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All Contents
© 1986-2004










Top 10 Seasons By an Angels Right-Fielder: What, you didn't think I was going to let Tim Salmon's last week in regular-season professional baseball go without getting around to the RF installment of my top-seasons-by-an-Angel series, did you? Previous episodes, counting backwards by position-topper: Pearson, Erstad, DeCinces, Fregosi, Grich, Mincher, Downing. This position's winner will be no surprise. The all-time Number One Angel player, 38-year-old Long Beach native Tim Salmon.

G   AB   R  H   HR RBI SB/CS BB  BA   OBP  SLG OPS+  WS AS? MVP  
1) Tim Salmon, 1995
143  537 111 177 34 105  5/5  91 .330 .429 .594 164 32.5       7
2) Vladimir Guerrero, 2004
156  612 124 206 39 126 15/3  52 .337 .391 .598 154 29.5  X    1
3) Tim Salmon, 1997
157  582  95 172 33 129  9/12 95 .296 .394 .517 136 28.9       7
4) Vladimir Guerrero, 2005
141  520  95 165 32 108 13/1  61 .317 .394 .565 156 26.8  X    3
5) Bobby Bonds, 1977
158  592 103 156 37 115 41/18 74 .264 .342 .520 136 24.4      16
6) Tim Salmon, 1993
142  515  93 146 31  95  5/6  82 .283 .382 .536 141 23.5
7) Tim Salmon, 2000
158  568 108 165 34  97  0/2 104 .290 .404 .540 135 22.6
8) Reggie Jackson, 1982
153  530  92 146 39 101  4/5  85 .275 .375 .532 147 22.3  X    6
9) Tim Salmon, 2002
138  483  84 138 22  88  6/3  71 .286 .380 .503 136 21.9
10) Tim Salmon, 1996
156  581  90 166 30  98  4/2  93 .286 .386 .501 125 21.7

The winner is: The best eligible player to never get named to an All-Star team. At least that's what Angels fans always say. Is it true?

I took a swing at that question a few months back, using career Win Shares, and came up with the following Top-10 list of players from 1933-on:

276 Tony Phillips
241 Salmon
235 Joe Kuhel
232 Kirk Gibson
223 Richie Hebner
213 Jose Cardenal
208 Garry Maddox
207 Todd Zeile
205 Hal Trosky
204 Kevin McReynolds

These numbers are tweaked so that everyone's seasonal totals were adjusted for 162 games, regardless of strikes, wars, and the 154-game schedule. If you don't like that, tough. Also, it doesn't include Kuhel's 26 Win Shares from prior to the All-Star era.

So, by career Win Shares, Salmon is the second-most snubbed player history. Ah, you say, but career totals benefit guys who hang around forever without being particularly noteworthy (*cough* Zeile *cough*), while All-Star games reward guys having great seasons, whether lifelong mediocrities or presumptive Hall of Famers. A better measure, or at least a supplemental one, would answer the question -- how many years did he deserve to go to the All-Star game, but didn't?

As I see it there are two of ways of going after that question -- with context, and without. Meaning, how many All Star-type years did he have, and how many seasons was he the best, 2nd best, or (after leagues expanded to 12 teams) 3rd best player in the league at his position?

Speaking generally, if you rack up 24 Win Shares in a season, you are more likely than not to make the All-Star team. Last season there were 43 players who had at least 24 Win Shares; 56% of them made the game. How many 24+ seasons were racked up by the All-Snubbed team? I'll dip down to 183 career Win Shares to find out.

5 Trosky (30/28/26/25/25)
3 Salmon (33/29/24)
3 McReynolds (31/26/25)
3 Gibson (31/26/24)
2 Bill Doran (28/24)
2 Tony Gonzales (26/26)
1 Earl Torgeson (31)
1 Kuhel (27)
1 Cardenal (26)
1 Maddox (26)
1 Phillips (25)
1 Elmer Valo
1 Bill Bruton (24)
0 Hebner, Zeile, Bob Bailey, Delino DeShields.

