No. 5: Joe Kuhel
Years: 1930-1937, 1944-1946 (11 Seasons)
Key Stats: 1205 G, 1338 Hits, 56 HR, 667 RBI, .288 BA, 16.5 WAR, -7.1 dWAR, 5 Top 25 MVP finishes, 1933 American League Pennant
Joe Kuhel, pronounced Joe Cool, played for the Washington Senators for 11 years. He was a clubhouse leader and a star for a team that was competitive for the beginning of his time with the team, making a World Series in 1933. The team success didn’t carry over in for the rest of his time in Washington, but Kuhel stayed consistent.
Kuhel was not a very good defensive player, earning a -7.1 dWAR, which isn’t good, even for first basemen. Joe Mauer’s dWAR over five years at first was -1.8. Kuhel never focused on his defense, instead racking up offensive numbers that rank among the best in franchise history.
Joe Kuhel ranks 32nd in offensive WAR with the team, 25th in batting average and on-base percentage, and 18th in hits. Granted, he has played in more games than all but 24 other players in team history, but he played those games well.
Kuhel was at his best in 1933 when he lead the team in home runs with 11 and came in second in batting average (he hit .322) and RBI (he had 107). His team won the AL Pennant by eight games, but came up short of a title, losing to the underdog Pittsburgh Pirates in five games.
Without Kuhel, the Senators wouldn’t have won the team’s final pennant in Washington. He was a key piece of a very good team. Joe Kuhel deserves his spot among the best first basemen this franchise has seen.