In honor of Valentine's Day, I decided to write an article about Ellis Valentine
. Jeff Pearlman had a very interesting interview with Ellis Valentine
last summer that is well worth a read. My article focuses on Ellis Valentine, the major-league baseball player, as evaluated by Player won-lost records, because, of course, that's what I do.
The first table below presents Ellis Valentine's
career as measured by Player won-lost records.
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
| ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ |
|CAREER (reg. season)|| || |
| || || || ------ || ------ || ------ || || || || ------ || ------ || || || |
|PostSeason (career)|| || |
|0.0||0.0|| ||0.0||0.0||0.0|| ||0.0|
| || || || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || || ------ |
|COMBINED|| || |
Ellis Valentine's Peak
From 1977 through 1980, Ellis Valentine was a very good rightfielder for an up-and-coming Montreal Expos
team that was on the cusp of entering probably the most successful period in its history. Unfortunately, Valentine never managed more than 350 plate appearances in a season after 1979 (his age-24 season) and played his final game at the age of 31.
The next table shows the 10 players most similar
to Ellis Valentine from age 22 through age 25 (1977 - 1980 in Valentine's case), as measured by Player won-lost records who debuted since 1937.
The most similar player to Ellis Valentine at these ages was a contemporary of his who has been elected to the Hall of Merit
, Dwight Evans
. Both players were excellent defensive right fielders: they each won one Gold Glove during the time period being compared (Evans would go on to win 7 more). Valentine had a bit more power - he out-homered Evans from age 22-25, 84 to 54 - and hit for a higher batting average, .291 to .268; but Evans was more willing to take a walk, so that Evans beat Valentine in OBP over these ages, .340 to .329.
Unfortunately for Valentine, the comparison ends there. Evans is in the Hall of Merit because he took a clear step forward as a hitter at age 28 and because he played for 20 years, until he was 39 years old.
The above table does include one Hall-of-Famer, although George Kell is a somewhat questionable Hall-of-Fame selection. Most of the rest of Valentine's comps perhaps give a better sense of how good a career Valentine might have had if he had maintained his early level for longer: good to very good and mostly memorable players who nevertheless ended their careers a clear level or two below even casual Hall-of-Fame consideration.
Ellis Valentine's Fielding
Ellis Valentine was a brilliant defensive right fielder, blessed with one of the best throwing arms of his (or any other) generation.
The next table shows the top 10 players in net fielding wins in right field for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records.
As I noted above, Ellis Valentine had a very short career for a player as good as he was (only 6,453.0 career innings in RF, about 5 full seasons worth). This is evident here as Valentine had far fewer fielding decisions than anybody above him in the above table. And, in fact, Valentine has a higher winning percentage than all of the players above him in the previous table.
The next table ranks right fielders by career winning percentage for players with at least 10 fielding wins in right field.
As I said above, Valentine's strongest fielding tool was his throwing arm. Player won-lost records are calculated across nine Components
. Throwing arm comes into play most strongly in the last two of these: Component 8
- Baserunner Outs - and Component 9
- Baserunner Advancements.
The next table shows the top 10 players in net Component 8
fielding wins among all players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records. This table includes all positions. Fielding records are normalized at .500 for each component for each position, so that, for example, right fielders are compared relative to the average right fielder, while left fielders are compared to the average left fielder. Because of this, the table below may be somewhat biased against right fielders, in general, since right fielders tend to have stronger throwing arms, on average, than left or center fielders.
As with overall fielding record, Valentine's relatively short career hurts him here. In terms of winning percentage, Valentine's is higher than everybody else in the above table who had at least 10 eWins.
Ellis Valentine's Place in Expos History
The Montreal Expos
came into being in 1969
. Like most first-year expansion teams, they were pretty bad (52-110, same as the expansion San Diego Padres
the same season). The Expos started to put together the nucleus for their first sustained run of excellence in the mid-to-late 1970s with the debuts of Hall-of-Famers Gary Carter
(who became a regular in 1975) and Andre Dawson
(1977 NL Rookie of the Year). The Expos first great pitcher (and arguably the greatest pitcher in their history), Steve Rogers
, debuted around this same time (1973).
Ellis Valentine was also part of this generation of Expos players who produced the team's first success. Valentine was the starting right fielder for the first Montreal Expos team
to post a winning record (95-65) in 1979. Unfortunately for him, Valentine was traded mid-season the year
the Expos made the only playoff appearance in their history.
Certainly, Ellis Valentine does not have an argument for being the best, or even one of the best, players in Montreal Expos history. As short and ill-fated as the Expos' history was, it nevertheless includes two current
Hall-of-Famers and at least two more
players likely to join them some day. But Valentine was a key contributor to perhaps the best stretch of sustained success in Expos history.
Because of the shortness of his Expos career, Valentine looks better compared to average
than compared to replacement level
. For whatever reason, Valentine's career also looks somewhat better when controlling for context
than when not
The next table shows the top 25 players in Montreal Expos
history as measured by (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted
over positional average
Ellis Valentine would probably not make the starting outfield for an all-time Expos team: that would most likely be Raines
, and Guerrero
, with Larry Walker
and Rusty Staub
also entering the conversation long before Valentine. But Ellis Valentine was arguably one of the 25 best players in Montreal Expos history, which is pretty damn good.
All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.
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