Contact, Not Outcomes

'18 Alvarez Gold

MLB is on the cutting edge of sports technology and it is making their teams rich. In 2000, they established MLB Advanced Media (BAM) and it has become a $3 Billion enterprise that supplies streaming video services to ESPN, HBO and the WWE.

 

For the fan, player and front-office executive, BAM has become the go-to provider for advanced analytics through “Statcast”. For the past few seasons, this operation has tracked every pitch, hit & catch in every major league game and gives us information we’ve never been privy to before. Much of the data is proprietary but even the basics you can find at mlb.com are fascinating as well as informational.

 

One of the stats that has become mainstream is exit velocity. You see it on your TV screen every time a Home Run is hit along with the estimated distance.

 

Does exit velocity matter? Let’s look at the top ten hitters in average exit velocity for 2019 (through August 9th) and determine if your eyes tell the same story…

 

1) Aaron Judge – 97.9 mph

2) Joey Gallo – 96.2 mph

3) Nelson Cruz – 95.0 mph

4) Christian Yelich – 94.5 mph

5) Miguel Sano – 94.4 mph

6) Kyle Schwarber – 94.3 mph

7) Rafael Devers – 94.2 mph

8) Josh Donaldson – 94.1 mph

9) Yoan Moncada – 94.0 mph

10) Shohei Ohtani – 93.8 mph

 

The list seems to make reasonable sense but when you realize that Cody Bellinger (91.4), Mookie Betts (90.8), Ronald Acuna Jr. (90.8) & Mike Trout (90.8) aren’t even in top 35, you realize that exit velocity is only a piece of the puzzle.

 

With the numbers from StatCast, another statistical analysis is available to compare the best of the best when it comes to major league hitters. Here’s the definition…

 

” Expected Outcome stats help to remove defense and ballpark from the equation to express the skill at the moment of batted ball contact. By looking at the exit velocity and launch angle of each batted ball, a Hit Probability is assigned that gives each player an Expected Batting Average, Expected Slugging and (most importantly) Expected Weighted On-Base Percentage. These numbers tell the story of a player’s season based on quality and amount of contact, not outcomes.”

 

It may sound complicated, but the formula is essentially taking luck and ballpark factors out of the equation. So, the major league 2019 expected batting average for all players is .247. The top five are Cody Bellinger (.335), J.D. Davis (.320), D.J. LeMahieu (.318), Anthony Rendon (.318) & Christian Yelich (.317).

 

The 2019 expected slugging percentage for all players is .413 and, once again, here are the top five…Nelson Cruz (.655), Mike Trout (.655), Bellinger (.646), Yelich (.637) & Rendon (.601).

 

No surprise on the list for expected on-base average (mlb average is .319) as Trout leads with .460, then Bellinger (.448), Cruz (.435), Yelich (.433) & Rendon (.425).

 

An interesting aside is that Astros rookie Yordan Alvarez (who has less than 200 AB’s) would be in 6th place with a .420 xOBA just ahead of J.D. Martinez (.412). And that doesn’t count the three HR game Alvarez had while I was typing this piece. Aaron Judge, George Springer and Freddie Freeman round out the top ten.

 

These are the best offensive players in the game…unless you’re fooled by your eyes.

 

 

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I’ve Been Framed

Martin Heritage

Old-school fans had very little information when it came to judging the defensive skills of Catchers. The best option was to focus on their success with throwing out potential base-stealers. As with new analytic stats for hitters like OPS, the defensive value of a team’s backstop isn’t determined by only one measure. For example, if you learned that James McCann of the White Sox was in the top five in the caught stealing statistic (35.6%), you might assume that he’s a positive contributor behind the plate. The science of pitch framing however, might tell a different story.

 

This old-school / analytic fan wouldn’t jump to a positive conclusion based on the caught-stealing stat because a few years ago, I took the time to read “Big Data Baseball” by Travis Sawchik. It is the story of the Pittsburgh Pirates resurgence starting in 2013 and how they got ahead of the curve regarding baseball analysis. This mid-market team with a limited payroll, found ways to win that confounded the experts. Defensive shifts, pitching adjustments and pitch-framing helped them turn around a 20-year losing streak. Possibly the most important move they made was signing a Catcher that had lost much of his appeal and was coming off a season where he batted just .211. His name was Russell Martin and the two-year $15 Million deal turned out to be life-changing for the Pirates & Martin.

