The Phelps Hypotheticals: Part 1

Ken Phelps was something of a cause celebre for Bill James back in the 1980s. Phelps wasn’t a great player by any means, but he had significant talent, and the manner in which that talent went persistently underappreciated by major league organizations drove James to distraction: Despite utterly destroying Triple-A, Phelps was never allowed to spend an entire season on a major league roster until he was 30 years old, and was never granted a chance to play as a major league regular.

Here’s the opening of James’ essay “The Ken Phelps All-Star Team” from the 1987 Baseball Abstract:

See, on the one hand you’ve got the Henry Cottos, and on the other hand, you’ve got your Ken Phelpses. If Henry Cotto is a major league ballplayer, I’m an airplane. Cotto is one of those guys who runs well and throws pretty decent, and one year he hit .270-something (in less than 150 at-bats, in Wrigley Field, with a secondary average of .164), so you get guys like Don Zimmer who will rave about this great young prospect and keep trading for him, so he’ll get about eight chances to play in the major leagues before they figure out he can’t hit. At first when he doesn’t hit they’ll say he just needs more playing time, and then they’ll say he needs to stop wiggling his elbows while the pitcher is in motion, and then they’ll say he needs to point his lead foot and learn to keep his weight back, and then they’ll say he needs to be more aggressive at the plate, and then they’ll say he needs to go back to wiggling his elbows. They always figure that if you can run and throw they’ll teach you to hit. Of course they can’t teach anybody to hit, but they always think they can, so they keep trying.

Then on the other hand you’ve got your Ken Phelpses. Ken Phelps has been a major league ballplayer since at least 1980, when he hit .294 with 128 walks and a slugging percentage close to .600 at AAA Omaha, a tough park for a hitter. Through 1985 he had 567 at-bats in the major leagues—one season’s worth—with 40 home runs and 92 RBI. The Mariners still didn’t want to let him play. See, the problem was that Chuck Cottier, in his day, was a Henry Cotto, a guy who could run and throw, but couldn’t play baseball. Most major league managers were those kind of guys. Ken Phelps, on the other hand, can’t run particularly well (though he isn’t exceptionally slow, either) and doesn’t throw well, and if you’re that kind of player and want to play major league ball you’d better go 7-for-20 in your first week in the majors, or they’ll decide it’s time to take another look at Henry Cotto. Ken Phelps in his first two shots at major league pitching went 3-for-26. Despite his limitations, the man is a major league player. He’s a major league player because he plays good defense at first base and has a secondary average over .500, so that he can both drive in and score runs.

So just how good was Ken Phelps, really? Had his management not been so blind to his assets and so fixated on his liabilities, and placed him in a regular role soon after arriving in the majors, just what might he have accomplished?

Based upon:

- Phelps’s actual major league stats
- His minor league stats
- The issue that a distinctly platooned player such as Phelps would suffer from the platoon disadvantage more frequently were he to play more often
- The balancing issue of the confidence- and timing-enhancing benefits of regular play

The following is my best estimate of what sort of a career Phelps would have forged had he been given a reasonable opportunity as a major league starting player. The lines in blue font are those I’ve adjusted, while the line in black (Phelps’s final season, at age 35) is actual.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  OPS+
 1980   25   48    6   11    2    0    2    6   11   12 .229 .371 .396 .767   110
 1981   26  220   18   49   13    6    8   38   24   73 .225 .302 .435 .737   112
 1982   27  461   90  130   18    3   35  113   92  117 .283 .402 .560 .962   158
 1983   28  524   77  129   28    6   30   89   67   94 .246 .331 .492 .823   120
 1984   29  474   80  114   16    1   35   84   96  118 .240 .367 .498 .866   139
 1985   30  301   51   67   10    1   23   59   66   83 .223 .362 .490 .852   131
 1986   31  468   92  114   20    4   34   90  116  128 .244 .394 .522 .916   146
 1987   32  460   93  119   19    2   37   92  112  106 .258 .403 .545 .948   144
 1988   33  464   82  118   19    1   35   82  105  101 .254 .392 .524 .916   153
 1989   34  287   41   69    7    0   13   45   51   69 .241 .355 .406 .761   116
 1990   35  120   10   18    2    0    1    6   22   21 .150 .280 .192 .472    36
Career     3827  640  938  154   23  251  702  760  922 .245 .370 .494 .865   134

He wouldn’t have been a major star, but we see a player at least within the lesser realm of stardom, a highly effective run producer for a period of several years. Instead of a major league career amounting to 1,854 at-bats, 123 homers and 313 RBIs, as Phelps actually contributed, we see a far more substantial imprint.

