Monthly Archives: March 2012

Any player/Any era: Al Kaline

What he did: For being a baseball Hall of Famer, and one of his sport’s greatest living players, Al Kaline is a forgotten man sometimes. Sure, the longtime Detroit Tiger has 3,007 hits, a .297 lifetime batting average, and a revered spot in his franchise’s lore. But ask anyone the greatest outfielder of the 1950s or ’60s and talk may sooner center on Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, or Mickey Mantle, among so many others. Limit the conversation to right fielders, and some may still sooner give a nod to Roberto Clemente or Frank Robinson or, if we’re simply talking peak value, Roger Maris or Rocky Colavito.

It isn’t Kaline’s fault that he played in perhaps the greatest generation of outfielders in baseball history. He made the most of his opportunity and has a well-deserved Hall of Fame plaque. In a less star-studded era, though, Kaline’s offensive stats might drop but his legacy could be greater.

Era he might have thrived in: If the 1950s and ’60s were the summer blockbuster season of baseball history, the ’70s and ’80s were like August, a time for second-rate action thrillers, sleeper hits, and the occasional box office bomb. Might Al Kaline have been Keanu Reeves in “Chain Reaction” on the Pittsburgh Pirates of this era? Hardly.

Why: With his foot speed and mix of contact and power hitting, Kaline would have excelled on the artificial turf at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh and a number of other ballparks in these days. Kaline never had the all-out power that came to define baseball in the 1990s, but then, neither did George Brett, Robin Yount, or most other Hall of Famers from their less offensive era. It’s why Mike Schmidt used to lead the National League with less than 40 home runs, one reason why Tony Perez and Jim Rice made Cooperstown with under 400 career home runs and Dwight Evans, Dale Murphy, and Dave Parker could follow suit eventually.

No one would begrudge Kaline hitting .330 with 20 home runs and 100 RBI on a team like the 1979 Pirates. In fact, these numbers and his defense would probably make him one of the best players in the National League. His presence might also make Pittsburgh better longer. For all the joy and warmth the “We Are Family” Pirates evoked beating the Baltimore Orioles in the ’79 World Series, their 1980 club was among baseball’s most historically dysfunctional teams, beset with cocaine abuse. Players like Rod Scurry, Bernie Carbo, and mercurial then-superstar Parker would later figure prominently in the infamous Pittsburgh drug trials of the mid-’80s.

Perhaps a steady, non-assuming person with no hint of scandal during his career, someone like Kaline could have a calming effect on that clubhouse, even if a leader as graceful and respected as Willie Stargell seemingly lost its hold. Who knows, maybe Stargell needed help and someone to assume his mantle with his career winding down. I’ll concede, of course, that Kaline could easily get swept up in the times when players rode the white horse as much as a later generation dabbled in performance enhancers. But I’d like to give Kaline the benefit of the doubt.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature (generally) here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Al SimmonsAlbert PujolsBabe RuthBad News RockiesBarry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob WatsonBobby VeachCarl MaysCesar CedenoCharles Victory FaustChris von der AheDenny McLainDom DiMaggioDon DrysdaleDoug GlanvilleEddie LopatElmer FlickEric Davis, Frank HowardFritz MaiselGary CarterGavvy CravathGene TenaceGeorge W. Bush (as commissioner)George CaseGeorge WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jack MorrisJackie Robinson, Jim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh GibsonJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film),Mark FidrychMatty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate ColbertOllie CarnegiePaul DerringerPedro GuerreroPedro MartinezPee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRickey HendersonRoberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam ThompsonSandy Koufax Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe JacksonSpud ChandlerStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTony PhillipsTy CobbVada PinsonWally BunkerWes FerrellWill ClarkWillie Mays

Managers with the Most Wins and Their Playing Careers Part II: Decades

Recently, we looked at how the group of managers with 900 or more wins broke down globally. This piece attempts to ascertain how the attributes of managers with 900 or more wins changed or not over time.

1980s — Average playing career: 11.5 seasons — War: 20

Mgr

Played in MLB

WAR

W

L

W-L%

Plyof App

WSwon

Player/Manager

Mike Scioscia as player

23.7

1066

878

0.548

6

1

Ozzie Guillen as player

15.9

678

617

0.524

2

1

Ron Gardenhire as player

0.5

866

755

0.534

6

0

Jim Tracy as player

-0.7

792

782

0.503

2

0

Terry Francona as player

-3.7

1029

915

0.529

5

2

Not surprisingly only two managers with 900 or more wins (Terry Francona and Mike Scioscia) started their playing careers after 1980. Of course, we could probably add Ron Gardenhire, Jim Tracy and Ozzie Guillen (I’ve done so in the chart, but not the averages) to this list as they’ll likely earn the requisite wins to join the club.

Oddly, Francona and Scioscia have the same amount of games managed and, combined, their managerial record is 2095-1793. If you add the three other likely managers, this group has a 4,431-3,947. Pretty impressive. Together they have four World Series titles.

Of course, their playing careers weren’t all that successful. Tracy played just two years and Gardenhire played in just five (although he managed 0.5 WAR). Francona was a pretty poor player for 10 seasons somehow. Scioscia leads the way in WAR (with 23.7), with Guillen coming in second (15.9).

While we don’t have a ton of data, it does appear that there’s no relation whatsoever in recent history between being a great player and becoming a good manager. From the minors, Ryne Sandberg weeps.

1970s — Average playing career: 9.8 seasons — War: 70.4

Mgr

Played in MLB

WAR

W

L

W-L%

Plyof App

WSwon

Player/Manager

Mike Hargrove as player

30

1188

1173

0.503

5

0

Phil Garner as player

26.9

985

1054

0.483

2

0

Art Howe as player

11.9

1129

1137

0.498

3

0

Bruce Bochy as player

2

1360

1376

0.497

5

1

Tom Kelly as player

-0.4

1140

1244

0.478

2

2

The players who began their careers in 1970 and became 900+ win managers (combined record of 5,802-5,984) weren’t as successful as the 1980s group. Together the ‘70s PTMs have three World Series, but only one (Mike Hargrove) has a .500+ winning percentage and he sits at .503. That said, the others are reasonably close with Tom Kelly being the furthest away from even at .478. It’s interesting in a clearly-doesn’t-mean-anything-sort-of-way that the highest WAR and best win% match-up and so on. Poor Tom Kelly.

This group fared a bit better when it came to their playing careers, though. Hargrove and Phil Garner put together 25+ WAR careers and played for 12 and 16 years respectively. Art Howe played for 11 years and accumulated 11.9 WAR. While Bochy wasn’t very good (2 WAR), he did play for nine seasons. Tom Kelly is the black sheep of the group, again, playing just one season.

1960s — Average playing career: 11.7 seasons — War: 173.1

Mgr

Played in MLB

WAR

W

L

W-L%

Plyof App

WSwon

Player/Manager

Joe Torre as player

55.6

2326

1997

0.538

15

4

plyr/mgr: 1977
Jim Fregosi as player

46.1

1028

1095

0.484

2

0

Dusty Baker as player

34.8

1484

1367

0.521

5

0

Davey Johnson as player

24.5

1188

931

0.561

5

1

Lou Piniella as player

11.4

1835

1713

0.517

7

1

Bobby Cox as player

1

2504

2001

0.556

16

1

Bobby Valentine as player

0.8

1117

1072

0.51

2

0

Jimy Williams as player

-0.1

910

790

0.535

2

0

Tony LaRussa as player

-1

2728

2365

0.536

14

3

A whopping nine players began their careers in 1960 and went on to manage ball clubs to 900+ wins. The group was pretty successful: 15,120-13,331, with 10 World Series (thank you Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa).

This group also brings the first potential Hall of Fame player in Torre and two other well above average players in Jim Fregosi and Dusty Baker. In addition, Davey Johnson had a fine and long career, while Lou Piniella played for 18 seasons. There were some duds as players: LaRussa (-1 WAR), Jimy Williams (-0.1 WAR), Bobby Cox (1 WAR) and Bobby Valentine (0.8 WAR). Still, the group averaged nearly 12 seasons as major leaguers.

1950s — Average playing career: 10.4 seasons — War: 169

Mgr

Played in MLB

WAR

W

L

W-L%

Plyof App

WSwon

Player/Manager

Frank Robinson HOF as player

107.4

1065

1176

0.475

0

0

plyr/mgr: 1975-1976
Felipe Alou as player

39.4

1033

1021

0.503

1

0

Bill Virdon as player

15.6

995

921

0.519

3

0

Billy Martin as player

3.7

1253

1013

0.553

5

1

Dick Williams HOF as player

3.2

1571

1451

0.52

5

2

Whitey Herzog HOF as player

2.6

1281

1125

0.532

6

1

Chuck Tanner as player

-0.4

1352

1381

0.495

1

1

Tom Lasorda HOF as player

-1.1

1599

1439

0.526

7

2

Sparky Anderson HOF as player

-1.4

2194

1834

0.545

7

3

The nine players who began their careers in the 1950s won 10 World Series and posted a 12,343-11,361 record. Frank Robinson is really the only poor manager in the group. Chuck Tanner, who also had a sub-.500 winning percentage, at least won a World Series and was just barely under .500 (1,352-1,381).

That said, bringing Frank Robinson into the fold gives us the first no-doubt Hall of Famer who went on to win 900+ games as a manager. However, the rest of the group is pretty inauspicious. Felipe Alou had the second longest career and second most WAR. However, aside from him and potentially Bill Virdon, it’s a pedestrian collection.

