Joe Posnanski
Monday September 29th, 2008

Four players in baseball history have put together this odd combination: 25 homers, 25 stolen bases, 40 doubles, more than 110 RBIs and 110 runs scored. They are:

1. Larry Walker in 1997. Of course, that was at Coors Field, so it's pretty tainted, but he hit .366 with 46 doubles, 49 homers, 130 RBIs, 143 runs scored and 33 stolen bases. That's not a season. That's a video game.

2. Ellis Burks in 1996. Of course, THAT ALSO was at Coors Field, so, you know. He hit .344 with 45 doubles, 40 homers, 128 RBIs, 142 runs scored and 32 stolen bases. You know, it's easy to forget just how wacky things were at Coors Field.

3. Barry Bonds in 1998. I'm a bit surprised that Barry didn't do this more than once, but Barry never was a great doubles hitter -- this is the only time he ever hit 40 doubles in a season. He never finished in the league's Top 5 in doubles. I don't know what that means, but anyway in 1998, Barry Bonds hit .303 with 44 doubles, 37 homers, 122 RBIs, 120 runs and 28 stolen bases. That was also the year he finished a distant eighth in the MVP voting, way behind Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. That was supposedly the year said, "Um, bleep this all around bleep, give me some flaxseed."

4. Carlos Beltran in 2008. Yes, now we get to the point. Carlos hit .284 with 40 doubles, 27 homers, 112 RBIs, 116 runs scored and 25 stolen bases. It's not as good a year as the first three, but he did not have Colorado light air or the great hitting environment of the late 1990s. I'm not sure that Carlos Beltran had a GREAT year in the way that we would normally describe greatness. His OPS+ was 131 which is certainly very good (especially for a Gold Glove quality center fielder) but hardly historic. He had 27 Win Shares, which is good and was tied for third in the National League. He's VORP was 55.8 runs, which again is quite good but well behind some others.

So, no I don't think it was a GREAT year. But it was a great year, lower case letters, because I don't know that anyone else could have done it. Maybe Curtis Granderson. Maybe Grady Sizemore. Anyway, I've always loved the athletes who fill all the columns on the stat sheet -- I'm a huge fan of the triple-double (or the rare quadruple double*) -- which is reason No. 349 why I love Beltran.

*There have been four official quadruple doubles in NBA history -- Nate Thurmond, Alvin Robertson, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson. What isn't as well known is that Hakeem actually pulled off a quadruple double twice IN THE SAME MONTH. That was March 1990, and the one everyone recognizes was on March 29, when he had 18 points, 16 boards, 10 assists and 11 blocks.

But earlier than month, he had a game where he had 29 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists and 11 blocks. Trouble is at first the scoresheet said he had NINE assists, denying him the triple double. Later after they reviewed video they (of course) found that 10th assist in there -- it was probably one of the leftover phantom assists from John Stockton's career. But the NBA will not recognize it.

I know what you are wondering: How many players since the end of Deadball have had an OPS+ of 5 or less?

Well, it depends on how many plate appearances you are talking about. Quickly, you know OPS represents on-base percentage plus slugging, and OPS+ measures a player against everyone else in the league (taking ballpark effects into consideration). A 100 OPS+ is precisely average. That means, generally speaking, that a 5 OPS+ represents a player who is 20 times worse than average.

If you start with a 100 plate appearance baseline, there have been 211 players with a 5-or-below OPS+, because at that low threshold you get pitchers in there. If you exclude pitchers, the number drops to 31, from the astonishing Andy Anderson in 1949 to the Zen-like Ben Zobrist.

If you make it 150 plate appearances, you are down to six players:

1. Maury Wills, 1972. He was 39 years old then and his speed was gone. Maury Wills without speed did not make for a pretty picture. He hit .129/.167/.190 in 152 plate appearances.

2. Pat Rockett was a 23-year-old shortstop in Atlanta in 1978. He had been a pretty big prospect -- he was the 10th overall pick in the 1973 draft and was picked just before Lee Mazzilli (and WAY ahead of Fred Lynn*). He hit .141/.155/.212 in 157 plate appearances -- that's a 0 OPS+ if you are scoring at home. He was traded to Toronto at the end of the year and never played in another Major League game.

*I had forgotten that Lynn was a late second round pick by Boston in 1973 -- you have to think that if baseball drafts were scrutinized like football drafts, somebody would have gotten KILLED for passing on Fred Lynn twice. I mean, Rod Dedeaux said many times that Lynn was the best athlete he ever had at USC. The guy was a dominant baseball player on a team that won three straight college World Series. He was on the USC football team. He was a brilliant center fielder with power potential ... So, you have to ask, WHAT THE HELL WERE SCOUTS LOOKING AT THEN? The Royals, for instance, took high school pitcher Lew Olsen AND high school catcher Brian Trifiolis. The Indians took high school infielder Glenn Tufts and college infielder Tom McMillen. The Rangers famously took pitcher David Clyde and not as famously took another pitcher Richard Schubert.

There are thousands of cases, of course, of teams making terrible draft choices, but looking back I don't understand this one. I assume Lynn was the most famous college player in America (maybe it was Dave Winfield, but Lynn had to be right up there) and teams just refused to take him. And Lynn was obviously as advanced as anyone -- the next year he was called up to the big leagues and hit .419 in 50 plate appearances. And the year after that he was the Rookie of the Year and MVP.

3. Tony Martinez was a 23-year-old shortstop from Cuba. And he had the misfortune of coming up to Cleveland in 1963, when pitchers absolutely dominated the American League. To give you an idea -- the average batting average in 1963 was .247 and the average on-base percentage was .312. Tony Martinez was much worse than that. He hit .156/.184/.184 in 151 plate appearances, a 4 OPS+. He played in 30 more games.

4. Bob Didier was a 21-year-old catcher in Atlanta in 1970, and he he hit .149/.210/.173. Didier managed to stick around for four more years -- he actually played five games for the 1975 Red Sox -- and he managed to pull off the rare catcher's feat of hitting four triples in his career but zero home runs.*

*It's actually not nearly as rare as I expected -- 21 catchers in baseball history have hit zero home runs but hit four or more triples. Benny Bengough from Niagara Falls and Paddy Livingston from my hometown of Cleveland both hit 12 triples in their careers bur zero home runs.

5. The aforementioned Andy Anderson in 1949 hit .125/.207/.169 in 1949. He played a little short, a little third base and a little second base for the St. Louis Browns. And he is the only baseball player to share names with the drummer for the Cure. OK, so that makes five. Obviously, you already know the sixth. But to make the point ... our guy is the ONLY player since Deadball to get 200 plate appearances and have a sub-5 OPS+.

He is, of course, Tony Pena, who actually hit .333 in his last four games (3 for 9) to improve his OPS+ to 4. For the season, Pena hit .169/.189/.209 with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 homer in 235 plate appearances. It really was an epic year, and you have to wonder what the future holds.

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