Thursday, January 06, 2005

 
January 6th, 1931

Yankees Sign Joe Sewell

Sewell spent most of his career as a shortstop but was basically a third baseman by the time the Yankees signed him in 1931 after he was released by Cleveland. Sewell had a couple of good years for the Yankees, winning a World Series in 1932 although he was replaced by Red Rolfe before the Yankees won their four consecutive World Series, 1936-39.

The real story about Sewell however was how difficult he was to strike out. He struck out just 114 times in his entire career, or an average of roughly eight per season, or once ever sixty two and a half games. Sewell did play in a low strikeout era, the league leader in Ks topped one-hundred only once during his career, but Sewell’s totals were low regardless. For the modern game, they are unheard of. The 2004 American League K leader (Mark Bellhorn) had 177 strikeouts, and the entire top five had an average of fifty more strikeouts in 2004 alone than Sewell had in his entire career. Even contact hitters have huge strikeout totals, compared to Sewell. Ichiro, the supreme example of a modern contact hitter, set the new season hit record and hit .372 in 2004 and still struck out sixty-three times.

Of course, this is more trivia than anything else. Strikeouts are, largely, just another out. While they are bad for a team when they have a runner on third, less than two outs, they sure beat a groundball with a runner on first and less than two outs. Bellhorn, despite his 177 Ks also walked eighty-eight times (third in the league) and was one of the most valuable second baseman in the league. David Eckstein struck out just forty-nine times but wasn't half as valuable as Bellhorn.

If you were looking to assemble the "All-Contact" team however, Joe Sewell would doubtless be your shortstop.





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