Monday, August 25, 2008

Best rookie seasons for Tigers position players

In an earlier post, I ranked Armando Galarraga's season among the top rookie pitchers seasons in Tigers history. Today, I'll look at their best rookie position players of all time. Some of the statistics I used to determine the ranks seen in Table 1 below are:
  • OPS+ = OPS relative to league average OPS after adjusting for ballpark (e.g. Rudy York had an OPS+ of 150 in 1937 indicating his OPS was 50% better than league average).
  • RCAA = Runs Created Above Average. A stat invented by Lee Sinins, the author of the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia. Sinnis calculates each player’s Runs Created, and then compares it to the league average, given that player’s number of plate appearances.
  • WS = wins shares - estimate of number of wins a player contributes to a team based on his individual statistics. Divide by 3 to get estimated wins contributed. (e.g. Rudy York had 18 win shares in 1937 so he contributed an estimated 6 wins by himself).

I also considered number of plate appearances, position played and quality of defense. Fielding was difficult to measure because the more sophisticated zone based stats are only available in recent years. Thus, I used stats such as Baseball Prospectus' Fielding Runs Above Average and Fielding Win Shares as well as anecdotal information.

Table 1: Top 10 rookie seasons for Tigers position players

Rank

Player

Year

Pos

Age

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS+

RCAA

WS

1

Rudy York

1937

C

23

417

.307

.375

.651

150

26

18

2

Dale Alexander

1929

1B

26

700

.343

.397

.580

148

50

24

3

Matt Nokes

1987

C

23

508

.289

.345

.536

135

20

20

4

Donie Bush

1909

SS

21

676

.273

.380

.314

114

12

27

5

Dick Wakefield

1943

OF

22

697

.316

.377

.434

127

26

24

6

Harvey Kuenn

1953

SS

22

731

.308

.356

.386

101

4

19

7

Lu Blue

1921

1B

24

709

.308

.416

.427

116

18

17

8

Roy Johnson

1929

OF

26

713

.314

.379

.475

118

19

19

9

Lou Whitaker

1978

2B

21

567

.285

.361

.357

101

-1

17

10

Ira Flagstead

1919

OF

25

342

.331

.416

.481

155

27

16


Here are some notes on each batter:

Rudy York (1937)

York blasted 18 home runs in the month of August which is still an American League record. He finished in the American League Top five in slugging (.651), homers (35) and OPS (1.026). Not that he needed it, but he gets extra credit in the ranking for being a catcher. He wound up playing 13 Major League seasons between 1934-1948, most of them with the Tigers. He batted .275, with 277 home runs and a 123 OPS+ in 1,603 games.

Dale Alexander (1929)

Alexander finished in the American League top ten in batting average (.343), slugging (.580) and OPS (.977). He batted .331 in five seasons with the Tigers and Red Sox but was a terrible fielder and was sent to the minors after batting .281 in 1933.

Matt Nokes (1987)

Nokes hit one homer for every 14.4 at bats in 1987, good for fourth best in the league. He also gets extra credit for being a catcher. He played 11 seasons with five major league teams but never again approached the numbers of his rookie season.

Donie Bush (1909)

Bush led the league in games played (157) and walks (88) and finished third in OBP (.380). His rookie season was his best one offensively but he went on to play 16 seasons as a steady shortstop, mostly with the Tigers.

Dick Wakefield (1943)

Wakefield was likely helped somewhat by the diluted talent pool during World War II but he finished second in batting (.316), 6th in OBP (.377) and 5th in slugging (.434). That was his only truly full season but he played nine years mostly with the Tigers and posted a 131 OPS+ in 2,132 career at bats.

Harvey Kuenn (1953)

Kuenn finished sixth in the league with a .308 batting average in 155 games as a shortstop. That performance earned him the American League Rookie of the Year award. Kuenn went on to bat .303 in 15 seasons for five major league teams.

Lu Blue (1921)

Blue walked 103 times to finish second in the league and his .416 OBP was good for eighth. In 13 major league seasons, he walked 1,092 times with only 436 strikeouts.

Roy Johnson (1929)

Johnson, Alexander's teammate in 1929, led the league with 45 doubles and finished second with 128 runs scored. He batted .296 with a 107 OPS+ in 10 seasons.

Lou Whitaker (1978)

Whitaker and Trammell began their long careers as a solid hitting and fielding keystone combo in 1978. Whitaker batted .285 with a .361 OBP and won the American League Rookie of the Year. He played 19 seasons, all with the Tigers, and batted .276/.363/.426.

Ira Flagstead (1919)

Flagstead batted a robust .331/.416/.481 with a 153 OPS+ but ranks as low as tenth on this list because he had only 342 plate appearances in 1919. He played 13 seasons, mostly with the Tigers and Red Sox, and batted .290 with a .370 OBP.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I often forget how good Nokes was for that one season. What a fluke.

    ReplyDelete

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