#20: Felipe Alou

See the 44 Greatest Atlanta Braves here.

Righthanded Hitting, Righthanded Throwing Outfielder/First Baseman
Seasons With Braves: 1964-1969
Stats With Braves: .295/.338/.440, 94 HR, 335 RBI, 464 RS

I have in my mind (though it is not original with me) the concept of the Felipe Alou Line, which is the line of demarcation between a guy who could plausibly be a Hall of Famer and a guy (like Alou) who was a really good player but no Hall of Fame candidate. He played six years with the Braves, four in Atlanta. Just to remind you, Milwaukee years count for players who would have made it on to the list just for their time in Atlanta. Alou’s raw numbers don’t look the equal of the last few guys ranked behind him, but that’s largely due to context; his Atlanta tenure, which includes his two best years, was in the midst of the most pitcher-friendly era since the First World War.

Alou came up with the Giants in 1958 just as they were putting together the greatest collection of offensive talent in baseball history (I mean, Willie McCovey spent a couple of years as the fourth outfielder!) and managing to not do anything much with it. It maybe would have been wise to trade some of it for pitching, but they waited too long. Alou was traded to the Braves after the 1963 season, along with Ed Bailey, for a package of Del Crandall, Bob Shaw, and Bob Hendley, all of whom were pretty much done.

Alou was right back into the position of trying to get playing time, this time with Aaron, Carty, and Lee Maye in the outfield. He had a rough year in 1964, but in 1965 he was in the lineup most of the time, split between first and the outfield, and had a fine year among the wreckage of the last year of the Milwaukee Braves.

Bobby Bragan had a theory that you should put your best hitter in the leadoff spot. He never had the guts to try it with Aaron, but he did with Alou, beginning sometime in 1965 and continuing in 1966. Bragan got fired, presumably not for this, but Alou had a lot of success leading off even though he was nothing like a prototypical leadoff hitter. His best season came in 1966, hitting .327/.361/.533 with a career-high 31 homers, scored 122 runs, and finished fifth in the MVP voting. Also, Moises was born in July.

Alou slumped in 1967. His 1968 doesn’t look all that good, .317/.365/.438 with 11 homers, but it was the Year of the Pitcher. He was third in the league in average, first in hits, fourth in doubles and in total bases. In the context of that season, it’s equal to 1966. But Alou had a bad year in 1969 and was traded afterwards for washed-up pitcher Jim Nash. He spent the next few years meandering around the AL, finishing up with three miserable PA with the Brewers in 1974 under their “Employ Washed-Up Ex-Milwaukee Braves” program, and is currently unemployed.

Felipe Alou Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com

23 thoughts on “#20: Felipe Alou”

  1. Maybe it’s just my perception, but it sure seems like the sixties featured a bunch of guys that had one or two monster years in which they played in every game, put up huge numbers, but spent the rest of their long careers being above average but nothing special. Alou kind of fits the description, but there’s also Willie and Tommy Davis, Cesar Tovar, Norm Cash, maybe Jim Gentile, Norm Sieburn…

  2. Felipe Alou was quite simply one of the most fundamentally sound players I have ever seen. He was old school all the way. He could bunt for a hit, sacrifice, hit, hit for power, catch the ball, gun guys out, steal bases. Just defined “all-around.” Just loved to watch him play.

    Mac doesn’t mention that Felipe had 2 brothers, Jesus and Matty. I think they all came up together with the Giants, but those two spent a lot of time with the Astros and Pirates, respectively. Matty won a batting title or two, I think. But Felipe was the pride of the litter.

  3. It’s a bit more than your perception. It’s a “real” phenomenon but at the same time illusory; a lot of those players had good years that look ordinary because the offensive levels were so low. Alou’s 1968 is like that — it’s a really good year in which he only hit 11 homers. Tommy Davis was almost as good in 1963 as in 1962, but the strike zone redefinition — plus the 153 RBI being largely a fluke — made it look a lot worse.

    Matty was a .300 hitter and a good outfielder, making him the Dom of the family — and the Giants’ fifth OF in 1962. Those teams were loaded. He had some good years with the Pirates in the late sixties. Jesus came up in 1963 and was the Vince of the bunch, but had a couple of good years. Mel Rojas was a nephew of the three.

  4. Maybe the Braves could hire Felipe to take Don Sutton’s spot as an announcer?

    I know, it’s probably less likely than Glavine in a Braves uni next year. But still. He’s always seemed like a guy who would be fun to spend a whole summer with, talking nothing but baseball, and he looks kind of like a Latin Ossie Davis. I always liked Felipe.

  5. One of my favorite Braves. He was by far the best of the Alou brothers, who actually played together in the Giants outfield for one game I think.

    Mac’s comparison of Matty to Dom Dimaggio then makes Jesus the Vince of the family, which is probably fair.

    Felipe could play. I always thought he got shortchanged in ’69 when the Braves acquired Tony Gonzalez and played him instead of Felipe down the stretch.

