The Billy Grabarkewitz All Star Team

February 10, 2018
I hope most of you got the Ken Phelps reference.  It’s been, what, 30 years since Bill wrote that piece in one of the Abstracts?  Time flies….
 
Intro 1
 
Why Billy Grabarkewitz?  Why now?  Well, there is a fun series of threads in Reader Posts going on right now that looks, day-by-day, at all-time teams by birthday.  Billy Grabarkewitz was highlighted on the January 18th birthday all-time team, and it got me reminiscing. 
 
You’ve heard of the Legend of Billy the Kid, the Legend of Billy Jack, and the Legend of Billie Jean?  This is about the Legend of Billy G.
 
Intro 2
 
I have to admit it.  I’m a little burned out by the Hall of Fame.  From November through January, it seems like that topic dominates the offseason baseball discussion:  who’s on the ballot, who should be in, who shouldn’t, how’s everyone tracking, I’m right, you’re wrong, and "this writer’s ballot is the worst I’ve ever seen – he should lose his voting privileges!"  (I must have seen that last comment a hundred times in the Twittersphere…..)
 
I’m burned out.  I needed to cleanse the palate.
 
This is an anti-Hall of Fame piece.  You won’t see any of these players at Cooperstown unless they happen to be visiting the Hall of Fame the same day you are.
 
First, a little background….
 
1970
 
1970 was a significant year for me.  It was the first year I truly started following Major League baseball.  Oh, I do have memories of thumbing through an encyclopedia and seeing a photo of Mickey Lolich jumping into the arms of Bill Freehan after the final out of the 1968 World Series, and I also have some distant memories of seeing some of the iconic defensive plays (Ron Swoboda, Tommie Agee (twice)) from that "Amazin’" team that won in 1969.  But, 1970 was truly the beginning for me as far as paying close attention to a Major League season and following a Major League team.  In my case, of course, it was the Cincinnati Reds.  In addition, it was the first year I started collecting baseball cards.
 
As a quick digression…..
 
1970 was a great time to start following the Reds.  I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried.  They were generally a winning team throughout the mid-to-late 1960’s, but finished 2nd through 4th most years.  They were typically in the upper half of the National League, but couldn’t quite put it all together. 
 
By 1969, though, you could see it coming together.  They had a formidable offense, leading the league in runs scored (by almost half a run per game), home runs (by almost 30 over the 2nd highest team), and batting average.    
 
They had assembled an impressive, young lineup:
 
  • C Johnny Bench was 21 years old, already a 2-time All Star and 2-time Gold Glove winner, who had already labeled a future Hall of Famer by Ted Williams. 
  • 1B Lee May was 26 years old and had just hit 38 home runs with 110 RBI
  • 3B Tony Perez was 27 years old and had just hit 37 home runs with 122 RBI
  • RF Pete Rose was 28 years old and hit .348 to win his 2nd consecutive batting crown
  • CF Bobby Tolan was 23 years old and hit .305 with 21 home runs, 93 RBI, and 26 stolen bases after coming over from St. Louis in the Vada Pinson trade
  • LF Alex Johnson was 26 years old and hit .315 with 17 home runs and 88 RBI, although he was a big old pain in the ass.
 
Even with light hitters like Tommy Helms and Woody Woodward as the double play combination, it was a tremendous offense, and everyone was 28 years of age or younger.  They were ready to explode. 
 
And in 1970, they did just that.  First they made some tweaks:
  • Alex Johnson was traded to the Angels for pitchers Jim McGlothlin and Pedro Borbon
  • The Reds played a combination of rookies Hal McRae and Bernie Carbo in LF to replace Johnson
  • Another rookie, Wayne Simpson, was installed in the rotation and was a sensation, going 13-1, 2.27 through July 5th before he started having arm troubles.
  • Yet another rookie, Dave Concepcion, received significant playing time at shortstop
  • Yet two more rookies (Don Gullett and Milt Wilcox) made positive contributions to the pitching staff
 
The 1970 Reds won their first 4 games out of the gate, and after 100 games they stood with a stunning record of 70-30.  Bench was the MVP, Perez was 3rd, and Rose was 8th.  They reached the World Series where they lost to the evil Baltimore Orioles and "The Human Vacuum Cleaner", Brooks Robinson. 
 
They moved into their new home (Riverfront Stadium) on June 30th, 1970 after 58 years at Crosley Field.  Two weeks later, they hosted the 1970 All Star Game.
 
Which brings me back to the main topic…..
 
Certainly one of the more memorable All-Star Game moments occurred in that 1970 All Star game – Pete Rose barreling into catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run in the 12th inning with 2 outs.  A lot of people may remember the other players involved in that play:
 
  • Clyde Wright was the pitcher. 
  • Jim Hickman got the base hit.
  • Amos Otis was the center fielder who threw home
  • Leo Durocher was the third base coach waving Rose around and "escorting" him home
 
However, many people forget (or never knew in the first place) that Billy Grabarkewitz was the runner on first base when the ball was hit, having singled Rose over to second on the previous at bat.   A bit player in an iconic moment.
 
Grabarkewitz
 
Billy Grabarkewitz is one of the first players I remember.  I mentioned card collecting earlier….his was one of the first cards I remember possessing.  I can distinctly remember a few cards from that first pack:  Chuck Taylor of the Cardinals.  Joe Horlen of the White Sox.  And, Billy Grabarkewitz of the Dodgers.  Grabarkewitz came up briefly in 1969 with the Dodgers as a 23-year old, and I noticed on his card that his batting average was .092 that season.  Even as a new fan who didn’t know what batting average exactly was just yet, I had already learned that .092 wasn’t good.
 
In 1970, though, Grabarkewitz received an opportunity for regular playing time, and he was a sensation.  Through April, he was hitting .333, and then he got really hot, hitting .394 in May.  He was named to the All Star Game as a reserve, and ended up playing his role in the Rose-Fosse play.
 
Even though he eventually slowed down, by the time they closed the books on the 1970 season, Grabarkewitz had an impressive stat line.  He hit .289.  He drew 95 walks to finish with an impressive .399 OBP (7th in the NL).  He hit 17 home runs, drove in 84 runs, and stole 19 bases.  He played nearly 100 games at third base, but also played 50 games at shortstop, and 20 at second base.
 
He posted an rWAR of 6.5, which was 5th among NL position players that year. 
 
The top 5:
Rank
Player
rWAR
1
Johnny Bench  CIN
7.4
2
Tony Perez  CIN
7.2
3
Billy Williams CHC
6.6
4
Willie McCovey  SFG
6.6
5
Billy Grabarkewitz  LAD
6.5
 
As they used to sing on Sesame Street, "one of these things is not the same as the others".
 
Alas, success was fleeting for Grabarkewitz.  He never had another season even remotely close to that one.  The 17 home runs from that season represented over 60% of his final career total.  He ended up with just a .236 career batting average.  His second highest seasonal rWAR was 0.8.  And his career rWAR was only 5.9.
 
