Editor’s note: On Opening Day, George Will answered readers’ baseball questions on Facebook Live from Nationals Park. Watch the video here.
Sportswriter: “You hit only two home runs all last year and already you’ve hit seven this year . What’s the difference?”
Reds outfielder Alex Johnson: “Five.”
See? Baseball numbers aren’t difficult. But be precise: As players say after a close play, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” And don’t be discouraged if some questions stump you. As Phillies manager Danny Ozark said in 1976, “Even Napoleon had his Watergate.” And as Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn said after losing the 1982 World Series to the Cardinals, “We’re going to hang our heads high.” Now, name the player or players who:
Had 297 three-hit games and only one three-strike-out game.
Struck out only 23 times in 474 at bats against Hall of Fame pitchers.
Batted .415 in 94 at bats against Greg Maddux.
Andy Van Slyke
Had at least 100 hits from both sides of the plate in a season.
Has the lowest career batting average among players with 3,000 hits.
Are the three players who each had an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) above 1.000 in their final season.
Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Shoeless Joe Jackson
Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Roberto Clemente
Kirby Puckett, Hank Greenberg, Shoeless Joe Jackson
Ted Williams, Will Clark, Roberto Clemente
Are the four pitchers with more than three Cy Young awards.
Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez, Jim Palmer, Roger Clemens
Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Tom Seaver
Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux
Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez
Are the seven starting pitchers with two seasons with a sub-0.9 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).
Cy Young, Mordecai Brown, Ed Walsh, Christy Mathewson, Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux, Clayton Kershaw
Cy Young, Guy Hecker, Mordecai Brown, Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux, Zack Greinke
Guy Hecker, Walter Johnson, Mordecai Brown, Ed Walsh, Christy Mathewson, Juan Marichal, Greg Maddux
Cy Young, Mordecai Brown, Ed Walsh, Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Greg Maddux, Zack Greinke
Are the three hitters to have at least 40 home runs and 100 walks in a season before turning 23.
Mel Ott, Tony Conigliaro, Alex Rodriguez
Mel Ott, Eddie Mathews, Bryce Harper
Eddie Mathews, Andruw Jones, Bryce Harper
Tony Conigliaro, Andruw Jones, Alex Rodriguez
Have the three best OPS seasons at age 20 playing at least 100 games.
Joe DiMaggio, Frank Robinson, Carlos Correa
Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Kelly
Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Carlos Correa
Mel Ott, Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams
Are the four hitters with more than 500 home runs and 600 doubles.
Barry Bonds, Stan Musial, Eddie Murray, Carl Yastrzemski
Albert Pujols, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, David Ortiz
Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, Eddie Murray, Hank Aaron
Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz
Has the best stolen-base percentage with at least 500 steals.
Was the Hall of Famer who won three MVPs and finished second four times.
Was the youngest 20-game winner.
Set the rookie record for strikeouts.
Holds the record for most extra-base hits by a third baseman in a single season.
Among pitchers in the live ball era (post-1920) with at least 900 innings, had the lowest opponents' batting average and most strikeouts per nine innings.
Is the only player in the top 10 all time in runs, hits, home runs, RBI, total bases and extra-base hits.
Is the pitcher with the most strikeouts in his first 100 major league games.
Is the only first baseman to have 40 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season (he did it twice).
Are the three pitchers with six seasons with at least 200 strikeouts and no more than 175 hits.
Tom Seaver, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson
Tom Seaver, Sam McDowell, Randy Johnson
Nolan Ryan, Sam McDowell, Clayton Kershaw
Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Clayton Kershaw
Had the longest hitting streak by a catcher.
In 1930, hit .386, had 250 hits, hit 40 home runs and drove in 170 but led the league in none of these four categories.
Had a higher batting average than Joe DiMaggio's .408 during DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941.
Was the MVP in two consecutive All-Star games.
Were the two to win rookie of the year, MVP and Cy Young awards (not all in the same season).
Bob Gibson and Clayton Kershaw
Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw
Don Newcombe and Fernando Valenzuela
Don Newcombe and Justin Verlander
Lost no-hitters with two outs in the ninth inning in consecutive games.
Is the only player to finish first or second in MVP voting in his first five full seasons.
Are the five centerfielders elected to Cooperstown in their first year of eligibility.
Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Andre Dawson, Kirby Puckett, Ken Griffey, Jr.
Ty Cobb, Richie Ashburn, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Andre Dawson
Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Kirby Puckett, Ken Griffey Jr.
Richie Ashburn, Mickey Mantle, Kirby Puckett, Andre Dawson, Ken Griffey Jr.
Has the most World Series hits.
Bonus question: Which broadcaster said, "Ozzie Smith just made another play that I've never seen anyone else make before, and I've seen him make it more than anyone else ever has"?
Hint: He also said, "There's a fly ball to deep center field. Winfield is going back, back. He hits his head against the wall. It's rolling toward second base."