Sunday Notes: Was Jim Edmonds Better Than Andruw Jones?

Who was better, Jim Edmonds or Andruw Jones?

I asked that question in a Twitter poll earlier this week, expecting that it would be a close call. Centerfielders both, they played 17 seasons each and finished with similar WAR totals (Jones 67, Edmonds 64.5). Making the comparison especially intriguing was the fact that one was clearly the better defender, while the other was clearly the better hitter.

Instead of a nail-biter, I got a landslide. A total of 4,017 people voted, and a resounding 71.4% opted for Jones. Edmonds, despite having a huge edge in wRC+, garnered a meager 28.6%.

My eyebrows raised a full inch when I unearthed these statistical comps:

Edmonds had a career 132 wRC+. So did Wade Boggs, George Brett, Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn, Todd Helton, and Billy Williams (among others).

Jones had a 111 wRC+. So did Russell Branyan, Bernard Gilkey, Geoff Jenkins, Adam Lind, Hal Morris, and Neil Walker (among others).

The above isn’t meant to disparage Jones. He had some very good seasons with the bat, particularly in the power department. Seven seasons with 30-plus home runs — including one with 51 — is nothing to sneeze at. More than anything, what the comps suggest is that Edmonds was a better hitter than many people realize. He was an elite hitter.

It’s stating the obvious to say that Jones was an elite defender. The eye test told you that, and if you look at the numbers you’ll see them nodding back in agreement. One could reasonably argue that Jones — prior to falling off a cliff after the age of 30 — was the best ever at fielding his position.

Their peaks were a veritable dead heat. Jones’s best two-season WAR total was 14.6 (in 1999-2000). Edmonds best two-season WAR total was 14.6 (in 2002-2004). Comparing their primes is fuzzier. Edmonds had a six-year stretch where his WAR ranged between 6.1 and 8.3. Jones cant’t match that level of consistency, but he did have three seasons with 7-plus WAR — this over an eight-year-stretch — while Edmonds had just one season with more than 7 WAR.

Is the aforementioned defensive edge enough to elevate Jones over Edmonds in a “Who was better?” debate? The 4,000-plus people who voted in the poll apparently think so. Whether you agree or not, both have a legitimate Hall of Fame case… which isn’t to say the electorate at hand concurs. Jones has gained little traction, and Edmonds — the wholly under-appreciated Edmonds — was flat out snubbed in his lone year on the ballot.

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The most brain-dead and pointless of the new rules being introduced to MLB this season addresses two-way players. It goes as follows:

In order to appear as a pitcher without counting toward a club’s pitcher limit, a player must accrue both at least 20 Major League innings pitched and at least 20 games started (as either a position player or designated hitter) with at least three plate appearances in each of those games, in either the current season or previous season. The only way a position player not designated as a two-way player can pitch in a game is if his team is winning or losing by seven or more runs, or if the game goes to extra innings.

Shohei Ohtani is the only player who currently qualifies. Michael Lorenzen, coming off a season where he pitched in 73 games, played the outfield in 29 more, and pinch hit seven times, does not qualify. Sorry, Michael, not enough starts at a position other than pitcher. The appropriate acronym here would be SMH.

Which brings us to Jake Cronenworth. The 26-year-old infielder ranks ninth on our Padres Top Prospects list, and he likewise possesses two-way talent. Acquired by San Diego from Tampa Bay in December as part of the Tommy PhamHunter Renfroe deal, Cronenworth not only slashed .334/.429/.520 at Triple-A Durham, he made seven pitching appearances and threw seven-and-a-third scoreless innings.

He’d been a two-way player at the University of Michigan. In three years with the Wolverines, Cronenworth logged a 2.76 ERA while also excelling with the bat. The Rays selected him in the seventh round of the 2015 draft as a second baseman.

Despite his live arm and success toeing the rubber, Croneneworth doesn’t aspire to be a true two-way player. At least that was his public face when I talked to him in Padres camp last month.

“I was drafted as a position player, and I’ve played as a position player since 2015,” Cronenworth told me. “Last year, when we decided to start going the two-way route, I thought it might give me an extra inch forward over other guys — it might make my opportunity better — but at the end of the day, I’m a position player first and a pitcher second.”

When he does take the mound, Cronenworth throws two- and four-seam fastballs, a cutter, and a curveball. His heater has some juice. Low-90s in his final Big Ten season, he was “probably 93-96” last year in Durham.

But again, he views pitching as a secondary endeavor.

“You want to be the best at both, but it’s hard at a level like this when you have guys who are position players only and that’s all they’re working on,” said Cronenworth. “That’s why I say I’m a position player first. The things I do from that standpoint are always going to trump the pitching side.”

