The Hall of Could’ve Been

Everyone with an opinion about the Hall of Fame falls somewhere on the continuum of peak value vs. longevity.  A player can’t be a Hall of Famer if he was never among the best players in the game, or at least those at his position.  Similarly, a player who dominates for a year or two and then fades into obscurity isn’t likely to garner much support from Hall voters or fans (though past Veterans Committees have felt differently).  But we all put different emphases on peak vs. longevity.

To me, some of the most interesting baseball careers are those of players who do achieve true greatness for a short time, only to burn out or fade away.  Following are two possible rosters of the Hall of Could’ve Been- lists of players who had multiple MVP-type seasons, but didn’t sustain their peaks long enough to be obvious Hall of Famers.

First, all retired players with at least three seasons since 1901 with 7 or more WAR (per fangraphs), but fewer than 60 career WAR.  A 7-WAR season generally puts a player in the MVP conversation, while 60 career Wins are typically enough to put a player in the Hall of Fame.

[table id=90 /]

 

It’s the pitchers above- Walsh, Hahn, Koufax, and McDowell- who best represent the Hall of Could’ve Been.  Each was among the best pitchers in the game for a short stretch, but each may have benefitted from the Stephen Strasburg treatment.  Here’s a brief bio of each player on the list, starting with the pitchers:

Walsh is in the Hall of Fame, and isn’t generally considered a borderline pick.  He was only a regular starter for seven seasons- 1906 to 1912- but was worth 55.3 fWAR over that stretch, certainly a Hall-worthy peak.  His 1.82 career ERA is the best ever among pitchers who threw at least 1,000 innings.  In 1908, he threw 464 innings with a 1.42 ERA, winning 40 games for the White Sox.  Of course, Walsh would pay dearly for that workload, as the White Sox halved his workload in ’09 and by ’13, at age 32, he was a part-time pitcher.

Hahn is perhaps more Koufax than Koufax.  He won his 100th game at age 24, and by 26, had accumulated 45.9 fWAR, pitching 1,910 innings with an ERA under 2.50.  SABR’s Bio Project reports that Hahn “hurt his arm” in 1905, but doesn’t mention any effect of the 2,000 innings of wear on his young arm.  Hahn’s career is similar in volume to Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean’s, though Dean, despite leading his league in strikeouts four times, innings three times, and wins twice, never had a 7-fWAR season and accumulated just 38.3 career fWAR.

You know about Koufax.  Six years of middling results.  Six years as the best pitcher in baseball.  Retired at 30 with a dead arm.

Sudden Sam McDowell was among the best pitchers in baseball in 1969 and 1970.  These were his age-26 and 27 seasons, beginning eight years after he started his first game.  He rose to prominence slightly faster than Koufax, striking out 325 batters in 1965, and held on longer, pitching his last game at 32.  His peak, of course, was lower than Koufax’s, and he really didn’t add any value in his thirties.  McDowell missed much of 1972 due to contract disputes, and developed shoulder issues in ’73 that only exacerbated the wildness that had plagued him through much of his career.

Al Rosen would be nowhere near this list if I had gotten my data from baseball-reference, which sees only Rosen’s 1953, when he came within an umpire’s blown call of the Triple Crown, as a 7+ win season.  Fangraphs also loves his 1950 and 1952, the difference apparently a factor of b-r’s higher replacement level calculations for those seasons (neither system is particularly enamored with his defense or baserunning, and everyone knew he could hit).  Rosen was born with asthma and faced an uphill battle as an athlete from day one.  A rash of injuries ended his career at 32.

King Kong Keller lost almost two full seasons to military service, which I would expect to be a common theme among members of the HoC’vB..  Like Rosen, he benefits from fangraphs’ lower replacement level calculations, averaging 7.65 fWAR, but just 6.1 rWAR, over his four active seasons in the mid-’40s.  Still, he was an excellent player before and immediately after the war, but a ruptured disc in his back did more to deflate his legacy than military service.

The next three players, like Walsh and Koufax, are in the Hall of Fame.  I’ve always thought of Chuck Klein as the poster boy for the first live-ball era and the homer-happy Baker Bowl, but it took some real talent to take advantage of those gifts to the extent that Klein did.  Between 1929 and 1932, Klein hit at least .337, OBPed at least .398, and slugged at least .584 every year.  Remove ’51 and that minimum line becomes .348/.404/.646.  After 1934, when Klein left Philadelphia, he never had another 4-win season, partly because of a leg injury he suffered in ’34.  He did hit four home runs, and nearly added a fifth, in a game in ’36, but never did recover the magic of his Baker Bowl peak.

Elmer Flick was a turn-of-the-century outfielder who was very valuable from his debut as a 21-year-old in 1898 through his age-30 season.  He fell victim to a still-unidentified illness in 1907 and was never productive again, but his ten-year peak provides a strong Hall of Fame argument in itself.

