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Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Dale Murphy

Atlanta’s 2-time MVP centerfielder steps up to the chopping block.

Using the "Keltner Test" developed by Bill James in the 1980s, here are my answers to a set of 15 subjective questions to determine whether Dale Murphy should be on the outside looking in.

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?

Dale Murphy certainly would have merited consideration as the best player in baseball from 1982-1987.  He won consecutive MVP awards (1982 and 1983), which is a pretty rare feat.  Murphy was also in the top 10 the next two years.  He had a huge 1987 (like everyone else) and would have been a better choice than Andre Dawson, but finished 11th. 

 

Winning two consecutive MVP awards, however, does mean that he was regarded as one of, if not the, best players in baseball.  He was never incontestably the best player in a Barry Bonds/Babe Ruth sense, but he was up there.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Certainly.  He played for the Braves back when they stunk, really stunk. 

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

He was a gold glove winning centerfielder and an MVP candidate.  He was the best centerfielder with the bat and one of the best with the leather.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

One.  He played on some terrible teams, but in 1982 he was the best player on a Braves squad that squeaked out the NL West by one game.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

This is where Murphy falls apart.  His game fell apart in 1988 at the age of 32 and never recovered.  He left the 900+ OPS range of the past and settled in at about 700.  Even a trip to Mile High Stadium as a 37 year-old could not resuscitate his career.

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

No.  In my mind Gary Carter is.  Because Murphy?s career collapsed so completely, he doesn?t really get serious consideration.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Only Duke Snider, his second best comp, is in the hall.  His comp group is primarily a bunch of all star corner outfielders/DH/1B types (Joe Carter, Don Baylor, George Foster, Lee May, Bobby Bonilla, Darrell Evans).  He was highly similar to Reggie Jackson every year from age 28-35, which tells you that he was on the right track.

8. Do the player?s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

The Hall of Fame Standards test shows Murphy with 34.3 points, and the average HOFer with 50.

 

The Hall of Fame Monitor shows Carter with 115 points, and the likely HOFer has more than 100.

 

Murphy has 294 career Win Shares.  But from 1980-1987 they run 28, 11, 32, 32, 33, 31, 22, 29.  A pretty good peak, but not Hall of Fame.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

His home park was one of the best hitters parks in the pre-Denver days.  His home stats were 284/373/508 and his away stats were 252/329/447.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

He is probably the best CF not in the hall, but he would be surpassed by the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr., who is on his own Murphy-like decline.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

He won twice, finished in the top 10 twice.  He also got votes in 1980, 1986 and 1987.

 

He had 4 seasons in his career in which he earned 30 or more win shares. Seasons with more than 30 win shares denote an MVP level of performance.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

He was an All-Star 7 times.  It?s an intermediate number, but in general, players that sustain that long a run are Hall of Famers.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

Without a doubt.  He was a slugging, gold glove winning centerfielder.

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?

Not that I am aware of.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Yes.

Conclusion

A high peak, but with such a poor finish!  Dale Murphy passes all of the peak questions with flying colours, but his career accomplishments work strongly against him.  If his career had ended in 1987 in a Kirby Puckett-esque manner, then we might be considering him, but I don?t think that Dale Murphy is a Hall of Famer.

 

James Fraser Posted: December 18, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 36 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. eric Posted: December 19, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607684)
"13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

Without a doubt. He was a slugging, gold glove winning centerfielder."

"2. Was he the best player on his team?

Certainly. He played for the Braves back when they stunk, really stunk."

In fairness to the author, I'm not sure #13 is a valid question. I don't think the Devil Rays could win a pennant with Barry Bonds, either. Maybe it should be worded, "Could the player carry an otherwise average team to a pennant?" The Braves, with the one exception "stunk, really stunk" so they were an otherwise below average team. Could a team like say, San Diego from 1982-87 have won more pennants with Dale Murphy? That's the question that should be asked. Aside from the one contradiction, good article. I rather expect a very similar conclusion for Don Mattingly (who played on a better team but never won a pennant. Go figure.)
   2. GregD Posted: December 19, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607685)
I was rummaging through my closet last week and came across some old Bill James Baseball Abstracts. The 1987 one, I think--could be 1986--included HOF discussions. For many players, including Dave Winfield, James goes into long discussions of what needs to happen for the player to make it. For Dale Murphy, his comment is just "Dale Murphy will make the Hall of Fame."

