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Cash and Cepeda

April 4, 2019

Cash and Cepeda

            I had a tweet a couple of weeks ago which noted that Norm Cash and Orlando Cepeda both played the same years in the major leagues, 1958 to 1974, and the same position, first base.  Cepeda hit 379 career homers; Cash hit 377.   Cepeda played 2,124 games, Cash played 2,089, although Cepeda had almost 20% more career at bats. Cash leads in OPS (.862 to .849), OPS+ (139 to 133), Win Shares (315 to 310), Baseball Reference WAR (52.0 to 50.2) and Fangraphs WAR (54.6 to 50.3).  Nonetheless, when both men hit the Hall of Fame ballot in 1980, Cepeda got 12.5% of the vote, stayed on the ballot, increased his share to 73.5% in 1994, and was selected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1999.   Cash got 1.6% of the vote, dropped off the ballot, and is not thought of by almost anyone as Hall of Fame material. 

            I was not writing this as a Hall of Fame argument for Norm Cash.   I don’t actually think of Cash as a Hall of Famer, either.  My point was to notice the odd similarity between the two men.  If you pick another player of the same stature, you would almost never find another player who played the same position in the exact same years and was such a good match for the player across an array of measures.  I look for matches and similarities between players all the time; you just don’t find them that good.   That the (slightly) lesser player got into the Hall of Fame is. . .ehn.   Those things happen.  Wasn’t really my point.

            Perhaps I stated it poorly, but in any case people assumed that I was making a "Norm Cash should be in the Hall of Fame" argument, and the Twitter discussion that followed focused on why Cepeda was in and Cash was not. 

            There are two reasons for it, really; there are not five or six or seven or eight.  There are two.  People will point out, and correctly, that:

1)     Cash acknowledged using a corked bat,

2)     Cash died young, which cuts off a certain line of support for him as a Hall of Fame candidate,

3)     Cash’s brilliant 1961 season tends to make the rest of his career look bad by comparison, and

4)     Cash had a self-effacing personality, a comic personality, which sometimes caused people not to take him seriously as a star player. 

That’s all true, and if you add it all together it isn’t 1% of the explanation for why Cepeda was a bigger star than Cash was.  Cash, consistent with his personality, said that "I owed my success to expansion pitching, a short right-field fence, and hollow bats."  By saying that, Cash is giving away his claim to greatness, but it seems fantastic that anyone would take those explanations seriously:

a)     Expansion pitching.   Cash and Cepeda played the same years, 1958 to 1974.  If expansion pitching explains the success of one of them, doesn’t it also explain the success of the other?  The entire American League was facing expansion pitching in 1961.  Norm Cash is the only one who won the batting title.


b)     A short right-field fence.  OPS+, Win Shares and WAR are all park-adjusted.  Ballparks do not win baseball games; players do.


c)      Hollow bats.   Give me a break.  Shit, half the players in baseball were corking their bats in that era.  You think the Yankees weren’t corking their bats?  You think the Giants weren’t corking their bats? 


Cash’s reputation did not "benefit" from these things; rather, his reputation suffered from the belief that he had benefitted from these things.

Cash in 1961 had 41 homers, 124 walks and 85 strikeouts.  In 1962 he had 39 homers, 104 walks and 82 strikeouts.   It wasn’t that he was corking the bats one year and not the next; it wasn’t that he was facing expansion pitching one year and not the next.   It was just luck; that is all it was.  He had an in-play average of .370 one year, .215 the next.  It was an extraordinary thing, but it happened.  It’s not why Cepeda made the Hall of Fame and Cash didn’t. 

            Cepeda made the Hall of Fame and Cash didn’t for two reasons, which are really one reason expressed in different ways:

1)     In the pre-sabermetric era, players were evaluated essentially by how many star-type accomplishments they had, and


2)     In the pre-sabermetric era, the media and the fans (and the players, and the front offices) exaggerated the value of some areas of accomplishment, and diminished the value of others. 


