Filling the Mickey Vernon gaps (Volume 4)

It’s been way too long since we’ve paid a visit to our Mickey Vernonesque friends; a little over a year, in fact.

As you’ll recall, what we’re up to here is examining the careers of hitters who exhibited unusual difficulty in maintaining consistent performance between their high points. What we do is plausibly fill in those gaps, presenting a fictional version of the career that might have been—the best possible career for each of these guys.

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

Iron Man

Cal Ripken Jr.

You’d think a guy demonstrating otherworldly durability might also display some consistency with the bat, but Cal sure didn’t. He was a wildly streaky hitter, and as a result (or perhaps as a cause?) he was constantly jiggering with his batting stance, like a pre-teen girl experimenting with her handwriting (is this me? or maybe this?).

As to whether The Streak was the culprit in preventing Ripken from maintaining a hitting groove, of course it’s impossible to know, but I’m inclined to think it was part of the problem. Tremendously tough and strong though Ripken was, he wasn’t immune to fatigue, and at the very least an occasional day off couldn’t have hurt him.

The Streak was unquestionably a stupendous feat, but that doesn’t mean it had a net positive impact on the performance of Ripken’s team. Once the point was reached that The Streak was controlling the Orioles, rather than the other way around—and we don’t know exactly when that happened, but as the years advanced it became very clear that it had happened—then the right thing to do, record or no record, was for the Orioles to shake Ripken’s hand, pat him on the back, and sit his butt down for a day or two. They didn’t, of course.

Here we see a Ripken who hit with something approaching the consistency with which he played.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1981   20   23   39    1    5    0    0    0    0    1    8 .128 .150 .128 .278  -19
 1982   21  160  598   90  158   32    5   28   93   46   95 .264 .317 .475 .792  115
 1983   22  162  663  121  211   47    2   27  102   58   97 .318 .371 .517 .888  144
 1984   23  162  641  103  195   37    7   27   86   71   89 .304 .374 .510 .884  145
 1985   24  161  642  116  181   32    5   26  110   67   68 .282 .347 .469 .816  124
 1986   25  162  627   98  177   35    1   25   81   70   60 .282 .355 .461 .816  123
 1987   26  162  651  114  195   41    2   27  101   65   91 .299 .363 .494 .857  128
 1988   27  162  611   96  176   32    4   25   84   85   80 .287 .374 .477 .851  141
 1989   28  162  649   93  197   41    4   30  108   54   54 .303 .357 .517 .874  149
 1990   29  162  635  102  184   38    3   24   94   69   83 .289 .359 .474 .833  135
 1991   30  162  650   99  210   46    5   34  114   53   46 .323 .374 .566 .940  162
 1992   31  162  644   86  185   38    3   24   93   59   48 .287 .347 .467 .814  125
 1993   32  162  641   95  180   32    5   26   88   68   74 .281 .350 .465 .815  114
 1994   33  112  444   71  140   19    3   13   75   32   41 .315 .364 .459 .823  107
 1995   34  144  560   80  160   29    3   17   92   47   56 .286 .341 .439 .780  100
 1996   35  163  640   94  178   40    1   26  102   59   78 .278 .341 .466 .807  102
 1997   36  163  628   87  172   35    1   22   93   58   76 .274 .335 .434 .769  102
 1998   37  161  601   65  163   27    1   14   61   51   68 .271 .331 .389 .720   89
 1999   38   86  332   51  113   27    0   18   57   13   31 .340 .368 .584 .952  143
 2000   39   83  309   43   79   16    0   15   56   23   37 .256 .310 .453 .763   95
 2001   40  128  477   43  114   16    0   14   68   26   63 .239 .276 .361 .637   70
Career    3003 11681 1747 3372  660   54  462 1757 1074 1342 .289 .349 .473 .822  121
Hot-and-cold at the Hot Corner

These three were quite similar in talent profile, and were prominent exemplars of the mode of third baseman that fully took hold in the 1940s and 1950s. They were big, strong, not fast, but sure-handed and strong-armed, specializing not in racing in to scoop up bunts, but instead at stopping hard smashes behind the bag, and making the long, hard, accurate throw to first.

