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Dick Allen's Defense

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  • Dick Allen's Defense

    I was glancing over Baseball Prospectus's page for Dick Allen today and noticed something interesting. His WARP3 in his rookie season is by FAR the best of his career by 2.3 wins. This is primarily because he played at third, making his offense more valuable than his years in left and first, but something popped out to me. They peg him his rookie year at being worth 10 runs on defense above average. The rest of his career, mostly at easier positions, they have him at an average of 7 runs below average per season.

    The first question is for the more statistically inclined and, with FRAA's known problems, how close is it in this case?

    And if it is close (and even if not), what's up with that? How did Allen go from playing good defense his rookie season at a difficult position to playing tragic defense at easier positions for the rest of his career? Did he just decide defense bored him after trying hard as a rookie? Is there some injury I don't know about?
    Hey, this is my public apology for suddenly disappearing and missing out on any projects I may have neglected.

  • #2
    Allen never played a game at thirdbase in the minors, but was asked by Gene Mauch to learn the position during spring training in 1964. Allen reportedly worked hard to make himself an adequate fielder, and his fielding percentage improved each year, until 1967.

    Early in July 1965 he was struck on the left shoulder with a bat during an altercation with teammate Frank Thomas. Although Allen didn't miss any games due to the injury it bothered him for the rest of the season. Through the end of June Allen was batting .335 with a .558 slugging percentage. He batted .277/.446 from July to October. In the field Allen had made only 9 errors before the injury and was around a .960 fielding percentage. Then from July 6 through July 15 Allen made 6 errors in seven games. In all he made 26 errors that season, 17 of them in the last 84 games.

    In 1966 Allen dislocated his shoulder on April 29 while stealing second base. He missed about 20 games, and when he returned Gene Mauch put him in LF. Allen returned to thirdbase on July 8. He made just 9 errors in 91 games there, had decent range, and it could be argued that at this point in his career he was a good thirdbaseman.

    Then came 1967. Although Allen was still hitting a ton his fielding skills were deserting him. It is likely that Allen developed a drinking problem which was affecting his play. It was a rough year all around for Allen. The Philadelphia fans were booing him incessantly and he demanded to be traded. Late in August he was pushing a stalled car in his driveway when he slipped and put his right hand through the headlight. His season was over. Worse, the gash severed some nerves and Allen would have difficulty throwing accurately the rest of his career. With his middle two fingers numb he could not throw the ball straight.

    After the hand injury Allen could not make accurate throws. In 1968 he was moved to LF. In 1969 he became a firstbaseman. He struggled with his fielding, but my impression is that he wasn't as awful as some make him out to be. Injuries limited him, and he had some bad stretches with alcohol.


    • #3
      That's really interesting. I sometimes forget how much there is behind the numbers, and that a player's story goes far beyond stats on a page.
      "It's good to be young and a Giant." - Larry Doyle


      • #4
        I remember when he was with the Cardinals in 1970, Richie Allen moved back to 3rd base for 38-games, mainly because of Mike Shannon's illness (Joe Torre moved back to catcher for 90-games that season, until Ted Simmons developed). By season's end, Torre was playing 3rd, Simmons was catching and Allen was at first (Joe Hague moved to the outfield).

        The Dodgers also used Richie (Rich, Richard, Dick) at 3rd for 67-games the following season the "mod squad" was solid at first with Wes Parker, and Steve Garvey, a rookie, was having problems defensively at third - Allen played the outfield 60-games that season.


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