Star-type accomplishments (in a season) were:

·      Hitting .300

·      Driving in 100 runs

·      Scoring 100 runs,

·      Hitting 30 home runs,

·      Hitting 40 home runs,

·      Getting 200 hits,

·      Stealing 50 bases,

·      Leading the league in batting,

·      Leading the league in homers,

·      Leading the league in RBI,

·      Playing in the All-Star game,

·      Winning an MVP Award,

·      Playing in the World Series,

·      Winning the Rookie of the Year Award, and

·      Winning a Gold Glove.



And perhaps a few other things that aren’t relevant to the current discussion. Cash had 14 star-type accomplishments in his career:

·      He won a batting title,

·      He played in three All Star games,

·      He played in two World Series,

·      He drove in 100 runs once,

·      He scored 100 runs once,

·      He hit .300 once,

·      He hit 40 homers once, and

·      He hit 30 homers four times.


Cepeda had 38 star-type accomplishments:

·      He won the Rookie of the Year Award,

·      He won a Most Valuable Player Award,

·      He played in three World Series,

·      He played in seven All Star games,

·      He led the league in homers once,

·      He led the league in RBI twice,

·      He hit .300 nine times,

·      He drove in 100 runs five times,

·      He scored 100 runs three times,

·      He hit 40 homers once, and

·      He hit 30 homers five times.


That’s why he is in the Hall of Fame; it’s not personality, it’s not the 1961 season, it’s not the premature death.   It’s 38 star-type accomplishments for Cepeda, 14 for Cash. 

Related to that but distinguishable from it, people in the pre-sabermetric era over-valued certain accomplishments, like hitting .300 and driving in 100 runs, and under-valued others, like taking Ball Four.   Cash had 455 more walks than Cepeda, which people in 1980 paid no attention to whatsoever, while Cepeda had 261 more RBI.   Cepeda did the things that were over-valued in the pre-sabermetric era. 

The point that Cepeda had star-type accomplishments and Cash did not brings up the question of why that happened.  It happened in part because the Tigers decided early in Cash’s career that he should sit down about half the time or a little more against left-handed pitching.   Taking 70-80 walks a year and also sitting down sometimes against lefties, Cash had 450 to 499 at bats in 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1969, and 400 to 449 at bats in 1968 and 1972, whereas Cepeda never had a season of 400 to 499 at bats.  Had Cash had another 50, 75 at bats a season, even if he had hit relatively poorly in those at bats, he would obviously have reached many more magic numbers, thus recording significantly more star-type accomplishments.   In 1966, when Cash was not platooned at all, he hit .295 with 13 homers in 193 at bats against left-handed pitchers.  In 1968 he hit .297 with 4 homers in 74 at bats against lefties, although he was platooned that year. 

Just to finish a couple of thoughts. . .

Cepeda’s teams had a .553 career winning percentage when he was in the lineup; Cash’s teams had a career .547 winning percentage when he was in the lineup.

Career RBI per at bat:  .172 for Cepeda, .165 for Cash.

Cepeda pinch hit 89 times in his career, hitting .215 with a .574 OPS in those games.  Cash pinch hit 204 times in his career, also hitting .215 but with a .758 OPS. 

Cash played 16 post-season games, hitting .311 with an .817 OPS.   Cepeda played 22 post-season games, hitting .207 with a .610 OPS.   




COMMENTS (33 Comments, most recent shown first)

Some data on Reached-On-Error rates: (as % of plate appearances)

2018 (entire major leagues)
Righty hitters: 0.99%
Lefty hitters: 0.72%

2019 so far (through Wednesday)
Righty hitters: 1.02%
Lefty hitters: 0.65%

Some stray notes:

-- I didn't find those data in that form anywhere. I derived them from "splits" data on
It seems they don't exactly give batting splits for righty and lefty hitters; all I found along this line was the split for each handedness hitter against each handedness pitcher -- i.e. righty hitters vs. RHP, righty hitters vs. LHP, and similarly for lefty hitters.
Pretty silly isn't it? :-)
It would be easy enough for them to add a little section to their "Splits" page for the total offensive numbers of righty hitters and lefty hitters.

