Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reexamining the 3000-Hit Club

Today is the one year anniversary of Ichiro Suzuki's 4000th professional baseball hit, a feat that caused people to recall their basic math skills and begin researching which players in baseball history stood on top of the hit plateau along with Ichiro.  Scott Simkus of put the total number of club members at nine after adding not only MLB and minor league hit totals but also hits from the postseason, Negro League play, and other professional leagues throughout history.  

So in trying to find yet another 4000-hit club entrant, I thought of an interesting way to honor Ichiro's anniversary: I added up the hit totals of all 28 players with 3000 or more MLB hits using statistics from

The most important result of my addition is that Tris Speaker was astoundingly close to being the tenth member of the 4000-hit club. He notched 3987 hits in 25 seasons in professional baseball, just 13 knocks shy of joining Ichiro, Derek Jeter, Minnie Minoso, and others as brothers in hitting. 

A second and much less significant finding of my addition is that many players got monstrous boosts from their minor league seasons. For example, in the three seasons he spent with the San Francisco Seals, Paul Waner amassed 609 hits, including 280 in his age-22 season with the Double-A club.  

There are some players on this list whose professional hit totals are not quite complete.  They have a listed season on with no hit totals for that season and are marked with an asterisk (*).  Hank Aaron's hit total is marked with two asterisks (**) because his hit totals as added up by me differ from those relayed by Scott Simkus.  Finally, some members of this list have no minor league seasons listed at all.  

So perhaps there is still some work to be done here since not all hit totals are 100% complete, but I think this is a pretty good start on a brand new way of looking at the 3000-hit club.

Number of Professional Hits
Number of MLB Hits
Pete Rose
Ty Cobb
Derek Jeter
Hank Aaron**
Stan Musial
Tris Speaker
Carl Yastrzemski
Wade Boggs
Rickey Henderson
Paul Waner
Eddie Murray
Nap Lajoie
Honus Wagner*
Cal Ripken
George Brett
Willie Mays
Cap Anson
Paul Molitor
Tony Gwynn
Eddie Collins
Rod Carew*
Rafael Palmeiro
Craig Biggio
Lou Brock*
Robin Yount
Dave Winfield
Roberto Clemente
Al Kaline

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Billy Beane, Can I Be On Your Little League Team?

If you've viewed this blog before, you might notice that I made some changes to it.  The first change is that I put up a new poll to the right of the page.  The second and most important revision that I made is to the title, switching it from "Matt's Sports News Blog" to "Billy Beane, Can I Be On Your Little League Team?"  A professor I had in graduate school suggested I make a change to the title, and I never did.  Until today.  

So why did I pick this title for my blog?  It's really about my career as a little league player.  I didn't consistently hit or field during my nine years as a baseball player.  I believe I only batted over .300 for the season once and I made what I think was a highlight-reel catch as a left fielder on a cloudy day, but I was never really a fantastic player.

But I did walk.  A lot.  And since it was little league, I also "stole" a lot of bases, moving up a base and making it home numerous times on what I now believe were passed balls and wild pitches (I'm unsure whether or not I ever had a true steal).  So I'm guessing that maybe I could have been a decent player on Billy Beane's little league team, which, to the best of my knowledge, is something I made up.  

Now I know Billy Beane's ideas, as discussed in Moneyball, aren't just about getting bases on balls. I read the book and have also read a few articles about it, one of which said explicitly that the text was about more than overweight and out-of-shape players who walk. 

And I understand that.  

So please don't take this title too seriously.  In my writing, I'm trying to improve, be creative, and have a little fun, all with a brand new title to my blog.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Golden Age of Field Goal Kicking?

If you're a football fan, there's a good chance you've gotten angry once or twice at a kicker who missed a field goal or extra point.  I'm sure I have.  I can't remember any specifics, but maybe I've just blocked them out of my memory.

I'm starting to think, though, that field goals aren't being missed all that often these days, at least as far as the NFL is concerned.

Take the records for all-time career field goal percentage.**  While Mike Vanderjagt and Nate Kaeding lead the way, a little more than two-thirds of the top 34 players on the leaderboard are active.

And of those 34, Vanderjagt was actually the first to retire, having taken his last kick in a not-so-long-ago 2006.

In addition, if you look at pro-football-reference's league leaders in field goal percentage by season for every year since 1938, you'll find that the top kickers broke the 90 percent barrier in field goals made just twice in the first 50 years on the chart.***  But no league leader in field goal percentage has failed to reach at least 90 percent in field goal conversions since way back in 1987, and six players, beginning with Tony Zendejas in 1991, have hit all of their field goals attempted over a full season.

In career extra point conversion percentage, ten of the top fourteen kickers are active (A kicker needs at least 1.5 extra point attempts for every scheduled game to qualify for this list). There are also six qualifying players who have never missed an extra point, and I'm sure it comes as no surprise that four of those players are still in the league.

True, one could argue small sample size for guys like Dan Bailey, Nick Folk, Connor Barth, and Ryan Succop, each of whom has a perfect extra point conversion record.  But consider the following names: Adam Vinatieri, Jason Elam, Morten Andersen, Jan Stenerud.  While each of those four missed at least one extra point by the end of his second season, Bailey, the least-experienced of any of the current extra-point conversion leaders by total number of seasons played, is 123 for 123 over three seasons in the NFL.

There are still some things missing, of course, like testimony from players and coaches about how far kicking has come (assuming they believe the art has advanced significantly). 

There's also the issue of making the extra point a longer try, which, presumably, would reduce kicker accuracy at least a little bit.  But perhaps we can see the experimentation with longer PAT attempts partly as evidence of how good these players have become.  That's why I think I have enough evidence to at least theorize that we're in the Golden Age of Field Goal Kicking.

*Note: All of the statistics used in this post came from  

**Note 2: In order to qualify for the pro-football-reference's all-time field goal percentage leaderboard, a player needs at least 100 career field goal attempts and "0.75 attempts per game scheduled."

***Note 3: In order to qualify for the league lead in field goal percentage in pro-football-reference's year-by-year leaderboard, a player needs "0.75 attempts per game scheduled."