Several years ago, I suggested we start a campaign for Bobby Grich. Today, in the spirit of previous posts on Ted Simmons and Keith Hernandez, we continue that campaign. As readers of this series know, the Hall way underrepresents hitters from the 1970s and 1980s. Voters didn’t appreciate the low scoring era. Nor did they correctly appreciate how expansion in the game should have expanded the number of players per season in the Hall.
Who He Is
Bobby Grich was an outstanding defensive second baseman who also sprinkled in games at other infield positions. He began his career at age-21 with the 1972 Orioles, but it wasn’t until 1972 that he became a regular, and in 1973 he displaced Davey Johnson at second base. From there, he was able to work with Mark Belanger and Brooks Robinson for a couple of years in what may have been the best defensive infield ever. His best years were absolutely in Baltimore, but the O’s still let him go to California as a free agent after the 1976 season. As an Angel, Grich began to display more power as he enjoyed a nice, slow decline, retiring from the game after the 1986 season.
Why He’s Not In
It’s possible that Grich is the biggest crime among 1970s position players. In Baltimore, he was overshadowed by Brooks Robinson. In California, it was Rod Carew. At second base, it was Joe Morgan. And the guy’s skills are exactly the skills voters have tended to overlook. He played great defense, he got on base a ton despite a mediocre batting average. He only twice reached 20 homers, only twice topped 70 runs batted in, and has almost no black Ink. There was just nothing very pretty.
How He Fared
Grich made just one BBWAA ballot. In 1992 Tom Seaver got in, undeserving Rollie Fingers, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Perez, and Bill Mazeroski were in the next four positions. And Grich received less than half the support of Rusty Staub, George Foster, or Vida Blue.
There are 99 second basemen ever with positive offensive WAR, positive defensive WAR, and 5000 plate appearances. If we look for players with just ten offensive and defensive WAR, we’re down to 25 players. And if we move to 15 of each WAR, it’s just 13 retired guys. Finally, if we eliminate those with an OPS+ below 100, we’re down to just seven (one of whom, by the way, is Lou Whitaker). Grich is first among that group in OPS+. In terms of all-time WAR among 2B, Grich is 8th.
Hall of Famers
It’s no surprise that he’s a better player than Bill Mazeroski, Nellie Fox, or Red Schoendienst. They’re not even close, and they very clearly don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. But Grich is also far better than Tony Lazzeri, Johnny Evers, Bobby Doerr, Billy Herman, and Bid McPhee too. I would argue that he was better than Craig Biggio and Joe Gordon. And the discussion is on with Roberto Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, Frankie Frisch, Charlie Gehringer, and Jackie Robinson. That’s right, he’s in league with Rhyno and Jackie. And he’s not in the Hall. Criminal.
Who to Dump
Red Schoendienst. I actually picked Schoendienst because he had the best offensive situation of the three guys I was considering (Maz and Fox). His AIR number was 104 compared to 93 for Grich. In other words, he played in a much easier offensive climate. I chose him because even in his far easier environment, he was clearly a worse hitter. Oh, and a worse fielder.
Grich Red =========================== PAs 8220 9224 Hits 1883 2449 Runs 1033 1223 Home Runs 224 84 RBI 864 773 BA .266 .289 OBP .371 .337 SLG .424 .387 OPS+ 125 94 While Red easily wins in BA, OBP and SLG show Grich helped his teams win more. While other numbers are close, it's the offensive context that makes for significant OPS+ separation. ========================================================== Rfield 81 78 DRA 140.6 54.2 The first is the defensive number at BBREF. The second is defensive regression analysis. I trust the second more. Either way, and in DRA, Grich adds to his significant offensive edge. ===================================================================== Actual WAR 70.9 42.3 (C'mon!) My Conversion 77.7 42.5 MAPES 2B Rank 7 35 MAPES is my personal ranking system.
Bobby Grich is a Hall of Famer. He’s eight among second basemen in career WAR. All but three of the top-16 at the position are in the Hall. And the thing those three have in common? You guessed it. They played in the 1970 and 1980s. Grich isn’t close to Red Schoendienst; he was a stud, Red a fine player. But voters misinterpret offensive level in different eras, defensive value in general, and hitters from at least two decades of history.
Next week check out how Buddy Bell has been short changed.