It's always struck me that Murphy may be one of the cases where a decline phase is too prominent in people's memory. On the one hand, Murphy's bad decline phase is part of his career. On the other hand, if he had 3 more .275 20 HR seasons, then all kinds of people would vote him into the Hall, but he wouldn't necessarily be a much better player. His value was in his peak; his peak was pretty high.
   3. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 19, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607689)
If you are voting strictly on peak, he's a no-brainer. However, I weigh peak and career equally, so I can't recommend him.

Of centerfielders roughly from the same era, Fred Lynn and Cesar Cedeno were better than Murph. They're borderline candidates (I know they're not eligible).
   4. Brian Posted: December 19, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607694)
I agree question 13 is a problem, unless interpreted wrong to mean an average team, because as it was stated earlier Dale was the best on his team, and his team stunk. Also, referring Dale as Carter in the HOFer monitor section wont help the voters.
   5. Scott Posted: December 19, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607695)
Murphy seems to fall into a similar category as Jim Rice or Kirby Puckett or Don Mattingly. They were clearly were "on the road" to the HOF -- but abruptly halted after a peak that lasted about 5 years shorter than a typical HOF'er's does. There are differences among those four -- Mattingly's peak was the shortest, so he doesn't make the cut -- but I remember 1980s "who's the best player" discussions centering on Murphy more than on Puckett or Rice. Which would you rather have for that 10-year peak?

Murphy probably falls into that category where (a) voting him in wouldn't water down HOF standards, but (b) excluding him isn't the injustice it is for Carter and Blyleven.
   6. TFB Posted: December 19, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607704)
Question 13 shouldn't be all that confusing. It says "If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?" So the team just has to have a shot at it, it doesn't have to be a shoe-in. Also, everyone else on this hypothetical team can be almost as good as Murphy. Would a team of nine Dale Murphys be a likely pennant winner? Would a team of nine Randy Winns?
   7. Marc Posted: December 19, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607706)
Dale Murphy may have been better than Andre Dawson in '87 (and '82 and '83) but I think it's tough to say Murphy is the best centerfielder not in the HoF.

Murphy clearly had the higher peak. If you add up his peak WS (I use 3 year peak + 5 year peak and divide by 10), it's 24.7 for Murphy and 21.5 for Dawson. But career WS/10 is 34-29.4 for Dawson and TPR is 31-21.4. Black Ink + Gray Ink + HoF Standards + HoF Monitor/10 is 33.6 for Dawson, 32.8 for Murphy. Close, yes, but overall I end up with an edge for Dawson on this very gross, raw numbers comparison. Factor in the park and I gotta prefer Dawson on a HoF ballot.

I think there's a pretty good case for Pete Browning as the best CFer not in the HoF, too. Maybe Murph goes in through the vet's committee someday. If so, it would be a fine choice, but he's not a BBWAA HoFer. certainly not as long as Minoso, Oliva, Parker and Dawson are on the outside.
   8. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 19, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607708)
Dawson played more games in right than in center, so that has to be factored in.

Cedeno and Lynn were roughly equal to Murphy in terms of career production, but Dale's rate of production was less than the other two.

   9. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 19, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607712)
Tom Scudder:
I don't think Wynn is borderline but definite, also. Alas, another candidate knocked off the ballot...
   10. John Posted: December 20, 2002 at 02:12 AM (#607723)
Someone made the point that Murphy would be a fine Veterans' Committee choice some day, but that he's not a BBWAA Hall of Famer. I understand that this is how it works in practice, but how is that a defensible argument? If he'd be a fine Vets' choice, then he's a fine HOF'er and should be voted in this year. Right?

