April 18, 2014

Comments on The SABR Baseball List and Record Book, Part 1

January 18, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

In 2007 I wrote several posts at my personal blog that were commentaries on the great book published that year from SABR, titled The SABR Baseball List and Record Book (see it at Amazon). As we are now in the lull awaiting spring training, I thought I’d republish these entries here at Seamheads, as I’d like to encourage others to get this book and enjoy the many fascinating lists it provides. The book is nearly 400 pages of lists and statistics: some are traditional, but many are things you’d have trouble finding anywhere else, even in the large print baseball encyclopedias or online resources. That said, note the major caveat to these postings is that the book — and hence its lists and data – do not include the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Today I will start with list 014, found on pg. 7, “More Career Games Played than Plate Appearances by Non-Pitchers, since 1900 (min. 100 G)”.  This list is as follows:

Matt Alexander 1973-1981, Games = 374, PA = 195
Charles Gipson 1998-2005, Games = 373, PA = 358
Glen Barker 1999-2001, Games = 235, PA = 197
Jack Reed 1961-1963, Games = 222, PA = 144
Allan Lewis 1967-70, 72-73, Games = 156, PA = 31
Ross Moschitto 1965, 1967, Games = 110, PA = 39
Herb Washington 1974-1975, Games 105, PA = 0

Now, how does this happen one might ask? Well, two major ways as far as I can tell. If you are often put into a games a defensive replacement late in a game, and then either don’t come to bat or are pinch-hit for when you do, then you’d be in the game without batting. The second way is if you are regularly used as a pinch-runner, and then don’t take a position in the field in the next inning (and so can’t bat at all the rest of that game).

I don’t remember much about Gipson (OF with a .237 BA with 16 SB in career) or Barker (OF with a .232 BA and 30 SB) , and I can’t tell just from their stats what their strengths were. With 17 SB in 81 games in 1999, I guess Glen Barker might have been a pinch-runner often?

Jack Reed was an OF for the Yankees, and hit .233 in his career, but only had 7 SB. Ross Moschitto was also a Yankee OF, but hit only .167 in his 36 career at-bats (with 0 SB). So I don’t know from these numbers what their story was.

But the other three players, Alexander, Lewis, and Washington, were definitely pinch-runner players for the great Oakland A’s experiment of the 1970s. Starting with Lewis, we see that he had 14 SB in 1967 for the KC A’s, playing in 34 games but only having 7 official ABs. He had 8 SB in 1968, 7 in 1970, 8 in 1972, and then 7 more in his last season. His last season was the most extreme along these lines: 35 games, 0 at-bats, 16 runs, 7 SB. For his career, that’s 44 SB (with 17 CS) in 156 games, with only 31 plate-appearances (29 at-bats). Oh, and of those 156 games he played, he was only used in the field 10 times (all OF).

The A’s carried one or two “designated” pinch-runners on their rosters for much of the 1970s. Herb Washington was perhaps the most extreme of these, at least in my mind: in fact, he is the one player on this listing that I might have been able to guess. 1974 was his big year, as he played in 92 games, but none in the field. He had 0 plate appearances, but managed 29 runs scored, 29 SB, and 16 CS. Then in 1975 he got into only 13 games, scored 4 runs, with 2 SB, 1 CS. So that is how he played 105 games and never batted.

In 1975 it seems Don Hopkins took over for Washington as the primary pinch-runner. He played in 82 games, had only 6 ABs, but scored 25 runs, with 21 SB and 9 CS. Like Washington, he then played very little the next year.

Another pinch-runner during these years was Matt Alexander, the last guy from the list above. He obviously had a longer career than Washington or Hopkins, playing 374 games, with 1995 PA, 168 ABs (a .214 hitter), scoring 111 runs, with 103 SB and 42 CS. He did play various positions in the field, including OF 93, 3B 22, SS 13, and 2B 10.

Another player worth noting in this regard is Larry Lintz. After a few seasons in Montreal (including 1974 when he had 50 SB in only 113 games!), and then a brief stint in St. Louis, this middle-infielder joined the A’s in 1976 and became a pinch-runner for them. He played in 68 games, but had only 1 AB. He scored 21 runs, with 31 SB and 11 CS.

In doing this research, I uncovered a few other interesting tidbits. First, the 1976 A’s were a running team! They didn’t hit many HR (113), with Bando smacking 27 and Tenace 22. But they stole an amazing 341 bases and were caught 123 times. Regular team-leader Billy North swiped 75, and Bert Campaneris had 54. Don Baylor managed 52, by far the most of his career (though he did swipe 20+ in eight consecutive seasons, something I had forgotten). Claudell Washington had 37, and Phil Garner 35. All that running must have been contagious, because even Sal Bando chipped in with 20 SB, one of only two seasons in which he managed double-digit steals. It was almost overkill then that pinch-runners Alexander had 20 and Lintz had 31.

So were those 341 SB a record? No. For this I was able to turn to page 338 of this book (see what a great book it is!), where we learn that since 1898, the top SB total was the Baltimore Orioles… of the National League. Yes, the Orioles of 1899 were of the NL. They had 364 SB led by Jimmy Sheckard with 77 and the immortal John McGraw with 73. Well, that was a long time ago, so moving down the list to second place we find the NY Giants of the NL with 347 in 1911. They were led by Josh Devore with 61 and Fred Snodgrass (gotta love that name) with 51. But then in third place is in fact the 1976 A’s with their 341 SB. In fact, the only non-ancient team to come close was the 1985 Cardinals who stole 312 bases, led of course by Vince Coleman with his amazing 110 SB in his rookie campaign. Willie McGee had 56, Andy Van Slyke34, and Ozzie Smith and Tommy Herr had 31 each.

The other tidbit I noticed in doing this analysis of the A’s in the 1970s… was Mitchell Page’s rookie numbers. He came in second for the AL ROY that year, losing to Eddie Murray. Mitchell batted .307 with 21 HR and 75 RBI. But he also stole 42 bases, versus only 5 CS — quite a good percentage! The next season he wasn’t as fortunate, stealing 23 versus 19 CS, and then in 1979 he slipped further with 17 SB and 16 CS — not a good success rates at all!

Anyway, future entries on lists from this interesting book will not be as long as this one was, but I just found the Herb Washington entry in that list fascinating and deserving of some comment.


2 Responses to “Comments on The SABR Baseball List and Record Book, Part 1”
  1. vinnie says:

    Reed and Moschitto were mainly used as pinch runners or late inning replacements for Mantle during his last few injury plagued years.

  2. John Lease says:

    Those running A’s and the 1979 Pirates had some common threads, Chuck Tanner and Matt Alexander.

    Matt was actually a decent outfielder, but was on rosters to be a pinch runner. It’s a specialty that is extinct, and it’s too bad. A good pinch runner can get you that guy in scoring position when you need it.

    Three catchers is just about extinct too, except in September. Pinch runners in September though have seen their last days.

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