Giving Kirk Gibson (the ballplayer) his long overdue
Here is a list of outfielders who peaked alongside Taxi and ALF:
- David Mark Winfield
- Fredric Michael Lynn
- James Edward Rice
- Andre Nolan Dawson
- Kirk Harold Gibson
- Anthony Keith Gwynn Sr.
- Darryl Eugene Strawberry
- Kirby Puckett
That’s 5 HOF’ers, 2 guys who made 17 All-Star appearances between them and one lonely soul who was never selected to pay in a Midsummer Classic. Which of these superstars (+1) do you think provided the greatest value to their teams during their prime?
Evaluating each of their 5 best consecutive seasons according to Win Shares Above Bench it’s not particularly close…
Accumulating 80 WSAB from 1984-88 it’s Crenshaw High’s own Darryl “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent” Strawberry. This is extraordinary considering he was just 26 years old in 1988 (one year away from entering a normal hitters prime). The only other guy on this list who peaked so early was Jim Rice who had his best year at age 25.
Win Shares Above Bench during greatest 5 year stretch:
- Darryl – 80 WSAB
- Gwynn – 73
- Lynn – 73
- Rice – 72
- Gibby – 70
- Winfield – 69
- Kirby – 68
- The Hawk – 67
Since Bill James distributes 3 Win Shares for each team victory we can divide WSAB by 3 to get an equivalent # of WAR. Darryl was worth 5.3 wins during his prime, everyone else contributed 4.5-4.9 wins. The knock on Gibby is that he didn’t accumulate enough hits, RBI or hockey pucks but from 1984-87 he was the 2nd most productive OF in the AL (behind only Rickey Henderson, who was the greatest player on the planet during the Taxi-ALF era).
Gibson averaged 27 HR & 30 SB (83% success rate) over his 5 peak years. In his career he was doubled up 75 times fewer than average and had an advantage of 162 in this category over Jim Rice.
The Tigers won the most games in baseball (98) in ’87 but lost to the Twins in the ALCS. Gibson became a free agent and signed with the Dodgers for 3 years/$4.5m. This made him the 2nd highest paid player on the team behind Fernando Valenzuela. LA improved from last in the NL in runs scored in ’87 to a respectable 6th in ’88. They won 21 more games and the NL West title. Gibson contributed a career high 21 WSAB and deservedly took home the MVP.
Kirk Gibson is one of a select few people in the world who were great big league ball players for longer than most U.S. Presidents serve in office.