These three were defensive stars, and at his best each was a productive hitter as well, in the distinctly modern home-run-centric style. However, staying in that offensive groove was a struggle for all three.

Ken Keltner

Bill James developed his famous “Keltner Test” in response to a campaign touting Keltner for the Hall of Fame. James’s test, a means of structurally assessing a player’s Cooperstown case, wasn’t intended to denigrate Keltner, but simply to demonstrate the ways in which we may cleanly distinguish between a very good career (such as Keltner’s) and one deserving serious Hall of Fame consideration.

Keltner falls short of Hall standards not only because even at his best he wasn’t quite a great player, but especially because he was an unusually inconsistent hitter, at his best only intermittently. Our version shores up that weakness, and presents an extremely impressive career—but it’s still one headed only for the Hall of Very Good.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1937   20    1    1    0    0    0    0    0    1    0    0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100
 1938   21  149  576   86  159   31    9   26  113   33   75 .276 .319 .497 .816  103
 1939   22  154  587   84  191   35   11   13   97   51   41 .325 .379 .489 .868  123
 1940   23  151  569   79  163   30   10   18   96   45   57 .286 .338 .469 .807  109
 1941   24  149  581   83  156   31   13   23   84   51   56 .269 .330 .485 .815  118
 1942   25  152  597   80  175   33    9   14   86   41   44 .294 .339 .451 .789  127
 1943   26  136  527   68  145   34    8   13   71   47   35 .276 .335 .448 .783  134
 1944   27  149  573   74  169   41    9   13   91   53   29 .295 .355 .466 .821  137
 1945   28  133  486   61  133   29    5   13   68   42   34 .273 .330 .434 .764  131
 1946   29  138  517   73  138   26    6   22   91   32   63 .267 .310 .469 .779  121
 1947   30  152  552   77  157   26    4   24  105   79   50 .284 .374 .477 .851  139
 1948   31  153  558   91  166   24    4   31  119   89   52 .297 .395 .522 .917  145
 1949   32   80  246   35   57    9    2    8   30   38   26 .232 .335 .382 .717   91
 1950   33   13   28    2    9    2    0    0    2    3    6 .321 .387 .393 .780   92
Career     1709 6398  892 1818  352   91  218 1054  603  568 .284 .346 .470 .816  122

Willie Jones

“Puddin’ Head” (he got the colorful nickname as a boy, from a popular novelty song on the radio, “Wooden Head Puddin’ Head Jones”) was pretty much Keltner in a slightly lower key. He spent most of his career struggling to regain the quality of performance he showed in his first few years, a pattern that seemed to apply to quite of few of the Whiz Kids.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1947   21   18   62    5   14    0    1    0   10    7    0 .226 .304 .258 .562   53
 1948   22   17   60    9   20    2    0    2    9    3    5 .333 .365 .467 .832  126
 1949   23  149  532   71  130   35    1   19   77   65   66 .244 .328 .421 .749  102
 1950   24  157  610  100  163   28    6   25   88   61   40 .267 .337 .456 .793  108
 1951   25  148  564   79  161   28    5   22   81   60   47 .285 .358 .470 .828  122
 1952   26  148  527   79  141   17    4   17   76   79   45 .268 .363 .413 .776  116
 1953   27  149  515   68  123   29    1   19   75   72   59 .238 .331 .410 .741   93
 1954   28  146  554   74  156   28    4   19   73   60   49 .281 .351 .448 .800  108
 1955   29  153  579   88  153   25    5   22   86   66   44 .264 .340 .440 .780  107
 1956   30  149  520   88  144   20    4   17   78   92   49 .277 .383 .429 .812  121
 1957   31  133  453   66  116   18    2   13   62   67   45 .256 .353 .395 .747  104
 1958   32  118  398   52  108   15    1   14   60   49   45 .271 .351 .420 .771  104
 1959   33  130  411   57  105   22    2   14   56   48   43 .255 .332 .421 .753   98
 1960   34   79  149   16   40    7    0    3   27   31   16 .268 .388 .376 .764  109
 1961   35    9    7    1    0    0    0    0    0    2    3 .000 .222 .000 .222  -34
Career     1704 5941  853 1574  274   37  206  857  763  556 .265 .348 .428 .776  107

Clete Boyer

Defensive third basemen don’t get any better than Cloyd and Ken’s little brother. He wasn’t fast, but was quick, smooth, sure-handed and rifle-armed, entirely capable of having been a good-fielding shortstop for most of his career.

