Or how Edmonds is more Duke than Dewey.

Last time we looked at some of Jim Edmonds’ context-neutral career numbers in arguing his case for the Hall.  But let’s face it – just looking at career numbers alone doesn’t always make the point. Most of the time, for a player be recognized as Hall of Fame worthy, that player will have needed to prove greatness for a sustained period, not pad their WAR totals with a long career of solid but unspectacular seasons.

One of the commenters from the last post mentioned Dwight Evans as a possible comparison to Edmonds. Dewey Evans had a terrific career and I don’t want to downplay it, but he never really separated himself as a Hall of Fame caliber player in the minds of the voters; thus he lasted only through three ballots before falling off.  I would say Duke Snider is a better comparison for Edmonds, and I think the numbers bear this out.

I don’t think anyone will argue that Duke Snider doesn’t deserve being in the Hall of Fame. When Bill James published his New Historical Abstract in 2001, he ranked Snider as the 6th best CF of all time, followed by Griffey Jr. and Puckett. Bill may consider moving Junior ahead of Snider now, but suffice to say that Snider is rightly regarded as one of the best center fielders of all time.

Charted below is Edmonds, some of his contemporaries (Andruw Jones and Bernie Williams), some Hall of Famers, Dale Murphy and Dwight Evans. We’re looking at career best WAR, their 5-year peaks and Wins Above Excellence, a stat Sean Smith recently concocted. It’s straightforward: It’s how many wins a player has above three in a season, though his season total can never be below zero. We’re using this to give credit for great seasons while disregarding any season where a player is merely average or below. It doesn’t add for hinder a player’s case for greatness and doesn’t handicap a player for his decline.

Name Career High 5-Year Peak Wins Above Excellence Career WAR
Jim Edmonds 8.4 36.5 31.4 66.6
Duke Snider 9.5 38.6 31 67.2
Andruw Jones 7.9 33 28.5 58.4
Dale Murphy 7.5 26.6 20.7 44.4
Andre Dawson 7.3 30.6 18.3 56.8
B. Williams 6.1 26.8 16.6 47.1
Dwight Evans 6.8 22.2 16.2 61.7
Kirby Puckett 7.2 23.2 13.8 45

We see that as it turns out, Edmonds was the most dominant center fielder of his era, although Andruw Jones is right there. We see that Edmonds outclasses Kirby Puckett by a long shot, both in his five-year peak and the Wins Above Excellence group. Dawson had a strong five-year peak and still falls short of Edmonds’ peak, and he doesn’t come close in WAE, Excellentitude, or whatever you want to call it. Dewey Evans had a lot of good seasons, but nothing that matches the quality of excellence of Edmonds.

Jim Edmonds comes out slightly ahead of Duke Snider to take the lead in the “Wins Above Excellence” category, although Snider’s five-year peak was better, but not by a long shot, just two WAR. Let’s take a closer look at the 5-year peaks of Snider, newbie HoFer Dawson, and Edmonds.

Duke Snider

1953 26 BRO NL 680 154 9.8 .336 .278 .419 .349 .627 .433 1.046 .782 165 .786
1954 27 BRO NL 679 158 10.3 .341 .279 .423 .351 .647 .431 1.071 .782 171 .803
1955 28 BRO NL 653 145 9.7 .309 .270 .418 .342 .628 .428 1.046 .769 169 .793
1956 29 BRO NL 652 128 8.3 .292 .274 .399 .342 .598 .433 .997 .775 155 .756
1957 30 BRO NL 592 106 7.3 .274 .279 .368 .344 .587 .432 .955 .775 143 .695
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/9/2010.

Jim Edmonds

2000 30 STL NL 643 137 9.5 .295 .276 .411 .353 .583 .450 .994 .804 146 .741
2001 31 STL NL 608 121 8.7 .304 .268 .410 .340 .564 .440 .974 .780 149 .732
2002 32 STL NL 576 117 9.1 .311 .264 .420 .337 .561 .419 .981 .756 158 .762
2003 33 STL NL 531 106 8.3 .275 .265 .385 .336 .617 .425 1.002 .762 160 .723
2004 34 STL NL 612 144 10.6 .301 .270 .418 .341 .643 .437 1.061 .778 170 .798
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/9/2010.

Andre Dawson

1979 24 MON NL 684 91 5.0 .275 .268 .309 .333 .468 .397 .777 .730 111 .553
1980 25 MON NL 638 105 6.6 .308 .267 .358 .329 .492 .387 .850 .716 136 .694
1981 26 MON NL 441 83 7.8 .302 .264 .365 .329 .553 .378 .918 .707 157 .761
1982 27 MON NL 660 106 6.3 .301 .268 .343 .331 .498 .389 .841 .721 132 .676
1983 28 MON NL 698 113 6.2 .299 .262 .338 .330 .539 .388 .877 .719 141 .670
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/9/2010.

(OWn% is Offensive Winning Percentage, a Bill James creation. Offensive Winning Percentage equals the percentage of games a team would win with nine of that player in its lineup, given average pitching and defense. A .750 OWP will usually put you in the top five in your league in any given year.)

Edmonds won a Gold Glove each of the five years of his peak, Dawson won four of five.  The first Gold Gloves were given out in 1957, but according to Total Zone, Snider was worth 32 runs above average during that span, a very good number. Edmonds was good for 29 runs above average in his peak, Dawson had 36. (In 2005 Edmonds was +15, just throwing that out there.)

While Edmonds didn’t have Snider’s five-year peak, he’s pretty close, and you can argue that he displayed equal greatness on the ball diamond in his glory days, and he was definitely a more dominant player than Andre Dawson.  The Dwight Evans comparison doesn’t hold water, as it turns out. Edmonds is more than just a merely good player who had a long career. For a good while, he was one of the upper echelon players of his time. That’s the main part of what the Hall of Fame is about honoring, which is why I’m starting to bang the drum now.

Erik Manning

Erik became addicted to Cardinals baseball as a young lad growing up on the mean streets of O'Fallon, MO. He moved away to Tulsa to attend Bible College, where he met his wife, who talked him into moving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also known as the Bermuda triangle of baseball. His dream is to see the MLB.tv blackouts end, and his other interests are theology and philosophy of religion. He is the parent of two young boys.

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4 Responses to “Jim Edmonds and Greatness”

  1. Ahem! Evans/Edmonds: Defense. you know what I mean.

    Anyway, I love the fact that Jimmy compares favorably to Duke Snider. Did you know that most all of Andre Dawson’s games in an Expo uniform were broadcast with Snider as the color man? I’d like to hear what he has to say about Andre’s induction.

    Off topic…back to the Hall. You know the New York media will champion the cause of the inferior Bernie Williams to be elected, so amp it up man. We all know who the better player is.

    You know the one stat that gets completely ignored, which baffles the heck out of me, is batting average with runners in scoring position. I want to know who the best clutch hitters were. That’s something that should matter to HOF voters. How did Jimmy compare to Duke and Andre in this respect? Or even slg% with runners in scoring position.

  2. Great article. Sometimes you don’t recognize greatness until it’s gone.

  3. Nice post Erik,
    I think it’s gonna be a long wait for Jimmy Ballgame, but maybe eventually he will get elected. He just didn’t have that 10 year stretch of excellence tho. Plus his greatest seasons were in the midwest so that works against him with the biased east coast writers.
    Snider is a good comp for Edmonds and it took him 16 years to get in to the Hall.
    By the way, Dawson switched to right field in 1984-if defense matters on the tables.

    • Now that I look back at the article I see you didn’t look at Dawson past 1983 on the second set of tables.

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