Sunday, November 11, 2018

Looking at Franchises' Best Players - National League Central

So I didn't finish before the end of the season. Oh well.

Cincinnati Reds (existed since 1882):

Top Player: Pete Rose (78.1 WAR)

#24 Player: Ernie Lombardi (31.3)

# of Players >30 WAR: 28

# of Players >50 WAR: 7 (Rose, Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Frank Robinson, Joey Votto, Joe Morgan, Bid McPhee)

# of Players >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? The Reds don't have a single pitcher in their Top 9, so no. Also, they might have to play Frank Robinson in the OF to make room for Tony Perez and Joey Votto at third and first, which is sub-optimal.

Notes: I didn't expect Rose to finish first. I figured him to be somewhere in the middle of the pack. Of course, I also thought the Reds' all-time WAR leader would have more than 78, for as many great players as they've had.

Votto is the only active guy in here. If he produces at the rate he did this year, he'll pass Frank Robinson in 2020. If he can reach his 2017 level, he'll do it next season.

Frank Robinson placed 17th on Baltimore's list, so as predicted, he finished much higher here.

Joe Morgan was 10th on Houston's list, versus 6th with the Reds.

The highest ranked pitcher is Noodles Hahn, who places 10th with 44.6 WAR. Hahn only played 8 years in the majors, and last played for the Reds in 1905. Jose Rijo is the highest ranking pitcher I've actually heard of, in 18th at 38.1 WAR.

6 of the top 9 are players from the Big Red Machine era, Larkin, Votto, and McPhee being the exceptions. Of the 10-24 players, only four (Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Rijo, and Jim Maloney) played recently enough to have a color photograph. Which probably speaks to the Reds' futility the last 25+ years.

Milwaukee Brewers (existed since 1969):

Top Player: Robin Yount (77.3 WAR)

#24 Player: B.J. Surhoff (15.4)

# of Players >30 WAR: 5

# of Players >50 WAR: 2 (Yount and Paul Molitor)

# of Players >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? Not really. There are two pitchers, no catchers, and one guy who can only play first, plus two others who can play first and third, plus a guy who plays second and third, plus a guy who plays third, short, or second, and only two outfielders.

Notes: There are four active players on the list. Jonathan Lucroy is 19th, Yovani Gallardo is 17th, Carlos Gomez is 13th, and Ryan Braun is 3rd. Braun is the only one still on the Brewers, but considering he's 13.5 WAR behind Molitor, I don't see him moving any further up the list.

Prince Fielder is 21st on the list.

Bill Wegman is 18th on the list. The main reason I remember him is the movie Little Big League, where one of the best friends of the kid managing the Twins is always imploring him to 'use Wegman'. Although Bill Wegman spent his entire 11-year career in Milwaukee, so maybe it wasn't supposed to be the same guy.

Mike Caldwell (20th place) has this look on his face like he wants to sarcastically ask if you're really taking his picture for this. Either that or he's tired 'cause he's seen some shit.

Chicago Cubs (existed since 1876):

Top Player: Cap Anson (84.5 WAR)

#24 Player: John Clarkson (36.5 WAR)

# of Players >30 WAR: 32

# of Players >50 WAR: 9 (Anson, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Sammy Sosa, Fergie Jenkins, Stan Hack, Gabby Hartnett)

Can you make a starting lineup of their Top 9? Not quite, they actually don't have enough outfielders. They have two different potential catchers, three guys who could play first, three guys who could play third, one pitcher, a shortstop, but only two outfielders.

Notes: I considered listing Cap Anson as "noted bigot Cap Anson", but I really would have needed to start that some time ago to be consistent. Ty Cobb would need that label as well, certainly.

Greg Maddux was one of the players with over 30 WAR who didn't make the top 24. Single-season RBI record holder Hack Wilson is another. The Cubs have had some really good players, they just don't seem to have had enough of them at the same time very often.

Carlos Zambrano was about even with John Clarkson on pitcher WAR. Once you added in his ability as a hitter, he jumped up to 17th place. He really annoyed the hell out of me, given how he liked to show off when he struck someone out, but would then get pissy if he thought somebody showed him up when they hit a home run.

