Second Base from Jackie to Joe

January 4, 2018
 2018-2

 

            I am traveling today.  Tomorrow, weather permitting, I will be on MLB-TV, shooting our annual shows ranking the players and also doing some time on live TV with Brian Kenny, I would guess.  

 

64.  Jackie

              A fellow you have probably heard of was by far the best second baseman in baseball from 1949 to 1952.

             

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1949

1

Jackie

Robinson

16

124

.342

.432

.528

32.14

1949

2

Bobby

Doerr

18

109

.309

.393

.497

25.06

1949

3

Eddie

Stanky

1

42

.285

.417

.358

23.51

1949

4

Joe

Gordon

20

84

.251

.355

.407

19.15

1949

5

Red

Schoendienst

3

54

.297

.351

.356

18.06

 

     

 

 

 

   

 

1950

1

Jackie

Robinson

14

81

.328

.423

.500

32.38

1950

2

Eddie

Stanky

8

51

.300

.460

.412

25.79

1950

3

Bobby

Doerr

27

120

.294

.367

.519

22.77

1950

4

Red

Schoendienst

7

63

.276

.313

.403

18.70

1950

5

Jerry

Priddy

13

75

.277

.376

.401

18.13

 

     

 

 

 

   

 

1951

1

Jackie

Robinson

19

88

.338

.429

.527

35.08

1951

2

Eddie

Stanky

14

43

.247

.401

.369

22.12

1951

3

Red

Schoendienst

6

54

.289

.335

.405

20.33

1951

4

Nellie

Fox

4

55

.313

.372

.425

18.59

1951

5

Bobby

Doerr

13

73

.289

.378

.448

17.03

 

     

 

 

 

   

 

1952

1

Jackie

Robinson

19

75

.308

.440

.465

32.56

1952

2

Red

Schoendienst

7

67

.303

.347

.424

23.56

1952

3

Nellie

Fox

0

39

.296

.334

.366

21.03

1952

4

Bobby

Avila

7

45

.300

.371

.415

19.79

1952

5

Billy

Goodman

4

56

.306

.370

.394

19.51

 

 

              In 1952 Jim Gilliam had a big year with Montreal in the International League, hitting .301 with 100+ runs scored and  RBI, and with a strikeout/walk ratio of 18 to 100, and also some speed.   In 1953 the Dodgers brought Gilliam to the majors as a second baseman, moving Jackie to the outfield.  My understanding is that the thinking at the time was that moving Jackie to the outfield would protect his legs.

              From the beginning of Joe Gordon’s career until the end of Jackie Robinson’s career is just 18 years (1938 to 1956); 19 seasons inclusive.  They’re all really the same era, but the era is so torn up by World War II and the breaking of the color line that it appears to be very different. 

 

65.  The Nellie Fox Era

              Gil McDougald is a one-of-a-kind figure in baseball history before 2010.   In modern baseball the expansion of the bullpens has shrunk the bench so that most competitive teams now have a Ben Zobrist-type player who can play wherever he is needed.  McDougald wasn’t exactly that; he actually played only three positions in his major league career—second base, third base and shortstop.   He never played an inning at first base or in the outfield, as the modern Ben Zobrist-, Marwin Gonzalez-, David Descalso-type player would.  He was an infielder.

              Teams in the 1950s usually carried multiple backup infielders, sometimes in odd combinations; a team which had a good shortstop might carry two second basemen, one of whom backed up third base and pinch hit, and the other of whom backed up shortstop and pinch ran.  There were other multi-position players who were regulars, like Junior Gilliam, Pete Runnels and Billy Goodman.  

              McDougald was unique in that he was (a) a multi-position player who was a key player on championship teams, and (b) defensively the equal of anybody in the league at any of the three positions.  He wasn’t a guy who could play shortstop if need be; he was a first-rate shortstop.  Casey Stengel loved that kind of guy because it fit Stengel’s managerial style, which was to deploy all players—pitchers and hitters—in multiple roles in order to search out matchups. In any season it is difficult to say what McDougald’s position was, but when he played second base he was among the best second basemen in baseball, and in 1955 we actually have him as the best second baseman in baseball. 

