Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Falling Franchise Records, Part 1: American League

By Bill

Impossible to believe the summer went by so fast, but most teams have something just shy of 25 games remaining this season. Nobody's threatening Bonds' 73, Ryan's 383 or Ichiro's 262 this season, but there are 30 teams out there that each have their own leaderboards (published or un-). Here's a look at some American League franchise single-season records that have a reasonable chance to fall in 2010:

Josh Hamilton: Rangers/Senators Batting Average
We'll start with the easy one; Hamilton is out for an extended period with a bruised ribcage, has already accumulated enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, and is hitting .361. In the franchise's first 49 seasons, the highest single-season average was Julio Franco's .341 in 1991. Hamilton would have to go 0 for his next 30 to finish at .341. If he makes a miraculous recovery, appears in the lineup tomorrow, averages four AB per game the rest of the way and hits .200, he'll just miss at .336. There's a very good chance that Josh Hamilton will hold the Rangers' all-time highest single-season batting average at the end of this season.

Hamilton: Rangers/Senators Slugging Percentage
This is trickier; in a much hitting-happier time (1996), Juan Gonzalez set the team record at .643, and Hamilton currently sits at .635. Doesn't sound like much, but if he got those same 4 AB per game over the last 23 games and slugged .696 (as close as one can get to .700 in 92 AB), he'd only just clear it, at .644. On the other hand, if he gets only two more at-bats this season and hits a double and a homer, that would get him to .644 as well. So you never know.

Hamilton: Rangers/Senators Adjusted OPS+
Same story as slugging percentage. Your leader is Frank Howard, who put up a 178 in 1969 in front of crowds of dozens for the New Senators; Hamilton currently sits at 176. A couple really great weeks to close out the season could give him that record. If you're curious, he's nowhere close to the WAR record, baseball-reference edition. Alex Rodriguez's only three Rangers seasons hold the top three spots at 8.2, 8.0 and 7.7, and Hamilton's currently at 6.0, a distant fifteenth.

Carl Crawford: Rays Runs Scored
Crawford already owns the top two spots in this stat in team history, at 104 and 101. With 98 so far this year (full disclosure: I'm writing this in the fifth inning of the Rays' blowout at Boston), Crawford is on pace for 115. Crawford also has already had his sixth among the Rays' top eight years in triples, one of the benefits of playing for a very young franchise.

Felix Hernandez: Mariners Earned Run Average
Felix's 2.30 is just two hundredths higher than Randy Johnson's 2.28 in his Cy Young-winning 1997, and could easily take over the team record with his next start. Of course, pitching in Safeco rather than the Kingdome and in 2010 rather than 1997 has helped Felix an awful lot.

Jose Bautista: Blue Jays Home Runs
It's a bit surprising that none of the big-name power hitters in Blue Jays history has ever really come all that close to 50 homers while with the team. Bautista's current 43 already ranks fourth in franchise history, and he's just four away from tying the record of 47 set by George Bell in the juiced-ball-era-preview year of 1987. He's currently on pace for 49-50. Each of the three guys in front of him (Bell, Jose Canseco and career franchise record holder Carlos Delgado) had at least one thirty-homer season prior to his big year; Bautista's prior high, as most know by now, was 16.

Juan Pierre: White Sox Stolen Bases
The White Sox have been around as long as the American League, and only one player has had more than 59 stolen bases in a season...but that was Rudy Law, who swiped 77 in 1983. Pierre almost certainly isn't going to get there, but at 54, he has an excellent chance to take over the #2 spot in the team's 110-year history (though they haven't been counting stolen bases for quite all of those seasons). There have been 114 single seasons of 60 steals or more in the Major Leagues since 1901; Pierre could easily have the 115th, his own personal third, and the White Sox' second.

Joe Mauer: Twins/Senators Doubles
Mauer's hit a bit of a doubles draught, with none in his last five games (or the first four innings tonight). He's at 41, and he'd have to double his current doubles rate to get to Mickey Vernon's all-time franchise record of 51. The team record of 47 by Justin Morneau in 2008, however, is still well within reach; Mauer's currently on pace for 46. As Aaron Gleeman noted last month, a 48th double would set not only the all-time Twins record, but also the all-time record for catchers.

Evan Longoria: Rays Doubles
This one has a better chance of happening, thanks to that whole young-franchise thing again (not pictured: David Price has already bested the team wins record by two). Longoria already holds second place with his 44 two-baggers in 2009, and is one away from tying that mark. It's very likely that he'll pass Aubrey Huff's 2003 mark of 47.

Billy Butler: Royals Double Plays Grounded Into
Butler has actually already tied John Wathan's 1982 mark of 26 (though Wathan managed to do it while playing in just 121 games). He'll set it, and at just 24, he should have plenty of chances to top his own record on this one.

James Shields: Rays Home Runs Allowed
Here's a Rays potential record that is a bit surprising, since the Rays have been around (and mostly terrible) through the most prolific home run years in history. Shields already held #2 on the franchise list with his 29 in 2009, and has done that one better so far in 2010. He's got 3 to go to catch Tanyon Sturze's 33 in 2002. It's hard to figure out what pitchers are "on pace" to do -- doubly so when 20% of Shields' home run total came in one terrible game against the Jays -- but you've got to think there's a good chance he at least ties that one.

I'll be back tomorrow or on Friday with a look at the National League (though I suspect it'll be somewhat less interesting, since there's no Josh Hamilton and no Tampa Bay Rays over there).

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