Since I had to do some arithmetic (and actually the arithmetic isn't the hard part; the hard parts are seeing each line of data correctly and keeping it straight in my head what I'm doing), and since you know that I make mistakes, don't take these to the bank.
I do think they're right but I'd be delighted for anyone to do a check on some of it.

-- It's always been "obvious" to me that righty hitters reach on errors more often than lefty hitters, but like probably everyone else here, I've learned that something being obvious doesn't mean it's true.
But this does seem to be.
BTW, in case it wasn't clear enough what I said below: The top 12 guys in the majors last year in Reached-On-Error were righty hitters.

A related impression, although I realize less likely to be true, and it's going to sound harebrained, is that righty hitters tend to hit harder grounders than lefty hitters -- not a lot but somewhat.
But that might be a back-formation kind of thing from their reaching on errors more often.
12:38 AM Apr 12th
Marc Schneider

I wasn't trying to limit it to speed; I was just mentioning one factor that came to mind.

I can think of two possible scenarios: (1) they are all left-handed, suggesting that being closer to first forces fielders to hurry and make more errors; or (2) they are right-handed, meaning they hit more balls to the left side where errors are more common.
1:54 PM Apr 10th
......Like (I did a little 'research,' didn't take much; this was the first rock I turned over).....

Take a look at list of the top 12 players in the majors last year in Reached-On-Error, and see if you don't notice a pattern.

Hint: Look at what side they hit from.
3:44 AM Apr 10th
Marc: There are identifiable factors besides speed.
3:32 AM Apr 10th
Marc Schneider
I will concede the point on reaching on errors being, at least in part, a replicable skill. Speed does make a difference.

But I have problems with the notion that runs scored as a result of errors should be counted against the pitcher. You can't expect the pitcher to strike out everyone and the fielders are out there for a reason. Now, I will concede that concept of earned and unearned runs is nebulous. Obviously, a good fielder will make players that a lesser fielder won't, so the pitcher playing with the better fielder obviously benefits. Also, considering ALL runs scored after an error that would have ended the inning as unearned is distorting. Just because a pitcher has an error made behind him doesn't mean he is not responsible if he gives up three home runs or something afterward.

9:10 AM Apr 9th
Bingo. It couldn't have been DiMaggio since they won in 1951. It could have been Mays but he didn't play in the last game in 1973.

4:33 PM Apr 7th
Apropos of nothing, here's an interesting fact I just came across:

What first-ballot Hall of Famer struck out to end a World Series in his last major league at bat?

So far no one I know, including distinguished sabermetricians, has been able to answer this.

2:19 PM Apr 6th
One could argue that ROE represents a skill in the same way that many (including argue that we should just count pitchers' runs allowed, not earned runs allowed, because errors are simply a function of how many balls you allow to be put in play. In addition, I think it's very likely that the same bobbled ground ball could result in an out if a very slow runner hit it, and an error if a fast runner hit it and beat the delayed throw.

Willie Mays never led the NL in RBIs. Mickey Mantle was over 100 RBIs only three times. That isn't because they weren't great players, it's because they spent a lot of season with stiffs batting ahead of them in the batting order. Stephens drove in 137, 159, and 144 runs in three consecutive seasons but he was only a good player, not a superstar, in two of those three seasons. He had Dom DiMaggio, Pesky and Williams in front of him. RBIs can be as misleading as won-loss records.

David K
2:16 PM Apr 6th
Charles: I assumed ROE does get credit in "WAR" -- and I assume likewise for Win Shares. I didn't mean to imply that I thought it was absent such things; I was just replying/adding to what Matt said: "If two guys bat .300 and one is a RHB and one a LHB, are they the same?" -- and then added that it's enough for it to 'count' and that it somewhat blunts Cash's advantage in on-base.

About the "skill" thing: Evanecurb answered it great.