 

In  both 2013 & 2014, Martin finished in the top ten for all MLB Catchers in the amount of runs saved through pitch-framing. If you think that statistic is a bunch of hooey, consider this…in 2015, the Blue Jays signed Martin (at age 32) to a five-year, $82 Million free-agent contract. The Pirates could no longer afford him, so they acquired Yankees back-up Catcher Francisco Cervelli to take Martin’s place. That season (2015), Cervelli rated out as the best pitch-framer in baseball and the Pirates locked him up with a three-year, $30 Million deal that paid off handsomely except when concussions got in the way.

 

What does pitch-framing mean? With today’s video technology, it has become rather simple to determine the number of called strikes caught outside the strike zone. That isn’t the only criteria, however, as Catchers can be guilty of catching a pitch in the strike zone that ends up being called a ball by the umpire. All of this, and more, goes into the overall ratings. If you’d like to see the formulas and better understand the statistic, go to statcorner.com.

 

If you’re a real baseball fan and actually watch at-bats and how they play out, you can begin to understand how this unique ability can change the dynamic of the game. The difference in success when the hitter is ahead in the count as opposed to being behind in the count is something even old-schoolers understand.

 

So, who are the best framers for 2019 through August 3rd? Austin Hedges of the Padres leads the way with 16.8 RAA (Runs Above Average). Red Sox backstop Christian Vasquez is 2nd (13.4) followed by the Brewers Yasmani Grandal (11.1) and Roberto Perez of the Indians (10.3). Two perennial top ten Catchers in this stat are 5th & 6th…Tyler Flowers of the Braves (9.7) and Tucker Barnhart of the Reds (9.5).

 

The #1 Catcher in throwing out runners is J.T. Realmuto of the Phils at 46.2% and he’s 10th in framing at 4.3 RAA. Perez is 2nd in nabbing base-runners at 39.5% and Vasquez is right behind at 39%. Talk about adding value to your team? As for McCann, his pitch-framing is the third worst in baseball (-10.6 RAA) topping only Pedro Severino of the Orioles and Elias Diaz of the Pirates (Cervelli’s replacement).

 

If you wonder about the impact of saving runs defensively, think about this…teams with a negative run differential almost never make the playoffs.

 

 

 

Believe In The OPS

Yelich Heritage

On the shelf in my office is the 1985 edition of “The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract”. It wasn’t the first material of his that I read and certainly not the last, but it looks down at me with a reminder of the era in which this fan transitioned from old-school to analytic. After all, the inaugural “Rotisserie League Baseball” book had come out in 1984 and our home league (which is still going strong) started that April.

 

As a kid looking at the backs of baseball cards and reading Street & Smith’s preview issue along with “Who’s Who In Baseball”, the statistics we learned were the ones they gave us. Batting Average (BA), Home Runs (HR), Runs Batted In (RBI’s) were what we used to determine if a player was fair, good or great. The back of Mickey Mantle’s 1959 Topps card doesn’t even tell you how many Stolen Bases (SB’s) he had the previous season. The 1961 Who’s Who did include SB’s but nothing so exotic as Slugging Percentage (SLG) or On-Base Percentage (OBP).

 

So, now that at least 30 years has passed in the debate between tradition and analytics, maybe we can finally agree on the validity of one stat. No, I’m not going to try and sway you about Wins Above Replacement (WAR) because that glazed look in your eyes tells me it’s a hopeless task. As with Capt. Queeg in the Caine Mutiny, I’m going to “prove beyond the shadow of a doubt…with geometric logic, that a valid stat does exist”.

 

In his book, “Ahead Of The Curve”, Brian Kenny writes that Bill James #1 revolutionary theory about baseball is that getting on base is the most important thing in offense. It seems to make sense intuitively, but OBP was never on baseball cards, in magazines or listed in the Sporting News. After all, how did Eddie Yost of the Tigers lead the AL in Runs Scored (115) in 1959 at age 32 with a BA of only .278? Simple…he led the AL in OBP at .435. No player was going to get benched if he got on base 40% of the time, but writers and broadcasters paid no attention because it wasn’t a mainstream stat. Over 40 years later, Billy Beane and the A’s, followed quickly by the Red Sox, found that OBP was under-valued in the game along with the players who provided those quality numbers. The 2002 Athletics had eight offensive players with an OBP of .348 or better and they won 103 games with a small-market payroll. The 2004 Red Sox broke the “Curse of the Bambino” with eleven (11) hitters having a .365 OBP or higher.

