We all know Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez is the best ballplayer since The Great Bambino, but exactly how good is he?
Following Grantland’s article earlier this year ranking The Sandlot characters, I scoured the internet only to discover The Sandlot gang’s slashlines are nowhere to be found. In order to correct this glaring error of omission, I watched the film and recorded every at-bat, hit, run, and “back of the baseball card” stat we the viewers see. Obviously, this presents some challenges, so a few notes up front:
- Scotty Smalls tells us early in the film, “When I finally got up enough guts to go out there and try and make friends, I found out that they never kept score, they never chose sides, they never even really stopped playing the game. It just went on forever. Every day they picked up right where they left off the day before. It was like an endless dream game.” For this reason, in the Games Played column, all Sandlot games and activities are tallied as one big, long, continuous game.
- The game against the crosstown Tigers includes a montage of the kids putting balls in play, but only some are demonstrated to fall for hits. The ones that aren’t shown to land are assumed to be outs. If a ball is shown to land, it’s a hit. If it lands and gets passed an outfielder, it’s a double. Anyone shown on base in the game without explanation receives a boost to his OBP but not to his AVG.
- Also, for a stat to apply, the ball needs to be thrown by a pitcher. Benny hitting self-tossed grounders or pop-flies doesn’t impact anyone’s stat line. However, even if there’s no clear “game situation,” so long as the ball starts with a true pitch, the event is counted as in-game.
While I’m excited to finally have a definitive accounting of each kid’s movie stat line, I’ll note that the most at-bats anyone racks up is Benny, with six. In addition to such abbreviated stat lines, I’ve also included an MLB comp to provide each player’s projected line over a full season.
So, without further ado, here are your Sandlot kids’ baseball card stats, ranked from worst to best player:
9) Tommy “Repeat” Timmons
Tommy is clearly the weakest link in the Sandlot Nine. In the single at-bat we see from him, he produces little more than a swinging bunt. It’s also difficult to imagine him producing even average defense in right field.
Player comp: 1983 Ron Roenicke
As a role player-level talent pushed into a starting spot, Tommy shared a lot with Ron Roenicke—including middling numbers with no major weakness in his game, just an overall below average level of play.
8) Bertram Grover Weeks
Bertram doesn’t show much with the bat, but based on his ability to go around the horn, he looks like he’d be pretty good at turning two.
Player comp: 1982 Dale Berra
Like Bertram, Berra’s a middle infielder with a perfectly average offensive stat line, while putting up a positive Total Zone (TZ) of 11. Also like Bertram, he’s only a few years away from a little off-the-field experimentation. Should’ve stuck with the white lines marking foul territory…
7) Timmy Timmons
Timmy actually looks like a decent player, but on a team this stacked, you’ve got to expect better production from first base. His bat doesn’t stand out, and that’s a problem.
Player comp: 1982 Gary Roenicke
Both Timmy and Gary have more to offer a ball team than their respective brothers. Over a full season, Timmy’s numbers would look good, though not stand out on a team of All-Stars.
6) Alan “Yeah Yeah” McClennan
Yeah Yeah lands a hit in his one onscreen at-bat, but more impressively, covers the entire left side of the infield with Benny at the plate. That kind of defensive prowess pushes him a little further up the rankings.
Player comp: 1979 Buddy Bell
Gold glover Buddy Bell played a solid third base while posting a 110 OPS+, something you could imagine Yeah Yeah doing over a full season. In addition, Bell’s ability to play games at shortstop reflects Yeah Yeah’s ability to cover the ground between third and second. Based on Yeah Yeah’s defensive alignment, however, you’d think Bells’ 1979 Rangers could’ve gotten away with a few more defensive shifts.
5) Scotty Smalls
Smalls comes a long way from his initial flubbed fly ball (the only error any Sandlot kid makes in the movie), and is one of only three players to pound a home run onscreen. In his rookie campaign, Smalls shows a lot of promise.
Player comp: 1967 Rick Monday
Monday’s first year in the bigs showed a capable ballplayer with some power. That began a career that would include multiple All-Star Game appearances before giving way to a position as a well-regarded play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He just might be Scotty Smalls incarnate.
