SAN FRANCISCO — For the next couple of months, the baseball world will center around Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Machado hit 37 homers in 2018 and slugged .538. Harper hit 34 homers and slugged .496.
Willie McCovey slugged .515 … for his entire career.
Over 22 seasons and 8,197 at-bats, McCovey had an average slugging percentage that would put him right on par with today’s biggest stars. At his peak, he was as dangerous as any hitter, breaking the .600 mark in three different seasons and slugging .656 in 1969, when he won the National League’s MVP award.
In an organization that also featured Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, it sometimes has been difficult for McCovey, who died Wednesday at age 80, to get his share of credit as a pure hitter. He was known as a humble star, and he certainly wasn't the type to tell you what he accomplished. But as you celebrate McCovey, maybe take a few minutes to look back at his numbers, which put him in the National Baseball Hall of Fame when he was eligible for the first time in 1986.
McCovey won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1959 and never stopped hitting. He had double-digit homers in 17 consecutive seasons to start his career, making the All-Star team six times. He had seven 30-homer seasons, hitting 44 in 1963 and 45 in 1969. Even with the offensive explosion of the past two decades, McCovey still is tied with Frank Thomas for 20th all time with 521 homers.
That 1969 season was McCovey’s best, and he edged Tom Seaver for the MVP award. McCovey had a .320/.453/.656 slash line that year, leading the league in OBP and slugging. He drove in 126 runs and posted an OPS+ of 209.
Years before teams decided to stop pitching to Barry Bonds, they did the same with McCovey. He shattered the previous NL mark by drawing 45 intentional walks in 1969, and the next year he got 40 more. McCovey led the league in intentional walks again in 1971 and 1973.