Throughout the long history of professional baseball, only 39 players have accomplished the rare career feat of hitting 400 home runs while collecting 1,200 RBIs and crossing home plate 1,200 times. Of the 39 names on that list, there are only 10 Hall of Fame eligible players who walked more times in their careers than they struck out. Nine of those 10 players made it to Cooperstown. Darrell Evans is the 10th.
Now any Atlanta Braves fan will tell you that, without a doubt, if ever there was guy from their beloved team that was snubbed in the Hall of Fame voting, it was two-time N.L. MVP Dale Murphy—not a blue-collar guy like Evans. But just look at the numbers, and compare the two Braves’ greats yourself.
Evans has better totals across the board—more hits (2,223), runs (1,344), home runs (414), RBI (1,354), and walks (1,605), and he also has far fewer strikeouts than Murphy in far more at-bats. Murphy has a better career average, though both numbers are largely unimpressive (.265 to .248), but their OPS is very close (0.815 for Murphy, 0.792 for Evans).
Where Evans separates himself from Murphy statistically is in patience and contact numbers. Based on a typical 600 at-bat season, Evans would reach base 23 more times than Murphy (256 to 233) on average. Moreover, Evans would also put the ball in play 38 more times per season. Remember, this is based on the same number of at-bats.
While Murphy had a remarkable six-year string in which he built up his statistics, Evans’ career was far less of an attention-grabber, as he spread the bulk of his stats out evenly over a stretch of about 15 or 16 seasons. A player cannot and should not survive any fair and realistic Hall of Fame analysis with only a handful of above average seasons—just ask the late Roger Maris.
As I referenced earlier, only 10 eligible players through the years have compiled 400 homers, 1,200 runs, and 1,200 RBIs while walking more times than they struck out. The list is very impressive to say the least. It includes Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Aaron, and (drum roll) Darrell Evans. Is that crazy or what? The fact that Evans’ name appears on this list of superstars is no coincidence. He belongs there.
So how about defense? Well, Evans shines there as well. At third base, he led the league in putouts four times and assists three times. After shifting positions to first base, Evans led the league in fielding percentage twice. And if you’re a believer in Range Factor, then you’ll find that Evans led the league in that category a total of six times.
With a fairly low career batting average and offensive statistics rarely found at the top of the league in a given year, Evans very quietly accumulated impressive stats over his 21 seasons in the Majors. But when the numbers are crunched together and compared to others at his position, they become far more impressive. Darrell Evans appeared on just one Hall of Fame ballot, receiving 1.7 percent of the 1995 vote. Maybe it’s time to take another look.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)