While Jobu is on vacation, enjoy one of our greatest hits as Jobu discusses legendary strike out artist Rob Deer in a post he wrote back in 2007 and recently rediscovered.
That title is the only way I can really describe this. A complete Atrocity. The fact that this happened shakes me to the core and makes me sick to my stomach. The worst part? It can never be erased from the records or made better in any way. No, I’m not talking about the Hall of Fame Inductions and snubs this week. I’m not talking about the steroids controversy either. What am I talking about? What could possibly have me this fired up? Rob Deer played in 1,155 career Major League games.
Who is Rob Deer?
I’m sure half of you readers are asking yourselves “Who the hell is Rob Deer and why is *Jobu* so fired up about him?” Well let’s take that one question at a time.
This is Rob Deer on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a season during which he hit .238 and struck out 186 times. Those of you who haven’t stopped reading are now saying to yourselves: that’s pretty bad, but he played 1155 career games over 11 seasons. That must have been a down year for him, right? Not so fast, folks…
That .238 average actually represented his third HIGHEST career total and was almost 20 points higher than his CAREER BATTING AVERAGE! The strikeout total, while a career high, was the first of six seasons in which he struck out over 150 times. In fact, in those 1155 career games, he hit .220 and struck out 1409 times. That’s nearly 1.5 times per game.
Before I continue trashing this man without mercy, let me first tell you why he was allowed to hang around baseball as an every day player for the better part of eleven seasons. He could hit home runs and he could draw the base on balls. Deer hit 230 career homers and was constantly around 25 home runs per season (a lot more impressive during the era in which he played (1984-1996). His career high was 33 home runs in 1986 while playing with the Milwaukee Brewers.
So many of you now must be thinking well there you go Martin, why are you so upset? You said so yourself the man hit 230 homers and he could draw the walk! Get off his back! I will do no such thing. Let’s look a little deeper into the career statistics for this man. For those of you who want to follow along, open the following link in a new window.
Rob Deer’s Career Stats
Ok. Let’s start with batting average. As I said before, Rob Deer batted .220 in 3,881 career at bats. For those of you who don’t know, .220 is good enough to rank you among the league worst as a regular player in any major league season. Had he played last season, out of the 160 players who qualified for the batting average title, Rob Deer would have been 160th. In fact, in each of the last 6 major league seasons he would have been good enough for only last or 2nd-to-last in the majors. But his terrible average was not a one time thing, it was an eleven time thing. Even his career high, a disgustingly low .252, would only have been good enough to tie him for 152nd in the league out of the 160 players who had enough ABs to qualify last season!
Rob also led the league in strikeouts eight times despite only batting over 400 official times in 7 of those years. Most people who lead the league in strikeouts bat around 600 times. Imagine what he could have accomplished in those extra at bats! *2012 Note… Deer’s 1987 total projected over 162 games would have been higher than Mark Reynolds’ record 223 Ks in 2009*
So I know you guys are saying, Rob must have ripped it up in the minors for someone to even give him a shot at the major leagues… I give you, exhibit B…Rob Deer’s Career Minor League Stats
He didn’t exactly rip anything up. After being drafted in the 4th round of the 1978 amateur draft, Rob hit .247 in 795 career minor league games. Overall, his strikeout numbers were right on par with his major league stats. He struck out over 175 times in four of his minor league seasons. And then there’s 1979…
Rob played for two teams during that 1979 season. He played 63 games with one single-A level team in the San Francisco Giants farm system (Great Falls), and 29 games with another(Cedar Rapids). In the 63 games with Great Falls, Rob hit .317 with 115 strike outs in 218 ABs. The giants overlooked the high strikeout totals (1 every 1.82 ABs) and called him up to Cedar Rapids, hoping some more experience would help their budding slugger cut down on those strikeouts. It didn’t exactly happen that way. *2012 Note… that’s a 295 K pace in 162 games*
During those 29 games with Cedar Rapids Rob went on an unprecedented strike out binge. In 86 ABs, Rob Struck out 62 times. 62 times! That is a 72% clip. *2012 Note… that’s 480 Ks in a 162 game season* Even when you add his walks (a robust 39 in the 29 games) Rob still struck out in 49.6% of his official plate appearances. That is mind boggling. Deer also collected 18 hits that season in his 86 official at bats. If you add his hits and strikeouts, you get 80. This means that Rob didn’t walk, get a hit, or strike out, in just six of his official at bats. He made six outs that did not involve a 3rd strike. In fact, Rob had 18 hits in the 24 ABs in which he managed to put the ball in play. That would be a .750 batting average. Unfortunately he only put the ball in play 24 times in those 29 games and strike outs count as outs, so he hit .209. Despite his unbelievable ability to swing and miss, Rob still managed to move through the system and into the majors, making it to “the show” with the Giants in 1984.
