COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#9)
By Paul Semendinger
Let's cut right to the chase, there were three great Yankees that wore uniform #9 for a significant period. These players were:
Hank Bauer (1952-59): A Yankee for 14 seasons, a three-time All-Star, and a player on seven World Championship teams.
Roger Maris (1960-66): A Yankee for 7 seasons, a two-time MVP, an All-Star in three seasons as a Yankee, the single-season home run champ for decades, and a member of two World Championship teams.
Graig Nettles (1973-1983): A Yankee for 11 seasons, a five-time All-Star, and a Yankees captain.
Today uniform #9 is retired for Roger Maris. But was he a better player as a Yankee than Graig Nettles or Hank Bauer?
Let's take a look:
Batting Average: Bauer (.277), Maris (.265), Nettles (.253)
On Base Percentage: Bauer (.346), Maris (.345), Nettles (..329)
Slugging Percentage: Maris (.476), Bauer (.439), Nettles (.433)
OPS+: Maris (139), Bauer (115), Nettles (114)
By these standards, Maris and Bauer are fighting for the top spot.
But, what if we look at counting stats?
Hits: Nettles (1,396), Bauer (1,326), Maris (797)
Doubles: Bauer (211), Nettles (202), Maris (110)
Home Runs: Nettles (250), Maris (203), Bauer (158)
RBI: Nettles (834), Bauer (654), Maris (547)
This spurs on the old arguments between counting stats, newer stats, accumulating numbers, and peak seasons. What is more valuable? What matters the most?
There is no question that each player left a significant mark on Yankees history.
Let's look at WAR, but in three different ways, Offensive WAR (oWAR), Defensive WAR (dWAR), and overall WAR (WAR):
oWAR: Nettles (35.5), Maris (25.2), Bauer (24.0)
dWAR: Nettles (13.9), Bauer (-1.0), Maris (-1.9)
WAR: Nettles (44.4), Bauer (29.3), Maris (26.3)
Again, all have good numbers overall, but Nettles was the only player with a positive dWAR and his overall WAR is significantly higher than the others.
CONCLUSION: This becomes a debate over what an individual values the most. There is no clear-cut answer. (Which hamburger do you most prefer, McDonald's, Burger King, or Wendy's?)
Hank Bauer was a Yankee for a ton more World Series. When compared to Maris and Nettles, Bauer holds up well for percentage stats and accumulating stats. He often ranks first or second, hardly ever third. For consistency, it would be difficult to argue against Bauer.
Roger Maris was the single season home run king for over 60 years. He won two MVPs. He had the highest OPS+. It's tough to argue against Maris.
Graig Nettles dominates most of the counting stats, and the WAR stats. Of the three, he was the most underrated during his playing days. It's tough to argue against Nettles.
In this debate, I'm going to side with WAR. Nettles' advantage there is just too great. But in the end, reasonable people may disagree.
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com and the SABR BioProject.
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