Ryan Klesko was better than you remember


The New York Post’s Ken Davidoff ran down every player on the Hall of Fame ballot in his column today, but this is all he had to say about Ryan Klesko:

A name we remember from the ‘90s Braves run, but not for anything in particular he did. He was a solid outfielder. No.

That’s about a quarter of the writeup that Jeff Conine, Roberto Hernandez and Aaron Sele received. Only Todd Walker got shorter shrift.

ESPN’s Jim Caple did something similar, though his column, as typical, was as much humor as baseball. Even so, Klesko got the shortest writeup, or at least tied with Jeff Cirillo:

Yes, he belongs on the ballot. After all, he was a one-time All-Star and a third-place rookie of the year finalist!

So, I think Klesko deserves better. One-time All-Star hardly does him justice.

A part-time player initially, Klesko nonetheless had a .907 OPS in 92 games in 1994 and a 1.004 OPS in 107 games in 1995 (both strike-shortened years). In the 11 years from 1994-2003, he never once finished with an OPS under .800. He topped .900 six times. And he did it while typically playing in pitcher’s parks.

143 players have had at least 6,000 plate appearances since 1990. Their OPS+s ranged from 195 (Barry Bonds) to 75 (Brad Ausmus). Klesko comes in 34th on that list at 128, placing him right there with Bobby Abreu, David Justice, John Olerud and Sammy Sosa (all 129) and Moises Alou, Ellis Burks and Tim Salmon (all 128). That’s not quite Hall of Fame territory, but it certainly makes for a heck of a career.

And as for doing nothing memorable, well, you know, he did homer in three straight World Series games for the 1995 Braves in their lone championship in the last 50 years.

So, no, Klesko isn’t a Hall of Famer or anything particularly close. But for 11 years, he was one of the NL’s top threats against right-handed pitching and a guy who typically hit third or fifth for six postseason teams. I think that’s worth a few sentences.

Mike Trout has yet to strike out this spring

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Everyone is well aware of how good Angels outfielder Mike Trout is at the game of baseball. The 26-year-old is already an all-time great, having won two MVP awards — and arguably deserving of two others — and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award. He has accrued 54.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference, which is right around the threshold for a Hall of Fame career. Trout does it all: he draws walks, he hits for average, he hits for power, he steals bases, he plays good defense.

But here’s an achievement that is amazing even for a player like Trout: he has yet to strike out this spring. In 41 Cactus League plate appearances, he has 10 hits (including a triple and two homers) and six walks with zero strikeouts. Across his career, Trout has a 21.5 percent strikeout rate, right around the league average. He isn’t usually such a stickler for avoiding the punch-out, but this spring he is.

To put this in perspective, 134 players this spring have struck out at least 10 times, according to MLB.com. 938 players have struck out at least once. The only other players to have taken at least 10 at-bats without striking out this spring are Humberto Arteaga (Royals, 23 AB), Tony Cruz (Reds, 18 AB), Oscar Hernandez (Red Sox, 10 AB), and Jacob Stallings (Pirates, 18 AB).

According to Angels assistant hitting coach Paul Sorrento, the lack of strikeouts hasn’t been a conscious effort from Trout, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Ho hum. The best player in baseball is apparently getting even better.