Give Me More Willies

July 25, 2016

In many ways Willie Stargell’s twin, Willie McCovey "is probably the only truly great player in history to have been platooned for several years at the start of his career." McCovey’s obstacle, as Bill notes further in the Historical Abstract, was simple: Orlando Cepeda. It took the Giants several years to figure out what to do with two young world-class first-basemen. But Stargell, too, had his career delayed, perhaps not quite as dramatically as McCovey, nor as much by platooning, but significantly.

Coming to the major leagues at age 22, Stargell was relegated to the bench or to shuttling between left field and first base for years.  His first full season, 1963, he basically was the backup left fielder to veteran Jerry Lynch.  Pittsburgh had a logjam at LF and 1B in 1963:  they had Lynch as their primary leftfielder (59 starts) and Bob Skinner (30), Ted Savage (17), and Manny Mota (16), in addition to Stargell (30), who was the youngest and the least tested of the five men starting at least 10% of Pittsburgh’s LF games.  Donn Clendenon, meanwhile, had just established himself at first base, having wrested it away from Dick Stuart in 1962 with a second-place finish in the ‘62 Rookie of the Year voting. (Cepeda had won the ROTY award outright the year before McCovey arrived in SF.) Both LF and 1B seemed amply staffed in 1963, and in 1964, Stargell played the second-most innings on the team at both positions, backing up Lynch and Clendenon once again, starting 53 games in LF and 49 at 1B. Remarkably, however, he made the 1964 All-Star team, thanks to a very hot start.  (He began the season by driving in 28 runs in the team’s first 27 games, batting .358 and slugging .642. For the rest of 1964, he batted .244 and slugged .452.)  The only other positions available to the left-handed-throwing Stargell were CF, for which he was plainly too slow (though they tried), and RF, occupied by a Hall-of-Famer in his prime.

In 1965, Stargell again made the All-Star team in LF, but over the complete season, he started only 118 games in left, sharing it with 34-year-old Lynch (21 starts), 27-year old Manny Mota (who got into 35 games in LF as a defensive substitute)  and 22-year old Bob Bailey (24 starts in LF). The next season, Stargell played even fewer innings in LF, although by now he had established himself as a perennial All-Star, MVP candidate, and slugger. In 1967, Stargell started only 86 games in LF, while serving as Clendenon’s backup at 1B (33 starts). Stargell’s primary position was LF, even after the Pirates let Clendenon go in 1969 (his replacement at 1B, Al Oliver, just as Clendenon had, finished second in the NL ROTY voting as Pittsburgh’s first baseman), but Stargell only played LF on a steady, everyday basis (at least 120 starts and 1100 innings) beginning in 1971, his tenth year in MLB, which seems like an awful lot of being dicked around for a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. McCovey had established himself as a regular at one position, by way of contrast, at the start of his seventh season in MLB, when McCovey played 156 games at 1B. Cepeda spent most of that year on the DL, and was soon traded away.

All in all, McCovey made 88% of his career starts at a single position, 1B, while Stargell made just 58% of his career starts in LF and another 39% at 1B. Of course, Stargell played most of his career games at 1B late in his career, but the lateness of being settled in one position is just another similarity of their careers, having little to do with their very similar batting records, which is my main focus here.  

I looked into how they fared over a larger group of pitchers than I did a few weeks ago—in addition to their overlapping career spans, and their similar handedness, and their identical career OPSes, with very similar OBPs and SLGs, they faced identical pitchers numerous times over their MLB careers, so I thought that above a certain number of plate appearances, I might find similar outcomes against the same pitchers, which would support in practice the theory of "batter families." More precisely, if I couldn’t find any meaningful similarities in this tiny family of two, then there would be little point to pursuing the family theory any further.

What follows is the list of every pitcher against whom either McCovey or Stargell had 90 or more plate appearances, listed in order of their plate appearances against either batter (i.e., Don Sutton faced Stargell 165 times so he’s first on the list,  Drysdale faced McCovey 151 times so he’s third on the list, etc.)

