There are a million ways to ask this question, and just as many ways to answer it. Here’s my attempt: Who’s the most underrated Atlanta Brave?
This would be someone who isn’t in the Hall of Fame, who provided significant value in a Braves uniform, who doesn’t seem to get much recognition any more.
So, for example: there are 11 non-Hall-of-Famer position players who compiled at least 20 rWAR in an Atlanta uniform. I’ll bet you can name the first ten without breaking a sweat:
You might need a few guesses to get the eleventh. I’ll spare you the suspense:
Why People Don’t Talk About Him Much Any More
If you just look at his numbers, Blauser was a below-average shortstop who had a couple of extremely good seasons, which earned him All-Star nods in 1993 and 1997. He’s largely been forgotten because most of the time, he was a .260 hitter who could knock 12 home runs a year but gave a lot of it back on defense, particularly early in his career.
Blauser suffered a number of injuries. As it happens, his two best seasons were also the only two times that he played 150 games. (That’s partly due to injuries, partly due to the strike years in 1994 and 1995, and partly because Bobby platooned him defensively with Rafael Belliard for a while.)
His second All-Star campaign was in 1997, his walk year, and netted him a nice two-year, $8.4 million contract with the Chicago Cubs, one which ESPN later bluntly summarized as “a colossal and expensive mistake.”
Most Underrated Atlanta Brave, Jeff Blauser: The Why
In 1993 and 1997, he hit .300 — the defensive systems think he was better in the field those years, too — with an OBP over .400, which meant that Bobby could plug him in anywhere, whether it was in the 8-hole, in front of the pitcher, or batting leadoff when Kenny Lofton was hurt.
He was, generally, what you’d call a “professional hitter”: his walk rate was very healthy, over 10%, and his strikeout rate was a very manageable 17.8%. So his career OBP of .354 is quite good for a shortstop.
As a matter of fact, his 10.8% walk rate is tied with Carlos Correa for the 7th-best walk rate among shortstops since 1987. But the top five guys on the list were relatively powerless: Steve Jeltz, Walt Weiss, Jose Offerman, Jeff Reboulet, and Spike Owen. Sixth place, of course, is Alex Rodriguez.
In the top ten list for career walk rate among shortstops, the only SS who have a career slugging percentage over .400 are Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Correa, Jeff Blauser, and 10th-place Barry Larkin.
In the SABR balloting for the All-Time Atlanta Braves team, Blauser actually received the greatest number of first-place votes, but Rafael Furcal narrowly won the balloting on the strength of downballot votes.
But all of that is pretty unevocative. Mac Thomason, explaining why he ranked Jeff as the 19th-best Atlanta Brave in 2006, explained:
There’s already been some talk about Blauser in the comments, and some people will think that this is too high. If anything, it is too low; judging only by offensive statistics, Jeff Blauser was the best middle infielder in Atlanta history. I rank him lower than Furcal and Giles because I docked him for defense, baserunning, and inconsistency, but I really don’t know that this can be sustained.https://bravesjournal.com/2006/10/28/no-16-jeff-blauser/
Part of why Blauser is less well-remembered, as Mac points out, is because he actually debuted earlier than many of the other heroes of the 1990s. So we remember how eagerly we all anticipated the debuts of players like Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Ryan Klesko, and of course Andruw Jones, while Blauser — the eighth overall pick in the 1984 draft — came up for his first cup of coffee in 1987, though he wouldn’t really be ready for the role for another couple of years, and the metrics suggest his defense was really sloppy until his mid-20s. But he could always hit, and he always did.
Oh, and for many of us, he was immortalized by the nickname on a homemade sign that one fan held up at Fulton-County Stadium back in 1993:
“Doogie Blauser, the Hit Doctor.”
How He Should Be Remembered
I think Mac said it best:
“Judging only by offensive statistics, Jeff Blauser was the best middle infielder in Atlanta history.”
Let’s give him his due.
Thanks for reading on “Most Underrated Atlanta Brave, Jeff Blauser”. Check out our other entries in “Atlanta Braves History” here.