Polo Grounds

Polo Grounds

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What could have been: Grady Sizemore

Often times when I am sitting on my couch, watching tv, I get compelled to look something up on www.baseball-reference.com. Regardless of what it is, I tend to get sucked into a rabbit hole of useless facts, records, comparisons, career bests, etc that can be pretty tough to pull out of. Last week while watching the Oscars, I began doing some research, and while I have long forgotten what I was originally researching, I came across this on Barry Bonds' page:

Barry Bonds, in his prime at age 26, was statistically most similar to Grady Sizemore at the same age. Whoa. At first I thought maybe Bonds had a somewhat slow start to his career, but looking at his numbers through age 26 I saw that he had already won an MVP award, 2 gold gloves, 2 silver sluggers, slugged 142 home runs and accrued 837 hits. So Grady Sizemore was at a Barry Bonds level by age 26? That didn't seem right. I did some more research and found this:

Total WAR ages 22-25 for Outfielders 1876-2014

1 *Ty Cobb 40.2
3 *Tris Speaker 32.1
4 *Hank Aaron 31
5 Barry Bonds 29.7
6 *Joe DiMaggio 28.9
7 *Babe Ruth 28.5
9 *Willie Mays 27.2
10 *Stan Musial 26.8
11 Andruw Jones 26.7
12 *Mel Ott 26.3
14 *Joe Medwick 24.9
15 Ken Griffey Junior 24.7
16 Grady Sizemore 24.6

By my count that is eleven Hall of Famers, 12 when you count Griffey after next season; 14 if you count the talent levels of Shoeless Joe Jackson and Barry Bonds; while ignoring their indiscretions, and Andruw Jones will have a darn good case when he becomes eligible, although steroids could cloud him as well. 15 players in front of Grady Sizemore, all of whom had Hall of Fame caliber careers.

I don't think it should surprise anyone who is a big baseball fan that Grady Sizemore, in his brief prime, was good. But I cannot imagine many people realized he was this good. Would Sizemore have put together a Barry Bonds / Willie Mays like career had he stayed healthy? Unlikely. But could he have been good enough to be a Hall of Famer? Certainly hard to say, but this evidence makes it at least plausible. Joe Medwick had a power outage after his age 25 season, but managed to hit .311 and accrue 1370 more hits from 26 on. This represents one of the weaker careers on the above list, but still merited enough to make the Hall of Fame. A completely healthy Grady Sizemore seems very capable of reaching the numbers Medwick reached, at the minimum.

Injuries are a tough thing, and seeing a players career derailed by them can be heartbreaking. Even though Sizemore would have given the Tigers hell the last 5 years or so if healthy, I hate seeing his prime get derailed like it did. I wish him the best of luck in his bid for a return, he looked okay last year with Philly, and I hope he can continue to work hard and carve himself out a role in the show for a few more years.

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