Tuesday, July 20, 2004
But while hitting 100 home runs probably isn’t a realistic goal, Burrell and Thome could try to equal the duo of Greg “Bull” Luzinski and Schmidt himself:
Luzinksi and Schmidt were a formidable pair who powered the Phils to three division titles from ’76-’78 and then to the World Series in ’80. Luzinski hit 202 home runs between 1973 and 1980, while Schmidt hit 282. Their power at the plate was pretty much unmatched during that time period. Luzinski, unfortunately, isn’t as widely remembered by Phils fans as Schmidt, due in part to the fact that when the team won in ’80 Luzinski was on the down-slope of his career and Schmidt is remembered as one of the best third-baseman of all time, as well as the superstar of the ’80 team.
Luzinski and Thome do bear a pretty fair approximation to one another. When both were 26, these were their numbers:
Luzinski (1977): 39 HR; 130 RBI; .394 OBP; .594 SLG
Thome (1997): 40 HR; 102 RBI; .423 OBP; .579 SLG
Physically both Thome and Luzinski bear a striking resemblance to one another too. So if Thome is playing Luzinski, Burrell must be playing Schmidt, which raises certain questions, not the least of which is: is Pat Burrell Mike Schmidt's heir? …
Let me start by noting that Schmidt is a real icon. One of just five (?) players to have his number retired. (My grandfather took my cousin Christopher to Mike Schmidt Night when they retired his number. I got to go to Steve Carlton Night, which was really fun: that night was the first time I ever got to go to Geno’s. Still the best cheesesteak I ever had.) Mike Schmidt was on the down-slope of his career when I began paying attention to baseball back in ’89, but his legend and mystique were intact. You watched Mike Schmidt at the plate because you never knew if he was hitting it out.
When Burrell was selected in the draft in ’98, I’m sure that more than a few people thought of him (more than the Phils third baseman of the day: Scott Rolen) as Schmidt’s heir apparent as the team’s slugger and star. Burrell is charismatic player and a good fit for Philadelphia. After playing a little as a rookie in ’00, Burrell locked down the left-fielding job in ’01, had a break-out year in ’02, a horrific slump in ’03 and has bounced back in ’04:
’01: 27 HR; 87 RBI; .346 OBP; .469 SLG; .273 GPA
’02: 37 HR: 116 RBI; .376 OBP; .544 SLG; .305 GPA
’03: 21 HR; 64 RBI; .309 OBP; .404 SLG; .240 GPA
’04: 15 HR; 62 RBI; .391 OBP; .474 SLG; .295 GPA
What did Mike Schmidt do in his first four full seasons?:
’73: 18 HR; 52 RBI; .324 OBP; .373 SLG; .239 GPA
’74: 36 HR; 116 RBI; .395 OBP; .546 SLG; .314 GPA
’75: 38 HR; 95 RBI; .367 OBP; .523 SLG; .296 GPA
’76: 38 HR; 107 RBI; .376 OBP; .524 SLG; .300 GPA
What is remarkable about Mike Schmidt was how unbelievably consistent he was for the next decade: from ’74 to ’87 his slugging percentage was in the .500’s pretty much every year.
How does Burrell stack up to Schmidt? It is difficult to say because his 2002, 2003 and 2004 seasons are all over the place. (You’d also have to league-adjust Schmidt’s stats to now: 38 home runs was a lot in 1976, but it isn’t what it used to be.) Burrell’s 2002 was terrific and his 2003 was awful, a season-long slump far worse than anything that Schmidt suffered. His 2004 season-to-date has been something of a paradox: in many respects Burrell’s’04 is better than ’02: his OBP is higher, and while his home runs and slugging average are down compared with ’02, Burrell has turned into a much more selective hitter, lowering his walk-to-strikeout ratio from 0.58 to 0.67 and increasing his walks per plate appearance from .130 to .158 …
On the other hand, Burrell hasn’t been that much of a consistent performer at the plate in '04. Check out Burrell’s month-to-month stats:
GPA / ISO
April: .276 / .132
May: .372 / .333
June: .244 / .170
July: .258 / .134
Season: .295 / .203
A decent April, monster May and a so-so June-July …
The most interesting thing about Burrell’s 2004 season has been the Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde road / home difference:
The vast majority of his home runs this season have been hit at Citizens. The difference between Burrell on the road (OBP machine hitting singles and the occasional double) and at home (power machine clubbing home runs and doubles by the bushel) is fairly dramatic. Ironically, Burrell hit better away than at home his last two seasons:
2003 / 2002
Home: .185 / .237
Away: .204 / .288
My thoughts: I think that Burrell will eventually find his way back to his 2002 form. I think that the effect of the 2003 season on his confidence was so dramatic that he’s still trying to regain his form, even though he is playing fairly well this year. I think the test of Burrell’s longevity will be how he performs next year when he puts 2003 a full season behind him. Will he regain his stroke on the road and improve his overall slugging average? That is the key to Burrell’s future development: hitting the ball on the road with something like the consistency he hits the ball at home.
With Thome, Abreu and Bell all well into their 30’s, Burrell is the team’s future and I think that he’ll be around for a long time. Will he be the superstar Mike Schmidt was? Probably not: I don’t see Burrell putting forth the consistent play that Schmidt did in the next decade. But I think that Burrell stands a good chance of giving the Phils another eight-to-ten seasons of stellar play in left.
Will we be taking our kids (or grandkids?) to Pat Burrell Night? I tend to doubt it.
But I will take ‘em to Geno’s.