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Miller has written 413 posts for the Hall of Miller and Eric

Fixing the Hall, Add Rick Reuschel

Rick Reuschel, 1973When we started the Hall of Miller and Eric in 2013, I had some favorite players. Since we created it and I studied and learned, other players jumped to the fore. One of those players, a guy who I suggested might be the most underrated player ever, is Rick Reuschel. He’s the second and final 1970s pitcher in our “Fixing the Hall” series. And he was even better than last week’s entry, Luis Tiant.

Who He Is

The tubby righty broke in with the 1972 Chicago Cubs. In his nine and a half years there, he was always good and occasionally great. From 1977-1981, he was baseball’s second best pitcher. And in the second half of ’81, the Cubs sent Reuschel to the Yankees for what turned into nothing. He soon suffered a torn rotator cuff and missed most of the next two seasons. When he came back, it was again with the Cubs, and he was no good, adding just 0.1 pitching WAR to his career total in two years. At that point Reuschel was 36 and seemingly done. But he signed with the Pirates in the off-season, and then turned in his second best career performance for Pittsburgh in 1985. He spent almost two more years there before a 1987 trade to the Giants. Big Daddy lasted four more years on the west coast before hanging ‘em up at age 42.

He made four All-Star teams, garnered Cy Young support four times, and won three Gold Gloves. He only 20 games once though, and you know what his career total of 214 means. It means Hall voters were going to ignore him. They did.

Why He’s Not In

It’s the wins. It’s clearly the wins. His single season highs are 20, 19, 18, 17, 14. His career total is just 214. Such guys don’t get into the Hall unless they were great closers for three years.

Reuschel also had some difficulties like Tiant, in that his competition included Seaver, Carlton, Ryan, Palmer, and the like. Unlike Tiant, Reuschel was near the best pitcher in baseball for a spell. For the decade from his rookie year until his rotator cuff injury, only five pitchers were better. If we lop off the rookie campaign, it’s only three pitchers.

How He Fared

Reuschel was treated awfully by some very bad voters in 1997. Just two people voted for him. That’s 29 fewer than Ron Guidry, 32 fewer and Mickey Lolich, 95 fewer than Tommy John, 105 fewer than Jim Kaat, and 344 fewer than Don Sutton, all of whom were inferior pitchers.

Some Comparisons

By my numbers, Reuschel is a ton like Don Drysdale. Check out my converted year-by-year numbers. Drysdale is better by a shade every year from years 2-12, but Reuschel’s best was better, and he added 5.3 WAR after his best dozen years, while Drysdale added just 1.6.

Reuschel   Drysdale
===================
  9.6        8.4 
  6.4        7.1
  5.9        6.3
  5.6        6.0
  5.4        5.9
  5.4        5.7
  5.4        5.6
  4.2        4.9
  3.9        4.7
  3.6        4.4
  3.5        3.7
  3.1        3.4
  3.0        1.9
  2.8       -0.3

Maybe the Drysdale comparison isn’t for you. Let’s look at Jim Bunning. Reuschel again has the top season, while Bunning has a nice edge from 2-5. The next three years are pretty equal. After that, however,  Bunning totals only 6.6 more for his career, and Reuschel puts up 22.5

Reuschel   Bunning
===================
  9.6        8.9
  6.4        8.4
  5.9        8.0
  5.6        7.0
  5.4        6.5
  5.4        5.2
  5.4        5.0
  4.2        4.0
  3.9        3.0
  3.6        2.9
  3.5        2.6
  3.1        1.4
  3.0        1.0
  2.8        0.3
  1.3       -1.0
  0.8       -1.7
  0.3       -2.0
  0.3       
 -0.1

Hall of Famers

It’s a lot easier to list the Hall of Fame pitchers better than Reuschel. I believe there are only 28 of them. And there are 68 Hall of Fame pitchers. Bob Lemon and Dizzy Dean and Early Wynn and even Don Drysdale rank lower than he does on my list.

Who to Dump

Throughout this series, I’ve dumped a Hall of Famer every time, and this time is no exception. Today, we dump 1927 Yankee star, Waite Hoyt. Let’s see how Hoyt stacks up to Reuschel.

              Reuschel    Hoyt
==============================
Innings         3548.1  3762.1  
Wins               214     237
Strikeouts        2015    1206
Shutouts            26      26
Everything here is equal except the strikeouts, and that's an era thing.
==============================================================================
ERA              3.37    3.59
K/BB             2.16    1.20
ERA+              114     112
FIP              3.22    3.76
Reuschel begins to pull away here. 
==============================================================================
RA9opp           4.13    4.83
So Hoyt's opponents scored way more runs than Reuschel's.
==============================================================================
RA9def          -0.18    0.06
On the other hand, Hoyt pitched in front of superior defenses.
==============================================================================
Park Factor    104.9     98.5
Over 100 is harder than average; under easier. Hoyt had it far easier.
==============================================================================
PtchW           19.4     18.8
This is adjusted pitching wins, the number of wins above average contributed.
==============================================================================
WPA             14.8      0.5
This is Win Probability Added, which kind of speaks for itself.
==============================================================================
RE24           159.7    -24.0
This is Base-Out Runs Saved. Given the bases occupied, this number shows the
number of runs the pitcher saved on the resulting play. Average is 0.0. Hoyt
is below average.
==============================================================================
Actual WAR      70.0     51.8
My WAR          70.5     52.9 (Extra credit given for playoff pitching)
My best 5 WAR   33.0     26.8
My best 7 WAR   43.9     34.8
My best 10 WAR  55.6     44.1     
My best 15 WAR  69.4     51.7
MAPES P Rank      35      122 (My personal ranking system)

Reuschel over Hoyt. It would make the Hall better.

So as we conclude this series and look back, we see nine players from the 1970s and 1980s who belong in the Hall but aren’t in. Turning back the clock, each of our nine players was active from 1977-1981. Amazingly, there are six additional HoMErs who played those exact seasons – Willie Randloph, Reggie Smith, Sal Bando, Graig Nettles, Bobby Bonds, and Darrell Evans – who have been ignored by the Hall but who should be in to give their era fair Cooperstown representation.

Miller

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Mount Rushmore, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Angels World Series, SIThey’ve been the Los Angeles Angels (1961-1964), the California Angels (1965-1996), the Anaheim Angels (1997-2004), and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2005-2017), which is the silliest team name of all time. And that’s coming from a guy familiar with the Negro League’s Indianapolis Clowns. The Angels won the only World Series they got to, a seven-game struggle against the Giants in 2002.

Guys It’s Not

Because Mike Trout got hurt, Chuck Finley is still the best player in Angel history, but since he pitched for the Indians and Cardinals, he can’t make it. It can’t be Brian Downing, 1981Jim Fregosi, though he’s third, and it can’t be Nolan Ryan, though he’s fifth, since they were traded for each other. Brian Downing started and ended elsewhere. Jered Weaver has stunk things up in San Diego this year. Bobby Grich was actually more valuable in Baltimore. The list goes on. There’s a lot of guys who don’t make the Angel Mount we have to dig deep to find the trio that joins Trout.

Angel Mount Rushmore

Mike Trout: There’s little to say about him that hasn’t already been said. Luckily for us, he has about fifteen years left during which he’ll do so, so much more.

