Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Graig Nettles Worthy of HOF Consideration.

The Web is flowing with Hall of Fame posts. Ron Santo was just elected by the veteran's committee, which is a great thing. But that body also left out a couple of deserving candidates. Bill over at The Platoon Advantage bounced off of a Rob Neyer piece and asked who the next Ron Santo should be. The great Bob Netherton of On the Outside Corner made an excellent case for Ken Boyer. Graham Womack is doing some nice things with his collection of the best players not in the Hall of Fame. This Fan hates to be left out and has his own candidate: Graig Nettles.

Yes, the Yankees are over-represented in the Hall of Fame. But Nettles also played the early part of his career with the Indians and a few good seasons with the San Diego Padres before he hung up his spikes. But if you look at Nettles as an offensive player, you might be sorely disappointed by his traditional numbers. His career slash line of .248/.329/.421 will not exactly make you giddy with excitement. But there are two things you have to put into context. First, you have to compare him with other third basemen in history and secondly, you have to consider the offensive landscape of the time he played.

Let's deal with the latter first. It's hard to judge a player like Nettles from the perspective of today's offensive game. Yes, the last couple of years have gone down offensively, but we are just coming out of an era of unprecedented offense. So Nettles numbers look rather tame. But for his time, Nettles' numbers were well above average. He finished his career with a 110 career OPS+. And that number would have been better if perhaps Nettles hadn't hung around three years too long. Nettles was a six-time All Star and had two seasons where he finished fifth and sixth in MVP voting. As a power hitter, he struck out only 73 times a season on average and walked 65 times. His slash line, therefore, is deceiving.

If you rate Nettles along with other third basemen in history, you get another great picture. To qualify for this writer's list, you had to play 80 percent of your games for your career at third base. Of all such players, Nettles is third in career homers behind only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Matthews. He is sixth all time at his position in RBIs. He is ninth in hits and seventh in walks. Add all this up and you have a largely positive offensive player who was also excellent on defense.

Baseball-reference.com ranks Nettles as the sixth best fielding third baseman ever. Fangraphs has him seventh. If you look at WAR, Fangraphs has him ninth all time for his position and B-R, seventh. Surely, one of the top ten third basemen of all time deserves consideration.

1 comment:

Thomas Slocum said...

Nettles was also an excellent glove man, both by fact and by reputation. Interestingly enough a recent article (don't remember where but you've probably seen it) made a similar case for Scott Rolen (based on Santo's election). I don't know if I agree with Rolen (do need the downtime after his career is over to let the dust settle, so to speak) but do know, despite my affinity for the pinstripers, that I don't agree with Nettles as an HOFer. Some of those homers (even some of that anemic lifetime BA and so-so OBP) are very definitely park effect oriented. Graig was an important part of some very successful Yankee teams (3 All Star selections, 3 times top 16 in MVP voting - a #5 and #6 in there - and a 2 time Gold Glove winner 1975-1979) and was a consistent, everyday performer within the scope of his abilities during what were probably his best years. Ranged from .244 to .276 BA, .322 to .343 OBP, and .401 to .496 SA with an OPS+ from 97 to 134 and games played from 145-159. A good player to have and write into the starting lineup daily.

Take a similar slice of Ron Santo (1963-1967 and you'll see, respectively, .285-.313, .339-.412, .481-.564, 128-164, and 155-164 (4 All Star selections, 5 MVP #81 or better and 3 Gold Gloves). No question that Ron was helped tremendously by Wrigley Field (more so than Nettles was by Yankee Stadium) but even on the road his BA was nearly identical with Nettles' home BA (.257 vs .261). And there's no way that the mid-late 1970's were behind the mid 1960's when it comes to league offensive performances. Santo was, overall, a significant above league average offensive performer in his heyday; Nettles was perhaps there only at his position. Can't say I'd be unduly upset if Nettles made it but I would feel as if there would have been a lowering of standards.

Apropos of nothing, one of my golf buddies here in NC used to play minor league ball with Nettles. He considers him one of the most significant a--holes he ever played with. Of course, according to a Yankee marketing insider who shall remain unnamed, Alex Rodriguez is the least well-liked player on today's team and his HOF aspirations will be completely unaffected by that.