Year Inducted: 1968 (Veterans Committee)
Players are often talked about as having some combination of 5 basic tools. Hitting for average, hitting for power, defensive ability, throwing arm and speed. Of those 5, speed is always a tough one because fans often overvalue it due to the excitement it brings. It’s rare that a team of speedsters, like last year’s Royals, can be the best team in baseball (getting some power out of Hosmer and Morales, as well as actually getting a good start out of Cueto and a fantastic bullpen helped more than the speed, by the way). Speed can even make some players more memorable. Vince Coleman and Maury Wills would be lost to the sands of time, had it not been for their stolen base exploits, for example. Very few players can combine speed and power. Willie Mays probably did it best, but before him there was Kiki Cuyler.
Cuyler was an excellent hitter for 18 seasons, primarily with the Pirates. He slashed .321/.386/.474 with a wRC+ of 126. He may have only had 128 home runs, but still socked over 150 triples and nearly 400 doubles with his total 2299 hits. He also showed some production, primarily hitting in the 3rd-spot of the lineup, driving in over 1000 runs and scoring over 1300. On the bases, he was a terror. He stole over 300 bases and was worth more than 54 runs according to Fangraphs. In his early days, he was a good fielder as well.
Cuyler’s numbers get suppressed due to his many injuries. Over the course of his career, especially the latter half, he suffered through various ankle and hand injuries that limited his playing time, which limits how great he can rank in a study like this. Cuyler’s place in the Hall of Fame is a classic case of peak-production versus career numbers. Some players produce a lot of value early in their careers, but injuries prevent them from producing quite as much later on. Cuyler was an excellent hitter and phenomenal baserunner, but comes up a little short compared to other Hall of Famers. But, considering his peak he is definitely a deserving pick for the Hall of Fame.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 9/1/16. September comes, meaning the pennant races start heating up and playoff baseball is coming up soon. And the first player covered in September retired with the 3rd most strikeouts of all-time as a left handed pitcher.