Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sons of Rob Deer...

                                   The Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla is batting .184, yet has started for most of the year.  Granted, he has twenty one homers and he had to have his eyes checked out, but still...It seems like a recent phenomenon, with the Adam Dunns and Mark Reynolds of the world putting up good power numbers with obscene amounts of strikeouts and low, to extremely low averages.  However, there were exceptions in years past; I remember growing up in the late seventies, early eighties watching and reading about such players as Darrell Evans and Gorman Thomas.  They would annually bat around .240 and hit thirty to forty dingers a year, although, Evans did walk a lot, while Thomas lead the league in strikeouts a few times (to be fair, his 170 plus strikeouts would rank him about tenth in the league today.)

                  Thomas' National league counterpart was Dave Kingman, a sweetheart of a guy who once sent a live rat to a female reporter who dared show her face in the locker room one day. He came up with the Giants in '71, but really hit his Kong stride with the Mets in the mid '70s , with a couple of  36, 37 homer, .230- ish average seasons. In 1977, he  was part of the "midnight massacre" trade that sent Tom Seaver from the Mets to the Reds, and he also set a record by playing for four different teams in one year. 

       Kingman ended up on the Chicago Cubs in '78, and had maybe his best season the next year, leading the league with 48 homers, with 115 RBI's, and an uncharacteristically respectable .288 average. He wore out his welcome with Chicago and returned to the Mets in '81, when they needed a little gate attraction while their young pitchers were gelling in the minors.  He had a decent season that year, but it was his 1982 season that was a good 30 years ahead of it's time; a league leading 37 home runs with a paltry .204 average, which is the lowest average of anyone who's led the league in homers...even Adam Dunn hasn't done that. 

            1983 was Kingman's worst year, which paved the way for his inevitable move to the AL, as a D.H. for the Oakland A's from '84-'86, putting up good power numbers each year.  When his contract was up at the end of '86, it was assumed someone would pick him up as a D.H., but alas, he may have been a victim of collusion, where all the teams decided not to give big contracts to any player.  There's no proof Kingman was not picked up because of this, it's just a conspiracy theory of mine.  He retired as the first man to hit over 400 homers and have NO chance at the Hall of Fame.

          While Kong may have set the template, Rob Deer perfected the low average, high strikeout power numbers.  He had a few productive years with the Brewers in the late '80s, setting the A.L. record for strikeouts in a year with 186.  He then moved to the Tigers in the early '90s, as he had the lowest average of anyone who ever qualified for the batting title (ie, 502 plate appearances) with a .179 BA, while hitting 25 homers and driving in 65.  The next year, his average improved to .247, and while he hit 32 homers, he only drove in 64 runs...the lowest RBI total for anyone with over thirty home runs in a year.

             Deer retired in '96, but his legacy lives 2011, Adam Dunn, who regularly put up 40 homers, 90-100 RBIs a year in the NL, was a total bust in his first year in the AL for the White Sox, coming within six at bats from breaking Deer's .179 average nadir (he batted .169, but needed 6 more plate appearances to qualify.)  Dunn  then won the come back player of the year award in 2012, leading the league in walks and strikeouts, while hitting 41 homers, driving in 96 runs, and batted .204, easily the lowest of any comeback player of the year who wasn't a pitcher.  BTW, in case you're wondering, the lowest average for anyone with over 100 RBI's was Tony Armas for the Red Sox in 1983....back to present day, Uggla is back off the DL, and has a good chance at the Deer .179 or below record, which I'm sure he wants to avoid.  It also should be noted that most of the players mentioned in this post played for losing, or mid level teams, while Uggla's Braves have the best record in baseball...the times they are changing...         

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