Kiner was perhaps the ultimate one-trick pony.  From 1946 through 1952, he led his league in home runs every year, peaking in 1949 with 54.  He gradually developed a keen batting eye, or at least started walking more as his career advanced because pitchers were afraid of his power.  But he never hit as many as 100 singles in a year, played poor defense at corner positions, and stole just 22 bases in his career.  In ’49, ’51, and ’53, his power and patience were immensely valuable, totaling 25.4 fWAR.  He was a decent player in the even years during that stretch, but back problems sapped his power and he played his last game at 32.

Rocky Colavito is one of those players I’m always a little surprised to see absent from the Hall of Fame’s roster.  He has one of those great baseball names, and from 1958 to ’65, he was quite a hitter.  Contract squabbles cost him a few games in his early thirties, but his retirement at 35 seems to have been the result of the natural effects of aging, rather than any specific injury.  He accrued 59 WAR without a season worth more than 7.1, and was a 4+ win guy eight times, so he’s on this list more as a result of the random nature of my criteria than because of unfortunate events that derailed an otherwise-legendary career.

Several active players meet the criteria at the moment, but may end their careers above my 60-WAR threshold.  Johan Santana, with three big years, but just 47.3 fWAR and not much left in the tank, seems destined for the HoC’vB, as does Jason Giambi, who’s stuck at 52.6 wins despite 24.1 between 2000 and 2002.

Chase Utley was worth seven or more wins for five straight years, from 2005 to 2009.  He’s at 53.8 now and, at age 34, has a pretty good chance to reach 60, but given his recent injury history, is certainly no lock.  David Wright just completed his third 7-win year, four years removed from his second one.  He just turned 30, and with 47 fWAR in the books, should break 60 if he can stay healthy.

 

Now let’s amend the criteria a bit to accomodate those players whose peaks were even shorter.  Eleven players had two or more 7+ WAR seasons, but fewer than 40 career WAR.  Players below this career threshold typically have very thin Hall of Fame cases and need help from a perfect game, a 191-RBI season, or an association with Frankie Frisch to have any shot at the Hall.

 

[table id=91 /]

 

Only Rosen, whose peak was truly great and whose career was extremely short, shows up on both lists.  Let’s take a quick look at the ten new entries, starting again with the pitchers.

Bill Hands pitched for the Cubs in the late ’60s and early ’70s, peaking with two very different seasons in ’69 and ’70.  He had a 2.49 ERA in 300 innings in ’69, succeeding by limiting walks and homers.  In ’70, he lost 35 innings and added 1.21 runs of ERA, but his peripherals were similar to ’69. Throw in a higher run-scoring environment and fangraphs gives him another 7.3 WAR (b-r gives him 4.8).  “Froggy” Hands was only a regular starter from 1968 to ’72, and was out of the game by age 35.

Smokey Joe Wood was the ace of the 1912 World Champion Red Sox, winning 34 games and striking out 258 that season.  From 1909-1915, his ERA never exceeded 2.62 and his FIP was never higher than 2.53.  Only in ’11 and ’12, however, did he pitch more than 200 innings.  Wood broke his thumb fielding a bunt in 1913 and was never as effective again.  He was a good hitter, though, and was used as an outfielder on occasion with the 1914-’15 Red Sox and regularly for the Indians from ’17 to ’22.  Add his offensive WAR and Wood totals 40.2, which would disqualify him from this list, but I think he belongs in spirit.

It’s hard to write about Sam McDowell without thinking about Wilbur Wood, who achiveed success with a very different repertoire, but in a similar pattern to McDowell’s.  The knuckleballer was immensely durable and effective from 1971 to ’75, pitching 1,673 innings over that stretch, including 334 with a 1.91 ERA in ’71.  He didn’t learn the knuckleball until he was 25, and didn’t use it effectively until age 29, so his is less a case of a tragic ending and more a case of a late start.

Bret Boone, despite his impressive lineage, was a role player until his first year in Seattle.  At age 32, the second baseman added some muscle and popped a career-high 37 homers.  Never much of a fielder, a baserunner, or a patient hitter, he provided most of his value with power, which he exhibited almost exclusively from ’01 to ’03, the boundaries of which were his two 7-win seasons.  I’ll let you draw your own conclusion as to the secret behind Boone’s slow start and sudden decline at 35.

Turkey Mike Donlin debuted in 1899 and excelled only in 1905 and 1908, when he slugged .495 and .452, both mammoth numbers for the deadball era.  He also stole at least 30 bases in each of those years, showcasing the speed for which he was renowned, especially before breaking his ankle in ’06.  Donlin only played 1,049 games over 16 years, missing all or parts of seasons due to legal trouble, contract holdouts, injuries, and a preference for vaudeville acting to playing baseball.

