What he did: This is slightly different than usual here. Today’s column isn’t about how one player would fare, but rather a group of them. Months ago, I wrote a post transplanting some of the best hitters in baseball history to the 1999 Colorado Rockies, proposing they could have hit .400 on that club which boasted five 30-home-run hitters and hit .288 as a team. Today, I’m going in a different direction, rounding up some hard-luck, misfit players, transplanting them all to Coors Field at the height of the Steroid Era. My theory is those circumstances could have made pretty much anyone at least a decent hitter.
The cast: I’ll temporarily depart from the usual format of “Era he might have thrived in” and “Why.” Here are my guys:
C – Mickey Tettleton: A two-time All Star, Tettleton essentially did three things. He hit home runs, he didn’t hit for much average, and he struck out. That’s going to be a common thread for this club, but there’s at least one great year in Tettleton.
1B – Tony Clark: Like a lot of the players here, Clark was something of a baseball nomad, playing for six clubs in his 15-year career. Generally, he was solid for a few years and then abysmal for one or two, before repeating the cycle. That makes him perfect for this club.
2B – Tito Fuentes: I was chatting with a new reader today, telling him how my dad and I used to have epic wiffle ball games on our front yard when I was young. My dad impersonated fearsome hitters he named Mail Murphy and Mickey Mammoth, but when he wanted a change of pace, he brought in his spray hitter, Tito Fuentes. I think it was to help me out when I was struggling. He picked the right guy in Fuentes, who hit .268 lifetime with an OPS+ of 82.
SS – Ray Oyler: I considered going with other famously inept shortstops like John Gochnaur, Don Kessinger, or Paul Popovich (who was more a second baseman) but am electing to go with a hitter so offensively challenged it earned him his own fan club with the Seattle Pilots in 1969. If we transport the lifetime .175 hitter to this club, he’d have a good year, at least by his standards.
3B – Enos Cabell: Years ago, Bill James wrote about Cabell as an essentially worthless player, but he’d be one of the best contact hitters on this team.
OF – Rob Deer: For much of his career, Deer’s weight and batting average were about the same, and the only year he cracked .250 was 1988, a weak year for offense. On these Rockies, those numbers would rise, and Deer would resemble a star. He’d be Dante Bichette.
OF – Dave Kingman: Like Deer and Tettleton, Kingman homered and struck out aggressively without much of a batting average, and like Clark, he made his way around the bigs. But in 1979, already five teams deep in his 16-year career, he hit 48 home runs with a decidedly un-Kingman-like .288 batting average. Playing that season on these Rockies, he might have MVP-caliber numbers.
OF – Jesus Alou: I recently saw a blog listing Alou as one of the 20 worst baseball players ever, primarily on the strength of his career OPS+ of 86 and puny WARP3 scores. That seems a little harsh. Alou had one of his best seasons in 1967, a dark year for hitters. On the ’99 Rockies, that year is gold.
The numbers: I’ll offer two charts, the first with each player and an actual season they played.
And, with the help of the stat converter on Baseball-Reference.com, here is how these players’ numbers project for the ’99 Rockies.
Of course, I have no idea how this team would do defensively, and I’m guessing there wouldn’t be much pitching. A 6.01 team ERA helped sink the ’99 Rockies. Beats me how to overcome that on this team in this era. Short of bringing in Lefty Grove or Sandy Koufax, these Rockies would have to get it done at the plate, and even Grove or Koufax might struggle here.
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 Pujols, Barry Bonds, Bob Caruthers, Dom DiMaggio, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, George Case, Harmon Killebrew, Home Run Baker, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Frederick, Josh Hamilton, Ken Griffey Jr., Nate Colbert, Pete Rose, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Sam Thompson, Sandy Koufax, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, The Meusel Brothers, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays