The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “Harmon Killebrew”

My Inner-Circle Hall of Fame Choices

Over at Baseball Past and Present, Graham Womack is conducting a fun and interesting survey of who his readers believe are the best of the best, regarding baseball’s Hall of Fame.  He is calling it the Inner Circle project.  If you click on the link, you’ll find access to a ballot which includes players currently in the Hall of Fame.  Our challenge is to choose just 50 of them (and it has to be exactly 50) who theoretically make up the core of the Hall of Fame.

English: Original title: "Plenty of baseh...

English: Original title: “Plenty of basehits in these bats” Original description: Washington D.C., July 7. A million dollar base-ball flesh is represented in these sluggers of the two All- Star Teams which met in the 1937 game at Griffith Stadium today. Left to right: Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx, and Hank Greenberg, 7/7/37 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I submitted my ballot a couple of days ago, and decided to share it with all of you today.  I have to admit that I found it very challenging to restrict my list to just 50 players.  In my initial run through of the ballot, I checked off 65 names, and it was very difficult to decide which 15 players to knock off my list.

I suspect that somewhere around 30-40 players will appear on just about everyone’s ballot, but I anticipate some disagreement, perhaps a great deal, regarding the final 10 or so choices.

I decided to just list my choices without explanation, but I will be interested to hear which players you would have included or rejected compared to my ballot.

So here’s my list, as they appeared on the ballot:

1)  Al Kaline

2)  Babe Ruth

3)  Bob Feller

4)  Cal Ripkin

5)  Carl Yastrzemski

6)  Carlton Fisk

7)  Charlie Gehringer

8)  Christy Mathewson

9)  Cy Young

10) Duke Snider

11) Eddie Collins

12) Eddie Mathews

13) Eddie Murray

14) Frank Robinson

15) Gary Carter

16) George Brett

17) Hank Aaron

18) Harmon Killebrew

19) Honus Wagner

20) Jackie Robinson

21) Jimmie Foxx

22) Joe DiMaggio

23) Joe Morgan

24) Johnny Bench

25) Lefty Grove

26) Lou Gehrig

27) Mel Ott

28) Mickey Mantle

29) Mike Schmidt

30) Nap Lajoie

31) Paul Waner

32) Pete Alexander

33) Reggie Jackson

34) Rickey Henderson

35) Rod Carew

36) Rogers Hornsby

37) Sandy Koufax

38) Stan Musial

39) Steve Carlton

40) Ted Williams

41) Tom Seaver

42) Tony Gwynn

43) Tris Speaker

44) Ty Cobb

45) Wade Boggs

46) Walter Johnson

47) Warren Spahn

48) Willie Mays

49) Willie McCovey

50) Yogi Berra

Baseball Players We Lost in 2011

The following information comes from an email from a friend of mine, Jim Copeland.  All credit goes to him.  I can’t vouch for the accuracy of all that is contained herein, but Jim usually knows what he is talking about. 

Matty Alou, 72: The smallest (5-foot-9) of the Alou Brothers swung the biggest bat, both literally (a 36-ounce model that seemed to outweigh him) and statistically (he won the National League batting title in 1966 by hitting .342 and retired as a career .307 hitter). Nov. 3, Miami, diabetes. 

Gino Cimoli, 81: The NL All-Star outfielder with the 1957 Brooklyn Dodgers batted .265 across a 10-year career with seven different clubs. Feb. 12, Roseville, Calif., kidney and heart failure.

Wes Covington, 79: With 54 home runs, he was a junior member — the seniors being Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews — of the Milwaukee Braves’ back-to-back World Series teams of 1957-58. July 4, Edmonton, cancer.

 Ryne Duren, 81: His thick glasses intimidated hitters and his blazing fastball put them away. The inspiration for cinema’s Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn topped the Majors with an inconceivable 20 saves in 1958, when he fanned 87 in 75 2/3 innings for the Yankees — the first of six consecutive seasons in which his strikeouts exceeded his innings. Jan. 6, Lake Wales, Fla.

