Tuesday, July 03, 2012

By the Numbers - Ted Williams

I love to spend time reading through the amazing lists of data on Baseball-Reference.com and starting today I would like to make that into a semi-regular post called "By the Numbers".  As a Red Sox fan, Ted Williams was the obvious choice for the debut.

Just so you know what the number mean, the first three sets of numbers on the line are the "triple slash" (batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage), HR stands for home runs, RBI stands for runs batted in, H stands for hits, BB stands for walks, K stands for strikeouts, 2B stands for doubles, 3B stands for triples, and PA stands for plate appearances.

Way back in 1939, right as Hitler was setting into motion his plan to plunge Europe into World War II, a 20-year-old Ted Williams played his rookie season for the Boston Red Sox.  Here are his numbers (bold indicated league leader):

.327/.436/.609, 31 HR, 145 RBI, 185 H, 107 BB, 64 K, 44 2B, 11 3B, 675 PA

And he did all that for $6,500 and did not make the All-Star Game, although he did finish 4th in the MVP voting.

Two years later, when he again failed to win the MVP (he finished behind Joe DiMaggio), he posted these numbers:

.406/.553/.735, 37 HR, 120 RBI, 185 H, 147 BB, 27 K, 33 2B, 3 3B, 606 PA

Yes, despite leading the league in average, on-base, slugging, home runs, and walks, Ted Williams finished behind Joltin' Joe for the MVP but in fairness to DiMaggio the Yankees did win the pennant and that was the year of his 56-game hit streak.

On to 1946, the one time the Red Sox won the A.L. pennant in Williams' career and also his first full season back in baseball after serving the United States during World War II, when the Splendid Splinter won the first of his two MVP awards.

.342/.497/.667, 38 HR, 123 RBI, 176 H, 156 BB, 44 K, 37 2B, 8 3B, 672 PA

Three years later at age 30, Williams won his second MVP and also nealry led the Red Sox to another pennant.  The Red Sox lost to the Yankees on the last day of the regular season to lose the American League title to their enemies from the Bronx but Williams still had another outstanding year at the plate.

.343/.490/.650, 43 HR, 159 RBI, 194 H, 162 BB, 48 K, 39 2B, 3 3B, 730 PA

Yes, Williams led the league in nearly every important offensive category and he finished a close second in the batting title.

Age, injuries, and the Korean War caught up to Williams in the 1950's but at age 38 in 1957 he managed to post his last great season at the plate while finishing second in the MVP race to Mickey Mantle.

.388/.526/.731, 38 HR, 87 RBI, 163 H, 119 BB, 43 K, 28 2B, 1 3B, 547 PA

It's crazy to imagine but if Williams just managed five more hits, he would have hit .400 for the second time in his career.

Ted Williams is known as the "greatest hitter who ever lived" and he has the statistics to back that up.  The 19-time All-Star and two-time A.L. MVP (he finished second in the MVP voting four times) started hitting in 1939 and even in his final seasons in the late '50s and early '60s he continued to be a great hitter.  He was a six-time batting champion, including back-to-back titles in 1957 and 1958 at ages 38 and 39, and is the all-time career leader in on-base percentage.  If it were not for the time lost serving his country in World War II and the Korean War, it is very likely he would have ended up with over 600 home runs and 3000 hits.

Here is Williams' final career totals:

.344/.482/.634, 521 HR, 1839 RBI, 2654 H, 2021 BB, 709 K, 525 2B, 71 3B, 9788 PA

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