Posts Tagged ‘lou gehrig’

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Cal Ripken

Cal Ripken - 1992 frontJust like Willie Mays (greenies), Len Dykstra, and Brady Anderson, I am a cheater. There is nothing all that interesting or bizarre about the back of this card. What I love about it is the front of the card: Cal pictured with Henry Louis Gehrig’s Cooperstown plague.

One of my favorite pictures of myself is from my first visit to the Hall of Fame. It was under remodeling at the time and the plagues were all on dry wall basically in an anteroom. However, there was on HoFer (I can’t remember who) between Frank and Brooks Robinson — my father’s gods. That gave just enough room for me to peak my head in between and be snapped between two of the great Orioles and baseball players of all time. It’s a good shot.

However, at this point I have to come clean (are you listening Palmeiro?). I wanted the Orioles to trade Ripken after his brilliant 1991 campaign. Yes, fresh off a .323/.374/.566 season, I thought they should move him. I was foolish and didn’t understand what was to come. I was thinking about all the losing I had experience in my lifetime and how many players Ripken was worth. I was thinking the Orioles could reverse the Glenn Davis damage.

But I was wrong, in fact, nothing could reverse the damage of trading a player like Ripken in his prime — quite simply few players have been equal to him on a baseball diamond.

People like to lump Cal into the accumulator Hall of Fame class. In my opinion, that’s sort of like distinguishing between the guys who earned their millions or were trust funded them – when you get down to it, what’s the real difference? That said, Cal was not just an accumulator, a guy who stuck around for a long time and eventually put up Ruthian numbers (a little like what Eddie Murray did).

Cal was one of the best players ever. Would I believe this as ardently if he wasn’t the best thing to happen to my baseball world in my lifetime (other than Roger Clemens being tied to Roids)? Probably not, but that’s because I’d be ignorant of Cal’s place in history. I would not have tried to defend him and research his awe-inspiring career benchmarks which outshine even the shiniest of Cooperstown plagues. Walk with me…

Cal Ripken has the 13th most hits in history — 3,184. That is more than George Brett, Robin Yount, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, etc.

He has the 32nd most singles (with 2,106) — behind Ty Cobb, Pete Rose, Rod Carew, Tris Speaker, Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Stan Musial and Boggs.

That leaves a lot of room for extra base hits. In fact, Ripken hit the 13th most doubles (603) — more than Barry Bonds, Boggs, Gwynn, Lou Gehrig, Frank Robinson and Ted Williams.

He also finished with the 17th most extra base hits with 1,078 and the 13th most total bases: 5,168. While Ripken hung around, he wasn’t hitting wimpy singles, but continually mashing his way to top 20 numbers in power categories.

Still, durability does count (ask Dale Murphy), 19 times Cal Ripken had at least 100 hits. That is tied for the seventh most in history. In addition, 15 times Ripken had over 150 hits — that is tied for the 6th most seasons. In 20 consecutive seasons, Ripken had 10+ HRs. Hank Aaron is the only player to have more years in a row – Aaron did it 23 times.

All those hits put him on his way to scoring the 30th most runs in MLB history: 1,647. That is more than Brett, Rogers Hornsby, and Tim Raines.

All that aside, May 28, 1996 must have been a special day. His brother, Billy hit a HR, and Cal added three! It was the second time both he and Billy hit HRs in the same game.

What gives Ripken so much additional value (and we’ll get to WAR) is his glove. He has the seventh most assists by a SS in a career – he had 6,977. That is behind Ozzie Smith, Louis Aparicio, Luke Appling and a few others. With all those assists, he got to a ton of balls, but still managed to post the fifth best fielding percentage by a shortstop in major league history (min. 1,000 games). He also had excellent years. In 1990, he posted the best fielding average ever by a shortstop in a single season: .9956. He also owns the 11th best year. In 1984, Ripken recorded 583 assists — the 6th most ever in a season.

