Saturday, April 28, 2018

Looking at Franchises' Best Players - National League West

I have some actual free time this weekend, so let's try and finish another of these. Moving to the NL West, with a couple of stories franchises, and three, let's say less-storied teams and leave it at that.

Los Angeles Dodgers (existed since 1884):

Top Player: Don Drysdale (67.2 WAR)

#24 Player: Pedro Guerrero (32.7)

# of Players >30 WAR: 29

# of Players >50 WAR: 8 (Drysdale, Pee Wee Reese, Duke SNider, Jackie Robinson, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Wheat, Dazzy Vance, Willie Davis

# of Players >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? Four pitchers - Drysdale, Kershaw, Vance, and Koufax -say no. But they do have a complete outfield, and 3/4ths of an infield.

Notes: I would have expected the Dodgers' top player to have more WAR than that. A bit like the White Sox and the Athletics. Not a high peak, but a lot of guys bunched together. It drops off fast in the last third of the list, though. Gil Hodges is 14th at 44.3 WAR, but by 16th, Fernandomania is down to 36.9 WAR.

Koufax and Don Sutton tied with 49 WAR apiece.

I remember Guerrero from his years with the Cardinals, which, outside of his first full season in 1989, did not go well. Across 5 seasons, he was worth 1.7 WAR total. But that 1989, he hit .311 with 17 HRs and 42 doubles. His poor defense negated a lot of the value of his hitting, though. Steve Garvey, who is 17th, is in a similar boat. He spent his last five years with the Padres, and was worth 1.4 WAR total across those years.

The next three guys after Guerrero would have been Davey Lopes, Maury Wills, and Mike Piazza.

Kershaw is the only active player on the list. He should pass Jackie Robinson in the next month. If he can post a 5.5 WAR season, he'll pass Duke Snider. So he has a real good shot of surpassing Drysdale, ultimately. Also, I didn't realize Kershaw had been worth almost 2 WAR with his bat.

San Diego Padres (existed since 1969):

Top Player: Tony Gwynn (69.2 WAR)

#24 Player: Will Venable (12.8)

Players with >30 WAR: 2

Players with >50 WAR: 1

Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of their Top 9? There's 5 pitchers on the list, including one closer (Trevor Hoffman naturally), so no.

Notes: That is pretty disappointing. Just for comparison, the Royals have also been around since '69. They also have one player above 50 WAR, but Brett is almost 20 ahead of Gwynn. And they had 8 players above 30 WAR. Hell, the Mariners have existed 8 years less, and they have 4 players above 50 WAR.

For the record, the other player above 30 WAR is Dave Winfield.

Chase Headley (11th) and Adrian Gonzalez (6th) are the only active players on the list. Neither is doing well so far this year. Gonzalez has been worth -0.4 WAR so far for the Mets, and Headley is back with the Padres, and at -0.1 WAR. If Headly could manage even 1 WAR this year, he'd jump to 8th, behind Andy Benes, and ahead of Randy Jones. If he can manage 1.5 WAR, he'd pass Gonzalez. He was worth 1.8 last year for the Yankees, and 2.6 the year before, so there's a decent chance he has that in him.

One advantage to the Padres being a young franchise is I at least vaguely remember most of these guys. Benes was a Cardinal for 5 years. Jake Peavy is third on the franchise list. Ryan Klesko is 18th. I hated Ryan Klesko when he was on the Braves. I think because he seemed like a such a big, clumsy, swing-and-miss guy, and I hate watching those guys play ball.

As low as the bar is for entry, I thought Ozzie Smith might make the list, despite only being a Padre for 4 seasons, and not being able to hit a lick while he was there. He ended up at 11 WAR, so if he'd stuck around one more year, maybe. 5 of those 11 came in 1980, his best season hitting (when he was still almost 30% below league average by OPS).

