Earlier this week, I wrote about Joe Mauer and his Hall of Fame career. I was really taken by just how well Mauer stacks up against catchers throughout history, players from this era and Hall of Famers in general. If you didn't read it, you can find it here. If you did read it, you can find it there too, but you probably shouldn't read it again. Read this instead. I thought, well, this is probably an exercise that I could complete for a lot of players, to see if anyone's greatness is being overlooked.
Using Baseball Reference's amazing play reference, I shall set out on a journey to find an overlooked player and rightfully adjust everyone's attitudes on his playing career. If I can truly change the minds of the masses, then I will become the most powerful baseball blog-guy of all time. If I can do this successfully, my legacy will be cemented right next to that DIPS guy and whoever invented OPS. This is my one chance, and I cannot blow it. History awaits. Now, to pick the perfect candidate...
Alexi Casilla seems like a good choice.
Here are some Sexi Lexi facts:
- Casilla is a middle infielder
- Casilla debuted in 2006 at age 22
- Casilla is 28 and in his eighth season
- Casilla is not a power hitter
- Casilla is not a good hitter
- Casilla's has two skills - baserunning (?) and throwing the ball while completely parallel to the ground
- Casilla has played exactly 500 games in his career. Round!
How does Casilla compare to his contemporaries in the middle infield? Casilla has had 1794 plate appearances in his career. Between 1988 and 2912, there are 121 middle infielders with roughly that many or more plate appearances. Casilla ranks 100th in OPS+, right ahead of Pat Meares. We are not off to a good start here. He's 114th in home runs, 116th in RBI, 119th in hits, 94th in OBP, 104th in slugging percentage and 98th in batting average.
This isn't going well.
Well, this isn't Casilla's game. He's not a hitter, he's a speed guy! I'm guessing he'll be great in the speedy categories like doubles (114th), triples (95th), stolen bases (59th), and runs (114th). Hmm. He does have the second fewest at bats on this list, so it's pretty obvious that he just needs a chance to hit more, right?
Is it possible that Casilla just stacks up better against everyone? Perhaps his skills do not compare favorably to other speedy infielders, but will look shockingly tremendous against plodding corner infielders and stupid outfielders. Let's see how Casilla ranks within a different sample:
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1961 to 2012, Played 85% of games at C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF or DH, (requiring At least 1750 plate appearances), sorted by greatest Adjusted OPS+:
Casilla ranks 1209 out of 1331 players. Crud.
Oh oh, maybe stolen bases!
Casilla ranks 498 out of 1331 players. Blast, then crud.
So what? Casilla's young. I bet a lot of guys started their careers as bad hitters who offered little on the bases because you can't steal first and got hurt a lot or was just benched due to better options. The only way to know for certain is to check Casilla against other Hall of Famers, during their first eight seasons. Let's see how good they were before they hit their stride. There were 123 players in this sample:
- Batting Average - 3rd from last - ahead of Ozzie Smith!
- OBP - 10th from last - ahead of Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount!
- OPS+ - Last :(
- OPS - 3rd from last - ahead of Ozzie Smith! Was Ozzie Smith good?
- Fewest Strikeouts - 36th! - although in a LOT fewer at bats
- Walks - Last, but not that far behind Brooks Robinson and Roberto Clemente!
- Hits - Last, but strangely only 65 fewer than Harmon Killebrew
- Doubles - 2nd from last, ahead of Killebrew, although Killebrew played like no games in his first five seasons...
- Runs - Very last
- RBI - Super Last
- Home Runs - 4th from last, somehow
- Games played - 2nd last, 12 more than Killebrew
- WAR - Last, comically so
Ok, so maybe Casilla was comparable to Smith, who still had about a 28 WAR advantage on Lexi. Killebrew was three years younger when he debuted, so he gets a pass. Although, I'm not ruling out Casilla hitting over 500 home runs now.
Perhaps jumping to Hall of Famers was a bit premature. This really means nothing, when you think about it the exact way I am. Perhaps Casilla is a late bloomer. I bet lots of guys were. We need a more apt comparison to his current self, with the understanding that he is going to definitely explode as a player within the next few seasons.
It stands to reason that if Casilla is working on a Hall of Fame career, his first eight seasons will compare favorably to other middle infielders after eight seasons. Most of the time, Hall of Famers are judged against their positional counterparts. When Casilla has his mid-career explosion, he will surpass his peers and cement his legacy. That makes perfect sense. Lots of prominent players will be low on this list, I bet. Alexi must be better than some notable players. So, let's find out! I am very optimistic.
Look, I don't see why I need to include these stats at all. He's pretty much last in every counting stat and nearly last in all the rate stats. So what? Stats aren't everything. There's the eye test too, you know. Plus, I thought RBI didn't matter and batting average was all luck. What really matters is that Alexi has heart and hustle. He also has a pretty nice smile and I just don't feel you are respecting that. Respect his smile!
You know, I'm not sure why I am even bothering with this anymore. I've clearly failed and will have to wait for another chance to establish myself in the realm of good blog-guys. Maybe when I write about 1987 Topps baseball cards later this week, no one ever does stuff like that. However, I do present to you one final stat, and a stat that no one can argue with. If this doesn't at least get you partially on my side, I'm not sure what will. In fact, I'll feel sorry for you. I said it. I even put it in a chart for the real stat-heads.
Balls Thrown While Horizontal for outs
I think like 2