1940s — Average playing career: 11.2 seasons — War: 89.7

Mgr

Played in MLB

WAR

W

L

W-L%

Plyof App

WSwon

Player/Manager

Red Schoendienst HOF as player

40.4

1041

955

0.522

2

1

Al Dark as player

38.6

994

954

0.51

3

1

Bill Rigney as player

7.4

1239

1321

0.484

1

0

Danny Murtaugh as player

3.6

1115

950

0.54

5

2

Ralph Houk as player

0

1619

1531

0.514

3

2

Gene Mauch as player

-0.3

1902

2037

0.483

2

0

The six managers who began their careers in the 1940s had winning percentages between .483-.540. Together, they went 7,910-7,748 and won six World Series. Danny Murtaugh seems to have been the most successful (.540 with two World Series) but he had the third shortest tenure and only fourth most wins.

That said, Bill Rigney was clearly the worst, as his average yearly finish was fifth place. Oddly, this group’s average yearly finish was between 3.3 and 5.2, whereas seven of the nine managers from the 1950s group averaged in the 2s.

This is the first set of players who all had at least eight seasons of pro-ball. That said, only Red Schoendienst and Al Dark had careers of any note. Altogether, they averaged nearly 15 WAR, but that is entirely the product of Schoendienst (40.4) and Dark (38.6)

1930s — Average playing career: 8 seasons — War: 56.3

Mgr

Played in MLB

WAR

W

L

W-L%

Plyof App

WSwon

Player/Manager

Lou Boudreau HOF as player

56

1162

1224

0.487

1

1

plyr/mgr: 1942-1952
Paul Richards as player

0.3

923

901

0.506

0

0

Walter Alston HOF as player

0

2040

1613

0.558

7

4

Only Walter Alston, who won four World Series and was nearly 430 games over .500, can be considered a top notch manager. Lou Boudreau had a below .500 record and his team’s average finish was barely higher than fifth place. Paul Richards wasn’t much better than .500, as he was 923-901.

If Alston carried the group managerially, Boudreau carried them in terms of playing careers. Boudreau played for 15 years and accumulated 56 WAR. Combined, Richards and Alston played for nine seasons and accumulated 0.3 WAR.

For all intents and purposes, Richards played from 1932-1935. He came back from 1943-1946 as baseball was devoid of talent due to the War. Oddly, Richards might have been a better player during the second stretch: he hit .231/.313/.310 with 1.2 WAR while during the first part of his career he hit .216/.285/.281 and was a -0.9 WAR player. Richards was a no-hit catcher who could lead a pitching staff. He is credited with turning Dutch Leonard’s career around by suggesting he learn the knuckleball.

Meanwhile, Alston appeared in just one game, got one at bat and struck out on three pitches (reportedly one strike was a long foul ball). He was subbing in for Johnny Mize who was run out of the game. He wasn’t much better with the glove as he made an error in his two fielding chances.

1920s — Average playing career: 16 seasons — War: 88.2

Mgr

Played in MLB

WAR

W

L

W-L%

Plyof App

WSwon

Player/Manager

Joe Cronin HOF as player

62.5

1236

1055

0.54

2

0

plyr/mgr: 1933-1945
Al Lopez HOF as player

13.5

1410

1004

0.584

2

0

Chuck Dressen as player

8.6

1008

973

0.509

2

0

Leo Durocher HOF as player

3.6

2008

1709

0.54

3

1

plyr/mgr: 1939-1945

This is an odd bunch. Combined, the four managed teams to a 5,662-4,741 record, yet just one World Series victory. The managerial star of the group, Al Lopez, won five pennants and his team’s average finish was 2.4. Leo Durocher claimed the World Series and won 3,739 games. This is the first group with significant player-managers, as, combined, Durocher and Joe Cronin player-managed for nearly 20 seasons.

While the group averaged 16 seasons in their playing careers, Cronin was the only real successful player. Lopez was a solid catcher who caught the most games in baseball history until Gary Carter broke his record, but was just a 13.5 WAR guy over 19 seasons. Durocher similarly hung around without doing much (3.6 WAR).

1910s — Average playing career: 16.7 seasons — War: 181.6

Mgr

Played in MLB

WAR

W

L

W-L%

Plyof App

WSwon

Player/Manager

Frankie Frisch HOF as player

74.8

1138

1078

0.514

1

1

plyr/mgr: 1933-1937
Jimmy Dykes as player

28.1

1406

1541

0.477

0

0

plyr/mgr: 1934-1939
Billy Southworth HOF as player

20.3

1044

704

0.597

4

2

plyr/mgr: 1929
Casey Stengel HOF as player

18.7

1905

1842

0.508

10

7

Steve O’Neill as player

17.4

1040

821

0.559

1

1

Bucky Harris HOF as player

12.8

2158

2219

0.493

3

2

plyr/mgr: 1924-1931
Charlie Grimm as player

9.5

1287

1067

0.547

3

0

plyr/mgr: 1932-1936

The older we get, the more player-managers appear: five of the seven managers in this group were player-managers. Together, they won 13 World Series and had a 9,978-9,272, aided mostly by Billy Southworth (1,044-704), Charlie Grimm (1,287-1,067) and Steve O’Neil (1,040-821). While Frankie Frisch and Casey Stengel were fine managers, they didn’t have the year-in, year-out regular season success of the others.

As managers, these guys were tremendous, as players, not so much. While they averaged nearly 17 MLB seasons, Frisch was, really, the only accomplished player. Southworth and Jimmy Dykes were fine regulars but did nothing of incredible note in their careers. If you take Frisch out of the equation, the group played 98 seasons and accumulated 106.8 WAR.

 1900s — Average playing career: 12 seasons — War: 38.2

Mgr

Played in MLB

WAR

W

L

W-L%

Plyof App

WSwon

Player/Manager

Miller Huggins HOF as player

35.7

1413

1134

0.555

6

3

plyr/mgr: 1913-1916
Bill McKechnie HOF as player

2.5

1896

1723

0.524

4

2

plyr/mgr: 1915

Just two players started their careers in the 1900s and went on to win 900+ games as managers – but boy did they. Combined, Bill McKechnie and Miller Huggins went 3,309-2,857 and won five World Series.

Huggins was, by far, the better player though. Blessed with the knowledge that making an out was a bad thing, Huggins routinely led the league in walks, finishing with a .265/.382/.314 line. Meanwhile McKechnie was good in just two of his 11 seasons. He finished as a .251/.301/.313 hitter. Huggins was also the better manager. His teams finished higher in the standings, had a higher winning percentage and he won more pennants and World Series.

1800s — Average Playing Career: 16.7 seasons — WAR: 399.4

Mgr

Played in MLB

WAR

W

L

W-L%

Plyof App

WSwon

Player/Manager

Cap Anson HOF as player

99.5

1295

947

0.578

0

0

plyr/mgr: 1875-1897
Fred Clarke HOF as player

73.4

1602

1181

0.576

2

1

plyr/mgr: 1897-1915
Frank Chance HOF as player

49.5

946

648

0.593

4

2

plyr/mgr: 1905-1914
John McGraw HOF as player

49.3

2763

1948

0.586

9

3

plyr/mgr: 1899-1906
Clark Griffith HOF as player

49

1491

1367

0.522

0

0

plyr/mgr: 1901-1914
Hughie Jennings HOF as player

46.4

1184

995

0.543

3

0

plyr/mgr: 1907-1918
Ned Hanlon HOF as player

14.5

1313

1164

0.53

0

0

plyr/mgr: 1889-1892
Wilbert Robinson HOF as player

12.3

1399

1398

0.5

2

0

plyr/mgr: 1902
Connie Mack HOF as player

4.5

3731

3948

0.486

8

5

plyr/mgr: 1894-1896
Harry Wright HOF as player

1

1225

885

0.581

0

0

plyr/mgr: 1871-1877

Five managers in this group had winning percentages above .576 – that’s astounding. As a collective, they were 16,949-14,481. While they had solid regular season success, they brought home just 11 World Series. Of course the first Series wasn’t until 1903 and many of these men began their managerial careers significantly before that.

As players, Cap Anson and Fred Clarke led the way, but Clark Griffith, Hughie Jennings, John McGraw and Frank Chance all had considerable MLB careers. In reality, Wilbert Robinson and Ned Hanlon were merely average players for their respective careers and Harry Wright was the only suboptimal player. This group averaged nearly 40 WAR as players.

_____________________________________________

Surprisingly the 900 wins or more managers don’t skew a ton to baseball’s infancy, but are evenly spread out over the first 70 or so years. However, it seems clear that the better players who became 900 win or more managers started their careers in the early days.

Players who became managers and started their career between 1871 and 1919 accumulated 619.2 WAR. Meanwhile players who began their careers between 1925 and 1947 accumulated 234.2 WAR, players who began their careers between 1950 and 1969 accumulated 342.1 WAR and players who began their careers after 1973 accumulated 90.4 WAR. In total, players who started their careers before 1920 and went on to win 900 games as managers accounted for 619.2 WAR, while the rest accounted for 666.7 WAR.

In addition, 22 of the 57 managers with 900+ wins were player-managers at one point. However, 17 of those 22 began their playing careers before 1920.  With players having the chance to play and manage at the same time, it’s apparent that the managers with the most wins in MLB history who were also Hall of Fame type players skewed mightily toward the early parts of baseball history.

Opening Day: Warm weather helps

Years ago, I had a good job that required extensive traveling. During the 1970s taking an airplane from New York to, for example, Chicago was something to look forward to. The three major airlines that served Chicago—United, American and the old TWA, offered flights that left every hour. As your taxi pulled up to La Guardia, you looked at your watch, determined which flight you could make and bought your ticket at the gate.

Once on board, the stewardess (as they were then called) treated even coach passengers with a certain amount of dignity. While en route we ate, if not haute cuisine, at least something warm and free.

One of the best features of my job was that I made my own schedule.
During April I attended as many Opening Days as I could. I’d catch the Mets and the Yankees at home and then, with no trouble at all, go out of town to see a third. This, don’t forget, was pre-cell phone and in an era where job security, assuming you carried your own weight, still existed.

