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2004 OQ REPORT

2004 OFFENSIVE LEADERS BY POSITION

AMERICAN LEAGUE  
     
C Jorge Posada  
1B Mark Teixeira  
2B Mark Bellhorn  
SS Carlos Guillen  
3B Melvin Mora  
LF Manny Ramirez  
CF Aaron Rowand  
RF Vladimir Guerrero  
DH Travis Hafner  

NATIONAL LEAGUE  
     
C Michael Barrett  
1B Todd Helton  
2B Mark Loretta  
SS Khalil Greene  
3B Scott Rolen  
LF Barry Bonds  
CF Jim Edmonds  
RF Lance Berkman  

Bold
indicates 2003 leaders.

To qualify for this list, a player must play at least half his team’s games at the defensive position indicated.

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2004 AMERICAN LEAGUE OQ LEADERS

 
Rank
 
Player
Team
OQ
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
Ramirez
BOS
151
 
 
2
 
Hafner
CLE
145
 
 
3
 
Ortiz
BOS
145
 
 
4
 
Mora
BAL
143
 
 
5
 
Guerrero
ANA
142
 
 
6
 
Sheffield
NY
135
 
 
7
 
Chavez
OAK
134
 
 
8
 
Matsui
NY
132
 
 
9
 
Teixeira
TEX
131
 
 
10
 
Guillen
DET
130
 
 
 
 
 
11
 
Delgado
TOR
129
 
 
12
 
Durazo
OAK
129
 
 
13
 
Posada
NY
128
 
 
14
 
Konerko
CHI
126
 
 
15
 
Rodriguez
NY
125
 
 
16
 
Rodriguez
DET
122
 
 
17
 
Tejada
BAL
122
 
 
18
 
Rowand
CHI
121
 
 
19
 
Varitek
BOS
121
 
 
20
 
Lee
CHI
120
 
 
 
 
 
21
 
Damon
BOS
119
 
 
22
 
Blalock
TEX
118
 
 
23
 
Lopez, J
BAL
118
 
 
24
 
Martinez
CLE
117
 
 
25
 
Suzuki
SEA
115
 
 
26
 
Millar
BOS
115
 
 
27
 
Huff
TAM
115
 
 
28
 
Bellhorn
BOS
115
 
 
29
 
Blake
CLE
114
 
 
30
 
Martinez
TAM
113
 
 
 
 
 
31
 
Pena
DET
112
 
 
32
 
Ford
MIN
111
 
 
33
 
Kotsay
OAK
111
 
 
34
 
Palmeiro
BAL
110
 
 
35
 
Guillen
ANA
110
 
 
36
 
Young, M
TEX
110
 
 
37
 
Williams
NY
110
 
 
38
 
Uribe
CHI
110
 
 
39
 
Ibanez
SEA
108
 
 
40
 
Wells
TOR
108
 
 
 
 
 
41
 
Hatteberg
OAK
106
 
 
42
 
Stairs
KC
106
 
 
43
 
Jeter
NY
106
 
 
44
 
Byrnes
OAK
106
 
 
45
 
Hunter
MIN
105
 
 
46
 
Dye
OAK
105
 
 
47
 
Lawton
CLE
104
 
 
48
 
Cruz
TAM
104
 
 
49
 
Soriano
TEX
103
 
 
50
 
Hudson
TOR
102
 
 
 
 
 
51
 
White
KC
102
 
 
52
 
Crisp
CLE
102
 
 
53
 
Belliard
CLE
101
 
 
54
 
Valentin
CHI
100
 
 
55
 
Bigbie
BAL
100
 
 
56
 
Higginson
DET
100
 
 
57
 
Infante
DET
99
 
 
58
 
Crawford
TAM
99
 
 
59
 
Figgins
ANA
99
 
 
60
 
Winn
SEA
99
 
 
 
 
 
61
 
Crosby
OAK
97
 
 
62
 
Olerud
SEA/NY
96
 
 
63
 
Gerut
CLE
96
 
 
64
 
Boone
SEA
95
 
 
65
 
Vizquel
CLE
95
 
 
66
 
Randa
KC
95
 
 
67
 
Baldelli
TAM
95
 
 
68
 
Martinez
SEA
94
 
 
69
 
Kennedy
ANA
94
 
 
70
 
Lugo
TAM
93
 
 
 
 
 
71
 
Erstad
ANA
93
 
 
72
 
Roberts
BAL
93
 
 
73
 
Jones
MIN
92
 
 
74
 
Crede
CHI
89
 
 
75
 
Hinske
TOR
86
 
 
76
 
Guzman
MIN
83
 
 
77
 
Johnson
TOR
82
 
 
78
 
Berroa
KC
80
 
 
79
 
Eckstein
ANA
77
 

The 2004 American League base-to-out ratio was .724.

