Thursday, December 05, 2013

Deion Sanders and 14 / 6

I read a great piece by Stacey Gotsulias on It's About the Money, Stupid as she remembered the terrible 1990 New York Yankees team. There was one mention in the story that piqued my attention: Deion Sanders. Somehow I had forgotten that he began his baseball career as a member of the Yankees. I probably have erased the fact from my memory because Sanders did nothing really memorable for the Yankees and it was not until he went to the Braves that he had some interesting seasons.  As I do whenever I am curious, I quickly glanced at Deion Sanders' player page on One set of numbers really caught my eye: 14/6.

The year was 1992 and it proved to be Sanders' best year in baseball. Don't get me wrong, to be a two-sport athlete with both the MLB and NFL on your resume is pretty astounding and worthy of admiration. But for most of his time in the Majors, Sanders really was not all that great a player. He had three good seasons out of nine (most were partial seasons, which again was amazing as he split time with his NFL duties). But he was very good in 1992.

Sanders played 97 games for the Braves in 1992 and still compiled 3.2 rWAR. He was a plus center fielder that season with an .841 OPS and 130 OPS+. He also had one of the most memorable World Series in a losing cause against the Blue Jays that season. He came to the plate 17 times in that World Series and got on base ten of them. Call it David Ortiz without the homers.

Okay, but here is the part that caught my eye. That season (1992), he hit fourteen triples. He also hit eight homers. But he only hit six doubles. Fourteen triples and only six doubles. That seemed very odd to me. The guy was blazing fast and it makes sense he would rarely stop at second and head right for third. But these numbers seemed freakish.

If you look at the most recent prolific triples hitters like Jimmy Rollins and Curtis Granderson, the years they hit a lot of triples, they also hit a lot of doubles and homers. So I did some quick work on B-R's Play Index and it turns out that nobody had ever done what Sanders did (with at least ten or more triples) before 1992 or since.

Nobody in baseball has ever had a higher triples to doubles ratio when hitting more than ten triples. The closest anyone ever came to Sanders' 2.33 ratio was Edd Roush who, in 1916, hit 15 triples and seven doubles (a 2.14 ratio). Nobody else ever had a higher than 2 to 1 triple to double ratio. Chief Wilson in 1912 came close with 36 triples and 19 doubles.

I hugely enjoyed both Deion Sanders' and Bo Jackson's careers. What they did was remarkable and I wonder if we will ever see the likes of that again. But what I like best about baseball is that there are always these odd little stats to discover like 1992 when Sanders hit 14 triples and only six doubles.

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