  6. ububba,

    I’d have to play Alou, if for no other reason than I liked him. I suppose you could platoon them, which probably happened a fair amount of the time. I think Gonzalez had a fairly high platoon split most of his career, but I’m not sure it applied that year, at least not with the Braves. I think he hit pretty well after coming to the Braves, but I still preferred Alou.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve hated the Mets ever since that season.

  7. Felipe Alou was a great player, not quite HOF, but very good. I’m glad a couple of people mentioned Tony Gonzalez, Tony had some nice years with the Braves.

  8. While it would be really cool for an NL team to win the WS after this season where we were dominated in interleague and haven’t really done well for a few years, I really dislike the Cardinals. So, I’m totally torn. If Detroit were to come back and win the last three games, the NL would look really, really terrible. But, if Detroit were to lose, that would mean the Cardinals would win. So, I’m stuck.

  9. Watching Wainwright was downright painful. I don’t regret the trade because we don’t win in 2004 without J.D. Drew, but it’s was kindof hard to watch tonight. Wainwright would have been helpful this year in either the rotation or bullpen.

    You know, the Cards just proved that fundamentals win the game. Detroit kindof self destructed and St. Louis played as a team. Even though I think the Tigers were the better team, they played like the 2003 Tigers. Strange to think that the only win the heavily favored team got in the World Series came from the hand of Kenny Rogers.

  10. Mac, you need to be quiet right now. We got one year of JD Drew for this Wainwright kid. Can’t you see that was a great trade? Gosh…

    Umm.. that was sarcasm, for those who don’t pick up those sort of things…

  11. Wainwright is an example of why when you have a limited budget, you have to GM the team differently. The Braves need to stockpile young players they can pay low salaries for a while. What is the point of keeping /renting stars for one year for another weak maybe run next year if it just delays building a new base of young talent? Last thing I want to see is JS setting up a long dry spell just to make his last year or two look good. Time for the Braves to accept short term pain for longer term gain.

  12. Schuerholz got taken in that deal. The Cardinals needed to trade Drew to clear salary space for Pujols’ extension (he was going from $900K in 2003 to $7 million in 2004). They would have taken a lesser prospect for him. In fact, Schuerholz immediately had buyer’s remorse, which is why he started spinning the deal, saying Wainwright’s mechanics had gotten messed up by a growth spurt.

    Heck, the first time I mentioned the possibility of the Braves acquiring Drew, it was in the context of the Cardinals possibly non-tendering him.

  13. Missed the game tonight. Went to see “Flags Of Our Fathers” instead (thumbs up, I say).

    As much as I snicker about an NL WS victory, I just can’t much stomach LaRussa winning.

    Here’s to the worst WS-winning team in history, 5th best in the NL, 13th best in MLB. Wonderful.

  14. It’s already starting:

    Mets will be team to beat in 2007 -MSNBC

    The Mets fans think they were robbed, they were deemed champions this year, and despite how many years the Braves finished above them, it’s set in stone they’ll be better in 2007. No trades or signings yet, and the media is already starting.

    Mets fans have all the arrogance of Yankee fans, but with no reason for it.

  15. Somehow I don’t think there will be as many “This year it’s over! Really! We mean it this time!” articles about the Mets this year as about the Braves, oh, at least every year this century.

    And the Mess are vulnerable, make no mistake. By Pythagoeran record, their margin ahead of the Braves should have been six games, not eighteen. There’s no way (crosses fingers) that our bullpen or our pitching in general will be as awful as last year, and time should improve our offense with LaRoche and McCann and Frenchy getting better while only Renteria seems likely to slip. (Not to mention better players on the margins- I honestly can’t imagine our having backups as bad as Jordan or Pratt again.)

  16. Everyone keeps talking about how much the starting pitching sucked in 2006, and how much better it’s going to be in 2007. I still don’t get why. Will Chuck James for a full year and Mike Hampton’s return make a big difference (if no trades/signings happen)? I hope so.

    I think the Braves, Mets and Phillies are all real contenders for the NL East. Who knows what the Marlins will be like. I imagine the Nationals in last or near it until they get that stadium finished.

  17. Unfortunately, you can’t discount the Mets’ resources. From now on, the Braves are a middle-market (at best) team competing against a huge market team (the Mets) and, potentially at least, a very large market team (the Phillies). Things aren’t going to be easy. For a long time, the Braves took advantage of (1) Ted Turner’s resources when TBS was doing well, and (2) the incompetence of the rest of the Eastern Division. Both of those factors have changed. And if JS keeps making trades like Wainwright for Drew, it’s going to be a long dry spell. The Braves can certainly be competitive and, as we have seen, you don’t need the largest payroll to win the World Series, but it’s not going to be like it was in the 90s.

    I like the Cardinals. St. Louis is a great baseball town (certainly far better than Atlanta), and the Cardinals have great tradition. Being from the Midwest, they have always been shortchanged because so many writers grew up on the East Coast and rhapsodize about the Dodgers and the Red Sox. Stan Musial was nearly as good a hitter as Ted Williams and a much better fielder, but no one talks about him as a truly great player. So, good for St. Louis. And, having family from Detroit, I was also glad to see another great baseball town have a renaissance; and, of course, if any city could use some good news, it’s Detroit.

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