This list includes every player who had at least 3 (at bats + walks) for each game his team played.

Back to the top

2004 NATIONAL LEAGUE OQ LEADERS

 
Rank
 
Player
Team
OQ
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
Bonds
SF
318
 
 
2
 
Helton
COL
185
 
 
3
 
Edmonds
STL
171
 
 
4
 
Pujols
STL
169
 
 
5
 
Berkman
HOU
165
 
 
6
 
Drew
ATL
162
 
 
7
 
Abreu
PHI
155
 
 
8
 
Rolen
STL
153
 
 
9
 
Thome
PHI
153
 
 
10
 
Beltre
LA
152
 
 
 
 
 
11
 
Dunn
CIN
146
 
 
12
 
Ramirez
CHI
138
 
 
13
 
Alou
CHI
134
 
 
14
 
Burnitz
COL
132
 
 
15
 
Wilkerson
MON
130
 
 
16
 
Casey
CIN
129
 
 
17
 
Loretta
SD
125
 
 
18
 
Cabrera
FLA
125
 
 
19
 
Overbay
MIL
125
 
 
20
 
Jones, C
ATL
125
 
 
 
 
 
21
 
Kent
HOU
124
 
 
22
 
Giles
SD
123
 
 
23
 
Lowell
FLA
122
 
 
24
 
Bagwell
HOU
122
 
 
25
 
Nevin
SD
122
 
 
26
 
Castilla
COL
121
 
 
27
 
Lee
CHI
121
 
 
28
 
Sosa
CHI
120
 
 
29
 
Burrell
PHI
120
 
 
30
 
Durham
SF
119
 
 
 
 
 
31
 
Jones, A
ATL
117
 
 
32
 
Piazza
NY
114
 
 
33
 
Finley
ARI/LA
114
 
 
34
 
Wilson, C
PIT
113
 
 
35
 
Bell
PHI
113
 
 
36
 
Green
LA
112
 
 
37
 
Barrett
CHI
111
 
 
38
 
Estrada
ATL
110
 
 
39
 
Cameron
NY
109
 
 
40
 
Bradley
LA
108
 
 
 
 
 
41
 
Greene
SD
108
 
 
42
 
Rollins
PHI
107
 
 
43
 
Tucker
SF
107
 
 
44
 
Jenkins
MIL
105
 
 
45
 
Biggio
HOU
105
 
 
46
 
Jiminez
CIN
105
 
 
47
 
Hillenbrand
ARI
104
 
 
48
 
Feliz
SF
104
 
 
49
 
Conine
FLA
103
 
 
50
 
Kendall
PIT
103
 
 
 
 
 
51
 
Wilson, J
PIT
102
 
 
52
 
Lieberthal
PHI
102
 
 
53
 
Furcal
ATL
101
 
 
54
 
Grissom
SF
101
 
 
55
 
Patterson
CHI
101
 
 
56
 
Wigginton
NY/PIT
100
 
 
57
 
Polanco
PHI
100
 
 
58
 
Pierre
FLA
99
 
 
59
 
Tracy
COL
99
 
 
60
 
Alfonzo
SF
98
 
 
 
 
 
61
 
Hidalgo
HOU/NY
98
 
 
62
 
Freel
CIN
98
 
 
63
 
Mackowiak
PIT
98
 
 
64
 
Lo Duca
LA/FLA
97
 
 
65
 
Castillo
FLA
96
 
 
66
 
Clayton
COL
94
 
 
67
 
Matsui
NY
94
 
 
68
 
Batista
MON
93
 
 
69
 
Renteria
STL
93
 
 
70
 
Bautista
ARI
92
 
 
 
 
 
71
 
Womack
STL
92
 
 
72
 
Encarnacion
FLA
89
 
 
73
 
Izturis
LA
88
 
 
74
 
Payton
SD
88
 
 
75
 
Pierzynski
SF
87
 
 
76
 
Gonzalez
FLA
86
 
 
77
 
Burroughs
SD
86
 
 
78
 
Podsednik
MIL
85
 
 
79
 
Miles
COL
85
 
 
80
 
Chavez
MON
84
 
 
 
 
 
81
 
Counsell
MIL
82
 
 
82
 
Redman
PIT
82
 
 
83
 
Cintron
ARI
80
 

The 2004 National League base-to-out ratio was .707.