              Nellie Fox did not completely dominate the position, but if you have to ascribe the years 1953 to 1960 to any one second baseman, Fox is obviously the man.   He was a small player, slow, very poor arm.  But he took what the game offered him, slapped singles to the opposite field, took a walk whenever he could, could bunt if he needed to, and was the best hit-and-run man in baseball.   He stayed in the lineup, played 154 games a year on a 154-game schedule, and at the time of his retirement held the record for the highest career fielding percentage at second base. 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1953

1

Red

Schoendienst

15

79

.342

.405

.502

24.54

1953

2

Nellie

Fox

3

72

.285

.344

.375

22.47

1953

3

Jim

Gilliam

6

63

.278

.383

.415

19.44

1953

4

Bobby

Avila

8

55

.286

.355

.379

19.37

1953

5

Billy

Goodman

2

41

.313

.384

.409

18.22

 

     

 

 

 

   

 

1954

1

Nellie

Fox

2

47

.319

.372

.391

24.06

1954

2

Gil

McDougald

12

48

.259

.364

.416

22.69

1954

3

Bobby

Avila

15

67

.341

.402

.477

21.69

1954

4

Red

Schoendienst

5

79

.315

.366

.428

21.56

1954

5

Jim

Gilliam

13

52

.282

.361

.418

19.60

 

     

 

 

 

   

 

1955

1

Gil

McDougald

13

53

.285

.361

.407

24.98

1955

2

Nellie

Fox

6

59

.311

.364

.406

24.40

1955

3

Red

Schoendienst

11

51

.268

.335

.376

19.07

1955

4

Bobby

Avila

13

61

.272

.368

.400

18.53

1955

5

Jim

Gilliam

7

40

.249

.341

.355

18.17

 

     

 

 

 

   

 

1956

1

Nellie

Fox

4

52

.296

.347

.376

22.98

1956

2

Jim

Gilliam

6

43

.300

.399

.396

18.68

1956

3

Red

Schoendienst

2

29

.302

.356

.370

18.28

1956

4

Johnny

Temple

2

41

.285

.344

.332

16.91

1956

5

Bobby

Avila

10

54

.224

.323

.318

15.77

 

               

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1957

1

Nellie

Fox

6

61

.317

.403

.415

27.34

1957

2

Red

Schoendienst

15

65

.309

.344

.451

21.56

1957

3

Johnny

Temple

0

37

.284

.387

.341

18.47

1957

4

Don

Blasingame

8

58

.271

.343

.368

17.10

1957

5

Charlie

Neal

12

62

.270

.356

.411

16.70

 

     

 

 

 

   

 

1958

1

Nellie

Fox

0

49

.300

.357

.353

24.61

1958

2

Pete

Runnels

8

59

.322

.416

.438

22.03

1958

3

Johnny

Temple

3

47

.306

.405

.402

19.58

1958

4

Charlie

Neal

22

65

.254

.341

.438

18.85

1958

5

Frank

Bolling

14

75

.269

.328

.392

17.97

 

     

 

 

 

   

 

1959

1

Nellie

Fox

2

70

.306

.380

.389

25.67

1959

2

Pete

Runnels

6

57

.314

.415

.427

22.09

1959

3

Charlie

Neal

19

83

.287

.337

.464

20.25

1959

4

Johnny

Temple

8

67

.311

.380

.430

20.12

1959

5

Frank

Bolling

13

55

.266

.339

.403

16.70

 

     

 

 

 

   

 

1960

1

Pete

Runnels

2

35

.320

.401

.394

21.16

1960

2

Nellie

Fox

2

59

.289

.351

.372

20.53

1960

3

Bill

Mazeroski

11

64

.273

.320

.392

18.54

1960

4

Frank

Bolling

9

59

.254

.308

.356

15.96

1960

5

Tony

Taylor

5

44

.284

.331

.377

15.85

 

 

66.   The Best Second Basemen 1900 to 1960

              Hall of Famers in gold.   Eddie Collins had 11 seasons as the #1 second baseman in baseball, three seasons as the #2 second baseman, and four seasons as #3:

YEAR

Y1

Last

Rank

First

Last

1

2

3

4

5

YOPDI

1930

1906

1930

1

Eddie

Collins

11

3

4

0

0

147

1937

1915

1937

2

Rogers

Hornsby

12

2

0

0

0

134

1916

1896

1916

3

Nap

Lajoie

12

3

1

0

0

118

1942

1924

1942

4

Charlie

Gehringer

8

0

3

1

2

96

1937

1919

1937

5

Frankie

Frisch

3

6

1

1

2

80

 

         

 

     

 

 

