Geoff Young recently used a BP Unfiltered post to come clean about his unrequited man crush on David Eckstein, setting off a wonderful comment thread in which readers described the players that they consider “guilty pleasures” – those that may not be stars, but are fun to watch nonetheless. Reading through the comments, I was struck by the many different types of players that can catch a fan’s fancy, but one variety seemed to be particularly popular: The Little Guy. Maybe it’s the David vs. Goliath matchup of the smaller batter versus the hulking pitcher that appeals to us; maybe we just identify with a more normal-seeming scale of player; in any case, shorter players seem to have some level of curb appeal that can’t be explained by their stats.

For me, there’s an even more specific type that draws my eye. It’s the Little Guy that tries to play like a Big Guy – maybe successfully, maybe to the detriment of his team – that captures my heart. Not a slap-happy speed merchant, not Jay Jaffe‘s Lil’ Bastard, but a Little Big Man (or LBM), a player with a Chihuahua’s bark and a Newfoundland’s bite, a guy who likes to swing the bat – with authority. Right now my guy is Dustin Pedroia, generously listed at 5’9″, who swings from the heels at any offering that looks good to him and more often than not makes loud contact.

Which got me to wondering which historical players might best fit this mold: short of stature, with that grip-it-and-rip-it mentality that’s less reliant on walks with a double shot of power. If I were to travel back in time to, say, the 1940s, which players would catch my eye as Little Big Men?

To determine this, I first needed to define two things: (1) what is “short” for a batter; and (2) what sort of statistical profile might denote an LBM?

To define “short” I looked at the average heights and weights of batters and pitchers since the dawn of the live-ball era. I chose the 1920s as a starting point because the dead-ball style of play seemed unlikely to produce players of the LBM profile even if I didn’t consider a player’s height. The results:

        Avg Male  Avg Batter  Avg Batter  Avg Pitcher  Avg Pitcher  
Decade   Height*    Height**    Weight      Height***    Weight
1920s     68.1"      70.4"       171         72.1"        179
1930s     69.2"      71.2"       176         72.5"        184
1940s     69.6"      71.6"       181         72.9"        187
1950s     69.8"      72.1"       185         73.0"        189
1960s     70.0"      72.3"       187         73.5"        193
1970s     69.8"      72.4"       188         73.9"        195
1980s     69.1"      72.6"       190         74.3"        198
1990s     69.2"      72.7"       193         74.4"        200

  *Cobbled together from various CDC and academic sources
 **Calculated using player-seasons with at least 300 ABs
***Calculated using player-seasons with at least 30 IP

Over time, baseball players have tended to be taller than the average U.S. adult male, and pitchers have tended to be an inch or two taller and 4-8 pounds heavier than batters. Also note that by the 1990s both batters and pitchers were 2.3″ taller than they had been in the 1920s. Interestingly, baseball player height has continued to rise each decade while average height has essentially leveled off. Given these numbers, even in the 1920s a player of Dustin Pedroia’s purported height (69″) would be 1.4″ shorter than his peer batters, and 3.1″ shorter than the average pitcher he was facing. That seems like enough difference for Pedroia to look like a Little Guy even in the 1920s. Thus to honor the player I call Petey Plane, and for simplicity’s sake, batters must be Pedroia’s height (5’9″) or less in order to take a ride on the LBM coaster.

To ascertain what statistical profile might be used to denote a Little Big Man, I tried subtracting OBP from SLG and called the result “LBM”. OBP basically has a swinging-the-bat component (hits) and a bat-on-the-shoulder component (BB + HBP). SLG contains the same bat-wielding component (hits), but with additional points for extra base hits. The difference between a player’s SLG and OBP can thus be viewed as roughly signifying the player’s reliance on extra base power compared to their reliance on drawing walks.