But Clete’s hitting was all over the place; in his periodic down years, phenomenal though his glovework was, he really didn’t have much business being a full-time third baseman. As such one can question the Yankees’ wisdom of committing to Boyer at third base rather than shortstop; clearly they gained defensively in that tradeoff, but at a meaningful offensive cost.

Here we see a Boyer who avoids the worst slumps, and is a definite asset.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1955   18   47   79    3   19    1    0    0    6    3   17 .241 .268 .253 .521   41
 1956   19   67  129   15   28    3    1    1    4   11   24 .217 .284 .279 .563   50
 1957   20   10    0    0    0    0    0    0    0    0    0
 1959   22   47  114    4   20    2    0    0    3    6   23 .175 .215 .193 .408   15
 1960   23  124  393   54   95   20    1   14   46   23   85 .242 .285 .405 .690   90
 1961   24  152  550   62  131   18    4   21   82   47   82 .239 .298 .400 .699   90
 1962   25  158  566   85  154   24    1   18   68   51  106 .272 .331 .413 .744  102
 1963   26  156  563   76  149   23    2   16   63   45  101 .265 .320 .397 .717  100
 1964   27  148  513   60  123   19    6   15   56   38   84 .240 .292 .385 .677   86
 1965   28  148  514   69  129   23    6   18   58   39   79 .251 .304 .424 .728  106
 1966   29  153  544   76  143   23    2   17   64   49   87 .262 .324 .405 .728  101
 1967   30  154  572   63  140   18    3   26   96   39   81 .245 .292 .423 .715  104
 1968   31  124  453   50  110   16    4   16   57   31   64 .244 .292 .401 .694  106
 1969   32  144  496   57  124   16    1   14   57   55   87 .250 .328 .371 .699   95
 1970   33  134  475   44  117   14    1   16   62   41   71 .246 .305 .381 .686   79
 1971   34   30   98   10   24    1    0    6   19    8   11 .245 .299 .439 .738  102
Career     1796 6058  730 1507  221   31  197  742  487 1001 .249 .305 .393 .698   94
Slick-fielding, streaky-hitting shortstops

The defensive quality of this trio is amply demonstrated by the degree to which each was able to sustain regular playing time even when he wasn’t hitting a lick. Thus when they were able to hold their own with the bat, a whole lotta value was being delivered.

Mark Belanger

This tall, slim, elegant fielder is well-remembered for his general offensive futility. But he actually had a few pretty good years at the plate, thus making his bad-hitting seasons all the more frustrating.

The Orioles hired Charlie Lau as hitting coach in 1969, his first stint in that role. Manager Earl Weaver assigned Lau the particular daunting task of getting Belanger to gain some semblance of ability to make contact. Lau’s results were astonishing: Belanger’s spike in batting average from .208 to .287 is among the most remarkable in history.