In his essay, James went on to name a long list of players, at all positions, who at some point in their careers had been underutilized or otherwise unnecessarily held back. He contended that, while rarely as blatantly as in the case of Phelps, examples abound of players capable of being productive regulars, perhaps even minor stars, but who instead became stuck in circumstances that left them in the minor leagues and/or in big league backup roles. Whether one agrees with James’ particular assessment or not, clearly it’s the case that history is full of careers that might, with a different break or two early on, have taken a much different, more fully elaborated shape than they actually did.

In this first installment of an occasionally recurring series, we’ll consider other Ken Phelps-like situations that have occurred over the years. We’ll take a career that was largely or entirely spent in a secondary role, and do our best to project what kind of performance that player would likely have presented had he been given a better shot as a regular. For our methodology, please see the References and Resources section below.

The Pre-Phelps Phelps

Don Mincher

His case wasn’t quite as extreme as that of Phelps, but Mincher had a remarkably similar skill profile, and he spent the first several years of his major league career stuck behind distinctly inferior players.

Washington had traded for Mincher at the beginning of the 1960 season, surrendering incumbent first baseman Roy Sievers in the exchange. This left the first base spot wide open; Mincher’s competitor for the starting role was 27-year-old defensive specialist Julio Becquer, who in 309 major league games sported a career OPS+ of 64. So even though Mincher was just 22, and had no experience as high as Triple-A, it was sensible for the Senators to give him a crack at the first base job.

They did, starting Mincher every day at first base over the first few weeks of the 1960 season. The raw rookie didn’t set the world on fire, but he wasn’t doing too badly; through 20 games he was hitting .236 in 72 at-bats, with four doubles, a triple, two homers and 11 walks. Nonetheless the Senators decided this wasn’t good enough: Mincher was abruptly benched and then sent to the minors.

Becquer was given the starting job, but he didn’t hit (gee, really?), and then Harmon Killebrew was moved over from third base to first, and light-hitting utility infielder Reno Bertoia was deployed as the regular third baseman. Meanwhile Mincher, despite hitting over .300 with power in Triple-A, wasn’t brought back up until late September, and then only for five pinch-hitting appearances.

For 1961, the Senators relocated to Minnesota, and renamed themselves the Twins. Mincher was given a fresh start as well, as the first-string first baseman in the season’s early weeks. The 23-year-old showed excellent power and remarkable strike zone judgment, with five homers and 22 walks (against just 11 strikeouts) in 101 at-bats. But his batting average was poor, and at the end of May the team again sent Mincher back to Triple-A.

Once again Killebrew was transferred from third to first, and in one of the truly most bizarre decisions in major league history, the Twins traded for a 31-year-old veteran light-hitting defensive specialist center fielder, Bill Tuttle, and undertook a mid-season conversion of Tuttle into a third baseman. Mincher blasted 24 homers in 370 Triple-A at-bats, but wasn’t even given a September call-up. The Twins finished at 70-90.

Not satisfied that they’d done everything possible to mishandle the situation, the Twins then traded their second-best pitcher, 27-year-old workhorse Pedro Ramos, to Cleveland for 34-year-old first baseman Vic Power. The veteran Power was a defensive wizard, but had never really swung a first baseman’s bat, and was coming off one of his least productive offensive seasons. With the Twins in 1962-63, Power’s hitting was consistently among the worst of any first baseman in the league, but he was deployed as the regular ahead of Mincher.

Limited to a pinch-hitting specialist/utility role, Mincher in 1962-63 nonetheless hit remarkably well, launching 26 home runs in just 346 at-bats, a rate comparable to that of the game’s elite sluggers. Minnesota finally discarded Power in early 1964, and Mincher’s playing time gradually increased over the next few seasons, but he was never used by the Twins as a true first-stringer.

Finally the Twins traded Mincher to the Angels, and in 1967, at the age of 29, he was for the first time given more than 500 plate appearances. Mincher made the All-Star team, and finished among the league’s top 10 in home runs, extra-base hits, runs scored, RBI, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, OPS+ and runs created.

