Year Inducted: 1939 (BBWAA, ballot #4, 235/274)
Just recently, on MLB Network, Brian Kinney had Tim Raines on his show and discussed his upcoming final year on the ballot, and was explaining why he thought Raines should be inducted. In this episode, Kinney compared Raines to Tony Gwynn, saying that the power Raines had (however slight) was more than Gwynn’s, as was his OBP. Kinney basically said that Gwynn’s batting average was what separated the two in the minds of the writers. This is, of course, absolutely true but it misses a key point. When a player can consistently put up a high batting average in their careers and finish with a high batting average, that makes them a great player (despite how flawed batting average is). Gwynn carried a batting average of .300 or better in all but one of his years, including several above .320. It bears repeating, if a player continuously hits for a high average (Ichiro in his prime, for instance), then that player is doing great. Such was the case for one of the original inductees, George Sisler.
Sisler played 15 seasons in the bigs, mostly for the Browns and is regarded as the best player the Browns ever had. Gorgeous George hit .340/.379/.468 with a wRC+ of 123 in his career, mostly on the strength of an insane 8-year peak. Overall, Sisler collected 102 homers, 425 doubles and 164 triples. Sisler’s hard line drive style of batting allowed him to drive in 1175 runs and score nearly 1300 times. In his prime, he was a fantastic baserunner, stealing 375 bags in his career and being worth nearly 20 runs on the bases.
From 1915-1922, Sisler smashed the ball to the tune of .361/.404/.510 and a wRC+ of 155 and gained a reputation as the top first baseman in the game. Indeed, during that stretch he ranked first in fWAR with nearly twice as much as the player in second place. Along with that, he ranked first in base running runs, wRC+, RBI, runs, doubles and triples with great distances between him and whoever was in second place for most of those stats. The problem was that before the 1923 season, Sisler developed a terrible sinus infection that caused him severe headaches and blurried vision. He had to sit out the 1923 season, and upon his return there were two problems. The first is that he was never the same hitter again as any power he really had was gone. The second is the game had become more about power than anything else for the first time in its existance so Sisler, despite carrying some high batting averages most years, became an average hitter or below.
Sisler’s 8 year peak easily puts him in the Hall of Fame. In his prime, there were no better first basemen in the game, with only Anson and Connor being able to compete with him historically. Sisler truly deserves a spot amongst the top 100 players in the Hall of Fame.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 11/12/16
#77- This switch hitter gained infamy for a tirade against an umpire
#76- This pitcher guided the Cubs to their first World Championship