Filling the Mickey Vernon gaps (Part 3)

It’s time to have another look at the careers of good players who endured bad years. Let’s see how things might have looked if each had just put in an ordinary progression between his high spots.

All adjusted stat lines are presented in blue font. For our methodology, please see the References and Resources section below.

Follow the bouncing Yaz

Carl Yastrzemski

Yaz was properly celebrated for his remarkably well-rounded talent, and he was a durable player whose exceptional dedication to conditioning was a key to the amazing longevity of his career. These attributes might be expected to align with a career of great consistency as well, but for whatever reason, Yastrzemski’s was not that career.

Yaz’s hitting was highly unpredictable, especially in power production, but in batting average as well. Not too many guys go from 16 homers to 44 at one point and from 40 to 15 at another, and also bouncing from .301 to .255 to .329 to .254 for good measure.

Here we see a Yaz landscape with the peaks but without the valleys, and it’s pretty much a dictionary illustration of “superb.”

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS OPS+
 1961   21  148  583   71  155   31    6   11   80   50   96 .266 .324 .396  .720   90
 1962   22  160  646   99  191   43    6   19   94   66   82 .296 .363 .469  .832  120
 1963   23  151  570   91  183   40    3   14   68   95   72 .321 .418 .475  .893  148
 1964   24  145  544   82  167   38    5   16   69   80   73 .307 .396 .486  .882  140
 1965   25  133  494   78  154   45    3   20   72   70   58 .312 .395 .536  .931  156
 1966   26  151  556   90  169   38    3   27   91   82   62 .305 .394 .528  .922  153
 1967   27  161  579  112  189   31    4   44  121   91   69 .326 .418 .622 1.040  195
 1968   28  157  539   90  162   32    2   23   74  119   90 .301 .426 .495  .921  171
 1969   29  160  569  104  167   30    1   34   96  116   82 .294 .413 .532  .945  158
 1970   30  161  566  125  186   29    0   40  102  128   66 .329 .452 .592 1.044  178
 1971   31  154  538   94  158   25    2   25   89  113   61 .294 .417 .486  .903  149
 1972   32  145  512   96  154   24    1   22   83  100   53 .300 .414 .483  .897  161
 1973   33  152  540   82  160   25    4   19   95  105   58 .296 .407 .463  .870  140
 1974   34  148  515   93  155   25    2   15   79  104   48 .301 .414 .445  .859  141
 1975   35  149  539   94  155   27    2   19   80   88   52 .288 .388 .452  .841  129
 1976   36  152  548   84  157   25    3   23  100   86   55 .286 .383 .467  .850  138
 1977   37  150  558   99  165   27    3   28  102   73   40 .296 .372 .505  .877  126
 1978   38  144  523   70  145   21    2   17   81   76   44 .277 .367 .423  .790  113
 1979   39  147  518   69  140   28    1   21   87   62   46 .270 .346 .450  .796  109
 1980   40  105  364   49  100   21    1   15   50   44   38 .275 .350 .462  .812  117
 1981   41   91  338   36   83   14    1    7   53   49   28 .246 .338 .355  .693   96
 1982   42  131  459   53  126   22    1   16   72   59   50 .275 .358 .431  .789  111
 1983   43  119  380   38  101   24    0   10   56   54   29 .266 .359 .408  .767  106
Career    3314 11977 1899 3523  665   57  485 1894 1909 1353 .294 .391 .481  .872  138

And follow the bouncing Boomer

George Scott

As we observed here, Scott’s junior-year miseries were something vastly worse than an ordinary offseason. He suffered a sudden and total inability to hit; his was the closest thing any hitter has ever exhibited to Steve Blass Disease.

