Friday, January 4, 2013

Friday, January 4, 2013 Answer Notes

Q.         Who was the 50th major leaguer to homer in his first at bat?
Hint:     He also homered in his last major league game.
Hint:     He co-authored a fitness book with an admitted steroid user.
Hint:     He spent over a quarter century working for the same manager.
Twint:    He was the Toronto Blue Jays’ first third baseman.
A.         Dave McKay
FCR -    Mark Hayne, Dumfries, VA


On 22-Aug-1975, against Vern Ruhle and the Tigers, Minnesota’s Dave McKay led off the bottom of the third inning with a home run in his first career at bat.  This was the first of 21 homers he would hit in over 2,000 plate appearance over eight major league seasons.

There are several sources listing players who hit a home run in their first at bat.  Most include players who may have walked or were hit by a pitch in their first plate appearance then homered in their first official at bat.  The following three sources all show McKay as number 50.

McKay hit a second inning home run on 03-Oct-1982 for Oakland over Kansas City.  Unfortunately for the symmetry of his career this was not his last at bat.  He went 0-3 after the big fly.

Take a look at the cover of the book McKay co-authored with Jose Canseco:  Strength Training for Baseball.  :  Years later Canseco wrote another book called Juiced about his own steroid usage and how prevalent the drugs were in the 1980’s.

McKay was a coach with the Oakland A’s from 1984 to 1995. From 1986 through 1995 he served under A’s manager Tony LaRussa.  When LaRussa moved to St. Louis for the 1996 season McKay went with him and stayed a Cardinals coach until LaRussa’s retirement following the 2011 season.  In 2012 McKay joined the Cubs as their first base coach.  This link includes a summary of his coaching career:

McKay was selected off the Twins’ roster in the 1976 American League Expansion draft and started at third base, batting eighth, in the Blue Jays’ first game on 07-Apr-1977.  He stayed in the starting lineup at that position for their first 30 games until the Blue Jays acquired Roy Howell from Texas on 09-May.  Howell was immediately made the new third baseman, McKay was installed at second base and Pedro Garcia, the original second baseman, was released.


Q.         Who is the only outfielder to accumulate 1,000 career plate appearances and not hit a triple?
Hint:     But he did hit a major league inside-the-park home run.
Hint:     …and he hit a triple in a World Baseball Classic.
Hint:     He introduced The Tragically Hip to Tokyo.
Twint:    He was the second native of British Columbia, after Larry Walker, to hit at least 10 home runs in a season.
A.         Aaron Guiel
FCR -    Bob Elliott, Mississauga, ON


Guiel (Vancouver) hit 15 home runs in 2003 to join Larry Walker (Maple Ridge) as the second British Columbian to have a double-digit home run season.  Walker had the first of his 15 seasons of 10 or more home runs in 1990.  Two others joined the group in 2004: Jason Bay (Trail) hit 26 homers, the first of his seven seasons with at least 10, and Justin Morneau (New Westminster) hit 19, which was the first of his eight seasons of 10 or more home runs.  Michael Saunders (Victoria) became the fifth player on the list in 2010 and had his second 10+ homer season in 2012.  Brett Lawrie (Langley) is the newest member of this club, hitting 11 home runs in 2012.

Through the 2012 season, 13 players have come to the plate at least 1,000 times in their careers without hitting a triple.  Most people on the list are pitchers and catchers.  Guiel is the only one who played the majority of his games in the outfield.  He got into 15 games at first base in his last season and he appeared in another 50 games as either a pinch hitter or DH but exactly 1,000 of his 1,099 career plate appearances were while he was in the game as an outfielder. (31 were as a first baseman, 30 as a pinch hitter and 38 as a DH). Guiel’s career statistics can be found here:  His batting splits, including plate appearance by defensive position, can be found here:

Earl Averill (fils) was predominately a catcher but did play 73 games in the outfield, including 49 games with the Angels in 1962.  He is the only player on this exclusive list other that Guiel to have appeared in the outfield.