As a crash-test for LBM, let’s look at these numbers for the same cohort of batters used in the chart above:

               5'9" Or Less                   Over 5'9"
       Player                        Player
Decade Seasons  AVG/ OBP/ SLG  LBM | Seasons  AVG/ OBP/ SLG  LBM
1920s    346   .293/.358/.395 .037 |  1040   .302/.364/.432 .068
1930s    184   .281/.346/.400 .054 |  1243   .295/.361/.432 .071
1940s    162   .273/.352/.380 .028 |  1232   .275/.348/.398 .050
1950s    131   .279/.358/.401 .043 |  1229   .275/.350/.426 .076
1960s    148   .269/.332/.366 .034 |  1587   .265/.334/.409 .075
1970s    138   .261/.334/.354 .020 |  2135   .269/.339/.403 .064
1980s    141   .269/.338/.372 .034 |  2228   .270/.338/.412 .074
1990s    198   .277/.346/.385 .039 |  2337   .276/.350/.438 .088

Clearly, taller players have a much higher LBM. Note that OBP is often similar for both groups, but SLG is universally higher for taller players. This makes intuitive sense – if smaller players are less able to generate power, they would need to do something else (get on base a lot, play solid defense, steal lots of bases, or maybe all of the above) to stay in the lineup. Given that LBM is higher for taller players, especially sluggers, I’m comfortable using LBM (along with height) as my criteria for describing a Little Big Man.

Armed with this information, we can name a Little Big Man Award winner for each live-ball decade through the 1990s (I’m already carrying a torch for Pedroia’s 21st Century LBM street cred), focusing on players that score well in the LBM metric numerous times. For each decade, I’ll list the top LBM seasons – and to further honor these players’ achievements in overcoming their diminutive stature, I’ll shorten the standard Top Ten list to instead display a Top Eight.

The Twenties

Player          Year  Team  AB    AVG/ OBP/ SLG   LBM  2B  3B  HR Height
Hack Wilson     1929  CHN   574  .345/.425/.618  .193  30   5  39   5'6"
Mandy Brooks    1925  CHN   349  .281/.322/.513  .191  25   7  14   5'9"
Mel Ott         1929  NYG   545  .328/.449/.635  .186  37   2  42   5'9"
Hack Wilson     1928  CHN   520  .313/.404/.588  .184  32   9  31   5'6"
Hack Wilson     1927  CHN   551  .318/.401/.579  .178  30  12  30   5'6"
George Harper   1925  PHI   495  .349/.391/.558  .166  35   7  18   5'8"
Joe Harris      1925  WSH   300  .323/.430/.573  .144  21   9  12   5'9"
George Harper   1924  PHI   411  .294/.361/.504  .142  26   6  16   5'8"

Lewis Robert “Hack” Wilson is the embodiment of the Little Big Man. Listed at 5’6″ and 190 lbs., but likely heavier, Wilson was built like a washing machine, with short, thick arms and an 18″ neck. His power bat was the terror of the National League in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but unfortunately he was also well-known at every speakeasy in Al Capone’s Cicero. Hack’s long, slow dance with the demon rum likely contributed to his rapid career decline and untimely death at the age of 48 – but when he was right, he was a marvel. So in his honor, the Little Big Man award shall henceforth be known as the “Hack Wilson Award,” and the trophy will be surmounted with this figure.

The Thirties

Player          Year  Team  AB    AVG/ OBP/ SLG   LBM  2B  3B  HR Height
Hack Wilson     1930  CHN   585  .356/.454/.723  .269  35   6  56   5'6"
Ripper Collins  1934  SLN   600  .333/.393/.615  .222  40  12  35   5'9"
Mel Ott         1932  NYG   566  .318/.424/.601  .177  30   8  38   5'9"
Mel Ott         1934  NYG   582  .326/.415/.591  .176  29  10  35   5'9"
Hack Wilson     1932  BRO   481  .328/.366/.538  .173  37   5  23   5'6"
Mel Ott         1931  NYG   497  .311/.392/.545  .153  23   8  29   5'9"
Mel Ott         1935  NYG   593  .308/.407/.555  .148  33   6  31   5'9"
Ripper Collins  1932  SLN   549  .308/.329/.474  .145  28   8  21   5'9"

Hack Wilson’s 1930 campaign is the stuff of legend – his 191 RBIs is a record that hasn’t been seriously threatened for 70 years, and his .269 LBM mark is the highest in history (for height and AB qualifiers). However, Wilson’s quick decline leaves the door open for Mel Ott to be named the 1930s pre-eminent Little Big Man. The Giants HOF right fielder was the first NL player to reach 500 career home runs and, in addition to his smallish stature, was known for his unique (for the time) pre-swing leg kick – always a bonus when picking favorite players. Fun to see Ripper Collins on this list – his 1934 season helped lead the Gas House Gang to a championship, and his 369 total bases was an NL record for a switch-hitter until Jimmy Rollins‘ amazing 2007 breakout.