I was curious how Grabarkewitz compared to others in history.  I created a filter using some data pulled from Seamheads.com/The Baseball Gauge.  Here was the criteria:
 
  • An rWAR of 6.0 or higher in the player’s best season
  • An rWAR of 1.0 or  less in the player’s second best season
  • An rWAR in the player’s best season that was higher than the player’s career total rWAR (this is possible since you can have seasons with negative rWAR).
 
The results of that filter returned just 2 players:
Player
Year
Pos
Best Season rWAR
2nd Best Season rWAR
Career rWAR
Billy Grabarkewitz
1970
3B
6.5
0.8
5.9
Rube Vickers
1908
SP
6.1
(0.4)
2.7
 
If you relax the cutoff of the best season to 5.0 or higher, the filter pulls in 7 other pitchers and one additional position player – Cito Gaston, who posted a 5.1 in his best season and had negative rWAR for his career as a whole.  Ironically enough, Gaston’s best season was also 1970….and, like Grabarkewitz, he played for the NL in the All Star Game that season.
 
The rarity of the career of Billy Grabarkewitz was the inspiration for this article.
 
What are We Looking For on this Team?
 
Now, since Grabarkewitz had a fairly uncommon career, I couldn’t build a whole team around that exact combination of criteria.  So, I loosened it up a bit to generate some candidates.  In general, I was looking for players who:
 
  • Generated a "best" rWAR season of 3.0 or more
  • Had a "second best" rWAR season of 2.0 or less
  • The "best" rWAR season represented at least 60% of the player’s career total
 
In addition, in making the selections, I also tried to pick players who had relatively short careers, and were relatively young when they had their best season.  They didn’t have to necessarily check all the boxes.
 
Before diving in, though, I should also explain what I’m not looking for.  Conceptually, this may sound like a search for players who had a "fluke" season.  That’s not quite it.  To me, a "fluke" season would be the one that Norm Cash had in 1961, when he hit .361 with 132 RBI, or the one that Rico Petrocelli had in 1969, when he hit .297 with 40 home runs….as a shortstop. 
 
But, Cash and Petrocelli were good players.  They had other good seasons.  Cash hit almost 400 career home runs, and Petrocelli had over 200 career home runs.  Their noteworthy seasons were outliers and aberrations, and they deserve their own article (which I am thinking of putting together)….but they are not Grabarkewitz material. 
 
Also, I’m not looking for players that had fluky one-season aberrations in a particular category.  For example, Bert Campaneris in 1970, Davey Johnson in 1973, or Brady Anderson in 1996 with their unusually high home run totals.  That’s not what I’m looking for, either.
 
Also, there are some others that you might anticipate might make this team.  For example, Wayne Garland.  Garland certainly had a surprise season in 1976 with the Orioles, going 20-7 with a 2.67 ERA.  He had fantastic timing as well, as he became a free agent after that season, and signed with the Indians.  Alas, he fell to 13-19, 3.60, led the league in losses, and everyone came to the conclusion that it was a horrible signing.  Now, some of the difference in the 2 seasons is attributable to going from a good organization to a mediocre one.  Also, with the Orioles, Garland had Bobby Grich, Mark Belanger, and Paul Blair up the middle defensively to provide support.  The ’77 Indians had Duane Kuiper, Frank Duffy, and Jim Norris.  Who would you rather have behind you?
 
In any case, Garland is often mentioned when people discuss "one year wonders".  But, here’s a little secret.  Guess which season had the higher rWAR?  Believe it or not, it was 1977.  In 1976, Garland’s rWAR was 3.7.   In 1977, it was 4.1.
 
Why?  Well, without diving in too deep to dissect the numbers, one clear difference is that in 1977, Garland pitched an extra 50 innings over 1976 (282 vs. 232), about 22% more.  In terms of building quantifiable value, that helps a lot.  I certainly wouldn’t conclude that he pitched better in 1977 than in 1976, but he didn’t pitch all that badly, and he consumed a lot more innings. 
 
So, Garland, does not make this team.  I’m afraid he’s not Grabarkewitz material, either.
 
Who else did not make it?  Well, you might expect Mark Fidrych to make the team, right?  He seems to check the boxes.
 
Except that….well….not quite.  I’m tempted to include him, really I am.  After all, his 1976 season was amazing….9.6 rWAR, 19-9, league-leading 2.34 ERA, 159 ERA+, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young runner-up, a real hoot to watch…..an amazing year.   And that year was the overwhelming majority of his career value. 
 
However…the next season (1977)….well, it was actually pretty good too.  Like 1976, he made the All-Star team (although he didn’t pitch in the 1977 game).  So, to start with, I conceptually have trouble putting someone on the Grabarkewitz team who made the All Star team in two different seasons.
 
Also, although it was abbreviated, Fidrych compiled some good numbers in 1977.  In 11 starts he was 6-4, 2.89.  He improved his control over his rookie season, decreasing his walks per 9 innings from 1.9 to 1.3.  He increased his strikeouts per 9 innings from 3.5 to 4.7.  As a result of those two improvements, his K/BB ratio increased from 1.83 in 1976 to a pretty impressive 3.50 in 1977.  Had he been able to maintain that over a full season (which is no cinch, of course), it would have challenged Dennis Eckersley for the AL lead.
 
The bottom line is that Fidrych, even in an abbreviated 1977 season, was able to post an rWAR of 2.4 over 11 starts, or over 7.0 if you project it to a full season of starts.  2.4 is pretty decent total, and is really impressive in the context of the amount of time he pitched.  In other words, even though he’s a good conceptual fit for the team in one regard, that 2nd best season was just a little too high.  So, I left him off.  However, I will accept petitions to include him.
 
How about Joltin’ Joe Charboneau?  He had as many nicknames (3 - Super Joe, Joltin' Joe and Bazooka Joe) as he had Major League seasons.  And that one season was pretty good….23 home runs, 87 RBI, .289. 
 
However….his rWAR for that season is only 2.4, which is below my cutoff.  To elevate him into the discussion, I’d have to give extra credit for eccentricity.  According to his SABR bio, he "opened bottles of beer with his eye socket, pulled an aching tooth and fixed a broken nose with some whiskey and a pair of pliers, removed a tattoo with a razor blade, ate lit cigarettes and drank beer through his nose."  Some of those may be exaggerated, but he was quite a character.
 
In addition, he inspired a song: "Go Joe Charboneau".  For old times’ sake, let’s review the lyrics:
 
------------------
"Who's the newest guy in town?
Go Joe Charboneau.
Turns the ballpark upside down.
Go Joe Charboneau.
Who do we appreciate?
Go Joe Charboneau.
Fits right in with the other eight?
Go Joe Charboneau.
Who's the one to keep our hopes alive?
Go Joe Charboneau.
Straight from the 7th to the pennant drive?
Go Joe Charboneau.
Raise your glass, let out a cheer.
Go Joe Charboneau.
For Cleveland's Rookie of the Year.
Go Joe Charboneau
------------------
So, upon further review….I’d have to say at this point, it’s a "No go, Charboneau".  I can’t put you on the team.  Like Fidrych, though, I will accept petitions on your behalf.  You would certainly be an entertaining addition.
 
Bob Hamelin?  Kevin Maas?  Hurricane Hazle?  Nope.  Close….but still not quite what I’m looking for.
 
