Any player/Any era: Doug Glanville

What he did: I first knew Doug Glanville as a name from my baseball card collection and the sports page when I was growing up in the 1990s. This is how it often goes, and in the years since I started writing about baseball regularly, it’s always been a funny feeling to meet a player whose card I might have had. Glanville’s gone on to other things since his nine-year career ended, and I know him as much now for his baseball writing. I’ve read some of his work for ESPN, and his 2010 book, The Game from Where I Stand is on my list of things to read. We started corresponding on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, which spurred me to give his stats another look, and I learned something else: Glanville’s another player who would’ve benefited greatly in a different era.

Glanville hit .277 for his career with an OPS+ of 78, a light-hitting centerfielder who didn’t much walk or hit for power. For the most part, he excelled in two areas, base-stealing and defense, with him swiping 168 bags at an 82 percent success rate and accumulating 5.9 lifetime defensive WAR. Glanville played at the height of the Steroid Era, 1996 to 2004, and his strongest assets were undervalued. In a different era, he might not have had a year like 1999 where he took advantage of historically good conditions for hitters and batted .325 with 204 hits to earn his largest contract. But he might have had a longer career.

Era he might have thrived in: We’re going with the 1980s St. Louis Cardinals, a perennial contender that favored defense and base stealing. Glanville would have fit in well with the likes of Ozzie Smith, Vince Coleman, and Willie McGee.

Why: I considered placing Glanville in the 1930s, of course suspending disbelief about him being unable play in the majors as an African American before 1947. For the 1930 Phillies, the Baseball-Reference.com stat converter has Glanville hitting .346 with an .884 OPS and a not-bad-for-then 50 walks. Consider that Chuck Klein hit .386 in 1930 and walked just 54 times. But I wanted an era where Glanville would maximize his base stealing, and the 1930s, anytime between 1920 and 1960 really, wasn’t it. Stolen base totals were generally low then, and rare kings like George Case in the 1940s did it without much help. Glanville told me his prowess was a combination of talent and coaching, with him becoming a lot more efficient in the minors, and this earns him the trip to Stolen Base U, which was St. Louis in the ’80s.

The Cardinals don’t have the record for stolen bases in a season, which goes to the 1976 Oakland Athletics who stole an ungodly 341 bases and had eight players with at least 20 steals. But where those A’s were a free-running aberration, the Cardinals more or less dominated the base paths for a decade, averaging 204.5 steals a year for the ’80s. It fit with manager Whitey Herzog’s “Whiteyball” strategy which favored pitching, speed, and defense, and Glanville had two of those three assets in abundance. The Baseball-Reference.com stat converter has issues projecting stolen base totals, but one of my readers suggested that with a license to run freely, Glanville might’ve had 80 or 90 steals in a season and supplanted Coleman, the least-talented Cardinals outfielder.

St. Louis won the World Series in 1982 with a 200 stolen base team and very nearly won it in 1985 and 1987 with teams that stole 314 and 248 bases, respectively. Perhaps Glanville’s presence would have pushed St. Louis to greater heights.

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

Similar to Doug Glanville: Fritz MaiselGeorge CaseRickey HendersonVada Pinson

Others in this series: Al SimmonsAlbert PujolsBabe RuthBad News RockiesBarry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob WatsonBobby VeachCarl MaysCesar CedenoCharles Victory FaustChris von der AheDenny McLainDom DiMaggioDon DrysdaleEddie LopatElmer FlickFrank HowardGavvy Cravath, George W. Bush (as commissioner)George WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro SuzukiJack ClarkJack MorrisJackie RobinsonJim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film)Matty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate ColbertOllie CarnegiePaul DerringerPedro GuerreroPedro MartinezPee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRoberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam ThompsonSandy KoufaxSatchel PaigeShoeless Joe JacksonStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTy CobbWally BunkerWes FerrellWill ClarkWillie Mays

2 thoughts on “Any player/Any era: Doug Glanville

  1. If I were going to transport Doug Glanville back in time and put him on another team, I’d pick the 1962 Pirates and replace Bill Virdon with him.

    The Pirates won 93 games and finished in 4th (8 games back of the Giants) despite Virdon leading off all season with a .298 OBP, a 68 OPS+ and going 5 of 18 in stolen bases. Their pitching and defense was terrific that year (it should be mentioned that Virdon won a gold glove despite 0.0 dWAR), but they lacked a spark at the top of the lineup that could score in front of Skinner, Burgess, and Clemente.

    I don’t know if Doug Glanville would have put them over the top, especially if he didn’t have free reign on the basepaths (the Pirates were 8th of 10 in stolen base attempts that year), but I’ll bet he would have improved the team and would have scored a ton of runs.

    Paul
    http://www.oneforfive.com

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