For me, this week’s entry is a pretty interesting one. You’ll see a bunch of HoMErs top the charts, with a couple of near-HoMErs mixed in. There are also four other Hall of Famers, one of whom has a decent case with just a little twisting of MAPES or CHEWS. Then there’s a guy like Jesse Barfield. Curious.
I was young enough when Barfield’s career finished that my understanding of the game was still in the batting average sphere. I thought career totals and Black Ink were cool (still do, by the way). And I didn’t really appreciate defense, though like everyone else, I loved Barfield’s arm. I think I understand more today. Yet, when I look at Barfield’s BBREF page, I remain unimpressed. We’re looking at only nine seasons of over 84 games. Nine! Only twice did his OPS+ reach 140, and only two other times did it reach 120. Oh, but the defense. In the game’s history, there are only 36 guys who spent at least 75% of their careers at a corner outfield position who totaled 50 Rfield. Only 17 of those guys top 75. When we make it 100, it’s just seven guys. Barfield’s number is 161.4. He’s bested only be Roberto Clemente and Barry Bonds. That defense has tremendous value.
DRA, as you may know, loves the old time guys. Still, Barfield is seventh on a similar list by that measure. And among guys over the last century, he trails only Roy White and Clemente in DRA. It’s his defense that gets a guy nobody ever thought much of into the top-40 ever in right field.
For the top-40 at other positions, please see the links below.
[MAPES+], [CHEWS+], [1B, 1-20], [1B, 21-40], [2B, 1-20], [2B, 21-40], [3B, 1-20], [3B, 21-40], [SS, 1-20], [SS, 21-40], [C, 1-20], [C, 21-40], [LF, 1-20], [LF, 21-40], [CF, 1-20], [CF, 21-40], [RF, 1-20]
Right Field – 21-40
Where do we project the active player(s) to finish in our rankings?
I must confess not knowing where Jose Bautista was when the season began. When I learned he wasn’t signed for a while, I was a bit surprised. Then the shockers came. He signed with the Braves. And they signed him to play third base!?! Anyway, I’m sure you know that the Brave experiment ended just a dozen games after it began. And now the Mets are giving him a shot! Hell, at this point even he’s better than David Wright. If the Mets take too much more time than the Braves to catch on, he’s going to fall behind Parker and Barfield. I suspect they won’t let it go on so long. Of course, I didn’t think they would sign him in the first place…—Miller
I’ve always like Bautista. He’s sort of the Hank Sauer of our time. I wish him well in his bid to get more MLB playing time.—Eric
Where do our rankings diverge the most from the conventional wisdom?
It seems we’re two of the only folks who think Vlad Guerrero rests comfortably on the borderline. I don’t suppose those who use conventional wisdom think a lot about Chuck Klein. If they do, I’d suspect they like him more than we do, what with all the Black Ink in the live ball 1930s. I think this list is pretty much what you’d expect. And Barfield.—Miller
I love me some Jesse Barfield. I wish like crazy that he hadn’t hurt his wrist. It sapped his power and turned him into a shell of himself. An outstanding player with the most amazing arm ever.
But as to the question at hand, I have three answers: Sam Thompson, Reggie Smith, and Dave Parker. Most folks would look at Sam Thompson, Hall of Famer, with his .400 season, his .331 lifetime average, 147 OPS+, two home-run titles, three RBI titles, and three 200 hit seasons and wonder what we’re not seeing. The Hall of Merit also elected him. But my cat Bogey could probably have hit .400 in 1894. Thompson hit .415 and didn’t win the batting title. He got a late start, his career was short on the back end too, and that’s that.
Now Reggie Smith goes in the other direction. He’s a SABR darling, but his lifetime totals don’t scream all-time great. The only pretty impressive one is his 137 OPS+. He had the same troubles staying in the lineup that Larry Walker had, too. But Smith’s performance came from center field for half his career, and up-the-middle players who hit like first basemen aren’t easy to find. He provided a huge boost to his teams that way (until he moved permanently to right field, of course), and that’s a buried lead in the baseball world.
Lastly, Dave Parker. I feel badly for Parker. No one wants to become a cokehead. But doing so pretty much killed his career. After he got off the powder, he only had one more good season (1985). Yet, he kept getting 10–25% of the vote from the BBWAA, and he’s popped up on Veterans’ committee ballots. So we have a very strong divergence of opinion from body of baseball people out there. Who? I don’t know, but they ain’t like us.—Eric
Where do we disagree with one another the most?
Probably Enos Slaughter. Even though it appears that we are in complete agreement about him. Last week I mentioned that Miller has always had a stronger opinion in favor of Willie Keeler than I have. The opposite is true for Enos Slaughter. Again, probably just quirks of our respective perspectives, but it’s been a true difference. I’ve had Country at the borderline the whole way, and Miller hasn’t. Slaughter has a lot of potential variability in his profile. If/when BBREF uses the Retrosheet data now available to expand the reach of the baserunning, DP, and outfield arm value calculations, he’s one guy who could really benefit. Until then, however, this is where we’re at with him. In fact, I could probably have listed him under fellows we don’t currently agree with the mainstream view of.—Eric
At this point I have to say we disagree the most on whether or not this should be a category. We simply don’t disagree with each other too much on position players. So I’ll get to a more esoteric point. This year, we were eligible to elect six players, representing the two elected by the Era Committee and four elected by the BBWAA. Based on our rules, we must elect exactly six players. To elect six, we must vote for six. To vote for fewer would mean we’re breaking our rules. To vote for more, I think, is also wrong, though not exactly breaking our rules since we can only elect six. But what if I had voted for the same seven but just flipped the order of Eric’s last two? If that were the case, we’d have five guys in and two guys tied. However, only one of those guys could go in. I know, I’m basically arguing constitutional law in front of folks who don’t really care about the nitty gritty, nor should you. To be honest, I’m just looking for something to write here.—Miller
Are there any players who MAPES+/CHEWS+ might overrate or underrate?
Enos Slaughter? Several years ago, Eric did some pretty cool work giving credit for time missed due to war or color barrier. While his methods have changed some since then, I suspect he still would support this statement: “Adding 12 eqWAR to his resume makes him a no-brainer in the mode of Andre Dawson or Dewey Evans.” It’s totally reasonable to give credit for games missed due to military service. Were I to do that with Slaughter, I could see him as high at #15, getting all the way past Tony Gwynn. Even if you think that’s too much of a jump, virtually anyone crediting him for the three seasons he missed would have to put him on the good side of the in/out line.—Miller
What you said! And what I said! The whole war-credit discussion is very interesting. I don’t exactly have a horse in that race. On one hand, I see the value of doing so; on the other hand I see rationales why not to. Cases such as Slaughter’s make me think that doing so, in a conservative way, probably makes the most sense. It’s hardly a player’s fault that he fought for his country. So it’s really about doing so in a measured way so that the player receives appropriate benefit but we don’t stiff other players whose records are not compromised by military duty.
But I do draw one line in the sand on the matter of war credit. I don’t give any to pitchers. The very act of pitching creates an ongoing danger of injury that can wipe out a career in a single moment. Not that combat is any kind of cake walk, but in certain ways it may give the pitcher’s arm a long period of reduced stress. The elbow might have given way on the mound in the peaceful alternative world during the same stretch of parallel time the player served in the military. Sorry if this seems cold-hearted, but it’s the logical conclusion of several ideas that underpin my thinking, including adjusting innings for usage patterns and giving pitchers (but not hitters) some credit for their playoff innings. —Eric
In a week, we head to the mound, otherwise known as the land where Miller and Eric finally disagree. A little.