Monday, March 12, 2012

#135 Dwight Evans - Boston Red Sox

You can see here that Dwight Evans has a classic finish to his swing.  In the inset notice that Evans' mustache just needs a little wax and attention to rival Rollie Fingers.  This is his 11th Topps card.

Topps was really boring with Evans' cards in the 70's.  From left to right here are his cards from '73-'76,'78 and '79
I framed the shots to show the similarity as Topps had Evans in staged batting pose each year until finally giving him an action shot in '77.

Player:  Dwight Evans debuted with the Red Sox at the tail end of the '72 season and batted .263 with a homer in 18 games.  The former 5th round pick in the '69 draft made the team in '73 and played semi-regularly also getting work as a defensive replacement when he didn't start.  He batted only .223 but showed some power potential with 10 long balls in 282 at bats.  Evans was the regular right fielder in '74 and batted .281 with 10 HR.  He hadn't yet shown the patience or the power that would come later, but his strong arm and smooth defense kept him in the lineup. 

Evans along with rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice formed one of the great young outfields of all-time in '75.  Evans batted .274 with 13 homers and posted 2.3 dWAR for the second year in a row.  He didn't do much in the ALCS (.100 BA) but had a strong World Series batting .292/.393/.542 in the Red Sox loss to the Reds.

Evans' average slumped to .242 in '76 but he was still playing good defense and was rewarded with the first of his eight career Gold Gloves.  He started hitting for power in '77, launching 11 HR in his first 155 at bats before hurting his knee.  He struggled through the injury for a while and missed 90 games.  He averaged 21 HR over the next three years with an OPS+ ranging from 109-124.

"Dewey" put all of his offensive skills together in '81.  He tied for the AL lead in HR with 22 in the strike shortened year.  He also led the league with 85 walks, a category he would lead twice more before his career was over.  He finished with an OPS+ of 162 and a .292/.415/.522 stat line.  The next eight seasons Evans would average 27 HR, 96 RBI, 96 BB with a 136 OPS+.  He led all AL batters with 256 homers in the 1980's.  

In '86 Evans batted .308 with two dingers in the Fall Classic as the BoSox lost the heartbreaking series to the Mets.  He was less successful in ALCS losses to the A's in '88 and '90, batting .167 and .231 respectively.

By 1990, Evans' skills were beginning to erode as he batted just .249 with 13 homers as the Red Sox primary DH.  After the season he was released by Boston and signed by Baltimore.  He was a part-time right fielder for the O's in '91 batting .270 with six HR in 270 at bats.  He was released in spring training of '92 and retired. 
Evans played 20 years with a .272/.370/.470 stat line.  He hit 385 HR and played stellar defense the first half of his career, with 10.4 dWAR from '72-'81. 

Flipside:  As you can see in his stats, Evans gradually developed into quite an offensive player.  Although known for his power and ability to draw walks he failed to hit 20 or more HR or walk more than 60 times in a season until his sixth full year.

Oddball:  As a kid in the 80's it always seemed like Evans was destroying Detroit Tigers pitching.  My memory isn't far off target.  He hit 38 HR against the Tigers, his second best total (39-A's).  He particularly liked Jack Morris (5 HR allowed), Milt Wilcox (5), Dan Petry (4) and Frank Tanana (3).

History:  Evans had a great career, bordering on Hall of Fame-worth-i-ness.  He won eight Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, was on three All-Star teams, and received MVP votes five different years.  He accumulated 61.8 career Wins Above Replacement which is 97th All-Time among positional players.  His HOF voting topped out at 10.4% in 1999 before he dropped off the ballot. 
After his playing days, Evans coached in the minors for the White Sox and later for the Rockies.  He returned to Boston as their hitting coach in 2002 and has been a player development consultant for the Red Sox since 2003. 

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