Other players have had streaks of 1,000 plate appearances without a triple but they did manage to hit at least one at some point in their career.  A notable example is Rod Barajas, who through 2012 has gone over 3,000 plate appearances since his lone triple on June 6, 2004.  Outfielder Shelly Duncan is getting close to Guiel, having come to the plate 933 times through 2012 while still awaiting the arrival of his first triple

Other non-triplers include third baseman Craig Worthington (1,423 plate appearances), first baseman Justin Smoak (1,421 PA through 2012 and still active), pitchers Gaylord Perry (1,220 PA), Whitey Ford (1,207), Tommy John (1,030) and Lefty Gomez (1,024), and catchers Johnny Estrada (2,244), Ramon Castro (1,603), Jason Phillips (1,537), Mark Parent (1,428), Sal Fasano (1,245) and Earl Averill (1,217). Kelly Shoppach was on this list until he hit his first career triple, in his 1,526th plate appearance, for the Red Sox on 07-May-2012.  He then hit a second one on 30-Jul.

Guiel hit 49 triples in over 7,000 plate appearances in the minors and Japan so his lack of a three base hit in the majors seems strange.  Worthington, on the other hand, hit only 4 triples in the minor leagues in over 4,000 plate appearances and never had more than 1 in a season.  Castro only hit 1 triple in over 2,700 minor league plate appearances and Perry (329 minor league plate appearances) and Ford (221) didn’t hit any in the minors either.

Guiel hit an inside the park home run on 03-Aug-2003 versus Tampa. Based on the ESPN game recap it seems like the ball took an unusual bounce and eluded the outfielder long enough to allow Guiel to round the bases: “…Guiel made it 2-0 with one out in the third when his line drive hit the wall in the right-field corner and skipped past [Damian] Rolls.  By the time Rolls tracked the ball down, Guiel was rounding third.” Here is the game recap:

None of the other players on the 1,000 plate appearance /0 triple list managed to hit an inside the parker, nor have Barajas or Duncan.

On 08-Mar-2006, Team Canada upset the USA 8 to 6 in the first round of the World Baseball Classic.  Canada’s hitting star was Adam Stern, who had a single, triple, inside the park home run and four RBIs.  Guiel joined Stern and second baseman Stubby Clapp as one of three Canadians to hit a triple off US starter Dontrell Willis.

Guiel played in Japan from 2007 through 2011.  His walk up music with the Yakult Swallows, who are based in Tokyo, was New Orleans is Sinking by The Tragically Hip.  More information about this can be found here:

Q.         Who is the only major leaguer with a batting average over .300, an on base percentage over .400 and a slugging percentage over .500 in each of the last four seasons, minimum one (1) at bat per year?
Hint:     One season he led the major leagues in on base percentage despite needing to have 27 hitless at bats added to his totals to qualify for the title.
Hint:     He was the first first baseman in his franchise’s history to walk over 100 times in a season, and it’s an old franchise.
Hint:     It was also the highest single season walk total for a Canadian-born player, breaking a record that had stood since 1919.
Twint:    He went to the same high school as did the Prime Minister of Canada.
A.         Joey Votto
FCR -    Dan Silverberg, Aventura, FL


Votto’s 2012 averages were .337/.474/.567 in 475 plate appearances and he easily exceeded .300/.400/.500 in each season from 2009 to 2011.

Quite a few players have done this once in the last four years, many of them pitchers with a single hit in only one or two at bats.  If the minimum number of plate appearance is reset to 502 Votto didn’t qualify in 2012 but he did meet the standards in each of the previous three years.  Only two other players had two such seasons: Albert Pujols (2009, 2010) and Miguel Cabrera (2010, 2011). Hanley Ramirez, Joe Mauer and Kevin Youkilis (2009), Josh Hamilton (2010), Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista and Lance Berkman (2011), and Prince Fielder, Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey (2012) each did it once.