 

 

McCovey

 

Stargell

 

PA

OPS

 

PA

OPS

Sutton

146 

.724


165

.756

Gibson

149

.851


152

.823

Drysdale

151

 1.117


76 

1.108

Seaver

 93

.961

 

143

.847

P. Niekro

114

.929

 

136

.768

Carlton

   86

.902


127

.820

L. Jackson

125

1.024

 

77

.803

G. Perry

 13

.231

 

117

.959

Marichal

----

----

 

114

.477

Bunning

106

.871 

 

  72

.673

Jenkins

77

.843

 

 96

.676

Cloninger

 93

1.259

      

63

1.281

K. Johnson

91

.952

 

44

.914

Reuschel

49

.736

 

 91

1.082

Wise

75

.981

 

 90

.936

 

 

Since both Stargell and McCovey had lifetime .889 OPSes,  you can see which pitchers lowered and raised that figure against each batter.  Of these fifteen pitchers, we need to eliminate Gaylord Perry and Juan Marichal for comparative purposes, since McCovey was their teammate so didn’t face Marichal at all and faced Perry an insignificant (13) number of times. Of the remaining thirteen pitchers, more than half posted OPSes against both McCovey and Stargell that fall into my description of "very close," i.e., within a .100-point OPS range against each of them. (I’ve highlighted these seven pitchers in yellow.)  Sutton was the toughest for both Willies, Cloninger the easiest, but all in all seven pitchers placed within a hundred OPS-point range against both hitters. (As I’ll explain in a later article, a .100 OPS point range may look large but it actually represents similarity rather than difference.) 

Of the remaining six, Seaver had a .114 OPS point-difference,  Jenkins .167,  Niekro .161,  Bunning .198 and  Jackson .221.  Of the 13 pitchers, only Reuschel had a difference outside the (admittedly arbitrary) range of .300 OPS points that I deemed to be "large," .346—Reuschel pitched effectively against McCovey (.736) and ineffectively against Stargell (1.082). Otherwise, every pitcher on this small list pitched about as well against one batter as he did against the other, suggesting that in this very small family of batters, there is a certain consistency of pitchers’ outcomes.

Next, I decided to test my thesis  by looking in a slightly different way:  what if I lowered my standard to at least 50 PAs against either Willie, and narrowed my search further by limiting it to pitchers who were effective (under .700 OPS) against at least one Willie with the 50 PAs? Would the other Willie also prove ineffective against the same pitcher?

This part of the study worked in a few isolated cases (Dave Giusti and Jon Matlack, as you can see by the chart below) but mostly the results were all over the map. Probably 50 PAs against only one Willie was just too small a sample size to yield stable results (or maybe I have rocks in my head). In any case, five of the matchups ended up with 20 or fewer PAs for one Willie, which is obviously too small a sample to be  reliable, and several other matchups yielded no very strong correlations. The three matchups that featured at least 65 PAs against both batters, Claude Osteen, Jerry Koosman and  Ron Reed, resulted in fairly close OPSes (.185, .173, and .244, respectively) but otherwise these matchups were all over the map, the more so as the number of PAs against one batter approached zero.

 

 

McCovey

 

Stargell

 

PA

OPS

 

PA

OPS

Osteen

82

.666

 

84

.481

Matlack

14

.220

 

50

.573

Hands

60

1.114

 

52

.598

Reed

82

.899

 

68

.655

L. McGlothlen

20

1.034

 

60

.691

Spahn

66

.414

 

19

.655

Messersmith

54

.482

 

42

1.111

Veale

52

.583

 

---

----

Hooton

54

.584

 

52

1.084

Farrell  

57

.651

 

41

1.220

Koosman

74

.692

 

79

.865

Friend

77

.693

 

4

1.250

Giusti

67

.696

 

39

.765

 

 

Now of course, it might be that the sample size of virtually any pitcher/batter matchup will be too small to yield remotely meaningful results (I haven’t neglected that very real possibility) but it might also be that I’ve simply lowered the PA bar too much to get meaningful results—certainly the 14 plate appearances in which Matlack faced McCovey, holding him to a .220 OPS is not the sample size I’d want to base a huge decision on (like "Matlack’s pitching? Gotta sit McCovey down!"). 

So I decided, next, to look from the opposite end (pitchers whom McCovey and Stargell ate for lunch) and to expand the OPSes and PAs slightly, to a 1.000 OPS (.111 points above the Willies’ lifetime .889 OPS, rather than the .189 OPS below it with .700 OPS) and at least 60 PAs against either McCovey or Stargell. So, alphabetically this time:

 

 

Vs. McCovey

 

Vs. Stargell

 

PA

OPS

 

PA

OPS

Briles

81

1.163

 

57

1.059

Cardwell

77

1.145

 

34

1.274

Cloninger

93

1.259

 

63

1.281

Drysdale

151

1.117

 

76

1.108

Kirby

77

1.132

 

