The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “Wes Ferrell”

Five Best Pitchers Not in the Hall of Fame – The Pai Mei Edition

This post is basically a sequel to my prior post, “Best Position Players Not in the Hall of Fame.”  This time, we’ll be taking a look at five pitchers I’ve chosen as the best pitchers not in the Hall of Fame.

Let me say up front that this list was considerably more difficult to put together than the last one I wrote regarding position players.  Having to choose just one player for each position was actually a bit easier than narrowing down a list that could have included about 15-20 pitchers, and culling it to just five.  I freely admit up front that I fully expect my choices will cause some raised eyebrows,  awkwardly resulting in several of you uncomfortably resembling Pai Mei in the movie, “Kill Bill, Vol. 2.

As for the criteria I used to make this list, please go back and read the first paragraph of my previous post; they are unchanged for this post.  There is, however, one caveat.  I generally tend to prefer pitchers who have two or three great seasons and a few adequate ones over pitchers who are solid soldiers over long periods of time.

Here, then, is my five-man rotation.  They are not necessarily in the order I would choose them in terms of quality.  I simply chose to list them in alphabetical order.

1)  Kevin Brown:  The Kevin Brown fan-club just doesn’t seem to be one of the more effective lobbying groups in America these days.  Their candidate, Kevin Brown, is rated by Baseball-Reference.com (forward and henceforth, B-R), as the 45th best starting pitcher of all-time.  Virtually all the pitchers rated ahead of him are either already in The Hall, or soon will be.  Yet Kevin Brown, in his first, and last, year on the ballot last year received just 2.1% of the vote for the HOF from the BBWAA (the people who get to decide such things.)

Yet Kevin Brown was truly an outstanding pitcher.  His career record of 211-144, and an ERA of 3.28 are not unlike several other pitchers in The Hall, such as Catfish Hunter and Dazzy Vance.  Moreover, his career WAR of 64.5 is similar to the average WAR, 67.9, of the 58 starting pitchers already in The Hall.

At various times in his 19-year career, Brown led his league in WAR twice, wins once, ERA twice, WHIP twice, games started three times, innings pitched once, shutouts once, and ERA+ once.  He struck out at least 200 batters for four consecutive years, from 1997-2000.  His 2,397 career strikeouts are in the top 40 of all-time.

Over the course of his career, Brown never lost more than 12 games in a season, and he never lost more than nine games in any of his final six full years.

Perhaps most impressively, Brown’s ERA+ of 215, while pitching for the Marlins in 1996, is the 22nd best single season score in baseball history.  To provide some context, Justin Verlander’s score in 2011, his Triple Crown-winning Cy Young season, was 172, just the 142nd highest score ever recorded.

But Kevin Brown wasn’t well-liked by the press, he was too well-traveled (six different teams), and he never won a Cy Young award (though he deserved a couple of them.)  Therefore, Kevin Brown is one of my five choices for best pitchers not in The Hall, and probably will remain as such indefinitely.

2)  David Cone:  B-R ranks Cone 61st all-time, ahead of Hall of Fame pitchers Don Sutton, Early Wynn, and Dizzy Dean, among others.  As with Kevin Brown, Cone’s Hall chances were at least in part undermined by pitching for five different teams in 17 seasons.  The BBWAA is like your mother, suspicious of the girl who’s had several boyfriends before she met you.  There’s a word for girls like that, mister.  They are sometimes referred to derogatorily as “free agents.”  Well, that’s two words.

Cone, unlike Kevin Brown, actually did win a Cy Young award.  But as luck would have it, he won it during the decapitated 1994 season, and he won it out in K.C. where hardly anyone noticed anyway.  Cone also pitched well enough to have won the award in 1988, when he posted a 20-3 record with a 2.22 ERA for the Mets (he finished 3rd in the voting behind Orel Hershiser and — “gulp” — Danny Jackson.)

Cone did not often receive a lot of run support from his teammates, either.  For example, from 1989-92, he pitched well enough with the Mets to have won 17-19 games per year.  Yet, he never won more than 14 games for them in any one of those years.  Then, in 1993 with the Royals, despite posting an excellent ERA+ of 138 through 34 starts, his record for the year was just 11-14.

