Part of the fun of researching for the all-time LA Dodger lineup was discovering some new things, as well as reliving old memories. I wasn't around in 1962, but Dodger Stadium's first season was one of the most memorable in Dodger history.
In reponse to the increase of offense in both leagues -- partially due to four expansion teams added in 1961-1962 -- MLB decided to level the playing field. From Steve Treder's wonderful look back at the 1960s at The Hardball Times from a few years back:
Effective for 1963, the strike zone was enlarged, to now entail the area from the top of the shoulder to the bottom of the knee. The logic of the rule change was that allowing pitchers a larger target area for strikes would result in quicker resolution of at-bats, as well as helping to ensure that further assaults on the home run record would be less likely.
Offensive numbers plummeted in 1963 and for the rest of the decade, leaving 1962 as the last hurrah for offense in the 1960s.
|NL Leaguewide Offense|
The 1962 Dodgers, despite moving into what would become one of the most pitching friendly environments in baseball history -- 1960s Dodger Stadium -- had their finest offensive year in Los Angeles. To date, no Los Angeles Dodger team has scored more runs than the 842 scored by the 1962 club. Leadoff man Maury Wills helped bring the stolen base back into national prominence, stealing a record 104 bases on his way to the MVP award.
However, Wills made our all-time team. I'm more intrigued by a teammate who didn't, Tommy Davis. Davis still holds LA club records for hits (230) and RBI (153) from his wonderful 1962 season. Mike Piazza is the only LA Dodger to beat Tommy Davis's .346 batting average. What stands out to me are those 153 RBI. That's just a monster total. In Los Angeles, the next highest single-season RBI total is held by Shawn Green, who had 125 RBI in 2001. Those 153 RBI by Tommy Davis in 1962 represent a tie for the 35th most in MLB history.
I was watching an episode of Prime 9 on the MLB Network this week and the subject was "unbreakable records." One of the records was Hack Wilson's 191 RBI in 1930. The 1930 National League however, was one of the most offensive-happy eras in history, as the entire league hit .303 and scored 5.68 runs per game. I wondered how Hack Wilson's season compared with Tommy Davis, after accounting for the league and park effects. Thanks to the wonderful "Neutralize Stats" feature on each player page of the amazing Baseball-Reference.com, I was able to compare the two seasons from different eras. After converting each player's stats to a 162-game season in a neutral park in a league averaging 4.42 runs/game, here's what I found:
|Player||Year||Actual RBI||Neutralized RBI|
Take that, Hack! Tommy Davis's 160 neutralized RBI seemed like a really high total, so I decided to neutralize the top 100 RBI seasons in history, just to see how Tommy Davis stacks up against everyone. Some of the neutralizing effects were amazing. For instance, Andres Galarraga's 150 RBI in Coors Field in 1996 were the equivalent of only 115 RBI in a neutralized environment.
Here are the top 10 neutralized RBI seasons in MLB history:
|Rank||Player||Team||Lg||Year||Actual RBI||Neutralized RBI|
Wow, Lou Gehrig was awesome. We already knew that of course, but some times it's nice to see that point driven home like this. If you notice this list, the top four are all American League players, leaving Tommy Davis with the best RBI season in National League history.
Sure, Mr. Davis may not have made our all-time lineup, but his 1962 season stands alone.