Saturday, December 16, 2017

Looking At Franchises' Best Players - American League Central

I had honestly almost forgotten I was doing this. Let's move on to the AL Central, a division with a few more teams with long histories than the AL West. So expect deeper lists here.

Chicago White Sox (existed since 1901):

Top Player: Luke Appling (74 WAR)

#24 Player: Gary Peters (26 WAR)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 19

# of Players with >50 WAR: 8 (Appling, Ted Lyons, Frank Thomas, Eddie Collins, Ed Walsh, Red Faber, Wilbur Wood, Eddie Cicotte)

# of Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting line up of the Top 9? Well, six of their Top 9 are pitchers (Appling, Eddie Collins, and the Big Hurt being the exceptions), so no.

Notes: I expected the White Sox would have someone with a higher total, but they're like the Athletics: deep, but not a real high peak. Frank Thomas (34d, 68 WAR) and Mark Buerhle (in 9th at 48 WAR) are the only two players from the last 50 years, maybe longer than that, in the Top 10.

Eddie Collins comes in slightly higher (#4) on the White Sox list than he did the A's (#5), but he also has 9 more WAR for the ChiSox.

Going by the picture Baseball-Reference used, Ed Walsh had seen some shit. Guy looks scary intense.

Shoeless Joe came in at #23. Paul Konerko finished tied at 28 WAR with Carlton Fisk and Ray Schalk. Luis Aparicio is in 15th place, and Minnie Minoso is 12th, with 41 WAR. I know Fisk was in the later days of his career by his time in Chicago, but I'd pictured him having more in the tank than that.

Chris Sale is the only player currently active on the list. He was 18th, at 31 WAR.

Minnesota Twins (existed since 1901, cripes we're giving them credit for the Washington Senators?):

Top Player: Walter Johnson (165 WAR).

#24 Player: Frank Viola (27 WAR).

# of Players >30 WAR: 20.

# of Players >50 WAR: 6. (Johnson, Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Joe Mauer, Sam Rice, Kirby Puckett)

# of Players >100 WAR: 1

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? Close. Don't know what the defense would be like, but put Killebrew at 3rd and Carew at 2nd, you're only missing a SS and LF. 3 pitchers, though.

Notes: Walter Johnson is over 100 WAR ahead of Carew, which is staggering. Carew is a Hall of Famer, and the gap between him and Johnson is an equal to an even better Hall of Famer. Probably that gap in the level of competition rearing its head again. But regardless, you've got to be damn good for a long time to accumulate that kind of value.

Brad Radke was the 3rd pitcher in the Top 9 besides Johnson and Blyleven.

Johan Santana came in 19th at 35 WAR, just behind Jim Kaat. My dad's a big fan of Kaat, who spent the last four seasons of his 25-year career with the Cardinals. As B-R lists him as below replacement level for those years, he will not be making the Cardinals' list.

Joe Mauer is the only currently active player. He's 7 WAR behind Killebrew, so I'm not sure he can catch him. Two more years like last year would do it, but if he regresses to his 2016 performance, it'll take 4 more years.

There's a clump of 7 guys in the 40s, which isn't too shabby. I thought having the Senators' history as part of theirs would give the Twins a deeper list, but I think I underestimated how miserable the Senators were for most of their history. The Twins' players account for 15 of the 24 on the list, even though they've existed for a few years (57) less than the Senators (60).

Kansas City Royals (existed since 1969):

Top Player: George Brett (88 WAR).

#24 Player: Johnny Damon (17 WAR).

# Players >30 WAR: 8

# Players >50 WAR: 1. Brett, obviously.

# Players >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? The 3 pitchers (Appier, Saberhagen, Gubicza) say no, but you could get close if you were willing to play Alex Gordon at 3rd and Brett at 1st. Still no C or SS, though.

Notes: The Royals do have 4 (Appier, Saberhagen, Willie Wilson, Amos Otis) players in the 40s, which isn't terrible. It isn't great, either. The Mariners have more guys above 50 WAR than KC, and they've existed 10 years less. Although the Mariners beat the Angels and Rangers on that score, too, and they both predate the Royals.

Only having 3 players in the 30s is unimpressive, though. Really fast drop off on this list.