1960

1947

1965

6

Nellie

Fox

5

3

1

1

0

77

1951

1937

1951

7

Bobby

Doerr

3

5

2

0

2

75

1950

1938

1950

8

Joe

Gordon

5

0

2

3

0

64

1947

1931

1947

9

Billy

Herman

0

6

4

2

1

63

1956

1947

1956

10

Jackie

Robinson

4

2

1

1

0

60

 

         

 

     

 

 

1920

1907

1920

11

Larry

Doyle

0

6

2

1

2

54

1953

1943

1953

12

Eddie

Stanky

0

5

3

0

0

47

1924

1912

1924

13

Del

Pratt

0

2

6

1

2

42

1915

1900

1915

14

Danny

Murphy

0

3

4

2

0

41

1960

1945

1963

14

Red

Schoendienst

1

2

3

2

1

41

 

         

 

     

 

 

1939

1926

1939

16

Tony

Lazzeri

0

4

1

2

1

37

1960

1951

1960

17

Gil

McDougald

2

2

0

0

2

36

1941

1925

1941

18

Buddy

Myer

0

2

4

1

2

34

1952

1943

1952

19

Snuffy

Stirnweiss

2

1

0

1

0

29

1929

1902

1929

20

Johnny

Evers

0

2

1

1

3

23

 

         

 

     

 

 

1934

1920

1934

20

Marty

McManus

0

0

3

5

1

23

1934

1922

1934

22

George

Grantham

0

0

4

2

2

22

1909

1899

1909

23

Jimmy

Williams

0

2

3

1

0

17

1915

1901

1915

24

Jim

Delahanty

0

1

1

1

0

13

1960

1953

1966

24

Jim

Gilliam

0

1

1

0

2

13

 

         

 

     

 

 

1960

1952

1964

26

Johnny

Temple

0

0

2

2

0

12

1959

1949

1959

27

Bobby

Avila

0

0

1

3

1

11

1941

1931

1941

27

Odell

Hale

0

0

1

3

1

11

1908

1896

1908

27

Sammy

Strang

0

1

0

2

0

11

1916

1904

1916

30

Miller

Huggins

0

0

2

0

2

10

 

              Those counts (above) include seasons at other positions; Rogers Hornsby, Frankie Frisch, Jackie Robinson, Eddie Stanky and others had outstanding seasons playing other positions.   This is the Top 40 second basemen of 1900 to 1960 by Peak Value, and this time I’ll add the age of the Peak Value season. 

