This is not an article about whether or not the Angels should or should not re-sign Torii Hunter after this season. This is an article to make you appreciate how great an Angel Torii Hunter has been (so far). When Tony Reagins signed him after the 2007 season, the chatter was all about how he would have one, two or maybe three great years for the Angels and then his $17 million a year contract would really be an albatross in years #4 and #5. If you had predicted on that day that his offensive production would equal that of the Angels career of Jim Edmonds, you would basically have been laughed at by even the most optimistic fans here.
Well, I could not wait until the end of the season to write about how apt that comparison would have been. After play on Friday, Torii Hunter had accumulated 2,950 Plate Appearances as an Angel. Jim Edmonds had 2,951 PA for this club before he was traded prior to the 2000 baseball season. Click this Baseball-Reference ScreenShot I took to see how their careers in Anaheim stacked up Saturday morning...
Other than stolen bases, Edmonds holds a small lead in just about every significant category with his OPS topping out .045 higher than Torri's .811 OPS. But in the park-and-epoch adjusted OPS+, Torii's 121 is 2% better than the 119 mark of Edmonds. What gives? When looking at what Torii has accomplished, consideration of his era of baseball versus that of Edmonds reveals Torii to have actually eked out more from his bat and on the bases than Edmonds managed.
In our Halos Heaven-published compendium Top 50 Angels, we ranked Edmonds the 22nd greatest Angel and Hunter the 35th greatest (after only three seasons under a Halo) in the club's first 50 seasons (1961-2010). At that time, in fact. Hunter's numbers with the club were eerily similar to those of original Angel Leon Wagner, who dominated at the plate and in the field for three seasons. We ranked Wagner 34th. If, as many predicted, Torii had fallen off in seasons four and five of his 5-year, $85 Million contract, he could easily have fallen in the rankings as well. While counting stats would go up, a drastic drop in rate stats would affect his overall status.
Instead, Torii silenced not only the doubters, but the glass-half-full crowd as well. Where would he rank on that list now? Well If Edmonds is #22 and the only other Angel to move up on that list since its publication would be Jered Weaver, that would make Edmonds #23. Defensive stats favor Edmonds, but his selfish clubhouse reputation melts in the presence of Torii's walk-the-walk team leader. Publicly stepping over to Right Field for rookie Peter Bourjos is just one of many notable instances where Torii publicly put the team first, something Edmonds was infamous for never doing in his career.
While it is difficult to compare team accomplishments such as division titles and playoff success, Edmonds did zilch in his one October game that mattered, the AL West tiebreaker in 1995. Meanwhile Torii's homerun off of Jon Lester in game one of the 2009 ALDS set the tone for breaking the curse of the clown laundry that had haunted the club since before even Edmonds' debut.
And even though Torii came at a much higher price (a value metric Angels fans don't care two cents about), he did everything Edmonds did here and more. Edmonds did it in seven injury-marred seasons at age 23-29. Torii did it aged 32 - 36 ... high risk, high reward.
Torii Hunter would easily rank #22 all-time on a list of Angels greats... and in the next nine games he may do something special to move up even a little higher.