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Ghost of Milt Cuyler

Kaline and Clemente

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I'm watching a great documentary on Roberto Clemente on PBS right now. Quite an amazing story. A lot of the interviewees are discussing Clemente’s skill in the outfield. A lot of the things they are saying, mostly his Gold Glove total and incredible arm, remind me so much of what my dad tells me about the way Kaline played.

I’ve read a couple of comparisons between the two, but nothing that really answers the question: “who was better?” Certainly Clemente is more famous, but could Kaline give him a run for his money?

Any vets out there remember seeing them play? What do the stats say? Sorry if this has been discussed on here before, it just had me thinking.

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Kaline

http://www.baseball-reference.com/k/kalinal01.shtml

Clemente

http://www.baseball-reference.com/c/clemero01.shtml

Glancing at the fielding stats, I see that Clemente made more errors in fewer games, although he also had more assists than Kaline. Clemente actually played more games in RF than Kaline. Clemente won 12 GGs to Kaline's 10. Of course there are going to be better ways to compare a couple guys' fielding stats, but I thought I'd get the ball rolling for the real experts here!

By the way, Kaline got to the bigs two years before Clemente, but Clemente is four months and one day older than Kaline.

I also looked at their offensive stats at baseball-reference.com. Just some observations here after comparing the 162 game averages for each. Clemente may have been a better hitter, but Kaline had more power and probably a better eye at the plate.

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I am guessing that most would give the nod to Clemente. The way he died. What he meant to a large group of people would give him the nod in most. It makes him more visible. I'd think they are almost the same ball player.

My initial guess would be Clemente was better in the field, but Kaline played more than I think anyone remembers in centerfield as well. That would suggest how good a defender Kaline was.

I would've guessed Clemente was the better hitter, but Kaline had more power. But Clemente had more power than I thought (250 homers) and Kaline was a darn near .300 hitter.

Who knows. They were both pretty darn good. When the Tigers played Chicago they talked a lot about Clemente because of Guillen's comments about his top three players from Puerto Rico. He put Clemente third. And it actually got me to thinking that he was like the NL's Clemente. It actually made me pull out the Baseball Encyclopedia to check out the two.

Amazing how the same thing hits two people within about the same amount of time.

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This was a very hot debate for a long time when both of them played. I think that most people outside of Detroit gave the nod to Clemente. Posthumously I think that Clemente's edge over Kaline has gone up a bit, because of the way and age at which Clemente died.

I know that no team could have gone wrong with either of those guys in right field.

Two great players and fortunately Kaline is still very close around.

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People overrate Clemente because of the way he died and because he was the "first Puerto Rican" baseball star.

That's not to say Clemente wasn't very good, but he wasn't the greatest right fielder to ever play the game the way he is often portrayed.

Kaline was just as good or better than Clemente in the field. The difference was Kaline wasn't as flashy and didn't single-handedly carry a team in the world series the way Clemente did with the Pirates (the Tigers in 68 were a great team, and Lolich was the star of the series even though Kaline played very well). Also, Kaline had his best years early in his career, then settled in for a nice run of always above-average, but never "the best" seasons. Also, he was hurt often.

Clemente started poorly but came on strong later in his career, had the great world series and then died tragically.

Given a choice, I'd take Kaline, but I'm biased. From what I read from baseball people I consider to be knowledgable, they mostly take Kaline. From what I read from baseball people that just remember anecdotes and stories, they take Clemente (a lot of whom don't really remember Kaline).

It could also be a preference as to what you think is more valuable: peak or longevity.

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Hit those links Tigersfan posted. You get to see how it really matters little which you get.

And while Clemente did carry the Pirates to a World Series win, let's not forget what happened in 1968. The Tigers put Mickey Stanley at short just for the sheer reason to get Kaline's bat into the equation. He was hurt much of that year and wasn't a huge factor during the regular season, but he had a darn good World Series. And really he wasn't a huge factor because we want to see he missed about a third of the season. The games he did play the guy batted .287. That's .287 would've put him in the AL leaders if he had enough at bats to do so. His 68 season was hardly a scrap iron season.

It's too bad the Tigers didn't win it in 1967 instead of 1968. Kaline had an awesome 1967 season.

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