Any player/Any era: Bob Caruthers

What he did: During a Baseball Think Factory forum discussion about my piece on Shoeless Joe Jackson last week, a member referenced Caruthers. The member wrote:

I wish this guy would do Parisian Bob Caruthers. A modern World Series, before the expanded playoffs, would have suited him down to the ground; he could have been Reggie Jackson and Jack Morris in the same series. Obviously in a regular season he’d have to pace himself and so would be less spectacular, but in a short series he might well be uniquely responsible for his side’s victory.

In his career spanning 1884-1893, Caruthers went 218-99 as a pitcher, leading the American Association with 40 wins two times. He also hit .282 lifetime as a sometime outfielder, twice hitting better than .330 and even stealing 49 bases and hitting 11 triples in 1887. As I told the member, I’m happy to feature Caruthers.

Era he could have thrived in: One of my regular readers pointed out that at 5’7″ and 130 pounds, Caruthers might not make the majors today. But with the 2002 World Series champion Anaheim Angels, I think Caruthers could have been an outfield equivalent of another 5’7″ player, David Eckstein. Only Caruthers might add pitching ability to the mix.

Why: Offensively, Eckstein is everything Caruthers could hope to be, a little guy undrafted out of high school and a walk-on in college who’s put together a 10-season career with a .281 lifetime average. Eckstein’s proof ballplayers needn’t always be 6’2″ and 200 pounds, though I’m guessing Caruthers might bulk up to somewhere around Eckstein’s 175 pounds. Each man also boasts reasonable speed.

Pitching-wise, I figure Caruthers was good enough in his day to qualify for at least a bullpen spot or occasional start today. Granted, the 1880s offered vastly inferior talent, particularly in the American Association where Caruthers did best, so I don’t know if he would win 20 today or how his velocity would project. But it seems illogical a man could be an ace in one era and not even big league material in another (the forum member likened Caruthers to Eddie Plank in an email he sent me.) I’d venture the Nationals, Pirates, and Royals have done worse than Caruthers in recent years. If they had a time traveling phone booth, à la Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and plucked Caruthers off a latter day mound, they might improve.

The question remains: Would Caruthers provide World Series heroics? Eckstein did. After modest success in the 2002 divisional playoffs and American League Championship Series, Eckstein hit .310 in the series, scoring six runs as the Angels triumphed. Could Caruthers compare? While I don’t know much about Caruthers beyond his stats, his Baseball-Reference bio mentions he pitched the winning game in the 1886 equivalent of the World Series, after posting mixed results in earlier games. So who knows. I will say that I think clutch ability is one of the few things in baseball that projects no matter the era. If Caruthers had it then, he’d have it now.

There’s one other thing worth mentioning. John Thorn, a prolific baseball author and an expert on baseball’s early days, mentioned Caruthers in an email exchange we had in July about players who pitched and hit. In preparing for this post, I emailed Thorn on Monday, and he replied, “If you like Bob Caruthers, you’ll love Guy Hecker. Check him out.”

At 6’0″ and 190 pounds, Hecker had size, and at quick glance, he might be the only player besides Babe Ruth to lead the league in both ERA and batting average. In the modern era, I suppose Hecker might eclipse Eckstein and Caruthers.

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, Dom DiMaggio, Fritz Maisel, George Case, Harmon Killebrew, Home Run Baker, Johnny Frederick, Josh Hamilton, Ken Griffey Jr., Nate Colbert, Pete Rose, Rickey Henderson, Sandy Koufax, Shoeless Joe Jackson, The Meusel Brothers, Ty Cobb

Baseball’s Most Fortunate Player: Matt Capps

Here’s the latest guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a regular Wednesday and Saturday contributor here. Today’s post centers on a notoriously terrible ball club. To any members of the Pittsburgh Pirates reading, Joe offers a prayer on how to get to another team and what happens when prayers are seemingly answered.


Exactly a year ago, Matt Capps was a reviled relief pitcher on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Capps, along with the rest of the Bucs, had suffered through a miserable season that ended with 99 losses. But since Capps was the closer and underperformed with a 4-8, 5.80 ERA, he was subjected to more than his share of fan abuse and media scorn.

Then, in the off season, a miracle befell Capps. When the Pirates didn’t tender Capps, he signed with the Washington Nationals.

Capps, whether revitalized because he was lifted from the heavy burden of playing for the Pirates, overjoyed to be reunited with former Pirate refugees Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett or whether he simply regained his earlier skills (2006: 9-1; 3.78, 2007: 4-7; 2.28, 2008: 2-3; 3.02) isn’t clear.

