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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett would have turned a very young 45 today, and since I didn't have a chance to acknowledge him here last week, I thought it would be appropriate to pay a tiny tribute to him on this page.

Honestly, I didn't follow Puckett that closely during his career. His two postseason appearances were before I was actively watching and following anyone aside from the Reds in baseball. Sure, I knew who the guy was, but in '91 I was 13 years old and was just trying to survive Junior High. So now, all I can really do is reflect back on his statistics and listen to what those who knew him are now saying about him. Though his career was shortened by degeneration of the eye, he still managed to put up excellent numbers:

12 7244 1071 2304 414 57 207 1085 450 965 134 76 63% 0.318 0.360 0.477 0.837 6.34

A career OBP over 0.360 is impressive, even more so because it is more based on his high batting average than his walk totals (hits *are* more valuable than walks if someone is on base). If he had been able to draw more walks and yet still maintain his high average, his numbers could have been insane. The 0.837 OPS is very respectable; while perhaps not a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame, I can certainly see why so many individuals were so excited to add him to the Hall's rosters. lists the following players as being the most similar to Puckett over their careers:
  1. Don Mattingly (895)
  2. Cecil Cooper (892)
  3. Carl Furillo (874)
  4. Garret Anderson (874)
  5. Kiki Cuyler (872) *
  6. Cesar Cedeno (870)
  7. Minnie Minoso (868)
  8. Tony Oliva (867)
  9. Joe Medwick (862) *
  10. Felipe Alou (861)
Quite a nice set of players; it includes two hall of famers, but all were outstanding players for their respective clubs. And, in fact, Puckett may have been better than most of these guys; only Medwick had more hits, despite all of these guys playing for more seasons than Puckett (except for Anderson, who is now just entering his 13th season).

The most stirring thing I've seen with regard to Puckett's legacy was Ken Griffey Jr's interview about Puckett just after his passing. While I'm aware there were some occasional problems in his private life, in general it sounds like Puckett was an outstanding person both on and off the field. It's such a shame that he passed at such a young age. His presence in the game will be missed.