One easy, fall-back buzzword you hear baseball broadcasters drone on and on about is “consistency.” They want players to be consistent. The players themselves, they also seek consistency. Everybody wants to be consistent.
It is difficult to parse what it actually means, however. It doesn’t seem offside to assume for nearly all parties invovled — fans included — that “consistency” means “successful all the time.” Being good often and you are thought of as consistent. Problem solved!
The real world of baseball doesn’t work like this. Your average Major Leaguer’s swing is a miracle of physical dynamics, with a million moving parts requiring pinpoint timing across hundreds of plate appearances and six long months of physical punishment and laborious travel.
Because of that punishment, it is hard to be consistent. Because of the incredibly difficult task that is hitting major league-quality pitching, it is very hard to be consistent and productive over the span of a season.
It stands to reason that two players who reach base in more than 40% of their plate appearances would reach base often. But that is a rate stat which doesn’t account for the usual highs and lows. Go 0-fer one day, get on base three times the next day, boom, you’re still sitting with a .400 OBP.
Such tough outs are Cabrera and Trout that they not only reach base in volume but consistently – night in and night out. Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout can each claim just seven games this year in which they haven’t at least stood on first base at least once. Seven. Each.
Cabrera’s total is technically six, as he came out of the August 30th game with an injury. If you want to get extra prickly, he reached on a fielder’s choice in the first game of the year, meaning he DID reach base though he didn’t quite earn it. So one could conceivably argue Miguel Cabrera found his way on base in all but five of his games this year. FIVE.
Both totals include reaching on error, as this is something of a Trout speciality thanks to his speed and the pressure he puts on the defense, not to mention the impact his speed makes once he does cheat his way on in this fashion. He’s only done it twice in which he otherwise didn’t walk or hit.
Seven games, though. Trout has failed to reach safely once since the middle of June! Miggy failed to reach three times from the start of the season through the beginning of July! HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE?? The other players in the top five for OBP (Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, and Joe Mauer) average 13 games in which they couldn’t get on via their own skills and abilities.
2013 represents Miguel Cabrera’s finest season in this (random) respect. Compare to his Triple Crown winning year of 2012, when he counted 25 total 0-fers.
MIGUEL CABRERA, CAREER GAMES WITH “TIMES ON BASE” = 0
For historical reference, digging through the hilarious canon of Ted Williams produces two better seasons (in terms of TOB games) than our 2013 heroes, reaching safely in all but six games in both 1948 and 1949 (the Splendid Splinter only played six times in 1952). That, like William’s career OBP of .482, blows my mind.
Arcane trivia? Perhaps. Not a big thing but certainly A Thing. The two best hitters in baseball are wearing pitchers out in yet another way I, personally, failed to appreciate before now.
Every day, creating RBI chances for their teammates. Every day, making the opposition work out of the stretch. Every day, in the case of Trout, attracting attention and throws over to first. Every. Damn. Day. Just when I thought they’d impressed me enough, these two season’s for the ages kick my ass again.