Jacob deGrom Might Be Blazing His Way To Cooperstown

Given their blockbuster trade for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, their additions of James McCann and Taijuan Walker, and their projected first place NL East finish, the Mets already had plenty of buzz about them this spring. As if they needed more, their best player, Jacob deGrom, has provided some during the Grapefruit League season by reaching triple digits with his fastball velocity. On Tuesday against the Astros, his heater reportedly reached 100 mph 11 times on the stadium scoreboard, topping out at 101 on a pitch to Alex Bregman.

This is nothing new for the 32-year-old righty, who hit 100 in his first outing of the spring on March 6, the same day he was named the team’s Opening Day starter. Statcast wasn’t available for that outing or his March 11 one (both of which also came against the Astros in a spring where travel restrictions limit the pools of exhibition opponents). Here’s a look at deGrom’s upper-level readings from Tuesday:

By Statcast, deGrom reached 100.0 eight times and had four or five others that would round up to 100, not that any of this really counts beyond some mid-March rubbernecking. As for keeping it 100 when it counts, a Baseball Savant search shows that last year, deGrom reached triple digits (with no rounding up) 33 times, the majors’ fourth-highest total and the highest among starting pitchers. He had only done it twice before last season, both times in 2019, but has been making exceptional gains in the velo department.

DeGrom has picked up steam for four straight years, an unprecedented accomplishment in the pitch-tracking era (2008 onward) according to research by MLB.com’s Jason Bernard. He’s gone from 94.0 mph in 2016 to seasons of 95.2, 96.0, 96.9, and then 98.6 last year, during which he took over the top spot among starters after placing second behind Gerrit Cole in 2019.

Velocity isn’t everything, of course, but it shouldn’t come as a great shock that deGrom leads our Depth Charts projections in ERA (2.81) and FIP (2.85) — he’s the only starter forecast to break 3.00 in either category — and WAR (6.3), the last of those 0.8 ahead of the second-ranked Cole. That projection is based upon an average of his ZiPS and Steamer projections, and like all projections has a fair amount of built-in regression; over the past three seasons, deGrom has managed a 2.10 ERA and 2.31 FIP, with only his 2019 numbers (2.43 ERA and 2.67 FIP) within half a run of the projection. As with all of our Depth Charts projections, the two systems’ raw forecasts (5.1 WAR from ZiPS, 6.6 WAR from Steamer) are dialed up (or down) to a playing time expectation, which in this case means a full 32-start workload and 204 innings based on his track record. While he served 10-day stints on the Injured List in both 2018 and ’19, the Mets’ ace nonetheless made 32 starts in each of those seasons, plus 31 in ’17 and 12 last year. Only five pitchers have made more starts over the past four seasons: Cole, Greinke, and Rick Porcello all with 110, Patrick Corbin with 109, and Lance Lynn with 108, but nobody has thrown more innings (690.1), posted a lower ERA (2.57), or been more valuable (22.8 fWAR, 24.2 bWAR).

If deGrom lives up to his projection, he stands a reasonable chance at bringing home his third Cy Young award, which would put him in the company of just 10 other pitchers:

Multiple Cy Young Award Winners
Pitcher CY Years
Roger Clemens 7 1986, 1987, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2004
Randy Johnson+ 5 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
Steve Carlton+ 4 1972, 1977, 1980, 1982
Greg Maddux+ 4 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995
Sandy Koufax+ 3 1963, 1965, 1966
Tom Seaver+ 3 1969, 1973, 1975
Jim Palmer+ 3 1973, 1975, 1976
Pedro Martinez+ 3 1997, 1999, 2000
Clayton Kershaw* 3 2011, 2013, 2014
Max Scherzer* 3 2013, 2016, 2017
Denny McLain 2 1968, 1969
Bob Gibson+ 2 1968, 1970
Gaylord Perry+ 2 1972, 1978
Bret Saberhagen 2 1985, 1989
Tom Glavine+ 2 1991, 1998
Roy Halladay+ 2 2003, 2010
Johan Santana 2 2004, 2006
Tim Lincecum 2 2008, 2009
Justin Verlander 2 2011, 2019
Corey Kluber* 2 2014, 2017
Jacob deGrom* 2 2018, 2019
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
+ = Hall of Famer. * = active.

