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What About Smilin' Stan?
by Tony Aubry, BaseballEvolution.com
6/22/06

Tons and tons of baseball fans dispute over whether or not Ron Santo belongs in the HOF. However, arenít we forgetting someone? Yes, we are; itís Stan Hack.

Stan Hack? Yes, Stan Hack. He always seems to get overlooked for some reason. He was only the best third basemen of the thirties and forties. He was also one of the best table setters during that time, if not he was THE best. So, why does no one seem to care about Stan?Did he play for bad teams? Not really. He and his team went to the World Series 4 times. They lost all 4 times, but made it nonetheless. Was he a bad fielding third baseman? No, he had a FA+ of 11. So why is it then? Iíll tell you why. He didnít have those gaudy homerun and RBI totals that writers love to overrate.

††††††††††† Stan wasnít a power hitter by any means. He never hit more than 8 homeruns and never drove in more than 78. However, that wasnít Hackís job. Hack was a leadoff hitter. As leadoff man, your job is to get on base and score runs, which was Stanís specialty. Hack scored 100+ runs 7 times and had an OBP of .400 or more 7 times. However, does this mean Hack was better than Santo? Well letís take a quick look at them.

 

AB

Runs

Hits

HR

RBI

BB

BA

OBP

SA

Hack

7278

 

1239

 

 

2193

 

57

642

1092

.301

.394

.397

Santo

8143

1138

2254

342

1331

1108

.277

.366

.464

If you were to take their numbers at face value, Santo would probably get the nod over Hack. However, these two players played 30 years apart. So to take their numbers at face value would be silly. We must look at their numbers in context to the era they played in.

 

 

BA+

OBP+

SA+

OPS+

Hack

110

116

103

119

Santo

103

108

116

124










Santo clearly has an advantage in SA+. However, is 13 relative SA points more valuable than 8 relative OBP points and 7 relative batting points? Not when their OPS+ are similar. Anyway, however you look at it, Hack was a better all around hitter. He hit for better average and got on base more. Santo drew more walks, but only 8 more in almost 1,000 more at bats.

We now know that Hack was the better hitter, but who was a better run producer?

Santo created 1,379 runs in his career, and Hack created 1,241. However, Hack created 6.35 runs a game while Santo created 5.92. If you prefer career totals, than Santo is your guy. If look at it game by game then Hack is the one for you. Iím going to give the edge to Santo; simply because Santo didnít just hang around to create the extra runs. He was a productive player up until his second to last season of his career.

††††††††††† Now, letís look at the other side of the ball, defense. Santo was an excellent defensive player, but Hack was no slouch. Santo won 5 consecutive gold gloves from 1964-1968. Hack never won any because there were no gold gloves awarded when he played. However, Bill James credits Hack with 3 gold gloves in 34, 37, and 38. I usually donít trust defensive metrics, but theyíre more trustworthy than gold gloves.

Fielding Metrics

Fielding Win Shares

FWS per season

FA+

Fielding Runs

RG/Arm

Santo

68

4.9

5

169

110/116

Hack

66

5.5

11

-3

98/90

 

For you Bill James fans out there, Santo had two more Defensive Win Shares, but Hack averaged more per season. Fielding Runs is where Santo really pulls ahead. Santo had 169 fielding runs. This means that over Santoís career, he saved 169 more runs from scoring than the average third baseman. Hack actually let three more runs score than the average third baseman. Santoís Range and Arm is much better than Hackís.For my money, Santo was the better fielder, but not by much.

Hack was the better hitter, but not by too much. Santo was the better fielder, but again not by too much. So who was the better all around player? Neither, itís a tie. If youíd like to choose Santo, thereís no argument. The same goes for Hack. I personally would take Hack; only because a really good leadoff man is harder to find than a really good number three or four hitter.

Tonyís Top 10 Third Baseman

1. Mike Schmidt
2. Eddie Mathews
3. George Brett
4. Wade Boggs
5. Home Run Baker
6. Ron Santo
6. Stan Hack
8. Darrell Evans
9. Brooks Robinson
10. Ken Boyer




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Tony Aubry lives in Queens, New York, and can be reached at tony@baseballevolution.com.


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