Sunday Notes: Was Brian Giles Better Than Don Mattingly and/or Tony Oliva?

Don Mattingly had 2,153 hits, 222 home runs, a .361 wOBA, a 124 wRC+, and 40.7 WAR. Statistically, the New York Yankees legend is similar to a Minnesota Twins legend who a few months ago was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Golden Days Committee. Tony Oliva had 1,917 hits, 220 home runs, a .365 wOBA, a 129 wRC+, and 40.7 WAR.

And then there is Brian Giles, who received nary a vote in his lone year on the BBWAA ballot, and quite possibly will never appear on an era-committee ballot. Perennially flying under the radar while playing in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and San Diego, the underrated slugger had 1,897 hits, 287 home runs, a .388 wOBA, a 136 wRC+, and 54.8 WAR.

What about peak, you might be wondering? Giles was better there, too.

Mattingly had a six-year peak before back injuries began eroding his skills. Over that stretch, he logged a .388 wOBA, a 143 wRC+, and 31.7 WAR. Meanwhile, Oliva and Giles had seven-year peaks that produced these numbers:

Oliva: 1,455 hits, 177 home runs, .379 wOBA, 139 wRC+, 39.5 WAR.
Giles: 1,150 hits, 207 home runs, .411 wOBA, 150 wRC+, 40.9 WAR.

Here are the trio’s best single-season wRC+ numbers:

Mattingly: 160, 153, 151, 142.
Oliva: 154, 148, 144, 139.
Giles: 174, 154, 153, 147.

And best single-season WAR totals:

Mattingly: 7.2, 6.1, 6.1, 5.3.
Oliva: 6.3, 6.2, 5.8, 5.1.
Giles: 6.9, 6.7, 6.3, 5.9.

Was Brian Giles a better hitter than Don Mattingly and/or Tony Oliva, and maybe even a better overall player? I’m not saying that he was, but the numbers are definitely eyebrow-raising. If nothing else, Giles might be the best player ever to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot and not receive a single vote.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Dontrelle Willis went 4 for 7 against Tomo Ohka.

Nick Johnson went 6 for 8 against Barry Zito.

Brian Giles went 10 for 13 against Antonio Alfonseca.

Sixto Lezcano went 10 for 15 against Roger Erickson.

Bill Terry went 29 for 55 against Grover Cleveland Alexander.

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The Yankees’ announcing that they will be retiring Paul O’Neill’s #21 got me thinking about a player who is arguably the most-underrated in franchise history. That would be Charlie Keller, whose number hasn’t been retired by the club that, with O’Neill’s addition, will have so-honored a total of 23 players.

Let’s compare the two:

O’Neill had a 125 wRC+ and 26.7 WAR in his nine seasons with the Yankees. Keller had a 155 wRC+ and 32.2 WAR in his first five seasons with the Yankees, then missed all but 44 games of the next two years due to WWII. Keller then proceeded to put up a 159 wRC+ and 6.6 WAR in 1946, his final season as a full-time player.

All told, Keller had 44.9 WAR as a Yankee, this while playing in 1,066 games to O’Neill’s 1,254 games. Keller played on four World Series teams — three of which took home titles — slashing .306/.367/.611 with five home runs. O’Neill played on five World Series teams (with New York) — four of which took home titles — slashing .261/.370/.370 with no home runs. Keller was a five-time All-Star with the Yankees, O’Neill a four-time All-Star.

Paul O’Neill had a good career with the Yankees. Charlie “King Kong” Keller had a far better career with the Yankees than did Paul O’Neill.

As for Keller’s #9, which he wore throughout his glory years, the Yankees’ having already retired that number in honor of Roger Maris shouldn’t be an obstacle. The team retired #8 in honor of both Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey.

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A quiz:

The same player holds the Cleveland Guardians franchise records for total bases, runs scored, and RBIs. Who is it?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

The Seattle Mariners have hired Dave Cameron as a consultant. The erstwhile FanGraphs managing editor and writer worked in the San Diego Padres front office from January 2018-November 2021.

Josh Herzenberg has joined the San Francisco Giants as Assistant Director of Player Development. The former FanGraphs contributor spent the past two years with KBO’s Lotte Giants, most recently as Director of Research & Development and International Scouting.

Jim Thome has been named president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. Thome replaces Brooks Robinson.

Seven new members of the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame will be honored on June 15 at Frawley Stadium prior to a Wilmington Blue Rocks game. The inductees include Brett Oberholtzer, a southpaw for three MLB teams from 2013-2016, and Derrik Gibson, who played seven of his 11 minor league seasons in the Red Sox system.

