The unsung hero who went down in infamy
Part 1 of a 2-part seriesby Kyle Corbett
Tuesday. April 3rd, 2018. A young boy carries a slab of wood to home plate in Oakland, California. The Athletics are at home, playing host to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Despite being a team mostly filled by veterans, Arizona has a hot new rookie that is really to debut. At around 3:00AM EST, the boy stands in, ready to take his first lick of action in the Majors. His name was Chiggins. Thomas Chiggins.
Most people know Chiggins from his late night rants of muddled thought that plagued the general channel in the MLR Discord for months. Every now and then Chiggins would wake up at around 3-4AM EST, say some controversial and likely offensive things, and go to bed, and then rinse and repeat. It was fascinating really. Nevertheless, eventually his offensiveness finally crossed a line, and he was subsequently banned permanently from the Discord server.
Chiggins has never really been a popular hitter in his career. You can see that here on this chart of individual hitting seasons, using WAR and OPS+ as data points. In the top right you have MVPs such as Rob Patterson and Haywood Jablome. Bottom left is where you'll find the worst hitting seasons of all time, such as Donked McToad's memorable Season 4 where he went 1-for-25 with nothing but a single to his name.
Right around the middle at that green dot is Thomas Chiggins' Season 3 campaign, where he was fairly average. He racked up a 105 OPS+ in 26 PA's, which is okay. Not great, not terrible. In Season 4, Twins GM Isaac Snowbender limited Chiggins to just 12 plate appearances over the course of 7 games, which he turned into 4 hits, including a single, two doubles, and a home run. Chiggins' S3 and S4 were fine. Above-average might be a generous term, but the point is that when you think of great hitters, you don't think of Chiggins.
Why do you not think of Chiggins? There's a plethora of reasons why you don't. But should you? Probably. Here's why. Say hello to Season 2 Thomas Chiggins:
That's right. In Season 2, Chiggins put up an OPS+ of 235, narrowly beating out Season 3 Rob Patterson's powerful OPS+ of 233, which is an individual season seen by most as the best of all time. Nevertheless, this was a time where Chiggins wasn't just good or even great. He might have been the best hitter in history. Let's see why.
To understand the enigma that is Chiggins, we gotta go back to the beginning. The day was March 12th, 2018, when a new signup was alerted to the GM Lounge, and the league went crazy for this newfangled prospect that was Thomas Chiggins. He would later explain that his last name in the game was a reference to former MLB utility man Chone Figgins. Figgins was known for his versatility and athleticism. No matter how good Figgins was, he was definitely the kind of guy any team wanted to keep around. Chiggins, on the other hand, is the anti-Chone Figgins. 3 seasons later, he's barely clinging onto a roster spot.
A few GM's had the pleasure of reaching out and talking directly with Chiggins. However, Diamondbacks GM Doc JaAm would win the lottery, getting to sign the rookie center fielder, as seen below. Before you ask, yes, his profile picture is just a pack of Marlboro cigarettes. And that only scratches the surface of the wide array of contributions Chiggins would offer to this sport.
I asked Doc what the first thing he thought of when I said his name was, and Doc simply responded with "Chaotic. That's the only way to describe him".
I also asked him why he'd want to sign a guy like Chiggins. "I didn't, really," said Doc. "He signed up and was fairly active in the discord to the point that GMs were aware of him, but he went unsigned for a while without any real reason why to my knowledge. So I figured I didn't want to see an active guy go unsigned, and extra players can never be a bad thing. So that's when I talked to him."
Let's get back to Oakland. It's the Top of the 1st. With 2 men on and 1 out, Chiggins laces a single to left field to load the bases. Is that a good first at bat? Yeah, that's a great first at bat! Chiggins just put two runners in scoring position for the next batter, Dominick Vielbaum, who would hit a grand slam to put the Snakes up 4-0 to start the game. However, Chiggins certainly wasn't done. Chiggins would return to the plate to leadoff the 3rd, where he'd lace a double into the gap. Chiggins is now 2-for-2 in his MLR debut. Chiggins would ground out in the 4th inning, before returning in the 6th to lace another double up the 1st base line. Chiggins may not have driven in any runs, but he'd finish the day with 3 hits, including 2 doubles and a single. Very few MLR debuts are as successful as Chiggins', but it was only going to trend upward from here.
The next session was the All-Star Break. While Chiggins' first game was certainly that of an All-Star, one game certainly was not enough to get him voted in. Unfortunately for Chiggins, the voters simply didn't understand what they were missing. Chiggins wouldn't fare great in his next few games, getting on base twice in about six attempts. In Session 13 against the Mariners, GM'ed by yours truly, Chiggins would flex his powers once more as he launched a 425-foot missile for a 2-run home run off of Mariners pitcher Cameron Brate.
Fun fact about Brate: these two earned runs were just 2 of the 37 he would allow that season. His 5.95 ERA over 37.1 IP leaves him with one of the worst seasons in MLR History, as seen here on this graph. Brate is all the way over there on the left.
