A Biography in 1,000 Players No. 34 Nap Lajoie (Number 4 Second Base)

He was the dominate position player in the American League until Cobb and Collins started reaching their primes in 1909. He came back for one big season in 1910 and was still third in WAR. The thing was he was getting older 35 in 1910 and Cobb and Collins just got better than him. Not only was he no longer the best position player in the league but was also now the second best second baseman in the league.

I was looking again at the 1910 batting race between Lajoie and Cobb. Baseball Reference lists Lajoie first in their season totals, but in Cobb’s record his batting average is in black ink meaning he won the batting title. So, it is Lajoie’s. Does that mean they aren’t taking a stand? Hard to tell. As I said before I think something was going on so Lajoie would win the title. I thought Lajoie made an out in the double hitter that ended the season. However, the box scores show he went 8 for 8 in the doubleheader that ended the season. He had a lot of 3 hit games the last two weeks of the season. Was he hot or was he helped along? You would have a hard time convincing me that Lajoie should win the title.

Years ago, I joined SABR the Society of Baseball Research. I did it mainly for the books. One day in the mail I got a free book on Nap Lajoie. The author did a lot of research and wanted us to know what a great player Lajoie was. However, I think he went overboard with preaching on Lajoie greatness. He also compared Lajoie’s stats to Hans Wagner saying he was basically the same as Warner and was as good at second base as Wagner was at short. The book actually put me off regarding Lajoie. After that John Thorn and Pete Palmer wrote an excellent book “The Hidden Game of Baseball”. They developed their own formula, but the defensive part of the formula was pretty raw. It said Lajoie was the second greatest fielder of all time, thus the 6th greatest player of all time. However, as we learned more about defense it was found this estimate was too high. Now he is recognized as a good (above average) second baseman for his time.

The Sporting News rated him the 29th player of all time in 1999. My knocking him down 5 spots in 21 years isn’t too bad.

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Author: Douglas Byzewski

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