Now for the new-age stuff: Ripken was worth 89.9 wins above a replacement player in his career. According to Baseball Reference, that is the 26th best mark all time — and, depending, on how you look at Alex Rodriguez, puts him tops among shortstops. In 1991, Ripken was worth 11 WAR — tied for the 30th best mark in a season ever.

Yes, Cal Ripken was an accumulator, but his accumulations were great statistics, not just ho-hum years. Four times, Ripken was worth 7.0 WAR or better. From 1983-1991, he was worth less than 6.0 WAR just once. The rest of his career (1992-2001) was not as good (he averaged 2.4 WAR) but that is just 2 less WAR than Derek Jeter has averaged for his career by way of comparison. Quite simply there are very few men who are Cal’s better on the diamond.

Thank god the Orioles didn’t trade him and thank god for 1983, Cal grew to deserve it.

Cal Ripken - 1992 back

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Larry Walker

Larry walker backwalker front













Shooter McGavin: Just stay out of my way… or you’ll pay! LISTEN to what I say!

Happy Gilmore: Hey, why don’t I just go eat some hay, make things out of clay, lay by the bay? I just may! What’d ya say?

I mean seriously? Walker’s parents must have been pretty Brady Bunch quirky to name their children Larry, Gary, Cary and Barry. Larry I get — it was a big deal back in the day for the first born son to take his fathers name (heck I’m a third). And it’s merely coincidence that Larry married Marry — but seriously, how obnoxious do you have to be to rhyme all your kids’ names? Could you imagine introducing them at a party or school function? Blech.

While naming your kids ridiculous things (Apple?) is all fun and games, Walker’s career was seriously awesome.

No season would be more serious than his 1997 campaign: .366/.452/.720 with 49 HRs, 33 SBs and only eight caught stealings. Certainly, combined, it was a fine year, but his highest batting average (.379) and OBP (.459) would come in 1999. In fact, from 1997-2001, he would bat over .350 four times and over .360 three times.

Think I’m cherry picking some years to make him sound more phenomenal than he was?

Well, Walker has the 38th best average (.313) by a left-handed batter in major league history — tied with two others. He has the 46th highest OBP in MLB history – a sublime .400 – just .001 behind Ricky Henderson – but ahead of Joe DiMaggio, Cap Anson and many others. Walker is also tied for 15th all time with a .565 slugging percentage — ahead of Stan Musial, Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Mike Piazza, Frank Robinson and many others. Combine those two stats and you get the 17th highest OBP + SLG, which equals OPS, at .965. That number is higher than Alex Rodriguez, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Gary, Cary, Barry and on and on.

During his career, four times he would bat .300 with 30 HRs and 100 RBIs — that is tied for the 24th most seasons of all time. Walker is also one of just 24 players to bat over .300 and hit over 300 HRs in his career. Of all the left-handed batters in all the world that ever played baseball, Walker recorded the 16th and 17th highest slugging percentages in a season. The only immortals he trails: Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams. Not surprisingly he posted two of the top 21 highest OPS seasons by a left-handed batter – trailing only seasons by Bonds, Ruth, Williams and Gehrig.

Finally, he is tied with Carlton Fisk for 69th in wins above replacement (WAR) — ahead of the likes of Eddie Murray, Pee Wee Reese, Craig Biggio, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Gary Sheffield and Mark McGwire.

Of course, it’s hard to parse out the Coors effect and how that improved his numbers. But, if you remember, from ages 22 – 27, he played for Montreal and would accumulate a pretty decent line: .281/.357/.483. Sure it was super helpful to have played in Coors during his relative prime, but kudos to him for taking absolute full advantage of it. Ultimately, his career compares favorably to Vlad Guerrero, Duke Snider, DiMaggio and Ellis Burks. And, clearly, you could argue that he had one of the most devastating bats from the left-side in MLB history.

Quite simply, it’s amazing to me how many Hall of Famers his career is similar or better than. He is up for the first time for enshrinement this coming year along with first-timers Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Kevin Brown and Juan Gonzalez. I’m betting he doesn’t get in, but I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if he and Bagwell (and perhaps Kevin Brown) enter Cooperstown.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.