45

1.320

Hands

60

1.114

 

52

.598

 L. Jackson

125

1.024

 

77

.803

Maloney

83

1.066

 

69

.980

J. Niekro

43

.535

 

61

1.268

Pappas

67

.905

 

68

1.125

Renko

49

.732

 

70

1.087

R. Reuschel

49

.736

 

91

1.082

Rogers

52

1.091

 

88

.734

D. Wilson

67

.873

 

53

1.119

 

 

This yielded 14 matchups, of which five (Cloninger, Drysdale, Jackson, Maloney and Pappas) had at least 60 PAs against both batters. I don’t want to make too much of Cloninger, Drysdale and Maloney here, because I already discussed those matchups in the previous "Give Me the Willies" article, but Jackson and Pappas now add a .221 and .220 difference, respectively to Cloninger’s, Drysdale’s and Maloney’s even closer differences. If we lower the bar to 50 PAs against both Willies, we can add another four:  Briles (.104 difference), Hands (.516), Rogers (.357) and Stoneman (.293).  In the remaining five matchups that feature at least one Willie without 50 PAs, the differences grow a little wider (Cardwell, .129 difference; Kirby, .188; J. Niekro, .733;  Renko .355;  Reuschel, .346).  The pattern, if pattern there be, is that the lower the number of PAs in a pitcher-batter matchup, the greater disparity between OPSes.

It’s always a bit of a Devil’s bargain in choosing whether to study fewer matchups with higher PAs, or more matchups with fewer PAs, but all indications so far stress that the more PAs, the greater the stability of outcomes, which is encouraging (especially because it seems to mean there’s little point in doing more studies of pitcher/batter matchups of fewer than 60 PAs at least, cutting down on my donkey-work considerably.)

In reviewing both Willies’ almost identical numbers, I decided to look more closely to see what significant differences, if any, there might be, to explain different performances against various pitchers.  They both had fairly sizable platoon splits, McCovey about .150 OPS points higher against lefties than righties (.926/.776), and Stargell .010 points more in each direction (.935/.765) .  Their managers’ strategy of sitting them down, in general, against lefthanded pitchers seems pretty sound: though they have large lifetime splits, for their first half-dozen or so seasons, those large splits were ruinously huge:

 

Stargell

OPS vs rhp

OPS vs lhp

1962

.945

.222

1963

.758

.345

1964

.854

.618

1965

.887

.582

1966

1.031

.582

 

 

 

 

Or, in expanded form, vs. lefthanders:

 

Stargell

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BA

1962

  3

9

9

0

2

0

0

0

0

.222

1963

16

33

31

4

3

0

0

1

2

 

1964

47

91

85

7

16

3

2

3

16

 

1965

51

119

112

7

25

3

1

2

13

 

1966

46

83

71

9

12

3

0

3

6

 

Totals

163

 

308

27

58

 

 

9

37 

.188

 

 

and

McCovey

OPS vs. rhp

OPS vs. lhp

1959

1.092

1.067

1960

.953

.449

1961

.905

.477

1962

.957

1.017

1963

.995

.710

 

 

 

 

 

 

And again in expanded form, vs. lefthanders:

 

McCovey

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BA

1959

21

59

53

8

18

2

0

5

12

 

1960

32

81

70

4

9

4

1

0

5

 

1961

29

55

49

13

10

0

0

0

1

 

1962

 6

12

10

1

3

0

0

1

3

 

1963

70

175

158

23

36

5

0

8

16

 

Totals

156

 

340

49

76

 

 

14

37

.224

 

In the "Astonishing Facts" Department, more prosaically known as the Department of Utter Coincidences, each Willie drove in exactly 37 runs in his first five years in MLB while facing left-handed pitchers. More significantly, their managers showed excellent judgment in declining to make either Willie a full-time player in this period, as their other batting stats against lefties showed very dubious results. Over their first five years in the majors, where each of them played very nearly a complete 162-game season against lefthanded pitchers, Willie #1 batted .188 with 9 HRs and the aforementioned 37 RBI, while Willie #2 batted .224 against lefties, with 14 HRs and—I forget how many RBI. I’ll combine the chart totals above for you:

 

Player/ years

G

AB

R

`H

HR

RBI

BA

Pops     1962-66

163

308

27

58

  9

37

.188

Stretch 1959-63

156

340

49

76

14

37

.224

 

Of course, fewer than 350 ABs in a full season of games hardly constitutes an overwhelmingly dispositive number of ABs, but if you add both Willies’ ABs and their RBIs, you get 74 ribbies in 648 ABs, which would make a poor total for a very full season, and their combined BA (.207) is downright abysmal. So you can understand why both of these first-ballot HoFers had some delay becoming everyday players, even aside from the imposing presence of Cepeda and Clendenon. They came by their platoon status the old-fashioned way: they earned it.

