Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Hall of Fame vote for 2012 saw Jeff Bagwell’s support rise to 56% from its previous 41.7.  This solid number is still a far cry from the percentage of votes Baggy deserves, but at least the former Astros first baseman is scaling that mountain.  There will come a day–mark my words–that Jeff Bagwell will reach the summit of this mountain, but it hasn’t come at the appropriate time, for Baggy deserved to net the necessary 75% of the vote on his first ballot.  Not only is Jeff Bagwell one of the greatest all-round players of his day–he is also one of the greatest stars in the game’s rich history.  In numerous categories, Baggy rests well above enshrined players, not just in offensive stats but in defensive departments as well.  Everyone who followed Baggy knows of his slugging exploits but few realize just how great of a talent he was.  Unlike peers named McGwire and Thomas, Baggy did more than slug: he could run and field his position (only Eddie Murray has more career assists at first than Baggy).  Soon, Jeff Bagwell will have to pen an induction speech for Cooperstown and get to watch as Hall of Fame custodians buff his bronze likeness in the famous plaque gallery.

The greatest player in Houston Astros history, Jeff Bagwell came to Texas with little fanfare.  A native Nor’easterner, Baggy was drafted by his beloved Red Sox only to be traded while still on the farm for quality setupman Larry Andersen.  Larry served his purpose in Boston for about one-third of a season while Baggy became an All-Star with Houston.  The swatter from Beantown won the 1991 Rookie of the Year Award and a few years later gathered the National League MVP Award in 1994.  Jeff remains on the short list of players who received 100% of the MVP vote the year they won the coveted hardware.  Among career MVP shareholders, Baggy ranks 35th all-time in MVP votes.  When one peruses the all-time leader boards the name Bagwell can often be found.

Bagwell ranks 37th all-time in WAR among position players.  His career on-base percentage of .408 is the 40th best mark in the game’s history.  He is the game’s 36th greatest hitter for slugging percentage and when you combine his lofty on-base percentage and slugging average, Baggy jumps up to 22nd all-time in career OPS.  He ranks 35th in career homeruns, 28th in career walks and 46th in lifetime RBI.  His value has been greatly enhanced thanks to the application of Sabermetrics which has made statistical analysis more in-depth.  He is the eighth greatest player in baseball history in “base-out runs added” and finishes 16th in career “Win Probability Added.”  In “Base-out wins added” Jeff is the tenth greatest performer in the game’s storied history.  But all these new-fangled stats mean little to the old school fan.  What these Sabermetrics do, is, in essence, give followers of the game a different perspective on long-held stats.  It’s numbers crunching–plain and simple–that enables researchers to better determine the overall worth of a player.

Jeff Bagwell might just be the God of Sabermetrics.  Stats such as RBI, runs scored, homeruns and batting average have always been the holy grail of baseball numbers, but Bagwell, although he excels in all these departments, adds greater worth when you focus on the numbers and employ a little math.  On-base percentage has become a more valuable stat than batting average of late since many .300 hitters can’t get on base better than a career .254 hitter like Eddie Yost.  Although Yost had a weak batting average, his OBP is higher than many .300 hitters thanks to his excessive number of walks.  When one focuses on OBP, players like Yost start to gain respect.  Bagwell, unlike Yost, was a high average hitter who also posted substantial on-base percentages.  Baggy’s batting skill only added to his worth as an on-base guy.