The Grabarkewitz All Star Team
 
OK, with all the preliminaries out of the way, let’s go around the diamond for the team, showing some key stats for the "best" season, as well as rWAR figures for the best season, 2nd best season, and career.
 
Catcher – Bill Delancey, St. Louis Cardinals, 1934
Age
rWAR in that Season
2nd Best rWAR
Career rWAR
% Best Season vs. Career rWAR
Season HR
Season RBI
Season BA
Season OBP
22
3.0
1.7
4.5
66.7%
13
40
.316
.414
 
Honestly, I had trouble finding catchers who fit the criteria.  The best one I could find was Delancey, who was a member of one of the truly legendary teams, the 1934 "Gas House Gang".  That team was filled with Hall of Famers….Frankie Frisch, Joe Medwick, Dizzy Dean were stars, and they had 3 aging future Hall of Fame pitchers in their 40s that were on the team at some point in the season (Dazzy Vance, Burleigh Grimes, Jesse Haines).  Future Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher was the shortstop.  Ripper Collins probably had a better season than any of the Hall of Famers.  Pepper Martin was another standout.  A fantastic team.
 
Delancey split catching duties with veteran Spud Davis to form a very effective tandem.  Both catchers hit over .300.  Delancey was just 22, and was considered a future star.  Branch Rickey, in "The American Diamond", named three catchers to his all-time team:  Mickey Cochrane, Roy Campanella……and Bill Delancey.
 
By the way…..slightly off topic.  Delancey’s position mate Spud Davis is in a bit of a select group.  Here is a list of catchers with more than 3,000 plate appearances and a .300+ batting average (from Fangraphs.com):
 
Name
PA
AVG
Mickey Cochrane
6,206
.320
Bill Dickey
7,060
.313
Deacon White
6,972
.312
Mike Piazza
7,745
.308
Joe Mauer
7,417
.308
King Kelly
6,455
.308
Buster Posey
4,260
.308
Spud Davis
4,713
.308
Ernie Lombardi
6,349
.306
Buck Ewing
5,770
.303
 
And, even that is debatable…White and Kelly both played more games at other positions than catcher, and Ewing played a lot of at other positions.  Those 3 also all played their entire careers before 1900.  In addition, Mauer and Posey are both still active.  So, if you restrict the definition to retired catchers post-1900,  there’s really only Cochrane, Dickey, Piazza, Lombardi……and Spud Davis.
 
Back to Delancey…..
 
I did a search on Seamheads.com/The Baseball Gauge for young, great hitting catchers (22 or younger), using 1901 as my starting point.  I sorted by offensive WAR.  Here’s the top 12:
 
Rk
Player
Year
Team
Lg
Age
PA
oWAR
1
Johnny Bench
1970
CIN
NL
22
671
5.7
2
Johnny Bench
1969
CIN
NL
21
592
4.6
3
Joe Torre
1963
MIL
NL
22
556
3.9
4
Earl Williams
1971
ATL
NL
22
550
3.8
5
Ted Simmons
1972
STL
NL
22
629
3.7
6
Brian McCann
2006
ATL
NL
22
492
3.7
7
Johnny Bench
1968
CIN
NL
20
607
3.6
8
Bill Freehan
1964
DET
AL
22
572
3.6
9
Shanty Hogan
1928
NYG
NL
22
470
3.5
10
Frank Snyder
1915
STL
NL
21
522
3.1
11
Bill DeLancey
1934
STL
NL
22
295
2.8
12
Tim McCarver
1964
STL
NL
22
515
2.8
 
As you would imagine, Bench kind of dominates the list.  I’m also struck by the fact that 3 Braves catchers (Torre, Williams, and McCann) were so high up on the list, and that the Cardinals represent a third of the list.
 
Notice anything else about the list?  The other catchers all had significantly more plate appearances than Delancey.  If you re-sort that group using a per-600 plate appearance context, here’s what you get:
 
Player
Year
Team
Lg
Age
PA
oWAR Per 600 PA
Bill DeLancey
1934
STL
NL
22
295
5.7
Johnny Bench
1970
CIN
NL
22
671
5.1
Johnny Bench
1969
CIN
NL
21
592
4.7
Brian McCann
2006
ATL
NL
22
492
4.5
Shanty Hogan
1928
NYG
NL
22
470
4.5
Joe Torre
1963
MIL
NL
22
556
4.2
Earl Williams
1971
ATL
NL
22
550
4.2
Bill Freehan
1964
DET
AL
22
572
3.8
Frank Snyder
1915
STL
NL
21
522
3.6
Johnny Bench
1968
CIN
NL
20
607
3.6
Ted Simmons
1972
STL
NL
22
629
3.5
Tim McCarver
1964
STL
NL
22
515
3.3
 
Now, he probably would not have been able to sustain that over a full season, but it does show the impact of what he was able to generate as essentially a half-time player. 
 
Delancey developed a serious lung infection in 1935, had to retire early.  He died at age 35 from pleurisy. 
 
First Base – Mike Fiore, Kansas City Royals, 1969
Age
rWAR in that Season
2nd Best rWAR
Career rWAR
% Best Season vs. Career rWAR
Season HR
Season RBI
Season BA
Season OBP
24
2.9
-0.1
1.4
207.1%
12
35
.274
.420
 
There weren’t a lot of great options at first base.  I almost went with another 1969 player, Rich Reese, who hit .322 that year.
 
I ended up choosing Fiore, who was picked by the Kansas City Royals in the expansion draft from the Baltimore Orioles.  He’s just under the 3.0 rWAR threshold I was looking for, but his 1969 season was more like two-thirds of a full season, so I let that slide.  Fiore only played in 107 games but showed promise.  He spiked his .274 average with 84 walks to form an impressive .420 OBP, which would have been among the league leaders if he had enough plate appearances.  His OPS+ was an excellent 138, which would have also been among the league leaders if he had enough appearances.
 
Fiore never had anything remotely close to that season again.  He 2nd best seasonal batting average was .177.
 
Second Base – Lou Klein, St. Louis Cardinals, 1943
Age
rWAR in that Season
2nd Best rWAR
Career rWAR
% Best Season vs. Career rWAR
Season HR
Season RBI
Season BA
Season OBP
24
5.8
0.8
7.1
81.7%
7
62
.287
.342
 
Our second Cardinal on the team, Lou Klein’s career is a pretty decent match for Grabarkewitz.  His best year was his first one, at age 24.  He never hit over .229 again.
 
Like the first 2 members of our team, Klein also was part of a pennant-winner.  1943 was obviously a year affected by World War II, but that was a great Cardinals’ team with a 105-49 record, winning the NL by 18 games.  The stars of the team were Stan Musial, Marty Marion, Walker Cooper, White Kurowski, and pitchers Mort Cooper, Max Lanier, Howie Pollet, and Harry Brecheen.  Klein had a higher rWAR than anyone on the team outside of Musial.  In fact, he was third in the league among position players behind Musial (9.4) and Bill Nicholson (6.9) of the Cubs.  A good chunk of his value was defensive.
 