Per Baseball America’s Josh Norris, a Rule 5 Draft is expected to occur a week after a new CBA is in place.

Julio Cruz, a second baseman who played for the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago White Sox from 1977-1986, died earlier this week at age 67. Selected by Seattle in the 1976 expansion draft out of the California Angels organization, the Brooklyn-born Cruz swiped 40 or more bases in six of his 10 big-league seasons.

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The answer to the quiz is Hall of Fame outfielder Earl Averill, who played for Cleveland from 1929-1939.

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A number of broadcasters will be stepping into new jobs in the minor leagues this coming season. Here are a few of the moves (thanks to Lansing’s Jesse Goldberg-Strassler for the info):

Thomas Breach will the new voice of the Cedar Rapids Kernels (High-A Minnesota Twins). Breach, who has spent three seasons calling games for the summer collegiate league’s Waterloo Bucks, will be earning his master’s degree in Sports Management from St. Cloud State University this spring.

Erik Bremer will call games for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Double-A Miami Marlins). Bremer spent the past two seasons with the Fredericksburg Nationals, following stints with the Biloxi Shuckers and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

Lyle Goldstein will be joining the Dayton Dragons (High-A Cincinnati Reds) broadcast team this season. Goldstein is a recent graduate of Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Larry Larson will be the radio voice of the Beloit Sky Carp (High-A Miami Marlins). A senior at Bradley University, Larson is studying broadcasting at the Charley Steiner School of Sports Communication.

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As mentioned in Friday’s interview with Corbin Carroll, the top prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks system frequently watched games with one of the organization’s advance scouts while rehabbing an injury last season. Left on the cutting-room floor from our conversation was a scouting report that Carroll provided, per my request, on another highly-regarded D-Backs prospect.

“I played with Alek Thomas at the alt-site,” Carroll said of the 21-year-old outfielder. “Really good bat-to-ball skills. Can drive the ball out of the park to any field. Probably plays above his speed in centerfield. He is a 60 runner, but he tracks some balls down to where you’re like, ‘Wow, how did he get to that?’”

Any negatives, or specific areas where Thomas needs to improve?

“He’s one of my best friends, so I can only say the positives,” Carroll replied with a laugh. “I can’t give away any of his weaknesses. Right?”

There wouldn’t be many to mention. Thomas ranks right behind Carroll on our Diamondbacks Top Prospects list, and is No. 23 on our recently-released Top 100. Carroll is No. 14 on the latter of those lists.

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He had a small sample to choose from — his professional experience consists of just 32 games — but Colton Cowser’s response to a question nonetheless struck me as notable. I asked the No. 4-rated prospect in the Baltimore Orioles system which of the pitchers he faced last summer stood out the most, and he named a 22-year-old right-hander who has encountered shoulder and performance issues alike.

Jackson Rutledge had some pretty good stuff,” Cowser said of the Washington Nationals’ 2019 first-rounder. “He kind of made me wonder, because it was like, ‘I’m seeing it, but I’m not hitting it.’ That type of situation.”

I mentioned to Cowser that Rutledge wasn’t at all sharp the one time I saw him last year. His command had been lacking.

“That was one of the speculations,” responded the young outfielder. “It was one of his first starts coming off an injury — I believe that’s what it was — and we weren’t really sure how his command was going to be. But he was pretty dialed in. When he’s on, he’s on.”

Rutledge had a 7.68 ERA over 36-and-a-third innings last year between two A-Ball levels and a brief stint in rookie-ball. He walked 20 and fanned 41.

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Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio included a conversation with Thom Henninger, the author of The Pride of Minnesota: The Twins in the Turbulent 1960s, a book I quoted from here just last week. Among the many things I asked Henninger about was Rod Carew’s having stolen home seven times one season.

“That was Billy Martin for you,” Henninger said on the podcast. “It all took place in 1969, the one year Martin managed the Twins. He was very much a running-game kind of guy. Frank Quilici, who managed the Twins later and was a player on that team, and also stole home that season, said Billy Martin would pull the weirdest stunts to create runs, and they usually involved running. That year, Quilici, Carew, and Cesar Tovar all stole home. Tovar and Carew stole home in the same inning one game, and that particular day, Carew also stole three bases in an inning, which tied a Major League record. That was kind of how things went that year.