San Francisco Giants (existed since 1883):

Top Player: Willie Mays (154.8 WAR)

#24 Player: Art Devlin (34.3)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 34

# of Players with >50 WAR: 11 (Mays, Bonds, Mel Ott, Christy Mathewson, Amos Rusie, Carl Hubbell, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Bill Terry Roger Conner, Mickey Welch)

# of Players with >100 WAR: Mays, Bonds, Ott, Mathewson

Can you make a starting lineup out of the Top 9? Too many pitchers and outfielders, not enough middle infielders. As in, no middle infielders or catchers.

Notes: Matt Cain just missed 30 WAR. Madison Bumgarner is a good enough hitter it boosted him by 6 WAR above what his pitching stats provide. If he'd been healthy this year, he would almost certainly made it to the Top 24.

Position players with >30 WAR outside the Top 24 included Matt Williams, Robby Thompson, Jeff Kent, and Jack Clark.

There's an almost 35 WAR drop from Mathewson to Rusie, but Rusie was valuable enough he'd have been top player on several of the teams we've looked at so far.

Frankie Frisch is 19th on the Giants' list, with 37.8 WAR. He was almost that valuable for the Cardinals, so we'll see if he make it on their list.

I'm also curious to see how high Bonds ranks on the Pirates' list. They've had some pretty great players, though. Barry's father, Bobby Bonds, is 18th on the Giants.

All I know about Travis Jackson, who is 13th at 44 WAR, is his picture makes him look a little like actor Telly Savalas.

Will Clark is 21st. A lot of Cardinals' fans hated him for the issues the Giants and Cardinals had in the late 1980s. I don't really remember those years, other than I liked Will Clark's swing. Designed for line drives, with just a slight uppercut. Jim Edmonds' swing reminded me of it a little, although Jim had more of an uppercut on his. Clark did have one really great half-season for the Cardinals before he retired, filling in for an injured Mark McGwire on the 2000 Cardinals.

Buster Posey is the only active player in the top 24, at 17th. He's been worth 9 wins the last two years, so about 4.5 per year. He's already at 0.6 this year, so he's probably good for another 4 this season. That'd be enough to get him to 14th, moving past Mike Tiernan, Art Fletcher, and Larry Doyle.

Colorado Rockies (existed since 1993):

Top Player: Todd Helton (61.2 WAR)

#12 Player: Jhoulys Chacin (14.9)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 3

# of Players with >50 WAR: 1

# of Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of their Top 9? Very close. But they have two pitchers - Ubaldo Jimenez and Aaron Cook - and two third basemen - Nolan Arenado and Vinny Castilla. No catcher, no second baseman.

Notes: My rough estimate is that Armando Reynoso is 24th, at around 8.5 WAR.

Larry Walker is 2nd in the franchise, at 48 WAR. I expect he'll be on the Expos' list as well. Arenado is 4th. He probably won't catch Tulowitzki this year, as Tulo is about 11 WAR right now, but probably by the end of next year. Carlos Gonzalez is 5th, but I doubt he'll climb any higher.

DJ Lamehieu and Charlie Blackmon, 10th and 11th, respectively, will both probably pass Cook and Castilla this season. Jimenez and Matt Holliday will probably take another year.

Arizona Diamondbacks (since 1998):

Top Player: Randy Johnson (50.8 WAR)

#12 Player: Stephen Drew 13.2

# of Players 2ith >30 WAR: 4

# of Players with >50 WAR: 1

# of Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of their Top 9? No. Four starting pitchers and three centerfielders.

Notes: The 4 pitchers were Big Unit, Brandon Webb, Schilling, and Dan Haren. The centerfielders, Steve Finley, A.J. Pollock, and Chris Young.

The #24 spot probably goes to one of the following three pitcher: Patrick Corbin, Ian Kennedy, or Byung-Hyun Kim. Probably Kim, as both Corbin and Kennedy were able to add to their 8.3 pitching WAR with some hitting. Plus, Corbin is still playing for the D'backs.

Matt Williams couldn't make the Giants' Top 24, but he'd have been 23rd for Arizona. Zack Grienke is moving up the list as well, at roughly 9 WAR right now.

Pollock (6th) and Paul Goldschmidt (2nd) are the only active players currently on Arizona in the top 12. Pollock is at least a couple years away from catching Schilling for 5th. Goldschmidt, even at his 5+ WAR per season pace, is at least 3 years away from catching Randy Johnson.

