The Phelps hypotheticals (Volume 2)

A few months ago, we introduced the concept of examining the careers of players who, for whatever reason, had major league careers that were less extensive than warranted by their talent. These players either were inordinately delayed in gaining a major league job, and/or were deployed in a less regular role than they plausibly might have been. Our intent in this series is to do our best to imagine what sort of career such a player would likely have achieved, had he been given a substantial chance at regular play.

Our methodology is outlined in the References and Resources section below. All adjusted stat lines appear in blue, all actuals are in black.

The line drive machine

Manny Mota

He became famed primarily for his legendary pinch-hitting prowess, with the Dodgers in the 1970s. But Señor Mota had been hitting up a storm in a semi-regular fourth outfielder role for the Pirates since the mid-1960s.

It took a pretty darn good ballplayer to gain semi-regular fourth outfielder status on that Pittsburgh roster, which had future Hall of Famers in Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell handling right field and left, plus defensive wizard Bill Virdon, and then batting-average-wonder Matty Alou, in center field. The young Mota was a good defensive outfielder, with even enough fielding aptitude to help out at third base or second base as needed, and at the plate he simply put the ball in play with calm, hard authority.

Mota was a student of the game in the classic sense: He was never satisfied, always working hard, and steadily, relentlessly improving. He was a better hitter in his late 20s than he had been in his mid-20s, and still a better hitter in his early-to-mid 30s. And as he further aged, and lost his speed and defensive skill, Mota’s capacity to turn any pitch into a hissing dart didn’t recede in the least.

If you never saw him, you missed one of the rarest of pleasures, though for us Giants fans it was a bitter-edged pleasure. Mota was always in shape, never rotund like Tony Gwynn, but otherwise Mota at bat was a right-handed version of Gwynn: perfectly balanced, impeccably confident and at ease, seeming to cause each pitch to slow down and place itself on a tee smack in the center of his hitting zone, making utterly pure contact with negligible apparent effort.

Had Mota found himself early in his career on a ball club with less talent ahead of him, it’s entirely likely he’d have earned himself a starting role, and a career something along the lines of what we see here would likely have ensued. He wouldn’t be Hall of Fame worthy by any means, but Mota would have been celebrated as a minor star, and probably would have made more than one All-Star team.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1962   24  183   30   42    7    2    2   14   15   19 .230 .288 .322 .610   66
 1963   25  273   40   71    5    4    2   16   16   38 .260 .301 .330 .631   81
 1964   26  436   69  120   11    7    6   45   21   52 .276 .309 .374 .683   92
 1965   27  489   79  141   15    9    7   54   33   52 .289 .335 .402 .737  106
 1966   28  617  100  196   25   13    9   84   42   64 .317 .360 .444 .804  123
 1967   29  602   88  190   24   12    6   87   32   64 .315 .349 .425 .775  120
 1968   30  541   62  160   16    6    3   58   33   43 .297 .337 .364 .701  112
 1969   31  587   67  183   13    7    4   49   50   51 .311 .365 .378 .744  114
 1970   32  528   74  162   16    8    3   48   56   46 .307 .373 .386 .759  108
 1971   33  475   55  149   20    8    2   56   39   33 .313 .365 .402 .768  124
 1972   34  427   63  138   18    6    5   54   32   18 .322 .369 .427 .796  128
 1973   35  368   42  115   14    3    1   39   31   16 .311 .365 .367 .732  108
 1974   36  192   17   58    9    3    0   33   15   14 .303 .354 .373 .727  108
 1975   37  235   32   73    9    3    3   34   19    9 .311 .362 .403 .765  116
 1976   38  199   18   61    9    1    0   25   20   11 .307 .369 .360 .729  110
 1977   39  126   15   43    4    1    1   11   18    4 .338 .419 .406 .825  123
 1978   40   92    9   28    3    0    0   11    8    6 .310 .365 .354 .719  103
 1979   41   42    1   15    0    0    0    3    3    4 .357 .400 .357 .757  110
 1980   42    7    0    3    0    0    0    2    0    0 .429 .429 .429 .858  143
 1982   44    1    0    0    0    0    0    0    0    0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100
Career     6419  860 1947  219   91   54  722  480  544 .303 .352 .391 .743  111

Big-hitting backup catchers

Most second-string catchers, in every era, have been of the give-us-that-solid-defense-and-anything-you-hit-is-a-bonus variety. These two marched to an entirely different drummer.

