The Fifty-Fifth Annual Dave Kingman Award

By Asher B. Chancey, Baseball Evolution


In 1986, the Oakland A’s were a young team on the brink of dynasty. Rookie of the Year Jose Canseco would win the MVP in two years and would reign in the late 80s as baseball biggest star. A young up and comer by the name of Mark McGwire made his Major League debut in September of that year, and would go on to win the Rookie of the Year the next year. 29 year old journey man Dave Stewart joined the team in the second half of the season, and went on to win 20 games in each of the next four years. Other players such as Mickey Tettleton and Jose Rijo gave the A’s much reason to be optimistic about the coming years.


But the most interesting player on that team was surely Dave Kingman. Kingman led the  team with 35 home runs that year. The 37 year old, 16 year veteran finished the season with 442 home runs, at that time the third active leader behind Hall of Famers and all time greats Mike Schmidt and Reggie Jackson. Looking back from this era, it would seem that Kingman was surely ready to plug away for three or four more years, and join the 500 home run club, which at the time was the type of criteria which merited automatic induction into the Hall of Fame. But curiously, Dave Kingman’s career ended after the 1986 season. He didn’t try to keep it going, like Schmidt did in 1989. He didn’t have his career ended by injury. He simply went from being hitting 35 home runs in one season (which was good for third in the Majors, oh by the way) to no longer being qualified to play baseball.


In truth, Kingman had long since become “un-qualified to play baseball,” but the longball had kept him alive. Ineffective in the field, he spent the last three years of his career as a DH. Unbearable in the dugout, Kingman once played for 5 teams in 12 months. But Kingman could hit the long ball as well as anyone (his .066 HR/AB is better than both Schmidt and Jackson), and it kept him in baseball for quite awhile.


What made Dave Kingman so unique was his complete inability to do anything other than hit home runs. In this age of power hitters, one thing any baseball fan has learned is that with power comes respect, and with respect comes walks. Power hitters regularly develop an ability to get on base via the walk, whether it is intentional or pitchers simply decide to keep the ball away from those hitters who punish the ball the most. Yet somehow, Dave Kingman managed to avoid getting on base as if he were being paid by gamblers. Kingman had a life time AVG of .236 and his lifetime OBP was .302. His career high for on base percentage was .343, and his season OBP was below .300 six times. His career BB/K ratio is .333. These are truly atrocious numbers. And in that fateful 1986 season, when he hit 35 HR and finished third in the Majors, his OBP was an abysmal .255. Furthermore, his OPS for that year was .686. To put that number in perspective, last year Mark Grudzielanek had a .782 OPS and hit only 3 home runs.


So, in order to honor Kingman, this year gives out the first annual Dave Kingman Award, to the player who displayed the best power stroke without demonstrating an ability to do anything. In short, the Dave Kingman Award will be given to the player “Doing the Least with the Most.”


This year’s candidates:


Mike Cameron, CF, Mets:  29 HR .233 AVG .332 OBP .478 SLG


When the Mets signed Mike Cameron this off-season, I laughed out loud and quickly called Scott and Keith to share in the hilarity. It seemed as the Mets would never learn. For the last five years, the Mets have routinely acquired big name players based solely on their price tags and not on any sort of competent player analysis. Over the preceding years, the Mets had acquired Bobby Bonilla, Mo Vaughan, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz (who would have been a Kingman candidate in 2002), Roger Cedeno, Cliff Floyd, Jay Bell, and Tony Clark without batting an eye, and each of them had been a royal disappointment. Now it seemed that they had committed yet another big money blunder. Cameron put on a typically Cameron-esque season: 29 homeruns, but 141 strikeouts in 138 games, a .233 AVG and a .332 OBP. But Cameron falls short of the Kingman because of his defense and his speed. Cameron has shored up a traditionally shaky outfield (Burnitz in Center? Are you kidding?) and he stolen 22 out of 28 bases. Nice try kid, but you’re just too valuable.


Sammy Sosa, RF, Cubs: 34 HR .252 AVG .330 OBP .511 SLG


As a Cubs fan, it pains me to see Sosa on this list, but he is having a truly Kingman-esque year. His average has bobbed between the .240s and .260s since June, and he is avoiding getting on base fabulously. But unfortunately, Sosa’s horrendous season is attributable to a significant injury early in the year which caused him to miss about 30 games. Thus, he is not “Doing the Least with the Most” on the basis of his own talent so much as he has been helped by the influence of injury. Maybe next year he’ll stay healthy and we’ll see the REAL Sammy Sosa, and then we can hand him the Kingman.


Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves: 30 HR, .247 AVG, .361 OBP, .486 SLG


Chipper had a lock on this award at the All Star beak, and his career low average seems to indicate that he is still a worthy candidate. But as much as Chipper seemed like a symbol of the Braves demise in the first half of the season, he has been a symbol of resurgence the second half, as he has been on a tear. His numbers are all up, and his team is winning again. Additionally, he has walked almost as many times as he has struck out (84/96) and that is something no self-respecting Kingman candidate can do if he hopes to take home the hardware.


Brad Wilkerson, 1B, Expos: 31 HR, .254 AVG, .372 OBP, .493 SLG


Sorry Brad, we’re not buying it. You are actually a valuable player and you know it! Wilkerson’s average is low, sure, but take a look at that OBP. No player that walks 100 times in a season (104 with 3 games to go) could ever win the Kingman. And I know that for a guy with 31 home runs, 64 RBI is ridiculous. But Brad, you’ve scored 110 runs. Get outta here kid. Good luck in Washington!


Jose Valentin, SS, White Sox: 29 HR, .212 AVG, .284 OBP, .465 SLG


Now here is a gut that never comes to play. Jose is truly a Kingman clone. Jose has 29 home runs . . . but he only has 94 hits! He has struck over 3 times as many times as he has walked (42/136) and he has only 69 RBI to go with 72 runs. But Jose has missed time as well, playing in only 123 games. If he had played a full season, who knows, he may have actually walked 50 times. We can’t take that kind of chance. So, with out further ado, this year’s Dave Kingman Award goes to  . . .


Tony Batista, 3B, Expos: 32 HR, .242 AVG, .274 OBP, .461 SLG


Tony had a hell of a year for a hell of a team. He hit 32 HR and drove in 110 RBI (which naturally we count against him). But after home runs and RBI, there was truly nothing left. Tony walked an astounding 26 times in 154 games, and was caught stealing almost a third of the time (14 of 20). He committed 18 errors at third base, and scored only 33 runs which were not the result of home runs. But he truly won the award on OPS, registering an appalling .735 while edging Valentin out in both OBP and SLG. Numbers like those are numbers which would truly make Kingman proud. So here you go, Tony, the hardware is yours. Go rub Wilkerson’s face in it.