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March 29, 2010

You Can Blog It Up

Dead Player of the Day and Other Notes #1

by Steven Goldman

Dead Player of the Day

In which I pick a page from the encyclopedia at random and riff on what I find.

Boots Grantham, 2B/1B, 1922-1934 (1900-1954)

George Grantham was a tough player to know what to do with. He was an exaggerated version of Jeff Kent. Like Kent, he had a great bat for the middle infield, but whereas Kent was a mediocre second baseman, Grantham had huge defensive problems that had him bouncing between second and first for the bulk of his career. He simply couldn’t hold on to the ball. As a rookie with the Cubs in 1923, Grantham made 55 errors, which remains the most of any player after 1910. Only one other player in the lively-ball era (1920 to present), the short-lived  Jay Partridge of the 1927 Dodgers (-2.6 WARP that year) has been allowed to make over 50 errors at the keystone. In his sophomore season, Grantham made 44 errors, the sixth-highest total of the lively-ball years. Ironically, during Grantham’s rookie year, the Sporting News raved about his defense: "Grantham continues to shine at second, in fact is improving so rapidly that he is being mentioned as a second Eddie Collins," the paper raved in August, 1923, which given Grantham’s later reputation serves as a reminder that the clubs used to pay for sportswriters’ travel and drinks. The Cubs were less convinced. Combine his fielding difficulties with some other negatives—Grantham led the NL in strikeouts in both seasons—and the Cubs were prepared to overlook his .316/.390/.458 1924 and deal him to the Pirates. Among the players they received in return was Rabbit Maranville, who was the polar opposite of Grantham with the bat and glove. ‘Rates manager Bill McKechnie, who did not suffer poor fielders, moved Grantham to first base, although he would get back to second under less persnickety skippers. He hit .326/.413/.493 for the champion Pirates in 1925, though he went just 2-for-15 in the World Series. He did better against the Yankees two years later, going 4-for-11, but we know how that worked out. Overall, he hit .315/./410/.491 in 913 games with the Buccos, and though those numbers are somewhat inflated by the era, they’re still plenty good. If only he could have played second he’d be better remembered.

Super-utility Types 

An article on the Rangers on ESPN yesterday referred to Geoff Blum and Willie Bloomquist as "super-utility" types. This seemed like something of a misnomer given that Blum is a career .250/.310/.387 hitter and Bloomquist has hit .263/.318/.332. How about the real super-utility guys, everyday players without an everyday position who also have good bats? You could make a pretty good All-Star team out of the true supers, one where the manager could play a different defensive lineup every day:

1B: Billy Goodman, 1950 Red Sox (.354/.427/.455; LF 45, 3B 27, 1B 21, 2B 5, SS 1)
2B: Ben Zobrist, 2009 Rays (.297/.405/.543; 2B 91, OF 70, SS 13, 1B 3, 3B 1)
3B: Jimmy Dykes, 1927 A’s (.324/.394/.453; 1B 82, 3B 25, OF 5, SS 5, 2B 3, P 2)
SS: Tony Kubek, 1957 Yankees (.297/.335/.381; SS 41, 3B 38, LF 31, CF 22, 2B 1)
C: Joe Ferguson, 1974 Dodgers (.252/.380/.436; C 82, RF 32)
LF: Tony Phillips, 1991 Tigers (.284/.371/.438; OF 56, 3B 46, 2B 36, SS 13)
CF: Cesar Tovar, 1968 Twins (.272/.326/.372; OF 78, 3B 75, SS 35, 2B 18, 1B 1, C 1, P 1)
RF: Bobby Bonilla, 1987 Pirates (.300/.351/.481; 3B 89, OF 34, 1B 6)
P: Babe Ruth, 1919 Red Sox (.322/.456/.657; OF 111, P 17, 1B 5)

There are pitchers that would be truer to the spirit of this list, like Wes Ferrell 1933, but the Babe is too much fun to leave out. Besides, this team is good at getting on base but needs a clean-up hitter.

