Murphy and Wynn

In the New Historical Abstract, Bill James rates Dale Murphy as the twelfth-best centerfielder of all time. Nine of the men ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame; a tenth, Junior Griffey, will certainly be in. The eleventh is Jimmy Wynn.

Jimmy Wynn Statistics –

Jimmy Wynn, in 1969, the year of Ball Four, though I don’t remember him being mentioned there, hit .269/.436/.507. This was in one of the most extremely poor offensive environments since 1920; the league average adjusted to the Astrodome that year was .257/.327/.381. You just couldn’t hit for power there. As it was, Wynn’s OPS+ that year was 167 and he created 110 runs. It’s a pretty remarkable performance. The season before, he was almost as good, with a 157 OPS+, in a place where the league-average OBP (in the Year of the Pitcher) was .308. Wynn lost a huge number of runs to his park.

How good was Jimmy Wynn? Well, Joe Morgan was a teammate of his from 1963-71; the Astros came up with Wynn and Morgan that season, their second, as well as Rusty Staub, in what must be one of the best one-team rookie classes ever.

Joe Morgan:

891 3268 531 860 136 58 61 278 585 368 195 58 .263 .396 .375 .771

Jimmy Wynn:

1142 4040 622 1037 185 24 179 574 653 887 149 59 .257 .447 .360 .807

League averages:

4068 494 1056 162 32 94 458 372 629 58 36 .260 .385 .324 .709

Morgan created 550 runs in 3920 PA; Wynn 686 in 4780. Wynn wasn’t just a more productive hitter in those seasons, he was a significantly more productive hitter (though Morgan was two years younger, so we’re comparing ages 21-29 to ages 19-27). Morgan got out of the Astrodome in 1972 and was freed to be the best player in baseball. Wynn, however, got stuck there for two more years, plus age difference, and when he got out he went to the Dodgers, which wasn’t much better. He was 34 when he finally got to play in a good offensive environment with the Braves, and was pretty much done.

Wynn’s career OPS+ was 128, better than Murphy’s or any of these guys I’ve been talking about but Rice, and he was a far more valuable defensive player than Rice. But his offensive numbers simply aren’t to Hall of Fame standards for an outfielder, and it’s hard to get them there no matter what adjustments you make. He hit 291 career homers, but must have lost 30 or 40 homers to his parks. He had just 1665 career hits and wouldn’t have been a batting champ in any situation; his career batting average was actually below the league. His on-base percentages are great, because he drew so many walks, but the writers don’t care about that. He had only two 100 RBI seasons, and led the league in only one positive offensive category — walks, twice.

I think that Wynn is a Hall of Fame caliber player. Convincing the voters that he’s a Hall of Fame caliber player, that’s another matter. In some ways, he resembles my perennial favorite Darrell Evans, but without the career durability and early- and late-career friendly parks that brought him up to over 400 homers. (Evans’ career line was .248/.361/.431. Wynn’s was .250/.366/.436 — but with more than 2000 fewer plate appearances.) Evans essentially doesn’t have a Hall of Fame campaign even though, like Wynn, he was one of the ten best players ever at his position. And two of Evans’ best seasons were at 36 and 38; Wynn retired at 35.

Wynn might have been a better player than Dale Murphy. He isn’t a better Hall of Fame candidate.

21 thoughts on “Murphy and Wynn”

  1. Methinks that’s a case of Mr. James, whom I always respected, not knowing what he’s talking about. Wynn was terific but couldn’t carry Dale’s jockstrap.

  2. James is just going by his system. Wynn had more career Win Shares and more in his best season. If you fiddled with the system you might get a different result, but it would be close either way.

  3. By the way, Jose Cruz Sr. would probably have been a Hall of Famer in a different park. He would have had about 2400 hits (with a batting average over .290) and 200 homers and won several batting titles.

  4. Thanks, Mac, for this terrific example of era-adjusted stats and context.
    Had Wynn-“The Toy Canon” for those who don’t know his nickname-been allowed free agency, he might’ve escaped the brutal realities of The Astrodome.
    I don’t remember anyone raving about his defense or his arm, except for Joe Morgan, who played with him when everybody was clearly better at the game than today. Or so Joe always says.
    I remember most that he hit balls HARD,like many of Sheffield’s shots.