Here we see a Mincher given the chance to play from the get-go, and producing a 300-homer career.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  OPS+
 1960   22  484   52  124   30    3   11   57   48   67 .257 .325 .400 .724    96
 1961   23  481   67  106   18    3   24   67   71   75 .220 .320 .414 .734    91
 1962   24  492   79  123   15    2   33   96   91   98 .249 .366 .487 .853   124
 1963   25  516   86  130   20    2   37   94   67  106 .252 .338 .512 .849   133
 1964   26  529   83  129   22    5   39   99   60   98 .244 .321 .523 .843   130
 1965   27  518   67  129   27    4   32   94   69  102 .249 .337 .500 .837   131
 1966   28  502   63  127   33    1   18   74   68   80 .252 .342 .429 .770   115
 1967   29  487   81  133   23    3   25   76   69   69 .273 .367 .487 .854   155
 1968   30  399   35   94   12    1   13   48   43   65 .236 .312 .368 .680   110
 1969   31  427   53  105   14    0   25   78   78   69 .246 .366 .454 .820   131
 1970   32  463   62  114   18    0   27   74   56   71 .246 .327 .460 .787   119
 1971   33  415   44  116   21    2   12   53   73   66 .280 .386 .427 .813   136
 1972   34  245   25   53   11    0    6   44   56   39 .216 .363 .335 .698   113
Career     5958  798 1482  262   25  301  954  848 1005 .249 .342 .453 .795   126

Buried in the Bronx

Bob Cerv

In 61*, Billy Crystal’s generally excellent movie about the Maris/Mantle 1961 Yankees, the Bob Cerv character is used more or less for comic relief, as Maris’ fellow cornball sidekick, a role player in every conceivable sense of the term. That bit works for the movie, but if modern fans otherwise unfamiliar with Cerv conclude that he wasn’t much of a ballplayer, they’re sadly misinformed.

Cerv was in fact a terrific athlete. A baseball and basketball star at the University of Nebraska, he was signed by the Yankees’ organization after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Education. (Cerv didn’t graduate college until the age of 24; I don’t know why but I strongly suspect he had spent a couple of years in military service after high school during World War II.) The Yankees immediately assigned Cerv to Triple-A; he would never play a professional inning below that level.

He was big, strong and fast, and he could really hit. In 1950-53 in the American Association, Cerv hit .304, .344, .297 and .317, with excellent home run power and a phenomenal production of triples: In 1950-51, in 774 Triple-A at-bats, Cerv legged out 34 three-baggers. But the Yankees in those years were overloaded with talent in the outfield, and Cerv got no more than cups of coffee at the big league level through 1953.

In 1954-56, he finally made the major league roster, but was used only in a very limited backup role, despite hitting extremely well. Finally in 1957, at the age of 31, Cerv was acquired by the Athletics and got his first chance at semi-regular big league play. He was only so-so that year, but in ’58 he broke through with a spectacular season: sixth in the league in batting average and triples; fifth in runs scored; fourth in home runs, RBIs, OPS, OPS+ and runs created; third in extra-base hits; and second in total bases and slugging. He was an All-Star, and finished fourth in the league’s MVP voting.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  OPS+
 1950   24   35    4    9    1    1    1    4    0    8 .257 .267 .428 .695    78
 1951   25  241   38   68   10    8   11   45   21   51 .283 .341 .520 .861   134
 1952   26  306   42   76   13    7   10   46   29   53 .249 .315 .433 .748   112
 1953   27  460   63  122   18    5   17   73   39   75 .266 .324 .437 .760   106
 1954   28  476   67  127   25    3   23   70   49   82 .268 .336 .475 .811   124
 1955   29  508   82  154   22    8   20  101   43   91 .303 .357 .498 .855   131
 1956   30  537   70  153   23   12   19   93   56   82 .284 .352 .481 .833   122
 1957   31  551   72  157   22    5   26   86   40   90 .285 .333 .485 .818   120
 1958   32  515   93  157   20    7   38  104   50   82 .305 .371 .592 .963   159
 1959   33  463   61  132   22    4   20   87   35   87 .285 .332 .479 .811   119
 1960   34  294   46   74   12    2   14   40   40   53 .252 .346 .449 .795   118
 1961   35  175   20   41    8    1    8   26   13   25 .234 .289 .429 .718    90
 1962   36   48    3    9    1    0    2    3    4   13 .188 .264 .333 .597    64
Career     4608  661 1279  197   62  209  778  420  791 .278 .338 .483 .821   122

“The Best Pinch Hitter in the Business”

Gates Brown

The Gator could hit. There was never any doubt about that. He also ran pretty well, or at least he did until his always-substantial weight really got out of hand.

