Wally Pipp is best known for the circumstances surrounding his removal from the New York Yankees’ lineup. Being the player who directly precedes a legend is tough. Oh sure, the tavern reminiscing about when “that guy played for us” is glamorous, but mostly unfulfilling. Playing accomplishments grow lonely from neglect and, in the worst of cases, become irrelevant- head nod and fist bumps for you, Robert Eenhoorn.
Pipp’s a little different than Eenhoorn though. As this graph illustrates, the man could ball:
Pipp is roughly the 386th best player according to our WAR career leaderboards with an eyelash fewer than 39 career wins. To put that in perspective, he’s equal with or higher than players like Bobby Thomson and Juan Gonzalez; higher than Derek Lee, Rick Monday, and Edgar Renteria; within a few runs of players like Rico Carty, Kirk Gibson, and Bill Mazeroski. As the graph implied, Mr. Pipp could play some ball.
Some more about Pipp in order to answer the question: Just how good was Pipp anyways?
– He accumulated 10.8 WAR over the three seasons prior to losing his job. That registers as the seventh highest total among qualified first basemen. Considering the league had sixteen teams back then, that placement is not as good as it seems relatively.
– Pipp managed a .310/.365/.440 line over those three seasons– good for a wRC+ of 115. For comparison’s sake, Lyle Overbay had a 113 wRC+ over the last three seasons.
– If it’s not obvious by now, a lot of Pipp’s value is drawn from his fielding. Between 1922 and 1924, Pipp totaled 26 fielding runs. The next highest first baseman total was Lu Blue – a favorite of uninspired poets – at 18 runs. Therefore, there is a direct relationship between belief in fielding metrics and amount of regard towards Pipp’s value.
– Pipp’s final season with New York was shortened by injury. Although the exact reason for his removal from the starting lineup is a bit of a debate, he later suffered a fractured skull after being hit by a batting practice pitch. All and all, his season ended with 200 plate appearances and a .291 wOBA.
– Alas, there’s a reason Pipp is not the Yankees’ first base icon from the ‘20s. He managed 35 wins in 11 seasons. That Lou Gehrig guy’s three best seasons add up to 35.5 wins.
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