First of all, let’s congratulate Ivan Rodriguez on his 8th walk of the season last night, whereupon he came around to score on Curtis Granderson’s inside-the-park home run. But let’s also appreciate the strange look about Pudge’s stat line on the year. Just as one aspect of it, he’s got quite a good chance to finish the season with double-digit homers (he’s already got this one) and single-digit walks (needs to avoid getting 2 more Annie Oakleys in the Tigers’ last 17 games).
Only 24 men in 25 such seasons (Todd Greene is the only double-dipper) have ever accomplished the feat. Sad to tell, but it was a Tiger that broke the mold: Steve Souchock in 1953 smoked 11 bombs, but walked just 8 times. It happened twice in the ’60’s (Gene Green of the ’62 Indians (11 HR/8 walks) and Willie Smith of the ’64 L.A. Angels (11/8)… right after the Tigers had traded him in the previous off-season), then only once in the ’70’s (Andres Mora of the ’77 Orioles (13/5)). It exploded to 6 occurrences in the ’80’s, starting with the strike-shortened season of Gary Gray of the ’81 Mariners (13/4) and the ’84 seasons of Jim Presley, Mariners (10/6) and Bill Schroeder, Brewers (14/8). It was all the way to 1988 before a National Leaguer turned the trick, but then there were actually 2 of them in that year – Ricky Jordan of the Phillies (11/7), and Bo Diaz’s 10 HR and 7 walks for the Reds that year, a feat made even more memorable when considering that 4 of his walks were intentional (likely he batted #8 in front of the pitcher quite a bit). Tony Armas completed the ’80’s with 11 HR and 7 walks for the ’89 California Angels. The ’90’s were all the more productive, featuring 10 such seasons. Mel Hall started it all in 1990 for the Yankees with 12 HR and just 6 walks (and, though he nearly matched Willie Smith’s high of 118 games with 113, he did get 360 at-bats on the year compared to Smith’s 359). It’s a little hard to remember Andre Dawson as a Red Sock, but he managed to turn this trick in the strike-shortened ’94 season with the Sawx (16/9). Sandy Alomar, Jr. pulled it off in the strike-shortened ’95 season with the Indians (10/7), and ’96 saw two more players do it: Rex Hudler for the Angels (16/9) and Jermaine Dye for the Braves (12/8). 1998 was the real bumper crop, with four players turning the trick: Roberto Kelly for the Rangers (16/8), Jeff Abbott for the White Sox (12/9), Richie Sexson for the Indians (11/6), and Shane Spencer’s amazing debut with the Yankees (10/5). Spencer turned the trick in the fewest at-bats ever, needing only 67. In 1999, the pace slowed to a crawl by comparison, with only Craig Paquette (10/6) of the Cardinals qualifying. 2000 returned to multiple entries, with Shawon Dunston of the Cardinals (12/6) and Fernando Seguignol of the Expos (12/6). Nobody did it in 2001, so naturally there were three qualifiers in 2002: Karim Garcia for the Indians (16/6), Joe Crede of the White Sox (12/8), and Todd Greene of the Rangers (10/2). Oddly enough, Todd Greene duplicated his numbers in both categories exactly the next year, becoming the first man ever to do it twice (much less twice in a row), and also the last man to pull off the feat. Until this year, that is.
Now, among that group, the leader in games is Willie Smith with 118 (Pudge currently has 119), as mentioned Mel Hall leads with 360 at-bats (Pudge is at 469), Rex Hudler leads with 60 runs scored (Pudge has 70), Willie Smith leads with 108 hits (Pudge 134), most doubles goes to Mel Hall with 23 (Pudge 31), most triples is Willie Smith with 6 (Pudge 5), most home runs goes to Andre Dawson, Karim Garcia and Roberto Kelly with 16 (Pudge 14), most RBI is Karim Garcia with 52 (Pudge 49), most stolen bases is Rex Hudler with 14 (Pudge 7), most strikeouts is Jermaine Dye with 67 (Pudge 85), most intentional walks is Bo Diaz with 4 (Pudge 2), most HBP is Andre Dawson with 4 (Pudge 2), most sacrifices goes to Bill Schroeder, Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Shawon Dunston with 4 (Pudge 1), most sacrifice flies is Jeff Abbott with 5 (Pudge 7), most GIDP is Bo Diaz with 16 (Pudge 18), highest batting average is Shane Spencer at .373 (Pudge .286), highest OBP is also Spencer at .411 (Pudge .296), and Spencer also leads in SLG at .910 (Pudge .463).
So, let’s see…. Among 18 categories (15 of them counting stats), Pudge already holds the lead in 8 of them. None of his leads are in the average categories, so you really could say he’s got 8 of 15… And he’s got a real shot at a few more, notably HRs and RBIs (and with more games to play in Comerica Park, he could at least tie for triples, too). Of course, he has the lead in most of those categories mainly due to his commanding lead in just two – games and at-bats. What we are witnessing with Pudge’s strange batting line for the 2005 season is yet another baseball first… (Drum roll, please.) Unless he manages to screw up and walk two more times in the last 17 games, Ivan Rodriguez will be the first ever full-time player with single-digit walks and double-digit home runs.
Personally, I’d be willing to overlook this as an anomaly, because while Pudge has never been what you might call prodigious in the walk department, this season would represent a new low for him (indeed, as has been covered elsewhere, it will be very near to a historic low for all of baseball history). However, if he turns in another performance anywhere close to this next year, it might be time for a new nickname: Ivan “I Hate Walks” Rodriguez.