There is no doubt in my mind that Evan Longoria takes the game of baseball extremely seriously and strives to be the best at his craft. Everyone around him talks about his hard work in the cage, watching video, and dedication to all facets of his craft. It’s nice to see that paying off with another stellar season in which he has lowered his strikeout rate (21.8% compared to 27.2% and 24.0% in 2008 & 2009, respectively) while maintaining a high caliber of play, but some make mention of what seems like a power outage. This surrounds the notion that he’s not hitting the longball as well as previous years.
That may be true since he’s hitting a HR in 3.8% of his at bats (controlling for walks) compared to 6.0% and 5.7% in 2008 & 2009, respectively. I’m sure some of it has to do with his homerun per flyball rate of 11.1% this year (19.4% & 17.6%, previously), even though he’s hitting more liners and flyballs (implicitly, less grounders) than ever before. The truly great thing about this is how many of those balls in play are turning into doubles. So far, Mr. Longoria is hitting a two-bagger in 8.4% of his at bats (6.9% & 7.5%, previously) for a total of 42 thus far. Banging out 44 last year and 31 in 2008 means he is in all likelihood going to have a new career best for that category.
This is all build up for selfish reasons. I was playing around with the Play Index at Baseball-Reference and got around to plugging in some of Longo’s numbers thus far. I ended up doing a search across Major League history for batters that had greater than or equal to a) 19 homers, b) 42 doubles, and c) 60 walks. This yielded a list of 153 different seasons by some of the game’s finest players. Names such as Ruth, Hornsby, Gehrig, Musial, Pujols, Williams, and Bonds grace the top of the list, which can be found HERE. That’s a lot of really good seasons that Evan has in front of him, but one would think that those guys have a bit of a head start since they got to play an entire season, while Longo is in the midst of a good one. To see what his final line could look like we can turn to ZiPS over at Fangraphs that use what you’ve done this year along with what you’ve done in the past and regresses all of that to the mean. ZiPS has him finishing the year with 25 dingers, 51 doubles, and 74 walks. If we run those numbers we get this list of players that have had those minimums in one season:
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This is a much, much smaller list of some of the best seasons seen in the game (note: wOBA does not contain ROE). Interestingly, the only guy to win the MVP on this list in that year was Lou Gehrig. The merit of the MVP award is a topic for another day, but these are all incredible seasons and Evan Longoria is projected to be the next member of this elite company. Now, let’s see him go out and earn it.