There is a wonderful new show on MLB the network.
It is called “Clubhouse Confidential” and is hosted by former ESPN Boxing maven Brian Kenny. The purpose of the show is to illustrate baseball from a sabermetric perspective and shine light on under appreciated teams and players. In recent weeks there have been many very interesting shows and I highly recommend it to those who can see it.
Like so much on sports networks, whether we’re talking ESPN or NFL Network or NBA network the majority of the content revolves around the eastern seaboard from Boston to Washington and everywhere in between, with occasional trips to Chicago and Los Angeles. It is tiresome. Similarly I extol and like Ken Burns Baseball series, but if you watch and listen to the folks that gave him money to do the series, lots of money in New York and Boston, lots of Boston and New York baseball in the anthology…duh. Should have been much more about St. Louis and Chicago teams. Rogers Hornsby was virtually neglected. But I digress.
Last night Kenny implored his guest Bob Costas to agree with him about the career of first baseman Keith Hernandez as one that should be enshrined in the Hall Of Fame. Costas demurred saying consideration might be warranted and Kenny went on to talk about Steve Garvey and asserted that Garvey would have taken more walks if he knew it was important. It occurred to me that Big Rude, John Olerud was maybe better than either of them.
I want to examine all three of them to see what the comparison holds.
Let’s just give their basic performance lines, frequently called their slash lines, it goes Avg/Obpct/Slug/OPS or Batting average/on base percentage/slugging percentage/OPS:
The batting averages are almost identical with Hernandez slightly ahead of Olerud, Heranandez and Garvey. Olerud then wins both the onbag and slugging pieces by significant margins. Garvey’s onbag is notably low and Hernandez did not hit for much power.
Hernandez and Olerud each played seventeen seasons while Garvey played nineteen and wished he played seventeen. Keep those two extra seasons in mind when you look at career totals. Runs/RBIs/Hr:
This is kind of interesting. Olerud and Hernandez played the same number of years and the Big Quiet guy is better all around. Garvey with two more years wins the totals argument above all three of them. If you subtract his last two years, which you can’t or shouldn’t because he did them, but to do it anyway he falls behind Rude in runs and home runs and rbis. But here is why you don’t do that, in his eighteenth year Garey drove in 81 runs for the Padres. Not great, but doing that for the 2011 Mariners might have been noteworthy.
All of them were gold glove winners, my prejudice would be to Olerud who might have had the best hands of any first baseman I’ve ever seen.
Lastly I looked at the Offensive Wins Above Replacement Player or OWAR. Below is the best in English discussion of this measure.
So looking at the best seasons for each guy is interesting, I will put OWAR and then OPS:
Garvey’s numbers are bizarre. He had a break out year in 70. His line in 95 games: .319/.376/.535/.911 71 runs scored and 87 rbis. -.02 oWAR. Smells bad.
In 75 and 78 he has an identical OWAR in 4.1 while the OPS for 78 is much, much better. Yet in 76 he has the worst offensive season and has the highest OWAR. UZR is also used in the calculation and clearly is a mess.
I put the numbers for Hernandez and Olerud there above and Olerud reaches a higher peak more often and despite the overstating of Hernandez relative performance with OWAR, he was good offensively, but not as good as Olerud. Garvey was productive, very productive. He was not as selective of a hitter as the other two and did not walk much. He was sterling in post season play as was Olerud, less so Hernandez.
At the end of the day Olerud should be in front of both of these guys, while in some respects I like Garvey more than Hernandez and while playing mostly at the same time Garvey was generally thought to be better.