Boomer recovered from that near-death experience, but throughout his subsequent career he would be prone to inconsistency, particularly with regard to power output. Our version’s 1968 struggles are well within the realm of those commonly observed, and he then turns in a near-decade of consistent strong performance.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1966   22  162  601   73  147   18    7   27   90   65  152 .245 .324 .433 .757  108
 1967   23  159  565   74  171   21    7   19   82   63  119 .303 .373 .465 .838  139
 1968   24  149  518   57  118   17    5   19   69   52  131 .228 .299 .389 .688  102
 1969   25  157  560   70  160   19    6   18   72   62  104 .287 .358 .439 .797  118
 1970   26  148  563   82  171   28    4   21   92   55   94 .303 .366 .482 .848  126
 1971   27  154  591   81  164   23    4   32   99   48   99 .278 .332 .493 .826  125
 1972   28  148  553   88  148   24    4   27   88   50  112 .268 .328 .476 .804  140
 1973   29  158  604   98  185   30    4   24  107   61   94 .306 .370 .488 .858  143
 1974   30  158  608   86  177   31    3   26   99   57   94 .291 .352 .479 .831  139
 1975   31  158  617   86  176   26    4   36  109   51   97 .285 .341 .515 .856  139
 1976   32  157  602   87  166   24    5   29   94   54  109 .276 .335 .476 .812  139
 1977   33  157  584  103  157   26    5   33   95   57  112 .269 .337 .500 .837  115
 1978   34  120  412   51   96   16    4   12   54   44   86 .233 .305 .379 .684   84
 1979   35  105  346   46   88   20    4    6   49   31   61 .254 .317 .387 .704   87
Career     2090 7724 1083 2126  322   67  329 1199  750 1464 .275 .339 .462 .801  123

Danger! Sheer cliff ahead

The following three careers share a peculiar shape: a normal climb to a terrific peak, followed by a mid-career plunge. They stand as vivid demonstrations of the difficulty of assessing the final quality of a player’s career before he’s at least in his mid-thirties.

Ernie Banks

Mr. Cub is generally credited as the first hitter to perfect the light-bat “buggy-whip” mode of swing that’s since become the power-hitting norm, and he demonstrated unprecedented home run productivity for a middle infielder. But Banks suffered from knee trouble beginning in 1961, and a bad virus he encountered in 1963 further ensured that he’d never regain his exceptional bat speed.

As a result Banks’s career featured two starkly distinct halves: the first as an inner-circle all-time great shortstop, and the second as a pretty-good-but-nothing-special first baseman. Here we see a Banks with a more normal B side, and he accumulates 568 homers, a total that would have him comfortably in fourth place on the all-time list at the time of his retirement.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1953   22   10   35    3   11    1    1    2    6    4    5 .314 .385 .571 .956  143
 1954   23  154  593   70  163   19    7   19   79   40   50 .275 .326 .427 .753   94
 1955   24  154  596   98  176   29    9   44  117   45   72 .295 .345 .596 .941  144
 1956   25  139  538   82  160   25    8   28   85   52   62 .297 .358 .530 .888  137
 1957   26  156  594  113  169   34    6   43  102   70   85 .285 .360 .579 .939  150
 1958   27  154  617  119  193   23   11   47  129   52   87 .313 .366 .614 .980  156
 1959   28  155  589   97  179   25    6   45  143   64   72 .304 .374 .596 .970  155
 1960   29  156  597   94  162   32    7   41  117   71   69 .271 .350 .554 .904  145
 1961   30  147  550   86  161   24    5   37  112   59   74 .292 .360 .555 .915  138
 1962   31  154  614  103  179   22    9   42  117   41   79 .291 .335 .559 .894  132
 1963   32  134  472   58  120   21    3   24   72   47   74 .255 .321 .459 .781  118
 1964   33  157  594   81  159   31    7   32  106   54   77 .268 .328 .503 .831  127
 1965   34  160  603   96  166   30    5   36  104   63   75 .274 .343 .515 .858  136
 1966   35  140  525   67  150   24    8   22   80   41   61 .285 .336 .482 .819  124
 1967   36  154  585   81  160   29    6   32  106   49   81 .274 .330 .506 .836  132
 1968   37  152  581   79  150   24    3   35   94   29   69 .258 .293 .487 .780  125
 1969   38  159  589   70  153   22    3   26  106   49   83 .259 .316 .435 .751   98
 1970   39   72  222   25   56    6    2   12   44   20   33 .252 .313 .459 .772   95
 1971   40   39   83    4   16    2    0    3    6    6   14 .193 .247 .325 .572   52
Career     2544 9575 1425 2681  421  103  568 1724  853 1220 .280 .339 .523 .862  131

