— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Sunday, December 22, 2002
Aaron checks to see if Cooperstown will call the O’s slugger.
Eddie Murray | 1B/DH | Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York (NL), Cleveland, Anaheim
1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
One of the best? Yes.
The best? Probably not.
Eddie Murray never really got a lot of attention, mostly because he never put together a huge season (or seasons) that would have gotten everyone?s attention.
2. Was he the best player on his team?
Much of the time, yes.
During Murray?s 12 full seasons in Baltimore, he shared some of the spotlight (and team “best player” honors) with Ken Singleton and later Cal Ripken Jr. Because of Ripken?s greatness, this question is a little bit unfair in Murray?s case, but let?s look anyway.
According to Win Shares, Murray was either the best player or tied for the best player on the Orioles 5 times in the 12 year period:
In addition to those 5 times, Murray was the second best Oriole 5 other times:
1979 (25 - second to Singleton)
He joined the Dodgers for 3 seasons and, according to Win Shares, was the best player on the team in 2 out of the 3 years:
Then Murray joined the Mets for 2 seasons and was the best player on the team in his first season in New York:
And he was the second best player in his second Mets season:
1993 (15 - second to Bobby Bonilla)
From 1977-1993 Eddie Murray played 17 seasons for 3 different teams. He was the best player on the team during 8 of the seasons and the second best player during 6 of them.
If you take away Ripken, he would have been the best player on his team in 12 of his first 17 seasons.
3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
Several times, yes.
Throughout the first dozen years of his career, Murray was often either the best first baseman in the league or one of the top 2 or 3.
Murray was definitely the best first baseman in the American League from 1981-1983 (and maybe 1984) before giving up those honors to Don Mattingly from 1984-1987. He was also the best National League first baseman in 1990.
For the entire decade of the 1980s, no first baseman in baseball had as many Win Shares as Eddie Murray. Murray totaled 250 Win Shares in the 80s, the next closest first basemen:
Keith Hernandez - 221
4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
Yes, quite a few.
Murray?s teams appeared in the post-season on 4 occasions - 1979, 1983, 1995 and 1996.
In addition to those post-season berths, his teams finished 2nd in their division and missed the playoffs another 6 times.
On the 4 post-season teams:
Murray was the cleanup hitter on the 1979 Orioles team that won the AL East Division by 8 games over Milwaukee. Baltimore went on to win the AL pennant that year. Murray hit .417/.588/.667 in the ALCS victory over the Angels, but only .154/.267/.308 in the World Series loss to the Pirates.
Murray was the top RBI man on the 1983 Orioles team that won the AL East Division by 6 games over Detroit. He hit .267/.389/.467 to help them defeat the White Sox in the ALCS and then .250/.286/.550 in the World Series victory over the Phillies - including 2 home runs in the World Series-clinching 5th game.
Murray was the full-time DH on the 1995 Indians team that won the AL Central Division by 30 games, but because of the massive lead over the other teams in the division, he didn?t really have much of an impact on the 1995 pennant race. He hit .385/.467/.769 in the ALDS win over the Red Sox, but only .250/.308/.417 in the ALCS win over Seattle and .105/.292/.263 in the World Series loss to Atlanta. Murray only got 2 hits in 19 World Series at bats in 1995, but one of them was the game winning single in game 3.
He started the 1996 season as the Indians DH, but was traded to the Orioles mid-year and went on to help the Orioles capture the AL Wild Card over the Mariners, Red Sox and White Sox. Murray then was one of the primary reasons the Orioles knocked the Indians out of the playoffs, hitting .400/.500/.467 in the ALDS. He went on to hit .267/.353/.467 in the ALCS loss to the Yankees.
Overall, Murray?s teams made the playoffs 4 times and finished second 6 times. He played in 3 World Series and won his only championship in 1983. Murray?s overall post-season totals are very good: .258/.366/.459 with 9 homers and 25 RBIs in 44 games, but his World Series performance (.169/.280/.369 in 18 games) was not very good, although he did hit 4 homers and drove in 8 runs.
5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?
From the ages of 30-37, Murray put up 8 straight seasons with an adjusted OPS better than league average.
Total, during his 30s, Murray played 10 seasons and had an OPS+ better than league average in 9 of them, including OPS+ seasons of 135 (age 30), 120 (age 31), 136 (age 32), 159 (age 34) and 130 (age 39).
In his final full season, at the age of 40, Murray was still somewhat useful as a full-time DH, hitting .260/.327/.417 with 22 homers and 79 RBIs with Cleveland and Baltimore.
6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
Among eligible players, yes.
There are no eligible players with more Win Shares than Eddie Murray and the only ones that come even remotely close to his total of 437 are:
Tony Mullane - 399
Cases could probably be made for a couple of those players being better than Eddie Murray, but Murray is likely the best eligible player not yet in the HoF.
7. Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Of Murray?s 10 “Most Similar Batters”: 7 are in the Hall of Fame (Winfield, Yastrzemski, Kaline, Robinson, Ott, Jackson, Perez) and 3 are not yet eligible (Palmeiro, Baines, Ripken Jr.), but are likely Hall of Famers, to varying degress.
8. Do the player?s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
Without a doubt.
Murray scores a 55.8 on the “Hall of Fame Standards” test (the “average Hall of Famer” scores approximately 50) and a 155.0 on the “Hall of Fame Monitor” test (a “likely Hall of Famer” scores over 100).
