One of the odd things about baseball players’ careers is that most players have their best years in their twenties, but career totals are mostly determined by what you do in your thirties. . . . [Jim] Rice’s peak value can be fairly accurately assessed, and it ranks right up there. Is career value is still very much unknown, so I’ll leave it alone.
Bill James, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, page 381.
That said, it’s interesting to look at what James said in the first Historical Abstract, which had a much more favorable view of Rice. No, I’m not trying to pick on James. Far from. It’s just interesting to see how things evolve. In the 21st century, Jim Rice is one of sabermetric’s favorite historic whipping boys. Yet a generation ago Bill James said Rice’s peak ranked “right up there”—and then proceeds to list him with the sixth best peak by a left fielder ever.
What happened? Several things. OBP became far more important in sabermetric thinking. Better park factor data emerged. Oh, going back to James’ quote up top, Rice hit a wall in his early 30s and his production dropped off swiftly and suddenly.
That said, looking at the basic numbers, I can see why Rice was so well regarded back in the day. He hit for power. He hit for average. He even led the league in triples. That’s a nice combination.
And at some point today, it’ll be 1,000,000,000 seconds since Jim Rice reached a personal zenith. A single in the sixth inning off Milt Wilcox in the second game of a doubleheader against Detroit gave Rice 973 hits in 3,131 career at bats, for a .311 batting average (.310763, to be exact). For the rest of his career he hit .290 (1,479/5,094).
All players have their batting average peak at some point or another, but .311 isn’t a bad place to peak, especially for a slugger. Reggie Jackson, Rice’s contemporary AL slugger, never had a single season hitting that well. Mike Schmidt, the NL’s most dangerous bat in the late 1970s and early 1980s, had only one season over. 311, and that was the strike-shortened 1981. But that’s where Rice stood at the end of his sixth season.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is X-thousand days since a given event) today. Here some are—with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:
10,000 days since Ray Kroc, Padres owner, dies
15,000 days since Bill Melton, White Sox third baseman, makes very embarrassing error. He misplays a routine pop up badly—it bounces off his face, breaking his nose. Oops.
15,000 days since Frank Robinson hit his HR with the highest one-swing WPA of his career: 0.914 WPA. It was a three-run walk-off homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and his team down 6-5 off Moe Drabowsky. Because of his blast, Robinson’s Orioles instead beat the A’s, 8-6.
15,000 days since Wes Parker hits for the cycle. A 10th inning triple sealed it for him.
50,000 days since Jack Powell, 200-game winner with a losing record, born.
1869 Ted Breitenstein, one of the best pitchers to end up with a losing career record, born
1891 MLB debut: Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings
1893 Ed Delahanty hit two inside-the-park home runs in one game, both off Chicago ace Bill Hutchinson.
1903 Rube Waddell, the colorful A’s pitcher, first sees the Washington Monument. To verify that it’s real, he tries biting it. Later that day, he defeats the Washington Senators, 1-0.
1910 Miller Huggins, infielder who later becomes a Hall of Fame manager, has six plate appearances with zero at bats. He walks four times, hits a sacrifice fly, and lays down a sacrifice bunt.
1911 Cardinals 6, Reds 5. Cincinnati led 5-0 entering the bottom of the ninth.
1913 Yankees trade Hal Chase, most corrupt baseball player of all-time, to White Sox.
1915 When Brooklyn’s Zach Wheat hits a two-out, two-strike homer to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth against the Philies, one fan is so excited he drops dead of a heart attack. Phillies go on to win, 5-4.
1917 Hank Gowdy, Braves catcher, becomes first player to enlist in armed forces for WWI.
1918 White Sox first baseman Chick Gandil, who next year will be the point man for the gambles in the 1919 World Series fix, hits into a game-ending triple play.
1921 Dave Bancroft hits for the cycle. That’s especially impressive since today’s home run is his first one since September 23, 1917. It’s also an inside-the-park home run.