Tim Salmon, 1996Tim Salmon: The 1993 AL Rookie of the Year is known as Mr. Angel by some, a title you might think should go to Trout. But Trout is bigger than the Angels. Let’s let Salmon keep the nickname. For his career, Salmon and his 40.5 WAR are roughly equivalent to Hall of Famer Chuck Klein, though Salmon clearly isn’t a Hall of Famer.

Scot Shields: When you have to go to a middle reliever with just 12.4 career WAR for your third guy, you know you’re in trouble. Shields was a wonderful pitcher from 2002-2008, pitching lots of games and lots of innings. But he’s Scot Shields. He’s a middle reliever. Is there really a lot more to say?

Gary Disarcina: I would rank Disarcina, Angel from 1989-2000, behind Fregosi, Erick Aybar, Dick Schofield, David Eckstein, and maybe even Dave Chalk among Angel shortstops. Yet, with 11.2 WAR and an OPS+ of just 66, Disarcina makes this list. He’s 14th all-time in Angel hits and 18th in runs. He stole 47 bases in his career and was caught 44 times. I suspect this is the last time I will write a word about him.

Kole Calhoun is close. If he’s back in the majors by the time you read this, he might supplant Disarcina.

My Angel Rushmore

Chuck Finley, 1987Mike Trout

Tim Salmon

Chuck Finley: The all-time Angel leader in WAR didn’t win enough games, only 200, to get the Hall consideration he deserves, but the guy was great at times with three seasons of 7+ WAR and another four at 4+. During the decade from 1989-1998, he trailed only Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, and David Cone in WAR. However, he also trailed Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz in wins. If he pitched for the Braves rather than the Angels, I think he’d be in the Hall of Fame.

Nolan Ryan: I’m bypassing a guy with more Angel WAR, Jim Fregosi, and two of my favorites, Brian Downing and Bobby Grich, to give Ryan this honor. Somewhat to my surprise, Ryan each of his best four years with the Angels, though none of the next four were in California. Ryan’s signature strikeout seasons all came with the Halos, whiffing 300+ five times in six campaigns from 1972-1977

On deck next week is the Milwaukee Brewers.

Miller

Joe Carter, Baseball’s Most Overrated Player Ever?

Joe Carter, 1984What does it take to be overrated? Maybe one incredibly important and memorable hit? Maybe a ridiculous over-perception of the importance of particular skill? Someone who’s read the title to this post must be thinking of Joe Carter now. A savvy reader might also be thinking of Bill Mazeroski, who hit the first ever walk off homer to win a World Series and whose double play pivot, it would seem, got a really stinky hitter into the Hall of Fame.

But I digress. This post isn’t about Maz, it’s about Carter. And at least Mazeroski’s perceived skill was real; Carter’s “skill” as an RBI guy is more of a hoax. I began thinking a lot about Carter after posting The Worst Regulars Ever a week ago. You may remember that by our criteria, the worst of the worst was Joe Carter.

I’m not saying Joe Carter was a bad player. He was a fine guy to put in your lineup, averaging over 2.4 annually from 1986-1993. His career WAR puts him in line with guys like Todd Zeile and Jeff Conine. They’re fine players too. But five years after Carter retired, there were 19 writers who actually believed Carter belonged in the Hall of Fame. So what made Carter so overrated?

A Big Trade

Carter was involved in one of the biggest superstar trades of all time when he and Roberto Alomar were shipped to the Blue Jays in December of 1990 for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. Let’s be fair here though. Alomar is a Hall of Famer, finishing his career with 66.8 WAR. Both McGriff and even Fernandez and fit into the Hall of Very Good with 52.4 WAR and 45.1 WAR respectively. Carter’s career total of 19.3 is less than half as good as the third worst player in the trade. This is a superstar trade in spite of him, not because of him.

A Big Home Run

I suppose you can make an argument that Joe Carter hit the biggest home run in baseball history if you consider the context and the television audience when he walked it off against Mitch Williams and the Phillies to come from behind in Game 6 and win the 1993 World Series. Let’s get this straight though. It was one home run. It was awesome, and I won’t even fight you if you want to call it the biggest home run ever. In this context, I’m simply arguing that it’s a contributing factor to why we overvalue Carter today.

A Big RBI Total

I’ve been paging through Keith Law’s Smart Baseball recently, and if you like this blog but don’t always understand the things we’re saying, it’s a great read. He writes a whole chapter about the unreliability of the RBI to tell us what we think it’s telling us. In it he cites Branch Rickey in his criticism, saying the RBI is an individual stat that’s overdependent on people other than the individual. After all, unless you homer, you can’t drive in a run if nobody is on base. Carter was a big, big RBI guy, driving in 1281 over the 12 years from 1986-1997. Credit the guys on base.

Carter takes advantage of our love of the RBI more than virtually any player in the game’s history. In eight seasons he reached triple digits in RBI without reaching 3.0 WAR. Only two players have ever done that more than half as much, Adam Dunn and Dante Bichette, and they’re three years behind Carter. In fact, only 24 other guys have done it more than twice. Carter did it eight times.

Let’s make the comparison player a little worse. Let’s say the guy drove in 100+ with less than 2.5 WAR. Now there are only 12 guys in history to do it more than twice. Carter did it seven times. And we can keep going. Only 126 players ever have driven in 100 runs with less than 2.0 WAR. Just 30 have done it more than once. Only six have done it more than twice. Carter? Six times. Only seven guys have 100+ with less than 1.0 WAR. Carter leads the way with four times. And here’s the final one. Only 15 guys have driven in 100+ while putting up negative WAR. Only one guy did it more than once. And he did it three times. You guessed it, Joe Carter.

A Big MVP Farce

If you’ve ever read anything about the MVP voting, you’d understand what a questionable job the writers have done over the years. One such way they’ve done poorly is over-inflating RBI guys in the race. Carter received MVP consideration eight times. Let’s look at where he finished, how he fared in ribbies that year, and where he ranked in WAR among position players.

Year    MVP Rank   RBI Rank   WAR Rank
1986       9          1           8t
1988      20          9          31t
1989      16          4          78t
1990      17          3         488t (only one player worse)
1991       5          6          19
1992       3          2          49t
1993      12          3          76t
1994      10          2         106t

So let’s get some perspective here. When Carter got MVP consideration, he was more likely not one of the 100 best position players than he was one of the ten best. And in no season was he closer to being the best player than he was closer to being the worst in 1990. What’s worse, when he got MVP votes, only twice was he even one of the best 30 position players in his league!

I like to talk about MVP wins and votes. I do so because it’s fun, not because it’s necessarily illustrative of much.

A Little Walk

Too often throughout history, we’ve paid little attention to those skilled at drawing free passes. Conversely, we don’t pay attention to those who don’t. Only seven guys ever have had more than three seasons with 30+ homers and fewer than 50 walks. Carter has six such seasons. Nobody has more.

Conclusions

To be honest, I can’t say who really is the most overrated player ever. It’s hard to know how overrated someone is if you don’t know how they’re actually rated. And I don’t really know what people think of Carter, beyond the 19 goof balls who thought he was worthy of the Hall of Fame in 2004. But consider this list: Jesse Barfield, Carney Lansford, Tim Salmon, and Paul O’Neill. Those are all guys at least twice as valuable as Joe Carter. If you thought Carter was superior to any of them, you probably overrate him too.

In the comments section, share who you think might be the game’s most overrated player ever.