It is in large part to Bagwell’s overall game, which is better defined by Sabermetrics, that he is viewed by those in the know as one of baseball’s greatest talents.  With high batting averages and on-base percentages, Jeff was a true offensive beast.  During his career, Baggy put together a string of six consecutive seasons (it would have been eight had he not broke his wrist) in which he both scored and drove in at least 100 runs.  At first glance, this seems like an impressive accomplishment but nothing too awe-inspiring.  But know this: recently inducted Hall of Famer Jim Rice had a three-year string and Andre Dawson, also recently inducted, never was able to put together a back-to-back season of 100 runs and 100 RBI.  Some of Jeff’s peers, like Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Fred McGriff–all currently on the Hall of Fame ballot with Baggy–were incapable of duplicating this feat.  McGwire had one back-to-back season while neither McGriff nor Palmeiro were ever able to fashion back-to-back 100 runs scored and 100 RBI seasons.  As far as Hall of Fame legends are concerned, Baggy excels some names you wouldn’t expect.  Hank Aaron had five consecutive seasons, Stan Musial had four, Johnny Mize and Orlando Cepeda had just one back-to-back season while men like Mickey Mantle, Willie McCovey and Willie Stargell never had back-to-back 100 runs scored and 100 RBI seasons.

With recent inductions of run producers like Jim Rice and Andre Dawson in the Hall of Fame, Jeff Bagwell’s case strengthens.  Although Baggy came into his own when Rice was done and Andre was winding down, the Astros slugger was a far superior player than the two new members of the Hall.  Jeff rests higher than both Dawson and Rice in career homeruns, runs scored, runs created and WPA (wins probability added).  Baggy’s career WPA is a healthy 59.0 which more than doubles Jim Rice’s career 25.4 and nearly doubles Dawson’s career 29.7 mark.  The following bracket lists the four important average stats: batting average, on-base percentage, slugging average and on-base plus slugging.

BA: Rice .298, Bagwell .297 and Dawson .279

OBP: Bagwell .408, Rice .352 and Dawson .323

SLUG: Bagwell .540, Rice .502 and Dawson .482

OPS: Bagwell .948, Rice .854 and Dawson .806

Bagwell’s career slash line (BA, OBP, SA and OPS) is one the greatest in baseball history.  When an individual wants to judge the overall worth of a hitter, they shouldn’t focus on batting average or homeruns, but the slash line.  Those batters with impressive slash lines tend to be the game’s elite run producers because they hit for high averages, reach base often and hit for authority.  The OPS is a great indicator of a batter’s worth because it combines the player’s ability to reach base with his ability to drive the ball.  Baggy’s career OPS is higher than such unquestioned Hall of Famers as Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Duke Snider, Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Eddie Mathews and Harmon Killebrew.  Even some of Baggy’s much more ballyhooed peers like Ken Griffey Jr. and Gary Sheffield can’t reach his career .948 lifetime OPS.

The following exercise is the best case I can make for Jeff Bagwell and proof that the man should have been ushered into Cooperstown on his first ballot.  It will show that Baggy was a more valuable player than Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle and his two position peers who received far more ink than he did over the course of his career: Mark McGwire and Frank Thomas.  Now, the value of a player is best defined by his ability to create runs.  Only by the scoring and driving in of runs can a team win.  Without a run scored, no team will ever finish on top, for runs are the only avenue to wins.  In the runs created department, Bagwell greatly excels the previous mentioned stars.

The exercise I have conducted focuses on each players eight prime seasons.  In the case of Bagwell, Thomas and Mantle, their eight seasons came consecutively, but in the case of Big Mac, his prime seasons had a hiccup which is why I have discarded the 1993 through 1995 seasons from the exercise on McGwire’s behalf because he was injured.  This exercise adds the players runs scored and runs driven in stats and divides them by games played, thus giving us the number of runs scored per game courtesy the player.  Let us begin with Mr. Bagwell.

The eight prime years for Jeff Bagwell are the seasons of 1994 to 2001.  His average of runs manufactured per season is listed in parentheses after the years of analysis.

Bagwell: 1994 (2.00), 1995 (1.54), 1996 (1.43), 1997 (1.51), 1998 (1.60), 1999 (1.66), 2000 (1.79) and 2001 (1.59).

