December 4, 2023

The 2022 MLB regular season is three months old and the All-Star break is about to turn. Before you know it, the trade deadline will be here. There’s still half a season left to play, but there are several important dates to come, and then it’s time to get into the summer days of dog racing and post-season.

With that in mind, our weekly series continues to analyze various trends across the league on Wednesday with a look at one player chasing a rare event, and one team’s on-field struggles, GM finding success with its former players. Last week, we looked at the Andrew Vaughn outbreak, Eli Morgan’s unique changeover, and the increase in catcher interference calls.

Olson chases 60 doubles

The house kick stone is a sacred number in baseball. Only five players have scored 60 players per season (Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Mark McGuire twice, Sammy Sosa three times) and they have done it together eight times. Giancarlo Stanton raced 60 people during the 2017 NL MVP season. Unfortunately, he failed to get 59 bowls, the ninth highest total in history.

Sixty Reptiles is a historical total, but did you know that 60 double seasons are even rarer than Homer’s 60 seasons? Only six players in history have scored 60 doubles in a single season and none have done so more than once. Here are the six double-60 seasons in MLB history:

  1. Earl Webb, 1931 Red Sox: 67
  2. George Burns, Cleveland 1926: 64
  3. Joe Medwick, Cardinals 1936: 64
  4. Hank Greenberg, Tigers 1934: 63
  5. Paul Waner, Pirates 1932: 62
  6. Charlie Geringer, Tigers 1936: 60

Only six seasons – 60 – doubles in history and none since 1936. The most recent was at 60 doubles Nick Castellanos in 2019. He had 58 doubles divided between Tigers (37 doubles) and Cubs (21 doubles). Castellanos has led the MLB in doubles this season but has not led either league due to mid-season trading. Todd Hilton had a 59 double season with the Rockies in 2000.

This season, Matt Olson, the Braves’ first-team player, is in a position to run in the first 60-fold baseball season in nearly a century. He leads baseball with 32 doubles through 82 collegiate games, putting him on his way to 63. No other player has more than 27 doubles (Rafael Devers and Jose Ramirez tied for second). Olson’s pair of 32 is already the largest in the first half in franchise history.

Olson has a good chance of entering the All-Star break with 35 doubles. Only one player has done so since 2014 (Eduardo Escobar scored 35 doubles in the 2019 All-Star Break), and only 15 have done so. Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez holds the record with 42 first-half doubles in 1996. Mane Machado scored 39 first-half doubles with the 2013 Orioles.

It’s worth noting that Truist Park isn’t a great double park in general, especially for left-handed hitters. The three-year park factor for left-handers is 99, roughly the league average (100). It does not inflate doubles (like Fenway Park) and does not suppress doubles (like Yankee Stadium). Olson won’t get a home double push, adding to the difficulty as he pursues 60 doubles.

Of course, Olson is more than twice as famous for home running. His 12 teammates made it to the pace for 24 years, down from 39 games last year with athletics. Olson is likely to fall behind on 60 doubles because hitting 60 in a season is so difficult, and also because he will likely start turning some potential doubles to other players in the second half.

“I know the complications were happening a little bit more often than in the past, and maybe running on the floor a little less, but as long as I’m driving the ball into the gap and getting a little bit lower, that’s where I want to stay,” he said. Olson told Atlanta Journal-Constitution during the Weekend. “…Listen, extra base hits are what you want to go out and do. Especially since I’m the first starting man in the middle of the lineup, that’s kind of my job, to lead in the running.”

The Braves franchise has been around in some form since 1876 and the team scored 51 doubles by Hall of Famer Hugh Duffy in 1894. The Atlanta era record (since 1966) is Marcus Giles with 49 in 2003. Olson has a chance not only break that record, but broke it. Replacing Freddy Freeman won’t be easy, but Olson and his two husbands are doing it well.

Giants lack the field

A year ago, the Giants had a magical season where it seemed like everything could go well. Players up and down the list have had career years, including several veterans in their mid-30s, the result being a franchise record of 107 wins. Includes the New York years. San Francisco’s previous era record (since 1958) was 103 wins in 1963 and 1993.

