Baseball: Past and Present

Claim to fame: Darrell Evans played for the Braves, Giants, and Tigers in his long and productive career. Although a ten year career can be sufficient for Hall of Fame consideration, not many Hall of Famers have had such short careers. A few played 12 years or less; most had careers in the 14 to 18 year range. Evans played 21 seasons, with his later years being some of his best.

Evans was a two-time All-Star, first in 1973 and again in 1983 at age 36. Twice he hit 40 or more home runs; in 1973 he was one of three players in the Braves’ lineup with 40, and in 1985, at age 38, his 40 homers for the Tigers led the American League. Evans is perhaps unique in one sense: His late-career productivity was Hall-worthy, while his early-career numbers could leave him short.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Evans was one-and-done, receiving 1.7 percent of the Baseball Writers Association of America vote in 1995. Since more than 20 years have passed since Evans’ retirement, he can now be considered by the Veterans Committee.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Evans had a very unusual career arc. For most players, productivity peaks around age 28 or 29. Age 30 is typically the doorway to decline. Many a 28-year-old All-Star has found himself riding the bench at age 33, or worse, strolling the golf course as a former major leaguer.

Hall of Famers tend to buck this trend, maintaining a high level of play through their early and mid-30s. However, even for Hall members, the decline from late 20s peak performance is usually evident in their stats. In contrast, Evans had no measurable drop-off in performance after turning 30. Evans’ OBP exceeded .350 every year during his 30s. It wasn’t until his last two seasons, in his 40s, that his numbers began to trail off.

Evans’ list of “similars” on Baseball-Reference.com is headed by Graig Nettles, Dale Murphy, and Dwight Evans – good company all, but not Hall of Fame company.  The lone Hall of Famer on Evans’ list is Eddie Mathews at No. 10. Comparing career numbers, Mathews hit for higher average and with more power than Evans, but he achieved this advantage only early in his career, declining dramatically after 1965 when he was 33. In terms of BA, OBP and SLG, Mathews and Evans have virtually identical numbers from age 31 on, though Evans played almost twice as long after turning 30.

Player Career phase G H HR BA OBP SLG
Darrell Evans Age 22-30 995 829 147 .248 .367 .428
Age 31-42 1692 1394 267 .247 .356 .433
Total 2687 2223 414 .248 .361 .431
Eddie Mathews Age 20-30 1634 1690 399 .282 .384 .543
Age 31-36 757 625 113 .247 .351 .431
Total 2391 2315 512 .271 .376 .509


If Evans’ stats leave him just shy of Cooperstown, let’s compare him to some other not-quite Hall of Famers. Jimmy Wynn, Don Mattingly, and Rocky Colavito have all been examined on this blog in recent months. Each had early-career numbers pointing toward Cooperstown, but quicker and steeper declines after age 30 than is typical for most Hall of Famers. In some cases, the decline is fueled by chronic injuries, as was true for Mattingly. In any event, the resulting failure to pass or even approach milestone numbers of hits and home runs undermines the Hall candidacy of such players.

Listed below are five players who had very strong production early, but who didn’t last very long into their 30s. After age 30, Murphy’s career mirrored Mathews’, which is to say it was half of what Evans’ post-30 career was.  The others below were done by age 35. On average they played about a third as much as Evans after age 30, and with less impact.

Player Career G H HR BA OBP SLG
Dale Murphy Age 20-30 1360 1388 266 .277 .355 .491
Age 31-37 820 723 132 .246 .329 .431
Total 2180 2111 398 .265 .346 .469
Jimmy Wynn Age 21-30 1287 1185 203 .259 .361 .450
Age 31-35 633 480 88 .232 .370 .405
Total 1920 1665 291 .250 .366 .436
Mo Vaughn Age 23-30 1046 1165 230 .304 .394 .542
Age 31-35 466 455 98 .267 .356 .481
Total 1512 1620 328 .293 .383 .523
Don Mattingly Age 21-30 1269 1570 178 .314 .359 .491
Age 31-34 516 583 44 .292 .354 .422
Total 1785 2153 222 .307 .358 .471
Rocky Colavito Age 21-30 1326 1302 302 .272 .363 .515
Age 31-34 515 428 72 .250 .345 .415
Total 1841 1730 374 .266 .359 .489


To put the value of Evans’ post-30 career into perspective, let’s imagine that we can combine the early-career stats of each of the above near-miss candidates with Evans’ late-career stats. The result is a set of hybrid players, each with what would have been a long and Hall-worthy career. While none of these hybrids has a stellar batting average (remember each is half Darrell Evans), all have more than 2500 hits, and all but Mattingly/Evans have 470 or more HR.

