Yogi Berra's "Bad" 1957 Yankees Season Became a Good One in the 21st Century

Harold FriendChief Writer IMarch 22, 2012

Yogi Berra had a "bad" season in 1957. Fifty-five years later, we realize that Berra had a very good season. How could that happen? In the 21st century, we have sabermetricians that help us evaluate the importance of specific statistics.

On Aug. 28, 1957, Berra was quoted by writer Milt Richman as saying that he was having a "lousy year." He was batting .248 with 19 home runs.

That night, Berra had four hits in five at-bats at Comiskey Park, including a key three-run eighth inning home run that broke a 6-6 tie. The Yankees beat the Chicago White Sox to extend their first place lead to four-and-one-half games.

Berra entered the 1957 season with a .294 batting average. a .356 on base percentage and a .498 slugging percentage. The emphasis was on batting average.

The "experts" ridiculed on base percentage, claiming it merely inflated batting average by equating walks with hits. When the season ended, Berra had batted .251/.329/.438 with 24 home runs.

No one knew that Berra had an Rrep (Runs from Replacement Level) of 15 and a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 3.2.  Berra had an OPS (On Base plus Slugging) of .767.

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The following presents the Rrep and WAR of the other American League catchers:

TEAM        CATCHER    Rrep    WAR

White Sox    Sherm Lollar    11    1.6

Red Sox    Sammy White    11       -1.8

Tigers        Frank House    11    0.6

Orioles        Gus Triandos    13    2.8

Indians        Jim my Hegan    5    0.2

Athletics    Harold Smith    11    1.2

Senators    Lou Berberet    9    1.5

It wasn’t even close. Berra was the top American League catcher, in most cases by a wide margin, compared to his rivals.

A major reason that Berra had an “off season” in 1957 was because his numbers dropped off from his other seasons. Some thought that Berra was starting to decline at the age of 32. To some extent, it was true, but Berra was far from finished.

From 1958-61, Berra batted .274/.336/.462, averaging 26 home runs and 93 RBIs over a 162-game season.

One final note is necessary.

Berra was a free swinger. If he could see the pitch, he could hit the pitch and that is no exaggeration. He rarely walked, but unlike most of today’s sluggers, Berra rarely struck out. He stuck out about 32 times over a 162-game season. Mark Reynolds or Adam Dunn can do that in 10 days.