JAL Greats and Their MLB Equivalents
None of these are perfect, but hopefully all are fun to ponder! Enjoy...
Aaron Adams: Willie Mays
Arguably baseball's most well rounded player, Willie Mays molded sensational acrobatic fielding with superb batting. Mays was also a diverse hitter, able to battle out of tough pitches with contact singles and a threat to go deep on any given at-bat. Aaron Adams does all these things in JAL, which is why he's considered one the funnest players to watch. Adams is the only player in the modern pitching era (JAL 9-present) that's won both a Batting and Fielding Crown.
Josh Burckhardt: Mickey Mantle
Both Josh Burckhardt and Mickey Mantle are often regarded as having the best combination of hitting for average and power in their respective leagues. One of Mantle's most impressive career stats is also his extremely low strikeout percentage, something Burckhardt shares a reputation for. During the 1950s and early 60s Mantle also enjoyed the luxury of some all-time great Yankee teammates such as Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra. Burckhardt has similarly played alongside Hall of Famers Kyle Godinho, Marcus Deyo and Trevor Goforth during his career.
Brannan Meriwether: Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens was one of the most intimidating pitchers in baseball history and probably the most dominate in the last 30 years or so (recent times). Meriwether is no different from a statistical and awards perspective (Clemens 7 Cy Young's, Meriwether 2 Pitching Crowns and 2 MVP's in just 4 career seasons thus far). Clemens and Meriwether also have pretty similar pitching styles as both possess lethal fastballs and a hard-breaking slider as their go-to throws.
Kyle Godinho: Cy Young
Kyle Godinho's name is synonymous with JAL pitching excellence much the same way as Cy Young's in baseball. Young's career in the 1890's and early 1900s is often viewed as a bridge from baseball's earliest days to a more recognizable era because he played a huge role in revolutionizing the ability to dominate from the mound. Though Godinho's career began a little further on in league history (JAL 12), he nonetheless did pretty much the same thing. Godinho was the JAL's first truly dominate pitcher, who's presence essentially forced other teams into a competitive arms race — ultimately elevating league-wide pitching talent to vastly new heights within just a few seasons. If the Pitching Crown ever adopted an honorary name it would likely be the Kyle Godinho Pitching Crown.
Erik Titus: Ted Williams
Ted Williams was one of, if not the, purest hitters in baseball history and — like Erik Titus — had a beautiful left-handed swing. Williams played through the 1940-50s, but is recognized as a batter who'd likely have little trouble playing in today's evolved style of faster pitching and home run hitting baseball thanks to his mechanics and tall, lengthy athletic build. Similarly, Erik has been an all-star level batter ever since his beginnings in JAL 15, seamlessly adapting to changes in the game and building a resume that earned him a Batting Crown last season.
Trevor Goforth: Sandy Koufax
Trevor Goforth is considered the JAL's greatest player of all time, yet Sandy Koufax is NOT the greatest baseball player of all time, so let's acknowledge that before diving in.. However, they share many things in common. First, both were devastating lefties that really only threw two pitches: fastball and curveball (Koufax), cutter/slider (Goforth). Neither of them had particularly long careers with Koufax retiring at just age 30 (arm pains) and Goforth moving to a new area of the county after just 5 seasons. Both of them racked up bundles of pitching awards and won lots of games. Koufax also helped raise the newly relocated "Los Angeles" Dodgers of the 1950-60s to widespread fame with four championships, much how Goforth played the starring role in brining the lowly underdogs to glory with four championships of their own.
Colton Titus: Babe Ruth
Admittedly, this comparison is the biggest stretch of them all, but just hear me out... Colton Titus is undisputedly the best two-way (batter/pitcher) player in JAL history, just as The Babe is in baseball. Ruth rose to stardom as a great pitcher and really good batter, and over time that shifted in the opposite direction. Colton also broke into the league winning back-to-back Pitching Crowns, but today only starts about half the time and tends to be a much more destructive weapon with the bat. Lastly, Babe Ruth changed baseball in the 1920s with the sheer power and natural talent he brought to the game, which was so much more evident than his surrounding competition. From the beginning with Colton, his raw talent is unmistakable and imposing. It's impossible NOT to notice the ease with which he can flame a fastball or screwball while pitching or blast a moon-shot home run. Colton's not The Babe of JAL, but he's the closest to it anyone's ever come.
