Change-UpJanuary 10, 2007
Mixed Up Sox
By Patrick Sullivan

[Editor's note: Patrick Sullivan has agreed to join Baseball Analysts as a regular contributor. Sully, as he is known throughout the baseball blogosphere, joins us from The House That Dewey Built. He should be familiar to our readers, both as a guest columnist and as a participant in the AL East roundtables the past two years. I have the utmost respect for his analytical and writing skills and am confident that he will be a great addition to our staff. You can learn more about our special friendship here and here. Please welcome Pat aboard and feel free to address him as Sully in the comments section.]

For my introductory Change-Up post at Baseball Analysts, I thought I would tackle something near and dear to my heart. It's a topic that also represents a hat-tip of sorts to my past, both as a fan and blogger. So let's get to it.

Based on the numbers below, which player would you contend had the better career?

           GAMES  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+   
Player A:  2,089 .298 .352 .502  128  
Player B:  2,606 .272 .370 .470  127

Here are some additional numbers, including plate appearances, total bases, bases on balls, outs made and times the player grounded into a double play:

           PA     TB     BB     OUTS   GIDP
Player A:  9,058  4,129  670    6,221  315
Player B: 10,569  4,230  1,391  6,965  227

To give you a sense of peak value, here are their respective best five seasons in terms of OPS+:

Player A    Player B
  158         163   
  154         156  
  148         148
  141         147
  137         137

To my eye, they look pretty comparable, though I would take Player B's career. He played longer, had a slightly better peak, and derived more of his offensive value from his on-base percentage than he did from his slugging percentage. Quality and quantity. The best of both worlds.

Now what if I told you that Player B played right field and Player A left field? The same output from a right fielder as a left fielder will always be more valuable from the guy playing right because it is a more demanding defensive position. And then what if I told you Player B also won eight Gold Gloves while Player A was considered a mediocre defender at best?

And then what if I told you that the two were not only contemporaries, but teammates? Wouldn't it stand to reason that the media and general public could come to a fair assessment of who the better player was?

Well in case you haven't yet figured it out, Jim Rice is Player A and Dwight Evans is Player B. Rice received 63.5% of Hall of Fame votes yesterday, making him a likely bet to get in on next year's thin ballot. Dewey, on the other hand, never managed 8% of the votes and only managed to stay on the ballot for three years.

So why the perception gap? I have a few theories. For one, Rice had his best seasons early in his career and leveled off some thereafter while Evans started relatively slowly and became a superstar during the middle part of his career. It seems that each had their reputations solidified during their early years - Rice as the superstar and Evans as the good defender with an OK bat.

Also, Rice's best seasons, particularly 1977 and 1978, came for some very good Boston Red Sox teams while Evans did his best work for more mediocre editions of the Carmine Hose in the early 80's. Further, Rice excelled in the back-of-the-trading-card AVG/HR/RBI numbers whereas Evans stood out because he walked a lot, mixed in some pop and played great defense. Evans's statistical edges come in categories less valued by the mainstream. Take all of this together and the inexplicable, that fans and media alike recall Rice's work more favorably than Dewey's, becomes a little easier to account for.

Fan opinion is one thing. Fans are busy. Fans have jobs. Fans do not devote their professional lives to the coverage of baseball. But the media owes the game and the integrity of the Hall of Fame more - not the least of which is a good faith attempt at understanding the sport. Wouldn't it be more useful for you to know, say, that Evans twice led the American League in OPS while Rice did just once (something I had no idea of before researching for this piece) than to listen to story after story about how "Rice was the most feared hitter in the league for a decade?"

Dwight Evans was a better player than Jim Rice and yet the Baseball Writers' Association of America would have you believe that they were not even in the same galaxy as players, with the conventional wisdom being that Rice was better. Well you can take the more "feared" guy. I'll take the more durable player who was the superior offensive force, defender and baserunner.