I’m not saying that if such players existed, each would automatically be voted in, but the Colavito/Evans chimera for example has career numbers that practically match Reggie Jackson’s, minus the post-season heroics, of course. What I am saying is that if any of these hybrid players existed, they would have been taken very seriously as a Hall candidates and would have earned considerably more votes than any of them did in real life as individual entities.

Player hybrid G H HR BA OBP SLG
Murphy/Evans 3052 2782 533 .261 .355 .460
Wynn/Evans 2979 2579 470 .252 .358 .441
Vaughn/Evans 2738 2559 497 .270 .371 .477
Mattingly/Evans 2961 2964 445 .279 .357 .460
Colavito/Evans 3018 2696 569 .259 .359 .470


Evans might never be able to add the letters HOF when he signs his name. And I would wager that few kids in the sandlots these days have even heard of Evans or dreamed of emulating his career. But this much is clear. Any current-day star in his late 20s who has an eye on making the Hall (David Wright, let’s say) would be well advised to aspire to a Darrell Evans-like second act.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al OliverAlbert Belle, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil TravisChipper Jones, Closers, Dan QuisenberryDave ParkerDon Mattingly, Don NewcombeGeorge Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Harold Baines, Jack MorrisJoe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Larry WalkerMaury WillsMel HarderPete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman MunsonTim Raines, Will Clark



14 Comments so far

  1.    Mike on December 4, 2011 11:38 am      

    Evans was the 15th best third baseman in the history of the game. To me, that puts him solidly in the HOF. He did not have great peak value – only five seasons above 4 WAR – but had great longevity. To me he should be in, and hopefully the Veteran’s Committee will agree at some point.

  2.    Brendan on December 4, 2011 6:13 pm      

    Mike,
    Thanks for commenting. Third basemen are not well represented in the HOF, so even if Evans is the 15th best, this ranking does not leave me optimistic that he will ever be elected by the VC. With Ron Santo not yet in the Hall, no one should be surprised about the exclusion of Evans (or Ken Boyer, or Graig Nettles).

  3.    Mike on December 5, 2011 12:14 am      

    I agree that third base is underrepresented in the HOF. I hope that some day Evans, Nettles, Buddy Bell, Sal Bando, Boyer, Ventura, and Stan Hack all make it. I think Santo will get in this year. Although in a few years, Scott Rolen will take over as the ignored best third baseman not in the HOF.

  4.    Steve Green on April 27, 2013 5:35 pm      

    Excellent analysis, Brendan. Despite considering Evans as my favorite ballplayer, I don’t think he has the stellar numbers. And anyway, I tend to follow the more average joes, such as Kranepool, John Jaso, Evans’ former teammate Marty Perez, Ron Swoboda …. players like that.
    Except for Hank Aaron’s home run chase, we didn’t get to see much of Evans in NYC. But when he did at bat, it were as if he was invisible. He’d walk, or move the runner over — things that don’t shine brightly in the box score.
    Some of his teammates (on three teams) seemed to get far more attention.
    If there is a Hall of Fame award for ‘Underrated’, yes ; he’s a shoo-in.
    As well, if there is a combined plaque or consideration (as you wrote) for Underrated *and* class, he’s unanimous. He would hit one into the third deck at Yankee Stadium or Tigers Stadium and just drop his head and his bat, modestly instead of showboating. 400+ home run trots gave him many opportunities to show class.

  5.    Brendan Bingham on May 3, 2013 7:41 am      

    Steve, thanks for reading and commenting. Interestingly, in the two years that have passed since this piece was posted, Ron Santo and Deacon White have been elected to the Hall of Fame. So, third basemen are somewhat less under-represented than before. Regardless, I suspect it will be a long while before the VC considers Evans’ case for the Hall, no matter how underrated he might be.

  6.    StveGreen on May 7, 2013 8:22 am      

    While no doubt he’s not HOF, I would have liked to see him get more consideration than he got. One year and out, was it? That batting average halted things more quickly than anything else.
    (Mathews — Evans’s idol — no doubt belonged. Mathews I consider to’ve been better than Schmidt, but that’s another topic).

    In the stat-heavy world baseball has become recently, one item seems to’ve been ignored in Evans’s career : As a power hitter of repute — 400+ HRs — he still walked more times than he struck out. That’s a rarity for the big boppers of any era, and a factor I consider very overlooked. IIrc, he did not bat cleanup on his three main career clubs. The club stars — he never was one — are the guys who will be pitched around. His moving the runner along without making an out is a skilled eye, not a concession by the pitcher.

    As well, in the craze of today’s pitch-count strata, he would be well-regarded and more highly valued, as a batter who went deep into the count. I’m not privy to stats, but there cannot be too many sluggers who ‘saw’ more pitches in his career than Evans.