P.S. warning, another digression: The use of the word "skill" in such contexts, for which I think Bill started (maybe he didn't; I just never saw anyone else do it before I saw him doing it) ....I think the use of the word "skill" in such contexts isn't real good, because (IMO) it distracts from the main thing at hand, which is "Does it reflect something actual and meaningful about this player." If we are viewing ROE's in terms of "skill," it misleads us into either a thing like what Marc said or (not usually explicitly but essentially) a difference of opinions on what "skill" means.
Why it's a distraction: In this case that's easy. It's clearly nothing but a distraction because of an Emperor's New Clothes factor: Some players DO have a higher rate of ROE's than others, and in very many instances it's repeatable and predictable; plus, certain TYPES of players have higher rates of ROE's, which tells us that certain factors are predictably involved. "Skill"?? Who cares, and what does that mean?
11:24 AM Apr 5th
Reached on error totals are associated with several traits that could be called skills:
Ability to make contact, ability to hit the ball on the ground, and running speed. The importance of ROE in winning games was more important 100 years ago due to the high number of errors back then. But it's still reflects a skill set.
11:09 AM Apr 5th
If Cepeda had more RBI, that means he's better. :)
11:03 AM Apr 5th
Steven Goldleaf
I don’t know about any two-month slump, David Kaiser. Twenty-game slump is more like it: Cepeda had an OPS of .996 on July 6th, which was his high point for the second half of the season, and he ‘slumped’ all the way down to .978 by September 3, a 57-game stretch in which he batted .332, with an OBP of .388 and a SLG of .565, with 13 HRs and 53 RBIs in his 56 starts. Seems like Cha Cha was doing fine through September 3. His slump began on September 4, and lasted only 20 days and 68 ABs. The Cards went 11-9 in that stretch, at the beginning of which they had a 10 and ½ game lead, and at the end of the season they had a 10 and ½ game lead.
10:00 AM Apr 5th
Marc Schneider
I think it's fairly obvious why reached on error is not included in OBP; it's because reaching on an error is not considered a skill. Now you can argue that some skill is involved; a fast runner might cause more errors, right hand hitters get more errors, etc. But it's not really a skill. It's like saying, who had the most bloop pop ups fall in for hits or how many line drives hit at a fielder did a pitcher cause.

I think Stephen is absolutely right as to why Cepeda is considered the better player; he had more star-type seasons on stats that people paid attention too. I am too young to remember Cash's 1961 season, but my impression of him growing up (pre-sabermetrics) is that he was a low average hitter with power but not much else. Obviously, people didn't consider walks as important. Cepeda hit for a better average generally or at least that was the perception and he had more what people considered "big" years. In some ways, Cash was seen the way Roger Maris was even in 1961-yeah, he hit a lot of home runs, but he only hit .269.
8:57 AM Apr 5th
By my reckoning, Cepeda was a bit better than Cash, at least in terms of peak value, but they are close.

To repeat, my standard for a superstar season (which could make you the MVP on a pennant-winning team) is 4 WAA (not WAR). Nearly all the people with 5 such seasons, and a lot of people with 4 such seasons, are in the Hall of Fame. Cepeda had three such seasons (1961, 1963, and 1967) and Cash had two (1961, 1965.)

The list of people with 3 such seasons is rather interesting (too long to give them all here.) Outfielders and first baseman on that list include Noodles Hahn, Chuck Klein, Joe Medwick Dolph Camilli, Augie Galan, Bill Nicholson, Larry Doby, Rocky Colavito, Cepeda, Roy White, Rusty Staub, Cecil Cooper, Dwight Evans, Fred McGriff, John Olerud, Cleon Jones, Shawn Green, Lou Brock, Dave Winfield, Jose Bautista, and Andrew McCutchen. Only Klein, Medwick, Doby, Cepeda, Winfield, and Brock are in the Hall. On the other hand, every catcher or other infielder on the list but one is in the Hall: Johnny Evers, Home Run Baker, Joe Cronin, Brooks Robinson, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Tony Perez (I know, first base too), Johnny Bench, Alan Trammell, Cal Ripken, and Roberto Alomar. The one that is not--Darrell Evans. The list of people with only 2 such seasons is much, much longer and includes very few people whom anyone has ever thought belonged in the Hall. Comparable players to Cash, off the top of my head, include George Foster, Jack Clark, and Pedro Guerrero and Carlos Delgado (from that list.)

