Steve Kemp – 1978 Topps
April 22, 2012
Oh, What Could Have Been…
This post by Night Owl inspired me to ponder if Steve Kemp was truly a better player than Tony Armas.
“You fool!” the rabble cries. “Armas hit a gazillion home runs! Kemp was an over-priced bum!”
Well, it ain’t as easy as that, jack.
Kemp’s career was derailed by bone chips and a terrifying injury where he was hit in the eye in batting practice by a ball struck by Omar Moreno. (It may have been the hardest hit ball Moreno ever struck, ironically – yes that’s a joke.)
Those bone chips took a lot out of his 1983 season, and his 1984 was derailed by the lingering effects of the eye injury. Before then, he was pretty nifty on offense. From 1978-82 he piled up 16.4 oWAR. Advanced metrics have him a sub-par outfielder, though. He was a pretty diverse player – decent average, decent power, decent patience.
Tony Armas hit a lot of home runs. That was it. He also was a plus defender at times, but those skills waned. He had lousy peripherals and if he didn’t hit a home run later in his career, he wasn’t helping the team. His total oWAR was 11.1.
Kemp, even with a truncated career, had a higher career WAR than Armas. Without the eye injury he probably would have been better remembered as an pretty good player.
So I can say that Kemp was a better player than Armas. And that’s the name of that tune…