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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.

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