Inside a baseball clubhouse, players are flooded with all manner of statistics and information. There are color-coded heat maps, detailed scouting reports that sync of with video, three-ring binders full of intelligence. Yet earlier this week, one factoid in particular elicited a simple response from second baseman Whit Merrifield.
“Cool,” he said.
The milestone, if you would call it that, was relayed by Mike Swanson, the Royals’ vice president of communications. It put Merrifield in rare company in baseball history. In the first 162 games of his career, the utility man turned primary second baseman had recorded at least 175 hits, 80 runs, 40 doubles and 20 steals. In the history of baseball, just six other players had accomplished that feat.
“Really cool,” Merrifield said. “It’s really cool to be part of anything like that.”
The numbers were originally dug up by Dave Holtzman, an associate producer for Fox Sports Kansas City. By Friday afternoon at Fenway Park, they had filtered to the office of manager Ned Yost, who jokingly asked a pair of reporters if they had missed it.
Two of the other six players on the list were in Boston — the Red Sox’s Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez. One was the late Vada Pinson, an All-Star. The other three players — Kiddo Davis, Roy Johnson and Kiki Cuyler, a Hall of Fame outfielder — played in the 1920s and 30s.
For Merrifield, the achievement marked the latest sign of a spectacular rise from the minor leagues last season to a spot atop the Royals’ lineup. In 2017, he is batting .295 with a .335 on-base percentage, 11 homers and 23 doubles in 87 games. On Saturday, he matched his career high with four hits before going hitless in a loss on Monday.
In July, he hit .342 with five homers and a .987 OPS. Among major-league second baseman, he ranks sixth in wins above replacement, according to the FanGraphs’ version of the stat.
“With his versatility, there’s a lot of things he can do,” Yost said. “He can steal a base, he can bunt, he can swing the bat, he hits the ball to all fields. He gives you a good at-bat.”