We all have baseball players and baseball cards we’re irrational about.
For me, there’s Dan Driessen, and there’s the 1983 Donruss Cesar Cedeno baseball cards. I think that smiling Cesar is just about the best hunk of cardboard the Wax Pack Gods ever spit out … even though I’d have trouble proving it objectively.
And Dan Driessen was the first player to make an in-person impact on me — and my dad — and he’ll forever be in my personal Hall of Fame.
Driessen is a yardstick of sorts, too. Whenever I’m faced with evaluating a player in any sort of way, I always have to think … how does this guy compare to Dan Driessen.
All that came to the fore the other day when I ran across this 1981 Topps card of Bruce Bochte:
Bochte was one of those very good players from the 1970s and 1980s who didn’t play for my team and thus sort of fell out of my purview. But how good was he? Like, how did he compare to Dan Driessen?
To find out how far removed Bochte was from Big Dan, I decided to play one of my favorite (sorta) statistical games: Six Degrees of Dan Driessen.
Never heard of Six Degrees of Dan Driessen?
Well, let’s remedy that right now, starting with …
The Rules of Dan Driessen
- Start with a player who is not Dan Driessen.
- Go to said player’s page at Baseball-Reference.com.
- Scroll down to that player’s “Similarity Scores.”
- Click on the first name in the list under “Similar Batters” or “Similar Pitchers.”
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 until Dan Driessen appears in the list of 10 similar batters or pitchers (unlikely, since it’s Dan Driessen).
Now, some adjuncts …
- No repeats — so if a player that you’ve already visited shows up as the number-one most similar player to another player down the line, move on to the second player in step 4 above. Use the third through tenth players as necessary.
- You can get more stringent with this by requiring that Dan Driessen appear as the first most similar player before you can “win” the game. Be aware, though, that you may never finish the game.
- Be aware that you may never finish the game anyway. It’s going to be pretty hard to get from, say, Steve How to Dan Driessen, for example.
- Six degrees will play out more like 20 or 100 or infinity degrees for many player combinations.
- Feel free to use any player as your target and any player as your starting point. So if you want to see how similar Bryce Harper is to Steve Blass, go for it. And go with God.
- Yes, there are ways to do this using graph theory, database queries, algorithms, and witchcraft that would spit out your results lickety split, but none of them are this fun.
- Remember … YOU MAY NEVER FINISH.
Got all that? Great!
Let’s dig in and find out how to get from Bruce Bochte (not Bruce Bochy) to Dan Driessen.
How Good Was Bruce Bochte (in Driessen Deltas)?
So we start with Bochte’s page …
Looks good so far. Let’s jump down to his Similarity Scores …
So already we get a sense for the type of player Bochte was — very good, not great. Which we already knew. Interesting that Bochte’s most comparable player is James Loney, a nearly still-active dude.
Drilling down, we get Loney’s BR page:
In turn, the most similar players to Loney look like …
This is where the Search for Dan Driessen gets really interesting because, while I’m familiar with most of the guys on this list, I have no idea who Fred Luderus is. And, lucky for us, he’s the most similar to Loney:
Pretty solid numbers for a guy who played almost entirely in the Deadball Era. I’ll have to spend some time digging into his story down the line.
For now, though, it’s on to Luderus’ comps …
We’ve already visited Loney, so that means we get to check out another unknown (to me) in Elbie Fletcher:
Looking at these numbers and considering that Fletcher played in the 1930s and 1940s, I probably should have known something about him before now … but I flat don’t remember him.
So, another dude to check out later.
Fletcher’s Similarity Scores look like this:
We see three repeats in Luderus, Bochte himself, and Loney at the bottom . That leads us to Gus Suhr, who I’ve at least heard of …
Why did I remember Suhr and not Fletcher? I don’t know … funnier name? Or maybe I’m just a jerk (this for sure). Whatever, on to Suhr’s similars …
George McQuinn played for the St. Louis Browns, who are sort of famous for being defunct, and for the New York Yankees. Most importantly, he started Major League life with my Cincinnati Reds in 1936.
So, yes, I knew a little about him before today. But, no, I couldn’t have told you much about him.
And which players are similar to McQuinn? Glad you asked …
Ding! Ding! Ding!
McQuinn takes us all the way home, as Dan Driessen is his fifth most similar comparable player. Our reward is this:
You won’t find many sights more beautiful than this.
And, in case you’re counting, that’s six steps from Bochte to Driessen:
Bochte to Loney to Luderus to Fletcher to Suhr to McQuinn to Driessen.
So now … go … play Six Degrees of Dan Driessen to your heart’s content.
But remember that it’s addicting and that you’ll probably get sucked in. You might lose a few years of your life to the electronic abyss.
I warned you.
It will be worth it, though.
(Check out our other player card posts here.)