History often has a way of repeating itself. One of the things we notice is that certain teams seem to have a knack for developing or finding players at certain positions; For the St. Louis Cardinals that spot has been third base. They currently have Matt Carpenter playing there, but they have also had David Freese and Terry Pendleton. However, no third basemen have been more beloved in St. Louis than Ken Boyer and Scott Rolen.
Boyer played a majority of his career in St. Louis unlike Rolen. Rolen came up with the Phillies and spent considerable time in Toronto and Cincinnati as well. Both were members of championship teams. Both got some Hall of Fame support with Boyer getting as much as 25.5 percent and Rolen has gotten 17.2 percent. So, they were similar in their standing in St. Louis and considered similarly by the BBWAA. So, how similar are they really?
At first, it would seem that the only way that these two are similar are in the location they played and the number of games they played. However, we have to remember that these two played in different eras. The 1960s were a depressed offensive time period, so it makes sense that Boyer’s numbers were not as good. Rolen’s numbers were sneaky good. Unfortunately, most fans think of dingers and don’t think of anything else, but having more than 500 doubles is pretty substantial.
Of course, both players were known as good defenders as well. This is where we go beyond the counting numbers. Was that reputation based on solid information or was it based on hearsay? The first thing we look at is the percentage numbers. This includes OPS+ which helps us distill out the effects of era.
Naturally, this doesn’t address the defense, but it does give us a clearer picture of each player offensively. When you combine two players that are well above average offensively and had stellar defensive reputations it is hard to understand why they didn’t get as much support as they did. In fact, these numbers seem to indicate that Rolen was the superior player. He was superior offensively anyway.
Of course, awards voting tends to have an impact on how we perceive a player. Over the years we have discovered that Gold Glove awards are not as meaningful as we thought. However, when we consider that in concert with all-star appearances and MVP voting also gives us a good look at how each player was viewed during their career.
|AS||GG||MVP||Top 5||Top 10|
So, even though the numbers for Rolen seem to be better, Boyer seemed to do better in the awards voting. Of course, this can cut both ways. Boyer played in a time when there were eight and ten teams in the league. Rolen played with 15 teams. So, all-star game appearances, Gold Glove awards, and MVP voting takes on a different look based on that fact. Usually players with ten or more all-star game appearances get into the Hall of Fame.
Yet, even in that universe, Rolen won more Gold Glove awards. So, if we took a sneak peak at bWAR we’d notice that Rolen had four seasons where he finished in the top ten in WAR, but he had only the one top five finish in the voting. Obviously, having one top five finish and three top ten finishes would have looked more impressive. Sometimes the voters miss the mark. Boyer had seven seasons in the top ten in bWAR. So, we could claim that both players were equally overlooked. Sorry Cardinals fans.