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For most of his career, Barry Bonds was considered a five-tool player.

In baseball, a five-tool player is one who excels at hitting for average, hitting for power, baserunning skills and speed, throwing ability, and fielding abilities.[1]

In Major League Baseball, players considered five-tool players have included Hall of Famers Willie Mays[2] and Duke Snider[3]. Barry Bonds and Hall of Fame Electee Andre Dawson have also been described as five-tool players.[1][4][5] Active players who have been described as possessing the five tools include Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey, Jr.[1][5]

Criticism

Baseball Digest, among others, has argued that the five-tool-player label is overused and overvalued. Status as a five-tool player does not correspond to superstardom; for example, Mark McGwire was a star despite lacking most of the five tools, while Ruben Rivera floundered despite, in the eyes of some scouts, being a five-tool player.[5] Most players' status as five-tool is both debatable as well as contentious among broadcasters, scouts, and other interested parties. Also, players can gain or lose the status during their careers—for example, Bonds lost his skills at speed and throwing from the outfield.[5]

The fundamental problem is that the term requires human evaluation, and is thus subject to human error. Former Houston Astros general manager Tim Purpura, for example, admitted, "We really felt that [Richard] Hidalgo was your prototypical potential five-tool player as a center fielder. All his talent just flowed from him, and we all thought he was a can't-miss star. And while Hidalgo has demonstrated many of those tools, he hasn't come close to [Bobby] Abreu's consistency."[6]

In Moneyball, Michael Lewis critically portrays scouts who evaluate the tools of players while ignoring performance on the field. In particular, Billy Beane was a highly sought-after prospect in 1980 because scouts widely agreed that he possessed strong five tools, to the extent that some scouts rated him as a stronger prospect than Darryl Strawberry.[7] Beane did not become the star he was projected to be and did not have a notable major league playing career. Moneyball describes Beane's career as general manager of the Oakland Athletics. Beane's philosophy of identifying under-valued talents using statistical analyses in order to make the most of a limited budget leads him to discount five tool players because the five tools are so highly valued by other teams.[7]

Sources

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Bonavita, Mark (1999-03-31). "Baseball's five tools". The Sporting News (Times Mirror Interzines). http://www.sportingnews.com/archives/sports2000/players/151063.html. Retrieved 2007-11-03.  
  2. ^ Mays on thebaseballpage.com
  3. ^ Snider on thebaseballpage.com
  4. ^ Dawson on thebaseballpage.com
  5. ^ a b c d Kevin Acee (June 2001). "Majors' Five-Tool Players Who Are They? - skills of baseball players". Baseball Digest. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FCI/is_6_60/ai_74090329.  
  6. ^ Rob Neyer (December 28, 2002). "Astros' Purpura burns to one day become a GM". ESPN. http://static.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/neyer_rob/1483345.html.  
  7. ^ a b Lewis, Michael (2003). Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. W.W. Norton & Company Inc. ISBN 0-393-05765-8.   Excerpt at ESPN.com, retrieved on 2008-03-21.
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