Tuesday, September 27, 2016
The power of the mustache
I'm expanding on my most recent post from the 1985 Topps blog. That's the advantage of having more than one blog -- the other blogs sometimes give you ideas for the main blog, and that is very key. Until Topps issues a product every day (don't say "ToppsNow," wise guy) or there's a card show every day, it will always be a challenge to come up with material on a daily blog.
So, this post is about the power of the mustache, specifically referring to one player.
I would hope that everyone familiar with 1970s/80s baseball players knows about the power of the mustache. The sudden surge in ability for players like Ron Cey, Mike Schmidt, Davey Lopes, Steve Rogers, etc., once they grew some lip hair is right there in the statistics.
But for me there is one player who documents this phenomenon better than any player.
Dwight Evans enjoyed a long and prosperous career, mostly with the Red Sox, from 1972-91. But the tone of his career shifted about midway through. Prior to 1981, Evans was known as a gifted fielder with a terrific arm and a wonderful sense of anticipation. His fielding ability was so good that it won praise on the biggest stage in baseball, the World Series.
But Evans' offensive ability was only slightly above average. He could hit 20-plus home runs periodically, but he was prone to season slumps, struggling particularly between 1976-78.
From 1972-80, here are Evans' offensive statistics:
AB: 3,394; Hits: 888; Avg: .262; Home Runs: 128; Total Bases: 1,521; Slugging Pct.: .448; Walks: 415, HBP: 21; Sacrifice Flies: 21; On-Base Pct: .344; OPS: .832.
Pretty good, but in a lineup that included Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, Fred Lynn, George Scott, etc., it's a good thing he had that glove. He was overshadowed.
Here are Evans' offensive statistics from 1981-91:
AB: 5,602; Hits: 1,558; Avg.: 278, Home Runs: 257; Total Bases: 2,709; Slugging Pct: .483; Walks: 976, HBP: 32; Sacrifice Flies: 56; On-Base Pct: .385; OPS: .868.
Evans was a far better hitter the second half of his career than the first.
Now you can argue that Evans received greater opportunity in the 1980s then the 1970s. With players like Yaz, Fisk and Lynn gone, the Red Sox relied on Evans' offense even more, particularly his power. Players like Boggs, Buckner, Stapleton and Barrett were not power guys. The Red Sox had Rice, Tony Armas and Evans and that was about it.
But I prefer to focus on the power of the mustache. The mystique of the mustache.
The difference between Evans from 1972-80 and 1981-1991 is not only in the stats, but in his facial appearance. Evans grew a mustache in 1981 (or perhaps during the 1980 offseason). And that 1981 season was unlike any other he had ever experienced.
Even though the strike wiped out a third of the season, Evans' numbers that year were better than some of his previous full-season numbers. He led the league in five categories. He had never led the league in any offensive category prior to the mustache year of 1981.
From 1981 on, Evans posted league-leading totals 13 times. He finished in the top five of MVP voting twice.
I am almost certain that if Evans ever thought about shaving his mustache, his numbers prevented him from doing so.
Don't mess with the power of the 'stache. If he had that thing from the beginning, he'd be in the Hall of Fame by now.