Cepeda's MVP selection in 1967 is in retrospect a little odd. The real MVP that year was Henry Aaron who had the most dominant season relative to the league that he ever had. Clemente was also much more valuable than Cepeda. But Cepeda was playing for the Cardinals who were in first place all year, and he had basically wrapped up the award by August 1, when it looked like he might win the Triple Crown. Instead he tailed off badly in the last two months (and in the World Series!) and Clemente came on strong.

I have full stats for Cepeda, and in addition to his three superstar seasons (above), he had only three more over 2 WAA. I have never run full data for Cash.

One more comment: hardly anyone seems to realize how era- and team-dependent--especially team dependent--RBI numbers are. They don't tell you all that much about who was a great player and who wasn't--they tell you a lot more about the OBPs of the guys who batted ahead of them. That is why Mickey Mantle's RBI numbers, for example, look so bad (over 100 three times.)

David Kaiser
8:28 AM Apr 5th
@MarisFan61 uses ROE in its WAR calculations, so at least one measure uses it and still gives the edge to Cash.
6:40 AM Apr 5th
Cepeda was on two great teams (late 50s / early 60s Giants and late 60s Cards) and one other postseason (1969 Braves). Forgetting his brief stay on the South Side, Cash was a mainstay of one great-but-often-disappointing team, Detroit. Another possible factor (like Trammell/Whitaker?)

Speaking as a mid-60s baseball-card-carrying kid, Cash's rep was always-a-threat consistency. Cepeda's was more feast-or-famine (although the numbers don't quite bear that out). Orlando's biggest black-ink stat years came is 1961-64, playing half his games at Candlestick. But he had two spells of major injury, plus a real dropoff in 1968 after the MVP season.

Not only was Cash "rested" from lefties, he also had longevity -- is this a situation like Skowron's etc., where platooning may have stifled an MVP-caliber career?

Another point -- Cepeda's fielding is savaged by bWar, -13.8, while Cash gets -9.2 -- vs. almost identical offensive bWAR.

3:49 AM Apr 5th
BTW......which again perhaps raises the Q of whether "ROE's" should count in on-base average.

I'm not much in favor of monkeying with the way long-time stats are treated, but I don't understand why ROE isn't included in on-base.
A reached-on-error is absolutely at least as valuable as a walk or a HBP; seems to me it's actually clearly a little more, because ROE's fairly commonly result in more advancement than a walk or HBP.
Two reasons: If a ball is thrown away, the batter an/or baserunners might advance multiple bases, plus a ROE almost always advances any baserunner, while a walk or HBP only advances "forced" runners.
3:06 AM Apr 5th
(oops, no need for the double plural on Reached-on-Errors's)
2:59 AM Apr 5th
......Another difference: Other things equal, righty batters get (I think) more Reached-on-Errors's.

We might think it's the other way around because of the lefty (1) being a step closer to first base and (2) his swing taking him toward 1B rather than away from it. But (I think) it's outweighed by the basic fact that there are more errors (far more) on the left side of the infield than on the right, which I don't know whether it's due more to it being harder to recover from a bobble since the throw is longer, or there being more errant throws being the throws are longer, or simply because there are more grounders to the left side than to the right side.....well it's got to be more than just that, because the fielding averages of second basemen tend to be higher (much higher) than of SS's and 3B's.
(And I imagine there are other factors that I'm not thinking of.)

And in fact Cepeda did have more ROE's than Cash and a higher ROE rate (which wouldn't necessarily follow, since Cepeda had many more plate appearances). It's not a huge amount more, but enough to 'count,' albeit not much.
Cash's ROE rate, as a % of plate appearances, was just under 1%.
Cepeda's was just over 1.4%.
The difference between them, expressed as an average (not a percent), is .0046, which is about like a 5 point bump in on-base average.
We could say it sort of cuts Cash's 24 point advantage in on-base to 19 points, which of course is still a lot.
2:59 AM Apr 5th
This also makes me think of the whole platoon thing. I remember this coming up in an Abstract in regards to Trammell and Whitaker. If two guys bat .300 and one is a RHB and one a LHB, are they the same?

