Attrition WARfare…Pesky, Garciaparra and Rizzuto.
In that 1946 season (I repeat, his first playing action after a three-year layoff), Pesky was worth 7.6 fWAR. He again led the league in hits, this time with 208. He led the league once more in 1947, collecting 207 safeties while contributing 4.7 fWAR. In his ten seasons, Pesky totaled 36.8 fWAR, despite contributing just 1.4 fWAR in his final three seasons.
Pesky’s career totals had the double-whammy of an incomplete peak and an early exit. While Pesky wasn’t the first excellent shortstop to be done at age 34, the years missed because of the War simply are not his fault. How would his career look if we gave him credit for those seasons? In Pesky’s case, we have a full season before he left and a full season after he left. We can simpy average those years and distribute the sum across his missed seasons. Now, Pesky was remarkable in 1942 and 1946, so that seems like a generous adjustment to make. But if he was remarkable as a 22-year old rookie and as a 26-year old veteran of three years in the Navy, is it really that big a stretch to think he would have been that good in between? I think it’s perfectly fair.
Average 1942 and 1946 together and you get 7.1 WAR. Multiply that by three and you get 21.3. Add that to his fWAR total and suddenly he’s a 58.1 WAR player across 13 seasons.
...Rizzuto (who was worth 47.2 fWAR before the adjustment) beats Pesky 60.3 to 58.1—quite similar. Pesky’s peak is a bit longer while Rizzuto’s career lasted longer. They are actually great comps for each other. Of course, Rizzuto is the Hall of Fame while Pesky is not. Rizzuto is often cited as being a less-than-deserving Hall of Famer. While his career numbers are lacking a bit, I think the key seasons he missed becuase of the War make him a better candidate than many believe. But do I think his case is considerably better then Pesky’s? No, I don’t.