Jimmy Wynn, former MLB outfielder and long time Houston Astro, died today, it has been announced. He was 78.
Wynn, nicknamed the Toy Cannon due to his packing a little of power into a small frame (he is listed at 5’10”, 160 lbs.), was a legitimately great player whose skill set and playing environment was such that his greatness generally wasn’t widely recognized until after his playing days were over. Signed as an amateur free agent in the 1961-62 offseason, Wynn was drafted by the Houston Astros (known at the time as the Colt .45s) in the expansion draft, and spent his first 11 seasons with Houston.
Wynn was a part-time player for the Astros in 1963 and 1964, then became an everyday player beginning in 1965. Playing in an era that depressed offense, in a very pitcher-friendly park, Wynn’s traditional stats don’t jump off the page at first glance, but during his time as a regular with the Astros, from 1965-73, Wynn put up a 41.2 bWAR — an average of almost 5 wins per season. He had a 7.4 bWAR season in 1965 and a 7.1 bWAR season in 1969, but because so much of his value was in his ability to draw walks and in his ability to hit for power despite the pitcher-friendly environs, he only made one All Star Game during that period, and appeared on MVP ballots only twice.
After the 1973 season, the Astros shipped Wynn to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher (and future Texas Rangers pitching coach) Claude Osteen and minor leaguer David Culpepper. Wynn, who had had a down year (by his standards) in 1973, responded with the best season of his career in 1974, putting up a 7.7 bWAR while slashing .271/.387/.497 for the pennant winning Dodgers, making his second All Star Game appearance and finishing fifth in the National League MVP balloting.
Wynn was named an All Star in 1975 for the Dodgers, as well, but was traded after the season to the Atlanta Braves, along with Lee Lacy, Tom Paciorek and Jerry Royster, in exchange for Dusty Baker and Ed Goodson. Wynn played two more seasons, for Atlanta in 1976 and for the New York Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers in 1977, retiring after the 1977 season at the age of 35.
Despite his shortened career, Wynn is 18th all time among center fielders in career bWAR. The photo above is from his induction in the Houston Astros Hall of Fame last summer.