I wrote earlier today about how historic Mike Stanton’s power is for a 20-year-old, but as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution points out it’s only fair to take a similar look at fellow 20-year-old Jason Heyward’s historic on-base skills.
Heyward went 1-for-4 with a homer and two walks yesterday, giving him a .398 on-base percentage in 124 games. Here’s a list of the top 10 on-base percentages in baseball history by a 20-year-old:
Met Ott 1929 .449
Ted Williams 1939 .436
Al Kaline 1955 .421
Jimmie Foxx 1928 .416
Alex Rodriguez 1996 .414
JASON HEYWARD 2010 .398
Mickey Mantle 1952 .394
Ty Cobb 1907 .380
Frank Robinson 1956 .379
Arky Vaughan 1932 .375
That’s nine Hall of Famers and Heyward. Oh, and he’s also hitting .289 with 17 homers, 29 doubles, a .481 slugging percentage, and an .879 OPS that would be the eighth-highest ever for a 20-year-old.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.