Elston Howard was a Yankee mainstay from the mid ’50s through the mid ’60s, but played more than 136 games just once in his career.  This is not especially rare for a catcher, of course, but it does explain why he only accumulated great value in seasons when he combined offensive production, stellar defense, and playing time.  He did this best in ’63 (28 HR) and ’64 (.313 BA).  For almost the first half of hs career, he was stuck behind Yogi Berra on the catcher depth chart, serving as a backup backstop and occasional left fielder.  The last quarter of his career was marred by bone chips swimming around his elbow.  It may be a stretch to conclude that Howard would have been a Hall of Famer with a clear path to his preferred position and a little health in the late ’60s, but he certainly played at a Hall of Fame level for a few years.

Benny Kauff makes the list only because fangraphs considers the Federal League of the 1910s to be a major league.  Playing for the Indianapolis Hoosiers as a 24-year-old rookie in 1914, Kauff hit .370/.447/.534 with 75 stolen bases and top-flight center field defense, earning 11 WAR.  The next year, he hit .342/.446/.509 for the Brooklyn Tip-Tops.  The National League wasn’t so easy on him, as Kauff was a good player for the Giants from 1916 to 1919, but never worth more than six wins.  In 1920, Kauff was banned from Major League Baseball by commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis in connection with a criminal trial for auto theft and allegations of fixing games.  Kauff was never convicted on either count, but was never allowed back to MLB. I recommend a more complete bio at the SABR Bio Project.

Freddie Lindstrom is the only Hall of Famer in this group, though it’s hard to make a case that he’s more worthy than most of his HoC’vB peers.  Throughout his 13-year career, he was a solid defensive third baseman who ran the bases well and hit for high averages.  He never drew as many as 50 walks in a season, and only hit more than 15 homers once, in his 7.6-WAR season in 1930, a notorious live-ball year.  Injuries to his ankle, back, and knee ended Lindstrom’s career at 30 years old and 34.3 fWAR, but Hall of Fame voters were impressed with his high batting averages in an offensive era and a memorable (if negative) World Series moment  at age 18.

Bobby Murcer, like so many players before and after him, was a superstar for the Yankees who provided little value to any of the other teams he played for.  In 1971 and ’72, Murcer was one of the best hitters in the game, combining power and patience with a little bit of speed.  In ’73, Murcer broke his hand, and subsequent trades to teams he hadn’t worshipped growing up didn’t treat him kindly either.  Murcer was never worth as many as three wins after ’72.

Snuffy Stirnweiss has to be one of the 10 or 15 best players named Snuffy in baseball history.  Another Yankee, he was perhaps the best all-around player in the game at age 25, in 1944.  Fangraphs credits him with 37.5 batting runs, 6.3 baseruning runs, and 21.7 fielding runs (including the positional adjustment), good for 9.2 WAR.  He was nearly as good in ’45, leading the league in batting, slugging, runs, triples, and stolen bases.  My limited research hasn’t indicated why he lost his full-time job in 1949 and retired in ’52 at age 33.  He died at 39 when his train plunged off a bridge.

 

Obviously, we could add several players to these groups by tweaking the criteria. I expected Dwight Gooden, owner of the best single-season pitching rWAR (11.9) of the last century (if we’re ready to exclude Walter Johnson’s 1913) to be here, but he never had another 7-win season after 1984 and ’85, and he stuck around long enough to get to 58.1 WAR.  Roger Maris won back-to-back MVP awards with huge seasons in 1960 and ’61, but retired with just 44.3 fWAR.

Here’s the full list of retired players with exactly two seasons of 7+ fWAR since 1901 and between 40 and 59.9 career WAR (* denotes a Hall of Famer):

Bob Allison, Earl Averill*,Dave Bancroft*, Jesse Barfield, Albert Belle, Paul Blair, Vida Blue, George Burns, Roy Campanella* Cesar Cedeno, Harlond Clift, Kiki Cuyler*, Larry Doby*, Bob Elliott, Jim Fregosi, Nomar Garciaparra, Brian Giles, Dwight Gooden, Mark Gubicza, Larry Jackson, Tony Lazzeri*, Fred Lynn, Roger Maris, Jon Matlack, Minnie Minoso, Dale Murphy, Bill Nicholson, Tony Oliva, Dave Parker, Bobby Veach, Bob Veale, Ken Williams, amd Hack Wilson*

The last group worth a look here are the true one-year wonders.  These players earned at least 10 fWAR in a season without accumulating 50 in their careers:

Cy Falkenberg, Benny Kauff, and Rico Petrocelli

Only Petrocelli, with 10.6 WAR for the 1969 Red Sox, accomplished this feat in a modern major league.  Mike Trout, of course, would rather not join this group.

