Steven Duggar’s booming, game-winning home run from last night’s game excited all of us, sure, but perhaps lit up the coaches and front office management even more. Bruce Bochy hasn’t been shy about comparing his young center fielder to Steve Finley, which is (despite his most famous moment coming in a Dodger uniform) high praise, and the Giants have practically gushed over the kid’s performance since Spring Training — not something the team typically does when it comes to a young hitter.
It’s possible that Willie Mays will always be the team’s most famous and prominent figure, so any center fielder will at some point come to live in the shadow of his greatness. The Giants are hoping Duggar can be their next fixture in center field — not the next Mays, of course, but certainly, an improvement over the recent lineage of Marvin Benard, Marquis Grissom, Angel Pagan, and, uh, Denard Span, I suppose.
He has 148 plate appearances and played in only 40 games, but after last night’s excitement — in particular, his really small sample size against lefties (14-for-46) — let’s flippin’ go for it. How does 24-year old Steven Duggar stack up against the other 24 year old center fielders in the history of the Giants (New York & San Francisco)?
Cranking up the ol’ Play Index on Baseball-Reference.com shows me that in the history of the franchise, there have been only seven 24-year olds to have a minimum of 100 plate appearances and to have played 100% of their games in center field:
- Steven Duggar (2018)
- Darren Lewis (1992)
- Larry Herndon (1978)
- Garry Maddox (1974)
- Willie Mays (1955)
- Johnny Rucker (1941)
- Hank Leiber (1935)
Now, that list is merely reverse chronological order, but here you see right away that Steven Duggar is already in rare company. How does his 2018 compare to these six other seasons? Since I’m using Baseball Reference, I’ll use OPS+:
- Willie Mays - 174 (the third-highest total of his career)
- Hank Leiber - 141
- Garry Maddox - 97
- Johnny Rucker - 96
- Steven Duggar - 89
- Larry Herndon - 84
- Darren Lewis - 66
So far, he’s posting the 5th-best season of any 24-year old center fielder in franchise history. Now, this is only 40 games. I attempted to project out the rest of his season (figured 60 games) and came up with a line of .248 /.306 /.379 (.685). My crude attempt at calculating OPS+ gave me an 88 for Duggar, but I think I miscalculated, so let me redirect my crudeness to quick and dirty regular ol’ OPS. Let’s say that my .685 OPS for Duggar winds up being accurate. Where would that rank him compared to these six other players and their first sixty major league games, period?
- Willie Mays - .934
- Garry Maddox - .753
- Larry Herndon - .731
- Steven Duggar - .685
- Darren Lewis - .679
- Johnny Rucker - .654
- Hank Lieber - .610
That’s pretty quick and dirty because some of these guys had cups of coffee that I didn’t count because I didn’t want to do cross-season calculations, but this gives you a little bit of an idea of how Duggar has done fresh out of the gate.
Finally, since 1871, there have been 65 seasons in team history with a 24-year old or collection of 24-year olds (regardless of position) posting at least a .650 OPS in at least 148 plate appearances (Duggar’s current total). Steven Duggar’s 2018 is #23 on the list. And he’s the only 24-year old of 2018 to make the cut. But some of these seasons have multiple 24-year olds. Here’s the top 25:
Like those other six center fielders, this list features (with few exceptions) players who went on to have solid and somewhat lengthy careers. You’ll note John Bowker at #25, but you’ll recall that his defense was never considered above average-to-elite like Duggar’s is (Bowker also didn’t play center field).
We don’t know for sure what’ll happen going forward, but just looking at Duggar now, there’s plenty of reason to be pleased with what we’ve seen and excited about the future.