The Phillies Nation Top 100: #29 Lenny Dykstra

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #30. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back tomorrow morning for #28.

http://thephilliesblunt.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/lenny-dykstra.jpg#29– Lenny Dykstra

Years: 1989-1996

.289/.388/.422, 51 HR, 169 SB in 3374 PA

Previous Rank: 35 (+6)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 20th among position players, 28th among Phillies

Three All-Star Appearances (1990, 1994-1995), Silver Slugger (1993)

Finished Second in NL MVP Voting in 1993

Called Nails and Dude, Lenny Dykstra was a fast living center fielder from Garden Grove, CA. Listed at 5’10”, but definitely a tick or two shorter, Dykstra was the fire cracker in the group that propelled the Phillies from worst-to-first in 1993. Acquired from the Mets with Roger McDowell on June 18, 1989 for fan-favorite Juan Samuel, Dykstra got off to a bit of a slow start as a Phillie, hitting just .222/.297/.330 in 392 1989 plate appearances with the Phillies. But Nails would rebound with a 1990 to remember.

According to both FanGraphs’ and Baseball Reference’s version of WAR, Dykstra was the second-most valuable player in the National League behind only Barry Bonds. Dykstra would hit a career-high .325, lead the league in hits (192) and OBP at .418, hit nine HR and steal 33 bases in 38 attempts (86.84%), a tantalizing preview of what was to come. A few bad decisions and some bad luck cost him significant time in 1991 and 1992, including a drunk-driving crash in 1991, a broken collar bone suffered in Cincinnati in 1991 once he returned, and a broken hand on Opening Day 1992 when Dykstra was hit by a pitch.

Dykstra had the very-rare combination of power, speed, defense, running, and throwing abilities and it made him one of the very best, and perhaps most underrated players in the National League through the early 90’s. 1993 was Dykstra’s marquee season, as he led the National League in PA, AB, runs, hits, and walks with a career-high 19 homers and 37 steals leading to a second-place NL MVP finish and his first, and only, Silver Slugger award. Dykstra’s opus, combined with the rest of the serendipity that occurred in 1993, drove the Phillies to 97 wins, a victory over the Atlanta Braves in the NCLS, and the NL Pennant.

The success of those 1993 was in no small part due to Dykstra’s contributions. Dude, who had been a postseason hero with the New York Mets, would get on base at a .400 clip against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS and nearly single-handedly powered the Phillies offense to a World Series title in 1993, hitting four homers, stealing four bases, and hitting .348/.500/.913 against a stacked Blue Jays pitching staff. The Phillies, of course, ultimately lost in six games.

Things would seemingly be all downhill for Dykstra in 1993. In 1994 and 1995, the baseball seasons was shortened by a strike and Dykstra battled through injuries in both 1995 and 1996. Dykstra would miss the entire 1997 season before attempting one final comeback prior to the 1998 season. The comeback attempt was unsuccessful and Dykstra quietly retired.

Some folks may question the inclusion of Dykstra on the list because of his alleged steroid use or because of his off-the-field behavior, including charges levied against him in 2011 but Dykstra makes our list because he made the Phillies better while in a Phillies uniform.



  1. mudmin

    February 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    I guess he could have been underrated, but I thought he was pretty prominent after being part of that 86 Mets team. Just my opinion.

    I clearly remember when he came to spring training all jacked up. Harry and Whitey were talking about how he dedicated himself to working out in the offseason and “packed on 20lbs of pure muscle.” I didn’t detect sarcasm in their voices. I think at the beginning of the steroid era there were a lot of people who genuinely believed that baseball players were just starting to take their strength training seriously.

    Now we know that was a joke.

    Loved watching Nails play though.

    • Mike B

      February 7, 2014 at 9:58 am

      I remember that, too. He joked about the “special vitamins” he’d been taking. Everyone laughed it off, ha ha ha, wink wink.

      His off-the-field shenanigans aside, he was my favorite player when I was a kid (I was 11 when he got traded to the Phils).

  2. Vinnie

    February 6, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Great player, but I wouldn’t recommend going to him for financial advice.

    • mudmin

      February 6, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      I wouldn’t even get my car washed by him. haha. Go read the yelp reviews of that place.

  3. Laura Hoogerwerff

    February 6, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Enjoyed watching him play even though he came from the Mets. Very pivotal member of the 93 team.

  4. Jay

    February 6, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Throwing? That was the one hole in his game. He had a noodle arm runners constantly took advantage of.

  5. c. schreiber

    February 6, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Noodle arm sounds like our present CF.

  6. Bruce

    February 6, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    I had my differences of opinion with PN’s Tim Malcom when he compiled his 100 best Phillies players a few years ago. The new list is even more bizarre so I won’t bother commenting on it. It only confirms my belief that statistics, advanced or otherwise, does not give a complete picture of the player in question. I’m old enough to have seen several of the players played that are ranked and felt they are overrated.

    Off topic: A sad day for all dedicated baseball fans with the passing of Hall of Famer and great story teller on players of his era, Ralph Kiner. R.I.P.

    Some good news that was possibly passed over on this site. Congratulations to Charlie Manuel, the winningest manager in Phillies history on being elected to the Phillies’ Wall of Fame.

    • Mike B

      February 7, 2014 at 10:01 am

      I don’t think anyone has contended that this list was compiled using only statistics. There is a heavy amount of subjectivity as well.

  7. Bart Shart

    February 7, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Dykstra — he may be the top criminal in Phillies history as well. He was a fun player to watch and even more interesting to read about.

  8. Sandy Durso

    February 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I think he was juicing and off the field he was an ass but I would love a player like him on our team right now. He had energy. He knew how to work a pitcher. He got on base. Something we have very little of right now.

  9. Rob Schwartz

    February 9, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    I remember when Dykstra turned from a toothpick into a bull from the 89 to the 90 season.I remember during the 90 season he was hitting 400 at the all star break and really slumped after that as he lost about 80 pts on his batting average. Also him and Daulton were good pals and Dutch was also on the juice as he looked huge.Just saying this because this is around the time steroids arrived in mlb

  10. art k

    February 9, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    not as valuable to the 1993 phils as Kruk.

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