Rank

YEAR

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

AGE

OBA

SPct

OPS

Peak

1

1922

Rogers

Hornsby

42

152

.401

26

.459

.722

1.181

42.30

2

1914

Eddie

Collins

2

85

.344

27

.452

.452

.904

38.82

3

1901

Nap

Lajoie

14

125

.426

26

.463

.643

1.106

38.21

4

1951

Jackie

Robinson

19

88

.338

32

.429

.527

.957

35.08

5

1934

Charlie

Gehringer

11

127

.356

31

.450

.517

.967

33.32

6

1944

Snuffy

Stirnweiss

8

43

.319

25

.389

.460

.849

29.05

7

1923

Frankie

Frisch

12

111

.348

24

.395

.485

.880

29.02

8

1936

Billy

Herman

5

93

.334

26

.392

.470

.862

28.30

9

1911

Larry

Doyle

13

77

.310

24

.397

.527

.924

27.96

10

1908

Johnny

Evers

0

37

.300

26

.402

.375

.777

27.74

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11

1942

Joe

Gordon

18

103

.322

27

.409

.491

.900

27.72

12

1957

Nellie

Fox

6

61

.317

29

.403

.415

.818

27.34

13

1935

Buddy

Myer

5

100

.349

31

.440

.468

.907

27.21

14

1944

Bobby

Doerr

15

81

.325

26

.399

.528

.927

27.10

15

1914

Duke

Kenworthy

15

91

.317

27

.372

.525

.896

26.61

16

1929

Tony

Lazzeri

18

106

.354

25

.430

.561

.992

26.27

17

1904

Danny

Murphy

7

77

.287

27

.320

.440

.760

26.17

18

1950

Eddie

Stanky

8

51

.300

33

.460

.412

.872

25.79

19

1914

Frank

LaPorte

4

107

.311

34

.361

.436

.797

24.73

20

1953

Red

Schoendienst

15

79

.342

30

.405

.502

.907

24.54

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

1913

Del

Pratt

2

87

.296

25

.341

.402

.743

24.40

22

1929

George

Grantham

12

90

.307

29

.454

.533

.987

24.21

23

1911

Heinie

Zimmerman

9

85

.307

24

.343

.462

.805

23.67

24

1901

Tom

Daly

3

90

.315

35

.371

.444

.815

23.63

25

1913

Jim

Viox

2

65

.317

22

.399

.427

.826

23.47

26

1901

Jimmy

Williams

7

96

.317

24

.388

.495

.883

23.40

27

1923

Marty

McManus

15

94

.309

23

.367

.481

.848

22.97

28

1911

Buck

Herzog

6

67

.290

25

.365

.418

.783

22.89

29

1905

Miller

Huggins

1

38

.273

26

.392

.326

.718

22.88

30

1902

Sammy

Strang

3

46

.296

25

.387

.364

.751

22.81

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

31

1954

Gil

McDougald

12

48

.259

26

.364

.416

.780

22.69

32

1936

Odell

Hale

14

87

.316

27

.380

.506

.887

22.51

33

1910

Jim

Delahanty

3

45

.294

31

.379

.370

.749

22.35

34

1959

Pete

Runnels

6

57

.314

31

.415

.427

.841

22.09

35

1914

Baldy

Louden

6

63

.313

28

.391

.399

.790

22.06

36

1915

Lee

Magee

4

49

.323

26

.356

.436

.792

21.97

37

1954

Bobby

Avila

15

67

.341

30

.402

.477

.880

21.69

38

1905

Charlie

Hickman

4

66

.277

29

.311

.405

.716

21.65

39

1903

Claude

Ritchey

0

59

.287

29

.360

.381

.741

21.57

40

1910

John

Hummel

5

74

.244

27

.314

.351

.665

21.39

 

 

              And this chart summarizes the ages of second basemen having their peak seasons.   Eight of the 40 top second basemen had their peak value at age 26, the most of any age:

 

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

1

1

4

5

8

6

1

4

2

4

1

1

1

1

 

 

67.  Lumpe, Maz and the Not-Ready-For-Primetime Second Basemen

              From 1961 to 1963 one of the best second baseman in baseball played for my hometown heroes, I think probably the only Kansas City Athletic ever to reach the top of the chart for even one year.   Jerry Lumpe in his best seasons was a .300-area hitter, had doubles and triples power, walked more than he struck out, and for fifteen years after he retired held the career record for fielding percentage at second base.    He took that record from Nellie Fox, and held it until Bobby Grich beat him.  

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1961

1

Bill

Mazeroski

13

59

.265

.298

.380

17.98

1961

2

Jerry

Lumpe

3

54

.293

.348

.392

17.69

1961

3

Jake

Wood

11

69

.258

.320

.376

16.97

1961

4

Frank

Bolling

15

56

.262

.329

.379

16.40

1961

5

Nellie

Fox

2

51

.251

.323

.295

15.50

1961

6

Tony

Taylor

2

26

.250

.304

.322

14.63

 

     

 

     

 

 

1962

1

Bill

Mazeroski

14

81

.271

.315

.418

20.31

1962

2

Jerry

Lumpe

10

83

.301

.341

.432

19.93

1962

3

Billy

Moran

17

74

.282

.324

.407

18.38

1962

4

Bobby

Richardson

8

59

.302

.337

.406

18.08

1962

5

Bernie

Allen

12

64

.269

.338

.403

17.38

1962

6

Jim

Gilliam

4

43

.270

.370

.335

16.67

 

     

 

     

 

 

1963

1

Jerry

Lumpe

5

59

.271

.333

.363

18.31

1963

2

Tony

Taylor

5

49

.281

.330

.367

17.64

1963

3

Bill

Mazeroski

8

52

.245

.286

.343

17.37

1963

4

Jim

Gilliam

6

49

.282

.354

.383

17.27

1963

5

Bobby

Richardson

3

48

.265

.294

.330

17.18

1963

6

Julian

Javier

9

46

.263

.296

.381

16.98

 

     

 

     

 

 

1964

1

Pete

Rose

4

34

.269

.319

.326

17.38

1964

2

Bill

Mazeroski

10

64

.268

.300

.381

17.24

1964

3

Bobby

Richardson

4

50

.267

.294

.333

16.86

1964

4

Jerry

Lumpe

6

46

.256

.312

.338

16.77

1964

5

Felix

Mantilla

30

64

.289

.357

.553

16.32

1964

6

Julian

Javier

12

65

.241

.282

.363

15.51

 

     

 

     

 

 

