Thursday, February 9, 2012
Bill James on the underrated Dwight Evans
By David Schoenfield
Every baseball nerd my age loves Dwight Evans, even if they weren't Red Sox fans back in the '70s and '80s: The underrated, better-than-Jim Rice, stiffed-in-the-Hall-of-Fame-voting Dwight Evans.
What, don't believe the Jim Rice comment? Here, their career stats:
Pretty similar, no? Rice had the higher batting average, but Evans drew so many walks that he actually got on base at a better rate. I included the outs column because outs are important. (Evans made more outs than Rice but also played over 500 more games.) As Bill James writes in his Grantland opus on making a Hall of Fame case for Evans, "If you make more outs, you have to produce more runs." If you factor in the runs created and the outs made for each player, Evans created 6.2 runs per every 27 outs he made over the course of his career; Rice created 6.0 runs per every 27 outs. And then we get to defense and length of career, and Rice isn't going to win those discussions.
Anyway, James doesn't compare Evans to Rice in his piece, but he does compare him to Dave Winfield. In comparing their 1982 seasons, James writes, "Perhaps I shouldn't say that Evans was 'obviously' the class of the group in 1982; Dave Winfield was pretty good that year, too. But Evans drew 67 more walks than Winfield did (112 to 45), and, because of that, he scored 38 more runs (122 to 84). Those are big, big differences. If you are a pitcher, 67 walks will lose a lot of ballgames for you."
It's a fun piece to read and it's fun to see Dewey getting a little recognition 21 years after his last season.