As you can see, Brate's pWAR was less than -2, only slightly better than fellow west coast S2 pitcher Lim Tincecum, who amassed an ERA over 6 with the Padres that season. So Chiggins hit a home run off of a terrible pitcher. He still can't be that good, can he?
In his next game, the Diamondbacks played host to the Texas Rangers, and this time he was facing off against Superbone Threefinger. Threefinger's Season 2 campaign was, on the surface, relatively average to above-average, as he put up 3.36 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. Those numbers aren't terrible, but they certainly aren't anything worth praising immensely. However, what those numbers don't tell you is that Threefinger did that over the course of 98 and ⅓ innings, an MLR record I don't think anyone will ever come close to. The next closest pitcher to that mark was Season 3 Superbone Threefinger, who threw 66.1 innings. In both of these seasons, Threefinger would go on to win AL Pitcher of the Year.
So here comes Chiggins to face off against a player who is a near-lock for the Hall of Fame. In the Top of the 4th inning with 2 outs, Chiggins does it again, launching a mammoth of a home run to the second deck in right field. The 2-run blast from the rookie extends Arizona's lead to 4 over the Rangers.
The very next session, Chiggins would launch another home run off a Kyle Grimes Jr. fastball, which was good for 2 more RBIs. Two innings later, he'd do it again, slapping a solo shot to left field off of Grimes. At this point, Chiggins has appeared in 5 MLR games and has 4 home runs. That puts him next to names such as Dakota Carolina Montana and Joe Trundle in terms of home-run prowess in short sample sizes. Those two guys will have a spot in the MLR as long as they want one. But Chiggins? He's barely clinging on.
Perhaps the first and only acknowledgement of Chiggins' fantastic Season 2 run was noticed by Hank Murphy in the season's final session. In the Bottom of the 5th with 1 out, in a non do-or-die situation, Murphy decided to intentionally walk Chiggins. It would be his second walk that day. Suddenly, Chiggins, a man known for his oppressive and bigoted Discord messages, can now be compared to Barry Bonds.
Chiggins would finish the year with a slugging percentage of 1.211, the best in the league for players with at least 20 plate appearances. He'd rack up an OPS of 1.711, a wOBA of .686, and an incredible DPA of 198.36. This is easily the best 22-PA stretch of any player in the history of our sport. And yet, somehow, nobody knows about it. Nobody's ever thought about the possibility of Thomas Chiggins potentially, for a moment, being the best hitter in the history of the sport. And yet, those numbers are some of the best all time.
Do you want to know the most jarring thing about Chiggins' Season 2 campaign? He took home a total of 0 awards for his contributions. Sure, he only played half the season, but in those games with Arizona, he certainly outplayed Jimmy Johns. Johns put up a career year in Season 2, slashing a .444/.487/.750 over 39 plate appearances. At the end of the day, despite the superior slashline and power numbers from Chiggins, the voters felt as though Johns' overall body of work was better as they awarded him with the NL Silver Slugger award for center fielders. Even more heinous, the OOTC decided to hand out a "Newcomer of the Year" award for midseason rookies back in Season 2. Chiggins on paper seems like the layup selection, but the voters once again had other thoughts, as the award would go to Johns' teammate Dylan Green. Green also had an incredible start to his pitching career, as he'd only allow 2 earned runs over his 13 and ⅔ innings in Season 2, good for an ERA of 0.88 and a K/6 of 7.46. Those numbers are fantastic, but are they better than a best hitter of all time candidate? Probably not.
Yet, the legend of Chiggins grows crazier. Here's how my conversation with Doc JaAm went down regarding Chiggins' torrid stretch:
KC: "So obviously you firsthand got to experience Chiggins' offensive tear at the end of Season 2. Were you ever expecting Chiggins to hit that well?"
DJ: "I never really expect anybody to hit as well as he did, and I guess I would say his process of deciding what to swing didn't leave me any more optimistic. But it was definitely a happy surprise."
KC: "Wait...what was his process?"
DJ: "Nothing spectacular. As far as I remember it was essentially just a random number that popped to his head."
That's right. The greatest stretch in the history of the sport happened randomly. And it wasn't even using RNG, Chiggins simply picked a number in his head between 1 and 1000 and went with it, and it resulted in some statistics we may never see again. This sport makes zero sense.
Even before his mouth got him in trouble, Chiggins was already being neglected by the entire league. This mark by Chiggins was deemed unworthy of awards consideration ... but why? Perhaps the Fake Baseball gods were merely warning us of the future. Perhaps they were looking down on us, offering us forgiveness for even considering giving this guy any sort of historical attention. Maybe we should be thanking them?
The Diamondbacks would miss the Playoffs in Season 2, having finished with a record of 9-9, meaning that Chiggins would not get a glance at postseason action quite yet. He would return to Arizona for Season 3, preparing to try and do it all again. But that didn't happen.
That's right. The greatest stretch of all time was about to become nothing more than a strange outlier. Chiggins wasn't even about to become a bad player. He was about to be doomed to something far worse, and his social collapse would be perfectly representative of that. Chiggins is about to turn from an unsung hero to complete infamy. Let's find out how.
--TO BE CONTINUED--