Who else is in your Hall of Could’ve Been?

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72 Comments on "The Hall of Could’ve Been"

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Insert Name Here
Guest
As a Red Sox fan, the mere use of the words “could’ve been” brings Tony Conigliaro to mind. Although WAR doesn’t look upon him so fondly (his top being the beanball-shortened ’67 season at 3.5 WAR), he hit 104 HRs through about 3.5 seasons at age 22 (generally accepted as being on pace to break the Babe’s career HR record), then hit 62 HRs for the rest of his career after that nasty beanball, supposedly because of the sun’s reflection off of the CF bleacher seats (or someone sitting in them), which are now covered with a black tarp during… Read more »
Steven
Guest

Another Red Sox “could’ve been” from that season: Jim Lonborg. If only he’d stayed off the ski slopes the winter after that sensational year.

Mike HBC
Guest

Speaking of The Babe, in two full seasons (and one most-of-a-season that would be considered full in 2013), Ruth as a pitcher was good for 16.7 (b-r) WAR with a 2.02 ERA and 134 ERA+. That’s a pretty good could’ve-been case right there, but with an extremely unique set of circumstances for why “could’ve been” never became “was”.

bstar
Guest
Wow, I did not know Rico Petrocelli had a 10+ WAR season. The name Dickie Thon leaps to mind. He put together consecutive seasons of 5.9 and 7.2 rWAR at age 24 and 25. That’s over 13 WAR, and only eight other shortstops produced this much WAR in consecutive seasons this early in their careers. Four are Hall of Famers(Ripken, Arky Vaughan, Hornsby, Joe Cronin), two are future Hall of Famers (Jeter and A-Rod), and the last two names are Hanley Ramirez and Nomar. We all know what happened after that. Early on in ’84, Thon got beaned in the… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest

Thon was one of two who jumped out at me.

The other was J. R. Richard. He was 10-4 with a 1.90 ERA and more than a K per inning when he suffered his stroke. He never came back and finished his career with a 3.15 ERA and a 107-71 record.

Graham Womack
Guest

I’d include Don Wilson in the Astros subcategory. Promising pitcher who committed suicide at 29.

Adam Darowski
Guest

Yup, I had Don Wilson’s Hall of Stats page up when you posted this. Was that officially ruled a suicide? I remember reading that it was suspicious, but not definite.

Tubbs
Guest

Bstar, here’s the link from a Torrez interview where he discusses the Dickie Thon beaning:
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/comment/borelli/2000-10-26-borelli.htm

Robbie
Guest
Herb Score immediately comes to mind. He went 36-19 with a 2.68 ERA (150 ERA+) in 476.2 innings pitched between 1955 and 1956, leading the AL in strikeouts (245) and strikeouts per 9 innings (9.7) as he won the AL Rookie of the Year in ’55 before leading in strikeouts, ERA+, K/9, H/9, and shutouts in ’56. He was worth 12.4 bWAR and 12.3 fWAR between just those two seasons. But then his infamous eye injury on a line drive happened the next year and although he lasted to ’62, he was basically replacement level after that, managing just 0.7… Read more »
Jason Z
Guest
Whenever I hear the name Herb Score, I can’t help but think about Gil McDougald or “The McDougald” as Red Barber called him. McDougald played ten years for the NY Yankees from 1951-60. He played 2B-599 games. He played 3B-508 games. He played SS-284 games. He did not just play, he excelled, leading the AL in double plays in 1952 at 3B, 1955 at 2B and in 1957 at SS. Who does that!!?? A 6 time All-Star, McDougald retired after the 1960 season rather than risk being exposed in the expansion draft. His first seven seasons were impressive. Between 3.5… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest

You know, I never looked into why McDougald retired. I’ve got him with a Hall Rating of 80, so he was well on his way and just needed to compile a bit. What a great player.

Jason Z
Guest
He was a great player. I cannot get over how effectively he played those three infield positions. I considered opining about his possible Hall of Fame chances. I am glad to see you have him ranked so highly. If he had remained with the Yankees through at least 1964 his postseason experience would have mirrored Mantle’s. Being apart of those great teams would have assured some level of Hall of Fame support. He probably would have retired with somewhere between 55-60 WAR and we could make a great case today when combining his war and versatility. I have read more… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest

McDougald retired after the 1960 WS because it appeared that the Yankees would leave him unprotected in the 1961 AL expansion draft, and either the Angels or Senators would’ve taken him.

Ironically, as Bill James pointed out, if the Angels had drafted him, he may have doubled (or more) his best HR total, as Wrigley Field, the Angels 1961 home, had a very short left-field power alley (less than 350 feet).