David Cone was a fantastic strikeout pitcher, recording at least 190 K’s in a season nine times, including over 200 six times.  He led the N.L. in strikeouts twice, and his 2,668 career K’s ranks an impressive 22nd on the all-time list.

In 1998, a full decade after he’d first won 20 games while pitching for the Mets, Cone posted a 20-7 record for the Yankees at age 35.  Lest you mistakenly believe that Cone was coasting on run support that year pitching for a great Yankee team, consider that he struck out 209 batters in 207 innings pitched, while posting an impressive 1.18 WHIP in the tough A.L. East.

On July 18th, 1999, Cone capped off his impressive career by tossing a perfect game against the Montreal Expos for the Yankees.  At the time, it was just the 16th perfect game in baseball history.

He finished his career with a record of 194-126, and an ERA of 3.46 (3.13 in the N.L.)

David Cone was an easy pick for this list.

English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Wesley &...

English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Wesley “Wes” Ferrell of the Cleveland Indians #218. PD-not-renewed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3)  Wes Ferrell:  Ranked 41st by B-R, Wes Ferrell is actually the highest rated pitcher on this list. Ferrell was perhaps the best hitting pitcher in baseball history.  More on that later.

Ferrell’s career ERA of 4.04 may strike you as surprisingly high for someone on a list like this, but Ferrell suffered the misfortune of pitching almost entirely in the A.L. during the 1920’s and ’30’s.  His career ERA+ (116), which attempts to adjust for time and place, was actually very decent. It is the same, by the way, as modern-day aces Chris Carpenter and Dan Haren.

Ferrell, like the two previously mentioned pitchers on this list, tended to move around a lot, pitching for six teams in 15 years.  He spent his best years pitching for first Cleveland, then the Red Sox.  Wes Ferrell won at least 20 games in a season six times, leading the league in wins with 25 (for the Red Sox) in 1935.  Yet because his career went downhill fast at around age 29, he finished his career with a record of 193-128 (extremely similar to David Cone, as you might have noticed.)

Ferrell led the A.L. in WAR in 1935, but finished second in the MVP voting to Hank Greenberg.  He finished second in WAR for pitchers four times in his career, and finished third in another season.

He led his league in games started twice, in complete games four times, and in innings pitched three times.

Now a word regarding his hitting.  Not many pitchers can boast that they were regularly used as a pinch-hitter throughout their career.  Ferrell can.  In 1,345 plate appearances, Ferrell batted .280 while sporting a .351 on-base percentage.  He slugged 38 homers and drove in 208 runs.  In 1935, he led the Red Sox with a .347 batting average, accumulating 52 hits in 150 at bats.  He also hit seven home runs that year; only three of his teammates hit more.

Taking both his fine pitching and his extraordinary hitting into consideration, Wes Ferrell deserves his place on this list.

4)  Bret Saberhagen:  I’m sure this choice will raise some eyebrows, a la Pai Mei.  The argument against Saberhagen usually revolves around the specious observation that, other than his two Cy Young award seasons, he didn’t have much else to show for his career.  I beg to differ.  Here’s why.

While it is true that his two Cy Young award seasons were fantastic, he had three other seasons that were very nearly as good.  But let’s start with his Cy Young years.

In 1985, Saberhagen was a 21-year old pitching in his second season.  Aside from compiling a record of 20-6, he posted a 2.87 ERA in 235 innings pitched.  He was second in the league in wins, and third in ERA.  His ERA+ was an excellent 143.

He led A.L. pitchers in WHIP (1.o58) and WAR (6.9).  Demonstrating the pinpoint control that would mark his career, he also walked just 38 batters, highly unusual for such a young pitcher.

In 1989, he was a 25-year old veteran of six MLB seasons.  It was his finest year.  He led the league in wins, accumulating a record of 23-6.  He led the league in ERA (2.16), in ERA+ (a remarkable 180), in WHIP (0.961), in WAR (9.2) in complete games (12), and in innings pitched (262.1).

He also struck out a career high 193 batters while walking just 43.  His 4.49 strikeout to walk ratio that season was one of three times that he led his league in that category during his career.

So what about his other, nearly equally fine seasons?

