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April 15, 2012 at 9:25 pm ET
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A Sabermetrican’s View of Jackie Robinson

April 15th is a great day for baseball.  On this day, the entire baseball world honors the legendary #42, Jackie Robinson.  Earlier today, Landon Evanson wrote about how special/important Robinson is to the game of baseball.  Evanson also pointed out that without Robinson and Branch Rickey much of what we love about America’s pastime would never have been realized.  Jackie did so much for the game as a person, but the sabermetrician in me wants to quickly delve into how great a player Robinson was, statistically.

Robinson won many accolades during his MLB career, including: NL Rookie of the Year in 1947, NL MVP in 1949, and was a six-time all-star.  His statistics were also great, Jackie had a career slash of .311/.409/.474 with 137 HR’s and 197 SB’s.  In terms of Baseball Prospectus’ Wins Above Replacement Player stat (WARP), Robinson ranks as the eleventh-best second baseman of all-time, with 41.9 wins. In my opinion, Robinson is actually a top-5 MLB second baseman.  Robinson wasn’t allowed to begin his Major League career until he was 28 years of age, which make his statistics that much more incredible. The age of 28 is normally the middle of a player’s prime (for some players 28 is the end of their prime); thus, Robinson missed out on some seasons in which he could’ve been dominant.  For instance, Robinson’s age-26 season in the Negro Leagues (1945) was ridiculous.  He led the league in batting average (.414) and slugging percentage (.569), while finishing second in on-base percentage (.460) behind only fellow hall-of-famer, Cool Papa Bell.

Robinson was a great ballplayer statistically, despite the fact that he was only allowed to play in 10 MLB seasons.  His statistics could’ve been that much more legendary if Major League baseball had accepted African-American players three or four seasons earlier.  I’m confident that if Robinson had been given that chance he’d (statistically) be a top-5 all-time second basemen and should be considered as such.  Here’s to you number 42!

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