Stats & Info: Honus Wagner
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsThe Tampa Bay Rays have a lot to celebrate during their turnaround.
Should the Rays win Wednesday (12:10 ET vs Milwaukee Brewers), they’ll reach .500 for the first time since April 22 when they were 10-10. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three times in MLB history has a team reached .500 after being as many as 18 games under .500 in the same season. None of the previous three, however, would go on to make the playoffs.
The 1899 Louisville Colonels were led by a 25-year-old shortstop named Honus Wagner. That ball club started the season 16-38 but rallied to go 57-35 over their next 92 games. They finally returned to .500 baseball on October 3. Unfortunately, it was too late in the season by then and the Colonels finished ninth in the National League, 28 games out of first place.
The Tampa Bay franchise has actually been here before. Then known as the Devil Rays in 2004, the team found itself at 10-28 on May 19 but went 25-7 over its next 32 games to reach .500 on June 25. The turnaround was short-lived, however, and the team posted a 35-56 record the rest of the way. While the comeback fueled a then-franchise record 70 wins, the team still finished fourth in the AL East and 20 and a half games out of playoff position.
The most-recent such comeback came in 2006 by the Florida Marlins. That team was led by 23-year-old Miguel Cabrera and 22-year-old rookie shortstop Hanley Ramirez. The Marlins tumbled to an NL-worst 11-31 record on May 21 before proceeding to go 57-37 to reach .500 on September 3. However, the Marlins went 10-16 the rest of the way and finished fourth in the NL East, again with no playoffs to show for it.
So what's fueling the Tampa turnaround this season?
The Rays have been one of the most disciplined teams at the plate since June 10. Prior to that date the Rays ranked 17th with a .317 OBP as a team. From June 11 on the Rays have a .346 OBP as a team, the best mark in baseball over that time span.
Ben Zobrist has tallied 27 walks from June 11 on, second in MLB behind only Paul Goldschmidt's 36 walks.
And finally, the Rays have chased only 25 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone from June 11 on, again the best mark in baseball over that time span.
While trade rumors have quieted for their ace David Price, the Rays could make a run at history and become the first team ever to make the playoffs after being 18 games below .500 in the same season.
Will it also end his career? The 38-year-old third baseman had mentioned retirement earlier this season.
Let's take a look at some things Chipper:
Among active players, Jones ranks 9th in hits (2,490), 7th in runs (1,505), 6th in home runs (436), 6th in extra-base hits (966) and 7th in OBP (.405, minimum 3,000 plate appearances).
With this being Bobby Cox's last season, it looks as if Tuesday was the last game for the Chipper-Cox combo. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the player/manager duo has logged 2,261 games together, the second-most of any such tandem in MLB history. Only Honus Wagner under Fred Clarke for Louisville (1897-1899) and Pittsburgh (1900-1915) had more.
Chipper Jones ranks in the top 30 all-time with a .941 OPS, matching that of the legendary Willie Mays.
A team of nine players with career numbers of Chipper Jones would win nearly 72 percent of the time, by way of Bill James Offensive Winning Percentage metric. By comparison, a team comprised of nine Alex Rodriguez's would win 70 percent of the time.
During Garciaparra’s first eight seasons with the Red Sox, his .323 batting average was the best in the majors among shortstops and his 173 HR and 669 RBI during that span trailed only Alex Rodriguez among those who took the field between second and third base.
It’s also worth noting that only three players with at least 1,500 plate appearances in a Red Sox uniform can claim a better batting average with the BoSox than Nomar’s .332: Ted Williams, Wade Boggs and Tris Speaker. (In case you were wondering, those three players also have something else in common: they all have a plaque in Cooperstown).
When Garciaparra won his second batting crown in 2000, his .372 average wasn’t only the best in the AL that year, it was the third-best by a shortstop since 1900 and the best mark by a righty since the end of World War II (and still is).
It’s fitting that Garciaparra retired as with the Red Sox, because he was never the same player in another uniform. After being dealt by Boston in the middle of the 2004 season, injuries derailed Garciaparra’s final years, limiting him to 468 games and a .288 batting average over his last five-plus MLB seasons. But Garciaparra seems to want to be remembered for his years in Boston, saying on Wednesday that he’s always felt at home in Beantown. Baseball fans would be smart to oblige.