Chat This Week (BP Annual-centric)

I'll be chatting here at BP on Thursday at 1 p.m. EST. While the normal baseball-plus-anything-goes ethos will apply, I would also very much like to hear from those of you who read this year's book. Believe it or not, we're already getting things lined up for BP 2011 and as we consider additions, deletions, and improvements to the book, we'd like your input. Rather than turn the feedback section of this post into a discussion of the annual, please hold your questions for the chat itself or enter them in the chat queue, as I'll have specific questions for you as well with which we can frame the conversation at that time. Looking forward to talking.

Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Steven's other articles. You can contact Steven by clicking here

16 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

dianagram

Interesting article/premise Steven, though I might nitpick that players who appeared in 1-3 games at a particular position aren't true "super-utility" players.

On a separate note, the BP annuals appear to be on 'roids over the past few years ... they've "come into camp" noticeably bigger. But in this case, its a good thing for the game. :-)

Mar 29, 2010 08:46 AM
rating: 1
 
achaik

I enjoyed the "Dead Player of the Day." Will it be a daily feature?

Mar 29, 2010 09:12 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Yup, M-F. Thank you!

Mar 29, 2010 09:21 AM
 
Paul Andrew Burnett

Admittedly silly question, but what if the random encyclopedia page lists a person who isn't dirt napping yet?

Mar 29, 2010 11:50 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

I call him a Live Dead Person of the Day and keep going. Or I flip to another page.

Mar 29, 2010 11:53 AM
 
Guancous

Here's an article idea for the 2011 edition: How about a quick review of the 10% and 90% outliers from PECOTA?

I'd also love to see a couple pages about breakouts that PECOTA got right and reasons why players missed.

Mar 29, 2010 09:33 AM
rating: 4
 
graignettles

You're utility guy for this team could be Dave Roberts - 1980 Texas Rangers. Only 238/280/383 line but had HR power (10 HR in 251 PA) and was truly utilitarian with 3B-37, SS-33, C-22, RF-5, 2B-4, 1B-4.

Mar 29, 2010 09:57 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Thing is, Dave wasn't much of a hitter and I was looking for guys who were both versatile and potent. All of the guys above could be counted on to be at least league-average most years. Kubek is the one exception, but he was close enough in '57 that I felt okay with the choice. I'm sure there was a better option (I thought about Tom Tresh '62) but I went with my first guess.

Mar 29, 2010 10:16 AM
 
dianagram

As a public service, and to satisfy my own curiosity, here is the list of everyone from 1947 to 2009 who played at least 10% of a season's games at at LEAST 2b, ss, 3b AND OF. In many cases, they also played 1B and/or C.

http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/N2fqN

Mar 29, 2010 10:41 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

And so few of them could hit... Not sure this method works though. Wouldn't you consider Jim Leyritz (four corners and catcher) worthy of discussion here? How about Bill Sudakis?

Mar 29, 2010 11:23 AM
 
dianagram

I guess it depends on which combination of positions you want to consider for "super-utility" designation. At least one CI and one MI, plus OF and/or C?

Then it comes down to the minimum # of games played at each position to merit noting it as "playing" it.

I'll try some other combos and see if a more-representative (and potentially-potent) group emerges.

Mar 29, 2010 11:34 AM
rating: 0
 
morocco13
(769)

Bill Sudakis? Wow, where else can you see that name tossed out in an off-handed manner? One the subject of part-time Dodger catchers of the 1970s, could you please fix the typo in Joe Ferguson's name?
Tovar shows up at every position for 1968 because he played an inning at each (he was the starting pitcher) on September 22.

Mar 29, 2010 11:50 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Fixed Ferguson. I was aware of the Tovar thing, but didn't list him for that reason -- the stunt was an extension of what he was already doing, as opposed to Bert Campaneris, who did the same thing in '65 but wasn't really that kind of player.

Mar 29, 2010 11:56 AM
 
mathias

That Kubek season is actually 1957- his rookie year.

Mar 29, 2010 12:00 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Another typo, a risk of fast blogging. I know that like the back of my hand, too. Not that I have hands. Will fix.

Mar 29, 2010 12:03 PM
 
ddanyc
(837)

Enjoyed the article, Steven. I'd like to point out that the headline of his NY Times obituary refers to him as "Boots" Grantham, yet the text of the article says nothing about his lack of defensive prowess. Perhaps this was a 1950's-style of not speaking ill of the dead except by insinuation.

Mar 29, 2010 12:46 PM
rating: 1
 
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