The 2006 Dave Kingman Award
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
November 28, 2006
I must admit that I am guilty of doing something that I would skewer a professional sportswriter for doing – I made up my mind about who I was going to vote for in a post-season award race in July. That sort of thing is unforgivable. Now, five months later I must look back and, in retrospect, decide if my July pick was the appropriate choice. As it turns out, it is a good thing I have a chance to second guess myself.
The race to which I am referring is the race for the Dave Kingman Award, a product of my own invention. The Award has been given out annually since 1950 to the player “doing the least with the most.” Named in honor of former major leaguer Dave Kingman, the award honors that hitter who puts up the biggest numbers without actually being a particularly valuable player. Like Kingman, who himself won the award a record 10 times, the prototypical Kingman Award winner most often puts up a high number of homeruns but a very low on-base percentage, but a player can win the award any number of ways.
By the time this season’s All Star Break rolled around, it looked like Jeff Francoeur was going to win the award going away. At the break, Francoeur had already dinged 17 homeruns, but had only walked 8 times for an on-base percentage of .281. Francoeur was classic Kingman, a Kingman incarnate. He swung for the fences, and hit balls over them often, but when he missed, he missed big, and he had no patience for taking pitches. Francoeur’s OPS at the break was .728, and I was ready to hand him the hardware.
But then a funny thing happened: Jeff started to walk. Not a lot, mind you, not even really enough to even be considered average. He just started to walk more than he had been walking. In 73 post-All Star Break contests, he walked 15 times, or almost double what he had walked in the first 89 games of the season. What’s more, in September alone he took an astounding eight walks, equal to his entire total from the first half of the season. His late season flurry of walks couldn’t rescue his on-base percentage from below .300, but it did raise it up to .293. Just like that, Jeff Francoeur was no longer a lock for the Dave Kingman Award.
Of course, as Francoeur’s grip on the Kingman Award began to slip, other players entered the fray. By time the playoffs rolled around, it became clear that the annual season-end consideration of players would have to be done afterall, and Jeff Francoeur may not take home the hardware after all.
So, without further ado, I present the 2006 Dave Kingman Award candidates, each of them special in their own way.
Adam Dunn, Cincinnati Reds
160 Games, 40/92 HR/RBI 112/194 BB/K .234/.365/.490 AVG/OBP/SLG .855/110 OPS/OPS+
Obviously, Adam Dunn is miscast here. All the other Kingman candidates would ritual-sacrifice a gaggle of geese to have the type of numbers that the Dunner puts up each season. But at the same time, something just isn’t quite right about Adam Dunn. Dunn carries the aura, if not the outright stench, of someone who is doing the least with the most. It is hard to put your finger on it, but that Kingman quality is there. Perhaps it is the fact that Dunn carries an OPS which is only 10 percent better than league average despite his 40 homeruns. Or perhaps it is his failure to either score or drive in 100 runs despite his 40 homeruns, something that only four players have managed to do in a non-strike season since 1960. Oh, and he became the first player to strikeout over 190 times in a season twice.
Adam Dunn’s career to this point has been marked by a rare futility, but it is not the type of futility that makes one a Dave Kingman Award winner. In the end, Adam Dunn may deserve his own award – in honor of the player deriving the least value from his impressive combination of walks and homeruns. Till then, he’ll just have to settle for being mentioned amongst the Kingman candidates.
Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
157 Games, 28/81 HR/RBI 59/125 BB/K .271/.347/.483 AVG/OBP/SLG .830/111 OPS/OPS+
The Prince is, at this point, a sure thing rising star for the Milwaukee Brewers, but he was also the early front runner for the Kingman after a disastrous first week in which he struck out seven times in his first nine at-bats of the season. Obviously, if he is to be the type of player the Brewers will build around, he will need to improve his runs (82) and RBI totals, but he is 22 years old. And he is no Kingman clone.