Richard Chester
Guest

In 1957 McDougald himself was hit in the left ear by a batting practice line-drive. Years later he lost his hearing in both ears. In 1994 his hearing was restored with a cochlear implant. Afterwards he became a spokesman for the manufacturer, Cochlear Americas.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

If Tony C and Herb Score, then Pete Reiser also needs to be mentioned. After 1941/42, he looked like the next great all-around player(2nd/6th in MVP voting, but he couldn’t stop running full-speed into outfield walls.

MikeD
Guest
Somehow it doesn’t feel quite right for a HOFer to be a member of the Hall of Could’ve Been. Sure, Koufax could have accumulated more counting stats, probably more Cy Young Awards, but he did make the HOF and is considered one of the game’s great pitchers because of his peak. He’s also one of the most famous pitchers ever. Yet, I understand the point. As great as he was, he could have been even better. Yet there is something to the “die young, stay pretty” angle that has enhanced Koufax’s reputation. There was no fade. We never saw him… Read more »
bstar
Guest

I agree about players in the Hall not feeling like good candidates for a “could’ve been” list, but if we’re going to do that I would mention Addie Joss as a candidate.

Joss died of tubercular meningitis at age 31 after nine years of 142 ERA+ pitching and 43 WAR. He trails only Ed Walsh in raw career ERA with a 1.89 mark.

Hartvig
Guest

Conigliaro is alway the first name that comes to mind for me, largely because it was one of the most compelling stories of my youth.

Another name is Pete Reiser, who not only led the league in batting average but also a whole bunch of advanced statistical metrics including offensive WAR as a 22 year old. Leo Durocher said the only player that compared to Pete Reiser was Willie Mays and then went on to enumerate the ways in which he though Reiser was better.

In my mind Grady Sizemore has a whole lot in common with Pete Reiser.

Hartvig
Guest

If forgot to mention- if you merge Noodles Hahn’s career thru age 25 onto Sandy Koufax’s you probably have the greatest pitcher of all time.

And in sort of a reverse what-if scenario there’s Dazzy Vance- he struggles with arm troubles for years until finally the pain becomes unbearable and he goes to a doctor he doesn’t know from Adam to have some bone chips removed. He then proceeds to rack up nearly 200 victories after age 30.

Adam Darowski
Guest

While Conigliaro’s WAR totals don’t look as impressive through the sabermetric lens these days, you have to remember just how young he was. People just aren’t in the big leagues at that age too often. I mean, 1967 was his age 22 season and he had been in the AL for several seasons.

Jason Z
Guest
You can’t have a Hall of Could’ve Been without Pete Reiser. In 1941 at age 22, and keep in mind that this is before the war decimated rosters, Reiser had a decent season. He led the NL in… BA .343 SLG .558 OPS .964 OPS+ 164 RUNS 117 DOUBLES 39 TRIPLES 17 TOTAL BASES 299 Like I said, he had a decent year. The next season he ran into a concrete wall while running at full speed. Injuries due to his style of play caused him to be carried off on a stretcher eleven times!! Leo Durocher said their was… Read more »
Jason Z
Guest

Shame on me. Reiser also led the NL in WAR for position players in 1941 with 7.4

Glad to see Hartvig joining me on the Reiser bandwagon.

I am going to leave Smokey Joe for someone else.

Jason Z
Guest
Denny McLain. His exploits are well known. From ages 21-26, 1965-69 McLain sparkled in a low offense environment. He racked up 108 wins against 51 losses, including his insane 1968 season when he went 31-6. Most pitchers today start 32-34 games max. It’s hard to imagine that we will see a season like this ever again. WAR tells us that he was slightly above average from 65-67. However in 68-69 he was spectacular. He started 82 games, completing 51. He led the AL in innings pitched both seasons, totaling 661. In 1968 he became the first pitcher in AL history… Read more »
kds
Guest

I like the digressions. I like the non-digressions also. Even if non-digressions is not a word. Sounds like a double negative. (Which some find similar to a double play.) But if we try to take out both(?) negatives we are left with gressions, which isn’t a word at all. And we don’t get anywhere useful by regressing, linearly or to the mean. Which leaves me gressed, or something.

Ed
Guest
Jason Z – Your digression would have been perfect if you included Ray Fosse in the story. Many of you may already be familiar with Fosse’s story. As a 23 year old catcher with the Cleveland Indians, Fosse went to the 1970 All-Star game hitting .312 with 16 home runs at the break. Pete Rose famously took Fosse out in a 12th inning collision to score the winning run. You can watch a video of the play here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Fj2B9z4Dbw Seems like a dirty play to me but as an Indian’s fan I admit I may be biased. Anyway, Fosse separated… Read more »
Jason Z
Guest

Thanks for completing the story Ed. Everyone remembers what
Pete Rose did to Ray Fosse. The video is burned into my
memory. It was played countless times in the 1970’s.