Alas, Lau would leave, hired away by Charlie Finley to see what he could do with underperforming young talents Joe Rudi and Dave Duncan. While Lau was performing similar miracles with those kids on Oakland, and subsequently with Hal McRae and George Brett in Kansas City, without Lau’s presence in Baltimore Belanger would spend the rest of his career only intermittently regaining the capacity to reliably slap singles.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1965   21   11    3    1    1    0    0    0    0    0    0 .333 .333 .333 .667   89
 1966   22    8   19    2    3    1    0    0    0    0    3 .158 .158 .211 .368    6
 1967   23   69  184   19   32    5    0    1   10   12   46 .174 .224 .217 .442   32
 1968   24  150  452   43   99   12    1    3   25   37   73 .220 .279 .266 .546   66
 1969   25  150  530   76  152   17    4    2   50   53   54 .287 .352 .345 .697   95
 1970   26  148  495   65  126   12    5    2   43   53   60 .255 .326 .305 .632   75
 1971   27  150  500   67  133   19    4    0   35   73   48 .266 .360 .320 .680   97
 1972   28  129  380   48   88   14    1    2   26   31   57 .232 .291 .290 .580   71
 1973   29  151  490   65  124   18    3    0   32   65   50 .253 .341 .302 .642   84
 1974   30  152  518   69  138   16    4    3   45   52   59 .267 .335 .331 .666   95
 1975   31  153  496   59  127   18    2    2   36   46   60 .257 .320 .311 .631   84
 1976   32  153  522   66  141   22    2    1   40   51   64 .270 .335 .326 .661  100
 1977   33  146  453   54  111   15    4    2   38   47   62 .244 .315 .307 .622   76
 1978   34  145  409   50   90   14    1    0   22   45   55 .220 .297 .257 .553   62
 1979   35  127  320   36   67    9    2    2   18   33   43 .208 .281 .258 .539   49
 1980   36  113  268   37   61    7    3    0   22   12   25 .228 .261 .276 .537   48
 1981   37   64  139    9   23    3    2    1   10   12   25 .165 .232 .237 .469   39
 1982   38   54   50    6   12    1    0    0    4    5   10 .240 .309 .260 .569   63
Career     2071 6227  770 1529  202   36   19  456  626  794 .245 .314 .299 .613   77

Eddie Miller

Though his career OPS+ was just 80, Miller was such a terrific defensive shortstop that he gained MVP votes in eight separate years. And this short, muscular infielder had two seasons—his first full big league year, at age 23, and another one toward the end when he was 30—in which he hit darn well, especially for power. Had he been able to hit that way consistently, much less had he attained a peak performance higher than that somewhere in his mid-to-late 20s, then Miller would have been a big star, worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.

Our version is more conservative than that, but is able to avoid the worst of the offensive trough in which Miller became mired through the heart of his career.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1936   19    5   10    0    1    0    0    0    0    1    1 .100 .182 .100 .282  -20
 1937   20   36   60    3    9    3    1    0    5    3    8 .150 .190 .233 .424   17
 1939   22   77  296   32   79   12    2    4   31   16   21 .267 .304 .361 .666   87
 1940   23  151  569   78  157   33    3   14   79   41   43 .276 .325 .418 .743  110
 1941   24  153  580   62  146   29    3    9   72   37   62 .251 .296 .356 .652   87
 1942   25  148  552   63  144   31    3   10   63   32   43 .260 .300 .379 .679  100
 1943   26  153  567   61  140   31    4    9   77   39   42 .248 .296 .364 .660   91
 1944   27  153  547   61  132   28    4   10   69   43   41 .241 .296 .365 .661   88
 1945   28  133  483   58  123   33    3   16   68   34   39 .255 .303 .434 .737  105
 1946   29  131  464   56  117   29    3   15   70   41   38 .252 .313 .421 .734  111
 1947   30  151  545   69  146   38    4   19   87   49   40 .268 .328 .457 .785  109
 1948   31  130  468   45  115   20    1   14   61   19   40 .246 .275 .382 .658   80
 1949   32   85  266   21   55   10    1    6   29   29   21 .207 .285 .320 .604   67
 1950   33   64  172   17   39    8    0    3   22   19   21 .227 .304 .326 .629   63
Career     1569 5577  625 1402  304   31  129  733  402  460 .251 .302 .386 .688   92

Eddie Joost

This rangy middle infielder transformed his career in his early 30s, suddenly developing the ability to hit for power (and to draw walks exceptionally well) on top of his already well-regarded defensive game. The explanation was apparently improved eyesight, as Joost became one of the few players of his era to wear glasses on the field.