4) Michael “Squints” Palledorous
Perhaps a little stretched in centerfield, Squints nonetheless plays an up-the-middle position, increasing his value. He also raps a double in his lone at-bat against the crosstown Tigers, suggesting that even though he’s on the small side, Squints can swing the bat.
Player comp: 2007 Nick Swisher
In 2007, Swisher showed good pop while starting a plurality of his games in center. It’s not hard to imagine Swisher calling a teammate an “L7 weenie,” even if overall, both he and Squints are good clubhouse guys. Plus, Swisher’s wife is decidedly Peffercorn-esque.
3) Kenny DeNunez
We know Kenny made it to AAA ball, so it would be difficult not to rank him near the top of the Sandlot Nine. He puts up two Ks in his shutout of the crosstown Tigers, but also struggles with giving up the long ball when facing his own teammates. As a hitter, DeNunez actually performs quite well, knocking a double the one time he comes to the plate.
In evaluating DeNunez, Innings Pitched is quite difficult to determine. Because we never see three outs occur on the same visit to the sandlot, I treat each visit as one inning. The game against the crosstown Tigers is worth 9 innings of work. I’ve also tracked Batters Faced to provide a more quantifiable measure.
For DeNunez’s won-loss record, he receives a no decision for the sandlot game, because it’s still going on.
Player comp: 1966 Juan Marichal
Marichal as pitcher:
Marichal as hitter:
Marichal shows the same easy delivery as Kenny, and both managed an impressive winning percentage. Too, both held their own with the stick. In 1966, Marichal put up an eye-catching 2.23 ERA… while serving up 32 home runs. He’s a full season of DeNunez if I ever saw one.
2) Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez
The Jet at #2! Who saw that coming? It turns out that despite tossing himself what’s clearly The Most Clutch Hit of All-Time and placing the ball squarely in Smalls’s glove, Benny’s not perfect at the plate. He takes a pitch to left field that’s definitely an error on Smalls’s part (prior to the Clutch Hit), and later when he busts the guts out of the ball, Smalls catches the string ball left behind for an out. (It appears fly balls to left field are his kryptonite.)
Nevertheless, Benny hits a grand slam in the crosstown game, and an inside-the-park home run on the Fourth of July when his fielders lose interest, in true Kurt Suzuki fashion:
. And twice, we see him bust out a triple-into-a-rundown that he escapes to score. Without naming names, I’ll say I consulted with an official MLB scorer, who suggested the Benny Trademark Hotbox Run is best ruled a home run.
Benny plays all around the diamond, filling in for his teammates when it’s their turn to bat, and actually appears in four games—two more than his Sandlot counterparts—because the film starts with him playing a schoolyard game, and ends with the Jet subbed in as a pinch runner in the clutch situation of the season…
Player comp: 1998 Alex Rodriguez
Shockingly, a full season of Benny, surely one of the most beloved baseball movie characters of all-time, best matches the numbers of A-Rod, the most loathed player in the major leagues today. But there’s no denying it: Benny and A-Rod both put up a strong batting average, have the kind of speed that results in plenty of stolen bases, doubles, and triples, and swing a mean bat that’s always a threat at the plate.
But if the Jet’s not the best player in the sandlot, who could it be?
1) Hamilton “Ham” Porter
That’s right, Ham Porter turns out to be the best ballplayer on the team! We see him go two for two with two home runs, making him the true Kid Who Only Hit Homers—and that’s as a catcher. Turns out, the Great Hambino could’ve made his career in the MLB instead of the WWE.
Player comp: 1998 Mark McGwire
Imagine Mark McGwire in his prime, but offering his kind of production as a catcher. Take a .299 average, mix in a whopping 70 home runs, 162 walks, and 155 strikeouts for the Three True Outcomes-iest of Three True Outcomes players, then add a dash of Ham Porter’s mouth. You’ve found yourself a Hall of Fame talent with a reputation to rival the Sultan of Swat himself.