So it was that I found myself in Chicago on April 15, 1975 to see the White Sox play the Texas Rangers. During the 1970s the White Sox were nothing special. But that year, Bill Veeck had purchased the team—again and just before it was relocated in Seattle. Chicago was abuzz with enthusiasm that somehow the team could be restored a competitive level. The 1975 White Sox never lived up to the fans’ early hopes. The Pale Hose finished in fifth place, barely ahead of the California Angels but 22.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics.

In retrospect, no one should have been surprised. The Sox had pretty good pitching with Jim Kaat (20-14) Wilbur Wood (16-20) and an emerging Goose Gossage but not much offense. Deron Johnson’s 18 home runs lead the Sox.

Nevertheless, this was April and spirits were high. The Sox had opened poorly, but not calamitously, on the road. After losing two of three to Oakland and California, the Comiskey Park opener was set for Tuesday during the season’s second week.

Veeck walked through the stands, peg leg in place, to shake hands with as many people as he could. The old master talked the White Sox up with his typical enthusiasm. The problem was that only 20,000 showed up.

Those were the among the bravest individuals to ever set foot in a baseball park. I can never recall being colder for longer than that day at Comiskey. According to the weather bureau, the temperature hit 45 degrees but the wild chill, aided by freezing rain and snow flurries, made it seem like 20.

Sensible people would have left after the third inning. By then, you could say you “had gone” to Opening Day; no need to elaborate. But our group included White Sox die hards. And unfortunately, the game see sawed back and forth. The Sox prevailed in, wouldn’t you know it, extra innings, 6-5 in eleven frames played out over a frigid 3:51. I can’t remember a single thing about the game except the elation I felt when Tony Muser hit into a game ending double play to quash the mild threat the White Sox had mounted to tie it up.

By Wednesday, I was still thawing out.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Andy Pettitte

Claim to Fame: Andy Pettitte was an anchor of the Yankees 1990s dynasty, rarely their best pitcher but always a reliable arm. He pitched much of the next decade with the Bombers, a three-year stint with his hometown Houston breaking up 13 seasons in New York. Pettitte has won 240 regular season games, made three all-star teams, and finished in the top six in Cy Young voting five times, but his legacy has been forged in October, where has won an MLB record 19 postseason games and more World Series games (five) than anyone who’s pitched in the last 30 years. Now, he’s emerging from retirement after a one-year hiatus, returning to the Bronx to add to those totals and help the Yankees back to the Fall Classic.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: If Pettitte plays for the Yankees this year he will have to wait five years before becoming eligible on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot. But if this un-retirement experiment crashes before it gets off the ground and Pettitte fails to appear in a Major League game, he’ll appear on the ballot in 2015.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Pettitte supporters like to point out that every pitcher who’s more than 100 games above .500 for his career is enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Guys like Pettitte, however, are exactly the reason wins and winning percentage are becoming less and less valued in player evaluation. That Pettitte won a higher percentage of his decisions than Greg Maddux doesn’t make the longtime Yankee a better pitcher than Maddux; it just means he played for more great teams. In fact, Pettitte has never pitched for a sub-.500 club in his 16-year career, while Maddux made over 200 starts for teams that ended up losing more often than they won.

More telling than Pettitte’s impressive winning percentage is his only-respectable 117 career ERA+ over 16 seasons of relative durability. That ERA+ is better than those of four of the past five Major League pitchers inducted into the Hall of Fame, although each in that quartet threw drastically more career innings than did Pettitte. Of the eight Hall of Famers within 150 innings of Pettitte’s total, only the undeniably under-qualified Chief Bender owns a worse ERA+. The other seven are all at least ten points higher in the category.

With Cooperstown seemingly getting more selective with their admission of pitchers, Pettitte’s fate might be similar to that of Orel Hershiser, whose career numbers were similar to Pettitte’s but not good enough to preserve his spot on the Hall of Fame ballot for more than two years. After a long drought of Hall of Fame pitchers (no current HOFer pitched after 1993), a wave of worthy hurlers confronts the BBWAA next year. Roger Clemens may not make it to Cooperstown any time soon due to alleged steroid use, but Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez are locks, and Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz all have strong cases as well. Pettitte’s candidacy looks less convincing than all of the above, and voters may be hesitant to vote for a marginally-qualified starter immediately after supporting a mass induction of well-qualified starters.

Pettitte could potentially be helped by two of the same effects that are enabling Jack Morris’s absurd Hall of Fame candidacy. Like Morris, Pettitte won more games than any other pitcher in a given decade (148 from 2000-2009), and like Morris, Pettitte made a name for himself in the playoffs. Pettitte’s stats are more impressive than Morris’s, and I would support Pettitte’s Hall of Fame bid long before I would consider supporting Morris’s, but I’m not sold on the arguments on which their candidacies hinge. As discussed earlier, wins are a product of the team as much as the pitcher, and a decade is nothing but a random period of time and shouldn’t be used to judge a career any more than a random 13-year stretch should. Postseason stats are even more dependent of team success, as in order to compile such numbers a player’s teammates need to be good enough to take him to the playoffs. No one should make the Hall of Fame because he got to the postseason more than his peers and pitched adequately once there.

So, with stats that seem short of the Cooperstown threshold and a case based on arguments I don’t buy, Andy Pettitte doesn’t get my hypothetical Hall of Fame vote, although I wouldn’t be too upset were he to be elected. The BBWAA’s treatment of starting pitchers is difficult to predict (as I’ve covered before, Jack Morris’s near induction contrasted with Kevin Brown’s immediate dismissal from the ballot is some sort of travesty), but I imagine the above “qualifications” will garner Pettitte some degree of support. Then again, irrationally vindictive writers might withhold their votes due to Pettitte’s admission of HGH use. Assuming the Yankees deem him a capable Major League starter, however, the lefty’s career appears not to be over. A successful comeback and a good season in 2012 and beyond could alter the Hall of Fame discussion. For now, Pettitte’s worthiness and likelihood of induction remain unclear.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a regular feature here.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn Smoltz, Johnny MurphyJose CansecoJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSammy SosaSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Alternate dream teams

It’s been a long time coming, but after nearly a month, the end of voting for the BPP All-Time Dream Project is less than two days out. The polls close Tuesday at 9 p.m. PST, and for anyone who hasn’t done so already, it’s not too late to pick a nine-player lineup. As I write these words mid-day Monday, votes are still coming in thanks to an SF Chronicle blog post today from one of my mentors, Peter Hartlaub.

I’ve also been emailing in recent weeks with longtime Sports Illustrated writer and editor Robert Creamer, who gave a memorable interview here in January. I’d hoped to get some words from Creamer for the final results post of my dream project on April 15, and while he declined for personal reasons, he got me thinking about something else: alternate lineups. In our emails back and forth, I gave Creamer a peak at the vote leaders, and without giving too much away, he noted some lack of racial diversity among the picks. Creamer had an idea for me yesterday, writing:

how about adding an all white vs an all black team?  or something    could be stimulating.    go a litle nutty — how about an all righthanded white team against an all lefthanded black team.  kind of nutty but baseball is supposed to be fun.

I agree, wholeheartedly. One of the overarching things I try to do here is strive to keep things fun and celebrate the best of baseball. I see it as a good use for a blog, and while I don’t hesitate to write about less-positive subject matter when necessary, I prefer to keep the focus here positive when I can.

In this spirit, here are a few alternate dream lineups. Please feel free to add more in the comments section.

The all-California native or raised team

  • P – Randy Johnson
  • C – Gary Carter
  • 1B – Eddie Murray
  • 2B – Joe Morgan
  • 3B – Evan Longoria
  • SS – Troy Tulowitzki
  • RF – Frank Robinson
  • CF – Joe DiMaggio
  • LF – Ted Williams

The all-5’9″ or below team

  • P – Bobby Shantz
  • C – Roy Campanella
  • 1B – Matty Alou
  • 2B – David Eckstein
  • 3B – Mel Ott
  • SS – Phil Rizzuto
  • RF – Yogi Berra
  • CF – Bob Caruthers
  • LF – Tim Raines
  • PH – Eddie Gaedel

The all Negro League players who never appeared in the majors team

  • P – John Donaldson
  • C – Josh Gibson
  • 1B – Buck Leonard
  • 2B – Frank Grant
  • 3B – Judy Johnson
  • SS – Willie Wells
  • RF – John Beckwith
  • CF – Oscar Charleston
  • LF – Turkey Stearnes

The all-other-sports team

  • P – Bob Gibson or Fergie Jenkins, who played for the Harlem Globetrotters or Tom Glavine, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL in 1984
  • C – Joe Mauer, named a USA Today high school football player of the year in 2000
  • 1B – Todd Helton, who quarterbacked at Tennessee before Peyton Manning
  • 2B – Jackie Robinson, a track and football standout at UCLA
  • 3B – Drew Henson, who seemingly had the talent to be a star NFL quarterback or a cornerstone for the Yankees but fell short in both capacities
  • SS – Dick Groat, who played in the NBA before helping the Pirates win the 1960 World Series
  • RF – Dave Winfield, drafted in four sports
  • CF – Willie Mays, an accomplished punter and quarterback in high school football; he also averaged 17 points a game in high school basketball
  • LF – Bo Jackson

Managers with the Most Wins and Their Playing Careers Part I, an Overview

Let’s get this out of the way: team wins are an imperfect way to measure managerial success.

Throughout this series, we’ll look at different ways to ascertain a good manager. While many (from GM to utility infielder) have a hand in a win, certainly managers who stuck around long enough to manage teams that won the most games in Major League Baseball history were, for the most part, successful. Hopefully, using bulk wins (and as a byproduct years managed) will shed some light on the types of players who become successful managers.