Johnny Blanchard

He wasn’t a well-rounded talent, to be sure. Blanchard was a poor defensive catcher (and a poor outfielder when they used him out there), and as hitter he wasn’t good at anything except lofting high flies down the right field line. Fortunately for him, that singular skill is particularly valuable to a team desiring to win baseball games, especially when it plays half of its games in a ballpark with a sign in the right field corner reading “296.”

Had the Yankees in his era not been as extraordinarily rich in catching talent as they were (hello, Yogi Berra and Elston Howard), Blanchard’s power likely would have gained him first-string status. A career along the lines we see below would have been the result: an impactful player, and a fleeting star.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1955   22    3    0    0    0    0    0    0    1    0 .000 .250 .000 .250  -27
 1956   23   43    5    9    1    0    1    5    5    5 .209 .292 .302 .594   60
 1957   24  218   30   58    8    1    7   37   11   11 .266 .301 .408 .710   95
 1958   25  369   50   91   14    3    9   55   29   26 .247 .302 .374 .675   89
 1959   26  359   40   81   10    1   18   54   41   53 .226 .305 .409 .714   97
 1960   27  417   40  101   13    3   19   60   32   70 .241 .295 .425 .720   98
 1961   28  489   67  136   18    2   34   94   50   63 .277 .344 .534 .878  137
 1962   29  440   58  107   13    0   27   78   50   57 .243 .320 .458 .779  110
 1963   30  408   44   94   11    0   26   78   50   56 .231 .316 .450 .766  114
 1964   31  302   31   71   12    0   14   50   41   43 .236 .328 .411 .739  103
 1965   32  229   18   44    5    0    6   25   25   29 .193 .273 .297 .570   63
Career     3276  383  792  103   11  162  536  335  413 .242 .312 .428 .740  103

Cliff Johnson

Everything about Johnson was extreme. He was extremely big, and extremely strong. He looked extremely tough, as grittily tough as an old leather glove left outside for weeks in the dusty midsummer San Antonio sun.

Johnson was an extremely poor defensive catcher, and an extremely powerful hitter. As his career progressed, it continued to puzzle me why no team just said, forget about him being a catcher, let’s just put him at first base/DH, and let the opposition deal with him for 500 at-bats a year.

It never happened, but we see here what it might have looked like if it had. Johnson wouldn’t have been a significant star, but he’d have caused many an opposing pitcher to become extremely fed up with him.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1972   24   35    5    8    1    0    1    5    5    7 .229 .325 .343 .668   92
 1973   25  265   51   69   14    1   14   55   28   66 .260 .331 .479 .810  123
 1974   26  430   69  106   15    2   25   79   69  103 .247 .351 .465 .816  132
 1975   27  539   79  141   25    2   30   98   83  108 .261 .360 .479 .839  139
 1976   28  482   60  117   30    2   20   79   87   90 .243 .359 .439 .798  135
 1977   29  501   73  134   29    1   32   86   81   93 .268 .370 .518 .888  143
 1978   30  327   43   72   17    1   16   47   51   58 .220 .326 .423 .749  112
 1979   31  478   71  120   23    1   28   94   60   76 .251 .335 .476 .811  117
 1980   32  485   71  117   16    1   23   87   66   86 .240 .332 .422 .753  105
 1981   33  342   48   87   11    0   20   70   37   73 .255 .328 .459 .787  131
 1982   34  362   38   89   16    0   15   59   45   70 .245 .329 .412 .741  107
 1983   35  514   71  137   29    1   26   93   81   89 .267 .366 .480 .846  126
 1984   36  473   66  140   29    1   21   81   66   81 .297 .383 .498 .881  138
 1985   37  439   45  115   21    1   16   78   50   71 .263 .339 .425 .764  107
 1986   38  336   48   84   12    1   15   55   52   57 .250 .355 .426 .781  110
Career     6008  839 1537  288   16  300 1065  861 1127 .256 .349 .459 .808  123
Unusual utility infielders

Even more than backup catchers, backup middle infielders tend to be chosen for the role not on what they can deliver with the bat, but for their mastery of the glove. It’s not typical to find utility infielders with something special to offer in the offensive half of the inning, but that was the case with each of the following four.