  5. I vaguely remember Wynn’s year with the Braves — we had imported a bunch of players in 1976, most famously Andy Messersmith, but also Wynn and Ken Henderson to take over for the departed Dusty Baker and Ralph Garr. It didn’t go well for Wynn, as he batted only .207, but led the league in walks. His walk total that year, relative to the other leaders, was positively Bonds-esque:

    Wynn 127
    Morgan 114
    Schmidt 100
    Cey 89

    Of course, the opposing manager was often gameplanning against this lineup:

    Jerry Royster
    Rowland Office
    Jimmy Wynn
    Darrell Evans
    Ken Henderson
    Darrell Chaney
    Marty Perez
    Vic Correll/Biff Pocoroba

    Then, after Evans and Perez were traded:


    Dark days indeed, my friends.

  6. Hmm. That number of hits for Cruz is low. I forgot to adjust for more plate appearances (because the team would have made outs less often). Give him another 40 or 50 PA a year he would have been over 2500 hits.

  7. Looks like the Astros are trying to cut ties with Bagwell. If this isn’t the end of his career, the writing is certainly on the wall. Just wanted to give a shout out to a classy ballplayer, and the author of the best non-Bonds season that I can recall. Too bad it happened in the strike year of 1994. Playing in a park that favored pitchers, Bagwell went .368/.451/.750, and was on a pace to score 150+ runs and drive in 170+. Here’s the list of players who’ve accomplished that:

    Babe Ruth
    Lou Gehrig
    Chuck Klein (in the Baker Bowl)

  8. i love reading all the stats you guys come up with. i think they are fascinating, and accurate for finding out who the best players are right now and how a team can improve by adding the right guys who can produce runs…but to me the hall of fame should be more subjective. It should be the guys who either

    a. are among the best players in the game (top 5) for at least 3 years. the guys who instilled fear in the other team and everyone knew it without looking at their stats.

    b. were a key component or a hero on more than one different championship teams

    Out- Palmeiro, Blyleven, Dawson

    In- Murph, Mattingly, McGwire (I don’t care about the steroids crap…after the strike he made people care about baseball again. In my mind that means more to the game than something like inventing the split-fingered fastball) Gwynn, Morris, Goose, Rice, Lemke

  9. I hope Bagwell goes to an AL team and hits 65 HRs. He is one of the good guys in the game and I have always pulled for him.

  10. I don’t think Drayton McLane and Tim Purpura are bad guys, per se, but all this Bagwell business just rubs me the wrong way. “Please retire so we can collect insurance” just seems like an incredibly tacky way to do business. Sure, maybe it’s fiscally sound and logically justified, but ick. I hope I’m never in that position. I wouldn’t know what to do.

    Two off-topic thoughts: Both championship games sucked, were largely over by halftime, and I hope the Super Bowl is way better. It should be.

    And Kobe Bryant. I don’t like him, but WOW.

  11. The braves signed Travis Smith.

    somebody wake me up from this nightmare.

  12. Are we talking an actual nightmare or did this really happen? Link? Explanation? Someone?

    And did anyone see the picture of Andruw on the AJC page? He’s got cornrows going or something. That threw me for a loop.

  13. The Astros are doing the only thing they can do under the circumstances. Bagwell is guaranteed $17 million, and he’s suffered permanent damage to his right shoulder. He’s basically through as a productive ballplayer, and $15.6 million is not only nothing to sneeze at, it’s something to make a concerted effort to sneeze away from…

  14. I think the only way Bags gets paid is if he goes the Albert Belle route. Which, IMO he ought – they call them “contracts” because both sides agree to the risks and advantages of signing one.

  15. It seems like the Astros are with Spike. If you read the text of the article headlined that the Astros ask Bagwell to retire, not once is it mentioned in the text that the Astros ask Bagwell to retire. They ask him to declare himself unable to play. A later article has Bagwell’s agent clarifying: “Axelrod said the Astros have never asked Bagwell to retire.” It’s just a blatantly incorrect headline in the first report that leads to all this speculation about the Astros trying to screw over Bagwell.

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