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Saturday, April 07, 2018

Looking At Franchises' Best Players - American League East

Well, I kind let this fall by the wayside. Whoops. Moving on to the American League East.

Baltimore Orioles (existed since 1901, counting the St. Louis Browns and Milwaukee Brewers, for one year):

Top Player: Cal Ripken Jr. (95.9 WAR)

#24 Player: Ned Garver (26.8)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 19

# of Players with >50 WAR: 5 (Ripken, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, George Sisler)

# of Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9?  No. They have 3 pitchers - Palmer, Mike Mussina, and the excellently named Urban Shocker - and between Ripken, Robinson, and Mark Belanger, they have three guys who play either third base of shortstop. No catchers, not enough outfielders.

Notes: Given what I've always heard about the Browns being a lousy franchise, there are more of them on this list than I would have expected. Only 8 of the 24, but the franchise has been the Orioles for over 60 years now, so you'd expect Baltimore players to dominate. My dad's always told me his dad was a St. Louis Browns' fan. So bad choices in teams runs in the family.

Two active players on the list, Adam Jones (18th) and Manny Machado (22nd). Of course, Machado probably won't be an Oriole after this season. If he repeats his 2017, he'll move up to 18th or 19th. If he can replicate his 2015 or 2016, he could to at least 16th. 16th is probably about as far as Jones can move up, unless he can turn the clock back to 2013-2014.

Frank Robinson is on here, at 17th. I expect he's going to place much higher on the Cincinnati Reds' list when/if I get there.

Mark Belanger is basically the only guy in MLB history to have been worth as many runs defensively as Ozzie Smith. Smith has him beat by about 25 WAR, because while Ozzie was 13% below average as a hitter in his career, Belanger was 32% below average. Also, Ozzie was worth about 80 runs as a baserunner, Belanger 16. Still, Belanger was good enough to be part of some World Series winning teams.

Boston Red Sox (since 1901):

Top Player: Ted Williams (123.1 WAR)

#24 Player: Tim Wakefield (32.4). Whoo, knuckleball pitcher represent!

Players with >30 WAR: 31ish. I looked up their Top 50 in WAR for Batters and Pitchers, and added on everyone over 30 WAR. That might not be taking into account negative offense value for pitchers from pre-DH, though, but it's the best estimate I've got.

Players with >50 WAR: 11 (Williams, Yaz, Clemens, Boggs, Cy Young, Dwight Evans, Tris Speaker, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Bobby Doerr).

Players with >100 WAR: 1 (Williams)

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? Well, Clemens, Cy Young, and Pedro are all pitchers, so no. Plus, four outfielders, and David Ortiz, who basically plays no position. Friggin' DHs.

Notes: Pedroia is the only current player on the list, although there are several guys that were playing recently. Clemens, Pedro, Ortiz, obviously. Also, Wakefield and Manny Ramirez (23rd), and Nomar (14th). Pedroia can probably pass Pedro and Big Papi this year, but unless he puts up 3.5 WAR, he won't catch Tris Speaker.

Babe Ruth is 15th on the list, behind Nomar (41.2) and ahead of Carlton Fisk (39.5 WAR). I expect Ruth is going to finish a lot higher on the next team's list.

Jimmie Foxx is 20th on Boston's list, after being 3rd on the Athletics'. Lefty Grove, who was 4th for Oakland, is 13th for Boston. Tris Speaker is 7th here, and 2nd for Cleveland. I'm curious if Clemens is going to make Toronto's list, because he had a hell of a two years there.

15 guys on the list have color photos, 6 that were part of the post-2000 teams. Which seems about right. This has been one of the most extended periods of the Red Sox being a relevant franchise.

New York Yankees (since 1903):

Top Player: Babe Ruth (142.4) Yeah, that's quite a bit higher of a finish.

#24 Player: Earle Combs (42.5 WAR). Christ, that's their 24th best player?