So, it looks like Tim Salmon's number two on this list as well. Trosky is one of the more interesting hard-luck cases in baseball history -- short career, interrupted by WWII, and oh yeah the other first basemen in his eight-team league were Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Hank Greenberg. But you'll see that Salmon's 1995 is the best season above that didn't receive All-Star recognition. Given that 30 Win Shares is usually where you start talking about MVP candidates (Vladimir Guerrero won one in 2004 with 29), how rare is it to rack up 33 without going to the All-Star game? It's happened just 89 times in the past 11 seasons:

2005 -- Brian Giles, 35
2004 -- Adrian Beltre, 37; Jim Edmonds, 36; J.D. Drew, 34
2002 -- Jim Thome, 34; Albert Pujols, 32
2001 -- Shawn Green, 34
1998 -- Albert Belle, 37
1995 -- Tim Salmon, 33

Any trend in that list? Yes -- 6 of the 8 played the least-challenging defensive positions on the field, LF, RF & 1B; where you can station clods who rack up Win Shares by mashing the ball. (Five of the 10 in career WS list also mostly played those positions.)

Anyway, we've got Tim being the second-most screwed by two different measures. Here's the third and final look -- In how many seasons was he in the top 3 at his position? (Or, before 1969, top 2.) Again using Win Shares, and reviewing all snubbed players with at least 183 career Win Shares, we come up with this list:

5 Salmon (3 firsts, 1 second, 1 third)
5 DeShields (1/0/4)
5 Gibson (0/1/4)
4 Doran (2/1/1)
4 McReynolds (2/0/2)
4 Maddox (0/3/1)
4 Phillips (0/1/3)
3 Hebner (1/0/2)
3 Valo (0/3)
3 Bailey (0/1/2)
2 Torgeson (1/1)
2 Kuhel (1/1)
2 Cardenal (0/1/1)
1 Trosky (1/0)
1 Zeile (0/1/0)
0 Bruton, Gonzales

So by this measure, Salmon's the most screwed, hands down. He's the only one to be best at his position in three different seasons without making the All-Star team; the only player with even two such seasons is Bill Doran, whose stats were mangled by playing in the Astrodome. If you give 3 points for each first place finish, 2 for second and 1 for third, the list above looks like this:

12 Salmon
9 Doran
7 Maddox
6 Gibson
6 McReynolds
6 Valo
5 Phillips
5 Hebner
5 Torgeson
5 Kuhel
4 Bailey
3 Cardenal
3 Trosky
2 Zeile

I think it's a rout -- Salmon is the most deserving player to have never been named to an All-Star team.

Why did he get dogged? The main reason you'll hear is that Timmy is a notoriously slow starter, a second-half hitter all the way. Interestingly, that's not very true:
.275/.385/.498 -- career first half
.290/.384/.498 -- career second half