The Forties

Player          Year  Team  AB    AVG/ OBP/ SLG   LBM  2B  3B  HR Height
Yogi Berra      1949  NYA   415  .277/.323/.480  .157  20   2  20   5'8"
Yogi Berra      1948  NYA   469  .305/.341/.488  .147  24  10  14   5'8"
Enos Slaughter  1940  SLN   516  .306/.370/.504  .134  25  13  17   5'9"
Eddie Miller    1945  CIN   421  .238/.275/.404  .128  27   2  13   5'9"
Eddie Miller    1947  CIN   545  .268/.333/.457  .124  38   4  19   5'9"
Mel Ott         1944  NYG   399  .288/.423/.544  .121  16   4  26   5'9"
Chet Laabs      1941  SLA   392  .278/.361/.482  .121  23   6  15   5'8"
Chet Laabs      1942  SLA   520  .275/.380/.498  .118  21   7  27   5'8"

With the top two scores of the decade and a long history as one of baseball’s most lovable characters, Yogi Berra is an easy choice as the pre-eminent Little Big Man of the 1940s. After helping dispatch a more virulent strain of LBM as a naval gunner’s mate during the war years, Yogi hit double-digit home runs for 16 straight seasons while using his legendary plate coverage to rarely strike out more than 30 times per year. Glad to see the St. Louis Browns representin’ with Wisconsin’s own Chet Laabs, a flawed mini-prototype of the Three True Outcomes hitter whose ability to draw walks kept him from showing up higher on this list.

The Fifties

Player          Year  Team  AB    AVG/ OBP/ SLG   LBM  2B  3B  HR Height
Roy Campanella  1953  BRO   519  .312/.395/.611  .216  26   3  41   5'8"
Roy Campanella  1951  BRO   505  .325/.393/.590  .197  33   1  33   5'8"
Roy Campanella  1955  BRO   446  .318/.395/.583  .188  20   1  32   5'8"
Roy Campanella  1950  BRO   437  .281/.364/.551  .187  19   3  31   5'8"
Hank Thompson   1953  NYG   388  .302/.400/.567  .167  15   8  24   5'9"
Yogi Berra      1953  NYA   503  .296/.363/.523  .160  23   5  27   5'8"
Yogi Berra      1956  NYA   521  .298/.378/.534  .156  29   2  30   5'8"
Yogi Berra      1958  NYA   433  .266/.319/.471  .152  17   3  22   5'8"

Say what you will about the Holy Trinity of shortstops, or the Willie/Mickey/Duke convergence in NYC’s center pastures – to me, having Campy and Yogi face off in a subway series five times in eight years ranks with any of them. Between them they recorded 14 of the top 17 LBM scores of the 1950s (the others were Hank Thompson’s 1953 and two Smoky Burgess seasons) – that’s what I call diminutive domination. With the top 4 scores of the decade, Campy wins this round hands down.

The Sixties

Player          Year  Team  AB    AVG/ OBP/ SLG   LBM  2B  3B  HR Height
Jimmy Wynn      1967  HOU   594  .249/.331/.495  .164  29   3  37   5'9"
Yogi Berra      1961  NYA   395  .271/.330/.466  .136  11   0  22   5'8+"
Smoky Burgess   1962  PIT   360  .328/.375/.500  .125  19   2  13   5'8"
Tony Gonzalez   1962  PHI   437  .302/.371/.494  .123  16   4  20   5'9"
Smoky Burgess   1961  PIT   323  .303/.365/.486  .121  17   3  12   5'8"
Jimmy Wynn      1966  HOU   418  .256/.321/.440  .119  21   1  18   5'9"
Don Zimmer      1961  CHN   477  .252/.291/.403  .111  25   4  13   5'9"
Don Zimmer      1964  WSH   341  .246/.302/.411  .109  16   2  12   5'9"