Dale Murphy

Murphy’s early-30s problems also can be traced to knee trouble. Both he and Banks illustrate how it can be that sore knees don’t necessarily sideline a player, but can still have a deadening impact on a hitter’s ability to plant and torque.

In Murphy’s case, the change was sudden and shocking. None of us in the mid-1980s would have taken a bet that the immensely and broadly talented Murph, a famously hard-working and impeccably conditioned athlete, wasn’t a guaranteed lock to make the Hall of Fame. Our version’s too-soon decline is noticeable but not nearly so severe: with his 453 home runs and 128 OPS+ in 2,327 games, is this Dale Murphy Cooperstown-worthy?

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1976   20   19   65    3   17    6    0    0    9    7    9 .262 .333 .354 .687   91
 1977   21   18   76    5   24    8    1    2   14    0    8 .316 .316 .526 .842  112
 1978   22  151  530   66  120   14    3   23   79   42  145 .226 .284 .394 .678   80
 1979   23  104  384   53  106    7    2   21   57   38   67 .276 .340 .469 .809  113
 1980   24  156  569   98  160   27    2   33   89   59  133 .281 .349 .510 .859  135
 1981   25  104  369   43   91   12    1   13   50   44   72 .247 .325 .390 .715  100
 1982   26  162  598  113  168   23    2   36  109   93  134 .281 .378 .507 .885  142
 1983   27  162  589  131  178   24    4   36  121   90  110 .302 .393 .540 .933  150
 1984   28  162  607   94  176   32    8   36  100   79  134 .290 .372 .547 .919  149
 1985   29  162  616  118  185   32    2   37  111   90  141 .300 .388 .539 .927  151
 1986   30  161  611   92  170   31    8   33   92   77  138 .278 .359 .512 .870  132
 1987   31  159  566  115  167   27    1   44  105  115  136 .295 .417 .580 .997  156
 1988   32  159  604   98  160   34    3   31   94   82  133 .264 .352 .481 .833  133
 1989   33  158  586   87  150   20    1   28   97   79  138 .255 .344 .435 .779  119
 1990   34  157  565   88  153   25    1   34   94   88  133 .270 .369 .499 .867  134
 1991   35  158  567   99  158   29    3   27  101   69  102 .278 .356 .480 .837  135
 1992   36   86  303   36   74   17    1   10   44   25   53 .243 .299 .401 .700   97
 1993   37   90  308   31   69    9    0   10   46   35   79 .222 .302 .347 .649   61
Career     2327 8512 1367 2323  375   42  453 1411 1112 1864 .273 .357 .486 .843  128

Darryl Strawberry

Strawberry no doubt encountered typical over-30 aches and pains, but the cliff he stepped off was, of course, almost entirely a function of his phenomenal inability to stay sober. At his best, Strawberry wasn’t truly a great player, but he was awfully good; as we saw here, under more offense-friendly conditions, he was likely capable of a 50-homer season.