Tommy Brown

Few careers in major league history were as weird as his.

At age 16, Tommy Brown wasn’t quite the youngest major league player of all time, but he was the youngest ever to play an on extended basis in a regular role, as the day-in, day-out Dodger shortstop over the final month-and-a-half of the wartime 1944 season. He was egregiously overmatched, but play he did, and the following season, after 85 games in AAA, Brooklyn again promoted Brown, and again put him in the everyday shortstop role. This time, though frightfully error-prone in the field, the teenager managed to more or less hold his own at the plate, displaying a hint of power.

But at the war’s end, just as everyone else was being mustered out of military service, Brown was drafted in. He spent all of the 1946 season and most of 1947 under the direction of Uncle Sam. But upon Brown’s return, Branch Rickey’s Dodger organization didn’t make what would seem to be the obvious move with this talented-but-raw youngster, and send him to the minors to gain playing experience. Instead, they kept him on the big league roster, but deployed him in a backup third baseman role through 1948.

Then the Dodgers gave up on Brown’s ability to make it as a major league infielder, though they’d given him just 49 games at third base in 1947-48. (Brown’s nickname was “Buckshot,” which implies a powerful but scattershot throwing arm.) For the following two seasons, Brooklyn deployed Brown strictly as a backup left fielder, and as a pinch-hitting specialist. Though this was a highly questionable manner of using a 21-22-year-old with clearly impressive potential, Brown thrived in the role, delivering both a high batting average and extraordinary home run power in his limited chances.

Finally in June of 1951 the Phillies rescued Brown from the back end of the Dodger bench. In Philadelphia in 1951, and then with the Cubs in ’52, Brown was used in more extensive infielder-outfielder utility roles. Again he demonstrated impressive ability with the bat, but still, through the age of 24 no one had decided to give this young athlete an opportunity to play regularly for a full major league season.

Then something went wrong for Brown. I don’t know whether he got hurt, or if he had issues with conditioning or drinking or something, but in 1953 at the age of 25 Brown hit poorly for Chicago, and would never hit well again. The Cubs farmed him out in 1954, but his hitting in AAA was so mediocre that by mid-1955 he was demoted further, to the AA Southern Association. Brown played the rest of his career in that league, doing okay but not good enough to be a star even at that level. His final pro season was 1959, at the age of 31.

Here we envision what might have happened if Brown had been given the opportunity to play as a major league regular. We can’t avoid the sudden and early decline, but for a while there this was a young player with unusual power.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1944   16  146   17   24    4    0    0    8    8   17 .164 .208 .192 .400   14
 1945   17  196   13   48    3    4    2   19    6   16 .245 .267 .332 .599   67
 1947   19   34    3    8    1    0    0    2    1    6 .235 .257 .265 .522   37
 1948   20  341   44   88    9    0    6   50   18   40 .257 .293 .336 .630   68
 1949   21  440   68  127   10    1   18   86   33   43 .289 .339 .441 .779  104
 1950   22  544   84  149   12    4   35  110   54   56 .273 .339 .503 .842  116
 1951   23  507   67  130   15    3   25   82   45   57 .256 .317 .446 .762  103
 1952   24  503   59  137   21    1   14   64   37   59 .273 .322 .398 .720   98
 1953   25  351   43   83   17    1    6   36   30   50 .238 .298 .345 .643   66
 1954   26  251   27   56   10    0    5   24   23   48 .224 .287 .329 .617   60
 1955   27   20    2    4    0    0    1    2    1    3 .200 .238 .350 .588   54
Career     3333  427  854  102   14  113  477  254  395 .256 .309 .396 .705   89

