“Funny how being north of south of a round number makes a big impact to us.” – Rob Copenhaver, on Monday.
“I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.” – Groucho Marx
I was once on a plane seated next to a formidably impressive fellow who informed me, in a voice which sounded like Barry White after smoking 10 packs of cigarettes and gargling with battery acid, that he worked for Jay-Z as house security in his sports bar, 40/40 Club. Take a look at the link… It’s either your type of sports bar or it’s not. As for me, it’s not clear that a sports bar should even have a cocktail menu, but if it did, it shouldn’t have drinks like this, though to be fair, at least they don’t have a drink named after Jim Leyritz.
So I figured out I don’t want to be in the 40/40 Club, but Ronald Acuña Jr. clearly wanted to be, though the one he wants to be in is considerably more exclusive, and has no need for house security at all. Assuming he rests his groin for the next week (insert Andruw Jones joke here) he’s in the 41/37 club, which is a thing I just made up, of course, but he’s in it. And the amazing thing is, it’s almost as exclusive as the 40/40 club. The 40/40 club has four members: Canseco, Bonds, Soriano and Rodriguez. (Note that each of them has a drink named after them in the 40/40 Club.) The 41/37 club, which I just made up, has only 5 members: the four previously named and Ronald Acuña Jr. He made it! Furthermore, even if he had gotten the 3 SB he needed to reach 40/40? Well I can then create the 42/40 club, and in that case he still trails all four of the current members, all of whom had at least 42 homers.
Ignore for the moment that the pursuit of personal goals can easily hurt the team. And ignore that playing a player with an ailing groin while you’re getting ready for the playoffs is suicidal. Chasing a meaningless goal is…meaningless. And, round numbers aside, there is very little more meaningless than the 40/40 Club. Ronald Acuña Jr. has had a very good season. It won’t be any better for having The Fuego (tequila, orange liqueur, pineapple juice, splash of cranberry) renamed the Acuña Smash.
Bill James, in the 1980 Baseball Abstract, proposed a much better Power/Speed Number (PSN) than these arbitrary clubs: the harmonic mean of homers and stolen bases: 2 (HRxSB)/(HR+SB). The clear advantage of this measure is that it doesn’t require the creation of arbitrary “clubs.” By this measure, RAJ has a PSN of 38.9, the highest of 2019, and the 16th highest in baseball history. (For 2019, Yelich is second at 35.7. The only other Brave in the top 30 is Albies at 18.2.)
Here are the top 20 seasons of all time:
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||41||37||2019||38.9|
Note that doing it this way also easily allows you to adjust for caught stealing. As a rule of thumb, two steals and a caught stealing are roughly a wash, so that we can recalculate the best power-speed seasons adjusting for caught stealing by subtracting two caught stealings for every steal before calculating the PSN. At this point the top 20 look very different. Indeed – only one member of the traditional 40/40 club makes the list at all: Bonds in 1996, at 11th. And Yelich’s season this year comes in at tenth all-time. RAJ, with his 9 CS, drops to 47th, and the best Braves performances of all time are Hank Aaron, 1963 (44 HR, 31 S, 5 CS, 28.4); Dale Murphy 1983 (36/30/4: 27.3); Chipper Jones 1999 (45/25/3. 26.7); and then RAJ.
Soriano is an instructive example of the perils of chasing 40/40. In 2005 he had one of the top 20 Net PSN numbers of all time: 26 homers, 30 SB and only 2 CS. The next year, somebody whispered in his ear that he could have true immortality if made the 40/40 club, and he did: 46 homers and 41 SB. But his quest seems to have ballooned his CS total to 17, making his Net PSN a less-than-great 12.2, 316th all time. Ronald’s CS numbers were twice as high in the 2nd half – hard not to think that the chase for 40/40 was a factor. Indeed, the best case for pulling out the stops to let him do it this year is that, falling just short, he’ll try again next year… and the year after that, no matter how many CS he piles up.
There have been 92,965 player-seasons in MLB. The 16th, or even 47th, best season of all time is plenty good enough. The top 50 is pretty damn good! He’s also the youngest player on the basic list, though A-Rod was only a year older. Rest up and get ready for the playoffs, Ronald. You’re a really good base stealer with a lot of power, and we need you.
Recap: A bullpen game as they move Soroka to the weekend. The highlight was 8 Ks in a row from Newk, O’Day, and Luke. The big offensive news is that Dansby had four hits and five solid contacts. The first 4 hit game of his career. One swallow doth not a summer make, but it’s a start. Another game or two like this and Dansby will definitely start over Hech. JD with three doubles. We beat up on their bullpen. Overall, it’s no sin losing a season series to KC. That George Brett, Dan Quisenberry and Amos Otis can play.
Note we’re now a game behind Minnesota for home field in the Rematch of 1991. They play KC and Detroit the rest of the regular season.
Chip Watch: (a) Chip continues to think that adding a DH should make a team better, even though the other team gets a DH as well. He said it again tonight: “We have trouble beating the Royals, even though we get a DH.” He thinks the NL has an advantage in both AL and NL parks. He also quixotically beats the drum for interleague play to operate on the visiting team’s rules “to familiarize fans with the way the game is played in the other league.” There must be some other reason for this in Chip’s mind, right? I hate to break this to you Chip: there’s this thing called TV in which fans can see how the game is played in the other league. I hear there’s even a thing called “announcers” whose job it is to explain how the game is played. I realize you’re busy and don’t get to watch that often, but it is possible, if you’re lucky, to watch the Braves on the road when they play in AL parks. (b) I’ll believe that Chip thinks that the current level of homers distorts the beauty of the game when he stops projecting a homer for every Braves player who comes to plate. (“Let’s see if Cervelli can tie up the game here.”)
It’s been a lot of fun doing regular season recaps this year. Thanks for reading…. even those of you who dislike digressive preambles before the recap.