The case for Grich
Angels fans don’t need to be reminded that if things had turned out differently at the end of Game 5 of the 1986 American League Championship, Grich’s two-run home run to give the Halos a 3-2 lead in the sixth might have helped end his career with a World Series championship.
But long before that home run, Grich built an impressive resume for the Hall-of-Fame if you look at metrics beyond the traditional counting statistics.
Hall-of-Fame expert Jay Jaffe created the Jaffe WAR Score System (JAWS) to evaluate Cooperstown worthiness using a variety of factors that compare players who have already been elected into the Hall with potential candidates. As defined on Baseball-Reference, a player’s JAWS is his career WAR averaged with his 7-year peak WAR (not necessarily consecutive years).
Using JAWS, Grich should have been a sure-thing Hall-of-Famer as a second baseman. In fact, his JAWS value ranks 7th all-time; other than Chase Utley and Lou Whitaker, he is the only player in the top 15 who hasn’t been enshrined in Cooperstown.
Looking at the average Hall-of-Fame values for second baseman, Grich’s career WAR of 71.0 is higher than the baseline of 69.5 WAR, and his 7-year peak WAR of 46.4 is also better than the 44.4 baseline, which averages the peak WAR totals for 20 Hall-of-Fame second basemen.
It’s Grich’s defensive value that is most difficult to translate into traditional Hall-of-Fame thresholds, which is reflected better in advanced metrics like Wins Above Replacement. However, if you look at leaderboards that are easier to discuss at your local bar, Grich shines there, too. You just need to look.
From 1973-1975, the Michigan native led the league in double plays turned as a second baseman. He has turned the 12th most double plays in second base history. He also has the 17th most putouts, 19th most assists, and his range factor, which measures putouts plus assists divided by innings played, ranks third all-time.
As baseball enthusiasts have learned the value of considering metrics beyond just home runs and RBIs, the argument for Grich becomes louder. He has the 8th highest career WAR total of second baseman in baseball history.
It’s unfortunate the Angels legend lost his chance to be enshrined in Cooperstown. Perhaps, down the road, voting will improve to consider the value of defense, and use advanced metrics that highlight the true value of a player like Grich. For now, Angels and Orioles fans are left remembering his greatness on message boards and articles like this one.