Mike Flanagan, 59: He helped pitch the Orioles into two World Series (1979 and ’83), winning the AL Cy Young Award on the way in ’79, but wasn’t able to achieve as much success as the team’s general manager. Aug. 24, Monkton, Md., suicide.

Bob Forsch, 61: His ceremonial opening toss prior to World Series Game 7 was merely the last of thousands of clutch pitches by the only pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters (1978 and ’83) for the storied Cardinals franchise. Ken Forsch’s “little brother” also helped pitch St. Louis into the World Series in 1982, ’85 and ’87. Nov. 3, Weeki Wachee, Fla., thoracic aortic aneurysm.

 Joe Frazier, 88: Baseball, too, lost a Smokin’ Joe, the one-time infielder whose 207-game run as Mets manager ended two months into the 1977 season, with his replacement being Joe Torre. Feb. 15, Broken Arrow, Okla., heart attack.

 Woodie Fryman, 70: The ole Tobacco Farmer from Kentucky didn’t break into the Majors until he was 26, and the lefty won 141 games in an 18-year career through 1983. Feb. 4, Lexington, Ky., heart ailment.

Lou Gorman, 84: The 2002 inductee into the Red Sox Hall of Fame spent more than three decades in baseball operations, a career highlighted by stints as general manager in Seattle and Boston. April 1, Weston, Mass., natural causes.

Greg Halman, 24: He smiled, he joked, he excited with anticipation all of his native Netherlands. He was fresh off his most significant stretch of Major League action and was set to invite Seattle’s love in 2012. He was abruptly, inexplicably taken from us. Nov. 21, Rotterdam, knife stabbing.

Roy Hartsfield, 85: He was the charter manager of Toronto, guiding the Blue Jays through their first three seasons (1977-79), a just reward for a long stint as a successful Minor League skipper. Jan. 15, Atlanta, liver cancer.

 Hideki Irabu, 42: The right-hander helped blaze Japanese players’ trail to the Majors, going 29-20 with the 1997-99 Yankees before his career wound down in disappointment. July 27, Los Angeles, suicide.

Eddie Joost, 94: The smooth-fielding infielder was one of the last remaining links to the fabled Philadelphia A’s, with whom he became a two-time (1949, ’52) All-Star, then the team’s last manager before its move to Kansas City. April 12, Fair Oaks, Calif.

Harmon Killebrew, 74: The Hammer struck for 573 homers across a 22-season Hall of Fame career, playing all but 106 of his 2,435 games as the revered and beloved face of the Washington-Minnesota franchise. May 17, Scottsdale, Ariz., esophageal cancer.

 Charlie Lea, 54: The France-born righty went 43-31 for the Expos from 1982-84, but he left his most permanent mark with his May 10, 1981 no-hitter against San Francisco. He was a long-time member of the broadcast crew for the Memphis Redbirds. Nov. 11, Collierville, Tenn., heart attack.

Marty Marion, 94: He fielded shortstop as no one with two arms had any business, thus was known as The Octopus as the centerpiece of the Cardinals’ World Series championship teams of 1942, ’44 and ’46. March 16, Ladue, Mo., natural causes.

Charlie Metro, 92: He dabbled both in outfield play and managing before becoming one of the true scouting legends of the game, primarily for the Dodgers. March 18, Buckingham, Va., lung cancer.

Jim Northrup, 71: As the starting right fielder on the 1968 Tigers that united Detroit at a time of deep social divide, the lefty hitter belted 21 homers and drove in 90 runs, the high note of a 12-year career. June 8, Grand Blanc, Mich., seizure.

Jose Pagan, 76: Versatile and affable, the Puerto Rican crowned a 15-year career by playing a vital role on the 1971 World Series champion Pirates, for whom he started at four different positions. June 7, Sebring, Fla., Alzheimer’s disease.

