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Sunday, December 10, 2006

George Foster

Eligible in 1992.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 10, 2006 at 10:31 PM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 10, 2006 at 10:35 PM (#2257384)
He's not a HoMer, though peak voters may disagree.

Figures he would play at Shea when he couldn't hit the curve anymore. :-(
   2. OCF Posted: December 10, 2006 at 11:39 PM (#2257445)
A I said (answering Chris Cobb over on the 1992 discussion thread), I've got him in the approximate neighborhood of Tommy Henrich or Roger Maris. And it's not that much of a peak - Frank Howard he isn't.
   3. OCF Posted: December 10, 2006 at 11:52 PM (#2257454)
With Foster, Rose, and Perez all on the ballot, I'm going to have to dig up a note I wrote in the fall of 1998 for some friends. The theme: the notion going around at the time that the 1998 Yankees couldn't be all that great a team because maybe only one or two of them would have started on the '75-'76 Reds. I'll probably have to update it some to polish up the stats I was using, but it was an interesting exercise.

Part of the flap was based on faulty evaluations - yes, you would rather have the '98 version of Paul O'Neill rather than the '75-'76 version of Ken Griffey - but another part of it stems from two very peculiar features of the Big Red Machine.

1. Great teams are usually very good on offense and very good on pitching/defense, all at the same time - and the '98 Yankees do answer to that description. The Reds were a spectactular offensive team - with very ordinary pitching. Reverse the question and ask how many Reds pitchers could crack the Yankee rotation.

2. The '75-'76 Reds had 8 starting positions set in concrete. No platoons, no alternations, no riding the hot hand. This must have been Sparky's choice - surely if he'd wanted to find more playing time for Dan Driessen, he could have. What this does is inject a bias into any comparison that goes through a lineup position-by-position. Compare George Foster to Chad Curtis, with Curtis's meager playing time, and it doesn't look that good for the Yankees. But within a splintered LF and DH mess, the Yankees actually got terrific production - from Curtis, from Raines, from Strawberry, from Shane Spencer.

I should go see if I can find that thing I wrote.
   4. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: December 11, 2006 at 04:07 AM (#2257647)
Figures he would play at Shea when he couldn't hit the curve anymore. :-(

John, maybe it was just the tricky sight lines at Shea? (I'm trying for you, buddy....)


B James said this in the NHBAA, and I think he's probably right. There aint much of a difference at all between Foster and Jim Rice. Once you let the air out of Rice's parks (especially when you consider the positive boost above the park factor because Fenway boosted righties and hurt lefties) there's not much reason to prefer one to the other.
   5. OCF Posted: December 11, 2006 at 04:19 AM (#2257656)
I did find the piece I was referring to. The methodology I used for the comparisons has its problems. (And it would have been much, much easier for me to put this together had bb-ref been around.) But here are three paragraphs from the end of my introduction, before I got down to comparing player to player:


Most teams have unstable and shifting lineups most of the the time. Most teams have positions that are not fixed in which various players are being tried. Outstanding teams are generally a little stabler, but not immune from this. Just look at this year’s [sic - 1998?] playoff teams, and ask yourself who Boston has in left and right fields, who Cleveland has at 1st base, and just how long Texas has had the shortstop and third baseman they’re now using. The personalities and styles of managers matter a lot here, with some managers strongly preferring to set a fixed lineup and clearly distinguish starters from reserves, some (Casey Stengel and Whitey Herzog come to mind) preferring a constant state of flux and a large number of players moving in and out of the lineup, and some (like Earl Weaver) being adept at getting good part-time use out of players with partial skills by judiciously platooning. In some cases, the best teams are the teams that get the best performances out of their part-time players, and the 1998 Yankees fall into that mold very strongly.

The 75-76 Reds were very unusual in having an 8-player everyday lineup that was set in concrete. This was certainly Sparky Anderson’s preference, as he had some other players he could have used, like Dan Driessen. In fact, Dreissen had been a near-regular 3rd baseman in the 73-74 seasons, but Sparky took his job away (and opened up positions for George Foster and Ken Griffey) by shifting Pete Rose from the outfield to 3rd base at the beginning of the 1975 season. In post-season play in both 1975 and 1976, the regular 8 players played full-time in every single game, with the only other playing time available for position players being a small and standard number of opportunities to pinch hit for pitchers, and the regular DH position that became Driessen’s for the 1976 World Series. Very, very few teams in the history of baseball have had exactly the same 8 regulars (with no platoons or shared postitions) for a 2-year period - but the Reds did, and that unusual stability makes them an inviting target for comparison (and threatens to bias every position-by-position comparison in their favor.)