Somewhat surprising: of the managers with 900 wins or more, just seven of the 64 never reached the majors. Of course, those seven boast the two managers with the best winning percentage: Joe McCarthy and Frank Selee. In fact, with Earl Weaver having the seventh best winning percentage, non-MLBers claim three of the top seven winning percentage spots.

In addition, John McNamara is the only member of the 900 win club with no MLB experience who posted a sub-.500 winning percentage, although Jim Leyland’s record is 1588-1585 and, if Buck Showalter manages the Orioles much longer, he could end up with a losing record (he’s 985-949).

Turning to those who played, the great majority of players turned managers (PTMs) with 900+ wins had reasonably long playing careers. Just Walter Alston, Sparky Anderson and Tom Kelly played only one year in the bigs, while Bobby Cox and Jimy Williams played parts of two seasons. Tommy Lasorda pitched in parts of three seasons – and that’s the group with less than six years in the majors. In fact, the average playing career of this group was 12.9 seasons.

That’s not to say the group represents the best players in baseball history, as they average just 22.6 WAR. In fact, 25 of the 57 managers recorded less than 10 WAR. Terry Francona comes in at the bottom with -3.7 WAR, but he’s joined by seven others with negative WAR. On the flip side, seven players were worth 55.6 or more WAR. That group includes six Hall of Famers (Frank Robinson, Cap Anson, Frankie Frisch, Fred Clarke, Joe Cronin and Lou Boudreau) and one future Hall of Famer in Joe Torre.

Mgr

Played in MLB

WAR

W

L

W-L%

Billy Southworth HOF as player

20.3

1044

704

0.597

Frank Chance HOF as player

49.5

946

648

0.593

John McGraw HOF as player

49.3

2763

1948

0.586

Al Lopez HOF as player

13.5

1410

1004

0.584

Harry Wright HOF as player

1

1225

885

0.581

Cap Anson HOF as player

99.5

1295

947

0.578

Fred Clarke HOF as player

73.4

1602

1181

0.576

Davey Johnson as player

24.5

1188

931

0.561

Steve O’Neill as player

17.4

1040

821

0.559

Walter Alston HOF as player

0

2040

1613

0.558

The four PTMs with 900+ wins and the highest winning percentages were pedestrian to above average baseball players: Billy Southworth, Frank Chance, John McGraw and Al Lopez. The fifth member of this group, Harry Wright, accumulated just one WAR in seven seasons. But, immediately after him, we have Anson and Clarke, one immortal and one solid Hall of Famer. Davey Johnson is next, followed by Steve O’Neil and Alston. Bobby Cox was right behind Alston on the list.

Of the ten 900+ win managers with the highest winning percentage, two were worth more than 73 WAR in their careers; two were worth 49-50 WAR; two were worth 20-25 WAR; two were worth 13-17.5 WAR; and the last two were worth 0 and 1 WAR. It seems it didn’t take a great player to become one of the managers with the best winning percentage and 900+ wins.

Similarly scattered: the playing careers were somewhat evenly distributed throughout the 900+ win managers (yet, for obvious reasons, skewed a tad to baseball’s past):

  • 10 managers began their playing careers before 1900;
  • Nine began their careers between 1904-1919;
  • 13 began their careers between 1920-1947;
  • Nine began in the 50s; nine began their careers in the 60s; and
  • Seven began their careers after 1970.

It is somewhat surprising that as many 900+ win managers began their careers during the 50s and 60s as began their careers before 1920.

That said, six of the seven managers in the group with the best winning percentages started their careers in 1913 or before, with five starting their careers before 1900. Of the top 10 by winning percentage, only Al Lopez (1928), Johnson (1965) and  Alston (1936) began careers after 1913. It appears the best of the best came from PTMs in baseball’s infancy.

Mgr

Played in MLB

WAR

W

L

W-L%

Billy Southworth HOF as player

20.3

1044

704

0.597

Frank Chance HOF as player

49.5

946

648

0.593

John McGraw HOF as player

49.3

2763

1948

0.586

Al Lopez HOF as player

13.5

1410

1004

0.584

Harry Wright HOF as player

1

1225

885

0.581

Cap Anson HOF as player

99.5

1295

947

0.578

Fred Clarke HOF as player

73.4

1602

1181

0.576

Davey Johnson as player

24.5

1188

931

0.561

Steve O’Neill as player

17.4

1040

821

0.559

Walter Alston HOF as player

0

2040

1613

0.558

Meanwhile of the ten 900+ win managers with the worst winning percentages, four began their playing careers after 1950 and another two began their careers in the 1940s – only three began their careers before 1920. Expanding this pool to the 13 managers with sub-.500 winning percentages gives us seven managers who began their playing careers after 1950.

Before looking at the data, it would have been natural to assume that managers in the past stuck around more as there was less scrutiny, pressure and money on the line. However, at least of the managers with the most wins, the opposite is the case. Aside from Connie Mack who is special given that he owned the team, the majority of poor performing managers who stuck around long enough to win a ton of games were from more modern times.

It’s hard to understand exactly why these managers had such staying power as they had just four World Series between them and none averaged a divisional finish above third. In addition, aside from Robinson and possibly Boudreau, none were particularly outstanding ballplayers.

This much is clear: the most successful managers in terms of wins and winning percentage did their work 100 or so years ago. In addition, how good a manager was as a player had little bearing on their ability as a manager, as those with the most managerial success tended not to be stars.

 

Any Player/Any Era: Bobby Grich

What he did: For an even longer take on the enormity of Bobby Grich’s career, check out Graham’s Does he Belong in the Hall of Fame piece on Grich.

For whatever reason, some players lack the mystique or aura of great players, while some flawed players have that “it factor” that creates an undeserved reputation (*ahem* Jack Morris, Jim Rice, etc.).

Unfortunately, Grich falls into the forgotten category, despite walking 1,087 times, the 28th most by a righty.

In addition, he hit the 11th most HRs by a second baseman. If you want to talk about clutch, well, four of Grich’s HRs came in a 1-0 game. This feat was done five times by Ted Williams. Bobby Bonds, Jim Wynn and Dwight Evans are the only other players in history to do it four times. That’s the list of guys with this awesome display of “clutchiness.”

Grich was a powerful and adept fielder at second base, who knew how to get on base. He finished with a .371 OBP. From 1970-1986, only Joe Morgan hit more HRs among second baseman and only Morgan, Rod Carew, Ron Hunt and Willie Randolph posted a better OBP.

Grich just picked a bad time to peak, as, arguably, his best season was the strike-shortened 1981. In just 100 games, Grich hit 22 HRs (to lead the league) and batted .304/.378/.543. He became the first AL second baseman to lead the league in HRs since Nap Lajoie in 1901 and the first to lead either league since Rogers Hornsby in 1929. He also led the league in slugging.

In addition to batting prowess, Grich’s .984 fielding percentage is near the top all time at second and his 71 total zone score is seventh best.

Perhaps, if Grich had come through in the small samples of his post-season chances (98 plate appearances), he’d be in the Hall of Fame, or at least in the discussion.

Era he might have thrived in: Grich would thrive in any era, but it’s likely his career started just a shade too early. His skills and abilities would have fit in perfectly in the early 1990s, specifically on the Atlanta Braves (heck, he’d even get to suffer through another strike-shortened season).

Why: While the Braves were gobbling up pennants and division crowns, the club’s second basemen, predominantly Mark Lemke, were providing absolutely nothing with the stick. As Lemke was busy batting .250 with a .315 OBP, Grich would post a .274/.379/.437 line with the Braves. He’d add multiple 30 HR campaigns and be an offensive stalwart along with Javy Lopez, Fred McGriff, Chipper Jones and others.

In 1997, the Braves could have put out a line-up consisting of Kenny Lofton-Grich-Jones-McGriff-Lopez-Ryan Klesko-Jeff Blauser-Michael Tucker. Those guys would have tested a pitching staff a ton, as multiple players worked counts and posted amazing walk rates.

On the Braves, there’s a solid chance Grich would challenge for MVPs: his 1979 season translated would be .293/.364/.535 with 30 HRs and 100 RBIs. Those numbers on a contender from a second basemen would draw considerable attention. In addition, his 1981 translated would be .315/.392/.561 with 35 HRs and 100 RBIs.

With Grich in tow, who knows how many World Series Bobby Cox and the Braves would have. At the least, Grich would have had more play-off appearances to prove his mettle and potentially build his myth.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Al SimmonsAlbert PujolsBabe RuthBad News RockiesBarry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob WatsonBobby VeachCarl MaysCesar CedenoCharles Victory FaustChris von der AheDenny McLainDom DiMaggioDon DrysdaleDoug GlanvilleEddie LopatElmer Flick, Eric Davis, Frank HowardFritz MaiselGary CarterGavvy CravathGene TenaceGeorge W. Bush (as commissioner)George CaseGeorge WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jack MorrisJackie Robinson, Jim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh GibsonJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film),Mark FidrychMatty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate ColbertOllie CarnegiePaul DerringerPedro GuerreroPedro MartinezPee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRickey HendersonRoberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam ThompsonSandy Koufax Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe JacksonSpud ChandlerStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTony PhillipsTy CobbVada PinsonWally BunkerWes FerrellWill ClarkWillie Mays

Phil Rizzuto: Great Player, Better Broadcaster

Our friends over at Seamheads.com had a great post about some of history’s most famous baseball voices. Included were Ernie Harwell, Red Barber, Mel Allen, Bob Prince and Vin Scully. I’ve heard them all. None held a candle to Phil Rizzuto who for 40 years did the New York Yankees’ color commentary.

For 15 of those years, I lived in New York and Rizzuto along with his numerous partners (Jerry Coleman, Frank Messer and Bill White) were my constant summer companions.

