Appendix 1: Honus Wagner: Baseball’s Prototypical Five-Tooler?

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This article was published in the The National Pastime: Steel City Stories (Pittsburgh, 2018)

This appendix is related to the article, “Honus Wagner: Baseball’s Prototypical Five-Tooler?” by Herm Krabbenhoft.  This appendix is related to the article, Honus Wagner: Baseball’s Prototypical Five-Tooler?” by Herm Krabbenhoft.


Tables A-1 through A-8 provide the career performance results for each Hall of Famer whose career commenced before Willie Mays began his Big League career on May 25, 1951, as well as those whose careers started within five years of Mays’s ML debut and whose careers also overlapped with Mays’s career for at least fifteen years. The A, B, and C columns give the number of times the player had the highest percentage (A), the second or third highest percentage (B), and the fourth or fifth highest percentage (C) in the particular batting or base stealing metric. The “1/2” columns give the number of times the player had the highest percentage (1) or the second highest percentage (2) in the particular fielding metric. The fourteen players (along with their rankings which qualified them) shown in boldface in Tables A-1 through A-8 are included (along with Willie Mays) in Table 1 in the main article. The Tables A-1 through A-8 are organized according to the principal position of the player, as specified in The National Baseball Hall of Fame Almanac (2017 Edition). To facilitate comparison of a player’s rankings with Mays’s rankings, Mays’s line is provided in the heading of each table.

It is pointed out that the career fielding information given in the tables reflects the sum of the rankings the player achieved in each year of his career. In that regard it is emphasized that players did not always play their principal position every year. For example, Stan Musial, while classified as a left fielder, was his team’s principal fielder at four different positions:

  • Left Field — seven seasons [1942 (133 G), 1951 (83 G), 1953 (139 G), 1960 (58 G), 1961 (102 G), 1962 (98 G), and 1963 (96 G)].
  • Right Field — five seasons [1943 (122 G), 1944 (124 G), 1948 (81 games), 1949 (123 G), and 1954 (146 G)].
  • Center Field — one season [1952 (106 G)].
  • First Base — eight seasons [1946 (114 G), 1947 (149 G), 1950 (69 G), 1955 (110 G), 1956 (103 G), 1957 (130 G), 1958 (124 G), and 1959 (90 G)].

So, in ascertaining Musial’s top-two rankings in the various fielding metrics, he was compared with fellow left fielders for 1942, 1953, and 1961, with fellow right fielders for 1943, 1944, 1949, and 1954, with fellow center fielders for 1952, and with fellow first basemen for 1946, 1947, 1955, 1956, 1957, and 1958. For each of these seasons he played in at least 100 games at his principal position. Thus, Musial earned his ten career FA top-twos as follows: Seven Firsts [4 in RF (1943, 1944, 1949, and 1954)]; [2 in LF (1953 and 1961)]; and [1 at First Base (1955)]. Three Seconds [2 at First Base (1947 and 1956)]; [1 in CF (1952)].

It is noted that the official rules dictate that to qualify for the FA title a player must play in a specific position in at least two-thirds of his team’s games. For the old 154-games schedule, two-thirds is 103 games (102.667 games). For simplicity, I deemed 100 games to be sufficient to qualify for a top-two ranking in the various fielding metrics. For the current 162-games schedule, two-thirds is 108 games. For simplicity, I deemed 105 games to be adequate to qualify for a top-two ranking in the fielding metrics. See below for the minimum number of games needed for seasons of less than 154 games.

The current official rules mandate that a minimum of 3.1 plate appearances per game played by one’s team(s) are required to qualify for the league title in the BA, OBP, SLG, and ISO metrics. I used the 3.1 plate appearances per scheduled game and then for simplicity rounded the number down. The complete breakdown of the plate appearances and games at a specific fielding position needed for each season is shown in Table A-0. It is pointed out that using plate appearances throughout (instead of at bats) resulted in some players having the highest BA even though they were not the official BA champion — e.g. Enos Slaughter had the highest qualifying BA in 1942 (.318 in 687 PAs) even though Ernie Lombardi was recognized as the official BA champion (.330 in 347 PAs).

For the SBP metric, to qualify for a top-five ranking the player had to be in the top-15 in SBs. Thus, the minimum number of SBs needed varied from season to season. For example, in the NL: in 1953, 6 SBs ranked 15th; in 1959, 10 SBs ranked 15th; in 1966, 13 SBs ranked 15th; in 1974, 23 SBs ranked 15th.

Click here to download the full PDF with Tables A-1 through A-8.


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