1965

1

Joe

Morgan

14

40

.271

.373

.418

26.32

1965

2

Pete

Rose

11

81

.312

.382

.446

23.77

1965

3

Cookie

Rojas

3

42

.303

.356

.380

16.93

1965

4

Felix

Mantilla

18

92

.275

.374

.416

16.31

1965

5

Jim

Lefebvre

12

69

.250

.337

.369

16.17

1965

6

Bill

Mazeroski

6

54

.271

.294

.346

16.00

 

              Pete Rose and Joe Morgan, the 1964-65 leaders, would be huge stars in the 1970s and are still central figures circling baseball today, but had detours ahead of them before reaching their pinnacles.   Rose ranks first in 1964 because somebody has to.   His score is only 17.38—the lowest figure ever for a #1 second baseman, and a raw score which would not rank among the leaders in many, many seasons.   The raw score would not be in the Top 10 in any season between 2008 and 2016.  The 1961 and ’63 figures are the second- and third-lowest ever for a major league leader.  Sometimes there just isn’t a great player at the position.    This—and a fantastic rookie season—enabled Joe Morgan to rank first at the position as a rookie, which not a lot of players have done.  

              Bobby Richardson was very well thought of at the time, finishing second in the MVP voting in 1962, but in retrospect most analysts would look back on that as a blind spot of the era.   Richardson made huge numbers of outs while doing very little to change the scoreboard.   He was a drain on the Yankee offense, which was so outstanding in other areas that they could score as many runs as they needed to score despite Richardson’s interference.   I have pointed this out before, but in 1961 Richardson, batting leadoff for the ’61 Yankees, made 523 outs and scored 80 runs.   With Maris, Mantle, Skowron and Elston Howard coming up after him.   Dick Howser, batting leadoff for a Kansas City A’s team that was 9th in the league in runs scored and lost 100 games, made 460 outs and scored 108 runs.   He made 63 fewer outs than Richardson, but scored 28 more runs. The most outs made in a season, 1961-1965:

              1.  Bobby Richardson, 1964        536

              2.  Ken Hubbs, 1962                      532

              3.  Bobby Richardson, 1962        529

              4t.  Bill Virdon, 1962                     527

              4t.  Bobby Richardson, 1965       527

              6.  Bobby Richardson, 1961        523

 

              More by default than virtue, Bill Mazeroski has to rank as the #1 second baseman of the era.  Mazeroski had one great virtue, which was that he was better at turning the double play, probably, than anybody else ever.   It saved a certain number of runs, a limited number but some, and this offsets to an extent the fact that he was not much of a hitter, either, and he made too many outs, also. 

              In the early 1980s, someone put on the back of one of my books some nonsense about Bill Mazeroski having tremendous value as a fielder and deserving to be in the Hall of Fame, which he was not at that time.   I don’t know if you know this, but writers do not write the cover copy for their books.  Somebody else writes it, and we get to argue about it.   Sometimes what goes on the back of your book is written by someone who hasn’t actually read the book, and who has a second-hand understanding of what the book is about. 

              You CAN control what goes on your books, more or less, within reason, but I didn’t really understand that at that time.  I used to have a lot of conflicts with publishers.  I used to get into terrible fights with editors and copy editors and publicists and all of those people.  When this nonsense about Bill Mazeroski appeared on one of my books, I was in the middle of several other fights, and I thought I should just let this one go.   It wasn’t a good decision, but then I was young and didn’t really understand what I was doing in the publishing world, so I made a lot of not-very-good decisions.

              I’m not sure if I ever believed in Bill Mazeroski’s mythic defensive value, and this leads into another debate.   Earlier in this series of articles, one of you assholes. . . .excuse me.   Earlier in this series of articles, one of you fine readers, who had his head up his ass. . ..excuse me; let me try again.   Earlier in the series of articles, in discussing some defense-first player who might have been rated higher than he was, one of you distinguished scholars offered the stupid opinion that my rankings might have failed because defensive value is difficult to document, compared to offensive value, so defensive players wind up getting short shrift in rankings of this nature. 

              That was a good argument, in 1983.  Historical defensive numbers are very poorly designed, and difficult to read.  

              But every statistical analyst of my generation or the one after me has dedicated thousands of hours to figuring out how to interpret fielding statistics.   I have spent many, many, many more hours trying to make sense of fielding statistics than I have trying to make sense of batting statistics, and the same is true of John Dewan, Craig Wright, Tom Tippett, Sean Forman, and probably every other person in my field who was born before 1980.  We are not where we were in 1983.   We are not stumbling around in the dark.  We are not confused about defensive value, and we are not blind to defensive value. 