Mantle: 1954 (1.58), 1955 (1.50), 1956 (1.75), 1957 (1.49), 1958 (1.49), 1959 (1.24), 1960 (1.39) and 1961 (1.69)

McGwire: 1987 (1.42), 1988 (1.20), 1989 (1.18), 1990 (1.25), 1991 (0.89), 1992 (1.37), 1996 (1.67) and 1997 (1.34)

Thomas: 1991 (1.35), 1992 (1.39), 1993 (1.53), 1994 (1.83), 1995 (1.47), 1996 (1.73), 1997 (1.61) and 1998 (1.36)

All total, Bagwell has the best prime years average with a number of 1.64 runs manufactured on average per game played.  His mark exceeds Mickey Mantle, a shoo-in Hall of Famer, whose tally comes in third at 1.52–just behind Frank “Big Hurt” Thomas’ 1.53 ledger.  Mark McGwire, who justly has received limited support for the Hall of Fame, is well behind the three great offensive stars with a mark of 1.29.  So, not only was Jeff Bagwell an elite run producer of his day, he is also one of the best all-time.  The man who put the Astros on the map deserves a place in Cooperstown.

Long held assumptions are the most difficult to extract.  What an individual has believed for years, what has been assumed as simple fact, is not easily pushed aside by reason.  The wall of assumption is one erected with sturdy fortifications and an onslaught of reasoned analysis oftentimes fails to chip away at the mighty structure.  But reason is the greatest of all weapons–that mightiest of directors–that can spotlight the errors of assumptions and escort the misguided towards enlightenment.  Many baseball fans assume that either Johnny Bench or Carlton Fisk was the best all-round catcher of the 1970s, with Gary Carter their strongest peer (although he performed primarily in the 1980s) but they fail to regard perhaps the best of the crop.  Very few assume that Ted Simmons, the star switch-hitting backstop of the St. Louis Cardinals, was in the same class as Bench, Fisk and Carter, but the truth is, he is, perhaps, the valedictorian of this star-studded class.

Johnny Bench guided his Cincinnati Reds to several World Series contests, Carlton Fisk was the no-nonsense star of the Boston Red Sox and Gary Carter was the clutch star for the World Champion 1986 Mets, but these three Hall of Famers aren’t quite the well-rounded performer that Ted Simmons was.  Although Bench, Carter and Fisk have an edge defensively–this edge isn’t a mammoth gulf, mind you, but a slight separation–Simmons was unquestionably the better offensive performer.  He was a consistent threat to hit .300 and owned the best plate discipline of the quartet.  His arm was on par with Carter’s and Fisk’s and Simmons’ career stats exceed his enshrined peers in many major offensive categories.  Let us take a look at a few, shall we?

HITS: Simmons 2472, Fisk 2356, Carter 2092 and Bench 2048

DOUBLES: Simmons 483, Fisk 421, Bench 381, Carter 371

RUNS BATTED IN: Simmons 1389, Bench 1376, Fisk 1330 and Carter 1225

BATTING AVERAGE: Simmons .285, Fisk .269, Bench .267 and Carter .262

ON-BASE PERCENTAGE: Simmons .348, Bench .342, Fisk .341 and Carter .335

Also, of this amazing catching quartet, Simmons owned the best batting eye, indicated by being the only player who walked more than he struck out.  In over 2,400 games, Simba struck out just 694 times while accepting 855 free passes.  The switch-hitting Simmons was topped by the Hall of Famers in homeruns and slugging, but there is more to baseball than just swatting a long ball.  Simmons was a well-rounded performer who could drill twenty dingers, but he never reached the 40 homerun plateau that Bench toyed with from time to time.  Although Bench hit 40 homeruns in two separate seasons in his career, he also struck out in the excess of 100 times in two seasons (something Simmons never did) while his plate discipline got progressively worse after his 25th birthday.  Most players gather a better understanding of the strike zone as they age, but Bench was the opposite.  At the age of 24 he walked more than he struck out but never again achieved this astounding feat.  At the age of 27, Johnny drew 65 walks but whiffed 108 times.  In half of Simmons’ seasons he walked more than he struck out.