Cash had the platoon advantage way more than Cepeda. If Cepeda and Cash saw lefties 50% of the time, Cepeda's numbers would be much better than Cash's. But it is a righty world. Should that matter?

2:28 AM Apr 5th
Both of these guys played almost all of their careers before I was born. If I was picking a team and had these two players to draft from, I would take Cepeda and feel great about the decision. In terms of assessing the two players based on the way people who remember them talk about them, it doesn't seem that close to me. I'd rather have Cepeda.
12:17 AM Apr 5th
BTW, re that SPORT Magazine article and the guy's letter:
I think Bill's point was that evidently the guy wasn't familiar with Win Shares. :-) :-)
9:45 PM Apr 4th
Mine was actually All Star game STARTS. Sorry.
8:47 PM Apr 4th
BTW, since two different numbers have been said about Cash's number of all star games, I checked.
It was 5 (as said by those), including 2 in one year ('61).

One of those games in '61 had an interesting 1-2-3 in the A.L. batting order, because it was 3 guys we've been looking at, also because it's an odd 1-2-3, especially for that time:
1 Cash
2 Colavito
3 Kaline

Other guys in the lineup that we might have expected rather to be in the 1-2 spots (not saying it would have been better, just more to be expected):
Brooks Robinson
Johnny Temple
6:24 PM Apr 4th
Sport Magazine about 1962 published an article entitled "Has Rocky Colavito been Overrated?" A reader wrote in saying "Your editors obviously mixed up the title. The article "Rocky Colavito has been Overrated" was somehow printed as "Haw Rocky Colavito been Overrated?" You should be careful about this sort of thing, or you will find yourself with titles like "Has Overrated Rocky been Colavito?" or "Rocky has Overrated Colavito Been."
6:10 PM Apr 4th
Another comp by this approach:

BENCH: 37, 34, 34, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 22, 20, 19, 19
BERRA: 34, 32, 31, 29, 28, 24, 23, 23, 21, 21, 18, 16

I think this is just about perfectly in line with their relative reputations.
6:08 PM Apr 4th
.....BTW, using that 'method' of mine (in 'quotes' because my methods aren't much of a method, alongside what some of you guys do), here's how a recent favorite of mine looks.
To be clear: I don't mean that I use this as any kind of yardstick. It's just an objective thing I've found that seems quite generally to be in line with what my own gut-level impressions have been. I guess I always looked at every season as a highly significant unit, and judged 'greatness' very much according to how many seasons of a certain level were put up by the player. Like, to use my man Maris as an example (and why I don't make more noise about him not being in the Hall of Fame -- like any -- back in the day, during his career, I was very conscious that he hadn't had that many 'very very good' years, and that unless he had at least one or a couple more of those years, even though I loved him he just wouldn't really be "up there" in how he should rightly be regarded.

And, here's how Colavito looks alongside those two guys, by this approach. It's another example of it being in line with my impressionistic view of players.
(Did I regard Colavito, in his time, as a Hall of Fame type player?? Yes.
I later came to consider that misguided. In view of Bill's more recent work, particularly his series of articles a few years ago on fielding, I'm back to the original view.)

CASH......: 42, 27, 24, 24, 23, 23, 21, 21; no others over 18
CEPEDA...: 34, 30, 29, 26, 26, 23, 23, 21, 20, 19, 19
COLAVITO: 33, 32, 29, 28, 28, 26, 22, 21, no others over 18

I don't mean that I think this says Colavito should be in the Hall of Fame; I truly never think anything says anyone "should be" in the Hall of Fame.
But I do think he deserves to be among those that get thought of for it -- and he hasn't much been.


