Any player/Any era: Jimmy Wynn

What he did: If ever there was a player hurt by his era, it’s Jimmy Wynn. The power-hitting center fielder played from 1963 to 1977, spending much of his prime in an age dominated by pitchers, in perhaps the least-friendly park for hitters since the Deadball Era, the expansive Houston Astrodome. Wynn finished with a .250 lifetime batting average and 291 home runs and did not receive any Hall of Fame votes the only year his name appeared on the ballot, 1983. In an era better suited for hitters, Wynn might have been a Hall of Famer.

Era he might have thrived in: Playing at pretty much any other point in baseball history since the Deadball Era, Wynn would have added another 30-50 batting average points and 50-100 home runs lifetime. Assuming we suspend disbelief about the color of Wynn’s skin keeping him from the majors prior to 1947, he could have done some of his best work in the American League in the 1930s.

Why: Baseball-Reference.com has a tool to convert a player’s lifetime numbers, so I took the 15 seasons of Wynn’s career and looked at how he might have done on a few different clubs. A reader suggested the Houston Astros in the late 1990s, when they had a hitters team and ballpark. I thought of the New York Giants in the 1920s and ’30s when I figured Wynn might have been the Giants’ answer to Joe DiMaggio (he wouldn’t, as I found.) I then realized Wynn may have soared higher on the Detroit Tigers in the 1930s, when hitters ruled baseball.

Here’s a chart with Wynn’s lifetime stats for each team, with numbers calculated on a one-one basis. For the Giants, I converted 1963 to 1923, 1964 to 1924 and so on. It took awhile, since I had to do it myself, but I think it offers a fairly accurate look.

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA
Actual numbers 6653 1105 1665 285 39 291 964 225 1224 1427 .250
Giants 1923-1937 6628 1282 1873 325 42 329 1120 256 1384 1359 .283
Tigers 1927-1941 6773 1460 2018 347 45 362 1270 272 1488 1359 .298
Astros 1993-2007 6825 1321 1919 330 42 339 1152 258 1429 1398 .281


Basically, on all three teams, Wynn saw a jump, and with the Tigers in the 1930s, he may have had enough for Cooperstown. I didn’t run conversions for the Indians, Red Sox, or A’s in the 1930s, all places Wynn may have put up even better numbers, though I like him in Detroit for two reasons. First, he would have had a bandbox of a park, Tigers Stadium. He also would have been a part of Detroit’s World Series-contending clubs led by Hank Greenberg. With Wynn’s ability to get on base 40-50 percent of his plate appearances and his superior WAR to Detroit center fielder, Jo-Jo White, the Tigers may benefited too.

Here’s a breakdown of how Wynn’s career would have converted, season for season:

YEAR AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB BA
1927 (’63) 252 41 72 12 6 5 35 5 35 .286
1928 (’64) 215 23 53 8 0 6 22 6 26 .247
1929 (’65) 575 116 189 36 8 27 93 53 102 .329
1930 (’66) 422 86 126 25 1 21 86 15 48 .299
1931 (’67) 604 140 180 35 3 45 147 19 89 .298
1932 (’68) 565 131 190 30 7 34 104 14 117 .336
1933 (’69) 507 139 163 21 1 41 107 28 182 .321
1934 (’70) 549 93 171 35 2 29 100 26 116 .311
1935 (’71) 396 46 90 18 0 8 54 11 61 .227
1936 (’72) 589 172 197 39 4 39 132 22 137 .334
1937 (’73) 477 111 121 16 5 23 67 16 104 .254
1938 (’74) 550 143 179 21 5 39 148 23 133 .325
1939 (’75) 425 107 130 21 0 23 78 9 140 .306
1940 (’76) 454 92 116 24 1 21 81 20 159 .256
1941 (’77) 193 20 41 6 2 1 16 5 39 .212
TOTAL 6773 1460 2018 347 45 362 1270 272 1488 .298


As I’ve written before, there are some things I suspect the stat converter can’t account for, like the confidence one would get playing for a winner rather than a loser. Success begets more success, and I’m guessing Wynn wouldn’t experience the surreptitious drop in numbers in 1935, which would surely get him dropped from the Tigers on their march to the World Series title that year. It also wouldn’t surprise me if Wynn finished with 400 home runs and a .300 lifetime batting average.

Even at 362 home runs, though, Wynn would have been fifth in baseball history upon his retirement in 1941, trailing only Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, and Mel Ott. Those men are all baseball legends. In another era, Wynn might have been one too.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Albert PujolsBarry Bonds, Bob CaruthersDom DiMaggioFritz MaiselGeorge CaseHarmon KillebrewHome Run BakerJohnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Nate ColbertPete Rose, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Sam Thompson, Sandy KoufaxShoeless Joe JacksonThe Meusel BrothersTy Cobb

7 thoughts on “Any player/Any era: Jimmy Wynn

  1. Can you imagine the extra RBI that Hank Greenberg might have had with him on the Tigers, hitting either ahead of or behind Charlie Gehringer? It’s safe to speculate that he probably would have come close to the 200 mark if not topping it a time or two.

  2. I want to thank you for remembering the Toy Cannon. Wynn was one of my favorite Astro players along with Cedeno and J.R. Richard. Just look at what Joe Morgan’s numbers did when he got out of that Yellow Stone Park of a ball field.

  3. Hi Douglas, good to hear from you and great point about Morgan. I thought I should maybe run conversions on Cedeno and Bob Watson as well, though it somehow didn’t register that Morgan was a prime, real-life example of this.

  4. Bill James stated in his Historical Baseball Abstract that he was the best player in baseball from 1973-1976 and should have won NL MVP all of those years. I would like to know to if the Astro-Dome created more triples than the league average.

  5. Hi Douglas, I was thinking about it today that in Wynn’s case, he was a three-outcome kind of player, someone who homered, walked or struck out a high percentage of his plate appearances (approaching 50 percent some years.) If the Astrodome gave more people triples, it didn’t benefit Wynn: He only hit 39 lifetime.

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