Striking out was something Ted rarely ever did.  In fact, Simba was one of the most difficult strikeout victims of his time.  In ten separate seasons, Ted was in the Top Ten in his league in batters that were most difficult to strikeout.  As for his Hall of Fame peers, Gary Carter had two such seasons in which he made the Top Ten while neither Bench nor Fisk ever had such a campaign.  His knack for making contact enabled him to lead all catchers in the game’s history in a unique little department: intentional walks accepted.  Ted was put on base intentionally by the opposition 188 times over the course of his career.  His mammoth total of free passes eclipses Bench’s by over 50 intentional walks and exceeds both Fisk and Carter by over 80.  Of all players in the game’s history, only 17 batters were walked more than Ted intentionally.

Although Simmons never won a batting title, he was one of the few catchers often in the running.  He had six Top Ten finishes in batting average over the course of his career.  His Hall of Fame peers were never regarded as great hitters for average–they were sluggers and not hitters.  In seven separate seasons, Ted eclipsed the .300 plateau while Fisk was a .300 hitter in just two of his many seasons played.  Gary Carter was never a .300 hitter and Bench enjoyed his only .300 season on the cheap–the strike shortened 1981 campaign.  And everyone knows that a lofty batting average tends to make an on-base percentage lofty as well.  Simba’s best single season OBP was .408, which eclipsed his Hall of Fame peers’ highwater marks: Fisk .402, Carter .381 and Bench .379.

Simmons was able to post over 100 more two-baggers than both Bench and Carter when his career was all said and done.  His drives often went to the gaps which enabled the St. Louis backstop to tally an ample amount of doubles.  Although Ted wasn’t the power hitter that his peers were, he still possessed solid pop and was the only member of this legendary quartet that posted a 40 double/20 homerun season.  Bench’s forte may have been the dinger, but Simmons’ forte was the two-bagger.  Ted ranks second all-time in career doubles among backstops, trailing the future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez with Fisk coming in third behind Simba.  Simmons eclipses Carlton in many categories and some might be surprised that Ted threw out 34% of would-be base stealers–the exact same percentage as the more highly touted Fisk.

The strongest case for Simmons’ Hall of Fame induction comes in the most important category in the game: the scoring of runs.  To cross the plate is the only way to tally a score, making runs and runs batted in the most important stats in the game.  In this regard, Ted was an elite performer.  Of all the all-time great catchers, only the legendary Yogi Berra drove in more runs than Simmons.  Ted is second all-time in career RBI among receivers.  Bench comes in third, Mike Piazza fourth and Ivan Rodriguez, who is still active, but not a threat to move Simba down the ladder, in the fifth slot.  Take a gander at other positions and envision the RBI runner-up not dwelling in Cooperstown.  The runner-up among first basemen is a fellow named Lou Gehrig.  In right field, Babe Ruth is second in all-time RBI.  Willie Mays is the second best center fielder in driving in runs while Honus Wagner plays second fiddle among shortstops in this important stat.  Now, can you imagine the Hall of Fame minus any of those men?

After the votes were counted and the dust cleared from the number-crunching, the name of Barry Larkin was the only sent home.  The former All-Star shortstop of the Cincinnati Reds collected 86.4% of the vote.  Congratulations to Mr. Larkin on this most hallowed of achievements. 

Listed below are the percentage totals racked up by each player on the writer’s ballot.  Given that the Veteran’s Committee elected former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, Barry won’t go into Cooperstown alone.  No other player on the writer’s ballot received 75% of the vote–the necessary total for induction–as Jack Morris, former Tigers ace, came in second in voting with 66.7%.  The list that follows give the player’s percentage received by the writers beside the prediction I made for each player last month in parenthesis.

