Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 22, 2008
BASEBALL: The Middle Infielders Revisited

After I did my Hardball Times column on the post-1920 middle infielders in the Hall of Fame conversation, including the recently elected Joe Gordon - and you should go back and read the column if you expect to make sense of this post - I figured I'd like to check how the rough offensive "Rate" metric I was using stacks up to more sophisticated measurements that incorporate defense. With that in mind, I've pulled together in chart form for the long- and short-prime middle infielders a ranking by Win Shares per 162 team games for their prime years. To add to the picture I list their WS/162 for the non-prime seasons of their careers, which of course are highly variable (some guys get charged with "seasons" for a brief cup of coffee, like Alex Rodriguez in 1994 and 1995 or Rogers Hornsby spending the last 6 years of his career as a manager and part-time pinch hitter). Anyway, as you will see, the WS rankings match up fairly well with mine but naturally diverge in some cases, most obviously guys like Ozzie Smith who had a lot of defensive value.

PlayerAgeYearsSeasonsWSWS/162Career WSRestRest YrsAvg WSRate
Rogers Hornsby24-331920-299.5136238.0750214012.1211.55186.7
Joe Morgan25-331969-778.9530433.9751220811.6917.79131.4
Arky Vaughan21-291933-418.5627832.48356784.7516.42132.1
Craig Biggio25-331991-998.5726931.3942815911.0014.45127.3
Alex Rodriguez20-271996-038.0025031.253991496.5922.61140.7
Ryne Sandberg24-321984-929.0026028.89346866.3613.52116.3
Charlie Gehringer25-351928-3810.4630228.87383817.6010.66128.4
Lou Boudreau22-301940-488.5623827.80277395.706.84114.8
Cal Ripken21-301982-9110.0027327.3042715410.2315.05121.9
Roberto Alomar23-331991-0110.5728126.58375946.0015.67113.4
Derek Jeter24-331998-0710.0026326.30320573.9014.62121.2
Vern Stephens21-291942-508.5622526.29265405.707.02111.3
Frankie Frisch22-321921-3110.4627426.20366927.5212.23106.3
Joe Cronin23-341930-4111.4129625.94333377.604.87108.6
Jim Fregosi21-281963-708.0020725.88261549.965.42106.9
Jeff Kent29-371997-059.0023225.783391077.5914.10116.6
Joe Sewell22-291921-287.6019525.66277825.7014.39110.4
Billy Herman25-331935-438.5621725.35298815.7014.21110.9
Barry Larkin27-351991-998.5721725.3234713010.0013.00101.3
Nellie Fox23-321951-609.5124025.24304648.807.27103.2
Pee Wee Reese27-361946-559.5123724.92314775.7013.51100.8
Chuck Knoblauch23-301992-997.5718824.83231434.0010.75110.9
Luke Appling26/421933/4914.2635424.82378244.755.05100.3
Bobby Doerr22/321940/509.5123224.40281493.8012.89107.7
Joe Gordon23/341938/499.5123024.19242120.9512.63106.1
Bobby Grich23-351972-8412.6729623.36329334.008.2599.5
Alan Trammell22-321980-9010.6724823.24318708.608.1499.1
Lou Whitaker26-351983-9210.0022822.803511238.2714.87102.6
Ozzie Smith30-371985-928.0017922.3832514610.2714.2284.4
Tony Fernandez23-311985-939.0019822.00280827.6010.7990.0
Tony Lazzeri22-321926-3610.4623021.99252222.857.72105.6
Davey Concepcion26-341974-828.6718921.80269809.958.0485.9
Jay Bell25-331991-998.5718321.35245629.006.8999.5
Jim Gilliam24-341953-6310.6021920.66247283.009.3384.3
Willie Randolph21-321976-8711.6723820.39312746.0012.3385.6
Bert Campaneris23-341965-7611.9524120.17280396.685.8480.5
Ray Durham26-341998-069.0017419.33231573.9014.6293.8
Davey Johnson24-311967-748.0014718.38171245.004.8086.7
Luis Aparicio25-361959-7011.8521217.89293815.8013.9776.2
Marty Marion23-311941-498.5615317.87177243.806.3266.8
Bill Mazeroski20-311957-6811.7519516.60219244.914.8971.9
Frank White27-361978-879.6714815.31211638.007.8872.3

As you can see, Frisch, Cronin, Smith and Larkin - as befits their reputations - all go up the list by this measure, while Lazzeri, Whitaker, Bell and Durham go down (you will note, amusingly, that this puts Whitaker and Trammell together).

