David Ross had a lifetime .240/.279/.392 when he was acquired by the Reds, by the end of the 2006 season he had strolled to the plate 296 times as a Red. Ross, who was earmarked to be Jason LaRue's caddy, ended up leading the Reds catchers in games and plate appearances, as well as extra base hits. In fact David Ross destroyed his Pecota projection this season (his best case scenario projection was a .258/.325/.464) and in the process he joined a select group of players in the games history to compile 35 or more extra base hits in 300 or less plate appearances, ending up with a .255/.353/.579 line by seasons end, 59% of Ross's hits were hits for extra bases, and you have to wonder, can he do it again?
It's a small, yet rare feat that had only occurred 4 times in the modern era prior to the 1994 lock out. Since then it's occurred 7 more times, 3 of those by Cincinnati Reds and 3 times this season alone. The one that leads us there is David Ross the only player in the group to top 20 home runs, and what a group it is. Rookies, famous sluggers, platoon wonders, the man Babe Ruth unseated as the premier home run hitter in all of baseball and then even the man who replaced Babe Ruth on the Yankees.
Let's kick em around and see if David Ross fits in the group or if he will likely end up as an anomaly. A player that averages an extra base hit every 8 at bats would be a blessing at catcher, in 206 only 16 players had 75 or more extra base hits, none were catchers. In fact Ramon Hernandez led all catchers in EBH with 54, Jason Kendall logged 614 at bats for the A's and had only 24 EBH. That's 1 EBH every 25 at bats, or a scant 1 every 5 games. In the long history of the game finding a hitting catcher has often been a task many franchises were never able to fulfill, and it's really only in recent history that a catcher has been able to stay healthy enough to get over 60 much alone 70 EBH. But there have been a few.
The best in the group is Johnny Bench in 1970, his first MVP season, when he averaged an EBH every 7.2 at bats, or a hair over 1 EBH every 100 at bats more then David Ross achieved in 2006.
EXTRA BASE HITS YEAR EBH AB
1 Johnny Bench 1970 84 605
2 Javier Lopez 2003 75 457
3 Todd Hundley 1996 74 540
T4 Johnny Bench 1974 73 621
T4 Mike Piazza 1997 73 556
T6 Lance Parrish 1983 72 605
T6 Stan Lopata 1956 72 535
T8 Gabby Hartnett 1930 71 508
T8 Mike Piazza 1998 71 561
10 Roy Campanella 1953 70 519
The real question is can Ross do it again and what does the list look like that he now joins, and did they succeed after their extra base bonanza in a small window of opportunity.
So here they are.
We're going to run these guys down from the top.
EXTRA BASE HITS YEAR EBH AVG OBA SLG AGE
Bob Fothergill 1929 39 .354 .378 .570 31
Dick Allen 1973 39 .316 .394 .612 31
Adam Dunn 2001 38 .262 .371 .578 21
David Ross 2006 37 .255 .353 .579 28
Alex Ochoa 2000 37 .316 .378 .586 28
George Selkirk 1937 36 .328 .411 .629 29
Josh Phelps 2002 36 .309 .362 .562 24
Gavvy Cravath 1919 35 .341 .438 .640 38
Jeff Francoeur 2005 35 .300 .336 .549 21
Corey Koskie 2006 35 .261 .343 .490 33
Luke Scott 2006 35 .336 .426 .629 28
Since major league baseball started there have only been 4 seasons where the leagues OPS was greater then the .770 that was logged in 1929. Detroit's Bob Fothergill was known around the league as "Fatty", at 6'1" and weighed about 230, he was a pure hitter in a hitters era, hitting over .350 4 times in his career. A career marked by poor fielding and bad health, thus Fatty was often only logging almost 400 at bats a season, topping 400 only once in his career (527 ab's .359/ .413/.516) In 1929 everyone in baseball seemed to be hitting the ball, and Fothergill averaged an EBH every 7.1 ab's, it would prove to be his last really good season and by 1938 he would die of a massive stroke at the age of 40.
Dick (Don't call me Richie) Allen
Dick Allen was a stud, that's much should be said, and his place on the list is based on one thing alone... injury. On June, 28th 1973 Allen injured his ankle in a collision at 1st base in Anaheim. He only logged 5 at bats the rest of the season, a season that began when Allen inked a 3-year $750,000 contract during spring training, making him the highest paid player in major league baseball.
Adam Dunn had 54 extra base hits (32 Home Runs) between AA Chattanooga and AAA Louisville in 2002, averaging an EBH every 6.4 at bats he was called up by the Reds and continued to average an EBH every 6.4 at bats. As of now he's the premier power hitter on the Reds and a lightening rod due to his unorthodox game and poor fielding and strikeout totals. He'll be someone we watch over the off-season here and I'm sure that I'll not be the only one doing it.
Bob Fothergill's feat occurred in a big hitting year, however it wasn't a big as hitting season as 2000, which stands after 1930 as the season with the highest OPS in MLB history (.782) it's also the season that the Reds milked Alex Ochea's best stat line from. Ochea was 28 and had jus come off his best season in 1999 for the Brewers (which is the 3rd best OPS season in MLB history) The Reds thought that they were getting a 4th outfielder that might help fill in from time to time, what they ended up with is a player that destroyed his career norms in batting average and slugging percentage, Ochea delighted Reds fans by topping the leagues norm in batting average by .42 and slugging by .140. In baseball the mean can be a wicked taskmaster. The following season at age 30 Ochea had a .276/.334/.403 line for the Reds before they traded him to the Rockies, one year and two teams later Alex was out of the game, just a footnote in the games history.
