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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

BtBS: Johnny Pesky, 1919–2012

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.

Repoz Posted: August 14, 2012 at 09:36 AM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: red sox, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. villageidiom Posted: August 14, 2012 at 01:27 PM (#4208049)
Am I lobbying for Johnny Pesky for the Hall of Fame? No, I'm not. But you're going to read a lot about what an incredible man and ambassador he was. All of it is well-deserved. I just want to remind you that he was also one hell of a ballplayer.
   2. sunnyday2 Posted: August 14, 2012 at 09:23 PM (#4208491)
I have long been a supporter of Johnny Pesky for the Hall of Merit, for the reasons discussed above. I believe in giving war credit and I am probably a bit more inclined toward players at defensive positions than some. Then there is the fascinating parallel with ARod and Jeter--that is, Pesky moving to 3rd when the Sox acquired Vern Stephens. Pesky was probably a better defender. Curious.

The other thing that comes to mind is just what an incredible cohort the AL had at SS during the '40s: Rizzuto, Pesky, Stephens, Joost. not to mention Lou Boudreau. Take away Boudreau's 1948 and he is not better than Stephens. It really was quite a group.
   3. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: August 15, 2012 at 05:46 AM (#4208585)
If you haven't read The Teammates by David Halberstam ...
   4. DanG Posted: August 15, 2012 at 08:31 AM (#4208598)
an incredible cohort the AL had at SS during the '40s: Rizzuto, Pesky, Stephens, Joost. not to mention Lou Boudreau.
Most WAR 1939-55, minimum 500 G at SS:

Rk          Player WAR/pos OPSRfield   PA From   To   Age
1    Pee Wee Reese    60.4  103    106 8263 1940 1955 21
2     Lou Boudreau    59.1  120    118 7022 1939 1952 21
3     Luke Appling    42.1  116     23 5900 1939 1950 32
4    Vern Stephens    41.8  119      0 7241 1941 1955 20
5     Phil Rizzuto    38.2   93    117 6652 1941 1955 23
6          Al Dark    30.6  103     24 5054 1946 1955 24
7     Johnny Pesky    30.4  107     17 5515 1942 1954 22
8      Eddie Joost    29.6  100      5 6746 1939 1955 23
9     Marty Marion    29.6   81    130 6143 1940 1953 22
10    Arky Vaughan    24.4  122      7 3360 1939 1948 27
11    Eddie Miller    22.4   81     80 5740 1939 1950 22

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