Whatever the reason, Capps (3-3; 2.74 with 26 saves) was the only Nat named to the All-Star Game. Then, just as Capps must have been thinking that he was the luckiest player alive to have escaped Pittsburgh and suddenly become a member of the baseball elite, an even bigger miracle took place.

The cellar dwelling Nats traded Capps to the then-pennant contending and now American League Central champion Minnesota Twins, an odds-on favorite to reach and possibly win the World Series.

Capps has proved his worth. Since arriving in Minnesota, he’s 1-0, 2.25 ERA with 15 saves.

Imagine: in less than a year, Capps went from the 18-consecutive losing seasons Pirates to a post-season World Series contender!

I’m happy for Capps. During the baseball season, I’m a PNC Park tour guide for the Pirates. Capps tirelessly signed autographs for the school kids when they visited the park. He graciously signed their shirts, shoes, baseball cards, backpacks. In fact, all the Pirates are great with the fans.

But imagine the impact on the less lucky, remaining Pirates when they see their teammates like Capps, former National League batting champion Freddy Sanchez, Javier Lopez, Nate McLouth, Adam LaRoche, Jason Bay and others land on first division teams.

I imagine them every night on bended knees praying to be traded before their productive playing days end.

Anywhere they might land is a step up.

The Baltimore Orioles, for example, were the American League East’s punching bag for the season’s first months. Under Buck Showalter, the Orioles are reborn.

Consider the Astros. They spent April, May and the first week of June looking up at the Pirates and the rest of the National League Central Division. Since June 4, the Astros have won almost as many games–54– as the Pirates have all season (55).

The Cincinnati Reds trailed the Pirates for a large part of 2009 before pulling away at the end of the season to finish 78-84. On the final game of the year, the Reds shut out the Pirates, 6-0.

The Pirates and Reds picked up in 2010 exactly where they left off: the Reds climbed all the way to first place and division champion and the Pirates plunged down to the worst team in baseball.

Only five games remain in the 2010 season until the Pirates go their separate ways.

They’ll head home, possibly with a detour to their local church, where they’ll offer this plea: “Please, Lord, I promise a lifetime of good works if you get me out of Pittsburgh.”


Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Joe Carter

Claim to fame: Never someone with many dimensions to his game, Carter did one thing consistently well: hit for power. In a given year, he was generally good for 30 home runs and at least 100 RBI, on his way to 396 home runs in 16 seasons. The five-time All Star is perhaps best known for hitting the Game Six home run that won the 1993 World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Carter was a one-and-done candidate his only year on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for Cooperstown in 2004, receiving 3.8 percent of the vote. He will be eligible for enshrinement by the Veterans Committee in 2018.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? If we look on a simple statistical basis, the answer is no. Resoundingly.

There are many reasons Carter doesn’t belong in Cooperstown, from his .259 career batting average, to his .306 on-base percentage, to his 105 OPS+. He never walked more than 50 times in a season, he finished with just more than 2.000 hits for his career and he hit .300 but once. If elected, his OBP would be second-lowest of any man enshrined as a position player, better only than Bill Mazeroski (.299), who unlike Carter played crack defense and might have had a more thrilling World Series-winning home run.

Carter’s also the kind of player that Wins Above Replacement was seemingly devised to mock, one of those Albert Belle or Dante Bichette types who could drive in more than 100 runs and still have a WAR rating below 3.0. Carter averaged about 1.0 WAR per season, finishing with 16.5 lifetime, and for his final six years, he had a negative aggregate rating. That means in those seasons, he theoretically cost his team wins an average player might have accounted for. In WAR, there are no winners named Joe Carter.

The equation changes if Carter is enshrined primarily for his World Series heroics. Months ago, I suggested a short-time Hall of Fame, for players who shined in brief intervals. Carter could head up a postseason section. The image of him joyfully galloping around the bases after that home run is one of my favorite baseball memories of the 1990s. Carter could be joined by men like Bobby Thomson, who hit the “Shot Heard Round the World” to win the 1951 National League pennant, and Don Larsen, who pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Maybe they don’t deserve a Hall of Fame plaque, but their moments bring out the best in the game. Baseball could do well to honor these men.

Interestingly, Thomson and Larsen lasted much longer on the Hall of Fame ballot than Carter. Larsen, who had an 81-91 career record, 3.78 ERA, and no All Star appearances, went the full 15 years of eligibility with the writers, peaking at 12.3 percent of the vote in 1979. Thomson, an outfielder with better numbers than Carter for batting average, OPS+ and WAR, hung on the ballot for 14 years, never receiving more than 5 percent of the vote. Even Cookie Lavagetto, who had 945 career hits and is best remembered for breaking Bill Bevens’ no-hitter in the 1947 World Series got four votes in 1958, the same as future Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi.

