Editor’s note: Please welcome Patrick Languzzi to the site. Patrick’s been patiently waiting for a couple of months to offer something on Dwight Evans, who in December finished tenth in BPP’s annual project on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. Patrick waited long enough that his piece today is apropos, given Bill James’ open letter last week pushing Dwight Evans for Cooperstown.
Claim to Fame: Selected to the ’80s All-Decade Team, Evans finished as a three-time All Star and two-time Silver Slugger. He won eight Gold Gloves in 10 seasons, (including five straight ’81-’85), and was selected by Major League Baseball as having one of the nine greatest outfield arms. Evans is the only player in history to win eight Gold Gloves while also leading his league for a decade in home runs and all of MLB in extra base hits and runs created. He’s one of just 13 players to have at least 2,400 hits, 1,450 runs, 1,375 walks, 1,375 RBI, 480 doubles and 385 home runs. Of those 13, Evans is the only player previously eligible not to have been enshrined in Cooperstown.
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Evans fell off the BBWAA ballot in 1999. He’ll be eligible again in 2013 via the Veterans Committee and its Expansion Era ballot.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Without question.
Evans played in the shadow of Hall of Fame teammates Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski and Wade Boggs. Despite being considered the greatest right fielder of his era, Evans still went underrated, and his offensive skills were often overshadowed by his own defensive exploits. Bill James once wrote, “Dwight Evans is also one of the most underrated players in baseball history, because he did many things well, rather than having one central skill that people could use to explain his excellence.”
Evans led all of baseball during the 1980s in runs created with 1,067, ahead of Hall of Famers Ricky Henderson, Eddie Murray, Robin Yount and Mike Schmidt. He was first in extra base hits with 605 ahead of Yount, Murray, Schmidt and Brett, hit more home runs with 256 than any other American League player, and was the only player to hit 20 or more in nine consecutive seasons ’81-89.
Evans led right fielders during the ’80s in HR, RBI, walks, runs, runs created, extra base hits, times on base, runs produced, OPS and doubles, as well as four top 10 finishes in the MVP voting.
Since the turn of the century, all players to lead their respective decade in extra base hits through 1980 have been inducted in Cooperstown.
Extra Base Hit Leaders by Decade
1900s – Honus Wagner
1910s – Tris Speaker
1920s – Babe Ruth
1930s – Jimmie Foxx
1940s – Stan Musial
1950s – Stan Musial
1960s – Hank Aaron
1970s – Reggie Jackson
1980s – Dwight Evans
David Laurila of FanGraphs writes:
Evans has the same OPS+ as Rickey Henderson , higher one than Ernie Banks, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Paul Molitor and Kirby Puckett. Evans’ WAR [61.8] is higher than Andre Dawson, Harmon Killebrew, Willie Stargell, Billy Williams and Dave Winfield.
Evans is in good company, comparing favorably to Kaline, Perez and Williams, as well as Dawson and Rice. Here’s a chart that breaks it down:
For all Hall of Fame hitters, Evans averages higher in runs, hits, doubles, HR, RBI, base on balls, slugging and OPS.
For more information, check out the case I presented for Evans at a January 19 meeting of the Society for American Baseball Research. I’ll close here by saying there are other statistical arguments in Evans’ favor. In his era, he ranked in the top 10 for most major statistical categories for right-handed American League hitters. From 1970-1989, no right fielder in MLB won more Gold Gloves than Evans. In 14 World Series games (two series, ‘75, ‘86) Evans hit .300, 15 hits, three HR, 14 RBI, seven walks, seven runs, .397 OBP, .580 SLG, .977 OPS and 29 total bases.
Yastrzemski said it best:
Dewey was a great offensive player and one of the greatest right fielders to play the game; there’s no doubt in my mind that he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.
Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al Oliver, Alan Trammell, Albert Belle, Albert Pujols, Allie Reynolds, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Bill King, Billy Martin, Bobby Grich, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Craig Biggio, Curt Flood, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Dick Allen, Don Mattingly,Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Gus Greenlee, Harold Baines, Harry Dalton, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Jim Edmonds, Joe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Kevin Brown, Larry Walker,Manny Ramirez, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Moises Alou, Pete Browning,Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito,Roger Maris, Ron Cey, Ron Guidry, Ron Santo, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey,Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Tony Oliva, Vince Coleman, Will Clark