Rizzuto was a childhood hero for many reasons, most obviously because of his Italian heritage. The “Scooter,” as Rizzuto was universally known, was also Joe Di Maggio’s roommate. Di Maggio was another favorite…at least until I learned about the darker side of his character.

Years after I left New York for Seattle, I was traveling to Boston. Coincidentally, the Yankees were playing the Red Sox. As I checked into my small, out of the way hotel Rizzuto was walking through the lobby. I approached him, extended my hand which he shook firmly. I told Rizzuto that I had spent countless nights listening to him broadcast Yankee games and that his accounts gave me more pleasure than I could express. Luckily, I remembered his wife Cora’s name so I was able to ask after her, too.

Rizzuto could have brushed me off after I had spoken my piece. Instead he engaged me in a long conversation about baseball in general and the Mariners specifically. And Rizzuto asked me questions about my family, my occupation and whether I was going to the game that night.

Although I had other plans, Rizzuto pulled out two tickets and gave them to me. And somehow it didn’t seem right not to use them. Compliments of the Scooter, I went.

I’ll confess that I wanted to ask him for his autograph but, you know, I was in my mid-30s. And after my visit with Rizzuto, I felt more like a friend than a fan.

White had a great story about what it was like to share the booth with Rizzuto. Once, hoping to clarify a complicated scoring decision, White looked over Rizzuto’s shoulder. In the Scooter’s score book was this notation: “W.W.” A confused White asked his partner what “W.W.” meant. Rizzuto replied: “Wasn’t watching.”

Phil himself told my favorite Rizzuto story at his Hall of Fame induction. Talking about his early career in the Class D Southern League, Rizzuto served grits at his hotel breakfast. Rizzuto, who grew up in Brooklyn, had never seen grits. Not wanting to eat them but also not wanting to leave them on his plate, Rizzuto said: “I put them in my pocket and walked out.” Phil got a huge laugh.

For more Rizzuto humor, read O Holy Cow! The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Johnny Murphy

Claim to fame: I’ll start by thanking broadcaster Len Berman for including a link to the BPP All-Time Dream Project in a recent mass email. The link led to votes from about 50 people, including the son of former New York Yankees pitcher Johnny Murphy who emailed and suggested I add a relief pitcher category. I’ve chosen not to do this for the same reason I don’t have a designated hitter or bench players in the project– I don’t want a way for people to jam extra players into their lineups, like sticking Willie Mays in center field and Mickey Mantle at DH. I want people having to make tough decisions. It’s a nine-player dream team for a reason.

That being said, I’m glad the email alerted me to Murphy, who pitched 13 years in the majors between 1932 and 1946, might have been baseball’s first great relief pitcher, and later was general manager of the New York Mets from 1964 until his death in 1970. I sent an email to Frank Graham Jr., whose father covered Murphy as a player. Graham has stories about being around those Bronx Bombers as a kid, and I asked if he’d crossed paths with Murphy. Graham replied:

No, I had no interaction with Fordham Johnny Murphy, though I do remember some of my dad’s ‘dugout’ columns where Lefty Gomez would make some wisecrack about how Murphy pulled him out of a jam so often that their names were being coupled like ham and eggs. That kind of connection was rare in those days, when relievers were often characterized as second-rate pitchers not good enough to make the starting rotation. Branch Rickey was one who thought the value of relief pitchers was overrated– in other words, good pitchers started a game and saved it as well.

Murphy tallied 107 saves in his playing career, similar to an early stolen base champ or Deadball Era home run leader in that he played in a time before his marquee stat was favored, and the more that saves aggregators like Lee Smith, Mariano Rivera, and Trevor Hoffman come to glut the Hall of Fame ballot, the more pioneering relievers like Murphy may be forgotten. That’s a shame, and there ought to be a way for Cooperstown to remedy this.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Under new voting rules that took effect prior to the 2011 election, Murphy can be considered for Cooperstown by the Pre-Integration Era section of the Veterans Committee. It meets once every three years and will convene at the Winter Meetings in December.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Lest there be any confusion, let me be clear: The point of this column isn’t too mount a case that Murphy needs to be enshrined. I’m a big Hall person, though to me, there are simply too many other players to be honored first, and that includes a couple early relievers. In general, I think Cooperstown has made incomplete note of pioneer closers, relying too much on career saves totals. It gives short shrift to greats like Sparky Lyle and Dan Quisenberry, both men who dominated in their day and would get my vote sooner than Smith.

I don’t feel as strongly about Murphy. Maybe it’s that he played in pinstripes, and plenty of very good Yankees are already enshrined from Waite Hoyt to Joe Gordon to Phil Rizzuto and others. Murphy’s stats also simply don’t beg a plaque, from a 3.50 lifetime ERA and 118 ERA+ to 14.7 career WAR and 1.367 WHIP. Lyle, Quisenberry, and a number of other closers trump those numbers. And I don’t know if Murphy was an executive long enough for it to matter for the Veterans Committee, which considers a man’s total contribution to baseball. I could be wrong here, and if there’s something I’m missing, I encourage comments from anyone reading, including anyone from Murphy’s family.

Do I mean to knock Murphy? Certainly not. Just getting to play an important role on the Yankees of the ’30s and ’40s is awesome. And while I wouldn’t necessarily enshrine pioneer relievers like Murphy, they belong somewhere in the museum, just as I’d highlight early stolen base kings like Maury Wills or Deadball home run hitters like Gavvy Cravath. They all figure notably in baseball’s history. Maybe there’s a relief pitchers exhibit that can include Murphy, if one doesn’t exist already.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a regular feature here.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn Smoltz, Jose CansecoJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSammy SosaSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

The Hall of Very Good, According to wWAR

A while back, I created an alternate Hall of Fame called the Hall of wWAR. wWAR, or weighted wins above replacement, is a modification to the WAR statistic found at Baseball-Reference. It was adjusted, or weighted, for several factors like peak performance, playoff heroics, and season schedule length. It reduced every player in history to just one number—a purely objective value of how good their Hall of Fame case is. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fun.

I then dumped everyone out of the Hall of Fame and re-populated it just by wWAR. It was an interesting experiment, to say the least—63 players ended up getting booted (like Jim Rice, Catfish Hunter, and Rick Ferrell) while 63 were added (like Jeff Bagwell, Deacon White, and Dick Allen).

Since the Hall of wWAR is simply an ordered list of players, it makes it easy to sort and apply different cutoffs to make alternate Halls. For example, a while back on BPP I posted what a Small Hall would look like, according to wWAR. Today, I’ve got something a little different.

Our friends Sky Kalkman and Marc Normandin are heading up an eBook project called The Hall of Very Good (you should go pre-order now!). They promise to cover “the careers of baseball’s under-celebrated stars, from Ken Boyer to Rondell White.”

As I wait for the eBook, I thought I’d take a look at what a Hall of Very Good might look like, according to wWAR. There are currently 209 people voted into the Hall of Fame as MLB players. I decided our Hall of Very Good (by wWAR) should be the same size. So, I took the top 209 players, by wWAR, outside of the Hall of Fame.

I then excluded three members of the Hall of wWAR who are banned from the Hall of Fame—Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Eddie Cicotte. I also excluded three Hall of Famers who were inducted for roles other than as a player—Al Spalding (who is the absolute best “player” outside of the Hall of Fame, by wWAR), John McGraw (also a member of the Hall of wWAR), and Candy Cummings (not in the Hall of wWAR, but at the Hall of Very Good level).

So, here is the Hall of Very Good, According to wWAR:
* denotes a member of the Hall of wWAR

Catcher:

  1. Ted Simmons (98.3)*
  2. Joe Torre (91.9)*
  3. Thurman Munson (90.1)*
  4. Gene Tenace (84.9)*
  5. Charlie Bennett (82.5)*
  6. Bill Freehan (80.5)*
  7. Darrell Porter (71.5)
  8. Wally Schang (70.1)
  9. Jack Clements (59.2)

Personally, I believe Ted Simmons and Joe Torre absolutely belong in the Hall of Fame. Thurman Munson, to me, is right behind them. Tenace, Bennett, and Freehan aren’t quite as obvious, but each was supremely underrated. I would say that Tenace certainly had Hall of Fame talent. Had his teams realized exactly how valuable his skills were while he played, he would have played a lot more. That would have given him the plate appearances (he had only 5527) to be a no-doubt Hall of Famer. Gene Tenace, more than any of the other catchers, was screwed.

Darrell Porter, on the other hand, probably perfectly represents the Hall of Very Good. A good way of explaining how underrated Porter was is by pointing out he retired after hitting .265 and .238 in his final two seasons as a part timer. His OBPs, however, were .360 and .387—giving him OPS+ marks of 138 and 115.

Clearly, Porter had more to offer, but his skills weren’t valued in his day. He was a .247 hitter, but had a 113 OPS+ and was worth 40.6 WAR. His 1979 season was worth 8.4 WAR, showing he was capable of greatness. Like Tenace, given more of a chance (his 6570 plate appearances is relatively low) he might have produced Hall of Fame-level value.

First Base:

  1. Jeff Bagwell (132.6)*
  2. Dick Allen (98.1)*
  3. Mark McGwire (91.3)*
  4. Keith Hernandez (90.8)*
  5. Rafael Palmeiro (89.6)*
  6. John Olerud (84.0)*
  7. Will Clark (83.3)*
  8. Norm Cash (72.1)
  9. Fred McGriff (70.8)
  10. George Burns (68.7)
  11. Dolph Camilli (64.7)
  12. Gil Hodges (64.5)
  13. Joe Start (59.3)
  14. Mark Grace (59.2)
  15. Ed Konetchy (58.1)
  16. Jack Fournier (57.3)
  17. Don Mattingly (57.1)
  18. Fred Tenney (56.6)

If I could put any one player in the Hall of Fame, it would be Jeff Bagwell. Simply put, he is the best player not in. Dick Allen, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro all clearly had Hall of Fame talent, but other issues have kept them out. McGwire admitted PED use, Palmeiro tested positive, and Allen… well, some people thought Allen was a jerk. Others thought the opposite. The truth is likely somewhere in between.