This award is tailor-made for Jimmy Wynn. “The Toy Cannon” was a low-average hitter with tremendous raw power, the fear of which caused pitchers to surrender plenty of walks. Playing in the Astrodome was a major drag on his raw power numbers – consider that from 1965-1969 Wynn launched 136 bombs, but Clay Davenport translates that to 202 home runs (including 54 during the 1967 season shown above). As charming as it is to see Popeye muscle his way onto this leader board, Jimmy Wynn was the man.

The Seventies

Player          Year  Team  AB    AVG/ OBP/ SLG   LBM  2B  3B  HR Height
Joe Morgan      1976  CIN   472  .320/.444/.576  .132  30   5  27   5'7"
Jimmy Wynn      1974  LAN   535  .271/.387/.497  .110  17   4  32   5'9"
Rich Coggins    1973  BAL   389  .319/.363/.468  .105  19   9   7   5'8"
Al Bumbry       1973  BAL   356  .337/.398/.500  .102  15  11   7   5'8"
Jimmy Wynn      1970  HOU   554  .282/.394/.493  .099  32   2  27   5'9"
Davey Lopes     1979  LAN   582  .265/.372/.464  .092  20   6  28   5'9"
Walt Williams   1973  CLE   350  .289/.316/.406  .090  15   1   8   5'6"
Denny Doyle     1975  BOS   310  .310/.339/.429  .090  21   2   4   5'9"

Joe Morgan was arguably the best player in baseball during the 1970s – and he was a little guy with lots of pop who posted 5 of the decade’s top 8 slugging percentages among the Randy Newman set. But … Joe has gotten plenty of recognition over the years (much of it good, some not so much). So I’m going to give the award to someone who will appreciate it more: Jimmy Wynn, who launched 145 more round-trippers from 1970-76 (translated to 204 homers on his DT card). Full disclosure: I loved Jimmy Wynn when I was a kid. When I close my eyes and think of a little guy muscling up to crush a ball 500 feet, I picture The Toy Cannon – reason enough for him to win back-to-back trophies.

The Eighties

Player          Year  Team  AB    AVG/ OBP/ SLG   LBM  2B  3B  HR Height
Kirby Puckett   1986  MIN   680  .328/.366/.537  .171  37   6  31   5'8"
Kirby Puckett   1988  MIN   657  .356/.375/.545  .170  42   5  24   5'8"
Kirby Puckett   1987  MIN   624  .332/.367/.534  .167  32   5  28   5'8"
Darryl Motley   1985  KCA   383  .222/.257/.413  .155  20   1  17   5'9"
Luis Salazar    1985  CHA   327  .245/.267/.404  .136  18   2  10   5'9"
Oddibe McDowell 1985  TEX   406  .239/.304/.431  .127  14   5  18   5'9"
Darryl Motley   1984  KCA   522  .284/.319/.441  .122  25   6  15   5'9"
Lonnie Smith    1989  ATL   482  .315/.415/.533  .118  34   4  21   5'9"

Baseball players come in all shapes and sizes, and Kirby Puckett was, shall we say, unique. You’d look at him and wonder how he could cover so much ground in center field, or how he could get in one of those zones where they could throw a slider two feet off the plate and he’d still reach out and drive it into right field. You’d wonder how that guy, that guy right there, could be one of the best players in baseball. Glaucoma ended his career, scandal riddled his later years, and a stroke killed him at the age of 45 – but for a decade or so no one was bigger than Kirby Puckett.

Oddibe McDowell and Darryl Motley seem to fit the LBM profile well enough. But Lonnie Smith? I didn’t realize he had morphed into the leading slugger on that woeful 1989 Braves squad which spawned the classic rhyme “Smoltz and Glavine, Then No One Worth Havin’.”

