Recently, ESPN has been doing their “SportsNation” polling of the five best players for each franchise, which is going to be slanted if one listens to the ESPN batch of readers. Baseball Tonight lets us know each night, as well, as to whom they choose for each team. However, I for one do not watch Baseball Tonight each night, but only sometimes. Which is why I wish I had a DVR/Tivo so each night I could record BBTN, and watch it the next morning, rather than watching Sportscenter, which as far as I am concerned just isn’t what it once was. But anyway, for the Anaheim Angels, “SportsNation” came up with Nolan Ryan first, followed by Garret Anderson, and then Tim Salmon. But was Garret Anderson really a better player than Tim Salmon?
Counting stats go to Garret Anderson on this one, so I understand why fans voted him over Salmon. After all, Anderson has 2,329 hits, while Salmon only had 1,674. Anderson wins the RBI battle by 250 Ribbies…and counting, although not counting too much longer as Anderson is 36, and pretty replaceable at this point. Home Runs is actually won by Salmon by 29, but Anderson may surpass that.
But counting numbers aside, Tim Salmon, in my opinion was the better player, at least when he was on the field. Salmon had roughly 7,000 plate appearences, to Anderson’s 8,300. But Salmon’s rate stats blow away Anderson’s. His career line: .282/.385/.498. Anderson’s was: .296/.327/.469. So basically, their averages were close enough that it doesn’t make much of a difference. But Salmon reached base well more than Anderson, by about 60 percentage points. And he hit for more power, by 29 percentage points. But the key there is the fact that Salmon made far fewer outs than Garret Anderson, and Salmon was actually very good at getting on base, while Anderson has been “on base” near the league average.
Salmon: OPS+ 128. Anderson: OPS+ 105. Again, Garret Anderson trails by a lot, 23% to be exact. And then there is “Runs Created,” in which Salmon actually wins by roughly 50 runs (created). That is a counting stat, and a much better one than RBI’s, or Runs scored, or at least Bill James thinks so. To explain how much better Salmon has been when he actually played: Salmon’s RC/G (Runs Created per game) 7.2; Anderson’s 5.3. Anderson has just been on the field more, and yes I understand that is part of the game. And for good measure; Salmon had 7 seasons in which he played more than 135 games, with an OPS+ that was 125 or greater. Anderson had two of those seasons.
Now I am not going to act like I watched Tim Salmon play a bunch, because although I know I have seen him, definitely in the 2002 World Series, I cannot place any of his actual AB’s. But while they were on the field Salmon was clearly a better hitter, and most likely a better player. I actually wish I had their cumulative “Win Shares” so I could compare what they have done in Salmon’s case, and what they are doing, in Anderson’s case. But even if Anderson came out ahead of Salmon because he contributed more often, not at a higher rate, but more often based on playing more often, Salmon is the underrated of the pair, while Anderson is overrated. Yes, I said it, Garret Anderson is overrated, and always has been. But I don’t dislike him, he just makes more outs than a “star” player should make.