Which is probably just as well. For reasons difficult to fathom, MLB’s decision-makers have decided they don’t like two-way players. SMH.

——

RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Coco Crisp went 2 for 2 against Radhames Liz.

Liz Funk went 2 for 4 against Belve Bean.

Joe Lis went 2 for 6 against Vida Blue.

Lil Stoner went 2 for 8 against Eddie Rommel.

Lip Pike went 2 for 12 against Phonney Martin.

——

This past Monday marked the 20th anniversary of Chris Mehring’s first broadcast of a Wisconsin Timber Rattlers game. Two decades later, he remains the play-by-play voice of the Milwaukee Brewers’ Midwest League affiliate (as well as the steward of the Rattler Radio blog). Learning that he’d attained a milestone, I reached out to see if Mehring would share a few anecdotes from his time in the booth. Ever gracious, he was happy to oblige.

“In my first year with the Rattlers (2000), I worked with Greg Hofer and we would switch play-by-play every few innings,” Mehring recalled via email. “Greg was calling the play-by-play one night and the door to the radio booth opened.  A young lady walked in with a beer in her hand, and was acting like she’d been in there before, so I didn’t say anything. She winds up sitting down on my lap to watch the game. Greg just kept calling the game. I thought he knew her, so I continued to not say anything.

“Larry Trucco was our GM at the time, and he walks in the booth.

‘Young lady! Do you belong in here?’

‘Nnnooo…’

‘Then, get out!”

She gets up and leaves.

Greg turns to me after the inning is over and goes, ‘I thought you knew her.’

I really thought I was going to get fired before my first season was done.”

***

“In either 2008 or 2009, the Rattlers were playing the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Ron “Roady” Plein was still traveling with them as their clubhouse manager. Roady would dress in full uniform and chase after foul balls, or pitches that got to the backstop with no one on base. After a few times of seeing this, our batboy started chasing after pitches to the backstop, too. It became a race to get to the baseball first. The crowd started to get into the competition.

“They almost collided going after a ball.  The very next pitch went back to the wall and the race was on again. This time they did collide. The batboy flew over Roady and was okay.  Roady did not get up, because he had broken an ankle.  The game was delayed for over 30 minutes to stabilize him, get an ambulance to the area behind home plate, and get him off the field.

“The production crew told me they had video of Roady’s foot just hanging there and called it worse than the Joe Theismann injury.  I’m pretty sure we deleted that video.  I haven’t seen it since that night.”

——

NEWS NOTES

Emily Messina is the new radio voice of the Reading Fightin Phils, Philadelphia’s Eastern League affiliate. A graduate of Catholic University, Messina spent last season as a press box manager, and fill-in broadcaster, for the Lynchburg Hellcats. Here resume includes time with the Australian Baseball League’s Melbourne Aces.

Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Steven Brault has recorded an album of show tunes. Information on “A Pitch From Broadway” can be found here.

This year’s national SABR convention — the 50th annual — has been rescheduled. It will be held at the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor, in Baltimore, from July 14-18, 2021.

Per old friend Kiley McDaniel, the Atlanta Braves notified their full-time and part-time employees on Friday that they would be paid through May 31. They are the first known MLB club to give their employees assurances beyond the end of April or beginning of May.

——

A Midwest League game was broadcast a few nights ago. Not a ‘real’ game, course. Those won’t be taking place until the pandemic wreaking havoc on both the sports world and our daily lives is in the rear-view mirror. What we had — this on what would have been opening night for the Lansing Lugnuts and West Michigan Whitecaps — was ‘fauxpening day.’ Dan Hasty and Jesse Goldberg-Strassler were the masterminds.

The idea was hatched when Hasty, the radio voice of the Whitecaps, suggested the two teams meet in a game played by the roll of the dice. Literally. Hasty and Goldberg-Strassler, the voice of the Lugnuts, put together predicted 2020 starting lineups for each team, added a few hurlers, then hooked up via Zoom to do nine innings of play-by-play while simulating a game via Baseball Dice Roller.

Hasty and his normal broadcaster parter, Mike Coleman, called the Whitecaps at bats. Goldberg-Strassler and his partner, Adam Jaska, called the Lugnuts at bats. They described more than just balls in play. Just as they would in a ‘normal’ game — and it truly sounded realistic — they voiced balls and strikes, presented stats and information, and engaged in broadcast banter.

Once the ‘game’ was over, Goldberg-Strassler mixed in the hum of the crowd, pop-of-the-mitt and crack-of-the-bat sounds, and cheering (ditto a bit of booing; they pulled no punches in trying to replicate ‘real’). He sent that to Hasty, who added the final touches. Radio-ready, the ‘game’ then aired on Thursday.