I apologize for getting distracted from my original goal here, which was to study a variety of OPS twins, or OPS brothers, or OPS cousins, but I guess I got fascinated by the extreme similarity of the two Willies. Another distraction for me in studying the Willies is the splits that baseball-reference.com runs extensively, including pitcher/batter matchups and platoon splits, but extending far beyond those two. Frankly, some of those splits puzzle me the more I look at them, since they would appear to contain significant data, but the more I think about some of these splits, the more they look like random, almost meaningless garbage data, oddball facts without real significance, though some of them (like platoon splits) bear some obvious value.  So I’m going to venture next into the area of discussing baseball-reference.com’s splits without having any real mathematical or statistical training, which is something like walking a tightrope without prior practice but, in order to steady my nerves, with a shot or two of whiskey first. That is to say, quoting some famous last words: Watch THIS!

 
 

COMMENTS (20 Comments, most recent shown first)

kseesar1
Steven,

Thanks for this piece. It's a pleasure to read about two of my favorite ballplayers eve, particularly two who were so popular in the 1970's. As a Bay Area native and lifelong Giants fan, Stretch was my favorite player as a kid. Besides he unique swing and tremendous power, he had the biggest shoulders I'd ever seen on a human being, looking much bigger than he actually was. The Bay Area press loved Willie Mac and he was always a class act, making a terrible '77 season a little more palatable when he came to the Giants to finish his career. I remember more games than I can count seeing him sign autographs before games, jogging out to first base, and how bad his feet and knees were towards the end of his career. He never complained, had a nice sense of humor, and was always a classy guy. Finally, what a lot of folks don't remember is Willie Mays was always a bit jealous of Stretch--Mr. Say Hey could be a grouch with the press and fans, and McCovey's good nature apparently bugged him to a certain extent.
2:27 PM Jul 28th
 
flyingfish
Funny, steve161, I'd forgotten that memory (of hot-dog wrappers etc blowing around the field) until you mentioned it but it came back as clear as could be. I wonder why I don't remember it happening during the game so much...
2:35 PM Jul 27th
 
Steven Goldleaf
HR (off Drysdale), Double, RBI. Pretty good day.
8:18 AM Jul 27th
 
Steven Goldleaf
According to imdb, it was EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962). The trivia says "The date on the ticket for the baseball game at Candlestick Park was August 18, 1961. The final score was Giants 2, Dodgers 1."

Now I suppose I'll have to look that up, and see how McCovey did.
8:03 AM Jul 27th
 
Steven Goldleaf
I must have seen dozens if not hundreds of games at Candlestick (though maybe most of those were on the radio, not TV, since I "saw" most of them on late-night radio in my bed in the Catskills) but the most memorable depiction of the stick was in some movie, a scary thriller about a killer that had a scene set in Candlestick Park. Early sixties. Wonder what it was called,
7:59 AM Jul 27th
 
steve161
Fish, I expect playing baseball at Candlestick was worse than watching it.

I saw a few dozen games there over the years, while visiting my sister and her family in the Bay Area. My lasting memory of Candlestick Park is the way, after the game was over and most of the crowd had cleared out, the hot dog wrappers were blown by the wind in the seating areas. Like a miniature version of hurricane footage on TV.
7:04 AM Jul 27th
 
Rich Dunstan
I know Stargell has the reputation, presumably well-deserved, of being one of the nicest guys in MLB history, but my recollection as a Giants fan since the year before he arrived is that McCovey was well though of in that respect too. That comes partly from hearing him interviewed (then and more recently), partly from things I've read about him, partly because of his willingness to stumble around in left field so his friend Cepeda, who was faster and would have made a better outfielder, could stay on first base. My impression is that Wille Mac was an easy-going type with a dry sense of humor (favorite story:asked about the difficulty of batting under pressure, he answered "beats hell out of chopping cotton.")
4:45 PM Jul 26th
 
chuck
Using the info on park indexes for LH and RH batters-
found here: www.baseballprospectus.com/sortable/index.php?cid=1952616
- I figured these two Willies' career park indexes in 4 categories.
As a throw-in, I also looked at Harmon Killebrew's, though he's not in the left-handed Willie family. These are pro-rated to their plate appearances each season.

