Recently I wrote an article for an NFL website that looked at undrafted rookies who scored the most touchdowns in their first year in the league. That story got me thinking about undrafted players who not only had success in their first year in the league, but those who continued on and had successful careers in the NFL. It’s one thing to be an undrafted player who makes the team as a rookie, but another to be an undrafted player who can carve out a long career in the league.
To quantify this curiosity, let’s take a look at two stats (TDs and games played) and which undrafted players have accumulated the most TDs and games played in their careers.
Only one player who was not drafted has scored 100 or more TDs in an NFL career. That honor belongs to tight end Antonio Gates, who has 104 career TDs. There have been 17 undrafted players who have totaled 40 or more career TDs. They are (career years are listed in parenthesis):
104 Antonio Gates (2003-15)
94 Priest Holmes (1997-2007)
71 Rod Smith (1995-2006)
68 Arian Foster (2009-15)
51 Wes Welker (2004-15)
50 Drew Pearson (1973-83)
49 Stephone Page (1983-91)
45 Lance Moore (2006-15)
45 Nate Washington (2005-15)
44 Reggie Rucker (1970-81)
44 Mike Tolbert (2008-15)
42 Paul Coffman (1978-88)
42 BenJarvis Green-Ellis (2008-13)
41 Wayne Chrebet (1995-2005)
41 Pierre Thomas (2007-15)
40 Alfred Jenkins (1975-83)
40 Marcus Pollard (1995-2008)
When it comes to career games played by undrafted players, kickers top the list. In fact, of the undrafted players who have 260 or more career games played in the NFL, all are placekickers or punters. Leading the way is Jeff Feagles, an undrafted punter who amassed 352 career games in the league. Of non-kickers, center David Binn and linebacker London Fletcher top the list of most career games with 256.
Here’s the undrafted players who have 250 or more career games in the NFL.
352 Jeff Feagles (punter)
306 Adam Vinatieri (placekicker)
302 John Carney (placekicker)
284 Sean Landeta (punter)
273 Norm Johnson (placekicker)
263 Phil Dawson (placekicker)
260 Nick Lowery (placekicker)
256 David Binn (center)
256 London Fletcher (linebacker)
250 Pat Leahy (placekicker)
250 Eugene Robinson (defensive back)
If you’re a Packers fan, do you know which undrafted player has scored the most TDs with the Packers? And, do you know which undrafted player has played the most career games with the Pack?
If you guessed Paul Coffman scored the most TDs, you know your Packers trivia. The undrafted tight end tallied 39 TDs with the Packers in his career. Ryan Grant (29), Ed West (26) and John Kuhn (23) are the other undrafted Packers who scored 20 or more TDs with the team.
There is a tie at the top of the list for most career games played with the Packers by an undrafted player. Rob Davis (a center) and tight end Ed West top the list with 167 games played with the team. They are followed by Mark Murphy, 147 (defensive back), Ryan Longwell, 144 (placekicker), Kuhn, 139 (fullback) and Jarrett Bush, 137 (defensive back).
The Brewers entered this weekend with a three-game series against the American League’s Seattle Mariners in Seattle. That meant that the team would be utilizing the designated hitter in their line-up during these games. This series is also the last interleague play for the Brewers this season.
Ryan Braun was in the lineup on Friday as the team’s DH. He went one-for-five with a pair of RBIs on a ninth-inning single. It was Braun’s 12th career game as the Brewers DH.
Over the long history of the Brewers, the DH has been an important part of the lineup, especially going back to when the team was in the American League (through 1997). Hall of Famer Paul Molitor played many games as the Brewers DH; in fact, his 1,904 plate appearances as the DH for the Brewers tops the team in that category. The only other Brewers player with 1,000 or more plate appearances as a DH is Ted Simmons with 1,175.
Molitor was the team’s most successful DH when the Brewers were an A.L. team. He leads the team with 519 hits as a DH, most HR with 37 and most RBI with 186.
Here’s a look at the Brewers players who lead various hitting categories as the team’s DH.
Paul Molitor, 519
Ted Simmons, 282
Cecil Cooper, 232
Greg Vaughn, 176
Dave Nilsson, 168
Dave Parker, 168
Hank Aaron, 167
Batting Average (minimum of 100 at-bats to qualify)
Kevin Seitzer, .325
B.J. Surhoff, .304
The DH position when the Brewers went over to the National League has certainly not been as productive as their A.L. brethren. Consider this: Of the nine Brewers players who have 20 or more plate appearances as a DH for the team since 1998, only one has a batting average above .250 as the DH (Rickie Weeks, .276).