You’re probably already familiar with the general contours of that list, but it can be summarized thusly: Every pitcher who has won three Cy Youngs or more is in the Hall of Fame except Clemens — whose connection to performance-enhancing drugs has stalled his candidacy — and the two active pitchers, while the majority who have won “only” two are outside the Hall, a situation that’s not likely to change until five years after Verlander retires. He’s a lock, having surpassed the 200-win and 3,000-strikeout milestones (he has 226 wins and 3,013 strikeouts), and nearly reached the starting pitcher JAWS standard of 61.6 (his 60.9 is the active lead), though he’ll have to wait until his return from Tommy John surgery to finish that pursuit.

As for the active three-timers, Kershaw is almost certainly on his way to Cooperstown, having pitched himself within range of 200 wins (he has 175), 3,000 strikeouts (he has 2,526) and the JAWS standard (he has 59.7). Scherzer has 175 wins as well; he’s closer to 3,000 strikeouts (2,784) but a bit behind in JAWS (55.4). Both have huge Hall of Fame Monitor scores — 199 for Kerhsaw, 154 for Scherzer, where 100 is “a good possibility” and 130 “a virtual cinch” — that only stand to increase once they hit those round numbers.

From among the two-time winners, what separates Verlander, Gibson, Glavine, and Perry from the others is longevity; they all blew past 3,000 innings save for Velander, who’s 12 shy. Lincecum and McLain didn’t even reach 2,000 innings before fading away, and Santana barely cleared that bar, with Saberhagen (2,562.1) and Halladay (2,749.1) coming closer; the latter is the only one from that quintet to reach 200 wins, no mean feat in that small amount of time even if you don’t particularly care about the stat. He’s also the only one from that quintet who’s in the Hall.

DeGrom’s 1,169.2 innings are even fewer than any of the other two-time winners, including the still-active Kluber (1,342.2), and he’s more than a thousand innings shy of Koufax (2,324.1), who has the lowest innings total from among the three-timers. So, from a Hall standpoint, what happens if deGrom does add to the hardware?

That’s a variant of a question I get asked so often in chats, on social media, and in casual conversations it’s a wonder I haven’t written this article already, but it certainly would make things interesting for voters. Ideally, deGrom wouldn’t win and then abruptly retire to preserve the functionality of his arm, à la Koufax during a three-week span in November 1966. Instead he’d have years to flesh out his resumé, though considering that he got a late start, debuting just 35 days before his 26th birthday in 2014, his totals aren’t likely to read as obviously Hallworthy.

But let’s backtrack a bit. I’ve noted before the resemblance of deGrom’s cumulative stats through his first six seasons (2004-19, ages 26-31) to those of Kershaw (2008-13, ages 20-25):

First Six Seasons: Clayton Kershaw vs. Jacob deGrom
Pitcher W-L IP SO ERA ERA+ FIP bWAR fWAR
Kershaw 77-46 1180.0 1206 2.60 146 2.88 33.8 (0.7) 31.0 (0.4)
deGrom 66-49 1101.2 1255 2.62 148 2.78 34.9 (1.6) 33.7 (2.2)
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
Numbers in parentheses are the portion of the displayed total derived from batting WAR.

The numbers in parentheses are the share of that WAR that comes from offense; the two pitchers are 0.2 apart in bWAR and 0.4 apart in fWAR on pitching, but deGrom, who played the infield at Stetson University (though he never put up decent numbers), has been the better hitter, though Kershaw has improved markedly after going 10-for-132 and digging himself about a one-win hole over his first three seasons.

Pitching-wise, the pair took different routes to get to those points, as you’d expect from their ages. Kershaw’s rookie season was nothing special other than ho-hum, here’s a 20-year-old lefty first-round pick who’s roughly league average and already striking out nearly a batter per frame. DeGrom, a ninth-round 2010 pick who underwent Tommy John surgery later that same year, emerged more fully formed and won NL Rookie of the Year, then was an All-Star in his second season as well as a postseason stud who sparkled in a Division Series upset of the Dodgers and a run to an NL pennant.