Home Runs
WS 97
WM 97
HK 108

Doubles
WS 100
WM 096
HK 098

Singles
WS 102
WM 099
HK 101

Runs
WS 099
WM 099
HK 099

The Willies are pretty close again here. The numbers above are just for the home park- that is, when factoring in the road parks, I believe, the distance between those numbers and 100 would be halved.
11:38 AM Jul 26th
 
flyingfish
Steven: This piece of yours gives me the Willies. It also reminds me of the first baseball game I ever saw (I came to this country in 1964 from places that had cricket, but no baseball to be an undergraduate at Stanford). It was at the 'Stick--what a miserable place to watch baseball!--and featured two star Willies, McCovey and Mays. I don't remember much about the game, except that watching it made it immediately obvious how much better a game baseball is than cricket. And I remember being cold. And I remember being told how lucky was to see the two Willies play, and I guess that was true.
9:44 AM Jul 26th
 
MarisFan61
P.S. This question of how we see their MVP histories reminds me of how Bill compared the MVP histories of Phil Rizzuto and Pee Wee Reese (maybe in the Hall of Fame book, maybe in the Historical Abstracts). I'm seeing it here essentially the way he saw it there, and it's possible that I got the principle from that. In the Rizzuto-Reese comparison, he said that he considered Reese's vote record far more impressive than Rizzuto's -- and there, the relative downplaying of Rizzuto's win was far more extreme, because Reese never finished higher than 5th. Also, Rizzuto had another advantage: his total Award Shares were higher. (I think the idea of "total award shares" per se may not have existed yet when Bill wrote it.) Bill felt that Reese's much higher number of top 10's and his being mentioned in the MVP vote far more times outweighed Rizzuto's having won it once.

BTW, even using that principle, I would see the Rizzuto-Reese thing as a wash. But I think the Stargell-McCovey MVP comparison is clear in favor of Stargell (if one believes in using those other things as well as just who won the award).
8:27 AM Jul 26th
 
MarisFan61
Steven: re their relative MVP records:
First of all I have to say that I sort of 'forgot' that Stargell's MVP award was shared....not really that I forgot but that I didn't have it in mind. I totally knew about it, and in fact every time I see that Seinfeld episode where Keith Hernandez's mind bubble says ".....I won MVP...." -- if anyone's watching with me, I make sure to tell them "Hey, he only shared it!" :-)
When I did that post, I was just mechanically looking down their MVP voting list and toting it up, without thinking.

But anyway: I would say that Stargell's MVP vote history is better. To me, his higher numbers of top 5's and top 10's and his higher total Award Shares easily outweigh the fact of his win being just shared.
8:11 AM Jul 26th
 
evanecurb
Anyone who was in Willie Stargell's restaurant when he hit a home run would get free chicken. It was known as Chicken on the Hill with Will. Apparently, KDKA play-by-play man Bob Prince started it by announcing he would pick up the tab if Willie hit a home run one night.

Willie McCovey's name was Willie. He was Stretch. Willie Stargell's name was Wilver. He was Pops.

Stargell had an MVP type season in 1971, when the Pirates won the World Series. He didn't win the MVP that year; Joe Torre did. He was awful in the World Series. In 1979, he didn't have an MVP type year, but he did tie for the MVP with Hernandez. He was great in the series that year.

McCovey was from Mobile, AL, as were Hank Aaron and Billy Williams. Stargell was from the East Bay, (listed as Alameda, CA), as were so many great players of that era (Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan, Curt Flood, Vada Pinson).
8:04 AM Jul 26th
 
evanecurb
I think maybe my perception that McCovey was the greater hitter is probably just that - a perception. As Steven said, it's a distinction without a difference. One of the things I had forgotten was that McCovey had some years later in his career when he really wasn't very good. I remember when he returned to San Francisco late in his career and had a good season - (1977, maybe?) - it was a pretty big surprise, because we all thought he was washed up. He had gone to San Diego, then Oakland, and not been very effective in either place. So perhaps McCovey had not only a higher peak, but a lower valley. Stargell didn't have much of a decline phase. I think - without looking - that he retired a year or two after his MVP season in 1979
7:54 AM Jul 26th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Thanks for all the kind words (which I'll be sure to pass on to "Stephen," MichaelPat, if I ever meet him), and glad I got a discussion going on "Which Twin Chews the Wrigley's?" (or was that "Which twin has the Toni?" I forget) but to me it's not very important which one had the greater career. If one of them had played 25 years and the other merely 12, so there wasn't any question of whose .889 OPS means more, I don't think I'd have written two words differently. As it happens, they're so close, it's a distinction without a difference. But MF61, I think McCovey gets the MVP edge, winning his outright while Stargell's was shared, don't you think?
5:53 AM Jul 26th
 
MarisFan61
P.S. .....thought I'd look at a few other things that I consider relevant -- and Stargell is ahead on these.