Shortstop – Pat Listach, Milwaukee Brewers, 1992
Age
rWAR in that Season
2nd Best rWAR
Career rWAR
% Best Season vs. Career rWAR
Season HR
Season RBI
Season BA
Season OBP
24
4.4
1.7
4.3
102.3%
1
47
.290
.352
 
Pat Listach had a nice start to his career.  That first year also saw him steal 54 bases and win the Rookie of the Year award.  He was also the inspiration for one of the worst Chris Berman nicknames ever…..Pat "Pencil Thin" Listach.  Ugh. 
 
Listach hung around a few more years, but was never able to recapture the glory of that first year. 
 
Third Base – Billy Grabarkewitz, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1970
Age
rWAR in that Season
2nd Best rWAR
Career rWAR
% Best Season vs. Career rWAR
Season HR
Season RBI
Season BA
Season OBP
24
6.5
0.8
5.9
110.2%
17
84
.289
.399
 
Who were you expecting….Randy Ready?
 
If we did have to pick someone other than Billy, I suppose we could go with Jim Doyle, 1911 Chicago Cubs.   He hit .282 with a .340 OBP as a 29-year old, 3.5 rWAR.
In February 1912, his appendix burst, killing him.
 
I think it’s best that we move along…..
 
Left Field – Al Wingo, Detroit Tigers, 1925
Age
rWAR in that Season
2nd Best rWAR
Career rWAR
% Best Season vs. Career rWAR
Season HR
Season RBI
Season BA
Season OBP
27
5.3
0.8
6.5
81.5%
5
68
.370
.456
 
Al Wingo is the brother of Ivey Wingo, who put together a nice 17-year career as a catcher with the Reds and Cardinals.  Al only played 6 seasons, but he did retire with a .308 career batting average and a .404 OBP.
 
1925 was his standout season, though, as he was the primary left fielder in an outfield that included a 38-year old Ty Cobb in center and a 30-year old Harry Heilmann in right.  Wingo hit .370 that year….but still ranked third among Detroit outfielders (Heilmann hit .393, Cobb .378).
 
Here are the AL leaders in batting average for 1925:
 
Player
Batting Average
Harry Heilmann Det
.393
Tris Speaker Cle
.389
Al Simmons Phi
.387
Ty Cobb Det
.378
Al Wingo Det
.370
 
Wingo had a 151 OPS+, was 6th in position player rWAR, and finished 12th in the MVP voting.  If you prefer Joe Charboneau in this slot….well, I wouldn’t argue too much.  But Wingo is a good fit too.
 
Center Field – Wayne Comer, Seattle Pilots, 1969
Age
rWAR in that Season
2nd Best rWAR
Career rWAR
% Best Season vs. Career rWAR
Season HR
Season RBI
Season BA
Season OBP
25
3.2
(0.1)
2.2
145.5%
15
54
.245
.354
 
Along with Fiore, we have our 2nd player on the team from a 1969 expansion franchise. 
 
OK…I admit it.  There weren’t a lot of great center field candidates for this team, so I decided to go with Comer because I found him more interesting to talk about than the other options, and it provides an opportunity to mention the 1969 Seattle Pilots, which was a fascinating team for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that it served as the context for much of Jim Bouton’s famous and controversial diary, "Ball Four".
 
Comer was a member of the 1968 champion Detroit Tigers, and he was selected by the Pilots in the expansion draft.  He ended up as the primary center fielder for that team, and even though his batting average was low, he found other ways to contribute, hitting 15 home runs, stealing 18 bases, drawing 82 walks, and scoring 88 runs, which wasn’t bad in context of a horrible team in its first year of existence.  Comer also had 14 assists that year, tied for 2nd among AL outfielders.
 
Comer had 573 plate appearances that year, but never had higher than 171 in any other season.  It wasn’t a great season, by any means, but I think it was good enough to fit the criteria for this team.  As mentioned, he hit 15 home runs that year.  He ended up his career with 16.
 
One interesting thing about that 1969 Seattle Pilot team, by the way, is that they had a lot of players that drew a pretty fair number of walks.  As mentioned, Comer drew 82.  Tommy Harper, who split his time among second base, third base, and the outfield, drew 95 walks (he also stole an impressive, league-leading 73 bases).  First baseman Don Mincher had a fairly typical Don Mincher-type year – low average (.249) but spiked with 25 home runs and a decent number of walks (78).  Right fielder/first baseman Mike Hegan (who was the son of that outstanding defensive catcher for the Indians in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s, Jim Hegan) drew 62 in only 334 plate appearances, an impressive ratio.  He ended up hitting .292 with a .427 OBP, which would have been right up there with Harmon Killebrew for the league lead had he had enough plate appearances.   Hegan did most of his damage in the first half of the season, but then injuries prevented him from playing much after that.  Hegan was named to the All Star team, but was replaced by Mincher.
 
In addition to the players listed above, a 23-year old first baseman named Greg Goossen hit .309 with 10 homers and a 175 OPS+ over 52 games (if Goossen had a bit more playing time, he might have made the all-Grabarkewitz team as well).  The Pilots also had veteran Tommy Davis playing in left field, although he was no longer the force that he had been earlier in his career.   All things considered, in the context of the time, it wasn’t a bad offense (although they did have Ray Oyler and his .165 average playing at shortstop).  The Pilots only hit .234 as a team, but they were 4th in the league in walks drawn, and were only a few walks short of finishing 2nd in that category.  They were near the league average in both runs scored and home runs.   Led by Harper’s 73, they led the league in stolen bases.  Their pitching and defense were pretty bad, though, and they finished 64-98.
 
I did give some consideration to Cito Gaston (1970 San Diego) for this slot, but felt that he just had too many seasons as a regular to merit inclusion, as he had a 17 homer season and a 16 homer season outside of his "best" season, so I didn’t think he quite fit the criteria.  But you can make a case for him too.
 
Right Field – Rich Coggins, 1973
Age
rWAR in that Season
2nd Best rWAR
Career rWAR
% Best Season vs. Career rWAR
Season HR
Season RBI
Season BA
Season OBP
22
3.8
0.7
3.4
111.8%
7
41
.319
.363
 
I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of Rich Coggins without also thinking of Al Bumbry.  Coggins and Bumbry were both exciting young outfielders who were rookies in 1973 for a Baltimore team that won the AL East.  After three straight World Series appearances from 1969-1971, the Orioles fell off to third place in 1972, but returned to the postseason in 1973.  The Orioles gave significant time in the outfield to 5 players – Don Baylor, Paul Blair, Merv Rettenmund, and the two hotshot rookies.  Coggins hit .317, Bumbry hit .337, and they combined for 40 stolen bases as the Orioles (believe it or not) ended up leading the league in that category.  An Earl Weaver team leading the league in steals?  You bet.
 
Bumbry won the Rookie of the Year award in 1973,  followed by Pedro Garcia, Steve Busby, Doc Medich, Darrell Porter, with Coggins finishing 6th.  As I’m sure you know, Bumbry went on to a nice 14-year career (13 with the Orioles), but Coggins fell off dramatically.
 
