Thursday, October 4, 2012

Comparing the Major League Debut Classes of 1992 and 2012.

In 1990, Topps created a set honoring the players who made their MLB debut during the 1989 campaign. It was a relatively successful set, with future HOF's like Ken Griffey, Jr., and Deion Sanders (okay, he's in the Football HOF) and others. In 2009, I created a post comparing the MLB Debut classes of 1989 and 2009 in honor of that set. To coincide with the MLB Debut 1990 and 1991 boxed sets, I also wrote a post comparing the MLB Debut classes of 1990 and 2010 and again for the MLB Debut classes of 1991 and 2011.

Sadly, they stopped creating this set. I wish they would bring it back, if only so that every player who makes it to the majors has at least one Topps card to call his own. As the 2012 MLB season ended yesterday, now would be a good time to review this year's 2012 MLB debutantes and compare them to the class of 1992. These have been fun posts for me to write, and it's nice to look back to see how the future stars of my youth (I was 16 in 1992), performed over the years.

According to Baseball Reference, 17,941 athletes have entered their names into the annals of Major League Baseball record-keeping. In fact, 206 of them made their MLB Debuts in 2012. That's 206 more players that have etched their names into history books, baseball encyclopedias, and baseball websites. Two hundred six more players who finally reached the pinnacle of their professional careers, no matter how long or how brief their stay was. They can honestly say that they have arrived.

In 1992, 162 players made their big league debuts. The first of three players to debut was Jacob Brumfield (who debuted on April 6, 1992), the last was Pedro Borbon(who made his first appearance on October 2, 1992). Twenty-two players would go on to become All-Stars at some point in their careers. We'd all get to know their names on a regular basis like Mike Piazza, Pedro Martinez, Jeff Kent, Bret Boone, Javy Lopez, Brian Jordan, and Tim Wakefield. Players who had high expectations, but eventually faded from the spotlight (David Nied, D.J. Dozier, Bernardo Brito) also made their debuts in 1992.

Believe it or not, one player who made their debut in 1992 was still on a MLB roster during the 2012 season. The debutantes of 1992 (as of the end of the 2012 season) combined for 50 All-Star Game appearances, 5,172 home runs, 21,556 runs batted in, 2,681 stolen bases, and a batting average of about .263. Pitchers who debuted in 1992 have gone on to a combined record of 2103-2082, saved 869 games, completed 233 games, faced 160,796 batters, struck out 27,066 of them, gave up 4,189 home runs, and had a cumulative ERA of 4.34.

At any given point during the 2012 season, there were 750 players on active rosters (not counting those on the disabled list). And in amongst the shuffling of talent, 206 baseball players, some who'd toiled in the minors for a very long time, and at least one player who was drafted in the 2012 free agent draft, got to step onto the field of a major league stadium for the very first time and play at least one inning of major league baseball. Eighty-nine of them were position players, the other 117 stepped onto the pitcher's mound for the very first time. Of the 206, three were born in 1992 (Dylan Bundy, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado), one was born in 1993 (Jurickson Profar), and the oldest player to debut was 31 years old (Hisashi Iwakuma).

The 2012 debutantes combined for two All-Star Game appearances (Harper and Yu Darvish), 212 home runs, 978 runs batted in, 221 stolen bases, and a cumulative .243 batting average. Pitchers went 184-203 with an ERA of 4.20, striking out 3,294 batters, and saved 16 games.

Just for fun, let's compare both classes:
  • Players making debut: 1992 = 162; 2012 = 206
  • Position Players/Pitchers: 1992 = 87/75; 2012 = 89/117
  • Earliest Debut: 1992 = Jacob Brumfield, Craig Colbert, John Patterson (April 6, 1992); 2012 = Yoenis Cespedes (March 28, 2012)
  • Latest Debut: 1992 = Pedro Borbon (October 2, 1992); 2012 = Tyson Brummett (October 3, 2012)
  • Youngest at time of Debut: 1992 = Melvin Nieves (born December 28, 1971, or 20 years, 248 days old); 2012 = Bryce Harper (October 16, 1992) and Jurickson Profar (February 20, 1993, both were 19 years, 195 days old on the day of their debut)
  • Oldest at time of Debut: 1992 = Tim Fortugno (April 11, 1962, or 30 years, 100 days old); 2012 = Hisashi Iwakuma (April 12, 1981, or 31 years, 008 days old)
  • Shortest Career: 1992 = Ed Pierce (2 games, 5.1 innings) and Todd Revenig (2 games, 2.0 innings); 2012 = Tyson Brummett, Pedro Hernandez, Todd Redmond, Ryan Verdugo, Pedro Villarreal, and Adam Warren each have only one MLB game under their belt (Redmond has one at-bat, Brummett pitched in 2/3 of an inning).
  • Longest Career, Seasons: 1992 = Matt Stairs and Tim Wakefield (19 seasons each, Miguel BatistaRuss Springer and Pedro Martinez, are next with 18, but Batista pitched in 2012); 2012 = only time will tell.
Of the players from the debut class of 2012, just like in 1992, there could be some Hall of Fame candidates. Most may go on to All-Star caliber, or very long careers in the bigs. And for some, this may be their only year in the majors. But all of them can say that they achieved their dream of being a Major League Ballplayer.

And nothing can take that away from them.

I've clamored before about wanting to bring back the Major League Debut set. But I know in today's age of exclusive contracts and rookie card restrictions that a set of this type might never see the light of day again. And although I have a feeling that many collectors would not want to get a set that might have stars but plenty of "never will be's" amongst them, a set like this could contain the only card of a player who played in one inning of major league ball.

Who knows what the future will bring for the 206 players who first appeared in 2012. Most might never play in the majors again, disappearing in the obscurity of minor league baseball for the rest of their professional careers. Creating a set called the 2013 MLB Debut 2012 would give them a slim piece of cardboard immortality.

Oh well, I can dream, can't I???


JayBee Anama

P.S. Later on this week, I will post my picks as to who I think will make the 2012 Topps All-Star Rookie team. There will be a contest involved. Details to come soon. jba

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