Two small data inconsistencies with the article, which was written after the 2006 season. One, I added Derek Jeter's 2007 (but not 2008) to complete his prime years; two, I adjusted Miguel Tejada's age.

PlayerAgeYearsSeasonsWSWS/162Career WSRestRest YrsAvg WSRate
Jackie Robinson29-331948-524.7516234.11257954.7520.00135.6
Robin Yount24-281980-844.6714430.8442327915.0018.60129.2
Ernie Banks24-301955-616.6519429.1733213811.9011.60135.3
Rod Carew25-291971-754.9512926.0638425513.6818.64120.7
Miguel Tejada26-322000-067.0018226.00239575.0011.40115.9
Eddie Stanky28-341945-516.6516424.66191273.807.1198.2
Nomar Garciaparra23-291997-037.0016924.14218496.008.17109.4
Gil McDougald23-291951-576.6515723.61194372.8512.9894.8
Dave Bancroft29-351920-266.6515623.462691138.2813.6593.2
Maury Wills27-331960-666.9016023.19253936.9113.4680.4
Phil Rizzuto29-351946-526.6515423.16231775.7013.5187.0
Davey Lopes28-341973-797.0015822.57240828.649.4993.0
Alvin Dark26-321948-546.6515022.56226766.6511.4396.8
Julio Franco26-321985-917.0015522.1428012515.707.96105.3
Red Schoendienst28-341951-576.6514722.1126211511.519.9997.3
Travis Jackson22-271926-315.7012622.11211858.569.9389.0
Cecil Travis21-271935-416.6514621.95169234.754.8496.8
Omar Vizquel29-351996-027.0011917.0026714812.5911.7682.4

As discussed in the article, Carew and Yount - like A-Rod - have other seasons that are "prime" but not as middle infielders (I looked at Carew's broader prime in the article on the tablesetters).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:29 AM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

It is interesting to see Trammell and Whitaker listed just above Ozzie Smith. Smith strolled into the HoF on his first ballot with around 95% of the vote. Whitaker fell off the ballot after one look and Trammell just doesn't seem to get any traction with the voters. I'm not from Detroit, but I can understand their fan's concern here (I don't see Jack Morris as a HoF'r but that's another story). Smith was a great defensive player who did a cute backflip. Trammell and Whitaker were both very good with the glove as well as being better than the norm offensively for their position. Was Smith that much better than those players with the glove to account for the disparity in the voting? I don't see it.

Posted by: LargeBill at December 23, 2008 2:23 PM

Bill, the best answer I can give you about Ozzie is from Herzog. He knew he had to get rid of Templeton, and he also knew he had to improve his pitching staff. So he did both (his words). He cut a half run off the ERA by getting Ozzie. Plus he made a journeyman John Tudor, who specialized in giving up ground ball singles up the middle, an ace. Because all of a sudden, those singles became outs. Lots of them. And the Cards won big in the 80s.

I never saw Marion, but I did see Belanger (now that left Oriole side was some infield), Aparacio and Vizguel. I do think Ozzie Smith was the best I ever saw. He was a linchpin in a team that won (I think) 3 pennants and a ring--just by memory, not looking it up now. So yes, to me a first ballot for him is just. And I would vote for Morris in the Hall.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at December 23, 2008 4:56 PM

You really have to put your head in the sand to not consider Jeff Kent a hall of famer.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at December 24, 2008 6:22 PM

Ozzie simply feels like an HOFer. He has the stats, rep, highlight reels and team accomplishments. Does Sweet Lou have that feel? Not really. Nice player but he doesn't have that quality that Ozzie does. Trammel is closer but is likely just on the outside looking in.

Posted by: jim at December 24, 2008 8:19 PM

Merry Christmas.

Posted by: dave at December 25, 2008 1:10 PM
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