Best seasons: Case for Carl Yastrzemski '67
March, 5, 2012
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
I seeded Carl Yastrzemski eighth in our 32-player greatest season of all time bracket, which puts him on a collision course to meet Babe Ruth in the quarterfinals.
There is a case to be made that Yaz's 1967 season was the best ever. Here are the bullet points in his favor:
- Won the Triple Crown (he actually tied Harmon Killebrew for the home run title). But he also led the AL in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, total bases and hits. In other words, everything that matters most.
- He put up an impressive .326/.418/.622 line in a pretty good year for pitchers. It wasn't 1968 (when Yaz won the batting title with a .301 average), but the AL hit just .236/.303/.351 that year. Compare that to the 2011 NL overall line of .253/.319/.391.
- Yaz's dominance can be seen in the leaderboards. For example, while his .622 slugging percentage would have been good enough to lead the AL in 2011, the No. 10 man in 1967 slugged just .447. In 2011, 36 AL batters slugged at least .447. Likewise, he scored 112 runs in a league where only one other player reached the century mark and the No. 10 guy scored just 79. He was also just one of two hitters to drive in 100.
- Not only was he the best offensive player in the league, he was also one of the best defensive players. Baseball-Reference credits him with 2.7 WAR on defense, the second-best total in the AL behind Brooks Robinson. A master of the Green Monster and decoying runners, B-R ranks Yaz's season as one of the top 20 defensive seasons ever by a left fielder.
- If you like clutch, few batters can match the mesmerizing clutch hitting of Yaz down the stretch. With the Impossible Dream Red Sox fighting for the pennant (they had finished in ninth place the year before), he hit .417/.504/.760 in September with nine home runs and 26 RBIs in 27 games. He was even bigger the final 13 games, hitting .500 with 18 RBIs. And then there were the final two games, both Boston victories to clinch the pennant by one game. In Game 161, against the Twins (who led the Sox by one game), Yaz went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, including a go-ahead RBI single in the fifth and a three-run homer in the seventh that gave Boston a 6-2 lead. In Game 162, with the teams tied, Yaz went 4-for-4, including a game-tying two-run single in the fifth. In the eighth, Bob Allison singled to make it 5-3 but Yaz killed the rally when he nailed Allison trying to stretch the hit into a double. Talk about carrying a team.
- Yaz's 12.2 WAR ranks tied for 10th all time on the Baseball-Reference single-season list. Ahead of him are four Babe Ruth seasons from the 1920s, two Barry Bonds seasons, a Rogers Hornsby season from 1924 and two Mickey Mantle years. Other than the Bonds seasons that you may wish to put an asterisk next to, Yaz's '67 is the most modern in the top 10. It's harder for more modern players to outclass their contemporaries, but Yaz was 4.9 wins ahead of the No. 2 position player in the league, Al Kaline.
So that's the case: Dominance compared to peers, great numbers, clutch hitting. Go here to vote in the entire bracket.
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.