If you believe in the value of defense—and I do—then you think Keith Hernandez is a Hall of Famer. It is with John Olerid and Will Clark that we approach the borderline.

The pair rates ahead of Norm Cash and Fred McGriff by a good amount, and I tend to agree with that. You could put them all in the Hall and it really wouldn’t be any worse than it is now.

Gil Hodges simply doesn’t rate as a Hall of Famer by wWAR. This, of course, does not include his value as a manager. Don Mattingly also doesn’t stack up. However, if he ever wins a title as a manager, he’ll be able to make a Hodges-like dual-role case with the Vererans Committee.

Second Base:

  1. Bobby Grich (99.9)*
  2. Lou Whitaker (93.4)*
  3. Ross Barnes (80.1)*
  4. Willie Randolph (78.2)*
  5. Cupid Childs (78.2)*
  6. Hardy Richardson (69.2)
  7. Fred Dunlap (66.2)
  8. Chuck Knoblauch (65.3)
  9. Larry Doyle (64.5)
  10. Tony Phillips (62.8)
  11. Buddy Myer (56.8)
  12. Del Pratt (52.3)

Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker are more deserving than several, if not most, second basemen in the Hall. Ross Barnes is interesting—his career totals are very low because he had a short career and played at a time of very short season lengths. He was the very best hitter in the National Association and was an adept fielder at a premium position. That should probably be good enough for induction.

Willie Randolph and Cupid Childs are much closer to the borderline. Hardy Richardson comes next after a somewhat substantial gap. Tony Phillips makes the Hall of wWAR despite never being selected as an All Star.

Third Base:

  1. Sal Bando (93.0)*
  2. Deacon White (92.2)*
  3. Ken Boyer (87.0)*
  4. Buddy Bell (84.2)*
  5. Graig Nettles (82.5)*
  6. Darrell Evans (78.3)*
  7. Stan Hack (76.3)*
  8. Robin Ventura (75.2)
  9. Ezra Sutton (72.9)
  10. Ron Cey (72.9)
  11. Bob Elliott (71.3)
  12. Ned Williamson (70.9)
  13. Heinie Groh (65.6)
  14. Lave Cross (60.4)
  15. Toby Harrah (59.8)
  16. Matt Williams (57.8)
  17. Larry Gardner (55.6)
  18. Denny Lyons (53.6)
  19. Arlie Latham (52.8)

Before Ron Santo was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he was the best third baseman outside of the Hall, by a decent amount. Third base is one of the most poorly represented positions in the Hall of Fame, and several of the third basemen actually in the Hall don’t belong there.

The three that stand out by wWAR are Sal Bando, Deacon White, and Ken Boyer. I’d put all of them in. The next tier—Buddy Bell, Graig Nettles, and Darrell Evans (plus Stan Hack and Robin Ventura) could either be your Hall of Very Good, or also Hall of Famers. I’m split on this group. Ron Cey, I’d say, is a perfect representative of the Hall of Very Good.

Shortstop:

  1. Bill Dahlen (113.2)*
  2. Jack Glasscock (104.3)*
  3. Alan Trammell (99.3)*
  4. Jim Fregosi (68.9)
  5. Herman Long (61.3)
  6. Art Fletcher (60.2)
  7. Ed McKean (58.9)
  8. Vern Stephens (58.2)
  9. Bert Campaneris (56.6)
  10. Gil McDougald (53.5)
  11. Roger Peckinpaugh (52.5)

Bill Dahlen, Alan Trammell, and Jack Glasscock all deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. After that, there’s a huge gap. Jim Fregosi and Company fit the Hall of Very Good description.

Left Field:

  1. Tim Raines (89.8)*
  2. Sherry Magee (84.8)*
  3. Minnie Minoso (81.1)*
  4. Harry Stovey (76.7)*
  5. Jimmy Sheckard (73.9)
  6. Bob Johnson (72.3)
  7. Charlie Keller (72.2)
  8. Jose Cruz (70.0)
  9. Mike Smith (67.6)
  10. Roy White (64.4)
  11. Bobby Veach (63.1)
  12. George Foster (62.0)
  13. Augie Galan (60.9)
  14. Albert Belle (58.6)

Tim Raines is the standout here, though Sherry Magee, Minnie Minoso, Harry Stovey, and even Bob Johnson have their ardent supporters.

I see Jose Cruz’s name here and I think he’s another perfect example of the Hall of Very Good. Some people think Albert Belle was a Hall of Famer, but really he’s on the Hall of Very Good borderline.

Center Field:

  1. Jim Wynn (95.1)*
  2. George Gore (82.9)*
  3. Paul Hines (77.9)*
  4. Cesar Cedeno (76.6)*
  5. Willie Davis (75.9)
  6. Tommy Leach (71.1)
  7. Dale Murphy (70.2)
  8. Bernie Williams (68.7)
  9. Vada Pinson (68.4)
  10. Chet Lemon (66.9)
  11. Fred Lynn (66.8)
  12. Mike Griffin (66.1)
  13. Fielder Jones (65.5)
  14. George Van Haltren (64.0)
  15. Brett Butler (63.2)
  16. Jimmy Ryan (61.7)
  17. Lenny Dykstra (61.7)
  18. Roy Thomas (61.0)
  19. Ellis Burks (60.8)
  20. Pete Browning (58.8)
  21. Amos Otis (56.5)
  22. Andy Van Slyke (55.8)
  23. Wally Berger (55.5)
  24. Devon White (54.4)
  25. Ben Chapman (54.0)

What’s interesting is that the Hall of wWAR is very light in center field. But the Hall of Very Good (by wWAR) features an abundance. We see this same phenomenon with pitchers, but I’ll get to that.

Jimmy Wynn is way out in front here, by far. His numbers don’t stand out to the naked eye, but once they are park and era adjusted, he rates well within Hall of Fane territory. I’m honestly not sure any other center fielders deserve induction.

Many players scream “Hall of Very Good” here—Willie Davis, Bernie Williams, Vada Pinson, Fred Lynn, Chet Lemon, Brett Butler, Lenny Dykstra, Ellis Burks, Andy Van Slyke—the list goes on…

Right Field:

  1. Larry Walker (98.8)*
  2. Reggie Smith (84.8)*
  3. Dwight Evans (84.6)*
  4. Bobby Bonds (80.6)*
  5. Jack Clark (70.8)
  6. Mike Tiernan (68.7)
  7. Rocky Colavito (67.0)
  8. Tony Oliva (63.1)
  9. Darryl Strawberry (60.9)
  10. Dixie Walker (58.7)
  11. Rusty Staub (58.5)
  12. Dave Parker (57.5)
  13. Roger Maris (55.8)
  14. Jose Canseco (55.4)
  15. Ken Singleton (54.3)

Once again, we have a player way out in front of the rest (Larry Walker). Like Wynn, his value is greatly affected by park factor and era adjustments. Unlike Wynn, both cut his value, rather than add to it.

Reggie Smith, Dwight Evans, and Bobby Bonds are all close together and certainly would not hurt the Hall of Fame. I prefer Evans over the other two, but that could also be some homerism talking.

Tony Oliva, Dave Parker, and Roger Maris have their supporters, but each perfectly fits into the Hall of Very Good, by wWAR. Other names here like Jack Clark, Rocky Covalito, Darryl Strawberry, Rusty Staub, and Ken Singleton fit well to me, too.

Designated Hitter:

  1. Edgar Martinez (100.5)*
  2. Brian Downing (65.5)

Brian Downing is a great example of the Hall of Very Good. Edgar Martinez is a great example of a Hall of Famer. If only…

Pitcher:

  1. Bob Caruthers (120.8)*
  2. Kevin Brown (95.9)*
  3. Wes Ferrell (93.2)*
  4. Rick Reuschel (91.9)*
  5. Charlie Buffinton (88.5)*
  6. Tony Mullane (88.4)*
  7. David Cone (86.5)*
  8. Luis Tiant (86.3)*
  9. Silver King (83.0)*
  10. Orel Hershiser (82.3)*
  11. Dave Stieb (80.3)*
  12. Bret Saberhagen (79.7)*
  13. Jim McCormick (78.6)*
  14. Kevin Appier (76.7)*
  15. Wilbur Wood (76.7)*
  16. Frank Tanana (76.2)*
  17. Billy Pierce (76.1)*
  18. Jerry Koosman (75.6)
  19. Chuck Finley (75.4)
  20. Tommy Bond (75.0)
  21. Urban Shocker (74.5)
  22. Larry Jackson (74.0)
  23. Carl Mays (73.0)
  24. Dwight Gooden (72.6)
  25. Babe Adams (72.4)
  26. Tommy John (72.4)
  27. Jack Stivetts (71.6)
  28. Tommy Bridges (71.4)
  29. Wilbur Cooper (70.3)
  30. Mark Langston (68.8)
  31. Noodles Hahn (68.6)
  32. Dizzy Trout (68.3)
  33. Bucky Walters (67.8)
  34. George Uhle (67.8)
  35. Bobby Mathews (67.4)
  36. Dolf Luque (66.9)
  37. Mickey Lolich (66.6)
  38. Steve Rogers (66.0)
  39. Vida Blue (66.0)
  40. Nap Rucker (65.5)
  41. Ron Guidry (64.5)
  42. Frank Viola (64.4)
  43. Dave Foutz (64.0)
  44. Jimmy Key (63.7)
  45. Lon Warneke (63.3)
  46. Jack Quinn (63.2)
  47. Sam McDowell (62.7)
  48. Jim Whitney (62.6)
  49. Jesse Tannehill (62.2)
  50. Bobo Newsom (61.7)
  51. Dennis Martinez (61.5)
  52. Fernando Valenzuela (61.2)
  53. Jim Kaat (60.5)
  54. Dick McBride (60.4)
  55. Hippo Vaughn (60.1)
  56. Bob Friend (60.1)
  57. Jon Matlack (59.0)
  58. Jack Powell (58.0)
  59. Jim Maloney (57.8)
  60. Al Orth (57.7)
  61. Harry Brecheen (57.6)
  62. Ted Breitenstein (56.9)
  63. Claude Osteen (56.8)
  64. Schoolboy Rowe (56.7)
  65. Curt Simmons (56.1)
  66. Mel Harder (56.1)
  67. Dutch Leonard, the right-handed one (55.8)
  68. Ned Garver (55.4)
  69. Guy Hecker (55.2)
  70. Doc White (55.0)
  71. Eddie Rommel (54.9)
  72. Bob Shawkey (54.9)
  73. Virgil Trucks (54.8)
  74. Nig Cuppy (54.7)
  75. Ed Reulbach (54.1)
  76. Jack Morris (54.0)
  77. Brad Radke (53.7)
  78. Tom Candiotti (53.4)
  79. Sam Leever (53.1)
  80. Murry Dickson (53.1)
  81. Claude Passeau (52.7)
  82. Camilo Pascual (52.4)

