SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 27: Eric Hacker #51 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park on April 27, 2012 in San Francisco, California. This was Hacker's first start as a Major League pitcher. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Through the history of Major League Baseball, there have been some epic names. According to Dayn Perry of the CBS Sports Eye On Baseball blog, awesomely-named individuals such as Skye Bolt, John Bushyhead and Zebulon Sneed were drafted just this last year, to say nothing of heroes of baseball's past such as Shooty Babitt, Razor Shines and Smead Jolley.
You, dear reader, know that here at Beyond the Boxscore, we tend to take a more sabermetric and statistical look at all things baseball. So, with all of the notable names that pass through MLB (and the minor leagues as well), I figured that we should look at players with names that equate to baseball events, and examine whether or not they have the stats to match up with their namesake. Below you'll find a motley crew of baseball players with names calling forth images of long bombs, strikeouts and bases on balls. Let's examine our player pool!
Yes, this is the guy who inspired me to write this item in the first place. Currently pitching for the San Francisco Giants, he's racked up a grand total of three plate appearances so far in 2012 (and his career). "Hacker" tends to refer to a hitter who swings at all sorts of pitches, so let's see his Swing% -- it's 38.9%. Well, that's kind of disappointing, as Eric Hacker seems to swing at less pitches than the average hitter. "Hacker" also might refer to a guy who strikes out a lot, and Hacker has a 33.3% strikeout rate as a hitter, so I guess he kind of counts in that regard.
Roy Hitt (Cincinnati Reds, 1907)
Roy was aptly-named, given that he was quite proficient at giving up his (extra-"t"ed) namesake. In his single season in the bigs, he relinquished 143 hit(t)s in 153.1 innings of work, good for only 1.6 fWAR. But that's not really what we look for in a guy with this name ... so what else can we come up with? Well, Hitt was a starter, so he had a few chances to bat. Unfortunately, Hitt was also a poor hitter (delicious irony), logging a mere ten singles in 61 plate appearances.
Ah ha! Here's something. Roy managed to plunk 12 hitters over the course of his 1907 season! That's kind of a lot of hits (by pitches)!
Bruce Hitt also was an early-20th-century pitcher, but only had one plate appearance, and did not earn a hit. He struck out. So he's only getting a footnote here.
The Walkers (too many teams to count, too many years to count)
There's a bunch of Walkers in MLB history. None are in the Hall of Fame, but one deserves to be (Larry Walker). Another is named "Mysterious Walker", which makes me think of Kwai Chang Caine. At any rate, the Walker with the greatest walk rate (excepting Ed Walker's seven plate appearances) is Ernie Walker. Ernie had a walk rate of 12.2%, which easily bests notable Walkers such as Chico, Rube, and both Dixies.
For players with over 1000 PA, the all-time leader in BB% among Walkers is the aforementioned Larry Walker, who had a career walk rate of 11.4%. Not too shabby! Let's return to "walk" related players in a bit.
John Strike (Philadelphia Quakers, 1886)
John Strike is elite when it comes to matching stats to one's nomenclature. He struck out 11 men in 15 innings of work, which really isn't too shabby for 19th-century baseball. Even better, he had seven plate appearances, and struck out four times himself. Truly, he is a legend in the art of matching stat to name.
Awesome work, naming gods. In 2001, Grant Balfour's first cup of coffee in the majors with Minnesota resulted in a 10.13 BB/9 rate. That's too many ball fours, right? Over his career, and especially in his time with the Tampa Bay Rays, Balfour has improved his control a great deal. But this late-inning reliever is still sporting a 3.99 walks-per-nine over the course of his career. This year, Balfour is still in the bottom-75 of all pitchers with more than 50 innings of work. Sure, his last name is missing an "L", but it still is pretty indicative of his tendency to walk hitters.
The last name "Fielder" is more of a statement of presence, rather than ability. In terms of presence, well, hardly any major leaguer has been more "present" in the field than Melbourne, FL's own Prince Fielder. A consistent performer, Prince has seen 9412.1 innings on the field at first base, as of Sunday, August 26, 2012. The quality of those innings might be questioned, but Prince's durability never should be.
Neither of these pitchers ever committed a balk in their single seasons in the minors. What gives?
Homer Bailey (Cincinnati Reds, 2007-2012)
Last night, Homer Bailey gave up another home run. In his major league career, Bailey has given up 73 of these, charting a career-high 22 so far in his 2012 season. Homer has a career 1.11 HR/9 rate, which appears to be getting steadily worse as his career goes on. I know he pitches in the unforgiving Great American Ballpark, which nudges his home-runs-against totals skyward, but he's pitching too much like his namesake to develop into a front-line starter. Worst of all, he does not have a home run as a hitter, despite 209 career plate appearances.
During his rookie season of 1980, Walk issued a free pass 73 times in 151.2 innings of work. Fortunately for Mr. Walk, that would be his worst full season in terms of control, as he managed a 3.27 BB/9 rate over his 14-year career. That lengthy career spanned 1666 ML innings with three franchises, which allowed Walk to rack up 606 bases on balls through his time in the bigs. That ties him for 500th place on the all-time career walks leaderboard!
John Walk (Pittsburgh Pirates, 2005-2007)
John Walk logged five walks in 51 minor league plate appearances. Though a terrible hitter who washed out, his stats joyfully match his name. That's a 9.8% walk rate!
Bryan Ball (Seattle Mariners, 2006)
Ball had a 6.8 BB/9 in six appearances in the minors in 2006 for the Mariners Rookie League and Low-A affiiliates. He, one might argue, did not have enough control to make the majors. Hah.
Thanks for joining me on the sojourn through baseball history and useless trivia. If you come up with another excellent idea for a player who's stats may (or may not) match his name, leave it below in the comments!
Which baseball player was the greatest at matching statistical performance to their name?
Eric Hacker (5 votes)
Grant Balfour (13 votes)
Prince Fielder (4 votes)
Bob Walk (2 votes)
John Strike (1 vote)
John Walk (0 votes)
Mysterious Walker (11 votes)
Roy Hitt (0 votes)
Homer Bailey (30 votes)
Bryan Ball (0 votes)
Other (share in the comments below) (12 votes)
78 total votes