All star game selections: Stargell 7, McCovey 6

MVP: 1 win for each
Top 10's: Stargell 7, McCovey 4
Top 5's: Stargell 4, McCovey 2
Total career Award Shares: Stargell 3.30, McCovey 1.63

Hall of Fame voting: almost identical, but with Stargell a little ahead if we want to split hairs
Both 1st ballot, Stargell 82.4%, McCovey 81.4%

So....why do we seem (I think as a group, although not sure) to 'feel' McCovey as slightly greater?
For me, I think it might be just that I happened to be paying slightly more attention to baseball during McCovey's peak years than during Stargell's. Or maybe it's that Stargell's smile and 'family' stuff and all that make me think of him as a nicer guy, while McCovey is just a feared hitter..... I don't know.

From these things that I looked at, which taken together are all the main things that I consider most relevant, Stargell is at least as "great."
But mainly, darn they're close! Which is part of Steven's premise, and he's right.
1:32 AM Jul 26th
 
MarisFan61
I agree with those who have felt McCovey was the clearly greater player, if not by much of a margin. (That's not a contradiction; something can be distinctly greater than another thing even if the margin isn't large.) To whatever extent their numbers are so similar and even almost identical, I would tend to believe it's mostly an illusion.

My objective yardstick for checking out such a thing is Win Shares.
Win Shares arguably supports the above -- but only slightly at most; it's closer than I would have thought.
The following info is from Bill's New Historical Abstract.

As of when the book was written (2001), Bill had them both as #9 all-time at their positions. Right off the bat, that puts them pretty close. (Can't get much closer.) :-)

The Win Share numbers themselves do show some advantage for McCovey, but hardly enough to say they're not very close comps:

Career Win Shares: McCovey 408, Stargell 370
Per 162 Games:* McCovey 25.54, Stargell 25.39
Top 3 individual years: McCovey 39, 34, 34 ; Stargell 36, 35, 29
Top 5-year run: McCovey 164, Stargell 148

*Usually I round these off to the nearest number but in this case I figured I'd better not.
9:17 PM Jul 25th
 
jdw
Fun stuff, Steve!
7:06 PM Jul 25th
 
MichaelPat
Oh, and Stephen, you can tell Steven I said so...
1:11 PM Jul 25th
 
MichaelPat
evancurb, the willies also have identical OPS+ numbers for their careers, which is supposed to take into account park factors.
In terms of run context, McCovey has to come out ahead. That may be reflected in the WAR totals (Stretch comes out ahead 72-64), and in something BRef calls rBAT (runs better than average) (McCovey ahead 487 to 433).
Those are counting stats, so you have to factor in McCovey extra plate appearances (about 7% more, 9692 to 9027). All that does confirm your impression McCovey was the slightly better hitter.

Stephen, I enjoyed this statistical snark hunt. Well-written!
1:10 PM Jul 25th
 
evanecurb
Steven: I think your research on pitcher matchups is interesting, as are the two Willies. I was surprised to learn that they had identical OPSs, mostly because of perception. At one point, probably 1968-1970, McCovey was considered to be the Most Feared Hitter in Baseball. I remember reading quotes from opposing pitchers and managers to that effect, things like "He'd hit 60 homers if we had to pitch to him all the time, etc." Like Frank Howard, Carl Yastrzemski, and a few others, he had some of his best seasons in a low run-scoring environment. He's slightly older than Stargell and played the majority of his home games at Candlestick, so I think he was operating in a lower run scoring environment than Stargell. Three Rivers was a decent hitters park (not so true of Forbes Field, but Forbes was better for lefties than righties).

Not sure what my point is, except that I think McCovey was a slightly better hitter. Both were great and as you point out, both men's career totals were held back by unusually low playing time in their twenties. Stargell most certainly would have hit over 500 home runs if he had played 150 games a year his entire career.
11:39 AM Jul 25th
 
 
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