The First 500: A Look at the Past and a Vision of the Future

Laying in bed last night I was thinking of this evenings game and Jay Bruce‘s 3 run HR and a thought began to germinate in my mind.  I wonder how Jay and Joey compare to Red’s greats of the past?  I knew that at 24, Jay hit his 84th HR last night and should easily make it to 100 before this season winds to a close.  So the next question was, how could I possibly compare them.  I decided on an imperfect yet equal measuring stick.  The first 500 games of each players career.  Using the magic of baseball-reference.com the search was simple.  Next I visited the website of the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum and looked at the inductees into the Hall and selected 5 MLB Hall of Fame Members and 5 additional well known members of the Reds HOF and made the comparison.

The next step was to pull numbers out for three Reds stars.  Scott Rolen, who had an amazing career long before he reached the Reds.  Brandon Phillips, who has come into his prime with the Reds, and reigning MVP Joey Votto who played 500th game in Cleveland on the first day of the much maligned road trip now complete.  Finally, I gathered the numbers from Jay Bruce’s career to this point and then using his career average seasonal numbers based on 162 games, I multiplied the quotient of 92 (number of games to reach 500) divided by 162 (.5679) by each of the average statistics measured, added that to his current numbers through Sunday and arrived at a career estimate for his game 500 statistics.  This does not take into account that he seems to be in an incredible groove and if he maintains this pace will far exceed the career estimates I am projecting.  Here are the numbers:

Player HOF Status Year at 500 Age G AB R HR RBI BB BA OPS
Johnny Bench * 1971 23 500 1843 267 93 337 143 .281 .827
Eric Davis ** 1988 26 500 1626 354 107 309 244 .274 .899
George Foster ** 1976 27 500 1678 192 53 222 120 .267 .760
Ted Kluszewski ** 1951 26 500 1879 244 53 285 93 .286 .758
Barry Larkin ** 1990 26 500 1849 278 36 195 130 .295 .760
Ernie Lombardi * 1935 27 500 1554 156 37 237 92 .300 .789
Joe Morgan * 1969 25 500 1813 289 33 145 338 .270 .783
Tony Perez * 1968 26 500 1664 218 59 269 114 .274 .772
Vada Pinson ** 1962 23 500 2048 370 59 256 157 .313 .855
Frank Robinson * 1959 23 500 1930 346 112 290 193 .294 .905
Brandon Phillips 2008 27 500 1848 253 64 239 105 .265 .741
Scott Rolen 2000 25 500 1846 321 92 321 262 .280 .880
Joey Votto 2011 27 500 1783 300 95 324 261 .316 .962
Jay Bruce 2011 24 408 1467 226 83 220 150 .260 .814
Jay Bruce (car. Est.) 2011 24 500 1797 277 102 269 184 .260 .814
Using 162 Game Avg. multiplied by 92/162 or the number of games to reach 500.
* Denotes Hall of Fame member
** Denotes Reds Hall of Fame member

Looking at these numbers, one should not assume that any of these active players will end up in the Hall of Fame.  But at this stage in their careers they are very competitive.  One number that cannot be ignored in Hall of Famers is longevity.  The younger you are the better your chances for future success if you stay healthy.

Vada Pinson, Eric Davis and Frank Robinson lead in Runs with Rolen and Votto the only others over 300.  Johnny Bench is the only player with more RBI’s than Votto and Rolen with Eric Davis also just over 300.  It comes as no surprise that Frank Robinson had the most Home Runs as he currently sits in 9th place on the all time Home Run list, Eric Davis is 5 behind Robinson and it might come as a surprise that Jay Bruce would be next if the conservative estimated number proves accurate.  Only 10, behind it is conceivable that Bruce could equal or surpass Robinson’s mark.  Walks should surprise no one, Joe Morgan’s smaller stature and great eye led to prodigious walk totals throughout his career.  Rolen and Votto are closest and yet they are over 75 walks behind.  Only 3 players past and present eclipsed the .300 Batting Average plateau.  Joey Votto led the way with a .316 average followed by the unappreciated Vada Pinson and Ernie Lombardi.

The number that took my breath away though is the saber metric benchmark of OPS.  Combining on base percentage with slugging percentage this truly gives a measure of the fear a batter instills in the pitchers he faces.  Joey Votto dominates this category 57 points ahead of Frank Robinson and 63 ahead of Eric the Red.

Keep in mind that although these players from the past accumulated 9 MVP awards only Bench earned one in his first 500 games.  Robinson, Bench and Rolen all earned the Rookie of the Year award while some of these individuals, notably Foster and Phillips took a few years to break into the starting lineup.

All in all, my vision for the future of the Reds is bright indeed!

Follow me on Twitter @JohnHeitz

Tags: Barry Larkin Baseball Brandon Phillips Cincinnati Reds Eric Davis Ernie Lombardi Frank Robinson George Foster Jay Bruce Joe Morgan Joey Votto Johnny Bench Scott Rolen Ted Kluszewski Tony Perez Vada Pinson

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