Some Notes on Jimmie Foxx’s Brilliance

I’m not sure why Jimmie Foxx is not recalled more often when people think about great sluggers of the past; he is rightly overshadowed by Ruth, Gehrig, and Williams, but those are the only three players whose careers overlapped with his and were better hitters. His name seems to pop up more often as the inspiration for the Tom Hanks character in A League of Their Own than as one of the strongest and most powerful and most exceptional hitters ever.

Here are a few statistics to consider about Foxx, whose career as a full-time player was just 14 years, 1928 through 1941, with a few partial seasons before 1928, a bit more than half-seasons in ‘42 and ‘45, when he also pitched quite well in nine games, and 22 at-bats in ‘44.

He: led the A.L. in slugging percentage five times, in OPS in the same five years, in on-base percentage three times, in homers four times, and in batting average twice. He hit 484 homers in 12 years, 1929 through 1940, or just over 40 homers per year. In those 12 years, Foxx’s RBI count didn’t go under 105, went over 150 four times, and went over 160 three times. He had 1745 RBIs in 1898 games from 1929 through 1941. Over those 13 years, he had 1312 walks, compared to 1136 strikeouts (Foxx led the A.L. in Ks seven times, ranging from 66 to 119). He scored 1560 runs in the 13 years. Foxx got on base 300+ times in four different seasons, and also had seasons of 286, 283, 291, and 299 times on base.

At the age of 17, in 1925, he went 6-9 with a double and one strikeout in 10 games.

He won the batting Triple Crown, was a three-time MVP, is 10th alltime in OBP, 4th in slugging percentage, 5th in OPS, 20th in total bases, 9th in RBIs, 23rd in walks, 112th in Ks, 16th in extra-base hits, and 38th in times on base. Foxx did this despite being 102nd in games played, 131st in at-bats, and 101st in plate appearances.

Foxx was, for a while, the youngest hitter to reach 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 homers. His 415 homers in the ‘30s led the majors.

Despite all this, from 1947 through 1950 Foxx appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot without getting elected: when he was elected in 1951, it was with only 79.2% of votes.

Foxx played 1 game at shortstop, 10 in right field, 12 in left field, 10 as pitcher, 108 at catcher, 141 at third, and 1919 at first.

It’s hard to escape from what-if games when glancing through old baseball statistics. One of them: Ted Williams came up in 1939, and for a few years he and a slowly fading Foxx were paired in the Red Sox lineup. If Williams had been a few years younger and, like Joe DiMaggio, made the trip from California to the Northeast in 1936, would he and Foxx have combined to help Boston steal the pennant away from the Yankees once or twice in the late ‘30s? Foxx drove in 175 in 149 games in 1938; it’s easy to envision perhaps a 200-RBI season with Williams batting in front of Foxx. As it was, Foxx won the MVP in ‘38 and Boston went 88-61, then went 89-62 in ‘39, and finished 2nd in ‘41 and ‘42.

A second one: what if Connie Mack had more resources and did a slightly better job operating the Philadelphia A’s from 1927 through 1935, Foxx’s last season with the A’s? The team went 596-321 from ‘27 through ‘32, finishing far behind great Yankee teams in ‘27 and ‘32, but nearly won the pennant four years in a row, ‘28 through ‘31. Then it declined in 1933 and went off the cliff the next two years as Mack cut payroll and raised cash by selling off players. In 1936, all the dynasty’s stars were gone. If we envision Mack with revenue sources close to those of the Yankees, would the A’s of ’27 through ’35 be remembered not as a three-year dynasty but as a team that won the pennant more like five or six times and surpassed the Yankees as the best team in this 9-year stretch?

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Published in: Uncategorized on November 6, 2013 at 11:57 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Excellent questions. You’re right, along with Frank Robinson, he might be one of the two most underrated stars in baseball history. When people submit their top ten lists of best position players ever, he’s often omitted from some lists, though it would seem to me that he’s obviously one of the top ten hitters in baseball history.
    Nice post,
    Bill


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