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“Compiler”: Not a Dirty Word

sad-sam-jonesWords have impact. That’s why we choose particular ones, right? Some are so offensive that we just term them “the ___ word”. And some are meant to connote a particular message without actually saying it. The word “compiler” in baseball parlance is used derisively to describe players who played for many years, suggesting the main reason, or the only reason, they look as good as they do is that they hung on for a long time.

But that’s not the case. Compilers, generally, don’t just hang around. They’re considered important enough by teams to keep getting work. I want to pay homage to this group of players, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do today and each of the next six Mondays.

I hope to reclaim the word. Compilers are now players who are so good that they can perform at an impressive level for years and years. Alternatively, they’re guys who are so well thought of by baseball higher ups that they consistently get work.

In some ways, perhaps, we can compare baseball players to runners. Al Rosen is like a sprinter, a guy with one great season but who couldn’t sustain that for a much longer distance. Maybe Dwight Gooden is a bit of a sprinter too. Think of Nomar Garciaparra or even Sandy Koufax like two different levels of middle distance runners, guys who could go for a while but may break down without at 5,000 or 10,000 meters. Marathoners are clearly guys like Willie Mays and Cap Anson, but they’re also like Lou Whitaker, Jim O’Rourke, and Norm Cash, those who can sustain a certain level of performance for a long, long time. It can be said that sprinters, middle distance runners, and marathoners are great. But some baseball marathoners don’t get the credit they deserve. That’s why I’m going to praise them over this seven-part series.

During this exercise, I’m going to count down the best 60 compilers in the game’s history, six today and then nine at a time for the next six installments. Here’s the criteria:

  • They must have had at least one 5 WAR season with my adjustments. If they don’t have even one season where they played like an All-Star, they’re just not good enough to make our list.
  • They cannot have had a season with an adjusted WAR of 8 or more. That’s because we’re not interested in guys with too high a peak.
  • For the same reason, they also cannot have a prime where they averaged 6 WAR per season. For that reason anyone with 42+ adjusted WAR for their best seven seasons is eliminated.
  • They must have had at least 15 seasons posting at least a single WAR. If not, they haven’t been good enough for long enough.
  • And they must be retired. We don’t want to take the chance that a current player knocks himself off the list with a late-career surge.

So without further ado, here are the proud compilers, #60-#55.

Gary Gaetti, #60

Seasons: 20
5 WAR seasons: 1
1 WAR seasons: 16
Best year: In 1986 Gaetti put up 5.95 WAR. He hit 34 homers, drove in 108, and played some outstanding defense.
Commentary: A pair of All-Star games go with four Gold Gloves and three 30-homer seasons for the guy I call the 48th best 3B ever. I think of him as a Twin. I think we all do. But he had as many campaigns outside of Minnesota as in it.

Charlie Hough, #59

Seasons: 25
5 WAR seasons: 1
1 WAR seasons: 15
Best year: In his 16th big league campaign, Hough put up 6.32 WAR while going 14-16 for the Texas Rangers.
Commentary: I rank him as the 200th best pitcher ever. He has no meaningful Black Ink and only one All-Star honor. Kind of amazingly, the knuckleballer had seven seasons where I give him negative WAR to go with fifteen years of 1+.

Sad Sam Jones, #58

Seasons: 22
5 WAR seasons: 2
1 WAR seasons: 16
Best year: In 1921, his final campaign with the Red Sox, Jones posted 7.28 WAR while going 23-16 and leading the game with five shutouts.
Commentary: In addition to the 1921 season, Jones also had seasons where he led the league in winning percentage and saves. He finished his career 229-217 and is the 185th best pitcher ever by my count.

Lou Brock, #57

Seasons: 19
5 WAR seasons: 3
1 WAR seasons: 15
Best year: In 1964, the year Brock was shipped from the Cubs to the Cards in the infamous Ernie Broglio trade, he posted 6.40 WAR though he led the league in caught stealing for the first of seven times in his career.
Commentary: Followers of the HoME know that I really dislike Brock’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Yes, he got on base at a decent clip, and he stole a bunch of bases, but he was a wretched defender. I rank him 38th all-time among left fielders. The eight stolen base titles, the two runs titles, and the doubles and triples titles in 1968 don’t make a Hall of Famer, nor do the six All-Star games or 3023 hits.

Brian Downing, #56

Seasons: 20
5 WAR seasons: 2
1 WAR seasons: 18
Best year: In 1979 Downing played in his only All-Star Game, posted a triple slash line of .326/.418/.462, and compiled 6.11 WAR.
Commentary: Downing scored and drove in over 1000 runs in a career that saw him post an impressive 122 OPS+. For me, he’s sandwiched between Hall of Famers Lou Brock and Jim Rice in left field. I’m not sure why he retired when he did. He didn’t put up less than 2 WAR in any of his last nine seasons.

Dick Bartell, #55

Seasons: 18
5 WAR seasons: 2
1 WAR seasons: 15
Best year: The second and final time Bartell was an All-Star was his best campaign at 7.70 WAR.
Commentary: Bartell’s peak was highlighted by strong defense. His bat was a plus at the position, but it’s nothing special. Still, if you’re a big Hall type, he wouldn’t be the worst choice since he ranks #30 in history among shortstops. As a means of comparison, he’s Troy Tulowitzki if Tulo put up a 2.5 win season and hung ‘em up.

Next Monday it’s #54 down to #46 on the compiler list.




2 thoughts on ““Compiler”: Not a Dirty Word

  1. Interesting idea. Good luck with it. I agree that “compiler” has become a dirty word. It shouldn’t be.

    Posted by verdun2 | January 30, 2017, 8:32 am

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