 

Old-school fans and pundits still weren’t convinced and argued that OBP diminished the contribution of power hitters because those HR’s they hit were worth three more bases than a walk. That brings us to a slightly more traditional stat – Slugging Percentage. SLG tells us how many total bases a hitter has accumulated compared to his amount of plate appearances. After all, Roger Maris & Mickey Mantle led the AL in SLG in ’60 & ’61, so what could be more fair to power hitters?

 

That brings us to the stat that really matters when analyzing major league hitters. If you take OBP and add it to SLG, a player is rewarded for both his on-base skills and power production. The result is On-Base + Slugging (OPS) and even though we never spotted it on the back of a baseball card, it is the number that tells the tale. How do we know? Because there are only seven players with a lifetime OPS over 1.000…Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg & Rogers Hornsby…Mike Trout is eighth at .999.  Others in top 20 include Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Frank Thomas, Johnny Mize & Jim Thome. Even old-school fans have to admit that there aren’t any flukes on that list.

 

Other than Trout, the three best active players are Joey Votto (.944), Miguel Cabrera (.937) & Albert Pujols (.931). As all are in their declining years, the numbers won’t get any better.

 

So, in today’s game, you’ll see what is called the “slash line” for an offensive player. It looks like .252/.322/.433 (BA/OBP/SLG), which is the average production for all major league hitters through July 26th. By adding the last two numbers, you arrive at the OPS of .755. While the OBP hasn’t changed much in recent years, the juiced baseball has increased the SLG by 4% since the last time we did this analysis in 2016.

 

 

In late-July of 2019, who are the best offensive players in the game based on OPS? Let’s look at the top ten…

 

1) Christian Yelich, Brewers OF…1.136 – Last year’s NL MVP is at it again in his age 27 season…he’s leading the league with 35 HR’s

 

2) Cody Bellinger, Dodgers OF…1.108 – The best player on the best team…and he’s only 23 years old.

 

3) Mike Trout, Angels OF…1.107 – At age 27, this player is so good, he’s almost taken for granted. This will be his 3rd MVP award.

 

4) Anthony Rendon, Nats 3B…1.010- Great timing for this 29 year-old All-Star, he’ll be a free agent after the season.

 

5) Nelson Cruz, Twins DH….988 – Even at 39, “Boomstick” hasn’t slowed down.

 

6) Josh Bell, Pirates 1B….974 – Lots of pundits thought he didn’t exhibit the skills to be a top-rated corner infielder…he has 86 RBI’s with two months to go.

 

7) Pete Alonso, Mets 1B….973 – Looks like a slugger and performs like one…this rookie has 34 HR’s.

 

8) Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox SS….973 – 2018 was great but 2019 is even better…at age 26.

 

9) Kris Bryant, Cubs 3B….972 – It seems like he isn’t having that good of a season but batting 2nd in the line-up takes advantage of his on-base skills (.408 OBP).

10) Charlie Blackmom, Rockies OF….966 – No doubt helped by altitude, but he’s a solid performer.

 

Now, of course, we could also discuss OPS+, which adjusts the figure based on the ballparks. OK, I see that “deer in the headlights” look, we’ll talk about it some other time.

 

 

Deadline Deals In The Rear-View Mirror

'89 Johnson UD 10

Some people love the holiday season and others would just as soon say “Bah Humbug” and hunker down until it’s over. Or, you could just embrace Jerry Seinfeld’s non-religious holiday of Festivus (for the rest of us). It seems that MLB General Managers approach the final days of July in the same manner. Some embrace it, others ignore it and many just can’t wait for it to end. Should they be a buyer or seller? In the era of the “Wild Card”, the decisions aren’t easy.

 

In the next week, a feeding frenzy could have premiere players going all over the place. As we look at the landscape on July 21st, some of the names being bandied about are Will Smith & Madison Bumgarner of the Giants, Marcus Stroman & Justin Smoak of the Blue Jays, Kirby Yates of the Padres as well as Nick Castellanos & Shane Greene of the Tigers.