Mitchell Page, 59: A third-round Draft pick in 1973 by the Pirates dealt to Oakland as part of a nine-player blockbuster in March of ’77, he broke in with the ’77 A’s as the AL Rookie of the Year runner-up — to Hall of Famer Eddie Murray — hitting .307 with 21 homers and 75 RBIs. March 12, Glendale, Ariz., in his sleep.

Duane Pillette, 88: The big right-hander earned two unique spots in baseball lore, starting the St. Louis Browns’ final game and earning the Orioles’ first victory after the franchise’s 1954 shift to Baltimore. May 8, San Jose, Calif., heart failure.

Mel Queen, 69: As a left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, he had a brief but unique career with the Reds as on outfielder/pitcher prior to a conversion to full-time pitching in 1967. Then as a pitching coach/advisor, he tutored three Toronto pitchers to Cy Young Awards — Pat Hentgen, Roger Clemens (twice) and Roy Halladay. May 13, Morro Bay, Calif., cancer.

Bob Rush, 85: Mr. Cub of the mound during the outset of Ernie Banks’ wider reign, the big right-hander was an eight-time double-figures winner for the perennial cellar-dwellers of the ’50s, including a 17-13 mark with a 2.70 ERA in 1952. March 19, Mesa, Ariz.

Larry Shepard, 92: He never got to do it in the Majors, but he sure knew a lot about pitching, winning 179 games during a 13-season Minor League career then steering the Big Red Machine pitchers as Cincinnati’s pitching coach. He also served as Pirates manager for two seasons between Danny Murtaugh stints. April 6, Lincoln, Neb., natural causes.

Dave Sisler, 79: The bespectacled pitching branch of the famed Sisler clan (Hall of Fame father George was a career .340 hitter and brother Dick a two-time All-Star) posted 38 wins from 1956-62 in his career as a reliever and spot-starter. Jan. 9, St. Louis, prostate cancer.

Roy Smalley, 85: A cornerstone of one of baseball’s leading families — brother-in-law of Gene Mauch and father of Roy Smalley III — he was the Cubs shortstop replaced by Ernie Banks, making him Wally Pipp to Mr. Cub’s Lou Gehrig. Oct. 12, Sahuarita, Ariz.

Duke Snider, 84: The Duke of Flatbush — and of Chavez Revine — hit nearly .300 and struck 407 homers, mostly for the Dodgers during a Hall of Fame career that spanned 18 seasons and both coasts. Feb. 27, Escondido, Calif., diabetes.

Paul Splittorff, 64: A 1987 inductee into the Royals Hall of Fame, the left-hander had 129 wins from 1974-80 for Kansas City’s AL West dynasty, and he remained vital on the scene as the team’s TV analyst. May 25, Blue Springs, Md., oral cancer.

 Chuck Tanner, 82: The onetime nondescript utility outfielder enjoyed an uninterrupted 19-season run as a manager with four teams, most gloriously the “We Are Family” Pirates, whom he guided to the 1979 World Series championship. Feb. 11, New Castle, Pa., following a long illness.

Dick Williams, 82: He was hard-nosed as a vagabond utility player during a 13-season playing career, even harder-nosed as a Hall of Fame manager who won pennants with three different teams (Boston, Oakland, San Diego) and two World Series with the A’s. July 7, Las Vegas, brain aneurysm.

Gus Zernial, 87: Oh, how Ozark Ike could swing the big lumber, especially from 1950-53, a four-season span during which he totaled 133 homers and 430 RBIs for two teams (White Sox and Philadelphia A’s). Jan. 20, Fresno, Calif., heart disease.

Two suicides and a murder.  Let’s hope 2012 is less tragic than 2011. 

And to those of you who have been taking the time to read this blog, thank you, and have a Happy New Year. 