Bobby Hofman

The ability to reliably pull lazy fly balls to a distance of 300 feet may not be a particularly impressive feat of batting skill, but it was nevertheless a splendid attribute when one’s home ballpark was the Polo Grounds. Hofman was an otherwise unremarkable backup second baseman who, in his mid-to-late 20s, perfected the art of the cheap Polo Grounds homer; in his 670 major league at-bats he lofted 32 home runs, 20 of them at home. Cheap as they may have been, each counted for precisely as much on the scoreboard as any tape-measure moonshot.

What if the Giants had had room in their infield to make Hofman a regular? Likely they’d have suffered defensively, but at least for a few years, they’d have received quite a bit of run production from this 5-foot-11, 175-pound infielder.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1949   23   48    4   10    0    0    0    3    5    6 .208 .296 .208 .504   37
 1950   24  446   54  119   20    6   10   56   31   49 .266 .314 .408 .722   87
 1951   25  504   65  128   20    3   10   63   54   56 .254 .325 .365 .690   84
 1952   26  524   75  141   20    9   21   67   54   72 .269 .337 .463 .800  119
 1953   27  538   70  141   21    7   32   96   53   74 .261 .328 .508 .836  112
 1954   28  506   60  124   20    3   31  103   57   67 .245 .321 .480 .801  105
 1955   29  484   55  116   15    3   20   64   54   69 .239 .316 .404 .719   90
 1956   30  216   18   48    6    1    5   18   23   32 .220 .296 .325 .620   68
 1957   31   30    1    5    1    0    0    1    3    5 .167 .242 .183 .426   17
Career     3296  401  830  122   31  130  471  334  429 .252 .321 .426 .747   96

Felix Mantilla

If he’s remembered today at all, Mantilla seems to be regarded as a vaguely comic figure, a loser: the guy whose throwing error in the bottom of the 12th inning allowed the pennant-winning run to score in the National League playoff in 1959, and who then became a prominent member of the hapless 1962 New York Mets.

Mantilla was, in fact, a good ballplayer. In his early 20s, he was a highly regarded infield prospect with the late 1950s Milwaukee Braves. Those Braves were rich in talent, and had no place for Mantilla except as a utility player through 1958. But in 1959, their veteran star second baseman Red Schoendienst was stricken with tuberculosis, and here was Mantilla’s big chance to step forward as a regular.

Alas, the 24-year-old Mantilla utterly flopped, falling prey to The Mother of All Hitting Slumps. As of early August, Mantilla’s batting average was a sickly .165; he would perk up over the season’s final couple of months, but his inopportune 1959 failure affixed Mantilla’s status with the Braves as a utility man; he would remain with Milwaukee through 1961, but never get another chance as a starter.

Finally getting to play regularly with the Mets in ’62, Mantilla did well, but his solid performance was overlooked amid the gosh-the-Mets-are-terrible hilarity. He was then traded to the Red Sox, and placed again in a backup role, but his hitting was now so robust that he muscled his way into a regular job by mid-1964. Mantilla’s Boston success was muted by the fact that the Red Sox were a bad team overall in that period, and his sudden power-hitting prowess was dismissed as a Fenway Park illusion. Certainly Mantilla took full advantage of The Green Monster, but the fact is he had matured into an excellent all-around hitter.

But good luck was never something Mantilla could count upon, and now he was traded to Houston, whose home ballpark was the hitter-unfriendly Astrodome. In a utility role again in 1966, Mantilla didn’t do badly, but the offensive conditions stifled his numbers (Mantilla’s road OPS in 1966 was .756; at home, .527). The Astros released Mantilla; the Cubs picked him up, but in spring training of 1967 he tore up a knee, and his big league career was finished.