Barry Larkin 86.4(70.5%), Jack Morris 66.7 (57.7%), Jeff Bagwell 56.0 (58.2%), Lee Smith 50.6 (49%), Tim Raines 48.7 (41.4%), Alan Trammell 36.8 (26.8%), Edgar Martinez 36.5 (38.6%), Fred McGriff 23.9 (22.2%), Larry Walker 22.9 (25%), Mark GcGwire 19.5 (21.8%), Don Mattingly 17.8 (15.1%), Dale Murphy 14.5 (14.4%), Rafael Palmeiro 12.6 (19.3%), Bernie Williams 9.6 (18.8%), Juan Gonzalez 4.0 (6.2%), Vinny Castilla 1.0 (3.6%), Tim Salmon 0.9 (2.6%), Bill Mueller 0.7 (0.7%), Brad Radke 0.3 (0.2%), Javy Lopez 0.2 (3.8%), Eric Young 0.2 (0.2%), Ruben Sierra 0.0 (0.7%), Brian Jordan 0.0 (0.2%), Terry Mulholland 0.0 (0.2%), Jeromy Burnitz 0.0 (0.0%), Phil Nevin 0.0 (0.0%) and Tony Womack 0.0 (0.0%)

There were a number of shockers for me in this year’s ballot.  I expected, given the lack of star-caliber first-timers on the ballot, that many of the players would see a boost in their percentages.  This happened to many but others either fell off a tad or didn’t quite get the support I figured they would.  Larkin’s 86% seems a bit too excessive, but since his company on the ballot was rather weak, it was his year to make it.  Although Larkin was a terrific player, the writers should not have elevated him to 86% simply because the company he kept on the ballot was suspect.  When the voters do that, they in essence dilute the Hall of Fame, electing the loftiest player among a group of stars, not because he is worthy of any accolade but because he is perceived as better than the rest.  Had Barry had to compete with the likes of Biggio, Piazza, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Schilling, like the holdovers will next year, Larkin almost certainly wouldn’t have netted 80% of the vote and probably not the 75% needed for enshrinement.

Another shock was the steep ascent of Jack Morris.  Jack was a good pitcher, noted more for his big game performances than anything else, who was a solid innings-eater but hardly a dominating pitcher.  The strongest case for Morris is that he won the most games of any pitcher during the 1980s–every other decade leader is in the Hall of Fame.  But if Morris should make the Hall of Fame, his ERA will be the highest of all enshrined.  Although Morris racked up innings, he pales in comparison to some names that will make the ballot in upcoming years–true Hall of Famers like Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens (at least the numbers).  Morris isn’t in their class–not by a long shot.

Jeff Bagwell saw his support spike, as well it should.  He was the greatest all-round first baseman of his time, which is saying a lot.  He played in the rock-’em-sock-’em 1990s and had such stars as Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff, Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro to contend with.  The 1990s is easily the best decade in the game’s history as far as star-caliber first basemen are concerned and Baggy was the cream of the crop.  Not only could he slug on par with his peers, but he was also swift, fielded his position well and was an exemplary sportsman.  He will make the Hall of Fame eventually.

I was expecting support for Bernie Williams and a lesser jump in percentage for Alan Trammell, but the reverse was true.  Now that Barry Larkin is in the Hall of Fame, there seems to be little reason to keep Trammell out.  The two played the same position and their career numbers are in quite close proximity in all regards.  Also, both men led their team’s to World Championships and did, unfortunately for them, spend an ample amount of time on the DL later in their careers.  The two shortstops are really quite comparable.  No rational person can justify why Larkin received 86% of the vote while Trammell, almost his equal, netted under 40%.  Bernie has always been sort of an unsung Yankee, shadowed by Jeter, Posada and Rivera.  He was a fine player and I expect him to remain on the ballot but never make the Hall of Fame, lest the Veteran’s Committee elects him in in 2048.

Some players my estimations were rather close.  Lee Smith and Bagwell received about the same support I imagined they would get, as did Edgar Martinez and Fred McGriff.  Tim Raines, a well-rounded talent, shot up a little higher than I expected, as did Mattingly, but Palmeiro and McGwire didn’t see the slight raises I envisioned for them–the steroid cloud will linger.  My prediction for Dale Murphy was 0.1 percentage points off and I thought that Juan Gonzalez would see enough support this year, given a weak freshman class, to be retained for the 2013 ballot, and then be knocked off that year, but the former Rangers slugger was removed from the ballot this year with an under 5% showing.  As I expected, Bernie Williams was the only first-timer to get the required 5% to remain on the ballot, so the other first-timer’s names will not be seen on the 2013 ballot.

