MLB trends: Matt Olson chasing ultra-rare 60-double season; one reason why the Giants aren’t repeating 2021

The 2022 MLB regular season is three months old and the All-Star break is upon us. Before you know it, the trade deadline will be here. There’s still half a season to play, but with some key dates coming up, it’s time to get into the dog days of summer and postseason racing.

With that in mind, our weekly series breaking down various trends across the league continues Wednesday with a look at a player chasing a rare milestone, a team’s struggles on the field, and a GM finding success with his former players Has. Last week we covered Andrew Vaughn’s breakout, Eli Morgan’s unique transformation, and the surge in Catcher interference calls.

Olson chases 60 doubles

Sixty home runs are a sacred number in baseball. Only five players have ever hit 60 home runs in a season (Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire twice, Sammy Sosa three times) and they’ve hit it a total of eight times. Giancarlo Stanton hit 60 home runs in his 2017 NL MVP season. Unfortunately, he missed an error and ended up with 59 things, the ninth-highest total in history.

60 home runs is a historic tally, but did you know that 60 doubles seasons are rarer than 60 home run seasons? Only six players in history have hit 60 doubles in one season, and none of them have done it more than once. Here are the six 60-double seasons in MLB history:

  1. Earl Webb, 1931 Red Sox: 67
  2. George Burns, 1926 Cleveland: 64
  3. Joe Medwick, 1936 Cardinals: 64
  4. Hank Greenberg, 1934 Tigers: 63
  5. Paul Waner, 1932 Pirates: 62
  6. Charlie Gehringer, 1936 Tigers: 60

Only six 60-doubles seasons in history and none since 1936. The last 60-doubles run was Nick Castellanos in 2019. He had 58 doubles split between Tigers (37 doubles) and Cubs (21 doubles). Castellanos led MLB in doubles that season but did not lead either league due to midseason trading. Todd Helton had a 59-doubles season with the Rockies in 2000.

This season, Braves first baseman Matt Olson is in position to put on a run in baseball’s first 60-doubles season in nearly a century. He leads baseball through 82 team games with 32 doubles and paces it for 63. No other player has more than 27 doubles (Rafael Devers and José Ramírez are in second place). Olson’s 32 doubles are already the most in a first half in franchise history.

Olson has a good chance of going into the All-Star break with 35 doubles. Only one player has done so since 2014 (Eduardo Escobar had 35 doubles during the 2019 All-Star break), and only 15 have done so in that span. Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez holds the record with 42 first-half doubles in 1996. Manny Machado had 39 first-half doubles with the Orioles in 2013.

It’s worth noting that Truist Park is generally not a great double park, especially for left-handers. The stadium’s three-year park factor for left-handed doubles is 99, which is pretty close to the league average (100). It neither inflates doubles (like Fenway Park) nor suppresses doubles (like Yankee Stadium). Olson won’t get a double boost from his home ground, increasing the difficulty if he’s chasing 60 doubles.

Of course, Olson is better known for home runs than doubles. His 12 home runs put him at 24 paces, well south of last year’s 39 things with the Athletics. Olson is likely to hit fewer than 60 doubles because it’s extremely difficult to hit 60 doubles in a season and because he’ll likely start homering some would-be doubles in the second half.

“I know doubles have been played at a slightly faster pace than they have in the past and home runs are probably a little lower, but as long as I’m putting the ball in the gap and getting a few out, that’s the place I want to stay,” Olson said Constitution of the Atlanta Journal over the weekend. “…Listen, extra base hits are what you want to go out and do. Especially me as a first baseman in the middle of the lineup, that’s kind of my job to do runs.”

The Braves franchise has been around in some form since 1876 and the team record is 51 doubles set by Hall of Famer Hugh Duffy in 1894. The Atlanta-era record (since 1966) is Marcus Giles at 49 in 2003. Olson has the Chance to not only beat that record, but shatter it. Replacing Freddie Freeman wasn’t easy, but Olson and his doubles are doing pretty well.

Giants are absent from the field

A year ago, the Giants had an enchanting season where everything that could go right seemed to go right. Players up and down the roster had career years, including several veterans in their mid-30s, and the result was a franchise-record 107 wins. That includes the New York years. The previous San Francisco-era record (since 1958) was 103 wins in 1963 and 1993.