Unrelated question: did Bill James ever say how many "yes" answers on the Keltner test he thought qualified someone as a HOF'er? I know it's supposed to be a way to get you to think about a player in different ways, and not a checklist, but if you run it against current inductees, is there a "Keltner Number" that suggests success?
   11. Marc Posted: December 20, 2002 at 02:12 AM (#607725)
I'm the guy who said Murph should go in through the back door, the VC (thanks to Dan G. for designation of the new veteran's committee as "VC," not sure whether that was meant as a compliment). John wrote that a HoF candidate is a candidate is a candidate, and if he is worthy then the BBWAA should just vote him in.

I strongly disagree. The BBWAA has set a nice standard over the years. There's no question that everybody would disagree with some of their picks going back to 1936, or more likely some of their picks since about 1960-65 when the backlog of old-timers was cleaned out. Skipping over Sam Crawford is pretty questionable when you elect Teddy Lyons and Herb Pennock in his place, eg.

The really problematic picks, however--the G. Kellys, the Frankie Frisch cronies, etc.--are all VC picks. There's clearly a different standard. Any real fan of baseball history and of the HoF must have a list somewhere of BBWAA picks and VC picks. These are like night and day.

And so it is easy enough to apply the historical standards of the two bodies to candidates of today. When you look at their comps and some HoFers pop up, surely you make note of whether the comps are front door or back door men.

So I hope that the BBWAA sticks to its historical standards. I'd hate to hear that the BBWAA should elect everybody who is better than G. Kelly or Phil Rizutto or Chick Hafey or Rube Marquard. It's bad enough that the VC is pressured to elect Kelly's and Hafey's comps. But if players at that level must go into the HoF (NOTE: Murph is a vastly better VC candidate than these guys, just not BBWAA caliber), please, let the VC do that work.

Marc
   12. Scott Posted: December 20, 2002 at 02:12 AM (#607728)
John asked: ?did Bill James ever say how many "yes" answers on the Keltner test he thought qualified someone as a HOF'er? I know it's supposed to be a way to get you to think about a player in different ways, and not a checklist, but if you run it against current inductees, is there a "Keltner Number" that suggests success??

No, there is no ?Keltner number,? in part because certain factors are nowhere near as important as others. Several factors go to the heart of ?was this a great player,? and count much more heavily than others that simply round out the picture, like ?4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races??, ?13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant??, and ?14?.Did he introduce any new equipment??

So the uproar about #13 was pretty silly to me; it?s one of several factors that James tossed out as thought-provoking questions.
   13. Marc Posted: December 20, 2002 at 02:12 AM (#607736)
>It is, after all, the VC's purpose to sort out the borderline cases,
>whereas it is the BBWAA's purpose to vote in the more obvious choices.

Exactly why I said Dale Murphy was a VC type selection.

   14. Voros McCracken Posted: December 23, 2002 at 02:12 AM (#607762)
Actually, the Keltner List for Fernando in another artcile correctly gave him a "yes" for #14.

Other "yes" guys would be Steve Yeager (several advancements in catcher's gear), Andy Messersmith, Curt Flood, Jim Abbott, Hideo Nomo, and so on...

Basically it's the Jackie Robinson question, in order to think about the full picture of what the guy contributed.

I think Murphy is badly hurt by playing in a league where 36 Homers led the league, just before the era when all of the something 50+ at a minimum was needed to get it done.

Murphy was a hell of a player, and I think he's the only guy on this year's ballot with the possible exception of maybe Sandberg who was ever considered the best player in baseball. That's gotta count for a ton, decline phase or no.

If Murphy does not get in, I can certainly envision a day where he'll be the best player on the outside looking in (sans the Shoeless Joes and Clueless Petes of the world).
   15. Shaun Payne Posted: December 23, 2002 at 02:13 AM (#607783)
As an Atlanta native, Dale Murphy is my all-time favorite player; the first star player I can remember. I have to admit, it would be a huge deal to me if Murph did make it, but I think he does fall a bit short because he fell apart during his later years.

