Don’t get too excited about Middlebrooks, Red Sox fans

Will Middlebrooks has started off really well in the first 10 games of his MLB career. Just to play devil’s advocate, though, check out the list of players in the last 20 years to have at least 4 HR in their first 10 career games:

Sure, there are a few awesome players on here, such as Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Delgado, and Andruw Jones. But check out the career homers for all the guys in this group:

Rk Player HR From To
1 Carlos Delgado 473 1993 2009
2 Andruw Jones 424 1996 2012
3 Geoff Jenkins 221 1998 2008
4 Matt Kemp 140 2006 2012
5 Josh Hamilton 136 2007 2012
6 Carlos Quentin 121 2006 2011
7 Mike Jacobs 100 2005 2010
8 Matthew Joyce 51 2008 2012
9 Bobby Estalella 48 1996 2004
10 Mark Quinn 45 1999 2002
11 Brant Brown 45 1996 2000
12 Shelley Duncan 33 2007 2012
13 Kevin Roberson 20 1993 1996
14 Taylor Teagarden 16 2008 2011
15 Jason Kipnis 13 2011 2012
16 Jose Oliva 13 1994 1995
17 J.D. Martinez 9 2011 2012
18 Bucky Jacobsen 9 2004 2004
19 Will Middlebrooks 4 2012 2012
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/14/2012.

Bucky Jacobsen famously never played another season, and numerous other guys like Mark Quinn, Brant Brown, Kevin Roberson had pretty short and unremarkable careers.

Of course, Middlebrooks has hit very well so far, well more than just a few homers. AND the number of star and superstar players on this list is high enough that it’s pretty good odds (if Middlebrooks is “only” as good as Geoff Jenkins, he’ll still be a great player for a bunch of years.)

30 thoughts on “Don’t get too excited about Middlebrooks, Red Sox fans

  1. I posted this in the Suggestions section, and someone made an attempt at answering it, but not completely:

    Will Middlebrooks has hit 4 HRs in his short career. He has hit them in the following order: Grand Slam, 3-run HR, 2-run HR, Solo shot. Is it possible to determine if that has been done before?

    1. Majik, all such things are possible — but in this case, there is no efficient way to do it with the Play Index.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the Elias Bureau can determine it, but they don’t do anything for free, and nobody there owes me a favor (or even knows I exist).

    2. Majik, if you just want to check all the other guys on Andy’s list above, just check their individual HR log on the main player page. It’s under standard batting on the tool bar right after “Splits”.

    3. Here’s what I did. I ran BR’s Play Index for Players with Most Matching Games in Multiple Years for the player’s first 10 games. I set HR = 1 and RBI = 4 (a necessary requirement for the HR sequence we are seeking)and got a list of 125 names. Only 2 of the names on Andy’s list were on the PI list, Middlebrooks and J. D. Martinez. I checked Martinez’ HR log and he did not hit HRs in the sequence that we are looking for. So Middlebrooks is the only one to accomplish the feat in his first 10 games.

        1. I forgot to say that I also ran HR = 2 and RBI =>7, HR = 3 and RBI => 9 and HR = 4 and RBI => 10. There were no names.

          In 1952 Jim Greengrass came close in his first 12 games. His first HR was a GS in game 7, number 2 was a three-run shot in game 8 and number three was a two-run shot in game 11. In game 12 he hit anothher HR but there were two men on.

          1. As a retiree I have lots of spare time so I decided to look for other guys who hit their first 4 HRs in the reverse sequence as Middlebrooks did. I arbitrarily set my cutoff point as the player’s first 25 games. First I got a list of players who hit at least 4 HRs in their first 25 games covering the entire searchable era. That is similar to what Andy did to get his first list above. Then I got a list of players who had at least one game with one or more HRs and four or more RBIs. I pasted both lists into a spreadsheet, one directly under the other and sorted by name. I looked for players who appeared on both lists and did a manual search of each of their HR logs. There were 80 players and I did not find anyone who matched Middlebrooks’s feat. I should add that I am not certain that what I did is 100% correct.

            Sevaral players came close: Gil McDougald, Dave Kingman, Giancarlo Stanton, Kevin Kouzmanoff(as mentioned in another blog here) and Larry Bettencourt. Cody Ross had a curious sequence: two GS, then two 3-run HRs, a 2-run HR, a solo HR, a 2-run HR and a solo HR.

          2. Richard @26, nice sleuthing!

            I made a few random search-and-follow forays, but didn’t find anyone else who did the “HR cycle” in reverse order.

            Norm Zauchin of the ’55 BoSox had the HR cycle in his first 4 HRs, but not in either order. However, the 3 multi-run HRs all came in one game (10 RBI, including a double):

            Zauchin finished his rookie year with 27 HRs & 93 RBI, but a .239 BA and a “shocking” 105 strikeouts. He played just 4 more years, never full-time, and hit 23 more HRs.