Bill Hall, Milwaukee Brewers
148 Games, 35/85 HR/RBI 63/162 BB/K .270/.345/.553 AVG/OBP/SLG .898/126 OPS/OPS+
Fielder’s teammate is on this list purely because of his low HR:RBI ratio. Actually, his BB/K ration as well. Oh, and his 8/17 stolen base percentage. Other than that, Hall has a hoss this year, scoring 100 runs, hitting 39 doubles, nearly posting a .900 OPS, and basically having a career year at the age of 26.
Bill Hall definitely wins the “Brook Jacoby 1987” Award, which is actually very similar to the “John Jaha 1996 Award.”
Craig Monroe, Detroit Tigers
147 Games, 28/92 HR/RBI 37/126 BB/K .255/.301/.482 AVG/OBP/SLG .783/100 OPS/OPS+
28 homeruns and a league average OPS? That is Kingman material right there. Monroe labored all season to get his on-base percentage above .300 before getting it into the .310s in August and September and then barely finishing above .300 at .301. In any other season, Monroe might be a good choice for the award, but not this year. Craig Monroe ruined his chances for the Award with his late season heroics.
Marcus Thames, Detroit Tigers
110 Games, 26/60 HR/RBI 37/92 BB/K .256/.333/.549 AVG/OBP/SLG .882/124 OPS/OPS+
I hate to put one of my favorite players on here, especially in what was a breakout season, but Marcus Thames bears a significant likeness to Dave Kingman. Low HR:RBI ratio? Check. Absurd number of strikeouts per game? Check. Low batting average? Check.
Thames is saved by three things. First, his OBP was remarkable given his low batting average. Second, his low games played total. And third, Marcus Thames grounded into exactly zero double plays this season. For a guy who is not particularly fast and does not bat leadoff, that is quite impressive. He is almost too valuable in that respect to merit consideration for the award.
Joe Crede, Chicago White Sox
150 Games, 30/94 HR/RBI 28/58 BB/K .283/.323/.506 AVG/OBP/SLG .829/108 OPS/OPS+
I suspect that Crede’s low RBI total is a result of Thome, Konerko, and Dye knocking in all of the runners on base ahead of Crede and leaving little for Crede to do other than driving himself in. Still, Crede’s 108 OPS+ is too low to be ignored for a 30 dinger guy, and 76 runs is not a lot over 150 games for someone with 30 homeruns, I don’t care how low in the order you hit.
There was a lot of talk at the end of the season about how Crede is going to cash in big as a free agent as a result of the season he had. To that, I have only one thing to say – whichever team shells out the big bucks to sign Crede before next year deserves everything they get from a guy who showed marked improvement in 2006 but still isn’t all that good.
Brandon Inge, Detroit Tigers
159 Games, 27/83 HR/RBI 43/128 BB/K .253/.313/.463 AVG/OBP/SLG .776/99 OPS/OPS+
I am kind of shocked that I am only now realizing that the Detroit Tigers were like a team full of Kingmans this season. Inge posted 83 runs and 83 RBI, which for a guy with 27 homeruns in 159 games is not terrific. He struck out almost three times as much as he walked. His OPS was below the league average. At 29 years old, the Tigers need to realize that Inge is not getting better, he is getting worse.
Eric Byrnes, Arizona Diamondbacks
143 Games, 26/79 HR/RBI 34/88 BB/K .267/.313/.482 AVG/OBP/SLG .795/95 OPS/OPS+
Like Thames, I feel bad putting Eric Byrnes on this team because the 2006 season was a bit of a triumph for a guy who had a miserable 2005 season in which he played for three teams and never really got it going. In 2006, Byrnes played only for the D’Backs and set career highs in homeruns, RBI, and stolen bases (25). Still, despite his 25/25 and his full season of play, Byrnes manages an OPS below league average and collapsed in the second half, going from .290/.350/.527 on August 1st to his disappointing final tally.
While in reality the 2006 season will be something positive for Eric Byrnes to build upon, for our purposes the 2006 season made him a Kingman candidate.
Craig Biggio, Houston Astros
145 Games, 21/62 HR/RBI 40/84 BB/K .246/.306/.422 AVG/OBP/SLG .728/83 OPS/OPS+
2006 was Craig Biggio's worst season, and he would be out of baseball if he were not Craig Biggio.