The human mind is an interesting thing.  That which is no longer current is easily forgotten–lost among the bombardment of steady images the mind is ceaselessly exposed to.  What is seen today is impressed upon the mind, seemingly pushing aside images viewed days prior.  However, when we think in terms of decades rather than days, the collective human memory is reliant, chiefly, on outside influences, such as historians whose occupation it is to keep bygone days fresh in the mind of the populace.  When the focus is on the world of sports, teams that existed many decades ago but field not a team today, are as lost to the common fan as modern man is separated from the common toil of his ancestors.  What was common yesterday may not be common today, but was commonplace to persons from the past.  The Cleveland Blues, a team not known to the average baseball fan, is a club that boasted the services of the great Jim McCormick, whose name, thanks to his association with the obscure, is lost to many baseball fanatics.

In the game’s early years, Jim McCormick was one of the finest hurlers in the professional ranks.  Such stars as Al Spalding, Jim Creighton and Dick McBride captured the baseball fan’s attention before, during and after the Civil War, for they were the game’s top pitching sensations.  Later, stars like Tim Keefe, Old Hoss Radbourn and Pud Galvin became common names among the sporting pages for their pitching exploits.  These men were stars, and the latter trio Hall of Famers, but the name Jim McCormick is one that should rest among them. 

During McCormick’s time pitchers were expected to be made of iron.  The man who took the mound in the game’s opening frame was expected to be there when the last out was recorded.  Jim McCormick was made of such metal.  Jim completed 466 of his career 485 starts and on five separate occasions, he eclipsed the 500 innings pitched plateau in a single season.  Pitchers nowadays rarely work 200 innings a season, lest their name be Halladay or King Felix.  The star pitchers of McCormick’s era all had rather identical stats when it came to completing their games, but their peripheral stats didn’t quite mirror one another so well.

Around the time McCormick was starring in the pro ranks, pitchers like John Clarkson, Galvin, Keefe, Radbourn, and Mickey Welch were starring as well.  The five men named after Jim all were elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but were they any better than McCormick?  The following brackets list these men in order of best to worst in both earned run average and WHIP.

ERA: McCormick 2.43, Keefe 2.63, Radbourn 2.68, Welch 2.71, Clarkson 2.81 and Galvin 2.85

WHIP: Keefe 1.123, McCormick 1.132, Radbourn 1.149, Galvin 1.191, Clarkson 1.209 and Welch 1.226

McCormick is the top man in ERA among the star pitchers of the 1800s and was Sir Timothy Keefe’s runner-up in the WHIP crown.  These two stats are regarded by many as the two most important stats to judge pitchers.  A hurler’s win-loss record is a poor indicator of the pitcher’s worth because many lesser pitchers were able to win on powerfully offensive teams while some star hurlers toiled on clubs with a woeful offense, thus posting poor records.  Felix Hernandez comes to mind as a modern day star pitcher saddled to a poor team.  The best way to judge the merits of a pitcher is by how well he restricts runs, and in order to restrict the scoring of runs by the opposition, an elite pitcher keeps runners off base, thus limiting the chances for the enemy to score.  At this, McCormick was solid.

McCormick, who rests in the Top 40 all-time in both the career wins and ERA departments, posted some amazing single season stats his Hall of Fame peers could not duplicate.  His best single season WHIP was an amazing 0.786.  The top single season WHIPs of the Hall of Fame Five are listed hereafter: Keefe 0.800, Radbourn 0.922, Clarkson 0.953, Galvin 0.988 and Welch 1.022.  And in the ERA department, Jim enjoyed four seasons with a sub 2.00 mark.  None of his Hall of Fame peers could match his total as Keefe had three such seasons, Welch two and Clarkson, Galvin and Radbourn had one apiece. 