Our Joost hits as well in his 20s as he did in his 30s, and the result is an extraordinarily impressive career. This Eddie probably wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, because of the historical bias in favor of batting average, but I’m betting the Hall of Merit would have been quite favorably disposed.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1936   20   13   26    1    4    1    0    0    1    2    5 .154 .214 .192 .407   13
 1937   21    6   12    0    1    0    0    0    0    0    0 .000 .083 .083 .167  -54
 1939   23   42  143   23   36    6    3    0   14   12   15 .252 .310 .336 .645   73
 1940   24  104  354   49   82   12    2    6   34   61   56 .232 .344 .327 .671   85
 1941   25  141  518   88  130   23    3   12   50  103   78 .251 .375 .375 .750  111
 1942   26  141  556   93  149   29    4   15   66   91   66 .268 .371 .414 .785  129
 1943   27  132  489   79  120   22    3   12   50   97   78 .246 .370 .379 .749  118
 1944   28  143  547  101  146   27    4   20   77  114   82 .267 .394 .438 .832  130
 1945   29  133  497   72  115   23    3   11   55   91   74 .232 .350 .355 .705   96
 1946   30  140  509  112  129   21    3   21   73  133   76 .254 .408 .432 .841  136
 1947   31  146  530  111  129   24    3   20   75  137   90 .244 .399 .412 .811  124
 1948   32  135  509   99  127   22    2   16   55  119   87 .250 .392 .395 .787  110
 1949   33  144  525  128  138   25    3   23   81  149   80 .263 .426 .453 .879  137
 1950   34  131  476   79  111   12    3   18   58  101   68 .233 .367 .384 .752   96
 1951   35  140  553  107  160   28    5   19   78  106   70 .289 .404 .461 .865  133
 1952   36  146  540   94  132   26    3   20   75  122   94 .244 .384 .415 .799  118
 1953   37   51  177   39   44    6    0    6   15   45   24 .249 .401 .384 .785  109
 1954   38   19   47    7   17    3    0    1    9   10   10 .362 .474 .489 .963  165
 1955   39   55  119   15   23    2    0    5   17   17   21 .193 .294 .336 .630   65
Career     1960 7128 1297 1794  311   44  224  884 1510 1073 .252 .382 .402 .785  114
Lost in Space

Bill Robinson

Not unlike young Will Robinson in the campy TV show of the 1960s, this toolsy outfielder spent years wandering uncharted reaches of the darkest baseball wilderness. I suspect that infuriating stowaway Dr. Smith might have had something to do with it.

At the start, Robinson seemed destined for stardom. He was the complete package: big and powerful, with good speed and a strong arm. He topped off a fine minor league career with a .312, 20-homer season in Triple-A in 1966. However, the Braves were overloaded in the outfield, and the Yankees were able to pluck him away in a trade for none other than Clete Boyer.

But in New York, Robinson was overmatched by major league pitching, suffering through a dreadful rookie campaign in 1967. He seemed to be figuring it out in 1968, and then completely fell apart in ’69. He would disappear entirely from the majors for the next two years, an apparent new entry on the long historical list of big-talent washouts.

Then the Phillies resurrected him from minor league oblivion, and at the age of 29 Robinson delivered a so-so season as a utility outfielder. It looked like that would be the best he had to offer, when suddenly in 1973, at the age of 30, Robinson busted out the kind of big-hitting performance he’d been expected to deliver long before.

But that wasn’t the end of his roller-coaster ride, as in the following season Robinson flopped yet again. Then the Pirates gave him a shot as a bench player, and Robinson performed well. He hit his way into a platoon role, and would finally establish himself in his mid-30s as a regular, and something of a star.