          3. Wow. Thanks, guys! I guess we haven’t answered whether Middlebrooks is the first to ever hit his first HRs in “reverse” order (who knows if someone did it over a longer stretch than 25 games), but I think it is reasonable to think that it has rarely (if ever) been done.

          4. Reply to post 28: Those 105 SO in 1955 put Zauchin in a tie for 27th place on the all-time seasonal SO list. Now he is tied for 1700th place.

    4. Kevin Kouzmanoff’s first 4 HRs also included one of each RBI flavor, but in the order 4-1-3-2. The grannie came on the first pitch of Kouzmanoff’s career.

      1. Daniel Nava of the Red Sox also did this (GS HR on 1st pitch), nearly two years ago:

        6-12-2010, at Fenway Park, against the Mariners (whom coincidentally he hit his _second_ career HR against last night).

        It got a lot of coverage because it was a Fox Game of the Week, and his parents were in attendance.

    1. Am I correct in remembering that he really screwed the Cubs over in a playoff game in 1998? I remember hating that guy during my teenage years and I think that’s why…

      1. From Wikipedia:

        “Brown may be most remembered for the error he committed on September 23, 1998 in a game against the Brewers, when he was with the Cubs. In a tie with the New York Mets for the lead in the NL Wild Card standings with three games remaining, Chicago held a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the 9th inning with two out. Milwaukee was down to its last gasp, but they loaded the bases with Geoff Jenkins at the plate. Jenkins hit a long fly ball to left field, a routine play for Brown. But with the sunlight distracting him, Brown dropped the ball and let it get past him, allowing three runs to score and giving the Brewers an 8-7 win. This play became famous for the radio call by the Cubs broadcasters Pat Hughes and Ron Santo, in which Santo exclaimed, “Nooooooooo!!!!!” when Brown dropped the ball. However, the Cubs would win the Wild Card playoff spot the same year in a playoff at the end of the season against the San Francisco Giants, making Brown’s blunder less severe.”

        1. In the “it’s a small world” category…Geoff Jenkins, who hit the fly ball mentioned above, is also on the 4-HR list.

  2. I had a long comment that got eaten by the ISP. Here’s the short form:

    It’s always good to temper one’s enthusiasm about a hot young player. (Kirk Nieuwenhuis is probably not as good as he’s looked — there, I said it!) Still, out of 18 players on this list (excluding Middlebrooks), I’d say that at least 8 represent good to excellent outcomes for his future. That’s better odds, I think, than the Rookie of the Year list.

      1. [writing on chalkboard]
        “I will read the whole post before commenting.
        I will read the whole post before commenting.
        I will….”

        1. I wasn’t attempting to criticize you at all–I was referring to your comment suggesting that a player has better long-term odds of success appearing on the list above than getting a vote for ROY…I would definitely agree with that. (Paging Don August, Cecil Espy, Craig Worthington to name a few…)

      1. Mike L –

        So you don’t want to re-live “The Stump Merrill Years”?

        I don’t blame ya (49-64; 71-91).

  3. He’s a good prospect. People should be excited. Maybe Babe Ruth gets hit by a truck right after the trade to the Yankees, who knows what can happen. The potential is exciting in and of itself. Baseball isn’t a game where guys come out of nowhere very often and make the hall of fame. We generally know the studs long before they even hit the roster. Not that most “high potential” guys pan out mind you, but I don’t see anything wrong with celebrating when a prospect starts making the transition. The real test is when he starts to have his first slump. That’s when we really find out what the kid is made of.

  4. Thanks, Andy K, for the heads up on Will Middlebrooks. I had missed his auspicious start to his major-league career.

    Looking at his minor-league stats to try and get a sense of his history and place in the Red Sox organization, I see that he spent three years at A-ball. Does anybody know why?

    He even started last year with a cup of coffee at A-ball again and didn’t exactly tear it up at Pawtucket at the end of last year either.

    My point is that there is very little in Middlebrooks’ minor-league ledger to suggest he is a phenom.

    The Kevin Youlilis injury has opened up a temporary spot for him but this is not a Wally Pipp-Lou Gehrig situation.

    His current hitting stats have to be an aberration and he is far more likely to be a Kevin Roberson than a Carlos Delgado.

    I stand to be corrected in my impression of Middlebrooks by Sox followers who have their eyeballs on games. Anyone?

  5. I think that the better comparison would be to put Middlebrooks up against the other young Red Sox players from the last 10 years or so. Them seem to have generated more than their share of great players from the minors over that time period. Kevin Youkalis, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, John Lester, Clay Bucholz, Jonathon Paplebon, Daniel Bard. You don’t hear about a lot of Highly touted Sox that don’t ever pan out (maybe Jed Lowrie and I am sure there are a few more). But I think this is a good indicator of Middlebrooks’ chances of performing well in the future.

  6. What was that other shortstop’s name that was supposed to be a stud? Navarro or something? Yeah, they never bring up duds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *