Yes, I know the word “clue” begins with a C. That's called literary license; it is also called alliteration, beginning rhyme, head rhyme, or initial rhyme, to save you from having to scurry for your dictionary or grade-school English textbooks. But since you're here to read about baseball, not get an English lesson, let's talk about Jeff Keppinger, shall we?
With Keppinger hitting .354 and carrying a .302 lifetime major league average according to his page on Baseball Reference as I post this, it occurred to me to compare his early stats to those of another player, now retired, who was also considered primarily a slap hitter, just for what I'll call “grins and giggles” in case there are kids reading this. I'll call this now-retired player Player X.
Keppinger made it to the majors as a rookie in 2004 with the Mets, and since the Mets already had Matsui and Reyes in the middle infield, Wright at third, and guys like Wigginton, Garcia, and McEwing in the infield mix as well, Keppinger got buried, then traded to the Royals.
Kansas City had Grudzielanek, Graffanino, and Berroa in the middle and former first-rounder (by Oakland) Mark Teahen at third. Besides, they're the Royals, the guys who took LaRue off our hands for us, and gave us Keppinger for Russ Haltiwanger, who's now 23 and still pitching in Class-A ball (but at least he has one of baseball's most comical names this side of Dick Pole, eh?).
That's after they sent Ruben Gotay to the Mets to get Keppinger in the first place. Gotay's currently hitting .343 for New York. Anybody still wonder why the Royals have the third-worst winning percentage in the AL? No? Good! Now let's get back to Keppinger again.
Finally he comes to Cinci for his third major league season, ends up with a chance to play because some of the guys ahead of him got hurt (Lopez, Castro, Gil) or were on the bereavement list (Gonzalez), and has made the most of it so far.
So now let's compare Keppinger's early career numbers to those of Player X. Here are their respective BA/OBP/SLG for their first three years as major leaguers:
Player X's rookie year: .298/.337/.389
Keppinger's rookie year: .284/.317/.379
Player X's second year: .309/.355/.372
Keppinger's second year: .267/.323/.400
Player X's third year: .351/.410/.444
Keppinger's (So far): .354/.407/.532
As you can see, Keppinger's major league numbers so far are somewhat comparable to those of Player X.
“So what,” you ask?
Well, you see, Player X was a guy who stuck around for a few more years after that, and did fairly well. So well, in fact, that a couple of weeks ago he was summoned to Cooperstown, NY where, in front of the largest crowd in the history of the institution, he was summarily inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Player X was Tony Gwynn.
Now, don't get me wrong here, I am by no means am I pushing Jeff Keppinger as a future HOFer. Maybe if he keeps hitting like this for the next 15 years, I will start, especially if by some miracle he is still in a Reds' uniform then. But right now, it's safe to say that Jeff Keppinger sure as shootin' doesn't look at all out of place in the major leagues…and that the Reds might want to hang onto this guy, just in case!