Here we see a Robinson who has some difficulty getting it going, but nothing all that disastrous, and so his eventual emergence as a robust producer doesn’t seem quite so stunning. This version is also able to hang onto the formula once he finds it.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1966   23    6   11    1    3    0    1    0    3    0    1 .273 .273 .455 .728   96
 1967   24   93  239   23   52    8    1    8   24   13   39 .219 .258 .357 .615   85
 1968   25  107  342   34   82   16    7    6   40   26   54 .240 .294 .380 .674  107
 1969   26   96  261   29   57   13    1    4   26   17   54 .218 .265 .328 .592   68
 1970   27  100  271   30   69   14    5    6   37   19   45 .255 .302 .406 .708   90
 1971   28  118  386   49  101   23    2   13   58   25   75 .261 .306 .429 .735  107
 1972   29  118  354   47   95   19    3   19   54   19   67 .270 .306 .500 .807  125
 1973   30  124  452   62  130   32    1   25   65   27   91 .288 .326 .529 .855  132
 1974   31  146  490   63  131   31    1   20   63   29  102 .268 .309 .459 .768  110
 1975   32  148  522   73  153   34    2   26   91   28   99 .293 .330 .513 .843  133
 1976   33  149  543   76  156   33    4   25   88   27  105 .287 .320 .500 .821  131
 1977   34  137  507   74  154   32    1   26  104   25   92 .304 .337 .525 .862  126
 1978   35  140  476   68  129   28    3   21   86   28   93 .272 .312 .479 .791  114
 1979   36  148  421   59  111   17    6   24   75   24   81 .264 .302 .504 .806  112
 1980   37  100  272   28   78   10    1   12   36   15   45 .287 .320 .463 .783  114
 1981   38   39   88    8   19    3    0    2    8    5   18 .216 .258 .318 .576   61
 1982   39   66  140   14   35    9    0    7   31   12   34 .250 .303 .464 .767  110
 1983   40   10    7    0    1    0    0    0    2    1    4 .143 .250 .143 .393   12
Career     1845 5780  737 1556  323   38  244  890  339 1097 .269 .310 .465 .775  114
The occasionally misfiring cannon

Jim Wynn

The diminutive, abundantly talented Toy Cannon was prone to the occasional injury and deep slump. How about this version instead, without the off-years? Would the Hall of Fame have treated him as the Hall of Merit did?

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1963   21   70  250   31   61   10    5    4   27   30   53 .244 .319 .372 .691  104
 1964   22   97  341   46   87   16    4   10   39   46   78 .257 .344 .415 .759  118
 1965   23  157  564   90  155   30    7   22   73   84  126 .275 .371 .470 .841  144
 1966   24  140  525   85  137   27    4   26   81   66  115 .260 .343 .471 .815  131
 1967   25  158  594  102  148   29    3   37  107   74  137 .249 .331 .495 .826  138
 1968   26  156  542   85  146   23    5   26   67   90  131 .269 .376 .474 .850  158
 1969   27  149  495  113  133   17    1   33   87  148  142 .269 .436 .507 .943  167
 1970   28  157  554   82  156   32    2   27   88  106   96 .282 .394 .493 .887  141
 1971   29  142  500   79  129   26    2   19   74   88   86 .257 .369 .431 .800  129
 1972   30  145  542  117  148   29    3   24   90  103   99 .273 .389 .470 .859  146
 1973   31  145  519  104  133   20    4   25   84  101  102 .256 .377 .456 .833  132
 1974   32  150  535  104  145   17    4   32  108  108  104 .271 .387 .497 .884  151
 1975   33  130  412   80  102   16    0   18   58  110   77 .248 .403 .417 .820  133
 1976   34  148  449   75   93   19    1   17   66  127  111 .207 .377 .367 .744  108
 1977   35   66  194   17   34    5    2    1   13   32   47 .175 .289 .237 .526   46
Career     2009 7017 1210 1807  315   46  322 1062 1313 1504 .258 .375 .453 .828  135
Fitful ’50s firepower

What if this pair of sluggers hadn’t been so brittle?

Vic Wertz

He’s mostly remembered today as the guy who blasted the longest out in World Series history, and perhaps that’s a fitting status for this fellow, as the fates seemed resolutely determined to prevent him from fulfilling his potential.