  7.    Duncan on August 3, 2013 10:59 am      

    Yes, Darrell Evans deserves the HOF…PERIOD! Got his autograph in the late 70′s when he played for the Giants, a class act and true gentleman. Great power hitter, clutch hitter and defensive third baseman. Got a lot of walks because he had a great “eye’ at the plate and didn’t strike out much either. Low BA. for a reason, he lined out a lot, he always put the ball in play, if he didn’t get a walk. If Mazeroski is hall worthy so is Evans by a mile, and NO Garvey nor Nettles deserves the HOF or Munson, Lou Whitaker does as does Alan Trammell and Jack Morris…GO TIGERS! Darrell Evans was the MAN! KALINE RULED as a Tiger!

  8.    Duncan on August 3, 2013 11:26 am      

    One more thing…nettles couldn’t shine Brett’s nor Evans cleats…Brett was far superior to nettles, and nettles was bitter because Brett made him look weak…in fact, a lot of players thought Nettles was a pric*, and sucker punched Spaceman Bill Lee, after he tackled him from behind, and kicked George Brett when he was down at third base, what a pu**y! Steibrenner didn’t like Nettles, nor did most of the league…only “Yankme” fans like Nettles and his brand of hooliganism! One more thing, Fisk was a WAY better player than Munson, better hitter and defensive catcher…better period! Al Kaline rules…number 6 baby! Tigers!

  9.    Duncan on August 3, 2013 4:42 pm      

    I was uncharitable speaking about Graig Nettles…what I sad was mean spirited…I’m sure he has many noble attributes…sorry for hacking on you Graig…

  10.    Steve Green on August 4, 2013 7:58 am      

    This Mets fan — repeat: METS fan, lol — has to disagree about the posted Nettles personna as being his sole legacy. He might have been too much of a roughneck for some, and he did punch out Reggie Jackson once, but what a FIELDER he was. At Yankee Stadium he and Matt Nokes and ‘Babe’ Hassey had daily fans with mitts stationed in right field. Was Nettles a better fielder than Brooks? Who knows ; put in your ante. Flip a coin. But neither Evans nor Nettles will see their selves bronzed in Cooperstown. If Evans played his career as a Yankee — and they could have had him dirt cheap from Atlanta, along with needed infielder Marty Perez — he’d’ve hit 500 home runs at the place. He would still be a tough out, too. Somewhere on an old video tape I have Evans hitting a hanging Charley Hudson slider into the third deck at Yankee Stadium, after something like a twelve-pitch at bat.

  11.    Steve Green on August 4, 2013 8:10 am      

    Bravo and way-to-go, Duncan! Great sportsmanship, Meat ; nice going ! ………

  12.    Tim Eaton on October 2, 2013 12:38 pm      

    Growing up in Texas, I wasn’t an Astros fan, I was a Johnny Bench and Red’s fan, I didn’t like Darrell because he hit HRs against my Reds while he was a Brave and Giant. Then I became a Ranger fan and watched him late in his career hit HRs against the Rangers. I think like a lot of people, you look at the average and say, .248. That’s not HOF. Johnny Bench retired with a .268. But when you look at the fielding percentage and walks, he should at least be considered by the Vet committee. Bill James of Moneyball fame called Darrell the most under rated player in the history of baseball. When Darrell retired, he was 9th on the all time walk list. I think he is 12th now, 24 years after playing. His .973 fielding percentage, 45th all time on the HR list and one of only 4 players to hit 100 HRs with 3 different teams should get him at least a consideration of discussion for the HOF by the Vet Committee. I wasn’t a fan of “Doodie”, his nickname, but I grew to appreciate his talent and think good guys like this can’t be overlooked. I wish the Texas Rangers would consider making him their hitting coach.

  13.    Brendan Bingham on October 2, 2013 2:03 pm      

    Tim: Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ve always been curious about Darrell Evans’ nickname. His resemblance to the 1950s TV character is at best a vague one — is this the reason for the nickname? Irrespective of how he got the name, it’s just one more reason to confuse him with his contemporary, the similarly Hall-borderline player, Dwight “Dewey” Evans.

  14.    Steve Green PA on October 3, 2013 10:34 am      

    When Dwight Evans was under some form of MVP consideration, he (a fellow Los Angelan) asked, ‘You sure you don’t mean DARRELL Evans?’
    On nicknames : Dwight Evans was ‘Dewey’, while Darrell was ‘Howdy’.

    Darrell Evans *was* once a hitting instructor of sorts, for the Yankees, after his active retirement. He even got to wear his traditional # 41, like his idol, Eddie Mathews, while in pinstripes. And since he once hit a 3-2 hanging curve from Charley Hudson about 800 rows into the upper deck at Yankee Stadium, Evans might have made a terrific hitting coach for future Yankee stadium lefty hitters.

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