The Nineties

Player          Year  Team  AB    AVG/ OBP/ SLG   LBM  2B  3B  HR Height
Ivan Rodriguez  1999  TEX   600  .332/.356/.558  .203  29   1  35   5'9"
Matt Stairs     1997  OAK   352  .298/.386/.582  .196  19   0  27   5'9"
Kirby Puckett   1994  MIN   439  .317/.362/.540  .178  32   3  20   5'8"
Luis Polonia    1999  DET   333  .324/.357/.526  .169  21   8  10   5'8"
Matt Stairs     1999  OAK   531  .258/.366/.533  .167  26   3  38   5'9"
Ivan Rodriguez  1998  TEX   579  .321/.358/.513  .155  35  14  13   5'9"
Terry Pendleton 1991  ATL   586  .319/.363/.517  .154  34   8  22   5'9"
Matt Stairs     1998  OAK   523  .294/.370/.511  .141  33   1  26   5'9"

The .203 LBM posted by Pudge Rodriguez in 1999 is the 4th highest in history – bully for him – and it’s always good fun to catch up with Luis Polonia (La Hormiga Atomica), if only to be reminded of how Dennis Lamp described his defense. And yet the award here has to go to Matt Stairs. The Wonder Hamster posted three seasons in the top 8, and … well, just look at him. Tell me that’s not a postmodern rendering of Hack Wilson.

So the roster of Little Big Man Award winners is:

1920s: Hack Wilson    (Hall Of Fame - Short Career Wing)
1930s: Mel Ott        (Hall Of Fame)
1940s: Yogi Berra     (Hall Of Fame)
1950s: Roy Campanella (Hall Of Fame)
1960s: Jimmy Wynn     (Hall Of Very Good)
1970s: Jimmy Wynn     (Hall Of Very Good)
1980s: Kirby Puckett  (Hall Of Fame - Short Career Wing)
1990s: Matt Stairs    (Hall of Oddities)

That’s a pretty strong group, although we’ve gone from no-doubt hall of famers down to merely good players. With player size continuing to increase, is it getting harder for smaller players to slug their way to success? We’re not yet through with the first decade of the 21st century, but there are still a few short-statured players putting up high LBMs: Pudge Rodriguez is the clubhouse leader, but Jimmy Rollins has made some noise as well. Counting players that are 5’10” as “short” seems justified given that the average batter is now nearly 6’1″, and doing so would increase the pool of LBM candidates – but somehow that seems aesthetically lacking. I still want baseball’s Little Big Men to be truly little, but carry a big stick.