On some of those totals that Bill looked at:
Career HR's: Cepeda 379, Cash 377, Colavito 374
Games: Cepeda 2124, Cash 2089, Colavito 1841
OPS: Cepeda .849, Cash .862, Colavito .848
OPS+: Cepeda 133, Cash 139, Colavito 132
Career Win Shares: Cepeda 310, Cash 315, Colavito 273
5:31 PM Apr 4th
Steven Goldleaf
These head-to-head comparisons are fabulous. They really help me put in perspective the careers of players I consider approximately equal. I like the idea (not put into practice yet) of "If Player A is considered more accomplished than Player B, and B is better than C, can it be taken for granted that A is better than C?"
5:19 PM Apr 4th
Cash's bad luck came mainly with the Hall of Fame voters. If he had been elected, probably few would have questioned his election, given his monster season and his lifetime stats. The statistics of these two are also similar to those of Gil Hodges, also waiting outside.
5:06 PM Apr 4th
Do you guys remember the gimpy designated hitters (my term) of 1973? As I recall (unless I'm getting my years mixed up), Rico Carty was with Cleveland, Cepeda with Boston, Tommy Davis with the O's, and Oliva with the Twins. None of them could really play the field anymore. Since that was the first year of the DH, I remember thinking at the time that the DH would primarily be used to provide a spot for good hitters who could no longer play the field due to injury.
3:49 PM Apr 4th
The University of Oklahoma is in Norman. The University of Central Florida is in Orlando.

Here's an odd fact. On's list of similarity scores, Cepeda and Cash are not in each other's top ten carrer scores. Nor do they appear as each other's most similar at any age.

Cash's first season in the minors was at age 20; he didn't stick in the majors till age 25. He played till he was 39. Cepeda first appeared in the minor at 18 (he hit .355) and in the big leagues at age 20. Due to injuries, he appeared in only 277 games after age 32 and was finished at 36.

3:42 PM Apr 4th
Very interesting (and surprising) how closely they match, even more surprising that Cash shows as even a little better than Cepeda on those career totals.

But, I want to suggest that even if the reasons Cepeda had more renown and regard at the time may have been much due to what we'd now call wrong reasons, the assessment is well supported by what I think most of us would call good reasons. (I would.)

A big way that I look at such things theoretically and which also is a big part of my gut-feeling of goodness/greatness is: how many real good years did the guy have -- and, using Win Shares as the objective measure, it looks to me that Cepeda comes out distinctly ahead, from how I see such things, which I realize isn't necessarily how most people do.

Using the Win Share data in the great new section on this site (it's a great toy), here are each guy's top seasons (not consecutive):

CASH...: 42, 27, 24, 24, 23, 23, 21, 21; no others over 18
CEPEDA: 34, 30, 29, 26, 26, 23, 23, 21, 20, 19, 19


In a way it's close.
BUT, to me, Cepeda shows as a player who had enough very good years that we could meaningfully come to think of him as a great player provided some other things are in there, and for him, they are.

Cash, as I see it from that data (which matches my gut impression of him), isn't even near the border of where I'd start seeing a player that way. The great '61 season put him in the possible running for such a thing, but he never put himself in play beyond that.

To me, "25" is an important Win Share number for a season. It feels like the level that marks a "very very good" year (if not MVP quality, for which the borderline is more like 30).
Below 25 sort of isn't. Twenty-five feels to me like a threshold sort of thing, in that sense that even just a little below that, it feels like a lesser-category kind of year. At least for me, that generally works remarkably well.

Besides Cash's great '61, he had only one other such year; 2 total.
Cepeda had 5.
And, lining up their best Win Share years as I did up there, besides Cash's one over-the-top year, Cepeda beats Cash every year on the year-by-year comparison.

For sure it's not a very large margin -- but, as I said, to me the difference is enough so that Cepeda is just above the border where our head and gut (my head and gut?) might have the guy in mind as a great player, and Cash is distinctly below it.

I would tend to think also that this is a big reason for the great difference in their numbers of all star selections. Cepeda's years were just good enough to put him bigly in contention, a lot of the time. Cash's weren't.

Of course this doesn't in the least negate the arguments in the article. I mention it just as a personal take, supported by the main ways that I do generally look at objective data as a check on gut impressions.
3:34 PM Apr 4th
To carry the parallel one step further: Cash played in 5 all-star games, and was 1 for 13 with no walks. Cepeda played in 9 all-star games, and was 1 for 27 with 1 walk.
3:09 PM Apr 4th
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