As a longtime Sox fan who grew up during the Rice-Evans era, I've always thought Evans was a superior player.

One thing that never gets brought up is Dewey's performance in his only 2 World Series: 977 OPS, 3 homers (including the clutch 2 run homer off Eastwick in the 9th inning of game 3 in '75, setting the stage for the Armbrister debacle in the 10th), and 14 RBIs in 14 games. And of course the amazing catch (and ensuing double play) on Joe Morgan's shot to right in the 10th inning of game 6.

Had the Sox won either of those series, or had Evans not missed half a season in 1977, or had he not been injured and well off his game in 1978 after a beaning - perhaps he would be remembered differently.

Evans was a great player at his peak, and a very very good player for about 15 years. He deserves better.

I agree. Much of it has to do with mental images. Jim Rice looked so imposing. Goose Gossage seems more terrifying than Mariano Rivera on the mound.

But Dwight Evans or Darrell Evans or Ron Santo or Lou Whitaker or Alan Trammell or Bobby Grich or Bert Blyleven just don't create that kind of mental image. Lacking the image, the writers turn to familiar numbers like career hit, homer or win totals to make a judgment.

it certainly appears that the gap in positive perception on their careers should be much narrower. Would you have given a hall of fame vote to either or both?

I think Mike Green makes a very nice point about "image." Ironically, while the conventional wisdom says that Rice's testy relationship with sports journalists has kept him out of the Hall, that persona might also contribute to the sense that he was "an imposing force," and gain him some extra votes here and there. It might just be a wash in the end.

I think the key stats for Evans are the walk totals and OBP. Those stats are starting to get their due. Yet when Evans and Rice were in their respective heydays in the 70s and 80s, those stats were not valued. In fact, there seemed to have been a general sense that little guys should walk, but big guys like Rice and Evans should swing the bat.

I think Barry Bonds may have change the minds of many average fans (and writers) about the link between power and patience. When we talk about the greatest hitters in history--Bonds, Ruth, Williams--we talk about power and "pure hitting." Yet one of the things that sets those three apart from the very good hitters of the their respective eras is that they all knew when not to hit.

I'm not arguing that Dwight Evans is in the Bonds, Ruth, Williams category, but he was certainly of that mold. Dave Willis is right. He deserves better.

Wow - putting me on the spot, Tim.

First, I would not vote for Rice. As for Evans, I think I might. Let's put it this way; I think Evans is a lot closer to Tony Gwynn in terms of career quality than he is to Jim Rice. So if Gwynn is a first-ballot, 97.6% guy, I think Evans probably should be in.

How's that for dancing around a very direct question?

The Sox organization recognizes Dewey's value. I believe he's the only Red Sox player to have his number retired who is not in the HOF.

Evans was a very solid, underrated player. I don't see Rice as a HOFer. A right-handed slugger who hit less than 400 HRs playing at Fenway - not to mention tons of 6-4-3 double plays - doesn't make the cut.

If anyone deserves more respect from the voters, it's four-time Gold Glove SS Alan Trammell, who also hit .285 lifetime with gap power and an 874-850 strikeout to walk ratio.

Dewey's number is not retired by Boston. Just Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Ted Williams, Yaz and Carlton Fisk (and Jackie Robinson of course).

If you really want to make Evans look good. Compare him to Wade Boggs instead.


Wow. Very interesting analysis, Sully. I think you're exactly right with the power of first impressions and the fact that people only very reluctantly rethink their categorization of a guy.

What's really weird about Rice's case is that a few years back all the Boston Medea (no mistake) regarded Rice as being not quite qualified. Now that he's close to election they all seem to have professed a change of heart. Why? Did Rice play in 2005 or 2006 and add some to his career totals? He's the same guy. His rbi totals were ridiculously inflated in the early 80's when he batted behind Boggs and Evans. My god. Boggs was getting on base 300 times a year and Evans another 260. Rice's rbi totals in '80-'82 are actually fairly pedestrian under the circumstances. The press seems to have latched onto this most feared hitter phrase. Cute, except he wasn't. Every pitcher in the league knew he'd swing at a low and away slider.