But he was a poor defensive outfielder. And in the mid-1960s, the Detroit outfield grew increasingly crowded: Joining the great veteran Al Kaline was Willie Horton, and then Jim Northrup, and then Mickey Stanley. That made four guys worthy of regular play competing for three jobs, and Brown’s role became steadily marginalized, until he was reduced to just a pinch-hitting specialist.

Pinch-hitting is perhaps the most challenging task in the sport, and Brown struggled to perform consistently well at it. But he also enjoyed streaks of astounding success in the role, and was generally respected as the best in the game at that thankless job.

How well did Brown hit in 1968? The “Neutralize Stats” toy on baseball-reference.com allows us to easily convert his actual ’68 stat line to, say, a guy playing in the 2000 National League, with his home games at Coors Field. When we do that, and then project Brown to, say, 540 at-bats, here’s what we get: 50 doubles, 15 triples, and 45 home runs. Ninety walks, 20 strikeouts, 255 hits. A .472 batting average, a .548 on-base percentage and an .870 slugging average.

The Gator could hit.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  OPS+
 1963   24   82   16   22    3    1    2   14    8   13 .268 .333 .402 .735   103
 1964   25  426   65  116   22    6   15   54   31   53 .272 .326 .458 .784   114
 1965   26  472   70  122   26    4   20   83   37   65 .259 .314 .461 .774   117
 1966   27  474   74  125   18    3   20   80   46   58 .263 .329 .442 .771   118
 1967   28  501   78  125   16    5   18   68   58   63 .249 .327 .406 .733   113
 1968   29  505   77  139   21    6   21   71   56   56 .275 .348 .463 .811   142
 1969   30  441   64  110   14    5   14   56   43   58 .250 .316 .400 .716    97
 1970   31  426   63  106   12    3   14   66   52   51 .249 .330 .388 .718    97
 1971   32  369   63  111    7    4   17   56   42   37 .301 .372 .484 .856   138
 1972   33  365   50   87    9    1   14   47   38   42 .239 .311 .385 .695   104
 1973   34  377   48   89   11    1   12   50   52   41 .236 .328 .366 .694    90
 1974   35   99    7   24    2    0    4   17   10   15 .242 .312 .384 .696    97
 1975   36   35    1    6    2    0    1    3    9    6 .171 .356 .314 .670    88
Career     4572  676 1182  162   40  172  664  482  558 .258 .329 .424 .754   111

Backups to Legendary Backstops

Here are a couple of guys interesting to consider in this regard, not because they necessarily had underappreciated skills, but simply for the fact that they found themselves fulfilling roles in which “almost never play” was pretty much item number one on the job description. While not quite as challenging as the pinch-hitting specialist task, backing up a durable catcher isn’t a piece of cake either: Rarely getting into the lineup renders getting into any kind of a hitting groove nearly impossible, especially while handling the most demanding defensive responsibility of any position player.

These two fellows found themselves as cross-town contemporaries, serving as understudies to all-time greats. Just what kind of career might each have presented if he’d been on a roster that allowed him the chance to be the main guy?

Charlie Silvera

Among his many other virtues, Yogi Berra was one of the most durable catchers of all time, a fact this guy could be excused for finding rather frustrating. Silvera got a small chance to play in his first full season—58 games, 149 plate appearances—but that small chance looked huge compared to the seasons that followed: Over the next eight years, he appeared in 165 games, and came to bat 388 times, total, for an average of 21 games and 49 plate appearances per season. I suspect it’s small consolation that he likely caught thousands of innings in the bullpen.

Here we take a gander at how Silvera might have done in a prominent role. He had no power at all, but he was a genuinely good on-base guy, and likely would have delivered several years of competent service as a first-string catcher.

