Chicago Cubs: Ron Santo’s career took a while to appreciate

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs, Ron Santo (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: The Moneyball Approach

The Oakland Athletics popularized the “Moneyball” approach in the early 2000s by placing a massive value on walks. Other teams followed suit, and today we appreciate batters who can take a base on balls much more than we used to. In this way, Ron Santo was way ahead of his time.

While Santo hit at least 25 home runs every year from 1963 to 1970, he also drew at least 86 walks every year from 1964 to 1970. He led the league in walks four times and, mainly on the strength of that, led the league in OBP both in 1964 and 1966. While he was hitting for power and for high averages, Santo’s patience made him a premium offensive talent.

Compare that to the Banks above, who again was more appreciated during his time. Though he had a longer playing career, Banks drew 763 career free passes, while Santo accumulated 1,108. This is not to take anything away from Mr. Cub, as he rightfully remains one of the franchise’s most decorated players. It’s just to show that he and Santo had different approaches at the plate and that one took longer to appreciate than the other did.

Another way that Santo was ahead of his time is that he struck out more often than Banks did, as today we don’t frown on strikeouts as much as we used to. Again, though he played longer, Banks struck out fewer times (1,236) than Santo did (1,343).

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Viewed in the context of today’s game, we can see that Ron Santo’s career was more impressive than it may have looked right after his playing days were over. Though he’s always been known for his defense, his patience at the plate is something that we haven’t talked about much. Yet, for both reasons, in addition to the traditional stats, we can see that Santo deserves to be recognized as an all-time great.