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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

BEST 3B IN THE AL? UPDATER

Eric Chavez 373 PA, .275/.404/.534 (.323 EqA)
v. RHP .238 BA, .148 ISoP, .259 ISO, 1.48 BB/K, .298 GPA
v. LHP .336 BA, .100 ISoP, .257 ISO, 0.69 BB/K, .344 GPA

Alex Rodriguez 513 PA, .282/.368/.522 (.312 EqA)
v. RHP .267 BA, .080 ISoP, .191 ISO, 0.46 BB/K, .271 GPA
v. LHP .330 BA, .102 ISoP, .398 ISO, 1.00 BB/K, .376 GPA

UPDATE: The Gold Standard?

Melvin Mora 417 PA, .346/.433/.597 (.346 EqA)
v. RHP .345 BA, .073 ISoP, .223 ISO, 0.55 BB/K, .330 GPA
v. LHP .352 BA, .121 ISoP, 329 ISO, 2.71 BB/K, .383 GPA

KING EDGAR?

At the end of a disappointing 2004 season for the Mariners, will we finally be able to answer the question, "Is Edgar Martinez the greatest DH of all-time?"

I guess that depends what you mean. Did Edgar accumulate the most impressive stats as a DH? Yeah, probably.

Edgar Martinez (69% games as DH)
career EqA: .332
peak EqA: .373, .354, .351, .346, .346
career EqR: 1574 (8.55 EqR27)
peak EqR: 143, 137, 134, 133, 126
(EqR27 isn't a kosher stat, but it gives a quick thumbnail how many runs per 27 outs a player produces. My understanding is that EqR are more precise than RC, but I can't entirely ween myself off RC27.)

As Edgar's defenders will tell you, Edgar didn't become a MLB regular until age 26. (His minor league numbers were very good, bosting a career .327 GPA in AAA.) Why the Mariners kept a possible HoFer in the minors for so long isn't quite excusable, but it is slightly understandable: Edgar never really showed the raw power traditionalists expect from a corner infielder, smacking only 46 HR in 649 career minor league games. (Lyle Overbay fans rejoice!) Moving around the diamond quite a bit for the next couple of years, Edgar more-or-less became a full-time DH at age 32, and promptly responded with his career year: .356/.479/.628 (.373 EqA). As Kevin Youkilis boosters will tell you, in retrospect it's hardly a shock that Edgar's power eventually caught up with his patience, and he proceeded to bang out a slew of great years. (All those peak numbers cited above came during this second phase of Edgar's career.)

But was he the best player to substantially spend time as DH? Only two other names come to mind as reasonable alternatives: Paul Molitor and Frank Thomas. Here's how they quickly compare:

Paul Molitor (44% games as DH)
career EqA: .301
peak EqA: .348, .330, .328, .326, .330
career EqR: 1940 (6.69 EqR27)
peak EqR: 143, 133, 131, 128, 119

Frank Thomas (47% games as DH)
career EqA: .345
peak EqA: .398, .369, .366, 365, .364
career EqR: 1700 (9.43 EqR27)
peak EqR: 159, 156, 149, 146, 143

Obviously, what stands out for Molitor is his longevity, but you could easily make the case that Edgar was better when he played. But to my eyes that's not the real story. Frank Thomas decimates Molitor and Edgar. He's got a substantially higher peak, and given his age he's likely to finish his career with more EqR than Molitor.

In terms of pure performance at the plate, Thomas ranks with the very best right-handed hitters of all-time. Already in his decline phase at age 35, he's still got a higher career EqA than Mays, Aaron, Foxx, Greenberg, Hornsby, Allen, McGwire. He's got a substantially higher EqA than his right-handed contemporaries Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, Vladimir Guerrero, Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell, Gary Sheffield, and Mike Piazza. Even young Albert Pujols is lagging behind. (At Pujols' age, Thomas had never posted an EqA under .360. Pujols has only topped it once, and his career EqA sits 25 points lower than Thomas' age the same age.)

Molitor deserved his trip to Cooperstown, and I think Edgar probably should make the HoF, even if I wouldn't necessarily vote for him on the first couple of round.

But the idea that Frank Thomas is considered by many to be at best a borderline candidate is maddening. Let's all hope his foot is OK so he can reach some pointless milestone ( 64 HR from 500...) to make his enshrinement automatic. Barry Bonds may be Superman, but Thomas was the best mortal hitter of the '90s. Consider yourselves lucky to have seen him.

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