Quiz: What links these five? (Solved)

What seasonal feat is shared by only these five players in MLB history? Small hints: (1) You can tell from the basic stats on their main B-R pages that they meet the two criteria. (2) Positions played are irrelevant. (3) The list will not grow this year, but a Yankee could make it in two years.

Congratulations to Insert Name Here!  These are the only five MLB players with 15 or more seasons and 100+ games in every season. The implied hints were:

(a) The lack of a catcher — They rarely have long streaks of 100+ games, due to the physical toll of the job. Only Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk and Bob Boone had 15+ years of 100+ games; all three had several years with less than 100 games, and at least two of those in mid-career. I believe Brad Ausmus is the only catcher with 14 straight years of 100+ games played (not necessarily 100 at catcher); Jason Kendall did it in 14 of his 15 years. Also, most catchers end their careers as backups; out of 666 retired players with 100+ games in their last season, just 20 were catchers.

(b) Clemente and Daubert both died after a season of 100+ games; neither had planned to retire.

Ichiro Suzuki is the active player closest to joining this list, with at least 146 games in all 13 MLB seasons.

__________

Just by chance, we have a SS, a CF, a RF, a 1B and a 2B, for the start of a pretty good lineup — especially with Ashburn on hand to keep Little Louie out of the leadoff spot. You might glean a clue to the feat from one of the positions not covered. And there’s at least one other natural lead to deducing the feat, which applies to two of the five.


Comments

Quiz: What links these five? (Solved) — 35 Comments

  1. What is the link?

    Well, they were all MVPs or All-Stars.

    They all played in at least one World Series.

    All played at least 2000 games, including at least four seasons playing at only one position (two, Aparicio and Daubert, played every inning of an entire career at only one position).

    All had at least eight seasons of 3 WAR.

    Anything on the right track?

    • Doug, your third item is the only one in the ballpark … and it’s *only* in the ballpark. BTW, I’ve added the fact that it is a seasonal feat.

      On to my commute. I’ll check back this evening.

  2. A hint from ONE of the positions not covered–That makes me wonder why no players from LF, but one each from CF and RF. Also, 3rd base is missing.

    The only players to never catch a foul ball past the third base foul line during a season? Okay, I know that’s not right–but I’m thinking.

    • Joseph, no hint in the lack of LF and 3B.

      BTW, among career 3Bs, the closest to making this list, by my reckoning, were Beltre and Mathews, and then Boggs. Among career LFs, I’d say the closest were Bonds and Luis Gonzalez.

    • Took a look at each player and the hints, and I figure I’ll take a guess…

      1. They each played 15+ seasons with 100+ games played in each and every season
      2. Career SB% of at least 60%

      Not sure how this fits with JA’s “one other natural lead… which applies to two of the five”, but I feel this is a decent guess.

      • Oops! This was not intended as a reply to Joseph’s (or to anyone’s) comment, and I’m not sure why it’s showing up as such.

        • I presume I correctly deduced that the position that was naturally excluded was catcher… so I set out to see if these guys all had particularly high SB and games played stats, since catchers tend to be lower in those two areas. Interesting how their SB stats, which was what I looked at first, was supplemental. Although, it would not be surprising for there to be a correlation between consistently high games played and SB stats since both require considerable stamina and endurance.

    • I bet that Aaron would have played 15 more games in his last season if he knew that John Autin would make this a quiz 37 years later. 😉

    • Aaron and Rose both played 100+ in their first 22 years, but fell short in their last season. And Musial was foiled by a September debut; he followed with 21 straight years of 115+ games.

  3. Just to clarify–the requirement includes playing greater than 100 games in each year of the player’s career, yes? So, Cal Ripkin with greater than 100 games for 17 or 18 seasons does not count because he had several years with under 100 games.

    Really interesting that it is such an uncommon feat. I would have thought it much more common.

    • Joseph — I’d guess that at least 3/4 of all players fail this test because of their first and/or last years. Staying healthy and good enough to play 100+ games every year isn’t enough — you need the random luck of not being a September call-up, and you need to hang it up when you’re still good enough to play regularly. (And I’m not saying the latter is necessarily the ideal choice.)