For pitchers, I whittled it down to 6 men – 4 starters, 2 relievers.  I’ll present the whole list, and then make a few comments:
 
Pos
Player
Year
Team
Age
rWAR
2nd Best rWAR
Career rWAR
% Best Season vs. Career rWAR
W
L
ERA
ERA+
SP
Bill James
1914
Bos (N)
22
8.7
0.2
9.0
96.7%
26
7
1.90
150
SP
Gene Bearden
1948
Cle
27
5.1
1.3
6.4
79.7%
20
7
2.43
168
SP
Buzz Capra
1974
Atl
26
5.3
1.1
6.8
77.9%
16
8
2.28
166
SP
Wayne Twitchell
1973
Phi
25
6.1
1.1
2.2
277.3%
13
9
2.50
152
RP
Joe Black
1952
Bro
28
4.2
0.7
4.3
97.7%
15
4
2.15
171
RP
Dick Hyde
1958
Was (A)
29
4.6
1.5
5.8
79.3%
10
3
1.75
219
 
  • It’s practically obligatory when writing an article anytime that this Bill James is mentioned to point out that he is neither "Big Bill" James (another pitcher from that same era) nor is he that sabermetric dude.  He is, however, "Seattle Bill" James, and was a significant figure on the 1914 Miracle Braves.

  • Gene Bearden’s story is pretty well known.  Bearden led the AL with a 2.43 ERA in 1948 for the World Champion Indians, finishing 2nd in the Rookie of the Year award (they only awarded one for both leagues at that time, and he finished 2nd to Al Dark of the Braves) and 8th in the MVP.  He was also a World Series hero with a complete game shutout in game 3, and then nailed down the championship with the save in game 6.

  • Buzz Capra, like Bearden, won the ERA title in his one shining season, with a nifty 2.28 mark after being purchased by the Braves from the Mets.

  • Wayne Twitchell was a surprise to me, mostly because I hadn’t realized how strong his 1973 season was.  He was 13-9 for a team that was 71-91, and his 2.50 ERA was third in the league behind Tom Seaver and Don Sutton.  His 6.6 rWAR pitching rWAR was 2nd in the league behind only Seaver.  Twitchell was also among the league leaders in K/9, hits/9, and shutouts.

  • You probably aren’t surprised to find Joe Black on here.   Joe had a great year in 1952, winning the Rookie of the Year and finishing third in the MVP vote in an extremely close result among Hank Sauer, Robin Roberts, and Black.  Of the 24 first-place votes, Sauer received 8, Black received 8, and Roberts received 7 (Duke Snider received the other one).  Any of the three could have won it.

  • Dick Hyde is the oldest player on the team, having his best season at 29.  Hyde was a submarine style pitcher, and he developed arm trouble, but his 1958 season impressed enough people that he finished 12th in the MVP voting.  He led the league in games finished and tied for the lead in saves (with Ryne Duren) with 19.
 
Wrapping it Up
 
In summary, then, here is the Billy Grabarkewitz All Star Team:
 
Pos
Player
Year
rWAR in that Season
Career rWAR
Season HR
Season RBI
Season BA
Other Notes
C
Bill DeLancey
1934
3.0
4.5
13
40
.316
Split catching duties with Spud Davis on World Champion Cardinals.
1B
Mike Fiore
1969
2.9
1.4
12
35
.274
84 walks, 138 OPS+
2B
Lou Klein
1943
5.8
7.1
7
62
.287
14 3B's, 3rd in position player rWAR
3B
Billy Grabarkewitz
1970
6.5
5.9
17
84
.289
All-Star, 95 BB, 5th in position player rWAR
SS
Pat Listach
1992
4.4
4.3
1
47
.290
54 stolen bases, Rookie of the Year
LF
Al Wingo
1925
5.3
6.5
5
68
.370
151 OPS+, 12th in MVP, 6 in position player rWAR
CF
Wayne Comer
1969
3.2
2.2
15
54
.245
18 steals, 82 walks
RF
Rich Coggins
1973
3.8
3.4
7
41
.319
17 SB's, 9 3B's
 
Pos
Player
Year
rWAR
Career rWAR
W
L
ERA
Other Notes
SP
Bill James
1914
8.7
9.0
26
7
1.90
3rd in MVP, 2-0, 0.00 ERA in World Series
SP
Gene Bearden
1948
5.1
6.4
20
7
2.43
8th in MVP, Rookie of Year runner-up
SP
Buzz Capra
1974
5.3
6.8
16
8
2.28
All-Star, led league in ERA, ERA+
SP
Wayne Twitchell
1973
6.1
2.2
13
9
2.50
All-Star, 2nd in pitcher rWAR
RP
Joe Black
1952
4.2
4.3
15
4
2.15
Rookie of Year, 3rd in MVP
RP
Dick Hyde
1958
4.6
5.8
10
3
1.75
19 saves, led league in games finished and tied for lead in saves
 
Thanks for reading.
 
Dan
 
 
 
 

COMMENTS (41 Comments, most recent shown first)

MarisFan61
Marc: I haven't noticed or heard anyone having a different impression of how Bouton portrayed coaches (with the exception of Johnny Sain).

Did you think anyone here indicated otherwise?
(ME maybe?? I didn't.)
10:15 PM Feb 20th
 
Marc Schneider
It's pretty funny how everyone seems to remember Ball Four differently. I haven't read it cover to cover in many years, but I flip through it from time to time. My impression is that Bouton's opinion of coaches at the time (except for a very few such as Johnny Sain and Jim Owens) is negative, that he sees them primarily as cronies there to protect the status quo and elevate their own importance. IMO, Bouton doesn't show a lot of sympathy for people unlike himself, ie, less educated, not as sophisticated, etc.
9:38 AM Feb 20th
 
LesLein
MarisFan,

Your point about Grabarkowitz being older than Money is well taken. Billy G tied for 4th in NL win shares in 1970, leading all NL third basemen. According to his SABR biography, he had a serious injury in spring training in 1971. Grabaraowitz beat out a lot of young talent to get a starting position on the 1970 Dodgers.

I checked Ball Four. When Comer saw Bouton he would sometimes say "Get him the f--- out of here."

Bouton didn't care for the Pilots' coaches. He always argued with bullpen coach Eddie O'Brien about him catching Bouton's knuckler in the bullpen. Bouton was working on the pitch and wanted to throw every day. O'Brien didn't want to. One time Bouton entered a game and O'Brien advised him to "throw strikes." O'Brien's nickname was "Mr. Small Stuff."

There were other coaches over the years that Bouton disliked. One was Sal Maglie. In one game in 1969 Rod Carew was on third base, taking a big lead. Darrell Brandon decided to use the stretch position. Maglie yelled at Brandon to not worry about the baserunner and use a full windup. Carew stole home. When Brandon returned to the dugout Maglie yelled at him for not using the stretch position.
7:40 PM Feb 15th
 
Brock Hanke
I apologize to everyone for intruding myself into this thread yet again, but I finally figured out how to phrase what I was trying to say. I've talked all around it, but it was only yesterday that I figured out what to say. Here's the deal. Bill DeLancey was a notorious platoon hitter. In his time, lefty pitchers accounted for about a fifth of all PA (somewhere in the original essay is a comment that the Cards played 32 games against lefties in 1934; that's about a fifth of their total 154 games played). Therefore, when you're trying to amortize DeLancey's career out to 600 PA, you have to do the following: 1) amortize his hitting against righty pitchers to 480 PA, which is 4/5 of 600, and 2) just change the PA to 600, without adding ANY more WAR. You have to figure that DeLancey was no more than a replacement level hitter against lefties, and probably worse. The actual number you'd have to add in might well be negative, instead of zero. Given the nicely presented chart, which shows amortized DeLancey with 5.7 oWAR per 600 PA, you can just take 4/5 of that to get a real estimate of what he might have done had he played full time. 4/5 of 5.7 turns out to be 4.56, let's just say about 4.5. That's still a good position on the chart, but it no longer dominates it. That's what I've been trying to say.

