FanPost

Wee Willie Keeler: The Biggest Snub?


Special thanks to commenter Grandforks for making me aware of this.

Disclaimer: This is not a knock on the list or the writers. It's great and they did a great job.

That said...

I think that Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler should have made the top 100 Yankees over Nick Swisher - my personal favorite player from when I first started following the Yankees in the halcyon days of 2007.

Full disclaimer, when I first started this article I expected to be shocked, shocked I tell you, outraged, perhaps even [googles synonyms for outraged] exasperated.

Annnnnnnnd then I looked up both of their Yankee careers and it turned out they ended up being...actually pretty similar in terms of total value?

Here's the link for those interested: Player Batting Comparison: Willie Keeler vs. Nick Swisher | Stathead.com

Okay so here's the skinny of it. Keeler played seven seasons for the Highlanders, the most he played for any team. Swisher played four.

Despite this their WAR is...actually identical. No, seriously, it's identical. 11.9 WAR produced each. And for you Math whizzes in the audience, Swisher put up that WAR in four seasons to Keeler's seven, so Swisher was actually producing more for the Yankees on a rate basis.

Comparing head to head stats from the deadball era is a fool's errand. For one thing, how good defensively was Keeler? Who's to say? He was famously short, hence the nickname, but he was also famously fast. Was he great, terrible, or somewhere in between? Would his WAR have dropped or raised with accurate defensive stats? Currently his dWAR has him at -7 to Swisher's -3 (roughly), but when you're going back to the deadball era you're basically just guessing when it comes to defense.

Okay, so hitting then. How good were they compared to their competition? Again, there's no point comparing them to each other. Well, OPS+ - which compares the OPS to the league average, normalized at 100 for any given season - Swisher has the edge, with 124 to 111. To be clear, 111 OPS+ is perfectly fine - good, even. But this is a case where bigger number go boom, and 124 OPS+ is just better.

Weirdly, despite Keeler being famous for his "hit em' where they ain't" hitting philosophy Swish actually has the higher BABIP. Doesn't mean much. I just find it interesting.

Okay, so during their time on the Yankees/Highlanders (which, let us be fair, came AFTER Keeler's prime) Swisher was the superior hitter and though the defensive stats are VERY inaccurate he rates as the better fielder. Fine. So why do I think Keeler should win out?

I think there are two very good reasons:

1) Keeler was the Captain of the Highlanders for two seasons; Swisher was definitively not.

2) Keeler was a HOFer (and I believed a deserved one, by the way). Now, he's not a HOFer just because of his time on the Yankees, BUT he is a HOFer who spent more time on the Yankees than any other team. I think that should count for SOMETHING.

It's not like Swisher was so crushingly or overwhelmingly superior that to rank Keeler over him would be some unconscionable sin. Why, you would need to dominate to the level of, say, Joe DiMaggio over Derek Jeter for that to be the case...

At the very least give the guy a mention in the snubs post! Sheesh.

That's all I got for now.

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