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Jackie Robinson: The Ballplayer Behind The Trailblazer

Source: Wiki Commons

On April 15th, 1947 Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. It is, without a doubt, the single most important moment in baseball history. Imagine MLB without Ken Griffey Jr, Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Tony Gwynn, and a myriad of other extremely talented African American baseball players that have dazzled fans for decades. Baseball fans and non-baseball fans alike know this story, and the courage and grace displayed by Jackie Robinson when confronted with racism on and off the baseball diamond. What people tend to overlook, however, is that not only was his character one of the best the game has ever seen, his talent was one of the best baseball has ever seen.

There is a troubling narrative that has been circulating, and its the consensuses that Jackie Robinson only got into the Hall of Fame due to him being the first African American baseball player to play in the MLB. Some people view Robinson as “overrated”. However, these claims could not be farther from the truth. Robinson is one of the best second basemen to ever play the game.

In his ten seasons, Robinson had a slash line of .311/.409/.474 with an OPS+ of 132. The league average slash during his career was .273/.347/.416. What is most amazing about Robinson’s career is that he was able to put up those numbers while playing the majority of his career in his 30s. Robinson was able to amass an OPS+ of 137 from age 30-37. Also, his fWAR was 48.9 during this time. Since his retirement in 1956, the only position players to have at least an 48.9 fWAR in age 30-37 seasons are Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt and Roberto Clemente. No other second basemen have had a higher WAR than 45.2. For reference, Robinson Cano’s fWAR in his age 30-37 seasons was 27.3.

Since his debut in 1947, among second baseman with at least 5500 PA, Robinson ranks 2nd in average, 1st in OBP%, 4th in Slugging%, and tied for first in wRC+. Robinson’s fWAR is higher than Vladimir Guerrero, David Wright, Evan Longoria, David Ortiz, Fred McGriff, Joey Votto, Todd Helton, and Lou Brock, just to name a few notable cases.

No matter what numbers Jackie Robinson put up during his career, it will always pale in comparison to his contributions to the game long term. In 2020, baseball players were not able to wear 42 on April 15th. Now, more than ever we must remember Jackie Robinson as both a trailblazer and one of the best baseball has ever had in the infield.

All stats were gathered from FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.

Drake McGrew

My name is Drake McGrew, I am 22 years old, I have a Bachelors degree from Arkansas State Universty in History with a minor in Poli Sci . I have been a fan of the Cardinals since I was eight years old and my love for the game has continued to grow ever since. I have traveled to 14 MLB stadiums and have attended two postseason games. Baseball aside, my hobbies include hiking, traveling, playing video games, and listening to copious amounts of Bob Dylan. I can best be summed up by my life motto, Peace, Love, and Baseball.