In 1987, though his record was “only” 18-10, his ERA+ of 136 was actually fourth best in the league. His WAR was 7.7, good for 3rd best in the league, and actually better than his first Cy Young award season.  His 1.16 WHIP was also 3rd best in the A.L.  Remarkably, despite being arguably the 3rd best pitcher in the A.L. that year, he received NO votes of any kind whatsoever for the Cy Young award.  Nine pitchers received votes, including Jeff Reardon, Doyle Alexander and Teddy Higuera.  But Sabes was, inexplicably, completely shut out.

Even in 1988, perhaps his worst full season while pitching for the Royals, Saberhagen allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of his 35 starts, meaning, of course, that he pitched well enough to win 22 ball games.  In six other starts, he allowed exactly four earned runs each.  That means that in only seven starts he pitched poorly, just about one start per month.  Clearly, he was not at this best that year, but he certainly pitched better than his final 14-16 record would indicate.

In 1991, his final year in K.C., despite missing about a half-dozen starts due to injury, Sabes posted a 3.07 ERA and an ERA+ of 135 (each in the top 10 in the A.L.) through 196 innings.  His 4.9 WAR was 7th best in the A.L.  Yet, due to his truncated 13-8 record, this is considered by many to have been another “off-year” for him.

Sidelined for the most part by injuries in 1992-93, his first two seasons with the Mets, really undercut Saberhagen’s chances for eventual enshrinement in Cooperstown.  But in 1994, he did all he could to try to turn his legacy around.  To me, in some ways, 1994 was his most remarkable year.

That year, Saberhagen opened the season as the Mets #5 starting pitcher.  His health was still in question from the previous two years.  In his second start that year, he walked two batters.  That would be his wildest start of the season.   In only one other start that year did he walk as many batters in a game.  In his final 19 starts of that season, he walked fewer than two batters per game.

In 22 of his 28 starts in ’94, he walked either one batter, or no batters at all.  The most jaw-dropping stat of the season?  Sabes faced 696 batters that year, and only six of them reached a count of 3-0 against Saberhagen!  And of those lucky six batters sitting pretty at 3-0 against Sabes, just one of them ended up with a base-hit.  Another one drew a very rare walk.  So, in the best hitter’s count there is, four of the six hitters made outs.

Finally, only three pitchers in history have ever enjoyed a season in which they averaged 10.0 strikeouts per walk:  Jim Whitney in 1884, Cliff Lee in 2010, and Bret Saberhagen in 1994.  And of the three, Bret Saberhagen claims the best single-season strikeout to walk ratio in history, 11.0.  In 177 inning pitched (until the season ended prematurely in August), he struck out 143 batters, and walked just 13.  In fact, the thirteen home runs he surrendered that year match his total of walks for the season.

Saberhagen was defeated just four times in 24 starts that year, while winning 14 games.  If the season had been allowed to continue, he might have had a chance to win 20 games.  He finished 3rd in the N.L. Cy Young voting that year, behind Greg Maddux (who deserved the award) and Ken Hill (whose WAR was about half as good as Sabes.)

Though Saberhagen never enjoyed another season quite that stunning ever again, he did post a cumulative record of 25-14 in 1998-99 while pitching for the Red Sox in the always tough A.L. East. Those were his age 34 and 35 seasons.

For his career, Saberhagen compiled a record of 167-117, not vastly different from Koufax’s record of 165-87, and Koufax generally pitched for better teams.  While we’re on the subject, Koufax’s career ERA+ was 131; Sabes was 126.

Through 2,324 innings pitched, Koufax accumulated a WAR of 50.3.  In 2,562 innings, (a difference of about one season’s worth of innings between the two), Sabes accumulated a WAR of 56.0.  Each experienced a career marred by injury.

Koufax won three Cy Young awards, and finished third once.  Saberhagen won two Cy Young awards and finished third once.  Koufax had five excellent seasons, one of which was shortened by injury.  Saberhagen had five excellent seasons, one of which was shortened by injury, another by a work-stoppage.

I’m not saying that Saberhagen was Koufax’s equal, but to be able to make a reasonable comparison between the two without embarrassing Saberhagen indicates that Saberhagen belongs on the list of five best pitchers not in the Hall of Fame.