McCormick was often among the pitching leaders during his career.  He led the league two times apeiece in both ERA and wins while Hall of Famer Mickey Welch never led the league in either category and Pud Galvin was able to lead his league just once in ERA without ever claiming a wins crown.  In fact, when you compare Jim with Pud Galvin, you see a pitcher, in McCormick, far more difficult to hit.  In just three seasons McCormick allowed more hits than innings worked while Galvin surrendered over a hit per inning in a whopping twelve campaigns. 

Perhaps one the best ways to acknowledge pitching excellence is by focusing on a hurler’s strikeout-to-walk ratio.  The WHIP category is a better indicator of a pitcher’s success because it takes into account hits allowed as well, but the SO/BB ratio is the foundation of WHIP–with the hits allowed addition to the equation.  Jim owned a remarkable 2.28 SO/BB mark over the course of his career.  Only Pud Galvin, who Jim tops in ERA and WHIP, had a better strikeout-to-walk ratio (Pud’s WHIP was swollen because he was easy to hit) among the Hall of Fame Five.  Jim’s 2.28 mark eclipses Radbourn’s 2.09, Keefe’s 2.08, Clarkson’s 1.66 and Welch’s 1.43.

Back in the Golden Age of cinema, actors and actresses had to be multi-talented.  Unlike today, a thespian couldn’t survive chiefly on his or her good looks–they had to have a little extra.  Studios weren’t satisfied with an actress that was simply adept at line readings.  More was needed.  So the aspiring actors and actresses, typically discovered courtesy their appearance, trained to become solid thespians with numerous talents.  Watch any old black and white film and actors, even those comedic oddballs like the Marx Brothers, would break out in tune and sing a chorus here and there.  It wasn’t enough that classy dames like Jane Russell or Lizabeth Scott looked great, they also had to practice vocal dexterity to make it and stay in pictures.  Like the dedicated and devoted actors of that bygone era, Dwight Evans was a well-rounded performer.  It wasn’t enough that he hit for solid power–Evans also fielded his position exceptionally, owned remarkable plate discipline and packed a Howitzer under his right shirt sleeve.

Although Dwight spent his last season in the Majors with the Orioles, he is regarded as a lifelong member of the Boston Red Sox.  The terrific right fielder was the poster child for the modern statistical analysis crowd who value peripheral stats in the same fashion as Athletics General Manager Billy Beane.  Evans became a sensation midway through his career when he developed remarkable plate discipline which boosted his on-base percentage up to the Eddie Yost range.  Modern day fans have grown accustomed to the seemingly never-ending string of peripheral stats, but before such things as WAR and the like, most folks focused on the tried-and-true stats of hits, homers and RBI.  Although Dwight was above average in these departments as well, it was his stellar on-base percentage that separated him from the pack.

Evans has a handful of peers in the Hall of Fame (players who played in roughly the same age and manned the same position) to include Andre Dawson, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield and teammate Jim Rice–a fellow corner outfielder.  These men were all stars in their day and had plenty talent, but Dwight may have been the best all-round talent of this star-studded cadre.  His on-base percentages were typically high while his peers often struggled to manage lofty OBP.  Andre Dawson never had good on-base skills and Jim Rice’s plate discipline was typically poor.  He occasionally posted decent on-base percentages but that was when he hit for extremely high batting averages while not drawing many walks.  Winfield had good on-base skills and Reggie Jackson owned poor plate discipline–indicated by him resting atop the alltime strikeout board among batters–but he, like Harmon Killebrew, eventually developed good on-base skills.  Dawson’s highest single-season OBP was .365 while Rice’s highwater mark was .384.  Dwight topped Rice’s best mark in six separate seasons and bested Andre’s OBP apex a whopping nine times.