I went to elementary school and high school with Silvera’s nephew, who was, not surprisingly, a great athlete, the star point guard and shortstop.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  OPS+
 1948   23   84    5   29    1    1    0    8    9    4 .349 .413 .385 .798   114
 1949   24  350   24  108    7    1    1   35   42   16 .309 .383 .343 .726    93
 1950   25  264   21   75    8    1    2   27   26   15 .284 .347 .343 .689    79
 1951   26  424   35  116   16    0    3   53   41   23 .274 .338 .333 .671    85
 1952   27  444   40  127   20    1    2   68   41   23 .285 .346 .349 .695    99
 1953   28  478   42  136   18    3    1   69   50   28 .284 .352 .335 .687    88
 1954   29  363   20   93    9    1    0   37   48   35 .257 .343 .286 .628    76
 1955   30  337   15   74    6    1    0   20   57   46 .221 .334 .243 .576    59
 1956   31  125    3   28    4    0    0    7   15   14 .224 .307 .256 .563    53
 1957   32   88    2   18    3    0    0    3   12   12 .205 .300 .239 .539    49
Career     2956  208  804   90    9    9  325  340  216 .272 .347 .317 .664    81

Rube Walker

Roy Campanella wasn’t as durable as Berra, so Walker saw more in-game action with the Dodgers than Silvera did with the Yankees, but still he didn’t play very much. His offensive profile was the mirror image of Silvera’s: Walker had some pop in his bat, but was very poor at getting on base, either with singles or walks. He was, to be candid, really not a good enough hitter to have justified much regular play.

Walker became a pitching coach, and in that role with the Mets of the late 1960s and early 1970s he played a significant part in the development of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw and Nolan Ryan.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  OPS+
 1948   22  257   23   68   10    1    7   37   29   26 .265 .338 .383 .721    98
 1949   23  343   27   85   11    1    8   41   28   40 .248 .305 .357 .663    79
 1950   24  411   34   96   14    2   10   36   33   60 .235 .292 .350 .642    69
 1951   25  403   32   97   18    1    8   37   34   59 .241 .300 .348 .648    72
 1952   26  394   26   99   22    0    7   45   28   50 .250 .300 .355 .655    80
 1953   27  391   24   93   23    0    9   46   32   46 .238 .295 .366 .661    70
 1954   28  353   23   77   18    0   10   45   36   39 .218 .290 .354 .645    66
 1955   29  305   18   69   14    1    7   41   23   34 .225 .279 .343 .622    62
 1956   30  252   12   54   11    1    5   34   14   34 .214 .256 .321 .577    50
 1957   31  166   12   30    8    0    2   23   15   33 .181 .249 .265 .514    32
 1958   32   44    3    5    2    0    1    7    5   10 .114 .200 .227 .427    12
Career     3319  233  773  150    6   73  391  277  431 .233 .292 .347 .639    69

Caddy to Stan the Man

Joe Cunningham

The Cardinals of the 1950s made a series of odd decisions regarding talent deployment, and their handling of this guy is Exhibit A.

In 1954, Cunningham stepped in mid-season and won the starting first base job, hitting well at age 22 despite just 66 games of Triple-A experience. Nevertheless, the Cards couldn’t figure out anything better to do with Cunningham in 1955 except send him back to the minors, and leave him there for two full seasons.

Finally in 1957 they brought Cunningham back up. However, one of the primary modes in which manager Fred Hutchinson deployed him was as the late-inning replacement for veteran superstar Stan Musial. In 1957, Cunningham entered 27 games as a pinch-runner and/or defensive replacement, and started only 64 times. In this limited opportunity, Cunningham delivered the second-best batting average on the team (behind only Musial), the best on-base percentage (obviously ahead of Musial), and the fourth-best slugging average.

This outstanding offensive performance wasn’t enough to convince Hutchinson to significantly enhance Cunningham’s role for 1958, as again he was extensively used as Musial’s caddy. Despite producing the best OPS on the team, it wasn’t until September of 1958 that Cunningham was put into the starting lineup as frequently as 80% of the time.