This list includes every player who had at least 3 (at bats + walks) for each game his team played.

Back to the top

THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF BARRY BONDS

One very interesting fact about 2004 is that the American League OQ champion, Manny Ramirez, wouldn’t have cracked the Top Ten in the National League. This is another way of saying that the National League had no fewer than TEN batters who were more dominant than Manny Ramirez.

If a league’s BTOR is, by definition, exactly 1.00, who balances out all those dominators at the top of the NL list? Well, remember that pitchers bat in the NL, so the NL’s bottom guys are always going to be more inept than the AL’s. The other factor to consider is that the NL’s big boppers are drawing significantly more walks than their AL counterparts, so they’re earning more bases per out.

Discussion of the NL list begins with Barry Bonds. His 318 OQ is unprecedented in baseball history, and, by 22 points, the best offensive season in history. Bonds produced 2.248 bases for every out he made. The National League average was 0.707.

Until this season, no batter in history had ever recorded an OQ of over 300. Very, very few had achieved a 200 OQ. Bonds continues to blaze new trails.

Opposing teams walked Bonds 232 times, a major league record. They don’t pitch to him because not pitching to him pays dividends. They can't stop Bonds, but they can contain him, minimize the damage he can do.

Here's the proof: despite his record-shattering OQ season, Bonds ranked just 5th in the National League in runs produced (runs scored plus runs batted in, minus home runs).

2004 Runs Produced leaders, National League

 
Albert Pujols
210
 
 
Scott Rolen
199
 
 
Bobby Abreu
193
 
 
Vinny Castilla
189
 
 
Barry Bonds
185
 
 
Lance Berkman
180
 
 
Miguel Cabrera
180
 
 
Todd Helton
179
 
 
Adrian Beltre
177
 
 
Sean Casey
176
 
 
Jeff Kent
176
 

San Francisco’s opponents exploited the fact that the Giants chose once again to surround Bonds with a cast of offensive mediocrities (with the exception of J.T. Snow, who hit well this year in limited duty). Facing this lineup, pitching around Bonds was the only sensible strategy, and it worked by controlling the breakage.

Although Bonds’ last few seasons are unique in both contemporary baseball and baseball history, he is becoming less unique. There is evidence that Bonds, like Babe Ruth once did, is influencing the way the game is played.

This is particularly true in the National League. No American League batter walked 100 times in 2004, but in the senior circuit 9 batters, including Bonds, did so.

In the National League, especially, batters are following Bonds’s example: wait for your pitch. Managers, noticing this, are learning not to give them their pitch.

National League managers are embracing, as a general rule, a philosophy of “We’re not going to let their big bopper beat us.” It no longer applies just to Bonds. They’re pitching with almost as much care to guys like Scott Helton, Lance Berkman, and Bobby Abreu, not giving them anything inside the strike zone.

Bonds is feared most for two reasons. First, he has the best plate discipline of any batter today. He’s better at spotting his pitch. He doesn’t, as a rule, chase pitches outside the strike zone. Second, he swings harder, when he swings, than anyone else. Because he’s the only legitimate threat in San Francisco’s lineup, it makes sense to avoid confronting him.

The Giants can force managers to pitch to Bonds by making it harder for them to pitch around him. They’d be well-advised to add a hitter or two to their roster, and I don’t mean Pedro Feliz or Edgardo Alfonzo.

Incidentally, there is no chance that major league baseball will implement an effective steroid testing policy until after Bonds retires. Barring injury, I see him playing two more seasons.

Barry Bonds lifetime OQs:

 
1986
115
 
 
1987
118
 
 
1988
145
 
 
1989
128
 
 
1990
166
 
 
1991
164
 
 
1992
211
 
 
1993
206
 
 
1994
175
 
 
1995
169
 
 
1996
192
 
 
1997
175
 
 
1998
176
 
 
1999
152
 
 
2000
182
 
 
2001
260
 
 
2002
296
 
 
2003
245
 
 
2004
318
 

BOLD = Qualified as a regular.

Barry Bonds’ career to date: 17 qualifying seasons, 196 lifetime OQ.

