The Case for Dave Parker

Below is a post I wrote a couple of years ago (January 2005 to be exact) for the old “Buried Treasure” site that was part of MVN before we became Pittsburgh Lumber Co. I took a look at Dave Parker’s Hall of Fame candidacy. With the Cobra once again falling well short of induction today (and the original post no longer available), I thought I’d pull this one off my computer and put it back out there.

One thing that I think about now that I didn’t think about then is how a player’s career looks seven or ten years in. For example, seven years into Dave Parker’s career – say 1980 – he looked like he was on the path for the Hall of Fame. He had an MVP, two batting titles and multiple Gold Gloves. Seven years into the career of Robin Yount (after 1981 but before 1982) or Paul Molitor (the mid-1980s), would you have thought of them as having a career path that suggested Hall of Fame numbers? Through age 30, Molitor’s most similar player (according to Baseball-Reference.com) is Rafael Furcal. 

Molitor and Parker both had drug issues. Molitor overcame his issues early in his career, ostensibly before his peak. Parker’s issues started just as he was in his prime. Molitor and Yount both wound up with about 2000 more plate appearances than Parker did. The Cobra made an appearance at a baseball card show in November of 2008 in Cincinnati and still looks great. I wonder if he will write an autobiography. I’m sure he has some tales to tell.  

 

Congrats to Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg on their election to the Hall of Fame. Both are worthy candidates and I know of at least one Cubs fan who has something to smile about after an otherwise miserable season.

 

There seem to be three main debates about existing Hall candidates who aren’t in:

 

1. Should Bert Blyleven be in?

2. Should Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage get in?

3. Should Jim Rice get in? (maybe some people would argue about Andre Dawson and Steve Garvey, as well).

 

I’d like to tackle the Rice question and compare him to Eddie Murray and Dave Parker.

 

Bill James, in his most recent Historical Abstract, claimed Rice is the most overrated player in the past 30 years and has Frank Howard, Albert Belle and Roy White ranked ahead of him in the left field category. Bill Simmons recently wrote on ESPN’s Page 2 that if the Dodgers had offered Don Sutton even up for Jim Rice the Red Sox essentially would’ve laughed. Yet, Sutton is in Cooperstown and Rice is waiting. Simmons is correct, but despite the fact that they both ended their careers in the late ’80s, Sutton is nearly 8 years older than Rice. So, that isn’t a very fair point.

 

Career numbers – total

 

Rice:  1249 runs;  2452 hits; 373 doubles; 382 HRs; 1451 RBIs; 670 BB; 1423 Ks; and .298/.352/.502 BA/OBP/SLG

 

Murray: 1627 runs; 3255 hits; 560 doubles; 504 HRs; 1917 RBIs; 1333 BB; 1516 Ks; and .287/.359/.476 BA/OBP/SLG

 

Parker: 1272 runs; 2712 hits; 526 doubles; 339 HRs; 1493 RBIs; 683 BB; 1537 Ks; and .290/.339/.471 BA/OBP/SLG

 

Murray is unquestionably a Hall of Famer. He is somewhat of the cheapest of the 500 HR hitters (excluding those who may or may not have been on the juice) in the sense that he never hit 35 HRs in a single year. He might’ve in 1981, but who knows. However, let’s look at each player’s average over 162 games.

 

Career numbers per 162 games 

 

Rice: 97 runs; 190 hits; 29 doubles; 30 HRs; 113 RBIs; 52 BB; 110 Ks;  .298/.352/.502 BA/OBP/SLG

 

Murray: 87 runs; 174 hits; 30 doubles; 27 HRs; 103 RBIs; 71 BB; 81 Ks; .287/.359/.476 BA/OBP/SLG

 

Parker:  84 runs; 178 hits; 35 doubles; 22 HRs; 98 RBIs; 45 BB; 101 Ks; .290/.339/.471 BA/OBP/SLG

 

Things look a bit different here. Rice didn’t walk as much as Murray, but he hit for a higher average and their OBPs are about equal. Rice holds a 25 point lead in slugging. Parker’s lack of walks and low HR total early in his career hamper him. This isn’t exactly fair either since Rice’s career was substantially shorter than Murray’s and slightly shorter than Parker’s. So, let’s look at each player’s career numbers after they played in a roughly equivalent number of games.

 

Rice played in 2089 games in his career. I totaled Murray’s numbers (2135 games) through the 1990 season and I totaled Parker’s numbers (2177 games) through the 1989 season. Let’s compare those numbers. Rice’s are unchanged.