Maybe this is a discussion sparked by my bias, but should it matter if a player is a "symbol of his franchise", even if his stats fall short? I was too young to remember, but it seems that without Murphy, the Braves might not have stayed in Atlanta. I'm not saying you can be a bad player, but when your as close as Murphy, should his significance to his franchise matter?

Also, his character is another issue. I don't know of any player in history who was/is more respected than Dale Murphy. Musial was/is probably as respected, but probably not any more or less than Murph.

Should the combination of importance to his franchise and his outstanding character, plus the fact that his stats are close, put him over the edge?

I honestly don't know the answer to this question because I can't really think of any other player with a similar situation.

My initial thought is that Murphy falls short, but he wouldn't be a disgrace. And, given his significance and character, he probably should go in as soon as his selection doesn't keep better players out.
   16. Scott Lange Posted: December 24, 2002 at 02:13 AM (#607785)
I feel that career stats are weighted too heavily in most people's minds. Dale Murphy has a strong arguement as the very best player in baseball for a five year period. How many other players in history can say that? Not more than a handful per generation, I'd say. When measuring greatness, you have got to count a high five year peak as much more important than a gradual decline phase, don't you?

Vote Murph in.
   17. Voros McCracken Posted: December 24, 2002 at 02:13 AM (#607790)
David,

That certainly is one approach one could take and maybe a strong one. But I think it's presumptuous to assume that it's the only one.

Maybe it's the Holiday making me sentimental, but it seems to me the reason why these Hall of Fame debates are so popular is that they give us an opportunity to talk about players who maybe we've forgotten about. A lot of these players are definitely not Hall of Famers, no question. But virtually all of them added something to the experience of watching baseball for those of us who have seen them play.

To put more concretely, when discussing the Hall of Fame merits of Fernando Valenzuela, it seems to me to be very limiting to boil him down to how much he helped his teams win pennants. Fernando Valenzuela wasn't a baseball player, he was a national phenomenon. Every person in this country even the slightest bit interested in baseball knew all about Fernando and his bizarre delivery, his screwball and the way he gave Mexicans and Mexican Americans a hero to root for. Back then at Dodger Stadium, there were Dodger games and then there were Fernando games. For the younger fans around here, if you take the hype surrounding Ichiro last year and multiply it by 10,000, that might get you about halfway to the kind of impact Valenzuela had.

I agree that when talking about who the best players are, and whether a team should make a particular deal or trade, the approach you list is more than appropriate. And I also agree that the approach should be a factor (probably the most important factor) in determining who merits induction to the Hall of Fame. But to say that it is the _only_ factor, I think takes a lot of joy out of the process for me. After these guys are retired and its all talk anyway, why not talk about Sandberg's National TV game against the Cardinals that made him a star? Why not talk about the kind of impact Fernando had on the sport of baseball? Why not talk about what a loved figure Dale Murphy was in the city of Atlanta? Can't we have just a little fun?

It seems coming up with a number for his value and electing accordingly may actually be the best way to elect these guys...

...but it almost certainly isn't the most fun.

Happy Holidays to Absolutely Everybody in the Baseball World!
   18. tangotiger Posted: December 25, 2002 at 02:13 AM (#607794)
I think a relevant point is how to interpret the tail-ends of a player's career. As someone else noted, you can't play yourself out of a HOF. So, if at some point Tony Gwynn was considered a "sure" HOF, would it be possible that if he had a string of .250 seasons that he would then become borderline?

Therefore, to go back to David's point about "net" wins above a certain baseline: if you choose a baseline that is "high", then a player with alot of bad seasons can play himself off. If you choose a baseline that is "low", then Koufax might not get in, and someone with longevity but not "greatness" might get in.