Miller

Fixing the Hall, Add Luis Tiant

Luis Tiant, 1965When I started this project to fix the Hall, I did so focusing only on hitters who starred in the 70s and 80s. After all, the writers have done a pretty good job getting the right pitchers from that era into the Hall. Seaver, Carlton, Ryan, Palmer, Perry, Jenkins, Niekro, Blyleven, Sutton, and Gossage are all where they belong. But the voters have also missed on a couple of guys, and a recent trip to Fenway Park where I had the pleasure of meeting Luis Tiant inspired me to continue with this series on overlooked 1970s and 1980s stars.

Who He Is

To be fair, some might not consider Tiant a pitcher of the 1970s. The Cuban righty got his career started in 1964, and he had his best year in 1968, both with the Indians, before moving to Minnesota in 1970. Still, I consider him a pitcher of the 1970s because he pitched for the Red Sox from 1971-1978. And I’m a Red Sox fan who met Tiant at Fenway Park, dammit. So that’s it, he’s a pitcher of the 1970s. For those counting, he finished things out with two campaigns in the Bronx and one in both Pittsburgh and California from 1979-1982.

He made three All-Star teams and received Cy consideration three times, though he never finished in the top-3. Part of his legend comes from post-season greatness in 1975. He got things started by shutting out the A’s in the ALCS. Then he opened the World Series with another shutout, this time against the Big Red Machine. Though he struggled some, he also won Game 4 before stinking up the joint in the Sox dramatic Game 6 win backed by Carlton Fisk’s 12th inning walk-off.

Why He’s Not In

Tiant never had any claim as the best pitcher in baseball. In 1968, Denny McLain won 30 games, and Bob Gibson posted a 1.12 ERA. Even in his best three-year stretch, 1972-1974, five pitchers, including Wilbur Wood, were more valuable. He won 20 games four times, which voters seem to like. However, only two other times did he win more than 13. For his career, we’re looking at just 229 victories. And voters really love career wins. It’s kind of hard to blame them in some ways given that six pitchers from his era won 311 or more games. And Blyleven and Jenkins posted 287 and 284 respectively. If you’re not paying attention, he might seem like a lesser pitcher. And to be fair, he wasn’t the pitcher that any of the starters above were, except for Sutton. Being compared to pitchers of his era really hurts him, and undervaluing that era as a whole, hurts him more.

Another problem is that he often followed up a great season with a relatively mediocre one. His 8.4 pitching WAR in 1968 preceded 3.2 WAR in 1969. His 7.8 in 1974 was followed by 2.8, 6.3, 5.6, and 2.4. In some ways he was a little like Bret Saberhagen, except that he did his good work in even numbered years. Plus, he got hurt in 1969 and was worth less than a win over the next two years. His inconsistency hurt too.

But the real thing that hurt is that voters compared him to pitchers of his era rather than pitchers all time.

How He Fared

Back when players still had 15 chances on the ballot, Tiant remained for all 15 tries. After 1988, his first year of eligibility when he earned 30.9% of the vote, it looked like he was eventually going to get in. Guys who start over 30% almost always get in. In 1989, however, Perry and Jenkins hit the ballot with Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski. It’s not surprising that Tiant took a step back. What does surprise is that he dropped to just 10.5% of the vote, tied with the inferior Mickey Lolich, a guy who he beat by 23 votes the year before.

Jim Palmer overshadowed him in 1990, Perry and Jenkins made it in 1991, Seaver entered in 1992, Niekro hit the ballot in 1993, Carlton got in and Sutton got on the ballot in 1995. By 1998, all of the 300 win guys finally made it. But there were big win guys Jim Kaat and Tommy John getting attention, and Bert Blyleven hit the ballot that year too. Tiant never rebounded to his 1988 heights. In fact, he never even got back to 20%.

The Golden Era Committee met in 2011, saw fit to put Tiant on the ballot, but the voters again did a poor job. Jim Kaat got ten votes, Tiant less than three. In 2014, it was the same result.

Some Comparisons

If we look at career WAR, Tiant is a pretty easy Hall choice. The three right in front of him include Don Drysdale, Roberto Alomar, and Dwight Evans, who we discussed last week. The three right behind him are Hall of Famers Duke Snider, Joe Cronin, and Pee Wee Reese. In fact, Tiant tops more than 50 Hall of Famers. And he’d be in the top half of pitchers in the Hall.

Oh, and if you like wins, Tiant had more than about 20 Hall starters.

Hall of Famers

I’ve kind of covered this section above, but it’s simply comical how many pitchers are indisputably behind Luis Tiant. But first, in terms of career value, Tiant looks a lot like Rube Waddell or Jim Bunning to me. He’s far better than all of the relievers, even Gossage. And he crushes the likes of Rube Marquard, Lefty Gomez, Jesse Haines, Jack Chesbro, and many others. One of them is my favorite Hall punching bag, Catfish Hunter.

Who to Dump

Since Bill James wrote it first and best in his Politics of Glory, and since I think I spend far too much of my time trashing him (type his name into the search box if you’re interested), I’m going to let the Catfish Hunter comparison numbers speak for themselves.

              Tiant   Hunter
============================
Innings       3486.1  3449.1
Wins             229     224
Strikeouts      2416    2012
Shutouts          49      42
Though it's just by a little, Tiant wins in every single category.
==============================================================================
ERA              3.30    3.26
K/BB             2.19    2.11
ERA+              114     104
FIP              3.47    3.66
Hunter wins only ERA. For a better sense of real skill, see ERA+ and FIP.
==============================================================================
RA9opp           4.08    3.99
This is the average scored by the pitcher's opposition. Catfish had it easier.
==============================================================================
RA9def          0.07     0.25
This measures the pitcher's quality of defense. Catfish had it easier.
==============================================================================
Park Factor    104.8     95.7
Over 100 is harder than average; under is easier. Catfish had it easier.
==============================================================================
PtchW           22.3      9.0
This is adjusted pitching wins, the number of wins above average contributed.
Hunter is clearly worse.
==============================================================================
WPA             25.2     14.0
This is Win Probability Added, which kind of speaks for itself.
Again, Hunter is worse.
==============================================================================
Actual WAR      66.7     41.4
My Conversion   67.2     43.3 (Extra credit given for playoff pitching)
MAPES P Rank      47      145 (My personal ranking system)

This is the biggest no-brainer ever, right? Bill James is smart.

Next week, one of my all-time favorites, Rick Reuschel.

Miller

The Worst Regulars Ever

Joe Carter, SIWhile researching another post on aging, I began running into some pretty disturbing numbers with Joe Carter’s name attached to them. Did you know that during the last nine years of Carter’s career that he put up just 5.6 WAR? Take away his 1991 season, and that’s 1.1 WAR in eight years. Hell, take away 1992, and Carter was below replacement level for the other seven combined. Anyway, that’s not the thing I was noticing. In his final year, Carter was below replacement level. In his second to last, he was below. And in his third to last, he also performed below the level of what is essentially freely available talent in AAA. Oh yeah, same in his fourth to last season – negative WAR. And Carter was a regular those seasons, never playing fewer than 126 games and averaging nearly 600 trips to the plate each year. This has to be unprecedented, right?

So with the magic of BBREF’s Play Index (subscribe!!!), I researched. I looked for regulars (those averaging 500+ plate appearances) with negative WAR over their final four seasons. And I found nine such players. That’s because guys this bad aren’t typically allowed to play so much. Let’s review the worst players, kind of, in baseball history who were allowed lots of playing time when retirement seemed like a better option.