 

For historical perspective, let’s look at some deadline deals over the last 20+ seasons and see how the players stats impacted the season…and, in some cases, the future.

 

> As “The Big Unit” is now a Hall of Famer, let’s start with Randy Johnson. On 7/31/98, the Mariners traded Johnson (in his walk year) to the Astros for Freddy Garcia & Carlos Guillen. In the last two months of the season, he went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA and led Houston to the post-season.

 

> For all true Red Sox fans, the trade made on 7/31/04 will always be memorable because it helped bring the first title to Fenway Park since 1918. Nomar Garciaparra was dealt to the Cubs in a 4-team deal that brought back Doug Mientkiewicz & Orlando Cabrera. They also swapped a player named Henri Stanley for Dave Roberts and these three acquisitions were instrumental in the Sox success.

 

> Unsuspecting Dodgers fans created “Mannywood” in the Summer of ’08, when Manny Ramirez was acquired from the Red Sox on July 31st. The slugging leftfielder had two months that were other-worldly….396 BA, 17 HR’s & 53 RBI’s as he led the team to the NLCS. Of course, he was cheating but nobody cared. We’re still waiting for the infomercial promoting those female hormones.

 

> On 7/26/00, the D’Backs acquired Curt Schilling from the Phillies. In the next two seasons, he posted records of 22-6 & 23-7 while being Co-MVP of the 2001 World Series. Who did the Phillies get in the deal? Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee & Vicente Padilla.

 

> On July 31st, 1997, the Red Sox acquired two players from the Mariners. Derek Lowe made All-Star teams as both a reliever (2000) and starter (2002) before helping the BoSox to overcome the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004. Catcher Jason Varitek was a key figure in both the 2004 & 2007 World Series titles. Both were acquired for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb.

 

> Cliff Lee was a back-to-back deadline contributor. On 7/29/09, he was traded to the Phillies and won seven (7) games down the stretch. In the post-season, he was even better as he went 4-0 with 1.80 ERA. In the off-season, he was dealt to the Mariners but the following July, he moved again, this time to the Rangers and helped them to the World Series.

 

> The Mets needed to bolster their offense for the 2015 stretch run and added Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers in exchange for Luis Cessa & Michael Fullmer. Cespedes hit 17 HR’s the rest of the way with .941 OPS. The Mets went from 53-50 to 90-72 to capture the NL East.

 

> Scott Rolen had worn out his welcome in Philadelphia when the Phillies traded him to the Cardinals on 7/29/02. He had 14 HR’s & 44 RBI’s in the last two months of the season and then proceeded to make four consecutive All-Star teams with the Redbirds. The Phillies return on investment? Bud Smith, Mike Timlin & Placido Polanco.

 

> The Cardinals also had a somewhat successful trade on 7/31/97, when they dealt Blake Stein, T.J. Mathews & Eric Ludwick for a tall, muscular 1B named Mark McGwire. You might recall his 70 HR’s the following year.

 

> Speaking of curses, the Cubs ended their drought in 2016 and the key piece was Closer Aroldis Chapman. Acquired for Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Adam Warren, the fireballing Cuban posted 16 Saves with a 1.01 ERA and 46 K’s in 26+ innings. He added four additional Saves in the post-season.

 

Many other top-shelf players have moved in late July including Fred McGriff (’93), Roy Oswalt (’10), CC Sabathia (’08) & David Cone (’95).

 

As the old baseball cliché says, it takes years before a trade can be properly judged. The 2019 deals will be too new to rate, but fun to watch.

 

Fathers & Sons – Part Deux

'51 Lanier

In last month’s MLB Draft, the sons of Glenn Hoffman, Jason LaRue, Dave Roberts, Jose Cruz Jr., Rusty Greer, Jerry Dipoto, Roy Halladay, Paul Byrd, Randy Ready, Travis Fryman, Al Leiter, Joe Randa, Shane Reynolds, Jay Bell, Rodney McCray, Glenallen Hill and Bobby Witt were among the players chosen. In our last visit, we talked about current major leaguers with obscure family lineage and also touched on some family ties of players from the 50’s & 60’s.

 

On this visit, we’ll move up the timetable to the 70’s & 80’s and while you’ll probably recall most of the players from that era, remembering their Dads might be a little more difficult.