It’s surprising Carter didn’t get more consideration from the writers, and I wonder if the veterans will look to honor him, as they did Mazeroski in 2001.

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

Others in this series: Al Oliver, Albert Belle, Bert Blyleven, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Dan Quisenberry, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Pete Browning, Rocky Colavito, Steve Garvey, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines

Great pennant races in San Francisco Giants history

I’m pleased to present a guest post by Rory Paap of Rory emailed me after reading my interview with Joe Posnanski and offered to write something. Being a fellow Giants fan, I asked Rory to compare this year’s contenders to a few Giants playoff teams. The post is longer than what’s typically here. Rory explained to me that his writing is “Posnanski-ish, i.e. Curiously long.”



The 1951 Giants pulled off quite possibly the most stunning comeback in baseball history, coming back from 13 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers in August and winning 50 of their final 62 games to force a three game playoff. This culminated in the greatest call in sports history, the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” with Bobby Thomson hitting a three-run walk-off home run off Ralph Branca to give the Giants the National League pennant.

The Giants (run differential +140 against the Dodger’s +183) were sparked that year by rookie Willie Mays (3.5 WAR), who debuted May 25 and went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. Giants fans will also recall Monte Irvin (6.3 WAR) – whose number was recently retired by the club – as he led the league with 121 RBI.

The Giants of today could have learned a lot from their 1951 counterparts. Wes Westrum (3.4 WAR), for example, despite hitting just .219, had an OBP of .400. This was because he drew 104 walks. Their second baseman, Ed Stanky (4.8 WAR), drew 127 walks. They had solid contributors throughout the team: AL Dark (5.2 WAR), the Scottish hero Bobby Thomson (4.8 WAR).  They also had excellent defenders in both the outfield and infield and had large contributions from starters Sal Maglie (6.1 WAR) and Larry Jansen (5.8 WAR).

Despite all the theatrics, the Giants lost the World Series in six to the New York Yankees.

1962 — JustThisClose

The 1962 season was another that had great promise but ended in disappointment.  Their lineup included McCovey, Mays (10.6 WAR) and Cepeda (3.1 WAR) to name a few.

Mays was absolutely sensational on defense (and offense) and led baseball with 49 HR. But he was also jobbed.  Somehow – and this is ludicrous – Maury Wills (6.1 WAR) won the National League Most Valuable Player award with a .720 OPS (100 OPS+, i.e. league average hitter).  This was likely because he stole 104 bags, but he wasn’t even the best player on his team. Tommy Davis had a 6.8 WAR by seasons end for the Dodgers.

The Giants had several solid contributors: Jim Davenport (5.0 WAR), Felipe Alou (5.4 WAR), and equitable pitching performances for the season: Marichal (3.6 WAR), Billy O’Dell (3.4 WAR), Jack Sanford (3.5 WAR). The Giants had the leagues best run differential at +188 versus the Dodgers’ +145, but once again needed a three game playoff to decide the pennant.

The Giants would again come out victorious but, once again, lose to the Yankees in the World Series, this time in seven.

1989 — Bay Bridge Series

The 1989 Giants will always be one to remember for Giants fans.  After the Loma Prieta earthquake struck just prior to game three of the first and only Bay Bridge series, the Giants were all but sunk, but there were so many tremendous memories along the way.

Kevin Mitchell (7.7 WAR) was NL MVP by hitting .291 (.388 OBP, .635 SLG, 1.023 OPS) and leading the league with 47 HR and 125 RBI. Will Clark (9.4 WAR) was even better, but didn’t have the gaudy power numbers. He hit .333 (.407 OBP, .546 SLG, .953 OPS) while knocking out 23 HR with 38 doubles and 9 triples. The Giants also had huge contributions from Robby Thompson (6.0 WAR).

They were built on offense with the biggest pitching contributors being Rick Reuschel (2.8 WAR) and Scott Garrelts (3.7 WAR). They took down the Padres down the stretch in a pretty weak division, as their run differential was +99 to the Padres +16. They finished a good but not great 92-70.

But, perhaps the story of the year was a guy who only pitched 13 innings. Dave Dravecky came back from a tumor in his pitching arm that was discovered the previous year to pitch the Giants to a 4-3 win over Cincinnati on August 10, 1989. It was truly inspiring. This was just 10 months after having a tumor removed along with 50% of his deltoid muscle. In his next start, his arm snapped in half on a pitch to Tim Raines – causing Dave to fall to the ground in agony – ending his career and ultimately costing him his arm. After it was remarkably broken again during the pennant clinching post game jubilation, a doctor once again discovered a mass in his arm.

