In my first rankings I had Jim Rice one spot ahead of Fred Lynn. In this ranking, I have Lynn 10 spots ahead of Jim Rice. This is in part I put a little more emphasis on peak and fielding. However, the difference now is only 8 points. So, if you think Rice is better with Lynn I’m not going to argue with you. These two are very close to each other and depends how you look at it. It is a good bar argument.
Someone once asked an old time Red Sox fan who had been going to games for decades who he thought was the best Red Sox player and he named Fred Lynn. He said injuries hurt his career, but before that he was as great as anyone.
His rookie year he certainly showed his greatness. He was named MVP and Rookie of the Year, a rare double honor. You know what he deserved both awards easily leading the Red Sox to their first pennant in 8 years. He could do it all. Ok, he was just an average base runner, but he had all the other tools. The Red Sox had a young outfield of Rice, Lynn and Evans and they all had great careers. However, they couldn’t put it together for another pennant. Although Rice and Evans won in 1986 after Lynn had left to the Angels. In that pennant year of 1975, they were 3 of the top 4 players on the team at ages 23 (Lynn and Evans) and 22 (Rice).
Lynn had one greater season and that was 1979. It was noticed at the time, but no one knew how great it was until years later with the development of sabermetrics. We didn’t pay attention that Lynn led the league in average, on base percentage and slugging, which is now a kind of triple crown. He also led the league in OPS and OPS plus which means he was the best hitter in the league according to this method. He should have won MVP that year and would have probably won it that season with present day voters.
One concern with Lynn’s career were those were the only two years he had 5 WAR or more. Basically, injuries and aging early because of the injuries hurt his career. He went from a great fielder to a below average quite fast. Also, in his prime he had some average fielding seasons because of injuries. However, for awhile he was everything you wanted out of a ballplayer.