George Sisler


Sultan of Swat
Staff member
I don't know much about Sisler, so hopefully you guys will improve my knowledge about this supposely great player.

All I know is that he was a great hitter, batted twice over .400, batted .420 in 1922, won the MVP that year as well.

He also had the most hits in a season before Ichiro broke it not to long ago.

That's pretty much all I know about him, so hopefully you guys can help me out.
Funny myth on Sizz: In his prime, Sizz supposedly fielded a ball to his right, and flipped the ball over to first. Seeing as the pitcher wasn't going to get to the base quick enough, Sizz ran over to first, made shoe lace slide, and caught the ball that HE threw, putting out the runner on a play that was recorded as 3-3 putout.


Registered Member
Funny myth on Sizz: In his prime, Sizz supposedly fielded a ball to his right, and flipped the ball over to first. Seeing as the pitcher wasn't going to get to the base quick enough, Sizz ran over to first, made shoe lace slide, and caught the ball that HE threw, putting out the runner on a play that was recorded as 3-3 putout.
WOW some play. The same player getting an assist and a put out on that play.;)


As Bill James has said, George Sisler is the most overrated player in MLB history.

Do not be blinded by his .340 lifetime batting average. He almost never drew walks--something for which he was criticized in his time--and therefore, his career on-base percentage of .379, a more important stat than batting average, is far below not only that of Ruth, but also those of Hornsby, Cobb, Speaker and Eddie Collins, the other players of his time with gaudy batting averages. This explains his 257 hits in a season, and the same unfortunate vice explains Ichiro's high single-season hit totals. I'm a huge Ichiro fan, notwithstanding his poor (but improving) walk totals, because he's a spectacular baserunner and the best RF I've ever seen, but he's way overrated as a hitter and his single-season hits record reflects his refusal to take walks--as was true of his predecessor, Mr. Sisler.

Worse--much worse--Sisler played in Sportsman's Park, where any left-handed hitter should have been able to hit tons of HR's from 1920 on. It was 310 feet down the RF line, 322 feet to straightaway RF, and 354 feet to "deep" RCF. Not until after Sisler's time did they put up the high net that went atop the pavillion and made it somewhat difficult for left-handed hitters to hit HR's. A teammate of Sisler's whom nobody but hardcore history buffs remembers, Ken Williams, had a 14 point edge on Sisler in career on-base percentage, a whopping 62-point edge in career slugging average, and a very substantial edge of 138-124 in career OPS+. Just look at the all-time career OPS+ list and you'll see how unexceptional and unexciting Sisler's 124 is, especially since he played the position where offensive skill is almost de rigeur.

Some might respond that Williams' statistics are illusory, a product of the absurd contours of Sportsman's Park. This is true to some extent, but it's truer by far of Sisler. During their years in Sportsman's Park, Sisler led Williams by .366 to .341 in home batting average, and by .425 to .423 in home on-base percentage, while trailing Williams by a whopping .632 to .531 in home slugging average. On the road, Williams led Sisler .383 to .363 in on-base percentage and .480 to .434 in slugging average, with Sisler leading only in the least important of those stats, batting average, and only by .324 to .310. Sisler's road stats during those years--.324/.363/.434 are absolutely nothing special, given the time in which they occurred.

Sisler was a very good fielder at his position, but his position was first base, by far the easiest and least important of the 8 everyday defensive positions. Charlie Grimm, Vic Power, Jim Spenser and the odious Hal Chase were also spectacular defensive 1Bmen, and nobody would suggest that makes them an all-time great. Keith Hernandez is as good a 1B gloveman as I've seen (Power, Chase and Grimm were before my time), and even he's not in the Hall, though I'd take him in a New York second over Sisler as a hitter.

As a baserunner, Sisler's stats are incomplete because there are several seasons for which his caught stealings are unavailable. However, using the ones for which they are available, he had 241 SB's and 127 caught stealings, which is nothing special.

If you can get out of the headlight glare and sports media noise caused by Sisler's batting average, it becomes clear how overrated he is. Huge numbers of players whom nobody remembers got on base better then 37.9% of the time. A slugging average of .468 is nothing--and I mean nothing--for a 1Bman, much less one who played 1B in Sportsman's Park with the rabbit ball of the 1920's, and again, the list of people who lead Sisler in this statistic is enormous, including all sorts of people who are rightly forgotten.

Translation: He didn't get on base particularly often; he wasn't a great base stealer; and his HR hitting was at best unexceptional, and at worst inexcusable, considering what an easy HR target he had playing in that park in the live ball years 1920-1927. For him to have gotten only 102 career HR's, with a career OBP far under .400 and a career slugging average far under .500, totally discredits any claim that he is among the game's all-time greats.

Bill James ranks him as the 24th-best 1Bman of all time, through the 2000 season. I think that's significantly too high, and I could name 10 or 15 first basemen active in the past 10 years whom I'd also take ahead of Punchless George, though I'll grant some of them have been "great" only because of steroids and/or HGH, and once I'm sure who they are, I wouldn't take them over my Golden Retriever as ballplayers.

If he'd been a slick-fielding SS, 2Bman or even 3Bman, I would feel differently about Sisler. But no matter how much people obsess on his batting averages, there's no getting around the on-base percentages and slugging averages he posted while that bandbox was his home field. They were good for a time, and then they were nothing.

Last, I'm aware Sisler's medical problems seriously damaged his career after 1922. So what? Hal Trosky would have been a Hall of Famer, instead of a forgotten man, had not his body betrayed him. It doesn't make him--or Pete Reiser, Herb Score, Joe Wood or Tony Conigliaro--one of the greatest players ever. It makes them all guys who, like Sisler, had one brief period of legitimate glory (in Sisler's case, 1917-1922), then crashed and burned into mediocrity. And Sisler did so at a position, and in a ballpark, where much better should have been expected of him.

Someday baseball fans will learn to pay attention to OBP, slugging average, OPS+ and other traditionally overlooked stats, and will give little attention to batting average. When that day comes, George Sisler will be forgotten by everyone except those who wonder aloud why he is in the Hall of Fame.