The Giants have found it harder to come up with wins this season, especially lately. San Francisco has lost six straight games, the team’s longest losing streak since a seven-player in May 2019, and is 3-12 in their last 15 games. A year after winning a franchise-record 107 games, the Giants are hovering around .500 as the All-Star break nears (they’re 40-39).

One of the biggest differences between the 2021 Giants and the 2022 Giants is defense. San Francisco was an above-average defensive team last season. They weren’t really an elite defensive team last year, but they were significantly better than the league average. This year, the Giants are one of the worst defensive clubs. Your MLB ranks:

defensive performance*

.707 (6th in MLB)

.676 (29th in MLB)

Saved saves

+32 (11th in MLB)

-21 (27th in MLB)

outs above average

+27 (5th in MLB)

-33 (30th in MLB)

* Defensive Efficiency is the percentage of batted balls that convert to outs. The MLB average is .698.

The Giants just completed an eight-game homestand in which they went 2-6 and had 10 errors, as well as several other games that should have been made but didn’t. Defenders can only make mistakes on balls they reach, and the Giants, with the oldest roster of MLB positional players and a decided lack of athleticism, just aren’t reaching as many balls as they should.

Bad defense hurts in so many ways. More hits fall in, more runners reach base, more runs cross the plate, more pitches need to be thrown, more relievers need to be used, and so on and so forth. Poor defense alone isn’t usually enough to scuttle a season, but it can be very costly and pull down a team’s ceiling. That’s what’s happening with the 2022 Giants. Apparently they make a mistake every night (or just don’t make a game they should have made) that costs them dearly.

“I think the actions we’ve taken now are the right ones,” manager Gabe Kapler told NBC Sports Bay Area last month of his team’s lackluster defense. “I think it’s just about consistently tweaking the mindset of our players and reminding them to be aggressive at all times and expect to be able to do anything on the pitch.”

Ex-Rangers who have success with Padres

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At 47-36, the Padres have the fourth best record in the National League. How they got there is a bit unexpected. Franchise star Fernando Tatis Jr. is yet to play this season after suffering a broken wrist during the offseason. He’s still weeks away from returning. The Padres have received attacks from first base, shortstop, midfield, right field, and DH below position average. yuck

Manny Machado has been San Diego’s top player all season, and that’s no surprise. The case can be made that their next top three players are all former Rangers. GM AJ Preller served in the Texas Front Office from 2004 to 2014, including several years as International Scouting Director. At the Padres, Preller wasn’t shy about bringing in his former Rangers signings.

Check out the ex-Rangers having strong seasons for the Padres 2022:

Alfaro, Mazara and Profar have combined for 4.3 WAR in 157 games with the Padres in 2022. They combined in 889 games with Texas early in their career for 3.5 WAR (Alfaro never actually played for the Rangers, he was traded to the Phillies on the Cole-Hamels deal as a prospect). What is Rougned Odor doing these days? (Hit .206/.262/.408 with the Orioles.) What about Ronald Guzmán? (Hit .200/.315/.318 in Triple-A with the Yankees.). Leonys Martin? (Strike .161/.292/.301 in Japan.) They can’t be far behind, can they?

Let’s not forget Yu Darvish. Rangers signed the current Padres Righty as an international free agent during the Preller era, despite being a high-profile Japanese pro. Alfaro, Mazara and Profar were all signed as amateur prospects, which was Preller’s main focus. He signed these guys as teenagers and watched them grow into big leagues. Texas didn’t go as fast as they would have liked, but it’s happening now in San Diego, and it’s better than nothing.

History tells us that Alfaro and especially Mazara will not perform at this level all season long. It’s always possible that the change of scenery worked and they’re 29 and 27 respectively, the age at which many players have a career year (Profar is also 29). Still, it’s not unreasonable to be skeptical of these ex-Rangers given their track record. They were available at a low price for a reason.

The way the Padres have played so far, they’ll need Tatis to get healthy and guys like Austin Nola and Trent Grisham to do more than they’ve done. The ex-Rangers will only conquer San Diego so far. That means they not only kept the Padres afloat while Tatis was sidelined, they also helped them succeed. Preller knows these players and has a long history with them, and his faith in them will be rewarded in 2022.

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