Also, just for fun, I looked up Dan Graham. Yep, same thing. Dan's batting average against righties, for what passes as his career, was .293. Against lefties, it's .148. He was another platoon player.
11:11 PM Feb 14th
 
MarisFan61
Interesting about Dan Graham, whom I never knew of. I'd guess many others here didn't either.
Another interesting thing about his career: After that next year with Baltimore, he went back to AAA and had what looks like a fairly good year at bat, but never played again in the minors either.
I don't easily find anything about why not, or what he did after, but, maybe relevant, he did make an unusually high number of errors at catcher in that last AAA year. There seem to have been high numbers of errors at catcher in that league in general, but his number was high even in that context.​
10:21 PM Feb 14th
 
trn6229
Nice article. What about Dan Graham, 1980 Orioles, catcher? He hit .278, .481 slugging, left handed bat. He had 266 at bats, played two games with Twins in 1979, hit .176 for the Orioles in 1981 and that was it.

Take Care,
Tom Nahigian
1:50 PM Feb 14th
 
MarisFan61
.....and, about Grabarkewitz and Don Money in 1970:
In order to compare them fairly, we have to take into account also that Money was 1½ years younger.
9:01 PM Feb 13th
 
MarisFan61
Les: re the thing about Comer "making a great coach someday":
I thought that in context, it quite clearly was meant as a compliment, and a big one.
8:58 PM Feb 13th
 
LesLein
Grabarkewitz had a bad injury after 1970 and was never the same. His 1970 season was better than Don Money in his first good year year. Money had a good career.

Twitchell showed a lot of promise in 1973 but went on the DL at the end of the season. He missed more than two months at the start of 1974.

Bouton respected Comer as a player but not so much as a person. He said Comer would make hell of a coach. That wasn't a compliment.
7:48 PM Feb 13th
 
njguy73
Steve Treder did this years ago for The Hardball Times.

https://www.fangraphs.com/tht/of-spikes-and-flukes-and-grabarkewitz/

He also did one on Fades, Flops, and Zoilo Versalles.
7:44 PM Feb 13th
 
MarisFan61
Bob: Not a bad guess, re Comer and Hovley, but no, that wasn't it. It's just evidently that I wasn't (and still am not really) remembering a lot of the material about Comer.

I do remember a lot of it about Hovley, and he stood out very prominently from everybody else. In fact I've spent a fair amount of time with Bouton, and Hovley is the one guy I've asked him a lot about.
11:37 AM Feb 13th
 
Brock Hanke
DMBBHF - Sorry if I got too harsh. The main thing was your #2 in this latest post: I don't think that Bill Delancey had a career. He had two platoon seasons and then got sick. And the platoon was extreme. It's one thing to not start any games against any lefties. It's another to only have ten plate appearances against lefties. That's why I don't buy the argument that Delancey was a half-time player. That's not what he was. He was a platoon player. It's not the same. I will admit that he might have had more playing time if he had not been on the same team as Spud Davis. Davis was a real good hitter for a catcher. Young catchers - young players - don't usually have that kind of competition for two years. But it's very possible that Delancey could have run Davis off the job, if he had been able to hit lefties. The platoon thing really defines the two years that he did have.

The same concept pops up in the 600 PA thing. The other catchers you listed all have full-time seasons there, for a catcher. Amortizing them to 600 PA is a reasonable way to look at how they compare, by evening out the playing time. But you can't do that with DeLancey, because he was a platoon player. If he tried to put in 600 PA, his performance would collapse, because he would have to hit against all the lefties. The other guys in the group DID hit against the lefties. Those are really my complaints.

Having said that, I do want to acknowledge that you did have a hard decision to make. I don't have any better catcher candidates than Delancey, using your criteria. That, I think, is worth pursuing. Why would catchers never have careers like this, when they are rare, but not hopeless, at other positions? That, I think, is worth following up. You have a huge head start on this, and are obviously doing good analysis, so I'm just going to ask you if you can come up with a reason why catchers don't have careers like this. I mean, you would expect catchers to have more careers like this than at any other position, because you would have good young catchers who put in a real good first season but then got banged up. The only reason that I put so much time into thinking about DeLancey was that - why aren't there any real good matches to your criteria at catcher? It seems like the position that would have the most matches.
11:57 PM Feb 12th
 
DMBBHF
Brock,

I'll concede you bring up some fair points, but I also have to say I think you're being picky on several fronts.

1) You say Delancey wasn't anything like Grabarkewitz. Well, I wasn't looking for carbon copies. That would be impossible to fill out a team. I picked Delancey because he was the best catcher fit I found based on the criteria I laid out for trying to locate candidates, which were:

- 3.0 rWAR in his best season
- less than 2.0 in the next best
- more than 60% of his career rWAR in his best season
- looking for players who had their best season when they were young
- careers that didn't last very long.

I mentioned that they didn't have to check all the boxes. I also mentioned I had trouble coming up with catchers who fit that search. Delancey fit the bill better than the others I came up with. Is there another catcher who fits the criteria better? Perhaps. I could have altered the criteria to expand the pool. But I didn't come up with a better option than Delancey based on the conditions I used for searching.

2) You said "he didn't really have a short career". Looks pretty short to me. Or, were you trying to say that his time in the majors essentially amounted to no career at all? If so, I'd say that's also being needlessly picky with terminology. Again, one of the things I was looking for players who didn't end up playing very long. He fit that criteria. The fact that he had an illness that led to premature retirement and an early death wasn't a factor.

3) You said he wasn't a half-time player, but rather that he was a platoon player. Well....why can't a player be both?

Besides, it wasn't a strict lefty/righty platoon. Yes, it's absolutely true that Delancey never started a game in '34 against a lefty. No argument there. Davis got all 32 of those starts. But Davis and Delancey more or less split the starts against righties - 57 starts for Davis, 65 for Delancey. That sounds to me less like a strict platoon and more like a way for the Cardinals to break in a young, promising catcher, to give him the platoon advantage as much as possible without overplaying him, while at the same time still giving most of the playing time to the veteran who was literally one of the better hitters in the league in the years leading up to 1934. Why would you start Delancey against lefties with a guy like Davis available?

Davis played 57% of the innings at catcher and Delancey played 43%. That sounds pretty half-time to me. So, to my way of looking at it, I think it would be accurate to say Delancey was BOTH a platoon player and a half-time player. So, maybe we can both be right?

