Year Inducted: 2003 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 423/496)
When the topic of switch hitters is brought up, the usual name linked as the best one ever is Mickey Mantle. And there really is no debate about it, Mantle is the best. But who would come next? Is it Pete Rose, who got tons of hits but provided little power? Is it Lance Berkman or Chipper Jones, both of whom had great batting eyes and lots of power? Or would it be Eddie Murray, one of the most consistent hitters in baseball history?
Murray was one of the most consistent hitters ever. In a long 21-year career mostly with the Orioles, Murray carried a slashline of .287/.359/.476 with a wRC+ of 127. Murray hit 20 or more homers in all but 5 of his seasons, drove in 80 or more runs in all but 4 of his seasons and had a wRC+ above 120 in all but 7 of his seasons. Murray’s consistency paid off in the end, as he retired with 3255 hits, 504 homers, 560 doubles and 35 triples. Murray drove in 1917 runs in his career and scored 1627 times while being a key cog in several lineups. And, despite being a slugger, Murray grades out as a slightly positive baserunner with +3.4 runs above average on the bases and over 100 steals in his career.
Murray was an excellent player that displayed amazing consistency in his career. That consistency also was evident in his fielding, where he was worth 61 runs as a fielder at first base.
Steady Eddie was also involved in one of the strangest anomalies in baseball. While with the Dodgers in 1990, Murray led the majors in hitting with a .330 batting average, but didn’t win the NL batting title. The Cardinals traded Willie McGee to the A’s at the end of August. At the time of the trade, McGee had enough at-bats in the NL to qualify for the batting title at the end of the year, so he was granted the batting title. However, in Oakland, McGee merely hit .274 which reduced his overall batting average to .324, giving Murray the overall lead but no official title.
Murray retired 4th among all first basemen in homers, 5th in RBI and 9th in fWAR. He was easily voted in on his first ballot in 2003, fully cementing his place in baseball history. He shockingly failed to gain more than 90% of the vote, however. The two most likely reasons he didn’t were that he was occasionally surly with the media and his consistency. When a player appears to be a “Steady Eddie” they can sometimes gain the label of “compiler”, which to some Murray surely did. As to the question at the beginning of the post if he is the second best switch hitter? He absolutely is. Other than Mantle, no switch hitter combined the power and consistency that Murray did.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 12/2/16:
#37- The owner of the lowest ERA of all-time.
#36- The best pitcher the Mets have ever had.