The #18 player is named Hippo Vaughn. Played in the 1910s as a pitcher. 

Rick Reuschel finished 10th, at just over 49 WAR. I remember him as a San Francisco Giant, which came later, when he'd grown a solid mustache. Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown is right behind him at 11th place.

Frank Chance, Joe Tinker, and Johnny Evers, of "Tinker to Evers to Chance" all finished surprisingly close to each other. Chance is 13th (45.5 WAR), Tinker is 14th (45.2), and Evers is 20th (39.5). I expected one of them to have been a dud as a player and miss the list entirely. You know, that the ditty was based on one season where all three of them were good, but normally one of them just sucked. Not the case.

Pittsburgh Pirates (existed since 1882):

Top Player: Honus Wagner (120.1 WAR)

#24 Player: Ed Morris (30.0)

# of Players >30 WAR: 23, since Morris isn't at more than 30.

# of Players >50 WAR: 9 (Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Paul Waner, Arky Vaughn, Willie Stargell, Wilbur Cooper, Babe Adams, Max Carey, Barry Bonds)

# of Players >100 WAR: 1 (Wagner)

Can you make a starting lineup of their top 9? Two pitchers and four outfielders, so no.

Notes: Bonds finished 2nd on the Giants' list.

The only active player on the list is Andrew McCutchen, who lands in the 14th spot at 39.3 WAR. If he'd been in Pittsburgh this year, he would have passed Sam Leever and been closing in on Bob Friend in 12th place.

There are not a lot of guys on here I remember. Bonds, obviously, and McCutchen. Jason Kendall is 23rd, and Andy van Slyke is 21st. I remember Dave Parker (18th) from his time in Oakland, and John Candelaria sounds familiar, although he doesn't look it.

Trading van Slyke to get Tony Pena really didn't work out for the Cardinals. Especially since it would be years before that got any consistent quality production out of right field (you'd have to get to Brian Jordan to find someone definitely better, but Felix Jose or Mark Whiten might be in the general ballpark).

St. Louis Cardinals (existed since 1882):

Top Player: Stan Musial (128.2 WAR)

#24 Player: Ted Breitenstein (32.3)

# of Players >30 WAR: 26

# of Players >50 WAR: 7 (Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Bob Gibson, Albert Pujols, Ozzie Smith, Ken Boyer, Enos Slaughter)

# of Players >100 WAR: 1 (Musial)

Can you make a starting lineup of their Top 9? Yes! Only one pitcher, Ted Simmons at catcher, Albert at first, Hornsby at second, Ozzie at SS, Boyer at 3rd, then Curt Flood in CF with Musial and Slaughter on either side. And if Slaughter objects to playing with black players, sub in the #10 guy, Lou Brock.

Notes: When I started this, I really did think there would be at least one other team where the top 9 worked out as neatly as that.

Albert Pujols (4th), Adam Wainwright (16th), and Yadier Molina (15th) are all still active. Molina passed Wainwright this year, along with Jim Edmonds and Ray Lankford.

He should catch Johnny Mize early next year. if he can post a league average (~2 WAR) season, he should make it to 12th place, passing Mize, Joe Medwick, and Harry Breechen. Ted Simmons is the only catcher ahead of him, but it'll take another 7.2 WAR to pass him, and Molina said he was retiring after 2020. I don't think he can make it, although it would be good for the Cardinals if he did (not so good for Carson Kelly, though).

It's harder to predict Wainwright, because I'm not sure what he has left in the tank, or how many chances he'll get. Catching Mize should be doable, but Medwick might be beyond reach. Without his hitting statistics, Wainwright wouldn't have made the Top 24 at all.

Frankie Frisch finished 23rd, with 32.6 WAR. He was 19th on the Giants' list, with 37.8 WAR. Keith Hernandez finished 20th at 34.5 WAR, after finishing 12th with 26.6 on the Mets' list.

Albert Pujols' 86.6 WAR would lead 14 other teams. He's only 4th on the Cardinals. This is your periodic reminder that the version of Albert that was on the Cardinals was really, really outstanding.

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