The career he free-based away wouldn’t necessarily have been of Hall of Fame caliber, but it was certainly something quite special. A Strawberry at-bat, featuring that huge, long, uppercutting arc of a swing, resembled few others—Willie McCovey’s is one of the few that comes to mind—for sheer all-or-nothing expectancy.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS OPS+
 1983   21  122  420   63  108   15    7   26   74   47  128 .257 .336 .512  .848  134
 1984   22  147  522   75  131   27    4   26   97   75  131 .251 .343 .467  .810  127
 1985   23  111  393   78  109   15    4   29   79   73   96 .277 .389 .557  .946  165
 1986   24  136  475   76  123   27    5   27   93   72  141 .259 .358 .507  .865  139
 1987   25  154  532  108  151   32    5   39  104   97  122 .284 .398 .583  .981  162
 1988   26  153  543  101  146   27    3   39  101   85  127 .269 .366 .545  .911  165
 1989   27  146  520   87  134   24    2   35   95   72  114 .258 .348 .512  .860  149
 1990   28  152  542   92  150   18    1   37  108   70  110 .277 .361 .518  .879  140
 1991   29  139  505   86  134   22    4   28   99   75  125 .265 .361 .491  .852  140
 1992   30  152  536   81  135   30    4   27   99   77  147 .253 .346 .472  .818  132
 1993   31  146  534   86  134   16    1   35   98   72  107 .251 .340 .479  .820  121
 1994   32  106  364   64   95   17    3   24   68   62   86 .261 .368 .514  .883  132
 1995   33  124  459   91  130   26    5   30   86   78  107 .282 .386 .557  .944  145
 1996   34  141  477   90  129   24    3   31   91   82  122 .271 .378 .529  .907  125
 1997   35   82  267   38   61   13    1   18   45   37   68 .229 .322 .483  .804  108
 1998   36  101  295   44   73   11    2   24   57   46   90 .247 .354 .542  .896  131
 1999   37   24   49   10   16    5    0    3    6   17   16 .327 .500 .612 1.112  194
Career     2136 7433 1268 1960  348   52  477 1401 1136 1837 .264 .361 .517  .878  142

The flickering of lesser stars

A player doesn’t have to be a major star to have exhibited a frustrating peak-and-valley pattern. Neither of these two guys had elite ability, but both might have had better careers than they did.

Tito Francona

Terry’s old man is best known for his spectacular fluke season of 1959, but he was a fine player, a line-drive hitter with decent power. But the inability to match the fluke year wasn’t the truly frustrating part of Francona’s career, because that particular line would stick out like a sore thumb in just about anybody’s career except maybe Stan Musial’s.

Following the crazy 1959, Tito settled in for the next couple of years at what seemed to be his “true” production level, and it was just fine, not star-level, but very good. But then at age 29, Francona suddenly lost the capacity to maintain a decent batting average. Thus, he quickly lost his regular status, and found himself bouncing around as a barely adequate bench player for several years.

Then, on the verge of oblivion, at age 34 Francona just as suddenly regained the base-hit stroke, and went out with a blaze of outstanding role-player glory.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1956   22  139  445   62  115   16    4    9   57   51   60 .258 .334 .373 .707   94
 1957   23  118  362   49   90   12    4    8   48   40   54 .249 .323 .367 .691   94
 1958   24  116  347   50  103   14    3   10   52   38   47 .298 .368 .439 .807  121
 1959   25  122  399   68  145   17    2   20   79   35   42 .363 .414 .566 .980  172
 1960   26  147  544   84  159   36    2   17   79   67   67 .292 .372 .460 .832  127
 1961   27  155  592   87  178   30    8   16   85   56   52 .301 .363 .459 .822  122
 1962   28  158  621   82  169   28    5   14   70   47   74 .272 .327 .401 .728   98
 1963   29  145  522   71  137   33    1   14   60   57   72 .261 .334 .405 .739  108
 1964   30  133  431   61  123   22    5   12   55   50   49 .284 .359 .441 .799  123
 1965   31  120  398   49  107   17    4   10   45   32   52 .269 .324 .401 .725   96
 1966   32  103  251   23   66    9    1    3   32   29   36 .263 .339 .341 .680   90
 1967   33  116  337   34   89   10    1    4   38   39   45 .263 .340 .333 .672   94
 1968   34  122  346   32   99   13    1    2   47   51   45 .286 .376 .347 .723  119
 1969   35   83  173   17   55    7    1    5   42   25   21 .318 .394 .457 .851  140
 1970   36   84   98    6   23    3    0    1   10   12   21 .235 .324 .296 .620   73
Career     1859 5865  773 1657  265   41  144  797  629  737 .282 .352 .415 .767  113

Alex Johnson

At the time, Johnson was usually just described as “surly,” but his multitude of behavioral issues eventually was diagnosed as mental illness. Whatever the truth of either label, Johnson’s inability to get along with others, and especially the degree to which it reached a crisis point in 1971, overwhelmingly colors any assessment of him, rendering it difficult to know just how good a player he really was.

