Early this afternoon, Sean Casey will announce his formal retirement in order to pursue a career as an analyst for the MLB Network. In doing so, he is walking away from the game at a most unusual time.
Casey had a fascinatingly odd year in 2008. He hit .322 with a .381 OBP and .394 slugging mark and no homers. He is one of just two players this decade (along with Norris Hopper in 2007) to hit .320 or better without a homer (min. 200 plate appearances). In fact, Casey is one of just 48 players since 1901 to accomplish the feat–a development that was helped by the deep dimensions of right field in Fenway Park. Casey slammed two balls off the low fence in straightaway right field, at which point he all but raised a white flag on the idea of hitting a homer at Fenway Park.
As unusual as Casey’s high-average/low-power combination was, it is even more unusual to see a player walk away from the game after a season in which he has proven such an impressive ability to collect hits. Casey becomes just the 12th player to walk away from the game–and the first since 1930–after a season in which he hit at least .320 with 200 or more plate appearances.
The other players who fall into that category comprise one of three distinct sets:
1) Players who were kicked out of baseball as part of the Black Sox Scandal:
–Joe Jackson (.382, 1920)
–Happy Felsch (.338, 1920)
–Buck Weaver (.331, 1920)
2) Hall of Famers:
–Zack Wheat, who hit .327 as a 39-year-old in 1927
–Ty Cobb, who hit .323 as a 41-year-old with the Philadelphia A’s in 1928
3) Some complete mysteries with outstanding names, all of whom finished their careers in 1930 or earlier:
–Monk Sherlock, who hit .324 in his one and only major-league season in 1930.
–Walt McCredie, who hit .324 for Brooklyn in his one and only big-league season in 1903.
–Chicken Hawks, who had a cup of coffee in 1921, then hit .322 in 1925, his only season with more than 100 plate appearances.
–John Sullivan, who hit .322 in 1921 during a season in which he was traded from the Boston Braves to the Cubs as a 31-year-old. Sullivan’s second big-league season was also his last.
–Bill ‘Wagon Tongue’ Keister–a man who, like Casey, was known for his love of gabbing–who hit .320 in 1903.
–Sam Dungan, who hit a career-best .320 in 1901 and then never played a big-league game again.
Because all of those playing careers ended in 1930 or before, none of those players had a chance to produce a timeless video blog to chronicle his experiences like WEEI.com’s own Casey did with the estimable City Hall. One can only hope that the MLB Network will find something as classic as Casey’s memorable chat with Paul Byrd (who is also drifting between the netherworlds of retirement and the continuation of a playing career) about a certain pox in baseball circles:
Now THAT is a walkoff season.
Some other notes on the life and times of Sean Casey, courtesy of Gary From Chapel Hill:
* – Since the beginning of the 2003 season, Casey has batted .320 against left-handed pitchers, the 2nd best mark by a left-handed batter during that span (min. 440 PA vs lefties):
Ichiro Suzuki – .348
Sean Casey – .320
Todd Helton – .311
Barry Bonds – .303
Juan Pierre – .301
* – With a runner on 3rd (at least) and less than 2 outs, Casey is a career .472 hitter. That’s the highest average in those situations since at least 1956 (min. 200 such PA):
Sean Casey – .472 (118 for 250)
Magglio Ordonez – .455 (152 for 334)
Paul LoDuca – .454 (74 for 163)
Placido Polanco – .447 (85 for 190)
David Wright – .447 (76 for 170)
* – In his career, Casey has multiple HR in 10 different games and his team is 5-5 in those games, making him one of only five players with winning percentages of .500 or less in multi-HR games in the last 53 seasons:
Robin Yount – .429 (6-8)
Bobby Bonilla – .500 (10-10)
Don Demeter – .500 (7-7)
Jim Lemon – .500 (5-5)
Sean Casey – .500 (5-5)