Baseball TBT: My Pair of Sawx

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    Updated: April 17, 2014
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    Recently I joined a Stratomatic baseball league where the only available players are Hall of Famers. The funny thing about this is that everyone involved is a well-adjusted grown man in a stable relationship (I know, I’m as shocked as you are). Because we’re selecting from the best of the best of the best (sir), I’ve been picking up gems about baseball’s greats that are just too good to keep to myself. Throwback Thursdays is here to educate you on the history of the game. 

    After spending all of last week talking about Babe Ruth being the single greatest ballplayer of all time, it should be obvious I wanted to use my first pick in the Stratomatic draft on him. Unfortunately, the guy with the number one spot felt the same way (thanks, Dad).

    With the second pick, it was too early to start playing the game of drafting the best player at weak positions. I needed a stick, the best pure hitter who ever lived: No. 9, the Splendid Splinter, Ted (expletive deleted) Williams. The Fenway faithful went wild – which sucks, considering I’m a Yankees fan. 

    Picking Williams meant I was sacrificing my chance at many of the Yankee greats.

    The fact that this bothered me even slightly may seem silly because, even in fantasy sports, you play to win the game. But unless you practice complete team agnosticism, you still want to draft your favorite players (unless you’re a Cubs fan – then you’re just looking for the guy who depresses you the least). 

    By the time the draft snaked back to me, Mantle and Gehrig were gone, but Joe DiMaggio (in all his simply stayed glory) was still available. Somehow, so was Jimmie Foxx. 

    Jimmie. Freaking. Foxx. 

    I introduced him last week as the man who out-Ruthed Ruth in the 1932 and 1933 seasons.

    What I didn’t mention was that he was the first major leaguer to win three MVPs, played three positions (first, third, and catcher – though he wasn’t a stand-out at any of them), and is one of the greatest right-handed bats that, for some reason, nobody talks about anymore (think Frank Thomas numbers with more gaudy production – yeah, I know). 

    He also played for the Sawx. Why that matters doesn’t make sense – but nothing in sports fandom does.

    It took a solid hour (the miracle of email drafts), but I eventually convinced myself to do the right thing and pick Foxx, mostly because I convinced myself that DiMaggio would last the two picks it would take to get back to me (no such luck – thanks again, Dad). 

    I got over the whole notion of building my team around two historically great Red Sox players pretty quickly, especially when you take a look at their career numbers: 

    Player H 2B 3B HR RBI Avg BB SO SB CS OB% SL% OPS
    Jimmie Foxx 2646 458 125 534 1922 .325 1452 1311 87 73 .425 .609 1.038
    Ted Williams 2654 525 71 521 1839 .344 2021 709 24 17 .482 .634 1.116

    Honestly, I find it tough to try to break down numbers like those – they speak for themselves. What’s crazy is how eerily similar they are, especially when you consider that Foxx and Williams played the same number of (relatively) full seasons. I didn’t get their JAWS single season lines until after the draft, but imagine my surprise when I saw this: 

    Player AB 2B 3B HR RBI Avg BB SO SB CS OB% SL% OPS
    Foxx 540 31 8 43 139 .352 107 83 6 5 .460 .682 1.142
    Williams 472 34 4 35 119 .365 135 40 2 1 .507 .674 1.181

    My first wave of shock came when looking at HRs and RBIs – how could two guys with essentially the same numbers for their career be so different in their power numbers? I’m not complaining that Williams is slated to “only” hit 35 HRs a season, but obviously I’m missing something, right? 

    As usual: yes. Look at Williams’ career OPS and his single season line – they’re 65 points apart.

    That remarkable consistency is what highlighted Williams’ career. Which isn’t to say Foxx wasn’t consistently good, but there’s a reason his nickname was The Beast: when he put up big numbers, he put them up huge. 

    He hit over 40 homeruns five times and drove in over 150 runs four times, feats Williams only ever achieved once.

    Foxx also drove in 100 runs in thirteen straight seasons (Williams did it nine times total, including each of his first eight) and hit 30 homers in twelve straight seasons (seven for Williams). So how is it we still talk about Ted Williams as the greatest pure hitter of all time and Foxx is the best player everyone seems to forget about? 

    Because Williams dominated, too – maybe even more so. 

    The only other player as utterly consistent as Williams was Hank Aaron, but he never stood out the way Teddy Ballgame did (as promised, we’ll cover this one day). Williams has two MVPs, but he easily could’ve won three more. In 1941 Williams hit .406 but lost the MVP to DiMaggio and his 56 game hit streak (it’s entirely possible we’ll never see anything like either of these accomplishments in our lifetime). Williams won the Triple Crown in both 1942 and 1947 but lost the MVP each year, mostly because he was reviled by the press

    If those MVP numbers aren’t impressive enough, Williams also missed five (5!) years of his prime due to military service in both WWII and Korea.

    If he had those years and was hitting homers at his career pace, he could have easily challenged Ruth’s homerun record at the time, possibly won a couple more MVPs, and maybe even posted those monster years to rival The Beast. 

    Strat tells me Foxx was a steal where I got him and that I over-drafted on Williams (in fact, Foxx is rated higher in the system than Williams is), but I’ll still take Thumper as the guy to build a team around – especially when I’ve got The Beast protecting him in the lineup, just like old times (’39 to ’42 – look it up, and check out what looks to be the start of a budding bromance). It wasn’t what I set out to do, but I’ll happily build my team around this pair of Sawx. And don’t worry, I got my Yankee great when I drafted Yogi in the 7th round – too bad he’ll be backing up Foxx at the dish. 

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