Circle of Greats 1932 Results: COG Beeline for Kaline

After runner-up finishes in the previous two rounds of voting, Al Kaline swamped the field as the voters’ resounding choice to become the next inductee into the Circle of Greats. A mainstay in the Tiger outfield for more than two decades, Kaline was an outstanding player in all facets of the game, retiring in 1974 as the all-time AL career leader for right-fielders in WAR, Offensive WAR, Defensive WAR and WAR Baserunning Runs.

More on Al Kaline after the jump.

Kaline becomes the 47th player inducted into the Circle of Greats. He led the voting from start to finish with the final result never in doubt. Among players introduced to the ballot in this round, only Maury Wills received any votes. That allowed all of the players in their last round of eligibility to attract sufficient support to survive to the next round of COG balloting.

The full spreadsheet showing this round’s vote tally is here: COG 1932 Vote Tally. The vote summary for recent Circle of Greats voting rounds is here: COG Vote Summary 2 .  An archive with fuller details of the earlier, 1968 through 1939, rounds is here: COG 1968-1939 Vote Summary .  In both of the Vote Summary workbooks, raw vote totals for each past round appear on Sheet 1 and the percentage totals for each past round appear on Sheet 2.

Baseball fans were treated during Kaline’s career to some of the best right-fielders in the game’s history. That his 92.6 career WAR (28th all-time) ranked only third among contemporary right-fielders is not to slight him in the least. Not when Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente are the two players ahead of you. Those three plus Mel Ott occupy the top four spots on the all-time right-fielder WAR list. From there, it’s  a sizable drop down to the next group of Sam Crawford, Reggie JacksonPaul WanerLarry Walker and Harry Heilmann, all tightly clustered in the 72 to 75 WAR range.

Buddy Lewis

In the age of the bonus baby, Kaline was a prodigy who made good on his early promise. Debuting as an 18 year-old in 1953, Kaline was a regular at 19 and batting champion at age 20, the latter feat matched only by Ty Cobb and Alex Rodriguez. Those three plus Vada Pinson and Buddy Lewis (see sidebar) are the only players to reach 200 hits so young, with only Kaline and Cobb also leading their league in safeties. Among 20 year-olds, Kaline’s 162 OPS+ that season trails only Cobb, Mel Ott and Mike Trout, and his 8.3 WAR trails only Trout and A-Rod.

For the 18 seasons from age 20 to 37, Kaline was above 100 OPS+ in 300+ PA every season. How many others have done that? It’s a short list of Cobb and contemporaries Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson. But, Kaline was well clear of 100 OPS+ most of those seasons, dipping below the 115 mark only once, and below 125 only twice more. How many have 17 seasons of 115 OPS+ and 15 seasons of 125 OPS+ at those ages? For the 115 level, the same three others again (Cobb and Robinson did it 18 times)  plus Ott and Tris Speaker. At 125, Kaline’s 15 seasons are exceeded only by the same five plus Manny, Mickey and Stan.

For WAR over those same 18 seasons, Kaline was above 2.5 every year, a feat matched only by Cobb. His 10 seasons of 5+ WAR aged 20-32 are exceeded by only 10 others since 1901, seven HOFers plus Pujols, Bonds and A-Rod.

Kaline was the 12th member of the 3000 hit club and the first American Leaguer in more than 40 years to reach that plateau. His 399 career home runs dwarfed the best totals of earlier AL 3000-hit club members, amounting to more than 3 times the 117 total posted by Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker.

Kaline played his entire 22-year career with the Tigers, retiring as the all-time AL leader in games played for one franchise. In the final month of his career, Kaline was chasing milestones of 3000 hits, 400 home runs and 500 doubles. He made only the first but came oh so close to the others, hitting homer 399 off Reggie Cleveland on Sep 18th, and collecting his 3000th hit with his 498th double off Dave McNally on Sep 24th. At Kaline’s retirement, there were 5 players active who had played their entire careers in the AL and had reached the 300 HR plateau, a confluence that was a first for the junior circuit and which would not be repeated for another 13 years.

Kaline’s Tigers were a second division club for the first part of his career but put it all together with a 101 win season in 1961, the most wins for a Tiger squad in 27 years. Trailing the Yankees by just a game-and-a-half at the end of the August, Detroit stumbled with an 8-game losing skid to start September while the Bombers reeled off 13 straight wins. Just like that, the pennant race was over.

Detroit next was in the hunt in 1967, one of four teams involved in a frantic chase to the wire. Never more than two-and-a-half games out from August 20th, the Tigers closed to within a half-game on the second last day of the season. Ahead of Detroit and tied for the lead were the Red Sox and Twins, who had one game remaining against each other while the Tigers had a closing twin-bill against the Angels. Thus, Detroit needed a sweep for a tie; they won the first but fell behind the Halos early in the finale and were never able to close the gap, pushing the Red Sox atop the heap after they edged the Twins at Fenway to claim their first pennant in 21 years.

