Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Tracy Jones Award

In honor of the former MAJOR LEAGUE outfielder and current 700 WLW radio talk show host, I am creating (on this blog) the Tracy Jones Award, given every year (retroactively) to the best 4th outfielder in all of baseball.

The award will be given to the player with the most Wins Above Replacement (as calculated on baseball-reference.com) who also meets the following criteria:

1) played at least 10 games at each outfield position, and

2) accumulated no more than 400 plate appearances.

Without farther ado, then, here are the winners, past and present:

YearPlayerWARTmGPARHRRBISBBAOBPSLG
2016Jarrod Dyson2.2KCR972994012128.264.331.362
2015Randal Grichuk3.2STL1033504917474.276.329.548
2014Scott Van Slyke2.7LAD982463211294.297.386.524
2013Rajai Davis1.8TOR1083604962445.260.312.375
2012Justin Ruggiano2.4MIA9132038133614.313.374.535
Justin Maxwell2.4HOU1243524618539.229.304.460
2011John Mayberry1.7PHI1042963715498.273.341.513
Chris Heisey1.7CIN1203084418506.254.309.487
2010Chris Denorfia2.0SDP99317419368.271.335.433
2009Chris Dickerson1.2CIN972993121511.275.370.373
2008Jerry Hairston2.0CIN802974763615.326.384.487
Gabe Kapler2.0MIL96245368383.301.340.498

A Red took home at least a share of the award in three of the four years from 2008 to 2011. Of course, those were also the only losing seasons of the Dusty Baker era...

YearPlayerWARTmGPARHRRBISBBAOBPSLG
2007Nate McLouth1.3PIT13738262133822.258.351.459
2006Endy Chavez1.8NYM1333904844212.306.348.431
2005Jason Michaels2.7PHI105343544313.304.399.415
2004Jeff DaVanon1.7ANA1083374173418.277.372.418
2003Aaron Rowand0.8CHW93170226240.287.327.452
2002Gary Matthews2.4TOT1113985473815.275.354.426
2001Stan Javier2.8SEA893234443311.292.375.391
2000Michael Tucker1.9CIN14832355153613.267.381.511
1999Jeffrey Hammonds2.2CIN1232934317413.279.347.523
1998Gerald Williams2.4ATL12928946104411.305.352.504
1997Jon Nunnally2.1TOT782664614397.309.394.578

Nunnally joined the Reds mid-season in '97 and did most of his damage as a Red, so that makes once again three years in a four-year stretch that the Reds had the best 4th outfielder in baseball. At least the '99 team was pretty good.

YearPlayerWARTmGPARHRRBISBBAOBPSLG
1996Jeromy Burnitz1.1TOT94239389404.265.377.470
1995Ryan Thompson1.0NYM75294397313.251.306.378
1994Rusty Greer1.5TEX803313610460.314.410.487
1993Dwight Smith1.9CHC1113435111358.300.355.494
1992Moises Alou2.5MON1153775395616.282.328.455
1991Milt Thompson3.7STL1153615563416.307.368.442
1990Stan Javier4.4TOT1233576032715.298.376.395
1989Mitch Webster1.2CHC983084031914.257.331.364
Mike Felder1.2MIL1173455032326.241.293.324
1988Marvell Wynne1.5SDP1283693711423.264.325.426
1987Tracy Jones1.4CIN11739053104431.290.333.437

Stan Javier wins the award in 1990, then wins it again eleven years later after several years in between as a mostly full-time player in the mid-90s.

Tracy was backing up injury-prone young phenoms Eric Davis and Kal Daniels and aging former star Dave Parker in 1987. Only three players qualified for the award that year, and the next best was the Reds' 5th outfielder, Paul O'Neill.

I don't have anything else to say about the '70s and '80s, so I'll just show the rest of the expansion era:

YearPlayerWARTmGPARHRRBISBBAOBPSLG
1986Rick Manning0.6MIL89227318275.254.310.434
1985Davey Lopes1.8CHC9932552114447.284.383.444
R.J. Reynolds1.8TOT1043724434218.282.327.395
1984Phil Bradley1.5SEA1243734902421.301.373.363
1983Lee Lacy2.2PIT1083134041331.302.352.406
1982Lee Lacy1.1PIT1213956653140.312.369.415
1981Gary Roenicke1.7BAL85252313201.269.340.384
1980Gary Roenicke1.2BAL1183494010282.239.340.384
1979Greg Gross1.4PHI111206210155.333.422.402
1978Jerry Martin2.0PHI128298409369.271.339.451
1977Terry Whitfield1.4SFG114352417362.285.329.433
1976Rick Miller2.2BOS1053134002711.283.359.361
1975Dave May2.0ATL822302812401.276.361.493
1974Claudell Washington1.2OAK73237160196.285.326.376
1973Tommie Agee1.1TOT1102883811223.222.281.398
1972Elliott Maddox2.5TEX983494001020.252.361.289
1971Gene Clines2.6PIT973005212415.308.366.392
1970Merv Rettenmund4.8BAL10638560185813.322.394.544
1969Ed Kirkpatrick3.1KCR1203664014493.257.348.451
1968Larry Stahl1.5NYM53205153103.235.314.344
1967Manny Mota1.4PIT120378534563.321.343.441
1966Manny Mota2.8PIT116359545467.332.383.472
1965Jackie Brandt1.3BAL96268358241.243.303.412
Manny Mota1.3PIT121326474292.279.330.384
1964George Thomas1.2DET1053333912444.286.329.464
1963Jack Reed0.2NYY1068218015.205.293.274
1962Don Landrum1.3TOT1153144011811.286.370.330
Ted Savage1.3PHI1273875473916.266.345.373
1961Don Taussig0.7STL98210272252.287.338.447

Manny Mota won the award (or a share of it) three straight years in the mid-60s, making him the only three-time winner.