Underrated / Overrated: Baseball and Other Stuff – Part IV

The Blues Brothers (film)

Image via Wikipedia

This is the fourth installment of an ad-hoc series called “Baseball, and Other Stuff.”  If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you know how this works.  If you are just joining us,  settle in.  You’ll get the idea.

Massacre of Elphinstone’s Army
Part of the first Anglo-Afghan War, 1839–1842
The last stand of the survivors of Her Majesty’s 44th Foot at Gandamak


Overrated:  Ryan Howard – Sure, his home run and RBI totals over the past five years have been remarkable.  But, consider, his walk totals have declined steadily over the past five years (108, 107, 81, 75, 59.)  In only two of his seasons has his WAR exceeded 4.0.  By contrast, Albert Pujols‘ LOWEST single season WAR was 5.8.  And Howard has struck out in 27% of his plate appearances, a staggering total.  Finally, only once in the past three years has his on-base percentage touched .360.  At age 30, he has probably seen his best days.

Underrated:  Miguel Cabrera – Has been playing in the shadow of Albert Pujols his whole career.  Otherwise, Cabrera might be considered the greatest player in the game today.  Still only 27-years old, he has already produced seven excellent seasons.  He has driven in over a hundred runs in all but his first half-season, and has only once failed to score over a hundred runs in a year.  His career line is:  .313, .388, .552 with an OPS of .939.  His career OPS+ is 145, good for 45th place all-time, higher than Harmon Killebrew and Eddie Mathews.

Overrated:  Custer’s Last Stand – June, 1876.  Lt. Col. Custer’s entire command was wiped out (268 killed) at the Little Bighorn River, by a combined force of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors.  Within a year, most of the Indians had been forced back onto reservations, were killed, or had fled with Sitting Bull to Canada.

Underrated:  Massacre of Elphinstone’s Army – January, 1842.  Afghanistan (road from Kabul to Jalalabad.)  After an uprising in the city of Kabul, fomented by Akbar Khan, forced the British / Indian troops and camp followers (16,500 strong) out of Kabul, they attempted to reach safety 90 miles away at the British garrison at Jalalabad.  But soon after they set out, the slaughter began.  Near the end, fewer than 40 British regulars of the 44th regiment of foot were all that was left.  Surrounded by Pashtun tribesmen, their surrender was requested, to which a British sergeant reportedly declared, “Not bloody likely.”

Of the original 16,500 men, women and children that evacuated Kabul, only one British medical officer and a few Indian sepoys survived to tell the tale.

Overrated:  Jim “Catfish” Hunter – A colorful character and a tough competitor, but does he really belong in the Hall of Fame?  He did win 20 games or more for five straight seasons, but, excepting win totals, he had just three truly outstanding seasons in his entire career:  1972, ’74, ’75.  He never struck out 200 batters in a season.  He was extremely durable (200+ innings pitched) ten seasons in a row, and he kept his walks to a minimum.  But his career ERA+ was just 105, meaning that taking his career as a whole, he was just 5% better than your average replacement level pitcher.

Underrated:  Pedro Martinez – Will eventually make the Hall of Fame once he becomes eligible, but some writers, perhaps most, will not view Pedro as a first round HOF candidate (as if that matters) because he won just 219 games in his career.  I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that most baseball fans / writers, bloggers, etc., view Pedro as a top 25 all-time pitcher who, unfortunately, didn’t last long enough to make an even greater impression on the minds of the baseball masses.

But let’s take another look at Pedro Martinez’ career.  He was an eight time all-star who won five ERA titles, six WHIP titles, three Cy Young awards (while finishing 2nd twice and third once), whose career WAR of 75.9 is 23rd all-time.

Pedro also posted nine 200 strikeout seasons, including two 300-hundred K seasons.

But those are his LEAST impressive statistics.  Pedro also posted a career WHIP of 1.054 (fifth best ever) and struck out 10.04 batters per nine innings (3rd best ever.)  His strikeouts per walks ratio was 4.15 (3rd best ever.)