I'd suggest seven alternative explanations:
1) The unbearable overratedness of Paul O'Neill (who made the team despite having worse seasons in '95 and '97) and Joe Carter (who soaked up precious outfield spots despite having much worse years in '93 and '96).
2) The ease of finding some warm body to play right field. Only one RF was selected to the team in both '96 and '97.
3) Some bad luck in playing the same position as a stiff from a crappy team -- Ruben Sierra in '94, Robert Fick in '02.
4) Cito Gaston's greed -- he named his own Devon White and (more outrageously) 4136-year-old Paul Molitor to the team in 1993, making it 7 Blue Jays, instead of the best right-fielder in the league.
5) Angel fans are no good at voting in their own.
6) Salmon's combination of skills -- power, plate discipline, good-but usually-not-great-average -- is the classic palette of an underappreciated player. Like Dwight Evans (just 3 All-star games), Darrell Evans (2), and Don Baylor (1), Salmon did most everything well, but few things great, and therefore was forever just missing attention-grabbing seasonal milestones. He hit over .300 only once, but between .283-296 six times. He had between 88-98 RBIs four times, 90-96 Walks five times, and 84-95 Runs six times. He was a classic Moneyball-type player before Moneyball was written.
7) He just always looked kind of awkward. When he was young and still kind of thin, he was a terrific outfielder, but in a positioning-and-fundamentals-and-accurate-throwing kind of way, rather than crawling up walls and laying all out for balls. And more than anything, it's his swing that never looked particularly awe-inspiring. He's one of those sit-to-hit guys, bending both knees at sharp angles yet keeping his back largely erect, and he approached each at-bat with a second-guessing demeanor, always check-swinging, always reminding himself ruefully to keep his front side in and his hands back. Even when hitting home runs -- think of the Game 2 shot in the 2002 World Series -- it's a sort of herky-jerky snap through the zone, after a hitch and a slight lunge. Not pretty, but it worked very well for a decade.
Conspicuous absence from this list: Disco Danny Ford, who won his way into Angel fans' hearts by A) having a hot nickname, B) looking really cool, C) timing his best season (.290 with 21 homers, 100 runs and 101 RBIs) with the team's first-ever Division crown, and D) being Playgirl coverboy. Unfortunately for Dan's chances on this list, 1979 was an offensive spike year in the AL, and in fact his less-ballyhooed 1976 (.267, 18.4 Win Shares) was a better performance than '79s 17.9. I guess you could also argue that Dave Winfield's 1991 (28 HRs, 86 RBIs) is a mild surprise, but only on account that he's a Hall of Famer. Better than both, according to Win Shares (of which he had 18.6), was the tragic 1978 of Lyman Bostock.
The hell's HE doing here?: For the only time during this exercise, no one on the Top 10 list comes to mind. You have one Hall of Famer, one possible future Hall of Famer, another near-Hall of Famer (who would have probably made it had he played in a different era and not been a thorny personality), and Tim Salmon. (Vlad Guerrero will finish up 5th on this list in a week's time.)
Other weirdnesses: Through the franchise's first 14 seasons -- during which time they finished just 129 games under .500, not at all terrible for an expansion team -- the Angels received flat miserable play from the presumably easy-to-fill right field position. In 7 of those years no starter even played half the team's games at the position. The ones who managed that feat were guys like Bill Voss and Lou Clinton and the barely pubescent Ed Kirkpatrick. The first starter in team history to play 81 games in right field for two whole seasons was LeRoy Stanton, who accomplished the feat in 1974. Through that year, the franchise's all-time high in Win Shares in RF was Jimmie Hall's 15.1. To give you some kind of idea, last year there were 46 Major League outfielders who had at least that many Win Shares, including 16 right fielders (and remember that Win Shares are totally comparable across eras). You gotta work hard to suck that bad for so long. Since 1977, naturally, it has been the team's most consistently high-performing position. Tim Salmon has had a lot to do with that.
RFs raised at home, made famous elsewhere: Dante Bichette. Traded before his age-27 year, after his first full season in the bigs (during which he posted a respectable OPS+ of 102), for 40-year-old Dave Parker. Really, that's how the organization used to be run. The Cobra hit an awful .239/.288/.365, with 11 HRs, before getting released. Bichette went on to hit 256 more homers and make four All-Star teams, though obviously his numbers and reputation were inflated by Coors Field.
Old soldiers who came here to die: Merve Rettenmund, George Hendrick, Tony Armas, Mike Marshall, Glenallen Hill.
Win Share seasons and totals: For Timmy, Vladdy, Reggie, Bobby, LeRoy Bobby Stanton, Disco Danny, and Dave Winfield.
XX: 01/02/03/04/05/06/07/08/09/10 (total)
TS: 33/29/24/23/22/22/18/17/14/11 (210)
VG: 29/27 (56)
RJ: 22/18 (40)
BB: 24/16 (40)
LS: 17/13/12/06 (48)
DF: 18/14/04 (36)
DW: 17/13 (30)

Positional miscellania: The Angels' championship era essentially began in 1995, when Salmon had a monster year, the second-best season in team history, according to Win Shares (just behind Jim Fregosi's 1970). Timmy finished 3rd in the league in Batting Average & Extra Base Hits & Times on Base; 4th in OBP & Adjusted OPS+ & Runs Created & Hits & Total Bases, 5th in Runs & SLG & OPS, 6th in Walks & Doubles, 7th in MVP voting, 8th in HRs, and 9th in RBIs. All while playing terrific defense. Along with newcomers Garret Anderson, who arrived that year with a .321/.352/.505 bang; Jim Edmonds, who hit .290/.352/.536 in his first full season; and flamethrowing rookie Troy Percival, Salmon took a team that had gone 68 games under .500 the previous 5 seasons -- never finishing higher than 4th place -- to a one-game playoff for the Division title. None of the four young stars was over 26, and a terrific athlete named Darin Erstad would arrive next summer. It was a very promising set-up, and indeed the franchise from 1995-2004 had far and away its best decade ever, but the 1996-2001 section was largely seen as a soul-crushing disappointment. This was, I will explain in a monster essay I'll finish one of these months, a classic management mistake of trying to "solve" the perceived problem of having too much talent chasing too few positions.

