i like the backs of baseball card stats, not in a nostalgic, cling to the past sort of way. I know baseball statistics have evolved and that the more we study numbers, the better the odds we might come up with fresh insights about player performance. I’m just bad at math.
Thankfully, some argue that the “eye test” is the truer way to evaluate player performance. And who knows, they may be right. Assuming baseball is still around in 2215 and cell rejuvenation the norm, there might be an alert, 186-year old who watched Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Trout and the current star of 2215 play and he or she could tell us who was the overall better player without ever mentioning a percentage.
But for now, we have numbers and well, like i said, I’m bad at math, really bad. I mean I get it if a player has a seasonal WAR of 12.4, as Yaz did in 1967, that he had an excellent year, that his contribution to his teams’ winning ways was off the charts incredible. This becomes clear in a non-statistical way when watching a special on that 67 Red Sox team and the narrator waxes on about how Yaz carried the Sox on his back, all the way to the WS. But how is 12.4 calculated? I have no idea and that’s frustrating and I have no one to blame but my self.
we had a strange requirement in high school – take two years of math and then choose between more math or a foreign language. I know. What the hell do the two have to do with each other? i have no idea. Maybe Noam Chomsky has the answer. Whatever, I chose the foreign language option because other than simple multiplication and division, math always confused me so this offer my high school made was gold. i took it as a get out of jail free card. i enrolled in spanish and learned how to say in the front of a suddenly intimate class, “i brush my teeth before i go to bed in the evening.” I said it with the right verb conjugation too and in the same language as Tony Oliva.
I mention Oliva in the same paragraph as my lack of math because he’s in the hall of fame, was elected this year by the veterans’ committee. And I think he deserves to be in the hall, but if he’s in, Lou Whitaker should be in too. His numbers are comparable, if not better than Oliva’s, his back of the baseball card numbers anyway…..more home runs – 244 and more RBI’s- 1084 and sweet Lou played second base, a position that has not historically produced too many homeruns. Jeff Kent and Robinson Cano are the only two second baseman who hit more than 300 with Cano still an active player, but his numbers questionable because of PED’s. Kent should be in the Hall too.
Mazeroski, by comparison, also a second sacker, hit fewer homeruns than Whitaker, had fewer RBI’s, and stolen bases, a lower BA, OB% and slugging percentage and yet, Mazeroski got elected in 2001. yeh, he hit one of baseball’s most memorable post season, WS blasts, but one homer does not make a career.
It’s questionable if loyalty to a team is a factor when considering HOF worth. A player sticking with the same team most likely is the result of many factors – nice salary, good living conditions, stable life for his family, etc. There’s a long list of players who spent their entire careers with one team, but when ranked in terms of most years, of the top 30 players, only four are not in the HOF, Whitaker one of them.
Brooks Robinson and Yaz top the list with 23 seasons. The top 14 are all in the HOF. The fifteenth is someone I had never heard of before, a Mr. Mel Harder of the Cleveland Indians. played with them from 1928-1947. He’s not in the Hall. Then there’s Whitaker and Dave Concepcion, 19 years with the tigers and reds, respectively, both not in. Ossie Buege, another player I’d never heard of is the fourth member of the top 30 that never made it.
Whitaker coupled with shortstop Alan Trammel are the longest shortstop second base double play combination in major league history. I’m not sure how to read defensive metrics but Whitaker didn’t make a hell of a lot of errors and i assume he had decent range, based on his 143 career stolen bases. he was a five-time all star, rookie of the year, world series winner in 1984, didn’t hit too good in the series, but he only had 49 post season at bats.
I remember Whitaker in the dog fight AL East, back when the Brewers competed there. Whitaker hit balls into the right field upper deck of Tiger Stadium, 146 of them. He also hit 98 homers on the road.