The Lugnuts came out on top 7-5. Leonardo Jimenez, the No. 19 prospect on our Blue Jays list, led the way with three hits, including a triple and a home run. Parker Meadows, No. 11 on our Tigers list, singled, doubled, and homered.

——

A piece of Al Kaline trivia on the weekend following his death at age 85:

The Tigers were tied with the Red Sox for first place in the AL East on September 21, 1972. Kaline, 37 years old at the time, went on to slash .512/.523/.878 over his last 10 games. Moreover, he went 10 for 19 against Boston pitchers during that stretch. Detroit won the division.

——

I’m currently reading Jane Leavy’s The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and World He Created and to little surprise, the prose is every bit as good as the research (which was extensive). Here is Leavy describing Christy Walsh, who handled Ruth’s affairs and is considered by many to have been baseball’s first agent:

He looked like he was born responsible. His birthday suit was probably three-piece. His slick-backed black hair might have been parted with a nun’s ruler… Walsh was a teetotaler and, to be polite about it, extremely careful with his money — and Ruth’s. Ruth wasn’t careful about anything.

——

LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

SportsNet Canada’s David Singh wrote about how the mentorship of a former big-league hurler helped sent Mike Soroka on course for MLB stardom.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is a music aficionado who has seen Phish in concert close to 40 times. Jim Souhan talked to Baldelli about his favorite non-baseball subject for The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

The Athletic’s Rustin Dodd wrote about erstwhile Cincinnati Reds infielder Billy Bates (who once raced a cheetah), and other players who enjoyed meteoric success.

MiLB.com’s Alexis Brudnicki talked to scouting legend Ron Rizzi (now a special assistant to the GM for the Nationals), who considers Brian Tayler the best pitcher he ever saw.

Former Tennessee Titans safety Myron Rolle is now a neurosurgery resident treating COVID-19 patients at Massachusetts General Hospital. Nora Princiotti shared his story at The Boston Globe.

WBUR’s “Only A Game” showcased Scott Radinsky, whose dual careers have long been pitching and punk rock.

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Carlos Quentin came to the plate 3,247 times and was hit by a pitch 127 times.
Mark Lemke came to the plate 3,654 times and was never hit by a pitch.

Stan Musial played in 3,026 games and had 12,718 plate appearances.
Eddie Murray played in 3,026 games and had 12,817 plate appearances.

Johnny Mize hit three home runs in a game six times. His team lost four of the six, while another ended in a tie.

Six Hall of Famers played no more than five seasons with any one team: Roberto Alomar (Toronto Blue Jays), Dan Brouthers (Buffalo Bisons), John Clarkson (Boston Beaneaters), Tommy McCarthy (Beaneaters), Old Hoss Radbourn (Providence Grays), and Deacon White (Bisons.) All but Alomar played in the 1880s. (List per @JamesSmyth621)

Pete Runnels got his first stolen base on June 30, 1953. It was his 17th career attempt. The Washington Senators infielder was 0-for-3 in 1951, 0-for-10 in 1952, and was thrown out in his first three attempts in 1953. (Per @baseballtwit)

Bob Feller had a 17-strikeout game at age 17. He had an 18-strikeout game at age 19.

Alex Johnson won the American League batting title in 1970 while playing for the California Angels. His brother, Ron Johnson, rushed for over 1,000 yards with the New York Giants that same year.

On this date in 1960, the Detroit Tigers acquired Norm Cash from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Steve Demeter. Cash went on to hit 373 home runs and log a 139 wRC+ over the next 17 seasons. Demeter went on to play just four more big-league games.

On April 14, 1941. Bud Sketchley recorded the first of his seven career hits in a 3-0 White Sox loss to the St. Louis Browns. Sketchley is one of five players in MLB history born in the province of Manitoba. The others are Russ Ford, Gene Ford, Mel Kerr, and Corey Koskie.

Frank Mountain and Buttercup Dickerson played for the National League’s Troy Trojans in 1880.

We hoped you liked reading Sunday Notes: Was Jim Edmonds Better Than Andruw Jones? by David Laurila!

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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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Josh
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Josh

David, this column is amazing in normal times; it’s a gift to us all right now! I’m buying that Brault album!

Thanks for continuing to share the insights and weirdness you’ve come across.

Spa City
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Spa City

I’m getting Brault’s album also. I’m not sure how his singing is, and I don’t tend to like show-tunes, but I’ll enjoy it .

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dukewinslow
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dukewinslow

NOKONA glove is by a huge margin the best glove I’ve ever had too. Worth the price premium.

docgooden85
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docgooden85

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