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Another underrated Evans gets the Hall Watch treatment. Darrell Evans was the 2nd best third baseman in the National League of the 1970s, behind the great Mike Schmidt. That in itself would not normally qualify him for the Hall of Fame. Let's take a closer look.

Darrell Evans was chosen by the Kansas City A's in the 7th round of the June (secondary) phase of the 1967 draft at age 20. It was a good draft year for the A's, as they also selected Vida Blue and Eric Soderholm. He reported to Rookie League that summer, and blew through it in 45 at-bats, and then hit .282 with not much pop in two high A stops. Notwithstanding his struggles, he was promoted to double A. He played under half a season there in 1968, and hit only .241 again without much pop. He was presumably injured.

He was apparently selected in the 1968 Rule 5 draft by the Braves. He would not have been eligible to be chosen under the current Rule, but it was apparently different in 1968. In 1969, the Braves were able to send him down to triple A, where he hit .360 with power in 211 at-bats. Apparently unsatisfied that he was ready, the Braves gave him another full season in triple A at age 23. He hit .300 with power, and that was enough.

Evans' career path in the major leagues is a most interesting one. The one constant feature was excellent plate discipline. He walked 39 times and struck out 54 in 305 plate appearances in his rookie year, improved it to 90 walks and 58 strikeouts in 512 plate appearances at age 25, and it remained superb throughout his long career. His power though came and went. He hit 41 homers in Atlanta at age 26 and then had medium range power for the remainder of his time there. He was traded to San Francisco, with Willie Montanez coming the other way, in the middle of his age 29 season, and continued to hit about .250 with excellent plate discipline and medium range power. In 1983  Evans apparently found the fountain of youth when he was moved to first base at age 36 and hit .277 with 30 homers. He was signed by the Tigers as a free agent after that season and gave them 34 and 40 homer seasons mixed in with 2 mediocre ones. He finished up his career at age 42 back with the Braves.

Evans had a fine glove, albeit that he was not quite as good as Schmidt, and had little speed. So, where does he stand? As of age 36, Darrell Evans was in a knot of very good, but not quite Hall of Fame caliber third baseman. His comparables include Graig Nettles, Sal Bando, Ron Cey, and Richie Hebner. He was a better fielder than Bando, Cey and Hebner, and maybe a touch behind them as a hitter. He was a better hitter than Nettles, but a touch behind him with the leather. Here's the comparison at age 36:

Evans 6348 262 1127 931 .253 .365 .427 120
Nettles 6660 295 784 875 .251 .331 .427 113
Bando 6995 249 1025 920 .254 .353 .406 119
Cey 6302 277 888 1031 .263 .355 .446 123
Hebner 6024 200 680 726 .277 .354 .440 121

However, the comparison ends at age 36 for everyone but Nettles, who we will come back to. Bando, Cey and Hebner were done, but Evans continued to hit at about the same rate for another 2600 at-bats, which included 152 homers.

So, who are the fair comparison points for Evans? He obviously was not of the caliber of the great third basemen Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews and George Brett. Third basemen prior to 1930 played a much more important defensive role, so a comparison with Jimmy Collins or Pie Traynor is not really helpful. This leaves us the following group of third baseman: Stan Hack, George Kell, Brooks Robinson, Ron Santo, Tony Perez, Graig Nettles, Paul Molitor and Wade Boggs. Shall we compare them all? Why not:

Evans 8973 414 1605 1410 .248 .361 .431 119
Hack 7278 57 1092 466 .301 .394 .397 119
Kell 6702 78 621 287 .306 .367 .414 111
Robinson 10654 268 860 990 .267 .322 .401 104
Santo 8143 342 1108 1343 .277 .362 .464 125
Perez 9778 379 925 1867 .279 .341 .463 122
Nettles 8986 390 1088 1209 .248 .329 .421 110
Molitor 10835 234 1094 1244 .306 .369 .448 122
Boggs 9180 118 1412 745 .328 .415 .443 130

Considering defence and career length, I make Evans to be better than Hack and Nettles, who are not in the Hall, and Kell and (narrowly) Perez, who are. He was not as good, in my view, as Santo, who is not in the Hall, and Robinson, Molitor and Boggs who are.

So, should Darrell Evans be in the Hall of Fame? Damned if I know. Same as with Dwight Evans. It's a flip of the coin. What do you know- also heads. He's in.

Next up: Tim Raines.

A belated Happy 40th birthday to Mick.

Hall Watch Retrospective- Darrell Evans | 11 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mick Doherty - Tuesday, August 15 2006 @ 09:40 AM EDT (#153065) #

One of my favourite players of all time. Santo, Nettles and Mathews are all on his BBRef most similar list as is, no surprise, the last guy Hall Watched, Dwight Evans.

Put both Evanseses in the Hall!

Mike Green - Tuesday, August 15 2006 @ 10:15 AM EDT (#153068) #
Another comparable third baseman in the age 36 group was Bob Elliott.  To that point, he had a better bat and a lesser glove than Evans, as did Bando, Cey and Hebner.  And like them, Elliott's career ended right there.
Magpie - Tuesday, August 15 2006 @ 06:56 PM EDT (#153090) #
I seem to remember having this discussion before...

Anyway, I suppose it depends on where you set the bar. Seeing as how Evans is clearly better than at least half the third basemen already in the Hall, and clearly a better player than Tony Perez and probably Orlando Cepeda, I think that the location of the existing bar means he obviously should be in.

Who's better, Evans or Nettles? I think they're a lot closer than you suggest. Most of their offensive numbers are staggeringly similar - except walks (Nettles drew lots of walks, Evans drew lots and lots and lots of walks.) And while Evans was a very good defender, Nettles was absolutely the best defensive third baseman of the 1970s.

Mike Green - Tuesday, August 15 2006 @ 08:49 PM EDT (#153094) #
It's true.  The difference between Nettles and Evans is fairly small, but because they're such similar players with similar career length, they are pretty easy to compare.  Evans drew more than 500 more walks than Nettles in his career.   A walk is worth about .35 runs in a 5 run per game environment.  Due to Evans lack of speed, let's make it .25 runs per walk, or 125 runs for the extra walks. He also had a little more power, with the 24 extra homers worth about 36 runs.  The offensive difference is about 160 runs (BP's metrics make the difference to be 190 runs).   Nettles played third base for 17 seasons.  There's no way that the difference between a very good third baseman and an excellent defensive third baseman amounts to 9-11 runs per season.  It could easily be 3 runs per season, but any more than 5 would be a real stretch.

Bill James made the same argument in the original Historical Abstract when comparing the peak performance of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.

Mike Green - Wednesday, August 16 2006 @ 11:35 AM EDT (#153122) #
One factor that I did not talk about in my piece is that the National League of the late 70s/early 80s was a very favourable pitcher's context, 4 runs per game average.  OPS+ adjusts for park, but not for league averages across eras.  Evans' translated statistics for his San Francisco years were uniformly very good, and his career translated figures of .252/.368/.484 would definitely have captured more people's attention.  I'll get into this more when we look at Tim Raines.
Hall Watch Retrospective- Darrell Evans | 11 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.