2010 –Expect the Unexpected

The 2010 Giants have been very good overall, but they’ve done it in the most unexpected ways. I think the idea was to pitch brilliantly like they did in 2009, and behind their ace Tim Lincecum (2.8 WAR), but he’s only been good and not great. Matt Cain (4.1 WAR). Jonathan Sanchez (3.1 WAR), brilliant closer Brian Wilson (3.0 WAR) and in only 106 innings Madison Bumgarner (2.1 WAR) have actually been better than he.

Offensively, the idea was basically to surround Pablo Sandoval with enough offense to be considered average. They’re average, but with out-of-nowhere contributions. Andres Torres took over the CF job and posted 4.1 WAR before going down with an appendectomy. He’s done this by playing breathtaking defense and being a spark plug at the top of the lineup. Aubrey Huff (5.3 WAR) has experienced resurgence on his first winning team. He was in the MVP picture before fading of late while playing 3 positions for the Giants when he was ridiculed– by me included– for being a DH.

Burrell was dumped by the Rays and has been nothing but fantastic for the Giants with a 2.6 WAR while providing desperately needed power and patience. Management took far too long to bring up the phenom Posey, but he’s got a chance at RoY and has posted a 2.9 WAR in just 99 games. Uribe (1.6 WAR) was supposed to be a utility man, but instead has hit 22 HR while playing mostly shortstop. As for Sandoval, who was supposed to be the ballast of the lineup, he’s posted a 0.2 WAR just barely above replacement.

At the start of the weekend, the Giants had nine games to play and led the division by 1⁄2 game. Their +106 run differential is third best in the league and best in the division. They are in great position to play in October for the first time since 2003, but whether they do or don’t, don’t be surprised if something goofy happens.


This guest post was written by Rory Paap, who founded in 2009. For a more complete Giants pennant history, read his post Gotham to Golden Gate, Generation to Generation on his blog.

(All WAR figures come from

Double the fun: Koufax Delivers the 1966 Pennant to the Dodgers, Then Retires

Here’s the latest guest post from Joe Guzzardi. Every Saturday, Joe writes Double the fun, looking at a notable doubleheader in baseball history. Today, he writes about one that occurred near the end of a legendary hurler’s career.


After the 1966 season ended, Sandy Koufax shocked the baseball world when he announced his retirement.  Koufax, only 30, pitched 323 innings and posted a 27-9, 1.79 ERA that season.

To the casual fan, he seemed at his peak. But well known inside the Los Angeles Dodgers clubhouse was that Koufax suffered from an arthritic left elbow that made pitching excruciating. Rather than continue taking pain medication for his inflamed elbow and risk permanent damage, Koufax walked away.

For the six years leading up to his retirement, Koufax may have been the most dominant pitcher in baseball history. From 1961 through 1966, Koufax went 132-47, won five straight ERA titles, tossed four no-hitters including a perfect game, won three Cy Young Awards, each time unanimously, led the league in strike outs four times, fanned 18 batters in a game twice, was voted onto seven All Star teams and was the National League MVP in 1963.

The last regular season game Koufax pitched, the night cap of a crucial October 2 double header against the Philadelphia Phillies, reflected all of his skills.

The Dodgers, locked in a close race with the San Francisco Giants and needing to win at least one of two on the season’s last day, sent their aces Don Drysdale and Koufax to the hill. In the opener, the Phillies behind Chris Short (20-10), knocked the Dodgers off, 4-3. The Phillies first batter John Briggs homered off Drysdale who was gone by the third inning.

Now it was up to Koufax, pitching on two days rest, to deliver the pennant.  Even though the game was meaningless to the fourth place Phillies, 19-game winner Jim Bunning got the nod. The game marked the first time two pitchers who had tossed perfect games went head-to-head. (Watch Koufax pitch the ninth inning of his September 9, 1965 perfecto against the Chicago Cubs here.)

Koufax pitched a masterful complete game giving up two earned runs and striking out ten while coasting to a 6-3 win. The Dodgers had led 6-0 going into the ninth.

The Dodgers then advanced to the World Series where one more start awaited Koufax.

In the series opener Drysdale, pitching poorly once more, gave up four runs in two innings and was yanked. The next day Koufax, again on short rest, allowed one earned run over six innings. But he was no match for the Orioles’ Jim Palmer who shut the Dodgers out, 6-0.