Wertz emerged as a top-tier power-hitting right fielder in Detroit in his mid-20s, but chronic leg trouble steadily eroded his performance. When he hit that famous Polo Grounds clout in October of 1954, Wertz was a twice-traded gimpy-kneed first baseman, though he was still only 29.

And things would get worse, as the following season Wertz was stricken with polio. He battled through that and regained his status as a slugging star, but then suffered a broken ankle in 1958. He would work his way back from that as well, and compile the fifth 100-RBI season of his career at age 35.

This version of Wertz gets a few nicks, but remains generally healthy. It isn’t quite a Hall of Fame career, but it’s a real good one.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1947   22  102  333   60   96   22    4    6   44   47   66 .288 .376 .432 .808  122
 1948   23  125  444   68  126   22    6   11   81   58   66 .284 .367 .437 .804  111
 1949   24  155  608   96  185   26    6   20  133   80   61 .304 .385 .465 .850  125
 1950   25  149  559   99  172   37    4   27  123   91   55 .308 .408 .533 .941  136
 1951   26  138  501   86  143   24    4   27   94   78   61 .285 .383 .511 .894  140
 1952   27  137  482   81  136   23    4   26   86   77   66 .282 .381 .509 .890  145
 1953   28  146  526   84  153   29    5   24  102   86   52 .290 .390 .504 .893  138
 1954   29  141  476   64  129   19    1   23   87   65   76 .271 .358 .458 .816  123
 1955   30  150  527   68  137   24    1   33  115   76   86 .260 .354 .497 .851  124
 1956   31  136  481   65  127   22    0   32  106   75   87 .264 .364 .509 .873  127
 1957   32  144  515   84  145   21    0   28  105   78   88 .282 .371 .485 .856  133
 1958   33   81  262   35   70   12    0   18   59   40   47 .265 .363 .510 .872  139
 1959   34  119  381   61  107   17    0   18   77   50   60 .280 .363 .462 .825  122
 1960   35  131  443   45  125   22    0   19  103   37   54 .282 .335 .460 .795  111
 1961   36  107  323   33   84   16    2   11   61   38   44 .260 .336 .424 .760  101
 1962   37   74  105    7   34    2    0    5   18    5   13 .324 .357 .486 .843  122
 1963   38   41   49    3    6    0    0    3    7    6    6 .122 .218 .306 .524   44
Career     2075 7015 1040 1974  337   38  330 1402  988  988 .281 .370 .481 .851  126

Joe Adcock

This huge, strong free-swinger was trapped behind Ted Kluszewski in Cincinnati at the outset of his career. Then in Milwaukee he got the chance he deserved as a full-time first baseman, but every time he seemed ready to break out as a superstar slugger he’d get hurt.

Here we see a reasonably durable edition of Adcock, and he launches more than 400 missiles.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1950   22  102  372   46  109   16    1    8   55   24   24 .293 .336 .406 .742   94
 1951   23  133  458   52  124   22    4   12   62   28   36 .271 .313 .415 .728   93
 1952   24  148  538   63  152   31    6   17   73   36   67 .282 .327 .456 .783  115
 1953   25  157  590   71  168   33    6   18   80   42   82 .285 .334 .453 .787  108
 1954   26  133  500   73  154   27    5   23   87   44   58 .308 .365 .520 .885  134
 1955   27  145  527   77  148   27    2   30   93   50   80 .280 .343 .509 .851  128
 1956   28  144  527   87  153   28    2   42  116   39  104 .290 .339 .589 .928  150
 1957   29  139  497   67  139   27    3   29   87   39  108 .280 .332 .521 .853  132
 1958   30  145  522   67  147   25    2   32   92   37  102 .282 .329 .517 .846  128
 1959   31  149  545   72  158   24    2   34  103   47  101 .290 .346 .528 .874  137
 1960   32  138  514   55  153   21    4   25   91   46   86 .298 .354 .500 .854  139
 1961   33  152  562   77  160   20    0   35  108   59   94 .285 .354 .507 .861  132
 1962   34  136  461   58  117   15    1   33   92   57  103 .254 .336 .507 .843  126
 1963   35  121  434   45  110   12    1   23   77   50   83 .253 .330 .445 .775  115
 1964   36  118  366   39   98   13    0   21   64   48   61 .268 .352 .475 .827  139
 1965   37  122  349   30   84   14    0   14   47   37   74 .241 .315 .401 .716  105
 1966   38   83  231   33   63   10    3   18   48   31   48 .273 .355 .576 .931  167
Career     2264 7993 1012 2236  362   40  415 1374  714 1310 .280 .339 .491 .830  125
Fragilekaline

