted by Andy on January 27, 2011

The following players are ranked in the order shown, 1 through 20, for what since 1901?

Thanks to a reader named Brian who sent in a similar idea--seemed like a good one to pose as a trivia question.

53 Responses to “Trivia challenge”

  1. Alex Says:

    Is it an RBI rate stat, like RBIs per plate appearance?

  2. aweb Says:

    Are these the top 20 in the ranking, or just 20 players chosen from the ranking?

  3. robinsong Says:

    Wild guess: Isolated power relative to league average other than Babe Ruth?

  4. Andy Says:

    These are the top 20 players for a specific PI search that I did. I set a minimum of 3000 plate appearances.

    None of the guesses so far are correct, and I will add that it's not a math-type search as in #1 above--the PI results ranked these players (as opposed to me searching for players with an RBI/PA over a certain amount and then ranking them myself.)

  5. Dave Says:

    Is this based on Doubles as a rookie?

  6. Ben Trotsky Says:

    Players with <= 0.7 runs / game & <= 0.7 rbi / game; sorted by OPS+.

    I can't be positive because I haven't checked the entire list of career OPS+ leaders.

  7. Brian Says:

    I don't want to give any hints, but I will say I was thinking about how awesome Kevin Mitchell was when I got the idea for my (similar) query.

  8. Andy Says:

    #5, my search had nothing to do with doubles.
    #6, as I said above, my search did not involve any math, such as R or RBI per game.
    #7 Brian, yeah--this was a nice find by you...thanks!

  9. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    My guess {and that is ALL it is} would be that it has something to do with either Caught Stealing percentage, or busted sacrifices.

  10. Andy Says:

    #9 no on both.

  11. neil d Says:

    Weird mix of deadball era guys and more recent ones, a bunch of players who started like gangbusters then flamed out (or are still playing, like Fielder)... Most total bases by age 30?

  12. Dante Says:

    It's absolutely careen OPS+, but I'm not sure what the other criteria is, as there's no sign of Bonds, Ruth, etc. You more seasoned B-R guys can help me on this one.

  13. Biff Says:

    Easy. It's the list of the coolest players ever to pick up OR throw a bat. Number 4 an example of the former; number 20 an example of the latter (when he tried to take David Cone's head off after being hit by a pitch)..

  14. Dante Says:

    The secondary criteria must not be a counting stat, as guys with few plate appearances like Guererro are mixed with Honus Wagner.

  15. rcbuss Says:

    inside the park HRs?

  16. Owen23 Says:

    to #11 - Cravath wasn't a regular until he was 30/31 and Kauff was kicked out of baseball at age 30.

  17. neil d Says:

    Jeff Heath has got to be the key, as he never did anything that would land him on any normal top-20 list.

  18. Jon Says:

    #11 - The inclusion of Cravath rules out a 30 and under criteria.

  19. Andy Says:

    #12 is on the right's highest career OPS+ for players that fit some other criterion as well. None of the other guesses are correct.

  20. neil d Says:

    Career OPS+ for players under 6 feet tall.

  21. Dante Says:

    Great guess Neil, I think your right.

  22. Andy Says:

    Yes, Neil got it.

    Good job, all, and nice teamwork.

  23. neil d Says:

    Yay! Major assist to Dante, as I wouldn't have thought of OPS+ otherwise.

  24. Mike D Says:

    Does this have to do with their height? All the players seem to be under 6'.

  25. Mike D Says:

    ...I was late to that response.

  26. humberto Busto Says:

    All of them are smaller than 6'0 and all pretty good hitters, that's why Ruth, Gerigh and Williams do not appear. It involves average and power , so could be OPS. Am I correct on the height issue?

  27. Tmckelv Says:

    Once again I have found the new best player that I had never heard of - Jeff Heath. - 139 OPS+. wow. I love this site.

  28. da HOOK Says:

    But it's not career OPS+ for players with 100 career triples, although some names are on both lists.

  29. eorns Says:

    Career OPS+ for players under 6 feet tall!

  30. Tmckelv Says:

    I can't believe that Pedro Guerrero is under 6 ft. I also can't believe Ty Cobb was 6'1". Personal perceptions are funny.

  31. DavidRF Says:

    Here's the 19th century guys and their place in the list:

    2.5 - Dave Orr
    9.5 - Charley Jones
    14T - Harry Stovey
    14T - Bill Joyce
    15T - Ed Swartwood
    16.5 - Billy Hamilton
    16.5 - Henry Larkin
    17T - Jesse Burkett
    18T - Denny Lyons
    19.5 - King Kelly
    20T - Mike Tiernan

  32. DavidRF Says:

    Oops... I forgot 18t - Billy Hamilton.

    Did that list with hunts and pecks so I might have missed someone. The big guns of the 19th century (Anson Brouthers Connor) were tall, though.

