In OPS, Carty falls behind McGriff and Klesko, but you get the idea — he was one of the most talented hitters to ever wear an Atlanta uniform. Frankly, I was surprised at how good of an all-around hitter Carty was; I had somehow gotten the idea that he was largely a hitter for high averages with a little power, but he had better power than I expected and would take a walk. Of course, he had to walk — he couldn’t run. It’s easy to see how Rico could have had a Hall of Fame career. He didn’t have to have better big years, he just needed to have full years and not miss them.
He doesn’t rank higher because of the same reason — devastating hitter that he was, the Beeg Boy simply didn’t play enough games in a Braves uniform, playing just about five seasons’ worth of games between eight seasons over ten years. When he was in uniform, he was impressive: his most-similar hitter after his last year as a Brave, at Age 32, is Edgar Martinez. Also, he really had no defensive value: he was mostly a left fielder and usually a very poor one, though when healthy he usually managed to wrestle the position to the draw. And he couldn’t run at all; he was caught stealing more often than he was successful and had 17 career triples, a low total for his era.
But he could hit. Everyone knew it — he signed contracts with ten different teams before MLB decided that he was Braves property. Originally a catcher, the Braves quickly figured out that wouldn’t work. Carty was sent to the outfield, about which see above: his natural position of DH hadn’t yet been invented, and for some reason teams at that time were more likely to put their sluggardly sluggers in left than at first. He had to spend three years at A-ball after signing at age 20 — or “20”, there may be some give in that age (that picture is from his Milwaukee days and he already looks about 35) — and a year at AA and AAA at age 23, with a brief callup for two games. He was up full-time in 1964, and finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting. He hit .330/.388/.554, second in the league in average and fourth in OBP and SLG, but had the misfortune of running into Richie Allen, who had one of the best rookie years of all time. Actually, he outhit Allen per AB but Allen played a lot more — sensing a trend here?
Carty missed about half of the Braves’ last year in Milwaukee but hit .310/.355/.494 when he was in the lineup. His power slumped in his first year in Atlanta, which is weird, but he still hit .326, third in the league. 1967 was his first bad season, and then he missed all of 1968 with tuberculosis, which is the sort of thing that happened to him. On the other hand, if you were a hitter, 1968 was the year to miss.
Carty came back strong; though he was limited to 104 games in 1969 he hit .342/.401/.549; the batting average would have been good for third in the league. In 1970, he was even better, finally winning the batting title and the on-base title by hitting .366/.454/.584, making his only All-Star team. And then he broke his knee in winter ball and missed the entire 1971 season.
The Beeg Mon, as he was by this time, hit .277/.378/.402 in 86 games in 1972 and would seem to have been on his way back again, but the Braves traded him to the Rangers for something called a “Jim Panther”. He was passed around the AL that year, then landed in Cleveland, where he was solid, playing DH as God intended. He hit a career high 31 HR for the A’s and Jays in 1978, then wrapped up his career in Toronto in 1979.