Writing Off O’Sullivan

This is Darrell Evans. He was a unique ballplayer and despite exceptional value was underrated for most of his career. Evans great skill was combining power with an ability to draw a base-on-balls. He was a Rule 5 pickup by Atlanta (from Oakland) and led the league in walks twice during his time with the Braves.

His weakness was batting average, and in 1976 (while he was hitting .173 but still managed a .320OBP) Atlanta dealt him to the Giants. In San Fransisco he continued to hit for power and OBP and had some fine seasons there, and when he went to the Tigers Evans was part of a strong offensive team that won the 1984 WS and had a deep run in 1987 (clubbing the Jays down the stretch in a memorable collapse by a Toronto team).

When people talk about that 1984 team, names like Kirk Gibson, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris are (correctly) mentioned as key components. However, Darrell Evans was a veteran hitter with a terrific eye at the plate and contributed to a winning team in a major way.

It looks like the Oilogosphere has made up its mind about Patrick O’Sullivan. He’s been an Oiler for over half a season and hasn’t delivered close to his established level of ability. It’s my belief that if we took a long look at O’Sullivan’s successful seasons (05-06 in the minors and 07-08 in the majors) and then compared them to this year we’d find out some things.

A quick glance at his career tells us that most of his NHL goals scored before arrival in Edmonton were at even strength (30 at EV, 7 on the PP and 4 on the PK) and that he played mid-level opposition with good linemates in the 2007-08 season. He played about 18 minutes a night that season (13:38 at EV, 2:25 on PP and 2:38 on PK).

So I think a case could be made that O’Sullivan is an NHL player. If the Oilers had the depth to be able to play him in a similar role (mid-level opponent, good linemates, lots of EV time) to the one he played in Los Angeles one could argue the Oilers would have more than three (Tyler made an excellent point last night about Penner, Horcoff and Gagner) players who could help them win hockey games.

Patrick O’Sullivan doesn’t look like a difference maker and he’s certainly not Darrell Evans. However, there is some evidence that he can play in the NHL and on this team that has tremendous value.

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