      P.S. I was researching a Jeter column and guys with 100+ games at age 40 when I happened upon Daubert, which led me to the rest of these five.

      • 653 players reached 100+ games in their first season. 598 players (retired only) did it in their last year. That’s less than 10% of all position players.

        • To follow up:

          There are 66 active players who played 100 games in their first season. As JA mentions, Ichiro has the longest active streak from the beginning of his career. Pujols just left the list after playing 99 games last year.

          Other players who still have a chance to make the list, by the first season they played:

          2001 – Ichiro
          2004 – Alex Rios, Matt Holliday
          2005 – Robinson Cano
          2006 – Andre Ethier, Ian Kinsler, Nick Markakis, Dan Uggla
          2007 – Hunter Pence, Mark Reynolds
          2008 – Alexei Ramirez, Jay Bruce
          2009 – Gerardo Parra, Elvis Andrus, Andrew McCutchen, Gordon Beckham, Colby Rasmus
          2010 – Starlin Castro, John Jay, Austin Jackson, Justin Smoak, Jason Heyward, Giancarlo Stanton
          2011 – Eric Hosmer
          2012 – Norichika Aoki, Bryce Harper, Yoenis Cespedes
          2013 – Derrick Robinson, Juan Lagares, Nolan Arenado, Nick Franklin, Yasiel Puig, Evan Gattis, Jedd Gyorko

          Obviously all the guys from 2013 are still possibilities. 2011 does not represent any kind of attrition – Hosmer was the only first year player to play in 100+ games that season.

          Any guesses as to who will still be on the list after 15 years?

  4. JA:

    On a day late in the summer of 1961, I was lucky enough to meet and be part of a conversation with Richie Ashburn and Roberto Clemente (also Bob Will)—2/5 of your quiz group. I was one of a group of league players who had been invited to Wrigley Field to participate in a the filming of an episode of a TV show then running on WGN in which big leaguers, a couple from the Cubs and one from whichever team happened to be in town, gave advice and instruction on some aspect of the game.

    My memory is that Ashburn was terrific—sincerely friendly, interested in what we were doing, articulate in his comments. Clemente, unfortunately, was a poor choice for the program. Later on I decided that he was having difficulty expressing himself in English, but he struck everyone in the group as too reserved and judgmental, even a little contemptuous of what was going on.

    These were the only big leaguers I ever met, anyway, but what a lucky pairing—two hall of famers, six batting titles, and, as your quiz reveals, a pair of durable guys.

    • That’s pretty cool, nsb. Two of the most respected greats of the post-war era. Clemente did have a reputation as “moody,” and I’d guess you’re right that the language barrier was a big part of that — I still slap my forehead when I see one of those ’50s baseball cards of “Bob” Clemente.

      I’d kind of forgotten Ashburn’s 2 years as a Cub. In 1960, he became the first Cub since ’33 to play 150+ games without a HR — but he led the league in walks and OBP, and scored 99. I wish I’d seen him play.

  5. Excellent article. I would love to see a list of catchers that can match Thurman Munson by playing in at least 125 games a season for 9 straight years as he did from 1970 to 1978. He also played in at least 140 games for 7 straight years – 1972 to 1978.

  6. Thanks, tunatuna. Longest streaks of 125+ games by a catcher (min. 50% of games at catcher per season):

    12 — A.J. Pierzynski (active streak)
    11 — Brad Ausmus
    10 — Johnny Bench, Jason Kendall
    9 — Thurman Munson

    Ray Schalk might have had 11 straight but for the war-shortened 1918. He had 5 years on either side, and played 108 of 124 games in ’18.

    Longest streaks of 140+ games by a catcher (same criterion):

    8 — Bench
    7 — Munson, Ted Simmons, Kendall

    Gary Carter might have had 9 straight but for the ’81 strike. He had 4 years on either side, and played 100 of 108 games in ’81.