  33. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Kevin Mitchel's nickname is "WORLD" - he is a short world.
    You've wasted my morning.
    In a good way.

  34. cheese Says:

    Yeah, Jeff Heath is interesting.

    He had 187 RBIs in his lone minor league season (124 games!) and is also the first AL player to hit 20+ 2B, 3B and HR in a season (1941).

  35. John Autin Says:

    TangentMan adds that Kevin Mitchell's "most similar" player is the lately departed Gus Zernial....

    P.S. Mitchell's prime was 1989-94.
    Here are the Top 10 in combined OPS+ in that period (min. 2,000 PAs):

    10. Mark McGwire, 141
    9. Jose Canseco, 143
    8. Will Clark, 144
    7. Rickey Henderson, 146
    6. Junior Griffey, 149
    5. & 4. Fred McGriff & Jeff Bagwell, 155
    3. Kevin Mitchell, 159
    2. Barry Bonds, 174
    1. Frank Thomas, 184

    FWIW ... Does anyone else feel that we've somewhat forgotten what an historically great hitter Thomas was in the first half of his career?

    -- Through age 30, Thomas had a 174 OPS+. That's better than Albert Pujols through age 30 (172), and ranks 7th in MLB history, after Ruth, Williams, Cobb, Gehrig, Hornsby and Mantle. Pujols is tied for 8th with Musial.

    -- Through age 32 (the point at which Thomas had about as many career games and PAs as Albert has to date), Thomas had a 168 OPS+, just a bit below Albert's 172.

    -- Through his first 8 seasons (1990-97), Thomas had a 182 OPS+; only Ted Williams has ever topped that number through his first 8 years.

  36. donburgh Says:

    #34 - According to Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups, Mitchell was nicknamed 'World' with the Mets because of his positional flexability. In 1986 he played everywhere except 2B, C, and P.

    But, yes, it really is a small world after all.

  37. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    John (#36), yesterday I had the PI assemble another list on which Frank Thomas stands alone at the top: Most seasons by a batter qualifying for the batting title in which he had no triples (9).

  38. Dr. Doom Says:


    I agree. I think people overlook Big Hurt a lot. That being said, he's still a top-10 all-time first baseman by pretty much anyone's estimation, right? So that's still good. I'd go as far as top-5, with Pujols, Bagwell, Gehrig and Foxx (though not in that order). He's 5th in WAR among 1B (behind the four aforementioned players), and Bill James ranked him 10th ten years ago, but 1.) James tried to be conservative with active players, which Thomas still was, and 2.) Thomas produced a pretty fair amount of value as a DH thereafter (2002-2007). Of course, he benefited more from the DH rule than pretty much anyone in history (yes, more than Edgar Martinez, but probably not quite as much as Paul Molitor) and actually played more games as a DH than a 1B, so I guess whether or not you want to consider him a 1B is up to you. I just know I used to love watching him hit.

  39. daniel25625 Says:

    speaking of frank thomas, i was just browsing his stats and noticed in 2006 he hit 39 hr and 11 doubles. this must be one of the highest single season 2b to hr ratios ever. would someone like to research this?

  40. daniel25625 Says:

    ^^ *highest hr to 2b ratios*

  41. Brian Says:

    As I said above, Kevin Mitchell inspired me to send my related query in in the first place. I'm a native Cincinnatian, and the numbers Mitchell put up with the Reds (.332/.414/.631 in 225 games), on those rare occasions when he was actually IN the line up, are ridiculous. So that got me thinking about how rare it is in modern times to have a player of his stature (5'10") with that kind of power.

    Highest career slugging percentage since 1961:

    1. Mickey Mantle 5'11" .539
    2. Willie Mays 5'10" .537
    3. Prince Fielder 5'11" .535
    4. Dick Allen 5'11" .534
    5. Kevin Mitchell 5'10" .520
    6. Gary Sheffield 5'11" .514
    7. Brian Giles 5'11" .502
    8. Dan Uggla 5'11" .488
    9. Raul Mondesi 5'11" .485
    10. Matt Stairs 5'9" .481

  42. Brian Says:

    As I said above, Kevin Mitchell inspired me to send my related query in in the first place. I'm a native Cincinnatian, and the numbers Mitchell put up with the Reds (.332/.414/.631 in 225 games), on those rare occasions when he was actually IN the line up, are ridiculous. So that got me thinking about how rare it is in modern times to have a player of his stature (5'10") with that kind of power.

    Highest career slugging percentage since 1961:

    1. Mickey Mantle 5'11" .539
    2. Willie Mays 5'10" .537
    3. Prince Fielder 5'11" .535
    4. Dick Allen 5'11" .534
    5. Kevin Mitchell 5'10" .520
    6. Gary Sheffield 5'11" .514
    7. Brian Giles 5'11" .502
    8. Dan Uggla 5'11" .488
    9. Raul Mondesi 5'11" .485
    10. Matt Stairs 5'9" .481

  43. Brian Says:

    Whoops. Apologies.