5)  Dave Stieb:  Jack Morris was not the best pitcher of the 1980’s, but Dave Stieb might have been.  Unfortunately for Stieb, he pitched the first few years of his career for some very bad Blue Jays’ teams.  From when he began his career in 1979 through 1983, the Jays never finished higher than 4th place in their division, and usually finished much lower.  As the Jays gradually improved, Stieb remained their ace through 1990.

In the decade of the 1980’s, Stieb posted a record of 158-115, with ERA’s generally below 3.35 in all but three seasons.  Stieb led the A.L. in ERA with a 2.48 mark in 1985, and he led the league in ERA+ in both 1984-85.  His WAR for the years 1980-90, inclusive, was 51.7.  For those same years, Jack Morris accumulated just 28.1 WAR.  In fact, if you throw in Morris’ two best years outside of that decade, 1979 and 1991, his WAR still rises to just 37.8 over 13 seasons.

Though neither pitcher ever won a Cy Young award, Stieb posted the best pitching WAR in his league three times.  Jack Morris’ best showing in WAR for any season was just fifth best.  In other words, Stieb pitched well enough to have deserved three Cy Young awards.  Morris never pitched well enough to win even one.

B-R ranks Stieb as the 64th best starting pitcher ever.  Considering that MLB is now in its 15th decade of existence, that’s a pretty strong showing.  Stieb’s career Win Probability Added Score of +22.26 wins ranks 50th best all-time among pitchers.  That score indicates, given an average team, the probable number of wins a given player is “worth,”  or can be said to have influenced (either positively or negatively.)

Due to the nine seasons during which Stieb pitched well over 200 innings, he was essentially out of gas by his age 33 season.  A seven-time All Star, his career record of 176-137 certainly does not reflect his true excellence as a pitcher for a solid decade.  Still, there are more than enough impressive statistics on his resume to easily consider him to be one of the top five pitchers not in the Hall of Fame.

Honorable Mention –  Here are some other pitchers I seriously considered for this list:

Rick Reuschel, Luis Tiant, Orel Hershiser, Tommy John, Jim Kaat, and Ron Guidry, among others.  Who would you have added or subtracted?  Let me know what you think.

Baseball’s Surprising Stats: Walter Johnson

Many people regard Walter Johnson as the greatest pitcher of all time.

But who was the greatest hitting pitcher?  (To address the obvious, I disqualified Babe Ruth immediately because he was strictly a pitcher for just four seasons, accumulating 5.6 oWAR.)

Originally, this post was going to examine Walter Johnson’s career strikeout numbers, and go from there.

But as I examined his record, I happened to stumble upon his career hitting stats.  To say that I was amazed at what I found would be a tremendous understatement.

Walter Perry Johnson (1887 – 1946), American b...

Walter Perry Johnson (1887 – 1946), American baseball player (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Keeping in mind that the arrival of the Designated Hitter rule was still several decades away when Johnson retired after the 1927 baseball season, he certainly made the most of his plate appearance.

Typically, if a pitcher hits anywhere near .200, he’s considered dangerous with the bat.  If he’s capable of poking a homer or two out of the park every few years, so much the better.

Walter Johnson did much better than that.  Over the course of his 21-year career, he amassed an astonishingly high (for a pitcher) 2,324 at bats during which he produced 547 safe hits.

But the Big Train was not just a singles hitter.  He also slammed 94 doubles, an astonishing 41 triples, and an impressive 24 career home runs.  He even drove in 255 runs in his career.  His 795 total bases are, by far, the greatest number of total bases I found for any pitcher.

Oh, and his batting average?  A not-too-shabby (for his time / place / position) .235.  In fact, aside from his pitching WAR, Johnson accumulated 13.1 WAR with his bat.  Only one other pitcher that I looked at reached 10.0 WAR as a hitter.

But here’s my favorite surprising stat about Walter Johnson:  In four seasons (1910, 1915, 1916 and 1919) he actually hit more home runs than he allowed.

In four other seasons, (1908, 1909, 1912, and 1914), he hit exactly the same number of home runs himself as he allowed other batters to hit off of him.

Walter Johnson on a 1909-1911 American Tobacco...