The "four outfielders," as they were known in '96, could well have co-existed with 28-year-old 1st baseman J.T. Snow to form the backbone of a perennial contender. Instead, there was a remarkable procession of terrible trades, 1B/DH fiascoes, wasted free agent money, and clubhouse hate. We still eventually managed to convert the Four Outfielders into a championship, though, and Stoneman/Scioscia/Moreno were clever enough to use them as the basis to transform an organization's culture from top to bottom. No single player has exemplified that ethic better than Tim Salmon, and this season will be the last for him and maybe Erstad as well (though there's now talk the latter will get a minor-league deal, and be a gimpy sub from here on out). I hope they start at least one game this weekend with Anderson, Erstad and Timmy in the outfield, so we can give them the tribute they deserve. Better yet, win the next six games; seven if need be.

09/25/2006 11:37 PM  |  Comment (9)

It Ain't Over 'Till I Sing!

09/24/2006 03:51 PM  |  Comment (9)

Three Palm Springs Tips for You:

1) This is a great time of year to come -- just before High Season (which begins in October), yet just after Death By Heat Exposure Season. That means prices are low, streets are relatively uncrowded (yet still lively) ... but a few things (like the Aerial Tramway, dammit!) are closed.

2) Unless yr splurging on some kind of pamper-fest, stay at the Palm Court Inn, which may well be the last real motel in California. Huge and largely empty pool, dramatic brown-rock mountains rising from the back yard, free Wi-Fi by the pool & in some rooms (like ours!), classic diner on the property, a mostly kids-free/adult-situations environment ... and just flat cheap. Our four nights cost $206 total.

3) If you like modernist architecture, or just the feel of weirdo low-slung angular desert houses, you must absolutely take Robert Imber's Palm Springs Modern Tour. I'd never spent $65 on tour before, let alone thought that a $65 tour would be a ridiculous bargain, but that was the case with Robert. Lasted nearly four hours (after being advertised as three, but then he got so enthusiastic with our group he just kept on going), consisting mostly of him driving around in an air-conditioned SUV, pointing out things you wouldn't otherwise notice, and giving you a wonderfully complete beginner's lecture on 20th century Palm Springs architecture, preservation, economic development, night life, and more. I'd been to Palm Springs at least a dozen times before, but now I will never look at it or experience it the same. To get a taste, here's an Imber essay about the Alexander family, perhaps the single-biggest reason Palm Springs looks like Palm Springs.

This is the kind of tour that could end up with you buying a house, getting into the rent-a-classic vacation game, or at least changing your plans for the rest of the day. For instance, we were intending to maybe catch The Black Dahlia, meet a pal for drinks, go to a restaurant ... but instead we ended up at an invitation-only screening of Valley of the Dolls with a large crowd of cheerful transvestites and pink-shirted muscle-boys, followed by a fun Dolls-inspired opening/reception at this terrific modernist gallery, then a decadent birthday party at an architectural wonder-house filled with body-waxed strippers, foul-mouthed drag queens, and Lance Bass. Good times.

Incidentally, Palm Springs is, like, totally gay. Did everyone else know that? My gaydar continues to reach new lows of nonfunction....

I'll post some better photos (i.e., from Emmanuelle) later, but for now I invite you to take my Buzznet thru-the-tinted windows architectural tour, and offer the following three samples:

The skeletal remains of Donald Wexler's Union 76 station:

Wexler's Dinah Shore Residence:

Albert Frey's Palm Springs City Hall:

09/24/2006 03:44 PM  |  Comment (6)

Hi! What are you doing down here?

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