One school of thought holds that Johnson was a brilliant player, a potential superstar, who delivered only a fraction of what he was capable of producing. While it’s impossible to know, I’ve always been highly skeptical of that. My guess is that the Johnson we saw in 1968, ’69, and ’70 was the real deal, Johnson at his best. And that player, while a good one, was hardly great.

Johnson was a terrific hitter for average, no question about that. But though he was a big guy, his line drives didn’t yield many home runs, nor even a whole lot of doubles. His strike zone judgment was poor. His speed was good but nothing special, and his defensive aptitude was somewhere between unimpressive and atrocious. Basically, a corner outfielder like that has to hit .300 to earn a roster spot, let alone a regular job.

To whatever degree it was caused by his behavioral issues, Johnson’s hitting was remarkably inconsistent. Here we see a Johnson without the periodic low-lows, and it’s a vastly better career than the actual one. Still, it seems to me that even if Johnson had hit as consistently well as this, his proper role was that in which Phillies manager Gene Mauch slotted him in 1964-65: a platoon player.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1964   21   43  109   18   33    7    1    4   18    6   26 .303 .345 .495 .840  135
 1965   22  118  393   57  121   14    4   13   58   20   65 .308 .342 .456 .798  125
 1966   23  145  574   72  170   27    6    3   53   26   74 .296 .326 .380 .707   95
 1967   24  148  493   66  151   22    5    9   61   28   59 .305 .342 .427 .769  121
 1968   25  149  603   79  188   32    6    2   58   26   71 .312 .342 .395 .737  116
 1969   26  139  523   86  165   18    4   17   88   25   69 .315 .350 .463 .813  122
 1970   27  156  614   85  202   26    6   14   86   35   68 .329 .370 .459 .829  131
 1971   28  147  571   69  177   23    4   11   71   33   68 .310 .348 .419 .767  124
 1972   29  145  517   69  147   16    3   15   74   28   64 .284 .321 .413 .734  115
 1973   30  158  624   62  179   26    3    8   68   32   82 .287 .322 .377 .699  100
 1974   31  124  481   60  138   15    3    5   43   28   62 .287 .331 .362 .693  102
 1975   32  100  343   39   95   12    2    4   34   18   44 .276 .312 .357 .669   92
 1976   33  125  429   41  115   15    2    6   45   19   49 .268 .298 .354 .652   88
Career     1698 6274  802 1880  252   48  111  758  323  801 .300 .334 .408 .742  112

Vintage table-setters

Here are a couple of old-time National League stars who shared many common attributes, in addition to that of “really cool name.”

Kiki Cuyler

Cuyler’s election to the Hall of Fame was preposterous, but nonetheless he was an excellent player: a right fielder-center fielder with a wicked line-drive bat, some power and blazing speed.