Walter Johnson on a 1909-1911 American Tobacco Company baseball card (White Borders (T206)) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As for Johnson’ 159 career extra base hits, I could find no other pitcher who reached as many as 110.

As an aside, in the four years Babe Ruth was used strictly as a pitcher (1914-17, inclusive), he hit nine home runs, while surrendering just six.

All of this raises the question, “Was Walter Johnson the Greatest Hitting Pitcher Who Ever Lived?

Strictly from a cumulative standpoint, the answer has to be yes.  As far as I can tell, he is the all-time leader in more than a couple of hitting stats for pitchers.

The 24 career home runs intrigued me.  I was well aware that there have been other slugging pitchers in baseball history, but I wasn’t sure if any of them had hit more homers than Johnson.  As it turns out, two other pitchers — Bob Gibson and Carlos Zambrano — have also each hit 24 home runs.

The still active 31-year old Zambrano, who hit a home run this year, certainly has a chance to pull ahead of Johnson and Gibson.  Zambrano’s career batting average of .238 is about the same as Johnson’s was, also.

I didn’t think any other pitcher could have hit more, but then I came upon Don Drysdale.  Although he hit just .186 for his career, Drysdale slammed 29 home runs in his 14 seasons.  In fact in two seasons, 1958 and 1965, he hit seven home runs in each year!

Yet, as you’ll see below, even Drysdale doesn’t hold the record for most career homers by a pitcher.

English: US President Calvin Coolidge and Wash...

English: US President Calvin Coolidge and Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson shake hands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still, the career non-pitching WAR for Drysdale, Gibson and Zambrano (5.7, 7.8, 6.3, respectively), each fall short of Johnson’s 13.1.

Among other pitchers I looked at: (and please keep in mind, this list is not meant to be comprehensive.  It serves only to provide context for Johnson’s own hitting numbers.)

Tom Seaver slugged 12 homers, but only 45 extra base hits overall, and finished with a .154 batting average and a 4.2 WAR.

Phil Niekro had 260 career base hits, but a -1.0 WAR.

Greg Maddux batted .171, hit five homers among his 42 extra base hits, and a 2.2 WAR.

Dwight Gooden batted a respectable .196, slammed eight homers and had a 5.0 WAR.

Lefty Grove slammed 15 home runs, had 47 extra base hits, but hit just .148.

Sandy Koufax was a terrible hitter:  .097, 2 homers, -4.1 WAR.

Bill Lee enjoyed his final American League at bat in 1972, though he had a few opportunities later on with the Expos.  Lee had just three hits for the ’72 Red Sox, a single, a triple and a homer.  He batted .208 in his career with one additional homer.

For the humorous story of Bill Lee’s final A.L. at bat, go to 3:32 of the clip below.  I’ll wait for ya.

Robin Roberts hit an impressive 55 doubles among his 255 career hits.  His career WAR (non-pitching, remember) was 2.8.  Batting average: .167.

Dizzy Dean had a pretty decent .225 batting average, eight home runs, and a 2.1 WAR.

Don Sutton as a hitter was, as my nine-year old son would say, extremely lame.  In 1,559 plate appearances, Sutton hit 0 home runs.  C’mon, Don, really?  Not one homer?  In fact, in his entire career, he had just 16 extra base hits.  Basically, he was the poster boy for the D.H.

Christy Mathewson held his own in the batter’s box:  .215 batting average, 69 extra base hits, 7 homers, 457 total bases, 6.3 WAR.

Fergie Jenkins hit 13 homers, including 6 in one year as a Cub, but hit just .165 in his career.

Mike Hampton posted a solid .246 batting average and hit 16 career homers to go with his 8.2 WAR, but a closer look reveals that he hit ten of those homers while pitching in Colorado where he also batted over .300.  Therefore, we have to take his final hitting stats with a grain of salt.

Wes Ferrell:  Was he a pitcher who got to hit, or a hitter who got to pitch?  Ferrell holds the record for most career home runs by a pitcher (38), and most in a season (9).  His overall batting average was .280.  Ferrell produced a career oWAR of 12.1, though it’s not clear how much of that came as a pinch-hitter vs. as a pitcher receiving his regular at bats during a game.  Still, if he could hit well enough to regularly be used as a pinch-hitter, he has to be considered one of the best hitting pitchers  of all time.

