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Career Analysis: Will Clark

April 1, 2009

Last time, we looked at the career of Baseball legend Barry Bonds. Now we’ll take a look at the career of Giants legend Will “The Thrill” Clark, using Sean Smith’s historical WAR (Wins Above Replacement) database. To recap how this works:

-The numbers shown here are represented as RAR (Runs Above Replacement), not WAR. When we break down Clark’s value into three components (hitting, baserunning, defense) it’ll be easier to look at it in terms of runs, not wins. To find WAR, simply divide RAR by 10.

-Hitting is measured by team and park-adjusted batting runs, and I’ve included GIDP runs in the totals.

-Baserunning is measured not just by the player’s ability to steal bases, but by their ability to take the extra base, etc.

-Defense is measured by TotalZone, and these figures include Clark’s ability to turn the double play.

Without further ado, a look at The Thrill’s career:

will_clark_rar3

Drafted with the second overall pick in the 1985 draft, Clark made his Major League debut after a grand total of 217 Minor League at-bats, all of which were in Single A—and he immediately hit .287/.343/.444 and was worth 25 RAR, an impressive feat for a 22-year old with barely any professional experience. Will immediately became an impact player in the Majors, coming in fifth in MVP voting the following two seasons (47 RAR and 65 RAR, respectively), and he enjoyed his best season in 1989 (at the age of 25) when he was 83 RAR and came in second to Kevin Mitchell (who was 65 RAR).

Will’s production dropped off significantly in 1990, back to a more “pedestrian” 30 RAR, and he enjoyed his last years as a 4+ WAR player in both 1991 and 1992. After that, his production remained relatively stable (with a slight, steady decline) for the rest of his career.

And now, a look at where Will’s value came from:

will_clark

Total Value Component Ratings:

22-25
Hitting: 96.85%
Baserunning: 0.00%
Defense: 3.15%
Total Value: 45

26-29
Hitting: 95.65%
Baserunning: 4.35%
Defense: 0.00%
Total Value: 25

30-33
Hitting: 72.72%
Baserunning: 10.83%
Defense: 16.44%
Total Value: 21.5

33-36
Hitting: 100.00%
Baserunning: 0.00%
Defense: 0.00%
Total Value: 15.25

As I mentioned earlier, Will has a steady, stable decline as he ages. Obviously, the largest drop in value is from the first and the last stage of his career. It’s pretty clear where Will’s value was—for the most part, all of it was in his ability to hit. Will had a good glove, and I wonder if TotalZone undervalues him, since first baseman scooping data isn’t readily available.

A player’s legacy cannot be measured by pure statistics alone, and it should be noted that Will’s intensity and love for the game were unrivaled. He was called “The Thrill” for a reason, and there’s no disputing his flair for the dramatic—he was an outstanding performer in high leverage situations and in the Postseason, and his reputation for being clutch is a very legitimate one.

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