However, he was injury-prone, missing large chunks of several seasons. The version we see here manages to stay in the lineup a whole lot better, and puts together a very slick career. But I still don’t see it as meriting the Hall of Fame.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS OPS+
 1921   22    1    3    0    0    0    0    0    0    0    1 .000 .000 .000  .000 -100
 1922   23    1    0    0    0    0    0    0    0    0    0
 1923   24   11   40    4   10    1    1    0    2    5    3 .250 .348 .325  .673   77
 1924   25  117  466   94  165   27   16    9   85   30   62 .354 .402 .539  .941  148
 1925   26  153  617  144  220   43   26   18  102   58   56 .357 .423 .598 1.021  151
 1926   27  157  614  113  197   31   15    8   92   50   66 .321 .380 .459  .839  120
 1927   28  121  450   87  143   22   11    6   62   44   51 .317 .377 .452  .829  115
 1928   29  136  504  102  163   27    8   16   91   59   59 .322 .393 .503  .896  133
 1929   30  139  509  111  183   29    7   15  102   66   56 .360 .438 .532  .970  139
 1930   31  156  642  155  228   50   17   13  134   72   49 .355 .428 .547  .975  132
 1931   32  154  613  110  202   37   12    9   88   72   54 .330 .404 .473  .877  133
 1932   33  132  530   84  166   28   11   10   83   51   49 .314 .373 .460  .833  123
 1933   34  106  411   59  136   28    6    6   52   26   46 .331 .371 .465  .836  138
 1934   35  142  559   80  189   42    8    6   69   31   62 .338 .377 .474  .851  128
 1935   36  126  474   77  142   21    8    7   57   42   51 .299 .356 .416  .772  108
 1936   37  144  567   96  185   29   11    7   74   47   67 .326 .380 .453  .833  129
 1937   38  117  406   48  110   12    4    0   32   36   50 .271 .333 .320  .653   82
 1938   39   82  253   45   69   10    8    2   23   34   23 .273 .363 .399  .762  108
Career     1995 7656 1408 2507  437  168  130 1147  722  803 .327 .385 .479  .864  126

Augie Galan

Galan didn’t throw as well as Cuyler, and thus was relegated mostly to left field, and his offensive recipe was heavier on the walks and lighter on the singles, but his overall production, when at his best, was much the same as Cuyler’s.

Galan’s problem was that he was even more injury-prone and inconsistent than Cuyler. Indeed, Galan’s status swifly tumbled from star leadoff man in his early 20s to struggling scrub in his late 20s, before he got a second chance at regular play during the war and re-emerged as a star. (Giving up switch-hitting, and batting strictly from the left side from 1943 onward, may also have helped Galan.)

A more recent player who bears great similarity to Galan is Roy White: a speedy left fielder without a strong throwing arm, and with a well-rounded, on-base-rich offensive game.

Here’s Galan:

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1934   22   66  192   31   50    6    2    5   22   16   15 .260 .317 .391 .708   90
 1935   23  154  646  133  203   41   11   12   79   87   53 .314 .399 .467 .866  131
 1936   24  150  611  104  178   34    8   10   80   77   52 .291 .370 .419 .790  110
 1937   25  151  629  119  179   33   11   15   79   83   51 .284 .368 .441 .808  115
 1938   26  129  472   78  140   26    9    6   70   62   22 .297 .378 .426 .804  118
 1939   27  148  549  104  167   36    8    6   71   75   26 .304 .392 .432 .824  119
 1940   28  151  557   98  159   34    6    8   71   96   39 .285 .390 .409 .799  122
 1941   29  149  552   98  166   38    8    8   80   89   27 .300 .398 .442 .839  139
 1942   30  152  592  104  180   42    7    9   92  106   28 .305 .411 .447 .858  149
 1943   31  139  495   83  142   26    3    9   67  103   39 .287 .412 .406 .818  137
 1944   32  151  547   96  174   43    9   12   93  101   23 .318 .426 .495 .921  161
 1945   33  152  576  114  177   36    7    9   92  114   27 .307 .423 .441 .864  141
 1946   34  128  411   74  128   28    6    5   59  101   28 .311 .447 .445 .892  153
 1947   35  124  392   60  123   18    2    6   61   94   19 .314 .449 .416 .865  132
 1948   36   54   77   18   22    3    2    2   16   26    4 .286 .471 .455 .926  155
 1949   37   34   43    4    9    3    0    0    2   14    5 .209 .404 .279 .683   85
Career     2031 7341 1317 2196  446   97  123 1034 1244  455 .299 .401 .436 .837  129

Let’s see them underrate this

Darrell Evans

Among the many unusual aspects of Evans’s long career was its concave shape: He peaked early and late, and had his worst season by far at age 29. Park factors exaggerated the effect in his raw numbers—going from The Launching Pad to Candlestick Park to Tiger Stadium will do that—but it wasn’t just a park illusion. Evans had seven OPS+ seasons superior to those he posted during the six-year span from ages 28 through 33.