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THE WAY OF ICHIRO

A year ago, on September 1, 2003, Peter Gammons wrote about “a legitimate issue that has been much-discussed in Seattle: wouldn't [Ichiro Suzuki] be a far better offensive player if he were more selective and worried less about hit totals. Those who wish he would be more selective think it would raise his on-base percentage in the leadoff position, and, more important, get him more hitters' counts which would in turn increase his power and production numbers.”

This season Ichiro broke George Sisler’s 84-year-old record for hits in a season, but that hasn’t quieted the criticism, which reminds me of 1990s efforts on the part of some pundits to belittle Cal Ripken’s consecutive game streak. So although I commented on it last year, it’s appropriate to revisit this topic.

Ichiro’s four seasons have produced similar results, OQs of 108, 111, 100, and 115 with excellent baserunning and outfield defense. He’s never injured.

You can “coulda, shoulda, woulda” all you want, but here’s the way I see it: do you try to remake Ichiro, or be satisfied with what you have? How malleable is he? Ichiro will be 31 on opening day 2005. What you see is what you get. He is who he is; he gives you what he has. If he doesn’t give it to you, he probably doesn’t have it to give.

Seattle’s “brain trust,” manager Bob Melvin and hitting coach Paul Molitor, spent the spring of 2004 trying to change Ichiro, forcing him to look at more pitches. To quote the USA Today Sports Weekly:

“They found during a tortuous April that doing so was taking away Ichiro’s natural aggressiveness and command of the strike zone. Toward the end of the month he went back to his old style, and the result was 50 hits in May.”

Now Molitor, to his credit, says, “A big part of coaching is to stay out of somebody’s way. You stay out of the way of a moving train, and Ichiro has it moving pretty good.”

The notion that Cal Ripken was hurting the Orioles by playing every day was ludicrous. Who better did they have to replace him? Similarly, if the GM of the Mariners thinks the team will win more games with somebody else in right field, let him go out and get that guy, and then we’ll see. But don’t tell me that Ripken’s durability and Ichiro’s batting feats should have been booed instead of cheered. I don’t buy it.

Ichiro’s not entirely unique, by the way. Florida’s singles-hitting leadoff man Juan Pierre is exactly in the Ichiro mold, only not as good. Perhaps if he were better, the pundits would complain about him, too. Go figure.

By the way, I confess I got a little irritated at sportscasters who, when Ichiro was pursuing the record, kept referring to George Sizzler. The “s” was an “s,” guys. (How soon they forget!)

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REPUDIATING THE PAST

In his seminal 1994 book Lumber Men, which introduced the concept of the OQ, Leo Leahy expressed trepidation that the panjandrums of baseball, at some point in the twenty-first century, would find a way to delegitimize its twentieth century records as it has discredited its nineteenth century ones. Although 1901 baseball resembled 1899 baseball a lot more closely than it did 1999 baseball, all “modern” baseball records date from 1901. This is based on the fallacious belief by many of today’s pundits that nineteenth century baseball wasn’t “real baseball.” That’s the wash of a hog, of course.

It’s just 2004, but already I’m starting to hear the ominous beating of that drum. More and more TV and print journalists are pontificating that pre-1947 records ought to be thrown out because baseball was segregated in those years. Because Babe Ruth didn’t compete against African-Americans, this argument goes, his achievements and those of all his contemporaries are invalid.

If this movement succeeds, baseball’s official position would be, for instance, that no one ever hit a legitimate .400. Tony Gwynn’s .394 in the two-thirds campaign of 1994 would be declared the highest single-season batting average of “all time.”

Babe Ruth’s transformation in the popular mind from beloved hero to villainous avatar of bigotry is just a part of self-hating “politically correct” America’s wholesale backlash against its own past. Contemporary America, in which celebrities have replaced heroes, seems bent on destroying the very idea of heroism. A generation of young Americans taught to scorn the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln cannot be expected to respect or admire any of its ancestors, and that includes athletes.

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WHITHER RUSSELL BRANYAN?

Adam Dunn set a new single-season strikeout record with 195. Bobby Bonds’s mark of 189 whiffs had stood since 1970! Because I wanted to feel modern in this era when strikeouts are no longer stigmatized, I was rooting for Dunn to break the magic 200 barrier. Perhaps he’ll accomplish that next year.

Which brings us to this question: whither Russell Branyan?

During the past seven years Branyan has played for the Indians, Reds, and Brewers, losers all, but he’s never had a full-time major league job.