However I had no idea about the connection to Denny McLain.

I remember stories about the Fosse connection when Pete went to prison. But truthfully, I had forgotten.

Thanks for completing the circle so perfectly.

Ed
Guest

Jason Z – I was born in ’69 so I never saw the video until recently. And I only read about the Fosse-McLain connection this morning. Anyway, glad you appreciated my contribution.

RJ
Guest

Jason Z and Ed, please, digress away! For relative baseball-history neophytes like myself, these tales are a joy to read.

Denny Mclain actually links in perfectly to something I was pondering earlier. I noticed that Jake Peavy had won the Cy Young Award without receiving votes in any other year, and wondered if many other players had done the same. Lo and behold, Mclain won the award twice without receiving votes in any other year! That truly seems to embody the spirit of Bryan’s post.

kds
Guest

RJ, you have to careful comparing different years of Cy Young voting. Now voters select 1st thru 5th. From 1970 to 2010 they only voted for the top 3. From 1967 to 1969 they only voted for their top choice. And from 1956 to 1966 their was only one vote for the top pitcher in AL and NL combined, with no votes for place or show.

Doug
Editor
The finale for McLain sounds a lot like that for Dizzy Trout. Except that, instead of facing the Big Red Machine, Trout faced the bottom of the 1957 KC As order, allowing two singles, a double and a triple to Tim Thompson, Bob Martyn, Billy Hunter and a very young Ralph Terry (he was shipped from the Yankees earlier that season and who would ship back to them a couple of years later). At least the battery was memorable – 42 year-old Trout pitched to 18 year-old catcher Frank Zupo, one of only a handful of times a teenager and… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

In 1957 C Frank Zupo and P George Zuverink twice formed what I believe is the only “Z” battery in the ML.

Doug
Editor

If not the only Z battery, surely the only Zu battery.

Looks like Gregg Zaun caught Jeff Zimmerman on the 1999 Rangers.

Richard Chester
Guest

Then it looks like Wikipedia is wrong once again.

no statistician but
Guest
Kind of a late comment on the subject: Trout’s finale wasn’t really anything like McLain’s, unless there’s no life after one’s baseball career stops. The amazing thing to me about McLain is that his wife, Lou Boudreau’s daughter Sharyn, has tried to stay with him and support him—according to that unimpeachable source Wikipedia—for most of his post playing days: a divorce but then a remarriage occurred. She, at least, had the mettle of her old man. I remember reading some comments by Lou on his son-in-law during the worst of the troubles. Lou was very supportive, at least in public,… Read more »
Doug
Editor

I guess it would be more accurate to say the recounting of McLain’s final appearance reminded me of Trout, simply for the failure to get anyone out. And, since Trout came so close to one of Bryan’s objective criteria, seemed appropriate to mention him.

Certainly wasn’t intending to convey any more connection than that.

kds
Guest

Rosen and Keller do much better on fWAR because brWAR properly reduces the difference between replacement and average in a weaker league. As the AL was for many years from the ’40s to the ’60s.

Benny (Ty Cobb of the Federal League) Kauff has the same issue with the FL replacement level. That Fangraphs does not do this is an error by them, not a reasonable alternative method. (Like FIP instead of RA9 to figure pitching WAR.)

Phil
Guest

Nomar came to mind immediately for me—I see he’s on your supplemental list. On Baseball Reference, he’s got one season at 7.1, another four in the 6 range, one at 5.9, and after that nothing over 2.2. 39.1 of his 42.0 career WAR comes in six seasons; that must be some kind of record for players over 40.0. When he was healthy, he was great. He just never was after 2003.

Ed
Guest
Re: Rocky Colavito. I wonder if any other team made two disastrous trades involving the same player the way the Indians did with Colavito. Lots of fans are familiar with the first trade. The Indians’ traded Colavito, by far the fans’ favorite player, to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. Colavito was the reigning HR champ, Kuenn was the reigning batting title champ. Kuenn was a decent player but he wasn’t as good as Colavito. AND he was 3 years older than Colavito. Just a strange, strange trade. Colavito played for the Tigers for 4 years, putting up a total… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest

Nap Rucker is a good one.

SEVEN SEASONS (through age 28) he had 43.8 WAR for the lowly Brooklyn Dodgers before arm troubles set in. That peak got him into the Hall of Stats despite a career record of 134-134.

Brooklyn Mick
Guest

“Eleven players had two or more 7+ WAR seasons, but fewer than 40 career WAR.”

Donnie Mattingly had “only” one 7+ WAR season, but he had two other 6+ WAR seasons. From 1984-86 he posted 6.0, 6.4, and 7.1 WAR consecutively. Those three seasons accounted for 19.5 of his 39.8 career WAR.