 

> Buddy Bell, Indians & Rangers 3B (1972-89) – Gus Bell was a very productive OF in the 50’s & 60’s with over 200 HR’s & 1,800 Hits.

 

> Bob Boone, Phillies & Angels C (1972-90) – Ray Boone was an AL 3B from 1948-60, made two All-Star teams and led the league with 116 RBI’s in 1955.

 

> Jim Campanis, Dodger C (1966-70) – Al Campanis only had 20 AB’s for the Dodgers in 1943, but was the Scouting Director for the team from 1960-68 and the GM from 1969-87.

 

> Joe Coleman, Tigers P (1965-79) – The Dad, also named Joe, pitched in the AL as a rookie in 1942, then again after World War II from 1946-55…made the All-Star team in ’48.

 

> Terry Francona, Expos OF (1981-90) – Tito Francona was a major league OF from 1956-70 and made the All-Star team as a member of the Indians in ’61.

 

> Jerry Hairston Sr., White Sox OF (1973-89) – Sam Hairston was a Catcher in the Negro Leagues from 1945-48 and played four (4) games for the White Sox in 1951…lifetime BA was .400 (2-for-5).

 

> Terry Kennedy, Padres C (1978-91) – Bob Kennedy was another big-leaguer who missed three years during the War…a 3B/OF, he played from 1939-1957.

 

> Matt Keough, A’s P (1977-86) – Marty Keough was a major league OF from 1956-66 and is still around the game at age 85.

 

> Hal Lanier, Giants IF (1964-73) – Max Lanier pitched in the big leagues from 1938-53, mostly with the Cardinals.

 

> Vance Law, Expos IF (1980-89) – Vern Law pitched exclusively for the Pirates from 1950-67 and missed two seasons while in the military during the Korean War…won the Cy Young award in 1960 when the Bucs won the World Series.

 

> Mel Queen, Reds & Angels P (1966-72) – The older Mel Queen pitched in the “show” from 1942-52…the Dad’s lifetime ERA was 5.09, the Son’s was 3.14.

 

> Dick Schofield, Angels SS (1983-96) – The Father, also named Dick, was a major league IF from 1953-71 and long before NCIS, his nickname was “Ducky”.

 

> Joel Skinner, AL C (1983-91) – Bob Skinner roamed NL outfields from 1954-66 and had his best season for the champion Pirates in ’60.

 

> Steve Trout, White Sox & Cubs P (1978-89) – Paul “Dizzy” Trout was a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher for the Tigers and his career spanned 1939-52…won 27 games in 1944.

 

> Mike Hegan, AL 1B & OF (1964-77) – Jim Hegan was a major league Catcher for 17 seasons starting in 1941 and missed three full years during World War II…he made five (5) All-Star teams in the late 40’s and early 50’s.

 

Die-hard fans also know that a few of the father-son combinations on our list also represented three generations of major leaguers. Buddy Bell’s sons David & Mike appeared in the major leagues…Bob Boone’s sons Bret & Aaron had productive careers…the third Coleman Pitcher was Casey, who pitched for the Cubs and Royals…Jerry Hairston had Jerry Jr. & Scott become big league players. There may be more in the near future as Grae Kessinger (son of Keith and grandson of Don) was taken by the Astros and Trae Cruz (son of Jose Jr. and grandson of Jose) was scooped up by the Nationals.

 

 

The Family Connection

'41 Camilli PB

Reviewing the results of  MLB’s 2019 amateur draft, we find a number of family links to the grand old game. There are sons of former major-league players such as Bobby Witt Jr., Logan Davidson (son of Mark), Grant McCray (remember his Dad Rodney crashing through an outfield wall?), Tyler Fitzgerald (son of Mike), Glenallen Hill Jr., Christian Cairo (son of Miguel) and Brock Bell (son of Jay). There is also Grae Kessinger (son of Keith and grandson of Don), Dominic Fletcher (brother of David) and C.J.Stubbs (brother of Garrett). If we cast a slightly wider sports net, you’ll find Todd Lott (cousin of Ronnie) and Patrick McColl (son of 49’ers linebacker Milt and grandson of the Bears Bill).