There are a lot of pitchers here.i noted that the Hall of wWAR is short on center fielders, but the Hall of Very Good is bursting with them. Well, the Hall of Very Good is bursting with pitchers. Does this mean the Hall of wWAR is short on them? If so, that’s interesting because the Hall of Fame and Hall of wWAR happen to have the same number of pitchers.

I’ll admit it—the list of pitchers outside of the Hall does not seem nearly as impressive as the list of hitters outside of the Hall. I wonder if it is because:

  1. The powers that be have done a fantastic job of electing pitchers, or
  2. The bar is much higher for pitchers than hitters.

I plan to look into this further. I really wonder if #2 is the reason. You see how highly a guy like Bert Blyleven ranks and then struggles to get in the Hall. Even Kevin Brown was one-and-done. I don’t think people realize how rare a pitcher like Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, or Kevin Brown is.

#1 is not the reason. The Hall has plenty of Rube Marquards and Jesse Haineses. Then there’s Jack Morris. Voters and Veterans just seem to be looking for the wrong things.

Bert Blyleven was the first starting pitcher inducted since Nolan Ryan. Really?

The best pitchers not in, to me, correlate with wWAR. Give me Brown from the 20th century and Bob Caruthers from the 19th. Give me Wes Ferrell as the unique oddball, too. Add on his hitting stats and he’s downright Koufaxian. Caruthers, of course, gets a huge boost from his offense, too.

Next comes the group of Reuschel, Cone, Hershiser, Stieb, and Saberhagen. Luis Tiant is mixed in there too, but he has many more supporters (including yours truly) than the others. Why?

I need to do the research, but my hypothesis is that the Cone, Stieb, etc. of other generations eventually were inducted. I don’t see any pitchers in that group having a chance at induction, and that’s probably wrong. Was there really a lack of Hall-level pitchers between Blyleven/Ryan and the group about to hit the ballot?

I’m still not thrilled with how wWAR handles 19th century pitchers, so I’m not banging the drum for Charlie Buffinton, Tony Mullane, Silver King, or Jim McCormick. From that group, though, I lean towards Mullane and McCormick.

The Hall of Very Good features some really good names—Jim Kaat and Tommy John. Wilbur Wood and Frank Tanana. Vida Blue and Sam McDowell. Chuck Finley and Kevin Appier. Ron Guidry and Frank Viola. Fernando Valenzuela and Dennis Martinez.

Brad Radke and Jack Morris.

Gosh, a great book could be made just from these names alone.

Relief Pitcher:

  1. John Hiller (57.0)

The Hall of wWAR booted Hoyt Wilhelm, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers. Thanks to my generous reliever adjustments, Wilhelm and Sutter performed at the Hall of Very Good level. They are joined by the most underrated reliever—and perhaps the most underrated pitcher—in history: John Hiller.

Just a disclaimer here: this data may not quite be complete. The original net I cast for wWAR analysis was all players with 40+ WAR, but 30+ WAR for pitchers and 19th century hitters. So, there is a chance that some 30something WAR hitters with high peaks could sneak in here. If you think of any, please let me know.

And there we have it. I’m really looking forward to Sky and Marc’s book. I look forward to reading about several of these players—and of course, looking for players they include who are not listed here!

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Jose Canseco

Claim to Fame: Not long ago, Jose Canseco, a Major League outfielder for 17 seasons, was suspended from the independent AAA Mexican League for refusing a drug test, the latest in a sequence of wacky exploits of a controversial ex-superstar whom no one respects but by whom everyone is intrigued.

Since his last at-bat in Major League Baseball in 2001, Canseco has written two tell-all books, one a New York Times best-seller and the other barely successful enough for a Wikipedia page. He has appeared in reality television next to everyone from Donald Trump to Jenna Jameson. He has fought several E-list celebrities and sent his brother to fight another for him. And he has toiled in baseball’s independent leagues, hitting, pitching and even managing for teams like the San Diego Surf Dawgs, Long Beach Armada, Laredo Broncos, and Yuma Scorpions.

But before all that Canseco was a pretty good major leaguer, a six-time all-star and American League MVP in 1988, when he became the first player in MLB history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases. His posted a career OPS+ of 132 and belted 462 career long balls, twice leading the league in dingers. That his totals were admittedly chemically-enhanced diminishes their luster, but Canseco’s accomplishments on the diamond should not be overlooked.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Canseco received six votes on the 2006 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, good for 1.1 percent and below the 5 percent threshold necessary to remain on the ballot. With superior players like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro punished by voters for steroid use, it was no surprise that the already marginally-qualified Canseco, who has pronounced himself “godfather of steroids,” fell off the ballot immediately. He will one day be eligible on the Veterans Committee ballot, but given his lack of popularity in all baseball circles, shouldn’t be holding his breath for induction.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Well, no he doesn’t, but statistically it’s closer than you might think.

In fact, Bill James’s Hall of Fame Monitor has him slightly above the level of a likely Hall of Famer, and his career WAR of 41.7 is better than a cast of Cooperstown inductees, two tenths of a win ahead of Jim Rice. Canseco also leads Rice in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS+, which accounts for the offensive climate in which Canseco played. Considering Canseco’s base-stealing ability and the fact that neither he nor Rice was known for defense, a statistical argument can easily be made that the Bash Brother was a better player than the Red Sox outfielder.

This example does more to reinforce the absurdity of Jim Rice’s Hall of Fame candidacy than to add credence to Canseco’s, but the fact that Canseco has better career numbers across the board than someone inducted only a few years ago at a similar position at least demonstrates that, if not for the steroid baggage, Canseco’s resume is not too far from Cooperstown-worthy. Canseco may be amusing off the field, but between the white lines he was nothing to laugh at.

Well, except for when that ball hit off his head and bounced over the fence for a home run. That was worth laughing at.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a regular feature here.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon Santo, Sammy SosaSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Joe Pate, His Brief Major League Career and the “Raw Raw”

During minor league’s heyday from 1920 to 1940, dozens of leagues and hundred of teams played baseball in every corner of the nation. Local kids made up many teams’ rosters. And some players, even talented ones, had little interest in moving up to the Major Leagues.

To many, especially those from rural areas, big city life had no appeal. Others didn’t want to part from their families and sweethearts. Some had to stay close by to help with the farm chores or earn extra cash from their part-time jobs.

For pitcher Joe Pate, it was all of those reasons and one more. Pate couldn’t throw his renown spit ball in the majors, at least not legally.

Pate, relying almost exclusively on his spitter, dominated the Texas League for eleven years.

Starting in 1920 while pitching for the Ft. Worth cats, Pate won 20 or more games three times and thirty games twice. But Pate consistently refused to go to the Philadelphia Athletics, the Cats’ parent team. Despite multiple pleas from Connie Mack, Pate wanted no part of it. Not only did the Texas native prefer to stay near to his ranch and rodeo hobby but the early A’s were a sad lot.

Beginning in 1915 and through 1921, the A’s posted records of 43-109, 36-117, 55-98, 52-76, 36-104, 48-106 and 53-100.

Finally, in 1926 as the revitalized A’s battled for an American League championship, Pate agreed to a promotion.

Pate’s career was short—two years—but possibly one of the most curious in baseball history. In 1926, Pate appeared in 47 games, posted a 9-0 record with six saves and a 2.71 ERA. The left hander helped keep Philadelphia in the pennant race for much of the summer although the A’s ended up in third place behind the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians.

The following year, Pate was finished. His record dropped to 0-3 with a 5.20 ERA. Pate returned to Ft. Worth where he pitched well before retiring to become an umpire.

Whether Pate threw the spitter during his successful 1926 season remained unclear. According to Ira Thomas, a catcher, said

“Pate didn’t need a spitter. I doubt if he threw three spitters in a game.”

Thomas and other of Pate’s contemporaries say that Pate’s “out” pitch was the “raw raw,” the term used in the day to describe a knuckleball.

Great players who became managers

The germ of this project was seeded a long time ago, probably around the time I read Earl Weaver’s book on managerial strategy for the second time. While I was continually struck by his outlining of basic sabermetric principles, I was also struck by his experience (or lake thereof) playing baseball.

In my mind, at that time, poor players and journeymen made the best managers. I couldn’t really remember many greats who also managed (aside from Frank Robinson, Ted Williams and Pete Rose) and those I could remember didn’t strike me as particularly good skippers.

However, I had no idea if this was true. I then stumbled upon a Branch Rickey baseball card and learned that he was also a failed player, yet went on to great success.

