.296/.415/.522, .937 OPS, 504 PA, 122 H, 85 BB, 22 HR, 71 RBI, 215 TB, 208 TOB, 162 OPS+
All-Star, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, MVP – 3
Is this one of the most underrated great seasons in Red Sox history? Evans picked the worst possible year to have the best season of his career, as the midseason players’ strike cost him at least 50 games. Evans played in all 108 of the Red Sox’ games that season. Along with leading the league in OPS, walks and home runs, he finished second in OBP, third in slugging, second in OPS+ and fourth in RBI. By leading the league in total bases and walks, Evans joined an elite American League club consisting at the time of only Ruth, Foxx, Williams and Mantle.
Translated to 162 games, Evans could have finished with 183 hits, 128 walks, 33 home runs and 105 RBI. All those numbers would have been at or near Evans’ career highs set during his mid-1980s peak. As it is, Evans’ 1981 remains the best OPS+ ever put up by a Red Sox right fielder.
Evans also had a nice year in the clutch, driving in 22 more runners than would be expected for a batter with his number of plate appearances despite coming to the plate with just seven more runners on base than average (and 12 fewer on second and third). Oh, and Evans won the fourth of his eight Gold Gloves in 1981, too. The more one looks at his numbers, the more one concludes that voters did him a grave disservice by dismissing his Hall of Fame candidacy so quickly.
Key game: May 30. Evans caps a five-run rally in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out, three-run homer over the Green Monster off Rollie Fingers. The blast ties the Sox’ game with the Brewers at six, and Dave Stapleton wins it in the 10th.