Leaving the offense aside for the moment but sticking with bWAR because we’re going to return to JAWS, 59 pitchers have compiled 30 or more WAR through their first six seasons. Of that group, 25 made it to the Hall of Fame, 34 have not yet. Many of the ones who did not were 19th century pitchers whose careers predated the 60-foot-6 pitching distance and who compiled ridiculous workloads in excess of 2,000 innings in that span, led by Old Hoss Radbourn’s 3057.1 innings. Weeding out the ones whose careers started before the distance change in 1893, the split is 17 Hall of Famers and 16 non-Hall of Famers, two of whom (Kershaw and deGrom) are still active.

What’s striking about that split isn’t that it’s around 50/50 in terms of the Hall of Fame, it’s that the last pitcher who jumped out to such a hot start and made it to Cooperstown is Bert Blyleven, whose career began in 1970, more than half a century ago:

Pitchers with 30.0 or More bWAR in First Six Seasons
Pitcher First 6 Years Age IP WAR HALL
Vic Willis 1898-1903 22-27 1883.0 39.8 1
Bill Dinneen 1898-1903 22-27 1809.2 30.8 0
Joe McGinnity 1899-1904 28-33 2285.0 53.1 1
Noodles Hahn 1899-1904 20-25 1910.1 45.5 0
Christy Mathewson 1900-1905 19-24 1727.0 37.3 1
Eddie Plank 1901-1906 25-30 1812.1 37.3 1
Addie Joss 1902-1907 22-27 1652.0 31.4 1
Mordecai Brown 1903-1908 26-31 1485.0 31.6 1
Walter Johnson 1907-1912 19-24 1724.1 43.8 1
Nap Rucker 1907-1912 22-27 1851.2 40.4 0
Russ Ford 1909-1914 26-31 1360.0 33.9 0
Pete Alexander 1911-1916 24-29 2104.0 51.5 1
Stan Coveleski 1912-1920 22-30 1463.1 35.8 1
Eddie Rommel 1920-1925 22-27 1590.1 34.0 0
Lefty Grove 1925-1930 25-30 1545.1 40.1 1
Carl Hubbell 1928-1933 25-30 1474.1 30.9 1
Dizzy Dean 1930-1936 20-26 1540.0 35.3 1
Bob Feller 1936-1941 17-22 1448.1 37.3 1
Robin Roberts 1948-1953 21-26 1669.1 40.0 1
Juan Marichal 1960-1965 22-27 1414.2 31.5 1
Tom Seaver 1967-1972 22-27 1641.1 41.2 1
Bert Blyleven 1970-1975 19-24 1611.1 37.2 1
Frank Tanana 1973-1978 19-24 1321.0 31.2 0
Dave Stieb 1979-1984 21-26 1389.0 33.2 0
Roger Clemens 1984-1989 21-26 1284.2 35.5 0
Bret Saberhagen 1984-1989 20-25 1329.0 32.0 0
Dwight Gooden 1984-1989 19-24 1291.0 30.7 0
Teddy Higuera 1985-1990 27-32 1255.0 31.4 0
Tim Hudson 1999-2004 23-28 1240.2 31.0 0
Roy Oswalt 2001-2006 23-28 1201.1 30.2 0
Brandon Webb 2003-2008 24-29 1315.2 33.2 0
Clayton Kershaw 2008-2013 20-25 1180.0 33.1 0
Jacob deGrom 2014-2019 26-31 1101.2 33.3 0
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

This table, which is sortable, is something of a Rorschach blot. In one view, it’s a reminder of how much more difficult it has been for modern pitchers to make the Hall of Fame, a trend I’ve documented. Old Friend Mike Petriello did so as well at MLB.com more recently; using his numbers, 0.8% of the pitchers born in the 1971-80 period — two pitchers born in the past 50 years — who threw at least 500 innings in the majors have been elected, namely Halladay and Pedro Martinez. Using that same 500-inning cutoff, 2.7% born from 1961-70 and 2.5% from 1951-60 made it, compared to 3.7% from 1941-50 and 4.8% from 1931-40. The possible elections of Clemens (b. 1962) and Curt Schilling (b. 1966), not that they’re happening anytime soon, would only amplify that drop-off.

