There’s a type of miserable infamy that comes with being a participant on the shedding finish of a lopsided commerce. Gamers like Glenn Davis, Ernie Broglio, and Larry Andersen are extra well-known for the gamers they had been traded for than something they did in their very own careers. It’s an unfair little bit of notoriety, too; there’s not a lot cosmic justice concerned when Harvey Kuenn, who performed in 10 All-Star video games, is remembered extra for a call to commerce Rocky Colavito he didn’t make relatively than being a .314/.360/.426, 23.5 WAR hitter in seven full seasons with the Detroit Tigers. Jim Fregosi is one other star who’s a member of this unlucky membership.
Within the case of Fregosi, his run as an elite shortstop may truly be a distant third within the ol’ reminiscence banks. For those who requested a random baseball fan in 2021 what they find out about him, not less than one who isn’t an Angels fan, you’d seemingly get certainly one of two responses: his standing because the participant traded for Nolan Ryan or his 15-year post-playing profession as a supervisor for 4 groups, most famously these infamous misfits, the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies. However when Mike Trout blew by the Angels document for essentially the most profession WAR for a place participant, the earlier holder wasn’t Tim Salmon or Brian Downing or Darin Erstad or Bobby Grich. It was Jim Fregosi.
High Angels Place Gamers by WAR
Fregosi’s success with the Angels wasn’t only a native phenomena. Going into 1971, Fregosi was coming off an age-28 season during which he hit .278/.353/.459 for 129 wRC+ and 6.8 WAR. That final quantity was adequate for fifth in baseball, behind 4 Corridor of Famers: Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, and Willie McCovey. If the 129 wRC+ isn’t sufficient to exhibit that Fregosi’s WAR isn’t only a case of recent defensive estimates loving an previous participant in hindsight, he had already made six All-Star groups, voted on and chosen by followers and managers lengthy earlier than wins above alternative was an precise factor. Receiving MVP votes in eight consecutive seasons is an accolade that even Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken Jr. did not muster! Right here’s how he staked up versus different gamers on the place by their age-28 season:
High Shortstops By Age-28 Season
By age 28, Fregosi stood among the many nice shortstops in MLB historical past, rating fifth all-time in WAR amongst gamers who performed not less than 50% of their video games on the place. On the time, was much more spectacular; three of the 4 gamers forward of him within the ranks got here after Fregosi’s enjoying profession was over, leaving him wanting up solely at Arky Vaughan after 1970.
From 1963 to 1970, Fregosi performed in 1,253 video games, the fourth-most in baseball. Of the highest eight gamers, he’s the one one who didn’t find yourself within the Corridor of Fame. Fregosi by no means performed in 110 video games in a season after 1970. The primary perpetrator was a case of Morton’s neuroma in his proper foot, a mass of nerve tissue within the ball of the foot generally known as a benign tumor. (In a kind of odd ways in which historical past likes to repeat itself, this was the very same harm that Mike Trout required surgical procedure for in 2019.) Fregosi performed by this harm on-and-off for 2 months, and by the point he went underneath the knife in July, his line stood at .192/.274/.295 in 60 video games, suggesting the Angels didn’t handle the state of affairs significantly effectively.
Returning a month later, Fregosi performed at his regular ranges, although his traditional reasonable energy was lacking; his .286/.369/.364 line post-injury was greater than respectable. Inspired by his restoration, the Mets acquired him in December of 1971 for 4 gamers. I don’t think about I have to introduce Nolan Ryan, however on the time of the commerce, he was nonetheless a really uncooked expertise, extra wild pyromancer than The Ryan Specific. Leroy Stanton was the crew’s beginning proper fielder for 4 seasons, and Don Rose was a part of the chain of trades that introduced the Angels Ed Figueroa, Bobby Bonds, and finally Brian Downing. The final participant, Frank Estrada, didn’t make a splash in his one recreation within the majors, however he went on to play within the Mexican League up till 1994, when he was nonetheless hanging on as a player-manager; he made each the Mexican and Caribbean Corridor of Fames.
Fregosi performed each first and left subject for the Angels in his ultimate season in California, and the Mets supposed to play him at third base as Bud Harrelson, the crew’s incumbent shortstop, was coming off a Gold Glove season. Fregosi’s offense was hampered by each a thumb harm and falling out of form attributable to, by his own admission “main the great life.” Stardom by no means returned, and Fregosi was traded to the Rangers earlier than ending his second season with the Mets. He spent the subsequent a number of seasons as a job participant in steep decline earlier than retiring in 1978 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
So, let’s dial the ZiPS time machine to 1970. Gone is the foot harm — positive, that’s unattainable, however we’re already utilizing a time machine right here, so it’s a bit late to object — and on this timeline, the high-achieving Fregosi finds it simpler to maintain his physique in verify when not enduring important skilled setbacks.
ZiPS Time Warp – Jim Fregosi
After 1970, ZiPS tasks 4 extra four-win seasons from Fregosi, and three or 4 extra after that as a stable starter. If we give him 4 extra All-Star seasons for that run, Fregosi will get to double digits. Of the eligible gamers who made a decade’s value of All-Star contests, solely two with no PED black mark, Bill Freehan and Steve Garvey, aren’t within the Corridor. A rest-of-career projection will get him to 70 WAR and slightly below 3000 hits, a comparable profession to Jeter’s. If this model of Fregosi didn’t get into the Corridor of Fame, I anticipate that he’d be one of many present causes célèbre of the analytics neighborhood, together with gamers like Lou Whitaker.
I’m not even positive that the precise Jim Fregosi shouldn’t be within the Corridor. He edges out Luis Aparicio and Maury Wills within the Sixties shortstop WAR ranks regardless of enjoying in 300-400 fewer video games than both, so you possibly can argue that he was one of the best shortstop of the last decade. That’s often a stable argument for having a Corridor of Fame peak. He’s twenty first in my colleague Jay Jaffe’s JAWS leaders, so it’s not like he’s a galaxy away in the event you fold total careers into the combo. Whereas I’m undecided I’d truly vote for Fregosi to make the Corridor, it’s not preposterous. Jim Fregosi was an necessary participant in MLB historical past, and he needs to be remembered for that, not for an unlucky commerce that pops up on varied Worst Ever lists.