Jim Edmonds and Greatness
Or how Edmonds is more Duke than Dewey.
Last time we looked at some of Jim Edmonds’ context-neutral career numbers in arguing his case for the Hall. But let’s face it – just looking at career numbers alone doesn’t always make the point. Most of the time, for a player be recognized as Hall of Fame worthy, that player will have needed to prove greatness for a sustained period, not pad their WAR totals with a long career of solid but unspectacular seasons.
One of the commenters from the last post mentioned Dwight Evans as a possible comparison to Edmonds. Dewey Evans had a terrific career and I don’t want to downplay it, but he never really separated himself as a Hall of Fame caliber player in the minds of the voters; thus he lasted only through three ballots before falling off. I would say Duke Snider is a better comparison for Edmonds, and I think the numbers bear this out.
I don’t think anyone will argue that Duke Snider doesn’t deserve being in the Hall of Fame. When Bill James published his New Historical Abstract in 2001, he ranked Snider as the 6th best CF of all time, followed by Griffey Jr. and Puckett. Bill may consider moving Junior ahead of Snider now, but suffice to say that Snider is rightly regarded as one of the best center fielders of all time.
Charted below is Edmonds, some of his contemporaries (Andruw Jones and Bernie Williams), some Hall of Famers, Dale Murphy and Dwight Evans. We’re looking at career best WAR, their 5-year peaks and Wins Above Excellence, a stat Sean Smith recently concocted. It’s straightforward: It’s how many wins a player has above three in a season, though his season total can never be below zero. We’re using this to give credit for great seasons while disregarding any season where a player is merely average or below. It doesn’t add for hinder a player’s case for greatness and doesn’t handicap a player for his decline.
|Name||Career High||5-Year Peak||Wins Above Excellence||Career WAR|
We see that as it turns out, Edmonds was the most dominant center fielder of his era, although Andruw Jones is right there. We see that Edmonds outclasses Kirby Puckett by a long shot, both in his five-year peak and the Wins Above Excellence group. Dawson had a strong five-year peak and still falls short of Edmonds’ peak, and he doesn’t come close in WAE, Excellentitude, or whatever you want to call it. Dewey Evans had a lot of good seasons, but nothing that matches the quality of excellence of Edmonds.
Jim Edmonds comes out slightly ahead of Duke Snider to take the lead in the “Wins Above Excellence” category, although Snider’s five-year peak was better, but not by a long shot, just two WAR. Let’s take a closer look at the 5-year peaks of Snider, newbie HoFer Dawson, and Edmonds.
(OWn% is Offensive Winning Percentage, a Bill James creation. Offensive Winning Percentage equals the percentage of games a team would win with nine of that player in its lineup, given average pitching and defense. A .750 OWP will usually put you in the top five in your league in any given year.)
Edmonds won a Gold Glove each of the five years of his peak, Dawson won four of five. The first Gold Gloves were given out in 1957, but according to Total Zone, Snider was worth 32 runs above average during that span, a very good number. Edmonds was good for 29 runs above average in his peak, Dawson had 36. (In 2005 Edmonds was +15, just throwing that out there.)
While Edmonds didn’t have Snider’s five-year peak, he’s pretty close, and you can argue that he displayed equal greatness on the ball diamond in his glory days, and he was definitely a more dominant player than Andre Dawson. The Dwight Evans comparison doesn’t hold water, as it turns out. Edmonds is more than just a merely good player who had a long career. For a good while, he was one of the upper echelon players of his time. That’s the main part of what the Hall of Fame is about honoring, which is why I’m starting to bang the drum now.