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This seems really, really long and again, I think it's the structure. Going decade by decade really lost me. I also have an issue with the height -- Pedroia's not 5'9 and while I understand that Ken (and PECOTA) have to go with listed heights and weights, to not even address it seems ... lazy? I like that Ken dialed back the cute to a nice level - he doesn't lose his personality anywhere and for an example, the 70's section is as Funckian a section as he's written, but because he tosses in the ellipse, it's both knowing and tight. Self-editing is as important as good editing, in the way that discretion is the better part of valor. Funck's becoming a Steven Goldman type -- stat informed, quirky stylist and will have his loyalists.
I was hoping Ken would overcome a disastrously cute piece last week, and then I read the bit about "Dustin Pedoria... makes loud contact," when an important story this season is that Pedroia's contact has been far from loud, with the little guy hitting only two home runs and slugging under .400. But okay, this is just introductory material. "LBM" is kind of an unfortunate acronym, but we'll overlook that as well. Still trying way too hard with the links, but let's put that aside. That leaves the unnecessary made-up metric, when it would have been much easier, and more fun, simply to generate a list of undersized players with oversized production, as Ken did, and then tell us something ABOUT them instead of just a fast fact or two and linking to a bit about Al Capone. For example, a lot has been written about Hack Wilson. Hack Wilson said some heartrending things about his alcoholism towards the end of his life. It would have been far more informative to read about that than to see yet another link that is barely relevant and tells us absolutely nothing about the player in question. The metric itself adds little, is poorly defined, and doesn't do its purported job of isolating short (pardon the pun) hackers, since many of the players listed drew a fair number of walks, especially Mel Ott, who led the NL in that category six times, and Jimmy Wynn, who led the NL twice and was over 100 six times, with totals reaching as high as 148. The result is a congeries of unlike players, which means the organizing principle didn't really work. The lesson here is that a player's height doesn't limit the kinds of results he produces. Thus something like Pedroia's PECOTA comps would have been a better guide to concocting a family of Pedroia-style players than this exercise.
I guess if anything, I'm kind of stuck between Will and Steve. It's an entertaining read at times, but also a bit of a throw way -- I don't see the difference between doing this and a list of All-Star teams of players born in Kansas or something.
I was entertained by the concept, but this one came up short for me as well. Admittedly, I'm more indulgent on the question of topic choice, in that a writer should write what he or she wants to; Ken had the freedom to choose, so he chose something he'd enjoy. But the misfortunes for me crop up in the 'how' instead of the 'what' of it. The structure has problems (the decade breakdowns were arbitrary, and generates a needless staccato in what could have been a piece that flowed a bit more elegantly and had one large table than lots of little ones), the underlying data in terms of height has problems (as Will notes), and as fun as I find Ken's stylistics and throwaway historical references, there were again questions about whether he took it too far.
I liked this a lot better than the BP reviewers did. It was a fun little topic. I like the link-o-rama, too. It seems to me that the author did address Pedroia's real height with "generously listed at 5'9"."
I thought that this was more than just readable, especially considering how often I hear commentators waxing rhapsodic over the Little Big Men like Eckstein and Pedroia. This was a nice wrap up of who those types have been over the years, with good stats and fun facts and links abounding. It was my favorite of this week's pieces.
I have not voted for this writer in the competition thus far -- his style does not resonate with me. A little too cutesy for me...But I am giving this article a thumbs up. It pains me to say this -- but I like it. It wasn't hard-core but I found it entertaining and it provoked a few thoughts and memories for me.
I thought Brian Oakchunas had the best article of the week, till I read this. Maybe it reminds me of his Initial Entry and TGF, but I found it entertaining and I liked all the asides. Maybe I just geek out when someone takes a tool or idea that looks silly, then rigorously applies it as if he was a Nobel-prize winning scientist (or a "Mythbuster"). Anyway, I loved it.. didn't find it cute. I liked the structure and overall found it very entertaining. Easy thumbs up... which means I've given a thumbs up to everyone this week... either based on past performance or what they did this week... hrm...
I also liked this a lot better than the BP staff did. Some of that can be blamed on my ancient reverence for Jimmy Wynn, but not all of it. I'm not sure what the staff thought Ken was supposed to be doing with this piece. I liked the breakout by decades. I liked the style. I followed the links I wanted to follow, and ignored the rest, as always. I thought "Little Big Man" was an inspired name. I'm even ok with the metric -- Jimmy Wynn and Mel Ott come out on top **in spite** of their high walk totals, which is just fine. And it didn't feel long at all, because I was enjoying reading it all the way through.