The Dodgers were also held scoreless in games three and four, losing 1-0 and 1-0, as the Birds completed a four-game sweep.

Koufax’s post-playing career has had ups and downs. In 1967, Koufax signed a ten-year contract with NBC for $1 million ($6,516,000 in current dollars) to broadcast the Saturday Game of the Week. But Koufax quit after six years.

Six years later, the Dodgers hired Koufax to be its minor league pitching coach. But Koufax’s uneasy relationship with then-manager Tommy Lasorda led to his 1990 resignation.

In 2003, Koufax temporarily ended his Dodger relationship when the New York Post (which, like the Dodgers, had become part of Rupert Murdoch’s corporate empire) published a story suggesting that he’s gay.

During his post-retirement period, Koufax’s personal life was as unsettled as his professional one. He married and divorced twice.

Happier news: the Hall of Fame elected Koufax in his first year of eligibility (1972) with 87 percent of the vote. The Sporting News named him #26 on its 1999 list of “The 100 Greatest Baseball Players”

Although he makes few public appearances, Koufax threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day 2008 to commemorate 50 years in Los Angeles.

Currently, Koufax serves on the advisory board of the Baseball Assistance Team, a charitable organization that helps needy former Major League Players.


Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at

In a Regular Season Game, 59-Year-Old Satchel Paige Dominates the Red Sox

Here’s the latest from Joe Guzzardi. Joe generally contributes guest posts Wednesday and Saturday, but due to personal circumstances is offering his first post on Friday this week.


One of the greatest challenges baseball historians face is evaluating the true accomplishments of the great Negro National League stars.

Record keeping was sporadic. The games weren’t covered by the main stream media but rather by weekly newspapers published for African-American readers that carried scant statistical information.

Anecdotes make up a large part of the Negro National League’s lore. For example, historians speculated for years that Josh Gibson hit 800 or more home runs. But recent research found that Gibson hit many of those homers in unofficial games against inferior competition, often makeshift barnstorming teams.

Most now agree that Gibson’s more accurate home run total for regulation games against comparable Negro National League teams is between 150 and 200.

A certain aura based on hearsay also surrounds Satchel Paige who pitched for seven Negro League teams as well as various minor league, Dominican and Mexican clubs. Who can say if Paige, as he claimed, really pitched 50 no hitters?

But, when Paige finally reached the major leagues in 1948 to pitch for the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and the Kansas City Athletics, an official scorer documented his achievements. Paige’s record (28-31; 3.29 ERA) is beyond dispute.

His brief time in the majors includes what may be the most remarkable feat in baseball history.

In 1965 at the age of 59 years, two months and eight days, Paige pitching for Charles O. Finley’s Athletics, started a late season game against the Boston Red Sox and hurled three scoreless innings.

Maverick owner Finley conceived the idea to sign and start Paige as a lark to boost the Athletics’ sagging attendance. That year the team, 59-103 and playing in front of an average of 3,000 fans, finished tenth. Paige inked a $3,500 contract and immediately declared: “I think I can still pitch and help this club.”

Finley, with considerable assistance from Paige, hyped the game masterfully. Before warming up, Paige sat in a rocking chair placed next to but not in the A’s underground bullpen. Paige said: “At my age, I’m close enough to being below ground level as it is.”

More theatrics: A white-uniformed nurse stood beside Paige to massage his arm before the game while a personal water boy handed him cool drinks.
Paige’s six children looked on; his wife Lahoma, expecting a seventh child, stayed home.

When the game began, Paige dominated. He recorded nine outs on only twenty-eight pitches and allowed just one hit, a double by Carl Yastrzemski. Ironically, during a Long Island semi-pro game a generation earlier, Yaz’s father had hit against Paige.

Relying on pinpoint control, Paige walked no one. According to teammate Ed Charles, Paige took only ten warm up tosses before “he proceeded to go out on the mound and shove the ball right up their you know what. Most of the kids on our team were saying: ‘What’s this old man doing? He should be in a retirement home.’”

Bill Monbouquette, Paige’s mound opponent and Satchel’s last strike out victim, said: “Satchel had better swings off me than I had off him.”

At the top of the fourth, Paige strode to the mound. But, as he had planned all along, manager Mel McGaha took Paige out so he could leave to a standing ovation.

Shortly after Paige reached the locker room, McGaha summed him back to the field where idolizing fans in the darkened Municipal Stadium flicked matches and lighters in his honor. To top it off, they sang “The Old Grey Mare” (For more details about the game and Paige’s career, read Larry Tye’s biography, Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend. See Tye’s interview that includes photos of Paige rocking in his chair here.)

