Miller: The wonders of Rickey Henderson’s late-career OBP

From Sam Miller at Baseball Prospectus on May 19, 2015:

Stand up like a man,” catchers used to tell him. He’d be in that deep Rickey crouch, shrinking that strike zone until it was “smaller than Hitler’s heart,” in Jim Murray’s words. “So low and so exaggerated,” Peter Gammons wrote, “that Angel manager Gene Mauch once described it as a ‘three-inch strike zone.’” But nobody likes a player who just tries to walk, one of baseball’s strangest bigotries, the mistrust of the walker. So, the catchers would needle, “stand up like a man.”


Back in 1981, Rickey explained his crouch not as a way of shrinking his strike zone, but of hitting the ball better. “I can see the ball better this way than standing up. Stand-up hitters see only the top half of the ball. I see the whole thing.”

What you might forget is that Rickey Henderson once slugged .577, had the AL’s fourth-best isolated power, led the league in OPS+. In his prime he was basically Mike Trout without the freakish youth, a genuinely frightening hitter who was scary enough to draw nearly as many intentional walks in his career as Jim Rice. He hit the ball so hard it almost made sense to walk him.

But he then hung around for a long, long time. You might have thought in 1997, after he hit .183 and slugged .261 with the Angels, that he would think about retiring, but he played six years in the majors after that. Those six years—and, especially, the final four—were arguably more interesting than the previous 18.

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Originally published: May 19, 2015. Last Updated: May 19, 2015.