Here we see a Mantilla who gets an earlier chance at regular status, and thus is allowed to play through the 1959 slump. He wasn’t a great player, but Mantilla’s bat was quite good for a middle infielder.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1956   21   53    9   15    1    1    0    3    1    8 .283 .309 .340 .649   79
 1957   22  250   37   61   11    1    6   29   20   43 .243 .300 .374 .674   86
 1958   23  497   73  121   15    2   16   52   46   55 .243 .307 .377 .683   87
 1959   24  484   53  118   14    2    9   49   35   57 .244 .294 .333 .627   73
 1960   25  575   76  151   24    2   14   59   40   66 .263 .311 .385 .695   95
 1961   26  524   71  128   18    1   13   51   52   76 .245 .313 .359 .672   83
 1962   27  574   68  156   21    4   15   72   47   65 .272 .330 .400 .730   94
 1963   28  556   81  165   24    2   23   63   55   52 .298 .362 .470 .831  129
 1964   29  532   83  155   24    1   34   78   55   59 .291 .357 .530 .887  139
 1965   30  534   60  147   17    2   18   92   79   84 .275 .374 .416 .790  120
 1966   31  286   34   68   10    1   10   39   24   50 .239 .297 .386 .683   95
Career     4865  646 1285  178   19  157  586  454  614 .264 .327 .406 .733  101

Bob Johnson

No, this isn’t Indian Bob; this is one of three other Bob Johnsons to have played major league ball. Perhaps you’ve never heard of this guy, as he is rather obscure, but this was a utility infielder who swung a mean bat. In a backup role, one season he batted .295 in a league that hit .253, and in another he posted a .348 average in a .256-hitting league. And he wasn’t just a slap hitter, either; Johnson hit the ball hard. In the only year in which he played even semi-regularly over a full season, Johnson hit .288 with 12 homers.

But following that one moment of regular prominence, Johnson was traded to Baltimore. The Orioles had an infield set of Brooks Robinson at third base, Luis Aparicio at shortstop, and Jerry Adair at second: one of the very best defensive infields in the history of the game. Johnson had no shot at a regular job, and he was branded as a utility player from that point forward.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1960   24  146   12   30    4    0    1    9   19   23 .205 .301 .253 .554   52
 1961   25  361   42  102   18    1    9   39   31   43 .282 .339 .412 .751  101
 1962   26  466   58  134   20    2   12   43   32   50 .288 .334 .416 .750  102
 1963   27  541   64  152   22    2   14   65   34   76 .280 .323 .404 .726  104
 1964   28  526   60  137   22    3   11   64   29   78 .260 .298 .375 .673   86
 1965   29  490   57  117   21    3    8   49   28   68 .239 .279 .342 .622   75
 1966   30  320   33   82   12    2    4   28   21   45 .256 .302 .343 .645   87
 1967   31  444   45  131   14    4    6   40   27   58 .296 .336 .382 .718  107
 1968   32  297   25   84    7    2    2   23   16   32 .282 .319 .337 .656   97
 1969   33  139   11   38    2    0    3   13    8   11 .275 .313 .345 .657   87
 1970   34   75    8   17    1    0    2    5    5    4 .223 .267 .305 .572   61
Career     3805  415 1023  143   19   70  379  249  488 .269 .314 .371 .685   92
The Virtue of Persistence

Here are three fellows who found themselves entrenched in utility roles early in their careers, and who might well have never emerged beyond that. But all three persevered and enjoyed much better second career halves, and interestingly, in their mid-to-late-30s wound up as Baltimore Orioles teammates.

John Lowenstein

Lowenstein didn’t have star talent, but he was the kind of guy who could do a little bit of everything. He could handle just about any position on the field defensively, had decent power, nice strike zone discipline, and ran the bases quite well. But he wasn’t much of a hitter for average, at least not consistently. In the one season Lowenstein was given the opportunity to play every day, he didn’t hit his best, and he was quickly re-cast as a role player.

Lowenstein kept on delivering solid contributions off the bench, and into his 30s his power improved. Toward the end of his career he turned in a couple of outstanding seasons as a platoon player.