1921 Umpires start rubbing baseballs with mud before the glare and improve the grip on the ball. The mud comes from a New Jersey farm.
1923 The Chicago White Sox sign Ted Lyons. He’ll become a Hall of Fame pitcher and is still the all-time franchise leader in wins.
1923 Giants score in every inning of a 22-8 win over Philly. This is the first time that’s happened in the 20th century. Ross Youngs gets seven RBI in the game, going 5-for-6 with a triple for New York.
1925 Lou Gehrig begins his consecutive games played streak.
1932 John McGraw manages his last game, losing 4-2 to the Phillies. The loss drops New York into last place, which is probably related to his decision to step down.
1934 Hall of Famer Goose Goslin slugs his 200th home run.
1935 New York Yankees set a record by hitting six solo home runs in one game.
1937 White Sox Bill Dietrich tosses no-hitter: CWS 8, STB 0. Home plate umpire once threw a no-hitter himself, back in the Deadball Days.
1939 The Phillies plays their first night game at Shibe Park, and lose 5-2 to the Pirates.
1941 Mel Ott hits his 400th home run. He’s the fourth player and first National Leaguer to reach this level.
1942 Cubs select Jimmie Foxx off waivers from the Red Sox.
1942 Randy Hundley, Cub catcher, born.
1943 Stan Musial hits the first of nine career inside the park home runs.
1943 Rip Sewell introduces his blooper “eephus” pitch.
1944 Exactly one month since the first time a Washington Senator got six hits in one game, Stan Spence does it for the franchise.
1945 MLB debut: a teenaged Billy Pierce
1954 Pirate scout Clyde Sukeforth discovers Roberto Clemente playing for the Montreal Royals in Brooklyn’s farm system. They’ll nab him. Sukeforth is also the guy who signed Jackie Robinson almost a decade earlier.
1955 Duke Snider hits three home runs in one game for the second time. Also gets a career high 10 RBIs
1957 Pete Schneider dies. He was one of only six 20th century pitcher to toss 200 IP in his age-19 season.
1961 Milwaukee trades Billy Martin to Minnesota.
1961 Angels lose heartbreaker to fellow expansion team, the Senators, WAS 3, LAA 2. All three Washington runs score in the bottom of the ninth—on only one hit. Their inning: BB, BB, double steal, SF, strikeout – but he runner advances to first on a passed ball, then walk-off double.
1965 Bob Veale ties a Pirate franchise record by striking out 16 men in a game. The previous 16-K performance by a Pirate was also Bob Veale. No other pitcher in franchise history has done it. Until recently, he was also the only man in franchise history to fan 200 in a year. Then came Oliver Perez.
1968 Joe Hoerner sets a record by fanning six straight in relief.
1969 Dick Allen homers in his fifth consecutive game
1969 Nate Colbert hits his ninth home run as a Padre, passing Ollie Brown as the all-time franchise leader. Over 40 years (and much more than 40 home runs later), he still is Padre franchise leader in homers.
1970 Bowie Kuhn, the least deserving Hall of Fame inductee of all-time, publicly blasts Jim Bouton’s new book Ball Four as detrimental to baseball.
1971 Colorful umpire Ron Luciano has a bad day: while calling a runner safe, he accidentally bonks Yankee shortstop Gene Michael on the head. Michael will miss several games as a result.
1973 Derek Lowe born
1973 MLB debut: Bucky Dent
1975 Nolan Ryan throws his fourth career no-hitter for his 100th career win. He defeats Baltimore 1-0 with nine Ks and four walks. His record is now 100-89.
1977 WPA’s favorite Rod Carew game: 0.704 WPA. He’s 1-for-3 with two RBIs, two walks (one intentional) and a K. Twins beat Yanks, 4-3.
