Yogi Berra Was Remarkably Consistent

You may have heard that Yogi Berra passed away. As I often do when I hear about a former player in the news for whatever reason, I tend to look at his player page. Judging by the popular players searched box today, you are doing the same. When I look at Berra’s, the thing that pops out to me right away is just how consistent he was.

Wanting to put this apparent consistency in context, I asked the venerable Jeff Zimmerman for a little data help. Turns out my suspicions were well founded. Let’s take a look at three tables real quick:

Players With 60+ Career WAR But No Seasons > 6.5 WAR
Player Career WAR Max Single-Season WAR
Jake Beckley 61.2 4.9
Bid McPhee 62.7 5.4
Max Carey 60.1 5.6
Sam Crawford 71.1 5.9
Paul Molitor 67.6 6.0
Lou Whitaker 68.1 6.1
Yogi Berra 63.7 6.4
Willie Randolph 62.1 6.5
Reggie Smith 64.6 6.5
Fred Clarke 72.8 6.5

Usually, players of this caliber have that one big year that sort of defines their career. Heck, even players not of that caliber end up having one random career year that defines their career. Not Berra, nor the other gentlemen on this list. Six of the others are in the Hall of Fame with Berra, and I could make a pretty decent case for the three (Whitaker, Randolph and Smith) who aren’t.

From 1950-1956, Berra posted between 5.2 WAR and 6.4 WAR every season, with his 6.4 WAR in 1956 ending up as his career high. That was during his age-31 season. It was the last season where Berra was a star, but he posted at least 2.2 WAR for the next five years, finishing up the run with 2.2 WAR in his age-36 season in 1961.

Players With 350+ Career HR But No Seasons > 30 HR
Player Career HR Max Single-Season HR
Al Kaline 399 29
Harold Baines 384 29
Yogi Berra 358 30
Chili Davis 350 30

This list is even shorter. Berra knocked 30 homers in both 1952 and 1956, but otherwise never cracked 28. He hit 10 or more homers in 16 straight seasons. I can’t figure out how to search for consecutive season records, but in general, only 49 players have reached double digits in that many seasons. From 1949-1958, Berra racked up at least 20 homers.

Players With 20+ Career Fld But No Seasons > 5 Fld
Player Career Fld Max Single-Season Fld
Bill Dickey 20.0 3
Buddy Rosar 24.0 4
Billy Sullivan 24.0 4
Al Lopez 20.0 4
Malachi Kittridge 39.0 5
David Ross 37.6 5
Yogi Berra 27.0 5
Bernie Carbo 24.0 5
Charlie Deal 21.0 5
Muddy Ruel 20.0 5

You’ll notice that all but two of these players — Carbo and Deal — were/are catchers. There is a commentary there on how we measure catcher defense, but even with that said, there have been hundreds of catchers since Berra came into the league, and only a handful meet this criteria.

We could probably look at a few other statistics and end up with similar lists that put Berra in select company along the same lines as above. But we don’t need to. The point was that Berra was simply as steady as you could be for a very long time. That sort of player is an incredibly rare and valuable asset anywhere on the diamond. Having that sort of player behind the plate is remarkably valuable. Berra wasn’t the only reason the Yankees were a powerhouse team in those days, but having that steady influence behind the plate had to make life a hell of a lot easier for the Yankees.

I don’t know the best characteristics to leading a long life, but I’m guessing one of them is being consistent. If Yogi Berra was as consistent in life as he was in a big league uniform, then it’s no wonder he lived to be 90. Rest in peace, Mr. Berra.

Paul Swydan used to be the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com and The Boston Globe. Now, he owns The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Acton, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan. Follow the store @SilUnicornActon.

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Pretty Tonymember
7 years ago

Lou Whitaker is a Hall of Famer

7 years ago
Reply to  Pretty Tony

Should be, no doubt, right alongside Trammell, but sadly not.

7 years ago
Reply to  hopbitters

Best DP combo in baseball history. By far.