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The Phillies Nation Top 100: #13 Chuck Klein

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #14. 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 players listed thus far, please click here. 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 #12. – Chuck Klein

Years: 1928-1933, 1936-1939, 1940-1944

.326/.382/.553, 243 HR, 71 SB in 5772 PA

Previous Rank: 8 (-5)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 12th among position players, 18th among Phillies

Signature Achievement: Won Triple Crown and led the NL in all triple-slash categories in 1933 but finished second in MVP voting (.368/.422/.602, 28 HR, 15 SB, 120 RBI) one year after winning the NL MVP (.348/.404/.646, 38 HR, 20 SB, 137 RBI)

Single-Season Record Holder for Outfield Assists (44, 1930), Four-time NL HR King (1929, 1931-1933)

In 1928, the Phillies outbid the Yankees to obtain the services of a left-handed outfielder in the Class B Central League. The 23-year old outfielder was hitting .331/.378/.652. No sooner after they acquired him, the Phillies inserted Chuck Klein into their line-up. After all – what did a team that would end up 43-109 have to lose? Klein rewarded them with a .360/.396/.577 line with 11 HR in 275 PA.

In Klein’s first full season, the 6’0″ lefty from Indianapolis, IN would hit an NL-leading 43 HR, benefiting from the short right field porch of the Baker Bowl. Klein would win the HR title three more times, including in 1932, when his 38 HR propelled him to the NL MVP, and 1933, when Klein won the NL Triple Crown and led the NL in every triple-slash category. In addition to being a fine offensive right fielder, Baker Bowl or not, Klein had one of the finest arms in baseball, setting the single-season assist record in 1930 and leading the NL in assists at his respective position (right field in 1930, 1932-1933, left field in 1931) from 1930-1933.

Klein would be traded to the Chicago Cubs on November 21, 1933 for Harvey Hendrick (a below-average utility player), Ted Kleinhans (a below average reliever), and Mark Koenig (a fine defensive infielder that was dealt a few weeks later). Klein’s numbers, his SLG in particular, would see precipitous drop, leading some to speculate his phenomenal numbers were due, in large part, to the friendly confines of the Baker Bowl. On  May 21, 1936, Klein returned to Philadelphia in a trade for Ethan Allen (a fine outfielder for 1934 and 1935) and Curt Davis (led the NL in appearances in 1934).

At age 31, Klein concluded the 1936 season with 25 HR, the last season he would hit more than 20. Some speculated that the Baker Bowl was to blame but his stats sort of dispute this. In parts of the following eight seasons, everything but three-quarters of 1939, Klein called the Baker Bowl his home park and would not slug over .500 again while achieving career-highs in BB% and career-lows in K%. Klein became a more selective-but-less-successful hitter.

Klein’s greatness, however brief, leaves him in rare air in Phillies’ history. Klein retired the all-time leader in homers in Phillies history and now ranks fifth. Klein ranks fifth in runs scored, fourth in RBI, eight in batting average, 14th in OBP, and second in SLG. In Klein’s prime years with the Phillies, 1928-1933, Klein ranked third in the NL in fWAR, only behind Mel Ott and Bill Terry while leading the NL in homers, runs scored, RBI, and SLG, ranking second in batting average behind Rogers Hornsby, and fourth in OBP.

Klein’s totals were good enough for a 1980 Veteran’s Committee selection to the Hall of Fame and an induction onto the Phillies Wall of Fame in the same year.

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