Bernie Williams, 2006#7 (tie), Bernie Williams, -0.1 WAR, 2003-2006

Bernie Williams was a very talented hitter in his prime. Actually, he was HoME-quality at the plate for the bulk of his career. At the end, however, he posted just 3 Rbat over his final four seasons, which means he was just three runs better than average. Now for a center fielder, that’s fine if you’re a good defender. And Bernie was terrible at the end, 76 runs worse than the average defender. I don’t want to get into just how bad that is. Suffice to say it’s awful. Why did it take the Yankees so long to replace him? Maybe some Core Four nonsense? Had they just found a way to let him DH, perhaps he’d be in the HoME today.

Dante Bichette, 2001#7 (tie), Dante Bichette, -0.1 WAR, 1998-2001

Stop talking about Coors when it comes to greats like Larry Walker and Todd Helton. Absolutely continue talking about it when it comes to schlubs like Dante Bichette. Bichette was never a very good player. His best single-season WAR was 2.9. His second best was 1.2. But he did lead the NL in home runs in 1995, and he drove in what seems like an incredible 913 runs over eight years from 1993-2000. It’s not incredible. Let’s leave at that. In the case of overextending Bichette’s career, it’s not just the Rockies who were tricked by the inflated power numbers. The Reds and Red Sox let him play during his final four seasons too. Bichette drove in 1141 runs during his career. His 5.3 career WAR is lower than anyone in history with that many. It’s also lower than anyone in history with 1000, 900, or 803 RBI. Willie Montanez with 802 and Joe Quinn with 800 posted lower career WAR totals.

Steve Garvey, 1987.jpg#7 (tie), Steve Garvey, -0.1 WAR, 1984-1987

Garvey was a creation of the media, of our obsession with batting average, our ignorance of the value of taking a walk, and our infatuation with consecutive. In Garvey’s case, his consecutive games played streak. He won an MVP Award in 1974 when he was 17th in the NL in WAR among position players. Mike Schmidt more than doubled Garvey’s total, but the Dodger hit .312 to Schmidt’s .282. Other nonsense too, I’m sure. Anyway, during his last four (actually, five) years, Garvey was a Padre, not a Dodger. And he almost didn’t make this list because San Diego discovered John Kruk during Garvey’s final campaign. Still, Garvey missed almost no time the previous three years even though he was 9 runs below average at the plate and 18 below average in the field those seasons. What the Padres saw in him, I don’t know. Maybe it was the 1984 MVP consideration. Yep, Garvey received MVP votes in 1984 despite the fact that five pitchers produced more offensive WAR that year.

George Bell, 1993#6, George Bell, -0.3 WAR, 1990-1993

I somehow recollect Bell not being a great teammate. And those guys don’t tend to stick around extra long. Or maybe they do. Or maybe I’m wrong about Bell. Whatever the case, the Blue Jays, Cubs, and White Sox let him stink up the joint at the end. Not just those teams are to blame. He was picked by the managers, not the fans, to participate in the 1990 and 1991 All-Star contests. And in 1992 he garnered MVP consideration from the writers after putting up 25 homers and 112 runs batted in to go along with -0.2 WAR for the White Sox. He was a below average hitter that year, but he hit behind Tim Raines, Robin Ventura, and Frank Thomas, all of whom got on base at .375 or better. The RBIs will pretty much always appear under such circumstances.

Ralph Young, 1922.jpg#5, Ralph Young, -1.2 WAR, 1919-1922

Young is an outlier on this list in a number of ways. He’s the only middle infielder on the list. He retired half a century before anyone else. And I don’t think he was ever even perceived as good. His Wikipedia article says that he was a talented fielder. Of course BBREF has him 50 runs below average in his final four seasons and 67 below average for his career. I truly do not understand why he was playing. Of course, I don’t think I’m supposed to understand all of the mysteries of the baseball universe.

Adam Dunn, 2014.jpg#4, Adam Dunn, -1.3 WAR, 2011-2014

A big three true outcomes guy, Dunn pretty famously caused lots of breeze with his bat. Only eight guys ever can boast more than his six season of 40+ homers. None can come close to his 12 seasons of 150+ strikeouts. In fact, only Melvin Upton has even eight. Dunn was allowed to play simply because teams wanted his HR power. And in this final four years, he did average 27 bombs. Of course he did so with a .202 BA and only a 98 OPS+. Over Dunn’s final nine seasons, by the way, he was worth just 3.3 WAR.

Jeffrey Leonard, 1990#3, Jeffrey Leonard, -1.5 WAR, 1987-1990

He wasn’t much liked either, right? I mean, the guy’s nickname was “Penitentiary Face”. When Jeffrey Leonard was good, he wasn’t that good, but the Giants, Brewers, and Mariners let him drag their teams down from 1987-1990. In his two non-negative stints those years, he made All-Star teams, I suppose because teams wanted to lose. What else could there have been? In his second to last season, he set career highs with 24 homers and 93 batted in. A career 102 OPS+ guy with just 9.7 career WAR, I don’t know why they let this guy stick around.

Keith Moreland, 1989#2, Keith Moreland, -1.7 WAR, 1986-1989

This is another one I don’t understand. Moreland was never an All-Star, topped 16 homers just once, topped 88 RBIs once too, and managed to come to the plate almost 2300 times for the Cubs, Padres, Tigers, and Orioles in his final four stinky seasons. If you want me to venture a guess, I’d say that the 1987 juiced ball led to a ridiculous, for him, 27 homers. That gave him two more seasons where teams hoped and prayed.

#1, Joe Carter, -2.4 WAR, 1995-1998

This guy is the reason for the season. In 1995 he put up -0.2 WAR over 603 plate appearances for the Jays. The next year it was -0.5 WAR in 682 trips to the dish. So you know what they did to punish him? They took away 14 PAs in 1997 and saw him post -0.8 WAR. Carter wasn’t ever released. The Orioles stole him away as a free agentin what has to be one of the worst robberies ever. In just 303 trips, he managed -0.7 WAR. Then the Giants traded for him in July, I guess in an attempt to bolster their offense for a playoff drive. After -0.3 WAR in 115 times to the plate, it was mercifully over for Carter. And for us.

I find Joe Carter to be a fascinating player. All this awful, and so many of us still have a very positive view of the guy. I sense another post coming soon.

Miller

 

Fixing the Hall, Add Dwight Evans

Dwight Evans, 1973If you’re interested in Sabermetric numbers, you must be surprised that Dwight Evans isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Then again, he played in the 1970s and 1980s, so maybe you shouldn’t be surprised. And the truth is, he really wasn’t thought of as much of a player during his day. Just three All-Star berths and five times receiving MVP consideration in his 20 years tells you much of what you need to know. Today, we’ll right the wrong of Hall exclusion as we continue with the Fixing the Hall series, just as we have for Ted Simmons, Keith Hernandez, Bobby Grich, and Buddy Bell, Alan Trammell, and Jose Cruz before him.

Who He Is

Dwight Evans reached the majors with the Boston Red Sox in September of 1972 when he was still 20 years old. He was a good hitter and a great defender early in his career. As he aged with the Sox, he declined in the field while growing into something close to elite at the plate. He hit .300 with three homers in 50 World Series at-bats, shared the 1981 AL home run title, and led the league in OPS twice. Boston let him walk to Baltimore in his final season of 1991, instead signing Jack Clark. It might have been the right move, but it would have been nicer to see Dewey with one team his whole career.

