Time Machine: January 1, 2005

by Coltrane

On the old blog I’d do posts with the theme – “Time Machine.”  I’d pull emails out of the archives and see how they looked in the current light.

Here’s an email from shortly after the M’s signed Richie Sexson, dated January 1, 2005.  For the professional (Joe Posnanski) piece, go to the bottom of this post:

…Ichiro had a “historic” league-record 262 hits in 2004. In 2004 Ichiro drew 49 walks and was hit by a pitch 4 times. Ichiro got on base 315 times, leading the American league. Barry Bonds got on base 376 times last season. The all-time record is 379 by Babe Ruth. Bonds missed that record by 3, but I never heard anyone mention it. Ichiro’s 315 was enough for a 5-way tie for 58th best all-time. Sure, it’s “good”, but is it “historic”?


Robin Ventura... second thoughts about having charged the mound.

As Ichiro approached the hits record a couple of interesting things happened:

1. In the months of September and October Ichiro had a total of 50 hits— 47 singles and 3 doubles. It doesn’t get much emptier than that. Ichiro’s OPS (On Base + Slugging) for the season ranked 22nd in the American league. It’s tough to rank 22nd in OPS when you hit .372, but he literally didn’t do anything *besides* hit singles in 2004.

2. On one or two occasions Ichiro tried to bunt with a runner on 2nd base. He made no attempt to drive the runner in, he was simply trying to pad his hit total. It was a selfish move and it is not “winning baseball”.

Of course, the thing that really bugs me is that I’m going to have to hear about the “historic season” every game for the next 5-7 years, as well as every time Ichiro comes to visit after he retires. Believe me, Neihas is *not* going to miss an opportunity to bring it up ad naseum.

The single-season leaders for Times on Base  (Baseball-Reference.com.)

Next subject [Ed: same email] — Sexson/Jacobsen/Leone:

Mike Cameron pretty much got run out of Seattle due to his high strikeout rate. Mike struck out the equivalent of 151 times per full season of play. Here’s how that figure compares to some current and former M’s.

Bucky Jacobsen 181
Justin Leone 167
Richie Sexson 156
Jay Buhner 155
Mike Cameron 151

Be prepared to look at a *lot* of swinging and missing in 2005. In 2004 Jacobsen and Leone both got hurt before the league had figured out how to pitch to them. If anything those strikeout rates are likely to go up. If Jacobsen gets significant playing time in 2005 you can figure on a batting average of about .230. Leone you can forget about, he’s not really a major league player.

In a lot of ways Richie Sexson is the new Jay Buhner. He has good power, he strikes out a lot, and he’ll give the fans another muscle-bound white guy to root for. Figure Sexson for about .260 with 30 HR if he stays healthy. Sexson got hurt twice last year checking his swing– he’s a significant injury risk. The M’s signed him to a $50 million/4 year contract. The other question would be – is a 1B who hits .260 with 30 HR is worth $12.5 million per year? Sexson is now 30 years old — this is also another example of the M’s paying for past performance on an aging player…


Jacobsen never played another game in the majors.  Leone played in one more game — it was two years later with the Padres.  (Of course, that’s what tends to happen when your rookie year is age 28 (Jacobsen) and age 27 (Leone.))  So much for those strikeouts I’d predicted.

Sexson hit .244 over the length of that contract, compiling WARs of 4.2, 3.3, -1.4, and -0.3.  Fangraphs values those contributions at $14.3m, $12.1m, -$5.6m, and -$2.6m.  In other words, the M’s received $18.2 of production from Sexson on a $50m contract.  Thank you Bill Bavasi.  (Click here for an explanation of WAR.)

I did the digging in the old emails because Joe Posnanki had a really interesting piece today, comparing Ichiro to Nolan Ryan.  Both players excell(ed) in at least one statistical category, though you could argue (and Joe does) that neither player was as productive as his reputation would lead you to believe.

As for the picture above, here’s an excerpt from Ryan’s wikipedia entry:

…Before the 1993 season, Ryan announced his retirement, effective at the end of that season. On August 4, just before the end, Ryan had yet another high profile moment – this time an on-the-mound fight. After Ryan hit Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox, Ventura charged the mound in order to fight Ryan, who was 20 years his senior. Ryan secured the 26-year-old Ventura in a headlock with his left arm, while pummelling Ventura’s head with his right fist six times before catcher Iván Rodríguez was able to pull Ventura away from Ryan. Ryan stated afterwards it was the same maneuver he used on steers he had to brand on his Texas ranch…

Interestingly – Annie S., my brother, and I were all in the Kingdome to see Nolan Ryan’s last game on September 22 of that same year, though we didn’t know each other until later.  (Of course, at that time I already knew my brother, but you get the idea.)

1 comment to Time Machine: January 1, 2005

  • From Jim Caple’s piece on the final At Bat of Ted Williams, Nolan Ryan, and others (click on the sig for the article link):

    Nolan Ryan also went out with a home run, albeit on the receiving end. In his last start on Sept. 22, 1993, at the Kingdome, he gave up a leadoff single in the first inning, then walked the next three batters, then allowed a grand slam to the immortal Dann Howitt. He attempted to pitch to the next batter, Dave Magadan, but left after injuring his elbow on a pitch. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he was charged with the base on balls after reliever Steve Dreyer walked Magadan while Ryan was being treated in the clubhouse.

    “I remember pitching the start before over in Anaheim and having really good stuff but my elbow being sore in between starts,” Ryan says. “And when I warmed up that night my elbow was bothering me and it was the last month of the season, and obviously I was just trying to get through the rest of the year because I had already announced that I was going to retire. And I didn’t think that I would have a tear but it just didn’t work out. After a few pitches, it was obvious that I had a problem.”

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