ERIC: No two players have embodied the phrase “come big or stay home” quite like Dave Kingman and Rob Deer. Both were known primarily for prodigious home runs and even more prodigious strikeouts. These two men were probably the most one-dimensional players to ever grace a big league ball field. And we pay tribute to them today as the kings of all or nothing.
Dave Kingman stood 6’6”, and was big and strong. He played first base, third base, and outfield in his career (all badly—he was known as a terrible fielder) Known as either “Kong” or “Sky King”, Kingman clubbed 442 homers in his 15-year major league career. (spanning from 1971-1986) Few players ever struck more fear into the hearts of pitchers, since any swing of Sky King’s bat could produce a long homer. Kingman had one truly spectacular season. In 1979, he hit .288 with 48 homers (he led the National League that year) and 115 RBI’s. Kong Kingman also triggered what may be the most famous (or infamous) rant ever by a manager when a reporter foolishly asked Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda what he thought of a three-homer performance by Kingman against the Dodgers one day–look it up on Google–it’s not hard to find, and it’s well worth a listen even though it’s not safe for work).
However, for all of his power, Kingman was just as well known for his strikeouts. He had 1816 of them in his career in 6,677 at-bats. This means that Kingman fanned nearly 30% of the time. It’s the primary reason why his career batting average was .236. Kong led the National League in strikeouts three times, with a career high of 156 times in 1982. That was one of four seasons when he had 140 or more strikeouts in a season.
As accomplished as Dave Kingman was at the all-or-nothing game, he barely held a candle to his successor to the throne, Rob Deer. Deer stood 6’3”, and was a very strong 210 pounds. He came up to the majors on September 4, 1986—just as Kingman was playing his last games—with the San Francisco Giants. He lasted 11 years in the big leagues and embodied the “all-or-nothing” ideal. He retired with a career batting average of .220. However, he also hit 230 homers in that career out of only 853 base hits, meaning that long taters accounted for 27% of his total hits.
And nobody could whiff like Rob Deer could. He led the league in strikeouts four times during his career, including 186 times in 1987. In 1985, he struck out 71 times in 162 at-bats, a clip of just under 50% of the time. Deer finished his career with 1,409 whiffs in 3,881 at bats, or 36% of the time. For a time, Deer held the major league record for most strikeouts in a season by a batter, a dubious distinction at best. At the same time, he twice had more than 30 homers in a season, and averaged about 25 per year during the prime of his career.
Mark Reynolds of the Baltimore Orioles seems to be bucking for a place in the club too. Reynolds holds the major league record for most strikeouts in a season, with 225 in 2009. In 2011, he had an especially productive season, winning a triple crown of extremely dubious distinction: he led the American League in strikeouts with 196, the major league in errors with 31, and an atrocious fielding percentage of only .897, lowest of all major league third baseman. If Reynolds keeps up this good work, he will join Kingman and Deer in the all-or-nothing You Stink! Hall of Fame.