  44. John Autin Says:

    @39, daniel25625 -- The record for highest ratio of HR to 2B (with at least 30 HRs) was set by Harmon Killebrew in 1964: 49 HRs, 11 doubles, ratio of 4.45 HR per 2B.

    Dave Kingman had a 4.11 ratio in 1982: 37 HR, 9 doubles.

  45. Noodle Says:

    mark Mcgwire lifetime as a Cardinal:
    220 Hrs, 57 2bs and 191 singles.
    Pretty bizarre.

  46. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Batter seasons from 1901 to 2010 for non-pitchers with at least 100 plate appearances and more home runs than singles: McGwire 4 (1995, 1998, 1999, 2001); Frank Thomas 1 (2005), Richie Sexson 1 (2004), Bobby Estalella 1 (2002), Barry Bonds 1 (2001). That’s it.

  47. Mike Gaber Says:

    @ 27 Tmckelv

    Re: Jeff Heath

    I checked The Wikipedia on him:

    It brings up the main thing I remember about him;
    1948 the Boston Braves are on their way to a surprising National League pennant.
    In the last week of the season in what ("I think") was a meaningless game, Jeff Heath was attempting to slide into home plate and broke his ankle.

    In those days I remember the photographers were allowed to be on the playing field in foul territory and one of them caught the leg being shattered with the lower ankle rotated 90 degrees to the upper ankle as the Wikipedia describes it.

    Naturally the break caused him to miss his only chance in the post season in his career.
    They didn't have playoffs then.

    Per BB-Ref stats show he tried to come back in 1949 but had only 126 PA's in 36 games. He did hit .306/.389/.613 for a OPS of 1.002 but per WikiPedia was done after that.,

  48. Paul E Says:

    Highest OPS through or in age 30 seasons?

    Interestingly, Bill James in his BJHA, has stated, more or less:
    1) Hornsby - biggest asshole in MLB history
    2) Mantle - drunk
    3) Speaker - Klansman
    4) Allen - 2nd biggest AH in MLB history and destroyer of clubhouses despite teammates like Goose Gossage call him the greatest player he ever was a team mate of........

  49. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @39, @44, @45: low 2Bs-to-HRs ratios:

    Both Maris and Mantle hit only 16 doubles in 1961:
    Maris 61 HR/16 2B = 3.8125 (also 40/17 in 1960)
    Mantle 54 HR/16 2B = 3.50 (also 39/18 in 1960)

    What was going on in Yankee Stadium in 1961? Yogi Berra had a 22:11 ratio, and Johnny Blanchard 21:10 ratio. In the rest of the 1961 AL, I could only find:
    - Harmon KIllebrew (46/20)
    - Lee Thomas (24/11)
    - Marv Throneberry (11/5)
    who had a 2:1 ratio of HR to 2Bs, with double figures in HRs

  50. Mike Felber Says:

    We have discussed Allen at length elsewhere. James I understand has recanted his ranking of Allen, which clearly was biased & contained a large subjective factor. Many team-mates & managers spoke highly of him as a man also, & while he had some issues, was victimized by virulent racism, including the teammate Frank White who after Allen defended another from racist attacks, injured Allen with a baseball bat.

    His page's sponsor here has a great web site on him, representing great defense/evidence that he was admired by many, & a good force on many, despite some issues.

  51. Paul E Says:

    @ Mike Felber
    I guess my point was it's just a shame Bill James was so "virulent" in his "subjectivity" while ignoring his "ultimate" player value calculator, "Win Shares", when appraising Allen's career. I believe Allen's 1964, per both Win Shares (41) and WAR (9.2), is the greatest of any rookie position player of the 20th century. The objective evidence James puts forward (best three years, best five consecutive years, WS/162 games) actually indicates Allen is a top-5 all-time 1B. Dick Allen (and all blacks of his and prior generations) faced serious social issues off the field, however, it was a lack of good talent surrounding him that dooms his body of work as a

  52. Mike Felber Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly Paul. i did not know he was quite #1 as a rookie position player in modern baseball.You have nailed it exactly, & likely would have continued to with the thought that was not quite completed above.

  53. Paul E Says:

    Mike @ 52 above,
    Sorry I cut it short. Basically, my thought was that Allen's legacy is doomed by some marginal talent surrounding him. That is to say, there exists a strong prejudice against ballplayers who didn't have postseason glory and he was never going to get there short of 50 homer seasons. Santo and Allen are probably the primary examples of great talents who don't have a post-season body of work yet the regular season clearly indicates these two were amongst the greatest players of their era-an era where pitching dominated more than any other in the last 90 years. I hope someone like Rich Lederer can bang the HOF drum for these two, soon...