Although Dwight had the lofty on-base percentages of Eddie Yost, he also hit for the power of a Cepeda.  Dwight combined the best attributes of Yost and Cepeda to make a complete offensive player.  If he had a weakness as an offensive weapon, it was a lack of speed, however, Evans wasn’t a base path clog.  He fashioned a number of seasons with solid batting averages, on-base percentages and slugging averages.  In fact, he put together more well-rounded seasons in these three departments than any of his Cooperstown peers.  Over the course of Evans’ distinguished career, he posted six seasons with a batting average of at least .280, an on-base percentage of at least .370 and a slugging average with a base of .460.  As for his Hall of Fame peers, Reggie Jackson and Jim Rice finished with one less season, tallying five such campaigns apiece, while Dave Winfield produced four such campaigns and Dawson never achieved such success in any given season. 

Given his exceptional on-base skills, Dwight was able to score plenty of runs.  The Boston ballhawk posted four seasons with 100 or more runs scored–a higher total than any of the aforementioned Hall of Famers.  Winfield and Rice posted three 100 runs scored seasons, Andre Dawson had two while the self-promoting Jackson only had one such season.  By drawing walks, Dwight was able to cross the dish at a high clip.  His average of 0.564 runs scored per game for his career eclipses Winfield’s 0.561, Jackson’s 0.55 and Dawson’s 0.523. 

With the ability to draw walks typically comes the aversion to strikeout.  In modern times, such isn’t the case with high walk drawers like Adam Dunn and Jack Cust also resting high in the leader board among strikeouts.  Although Evans whiffed occasionally, he was much better at pitch recognition than his Hall of Fame peers.  Dwight posted five seasons in which he walked as much as he struck out–or walked more than he whiffed–over the course of his career.  His Cooperstown peers are nowhere close in this regard.  Dave Winfield accomplished this feat twice in his career while Dawson, Jackson and Rice never once walked on par with their total of strikeouts.  Although Dave the Rave is the only peer close to Evans in this regard, Dwight was arguably the better player.  Winfield led the league once in both RBI and total bases–the extent of his league leading stats.  Dwight paced the American League at least once in each of the following departments: runs, homeruns, walks, OBP, on-base plus slugging and total bases. 

Dwight Evans was a fine offensive performer but what made him one the best all-round stars of baseball history was his ability to combine offensive prowess with defensive excellence.  The Boston star was feared across baseball for his cannon arm which enabled him to tally 228 career assists.  A fixture in the Gold Glove ceremonies, Dwight won eight awards for defensive excellence throughout his career.  Andre Dawson was able to match this feat while Winfield won just one shy with seven.  Reggie Jackson and Jim Rice never won a Gold Glove as Rice was a below average defender and Reggie was abysmal on the field.  Such new stats like WAR attempt to judge a player’s overall worth and the multi-talented Evans proves quite a formidable star in the WAR department.  His career WAR of 61.8 eclipses Winfield’s 59.7, Dawson’s 57.0 and Rice’s weak 41.5 career mark. 

A few years ago the baseball writers elected Jim Rice into the Hall of Fame while they never gave Dwight 11% of the vote.  The voters clearly slighted the better all-round player.  Rice hit for a better average than Evans, but batting average isn’t everything.  The following list compares Evans and Rice in some important career totals.

RUNS: Evans 1470, Rice 1249

HITS: Rice 2452, Evans 2446

DOUBLES: Evans 483, Rice 373

HOMERUNS: Evans 385, Rice 382

RBI: Rice 1451, Evans 1384

STOLEN BASES: Evans 78, Rice 58

WALKS: Evans 1391, Rice 670

OBP: Evans .370, Rice .352

TOTAL BASES: Evans 4230, Rice 4129

ON-BASE + SLUGGING: Rice .854, Evans .840

FIELDING %: Evans .986, Rice .980

ASSISTS: Evans 227, Rice 137

PUTOUTS: Evans 5450, Rice 3103

WAR: Evans 61.8, Rice 41.5

Rice also grounded into 315 career double plays (an enormous amount) while Dwight bounced into only 227 twin-killings.