Evans is not even close to the player Boggs was. Boggs has him by 45 points of on-base, boasts a better OPS+ and played 3rd Base, a position with a lesser replacement offensive value.

Sully - Evans was one of the best defensive right fielders in history and Boggs was a stone hands defender for most of his career (there is a reason he had to take all that extra infield practice).

I would also point out that if you combined the Runs plus RBI - then you would have 2,854 for Evans (1,470 runs and 1,384 RBI) to just 2,527 for Boggs (1,513 runs and 1,014 RBI).

The career OPS+ is very close too. Boggs was at 130 while Evans was just behind at 127. Evans however had 8 Gold Gloves and 5 top 10 MVP finishes compared to 1 Gold Glove (fluke) and 4 top 10 MVP finishes for Boggs. If you want to compare Evans to an over-rated player then Boggs is a much better choice than Rice.

Sorry - Boggs had 2 Gold Gloves (double fluke)

It's an unfortunate fact of life that there are two categories of players: (1) no-brainer HOFers, and (2) borderliners.

Because either (nearly) EVERYONE votes you in, or only some do. And if you're in the latter category, you're basically riding a bunch of writers' mental images.

And if they think you're a "HOFer," they come up with reasons why. If you're "not a HOFer," they come up with reasons why.

Think, e.g., about some of the borderline aging pitchers:

Curt Schilling "didn't peak long enough," or he had "an extremely bright peak and his team rode him to a World Series."

John Smoltz "didn't win enough games," or he "was a gamer who owned the postseason."

Mike Mussina "never won a Cy Young" or "was consistently one of the best pitchers in the league for 15 years."

And so on. Unless you're a no-brainer, there are reasons to vote for someone and reasons not to, and most of the writers seem to avoid the cognitive dissonance and rely on the ones that support their gut instinct.

(Oops, I hadn't looked at Mussina's stats for a while. I assume the pro-Mussina one-liner will probably be more akin to "He won 270 games and was well clear of 100 games over .500." Those guys love W-L records.)

Here are a few stats of a particular player who only received 12.3% of the votes (64 votes) in the recent HOF vote.

Seasons :13

Lifetime Batting Avg.: .307

Hits: 2153

Doubles: 442

HR: 222

RBI: 1099

Fielding Pct.: .996

Gold Gloves: 9

This aggression will not stand!

I am waiting till the time, somebody creates their own HOF. A public museum so that all Players based on stats, what they did, would be in.

If you want to compare Evans to an over-rated player then Boggs is a much better choice than Rice.

I'm going to weigh in here because I think you have put Sully in an untenuous position of arguing against the player he just wrote about in a favorable manner.

Evans and Rice are much easier to compare than Evans and Boggs for a few reasons. They both played outfield, their careers overlapped to an even greater degree, and they played the entirety of their careers with Boston (save for one season in BAL for Dewey).

I think most of us here can agree with Sully that Evans was better than Rice. However, like Sully, I would take exception to the claim that Evans was also better than Boggs.

Boggs was not as bad defensively as you have made him out to be ("stone hands defender" and "double fluke" with reference to his two Gold Gloves). To the extent that "he had to take all that extra infield practice," I would just say that's to his credit rather than his detriment. But rather than opining, let's take a look at the facts: Boggs had a greater range factor (2.81) than the average 3B (2.51) and a higher fielding average (.965 to .955). Using advanced fielding metrics provided by Baseball Prospectus, Boggs was four runs better than the league average per 100 games and 95 better for his career. (For what it is worth, Evans was 4 per 100 as well and 70 above average for his career.)