Craig Biggio is the latest example of the milestone consciousness of modern baseball which separates today’s players and fans from those of “yore.” Modern players will limp along after their skills have left them in order to achieve milestones which players of yesteryear were often unaware of. Don’t get me wrong, everyone of those guys back then was just as ego-centric as everyone of these guys today, and if Sam Crawford had known that 3,000 hits was going to be a big deal, he would have held on to get his 39 more hits at the age of 37 just like any player today would.
For his part, Craig Biggio did hit 20 or more homeruns for the eighth time in his career, but he also posted a career low batting average, on-base percentage, OPS+, stolen bases, and stolen base percentage, and hit into a career high 16 double plays. He currently has 2930 hits and 281 homeruns, and I am rooting for him to get to both 3,000 and 300, but if he is going to play like a Kingman, we are going to have to call him a Kingman.
Phil Nevin, Texas, Chicago Cubs, Minnesota
129 Games, 22/68 HR/RBI 48/106 BB/K .239/.323/.438 AVG/OBP/SLG .761/92 OPS/OPS+
I almost forgot about Phil Nevin, because the fact that he managed to hit 22 homeruns seemed like a miracle. 22 homeruns, 68 RBI, 54 runs and 106 strikeouts pretty much means Phil Nevin was going to the plate, swinging the bat as hard as he could, and then returning to his seat in the dugout without really doing anything that could be mistaken for “playing baseball.”
Interestingly, Phil Nevin was a couple of different players this season. In Texas, he did very little well, and had low average, on-base, and slugging. In Chicago, he hit the ball nice and hard, but had trouble getting on base. Then in Minnesota, he lost all his power, but shockingly had a .340 on-base percentage, which was 150 points higher than his .190 batting average.
Juan Uribe, Chicago White Sox
132 Games, 21/71 HR/RBI 13/82 BB/K .235/.257/.441 AVG/OBP/SLG .698/74 OPS/OPS+
How is it possible, you may ask, to hit 21 homeruns and yet finished with an OPS under 700? The answer is simply – you have to avoid doing anything else productive. For his part, Uribe did manage to hit 28 doubles, but his 13 walks, 53 runs, and 71 RBIs are absurd. Uribe had steadily declined the last couple of years, and now appears ready to join the “Cristian Guzman – 27 Year Olds Who Play Like 47 year Olds” team. In fact, I would take Julio Franco over Guzman and Uribe combined.
Jeff Francoeur, Atlanta Braves
162 Games, 29/103 HR/RBI 23/132 BB/K .260/.293/.449 AVG/OBP/SLG .742/89 OPS/OPS+
Let’s make one thing clear – he is no lock, but he is still a damned fine candidate. Anytime you can hit 29 homeruns and finish with an OPS+ of 89, you are an elite Kingman clone.
Anytime you pat a guy on the back for getting his on-base percentage up to .293, you have yourself a Kingman clone.
Pedro Feliz, San Francisco Giants
160 Games, 22/98 HR/RBI 33/112 BB/K .244/.281/.428 AVG/OBP/SLG .709/79 OPS/OPS+
My goodness! Feliz just makes all the rest look so pedestrian, doesn’t he? Last year’s winner proved once again to be no suitable replacement for Barry Bonds. Indeed, we might even have to consider Pedro Feliz to be the anti-Barry Bonds. Whereas Bonds walks almost to a fault, Feliz refuses to walk almost to the same extent.
Here is an interesting way to think about Pedro Feliz’s season: Juan Pierre may be the lightest hitter in baseball, finishing the season with 3 homeruns. Nevertheless, Juan Pierre’s OPS was higher that Pedro Feliz’s.
It defies logic that a player could finish a season with 22 homeruns, 35 doubles, and 98 RBI and still have an OPS of .708. These are truly numbers than only Dave Kingman could rival.
For that reason, it is truly my pleasure and my honor to announce that, for the second year in a row, the winner of the Dave Kingman Award is none other than Pedro “The Secret Weapon” Feliz.
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Asher resides in Philadelphia, PA and can be reached at email@example.com.
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