FanPost

Jim Fregosi, NOT Maury Wills, was the Shortstop of the '60s

Jim circa 1967 - TOPPS

So there I was, minding my own business on Sunday morning, when the MLB Channel I had on as background noise informed me that Maury Wills was "the shortstop of the '60s." So I says to myself "Self, didn't we sponsor Jim Fregosi's Baseball Reference page with the claim that he was 'the best Major League shortstop from 1961-79'?" Since we have searchable Wins Above Replacement (WAR) on Baseball Reference now, I thought I'd quickly re-visit the topic. But first, let's compare the '60s production of Fregosi and Wills:

Name

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB/CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS+

Fregosi:

1164

4866

4296

565

1160

171

64

88

431

69/31

450

682

.270

.340

.401

117

M.Wills:

1507

6662

6091

874

1744

136

62

17

369

535/183

439

561

.286

.335

.337

92

Despite playing 343 fewer games, Fregosi hit more doubles, triples, and (five times as many) more home runs, drove in more runs, drew more walks, had a higher OBP and (much) higher slugging percengage. Wills played more games, hit more singles, stole waaaaay more bases, and scored more runs. And remember, they played in the same stadium for half the decade, so there's not a whole bunch of park distortions in effect.

If you take Fregosi's 8 full years in the '60s and compare them to Wills' 10 full years, you get seasonal averages like this:

Name

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB/CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS+

JF:

156

663

585

78

158

24

9

12

58

10/4

62

93

.269

.340

.402

118

MW:

151

666

609

87

174

14

6

2

37

54/18

44

56

.286

.335

.337

9

I know which guy I'd want in my lineup, but what about defense? WAR has Wills (who started the decade at 27 years old) at -1.8 for the time period; Fregosi (who started at 18 and debuted at 19) at positive 1.6.

  • Wills made 5 All-Star teams, won 2 Gold Gloves, and showed up in MVP voting 6 times (finishing 1st, 3rd, 11th, 17th, 17th, and 21st).
  • Fregosi made 5 All-Star teams, won 1 Gold Glove, and showed up in MVP voting 7 times (finishing 7th, 13th, 15th, 20th, 21st, 23rd, and 28th).

When I looked at season-by-season Win Shares in the post linked above, the results tilted decisively in Fregosi's favor. So let's similarly rank their '60s seasons best to worst, according to WAR, and see how they total out.

... 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0 8.0 9.0 10.0    (total)
MW: 6.1 4.7 3.8 3.3 3.3 3.0 2.3 2.3 1.8 1.1     (31.7)
JF: 8.1 5.2 5.2 5.0 4.5 4.1 3.2 0.5 0.0         (35.8)

For comparison purposes, the most WAR by anyone in 2010 was Evan Longoria's 7.7; the top by a shortstop was Troy Tulowitzki's 5.6, and Alex Gonzales was second at the position with 3.7 (the top AL shortstop, if you can believe it, was Cliff Pennington with 3.3). Generally anything above 4.0 is a damned good All-Star caliber season, above 5.0 is great, and above 6.0 gets you into the MVP conversation. WAR re-confirms to me that Fregosi was the shortstop of the '60s.

Here's a list of all Major League shortstops who put up at least 10 WAR during the 1960s. In order, that's Fregosi, Wills, Luis Aparicio, Dick McAuliffe, Ron Hansen, Dick Groat, Denis Menke, Rico Petrocelli, Leo Cardenas, Gene Alley, Bert Campaneris, Eddie Bressoud, Zoilo Versalles, and Tony Kubek:

JF: 35.8
MW: 31.7
LA: 30.3
DM: 28.3
RH: 23.4
DG: 21.2
DM: 20.7
RP: 20.3
LC: 18.0
GA: 16.3
BC: 14.3
EB: 14.1
ZV: 13.3
TK: 10.0

And just for fun, here's a list of top shorststop WAR by decade, with everyone matching Fregosi's '60s total listed, as well as some other players of interest:

  • 2000s: Derek Jeter (46.2), Miguel Tejada (37.5) ... David Eckstein 12th (20.0), Orlando Cabrera 14th (17.2) ... 23 total
  • 1990s: Barry Larkin (51.7), Cal Ripken (41.3) ... 19 total
  • 1980s: Alan Trammell (50.1), Cal Ripken (47.8), Ozzie Smith (44.7) ... Dickie Thon 6th (17.4), Dick Schofield 11th (10.2) ... 11 total
  • 1970s: Bert Campaneris (31.1) ... 13 total
  • 1960s: Fregosi (35.8) ... 14 total
  • 1950s: Ernie Banks (43.2) ... 13 total
  • 1940s: Lou Boudreau (53.0), Luke Appling (36.5), Pee Wee Reese (34.6) ... 12 total
  • 1930s: Arky Vaughn (52.3), Joe Cronin (48.8) ... 13 total
  • 1920s: Joe Sewell (39.5) ... 8 total
  • 1910s: Art Fletcher (39.2) ... 12 total
  • 1900s: Honus Wagner (91.6), Bobby Wallace (42.6), George Davis (42.0) ... 8 total


From 1961, Fregosi's rookie season, until his retirement in '78, here are the top seasons recorded by a shortsop:

1) 9.3 Rico Petrocelli 1969
2) 8.1 Jim Fregosi 1964
3) 7.0 Jim Fregosi 1970

Maury Wills' 1962 (6.1) checks in at 10th, and his second-best year ranks 25th. Fregosi has slots #18, 19, 21, 31, and 45. Nobody else had 2 of the top 10 seasons, no one else had 4 of the top 20, 5 of the top 30, 6 of the top 40, or 7 of the top 50.

Finally, what does WAR say about my original, slightly more expansive claim that Fregosi was the best Major League shortstop between 1961 and 1979? If you rank just by total WAR, he still beats Bert Campaneris -- who played 230 more games -- by a nose.

Look, it's our 50th anniversary season now. A half-century is just about long enough to accept playing second fiddle to second-rate (though still high quality) Dodgers. Consider this the first in a sporadic offseason series in which historical Angel snubs are treated with the fact-checking they deserve.

This Fan-Post is authored by an independent fan. Tell us what you think and how you feel.

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