MikeD
Guest

Mattingly might compare with Frank Tanana, who I mentioned above. One 7.0+ WAR season, and several others below. Mattingly suffers from the WAR “penalty” for 1B. Also not quite sure defense is still properly rated at 1B, and certainly not looking back, yet that’s a whole different story. BTW If B-R’s WAR was used, Tanana put up three straight seasons of 7.1, 7.2 and 8.0 WAR and would make the list above. Fangraphs rates each of those three seasons lower (although still excellent) and interestingly descending in value 7.2, 6.1 and 6.0.

RBI Man
Guest

1962 ROY and GG winner, Cubs 2B Ken Hubbs and Lyman Bostock.

Phil
Guest

Dean Chance? One season for the record books (1964: 9.1 WAR, near-unanimous Cy when there was only one awarded), two in the 5.0-5.9 range, nothing else over 4.0. 20.2 of WAR out 32.3 for his career in three seasons.

Phil
Guest

I guess this is a topic I’ve always had in the back of my mind, because names keep popping up (even if they don’t strictly fit the parameters). Jose Rijo: 33.0 WAR for his career, 24.9 of it coming in a four-year run (1990-93). Also, to a lesser extent, Mario Soto (24.6 total, 17.9 of it coming between 1982-84).

bstar
Guest

Phil, I ran across this the other day: Jose Rijo led all of baseball in rWAR in 1993, at 9.8 WAR.

birtelcom
Editor

43 everyday players reached 35 or more career WAR by the end of their age 27 season. Of those 43, the guys who totaled the fewest WAR over the rest of their careers:
John McGraw: 5.2 WAR
Travis Jackson: 5.3 WAR
Cesar Cedeno: 9.1 WAR
Vada Pinson: 9.4 WAR
Jim Fregosi: 10.4 WAR

GrandyMan
Guest

When someone mentioned Grady Sizemore, another active player came to mind — Eric Chavez. Fantastic all-around player with 31 WAR through age 28; then the injuries piled up, limiting him to about one full season’s worth of play from 2007 to 2010. Even though he has resurrected his career to some extent, it’s still kinda difficult to watch him play, knowing that he may have been on an HOF career track at one time.

birtelcom
Editor

46 everyday players accumulated 45 or more career WAR from their age 28 season on. Of those 46, the guys who totaled the fewest WAR from the start of their careers through through their age 27 season:
Jackie Robinson: debuted in MLB at age 28
Bob Johnson: 3.6 WAR
Bill Terry: 3.6 WAR
Jose Cruz: 5.6 WAR
Edgar Martinez: 5.8 WAR
Luke Appling : 7.8 WAR

bstar
Guest

John’s Musial article forced me to delve deeper into the case of Mort Cooper.

Cooper dominated baseball from a pitching perspective from 1942-1944, leading all of baseball in wins, ERA+, WAR, shutouts, winning %, and ERA. Overall Mort was 65-22 with a 2.17 ERA and won the NL MVP in 1942 with a 10-shutout, 22-7 and 192 ERA+ campaign.

He cooled down considerably after 1944, only winning 25 more games in three final years before retiring after his age 36 season with 31 WAR and a 128-75 career mark.

Gary Bateman
Guest

A couple of old-time shortstops:

Cecil Travis, who lost four years to WWII with nearly 1,400 hits to his credit after his age 27 year (1941), and was not the same after the war.

Vern Stephens, the very rare power-hitting shortstop from that era, who injured his back in 1951.

And of course, as a Royals fan, I have to mention Bo Jackson.

Jason Z
Guest

Eric Davis. That 1987 season 7.7 WAR was sick.

He never played over 135 games in a season.

8 times he played between 127 and 135 games.

Inhale these numbers from 1987 when he played 129 games…

He hit .293 with an OPS of .991 and an OPS+ of 155.

37 home runs, 100 RBI’s, 120 Runs scored.

He stole 50 bases after stealing 80 the previous year.

The combination of power and speed was awesome to watch.

And as mentioned before, 7.7 WAR helped along by the
best DWAR, 0.9, of his career. And in only 129 games!

Adam Darowski
Guest

Oh gosh, Eric Davis is a great one.

Lemme throw out Kal Daniels’ name. He seemed destined for greatness for a little while there, too.