The question I have then is: can you determine your standards first, and then select your HOF, or do you decide your HOF first, and then fit your standards to that?
   19. dlf Posted: December 26, 2002 at 02:13 AM (#607802)
Slapshot,

I'm not convinced that Murphy should be in either, but in no way is he comparable to Bob Horner. Murphy played more than twice as much, had many more dominating seasons, and - snide aside to the contrary - was much more valuable defensively. Horner was a one dimensional slugger who was frequently injured. The only similarity is the team that they played for.
   20. Shaun Payne Posted: December 27, 2002 at 02:13 AM (#607828)
Murphy was among the best players in baseball for a few years while Horner only got consideration for MVP once, and he finished 9th.
   21. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 28, 2002 at 02:14 AM (#607838)
Bill James has Murphy rated as the 12th best centerfielder, while Horner is the 82nd best third baseman. Whatever problems there might be with his rankings, there is no way that Horner is comparable to Murphy.

Now, if Horner had taken better care of himself, the differences between the two might have been much smaller. Horner was an extremely lazy player.
   22. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 29, 2002 at 02:14 AM (#607842)
To the unnamed poster from today:

I agree with you that, at best, Murphy is a marginal HoFer. I wouldn't have him on my ballot. I feel that he was much better than Bob Horner, however.
   23. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 29, 2002 at 02:14 AM (#607849)
Slapshot:
The last Murphy sighting I remember was when the Braves retired his number in 1994.

BTW, with a nickname like Slapshot, shouldn't you be at Hockey Primer? :-)
   24. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: December 30, 2002 at 02:14 AM (#607854)
A year or two ago, Murphy appeared on ESPN's Up Close with Gary Miller, and did a half-hour interview. Murph fans will be happy to hear that he was as gracious and gentlemanly during the interview as he was during his career.

If anyone ever saw Tony Curtis in "The Great Race," with (literally) sparkling teeth and eyes, that was Dale Murphy. Impeccable.
   25. King Anaconda Posted: December 30, 2007 at 04:43 AM (#2656688)
A comparison between Dawson and Dale Murphy based in their best seasons according to WS is nothing good for Dawson. Murphy had FOUR seasons above 30 WS (MVP level) vs ZERO by Dawson.
I can understand that Murph HOF place can be debatible because his lack of longevity because he only played 14 seasons as full time player plus two rockies seasons (37 games in total)plus 44 games in his two last seasons, but his peak is very impresive dwarf Dawson´s peak and this one only can beat him in the long run because was hanging around by 21 seasons being an average player 3/4 of the time.
Let´s see a WS seasons comparison of both players:
--------DAWSON--------//------------MURPHY--------
Year OPS+ WS MVP-----Year OPS+ WS award
1980 136 29,1 MVP--7 1984 149 32,5 MVP-9
1983 141 27,5 MVP--2 1982 142 31,8 MVP-1
1982 132 26,0 MVP-21 1983 149 31,6 MVP-1
1981 157 25,0 MVP--2 1985 152 31,3 MVP-7
1979 111 24,0 MVP-24 1987 157 28,7 MVP-11
1990 135 22,2 MVP-19 1980 135 27,8 MVP-12
1978 106 20,8 --no---. 1986 121 21,9 MVP-21
1991 116 20,3 MVP-14 1990 99 14,9 --no---.
1987 130 20,1 MVP--1 1989 89 13,7 --no---.
1988 137 19,4 MVP-15 1991 103 12,6 --no---.
1977 115 18,5 RoY--1 1988 106 12,1 --no---.
1986 123 16,2 --no---. 1979 113 10,7 --no---.
1985 109 16,1 --no---. 1981 101 10,5 --no---.
1992 115 15,6 --no---. 1978 80 7,4 --no---.
   26. Greg K Posted: February 06, 2008 at 05:43 PM (#2684783)
From his 1991 Baseball Book James says

"Murphy will probably go into the Hall of Fame without much of a fight"
This when he was 3 years into his decline already
   27. thinkmaui Posted: February 21, 2008 at 07:54 AM (#2696397)
In Bill James' defense in that 1991 book, he also went on to say that Murphy was not overwhelmingly qualified, but that he was in the strong part of the gray area.