The Los Angeles Times, one of the many major newspapers that turned out to cover the game, best summed Paige’s effort. In its recap, the Times wrote: “A gimmick yes. A joke, no.”

Certainly no major league hitter, including the likes of a brash, young slugger Tony Conigliaro or a seasoned veteran like Felix Mantilla, wanted to be shown up by a pitcher more than twice their ages.

The evening wasn’t a total success. The game drew only 9,289 fans. The A’s, with Don Mossi (5-7) in relief absorbing the defeat, lost 5-2 as Monbouquette (10-18) pitched a tidy (2:14) seven hit complete game.

After two more miserable seasons playing before empty stands, the Athletics pulled out of Kansas City to head for happier days in Oakland.

In its seven year history, the Kansas City Athletics most memorable, moments were the three innings that Paige dominated the Red Sox.


Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at

Any player/Any era: Shoeless Joe Jackson

What he did: The man nicknamed Shoeless Joe is one of the all-time greats. Say what you will about his involvement in throwing the 1919 World Series, which cost him a spot in the Hall of Fame, but Jackson hit for average, fielded impeccably, and even ran the bases well, stealing at least 20 bases five times and peaking with 41 steals in 1911. The only thing Jackson couldn’t do was hit for power. In another era, he might have hit more than 54 home runs lifetime. In fact, I think Jackson could have been a Triple Crown winner.

Era he might have thrived in: Jackson is probably one of those few legends who would have stood out at pretty much any point in baseball history. With the Red Sox in the late ’30s and early ’40s, Jackson could have been Ted Williams with greater speed and fielding ability. In the ’50s and ’60s, Jackson might have been a five tool player comparable to Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. And with the current Texas Rangers, I would liken Jackson to another sweet-swinging lefty and Triple Crown threat, Josh Hamilton.

Why: I see Hamilton and I can’t help but think of Jackson. In many ways, Hamilton seems his modern equivalent. Both are Southerners. Both were exiled from baseball, Hamilton temporarily to deal with drug problems, Jackson permanently because of the Black Sox Scandal. In terms of playing ability, both hit similarly sweet from the left side and possessed supreme talent. I think if Jackson were playing today, Hamilton is the player he might resemble most closely.

Hamilton returned to the game in 2007 with the Reds, was traded to the Rangers before the following season and blossomed into a star. Texas has been his promised land. Considering Hamilton’s .395 home batting average this year, I can only imagine what Jackson would hit there. I’m thinking his home batting average might approach .500. After all, Jackson hit better than .350 six seasons, peaked at .408 in 1911, and hit .356 lifetime, third-best all-time behind Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby. And Jackson did that against Deadball Era pitching.

So I think Jackson’s batting average today would be just as good, if not better. I also think he’d have better power numbers, playing with a livelier ball and in a park like Texas. I think the park would have the same effect on Jackson it’s had on Hamilton and that Shoeless Joe would have similar slugging stats: maybe 30 home runs and a ton of RBI. Of course, if Jackson had stayed in baseball, a spike in his numbers may have come in his own era.

Jackson posted career highs of 12 home runs and 121 RBI in 1920, his last year before being banned. That year, Babe Ruth topped 50 home runs for the first time and helped revolutionize baseball, with the number of home runs in the American League increasing nearly 50 percent by 1925. Mike Lynch of told me recently that in a What If-style book he wrote on the 1919 White Sox, Jackson posted a slugging percentage ranging between .512 and .591 from 1921 through 1924. One can only wonder what might have been.

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, Dom DiMaggio, Fritz Maisel, George Case, Harmon Killebrew, Home Run Baker, Johnny Frederick, Josh Hamilton, Ken Griffey Jr., Nate Colbert, Pete Rose, Rickey Henderson, Sandy Koufax, The Meusel Brothers, Ty Cobb

Roy Halladay and others who won 20 games their first year in a new league

[Editor’s note: Joe Guzzardi’s usual Wednesday guest post will appear on Friday this week.]

Upon hearing news that Roy Halladay won his 20th game on Tuesday, I began to make a list. Halladay is the latest addition to a small club: pitchers who won 20 games their first year in a new league after playing in the other circuit. Making a quick run of, I found ten men who have accomplished this in the National or American League since the founding of the second league in 1901.

These pitchers are:

Roy Halladay: The newcomer here, Halladay looks like the odds-on favorite for National League Cy Young this year, as he’s now 20-10 with a 2.53 ERA. Halladay received an American League Cy Young and six All Star nods over his 12 seasons with Toronto before coming to the Phillies in a December 2009 trade.