“Even Harmon Killebrew stole eight bases that summer,” Henninger went on to say. “He was usually on the back end of the steals — double steals and triple steals; there were a few triple steals — and at some point Harmon expressed an interest in being the front guy on a steal. Sure enough, Martin sent him a time or two, and I believe Killebrew had two or three of those steals on his own, which is even more remarkable.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At Yahoo Sports, Ian Kennedy wrote about the 1934 Chatham Coloured All-Stars, a historic all-Black team that continues to be snubbed by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

At Pittsburgh Quarterly, Pete Peterson wrote about Vic Harris, who led the Homestead Grays to eight Negro League championships and is the winningest manager in baseball history.

George Altman’s career included stints in MLB, the Negro Leagues, and the Japanese Pacific League. Anthony Castrovince wrote about the 88-year-old former outfielder for MLB.com.

Should Andre Dawson’s 2010 election to the Hall of Fame have opened the doors for Dwight Evans and Reggie Smith? Louis Addeo-Weiss delved into the question at Fish Stripes.

Lookout Landing’s Kate Preusser looked into why MLB owners are threatening the league’s life to save their luxury tax.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Dante Bichette had 40 home runs and 22 walks in 1995. Adam Dunn had 40 home runs and 122 walks in 2008.

Charlie Maxwell hit five extra-inning home runs for the Detroit Tigers in 1960, a big-league-record. The Tigers won three of the five games.

Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Babe Adams won three games in the 1909 World Series, the last of them a Game 7 shutout that clinched the franchise’s first-ever title. Sixteen years later, in 1925, Adams pitched a scoreless inning in his lone appearance as the Pirates captured their second-ever World Series title.

Shoeless Joe Jackson had a .375/.394/.563 slash line in the 1919 “Black Sox” World Series. His 12 hits were the most for any player, and he hit that Series’s only round tripper.

The 1919 World Series was won by the Cincinnati Reds, who finished the regular season with a record of 96-44. The club’s .686 winning percentage is tops in modern-era franchise history.

Dizzy Nutter had 11 big league hits, all of them with the Boston Braves in September 1919, and all of them in either the first or second game of a doubleheader. Born Everett Clarence Nutter, in Roseville, Ohio, the left-handed-hitting outfielder is believed to be the first “Dizzy” in MLB history.

MLB history includes three players born in Ukraine: Bill Cristall (Cleveland Blues, 1901), Rueben Ewing (St. Louis Cardinals, 1921), and Izzy Goldstein (Detroit Tigers, 1932).

Jack Quinn jumped from the Boston Braves to the Federal League’s Baltimore Terrapins on today’s date in 1914. One of two Slovakia-born players in MLB history — Elmer Valo is the other — Quinn won 247 games over 23 big-league seasons and pitched his last game with the Cincinnati Reds in 1933, six days after his 50th birthday.

Players born on today’s date include Will Koenigsmark, who appeared in one game for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1919 and failed to retire any of the three batters he faced. The Waterloo, Iowa native was charged with two earned runs, making him one of 22 players in MLB history with an infinite ERA.

Also born on today’s date was Hilton Smith, a pitcher/outfielder who was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 2001. The Giddings, Texas native played from 1932-1948, primarily with the Negro American League’s Kansas City Monarchs.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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JimmieFoxxalorianmember
7 months ago

I saw Brian Giles play, albeit in his years as a Friar. He seemed to have such a great eye and was really patient in the box. Rarely would he have a bad swinging strikeout, but could get caught looking. Absolutely crushed the ball in BP, so much that other players would marvel at his swings. He had this kinda crouched open stance that probably hampered his longevity (especially at the knees), but he also had a stout, wide body that I always thought looked a lot heavier than his listed 205 lbs.

I wish I saw Giles in his Pittsburgh years. That was a pitchers park he put up those big numbers in, too. Mattingly had a really great 4-year stretch in the 80s yeah (& played in better lineups), but Giles had better overall career imo, and the numbers back that up.

Last edited 7 months ago by JimmieFoxxalorian
Pirates Hurdlesmember
7 months ago

I think Giles gets dismissed because of his steroid links and his domestic assault cases. He was a great player, but writers like to play morality police these days.

Left of Centerfield
7 months ago

Main reason he didn’t get any votes is that he was on one of the most stacked ballots of all time – Randy Johnson, Pedro, Smoltz, Biggio, Piazza, Bagwell, Raines, Schilling, Clemens, Bonds, Edgar Martinez, Trammell, Mussina, Larry Walker, and many others.

chisoxmattmember
7 months ago

Looking at Giles stats it looks like he was locked in every year. Good average, good power, fantastic walk to k ratio. Cant ask for more than that.

jdr
7 months ago

Giles was a straight-up fantasy stud in his prime. Unfortunately for him he never got the fantasy->IRL popularity boost some other guys did, probably due to the teams he played for.