He also mentioned at the time that Murphy's chances of reaching the HOF (at that moment) were better than Eddie Murray's, although he correctly pointed out that Murray would probably do more the rest of his career and that could ultimately make him the stronger candidate. They were both born in 1956, and at the time it's interesting to note that Murphy was probably slightly ahead of Murray.

What does this tell us? Longevity matters. The length of the quality for Murphy comes up a little short. Doesn't mean he wasn't a great player for a time, just not a Hall of Famer. Sometimes it happens that way.

I loved watching Murphy play. He was certainly among the best in baseball during his prime. He just wasn't one of those who could be even average for long enough to pick up the requisite counting stats. I'll never forget an interview with him back in 1991, the year after Atlanta traded him to Philly, and of course the year they started their run. He was asked if he now wished he had been able to stick around, and he simply said that he knew he wasn't good enough to start there anymore. If there was a HOF for class, he'd be 1st ballot...
   28. Greg K Posted: September 18, 2008 at 03:16 AM (#2945917)
Heh, this is funny....I saw the Murphy thread revived on the side-bar and thought...hey, I'm a big Murphy fan, this should be one of the 5 times a year that I actually post something on Thinkfactory...

And lo and behold I already HAVE posted on this thread 8 months ago...
   29. Harris Posted: September 22, 2008 at 03:53 AM (#2949710)
Dale in the Hall would not bother me, and i'm a small hall guy.

In my younger years, playing the atrocious braves meant you had to watch out for two bats in the lineup. Bob Horner and Dale Murphy. Murphy battled Mike Schmidt for homer titles, and was one of the perceived to be nicest guys in the game. He holds a place in my nostalgic memory as one of the great players of his era, saberstistics be damned.
   30. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: September 22, 2008 at 04:53 AM (#2949732)
Murphy was arguably the best player in baseball over a multi-year period. There are no center fielders in the HOF who debuted between Mays/Mantle and Puckett (over 30 years). There was never a period without an active HOF CF from the time Billy Hamilton and Hugh Duffy debuted until Mays retired 90 years later...then there wasn't a single one for 10 seasons.
   31. RobertMachemer Posted: September 22, 2008 at 05:00 AM (#2949733)
He is probably the best CF not in the hall, but he would be surpassed by the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr., who is on his own Murphy-like decline.


According to baseball-reference.com...

Dale Murphy:
121 OPS+, 224.8 batting runs, 22.4 batting wins, 5 Gold Gloves
1041 games in CF, 749 in RF, 209 in 1B, 103 in LF, 85 at C

Fred Lynn:
129 OPS+, 289.4 batting runs, 29.4 batting wins, 4 Gold Gloves
1584 games in CF, 144 in RF, 135 in LF, 70 at DH

Jimmy Wynn:
128 OPS+, 298.2 batting runs, 30.8 batting wins
1182 games in CF, 361 in RF, 297 in LF, 30 at DH, 21 at SS, 2 at 3B

Reggie Smith:
137 OPS+, 355.7 batting runs, 36.3 batting wins, 1 Gold Glove
879 games in RF, 808 in CF, 186 at 1B, 15 at 3B, 8 at DH, 6 at 2B, 4 in LF

I'm not sure I'd take Murphy over all these guys as a CF. I'm especially not sure I'd take him over Lynn.

We can give Murphy the benefit of magical endpoints, ending his career after age 31, but ending Lynn's career after his age 36 season gives us the following...

Murphy: 132 OPS+ in 1519 games
Lynn: 132 OPS+ in 1762 games

I've got no problem with including Murphy in HOF discussions, but I don't see why he should be considered ahead of Fred Lynn (and there are other players at other positions I'd consider first).

