The amazing-ness of Ben Zobrist’s 2009 season has been talked about many times on this site. While he didn’t set any club records or did he lead the league in any individual category, but Zobrist did do something that only two players in the illustrious history of the Tampa Bay Rays had ever done before him; End the season with an on base percentage of over .400* (.405 to be exact).
*min. 300 ABs
The Rays' first .400+ OBP season came at the hands, and eyes, of Fred McGriff in the team's second year of existence. The Crime Dog would strike out just 107 times while drawing 86 walks in 620 plate appearances. He also hit .310 with 32HR and 104 RBI. We've seen some very good seasons the past couple of years, but McGriff's 1999 season still ranks as one of the best in team history.
It would be eight seasons before another player would reach the .400 OBP mark. That man would be Carlos Pena. The 2007 season was nearly as big of a surprise for Pena as the 2009 season was for Zobrist. Pena had at least shown flashes of what he was capable of, while Zobrist had not. He would take the American League by storm by posting a slash line of .282/.411/.627. The .411 OBP stands as the club record, and unless Zobrist can duplicate his 2009 season or B.J. Upton gets back to his walking ways I don't see Pena's record falling any time soon. However, a .405 OBP is nothing to be ashamed of.
Had I polled everyone here back in April on who they thought would lead the Rays in OBP this season I’m guessing the responses would have been some mixture of B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, and maybe even some dark horse candidate votes for Carl Crawford. How many of you would have said Ben Zobrist? If you’re hand is raised then you may be the biggest liar the world has ever seen. It will be extremely difficult for Zobrist to duplicate his 2009 success, but if he keeps his O-Swing% around where it finished this season (19.3%) he should be able to maintain an OBP in the .380 range.
One last thing on Zobrist. It’s been written about here and in other places, but seriously, how amazing is it that Zobrist lead the majors in WAR? Ben freaking Zobrist? I mean, a tall, lanky, former shortstop turned super utility man with virtually no track record of offensive success, be it minors or majors, magically morphs into the most valuable player in the game for one season? Really? It would be like J.J. Redick suddenly becoming the most valuable player in the NBA next season. It’s almost crazy enough to make me want to build a time machine, go into the future, steal the Sports Almanac from Biff Tannen, find a bookie who takes bets on WAR, and put my life savings down on Ben Zobrist. Almost.