Fergie Jenkins: The future Hall of Famer won 20 games six straight years for the Cubs early in his career then faltered in 1973 to 14-16 with a 3.89 ERA and was dealt in the offseason to the Rangers. Jenkins proceeded to go 25-12 with a 2.82 ERA in 1974, winning the American League Cy Young.

Gaylord Perry: The Giants packaged Perry and another player for five-time strikeout champion Sam McDowell in November 171 and it haunted them. McDowell went 10-8 with a 4.33 ERA in 1972 and was gone from San Francisco within another year, while Perry won 180 more games in his career and two Cy Youngs. The first of these came with the Indians in 1972 when Perry went 24-16 with a 1.92 ERA.

Mike Cuellar: A promising pitcher for the Astros and an All Star in 1967, Cuellar became an a powerhouse with his trade to the Orioles in December 1968. Cuellar won 20 games his first three seasons in Baltimore and shared the 1969 Cy Young with Denny McLain.

Carl Mays: Despite going 208-126 with a 2.92 ERA, Mays was notorious for throwing the pitch that killed Ray Chapman in 1920 and for allegedly fixing games in the 1921 and 1922 World Series, as recounted by longtime sportswriter Fred Lieb in his 1977 memoir, Baseball As I Have Known It. Lieb wrote of how the Yankees asked for waivers on Mays following the 1923 World Series and how Yankee skipper Miller Huggins wrote to Mays’ new manager, Garry Herrmann of the Reds, “I may be sending you the best pitcher I have, but I warn you that Carl is a troublemaker and always will be a hard man to sign.” Mays went 20-9 in 1924 for Cincinnati, had one more good season, and was effectively done.

Jack Chesbro: Chesbro’s 21 wins for the New York Highlanders in 1903 were seven less than what he posted for the Pirates the year before, though he more than made up for it by going 41-12 with a 1.82 ERA for New York in 1904. The win total is a record in the modern era.

Cy Young, Joe McGinnity, Chick Fraser, Clark Griffith: I group these pitchers together as they were the men who won 20 games the first year of the American League, 1901, after they jumped over from National League clubs.

Related: Fantastic finishes: Pitchers who won 20 games in their final season

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Tim Raines

Claim to fame: In the 1980s, Raines may have been the National League’s answer to Rickey Henderson. Raines led the league in stolen bases 1981-1984 and had 578 of his 808 career steals in the decade. He also made seven consecutive All Star teams and, together with Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, and others, helped make the Montreal Expos contenders. Raines declined in the ’90s and was a role player by the end, though he remains popular among baseball researchers.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Raines has made three appearances on the Cooperstown ballot for the Baseball Writers Association of America, reaching a high of 30.4 percent of the vote this year. He has 12 more tries with the writers.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? In a word, yes. Together with Lou Brock and Henderson, Raines rates among the best base thieves ever. I devoted one of these columns in June to another stolen base champ, Maury Wills, and I said that before Wills goes in, Raines must be honored first. After all, Wills is 19th on the career steals list while Raines is 5th and has the most steals of anyone not in Cooperstown.

Raines also scored the fourth-most runs of any eligible ballplayer not enshrined, and he finished with 2,605 hits and a .294 batting average. Imagine if instead of sitting the Yankee bench in later years, Raines started for a lesser team and made 3,000 hits. He’d have been a first ballot selection, no question– since 1952, no eligible player with 3,000 hits has failed to make it on his first try.

Who knows when Raines will get a plaque, though? Tom Verducci wrote in a Sports Illustrated piece in January that ’80s stars like Dale Murphy, Jack Morris, and Raines may lose their opportunity as many recent greats become eligible.

Verducci wrote:

In 17 years I never have voted for a player who did not eventually make the Hall of Fame. I fear Raines might be the first. He was the greatest offensive weapon in his league in his prime, once scoring an NL-record 19.6 percent of his Montreal team’s runs. He was a better player than Lou Brock (easily; look it up) and reached base more times and scored more runs than Tony Gwynn. He stole bases nearly at will — succeeding on 85 percent of 954 attempts. He is harmed as a candidate by issues that have nothing to do with his greatness: a low profile in Montreal, part-time roles in New York and Chicago, and two player strikes, especially in 1981, when his rate of stolen bases (71 in 88 games) put him on pace for the glory Rickey Henderson received the next year for smashing Brock’s record of 118.

Raines’ candidacy also was probably hurt by a drug problem. Ken Burns noted in his Baseball series that Raines said he “always slid headfirst because he didn’t want to break the cocaine vials he kept in his pants pockets.” As I wrote about Dave Parker, if a minority player is perceived to have character issues, his chances of making Cooperstown plummet.

