March 6, 2015

The Philly Fifty, #28: Chuck Klein, Phillies

For the complete list and explanation of criteria and scoring, check out the Philly Fifty page

Longevity – 5

Klein spent his first 6 years with the Phillies, then came back for 2.5 after a couple years with the Cubs, then after a one year stint with the Pirates, he finished his career with 5 years as basically a bench player. All told, there were parts of 15 years as a Phillie, and over 1,400 games.

Peak – 5

Klein finished in the top-2 in the MVP voting from 1931-1933, winning in 1932. In those 3 seasons, he averaged the following line: .351/.407/.612, 32 HR, 43 2B, 11 3B, 126 RBI, 14 SB and was the best offensive player in the National League.

Popularity – 3

People know Klein, but you won’t see his jersey around (partially because he wore 7 different numbers with the team) and the Phillies for whatever reason decided to not honor him at CBP like they did at the Vet.

Team Success – 1

This was the era that the Phillies were, uh… wretched is probably the best word. Klein’s teams went 625-1,055 during his time there. Obviously some of that was spent as a minor piece of the puzzle, but we are still looking at an average 162-game record, over FIFTEEN SEASONS, of 60-102.

Awards – 3

Won the MVP in 1932, finished 2nd in 1931 and 1933 despite playing for a horrible team. Participated in the first 2 MLB all-star games ever in 1933 and 1934.

Stats – 4

Doesn’t lead the Phillies’ in any category historically, but is top-5 in many. He ranks 2nd in OPS, 3rd in RBI, 4th in Runs, 5th in HR and 2B, 6th in Hits, 9th in 3B and 10th in WAR.  His .922 career OPS is particularly impressive given that he didn’t have a good season after age 32. When he left the Phillies in 1934 at age 28, he had a career OPS of 1.043 in 3,700+ PA, 2nd only to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in MLB history to that point.

Historical Standing – 3

Despite his lofty numbers, Klein didn’t get into the Hall of Fame until 1980, when he was selected by the Veteran’s Committee. He never got more than 28% of the vote in the normal process.

Excitement – 4

A power hitter playing in a bandbox, Klein put up Pujols-like numbers for his first several years with the Phillies. Very little else was worth the price of admission for the Phillies in this time period, but Klein was.

Total: 28


For the complete list and explanation of criteria and scoring, check out the Philly Fifty page

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  1. Ken Bland says:

    Stretches of this guy’s career were off the charts.  5 straight 200 plus hit years, including one of 250.  He scored over 150 runs in his age 25 and 27 seasons.  But boy, did he have a front loaded career.  To those of us left with only legacy by which to remember him, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking highly of him because of the impact of his fabulous early years.  You wonder how Ryan Howard will be remembered decades from now with his blistering early years, but oft criticized middle years thanks to a totally different technology world that breaks him down in intimate ways as a player.  On his career as a whole, it makes a lot of sense how Klein never amassed more than 28% Hall vote.  Taking nothing away from his early dominant years.  Off that final chapter, it provides more optimism for Chase Utley’s potential place in Cooperstown. But when you only hear his name over later years in reference to historic standing as guys like Schmidt and Howard smash his records, that positive image is reinforced despite living off early impact.  On the whole, it’s understandable how he’s gotten lost in the historic shuffle off a fairly short preformance of excellence.  

    Klein hit .310 against lefties, .323 versus righties, and neither was a small sample size.  His home stats (Baker Bowl) were quite better than his road numbers. 


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