Why He’s Not In

Evans had a career that was misinterpreted by the writers, for sure, but he’s a bit to blame as well, having the audacity to have his best run from age 29-35. See, he spent the first third of his career not being a star. If you’re not a star for a bunch of years, it’s hard for some to begin thinking of you as a star later. Additionally, Evans wasn’t ever really elite, with his best four seasons of 5.1-6.7 WAR. His value was in being consistently very helpful, ten times with a WAR of 3.0-4.8. Also, Evans played great defense and drew a ton of walks. Those aren’t sexy qualities. He just never impressed enough in the way ill-informed writers want.

How He Fared

Our guy actually saw three Hall ballots. In 1997 he received 5.9% of the vote. Granted, that was less than the inferior Dave Parker and inferior teammate Jim Rice, but at least it was something. In 1998 he jumped to 10.4%. That was a fair leap. Maybe writers were catching on? Alas, Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount, and Carlton Fisk joined the ballot in 1999, and there weren’t enough writers to keep Evans around. He fell off with just 3.6% of the vote.

Some Comparisons

There are 17 eligible players who can match Evans in R, RBI, and BB. Of those without a steroid taint, they’re all in the Hall.

Only six right fielders in history are better than or within 20% of Evans in both Rbat and Rfield. Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, and Roberto Clemente are three. Sammy Sosa would be in the Hall if it weren’t for PED taint. Larry Walker should be in. The other player is Rocky Colavito, a guy who Evans beats in Rbat, Rfield, G, PA, R, H, 2B, HR, RBI, BA, OBP, and WAR. It’s fair to say Colavito is clearly a lesser player.

Evans is one of seven right fielders ever with 300 homers and 1000 walks. Five are in the Hall, and the other is Jack Clark, a guy who Evans beats in HR, BB, PA, R, H, 2B, 3B, RBI, and WAR. Again, Clark is clearly a lesser player.

If we just look at WAR, every RF in history who’s ahead of Evans is in the Hall. And there are eleven Hall of Famers at his position who trail him.

Hall of Famers

Evans is tremendously better than joke choices Tommy McCarthy and Ross Youngs. Most reasonable people would rank him ahead of Kiki Cuyler and Chuck Klein too. I like him better than Sam Thompson, Sam Rice, and Enos Slaughter without WWII credit. I also rank him ahead of Dave Winfield, Harry Hooper, and Willie Keeler. Plus, I can see how someone could choose him over Andre Dawson, Tony Gwynn, or Elmer Flick too.

Who to Dump

If you’ve been reading these posts, you know I like to look at BBREF’s AIR number to compare offensive eras. Evans had a slightly favorable offensive environment throughout his career as shown with his 101 AIR. Chuck Klein had an insanely favorable situation, an AIR of 110, yet his numbers are inferior to Evans’. We’re dumping Klein. Let’s look.

              Evans    Klein
============================
PAs           10569     7171
Hits           2446     2076
Runs           1470     1168
Home Runs       385      300
RBI            1384     1201
BB             1391      601

Evans wins in terms of counting stats.
==============================================================
BA            .272      .320
OBP           .370      .379
SLG           .470      .543
OPS+           127       137

What we see here is the difference between an AIR of 101 and one of 110.
Even if you're inclined to believe Klein was a better hitter, there's more
to consider when electing a Hall of Famer.
===============================================================
Rfield         65         -40
DRA            19.9       -102.8
The first is the defensive number at BBREF.
The second is defensive regression analysis. I trust the second more.
Evans was a very good defender; Klein was awful.
=================================================================
Actual WAR      66.9       43.6
My Conversion   70.0       43.0
MAPES LF Rank     16         37
MAPES is my personal ranking system.

Evans was a better player.  It’s not that close either. The good news for him is that the Veterans Committee will still take a look. And they elected Klein, so you never know.

Next week we move to the mound, and to a slightly earlier era, checking out the injustice done to Luis Tiant.

Miller

Mount Rushmore, Kansas City Royals

Royals World Series, SIThe Kansas City Royals burst onto the scene, relatively speaking, in 1969 with a fourth place finish. Two years later they finished second before starting a mini-dynasty from 1976-1981, going to the playoffs five times in six tries. They won the World Series in 1985 and again in 2015. Of note to me and perhaps nobody else, their best eight single-season home run totals are by eight different guys: Steve Balboni, Gary Gaetti, John Mayberry, Dean Palmer, Danny Tartabull, Jermaine Dye, Bo Jackson, and Mike Moustakas.

Guys It’s Not

Well, none of the guys mentioned above make it. Neither does Kevin Appier, who played for three teams before finishing his career back in Kansas City. Amos Otis was a great Royal, but he began with the Mets and ended with the Pirates. Willie Wilson is fourth in KC history in WAR, but he finished with the A’s and Cubs. BSalvador Perez, 2017ret Saberhagen pitched for three other teams. Mark Gubicza stunk up the joint for the Angels twice.

Salvador Perez has around 18 career WAR, is already in the top-24 in Royal history, is just 27, and is signed for the next four years. I can see him getting into the top-10 before his contract ends. And if he does, he’d make the Royal Rushmore. As it is now, he’ll have to wait.

George Brett, 1975Royal Mount Rushmore

George Brett: Mr. Royal, if there ever were one, posted 88.4 WAR in his career. He’s the third or fourth greatest third baseman ever, hit .390 and won the AL MVP in 1980, and three times led the league in slugging despite never topping 30 homers. His rookie card is one of my favorite ever.

Frank White: The second baseman is seventh in WAR in Royal history at 34.7. His career overlapped quite a bit with that of Lou Whitaker, and he always reminded me of a poor man’s Whitaker. The truth is, they’re almost nothing alike. Aside from playing second base for only one team in the AL from the 70s to the 90s, the only real similarity is that they both began their runs in the majors without much home run power only to hit 20+ on multiple occasions after they matured.

Alex Gordon: Signed for two more years after this one, it looked like Gordon and his 32+ WAR could have passed Frank White.Of course, his bat quit a couple of years ago, and his glove is no longer enough to compensate. Also, there’s a real shot he ends his career elsewhere. Gordon was a huge prospect who struggled for four seasons before putting things together in 2011. He was at his best from 2011-2014, where the only position players he trailed in WAR were Trout, Cano, McCutchen, Miggy, and Beltre.

Dennis Leonard: Leonard, he of 26.3 WAR, was the starting pitcher in the first game I ever saw live, April 20, 1979, at Fenway Park. Dennis Eckersley is the first guy I ever saw pitch, George Brett is the first guy I ever saw bat, and Carl Yastrzemski is the first guy I ever saw homer. I don’t remember these things, but through the magic of BBREF, I can look it up. For half a decade from 1977-1981, he was tenth among pitchers in WAR. He also won 20 games three times, thanks in decent part to a fine offense behind him.

My Royal Rushmore

George Brett

Kevin Appier: Despite the guy listed a bit below, I’m going to call him the best Royal pitcher ever. Here’s how he and Saberhagen look on the mound in their top Royal seasons by pitcher WAR. Though close early, I think it’s fairly decisive in Appier’s favor.