Here we see a mid-career Evans who more closely maintains his early-career and late-career form, and he cracks the 500-homer barrier. When combined with the mediocre .254 career batting average (his league average was .263), it’s intriguing to wonder just what Hall of Fame voters might have made of him.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1969   22   12   26    3    6    0    0    0    1    1    8 .231 .250 .231 .481   36
 1970   23   12   44    4   14    1    1    0    9    7    5 .318 .423 .386 .809  114
 1971   24   89  260   42   63   11    1   12   38   39   54 .242 .338 .431 .769  112
 1972   25  125  418   67  106   12    0   19   71   90   58 .254 .384 .419 .803  121
 1973   26  161  595  114  167   25    8   41  104  124  104 .281 .403 .556 .959  156
 1974   27  161  583  107  152   23    6   33   92  125   96 .261 .391 .489 .880  142
 1975   28  159  581   98  153   24    5   32   89  115  105 .262 .384 .483 .867  136
 1976   29  143  448   72  105   15    1   23   73   86   78 .234 .357 .419 .776  117
 1977   30  143  492   79  131   24    3   24   77   77   66 .266 .365 .470 .835  123
 1978   31  160  571   98  150   25    5   31   91  115   84 .263 .386 .483 .869  147
 1979   32  151  543   81  144   26    3   24   76   88   81 .265 .367 .452 .818  130
 1980   33  153  531   75  136   20    0   30   86   84   75 .256 .358 .464 .822  131
 1981   34   99  354   57   95   16    3   16   51   55   44 .267 .366 .466 .833  138
 1982   35  146  485   73  122   19    2   28   78   81   75 .252 .359 .471 .830  131
 1983   36  142  523   94  145   29    3   30   82   84   81 .277 .378 .516 .894  150
 1984   37  141  453   71  109   14    1   28   79   81   78 .241 .356 .459 .815  125
 1985   38  151  505   81  125   17    0   40   94   85   85 .248 .356 .519 .875  138
 1986   39  151  507   78  122   15    0   29   85   91  105 .241 .356 .442 .798  116
 1987   40  150  499   90  128   20    0   34   99  100   84 .257 .379 .501 .880  135
 1988   41  144  437   48   91    9    0   22   64   84   89 .208 .337 .380 .717  105
 1989   42  107  276   31   57    6    1   11   39   41   46 .207 .303 .355 .658   86
Career     2698 9129 1461 2319  349   41  505 1476 1651 1498 .254 .368 .467 .835  130

What if he’d been a little less fragile?

Eric Davis

His was a package of lightning speed, prodigious power and agonizing fragility that’s never really been matched. Think about it: How many other players in history, when compared with Mickey Mantle, have Mantle’s superior durability standing out as the primary difference? And as if never-ending injuries weren’t enough, Davis had to deal with colon cancer.

