#38: Dusty Baker

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dusty baker.jpgRighthanded Hitting, Righthanded Throwing Outfielder
Seasons With Braves: 1968-1975
Stats With Braves: .278/.351/.440, 77 HR, 324 RBI, 311 RS

Dusty was drafted in the 26th round in 1967 out of a California high school. By September of 1968 he was briefly in the majors, but it took until 1972 for him to stick for good. I’m not sure why the Braves preferred to play Mike Lum and Sonny Jackson to the kid who was hitting .300 in the minors, but whatever. In 1972 he was the regular centerfielder and hit .321/.383/.504, making him the second-best hitter on the team.

It might have been better if he hadn’t played so well right off the bat, because he wasn’t really a .320 hitter (at least not yet) and when he started hitting a more typical .260-.280 the team identified him as a disappointment. Maybe he was, but we’re talking a good outfielder (in center most of the time, until he moved to right his last year in Atlanta) with 20 homers a year. He wasn’t a league leader in anything, but he was a little above-average in a whole lot of things, and that adds up.

Anyway, after the 1975 season he was traded to the Dodgers in a package for Jimmy Wynn, Tom Paciorek, Lee Lacy, and Jerry Royster. It was a terrible deal, and not only because of Paciorek’s broadcasting career or Royster’s incredible number of outs. Baker got off to a slow start in LA but eventually became an MVP candidate.

Baker’s career is sort of like that of some guys who are rated below him — Lonnie Smith, Gary Matthews (actually Baker’s most similar player by Similarity Scores), and Jeff Burroughs. He had one big year which he wasn’t able to match in a career of four full seasons. He just rates a little bit better — his career, because of the three part-seasons, was a bit longer, he was a better defensive player. So he rates here. Maybe it’s a little high.

Dusty Baker Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com

4 thoughts on “#38: Dusty Baker”

  1. I remember being angry that we traded Baker away. The center piece for us was Lee Lacy who was coming off of a .314 BA in 109 games. We traded him back that same year. So it was essentially Jim Wynn for Dusty. One guy with his best years behind him for another with, the perspective of hindsight about 3 or 4 outstanding years and a solid career ahead of him. Wynn’s numbers that season were odd. .207 .377 .367 with 128 walks. The anti Francouer! Wynn was a heck of a player in his prime. I garnered even more respect for him after reading where Bill James ranked him in the historical abstract. In the modern context Wynn’s numbers for the
    Braves aren’t that bad because of the high OBP but I remember all of the press back then saying that he was a huge dud for us becuase of that .207 BA. In retrospect Atlanta Fulton County Stadium was a perfect place for a guy with Wynn’s skills to have finished his career.

  2. Dusty Baker made the greatest play that I have ever seen at a baseball game. In 1975 the Braves were playing the Pirates in Atlanta and Baker robbed someone (possibly Richie Zisk) of a homer by leaping over the fence, and when he came down he landed with his stomach on the fence. He then teeter–tottered for about 3 seconds before falling back onto the field and recording the out.

    Somehow Baker seemed to start things with great promise and then decline, leaving a wake of unfulfilled expectations. I would extend this to his mangerial career as well.

  3. The mention of Sonny Jackson brings back such memories. I considered him one of the worst players I ever saw in the major leagues. At shortstop, he made Rafael Ramirez look like a Gold Glover and he couldn’t hit either. Whenever people complain about the team these days, we should all think back to the days of Sonny Jackson, Marty Perez, et. al. Those were truly, truly bad teams–so bad in a way that they were fun.

  4. Nice point Marc–Your posting reminds me of Pat Rockett, Gil Garriddo and Pepe Frias–now those were shortstops.

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