Raines certainly has support. I named him one of the 10 most underrated players, and Raines is in Baseball Think Factory’s Hall of Merit. In a forum discussion, one member wrote in 2007:

I’ve thought for a while that Raines is a guy who, maybe more than any other upcoming Hall of Fame candidate, would benefit from some sabermetric types with a bit of mainstream exposure talking up his credentials, similar to what has happened with Bert Blyleven.

History would suggest Raines has slim odds with the writers. Of the 67 players the BBWAA has enshrined since modern voting procedures were instituted in June 1967, Raines received more votes his third year on the ballot than just seven men: Luis Aparicio, Lou Boudreau, Ralph Kiner, Bob Lemon, Joe Medwick, Duke Snider, and Bruce Sutter.

Then again, Blyleven got 17.4 percent of the vote his third year and didn’t crack 30 percent until his seventh year. Something has happened since, and it appears Blyleven may get a call for Cooperstown in January. So perhaps Raines has a chance. But I’m guessing Raines’ honors will come from the Veterans Committee, which has tapped many players with inferior career numbers and far less support from the BBWAA.

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

Others in this series: Al Oliver, Albert Belle, Bert Blyleven, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Dan Quisenberry, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Pete Browning, Rocky Colavito, Steve Garvey, Thurman Munson

Clash of the titans

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, this site was mentioned by Mike Lynch in an article at on Friday. Back in August, Bobby Aguilera posted a roster of good ballplayers not in the Hall of Fame. I responded with an opposing lineup and suggested a one-game playoff. Lynch used the Lineup Analysis Tool on Baseball Musings to see who’d have the batting advantage.

Here’s what Lynch determined:

Aguilera’s Nine Womack’s Nine
Tim Raines LF .294 .385 .425 Maury Wills SS .281 .330 .331
Edgar Martinez DH .312 .418 .515 Roberto Alomar 2B .300 .371 .443
Reggie Smith CF .287 .366 .489 Joe Jackson LF .356 .423 .517
Dick Allen 1B .292 .378 .534 Albert Belle DH .295 .369 .564
Dwight Evans RF .272 .370 .470 Dave Parker RF .290 .339 .471
Joe Torre C .297 .365 .452 Don Mattingly 1B .307 .358 .471
Bobby Grich 2B .266 .371 .424 Thurman Munson C .292 .346 .410
Ron Santo 3B .277 .362 .464 Pete Rose 3B .303 .375 .409
Bill Dahlen SS .272 .358 .382 Spottswood Poles* CF .327 .401 .405
Expected R/G 5.96 Expected R/G 5.63

Basically, Lynch found that perhaps I don’t know what I’m talking about, which really isn’t news (some of my friends have known this for years) though it still surprised me that my squad might not win a one-off battle. I conceded my guys had lesser career numbers, but I figured the talent level was higher, meaning more in the short term. That was kind of my point in doing this, to suggest that players like Bobby Grich, Reggie Smith, and Ron Santo aren’t necessarily the best guys not in Cooperstown simply because they spent more years in the majors and amassed better Wins Above Replacement ratings. Maybe I should give more thought to WAR and similar metrics.

Lynch did some tweaks and discovered I could gain an eighth of a run by batting Spottswood Poles in the lead-off spot, hitting Shoeless Joe Jackson second, and using Ted Simmons in place of Thurman Munson. I’m happy to have Poles lead off, and I’d substitute Cecil Travis for Maury Wills at short. I’m still reluctant to take Simmons over Munson, as I think Munson was better in his prime. His offensive averages aren’t much worse than Simmons, and Lynch noted that Munson was far better defensively. I also think Shoeless Joe would provide better slugging numbers in the modern era and be an excellent third hitter.

In the comment section for his post, Lynch said if I sent a full pitching staff, he’d set up a best-of-seven series on his computer. I provided a four-man rotation of Deacon Phillippe, Jack Morris, Dwight Gooden, and Eddie Cicotte, with Urban Shocker as an extra starter and long reliever. We’ll see where this goes. Regardless of how the series comes out, I may come out of this still not really knowing what I’m talking about. That’s fine– I’ve been wrong many times in life. Among the highlights:

  • I once insisted the Giants trade Tim Lincecum, right before he started winning Cy Youngs, for Alex Rios
  • I once predicted the 49ers would win the NFC West and then watched them go 2-14
  • Right before I graduated from Cal Poly, I passed on a chance to work a day behind the scenes at the Michael Jackson trial to go on a bike ride