In 1959, for the first time the Cardinals gave Cunningham enough plate appearances to qualify for the league leaders (though he was never made a true full-time regular), and he led the league in OBP, was second in batting average and walks, finished sixth in OPS and OPS+, made the All-Star team and was 13th in MVP votes.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  OPS+
 1954   22  310   40   88   11    3   11   50   43   40 .284 .375 .445 .820   113
 1955   23  417   59  101   15    3    8   55   64   60 .241 .342 .350 .693    85
 1956   24  463   67  125   22    8    8   58   81   60 .270 .378 .402 .781   111
 1957   25  513   89  157   28    2   14   85  101   57 .305 .419 .448 .868   133
 1958   26  556   95  169   32    5   16   85  121   47 .304 .428 .465 .893   133
 1959   27  542   78  183   32    7    9   71  103   56 .337 .443 .469 .911   138
 1960   28  526   73  148   30    3    7   43   65   63 .281 .360 .388 .748    99
 1961   29  490   86  141   20    3   10   62   83   50 .288 .391 .404 .795   104
 1962   30  526   91  155   32    7    8   70  101   59 .295 .410 .428 .838   127
 1963   31  210   32   60   12    1    1   31   33   23 .286 .388 .367 .755   116
 1964   32  234   28   54   11    0    0   17   37   28 .231 .348 .278 .626    78
 1965   33  201   29   46    9    1    3   20   46   27 .229 .375 .328 .703   103
 1966   34    8    0    1    0    0    0    0    0    1 .125 .125 .125 .250   -27
Career     4996  768 1426  253   42   95  647  878  570 .285 .392 .410 .802   115

Sweet-Swinging Oscar

Oscar Gamble

Gamble was a very talented player. Perhaps he was a bit too talented, to the degree that his athletic gifts prompted him to be rushed to the major leagues before he was really ready. As a result, Gamble’s progress stalled, and after being hailed as a coming star in 1970 he’d been demoted to a strict backup role by 1972.

Thus when Gamble broke through as a standout hitter in 1973, even though he was only 23 it was his fifth season in the majors, and he’d already gained the label of part-time/platoon player, not worthy of regular status. No matter how well Gamble subsequently hit—and he always hit well, and sometimes hit exceptionally well—no team ever decided, the hell with it, let’s see what this guy could do with 500 at-bats.

Our version here gets 500 at-bats a few times, and he delivers seven seasons of more than 20 homers, and even a 100-ribbie campaign.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  OPS+
 1969   19   71    6   16    1    1    1    5   10   12 .225 .321 .310 .631    69
 1970   20  275   31   72   12    4    1   19   27   37 .262 .330 .345 .675    84
 1971   21  280   24   62   11    1    6   23   21   35 .221 .275 .332 .607    72
 1972   22  320   42   79   11    4    8   33   39   35 .248 .329 .377 .706    98
 1973   23  494   71  131   15    4   22   56   47   49 .266 .329 .450 .779   116
 1974   24  531   86  152   19    5   23   68   57   59 .287 .356 .468 .824   137
 1975   25  501   81  129   21    4   23   66   68   55 .258 .347 .451 .798   125
 1976   26  408   52   95   16    2   18   64   48   46 .233 .313 .410 .723   112
 1977   27  547   92  156   27    3   36  103   71   70 .286 .368 .542 .910   145
 1978   28  511   63  135   20    4   11   65   68   61 .264 .351 .384 .735   113
 1979   29  427   73  140   17    2   26   93   71   45 .329 .425 .563 .987   167
 1980   30  379   67  103   17    3   23   75   55   43 .271 .364 .512 .875   140
 1981   31  263   34   65   12    1   12   37   45   32 .246 .357 .434 .791   129
 1982   32  406   63  111   25    3   22   69   69   58 .273 .379 .509 .887   144
 1983   33  243   35   59   11    2   12   40   38   32 .241 .343 .452 .794   121
 1984   34  199   27   38    5    0   12   37   42   29 .191 .332 .394 .726   104
 1985   35  148   20   30    5    0    4   20   34   22 .203 .353 .318 .671    83
Career     6001  866 1574  244   42  258  873  810  720 .262 .350 .446 .796   123 

References & Resources
Methodology

Conceptually, the approach here is very similar to that employed in the Mickey Vernon Gaps. I allowed myself more than a little artistic license. However, I did require myself to stick to some basic rules:

- I couldn’t just make stuff up; all adjusted stats had to start with the particular player’s actual stat lines, either major league or, as appropriate, minor league.
- In most cases, the stats from the season being adjusted were 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 could start earlier than it did, or end later than it did.

I’ve endeavored to create a new version of each player’s career that’s a plausible representation of his maximized major league career.

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

The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1987, New York: Ballantine, 1987, page 233.

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