 

 

The reasons for teams selecting these players are certainly varied. A few years ago, Mark Kram Jr. pointed out in a Sports Illustrated piece that having a gene pool heritage including major league talent is a factor, but it also helps that the youngster probably had a higher level of instruction and grew up within the proximity of pro sports. The history of the game has a few players who eclipsed the accomplishments of the Father such as Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Roberto Alomar & Prince Fielder. Many other  times, however, the Son ended up as an afterthought like Pete Rose Jr., Dale Berra, Tony Gwynn Jr., Kyle Drabek, Eduardo Perez & Bump Wills.

 

For today’s visit, we’ll look at some obscure facts surrounding this phenomenon. First, a list of some current major leaguers who are sons of former ballplayers, but not the obvious names like Guerrero, Biggio, Tatis and Mondesi or even Dee & Tom Gordon. These will be connections even a trivia expert might find challenging.

 

> Cody Bellinger, Dodgers OF – Clay Bellinger had 311 AB’s from 1999-2002 with a lifetime BA of .193.

 

> Michael Brantley, Astros OF – Mickey Brantley played with the Mariners from 1986-89 and hit .259 with 32 lifetime HR’s.

 

> Robinson Cano, Mets 2B – Jose Cano was a Pitcher who appeared in 6 games with the Astros in 1989…he had a record of 1-1.

 

> C.J. Cron, Twins DH & Kevin Cron, D’Backs 1B – Chris Cron had 25 major league AB’s for the White Sox in 1991 & ’92…he accumulated 2 Hits for a lifetime BA of .080.

 

> Jose Martinez, Cardinals OF – Carlos Martinez was an AL infielder from 1988-95 and hit 25 HR’s in 1,485 AB’s. The son had 31 HR’s in his first two seasons.

 

> Joc Pederson, Dodgers OF – Stu Pederson was also a Dodger…in 1985, he went 0-for-4 in 8 games and never played in the big leagues again.

 

> Cal Quantrill, Padres P – Paul Quantrill was also a Pitcher and in a 14-year career had 68 Wins & 64 Saves.

 

> Dwight Smith Jr., Orioles OF – Dwight Sr. hit .275 in eight big league seasons and was second in the NL ROY voting in 1989.

 

> Neil Walker, Marlins 1B – Tom Walker was a big-league Pitcher from 1972-77 with a lifetime record of 18-23.

 

Not to leave the Baby Boomers out, here are a few familiar names from the 1950’s & 60’s…the question is, did you know about their Fathers?

 

> Tom Tresh, Yankees IF (1961-69) – Mike Tresh was a Catcher for the White Sox in the 1930’s & 40’s and hit .249 with only 2 HR’s in over 3,000 AB’s.

 

> Ray Narleski, Indians P (1954-59) – Bill Narleski was a Red Sox IF in 1929 & 1930…he hit .265 in 358 AB’s with zero HR’s.

 

> Don Mueller, Giants OF (1948-59) – Walter Mueller played OF for the Pirates in the mid-1920’s…he hit .275 with 2 HR’s in 345 AB’s.

 

> Doug Camilli, Dodgers C (1960-67) – Dolph Camilli had a very productive career as a 1B with the Phillies & Dodgers in 1930 & 40’s…won the NL MVP in 1941.

 

> Fritz Brickell, Yankees IF (1958-61) – Fred Brickell was an OF for the Pirates & Phillies in the 1920’s & 30’s…hit .281 over eight seasons. They are not related to Edie Brickell and therefore, not connected to Paul Simon.

 

> Earl Averill, Angels C (1956-63) – The Dad, also named Earl, was an outstanding CF for the Indians in the 1930’s…led the AL in Hits & Triples in 1936. His nickname was “The Earl of Snohomish”.

 

In a future visit, we’ll look at the baseball lineage of players you remember from the 70’s & 80’s.

 

 

All-Star Flashback

'54 Snider B

For baseball fans of the Baby Boomer generation, next week’s All-Star game will bring back a flood of memories. Back in the day, the mid-season classic was a must-watch event for youngsters because they had the opportunity to see many baseball heroes for the first time. You might have read about them in newspapers or magazines, but with only an occasional game on TV and no inter-league play, here were the stars of the game up close. So, let’s set the baseball time machine for July 13th, 1954 and see what the teams looked like in front of 69,751 fans at Cleveland Stadium.

 

NL Starting Lineup

 

1) Granny Hamner, Phillies 2B – At age 27, this was his third consecutive All-Star appearance.

 

2) Al Dark, Giants SS – He played all 154 games for the pennant-winning New Yorkers and hit 20 HR’s.