T-Bone
Guest

Kal Daniels was one of my favorites. His knees were so bad he sometimes looked and acted like he was walking bone on bone at the end of his time with the Cubs. Walk gingerly my friend.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

What was more amazing than Eric Davis in 1987? – his first _ two months_ in 1987:

Through May 31st/Eric Davis in 42 games, all starts:

.346 BA/ .420 OBA/ .788 SLG (!)
19 HR (prorated about 63 HR{!!!})
52 RBI (prorated about 172 RBI{!!})
43 runs (prorated about 142 R)
20/22 in SB (prorated about 66/72 SB)
125 total bases (prorated about 415 TB{!})

The Reds played 49 games through May 31st, so multiply Davis’ above numbers by about 3 and 1/3, as I did above – WOW

kds
Guest

From Bill James Baseball Abstract 1987. (So, after the 1986 season.):

When Eric Davis leaves this game
What shall be writ beneath his name?
Shall we old men, o’er a glass of ale,
Legends tell and stats detail
Of wonders seen in the Cincy sun
Or merely the record of another one
Who had a chance and didn’t take it
Made us dream, but didn’t make it
Up that mountain, nuilt of hope
(Lord, it is a treacherous slope).
When Eric’s time has come and gone
Another youth will claim the dawn
But none of us will be the same,
What shall we see, beneath his

kds
Guest

I did NOT hit submit!!!

The last 2 lines are;

“What shall we see, beneath his
name?”

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Davis also seemed to make a spectacular HR-robbing catch over an outfield wall at last once every couple weeks in 1987. Yes, I know I am embellishing greatly – but he did make at least three HR-denying catches that year, adding to his aura.

Jason Z
Guest
I always thought of Kal Daniels as Eric Davis light. Or maybe Eric Davis was Kal Daniels on steroids. Having just looked up Kal Daniels over at B-ref, I think I may have just insulted Kal Daniels. Two numbers jump out from Kal’s page. A career OPS+ of 138. 666 career hits. The fascinating thing is that they both had huge years in 1987. I would love to hear the recollections of any Reds diehards that may be lurking. To have two players in the same year for the same team appear to be locks for greatness, and then to… Read more »
David W
Guest
2 Cardinals – Austin McHenry and Bill DeLancey. McHenry was an outfielder who hit .350 with power and speed at age 25 in 1921 and then a brain tumor ended his life in 1922. DeLancey was a catcher who came down with tuburculosis at age 23 in 1935 after seasons hitting .316 and .279. Branch Rickey named his as his all time Cardinal catcher despite only playing 219 games. He died in 1946 at age 35 after attempting a comeback which failed in 1940 Both players would have been stars during times when the Cardinals were perenial contenders, and in… Read more »
birtelcom
Editor

A recent name for the Hall of C’ve B is Brandon Webb. He’s trying to catch on with a team for 2013, which would be his age 34 season, but looking at what he’s done to date:

Brandon Webb through age 29 season: 1315 IP, 143 ERA+
Whitey Ford through age 29 season: 1357 IP, 143 ERA+

Brandon Webb after age 29 season: 4 IP, 36 ERA+
Whitey Ford after age 29 season: 1812 IP, 126 ERA+

Adam Darowski
Guest

Brandon Webb is a GREAT one. Only 51 pitchers since 1901 had as much WAR as Webb (32 post-integration).

Doug
Editor

Bobby Bonds is a different kind of HoCvB guy. His 55.6 career WAR is borderline HOF, but he really wasn’t as close as that WAR might suggest.

Bonds’ problem was that his peak wasn’t high enough. He had 9 seasons over 4 WAR (7 consecutively), but only one over 7 WAR at 7.7. He put up back-to-back 4 and 3 WAR seasons at age 32-33, then went over a cliff with only 82 OPS+ and -0.6 WAR after that.

birtelcom
Editor

Actually, his MLB peak was at age 17 — at some point that year he provided his genetic contribution to the creation of Barry. Signed his first pro contract with the Giants in August, 1964 at age 18, about ten days after Barry was born.

mosc
Guest
Steroids have certainly made us forget the unbelievable talent of Barry Bonds. Gifted beyond measure in so many areas. We forget what a threat on the basepaths he was. People tout speed as part of Larkin, Alomar, and Biggio’s game but Barry was a better base stealer. More than that, he had great pate coverage and pitch recognition, at the end of 1998 he had 1357 walks! In 1996, Barry was itentionally walked 30 times (yawn by later standards) which is a ridiculous number considering he stole 40! bases on 47 tries that year. He was a left fielder, but… Read more »
mosc
Guest

Wow, sorry for the unprovoked Bonds tirade. That wasn’t directed at anyone in specific. You guys know all this stuff already, and I know that.

Rico Petrocelli
Guest

Petrocelli= Heroic Outlier

James h
Guest

Didnt sweet music have a couple of 7 WAR seasons but finished just over 40 WAR? Frank Viola was one of my favorites growing up, sad that he didn’t recover from an elbow injury.

Cowbell
Guest

Does Kevin Brown work here or is he in some other category? I think he averaged 7 WAR over a five year span, totaled more than 60 and missed the cut in his first year of hall voting.

Actually, here’s a list to consider…who are the best players to be disqualified after their first year of HOF voting?

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