Although a mediocre defensive player, he’s no worse than a guy like Dunn, and he’s versatile in the field. He can play third base, first base, or a corner outfield position.

Like Dunn, Branyan bats lefthanded. They say he can’t hit lefthanded pitchers, but he’s never had a real chance to prove it.

Like Dunn, Branyan strikes out a lot. But Dunn has a full-time job. Why not Branyan? I’d like to see some team put Branyan in the lineup and leave him there for a full season. Make him the DH if you must, but give him full-time work. He’ll be 29 in December. It’s time to offer him a fair shot to show what he can do!

Branyan’s production per 500 at bats, 708 minor league games:

 
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
AVG
BB
SO
BTOR
 
 
 
 
500
89
128
24
4
39
105
.256
73
190
.941
 

Branyan’s production per 500 at bats, 451 major league games:

 
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
AVG
BB
SO
BTOR
 
 
 
 
500
70
114
24
2
32
82
.228
64
205
.782
 

This type of season would produce an OQ of about 110. That’s baseline, and there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t improve on that with full-time duty.

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RUMINATIONS

* Baseball’s biggest mystery: what, EXACTLY, ails Jason Giambi? He has descended from all-star to embarrassment with frightening speed, and I’ve never read a precise explanation. There’s a story there, but no one is reporting it.

Giambi in reverse is Detroit’s Carlos Guillen. He rocketed from mediocrity to superstar overnight, at age 28. How did this happen? Nobody’s talking about it. Ivan Rodriguez, for some reason, is getting most of the credit for Detroit’s improvement, but his contributions weren’t any greater than Guillen’s.

* The Indians have the right idea with Travis Hafner: take a young player (Hafner is 27) who can hit but can’t field, then make him your full-time designated hitter. Oakland did the same thing last year with Erubiel Durazo, who was 28, and it’s working for them.

I think this is a wiser strategy than to employ a broken-down former star as your DH. Teams usually receive just a year or two of service out of a guy like that, at an exorbitant price. Cleveland and Oakland should get plenty of mileage out of Hafner and Durazo. Seattle was second-guessed when they converted mediocre-fielding Edgar Martinez to their full-time DH in 1995 at an age, 32, when he was considered to be in his prime. Look at what they got out of him!

* At times this year Houston’s lineup featured no less than 6 B’s: Jeff Bagwell (1B), Eric Bruntlett (SS), Craig Biggio (LF), Carlos Beltran (CF), Lance Berkman (RF), and Brandon Backe (SP). A note to their front office: re-sign Beltran, and keep in mind that Adrian Beltre (3B) is also a free agent after this season. Bret Boone (2B) will probably be available, too, as well as a host of catchers, beginning with Paul Bako, Rod Barajas, Michael Barrett, Gary Bennett, and Henry Blanco. Or maybe they could simply reacquire John Buck from Kansas City.

* Benito Santiago (91 OQ) was miffed because Kansas City manager Tony Pena installed Buck as his catcher. Santiago, at age 39, says he wants to break Carlton Fisk’s record for games caught. He trails Fisk by 315 games. Take this to the bank: there is no team or combination of teams that is going to let this guy catch 315 games, especially at the salary he demands. Remember, Santiago’s lifetime winning percentage is below .500.

* I thought Washington’s Steve Korcheck was a poor-hitting catcher when in 1958 he produced just 4 hits in 51 at bats. When Korcheck doubled his hit total in the same 51 at bats in 1959, he was still hitting just .157! But Korcheck had nothing on Cincinnati receiver Corky Miller. In 2004 Miller scratched out just one single in 39 at bats. That .026 batting average explains why Miller didn’t get more at bats. Even clueless Reds GM Dan O’Brien couldn’t tolerate this level of ineptitude, and he placed Miller on waivers.

* He won’t win any beauty contests, but Tampa Bay fans are shouting “Can do!” after watching the play of July callup Jorge Cantu (102 OQ). He’s a Mexican-born infielder with a big future, probably at second base. Now if the Devil Rays will only make a deal for Octavio Dotel.

* Roberto Alomar: somebody tear the uniform off this guy, quick!

* Never confuse Bobby Crosby with Bubba Crosby. One plays shortstop for the Oakland A’s. The other is a spare outfielder for the New York Yankees.

* When in Gozo, stay at the Hotel Ta’ Cenc.

October 2004

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