For whatever reason, Boggs has this reputation as being an inadequate third baseman. I believe it is based on a label that was attached to him in the minors and in the first year or two of his big league career. The notion that Boggs was a liability in the field has stuck to him in about the same manner as the one about Rice being the most "feared" hitter in the league during his playing days.

As far as offense goes, Evans was very good but Boggs was even better. Rather than repeating myself in trying to make my case for just how great Boggs was at the plate, I would point you here and here.

I stand corrected. I recall a long conversation during one of Boggs' at bats (he must have some kind of record for two-strike fouls) in which Jim Kaat and Ted Robinson wondered why Dewey's number appeared with all the other Sox HOFers as retired in Fenway. (This was when the two were Twins commentators.) As I recall, Kitty thought Dewey deserved to be in the Hall at the time. But, I must have imagined the whole thing. Sorry.


I don't have a problem with Mussina, Smoltz, Schilling, and even Glavine all missing the HoF (I also don't have a problem with them all getting in). But that's what happens when your contemporaries are Clemens, Maddux, Pedro, and Johnson.

I have been saying for a while now that Rice was not the best OF on his own team, so it kind of bothered me he was getting so many votes.

My favorite stat about Dewey that really just sums it up is the he is 65th all time in career Runs scored. Of all the players above him that are HOF eligible, only 6 are not in the HOF, and all 6 of those guys played in the 19th century.

Good one, John. I like that.

Rich - I would agree that if the object of the game was simply to get to first base - then Wade Boggs was the best player of his era. However, the object of the game is to score more runs than the other team and both Rice and Evans have more combined R + RBI and also total bases than Boggs.

I get my "stone hands" impression from Boggs first hand from watching him. The fielding numbers on Boggs lie because they don't tell the story of how he would immediately complain to the official scorer if he was ever charged with an E. In fact you may recall that many ex-Red Sox players were invited to Roger Clemens' 300th win. Boggs was not among them because Wade had argued that a charged E should have been a hit during Clemens final start of the year at a time when Clemens was fighting for the league ERA title. The E was changed to a hit and the runs that were now earned cost Clemens the title. Some teammate.

If it wasn't for expansion and Tampa Bay coming into the league - it is doubtful Boggs would have made it to 3,000 hits either (he quit almost as soon as he got to the magic number).

And to Pete's point about Mattingly - Wade Boggs and Don Mattingly came into the league in the same year. If at any point in his career Mattingly was offered to the Red Sox straight up for Boggs (except for Mattingly's final year when he had back problems), the Sox would have made that deal in a heartbeat. Don Mattingly will not get into the Hall of Fame but Wade Boggs did.

Wade Boggs was paper great.

As this is not a thread about Boggs, I will only comment briefly on him. Please note that he was not a singles hitter. In 8 of his 18 seasons he hit over 40 doubles, one of those being 51, and in most other years he hit in the 20s at least. It is fair to say that at least 12-14 of his 18 year career were outstanding years. Of Mattingly, one of my all-time favorite ballplayers, you can only find 6 really excellent years. Boggs had an OBP of .415, Mattingly .358. Wade simply did not make as many outs as Don. As much as I would love to see him in, Mattingly is not a legitimate candidate and Boggs is a definite.

As for Evans, I got on his bandwagon when I became incensed over the election of Tony Perez and started looking for comparable hitters. I found quite a few who were not considered close to Hall-worthy, but was particularly amazed when looking at Evans. Different positions, I know, but if anything that is a plus for Evans and his fielding prowess, and the numbers clearly favor Evans across the board. Perez's line is .279/.341/.463 with an OPS+ of 122 while Evans' is .272/.370/.470 and a 127 OPS+. And he is clearly the superior player to Rice as well.

