’93 Finest: Chuck Knoblauch

It seems like nobody else remembers this, but Chuck Knoblauch was roughly equal to Roberto Alomar throughout the 1990s. The pair are separated by only 3 wins above replacement from 1990-1999, a difference attributed to the fact that Alomar played a full season in 1990 while Knoblauch spent the year in the minor leagues. Once in the majors, Knoblauch displayed much better defensive ability despite Alomar taking home 2.5x as many Gold Glove Awards. Alomar was known for speed but Knoblauch averaged 25% more stolen bases per 162 games. Knoblauch also topped his AL rival’s peak by producing an MVP-level 8.1 WAR, more than 10% above Alomar’s career best.

Knoblauch famously lost his ability to throw a ball accurately in the final years of his career, going from a steady 1+ WAR pickup on defense to a liability overnight. His beaning Keith Olbermann’s mom with an off-target throw to first has to rank as one of the more memorable moments of this decline. Despite the sudden elusiveness of his prior defensive skill, the man who’s last name can be rearranged to spell “Lob a Chunk” still managed to put up positive overall wins above replacement in all but his last fraction of a year in MLB ball. A broken Chuck Knoblauch was still better than whoever could have filled in for him at second base on many teams.

Fun fact: Knoblauch is the only player I can think of that tried to play down an appearance in the Mitchell Report by claiming HGH was not performance enhancing. He offered the last three years of his career as evidence for this statement.