The recently-retired and former Brewer Prince Fielder has the most DH plate appearances for the team since ’98 with 73. He is followed by Aramis Ramirez with 67 and Braun with 54.
Here’s a look at the Brewers players who lead various hitting categories as the team’s DH since 1998, the team’s time in the National League.
Batting Average (minimum of 20 at-bats as DH)
If you were to look at a major league baseball team’s stats and noticed a pitcher was 0-0 with no saves, you’d think that pitcher had not gotten in to too many games, right?
But what if on further analysis, you noticed that pitcher had appeared in 30 or more games and had a very respectable ERA. You’d think differently, right?
The evolution of MLB pitching over the past 50 years has certainly changed the roles that starters and bullpens have within a pitching staff. Years ago, there were starters, spot starters, and maybe a closer. Today, there are starters, middle relievers, set-up men, and closers.
Also in today’s game, you can have a pitcher or two who pitch quite often but yet never figure in the decision of the game or receive a save. These are typically the middle relievers who pitch an inning and whose sole responsibility is to not lose a lead and hold it for the seventh, eighth and ninth-inning pitchers to finish the job.
That’s where many of these pitchers who have no wins, no losses and no saves are coming from. Many of them are not household names, but they are very important to a pitching staff.
This season there are currently four pitchers who have appeared in 25 or more games yet do not have a win, a loss or a save to their credit. The four: Antonio Bastardo (N.Y. Mets, 46 games), Matt Belisle (Washington, 27 games), Nick Goody (N.Y. Yankees, 26 games) and Jhan Marinez (Tampa Bay and Milwaukee, 26 games).
Last season, Texas reliever Sam Freeman set an MLB record with 54 appearances with a 0-0 record and no saves. Milwaukee bullpen pitcher Corey Knebel last season appeared in 48 games for the Brewers without a win, a loss or save, tying Scott Aldred for second on this list. Aldred pitched in 48 games for Tampa Bay in 1998 without a win, a loss or save. For the record, Freeman, who is now in the Brewers organization, has pitched in 142 career games in the bigs with a record of 3-2 and no saves. Knebel, who is in the Brewers major league bullpen, has a 0-1 career record with no saves in 70 games pitched.
If we expand our look to pitching careers, there have been a handful of pitchers who spent their entire MLB career without collecting a win, a loss or save. Two pitchers pitched 48 games in the majors without recording a win, loss or save. Matt Stites and Mike Kinnunen (I told you they weren’t household names!) each have 48 career games pitched without figuring in a decision or getting a save. They top this unique list.
Here’s a look at the five pitchers who have 35 or more career games without a win, a loss or save to their credit.
Matt Stites, 2014-15, Arizona, 48 games
Mike Kinnunen, 1980-87, Minnesota, Baltimore, 48 games
Greg Jones, 2003-07, Angels, 38 games
Allen McDill, 1997-2001, Kansas City, Detroit, Boston, 38 games
Ryan O’Rourke, 2015-16, Minnesota, 36 games
I’ll admit I had two very different reactions to the recent trade of Jonathan Lucroy. First, from a business standpoint, I expected the trade and figured the Brewers would have to trade Lucroy to secure the optimal value of players in return for an all-star catcher of Lucroy’s caliber. From the business side and the team’s take, it made perfect sense.
From a personal, emotional perspective, I hated the trade. Lucroy was my favorite Brewers player. Like me when I played baseball, he was a catcher and wore #20, and he is a man of faith. I admired Lucroy, his game, and how he carried himself. He was a good guy to hitch your wagon to; I will miss the “LUC, LUC” calls bellowing at Miller Park when he stepped to the plate.
I tell you this as a precursor to the next statement; or better yet, this question: Is Lucroy the best catcher in Brewers history? I’m unashamedly willing to attach that title to Lucroy, but as I have a habit of doing, I’d like to throw out some numbers and stats to support my proclamation and allow you to form your own opinion.
Let’s look at where Lucroy stands with regards to some basic numbers with the Brewers:
- He is 19th on the club in career games played with 805.
- He is 20th on the team in career plate appearances.