The farther back you go, the harder it is to find qualifying 4th outfielders who were much (if at all) above replacement level. The reason for this, I'm guessing, is that teams carried fewer pitchers, and therefore had more roster space for bench players. They didn't have to squeeze seven defensive backups and speedy baserunners and pinch-hitters with pop into just three or four roster spots like they do today.

Jack Reed wins the 1963 award with...0.2 WAR. The farther back you go, more and more players start "winning" the award with zero and negative value above replacement, usually because they're the only player who qualifies for that year, given my criteria. Teams just didn't rely on bench players to play multiple outfield positions back then, and if they did, they were one of the team's best players and played 600 PA. Stan Musial was the Cardinals' "4th outfielder" for many years, because he was a good fielder at all three positions and could run pretty well. He was also the best hitter in the National League, so he played every day.

So to save you further time and boredom, I'll just show winners with at least 1 WAR from 1960 to the beginning of MLB:

YearPlayerWARTmGPARHRRBISBBAOBPSLG
1960Tommy Davis2.3LAD1103744311446.276.302.426
1957Jim Landis1.1CHW963243821614.212.329.296
1953Wally Westlake2.5CLE82259429462.330.427.495
1950Bill Howerton1.9STL1103645010590.281.375.492
1948Mike McCormick1.3BSN115384451391.303.363.417
1947Erv Dusak1.7STL111383566281.284.378.378
1945Guy Curtright1.9CHW98367514323.281.358.407
1941Estel Crabtree1.6STL77198275281.341.439.503
1940Larry Rosenthal2.7CHW107346466422.301.432.453
1935Gee Walker1.1DET98385527566.301.329.453
1933Kiki Cuyler1.8CHC70294375354.317.376.447
1932Sam Rice1.6WSH106324581347.323.391.438
1931Ethan Allen1.5NYG94321585436.329.363.453
1930Dave Harris2.0TOT106340569576.296.373.522
1928Cy Williams1.0PHI993033112370.256.400.445
1927Kiki Cuyler1.8PIT853306033120.309.394.435
1926Cuckoo Christensen2.6CIN114385410418.350.426.438
1925Ben Paschal2.4NYY8927649125514.360.417.611
1920Fred Nicholson2.7PIT99271334309.360.404.530
1918Shano Collins1.8CHW103399301567.274.310.392
1915Cozy Dolan1.4STL1113805323817.280.356.398
1913Jimmy Walsh1.4PHA973565602715.254.341.340
1910Vin Campbell1.7PIT973244242117.326.391.436
1909Jack Lelivelt2.1WSH91345250248.292.334.355
1906Ty Cobb2.5DET983944513423.316.355.394
1905Ed Hahn1.4NYY43194320111.319.426.350
1904Danny Hoffman1.3PHA53218313249.299.329.426
1899Mike Smith1.1CIN883986512410.294.381.376

19-year-old Ty Cobb is the first 2+ WAR 4th outfielder in MLB history. The next year he was the Tigers' starting right fielder and emerged as the best outfielder in the American League.

Oftentimes, the best 4th outfielders will either be young future stars trying to break through (like Cobb in 1906 and Tommy Davis in 1960 and Moises Alou in 1992) or aging has-beens trying to hang on for one more season (Sam Rice in 1932 and Davey Lopes in 1985 and Ichiro this year).

Finally, the eleven best 4th outfielder seasons in history:

YearPlayerWARTmGPARHRRBISBBAOBPSLG
1970Merv Rettenmund4.8BAL10638560185813.322.394.544
1990Stan Javier4.4TOT1233576032715.298.376.395
1991Milt Thompson3.7STL1153615563416.307.368.442
2015Randal Grichuk3.2STL1033504917474.276.329.548
1969Ed Kirkpatrick3.1KCR1203664014493.257.348.451
2001Stan Javier2.8SEA893234443311.292.375.391
1966Manny Mota2.8PIT116359545467.332.383.472
2014Scott Van Slyke2.7LAD982463211294.297.386.524
2005Jason Michaels2.7PHI105343544313.304.399.415
1940Larry Rosenthal2.7CHW107346466422.301.432.453
1920Fred Nicholson2.7PIT99271334309.360.404.530

On second thought, let's not name the award after Tracy Jones. It should be called the Merv Rettenmund Award, or the Manny Mota Award, or the Stan Javier Award.

Sorry, Tracy.

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