Sunday, January 24, 2010

Freddie Patek Forever

I've mentioned before that Freddie Patek is my all time favorite player. He had just completed his first season in Kansas City the year I was born and as it turned out it would be his best season. He was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates with Bruce Dal Canton and Jerry May for Jim Campanis, Jackie Hernandez and Bob Johnson. Being small for my age I immediately related to him when I was old enough to follow the Royals, which was around 1975. Patek played for the Royals from 1971-1979 and put together a solid enough career that he was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame.

In that time period he led the American League with 336 stolen bases (Bert Campaneris was second with 294, more on him later). His numbers matched up well with other shortstops in that time span and he was rewarded with three all star game selections.

*Patek compared to some other shortstops 1971-79

In 1971 Patek hit .267/.323/.371 with a league leading 11 triples. He finished second in stolen bases, sixth in runs, ninth in hits and his 97 OPS+ was tied for second among all major league shortstops (Leo Cardenas 107). His 3.8 WAR would be a career high (in comparison Yuniesky Betancourt is at 2.2 FOR HIS CAREER!!!!). All of this resulted in him finishing sixth in MVP voting, in their brief history this was the best Royal finish until Amos Otis scored third place in 1973.

Also that year Patek became just the third shortstop in AL history (Ray Chapman 1917, Campaneris 1966) to have 10+ triples and 45+ stolen bases in the same season, he is also the last. Campaneris interestingly enough accomplished this feat with Kansas City A's. It's funny the more research I did on Patek the more Campaneris's name would come up. Besides having this in common they also tied for the AL lead in stolen bases in the 1970's with 336 (Patek played for the Pirates in 1970) and they both played for the California Angels during the 1980 and 1981 seasons. Maybe I'm easily fascinated but I find this, well, fascinating.

He followed that with a pretty dismal 1972 season but rebounded the following year and pretty much became the player we remember. In 1974 he finished eighth in the league in walks with 77, which surprised me. Its still stands as the franchise record for shortstops, in fact only five times has a KC shortstop walked 50 or more times with Patek recording three of those seasons (1973 54, 1976 50). He led the league with 53 stolen bases in 1977 while posting career highs in doubles (26) and RBI's (60).

He saved some of his best for the playoffs, in three American League Championship Series he hit .306/.327/.510 with 11 RBI's in 14 games. After the 1979 season Patek and the Royals parted ways and he headed out west to play for the Angels. On June 20, 1980 he had his best game ever, he became the first shortstop since Ernie Banks in 1957 to hit three home runs in a game. One could argue this unofficially ushered in the era of offensive shortstops, look at this chart tracking games with shortstops with multi-home run games.

Decade2 HR3 HR

That game came right in the middle of a very impressive twenty game stretch. From June 10th to June 30th Patek hit .355/.375/.566 with 4 home runs and 19 RBI's. He was pretty much done as a player after that stretch, he hit .185 the rest of the 1980 season and had just 48 plate appearances in 1981. But he will always be remembered as a Royal and still ranks in the top 10 in several categories.

Stolen Bases3rd (336)
Games7th (1245)
PA's7th (4867)
Runs7th (571)
Hits8th (1036)
Doubles8th (182)
Triples10th (41)
Walks6th (413)


  1. Congrats on sponsoring Patek's BR page! I went out to sponsor Kyle Davies' BR page, but someone already has it and as a result, I am very sad.

    Greinke's page has opened up again, but with a cost of $135 for the year, I decided to pass.

  2. Ha I can imagine. Patek's is only $5 a year and I can't see it going up. I sponsored Meche and Justin Huber in 2008 and Hoch last year. Leaning towards renewing his page for another year.

  3. Good Job making the Big League Stew blog book. Hapless Royals was not included, another case of the MAN keeping me down.

  4. Thanks Doc, maybe they they don't have a sense of humor.

  5. I have 3 older brothers who used to play baseball in our yard all the time as kids.
    My (favorite) brother told me "just because you're a girl and small (I was short and grew to only 5'5") doesn't mean you can't play! Look at the Royals Freddie Patek!"
    The year was 1973 and I was 10 years old.
    7 years later I played the first of 30 consecutive years (Amateur) National Softball tourneys'.
    I met Mr. Patek in 1975 at the old Yankees Stadium and he signed an autograph for me. I kept his baseball card on my dresser mirror. It served as inspiration about how it's possible to break the stereotype and that's it's possible to be good at what you love. Even in the 1970s before title 9, etc....the speedy little guy with the cannon arm and that sweet mid-western accent was an inspiration to this young girl. I hope he's well, wherever he is. Mary in NY

  6. Maybe the BEST paper that I read all year...

  7. last few days our group held a similar discussion on this subject and you illustrate something we haven't covered yet, appreciate that.

    - Kris