From 1959 to 1972, few players were better than Harmon Killebrew.
During the span of those 13 years, names like Aaron, Mays, Robinson (Frank and Brooks), Clemente and Yastrzemski surrounded him as the best in the game. With elite company like that, there's little need for statistical justification to prove the value of a ball player.
I figured I'd take a gander regardless.
In his first full year as a big league player, 1959, Killebrew surged onto the scene with 42 long balls after previously topping out at five. His slash line of .242/.354/.519 wasn't eye popping, and his defense left a lot to be desired, but his offensive production was enough to put up a 4.7 WAR that year.
He would hit over 40 homers seven more times and drive in over 100 runs nine times while posting a dead even .400 wOBA over this span.
A decade later, Killebrew had perhaps his finest year during the 1969 season. He swatted 49 baseballs that landed over a fence and drove in 106 while slugging .584. While still providing below average defense, his offensive production was so great that he was able to put up an 8.2 WAR. Only a handful of first baseman have provided more value in a season than Killebrew's '69 season.
During this stretch, he posted a WAR below 4.0 only once and was over 5.0 six times. His wOBA was also over .400 six times, and only got as low as .354, which would be roughly equivalent to what Adrian Beltre has done thus far this season at the plate.
He played in 13 All-Star games, though that only spanned 11 years, as in both 1959 and 1961 he played in two All-Star games when baseball was giving that a try.
He was strong, as demonstrated by a mammoth shot he sent over the left field roof at old Tiger Stadium—something only accomplished four times. However, he was a gentle man known as one of the nicest players in the game.
We lost a true legend today. One of the best players to lace up cleats and step into the batters box in the history of the game.
An All-Star, an MVP and a true Hall of Famer on and off the field.
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