Thanks Dr. Dave. It's clear to me I didn't do a very good job of explaining exactly what you point out about guys like Ott and Wynn -- they drew lots of walks, but their power helped them to draw walks, as pitchers were often more careful with them. They possessed the necessary patience to lay off bad pitches and take walks, but unlike someone like, say, Chone Figgins, their primary goal at the plate was to wait for a good pitch and hit it a long, long way.
Ken Funck seems to be the guy who consistently drives the biggest wedge between my opinions and those of the judges. I agree that the metric in question didn't *quite* capture what Ken wanted it to. While Yogi Berra embodies the LBM concept (as stated) very well, I don't think Jimmy Wynn or Mel Ott do at all. Both had enough value tied up in their walks that saying they were less reliant on them than power rings a bit hollow. I also would have preferred a structure that didn't feel like a subway ride, making too-frequent stops and not lingering at any of them long enough to enjoy the scenery. With that having been said, I absolutely loved the article. It's odd -- I don't think I'd ever argue it was the best piece, but it's clearly my favorite. I have a hunch many of my fellow Funcksters are in the same boat. Easy thumbs up. I want this guy writing for BP long term, no doubt about it.
I'd echo this. One of, if not my favorite, entry to date.
Overall, an enjoyable read. It begs for the obvious final table: the top 8 career LBM.
Not sure how this will get formatted, but here goes: Minimum 500 career games (thru 2008): Hack Wilson .307/.395/.545 .150 Roy Campanella .276/.360/.500 .140 Ivan Rodriguez .301/.339/.475 .136 Yogi Berra .285/.348/.482 .134 Ripper Collins .296/.360/.492 .132 Matt Stairs .266/.358/.483 .125 Mel Ott .304/.414/.533 .119 Kirby Puckett .304/.360/.477 .117 Lower the threshold to 1000 ABs, and you get Hack Miller (.129) and Darryl Motley (.122).
Why am I unsurprised to find so many catchers on this list? Once again a nice article. Thumbs up!
Of course it's not a perfect metric. Of course the decade breakdowns are arbitrary. Of course it didn't go into things like Hack Wilson's alcoholism. There are certainly times for the development of useful metrics, more revealing bracketing of data sets, and the exploration of the darker side of some historical player personalities. But this wasn't the time for any of that. It was clear to me that Funck wasn't trying to be the Voros McCracken of short guys. He was sharing something he enjoys about the game with us, and he was using statistics as a way to talk about the game's past. He shared well; some of that enjoyment rubbed off on me, and I came away knowing a bit more about undersized players of the past than I used to. Easy thumbs up.
Sorry, but I didn't find this particularly interesting or informative. I still can't figure out why a lot of the readers like Ken's stuff as much as they do, but I guess that's one of things that makes this competition interesting.
I didn't really learn anything new, but I always enjoy Ken's writing. Still, to have a table with Walt Williams name on it and not include one of the great nicknames of all time - Walt "No Neck" Williams??? VERY disappointing! Plus, saying that Hack Wilson was built like a washing machine is only true from the waist up. More like a spinning top - big and broad at the top, tapering down to almost nothing. Seriously, the guy had the ankles of a little girl. Since this is the last of the articles I read this week, I wanted to just say how disappointed I was overall in the lack of "history" involved in this week's pieces. Everyone seemed to approach the topic as "how can I use advanced metrics in a historical sense". I really would have loved to read just one piece that wasn't stats-based, that went back to an earlier time and gave us some historical insight that wasn't entirely based on modern concepts. But then, Goldman IS my favorite BP writer.
"Everyone seemed to approach the topic as 'how can I use advanced metrics in a historical sense'. I really would have loved to read just one piece that wasn't stats-based, that went back to an earlier time and gave us some historical insight that wasn't entirely based on modern concepts." Agreed 100%
Loved, loved, loved it. The idea was a great one and I think he nailed it. Jimmy Wynn not an apt choice? Jimmy Wynn is exactly the first guy in my mind, followed by Kirby Puckett, and Ron Cey. WHere is the Penguin (was he too tall?) Funck is the only one I think that has a definite style of his own that is already fully formed. He consistently writes entertaining pieces and comes up with weird ways to meld statistics. By far the most Jamesian of the writers.
Thanks for the kinds words. I totally agree that Wynn epitomizes the criteria you and I had in our heads. Glad it worked for you -- though I understand the point that perhaps I didn't explain the LBM criteria as well as I could have. Penguin was listed at 5'10". Wishful thinking, maybe, but I had to go with what's listed.
Ken--No need for apologies. It was another great article. I'm finding myself clicking on your articles first each week. Keep up the good work!
Thanks -- I wasn't intending to apologize, just to acknowledge.
I was surprised Matt Stairs was so short.
Just proof that you don't get called the Wonder Hamster for facial hair alone.
Fun, but undermined by the totally arbitrary height cutoff, absence of any park adjustments and the walks thing. (Mel Ott is not the droid you're looking for). The links...I've never been so glad to see Hitler's picture, as I wasn't sure which theater Yogi had served in.
