Baseball: Past and Present

Editor’s note: Due to scheduling changes that will take effect next week, future link posts will be an occasional Monday feature.

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  • I wouldn’t typically devote a bullet point to a past post from this blog, but something interesting happened in our back pages this week. A couple months ago, Joe Guzzardi wrote about his prep school friendship with Joe DiMaggio Jr. This caught the attention of a woman who said she was Joey D’s ex-wife. She left the most recent comment. It always interests me when we draw notice from friends and family members of the people we write about.
  • Cyril Morong analyzes Albert Pujols’ slow start (a .750 OPS being slow for him, granted, which is still better than every starter on the Oakland Athletics.)
  • Otis Anderson writes about the need for San Francisco Giants fans to have a talk with their inner Jeff Goldblum in the wake of Buster Posey’s disastrous injury.
  • SB Nation pokes fun at the New York Daily News for suggesting Jose Bautista might have used steroids.
  • Joe Posnanski wrote a guest piece for the Kansas City Star on Paul Splittorff who died of cancer Wednesday at 64. Posnanski wrote of Splittorff, “He did not talk about his declining health. He did not talk about the cancer that was ravaging his body. People will say that is because Splitt was an intensely private man, and that is so. But I think there was something else too. Paul did not want any favors, and he did not want special treatment, and he did not want to live anywhere but in the moment.” Good stuff. Would if I could do that more often.
  • Forbes.com includes Jim Thome among a handful of locks for the Hall of Fame. Seriously? Steroid speculation aside (and expect it for any slugger from the past 15 years), Thome seems like a poor man’s version of the recently-departed Harmon Killebrew who needed five ballots to get into the Hall of Fame. My two cents: Expect Thome to need at least a few more go-rounds with the writers before he comes close to Cooperstown.


4 Comments so far

  1.    Douglas Heeren on May 29, 2011 4:09 pm      

    Paul Splittorf pitched college ball at Mornigside College in Sioux City, Iowa. My uncle Jim Heeren played college baseball at USD-Vermillion. At some point in the 60′s I was very young but at a game that Splittorf pitched in. When I was in high school, one of my teachers turned out to be Splittorf’s college roommate. So Splittorf became a favorite of mine. My uncle used to refer to Splittorf as a “Koufax Clone”. High fastball, low curve. His fastball had some late run on it and he also had some kind of slider, refined of course in the pros. I called Uncle Jim when I heard Splittorf had died. Jim remarked that Paul was a real nice guy also. Back when he played college ball, the vusting team was always invited to go and eat at the college after the game. That allowed him to get to know some of the players. I saw a few Royals games as a kid when the stadium was new and remember the fountains in the outfield the most, then the food, then Oscar Gamble and his huge afro. My dad said that we saw Gaylord Perry pitch for the Indians. He couldn’t recall the Royals starter, but it might have been Splittorf. This was in July or August of 1973.

  2.    Brendan on May 29, 2011 8:56 pm      

    Perry pitched for Cleveland at KC on Aug 14, 1973, but KC’s staring pitcher was Steve Busby. Two days later Splittorff pitched for KC against Cleveland’s Dick Tidrow.

  3.    stratobill on June 1, 2011 8:19 pm      

    I don’t agree that Thome is a poor man’s Harmon Killebrew. I see them as remarkably similar players. Thome has better overall stats but Killebrew played in a more difficult period for hitters.

    They each made the majors at a young age (Killebrew at 18, Thome at 20) but did not see significant playing time until their age 23 season. Both were pretty consistant hitters from age 23 to 36 but Killebrew faded badly from age 37 on while Thome remained very productive for at least 3 more seasons.

    From age 23 to 36 Killebrew’s slash stats were .262/.385/.532. Thome’s slash stats were .284/.413/575. Thome’s stats are decidedly
    better, but because he played in a hitter’s era, I’ll call this a draw.

    Thome produced 1.40 runs per game compared to 1.28 runs per game for Killebrew. (note, I use (runs + rbi) divided by games to compute runs produced per game). Big advantage for Thome but again, I’ll call it a draw because of the era they played in.

    Both players were very productive in the post-season, though Killebrew only got to play 13 post-season games because much of his career was before
    league and division playoffs were added. Thome got to play 67 post-season games.

    Neither player was great on defense and neither player was fleet of foot, so no advantage to either player there.

    In short, from age 23 to 36, Killebrew and Thome match up extremely well. Thome’s stats were significantly better but it’s not unreasonable to
    attribute that to the eras they batted in.

    Since turning 37, however, Thome has played 408 games, hit 86 Homers, and had a slash line of .254/.375/.521. Killebrew, on the other hand, played 297 games, hit 32 Homers, and had a slash line of .219/.325/.362. Thome has a big advantage after age 36.

    I think Killebrew is a deserving Hall of Famer whose entry was delayed because there was too much focus on batting average in those days. But Thome is just as deserving and unless there is concrete evidence that he was juicing, he should be a first ballot inductee.

  4.    Brendan on June 2, 2011 2:34 pm      

    Thome, with his >400 doubles, has in his favor membership in the rare 1000 extra base hit club, whereas Killebrew fell more than 100 short of this mark (he had 290 doubles). No doubt Killebrew would have had more XBH (perhaps more than 1000) if he had played in a hitter’s era.

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  • Written by Graham Womack