 

Career totals through approximately 2100 games played

 

Rice:  1249 runs;  2452 hits; 373 doubles; 382 HRs; 1451 RBIs; 670 BB; 1423 Ks; and .298/.352/.502 BA/OBP/SLG

 

Murray: 1210 runs; 2352 hits; 402 doubles; 379 HRs; 1373 RBIs; 1026 BB; 1076 Ks; and .294/.372/.494 BA/OBP/SLG

 

Parker: 1154 runs; 2416 hits; 470 doubles; 307 HRs; 1342 RBIs; 609 BB; 1337 Ks; and .293/.343/.479 BA/OBP/SLG

 

This makes things between Rice and Murray a bit more even. Murray has narrowed the gap  in SLG and has a bigger lead on OBP, yet Rice, despite just three more HRs has 80 more career RBIs. Rice played in Fenway. Let’s look at the career splits for each of these guys (thank you Retrosheet!) Splits stop after 1992 for Murray so they aren’t complete

 

Home/Road Splits

 

Rice home – 208 HRs; .320/.340/.495 BA/OPB/SLG

Rice away – 174 HRs; .277/.330/.459 BA/OPB/SLG

Murray home – 194 HRs; .291/.372/.473 BA/OPB/SLG

Murray away – 220 HRs; .289/.362/.495 BA/OPB/SLG

Parker home – 170 HRs; .303/.350/.497 BA/OPB/SLG

Parker away – 169 HRs; .278/.329/.446 BA/OPB/SLG

 

Rice’s away numbers look like Parker’s. They aren’t bad but Rice’s performance away from Fenway pales when compared to what he did in his own backyard.

 

Rice and Parker each won an MVP. Murray and Rice finished in the top 5 in voting six times. Parker reached the top 5 in five seasons. Mark McGwire reached that level just three times. Murray and Rice made eight All-Star teams and Parker made seven. Murray and Parker each one three Gold Gloves. Rice was shut out in that department, but even Bill James says he was a better outfield than he was given credit for.

 

Final Analysis

 

Murray is in, as everybody knows, and deserves to be there. Rice isn’t in and seems to be stuck squarely on the fence. I think he’ll get in eventually.  Parker isn’t in and I don’t think he ever will be.

 

I’ve often thought about what would’ve happened to the Cobra if he hadn’t gotten messed up on drugs in the early ’80s. Would’ve had had a Hall of Fame career? I took a look at this in a crude fashion to satisfy my own curiosity.

 

I assume Parker’s career tailspin started in 1980 and lasted four years (the lost period). Though he had decent year in 1980 it wasn’t as good as what fans in Pittsburgh were used to. 1981 brought the strike and he was hurt in 1982. 1983 was  miserable year for him.  Then he went to Cincinnati in 1984 and righted the ship.  I took the four years previous to 1980 (1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979 – the before period) and the four years after 1983 (1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987 – the after period) and averaged Parker’s numbers for those years. I then took the worse case scenario and ratioed the number of games played to come up with what kind of numbers he might’ve had in the four “lost” years if he his career had stayed on track. As an example, he averaged more homers in the “after” period than he did in the “before” period, so when assuming new HR totals for the “lost” period, I used the numbers from the “before” period because they were lower. So, in this scenario, the strike still happens and the injuries still sideline him. The difference isn’t enough to get him over the hump. I figure he would’ve had no more than another 50 hits, still leaving him short of 2800, and about another two dozen homers, still shy of 400.

 

I figure the strike probably cost him in the neighborhood of 50 hits. But then again it cost a lot of good hitters who aren’t in the Hall 50 hits – Al Oliver, Bill Buckner, Steve Garvey, Andre Dawson.

 

I loved watching Dave Parker play. He was a five tool player all the way. No matter how I look at it, his numbers aren’t as impressive as they should be to get in the Hall of Fame. I’d love to see him get in and if somebody wants to persuade that he belongs, I’m certainly open to it.

 

 

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One Response to “The Case for Dave Parker”

  1. tmac Says:

    growing up a met fan ,getting free tickets when your a kid at old shea stadium.the days of $8.00 box seats.the visiting team would always sign autographs after watching batting practice and fielding warm ups the guy i remember most was dave parker.he was on the warning track in right center field threw a strike to home plate,no bounce we did get stargell and dave parkers autograph that day…lee mazzilli was way to important for us.the second most incredible fielder we got a autograph from the same year was from a san diego padre shortstop named ozzie smith.if i had a vote dAVE PARKER SHOULD BE IN THE HALL OF FAME.


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