Here we see Lowenstein as more or less a full-career platoon player, a capacity in which he would have created a lot of value.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1970   23   43    5   11    3    1    1    6    1    9 .256 .273 .442 .715   90
 1971   24  140   15   26    5    0    4    9   16   28 .186 .269 .307 .576   58
 1972   25  297   34   67   15    1   10   36   34   67 .226 .305 .379 .684  101
 1973   26  457   60  123   22    2   10   58   41   75 .270 .330 .394 .724  102
 1974   27  508   65  123   14    2    8   48   53   85 .242 .313 .325 .638   85
 1975   28  470   65  110   11    2   15   49   50   61 .234 .307 .360 .668   89
 1976   29  383   56   84   13    3    8   30   44   58 .220 .300 .327 .627   85
 1977   30  304   47   69   12    3    7   26   46   54 .227 .329 .356 .684   90
 1978   31  319   52   75   14    4   11   39   58   56 .233 .351 .405 .756  113
 1979   32  401   69  104   17    4   16   60   68   69 .259 .367 .440 .807  121
 1980   33  447   73  125   18    1   15   62   66   73 .280 .373 .423 .797  120
 1981   34  348   51   97   14    1   14   47   48   58 .279 .367 .439 .807  132
 1982   35  475   90  144   21    3   30   89   75   86 .302 .397 .547 .945  157
 1983   36  412   69  115   18    2   20   76   64   75 .280 .376 .481 .857  137
 1984   37  270   34   64   13    0    8   28   33   54 .237 .319 .374 .693   93
 1985   38   26    0    2    0    0    0    2    2    3 .077 .138 .077 .215  -38
Career     5300  785 1339  209   29  175  664  699  911 .253 .340 .402 .742  109

Lee Lacy

Perhaps no other player in history demonstrated such remarkable broad-based improvement over the course of a career. Lacy didn’t produce a single home run in his first three years in the majors; a few years later he blasted 13 in 245 at-bats. Lacy didn’t achieve his 40th career stolen base until age 32; at age 34 he stole 40 in 121 games. Lacy’s career batting average through age 31 was .268; he then hit over .300 in four of the next five seasons.

But while Lacy’s improvement was genuine, even in his 20s he was a solid, multi-talented player. Had he not become stuck behind Davey Lopes early in his career, and wrapped in the utility-man label, Lacy would likely have delivered a career something along these lines: nearly 2,000 hits, and quite possibly an All-Star team or two.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1972   24  243   34   63    7    3    0   12   19   37 .259 .312 .313 .625   80
 1973   25  293   38   71   10    1    0   20   23   60 .241 .297 .283 .581   65
 1974   26  222   31   60   10    1    2   22   15   38 .270 .316 .349 .666   90
 1975   27  460   66  138   19    6    8   56   29   49 .301 .342 .418 .760  115
 1976   28  499   67  138   17    4    8   55   33   43 .276 .320 .374 .694   95
 1977   29  468   64  124   22    4   15   60   36   50 .266 .318 .425 .743   98
 1978   30  552   69  143   30    7   23   72   55   80 .259 .326 .460 .785  118
 1979   31  482   59  135   30    8   17   57   54   72 .279 .351 .476 .827  120
 1980   32  582   81  171   35    9   13   53   54   84 .294 .355 .452 .807  122
 1981   33  322   50   92   17    5    4   21   21   44 .287 .331 .412 .743  108
 1982   34  566   96  171   26    6    7   41   45   84 .302 .353 .408 .761  110
 1983   35  574   86  177   26    5   10   46   44   77 .309 .359 .423 .782  114
 1984   36  527   73  168   28    4   13   74   36   69 .318 .362 .458 .820  130
 1985   37  492   69  144   22    4    9   48   39   95 .293 .343 .409 .752  108
 1986   38  491   77  141   18    0   11   47   37   71 .287 .334 .391 .725   98
 1987   39  258   35   63   13    3    7   28   32   49 .244 .326 .399 .725   94
Career     7032  996 1999  331   69  145  711  573 1002 .284 .338 .413 .751  108

Jim Dwyer

For the longest time, even a utility role was highly elusive for Dwyer; his status was so marginal that by the age of 27 he’d been traded three times, sent back to the minors, and released.