I almost never check links, and read the articles off of Word or Notepad. I had to re-read that sentence ("After helping dispatch a more virulent strain of LBM as a naval gunner’s mate during the war years") and it was beautiful. Unfortunately, that somewhat hints that the LBM's in this piece were also affronting baseball-loving humanity by committing heinous crimes that go against the humane order of the game. I didn't take that train of thought while reading the article though, so enjoyed the little big joke
I read Ken's piece first this week and enjoyed it. I enjoyed it even more after I read the rest. It seems to be the only one this week that pulls it all together -- interesting topic, intro-body-conclusion structure, a focused approach, and that certain light-heartedness that I have come to expect from most BP writers. Some of the other pieces seemed rushed. I don't know if the BP Idol contest was meant to test the writers' stamina as well as their skills, but it seems to be taking a toll. I gave only two thumbs up this week, but this is quite an undertaking and I certainly appreciate the efforts by all.
I just claimed in the comments on Brian Cartwright's article that I come to BP to learn things, not to be entertained. And yet, a little entertainment counts for a lot. This was both entertaining and informative, and I loved it. It's also interesting to note that Matt Stairs was singled out by Bill James as someone who would have had a Hall of Fame career if only teams hadn't dismissed him (he came up as a 2nd baseman) based on his build. Oh, and that picture of Hack Wilson reminds me of my dad. It's uncanny (and he's also 5'6").
I get the feeling that breaking out the players by decade was due to the "history" nature of this week's topic. Was that part of your thinking, Ken?
Absolutely. The conceit was that if I went back in time to some other decade in the 20th century, which players might appeal to me on a visceral level? Breaking out by decade ensured that I gave a broad scope of time. Also, I wanted to use "raw" stats (fans watching a ballgame experience things that way) and didn't really want to try and translate them between eras, but being aware of the great disparity of run-scoring environments over time I thought breaking them down into decades would at least ensure there was some sort of appropriate temporal comparison -- e.g., note that no one in the Top 8 Career LBM list played a whole bunch in the 60s and 70s.
Wow, I (like many others) was blindsided by the BP response to this article. It's the second-to-last that I've read this week, and the first that I thoroughly enjoyed. To me, this is exactly the sort of thing Bill James would have written, with the whimsical choice of category, the decade-by-decade breakdown and the quick-but-effective metric that cuts to the heart of the issue without getting too fussy. Kudos!
I'd like to read Ken's writing a LOT in about five or ten years. It's good right now. I think it will be great with more practice.
Disappointed to see the negative reaction from the panel to an entertaining read. Given the subject doing this decade by decade was logical and Ken brought his own style and humour to it. Excellent effort.
OK, LBM is not a significant contribution to Sabremetrics. But this was an entertaining read. Ken applies genuine statistical "research" in a unique, whimsical way. Also, Ken, nice job re-aiming your tone. The past criticisms of you being "cutesy" and cloying were well-founded. Here, you had a light, humorous tone while avoiding being "too clever by half". You only get in trouble when you decide to be entertaining. When you just try to write it straight, your natural ability to entertain shines through. Mr. Goldman criticized the effort pointing out the LBM (which he generously calls a "metric", apparently missing the tone) because it still captures high-walk guys. OK. But it still captures guys (by definition) whose power eclipses their walk rates; the point isn't that they never drew a walk, its that they aren't Eddie Gaedel. Its not like Ken misled us; on Wynn's power: "the fear of which caused pitchers to surrender plenty of walks". Steven, its OK to read the entry before commenting. This criticism extends to Will as well. He says that Ken did "not even address" Pedroia's actual height; actually Ken labeled 5'9" as both "generous" and "purported". Perhaps, Will, you meant a failure to address the lack of precision in historical height data. That would be valid, but, again, you are missing the point. This is like a critic ripping "The Vagina Monologues" because vaginas can't actually speak (OK, some of you want to comment that they do, indeed, speak to you. Shut up.). You hate James Bond movies because they aren't realistic. You hate roller-coasters because, statistically, they really aren't that dangerous. Lighten up, you self-serious --- OK, end of rant. If you want a serious criticism, its the idea that a guy 5'6" and at least 190 was a little man. Especially at that time. Even today that's a tank, and in is time Hack Wilson was beyond a fireplug. If you want to exalt David Ecksteins, you need to include weight as a criterion. Ken, content-wise this was not your best effort. But stylistically, this was a huge step forward (and you were already several steps in front of your competitors). If you can meld the content heft you have shown earlier, with the writing style you showed this week, you will win. Hands down.