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Don Baylor - Top 100 Angels #30

Get Into The Groove!

Darryl Norenberg-US PRESSWIRE


The first Angels player to ever win the American League Most Valuable Player award guided the team to their first division championship. He signed as headline-grabbing free agent with Gene Autry in November of 1976 for a $600,000 signing bonus to be an Angel for six years for the salary of $1.6 Million dollars. Not per year, that was for the whole six years. What did Mister Autry get in return?

He got 813 hits, 141 home runs (eighth most ever by an Angel) and 523 RBI (tenth most by an Angel). In terms of modern stats he got 10.9 Offensive Wins Above Replacement.

Only one problem though. He got -11.1 (that's negative eleven point one) Defensive Wins Above Replacement in six seasons in Anaheim.

Don Baylor might have been the worst outfielder to ever play the game for long stretches of time. The announcers would always cover for his lack of range and noodle arm by discussing all of his high school football injuries but the numbers do not lie - he cost the team dearly in the field.

Advanced stats have devlaued Runs Batted In as a statistic because no talent to drive in a run has ever been produced that was not in play when there were not runners to drive in. There is no demonstrable way to prove a player is a clutch hitter and the RBI is a relic of a time when that was an assumption. It is a stat that reflects lots of teammates on base to drive in and little else. But in Don Baylor's day it was the foundation of one's baseball faith that between two hitters with equal numbers, the one with lots of RBI was the better player. And he was the man driving those runners in. His 120 runs scored and 139 RBI in 1979 led all of baseball. Those 120 runs still rank 4th all time in Angels single seasons and that RBI count is still the #1 mark.

The 1979 season, considered by many to be on of the greatest ever by an Angels hitter, saw Baylor accrue 5.2 WAR - the fifteenth best offensive season in club history as measured by WAR. Consider that it is almost half of the 10.9 Offensive WAR he earned as an Angel and his place in club history becomes more explicable when placed a little further down the list than one might initially expect of a former league MVP. When calculated by OPS+, his 1979 145 OPS+ ranks seventeenth best, so there maybe something here.

After leaving the Angels in free agency after the 1982 season, Baylor played for a few more seasons and was an instrumental contributor to the `986 Red Sox defeat of the Halos in the ALCS. And yet he remains a fan favorite and was a tremendous clubhouse leader who united the guys with whom he played. He would have been more valuable as a Designated Hitter and might be higher on this list if he had ended up anywhere else in the American besides the visitors dugout on October 12, 1986 but regardless, you cannot tell the story of the Angels without mentioning GROOVE, Don Baylor.