4) Also, not sure why you bothered to make the point about the 600 PA presentation. I wasn't implying that a catcher would normally expect to reach that level any more than putting data into seasonal notation implies that all players are likely to play in 162 games in a season. It's not about what they might play....it's merely a framework to present and compare the data to provide some context. The average of the other players in that list was 550. I presented a context of 600. I could have easily picked 500 or 400 or any other level, but the players would have still been in the same order and in the same proportion.

Now, the point that you can't assume that he would project that same literal rate of excellence over that volume of plate appearances is true. I agree with you, and I put in that disclaimer. The main point is that he generated 2.8 oWAR in 295 plate appearances, and that is pretty damn impressive in context, even given the platoon results, and if he had been a full-time catcher, he would have surely added to that total even if he fell off dramatically playing against lefties. If Davis were not on the team, you'd have to assume that Delancey would have started most of the remainder of the games, most of which would have been against righties (picking most of the 57 games Davis started against righties) as well as some against lefties. The point was not to take the extrapolation as a literal number, because I agree he wouldn't achieve that, but merely to give some context. I do think it's fair to assume that he would have been well over 4.0 oWAR if he had been the main catcher all season, even allowing for the probability of not performing well against lefties, and I think that's being very conservative. The point is, it was already an impressive offensive season, and it would have been even more so with full playing time. Yes, his rate stats would have undoubtedly dropped, but I still think they would have been pretty good, and his counting stats would have been quite a bit higher. That was the main point, that it was already an impressive offensive season for a young catcher, and his oWAR would surely have gone up even more with additional time. That's all.

In short, I felt he was the best fit for the team given the criteria. I'm certainly open to alternatives.

Thanks,
Dan
9:48 PM Feb 12th
 
BobGill
Maris: Just a suggestion, but when you recalled Wayne Comer getting only positive mentions in Ball Four, I wonder if you were mixing him up with Steve Hovley, who was one of Bouton's few buddies. I say this because I had them mixed up myself until I reread the book last year, so I wonder if this might be a common affliction.
6:05 PM Feb 12th
 
Brock Hanke
Well, Maris, there's a problem or two with that. Daniel goes into some detail about DeLancey, including amortizing his 1934 season to 600 PA and refers to him as "essentially a half-time player." Neither of those are right. You can't amortize DeLancey up to 600 PA because he was a platoon player, and an extreme one. There is no real chance that, if he had had 600 PA, his performance would have been anywhere near what it was in the time he did play, because he would have had to hit against lefty pitchers. And he was not a "half-time" player. He was platooned. VERY seriously platooned.

And he didn't really have a "short career." He had one cup of coffee in 1933, two years as a platoon catcher, was driven out of the majors by an illness, and got another cup of coffee in 1940, who knows why. Added all together, his "career" amounts to about one season of play. For a catcher, not someone who would expect to see 600 PA. His comp group has only three seasons with 600 PA, two by Johnny Bench, and one by Ted Simmons. Both playing 162-game schedules, neither platooned at all. So the description of Delancey is just plain not right. Perhaps Branch Rickey thought that he was a superstar in the making, but manager Frank Frisch, who had to decide when to put him in the lineup, thought that he was strictly a platoon player. None of this is anything like Billy G.
4:24 PM Feb 12th
 
MarisFan61
Brock: He wasn't using or implying anything about underlying reasons, just looking at actual performance.​
1:51 PM Feb 12th
 
Brock Hanke
I had a suspicion, so I looked up Bill DeLancy. He may not really be the type of player you're talking about. He was a catcher who hit lefty and was platooned. That's why his 1934 PA are so low. He had exactly TEN PA against lefty pitching - all year. Also, after a good platoon season in 1935, he developed a lung problem and disappeared from MLB, having one last cup of coffee in 1940. So, he really turns out to be a guy who was a platoon player whose career was destroyed by illness after two platoon seasons. That's not really the same as Billy G.
12:28 PM Feb 12th
 
MarisFan61
Your post obscures the fact that your wrong version was a lot closer than his. :-)
11:04 PM Feb 11th
 
DMBBHF
Jeffsol,

No need to apologize. Kudos to you for remembering better than I did. If I'm going to reference lyrics, I really should take care to quote them accurately rather than relying on my memory.

According to Genius.com, here are the full lyrics:

One of these things is not like the others
One of these things just doesn't belong
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn't belong?
If you guessed this one is not like the others
Then you're absolutely...right!


Thanks!
Dan
9:00 PM Feb 11th
 
jeffsol
I hesitate to mention this as it is super nit picky so apologies in advance. But, given the way it resides in my memory, I couldn’t help it. They never sang “one of these things in not the same as the others” on Sesame Street. The refrain is “one of these things is not like the other one, not like the other one, not like the other one”...
8:52 PM Feb 11th
 
MarisFan61
I guess it's been too long since the 300 times I read the book. :-)
(Haven't looked at it in a long time.)

(Thanks!!)
8:43 PM Feb 11th
 
Fireball Wenz
Actually, MarisFan, the biggest mention Comer gets in Ball Four is when he is rude to a young fan. He generally comes off as a grouch, even though he's a rookie. The other thing I remember about Comer from the book is something he told about being cut from the Tigers to AA one year. If memory serves, I think Mayo Smith told him, "Wayne, I think you're going to hit .280 this year. Unfortunately, it's going to be in Montgomery, Alabama."
7:01 PM Feb 11th
 
wilbur
I was seriously into APBA baseball for about twenty years, mid-60s to mid-80s. One good thing about it - or any other such game - is that you DID know that in 1969 Mike Fiore walked a lot and that Wayne Comer was a pretty good player. You may not have recognized that walks were both good and seriously undervalued, but the information was there in your face.

A great article.
7:00 PM Feb 11th
 
shthar
I miss the Ken Phelps all star list. I drafted some great strat cards off of it.
2:59 PM Feb 11th
 
DMBBHF
Thanks for the ongoing comments....

Hotstatrat,

What I was saying about center fielders was that I didn't really find a lot of good candidates. No one really stood out. There were a few guys like Len Koenecke 1934, Jim Gleeson 1940, and Red Barnes 1928, but no one that I found very interesting.

You mentioned Milt Cuyler. He was among the ones I reviewed, and you could make a case for him. You mentioned his second best season as 1993, which is true, but his rWAR for that year was 1.1, not 0.5. You may have just been looking at his oWAR figure?

You also asked about positions - I would say there were many more candidates at pitcher than anywhere else, but that's probably not surprising given the criteria. Among position players, I had more second basemen qualifying for review than anywhere else. Some of the other candidates included Duke Kenworthy 1914 (although that was in the Federal League), Billy Ripken 1990, Homer Bush 1999, Josh Barfield 2006. and Creepy Crespi 1941. But, for this team, none of them was anywhere near the candidate that Lou Klein was.

Thanks,
Dan

7:35 AM Feb 11th
 
chuck
Dan, thank you for another fine piece. You and I started watching the game at almost the same time. I always enjoy learning new names, and when a player only has one really good season, long ago, it's easy to have never heard of him (Lou Klein, for instance).

