Stan Musial

Stan Musial’s greatness undiminished by time

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Stan Musial’s name doesn’t dot the record books anywhere near as frequently as those of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. Still, for consistent greatness, perhaps no one matched Stan the Man, who passed away Saturday at age 92.

– Excluding his one-year absence due to military service in 1945, Musial, who spent his entire career with the Cardinals, hit .310 or better every year from 1942 to 1958. That’s age 21 to age 37. He qualified for the NL batting title all 16 of those seasons, finishing first seven times, second twice, third four times, fourth twice and fifth once. He also finished third in 1962 at age 41.

– In addition to his seven batting titles, he led the NL in OBP six times, in slugging six times and in OPS seven times.

– He led the league in runs scored five times, hits six times, doubles eight times, triples five times, RBI twice, walks once and games played five times.

– He did all this while never striking out more than 46 times in a season. He finished his career with 1,599 walks and just 696 strikeouts.

– Musial played in 24 All-Star Games (in 20 seasons), tying Willie Mays for the most of all-time.

– Even 50 years after his retirement, Musial ranks 2nd all-time in total bases (6,134), 4th all-time in hits (3.630), 30th in average (.331), 22nd in OBP (.417), 19th in slugging (.559), 13th in OPS (.976), ninth in runs (1,959), sixth in RBI (1,951), third in doubles (725), 19th in triples (177), 28th in homers (475) and 13th in walks.

– Advanced stats: Musial ranks 12th all-time in Baseball-Reference’s WAR, ninth among position players. He’s third in runs created (2,562) and his OPS+ of 159 ranks 15th.

– Only Barry Bonds, with seven MVPs, has been more successful in the MVP balloting. Musial is one of eight players with three MVPs, and he has four second-place finishes to go along with them.

– Musial wasn’t particularly productive in the World Series, but his Cardinals teams won three of the four in which he played. He hit .256/.347/.395 with one homers and eight RBI in his 23 postseason games.

Musial ended up playing 21 full seasons, plus his 12 games as a 20-year-old in 1941. Never once did he finish with an OPS+ under 100. He ranked among the NL’s best hitters at both 21 and 41. He hit .300 18 times. Only Aaron, with 15, had more seasons with 300 total bases than Musial’s 13. Only Bonds, Ruth and Ted Williams, with 18 each, had more seasons with .900 OPSs than Musial’s 17.

Musial may have missed some milestones in finishing with 475 homers and 1,951 RBI, but his status as one of baseball’s very best hitters is cemented. The awesome nickname probably doesn’t hurt.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.