1978 Jim Palmer tosses his third straight CG SHO. His line in those games: 3-0, 27 IP, 16 H, 0 R, 8 BB, and 10 K.
1978 Pittsburgh releases Jim Fregosi.
1979 Robin Yount hits the first of six career inside the park home runs.
1979 Andy Messersmith, the game’s first free agent, plays his last game
1980 Rube Marquard, Hall of Famer, dies at age 90.
1981 A’s manager Billy Martin suspended a week and fined $1,000 for bumping umpire Terry Cooney and throwing two handfuls of dirt.
1981 Carlos Zambrano born. It’s somewhat fitting he was born on a day when someone completely lost his cool on the field.
1983 For the first time in four and a half years, Gaylord Perry picks off a runner. Last time he did it: September 26, 1978
1986 George Brett hits his 200th home run
1986 MLB debut: Ruben Sierra
1988 Draft day. Some guys selected (and the teams that picked them): Astros: Kenny Lofton and Luis Gonzalez; Yankees – Deion Sanders and Fernando Vina (not signed by them); Pirates – Tim Wakefield; Giants – Kenny Rogers and Royce Clayton; Expos – Marquis Grissom; White Sox – Robin Ventura; Mariners – Tino Martinez; Brewers: Alex Fernandez (not signed); Braves – Steve Avery; Dodgers – Eric Karros and last but not least Mike Piazza.
1992 Devon White becomes the sixth player to hit a leadoff home run and an extra inning homer in the same game.
1992 Draft day. Some guys selected (and the teams that picked them): A’s – Jason Giambi; Royals – Jon Lieber and Johnny Damon; Expos – Jose Vidro; Tigers – Bobby Higginson; Pirates – Jason Kendall; Marlins – Charles Johnson; Rangers – Rick Helling; Yankees – Derek Jeter; Astros – Phil Nevin; Padres – Todd Helton (not signed); Mets – Darin Erstad (not signed); Brewers – Matt Morris (not signed).
1993 Expos sign amateur free agent Orlando Cabrera
1995 Draft day picks: Angels – Darin Erstad; Cubs – Kerry Wood; Rockies – Todd Helton; Brewers – Geoff Jenkins; Cardinals – Matt Morris; Blue Jays – Roy Halladay; Giants – Joe Nathan; Expos – Brian Schneider; Mets – Aaron Rowand (not signed) and A. J. Burnett; Yankees – Mike Lowell; White Sox – J. J. Putz; Dodgers – Brad Wilkerson; Mariners – Juan Pierre; Giants – Brad Lidge (not signed), and Tigers – Mark Mulder (not signed).
1999 Bobby Cox manages his 100th regular season game against Jim Leyland
1999 Roger Clemens wins his 20th straight. His numbers in that spell: 20-0, 30 GS, 5 CG, 211.1 IP, 161 H, 68 R, 63 ER, 73 BB, 240 K, 2.68 ERA.
2001 C.C. Sabathia earns the win despite pitching just four innings. The game is called after 5.5 innings due to rain.
2002 Bobby Abreu’s 100th home run.
2003 WPA’s favorite relief pitcher performance of the decade, Steve Sparks with a 0.778 WPA. 7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. He gets the loss, though.
2003 MLB debut: Jose Valverde
2003 The worst one-game WPA performance by a batter on record occurs: Juan Rivera with a –0.820 WPA. He’s 0-for-6 with a walk and three GIDP. Despite his dreadful performance, his team won: NYY 10, DET 9.
2004 Derek Jeter has a personal best 11 total bases in one game: 4-for-5 with two home runs and double. NYY 8, BAL 7
2007 Mississippi Braves manager Phillip Wellman has an epic meltdown when umps eject him in minor league game.
2010 Tigers trade Dontrelle Willis to Diamondbacks
2010 Odd 9th inning in Tampa game. In the top of the inning, manager Joe Maddon tossed for Carlos Pena out on called third strike. In the bottom of the inning, Tampa allows four runs to lose the game despite Toronto getting only one hit. There are also five walks and a wild pitch. Tampa pitcher is tossed for complaining that the umpire is squeezing the strike zone on him. TOR 7, TBD 6.