    P.S. Pierzynski is 2 healthy seasons away from cracking the top-10 in games caught, and 322 games from being the 6th ever to catch 2,000 games.

    • Also, Bill Freehan doesn’t make those streak lists, but he’s right up there in durability — one of 7 guys to catch 1,500+ games by age 33, and played 110+ games for 12 straight years.

      And Jim Sundberg might have had 10 straight years of 130+ games caught but for the ’81 strike.

    • Hats off to A.J. – very impressive. This is what is so appealing to me about Freehan, Munson and Simmons – as well as Bench and Carter of course. The physical demands that were put on their body and all the while they excelled offensively as well as defensively ( not so much D for Simmons – but not as bad as he is made out to be.)Kendall held his own on offense too – he was no slouch. I feel that Freehan, Munson and Simmons deserve more credit than what they are getting for the contributions they made to this great game.

      Yadier Molina has a current streak of 110+ at 9 seasons right now but has cleared 140 games just once. He is not the offensive force that Freehan, Munson and Simmons were but is getting better.

      Mauer had a 100+ streak of 6 seasons and cleared 140 three times. Now he moves to first base.

      McCann had a 120+ of 7 seasons and cleared 140 twice.

    • Schalk is the exception, but if you’ll look at the catchers listed, you’ll note that they’re all post expansion. Prior to a certain point in baseball history you just didn’t start someone at catcher everyday, or not year after year, and that attitude more than durability may have kept others from putting up more high-start seasons.

      • Excellent point nsb. That being said look at those catchers from the 1960’s and 1970’s noted and it is quite an impressive group. Especially those that produced offensively considering the heavy burden they endured. Sundberg was not a strong offensive threat and the same can probably be said of Ausmus and A.J. in their time. Although A.J. has some pop. Kendall stands out here as well in my opinion – productive but not like Freehan, Munson and Simmons. I really appreciate these catchers and the standard they are held to is a bit too high in my opinion. The Hall of Fame is missing out here. It’s a shame.

      • nsb, fair point about catchers. There’s also a post-expansion advantage in schedule length, which helps reach any games threshold.

        Seasons of 100+ games caught:

        Players centered before expansion:
        13 — Bill Dickey
        12 — Schalk, Gabby Hartnett, Al Lopez
        11 — Mickey Cochrane
        10 — Yogi Berra, Rick Ferrell, Jim Hegan

        Post-expansion:
        17 — Ivan Rodriguez
        15 — Bob Boone
        14 — Kendall
        13 — Bench, Ausmus, Pierzynski
        12 — Carter, Fisk, Pena
        11 — John Roseboro, Simmons, Lance Parrish, Benito Santiago, Mike Piazza
        10 — Freehan, Mike Scioscia, Jorge Posada

      • Catchers tangent: Seven players caught 1,500+ games for one team:

        White Sox — Ray Schalk
        Cubs — Gabby Hartnett
        Tigers — Bill Freehan
        Reds — Johnny Bench
        Yankees — Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Jorge Posada

        Twelve catchers had 40+ WAR for one team. Eight teams had one each, and the Yanks had four — Dickey, Berra, Munson, Posada.

      • From 1929-64 (36 years), the Yanks had 26 catcher-seasons of 3+ WAR. The Reds were second with 13, and no other team had more than 10 such years in that span.

        Of their 23 pennants in those 36 years, 18 coincided with a 3-WAR catcher. In the other five:
        1941 — 3.9 WAR from a Dickey/Buddy Rosar platoon
        1942 — Did not have outstanding catchers.
        1947 — 3.1 WAR from a Berra/Aaron Robinson timeshare.
        1949 — 3.6 WAR from Berra & friends.
        1960 — Main catcher Elston Howard had an off year.

        From 1950-64, 12 of 13 Yankee pennants featured a 3-WAR catcher — 8 by Yogi, 5 by Howard (they overlapped in ’58).

        • Great info on these catchers. I know Munson led the 1977 Championship Yankees in oWAR for the season. I believe the list would be short for Championship catchers that led their team in oWAR the year they won it all.

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