By MARK SIMON
One of the fun things about Players’ Weekend is looking at the names on the back of the jerseys and learning the stories behind the choices. Players are allowed to customize those to whatever nickname or meaningful combination of words they want.
For example: Oakland Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers is “Smokey.” Indians pitcher Shane Bieber is “Not Justin.” Rangers outfielder Hunter Pence is the shrug emoji, ¯_(ツ)_/¯, and injured Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is “Parmigiancarlo.”
That got us to thinking: what if players picked their weekend nicknames based on their stats?
What would be on the backs of those jerseys?
Here are a few thoughts.
Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez – “El Mago”
Ok, so we’re totally cheating to start this off. But with Baez, that choice is way too obvious and gives us an excuse to share his stats.
Baez ranks third among shortstops with 14 Defensive Runs Saved. He’s the best shortstop at converting double plays. And you’ve seen his great tags on the biggest stage (his quick hands are like a magician’s). Oh, and he also leads the majors in something we track called “Good Baserunning Plays,” which is basically what you think it would be. He has 10 in 2019.
Kansas City Royals, Whit Merrifield – “Mr. Line Drive”
It’s been a rough season for the Royals, but they do have someone near the top of the leaderboard in one stat. Utility man Merrifield earns his moniker, because his 29% line drive rate ranks first among batting title-qualifiers.
Milwaukee Brewers, Lorenzo Cain – “$teal HR”
We’re using the $ sign as Cain does for his weekend nickname, which is “3 Kid$.”
Cain has been the best in the majors at robbing home runs both this season (4) and over the last three seasons (7). Honorable mentions to Josh Reddick and Adam Engel, who each have five.
New York Mets, Jeff McNeil – “Don’t Shift Me!”
McNeil has benefited as much from defensive shifts of any hitter, doing so by hitting the ball away from the defense. He’s batting an MLB-best .400 (26-for-65) when hitting a grounder or short liner versus a shift.
New York Yankees, CC Sabathia – “The Bat Breaker”
There are many ways we could have gone with the Yankees, but since it’s his final season and we want to show off the suite of stats we track, we go with Sabathia’s tendency to do damage to opposing lumber with his pitches.
Sabathia has broken 53 bats by Sports Info Solutions’ count over the last four seasons. That’s easily the most in the majors.
New York Yankees, Aaron Judge – “96.6”
A shout-out to our friends at Statcast. Judge’s average exit velocity of 96.6 MPH leads the majors by 2 MPH over Nelson Cruz (94.5). That number is not far removed from his uniform number, 99.
Oakland Athletics, Matt Chapman – “Down the Line”
Chapman is arguably the game’s top defensive player. And what makes him great is in how he takes away would-be doubles down the third base line better than anyone else in the game.
Chapman has 64 Defensive Runs Saved over the last three seasons, easily the most of any third baseman. He has more than twice as many as second-place Nolan Arenado (31). We thought about making his nickname “Brooks” after baseball legend Brooks Robinson, but he’s not quite ready for that just yet.
Philadelphia Phillies, J.T. Realmuto – “Don’t Run on Me”
Realmuto has eight Defensive Runs Saved for stolen base deterrence, easily the most in the majors. He’s thrown out 29-of-69 (42%), the best rate of his career and the best rate in MLB.
Pittsburgh Pirates, Bryan Reynolds – “Keeler”
This one is a nod to baseball history. It was Hall-of-Famer Wee Willie Keeler who coined the term “hit ’em where they ain’t.” No one has done that better than Reynolds, who leads the majors with a .398 BABIP this season.
St. Louis Cardinals, Dakota Hudson – “You’re Grounded”
This has nothing to do with parental punishment and everything to do with keeping baseballs from going airborne. Hudson leads the majors with a 58% ground ball rate.
This also could have gone to Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Ryan Yarbrough, who has gotten outs on an MLB-best 82.5% of the ground balls and bunts hit against him.
San Diego Padres, Austin Hedges – “The Framer”
Hedges has had a phenomenal defensive season for the Padres. He leads all catchers in our Strike Zone Runs Saved stat, representative of the best catcher at getting his pitchers more strikes than expected this season.
San Francisco Giants, Kevin Pillar – “Superman”
Pillar is already known by this moniker to fans, especially those in Toronto. Over the last five seasons, he has the most diving, sliding and jumping catches in the majors (112). You can listen to him talk about this on a past edition of the Sports Info Solutions podcast.
Tampa Bay Rays, Charlie Morton – “Captain Hook”
Charlie Morton’s curveball has been one of the most valuable pitches in baseball this season, per FanGraphs’ run values.
His former Astros teammate Collin McHugh will be wearing what Morton’s nickname could have been, “12 to 6.”
Washington Nationals, Max Scherzer – “FIP to Be King”
The Nationals ace, just back from injury, has used Players’ Weekend as a means of pointing out that he was one blue eye and one brown eye. We’ve changed his name to reflect his outstanding numbers with regards to strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed. He has the lowest FIP in the majors by more than half-a-run (2.18).
For more notable stats from Sports Info Solutions, try our Stat of the Week.