Third time was the charm for Detroit as they led almost wire-to-wire to claim the 1968 AL crown with 103 wins, then the most ever for the Tigers. Facing the defending world champion Cardinals in the fall classic, the Tigers fell behind 3 games to 1 as 31-game winner Denny McLain was twice bested by Bob Gibson in two masterful 5-hit complete games. Down 3-2 in game 5, Kaline came through with a 7th inning, bases loaded, two-RBI single to provide the margin of victory. In game 6, Kaline collected 3 hits and 3 RBI as Detroit pounded the Cards 13-1. No heroics for Kaline in game 7 but his teammates finally got to Gibson with a 3-spot in the 7th inning to claim their first world championship in 23 years.

Kaline had one final time to shine in  the post-season when the Tigers claimed the 1972 AL East crown by dint of playing and winning one more game than the second place Red Sox. As games lost to a short players’ strike at the start of the season were not made up, that result stood. In the best-of-five ALCS against the Athletics, the Tigers lost the first two games and, as in 1968, Kaline led them back with two hits and a run to win game 3, and then provided a key single in the 10th inning of game 4 as Detroit rallied from two runs down to win 4-3. Alas, no heroics in the finale as the “Blues Brothers” (Blue Moon Odom and Vida Blue) held the Bengals at bay, protecting a slender 2-1 lead over the final 5 scoreless frames.

Trivia time: Al Kaline is the only player to strike out against Satchel Paige and David Clyde. Which is interesting because Clyde was born two years after Satchel retired. To be exact, their age difference is  48 years, 289 days.

My hunch is that is a record for age difference of two pitchers against which the same batter has struck out. But, I’d love to have you prove me wrong. To make it easier, just look for two pitchers that a single player has batted against. I’ve found a couple of others with an age difference exceeding 45 years. How many can you find?

For the record, I’m excluding Paige’s 1965 cameo appearance at age 59 but, if you count that, Carl Yastrzemski batted against Paige and Storm Davis (and didn’t strike out against either), two pitchers with an age difference of 55 years, 172 days. Incidentally, in checking out some of the possibilities, I discovered that Steve Carlton played in games against Warren Spahn and Jamie Moyer, for a career span of 70 years (1942-2012). Don’t think I’ve seen 70 cracked before.


Comments

Circle of Greats 1932 Results: COG Beeline for Kaline — 29 Comments

  1. That’s quite a way back track for 7 degrees of separation using Moyer->Carlton->Spahn. Continuing that on either side, Moyer faced off against Bumgarner in 2012 who’s all of 24 this year with what looks like a long career ahead of him and Spahn can be connected waaay back. There’s a 1942 game with Ott and Spahn but Spahn was a reliever so hard to tell if they faced against each other. Ott gets you back to 1926

    • Ott did not bat against Spahn in that game of April 19, 1942. The first two Braves pitchers faced 22 batters and Spahn faced the 23rd and 24th batters. Ott batted third, making him the 21st batter. That was Spahn’s debut game.

  2. Koufax, Marichal, and Santo were in the 25%-to-50% percent group and gained another round of eligibility other than the one that was spent this round.

  3. Hopefully, Doug isn’t going to try to steal any of Ron Santo’s eligibility this time ’round. :)

    Also, a HUGE thanks to Doug for running the COG while birtelcom’s away. It’s a big responsibility, and Doug has done wonderfully, in particular adding his own flavor to these recaps. Thanks, Doug! I think you have another round or two to run, but I just want you to know how appreciated all your work is!

  4. I’m curious, Doug, as to what excludes Babe Ruth from the various rightfielder lists in this post. I was surprised to learn today that Ruth played left field almost as often as right, but he still played more games in right than anywhere else on the field. Are you saying in the first paragraph that Kaline earned more WAR and component WAR *as a rightfielder* than Ruth did?

    • Bryan — In a Play Index search, the default for designating a player at a position is 50% of career games. Ruth played 46.5% of his games in RF, so he doesn’t turn up on a default search for “RF.”

    • Good question, Bryan.

      Yes, I was only counting players as right-fielders who played at least half their games at that position.

      As to your question of whether Kaline compiled more WAR playing right field than Ruth, let’s see:
      – Kaline played four seasons (1959-60, 1965-66) primarily in center-field, seasons in which he compiled 17 WAR, reducing his right-field WAR to about 75 or so.
      – Ruth was primarily a left-fielder in 1918-19 and 1921, during which he compiled 27.6 batting WAR. For 1920 and 1922 on, he played about 2/3 of the time in right field. So, subtracting the 27.6 from his 163.2 total and also subtracting his batting WAR while pitching (5.6 for 1914-17), and then taking 2/3 of the remainder, I get about 87 WAR in RF for the Babe.

      So, yes, Ruth edges Kaline in WAR strictly in RF, but Kaline, when he retired, was the AL leader in career WAR for players who played primarily as right-fielders.

