4+ SO/BB, 50+ IP, 7.5+ SO/9 (2010 & 2011)
J.J. Putz (Career: 3.2 SO/BB, 9.3 SO/9)
Roy Halladay (3.7, 6.9)
Rafael Betancourt (4.6, 9.6)
Cliff Lee (3.4, 7.3)
Darren Oliver (1.7, 5.8)
He wasn't able to close out Game 6, but what Darren Oliver has done over the last few years is remarkable. It makes you wonder what his career numbers would be if he had been in the bullpen his entire career (his ERA this year was 2.29, his career ERA is 4.60). Oliver is a free agent and apparently wants to return for at least another year. He shouldn't have too much trouble finding a team considering he has been one of the best left-handed middle relievers over the past few years.
.324 BA, 33 HR, 33 SB, 111 RBI, 109 R (since 1900)
1922 Ken Williams (Browns)
1997 Larry Walker (Rockies)
2011 Ryan Braun (Brewers)
2011 Matt Kemp (Dodgers)
Did Matt Kemp deserve to win the MVP? Maybe. Probably. But, we all know that when the numbers are close enough the guy on the playoff team always wins. The AL may as well enshrine it in writing, having only given one (!) MVP award to a player who didn't go to the playoffs (in a non-strike year) since Cal Ripken in 1991 (A-Rod in 2003). If Kemp keeps playing this way, it could play to his advantage in the future, although that's not much of a consolation right now.
Regardless, they both had incredible seasons that stack up very well if measured historically. Kemp bested Braun in most of the stats measured by sheer volume (playing in 11 more games than Braun helped) and Braun edged Kemp with some percentages (BA, OPS, SLG).
As shown above, the only 2 players in history that could equal the worst numbers either Braun or Kemp had in these 5 categories (Braun's output except for BA) were Larry Walker and Ken Williams. To be fair to Walker, he was great on the road in 1997 (.346, 29 HR, 62 RBI), but it didn't hurt that he was playing at Coors where he hit .384 (he hit a staggering .381 at Coors for his career, covering nearly 600 games).
Ken Williams was the first 30/30 players, and the only 30/30 player until Willie Mays in 1956. He was a fine player (.319 career), but it was the only time he had 30 HR or 30 SB. It was such a great year, he received except 0 votes for MVP , despite leading the league in HR and RBI.
This probably won't be the last time that the NL MVP will come down to Braun and Kemp, although it's hard to imagine both of them having this type of season again in the same year again.
2.15 ERA or lower, 150+ Games in Relief, through age 27 (since 1900)
1963-68 Frank Linzy (Giants) 2.15 ERA, 230 G
2005-08 Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox): 1.84, 202
2009-11 Andrew Bailey (A's) 2.07, 157
2010-11 Jonny Venters (Braves) 1.89, 164
Although the Brits claim to have invented baseball, they are still in need of further US assistance if they’re to bring the leagues up to US standards. With just 35 clubs and 51 league teams in a population of 65 million people, few towns have a representative team.
Jane Austen and Baseball
Jane Austen mentions baseball in her novel Northanger Abbey, written around 1798-99, some 43 years after the English first started playing the sport. The game came back to England – Derby to be precise – in 1890, after Francis Ley discovered the game in the US. This led to the first baseball club in the town and although survived for just eight years, the stadium was called the Baseball Ground which became home of the local soccer (football in the UK) team, Derby County FC who remained there until 1997.
Local pressure, which didn’t agree with the number of Americans in the Derby team, forced them out of the first league after just one season. Now teams are calling out for more American experience to bring the quality of the games and therefore the numbers of spectators up to acceptable levels.
The peak of interest in baseball in the UK was in the years just before the Second World War. Professional standards were attained and as many as 10,000 people attended matches. The year before the war the Brits managed to beat the US to win the first World Cup of baseball – so what happened after that? Well, the British are still playing baseball, but not to US standard.
The British Baseball Federation
The British Baseball Federation (BBF) governs the game in the UK. All teams have to be members of the BBF to be able to compete in the national league and the three AAA, AA and A tier leagues below. A full program of young and junior leagues hopes to bring players to the forefront in years to come.
The national league consists of just ten teams. The AAA league has 4 teams in the north and 6 in the south. The AA is set into three zones; 5 north, 5 midlands and 13 south. The A league has all 8 teams in the south.
The national league, AAA and AA compete in a four team finals tournament at the end of the season. The top 2 from the Southern Conference and the top two from the Northern Conference play knock out matches with the tournament winner going through to the Championship series. The championship series of the National league is a best of 3, while the AAA and AA matches are just single games.
The Dominant Teams
Four teams have dominated over recent years. The Richmond Flamers, London Mets, Croydon Pirates and Bracknell Blazers give the league a very southern, almost London only feeling. If the game is going to expand you will need to see teams from major towns competing in the highest leagues.
Another International Team Due For 2012
The British national baseball team is currently ranked 23rd in the world. Players consist almost entirely of British born players who have lived most of their lives in either Canada or the US, with two South African born members. There are 40 teams on the list so there are plenty below, although it must be galling for the British team to see many smaller nations ahead of them in the rankings.
The national team set up will be expanded in 2012 with the introduction of an under 23 team. This will hopefully allow players to play in international matches helping the individuals’ progress through to the full national team.
The national junior team is at a major dilemma stage. Six of the team will reach the maximum age of 18 this coming year and won’t be able to play for the team any more. This means they won’t be able to play internationally unless they achieve selection to the senior national team. With the introduction of the under 23 team, more players will continue to compete internationally with a more gradual feed through to the senior squad. It’s the senior team that battles with local games in the European Championship and internationally in the World Baseball classic.
If British baseball is to expand, more Americans and Canadians currently living in the UK need to get involved in the game at all levels. Only then will the experience of the few help the many who need to learn from experienced players, for the long term stability of the game.
Izzy Woods is a travel writer and sports fan. Since moving to London, she has written on behalf of numerous clients (including a cruise deals company) in between keeping up on Britain's progress in lesser-played, American sports.
The number of players with 100+ walks in 2011 (5) was much lower than just a few years ago (11 in 2007). That number is more similar to the 80's and early 90's than the late 90's or early 00's. It makes sense, because pitchers are probably more likely to go after hitters now than in the steroid era. Walks did go down in 2005 only to bounce back, so it's not a given than it will go under 500 per team in 2012, but it is a possibility.