In the effort to provide Texas-centric content five days a week, you sometimes have to think outside the box. And in this case, we're trying to go out of the park.
Inspired by last night's MLB home run derby, I sent a text message out to some former Texas players, whose careers spanned from 2009 to this past season, asking, "Of all the guys you've played with, who wins a home run derby?"
"Kevin Lusson," one responded. "He always had power."
"I'd say Landon Steinhagen," said another.
"Jonathan Walsh or Lusson," one more said.
So two votes for Lusson, who makes our team of eight. A few rules:
1. Only players in the Augie Garrido (1997-) era qualify. This leaves out some great, great hitters, like Brooks Kieschnick, Charles Bigham (a school-record .771 slugging percentage in 1941) and Scott Bryant, but whole-season records, with each pertinent stat, only go so far back, and compartmentalizing this into 15 years is easier.
2. To qualify, a player has to have slugged better than .600 on the season. This would exclude Lusson, yes, but I'll take a teammates' word over a raw stat, just this once.
3. Slugging percentage, while serving as our watermark, isn't everything. Home runs, home runs per hit and records broken are all taken into consideration.
Also, a high number of strikeouts isn't considered a bad thing on this list. For this practice, we're glorifying the boom-or-bust, swing-from-the-heels whacker who aims for the fences, even if he sometimes whiffs.
4. Small sample size won't hurt anybody, and in some cases will help. You'll see.
One last thing: if we're choosing a team to win a derby, then the 2010 Longhorns are easily the top pick -- they smacked a school-record 81 homers. Those Longhorns also struck out a school-record 482 times. Kevin Keyes' 15 bombs that year are No. 8 in school history, but a lower slugging percentage prevents him from making the list.
On to our All-Augie Home Run Derby Team!
1. Kyle Russell, 2007 -- This isn't hard at all. Russell owns school records for career homers (57) and home runs in a season (28, '07). For good measure, his 19 homers a year later are third-most in Texas history.
As for his slugging percentage: the .807 mark in '07 is the second-highest in school history.
Stats from his best season, '07: 28 homers, .807 slugging percentage, 2.7 home runs for each hit, 64 strikeouts.
2. Brett Loeffler, 1997 -- Loeffler gets the second spot for hitting three home runs in one game and for maintaining a slugging percentage of .710 that is the seventh-highest single-season mark in Texas history.
Noteworthy Stats: 12 homers, .710 slugging percentage, 1 home run for each hit.
3. Jeff Ontiveros, 2002 -- His 20 homers this season are third-most by a Longhorn and he gets props for doing it on the team that won Garrido's first national title at Texas.
Noteworthy Stats: .621 slugging percentage, 20 homers, 3.75 home runs for each hit.
4. Matt Simpson, 1998 -- Simpson's .738 slugging percentage this season won't appear in Texas records, because he didn't have enough at-bats (42) to qualify. But, boy, did he make the most of them.
Noteworthy Stats: .738 slugging percentage, 13 hits, four homers, 13 RBIs (one per hit!!).
5. Mark Cridland, 1998 -- Seventeen home runs to go with a .684 slugging percentage. His sustained success compared to Simpson, his teammate, made this tough.
Noteworthy Stats: .684 slugging percentage, 17 home runs, one home run for 3.88 hits.
6. Dustin Majewski, 2002 -- If we're compiling a list of best hitters in Texas history, I can assure you Majewski is much higher than No. 6. While hitting for a .406 batting average, Majewski smacked 10 homers for a championship team.
Noteworthy Stats: .656 slugging percentage.
7. Todd Clark, 2000 -- This Todd Clark fellow played in one game in '00, and registered just one plate appearance. So you know what's next. Yard.
Sadly, his 4.000 slugging percentage doesn't qualify for any record lists, but there's no way we're leaving a literal one-hit wonder off this list.
Noteworthy Stats: One hit, one homer, one RBI, slugging percentage of 4.000.
8. Kevin Lusson, 2009-12 -- As mentioned, this is a write-in nomination. I was surprised to find Lusson had never slugged higher than .522, which he did in 2010, his best season. There's power in Lusson's bat. Only problem is, he had to hit half his career with a power-sapping, NCAA-mandated one, and saw his playing time cut in half.
Noteworthy stats ('10): .522 slugging percentage, 14 homers, one homer per 3.9 hits.
Who'd I leave off?