Pedro Martinez made 409 career starts, and was defeated just 100 times.  He never lost more than ten games in a season, and he was defeated 1o times in a season just twice in 18 years.  His .687 career win-loss percentage is 6th best all-time.  Pedro struck out 3,154 batters in just 2,827 innings pitched.

Most impressively, however, Pedro Martinez enjoyed his success  in a hitter’s era in mostly friendly hitter’s parks (especially Fenway Park.)  Very few pitchers in baseball history have managed to top an ERA+ (which takes into consideration a pitchers era and home ballpark) of 200.  For the sake of context, Lefty Grove, Bob Gibson and Pete Alexander each reached that plateau just once in their respective careers.  Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson and Tom Seaver never posted an ERA+ of 200 in any single season.

Christy Mathewson reached that lofty number twice.  Roger Clemens touched that number three times, but two of those years are tainted by alleged PED usage.  Walter Johnson, widely regarded as the best pitcher who ever lived, topped an ERA+ of 200 an astonishing four times.

Pedro Martinez reached that pinnacle five times.

Pedro’s career ERA+ of 154 is pretty damn good.  How good?  Well, since you ask, it’s THE BEST EVER for a starting pitcher.

In other words, folks, from 1997-2003, not only wasn’t there a better pitcher in baseball, but there may never have been a better pitcher in the history of baseball.

Overrated:  The Everley Brothers – Here are some lyrics to their hit single “Cathy’s Clown“, released in 1962:

“When you see me shed a tear, and you know that it’s sincere, Doncha think its kinda sad, that you’re treatin’ me so bad?  Or don’t you care…?

Egad man, grow a spine!

Underrated:  The Blues Brothers:

Overrated:  Dave Winfield – Nice overall life-time numbers, 3,000+ hits, 1,800+ RBI’s, 465 home runs… no one’s saying that he sucked.  And he gets extra points for being tailed by a private investigator at the behest of Herr Steinbrenner in the ’80’s. But his career line of .283, .353, .475 is not spectacular.  Nor is his .827 career OPS, or his OPS+ of 130.  Each of these numbers are rather on the low side for a HOF outfielder.

Underrated:  Jimmy Wynn – Jimmy (Toy Cannon) Wynn broke into the big leagues in 1963 at the age of 21, and retired fifteen-years later at the age of 35.  For most of his career, he played in pitchers’ parks in a heavily dominant pitcher’s era.  Despite these handicaps, Wynn was an offensive force in the N.L.  In 1965, at age 23, Wynn stole 43 bases while being caught just four times.  He also drew 84 walks, scored 90 runs, hit 30 doubles and 22 homers, and logged an OPS+ of 144.

In 1967, despite leading the league in strikeouts, Wynn clubbed 37 homers, drove in 107, scored 102 and stole 16 bases.  In ’68, he led the league in offensive WAR at 7.7.

In 1969, Wynn led the league with a huge total of 148 walks, resulting in a .436 on-base percentage.  He also slammed 33 homers and scored 113 runs.  His .943 OPS was good for sixth in the league.  His OPS+ of 166 was a career high, and was fourth best in the senior circuit.

In 1974, Wynn was traded to the Dodgers, made the All-Star team and finished fifth in the N.L. MVP voting at age 32.  He drew 108 walks, drove in 108 runs, and scored 104 runs.  He slugged 32 homers, and finished with an OPS+ of 151.

In his career, Wynn drew over a hundred walks six times, scored 90 or more runs six times, hit at least 25 homers five times, and posted a career OPS+ of 128, the same as Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Goose Goslin…and Jim Rice.

And, perhaps most ironically, considering Jimmy Wynn is not in the HOF, and Dave Winfield is…

Jimmy Wynn’s career WAR: 59.8.

Dave Winfield’s career WAR: 59.7.

That’s all for today, boys and girls.  As for me, I’m done here until after Christmas, so check back in sometime between Christmas and (overrated) New Year’s. Until then, enjoy the holidays.

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