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Sunday, May 21, 2023

The staggering numbers behind Acuña’s push for baseball history

Leading in steals and OPS

Rickey. Willie. They are two of the iconic names in baseball history. Perhaps Ronald could one day join them.

Here are the only two players to lead their league (AL or NL) in both stolen bases and OPS in the same season, since integration (1947), per the Elias Sports Bureau:

Rickey Henderson (A’s): Led 1990 AL with 65 SB, 1.016 OPS
Willie Mays (Giants): Led 1958 NL with 31 SB, 1.002 OPS
Willie Mays (Giants): Led 1957 NL with 38 SB, 1.034 OPS^
^Note: Some sources, such as Baseball Reference, show Mays losing the 1957 NL OPS title to the Cardinals’ Stan Musial, 1.034 to 1.033, due to an issue with Mays’ walk total. Elias, which is MLB’s official statistician, has Mays at 1.034 as well.

Two other players managed to lead their league in that pair of stats since the start of the Live Ball Era in 1920. But in addition to taking place before integration, both have notable caveats attached. Snuffy Stirnweiss of the 1945 Yankees played in a league that had lost a number of players to World War II military service, including three of the top 10 AL OPS finishers from 1944. And Chuck Klein of the 1932 Phillies played in the absurdly hitter-friendly environs of the Baker Bowl, where he batted .423/.464/.799. (His NL-leading SB total was also a mere 20).

So Henderson and Mays are the closest parallels to what Acuña is doing. And hey, when you’re in the exclusive company of two inner-circle Hall of Famers—the all-time stolen base king and arguably the sport’s greatest all-around player—that’s always nice.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 21, 2023 at 06:01 PM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: ronald acuna

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: May 22, 2023 at 02:16 AM (#6129444)
What about OPS and triples? (Willie did it.) I assume that's a bit more common, especially in the early days. What about OPS and triples by relieving siblings?
   2. Walt Davis Posted: May 22, 2023 at 02:20 AM (#6129445)
After a hot start, I think I'm disappointed to see that Mateo and Mullins have fallen off their O's-record paces. Aparicio's 57 steals might be safe.
   3. Mefisto Posted: May 22, 2023 at 08:39 AM (#6129461)
These factoids are interesting, but not really meaningful to the extent they imply a comparison of young players to the greats.

In 1957 Mays led not just in SB and OPS, but in triples, Slg., and OPS+. In 1958 he also led in runs and OPS+. In 1955 he led in triples, HR, Slg., OPS, OPS+, and TB, and while he didn't lead the league in SB (he was second), he went 24/4. In 1954 he led in triples, BA, Slg., OPS, OPS+. So while Acuna is a very good player, we should appreciate him for that and not anoint him (yet) as Willie or even Rickey.
   4. Cowboy Popup Posted: May 22, 2023 at 09:02 AM (#6129463)
So while Acuna is a very good player, we should appreciate him for that and not anoint him (yet) as Willie or even Rickey.

I think the point is to highlight the fact that his blend of skills and athleticism is on par with two all-time greats, not that he is necessarily their equal in production. I think it's always worth calling out unusual markers like this, they are fun to track over the course of the season. Acuna is a physical freak and I'm super glad he's going to get a chance to show what he can do in an environment that (relatively) encourages base stealing.

I also appreciate learning about these things as I didn't know it had been done once, much less 5 times (3 in the modern era). Fascinating that Rickey did it, he would not have been at the top of my list. None of the 40-40 guys did it, Eric Davis never did it.

Man, Rickey's 1990 was something else. 28 HRs, 65 SBs, walked way more than he struck out. He was 31 when he did that, too! BABIP was the same as his Avg, don't see that every day.
   5. SoSH U at work Posted: May 22, 2023 at 09:35 AM (#6129466)
What about OPS and triples? (Willie did it.)

Jim Rice did it in 78.
   6. pikepredator Posted: May 22, 2023 at 02:34 PM (#6129529)
I have long thought SB, TB, and OBP is the most challenging triple crown of relatively "standard" stats to accomplish. Requires sustained production of all kinds for a full season.

Ty Cobb.

Maybe Acuna.

We've seen Ohtani become the 21st-century Babe Ruth. I never imagined that would be possible. I was shocked when Miggy won the Triple Crown, I didn't think that was gonna happen again . . . but Ohtani is an order of magnitude more unimaginable.

Acuna could be the 21st century Ty Cobb.
   7. Karl from NY Posted: May 22, 2023 at 03:42 PM (#6129546)
I was shocked when Miggy won the Triple Crown, I didn't think that was gonna happen again

Well, the triple crown is half luck that nobody else happened to exceed your numbers in a given season. Miggy did it with only 44 HR. Josh Hamilton was only one behind and got 60 fewer PA. Granderson was also only one behind Miggy.
   8. The Honorable Ardo Posted: May 22, 2023 at 11:08 PM (#6129644)
Ty Cobb, Acuna, and Byron Buxton were all born on December 18th. That has to be the greatest Birthday Outfield of all time.
   9. Froot Loops Posted: May 22, 2023 at 11:13 PM (#6129648)
November 21 has three Hall of Famers, although Fred Lindstrom spent more time at third base than in the outfield.
   10. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: May 23, 2023 at 01:58 PM (#6129768)
I'm guessing February 29th's OF wouldn't be too good. (Actually, not that horrible: you've got Pepper Martin and Terence Long, Madris, currently playing for AAA Sugar Land. Infield seems tolerable, with Al Rosen and Dickey Pearce...)

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