Not every career is long and illustrious, never mind legendary. Many, of course, are short and unremarkable. But, sometimes, players have short careers that are quite unusual and worthy of a closer look. This post is about one of those players.

I happened upon Frank Fernandez recently. That’s his 1969 Topps card.

Frank was a catcher and outfielder in the late 60s and early 70s, mostly for the Yankees and As. A reserve, his career totals over 6 seasons (4 seasons really – he had cups of coffee in his first and last years) amount to about a season and a half as a regular.

Here’s his career line. Notice anything unusual?

 

 

Player WAR/pos PA OPS+ From To Age G AB R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
Frank Fernandez 5.9 908 114 1967 1972 24-29 285 727 92 145 39 116 164 231 .199 .350 .395 .744 *2/97 NYY-OAK-TOT-CHC
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/9/2012.

Among all players since 1901 (minimum 200 PAs), Fernandez is the only non-pitcher with a career having more walks than hits and, also, more strikeouts than hits. His career rate of walking in 18.1% of PAs ranks 8th best since 1901 (min. 800 PAs). Conversely, his rate of striking out in 31.8% of ABs is 12th worst.

Fernandez is also the only player with a career of any meaningful length with 100 OPS+ and a BA under .200. You have to go all the way down to a 28 PA career to find another player to do this. And, Fernandez’s 114 OPS+ was well above that 100 threshold.

That OPS+ was certainly no fluke, as his 5.9 WAR would suggest. Did any other position players have that high a WAR in so short a career? Let’s see.

Player PA WAR/pos From To Age G AB R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
Frank Fernandez 908 5.9 1967 1972 24-29 285 727 92 145 39 116 164 231 .199 .350 .395 .744 *2/97 NYY-OAK-TOT-CHC
Bill Salkeld 1049 7.9 1945 1950 28-33 356 850 111 232 31 132 182 101 .273 .402 .433 .835 *2 PIT-BSN-CHW
Len Koenecke 1064 6.2 1932 1935 28-31 265 922 155 274 22 114 124 96 .297 .383 .441 .824 *8/79 NYG-BRO
Duke Kenworthy 1113 6.8 1912 1917 25-30 285 989 159 301 18 146 67 84 .304 .360 .473 .833 *4/798 WSH-KCP-SLB
Geronimo Pena 1170 5.9 1990 1996 23-29 378 1010 162 265 30 124 112 255 .262 .345 .427 .772 *4/75 STL-CLE
Lou Klein 1173 6.3 1943 1951 24-32 305 1037 162 269 16 101 105 119 .259 .330 .381 .711 *4/6579 STL-TOT
Tommy Glaviano 1249 6.5 1949 1953 25-29 389 1008 191 259 24 108 208 173 .257 .395 .395 .789 *5/48679 STL-PHI
Hack Miller 1291 5.9 1916 1925 22-31 349 1200 164 387 38 205 64 103 .323 .361 .490 .851 *7/89 BRO-BOS-CHC
Lance Blankenship 1292 6.3 1988 1993 24-29 461 1050 176 233 9 92 200 218 .222 .350 .299 .649 4/7985D36 OAK
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/9/2012.

Most of these guys made a lot more contact that Fernandez. Blankenship looks most similar in terms of walks, strikeouts and average, but almost 40% of his WAR was from defense and he compiled only 87 OPS+.

Fernandez also had the shortest career among all those to reach his HR and RBI totals.

