His was a name that struck fear into the hearts of National League pitchers. A name known even in the far reaches of the African jungles. A name inextricably linked to the title “Mr. Baseball”. Dolph Camilli.
Now that I have that out of my system, let’s take a look at exactly how damn good Camilli really was.
He was a first baseman who had a relatively late start in the majors (he began at age 26), and played first base almost entirely for the Phillies and Dodgers. From 1936-42 (seven years), he performed at a Hall of Fame level, finishing in the top four in homers in the NL all seven years and in OBP in five of those years. In 1941, he was the NL MVP.
In 1937, he had a 167 wRC+ and a 6.1 fWAR at first base for the Phillies. Two years later he jumped to a 6.5 fWAR, and two years after that (1941) he hit for a 166 wRC+ and 6.9 fWAR.
Perhaps the most impressive way to look at his amazing seven year stretch is by comparing him to some big name contemporaries. During that same stretch (’36-’42), Joe DiMaggio and Jimmie Foxx both had similar numbers of Plate Appearances (all three players had between 4000-4500 PA). Camilli’s 153 wRC+ fell right between Foxx’s 147 and DiMaggio’s 155. And those were prime years for both Hall of Famers.
Based on Total Zone rating, Camilli was apparently a solid-to-good fielding first baseman as well. According to Baseball Reference, he lead the NL in RE24 in 1940, ’41 and ’42, and in WPA in ’40 and ’42.
Even when we look beyond his amazing seven-year stretch, Camilli’s career numbers are impressive (though not quite HoF worthy):
Fangraphs BaseRunning: (+)8.9
Fangraphs Defense: (+)24.0