The Commish Online www.thecommishonline.com
Jose Can You See Your Overblown Stats?
May 21, 2002
Hard to believe, but with Jose Canseco's recent retirement comes the inevitable talk of the Hall of Fame. Please. Ineffective for the past few seasons, Canseco still ended up 38 home runs on the short side of 500 - not 1 or 2 home runs shy, but 38. Jose would need 2 full seasons of major league at-bats to have a shot at that. The .266 career average and less than spectacular fielding skills won't help his cause either.
The Hall of Fame should be reserved for players who were dominant at their position for an extended period of time or, at the very least, excellent at their position for an entire career. We know Canseco didn't excel throughout his career, but there's no question Canseco was dominant in the late '80s. The power started right away and the batting average finally caught up in 1988, his 40/40 season when everything went his way. Unfortunately, the average slipped again, back problems began, and by the time retirement approached, Canseco only had 2 seasons where he hit at least .270 with 35 HRs and 100 RBIs. Thirty years ago, a career .266 average wouldn't matter as much, but for an outfielder who played most of his career in the '90s, every offensive category is inflated. A few more intangibles might help the HOF voters, but the bad fielding and lack of leadership, combined with playing in an era when everyone was hitting the ball out of the park (paging Brady Anderson) are enough negatives to ensure that Jose Canseco's only way to Cooperstown is with a bus pass and one adult admission.
Canseco should not be the only one singled out for false greatness. With today's offensive numbers rivaling no other era, each player's place in history is becoming harder and harder to determine. Less than 20 years ago, in 1983, the 5th highest home run total was 30. In 2001, it was 49, a 63% increase. That's just one sample, but the point is that before we start claiming that Barry Bonds had the greatest season ever in 2001, we have to compare it to the league's standards.
The 50 HR/season era started again when Cecil Fielder hit 51 in 1990. If we compare Barry Bonds' unparalleled 73 home runs to Fielder's 51, we will find that Barry did surpass Fielder even when compared to the league average, but a random star from the '30s proves that Barry might be great, but not the greatest.
Jimmie Foxx displayed prominent power in 2 seasons several years apart, so we decided to use his two 50+ home run seasons as a comparison to today's hitters. Here's a table showing the AB / HR for each season discussed, with the league average excluding the respective player.
AB / HR
Pct. vs. League
While Bonds' AB / HR rate is astonishing (thanks to the 177 walks), he only hit his homers at a rate 78.9% faster than the rest of the league, while Jimmie Foxx was belting out round trippers 84.8% faster than the league in 1932. It just goes to show that 58 home runs in 1932 is actually a more impressive feat than 73 long balls in 2001. Take a look at Ruth's competition in the '20s and be even more impressed. With the incredible on base percentage, total bases, batting average, walk rate, etc, Bonds still may have had the best offensive season, but we can be sure that he didn't have the most powerful one relatively speaking. Think of that before you cast your vote for Canseco for Cooperstown.
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John Burkett's record without the Rangers: 114 - 84, 3.88 ERA
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