  5. Doug, thanks for a beautiful write-up of Mr. Tiger.

    On the trivia question, you advised, “look for two pitchers that a single player has batted against.” How is that done?

    • Thanks John,

      “How is that done?”

      1. Suggest you think about a pitcher who pitched well into his forties and a batter who had a long career that started about the same time that the pitcher’s career ended.

      2. If you can find a game that they faced each other, then look for a pitcher whose career started very young and about the time the batter’s career ended, and see if you can find a game that those two faced each other.

      3. That combination should get you a pretty large age difference between the two pitchers.

      • Ah, OK — brute force, then. :) I was worried there was some trick I was missing.

        Best I’ve found by brute force so far is 45 years, 8 months — Darrell Evans batted against Hoyt Wilhelm (Born: July 26, 1922) and Ramon Martinez (Born: March 22, 1968).

        • Good one. The two I found were:
          – Ruben Sierra facing Phil Niekro and Ambiorix Burgos (try saying that quickly), 45 years, 18 days
          – Julio Franco facing Jim Kaat and Andrew Miller, 46 years, 195 days

          Trying to find something good with Jack Quinn.

          • Here’s what I found on Quinn (b. 7-1-1883). He pitched against Mel Ott and Ott faced Ralph Branca (b.1-6-26). 42 years, 6 months, 5 days.

          • Also Tony Cuccinello faced Quinn and Billy Pierce (b.4-2-27). 43 years, 9 months, 1 day.

          • Al Kaline also faced Connie Marrero, born 4-25-11. Difference between Marrero and Clyde, born 4-22-55, is 44 years, 3 days. Marrero is an example of a pitcher with short career. He joined the Senators in 1950 and pitched for 5 years. He is currently the oldest still living former player.

      • @8/Doug,

        An alternate method would be to find two pitchers of great longevity in which the last year of the first one is close to twenty years earlier than the first year of the second one. Then look for a batter spanning those years:

        FIRST: Ted LYONS (1923-46)
        SECOND: Phil NIEKRO (1964-87) or maybe Nolan RYAN (1966-1993)
        or maybe

        FIRST: Warren SPAHN (1942-65)
        SECOND: Jamie MOYER (1986-2012)
        maybe Pete Rose?

        • True.

          But, the second pitcher doesn’t need to have great longevity, just needs to have gotten an early start. He could be someone totally obscure (like Ambiorix Burgos in my example with Ruben Sierra).

          Actually, the first pitcher doesn’t necessarily need to have had a long career either, only that he be active in his mid-forties (it just usually works out that those pitchers have had long careers).

      • I would think that the best method would be to start with a batter with a really long career, and then just check the oldest pitcher he faced as a rookie and the youngest in his final season. If we’re disallowing Minnie Minoso, I would think that Pete Rose’s or Yaz’s career would yield some interesting results.

        • That’s what I’ve been doing, plus using the P-I to pull up really young/old players who may have participated in a particular year.

          I had a near-miss linking Warren Spahn to Rose to 20-year-old rookie Greg Maddux, which would have been a 45-year gap. Greg did face Pete’s Reds on September 7, 1986, but Rose stuck to just managing in that game as Maddog went the distance and notched his first career win.

        • I would guess the oldest pitcher Rose ever faced was Diomedes Olivo, who was born 1-22-1919. He was the oldest player in the NL in 1963 and Rose faced him (and struck out) on 5/18/1963. I don’t see any older players appearing in 1964-1966.

          I’m not sure who the youngest is. He almost certainly faced Gooden (11-16-1964) at some point in time (and probably struck out – here we go, 6/22/1984). Looking at Rose’s final season (1986) the only pitchers younger than Gooden in the NL are Maddux, John Mitchell, Smiley, Stan Fansler (?), and Mike Jackson. Rose didn’t face any of them. Gooden was the youngest pitcher in the NL in 1985 and 1984.

          So it looks like the largest gap for Rose is 1/22/1919 to 11/16/1964. It’s over the 45 year mark but not the 48 year mark.

  6. Minnie Minoso vs. Mickey Haefner (10/ 9/1912) and Dave Schuler (10/ 4/1953) is only 40 years, 360 days; I’m pretty sure Schuler is the youngest that Minnie faced. Haefner was the oldest Minoso faced in 1949-51.

  7. Best I could do for a batter who faced an old pitcher and young Joe Nuxhall (7/ 3/28) was 34 years and 5 months by Debs Garms who also faced Herb Pennock (2/10/1894).

  8. Very Proud and Pleased that Al Kaline made the COG Circle of Greats and thankyou for a great read on my favorite player.

  9. Pete Rose batted against Diomedes Olivo and Dwight Gooden, age difference of 45 years, 298 days.

    Joe Medwick batted against Jack Quinn and Curt Simmons, age difference of 45 years, 322 days.

  10. Not certain of any of the details, but Al Kaline mentioned in a couple of broadcasts that he had one home run taken away by a rainout. Would have beat Yaz to the first to 400/3,000 club for AL.

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