Evan Bates: Randy Johnson
Randy Johnson brought 100-MPH heat and dared batters to catch up to it. Bates (when healthy) takes the same approach to the circle. These two pitchers are also similar in that early-on in their careers they struggled with command of the zone and could be pretty erratic, but once they got comfortable and mechanics fine-tuned, became strikeout machines. Bates also has some of the best facial expressions while delivering the ball, like Randy Johnson.
Jeter Larson: Pedro Martinez
Neither Jeter nor Martinez had great longevity as pitchers at the top of their league's, but both had short stretches of incredible dominance that earns them all-time great recognition. For Martinez, that was 1999-2000 when he posted a 1.90 ERA and 597 strikeouts in 430 innings. Jeter was equally magical from JAL 16-18. The flare and confidence with which they both pitched also adds a lot to their respective legacies.
Connor Vermilyea: Mark McGuire
Vermilyea steps into every plate appearance with seemingly one goal on his mind — to crush a bomb. McGuire was basically the same in his day. Both have great body frames to be powerful hitters and that was/has always been their role in the lineup. Also, McGuire was a notorious steroid user and Vermilyea is most-certainly a juicer too.
Brock Johnson: Ty Cobb
Ty Cobb was kinda the first superstar baseball player, starting way back in 1900-teens, amassing countless standard-setting records and statistics. Baseball was much more hit-and-run oriented in Cobb's time and he was the master of it. Brock similarly racked up multiple championships and awards in the JAL's so-called "founding seasons" (JAL 1-8). Over time both players have been passed up by new great players. In today's game Brock is a "good" player, but no longer a dominate figure because the competitive landscape is so much more talented. Cobb would probably be the same if he were resurrected onto an MLB field tomorrow, 100 years past his time.
Ty Johnson: Jackie Robinson
Forget everything about Robinson's role and legacy pioneering integration of the major leagues because that has nothing synonymous with Ty whatsoever. But Jackie as a baseball player and Ty as a JAL player can be seen in comparable terms. Both players were multi all-stars, good all-around hitters and especially known for making plays out of thin air with hustle and athleticism, stealing bases and in the field.
Matthew Morton: Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan had a very long and successful 27-year career and managed to keep his fastball around 100-MPH into his 40s. Matthew Morton is one the most experienced JAL players today and one of the only pitchers who began in JAL 15 or earlier still considered a quality ace — and he's still capbale of throwing heat. Nolan also had a wicked curveball, similar to the way Morton picks mixes in his hard-slider. Nolan never threw a perfect game and only won 20 games in a season twice. He also never captured a Cy Young award. Matthew Morton is quite a bit more individually decorated (in JAL terms) than Ryan was, yet Morton's reputation has never been one of "dominance." Sure Morton has a couple MVP's, but those had more to do with carrying his old Lynx teams to success despite having no all-star teammates. Matthew rarely wows people, but his longevity of success parallels Ryan.
Marcus Deyo: Yogi Berra
Each short of stature, they are nevertheless power hitters and quality multi-positional players defensively. In Berra's case, he was primarily a catcher but also sometimes played the outfield. Deyo is primarily a fielder (all-star fielder last season), but has also regularly been a solid backup pitcher (twice an ace) throughout his career. Both Berra and Deyo are very accomplished with individual awards and championships. Berra was a key component of the Yankees 1950s dynasty similar to Deyo's role during the Express dynasty.
Jordan Halverson: Christy Mathewson
Christy Matthewson pitched from 1900-16 during a powerless era of baseball, that said, he was a workhorse in his day pitching at least 266 innings in 14 seasons and posting an ERA under 2.00 several times. Jordan Halverson's career began in JAL 9, the first season in which the league adopted fast-pitch defense. Halverson was the best and most consistent arm for a solid 3-season stretch and was still ace material for a few more seasons after that. But once the league grew larger and more talented Halverson faded out of stardom, much how it's doubtful Mathewson could be a star in today's professional baseball. Both players were great products of their time who helped grow their games into something much larger and should always be remembered and celebrated by their leagues.