|Love him or hate him, Giambi's been ruthlessly victimized by defensive shifts|
Giambi, now a 43 year-old role player for the Cleveland Indians, estimates he's lost 200 hits to shifts over the course of his 20 year career, which is a huge deal. Imagine if all those hits went through for base knocks; what would Giambi's numbers look like then?
If one gives him credit for 200 additional hits, his career batting average soars from .277 to .304 and his OBP jumps from .399 to .422, which would rank 17th all-time and second only to Barry Bonds for players that debuted after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. People today don't think of Giambi as a .300 hitter because he's batted over .260 only once since 2003, but he hit as high as .342 in 2000 and owned a .309 career average after the 2002 season. Surely we'd have a much different impression of him if he had a higher career batting average than Willie Mays and just a smidge below Hank Aaron's.
Even if we assume all those hits would have been singles (and there surely would have been some doubles in there), giving him 200 extra total bases raises his career slugging percentage from .517 to .545, which would rank just outside the top-30. His career OPS would be at least 50 points higher than it is now, and at .966 would rank as the 15th highest mark of all-time. He could very well be one of the select few players to exceed a .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage for his career.
Steroids aside, I think Giambi already has a pretty good Hall of Fame case (more to come on that when he retires). Without the shift, however, he'd be a slam dunk with career slash stats in the same ballpark as Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, and Mickey Mantle. So that's something to think about the next time your favorite player rip a rocket into the hole and heads back to the dugout with nothing to show for it. Shifts aren't just costing him hits: they could be costing him a Hall of Fame plaque as well.