In another view that’s not entirely unrelated, the list is something of an indictment of how stressful pitching has become, particularly when heavy early-career workloads are a factor. While 11 of the 12 lowest innings totals for those first six seasons were compiled by pitchers from the post-Blyleven era, it’s not too hard to look at those names and be instantly reminded of heavy workloads at a young age, and injuries that followed. Tanana, a young lefty fireballer who averaged 259 innings from ages 20-24, with a high of 288.1 at 22, was so heavily worked that he evolved into a league-average junkballer from age 25 onward, though he did stick around to pitch past his 40th birthday. Saberhagen piled up 235.1 innings in his age-21 season and then 780 innings from ages 23-25; he went on to miss two full seasons of his career, and had three with fewer than 10 appearances and three more with fewer than 20. Stieb, who had four seasons of 240 innings or more from his age-22 through age-26 campaigns, hung up his spikes at 35 after three injury-shortened seasons, then mounted a one-season comeback five years later. Gooden’s drug use played a role in his decline, but so did throwing 748.2 innings through his age-21 season.

Webb, Oswalt, and Higuera were all older when they debuted, with the first two doing so at age 23; all three were worked heavily but none lasted long. Webb had a five-season run across which he averaged 227 innings; he won the 2006 NL Cy Young award, finished as runner-up in the voting in each of the next two seasons, and pitched one game thereafter, leaving him with a seven-season career, too short even to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot. Oswalt’s workloads by age weren’t exorbitant but he broke down early, throwing fewer innings after his age-32 season (230.1) than his age-24 season (233), and cashing out at 2,245.1, fewer innings than Koufax. Higuera, who began his professional career in the Mexican League, averaged 237 innings over his first four seasons, and totaled 125 innings over the final four of a 10-year span, one of which was a complete wash, leaving him ineligible for the ballot as well.

Anyway, that Kershaw and deGrom are at the bottom of the list innings-wise has a lot to do with the industry forces that have reshaped workloads and thankfully, both have survived this far. Given the latter’s current numbers through his age-32 season — a 70-51 record, 1,359 strikeouts, three All-Star appearances, and what’s currently a 38.1 career WAR/38.1 peak WAR/38.1 JAWS line — he’s unlikely to compile counting stats that will read as Hallworthy. Towards that end, I asked Dan Szymborski to provide a ZiPS projection for the remainder of deGrom’s career:

ZiPS Projections – Jacob deGrom
Year W L ERA G GS IP SO ERA+ WAR
2021 12 6 2.85 28 28 176.7 217 149 5.3
2022 11 6 3.03 25 25 157.7 185 140 4.4
2023 10 6 3.16 25 25 154.0 175 134 4.1
2024 10 5 3.14 23 23 143.3 163 135 3.8
2025 9 5 3.26 21 21 129.7 146 130 3.3
2026 7 5 3.38 19 19 114.7 128 126 2.7
2027 6 4 3.51 16 16 100.0 110 121 2.2
2028 5 4 3.75 14 14 86.3 93 113 1.7
2029 4 4 3.96 12 12 72.7 76 107 1.2
Ages 33-41 76 44 3.25 182 183 1135.0 1292 131 28.7
Thru Age 32 70 51 2.61 183 183 1169.7 1359 150 38.2
Totals 146 95 2.92 365 366 2304.7 2651 139 66.9

I’ve included deGrom’s offense in his totals to date (2.1 WAR) but did not ask Dan to provide a projection for 2021, which might be the last year he gets to bat if the universal designated hitter is part of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, as anticipated. Note the projection, which more or less doubles his career-to-date numbers with a bit of regression thrown in, does not go full-tilt for 32 starts a year even for 2021; durability beyond the aging curve assumptions built into ZiPS would help deGrom’s cause but he still projects to finish with far fewer than 200 wins. By Dan’s estimate, he has just an 8% chance of reaching that milestone, though a more robust 37% chance of reaching 300 strikeouts.

