Friday, December 30, 2011

The Case for No. 24:  Dwight Evans 
By Patrick Languzzi

Dwight Evans is the only player in history to win eight Gold Gloves in his career, while also leading his league (American) for an entire decade (80s) in home runs (256), and all of Major League Baseball in runs created (1067) and extra base hits (605).

During his 20-year major league career (’72-’91), no player reached base more than Dwight Evans (3890).  In that time period, ONLY Reggie Jackson hit more home runs in the American League.

When Evans retired in 1991 (pre-PED era), he ranked in the Top 10 as an American League right-handed hitter in HR (385, 4th), extra base hits (941, 4th), base on balls (1,391, 4th), times on base (3,890, 4th), runs created (1,612, 4th), total bases (4,230, 6th), runs produced (2,469, 7th) and RBI (1,384, 9th).

From the inception of the American League in 1901, until Evans retired in 1991, Evans ranks among HOF’ers Jimmie Foxx, Al Kaline and Harmon Killebrew, as the four best right–handed hitters in league history.

Among all hitters, Evans finished 20th All-Time in base on balls, 27th in extra base hits, 29th in HR, 29th in times on base, 33rd in runs created, 40th in total bases, 47th in RBI, 55th in runs produced and 78th in base hits.

Selected to the ’80s All-Decade Team, Evans finished as a three-time All Star and two-time Silver Slugger. He won eight Gold Gloves in 10 seasons, (including five straight ’81-’85), and was selected by Major League Baseball (MLB) as having one of the nine greatest outfield arms.

Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski said it best: “Dewey was a great offensive player and one of the greatest right fielders to play the game; there’s no doubt in my mind that he belongs in the Hall of Fame.”
Evans played in the shadow of Hall of Fame teammates Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski and Wade Boggs. Despite being considered the greatest right fielder of his era, Evans still went underrated, and his offensive skills were often overshadowed by his own defensive exploits.

Bill James wrote, “Dwight Evans is also one of the most underrated players in baseball history, because he did many things well, rather than having one central skill that people could use to explain his excellence.”

Dwight Evans led Major League Baseball during the ’80s in runs created (1,067), ahead of HOFers Ricky Henderson, Eddie Murray, Robin Yount and Mike Schmidt.  He was first in extra base hits (605) ahead of Yount, Murray, Schmidt and Brett. He hit more HR (256) than any other AL player, and was the only player to hit 20 or more in nine consecutive seasons (’81-'89).

Since the turn of the century, all players listed below to lead their respective decade in extra base hits (with the exception of Evans) have been inducted in Cooperstown.

 Extra Base Hit Leaders by Decade
                                                1900s – Honus Wagner
                                                1910s – Tris Speaker
                                                1920s – Babe Ruth
                                                1930s – Jimmie Foxx
                                                1940s – Stan Musial
                                                1950s – Stan Musial
                                                1960s – Hank Aaron
                                                1970s – Reggie Jackson
                                                1980s – Dwight Evans

Dwight Evans led all right fielders in MLB during the ’80s in HR, RBI, walks, runs, runs created, extra base hits, times on base, runs produced, OPS and doubles, as well as four top 10 finishes in the MVP voting.

Dwight Evans also led all major league outfielders in runs produced, extra base hits, OPS and runs created a head of HOF'ers Henderson, Winfield and Dawson.

Dwight Evans compares well to Hall of Fame “similars” Mathews, Perez and Williams, as well as Dawson and Rice (from his era).

             Offensive HOF Player Similarities – Player Comparisons

Player Name


David Laurila of FanGraphs writes, “Evans has the same OPS+ as Rickey Henderson [127], higher one than Ernie Banks, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Paul Molitor and Kirby Puckett. Evans’ WAR [62.8] is higher than Andre Dawson, Harmon Killebrew, Willie Stargell, Billy Williams and Dave Winfield”.

And, according to John Tuberty, "when you look past just his [Evans'] traditional stats and focus on his career .370 OBP, 62.8 WAR, and 127 OPS+, the former Red Sox slugger is on par with the BBWAA inductees of the last thirty years".

Evans Compared to the Average Hall of Fame hitter

Avg HOF              Runs  Hits      2B     HR      RBI      BB        SLG     OPS
Hitter                   1275  2313   395   202     1168   858    .459    .834

Dwight Evans     1470   2446  483   385    1384   1391   .470    .840

*Evans averages higher in runs, hits, doubles, HR, RBI, base on balls, slugging and OPS. 

Among the top 10 most games played in right field, Dwight Evans ties for highest fielding percentage at .987, is 2nd All-Time in Gold Gloves with eight, 3rd All-Time in putouts, 6th All-Time in games played and 10th All-Time in assists.

Dwight Evans was the best right fielder of his era. For two decades (1970-1989), no right fielder in Major League Baseball won more Gold Gloves than Dwight Evans.

Evans was clutch in the post-season as well. In 14 World Series games (two series, ‘75, ‘86) Evans hit .300, 15 hits, three HR, 14 RBI, seven walks, seven runs, .397 OBP, .580 SLG, .977 OPS and 29 total bases.

"I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame, and that's just the offense, and then you got the eight Gold Gloves. I think he belongs in there, I truly do." - Former Red Sox Hitting Coach, Walt Hriniak

*Read how and why I became involved in the case for Dwight Evans at: Boston Sports Then and Now

SOURCES: Baseball-reference, Baseballcube, Whatever Happened to The Hall of Fame, by Bill James, Red Sox Magazine, First Edition 2010. 2012 NESN Documentary - Dwight Evans Biography 
**A Special thanks to Tom Catlin of the Boston Red Sox for his contributions to this piece**

*Evans’ case was presented to SABR on January 19, 2012 at their winter meeting, see link for recap.

Please Note: Post originally written for Baseball: Past and Present on February 14, 2012 and has since been modified.

Post last updated on July 3, 2014