Was talking to someone today about Rice not being voted in when I made the exact same comments. If you are going to take Rice, then you must consider Dewey. Of course his reply was fine by him since Dewey is his favorite player. Have been working on a post about Rice and his hall of fame credentials when I noticed the similarity between the two. Well, done

Chris: Your story about Clemens and Boggs is littered with inaccuracies. The game you are talking about took place in mid-September 1992. It wasn't Clemens' final start of the season. He was 18-8 going into that game but only finished the season 18-11 (good for third in Cy Young voting behind Eckersley and McDowell). He did lead in the ERA race going into that game. However, he also led in ERA at the conclusion of the game and, more importantly, at the season's end. Since he in fact WON the ERA title that year, changing the error to a hit didn't cost Clemens anything.

Dewey was in three all-star games, and Rice was in 8.

If I remember right, Dewey had many seasons where his second-half was better than his first-half. And, managers love those first-half stats.

As well, Rice's peak coincided with Fenway's peak as a hitter's park. Fenway was no more friendly a hitter's park than the mid-to-late 70s. That is, for whatever reason, alot more runs were scored in Redsox games at Fenway than Redsox games away from Fenway. This only makes sense if:
(a) something about the park changed, or
(b) the players who played in Fenway those years were very unrepresentative than in other Fenway years
(c) pure luck

Finally, Jim Rice spent most of his career as a #3/#4 hitter. Dewey hit in every spot in the order, mostly second and 6th. But also a healthy number of 7-9 games.

Next year, we'll figure out if Dewey retains the title of nonpitcher most deserving of the HOF, or if that title will pass on to Tim Raines.

The park did change when the luxury boxes were added on to the press box structure and it was extended upwards in 1983-1984. That cut down on the wind currents blowing out.

Dave, I think that what was formerly called the 600 club, the raised area behind the plate (that's recently been added onto) was first created around 1989. I remember Mike Greenwell being quizzed about whether he could tell the difference. And he wasn't with the team in '83 or '84.

"Dewey, on the other hand, never managed 8% of the votes and only managed to stay on the ballot for three years."

Dwight Evans is a good argument for reducing the threshold for remaining on the HOF ballot from 5% to 2%. Adopting such standards would create a HOF ballot that resembles the All Star ballots that are handed out at stadiums across America every spring. That is not too cumbersome. Sportswriters who cannot read the small print on the ballot should get reading glasses.

I think most of us are aware of this, but I thought I'd state it for the record: R + RBI is a pretty ludicrous way of determining a player's worth.

Right you are, C.J.! The proper equation is R + RBI - HR so that home runs will not be counted twice.

I go along with the Evans over Rice argument for the HOF.

Having been directed into the Twilight Zone, where up is down and Evans better than Rice, I give you my semi-statistical memories of Mr. Evans...

We waited 10 years for him to hit .290. 10 YEARS. Boston gave Ellis Burks 4 1/2 years to be Willie Mays, then when he wasn't, sent him packing.

When Mr. Evans retired, he did so with the 9th most strike outs in MLB history, 1697. Had he gotten his bat on the ball more often (add in the walks) he surely would have caught Jim Ed in that category.

Had Mr. Evans (and Rick Burleson) hit something higher than .247 in 1978, I wouldn't have had to dislocate a finger trying to catch Reggie Jackson's game winning home run in a certain playoff game that October. Sure, I know Mr. Evans was beaned late in the season, but what about the first 5 months?

I hate to be put in the position of putting down a pretty fair ballplayer, but come on folks. Get a grip. Mr. Evans' career reminds me Sugar Ray Leonard's performance against Marvin Hagler. Leonard gets beaten to a pulp for each of the first 12 rounds, but hangs in to FINALLY win the last 3, which is what the judges remember. Nice job hanging in till the end, but I would have like to have seen something more early on.

i just found this web site,i love it. breaking down the ball players. rice was the top power hitter in his time period and although he was mr. double play at the end of his career no one wanted to face him in the mid to late seventies. dewey was like a train slowly picking up speed. on d hes was the best i ever saw to edmonds,in the batters box it took him a little longer. he needs to be at least mentioned as a damn good player,and extremly underrated.