His “raw” stats are just as impressive:
Murray has the 2 “magic numbers” for a Hall of Fame hitter - 500 homers and 3,000 hits.
No eligible player with either of those accomplishments is not in the Hall of Fame, let alone someone with both.
Murray hit 504 home runs (17th all-time). The eligible player with the most homers that is not in the Hall of Fame is Dave Kingman, with 442 (28th all-time).
Murray got 3,255 hits (12th all-time). The eligible players with the most hits that are not in the Hall of Fame are Andre Dawson, 2,774 (42nd all-time) and Vada Pinson, with 2,757 (43rd all-time).
In addition to those 2 stats, Murray is also near the top of the all-time leaderboard in several other categories:
Murray ranks tied for 6th all-time in games played, with 3,026. The only eligible player in the top 20 that is not in the Hall of Fame is Rusty Staub, with 2,951 (11th all-time).
Murray ranks 8th all-time in total bases, with 5,397. Every eligible player in the top 20 is in the Hall of Fame.
Murray ranks 17th all-time in doubles, with 560. The only eligible player in the top 25 that is not in the Hall of Fame is Al Oliver, with 529 (25th all-time).
Murray ranks 8th all-time in RBIs with 1,917. Every eligible player in the top 25 is in the Hall of Fame.
Murray ranks 14th all-time in extra base hits, with 1,099. Every eligible player in the top 20 is in the Hall of Fame.
9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
Eddie Murray did not play a single season of his entire career in a home ballpark that favored hitting even the slightest bit. Every single one of his seasons came playing in an environment that, at best, was neutral, and more often than not was extremely favorable to pitchers.
He played the first 12 years of his career in Baltimore, at Memorial Stadium. According to BaseballReference.com, Memorial stadium had the following “park factor” in those 12 seasons (100 is neutral, under 100 favors pitchers):
Murray then moved onto to another good park for pitchers, Dodger Stadium, for 3 seasons:
After that he played at Shea Stadium for 2 years:
And then in Jacobs Field for 2 and a half seasons:
In 20 “ballpark seasons,” the highest park factor for a place Murray called home was 100, which means exactly neutral for hitters and pitchers.
In total he had:
5 seasons of 100.
In addition to having his offensive stats hurt by his home ballparks, Eddie Murray was also a pretty good defensive first baseman, which doesn?t show up in many statistics.
In Win Shares, Bill James rates Murray as a B-minus defensive first baseman and Baseball Prospectus? fielding numbers show Murray to have been an average-to-good defender in most of his seasons.
He won 3 Gold Gloves in his career (1982-1984).
10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame, but not in?
No eligible first baseman has more Win Shares than Murray.
The eligible players closest to his total of 437 are:
Dick Allen - 342
Once again, cases could be made for a couple of those guys, but Murray is the best eligible 1B not in the HoF.
11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
Murray had numerous MVP-type seasons but he never won an MVP award.
He finished 2nd in two seasons (1982, 1983), 4th in one (1984), 5th in three (1981, 1985, 1990), 6th in one (1980) and 8th in one (1978).
Because of Murray?s consistency and his RBI numbers, he was basically a candidate for MVP in almost every year of his career. He finished in the 10 in: OPS 8 times, HRs 8 times, RBIs 11 times and OPS+ 9 times.
12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go into the Hall of Fame?
Murray had an All-Star-type season pretty much every single year, from 1977-1993.
He played in 8 All-Star games, including 6 in a row from 1981-1986.
8 All-Star games is a good total, but not an overly impressive number for a Hall of Fame player.
Hall of Famers with a total of 8 All-Star games include: Duke Snider, Nolan Ryan, Ernie Lombardi, Catfish Hunter, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, Rick Ferrell, Bob Feller, Don Drysdale, Roy Campanella and Lou Boudreau.
On the other hand, there are many players that appeared in 8 career All-Star games and are not in the Hall-of-Fame: Vern Stephens, Ted Simmons, Walker Cooper, Del Crandall, Gil Hodges, Bob Johnson, Harvey Kuenn, Marty Marion, Tony Oliva and Lance Parrish.
13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
Murray was not the type of player that could carry a team by himself. He didn?t have any monstrous seasons and because of that he would probably need to be on a team with some other good players, but a team with Murray as its best player could certainly win the pennant.
14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
From most accounts, the only problems Murray ever really had were with those in the media. He got a reputation as a bit of a grouchy jerk with the press. However, the majority of his teammates didn?t feel the same way, at least not publicly.
Other than his spats with the media, Murray was a solid human being on and off the field.
There is really no possible way that Eddie Murray is not a Hall of Famer.
Some people use the argument that he was never great and was simply a good player for a very long time. That is just not the case. Eddie Murray was an MVP-caliber player in many of his seasons. The perception of him being “only” a good player is one that comes from the era in which he played the majority of his peak years and, more significantly, the ballparks in which in he played his home games. His “raw” totals are hurt by both of those things, which makes his career totals even more impressive.
Murray does very well overall on the Keltner Test. Although he was never regarded as the best player in baseball, he was consistently at the top of his position and he was involved in MVP races in many seasons. His overall numbers stack up with anyone?s and his “Most Similar” list is filled with Hall of Famers.