Nick Johnson was amusingly tagged with the nickname “OBP Jesus” early in his career and has certainly earned the title in the years since then, ranking as one of just 10 active players with a .400 on-base percentage in at least 3,000 plate appearances:
Albert Pujols .427
Todd Helton .427
Lance Berkman .412
Manny Ramirez .411
Chipper Jones .406
Jason Giambi .405
Bobby Abreu .404
Jim Thome .404
NICK JOHNSON .402
Brian Giles .400
Particularly noteworthy about Johnson’s place in that amazing company is that he has both the lowest batting average and the least power in the group:
Albert Pujols .294 Albert Pujols .334
Jim Thome .280 Todd Helton .328
Manny Ramirez .278 Manny Ramirez .313
Lance Berkman .256 Chipper Jones .307
Jason Giambi .245 Lance Berkman .299
Todd Helton .239 Bobby Abreu .299
Chipper Jones .234 Brian Giles .291
Brian Giles .211 Jason Giambi .282
Bobby Abreu .194 Jim Thome .277
NICK JOHNSON .174 NICK JOHNSON .273
Getting on base at a .400 clip is a lot easier when you’re batting .300 and walking is a lot easier when pitchers are afraid to throw you strikes, yet Johnson has amassed a .402 OBP while hitting just .273 with a .173 Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) that’s barely above the MLB average of .160. If any of the great on-base threats of this era have truly drawn their walks it’s Johnson, whose walk rate ranks fourth among all active players behind sluggers Jim Thome, Adam Dunn, and Jason Giambi.
Now he’s back in New York, where as a Yankees prospect he had a .450 OBP in the minors and then got on base at a .376 clip through 248 games in the majors before being shipped to the then-Expos for Javier Vazquez. Johnson returns six years later, having posted a .412 OBP in 522 games while missing another 450 games with a never-ending list of injuries. And the man they call OBP Jesus will likely be doing his OBP’ing and walk-drawing directly in front of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Good luck, pitchers.
According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.
The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.
Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.
It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.
I’m so old I remember when general managers used to run baseball operations departments. Now they’re basically assistants.
The latest example: the Oakland Athletics have promoted Billy Beane to vice president of baseball operations and have named David Forst general manager. Forst has been with the A’s for 16 years and has been Beane’s assistant for 12 years, so it’s not exactly a situation in which Forst will be making the final calls. The official move came today, though the move has been in the works for some time, it seems.
Someone with a lot of good front office access is going to write a good story this winter about the title inflation going on in Major League Baseball over the past year. And it’s gonna be great when one of his or her sources breaks the pattern of saying “well, baseball transactions are so much more complex these days . . . ” and admits “hey, if Theo gets a fancy title and La Russa gets a fancy title I WANT A FANCY TITLE TOO.”
Not that it’s much of a secret as it is.