Player G HR RBI PA From To Age AB R H BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
Frank Fernandez 285 39 116 908 1967 1972 24-29 727 92 145 164 231 .199 .350 .395 .744 *2/97 NYY-OAK-TOT-CHC
Mark Quinn 293 45 167 1166 1999 2002 25-28 1089 153 307 56 186 .282 .324 .481 .805 7/D98 KCR
Bobby Estalella 310 48 147 1056 1996 2004 21-29 904 126 195 130 290 .216 .315 .440 .755 *2/D PHI-SFG-TOT-COL
Kendrys Morales 330 57 192 1240 2006 2010 23-27 1136 155 323 85 204 .284 .336 .502 .838 *3/D9 LAA
John Orsino 332 40 123 1135 1961 1967 23-29 1014 114 252 92 191 .249 .319 .420 .739 *2/3 SFG-BAL-WSA
Roy Foster 337 45 118 1153 1970 1972 24-26 1016 136 257 110 146 .253 .336 .438 .774 *79 CLE
Billy Conigliaro 347 40 128 1239 1969 1973 21-25 1130 142 289 86 244 .256 .311 .429 .740 87/94 BOS-MIL-OAK
Norm Zauchin 347 50 159 1197 1951 1959 21-29 1038 134 242 137 226 .233 .324 .408 .732 *3 BOS-WSH
Eric Munson 361 49 147 1186 2000 2009 22-31 1056 97 226 104 234 .214 .289 .394 .683 *5/23D7 DET-TBD-HOU-OAK
Hee-Seop Choi 363 40 120 1086 2002 2005 23-26 915 130 220 141 262 .240 .349 .437 .786 *3 CHC-TOT-LAD
Jon Nunnally 364 42 125 1049 1995 2000 23-28 885 162 218 146 239 .246 .354 .469 .823 *9/87D KCR-TOT-CIN-BOS-NYM
Walt Bond 365 41 179 1338 1960 1967 22-29 1199 149 307 106 175 .256 .323 .410 .733 39/78 CLE-HOU-MIN
Billy Bryan 374 41 125 1070 1961 1968 22-29 968 86 209 91 283 .216 .284 .395 .678 *2/3 KCA-TOT-NYY-WSA
Bill Schroeder 376 61 152 1356 1983 1990 24-31 1262 153 303 58 343 .240 .281 .426 .707 *2/3D MIL-CAL
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/9/2012.

Most similar guy looks to be Bobby Estalella  – a catcher, high walks and strikeouts, low average. But Estalella had just  92 OPS+, was an inferior defender (-1.4 dWAR, 27% CS rate) and compiled only half the career WAR of Fernandez.

What about his defense? Fernandez compiled positive 0.5 dWAR , threw out a very respectable 42% of base-stealers and, in his rookie season in 1968, placed 5th in Total Zone Runs for catchers despite catching less than 400 innings.

So, what sort of a player might Fernandez have become if he could have stuck around longer? Well, catchers since 1901 (min. 800 PAs) with career walks greater than 90% of hits are these guys (thanks to Lawrence Azrin and bstar for suggesting these comps).

Player PA WAR/pos OPS+ BB H From To Age G AB R HR RBI SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
Frank Fernandez 908 5.9 114 164 145 1967 1972 24-29 285 727 92 39 116 231 .199 .350 .395 .744 *2/97 NYY-OAK-TOT-CHC
Wes Westrum 2849 12.3 94 489 503 1947 1957 24-34 920 2322 302 96 315 514 .217 .356 .373 .729 *2/5 NYG
Gene Tenace 5527 48.7 136 984 1060 1969 1983 22-36 1555 4390 653 201 674 998 .241 .388 .429 .817 *23/59D47 OAK-SDP-STL-PIT
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/9/2012.

For the two comps, not only are the walks really close to hits. so are the strikeouts. Triple the PAs and counting stats for Fernandez and you get (roughly) Westrum. Multiply by 6 and it’s (very roughly) Tenace.

Fernandez also has some similarities with a couple of current young catchers. Take a look.

Player WAR/pos PA OPS+ From To Age G AB R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
Frank Fernandez 5.9 908 114 1967 1972 24-29 285 727 92 145 39 116 164 231 .199 .350 .395 .744 *2/97 NYY-OAK-TOT-CHC
Carlos Santana 6.1 850 128 2010 2011 24-25 201 702 107 171 33 101 134 162 .244 .362 .459 .821 *2/3D CLE
Alex Avila 6.3 956 120 2009 2011 22-24 274 819 100 221 31 127 119 220 .270 .362 .453 .815 *2/D5 DET
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/9/2012.

Santana and Avila both make more contact than Fernandez but, like Fernandez, have lots of walks, strikeouts and power. I’ll be interested to watch how Santana’s and Avila’s careers turn out.

So, that’s what I know about Frank Fernandez. Short and very unusual career. In his time, before OPS+ and WAR, I’m sure Fernandez was just seen as a guy who couldn’t hit .200 and struck out all the time, albeit with some power. But, with that power, those walks, and decent defensive skills, would have been interesting (and fun to watch) if he could have cut down on the Ks and stuck around longer.

You Yankees fans out there, tell us more about Frank.

 

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