Ken Brett.  Ken Brett didn’t receive a lot of plate appearances during the course of his career, but George Brett’s big brother knew how to wield the lumber.  Ken Brett posted an extremely impressive .262 batting average in his career, including ten home runs.  His career slugging percentage of .406 was also significantly higher than Johnson’s .342.  Though Ken Brett’s offensive WAR was just 4.1, he was a very solid slugger.

Don Newcombe.  The former Dodger ace was also an excellent hitter.  Though Newcombe had a relatively short career, as a hitter this pitcher could just about have batted in the top half  of the Dodger’s lineup.  Newcombe’s .271 career batting average, his .705 OPS and his 85 OPS+ are among the best numbers I could find among pitchers.  He also hit 15 home runs in his career, accumulated 322 total bases, and produced an 8.8 WAR as a hitter.

Therefore, though we are comparing pitchers across eras, the best hitting pitchers that we have seen here today (and I fully expect you’ll add more yourself), I would rate in the following order: Wes Ferrell, Ken Brett, Don Newcombe, Carlos Zambrano and Walter Johnson.

So Walter Johnson was not only the greatest pitcher who ever lived, he was also among the greatest hitting pitchers who ever lived as well.

All in all, the boy from Humboldt, Kansas did pretty well for himself, don’t you think?

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Cleaning Up the Hall of Fame: Rick Ferrell vs. Thurman Munson

Picture of Thurman Munson (deceased)

Image via Wikipedia

This is the third installment of this series.  Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2.

Briefly, the point of this series is to find a player better than someone else already in the Hall of Fame at the same position.  This is not to say that the alternate player I have chosen is definitely a Hall of Famer.  Rather, it is just to point out that better choices are often readily available.

So let’s take a look at Hall of Famer Rick Farrell, a catcher chosen by the Veteran’s Committee for induction into The Hall in 1984.  Then we’ll compare Farrell’s career with that of former Yankee catcher Thurman Munson, tragically killed in a plane crash in August of 1979.

Rick Ferrell was a very durable backstop who, when he retired in 1947, had caught more games up to that point than any A.L. catcher in history.  Highly respected by Connie Mack and others, Ferrell reputedly had a strong throwing arm and was very smooth behind the plate.

Ferrell currently ranks 28th all-time in assists and 37th in putouts by a catcher.  He also handled four knuckleball pitchers while toiling with the Senators, certainly no easy task.  So we can establish that, at least defensively, Ferrell was a very good catcher who played for a very long time (1929-47 inclusive.)  But is that enough to deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

Let’s take a look at the rest of his record.

Ferrell was a seven time All-Star.  His best year offensively was 1931 when his OPS+ was 113.  His lifetime batting average was .281.  Ferrell’s best finish in MVP voting was 12th place in 1933.  He drew far more walks (931) than strikeouts (277.)  His career on-base percentage was a pretty solid .378.  He managed 1,692 hits of which 324 were doubles.

Ferrell slugged just 28 home runs and drove in 734 runs in 18 seasons, scoring just 687 more.  His career OPS is .741, while his OPS+ is just 95.  By way of comparison, Rick’s brother, Wes, a pitcher, slugged 38 home runs and produced a career OPS+ of 100.

Keep in mind as well that Ferrell generally played in a hitter’s era.  Ferrell’s career WAR of 22.9, which includes his defense, is one of the lowest in The Hall.

Rick Ferrell lasted just three years on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, never topping 0.5 percent of the vote.  Clearly, the baseball writers didn’t think Rick Ferrell belonged in The Hall.  And frankly, neither do I.  But the Veteran’s Committee, in their collective mysterious wisdom, apparently felt otherwise.

Thurman Munson would be an appropriate alternative to Rick Ferrell.  Here’s why.

Let me begin by saying that, as a kid growing up in southern Connecticut in the ’70’s, I never liked Munson.  He always struck me as scruffy and gruff, the kind of guy I might like to punch out if he was my age.

