Sunday, May 08, 2005

Looking Back: Through the Numbers

All of us have our favorite players, guys we 'grew up with' or whose performance somehow seemed larger than life. One of the problems with the qualitative approach is that it may not be valid. In Michael Lewis' Moneyball, Billy Beane asks rhetorically, 'if the guy is such a good hitter, then why doesn't he hit better?"

Which brings us to our 'quick look' at a couple of former Red Sox players, whom I'll identify as player A and player B.

Games R HR RBI OPS HOF Standards HOF Monitor
------------------------- Ave HOF 50 ----- Ave HOF 100

A--1987--1123--314--1092--855 ----- 35 --- 63

B--1969--1063--306--1111--844 ----- 33 --- 83



Player A was Reggie Smith, who played eight seasons with the Sox before having a very successful NL career with the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Giants. Smith had as good an arm as I can remember. I saw him throw out Dave McNally trying to score on a sacrifice fly. Smith caught the ball just in front of the 379 mark. In 1977 he had an OPS of 1.003. He also won a Gold Glove and played in four World Series.

Player B was Fred Lynn, he of the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year in 1975, winning four Gold Gloves. Lynn was somewhat plagued by injuries, but had an OPS of 1.060 in 1979, and was considered among the best centerfielders defensively of his era.

The use of 'similarity scores' helps us to compare what players in fact did have similar careers, giving us a more objective picture of what they accomplished. Although I don't expect either of these players will make it to the Hall of Fame, both had excellent careers and compare favorably with some of today's stars.

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