He never would establish himself as even a semi-regular major leaguer, with a career high of 260 at-bats. But in his 30s Dwyer delivered a solid decade as one of the most reliably productive bench players in history: He could just flat-out hit.

Had Dwyer been given the opportunity to make it as a starting player, his career would have looked about like this. He wouldn’t have been a star, exactly, but certainly was good enough to be a very solid regular for a very long time.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1973   23   57    7   11    1    1    0    0    1    5 .193 .207 .246 .453   25
 1974   24  205   29   58    7    2    3   23   36   28 .283 .389 .370 .759  115
 1975   25  344   46   92   14    2    7   38   47   56 .267 .355 .378 .733  101
 1976   26  381   50   91   15    3    8   40   53   51 .239 .332 .351 .683   92
 1977   27  495   93  138   31    9   14   58   96   51 .279 .396 .460 .856  132
 1978   28  459   63  111   21    3   12   54   69   64 .241 .340 .381 .721  105
 1979   29  389   60  102   19    2   10   49   57   49 .262 .356 .393 .749   98
 1980   30  508   78  139   21    3   16   69   64   59 .273 .354 .419 .773  107
 1981   31  327   45   80    8    2    8   34   48   47 .245 .342 .360 .703  103
 1982   32  493   84  137   18    6   18   59   82   75 .277 .380 .446 .826  127
 1983   33  543   98  154   38    4   19   90   87   82 .284 .383 .477 .860  138
 1984   34  525   78  136   30    4   11   77   78   76 .259 .355 .395 .750  110
 1985   35  452   64  113   21    5   14   71   69   66 .249 .349 .408 .757  110
 1986   36  477   72  121   27    4   23   81   72   91 .253 .350 .469 .819  122
 1987   37  521   98  139   18    2   28   80   88  117 .266 .373 .471 .843  125
 1988   38  331   49   92    9    0   10   50   64   61 .278 .394 .400 .794  124
 1989   39  235   35   74   12    0    3   25   29   24 .315 .389 .404 .793  119
 1990   40   63    7   12    0    0    1    5   12    7 .190 .320 .238 .558   55
Career     6807 1055 1798  309   51  204  904 1053 1010 .264 .363 .415 .777  114
James Lamar

Dusty Rhodes

His candid self-assessment: “I can’t field, and I’ve got a lousy arm. But I sure love to take a whack at that ball.”

In the 1954 World Series, Rhodes never started a game. But by the seventh inning of the third contest, when the Indians finally managed to retire him, Rhodes had delivered two run-scoring pinch-hit singles and one walkoff pinch-hit three-run homer, and for good measure, had stuck around in one of the games to add another home run. The Series was effectively over.

It was a moment on the sport’s center stage as brief as it was shining. Rhodes’s decline came early and strong; in the same manner, perhaps, as his cocktails. But he sure loved to take a whack at that ball, and here we glimpse what he might have done if given the chance to do it from the beginning of the game more often.

 Year  Age   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1952   25  346   60   85   16    2   21   69   40   64 .246 .323 .478 .801  118
 1953   26  496   69  126   22    2   35  103   41   85 .254 .310 .514 .824  108
 1954   27  503   82  160   20    7   39  131   55   77 .317 .384 .614 .998  155
 1955   28  537   66  159   17    6   22  100   73   78 .297 .381 .477 .858  127
 1956   29  444   41  102   16    5   14   60   54   73 .230 .314 .380 .693   86
 1957   30  304   33   65    9    2    8   36   33   51 .213 .290 .334 .623   67
 1958   31  173   20   39    5    1    6   28   24   24 .227 .320 .364 .683   83
 1959   32   71    4   15    3    0    1   11    9   12 .205 .291 .288 .579   57
Career     2872  375  750  106   24  144  538  326  463 .261 .337 .466 .802  112

References & Resources
Conceptually, the approach here is very similar to that employed in the Mickey Vernon Gaps series. I allow myself more than a little 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, either major league or, as appropriate, minor league.
- In most cases, 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.

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.

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