Based on the projection above, deGrom would finish his career with 66.9 WAR, a seven-year peak score of 42.1, and a JAWS of 54.5, which is certainly in the ballpark of Hall of Famers, even BBWAA-elected ones:

Mid-Table Starting Pitcher JAWS Rankings
Rk Pitcher Years Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
39 Mickey Welch+ 1880-1892 62.3 54.1 58.2
40 Jim Palmer+ 1965-1984 68.5 47.4 58.0
41 Carl Hubbell+ 1928-1943 68.2 47.5 57.9
42 Bob Caruthers 1884-1893 59.6 55.7 57.7
43 Hal Newhouser+ 1939-1955 62.7 52.6 57.6
44 Bob Feller+ 1936-1956 63.4 51.6 57.5
45 Roy Halladay+ 1998-2013 64.2 50.6 57.4
46 Juan Marichal+ 1960-1975 62.9 51.9 57.4
47 Wes Ferrell 1927-1941 60.0 54.3 57.1
48 Vic Willis+ 1898-1910 63.6 49.8 56.7
49 Rick Reuschel 1972-1991 69.5 43.7 56.6
50 Kevin Brown 1986-2005 67.8 45.2 56.5
51 Clark Griffith+ 1891-1914 63.0 49.2 56.1
52 Stan Coveleski+ 1912-1928 61.4 50.6 56.0
53 Don Drysdale+ 1956-1969 67.1 44.7 55.9
54 Joe McGinnity+ 1899-1908 58.3 53.4 55.9
55 Ted Lyons+ 1923-1946 70.4 40.7 55.5
56 Max Scherzer 2008-2020 62.3 48.4 55.4
57 Jim Whitney 1881-1890 56.1 54.7 55.4
58 Luis Tiant 1964-1982 66.1 44.1 55.1
59 Dazzy Vance+ 1915-1935 60.1 49.5 54.8
Jacob deGrom 2014-2029 66.9 42.1 54.5
60 Red Ruffing+ 1924-1947 68.6 39.9 54.2
61 Jim Bunning+ 1955-1971 59.5 48.9 54.2
62 Rube Waddell+ 1897-1910 58.3 49.7 54.0
63 John Smoltz+ 1988-2009 69.0 38.7 53.9
64 David Cone 1986-2003 62.3 43.4 52.8
65 Bobby Mathews 1871-1887 55.1 50.3 52.7
66 Red Faber+ 1914-1933 64.0 40.7 52.3
67 Urban Shocker 1916-1928 58.7 45.1 51.9
68 Eddie Cicotte 1905-1920 58.6 44.3 51.5
69 Mordecai Brown+ 1903-1916 58.4 43.7 51.1
70 Bret Saberhagen 1984-2001 58.9 43.1 51.0
71 CC Sabathia 2001-2019 62.5 39.4 50.9
72 Dave Stieb 1979-1998 56.4 44.4 50.4
73 Don Sutton+ 1966-1988 66.7 33.9 50.3
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Twenty of the 34 pitchers within four points of deGrom are enshrined, with Scherzer and Sabathia having good shots as well (the latter more on the strength of his 3,093 strikeouts, 251 wins, and big-game reputation than JAWS). As you can see, the top Era Committee candidates both in practice (Farrell and Tiant) and in theory (Brown and Reuschel) are in this zone, too. deGrom’s projection lands him above the halfway point between Halladay and Koufax (48.9/46.0/47.4), the latter of whom is among the 17 starters with a lower JAWS than this group.

Considering his late arrival, low innings total, and elite ERA+ (139 would be in a virtual tie for eighth among pitchers with at least 2,000 innings), our projected deGrom would have a damn solid case as a Koufax-like exception for Cooperstown, even without 200 wins or a third Cy Young award. That he’ll be considered by a voting body that already sharply broke with precedent by awarding him Cy Youngs for seasons with 10 and 11 wins suggests that he’s in better shape than his modest projected totals would lead you (and me, before I sat down to write this) to believe.