              Incidentally, if you didn’t gather this, having worked as hard as I have worked to understand fielding, I sincerely do not appreciate some jackass wandering into the middle of the conversation blathering about how fielding is difficult to understand so people like me don’t put an appropriate value on it.   I really don’t appreciate that.   It is disrespectful to me, and it is disrespectful to the field of knowledge in general, to talk about fielding statistics as if we had not done the many thousands of hours of hard work that we have in fact done, or as if we had not written hundreds and hundreds of articles in an effort to make that work accessible to you. 

              It is not that we don’t understand fielding, or that we don’t place the right amount of value on it.   What it is, is this.  When people have no way of measuring something, they tend to make spectacularly inaccurate estimates of its size.  I have done this myself many times.  I can remember writing that a runner had to go from first to third 100 times a year.   We didn’t know; I didn’t know.  In reality, no one in the major leagues went from first to third or a single 25 times in 2017, but we didn’t know things like that until we started counting. 

              When you don’t know how large something is, some people will argue that it is much larger than it really is.   This is what happened to fielding.   Before we spent thousands of hours studying fielding, we really didn’t have any idea how many runs a good fielder could save, as opposed to a weak one.   We didn’t have any idea how to get that information out of old data. 

              Because we didn’t know, because we couldn’t put hard numbers on it, the defensive value of players like Mark Belanger, Mike Hegan, Larry Bowa, Aurelio Rodriguez, Bobby Richardson and Bob Boone was exaggerated to mythic proportions by some of their contemporaries.  We believed it was possible that they might be saving 100 runs a year with their defensive excellence—we believed that, that is, until we thought it through.   Once we worked through the math, we realized that that was completely impossible.    We have not fully resolved our differences about the scope of defensive value, but we’re not where we were a generation ago. 

              Bill Mazeroski did make maybe 15, 20 double plays a year more than an average second baseman would have made, and this adds something to his value.   It adds enough to his value to justify his spot in the lineup, and it adds enough to his value to make him the #1 second baseman in the game in a period when there just isn’t anybody who was really good, no Joe Gordon or Bobby Doerr or Jackie Robinson or Joe Morgan or Ryne Sandberg.   There is no way in hell he should be in the Hall of Fame, but he was a pretty decent player.   He got into the Hall of Fame because (1) some people mythologized his defensive contribution, and (2) some early sabermetrics overstated his defensive value.  

 

 

2018-3

 

I should be on MLB-TV some today, I would guess.   Look for me.   Thanks. 

 

68.  The Mighty McAuliffe

              Whitey Herzog, when he managed the Royals in the 1970s, would refer to John Wathan as his "cornfield player", by which he meant that Wathan played the game as if he had learned to play it in a cornfield somewhere.   Dick McAuliffe was ten times the player that John Wathan was, but that is sort of a way of explaining him to those of you who are under 60; he was a tremendous player, but he played the game as if he had learned to play it somewhere where he might at any moment trip and fall into a cow pie.   He had a rough-hewn face and a unique batting stance.   He played the field, first shortstop and later second base, with more power than grace.   He played them well, but he played the positions more like a bricklayer than a ballet dancer. 

              Despite a career batting average of .247, McAuliffe was an extremely effective offensive player because he walked 100 times a year and homered essentially twice as often as a typical second baseman in that era.    He was a leadoff man, mostly, and he never scored 100 runs a year, but then, neither did Luis Aparicio.   Most players didn’t, in that era, even the leadoff men.   McAuliffe wasn’t fast, but he scored more runs per plate appearance than Aparicio did.

              McAuliffe reached the majors as a shortstop, and played primarily shortstop through 1966, often ranking as one of the top shortstops in baseball.  The Tigers were a good team that would win 85-90 games a year, and finally broke through with a 103-win, World Championship season in 1968. McAuliffe was not a great player, but he was a near-great player who wore a thick disguise of mediocrity. 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1966

1

Dick

McAuliffe

23

56

.274

.373

.509

27.14

1966

2

Pete

Rose

16

70

.313

.351

.460

25.36

1966

3

Joe

Morgan

5

42

.285

.410

.391

22.42

1966

4

Jim

Lefebvre

24

74

.274

.333

.460

19.18

1966

5

Bill

Mazeroski

16

82

.262

.296

.398

17.37

1966

6

Glenn

Beckert

1

59