It’s been tough for the Giants to take wins this season, especially lately. San Francisco have lost six straight games, the team’s longest losing streak since seven players in May 2019, and are 3-12 in their last 15 games. One year after winning a record 107 games, the Giants are hovering around 0.500 as the All-Star break (40-39) approaches.

Defense is one of the biggest differences between the 2021 and 2022 giants. San Francisco was an above average defensive team last season. They weren’t a really elite defensive team last year, but they were comfortably better than the league average. This year the giants are one of the worst defensive clubs. Their MLB ranks:

Defensive Competence*

.707 (6th in MLB)

.676 (29 in MLB)

Defensive runs saved

+32 (11th place in MLB)

-21 (27 in MLB)

Above average outs

+27 (5th in MLB)

-33 (30 in MLB)

*Defensive efficiency is the percentage of hits balls that turn into rejecters. The average MLB is 0.698.

The Giants just finished an eight-game home game in which they went 2-6 and made 10 fouls, plus several more plays that should have been made but weren’t. Defenders can only make mistakes on the balls they hit and the Giants, with the oldest group of center players in MLB and a severe lack of sport, simply can’t get to as many balls as possible.

Bad defense hurts in many ways. More hits fall, more runners make it to the base, more runs across the board, more pitches must be thrown, more painkillers must be used, and so forth. Usually a bad defense alone isn’t enough to drown out the season, but it can be very costly, and drag the team’s roof down. This is what happens with the giants of 2022. They seem to make a mistake every night (or simply not put on a play that they should have done) which is costing them dearly.

“I think the steps we’ve taken now are the right ones,” Manager Gabe Kapler told NBC Sports Bay Area about his team’s poor defense last month. “I think it’s just about setting the mentality of our players, reminding them that they need to be aggressive at all times, and we expect that they can play on the pitch.”

Previous success in Rangers with Padres

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At 47-36, Padres has the fourth-best record in the National League. How they got there is a bit unexpected. Franchise star Fernando Tates Jr. has yet to play this season after sustaining a broken wrist in the off-season. He still has weeks to come back. Padres received below average spot offenses from first base, short, middle field, right field, and DH. yak.

Mane Machado has been San Diego’s best player all season and that’s no surprise. Arguably the next top three players are all former Rangers. GM AJ Preller spent 2004-14 in the front office in Texas, including several years as an International Scout Manager. With Padres, Briller wasn’t shy about bringing in previous signings with Rangers.

Look at the former Rangers with strong seasons in the 2022 Padres:

Alfaro, Mazara, and Provar all combined for 4.3 WAR in 157 games for the Padres in 2022. They combined for 3.5 WAR in 889 games with the Texans earlier in their careers (Alfaro never actually played for the Rangers, he was traded to the Phillies in a deal Cole Hummels as a possibility). What smells so Rougned these days? (Hit .206/.262/.408 with Orioles.) And what about Ronald Guzman? (Hit .200/.315/.318 in Triple-A with Yankees.). Leonis Martin? (Hit .161/.292/.301 in Japan.) They can’t be backward, can they?

Let’s not forget yo dervish. Rangers signed the current Padres righty as a free international agent during the Preller era, even though he was a high-profile Japanese professional. Alfaro, Mazara and Profar were all signed on as potential amateur prospects, which was Briller’s primary focus. Catch these guys in their teens and watch them develop into big gangs. It didn’t happen as quickly as they might like with the Texans, but it’s now happening in San Diego, which is better than not happening at all.

History tells us that Alvaro and especially Mazara will not perform at this level all season. It’s always possible that things have clicked with a change of scenery, and they’re 29 and 27, respectively, the ages of many players who have a career year (Profar is 29 too). However, it’s not unreasonable to be skeptical about these ex-guards given the track records. It was available at a low cost for a reason.

In addition to playing the Padres thus far, they will need Tatis to get healthy and guys like Austin Nola and Trent Grisham to do more than they did. Ex-Rangers will only take San Diego so far. However, they not only kept the Padres afloat while keeping Tatis off the court, they helped them thrive. Briller knows these players and has a long history with them and his faith in them will be rewarded in 2022.

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