He was dumpy looking, had no real power to speak of, and worst of all, he played for the hated Yankees.  As a Mets fan, I wasn’t exactly part of Red Sox nation.  Still, when the Red Sox and Yanks engaged in one of their periodic on-field brawls, I always rooted for the BoSox.  You know how it goes.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

But none of that detracts from the career Thurman Munson enjoyed with the Yankees from 1969-79.  In an era blessed with fine catchers (Bench, Fisk, Simmons, etc.), Munson was one of the best.  A seven time All-Star in his ten big league seasons, Munson finished in the top ten in batting average five times. He was voted A.L. Rookie of the Year in 1970.

Munson’s career WAR (a cumulative stat) of 43.4 nearly twice as high as Rick Ferrell’s career WAR of 22.9, and Munson played in nearly six fewer seasons than Ferrell.

Munson was a fine defensive catcher, leading the A.L. in runners caught stealing twice, and generally handling the Yankees pitching staff very effectively.  He won three Gold Glove awards for his defense.

A much better hitter than Ferrell, Munson topped a 120 OPS+ in five different seasons, including a career high 141 in 1973.  Three times, Munson finished in the top four in the A.L. in hits.  Munson also drove in at least 100 runs in three consecutive seasons.

In 1976, Munson won the A.L. MVP award for leading the Yankees to their first A.L. pennant in 12 years.  He also finished in the top ten in MVP voting in two other seasons.

Where Munson truly excelled, however, was in the post-season.  Munson played in 30 post-season games, batting .357, including a .529 mark against the Reds in the ’76 World Series. Ironically, that World Series against the Big Red Machine was the only one of six post-season series that the Yankees lost with Munson behind the plate.

The bottom line is that as a kid, I was wrong about Munson.  Sure, he looked like a fire-hydrant that needed a shave, but the man could play baseball, and he was a winner.

Thurman Munson was certainly among the dominant players in his era in a way that Rick Ferrell just never was.  And for that reason, Munson would be a suitable replacement for Rick Ferrell in the Hall of Fame.

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50 Best Players Not in The Baseball Hall of Fame

Jeff Bagwell

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a nod to Graham Womack’s baseball blog, Baseball Past and Present. He is currently putting together a list, based on votes from his readers that he is tabulating, of the 50 best players not currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This project also fits in well with my recent series, “Cleaning Up the Hall of Fame.” 

This is the list I submitted to him for consideration.  I chose not to include either Pete Rose or Shoeless Joe Jackson because everyone knows that both of them would already be in The Hall, if not for their alleged ethical / legal indiscretions.

The first five players on the list would receive my vote for the Hall of Fame.  Some of the other 45 players might ultimately get my vote as well, but I am undecided at this point.  After the first five, they are in no particular order.

1)  Jeff Bagwell
2)  Barry Larkin
3)  Alan Trammell
4)  Ron Santo
5)  Tim Raines
6)  Minnie Minoso
7)  Dale Murphy
8)  Reggie Smith
9)  Dave Parker
10) Gil Hodges
11) Dwight Evans
12) Lance Parrish
13) Al Oliver
14) Graig Nettles
15) Willie Randolph
16) Edgar Martinez
17) Ted Simmons
18)  Eric Davis
19)  Darryl Strawberry
20)  Lee Smith
21)  Sparky Lyle
22)  Dan Quisenberry
23)  Carl Furillo
24)  Jimmy Wynn
25)  J.R. Richard
26)  Boog Powell
27)  Larry Walker
28)  Rusty Staub
29)  Luis Tiant
30)  Thurman Munson
31)  Dick Allen
32)  Jack Clark
33)  Will Clark
34)  Don Mattingly
35)  Roger Maris
36)  Rocky Colavito
37)  Bobby Grich
38)  Tommy John
39)  Jim Kaat
40)  Tony Oliva
41)  Vada Pinson
42)  Bobby Murcer
43)  Fred McGriff
44)  Rick Reuschel
45)  Bobby Bonds
46)  Ron Guidry
47)  Keith Hernandez
48)  Ken Boyer
49)  Kevin Brown
50)  Wes Ferrell
There are, of course, many other players that could have been included on this list.  If I do this again next year, I am sure I will change my mind about certain players.
Who would you add or subtract?  I’m curious to know which of my choices you think are the worst, and which players you would have chosen instead.
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