In doing this comparison, one must also be wary of the phenomenon of “compression of memory”. We know that Tony Perez had a long career in which he piled up some excellent career stats - so we assume he must have had outstanding seasons. But he was at his best around 1970, not 1975, and he never did put all that much into any one season. We know that Johnny Bench was a great catcher and a great hitter and an overwhelmingly qualified Hall of Famer - but we don’t remember that in 1976 he batted .234 with 16 HR. We remember that George Foster hit 52 HR in a season - but we forget that that was in 1977, after the rest of this crew was starting to break up. We know that Ken Griffey Sr. had a good, long career, but he’s starting to tangle up in our minds with his son, so we forget that the 16 home runs that Junior hit at the age of 19 was more than Senior ever hit in any one season of his career. We forget that Pete Rose was a defensive liability at third base.
   6. The District Attorney Posted: December 11, 2006 at 04:26 AM (#2257663)
we forget that the 16 home runs that Junior hit at the age of 19 was more than Senior ever hit in any one season of his career.
We forget that Senior hit 21 in '86 :)

(That is surprising, though. I recalled him having a little more power than that. Still about as good a career as you can expect of a corner OF with that few homers who wasn't a leadoff hitter either. Kinda reminds me of Roy White, although B-R doesn't have him as a comp.)
   7. DavidFoss Posted: December 11, 2006 at 07:01 AM (#2257718)
Part of the flap was based on faulty evaluations - yes, you would rather have the '98 version of Paul O'Neill rather than the '75-'76 version of Ken Griffey

I dunno, that one might be a wash. I see the ranking as Griffey76-ONeill98-Griffey75. Griffey had quite a year in 1976. (Unless I'm missing some big fielding difference) I do think you can add Tino Martinez/Tony Perez to the toss-up list as well.

So, with easy NYY victories in CF and SS, that's only a 4-2-2 edge for Cincinnati. As you've stated before, the Reds rotation was fairly ordinary and though its bullpen was strong, they didn't have Mariano Rivera.
   8. OCF Posted: December 11, 2006 at 07:22 AM (#2257722)
So, with easy NYY victories in CF and SS, that's only a 4-2-2 edge for Cincinnati.

Martinez/Perez is indeed a tossup. I went back an looked at this a few years later using Win Shares. I don't have the Win Shares book but I do have the NBJHBA and he did full layouts of selected teams in the appendix, including the '98 Yankees and the '75 Reds. However, using Win Shares here is ulitimately circular - it gets you back to the raw W-L record. Win Shares does give O'Neill a large margin over '75 Griffey, but as you said, Griffey was better in '76.

One surprise was how close 3B was - yes, we give that to Rose, but Brosius was awfully good. And Posada was no Bench, but he was good, and with Bench having one great year and one so-so year in '75-'76, Posada at least has a fighting chance. And if you compare Foster to only Chad Curtis, then you have a lot of leftover DH/bench value (Raines, Strawberry, Spencer) that will overwhelm anything on the Cincinnati bench.

But Morgan versus Knoblauch was a wipeout any way you look at it. Knoblauch was a good player, but Morgan had two of the greatest seasons ever at 2B.

For the '98 Yankees, the best player was probably either Jeter or Williams, but those two were only a little be ahead of Brosius, Posada and O'Neill, and there were no weak links anywhere (especially when you include some value from Raines and Spencer in LF). If the Reds were unusual in having a fixed lineup, the Yankees were unsual in having such a flat distribution of value around the starting lineup.
   9. JPWF13 Posted: December 11, 2006 at 07:02 PM (#2258053)
Of course in 1975 the Reds top 3 starting pitchers (by IP) had ERA+ of 87, 114 and 96 (Gullet had 148 but ony 161 ip)
The bullpen was deep and strong though

The 98 Yankees had no #1 starters, and no 4s or 5s either Their entire starting staff (all 5 regulars starters + spot starter Mendoza) were #2s and #3s.
   10. Jose Canusee Posted: December 11, 2006 at 07:24 PM (#2258068)
Steve Treder may disagree but in the days of the BRM we thought the Foster deal was the worst Giants trade of the Stoneham era, worse than Perry or Kingman. When he hit the 52 it seemed like he would be sure HOF material, which is the disadvantage of projecting the present.

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