December 8, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
And here's the full roster.
THT's latest e-bookThird Base: The Crossroads is THT's new e-book, available for $3.99 from the Kindle store. The good news is that anyone can read a Kindle book, even on a PC. So enjoy the best from THT in a new format.
Most Recent Comments
Let’s discuss the THT Annual (7)
Transaction Analysis Lightning Round: Pierzynski, Nathan, Ellsbury, and more (1)
Nationals make great deal for Fister (1)
10th anniversary: the A.J. Pierzynski trade (15)
It’s The Hardball Times Annual 2014 (8)
our CafePress store. We've got baseball caps, t-shirts, coffee mugs and even wall clocks with the classy THT logo prominently displayed. Also, check out the THT Bookstore. Please support your favorite baseball site by purchasing something today.
Or you can search by:
All content on this site (including text, graphs, and any other original works), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
120 years ago, one of the best pure hitters in baseball history debuted: George Sisler. He twice hit .400 and retired with a career mark of .340. He recorded nearly 3,000 hits, and would’ve made it into that club if it weren’t for a weird mid-career eye problem.
Despite that, Sisler’s great hitting career had quite a few odd hitches before it really began.
First, he got a later start than many of the greatest athletes of his generation. Oh, he played baseball, but not as a pro. Instead he went to college and earned a degree in engineering.
While there, Sisler did play baseball and did excel enough to attract the attention of big league scouts—but not as a hitter. No, you see Sisler was initially a pitcher. A good one, too. As a freshman in college, he fanned 20 in one game. Actually, it was even better than that—those 20 Ks came in just seven innings work.
Actually, Sisler would’ve become a professional earlier, but his initial contract had been declared void. He signed with the Pirates before going to college, and then a dispute emerged over it. Sisler eventually succeeded in having the contract voided, leaving the Pirates empty-handed and Sisler a free agent when he was done with college.
The St. Louis Browns, not yet a perennial joke in the AL, laid their hands on him. Sisler was highly touted enough (and the game’s infrastructure was insubstantial enough) to allow him to leap directly to the majors.
He did all right on the mound in his rookie campaign in 1915, but it didn’t take the team too long to realize that Sisler might have greater gifts to give the team than his arm. He pitched in 15 games in 1915, but appeared in 81. Sisler batted .285, second only to star second baseman Del Pratt.
Well, that was it. The Browns made him their first baseman and he developed a standout reputation as a fielder. More importantly, he swiftly became one of the best hitters. He hit .300 in 1916 and then .350 in 1917. He led the AL in steals in 1918, and then two years later banged out 257 hits—a record until Ichiro Suzuki broke it just a few years ago.
At the end of 1922, Sisler had 1,498 hits in barely over 1,000 games with a career .361 average. He looked liked a less talented version of Ty Cobb.
Then he missed all 1923 with double vision. He recovered enough to return to action, but was never anywhere nearly as great as he had been. Still, his prime was remembered and he hung around long enough to tally 2,812 hits. He became one of the first men elected into Cooperstown in 1939.
As it happens, modern analysis doesn’t find Sisler as impressive as his peers did. He did have an amazing batting average, but his pair of .400 seasons came in the 1920s, a hitters' era. He didn’t have much power and never drew many walks, so it was an empty average. Stats like Win Shares don’t see much brilliance in his fielding. He’s got a great average, but he arguably has the emptiest batting average in history.
That said, if Sisler is overrated, that doesn’t mean he was bad. An empty .340 batting average is still a .340 batting average and, era be damned, that’s still impressive. All things considered, Sisler did have quite a nice career—and it all began with his birth, 120 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
Click for more...