 

3) Duke Snider, Dodgers CF – Contributed three hits and a walk in the game…’54 was his second of five straight 40 HR seasons.

 

4) Stan Musial, Cardinals RF – A perennial All-Star, “Stan The Man” had a season where he hit .330 with 35 HR’s & 126 RBI’s.

 

5) Ted Kluszewski, Reds 1B – “Klu” hit a HR off Bob Porterfield of the Senators in the 5th inning and led the NL with 49 round-trippers during the season.

 

6) Ray Jablonski, Cardinals 3B – Had 112 RBI’s as a rookie in ’53 and 104 in ’54, but was traded to the Reds before the ’55 season and never had another productive year.

 

7) Jackie Robinson, Dodgers LF – Had two RBI’s in the game, but this was his last All-Star appearance.

 

8) Roy Campanella, Dodgers C – ’54 was “Campy’s” worst season, but he rebounded to with the NL MVP in ’55.

 

9) Robin Roberts, Phillies P – The workhorse ace of the Phils staff, he led the NL in Wins (23), Complete Games (29), Innings Pitched (336+), Strikeouts (185), ERA (3.19) & WHIP (1.025)…how much would that be worth on your Fantasy team?

 

AL Starting Lineup

 

1) Minnie Minoso, White Sox LF – The “Cuban Comet” led the AL with 18 Triples during the season.

 

2) Bobby Avila, Indians 2B – Jump-started the Tribe’s magical season by leading the AL with a .341 Batting Average.

 

3) Mickey Mantle, Yankees CF – This was the 3rd of 16 All-Star appearances and ’54 was the first season he topped 100 RBI’s.

 

4) Yogi Berra, Yankees C – His 125 RBI’s in ’54 was the highest total of his career and helped him capture the AL MVP.

 

5) Al Rosen, Indians 3B – “Flip” had 100+ RBI’s for the 5th consecutive season.

 

6) Ray Boone, Tigers 3B – Had 20+ HR’s for five consecutive campaigns in the mid-50’s.

 

7) Hank Bauer, Yankees RF – Another solid contributor to the Yankees dynasty, this was the his 3rd straight All-Star selection.

 

8) Chico Carrasquel, White Sox SS – Played every game for the Pale Hose and led the AL with 718 plate appearances.

 

9) Whitey Ford, Yankees P – The Bronx Bombers’ Ace for over a decade, his lifetime winning percentage was .690.

 

Game Notes

 

> The American League won the game 11-9 with three runs in the bottom of the 8th inning…Al Rosen hit two home runs and had five RBI’s.

 

> Both Ray Boone and Gus Bell hit home runs. Ironically, each of these players ended up being the patriarch of three-generation MLB families. Boone was the Father of Bob Boone as well as the Grandfather of Aaron & Bret. Bell was the Father of Buddy Bell and Grandfather of David & Mike.

 

> Larry Doby, the first AL player to break the color barrier, hit a pinch-hit HR.

 

> Ted Williams missed almost all of the previous two seasons serving in the Korean War, but did appear as a pinch-hitter late in the game.

 

> Willie Mays missed the ’53 season due to military service and even though he won the MVP in ’54, he was a reserve on this roster, replacing Snider later in the game.

 

> Other future Hall-of-Famers on the bench included Red Schoendienst, Pee Wee Reese, Nellie Fox & George Kell. In the bullpen, you could find Warren Spahn & Bob Lemon.

 

> Casey Stengel managed the AL team while Walter Alston was the skipper of the NL squad.

 

> Dean Stone of the Senators was the winning pitcher in his only All-Star appearance and Virgil “Fire” Trucks of the White Sox secured the Save.

 

> Rookie Gene Conley of the Braves was the losing pitcher. At 6′ 8″, he also played six seasons in the NBA with the Celtics & Knicks during the 50’s & 60’s.

 

> Other memorable players included Gil Hodges, Carl Erskine, Harvey Haddix, Jimmy Piersall, Mike Garcia & Allie Reynolds.

 

> As with most All-Star games, there were also some rather obscure members of the squads. Do you remember Randy Jackson, Don Mueller, Marv Grissom, Jim Wilson, Jim Finigan, Sandy Consuegra & Bob Keegan?

 

65 years later and the names still burn bright.