Jake Stenzel Essentials

Positions:
Bats: R Throws: R
70 Weight: 168
Born: 6 24, 1867 in Cincinnati, OH USA
Died: 1 6 1919 in Cincinnati, OH USA
Debut: 1890-06-16
Last Game: 1899-07-23
Full Name: Jacob Charles Stenzel

 

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Neil Young famously wrote, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” Pirates center fielder Jake Stenzel—a .338 hitter over nine MLB seasons—would’ve likely scoffed at the promise of enduring fame implied in the elegiac lyric. Historian David Nemec later wrote of the shooting star: “Less is known about Stenzel than any other great hitter of the 1890s, and no explanation . . . has ever been put forward for his sudden decline from stardom.” The potency of Stenzel’s bat, however, is no mystery. Over his first four full seasons (1894-97), he slashed .359/.425/.520 while averaging 37 doubles, 14 triples, 104 RBI, 120 runs, and 60 SBs per year. Between 1893 and 1899, Stenzel ranked among MLB’s top-20 in doubles (3rd), SLG% (4th), SBs (7th), AVG (8th), OBP (11th), RBI (16th), triples (19th), and HRs (19th). His career .338 AVG and .408 OBP stand, respectively, as the 21st and 39th highest totals in MLB history.

A Cincinnati native, Stenzel’s pro career began in the Ohio State League in 1887; the rookie hit .387 over 41 games. Following a cup of coffee with the 1890 Chicago Colts (NL), Stenzel joined the Pirates in 1892. In 1893, the 5-foot-10-inch, 165-pound phenom hit .362/.423/.509 over 60 games. Stenzel was unstoppable in 1894, slashing .352/.440/.577 with 39 doubles, 20 triples, 13 HRs, 121 RBI, 150 runs, and 61 SBs (he drew 76 walks while fanning only 13 times). In 1895, the 28-year-old posted a career-best .371 AVG while amassing 58 XBHs. He appeared in only 114 games in 1896, finishing with a .361 AVG and 82 RBI. Stenzel—a below-average defender with a good arm—was traded, with a defensive upgrade in mind, for Orioles center fielder Steve Brodie in 1897.

With Baltimore, Stenzel hit .353 with 116 RBI, 69 SBs, and an NL-best 43 doubles in 1897. As a testament to the Orioles’ greatness (and the conducive hitting environment of the 1890s) consider that four teammates—Willie Keeler (.424), Joe Kelley (.362), Hughie Jennings (.355), and Jack Doyle (.354)—posted higher averages than Stenzel in 1897. After a slow start in 1898, Stenzel was dealt to the Browns, finishing the year with a subpar .275 AVG. The 32-year-old, with his excellent track record, seemed likely to bounce back in 1899. On July 23, Stenzel, now with the Reds, was hitting .280 and steadily improving, having posted a .310 AVG and .412 OBP over his last nine games, when he was unexpectedly released, never to play in the majors again.
◾Source: Nemec, David, and Pete Palmer. “1001 Fascinating Baseball Facts.”