Of course, deGrom still has to actually pitch himself into that position, and getting back to the heat he was showing off this week, the links between high velocity and Tommy John surgery can’t be ignored. Notably, a paper in the April 2016 Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery found that while pitch velocity itself does not appear to be a risk factor, pitch usage does, specifically, that throwing fastballs 48% of the time or more increases the risk. DeGrom was at 44.9% four-seamers last year according to Statcast, Pitch Info, and Sports Info Solutions, with nary a sinker thrown — it’s rare that the three services are so unanimous — but he topped 49% annually in each year before that if you account for the sinkers, whose velocities have been in line with his four-seamers. That deGrom’s mechanics have been clean enough to allow him this mid-career velo increase, and that he does vary his speeds instead of throwing at maximum effort all the time, might mitigate the concerns further, but we are talking about a pitcher who’s already one TJ into his career, and the stories about second-surgery pitchers generally don’t turn out so happy. Spring training is spring training, but we might wish deGrom to dial it back just a bit, because bigger milestones than 100 mph could be in store.





Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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Angelsjunky
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Angelsjunky

Interesting that he projects to be right there with Dazzy Vance, who I was going to mention as another great pitcher who broke through late. But where deGrom reached the majors at age 26 and didn’t become stratospherically good until age 30, Vance–after brief cups at age 24 and 27–didn’t become a regular until age 31. Rather unusual; I’m guessing he’s the only Hall of Famer to be a rookie in his 30s.

Left of Centerfield
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Left of Centerfield

Satchel Paige was a rookie in his 40s but obviously that was a bit different.

RoyalsFan#14321
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RoyalsFan#14321

And always worth the mention…

Anon
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Anon

Unlike Vance, Hoyt Wilhelm didn’t even debut until he was 29 years and 267 days old but he was in his age 29 season when he was a rookie. (And then threw his last pitch just 6 days shy of his 50th BDay).

Phil Niekro is another guy who started late, but not quite as late as those 2 – he debuted at age 25 but didn’t become a full-time starter until age 28.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

IMO, knuckleballers don’t make for good comparisons to anyone throwing a more standard arsenal. There’s plenty of weirdness with RA Dickey and Charlie Hough even before we get to the all-time greats.

Anon
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Anon

I was more responding to the part of his comment that there likely are no other HOFers who were rookies in their 30’s.

Nats Fan
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Member
Nats Fan

I would like the next great Knucklballer to come up soon. I miss them!

MikeD
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MikeD

I fear that may be a dying art. I’ve been awaiting a great screwball pitcher to return, but teams just don’t want their pitchers throwing that pitch. I know there’s been a few who kind of occasionally threw one, and I think the Rays have one right now, but they’re pretty rare. If I was a fringy minor league pitcher with a 90-mph fastball, I’d be walking around trying to find someone who could teach me a screwball. If I blow my elbow out in a few years, so be it. I’d give it a shot. Most MLB hitters have never seen a good screwball.

Pepper Martin
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Pepper Martin

Knuckleballers aside, the classic examples of late starters among Hall of Famers are Vance (who had an arm injury that didn’t work itself out until he was 30) and Sam Rice.

Somebody needs to do a ZIPS analysis on Sam Rice, because it seems to me that Rice had gotten an earlier start, he almost certainly would have been in the top 5 all time in hits and I’m fascinated to know what his odds of having been the all-time hits leader would have been. While Rice was playing in a minor league game as a 21 year old, a tornado killed his mother, father, his two sisters, his wife, and his two young children. He quite understandably fell into a horrific depression, and became essentially a vagrant for years; he worked as a lumberjack, and then eventually joined the navy. He was playing on his ship’s baseball team when his shipmates convinced him he had to go back to playing baseball professionally. After taking a year off to go back to the Navy for World War I, Rice woke up on his 29th birthday with 247 career hits.

From age 29 on, Rice’s 1408 runs rank 4th all time (behind Pet Rose, Cap Anson, and Barry Bonds); 2nd all time in plate appearances with 9.346 (behind only Rose); 2nd in hits with 2,740 (behind only Rose); 4th in doubles with 464 (Rose, Speaker, Biggio); 2nd in triples with 174 (Honus Wagner); and for good measure had only one fewer stolen base than Ty Cobb over the same age span, 311-312.

From age 29 on, Rice’s 2,740 hits are almost 500 more than Ty Cobb had. Granting that Cobb debuted at 18 and was one of the best players in baseball by age 20, while even in a world without tornadoes Rice wouldn’t have debuted until age 22 (by which time Cobb already had 549 career hits), I still think it could be a fun exercise to see what Rice’s chances could have been.