Harper: John Thorn and the overrated greatness of Joe DiMaggio

From John Harper at the New York Daily News on November 25, 2014, with SABR member John Thorn:

On the date of what would have been his 100th birthday, the late Joe DiMaggio’s larger-than-life legacy lives on for countless Yankee fans whose opinions of the Hall of Famer are shaped largely by the breathless stories passed down from parents or grandparents.

In short: DiMaggio was the greatest center fielder of all time; no room for argument.

Except the evolution of analytics in baseball, particularly defensive metrics in this case, dispels such a notion, according to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball.

“There is this image of the Yankee Clipper sailing so gracefully in the outfield that he never had to dive for a ball,” Thorn was saying Monday. “But the reality is that his contemporaries recorded more putouts.

“There is a trend toward baseball analytics now and the more you apply them, the more you chip away at the DiMaggio myth. On his 100th birthday you can still call him an all-time great but he was not the peerless center fielder he was made out to be.”

Read the full article here: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/harper-mlb-historian-joe-dimaggio-overrated-article-1.2022747

Originally published: November 25, 2014. Last Updated: November 25, 2014.