Here Davis manages to stay in the lineup through his 20s, and the injury troubles he then encounters are significant but not catastrophic. It adds up to a 132 career OPS+ in nearly 2,200 games. When combined with his phenomenal speed and terrific center field defense, it would be a resume earning very serious Hall of Fame consideration.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1984   22   57  174   33   39   10    1   10   30   24   48 .224 .320 .466 .786  115
 1985   23  125  370   83   97   11    6   24   59   41  104 .262 .336 .520 .855  132
 1986   24  152  560  121  155   20    4   36   96   92  135 .277 .379 .523 .902  143
 1987   25  155  569  134  167   28    5   44  120  101  161 .293 .400 .593 .992  155
 1988   26  155  566   97  155   22    4   31  112   78  149 .273 .361 .489 .851  139
 1989   27  151  554   89  156   17    2   41  121   82  139 .281 .374 .541 .915  156
 1990   28  146  544  101  142   31    2   29  103   72  120 .260 .347 .486 .833  123
 1991   29  145  494   95  130   21    2   28   80   85  150 .263 .372 .485 .857  136
 1992   30  136  476   59  119   16    2   18   75   65  126 .251 .341 .405 .746  113
 1993   31  131  458   73  121   16    2   28   88   63  112 .264 .353 .491 .844  127
 1994   32   82  287   52   70   15    1   14   50   39   73 .244 .335 .445 .780  100
 1995   33  130  433   76  113   19    1   23   76   63  114 .261 .354 .467 .821  116
 1996   34  129  415   81  119   20    0   26   83   70  121 .287 .394 .523 .917  141
 1997   35  101  342   64  105   20    0   21   66   43   92 .307 .384 .549 .933  144
 1998   36  131  452   81  148   29    1   28   89   44  108 .327 .388 .582 .970  150
 1999   37   95  322   54   99   19    2   17   60   37   79 .306 .378 .529 .907  127
 2000   38   92  254   38   77   14    0    6   40   36   60 .303 .389 .429 .818  107
 2001   39   74  156   17   32    7    3    4   22   13   38 .205 .269 .365 .634   69
Career     2185 7424 1347 2043  334   37  428 1368 1046 1927 .275 .365 .503 .868  132

What if he’d been a little less fragile, and a little less fractious?

Dick Allen

Well, then he’d have been a relentless run production machine, that’s what, cranking out MVP-caliber season after MVP-caliber season. Pretty much the 1960s-’70s version of Jimmie Foxx.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS OPS+
 1963   21   10   24    6    7    2    1    0    2    0    5 .292 .280 .458  .738  110
 1964   22  162  632  125  201   38   13   29   91   67  138 .318 .382 .557  .939  162
 1965   23  161  619   93  187   31   14   20   85   74  150 .302 .375 .494  .869  145
 1966   24  141  524  112  166   25   10   40  110   68  136 .317 .396 .632 1.028  181
 1967   25  142  548  107  172   35   12   26   84   71  128 .313 .392 .561  .953  169
 1968   26  147  523  100  152   21   10   37  100   71  149 .290 .375 .576  .951  183
 1969   27  157  565  108  172   29    7   42  120   89  156 .305 .400 .604 1.004  182
 1970   28  150  536   99  158   25    6   39  119   94  136 .294 .400 .582  .982  159
 1971   29  157  552   84  168   34    4   29   91   84  113 .305 .397 .537  .933  170
 1972   30  148  506   90  156   28    5   37  113   99  126 .308 .420 .603 1.023  200
 1973   31  146  503   84  157   34    6   35   98   83  114 .312 .409 .607 1.016  181
 1974   32  128  462   84  139   23    1   32   88   57   89 .301 .375 .563  .938  165
 1975   33  124  439   69  118   22    2   22   75   58   99 .269 .353 .478  .832  126
 1976   34   85  298   52   80   16    1   15   49   37   63 .268 .346 .480  .826  131
 1977   35   54  171   19   41    4    0    5   31   24   36 .240 .330 .351  .681   87
Career     1911 6901 1232 2074  366   90  407 1255  975 1637 .300 .387 .557  .944  165

References & Resources

Methodology

Everyone’s actual career includes a certain degree of year-to-year variation, and I want even these smoothed-out versions to reflect some of that. So instead of strict formality, I allow myself a bit of artistic license. However, I do stick to some basic rules:

- I can’t just make stuff up; all adjusted stats have to start with the particular player’s actual stat lines.
- The stats from the season being adjusted are included (even if in a minor weighting) in the adjusted line, to give the adjusted line some of the flavor of that actual season’s performance.
- No player’s career can start earlier than it did, or end later than it did.
- No adjusted season can surpass the player’s actual peak season(s); the adjusted seasons act as a bridge to and from peaks, not a new peak.

I endeavor to create a new version of each player’s career that is idealized, but in a plausible manner. The intended effect is to enhance the actual career while not overwhelming it, to create an easily recognizable version of the actual career that is, to a reasonable degree, the best it might have been.

Feel free to email me with any questions about the precise formulae used for any particular player.

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