Rob’s Later Years… Wowsers
As we have discussed, Rob had a sub-par Major League Baseball career. He had many bad years. But none as bad as 1991…
1991… This was the year that should have ended the career of one Robert George Deer. That season Rob set the record for futility at the plate, literally. According to an article by Drew Olson, senior editor of Onmilwaukee.com, Deer had the most at bats ever (448) by a player who hit under .200. He hit .179 in 134 games and 448 ABs for the Detroit Tigers. That’s right, after 200 ABs with a sub .200 batting average, he was not benched. Nor was he benched after 300 such ABs. Or even 400. Not only that, he also struck out 175 times. That’s good enough for 21st all time in a single season. Why was this man allowed to play so many games despite being so awful? There is no reason why. Even his home runs and RBI were not that impressive. His 25 homers only managed to drive in 64 runs. 25 of those times he drove himself in. Meaning that this so called power hitting run producer only drove in 39 runners that were not himself in those 134 games. In fact, he had 111 more strikeouts than RBI! He had 95 more strikeouts than hits (175 to 80). That’s more than double! He hit .156 in the 2nd half, .193 at home, .168 with runners in scoring position, and .196 against lefties! His only saving grace was the fact that he walked 89 times, pushing his on base percentage to an almost respectable .314.
But this was not the end of Rob’s career. No, no. The very next year, for the same Detroit Tigers, he played 110 games. He had quite the bounce back season, nabbing his career 2nd best .247 average and hit his career 2nd best 32 home runs. He did, however, only drive in 64 runs. Ridiculous. Even the year after that he was still playing over 100 games and apparently a desirable commodity on the trade market (nice job Red Sox). *2012 Note… Deer was sent to the Red Sox in August as part of a “conditional deal.”(baseball-reference). Was the condition that he never again return to Detroit?*
After 1993, Robert realized no one in the US was going to sign him. He decided to do what many aging or unsuccessful major leaguers do. He fled to Japan to try to rebuild his image and regain his bat speed. In a league where Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes once tied the single season home run record of 55, Rob was sure to get his swing back! Nope. According to this New York Times article, Deer became the highest paid American baseball player in Japan when he signed his $2.6 million contract. According to the baseball-reference bullpen on him, he hit .151 that year. Disgraced and dishonored in the land of the rising sun, he returned to the states for one final shot at the golden ring.
After spending a year and a half in the minors, Rob finally got his shot at a comeback. On their way to a first place finish in the N.L. West, the San Diego Padres decided to give Rob his chance. According to Baseball-reference, on July 4th Rob Deer hit a pinch hit double in his first major league at bat in three years. Playing as a pinch hitter and part time out-fielder, Rob managed to get into 25 games and bat 50 times. The power was still there, as he managed to blast 4 homers in those at bats, including a pinch hit 2-run homer on July 6th in a 7-3 win against the San Francisco Giants. The rest of the month was not so fortuitous. Rob hit .180 for the Padres that season and struck out 30 times. That’s one strike out every 1.67 ABs… 60% of the time… August 5th would be the last time Rob Deer played in a Major League Baseball game. On October 15th of that year he was released, and subsequently retired. It was truly the end of an era. *2012 Note… a terribly windy era*
But life goes on. Old players retire, new players come on the scene, and the sun rises and sets… So where is Rob Deer now you ask? The man who struck out at a greater rate than any major leaguer in history and hit .220 for his career spent several years as a hitting instructor in the Padres organization and currently works as a hitting coordinator in their minor league system. So what could this man possibly teach anyone about hitting? When Drew Olson asked him, this is what he said…
“I’ll be the first to admit I don’t want them to hit like I did.”
God Bless you Rob Deer. For the sake of baseball, I hope no one else ever hits like you did either.
*2012 Note… I tried to find another update on Rob Deer’s current whereabouts, but information is hard to come by. I only found out that he owns a company called Vizubat, which manufactures a training bat of some kind for hitters.
According to Hall of Famer Robin Yount, “This is the best tool I’ve seen for visualization and strength training. It teaches you to hit the ball properly.”
Too bad Rob didn’t have that when he was a youngster*
Just for fun… Here’s video of Rob from the Brewers’ 1987 twelve game winning streak that landed Rob on the SI cover:
Fielder image courtesy of: TONY RANZE/AFP/Getty Images)
Fantasy camp image courtesy of: http://www.myspace.com/kevinhermening
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