Al Kaline

It’s a measure of just what a phenomenal talent Kaline was that he achieved 3,000 hits and cruised into the Hall of Fame despite developing a nasty habit of getting hurt in his early 20s, and never managing to kick it.

Kaline never encountered the catastrophic, season-ending sort of injury, but he was the all-time undisputed king of the out-for-a-few-weeks sort of boo-boo. Among the bones he fractured were the jaw (1959), the collarbone (1962), the hand (1967), and the arm (1968), and in between he was forever wrenching this or spraining that.

Kaline was an exquisitely well-rounded talent. Few superstars in history have combined the ability to hit for average, with power, with strike zone discipline, and with elite-caliber right field defense as he did. While there was always someone else a little bit better than Kaline, it was only a little bit.

We won’t go so far as to imagine Aaron-like durability for Kaline. But had he just managed to sustain some reasonable manner of injury avoidance, the resulting career would likely have been something like this.

 Year  Age    G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1953   18   30   28    9    7    0    0    1    2    1    5 .250 .300 .357 .657   77
 1954   19  138  504   42  139   18    3    4   43   22   45 .276 .305 .347 .652   80
 1955   20  152  588  121  200   24    8   27  102   82   57 .340 .421 .546 .967  162
 1956   21  153  617   96  194   32   10   27  128   70   55 .314 .383 .530 .913  139
 1957   22  151  597   90  182   31    7   25  109   57   47 .305 .365 .505 .870  133
 1958   23  149  566  103  185   29    8   22   94   68   52 .327 .399 .519 .918  145
 1959   24  136  511   86  167   19    2   27   94   72   42 .327 .410 .530 .940  151
 1960   25  145  549   93  170   30    4   20   81   68   44 .309 .385 .490 .875  133
 1961   26  153  586  116  190   41    7   19   82   66   42 .324 .393 .515 .908  139
 1962   27  145  569  109  175   26    8   36  121   65   53 .308 .379 .569 .949  149
 1963   28  145  551   89  172   24    3   27  101   54   48 .312 .375 .514 .889  144
 1964   29  146  538   83  163   28    4   22   85   65   50 .303 .378 .492 .869  138
 1965   30  134  469   85  142   23    2   23   84   70   48 .302 .392 .511 .903  153
 1966   31  155  525   94  152   32    1   32   96   89   71 .290 .393 .535 .928  161
 1967   32  152  530  107  162   32    2   29   91   95   57 .305 .411 .541 .951  177
 1968   33  120  377   63  108   17    2   14   60   70   48 .287 .399 .455 .854  156
 1969   34  137  468   80  131   23    1   25   79   68   64 .280 .371 .492 .863  136
 1970   35  131  463   79  136   26    3   21   75   80   48 .293 .397 .495 .892  144
 1971   36  133  405   69  119   19    2   15   54   82   57 .294 .416 .462 .878  144
 1972   37  106  278   46   87   11    2   10   32   28   33 .313 .374 .475 .849  149
 1973   38   91  310   40   79   13    0   10   45   29   28 .255 .320 .394 .714   96
 1974   39  147  558   71  146   28    2   13   64   65   75 .262 .337 .389 .726  107
Career    2948 10585 1770 3206  525   80  449 1720 1364 1067 .303 .382 .495 .877  140 

References & Resources
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.

Print Friendly
 Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
« Previous: Do relief pitchers suffer from pitching back-to-back days?
Next: Anatomy of the A’s »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *