The Effectively Wild podcast at FanGraphs is one of my favorite listens, always informative and interesting about various aspects of baseball. One of their recurring segments, the Statblast (or is it “Stat Blast”?), digs deep into often obscure statistics.
On Thursday’s episode, the Statblast blew my mind.
Leroy Stanton was an outfielder who played five of his nine major league seasons in the 1970s with the Angels, and he’s one of seven known players with identical career batting averages at home, on the road, versus left-handed pitchers, and versus right-handers.
Ron Blaizure, Gene Connell, Jerry Davie, Mike Farmer, Pete Hamm, and Alex McRae all did it, though none of them had more than 12 career at-bats.
Stanton, meanwhile, had 2,883 plate appearances in his career, and he hit .244 at home, .244 on the road, .244 against left-handers, and .244 against right-handers. But what takes this fun fact into sublime territory is that Stanton ALSO HAD THE SAME SLUGGING PERCENTAGE FOR ALL FOUR SPLITS.
Stanton came to the Angels from the Mets in the Jim Fregosi trade in December 1971, a heist known much more for a pitcher in the deal. But at the time, Fregosi held a host of Angels records, having played for them in the first 11 years of the franchise, and was wildly popular.
“Why would the Angels trade a six-time All-Star shortstop for Ryan, 24, who was 10-14 with the Mets this year; outfielder Leroy Stanton, 25; pitcher Don Rose and catcher Francisco Estrada?,” asked the Associated Press the day after the trade. (1)
Ryan is Nolan Ryan, who honed his blazing fastball in Anaheim on his way to thousands of strikeouts and the Hall of Fame. But even Stanton outperformed Fregosi after the deal, making this an all-time classic trade for the Angels.
Stanton hit .247/.312/.381, a 106 OPS+ in five years with the Angels, while Fregosi battled injuries, only lasting a season and a half in New York, playing only 473 games the rest of his career.
Stanton’s best year for the Angels was 1975, when he hit 14 home runs, drove in 82 runs, and stole 18 bases, with a 123 OPS+ and 3.3 bWAR.
He also had a torrid start in 1974 that saw him hit .486 with a 10-game hitting streak to open the season, and the organist at Anaheim Stadium played “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” as Stanton’s at-bat music.
He grew up working on a farm in South Carolina along with his sister and five brothers. “I still think a lot about those days back home. I know I never want to work on a farm again,” Stanton told the Los Angeles Times (2). “But you know, working back there taught me a lot about life, too. I learned to take responsibility. I realized how important it was, at an early age. In a way, it made me appreciate my work more today.”
The Angels lost Stanton to the Mariners in the expansion draft in November 1976, and he led Seattle with 27 home runs in their first season. His last major league season was 1978, ending a nine-year career that saw him hit .244/.311/.388, a 103 OPS+, with those aforementioned identical splits.
Eric Vickrey is working on Stanton’s bio for SABR, and thanks to this incredible fun fact I’m very much looking forward to eventually read it.
- “Fregosi ‘thrilled to death’ to be a Met,” Associated Press. San Bernardino County Sun, December 11, 1971.
- “Stanton is ‘Bad, Bad Leroy’ to A.L. pitchers,” by Jeff Prugh. Los Angeles Times, April 15, 1974.