Braves Stat of the Week: Brandon Hicks' Claim to Fame

With Brandon Hicks still hanging around on the Braves' spring training roster, I thought it'd be a good time to bring up this remarkable statistic:

In 2010, while with Atlanta, Brandon Hicks had more runs scored (7) than plate appearances (6).

How do you score more runs than you have PAs? Basically, in order to pull off this feat, a player must be used predominantly as a pinch-runner. Pinch running is the only way you can get on base without having a plate appearance, after all. So the players who manage to have more runs than PA generally are like Hicks: they can't hit, but they can run well.

Hicks' feat is especially impressive since he scored no runs after any of his 6 PA--he went 0/5 with a walk, and was stranded at first after the walk. All 7 of his runs were scored as a pinch runner. But here's where it gets even better: he was only used as a pinch-runner 10 times. Adding in his walk, he's scored 7 runs in 11 times on base. That's a 64% run-scoring rate (for some perspective, the MLB average in 2010 was 30%). Obviously, this is a tiny sample size--Hicks is not some run-scoring superman--but it's pretty remarkable nonetheless.

After the jump, I give the historical perspective on just how rare Hicks' feat is.

In MLB history (since 1900), there have been 20 seasons in which players have had more runs than PA while scoring at least 6 runs. Here's the list (links go to Baseball-Reference):

Rk Player R PA Year Tm G SB CS Pos
1 Herb Washington 29 0 1974 OAK 92 29 16
2 Don Hopkins 25 8 1975 OAK 82 21 9 /897
3 Larry Lintz 21 4 1976 OAK 68 31 11 /497
4 Dick Schofield 17 7 1954 STL 43 1 1 6
5 Matt Alexander 16 13 1979 PIT 44 13 1 /7896
6 Matt Alexander 16 11 1975 OAK 63 17 10 /98457
7 Allan Lewis 16 0 1973 OAK 35 7 4 /7
8 Matt Alexander 13 3 1980 PIT 37 10 3 /874
9 Stuffy Stewart 10 7 1929 WSH 22 0 1 /4
10 Allan Lewis 9 5 1968 OAK 26 8 4 /7
11 Sandy Piez 9 8 1914 NYG 37 4 0 /879
12 Rodney McCray 8 7 1990 CHW 32 6 0 /897
13 Mike Dimmel 8 6 1977 BAL 25 1 0 *9/8
14 Miguel Dilone 8 6 1975 PIT 18 2 2 /8
15 Brandon Hicks 7 6 2010 ATL 16 0 0 /564
16 Jay Loviglio 7 6 1980 PHI 16 1 2 /4
17 Tom Burgmeier 7 3 1968 CAL 71 1 0 *1/7
18 Allan Lewis 7 6 1967 KCA 34 14 5
19 Rod Lindsey 6 5 2000 DET 11 2 1 /879
20 Alberto Lois 6 0 1979 PIT 11 1 1
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/26/2011.

While Hicks' run total is not particularly high, notice that most of these seasons came in 1980 or before, when pinch-running was much more en vogue. Only three seasons on the list occurred after 1980: Hicks' 2010, plus Rod Lindsey (6 R, 5 PA) in 2000 and Rodney McCray (8 R, 7 PA) in 1990. Based on that pattern, I'm guessing that no one will manage more runs than PA again until the year 2020. I'm also guessing that there's a great chance the next player to do so will be named "Rod."

You may have also noticed the prevalence of the late 60's through mid 70's Oakland teams on the list. Apparently, A's owner Charlie Finley liked to use up at least one roster spot each year on a "designated runner." That may sound crazy to you--it certainly did to me--but if so, it was crazy like a fox, because those teams were excellent, winning 3 World Series and 5 division titles. In fact, they won the World Series in 1974--the same year that Herb Washington* managed to score 29 runs without coming to bat a single time.

* Washington is actually a great story. He was a world-class sprinter who was signed by the A's despite not having any post-high school baseball experience. In his career, he played in 105 games, scoring 33 runs, without ever coming to the plate or even playing in the field. His only position was "Pinch runner."

Hicks has a chance to go down in history as one of the few players to have more runs scored than plate appearances in their careers. Only 30 non-pitchers (counting Hicks) have managed to do that. Of those, only 6 scored more runs than Brandon has in his brief career.

Hicks may not be in elite company, exactly, but it certainly is a fairly exclusive club.

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