             1    2    3    4    5    6    7
=============================================
Appier      9.2  8.1  6.0  5.6  5.2  4.6  4.5
Saberhagen  9.7  8.0  7.3  5.1  3.8  3.6  2.0

Willie Wilson: I took him over Amos Otis because he has a ring, probably because I watched him play more, and because was he incredibly exciting. From 1979-1983 Wilson hit 15 home runs, 12 of them inside the park. Perhaps the greatest of those dozen was this one, where he led off the game against Mike Torrez, made it 1-0 in the bottom of the Bret Saberhagen, 1986first, and Torrez and Royal Dennis Leonard put up goose eggs the rest of the way. Then again, I don’t think it can top this one from a couple of months earlier. The Yankees and Royals were tied at eight in the bottom of the 13th. Wilson led off the inning and hit a sprint-off homer.

Bret Saberhagen: He’s historically underappreciated despite two Cy Youngs. He was sometimes great and always good when healthy. I forgive his useful seasons in New York and put him here because of his dominant 1985 World Series where he gave up one run in two complete game victories to win his only ring.

Up next, it’s the Miami Marlins.

Miller

Who is Fred Carroll?

Fred CarrollFriend of the HoME verdun2 writes an excellent blog with a recurring post, A Dozen Things You Should Know About, in which he introduces his readers to an interesting player, very often from the 19th century. I enjoy all of those posts. I enjoy those on players I’m unfamiliar with the most. So not long ago when I ran into Fred Carroll while researching Buster Posey, I thought about introducing him to HoME readers.

In tribute to verdun2, check out a baker’s dozen things you might like to know about Fred Carroll.

  1. I ran into Carroll when I was researching Buster Posey’s bat, specifically his rbat totals at BBREF. Impressively, Posey is already 11th all-time among catchers. Then there’s this Carroll guy at 15th, right between Roger Bresnahan and Gary Carter.
  2. Frederick Herbert Carroll was born on July 2, 1864 in Sacramento, CA, just a day after President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Acts to construct the transcontinental railroad. Carroll died a shade over 40 years later, November 7, 1904 and is buried the Odd Fellows Columbarium in San Francisco. If this is to be believed and is still accurate, it’s the only non-denominational burial place within San Francisco’s city limits that’s both open to the public and has space available. So hurry, I guess?
  3. His pro career began at age 15 for the 1880 San Francisco Athletics of the California League where he teamed with HoMEr Pud Galvin. Galvin was already in the majors, going 20-35 for Buffalo that year. I don’t know his numbers in San Francisco, nor do I know Carroll’s.
  4. Carroll took 1881 off. Maybe he went to high school or got a job crabbing or something. In 1882, he made a comeback, this time with the San Francisco Nationals of the California League. Incidentally, I think the California League should have been called the San Francisco League since all of its teams through 1885 were from San Francisco. One of Carroll’s 1882 teammates was Ed Morris, not the one who was murdered, but the one who might be the best pitcher in MLB history with that surname.
  5. He reached the majors in 1884 with the American Association’s Columbus Buckeyes, again teaming with Morris. Carroll put up 3.0 WAR in only 69 games, helping the Buckeyes to a second place finish to Dave Orr, Tim Keefe, and the New York Metropolitans.
  6. Again with Ed Morris, he moved to the AA’s Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1885, this time finishing third, 22.5 games behind the champion St. Louis Browns. The Browns were a stacked bunch, boasting the likes of Charlie Comiskey, Arlie Latham, Tip O’Neill, Dave Foutz, Bob Caruthers, and others.
  7. In 1886 he had his second best season, posting 4.0 WAR, which was the third best total on the team, behind, you guessed it, Ed Morris and Pud Galvin. The Alleghneys finished second to the Browns, and Carroll was suspended for a few hours in August after fighting with teammate Otto Schomberg. I suppose he learned his lesson in a hurry.
  8. Switching to the National League in 1887, the Alleghenys finished sixth, I imagine because they faced better competition. At 3.3 WAR, Carroll was the team’s second best player. Of note, on May 2 he became the first Pittsburgh player to hit for the cycle. Of less note, or perhaps more depending on how you see things, a month or so earlier Carroll buried his pet monkey and unofficial team mascot. Presumably the monkey was already dead.
  9. I’m pretty sure 1888 happened next. Carroll posted a mediocre 1.9 WAR.
  10. Carroll’s best season, 4.7 WAR in 91 games, occurred in 1889 when he led the NL in OBP, OPS, and OPS+. That Alleghney team featured a bunch of players you might have heard of including Jake Beckley, Fred Dunlap, Jack Rowe, Ned Hanlon, Billy Sunday, Deacon White, and of course Pud Galvin and Ed Morris.
  11. With Beckley, Hanlon, and others, Morris jumped to the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Players League in 1890. The Burghers finished sixth in the only year of the League. As I suspect you know, because it seems to have been the law of the land, Galvin and Morris also went to the PL with Carroll that year.
  12. Returning to Pittsburgh’s NL entry in 1891, Carroll played his final season. Beckley, Hanlon, and Galvin returned with him. Morris retired, and Connie Mack, Pete Browning, Mark Baldwin, and Silver King were teammates. Carroll put up just 1.1 WAR.
  13. Carroll retired after the season, just a few month after turning 26 years of age. I do not know how he spent his retirement. What I do know is that he’s 67th in career WAR among catchers. Due to an excellent prime, he moves up to 59th in JAWS. I don’t rank him by my MAPES system.

Thanks for the inspiration, verdun2!

Miller

 

Fixing the Hall, Add Jose Cruz

Jose Cruz, 1972Because the Hall of Fame remains broken since our post of a week ago, we’re going to continue to fix it with the sixth installment of our Fixing the Hall series, looking at how the Hall undervalues players from the 1970s and 1980s. Please take a look at earlier posts on Ted Simmons, Keith Hernandez, Bobby Grich, and Buddy Bell, and Alan Trammell. Today we’re going to focus on the underappreciated Houston Astro, Jose Cruz. Cruz was shunned both during and after his career. He made just two All-Star teams. As you might have predicted, he didn’t get into the game in 1980. In 1985, he had a game that seems fitting, going 0-1 with a pair of walks and a stolen base. When Cruz hit the Hall of Fame ballot in 1994, he garnered just two votes. Aside from having a kid play in the bigs, I don’t think many people have thought a lot about him since. We at the HoME have.

Who He Is

Cruz was born in Puerto Rico in 1947 and made his major league debut for the Cardinals at the end of the 1970 season soon after he turned 23 years old. The Cards never seemed to have a lot of faith in him, as he didn’t eclipse 132 games in four more seasons there. And frankly, the Cards were right to be low on faith. Cruz posted a .247/.333/.379 line for them. That was good for a league average OPS+ of 100, fine for a center fielder, but not something you really desire from a corner guy. After the 1974 season, his contract was bought by the Astros, for whom he would play 13 excellent years, posting a much better .292/.359/.429 with a 125 OPS+, before finishing up his career with the 1988 Yankees.

Why He’s Not In

There are tons of reasons writers almost completely ignored Cruz when he was eligible for the Hall. His only Black Ink was a hit title and a pair of sacrifice fly titles. He had little power, never topping 17 long balls. He never drove in or scored 100 runs either. And his career batting average was a pedestrian .284. He looked far from pretty to voters, and to anyone else who didn’t take a deep dive into his numbers.

