Friday, February 13, 2004

Stark Has Rumbled and Grumbled His Way Into Insanity 

ESPN's new clean shaven Jason Stark might finally have lost it. In his most recent column, Useless 2000 Info: Best, Worst Hitters, Stark states that Todd Helton is the "least-ballyhooed great hitter alive." What did Stark roll up his mustache shavings and smoke them? Todd Helton is not a great hitter and he is not under-hyped. To the contrary, Todd Helton is the most over-ballyhooed better than average hitter in baseball. Sure, Helton has a career .337 average, which places him first among active hitters with at least 3,000 plate appearances, but c'mon Stark, the guy plays in a stadium that Gary Coleman could launch a few home runs out of. Let's get real. Todd Helton is a good hitter, but his .337 lifetime batting average is more inflated than Pamela Anderson's chest.

Let's brake it down, shall we:

Lifetime at Home: .378
Lifetime Away: .293

Like I said, Helton has nice numbers, but take away the Coors factor and you are left with a player that can't even match Jeff Cirillo's lifetime batting average. It's amazing to me that mainstream baseball journalists still rarely take into account the stadium the player plays half his games in before crushing them or championing them. If Stark is really looking for an underrated hitter, look no further than the Mets Mike Piazza. Yes, Piazza get his share of ink as the best hitting catcher. However, considering the fact Piazza has spent his entire career in two of the best pitchers parks in baseball, Piazza should get much more attention as one of the best hitters of his generation regardless of position. Despite the parks where he's played (Shea and Dodger Stadium) and despite the punishment he takes behind the plate, Piazza has somehow managed to position himself in 4th place in career batting average among active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances. This 4th place puts him behind Todd Helton, Nomar Garciaparra and Vladamir Guerrero, all of whom get to play their home games at some of the friendliest hitters parks in baseball. Up the threshold to at least 4,000 at bats, and Piazza is first in active career batting average with players such as Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Nomar Gariaparra, Derek Jeter and Edgar Martinez all lagging behind.

So Jason Stark, if you are looking for a player to champion as underhyped, stear clear of Denver and head over to Flushing.

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