(Is Fred Lynn the embodiment of forgotten player? People talk about how we've forgotten how good Murphy was, but Lynn was better and no one even talks about how we've forgotten about Lynn because they've REALLY forgotten about him, at least relative to Murphy. And they were contemporaries too).
   32. p2w Posted: September 22, 2008 at 05:44 AM (#2949741)
I just discovered that Dale Murphy isn't black.
   33. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: September 22, 2008 at 06:04 AM (#2949743)
(Is Fred Lynn the embodiment of forgotten player? People talk about how we've forgotten how good Murphy was, but Lynn was better and no one even talks about how we've forgotten about Lynn because they've REALLY forgotten about him, at least relative to Murphy. And they were contemporaries too).


I would agree. Even as a guy who was a Red Sox fan in 1975, so someone who followed Fred Lynn from the beginning, I never realized his entire career was as good as it was until his name started coming up in discussions like this here.
   34. RobertMachemer Posted: September 22, 2008 at 03:57 PM (#2949947)
Which isn't to say I hadn't forgotten about him, to some extent. My impression had always been that "Lynn was on a Hall of Fame track, possibly due to misunderstanding home park effects, before leaving the Sox, but was never the same once he left Fenway." But the truth is that he was still quite good, once one does adjust for the parks.

For instance, who was better from 1981 on, Jim Rice or Fred Lynn?

Rice had 4 seasons in which he had MVP votes during that time. He finished 3rd, 4th, 13th, and 19th. Lynn never received a single MVP vote. But Rice had a 119 OPS+ in 1163 games, while Lynn had a 120 OPS+ in 1142 games. Rice did have more AB and so might have had more offensive value, but he was doing so as a LF, while Lynn was still mostly a CF.

1982 is interesting.

Rice received MVP votes in 1982. His team finished 3rd in its division, 89-73. He hit for a .309 AVG, .375 OBP, .494 SLG in 145 games.

Lynn received zero MVP votes in 1982. His team finished 1st in its division, 93-69. He hit for a .299 AVG, .374 OBP, .517 SLG in 138 games. As a center fielder who was only 2 years removed from his last Gold Glove.

If the rankings of the MVP voters are any indication of how players are perceived, Rice was thought to be the second-most valuable player on his team. (Evans rightly finished first). Lynn (143 OPS+ as CF for 138 games) could have been no better than 7th-most valuable by such a metric -- and he may have been deemed worse than that as he finished behind DeCinces (149 OPS+ as 3B for 145 games), Jackson (147 OPS+ as RF for 153 games), Downing (132 OPS+ as LF for 158 games), Boone (78 OPS+ as C for 143 games), Baylor (106 OPS+ as DH for 157 games), and Carew (121 OPS+ as 1B for 138 games), all of whom received at least some votes for MVP, unlike Lynn. Talk about an era with no adjustment for position -- Bobby Grich (125 OPS+ as 2B for 145 games) was also ignored.

That's not totally fair, of course, for lots of reasons that should be obvious. The voters back then didn't care about OPS+, they cared about triple crown stats. And there's really not THAT much wrong with Rice being thought of as the second-best player on that team. (Boggs and Lansford might have arguments, but both missed some time, neither were particularly good fielders, and so forth). Lynn was surrounded by lots of good hitters that year and he missed some time, and so it's not surprising that he got lost in the shuffle. But it was Lynn's third best season of his career by batting runs, and he was still playing a key defensive position, and no one seemed to notice. I think that's a little bit of a shame, that's all.
   35. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: September 22, 2008 at 04:10 PM (#2949962)
If his career had ended in 1987 in a Kirby Puckett-esque manner, then we might be considering him,

This is right on the money. If a tragic injury would have stopped his career, he would be in the HOF right now. Instead his career tailed off quickly and it overwhelmed the rest of his career in people's minds, so he's out.

In either case he would have had the same career value but it's all about the voter's perception. Which is why the HOF kind of sucks.
   36. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: September 23, 2008 at 03:13 AM (#2950803)
Fred Lynn played 150 games in a season once. He played 130 games 6 times. When you miss a quarter of the season every year, it's hard to be as valuable as someone who played every day.

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