Players with >30 WAR: 36. 12 guys didn't make the Top 24, including Don Mattingly, Mike Mussina, and Rickey Henderson.

Players with >50 WAR: 13, same as Detroit. Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Jeter, Yogi Berra, Red Ruffing, Whitey Ford, Mariano Rivera, Bill Dickey, A-Rod, Willie Randolph, and Andy Pettitte.

Players with >100 WAR: 3 Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle.

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9?  Actually, not too bad, but no. Got the outfield, the catcher and first baseman, and Jeter will stand at SS. But the last three guys are pitchers, so they're missing a second and third baseman.

Notes: Robinson Cano is 19th, between Thurman Munson and Graig Nettles, the only active player left. Although Brett Gardner was one of the 12 guys over 30 WAR not in the Top 24. Maybe he can make his way further up the list.

Alex Rodriguez finishes 11th, higher than he did with the Rangers, but lower than with the Mariners.

DiMaggio looks so forlorn in his picture, while Gehrig has this skeptical look on his face. Really, you're going to take my picture?

Red Ruffing's position is listed as pitcher and pinch hitter. His OPS+ is only 81, but he did collect over 500 hits and 36 HRs.

I read an autobiography for Whitey Ford when I was in junior high. I mainly remember the parts when his velocity was falling off and he was trying to use his wedding ring to doctor the ball without getting caught.

Toronto Blue Jays (existed since 1977):

Top Player: Dave Stieb (57.1 WAR)

#24 Player: Aaron Hill (17.1 WAR)

Players with >30 WAR: 5 (Stieb, Roy Halladay, Tony Fernandez, Jose Bautista, Carlos Delgado).

Players with >50 WAR: 1

Players with >100 WAR: 0.

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? 4 starting pitchers says no.

Notes: Edwin Encarnacion (12th, 24.3 WAR), and Josh Donaldson (18th, 20.9 WAR) are the only two active players on the list. Although Jose Bautista retired just last year, and Aaron Hill played last year as well. But Hill had been below replacement level 4 of the last 5 seasons of his career. If this "dead arm" thing doesn't impact Donaldson's value too much, he might pass Encarnacion on the lis by the end of the season.

Clemens wound up 20th on the Blue Jays' list, after only two seasons.

I always liked Dave Stieb. Maybe because I briefly considered picking Toronto as my American League team back in the 80s, when I was thinking about having an AL team. So there are a lot of guys on here I remember from their early baseball cards, but I couldn't tell you anything about Jesse Barfield, for example. As for Stieb, he kept coming so close to getting no-hitters, and then they'd get broken up in the 8th or the 9th. My parents and I were at a Twins/Royals game in Minneapolis one year, when he had one going against the Yankees. Mattingly broke it up in the 9th, I think. I think Stieb got one eventually, though.

Pat Hentgen formed a heck of a tandem with Clemens for those two years. But he didn't have anything left in the tank by the time he came to St. Louis in 2000.

Speaking of former Cardinals, I was hoping Todd Stottlemyre would be on here, but no dice. He was worth just under 11 WAR for the Jays.

Tampa Bay Rays: (since 1998):

Top Player: Evan Longoria (50.0 WAR)

#12 Player: Aubrey Huff (11.8 WAR).

Players with >30 WAR: 3.

Players with >50 WAR: 1. Technically Longoria isn't over 50, but it's close enough.

Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of their Top 9?  Nah. Three pitchers, no catchers.

Notes: For these franchises that haven't been around long, Baseball-Reference only went to Top 12. My rough estimate is Jeremy Hellickson (7.2 WAR) would be #24.

If it did go to 24, Fred McGriff would be on here, around 20, which is roughly where he was for Toronto as well.

Seven of the Top 12 are still in the league, the exceptions being Carl Crawford, Julio Lugo, Carlos Pena, Desmond Jennings, and Aubrey Huff.

Kevin Kiermaier is the only guy on this list still playing for the Rays. Unsurprising given their teardown of the last few seasons. Chris Archer will probably be on here soon. Based on his pitching WAR, he should already be ahead of Huff, which I guess means his scant batting chances have tanked his value just enough.

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