Tuesday, January 13, 2004

I'm going to begin my comparison of these four first-basemen, who essentially represent four of the five best at this position among Hall of Fame inductees and eligible players who played the majority of their careers during my lifetime as a fan. I was born in 1967, and basically became a true baseball fan in 1974, so Tony Perez (1964-1986) just makes the cut, whereas Willie McCovey (1959-1980) doesn't. As I explained in my post of Jan. 11, I'm excluding Eddie Murray because he is a first ballot Hall of Famer and far superior to the other four.

To get started, I'm just going to look at the really basic, or what I like to call mainstream, offensive statistics. These categories are seasons played, games played, at bats, runs, hits, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Here's how they stack up:

Player                  Yrs    G     AB      R      H    HR   RBI   SB     BB   BA   OBP  SLG
Steve Garvey         19  2332  8835  1143  2599  272  1308   83    479  .294  .329  .446
Keith Hernandez     17  2088  7370  1124  2182  162  1071   98  1070  .296  .384  .436
Don Mattingly          14  1785  7003  1007  2153  222  1099   14   588  .307  .358  .471
Tony Perez             23  2777  9778  1272  2732  379  1652   49   925  .279  .341  .463

So, what do these statistics tell us? Well, most obviously, none of these guys had any speed, so I'm going to disregard stolen bases. Also, in almost every cumulative statistic, these players line up in order consistent with the length of their careers (Perez-Garvey-Hernandez-Mattingly), with the exception being that Mattingly rises above Hernandez in HR and RBI, despite placing last in seasons played, games played, and at bats. Also, Hernandez places first in walks, followed by Perez, Mattingly, and Garvey, but I'll get to that later.

Of course, longevity is a factor, and Perez deserves credit for ranking first among these players in R, H, HR, and RBI. But, I'm interested in far more than determining who played the longest and, as a result, being fooled into rating a player higher simply due to the length of his career. In fact, it's interesting to note that, despite the fact that Perez has clearly superior HR totals to Mattingly (379 to 222 total, 25.8 to 31.5 in AB/HR), Mattingly actually has a higher slugging percentage. This is in part due to Mattingly's higher batting average (.307 to .279), but this still suggests that maybe Perez's power is slightly overrated. However, it's difficult to argue with his career RBI total, which ranks 21st all-time, and places him behind only 17 other Hall of Famers and three players not yet eligible (Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken, Rafael Palmeiro).

Along those same lines, Garvey out-homers Hernandez 272 to 162 in career totals, and 32.5 to 45.5 in AB/HR, yet only edges him slightly in slugging (.446 to .436). This is despite the fact that they are virtually even in career batting average (.296 for Hernandez to Garvey's .294). Does this fact negate Garvey's perceived power advantage? We'll have to look closer before making that determination.

Anyway, I haven't even begun to look at any statistics in depth, and I haven't brought in any of my favorite non-mainstream stats yet. Oh yeah, and the subject of fielding has yet to come up, although I think we'll find that, despite the 24 gold gloves that Hernandez, Mattingly and Garvey can claim between them, the relative importance of the position they play will render this part of the analysis less meaningful than we might think.

No comments:

Post a Comment