I've read a lot of Royals' fans over the years talk about how underappreciated Kevin Appier is. I hadn't ever really bought in, but 47 WAR is pretty good.

Dan Quisenberry is 12th with 25 WAR. He spent a couple years near the end with the Cardinals, where I really dug that submarine delivery.

As far as currently active players go, there are quite a few. Alex Gordon, obviously, although maybe for not much longer if he doesn't regain the ability to hit. Zack Greinke is in 10th, Lorenzo Cain is tied with Quisenberry right behind him. Recently retired Carlos Beltran is 14th with 24 WAR. Salvador Perez is in 21st with 19 WAR. Since I assume Cain is going to sign elsewhere this offseason, Perez is the only one likely to keep climbing the ladder. If he can match the ~2.5 WAR he's been worth each of the last 3 years, that should get him to 18th next year, between Charlie Liebrandt and Mike Montgomery.

Detroit Tigers (since 1901):

Top Player: Ty Cobb (144 WR)

#24 Player: Rudy York (31 WAR)

# of Players >30 WAR: More than 24, probably.

# of Players >50 WAR: 13, crap. Cobb, Al Kaline, Charlie Gehringer, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Harry Heilman, Sam Crawford, Hal Newhouser, Justin Verlander, Hank Grennburg, Norm Cash, Tommy Bridges, Miguel Cabrera

# of Players >100 WAR: 1.

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? Nope, and it's not really having too many pitchers (they have two). They have 3 guys B-R lists as Rightfielder/First baseman. No catcher, no third baseman.

Notes: Now that's a deep team. 13 guys with at least 50 WAR? Damn. 8 of those guys have more than 60, and the Top 5 are all at 70 WAR or more. I had the impression Hank Greenburg was one of the greatest players in history, and he barely makes Detroit's Top 10.  It's what you'd expect though. The Tigers have had a lot of stretches of being really good over their long history.

John Hiller, Chet Lemon, and Lance Parrish would all be players with more than 30 WAR who didn't make the Top 24. Parrish is at 29.9, but I assume they'd round up.

Jack Morris is on here, 21st place, with 38 WAR. So he's in the same place on this list as Salvador Perez was on the Royals', but with twice the WAR.

Mickey Lolich's (15th, 47 WAR) picture makes him look a bit like Paul Newman.

The guy just ahead of Lolich is called Dizzy Trout, which is a fantastic name. Pitch like Dizzy Dean, do everything else like Mike Trout. And if the Angels had him, they probably still couldn't make the playoffs.

Verlander and Cabrera are the only two active guys on the list. Verlander was traded away, but Cabrera's still there. Of course, he was below replacement level last year, and has 6 years left on that contract, at about $30 million per. Ouch. If he doesn't turn things around, he's going to descend the list, rather than climb it.

Cleveland Indians (existing since 1901, albeit as the Blues, Bronchos, and Naps the first 14 years):

Top Player: Nap Lajoie (79 WAR)

#24 Player: Elmer Flick (31 WAR).

# of Players >30 WAR: At least 30.

# of Players >50 WAR: 5. Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Stan Coveleski.

# of Players >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? Nope, too many outfielders. 3 CFs (Speaker, Kenny Lofton, Earl Averill), plus Lajoie (sine Thome would have to play first).

Notes: Not quite what I was expecting. It's a deep list, but a low peak, like the Athletics. They do have two players with more than 70 WAR in Lajoie and Speaker, and Feller and Boudreau are both in the 60s. 9 players between 40 and 50 WAR, though, which isn't bad. On par with the Twins. I'm guessing the 50 years of being terrible post-World War II have something to do with the state of this list.

There are at least four players who would qualify as having more than 30 WAR who didn't make the list, including Omar Vizquel and Manny Ramirez. Well, Manny's at 29.9, but as with Lance Parrish, I'm assuming they'd round up.

There's Shoeless Joe again, this time at 19th with 34 WAR. Larry Doby is 13th, at 43 WAR.

As you might have guessed from my comment about the lack of color photos, there are no active players on this list. I would have expected another couple of guys from the late '90s teams to have made it on here, at least at the bottom.

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