What's in a Name

Baseball analysis is difficult. Two players with identical rate stats may produce vastly different outcomes year to year, age at different curves, and collapse at different rates. Even though there is something to be said about evaluating a player before you put them on the team, there is so much luck and variance involved that you may as well be pulling names out of a hat.

But even that can be misleading. Player names can be misleading, and the following are players that do and do not match what would be expected based on their name.

Expected - Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour runs a BB/9 of 3.94 for his career making him below average. While not the walking machine that his name would suggest, his P/PA is 4.29, far higher than the 3.79 P/PA average. When he retires he will have a great career as a frustrating home plate umpire.

Unexpected - Horace Speed

Speed wasn't in baseball for long, but with only 4 stolen bases against 5 caught stealings, Horace poorly represented his namesake and was rightly dropped from the Indians in 1979. BONUS NAME: Speed Walker, who played in only 2 games and had neither a walk nor a stole base.

Expected - Larry Walker

Walker ran a BB% of 11.0, which is actually brought down by a significantly worse BB% in the early years of his career. Larry knew how to take a base, and even started his career with a knee injury to help earn his surname.

Unexpected - Dutch Stryker

At this point the theme should be clear. Dutch Stryker ran a K/9 of 2.63, otherwise known as 69% of Blake Beavan's K/9. Interestingly his BB/9 wasn't that terrible, but not good enough. BONUS Unexpected: Jake Striker.

Expected - Fielder Jones

You thought I was going to say Prince Fielder here, but I didn't because I wanted to introduce you to Fielder Jones, a moderately competent defender according to whatever Fangraphs uses to figure out who fielded well in 1898. Fielder Jones wasn't actually that good at defense, but then his name is "Jones" and no one named Jones has achieved much. Think of one famous person named Jones. I'll wait.

Fun fact. He played for Nicki Minaj's team, the Brooklyn Superbas. She liked'em better with the fitted cap on.

Unexpected - Andy Good

Was not.

Expected - Cara Goodwin

Pitched nine no hitters in one year. Unbeatable. Always won games the right way. Bonus Unexpected: Every other pitcher named Goodwin ever. Aww.

Unexpected - Buttercup Dickerson


Expected - Travis Pitcher

Drafted by the A's and playing his first year of pro-ball in 2013, Travis Pitcher is the only player in history named Pitcher, and he became a pitcher. I am not sure of his prospect status, and his first season wasn't exactly exemplary, but we'll whether or not he can stick at himself.

Unexpected - Phil Powers

Back in the days where every baseball player is now long dead, there wasn't a lot of power. It may even have been the deadball era, but really I don't remember. No matter what, Phil Powers had an ISO that did not do himself justice. .045 is worse than Chone Figgins in his worst year. BONUS EXPECTED: Les Powers.

Expected - Ken Singleton

He also homered, doubled, and occasionally tripled, but Ken Singleton had several moderate ISO, high batting average seasons, implying that he was successful at singling often. On the other hand, Double Joe Dwyer had not a single extra base hit. Coaker Tripplet did have 14. Also, Jim Steels was 5 out of 7 attempts, but since he was only on base 37 times those numbers aren't too terrible.

Unexpected - Homer Summa

It was not. It was not a homer falla either as his one post season appearance ended in a strikeout. A similar unexpected player might be Homer Smoot, but then maybe that should be an expected.

Overall, it's important to remember that names do not tell you everything. Michael Bunton may never bunt. Count Campau may not take pitches. And Justin Smoak's middle name is Kyle.

Names can only tell you so much, so this offseason when you hear all these different names thrown around, make sure you ignore them.