Fiore is one I'd been fascinated about before, and had written a Hey Bill about him to see why his career had gone nowhere. Of course he didn't hit "like a 1st baseman", with only 12 HR's in 1969; but a .420 on base pct is eyebrow-raising (not that anyone would have noticed at the time).
I see that in 1969 he missed a chunk of time in late July- injury?, army reserves?- but after it was still doing well, with a .269 avg and .435 obp. Then, in 1970, he's barely playing in April and mostly pinch hitting. They were going with Ed Kirkpatrick, who in April was .227 / .282 / .424. Seems like a case of If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Here are Fiore's minor league on base percentages, starting at age 18; I'll also show his plate appearances, minor league level and affiliation.
18: .431 in 537 PA, A-NYM
19: .446 in 522 PA, A-BAL
20: .471 in 569 PA, A-BAL
21: .423 in 538 PA, AA / AAA BAL
22: .311 in 063 PA, AA-BAL
23: 390 in 455 PA, AAA-BAL
then picked in the expansion draft by KC.
24: .420 in 427 PA, KC Royals

I don't know what happened to him in '67, age 22- perhaps an injury. But a shame that he was buried in the Oriole system all those years. The guy was an on base machine.
1:36 AM Feb 11th
 
sansho1
One of my earlier memories of baseball cards was trying to keep Tommy Harper, Tommy Davis, and Willie Davis straight in my head. Three commonly (and similarly) named outfielders, all with long careers that began with a significant run with their original team followed by years of itinerant labor, all with early career years followed by spotty but occasionally great seasons. All wrapped up in 1976 (although Willie would reappear briefly a few years later), but granted 1977 Topps cards with an absolute wealth of numbers on the back.
1:11 AM Feb 11th
 
MarisFan61
.....not important but (how's that for trying to keep anybody from getting offended) :-) .....dunno about Juan Samuel being a veteran center fielder.

Anyway this is just an aside upon an aside. No big deal.
But couldn't resist.
I love how Bill put it about Samuel, I think in one of the Historical Abstracts -- something like: "He was a second baseman, but he was a bad second baseman. If you put him anywhere else, he was worse." :-)

BTW, in case Juan Samuel himself ever reads this, I better say, "This isn't important, but...."
11:37 PM Feb 10th
 
hotstatrat
Adding one who came to mind - not that he is a better or more interesting example than Wayne Comer . . ., but Milt Cuyler finished third in 1991's Rookie of the Year balloting thanks to his .335 OBA and 41 stolen bases whlle getting caught just 10 times. Baseball Reference had his defence at +1.8 making Cuyler a 4+ WAR player. He was only 22. Detroit had their lead-off man and centerfielder set for the rest of the decade. Well, no. The next year Cuyler's OBA fell to .275, he was caught stealing five times with only 8 successes, and his dWAR went negative. There was only modest rebound in 1993 - it would be his next best seaso: just 0.5 brWAR. Detroit gave up and signed veteran centerfielders Eric Davis and Juan Samuel for 1994.
11:02 PM Feb 10th
 
hotstatrat
Nice one, Daniel, thanks.

I was recently looking over the career of Gordon Beckham - who is still active - but just barely. He had a 2.2 (brWAR) season his rookie year which spent the first couple months in the minors. He was only 22 yeas old. Since then, his best season was 1.5 - and he's had nothing over 0.3 since he turned 27.

Luis Rivas was another second-baseman in recent history who started off very promisingly, but never came near to matching his rookie year at age 21.

You mentioned finding many of these players at center field. Were their also many at second? Other positions?
10:36 PM Feb 10th
 
DMBBHF
Thanks for all the comments, guys.

Mikeclaw,

Dilone would be a decent selection, and he was under consideration, but Wingo had a better "best" season and a worse "2nd best season", at least according to rWAR, so I went with Wingo as my left fielder. Dilone also hung around for 12 seasons. I just felt that Wingo fit this team better. But Dilone would have been OK as well.

Manushfan,

Capra I believe had a torn biceps tendon after his big season, and it all went downhill from there.


DaveNJNews,

I did find it interesting that Twitchell's big year came on the heels of Carlton's incredible '72 season, where he won nearly half of the Phillies' games.

Maris,

I had to look up the Stengel quote. I have to admit, I was familiar with the quote, but didn't know it was said in reference to Goossen.

Thanks,
Dan
10:25 PM Feb 10th
 
MarisFan61
This article is a delicious gem.

A few stray things:
-- I also can't think of Coggins without thinking of Bumbry.
BTW another pair like that, although less so (not relevant to anything in particular): John Cangelosi and Rob Ducey.
-- Amazing about those 2 seasons of Wayne Garland's.
-- Wayne Comer gets some very nice mentions in Ball Four. In fact, offhand I think he gets no negative mentions at all, even mildly negative, which would make him one of the few.
-- The main thing about Pat Listach, IMO, was his mustache. To me it always looked either like it wasn't quite making it to be an actual mustache, or ridiculous.
I always thought of him as Pat Mustache.
BTW my saying this has nothing to do with Gene Bearden also being in the article.

P.S. In case anyone doesn't know the Casey Stengel quote about Goossen, please either google it, or just ask. I'm sure one of us will be happy to quote it. :-)



9:49 PM Feb 10th
 
DaveNJnews
One more about Wayne Twitchell:

Here's the winning percentages of Phillies pitchers that year who started 10 or more games for the beloved 1972 team:

Steve Carlton .730 (27-10)
Twitchell .357 (5-9)
Woodie Fryman .286 (4-10)
Billy Champion .222 (4-14)
Dick Selma .182 (2-9)
Ken Reynolds .118 (2-15)

If I drop it to 9 games started, we can add:
Jim Nash .000 (0-8)
8:40 PM Feb 10th
 
DaveNJnews
I very much enjoyed this article.

I remember Wayne Twitchell well. He looked like a gawky guy on my Little League team at the time, only taller. Twitchell passed away a few years back and that seemed too soon.
8:31 PM Feb 10th
 
Manushfan
What was Buzz Capra's story? he fell off so badly in 75 like Steve Blass....
8:26 PM Feb 10th
 
bobfiore
1969 was the first year I paid serious attention to baseball, listening to nearly every Dodger game on the radio. A well-remembered Vin Scullyism from that year was, "The Dodgers have a Hot Grabarkewitz on their hands!"

I had a brother named Mike Fiore.
2:17 PM Feb 10th
 
bcollarini
A very interesting and well written article.
Thanks.
1:22 PM Feb 10th
 
mikeclaw
No Miguel Dilone 1980? I must admit, I'm disappointed.
1:03 PM Feb 10th
 
DMBBHF
Yeah, Bowens is a decent choice. He was off my radar because his rWAR for that year was only 2.3, so there were lots of right fielders ahead of him. But he definitely fits the theme.

Thanks,
Dan
11:19 AM Feb 10th
 
W.T.Mons10
These seem like solid choices. I remember Grabarkewitz's 1970 season well. He wasn't on the All-Star ballot but got a ton of write-in votes, with a dozen or so different spellings.
10:46 AM Feb 10th
 
MidnighttheCat
Sam Bowens 1964?
10:35 AM Feb 10th
 
 
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