Why did he look so mediocre? It’s a combination of era, park, and they type of game he chose to play. The AIR number at Baseball Reference measures the offensive environment in which the player played relative to an all-time average OBP of .335 and SLG of .400. A number below 100 indicates an unfavorable situation for hitters. For his career, Cruz had a 91, which is uncommonly low. The 1968 Los Angeles Dodgers had, perhaps, the least favorable park for hitters ever. The AIR number for Dodgers that year was about 75. But in the three years before and after, using Willie Davis as an example, the AIR numbers were 88, 89, 83, 89, 99, and 87. The average of the six seasons surrounding the most difficult environment for hitters ever is an 89 AIR. Again, for his career, Cruz had a 91. Yes, there are players with lower numbers. Sherry Magee, for example, had an 82. Johnny Evers had an 84. National Leaguers of the 1910s had a particularly tough time. And so did NLers of Cruz’s time, particularly those who played in the Astrodome.

How He Fared

For the decade from 1976-1985, Jose Cruz was the fifth most valuable position player in the National League and the ninth most valuable in all of baseball. Every player in front him is either in the Hall or is part of this series of posts. And each of the seven guys behind him are in the HoME other than Chet Lemon. That’s elite company.

Unfortunately for him, he was never a superstar. By straight WAR, he reached 6+ twice, 5+ only once more, and 4+ another four times. My translations, based mostly on reducing BBREF’s Rfield and replacing it with Michael Humphreys’ DRA, see him as a bit better, adding a season at 5+.

Some Comparisons

In baseball history, Cruz is one of only 36 players with over 200 batting runs and over 70 fielding runs. Of those who the Hall has rejected, there are just nine such players. All but two are of Cruz’s era. And two of those guys are part of this series. If we look at just left fielders with even 75% of Cheo’s Rbat and Rfield, the list is quite exclusive. You have Bonds, Rickey, Yaz, and Simmons. You also have underappreciated Hall of Famer Fred Clarke, HoMEr Jimmy Sheckard, and Luis Gonzalez. Even at 75% of our guy, it’s incredibly impressive company.

Guys within 15 career homers of Cruz who have over 45 WAR include a ton of underappreciated guys. Keith Hernandez, Tony Phillips, and Roy White are HoMErs on the list. Bill Terry and Enos Slaughter make it too. There are some non-HoMErs on the list too, but all of those guys aside from Slaughter have a lower career WAR total.

On an annual basis, Cruz looks a ton like deserving Dodger Hall of Famer Zack Wheat. Here are their best 15 seasons.

Wheat   Cruz
6.9     6.9
6.6     6.5
6.4     5.5
5.2     5.3
4.4     4.6
3.9     4.5
3.8     4.4
3.5     4.4
3.4     3.5
3.4     3.4
3.2     2.8
3.2     2.7
2.9     1.6 
2.7     1.5
2.6     1.2

If you look that much like a deserving Hall of Famer, you are probably deserving too.

Hall of Famers

It’s tremendous the advantage Cruz has over the likes of Chick Hafey and Heinie Manush. For my money, he’s also clearly better than relative contemporaries Jim Rice and Lou Brock. Further, I rank him ahead of Willie Stargell, Ralph Kiner, and Joe Medwick, though those three are close enough to debate.

Who to Dump

The comparison I want here is Lou Brock. Let’s dump Lou Brock! The Cardinal star had things a bit easier than Cruz with an AIR of 96. And he was really famous because of all the stolen bases and the 3000 hits, but let’s look at some other numbers too.

              Cruz     Brock
============================
PAs           8931     11240
Hits          2251      3023
Runs          1036      1610
Home Runs      165       149
RBI           1077       900
SB             317       938

So if you're a fan of counting stats, you prefer Brock.
==============================================================
BA            .284      .293
OBP           .354      .343
SLG           .420      .410
OPS+           120       109

But if you prefer rate stats, it seems Cruz has a little edge.
===============================================================
Rfield          77       -51
DRA          147.1     -25.5
The first is the defensive number at BBREF.
The second is defensive regression analysis. I trust the second more.
Either way, Cruz dominates.
=================================================================
Rbaser           3         78
No surprise, Brock was better on the bases.
=================================================================
Actual WAR      54.2       45.2
My Conversion   60.4       44.7
MAPES LF Rank     21         39
MAPES is my personal ranking system.
Cruz jumps up a bunch because of my DRA substitution.

It seems quite clear to me. If I could take one of these careers, I would take that of Jose Cruz. And if we got him into the Hall and Brock out of it, the Hall would be a better place. Or at least a more righteous one.

Next week we’ll take a look at Dwight Evans.

Miller

Kell, Enos, Herr, and RBI Without HR

Nellie Fox, 1952

Our most extreme career example since integration began, Fox drove in 790 on only 35 home runs.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about Curtis Granderson’s 2016 season when he hit more than half as many runs as the number he drove in. A reader, Ryan, suggested I follow up with something like the opposite. I thought it was a great idea but didn’t realize the BBREF Play Index machinations I’d have to go through to come up with a reasonably sized group. You see, before Babe Ruth, players really didn’t hit home runs. And throughout much of baseball history, there have been plenty of guys who very seldom went yard. So I had to play with the Play Index some to come up with the most ribbie-rific seasons of all-time. What I settled on is seasons since Jackie Robinson entered the bigs when players had as least 80 runs batted in and only 1/14 the homers. The seven guys below could have been called RBI machines.

George Kell, 1947George Kell, 1947

The fact that George Kell is in the Hall of Fame frustrates me to no end. He’s a player kind of like Richie Hebner or Carney Lansford. Think Kyle Seager if Seager never played another game. Maybe he’s the 60th best third baseman ever, and he’s in the Hall of Fame. He was a .300 hitter, donchaknow…

Anyway, his 1947 season was kind of remarkable in that he drove in 93 runs with the benefit of only five homers. To start off the season, Kell batted second behind Eddie Lake. From the end of May through July 4, he was the sixth hitter. At that point, his powerful bat moved to the cleanup spot for about a month before manager Steve O’Neill dropped him to fifth for the remainder of the season. All told, Kell hit 4th, 5th, and 6th second most on the team, and he hit 2nd third most.

Six times on the season Kell drove in at least three runs without the benefit of one of his homers. BBREF doesn’t have play-by-play data for 1947, so I can’t share detail. What I do know is that four of those six games occurred on just two days. The Tigers played what seems like an insane 33 double headers in ’47. On August 31, Kell drove in four runs in the first half and three in the second half of a sweep of the Browns. And just two weeks later, on September 14, he knocked in three runs in both halves of a sweep of the Browns.

Elmer Valo, 1949Elmer Valo, 1949

Valo, a corner outfielder who totaled 28.3 WAR during his career, played for the A’s in Philadelphia and Kansas City, the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, and the Senators/Twins in Washington and Minnesota. Among position players, interestingly (or not), only Valo and four Hall of Famers – Enos Slaughter, Pee Wee Reese, Stan Musial, and Ralph Kiner – put up at least 2 WAR each year from 1946 through 1952.

We check in with Valo today because of his 1949 season, during which he drove in 85 runs with the benefit of only five long balls. In a June 12 win over the Browns and a July 18 victory against the Tigers, he drove in four runs without a homer. But it was the first half of a May 1 doubleheader, a 15-9 win over the Senators that was his crowning jewel. After singling in the first, he hit a three-run triple in the third to knot the game at three. He then walked in the fifth and popped out in the sixth. In the seventh he hit his second three-run triple of the game. And in the eighth he singled to drive in his seventh run of the game.

When researching Valo, I found two pretty interesting factoids. First, since 1930 when I can find play-by-play data, only Valo, Bill Bruton, and Duane Kuiper have games with two three-run triples. And since 1913, only Valo and 22 others (including pitcher Vic Raschi) have individual games driving in seven runs without a homer. Only Valo and seven others did so with neither a homer nor a double.