- He is 20th on the all-time Brewers list with 806 career hits.
- Of the 43 players in Brewers history who played in 500 or more games, he is one of only 12 who had more hits (806) than games played (805).
- Of the 21 Brewers players with 3,000 or more plate appearances with the team, he ranks sixth on the list with a batting average of .284.
Those are all nice stats, but they certainly don’t make a strong enough case for Lucroy as the team’s best catcher in history. His numbers when compared to the others catchers who have worn the Brewers uniform, however, is where Lucroy’s case, in my mind, becomes more evident. When compared to the other Brewers catchers, consider that Lucroy (numbers are when he was catching):
- Ranks second in games played as a catcher with 725 (Charlie Moore, 850)
- Ranks first in runs scored with 330.
- Ranks first in hits with 758.
- Ranks first with 144 doubles.
- Ranks second with 16 triples (Charlie Moore, 30).
- Ranks first with 78 home runs.
- Ranks first with 363 RBI.
- Of the 12 Brewers players who had at least 800 career at-bats when playing the catcher position, Lucroy ranks first with a batting average of .286.
There’s one other group of stats that make a strong case for Lucroy. He played in two All-Star Games as a Brewer and performed very well. Thirty-two Brewers players have had an at-bat in All-Star Game history, and only 11 have gotten a hit. In fact, Brewers players are only 18-for-88 in All-Star Game at-bats, a lowly .205 batting average. Lucroy, however, is 3-for-3 in his two games. Take Lucroy’s 3-for-3 out of the equation and the Brewers bats are hitting .176 in ASG history.
Of the 181 players who have three or more career hits in the All-Star Game, Lucroy is one of only eight who have a 1.000 batting average. He is one of only 17 catchers in All-Star Game history to have three or more career hits in ASG, and he is tied with Ryan Braun for the most career hits in the ASG for a Brewers player with three.
Fans and the Bfrewers faithful can certainly make a case for some of the other catchers who have worn the Brewers uniform: Ted Simmons, Charlie Moore, Dave Nilsson, B.J. Surhoff, Darrell Porter,etc. Of course, I haven’t even talked about his defensive skills… with the Brew Crew he threw out about 27% of the runners trying to steal and was at 40% this season with the Brewers when he was traded.
So, where would you rank Lucroy on the list of greatest catchers for the Brewers?
In the game of baseball, a player can go from goat to hero (or hero to goat) in the span of one inning.
Case in point: On Thursday, July 28, I attended the Brewers-Arizona game at Miller Park. I watched as outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis struck out in the first, fourth and sixth innings. Then, while leading off the eighth inning for the Brew Crew, Nieuwenhuis launched a solo HR. From goat (three strikeouts) to hero (a solo HR).
It got me thinking about players who for the Brewers have had similar games, contests where they struck out three or more times and had a home run.
For Nieuwenhuis, his three strikeout-home run game on July 28 was the second such game in 2016; he also did it on June 24 in a Brewers win over the Nationals. Only one other Brewers player has had three or more strikeouts and a home run in the same game this season… Chris Carter did it on May 19 against the Cubs. In the 2015 season, there was only one player who accomplished this rare feat in a game: Ryan Braun.
If we go back in Brewers’ history, there have been 88 games where a Brewers player had three or more strikeouts and a home run in the same game; that was accomplished by 42 different players. Topping the list is a couple of active players who are no longer with the team: Carlos Gomez and Rickie Weeks. Both had seven games in their Milwaukee careers where they had three strikeouts and a home run in the same contest.
Here’s a look at the players who had three or more such games with the Brewers.
7: Carlos Gomez, Rickie Weeks
6: Rob Deer
5: Richie Sexson
4: Ryan Braun
3: Jeromy Burnitz, Prince Fielder, Bill Hall, Corey Hart, Ben Oglivie, Gorman Thomas, Jose Valentin, Greg Vaughn
Only once in Brewers’ history has a player had two HRs and at least three strikeouts in a game: Dale Sveum did it on June 12, 1988 when he had two home runs and struck out three times in the Brewers 16-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.
There has been 10 times where a Brewers player had four or more strikeouts in a game where they also slugged a home run. The last player to do so was Mark Reynolds on April 5, 2014. Eight different Brewers players have had four strikeouts and a home run in a game with Jeromy Burnitz and Rob Deer doing it twice in a Milwaukee uniform.