Reducing the criteria to 250 plate appearances per season gives Youkilis a second year on the list (2010) and adds Carlos Beltran (2009), Justin Morneau (2010), Mike Napoli (2011) and David Ortiz (2012).  This is still quite an exclusive club.

Fielder just missed having two more .300/.400/.500 seasons (2009 and 2011) because of a .299 batting average each year.  Cabrera missed in 2009 and 2012 with on base percentages of .396 and .393 respectively and Ryan Braun missed in 2011 and 2012 with OBPs of .397 and .391.  Mike Trout (.399 OBP in 2012), Ortiz (.398 OBP in 2011), Matt Kemp (.399 OBP in 2011) and Ben Zobrist (.297 batting average in 2009) were also near misses.

If we reduce the criteria to just one plate appearance per year, Votto is still the only “four‑peat”.  The only other player with three similar seasons in the last four years is Rangers’ pitcher Alexi Ogando.  He went 1 or 1 in 2010 and 1 for 2 in each of the last two seasons.

The only players who were active in 2012 and who have the .300/.400/.500 line for their careers are Chipper Jones, Todd Helton, Albert Pujols and Votto (minimum 1,000 career plate appearances).  All time, only 23 players have achieved this over a career of at least 1,000 plate appearances.  The Hall of Famers who accomplished this are Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Harry Heilmann, Ed Delahanty, Dan Brouthers and Hank Greenberg.  In addition to the active players noted above, the Non-Hall of Famers to do this are Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Joe Jackson and Lefty O’Doul.  (Reasonably elite club, I’d venture.)

Votto’s 2012 averages were .337/.474/.567 however he only had 475 plate appearances, 27 short of the minimum to qualify for the league titles.  But, according to rule 10.22(a), “any player with fewer than the required number of plate appearances whose average would be the highest, if he were charged with the required number of plate appearances shall be awarded the batting, slugging or on-base percentage championship, as the case may be.”  Adding 27 hitless at bats to Votto’s totals brought his averages down to .314/.448/.529.  These lower averages put him fifth in batting average and sixth in slugging percentage in the National League and the reduced on base percentage was still high enough to allow Votto to lead the National League for a third consecutive season.  Buster Posey was the runner up with an OBP of .408 and Joe Mauer lead the American League at .416.

Votto walked 110 times in 2011, breaking the Cincinnati Reds’ team record for first basemen of 93 walks set by Dan Driessen in 1980.  Votto’s 2012 total of 94 walks is the second highest for Reds’ first basemen.  The Reds have been in existence since 1871.

Only second baseman Joe Morgan (six times) and outfielder Adam Dunn (four times) have had higher single season walk totals for the Reds.  It should be noted that Dunn played 44 games at first base in 2002 (128 walks), 10 games in 2004 (108 walks), 33 games in 2005 (114 walks) and 2 games in 2006 (112 walks) but his primary position was in left field.  Joe Morgan never took the field as a first baseman.  Johnny Bench walked 100 times in 1972, a season in which he played seven games at first base.  No other Red player appeared in even a single game at first in a season in which he walked 100 times.  Other than six games in left field in 2007 Votto has never played any position other than first base.

Votto, born in Toronto, broke the previous record for a Canadian of 105 walks, set by the Indians’ Jack Graney (St. Thomas, Ontario) in 1919.  That broke Graney’s own record of 102 from 1916.  George Selkirk of Huntsville, Ontario (103 in 1939) and Jason Bay of Trail, BC (102 in 2006) are the only other Canadians to crack 100 walks in a season.

Votto attended Richview Collegiate Institute in Etobicoke, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto.  In addition to current Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper other alumni include NHL veteran Scott Mellanby and Bollywood actress Lisa Ray.  Here is an article about Votto that mentions fellow alumnus Stephen Harper:

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