Friday, February 1, 2013

#206 Ken Oberkfell - St. Louis Cardinals

I always remember Ken Oberkfell with a beard but he didn't appear with one on a Topps card until he played with the Braves.  This is his fourth Topps card and is a lot like his first two cards in the '80 and '81 sets.

Player: Undrafted after high school Ken Oberkfell, opened some eyes when he hit .351 in his first year splitting time between Rookie and A ball.  He had brief looks with the Cardinals in '77 and '78 but went 1 for 9 and 6 for 50.

Oberkfell made the team in 1979 and eventually worked his way into the starting lineup at secondbase.  He batted .301 in 435 plate appearances and showed good plate discipline walking 57 times while whiffing just 35. 

Although injuries caused him to miss some games, Oberkfell's production on the field was very consistent for the Cards.  From '80 to '83 he batted between .289 to .303 with OPS+ ranging from 100-119.  He gradually transitioned from second to third base where he led the NL in fielding percentage in '82 and '83.  In the '82 World Series he batted .292 with a pair of steals for the champion Cardinals.

In '84 the Cardinals traded Oberkfell to the Braves for Ken Dayley and Mike Jorgensen. Oberkfell was consistent for Atlanta but his production was a notch below what he did in St. Louis.  In four seasons with Atlanta he batted between .269 and .280 with OPS+ of 84 to 100. 

The Braves traded Oberkefell to the Pirates late in the '88 season but he wouldn't stay in Pittsburgh long.  After a 5 for 40 start to the '89 season he was dealt to the Giants where he played a reserve role.  He raised his average to .269 by the end of the year and helped San Fran win the pennant. 

Oberkfell spent the next two years of his career in a utility role for the Astros hitting .207 and .229.  He signed with the Angels for the '92 season and after spending half the year at AAA, worked his way back up and hit .269 as a reserve in what turned out to be his final season.

Flipside: Oberkfell was pretty much a singles hitter.  He never had more than the 36 extra base hits that he had in 1980.  In 16 seasons he struck out just 356 times compared to 546 walks.

Oddball:  He didn't bat leadoff often, but Obie excelled in the role.  In 40 career at bats leading off the game he had 16 hits in 40 at bats (.400), walked 5 times and didn't strike out once. 

Yeah it is a small sample size, but hey, still kind of weird.

History:  Oberkfell was a throwback to players of an earlier generation. The top ten comparable players on all were retired before he debuted.

In 16 seasons Oberkfell batted .278/.351/.362 with a career OPS+ of 97.  He displayed good range and good hands at thirdbase and finished his career with 5.2 dWAR. 

Oberkfell recently stepped down as manager of the independent Newark Bears.  The team was struggling badly (24-52) and Oberkfell also had to deal with a medical issue.

On a side note, Newark pitcher Mike Ness threw a no-hit shutout in July despite six errors behind him. Yikes!

1 comment:

  1. 99% of my memories of watching Oberkfell play are with him wearing a Braves unifrom.

    WTBS was the place to be in the 80's!!!