Year Inducted: 1945 (Veterans Committee)
The value of the walk is something that is continuously debated even to this day. Is it more valuable that a player try to expand his zone and try for a hit while running the risk of hitting into an out, or is it more valuable for him to just take the walk while not making an out and adding an additional baserunner? Those that adhere more to traditional stats lie on the side of the possible hit being more valuable, while those that adhere to analytics believe the walk is fine. There are merits to both schools of thought, and the true answer is that it probably depends upon the situation. Back in the early years, stats like OBP weren’t really tracked that much, so some players that were good at drawing walks ended up being overlooked over the ones that would get the hits. That is why a player like Dan Brouthers is so special; he could do both.
Brouthers played in parts of 19 seasons (had a couple of token appearances for the Giants in 1904, so it really was 18 years), mostly with the Buffalo Bisons. In his career, Brouthers smashed the ball to the tune of a .342/.423/.519 line with a wRC+ of 156. Big Dan earned his nickname due to his size. He was 6’2″ and over 200 pounds, a looming giant in those days. He used his strength to mash out 460 doubles, 205 triples and 106 homers at a time when not many players hit for power. Big Dan was a constant threat in the lineup for his teams, driving in over 1200 runs while scoring over 1500. He was easily one of the top hitters of the early game.
Brouthers size limited him as a baserunner and a fielder. On the bases, while getting credit for over 250 steals, his obvious girth deprived his teams of 23 runs on the bases. Defensively, playing mostly first base, he wasn’t quite as hindered as he was on the bases. However, Fangraphs still rates him as a negative defender, with -16 defensive runs.
Upon his retirement, at least his 1896 retirement, he ranked fourth in homers, third in RBI, third in fWAR, and first in wRC+. The two players ahead of Brouthers in fWAR, Cap Anson and Roger Connor, both played in at least 300 more games than Brouthers, and only beat him by roughly 7 fWAR (Connor) and 11 fWAR (Anson) respectfully. Brouthers ranks ahead of Connor in this study primarily due to his ability to be similarly in value in a shorter amount of time (79.6 fWAR in 1671 games for Brouthers versus 86.5 in 1975 for Connor).
When Commisioner Landis met with executives in the 1940’s to address the lack of the early players in the Hall of Fame, Brouthers was one of the first players that they inducted, and for good reason. With the exception of Cap Anson, and all due respect to Roger Connor, Big Dan was the best hitter of the early years of the game, and he still ranks highly to this day.
The next update for today will go up at 7:00 am EDT.