Someone had to replace Babe Ruth in the Yankees lineup one day, everyone knew that and now in retrospect not many can remember the name of the man that donned Babes number 3 after he left to be a Brave, nor can they remember the stats that he produced after the Babe had vacated right field in the Bronx. George Selkirk fades into obscurity, despite his 5 World Series Rings and lifetime .883 OPS. Selkirk was a longtime Yankee farmhand and didn't make the big leagues until the age of 26; he later was squeezed out by the emergence of Tommy Heinrich and Charlie Keller... it's tough being a Yankee I guess. In 1937 at the age of 29 George had an OPS of 1.040, with 36 EBHs the prior years he had rapped over 50 in more than 400 at bats. The next year his OPS dropped over .240 points (his batting averaged dropped over 50 points) Selkirk rebounded and had a .969 OPS in 1939, but he never became the star that some thought he should be, simply because he wore Ruth's #3.
Josh Phelps, once a catcher now a roaming DH/1b with knee problems and a poor grasp of the strike zone. Lucky Josh won a job with his 2002 season, however his lack of plate acumen and fielding prowess caused him to be expendable and it looks like his game time will be redefined at 1st and DH, Josh spent the 2006 in Toledo and never played for the Tigers, despite them being a team that probably would like some more power from their 1st basemen. In Toledo at age 28 Josh Phelps had a .308 batting average and .908 OPS, for that he got named to the AA All Star team, if he's lucky there might be a job somewhere for him in the game, too bad he doesn't hit from the left side.
Prior to the emergence of Babe Ruth baseball's renowned slugger was LH power hitter Gavy Cravath, a man who was championed by F.C. Lane for his power and on-base acumen long before that part of the game became a large part of the statheads credo. Gavy had the pleasure of hitting at the Baker Bowl, a 19th century park that was fast on the way to being a dump as well as the home to the worst franchise in the game. In 1919 Gavy was nearing the end of a long career, one that had trouble starting, but nevertheless turned out to be a nice little career. His .341/.438/.640 in 214 at bats is monstrous in an era that hitting was usually confined to punch singles and gappers in wide open outfields. Prior to 1920 Gavy was 39 years old and tied for 4th in HR's in the history of major league baseball. In 1920 Gavy would get 1 more to end up 3rd in the games history. Ten years later he would be 16th and twenty years later 41st.
The next three have all occurred in the past two seasons.
HOMERUNS HR AB
1 Roger Connor 138 7794
2 Sam Thompson 127 5984
3 Harry Stovey 122 6138
T4 Jimmy Ryan 118 8164
T4 Gavvy Cravath 118 3906
T6 Mike Tiernan 106 5906
T6 Dan Brouthers 106 6711
T6 Hugh Duffy 106 7042
T9 Ed Delahanty 101 7505
T9 Honus Wagner 101 10430
Jeff Francoeur place on this list is much like Adam Dunn's, a late season call up in 2005 Francoeur tore through the league with a .300 batting average and a .549 slugging percentage, and his one fault was patience at the dish.
He has none, 11 walks in 257 at bats in 2005 for a Jose Guillenesque 1 BB every 23 at bats, in 2006 it took a even more horrible turn, Francoeur had 394 more at bats then he had in 2005 and still only had 23 walks for the season, that's one BB every 28 at bats. This was compounded by a .260 batting average and Francoeur ended up with a .293 on base percentage for the seasons... and that's just pitiful.
Below is a list of the most outs in a season with walk totals under 23, Jeff slots in at number 15 all time in a season with 491 outs, or slightly more then every out in 18 games, or every out for the Braves in 11% of their season... ouch.
OUTS YEAR OUTS BB OBA
Larry Bowa 1974 531 23 .298
Woody Jensen 1936 526 16 .305
Alfonso Soriano 2002 516 23 .332
Rennie Stennett 1976 515 19 .277
Cookie Rojas 1968 511 16 .248
Enos Cabell 1978 501 22 .321
Rick Bosetti 1979 500 22 .286
Mark Grudzielanek 1997 500 23 .307
Doug Glanville 2001 498 19 .285
Ralph Garr 1973 497 22 .323
Hi Myers 1915 494 17 .275
Tito Fuentes 1971 493 18 .299
Cristian Guzman 2002 492 17 .292
Mark Koenig 1934 491 15 .289
Jeff Francouer 2006 491 23 .291
Corey Koskie experienced a concussion and that cut his season short, at 33 it might have been the best season in Koskie's career, if he had indeed finished it, But like Dick Allen his place on this list is a result of being unlucky.
Luke Scott is a lot like David Ross, he had kicked around in the minors for awhile and was known for having pop and the inability to walk with much more then pedestrian regularity. At 28 Scott finally got his chance and the man who had never hit above .300 in professional ball destroyed NL pitching for the last half of the season, with a line of .336/.426./621/1.047 he even walked 30 times in 214 at bats. Even more amazing was a robust ratio of 1 EBH every 6.1 at bats. That said the man is 28 years old and just was fresh to the league, something has to give in the next season.
That's where a list like the above leaves us, we can see the pros that consistently performed at that level when healthy (Allen, Koskie, Fothergill, Cravath, Selkirk) or the phenoms (Dunn and Francoeur) and we can see the flukes as well (Ochea, Phelps and Scott and Ross) The last two players mentioned plus Francoeur still have to prove that they can do it over a whole season and at a lowered cost it's worth the gamble for the Reds to see if Ross can reproduce his magic.
But based on the data I wouldn't bet the house that it happens.