Sam Mele, 1951Sam Mele, 1951

Mele suited up for six teams during his ten big league seasons. After his playing days were over, he went on to win 524 games as the manager of the Minnesota Twins, even taking them to the 1965 World Series. Smack between seasons where he homered twelve and sixteen times, Mele took pitchers deep just five times in 1951 while driving in 94 runs. He also led the AL in doubles and GIDP that year, but we’re not counting those categories today.

Mele hit fifth most frequently for the Sens that year. Even with a fairly paltry .274/.315/.391 line, he was probably their fifth best regular. The lineup slot made sense.

Six times during the 1951 season he drove in at least three runs without the benefit of a home run. His Senators played 25 double headers that year, and during one of those twin bills, an August 26 sweep of the Browns, Mele knocked in three runs in the first game and four in the second. What’s amazing for me about this day is that BBREF doesn’t have play-by-play data, and Retrosheet’s account is incomplete. This is 1951 we’re talking about, not ancient history. On one level, it’s kind of nice we don’t have the data though. It serves as a reminder of just how great the folks at Retrosheet have been unearthing the tremendous amount of information they have.

Enos Slaughter, 1953Enos Slaughter, 1953

Best known for his mad dash around the bases during the 1946 World Series when Johnny Pesky is said to have held the ball, Slaughter is in the Hall of Fame but not the HoME. And I think it’s likely both parties are making the right call. At the HoME, we don’t speculate as to what may have happened during Slaughter’s three lost seasons to WWII. If we did, it would be quite reasonable to give him 4 WAR each year form 1943-1945. After all, he posted 6.2 in 1942 and 4.4 in 1946. If we gave him those seasons, he’d jump from 28th ever in right field all the way up to 16th, passing nine HoMErs along the way.

Slaughter is on this list for his 1953 campaign, his last in St. Louis, during which he homered only six times while driving in 89 runs. Slaughter generally hit fourth or fifth in ’53. Solly Hemus got on base at a .382 clip out of the leadoff spot. Red Schoendienst in the two hole put up a .405 OBP, and Stan Musial led the NL at .437 hitting third. When Slaughter hit fifth, it was rookie Ray Jablonski and his paltry .308 mark in front of him. It would have seemed the Cards were a run scoring machine in ’53, but they finished 187 behind the league leading Dodgers who featured six guys who scored at least 100 runs.

Slaughter didn’t really have signature games in 1953. Only twice did he drive in three runs without one of his homers, and only twice did he drive in four. The Cards did win each of those four games, including a 17-3 drubbing of the Phillies on September 13. In that contest Slaughter did play, but I couldn’t look away from Musial’s line. The Man went 3-3 with a single, two doubles, three walks, and a stolen base. Now that’s a guy I wish I saw play.

Julio Franco, 1985Julio Franco, 1985

Once upon a time, Julio Franco should have been just about your favorite player. He left the majors at age-36 to team with Pete Incaviglia on the Chiba Lotte Marines, a club managed by Bobby Valentine. The next year he put up 3.0 WAR for the Indians. After struggling in 1997, he had just one at-bat the next three years, a 1999 strikeout at the hands of Mike Magnante. In 2001 he was 42. From that point, he played seven seasons, coming to the plate 1618 times, getting on base at a .358 clip with a 100 OPS+, homering 32 times with 213 batted in, and stealing 21 bases in 27 attempts. If there’s ever a trivia question about the oldest player to do something in the bigs, guess either him of Jack Quinn.

In 1985, Franco was in just his second full season, a young buck of 25. He led the AL in at-bats that year and makes this list with 79 runs driven in on only three homers. Through June 10, he had driven in 27 runs without the benefit of a single long ball. His best game to that point was a 3-RBI Opening Day win against the Rangers. Only twice more all year did he drive in that many runs without a homer.

One neat thing about the 1985 Indians is a reminder about how baseball used to work. For the first third of the season, manager Pat Corrales hit Tony Benazard and his .221/.290/.287 line in the second spot. Those of us who grew up on baseball in the 1970s and 1980s were taught, basically, that your second hitter had to generally suck at baseball. Well, that’s not precisely what they said. They said he had to be able to handle the bat. Of course, I thought that someone who could handle the bat well could actually hit a little. What they really meant is that the guy should be able to lay down a bunt. And on this particular Indian team, that’s a skill that would have helped. Leadoff hitter Brett Butler led the league for the second straight year in 1985 in caught stealing. Anyway, I miss Julio Franco.

Tom Herr, 1987Tom Herr, 1987

When I think of seasons of this ilk, it’s Tommy Herr’s 1987 that jumps to mind. I remember him making national headlines because he was driving in a ton without hitting homers, 110 with only eight dingers, to be exact. Oh wait, that’s his 1985 season. The season that makes our list is his 1987 campaign, during which he drove in 83 runs on only two homers. Herr is really the quintessential guy on this list. Since Jackie Robinson started, there have been only 17 players to come to the plate at least 5000 times in their careers and have 20 times the number of runs batted in as home runs. Herr is one, and he’s the only one with one of our qualifying seasons.

Herr generally hit third for the Cards in ’85, behind Vince Coleman and his 109 stolen bases and .363 OBP, and Ozzie Smith, who got on at a .392 clip. You might think of Herr as an odd choice to hit third. And you would be right. Of regulars, only Tony Pena could drop below Herr’s .331 SLG and 80 OPS+. Whitey Herzog is in the Hall of Fame despite this lineup decision. And the Cards went to the World Series despite it as well. Herr hit third in every game of the World Series. Luckily for the Cardinals, kind of, in the deciding seventh game, Herr was never up with a runner on base. The one time he did reach base, Frank Viola promptly picked him off. Herr finished the seven games against the Twins with just one run batted in, oddly enough on a solo home run.

The only time he drove in more than three runs in a game all season was the April 18 tour de force against the Mets during which he homered and drove in six in an extra inning Cardinal victory. In the fourth, he drew a bases loaded walk against Ron Darling. In the sixth, he hit a run scoring double against David Cone. And in the tenth, he hit a two-out, walk-off grand slam against Jesse Orosco.

Freddy Sanchez, 2006Freddy Sanchez, 2006

Sanchez didn’t really have much of a career for a batting champ, totaling just 15.8 WAR over his ten seasons. Unless I missed someone, the only NL batting champs in the last century with a lower career WAR are 1940’s Debs Garms and 1974’s Ralph Garr. Anyway, Sanchez won that batting title and made our list in ’06 with 85 runs batted in on six homers.

Sanchez didn’t play regularly until May when he basically took Joe Randa’s job at third base during the final season of Randa’s pretty decent career (topping Sanchez by 5.5 WAR). When Sanchez hit the lineup, he immediately went into the three hole for Jim Tracy’s Pirates, knocking Jason Bay to cleanup. It wasn’t a bad move at all for Pittsburgh since Sanchez and Bay were the best two hitters on the team that year.

Looking at signature games, we see four times he drove in three runs and two during which he drove in four without the benefit of a home run. In a July 2 loss to the Tigers, he hit a pair of two-run doubles. And in an August 30 win over the Cubs, it was a pair of two-run singles, including a comeback walk-off without two out in the eleventh and Pittsburgh down a run.

Thanks for reading!

Miller

Institutional History

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