We continue our countdown of the 25 Best Hitters of the Free Agent Era. The rest of the posts can be found here.
One of the greatest switch-hitters to play the game “Steady Eddie” Murray was just as his nickname suggests. He burst onto the scene in 1977, winning Rookie of the Year honors by batting .283 and hitting 27 home runs. What’s amazing is that at the end of his career, his 162 game average would settle in at .287 and 27 homers. This shows why he earned a nickname reflecting a knack for consistency.
Here are some stats from his first nine seasons:
Average: .283, .285, .295, .300, .294, .316, .306, .306, .297
Home Runs: 27, 27, 25, 32, 22, 32, 33, 39, 31. It should be noted that the 22 was in only 99 games of a strike-shortened season.
Doubles: 29, 32, 30, 36, 21, 30, 30, 26, 37.
OPS+: 123, 140, 130, 138, 156, 156, 156, 157, 149.
The rest of his career isn’t far from that either. But it just goes to show that when Eddie Murray was in the big leagues, he was as reliable a hitter as a team could hope for.
His best two seasons were probably 1983-84, the first of which he batted .306, had an on-base percentage of .393 (boosted by 86 walks), knocked in 111 runs while blasting 33 home runs. He was one of the Orioles most valuable pieces that year, and the O’s won the World Series. He followed that up in 1984 by leading the league in walks with 107 and getting on base at a rate of .410. And… yawn… he batted .306 (again), hit 29 home runs, and collected 110 RBI.
He continued his pace for years after, playing until he was 41 in 1997. We only examined in detail his first nine seasons, but the rest were very similar numbers. They deviate a bit as Eddie aged into his thirties, but even at 37 years young, he still batted .285 with 27 bombs. In 1995 at 39 years old, he produced 21 homers in just 113 games for Cleveland, while batting a robust .323.
He was Steady Eddie.
To be honest, it’s very tempting to put Murray higher on this list. It’s hard to find someone as reliable as Steady Eddie. Consistency carries a lot of weight for me. It may have actually bought him a couple of spots over Bagwell and Ortiz. But in the end, the numbers ahead of him are just too strong.
When Eddie Murray finally called it a career, he was one of only three hitters in history with 3,000 hits (3,255) and 500 homers (504). Two more players have joined that list, so even today he’s still one of just five. He finished with very respectable rations, batting .287 and getting on base at .359. His 504 home runs is 27th in history, and second most among switch-hitters behind the great Mickey Mantle.
Murray was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2003.