So, I first took a very anecdotal glance for Baseball Past and Present at the best managers of the game and their playing careers. I wasn’t satisfied that my analysis really got me anywhere besides some interesting information.

Since then, I’ve combed Baseball Reference and put together a spreadsheet that matches all 674 players who have managed a game in the majors with their playing careers. My first analysis of that data is below and focuses on players who earned at least 50 WAR and became managers for at least a short time. I was hoping to confirm one of my theses: that the majority of great players who became managers did so in baseball’s infancy (largely because of the player-manager and because modern players play longer).

100 WAR Players Turned Managers (PTMs)

Record: 4,763-4,842
Average Number of Years Managed: 6.2
Number of 100 WAR PTMs: 12

Twelve players who earned over 100 Baseball Reference WAR in their playing careers became managers. Of those 12, only Ted Williams and Frank Robinson began their careers after 1927. Mel Ott is the only other 100 WAR player turned manager who started his career after 1915. In fact, eight of the 12 had careers that started in 1907 or before.

In addition, 10 of these 12 players were, at one point in time, a player manager. Only Ted Williams and Walter Johnson saw their playing and managerial careers not overlap.

When looking at their managerial careers, Cy Young and Honus Wagner managed just 11 games combined (they went 4 – 7), Kid Nichols managed 169 games and Eddie Collins only helmed a team for 336 games. The rest managed for at least four seasons, with Frank Robinson (16 years) and Rogers Hornsby (14 years) managing the longest.

Tris Speaker rates out as likely the best manager. His .543 winning percentage is the second highest and he is one of two to win a play-off series/pennant/World Series (Hornsby was the other). Walter Johnson and Nap Lajoie have the highest winning percentage of the group at .550, but never reached the post-season. They are followed by Speaker and Ty Cobb (.519), discounting Collins (.521) for lack of experience.

In all, the 100+ WAR players turned managers are slightly below .500, being hurt demonstrably by the longest tenured of the group, Hornsby and Robinson, who combined for 1,988 loses.

 

90 WAR Players Turned Managers


Record: 1,551-1,247
Average Number of Years Managed: 9 (however 21 came from one Manager)
Number of 90-99.9 WAR PTMs: 3

Keeping with the trend, both Cap Anson and George Davis were player-managers who began their careers in baseball’s infancy.

Outside of Anson (.578 winning percentage and five pennants), Mathews and Davis were not particularly adept managers. They managed for three seasons apiece and, combined, went 256-300. That said, adding Anson’s sterling managerial record to the 100 WAR group brings the total 90+ WAR PTMs record to 6,314-6,089. A far cry from the below .500 work of just the 100+ crew.

 

80 WAR Players Turned Managers

Player (bRef page) WAR
Christy Mathewson HOF as player

87.7

Roger Connor HOF as player

87.2

 

Record: 172-213
Average Number of Years Managed: 2
Number of 80 WAR PTMs: 2

When we stretch to 80+ PTMs, we add two names: Christy Mathewson and Roger Connor. Both were player-managers who played during the turn of the century and managed quite poorly. Connor only managed for part of one season: his team went 8-37. Mathewson managed for three years and posted a .482 winning percentage. However, that was good enough for the eighth best winning percentage among 80+ WAR PTMs.

Adding Mathewson and Connor to the mix don’t move the needle much: the record of Hall of Fame players turned managers with 80+ WAR is 6,486-6,302.

70 WAR Players Turned Managers

Record: 3,426-3,036
Average Number of Years Managed: 7.8
Number of 70 WAR PTMs: 6

This group adds the first player who started his career after 1960 and became a manager (Pete Rose). Rose, like the five others in this cohort, was a player-manager at one point during their playing career. Another similarity to their higher WAR brethren: four started their careers before 1895 and Frankie Frisch started his career in 1919.

Fred Clarke is the managerial star of this group and the only player, so far, who can challenge Anson for managerial supremacy. His .576 winning percentage spread over 19 seasons resulted in four pennants and one World Series.

That said, the group is pretty evenly split: Clarke, Rose and Frisch had .500+ winning percentages, while the other three (Bill Dahlen, Bob Caruthers and Pud Galvin) had sub .500 winning percentages. Caruthers and Galvin didn’t get any run as managers, going 23-59 combined. As a group, though, the 70 WAR PTMs are nearly 400 games above .500 and raise the stellar players turned manager’s record to 9,912-9,338.

60 WAR Players Turned Managers

Record: 2,873-3,056
Average Number of Years Managed: 5.6
Number of 60 WAR PTMs: 8

Thanks to Alan Trammell, Buddy Bell and Willie Randolph, we have added three more players to the list who started their careers after 1960, were worth at least 60 WAR and became managers. There are now four such players with Frank Robinson (began his career in 1956) just missing the cut. However they are a distinct minority. Of the 31 managers with at least 60 WAR, just seven began their playing careers after 1940. In fact, 13 began their careers before 1900; 20 began their careers before 1920; and 24 players began their careers before 1940.

Of the eight 60 WAR PTMs, just three were player managers and more began their careers after 1970 than before 1900. However, as a whole, this group didn’t make particularly good managers. They combined to go below .500, with only Buddy Bell, Yogi Berra and Joe Cronin having significant managerial careers. Collectively, they have just four pennants and five play-off appearances between them with no World Series victories.

50 WAR Players Turned Managers

Record: 8,215-7,859
Average Number of Years Managed: 4.9
Number of 50 WAR PTMs: 25

Expanding the pool to 50+s adds 25 players turned managers, 17 of whom were player-managers. Oddly, only Tony Perez and Joe Torre started their careers during or after 1960, while eight began their careers before 1900 and 11 began their careers between 1903 and 1932.

Torre stands out in this group, winning as many World Series as the others combined; however he does have just the sixth best winning percentage.

Lou Boudreau really holds the group back. While he managed for 16 seasons, the second most of the group behind Torre, his winning percentage was just .487 and he had only one play-off appearance (of course he did win the World Series).

Carried mostly by Torre, this group has an impressive win total, but an incredibly short average tenure.

Summation

It does appear that great players who became managers skewed mightily toward the early parts of baseball. In fact, 46 of the 56 players with at least 50 WAR who became managers began their careers before 1940. Not surprisingly, as these were some of the best players of their time, a large portion also served as player-managers.

Of the 57 players with 50+ WAR who became managers:

  • 21 began their careers before 1900;
  • 11 began their careers between 1901-1920;
  • 14 began their careers between 1922-1940;
  • Four began their careers between 1945-1959; and
  • Six began their careers between 1960-1977.


In addition:

  • 40 were player-managers
  • 12 managed for just one season
  • Five managed for two seasons
  • 11 managed for three seasons
  • 10 managed for five or six seasons; and
  • Eighth managed for 14 or more seasons.

My favorite baseball photo

This is my favorite baseball photo. My friend Devin is on the left, I’m on the right, and that’s a cutout of Kevin Mitchell behind us. We’re at a game at Candlestick Park for our favorite team, the San Francisco Giants, sometime around the summer of 1990. I must be about seven. There’s a great story behind how this photo came to be.

* * *

I was born in Los Angeles in 1983. My mom’s from Northern California, my natural father’s lived most of his life in London, and when I was a few months old, we moved there. My natural father didn’t treat my mom well, and in September of 1985, she had enough. Telling him one day that she was taking me out to shop for fall clothes, she and I got on a plane instead and returned to California. My memories start a few months later in the living room of my grandparents’ house where we wound up. I remember my mom on the phone with my natural father. I remember wondering why I couldn’t talk to him. I remember the feeling of absence that lingered long after I had new family and friends. It would be 20 years before I saw him again.

Some people bounce from one sick relationship to another. My mom had been 20 when she met my natural father less than a year after dropping out of college to become a stewardess, being swept off her feet by a man at turns charming, manic, and self-destructive. My natural father may be the most enigmatic person I know, and I’ve spent much of my life trying to understand him. It’s one of the reasons I write. But my mom knew enough by her mid-20s to know she needed something different. She got back in college after we returned to California and fell in love with one of her professors, a kind, decent, and steady person. They’ve been married 25 years now.

My mom and dad bought a house on a quiet street in Sacramento a few months before their wedding. I met Devin a year or two later. He was a couple months older than me and lived around the corner with his mom, Nancy and his sister, Kenna. Devin quickly became my best friend, and in my family’s photo albums, we’re climbing trees, visiting amusement parks, and, in one of my favorite pictures, walking around his front yard in a cardboard box. I owe something to Devin and his mom, too.

* * *

When I think about who got me into baseball, I generally credit three people. There’s my grandfather who gave me a 500-page book of baseball history when I was eight which I read over the course of about three months. Then there’s my dad who gave me my first cards when I was three or four and in time, some of the books he’d had growing up. And then there’s Nancy, the tough woman who raised Devin and Kenna as a single parent. Nancy loved the Giants, tuning into their games regularly, and Devin and I followed suit, becoming fans of the World Series contending team San Francisco had at the end of the ’80s and their young stars, Mitchell and Will Clark.

One day at Devin’s house, I noticed a framed picture of him and Clark. It took me aback, and I wanted more information. Oh, Nancy told me, Will just stopped by. She loved to tell me stories like this. Later, I learned there was a cutout display at Candlestick that people could have portraits taken in front of for a fee, $10 or so. I had pins and baseball cards of the All Star first baseman with the black paint smeared under his eyes and the looping, Ted Williams-esque swing. I had a poster on my wall of animated, behemoth versions of Clark and Mark McGwire towering over San Francisco and Oakland for the 1989 World Series, the Battle of the Bay. Now, I had to have the photo as well.

There was one issue: money. It was always tight when I was young in the early years after my mom left my natural father, and while I never lacked for anything I needed, my family often didn’t have 10 extra dollars. I remember going to restaurants and being allowed to order the two cheapest things on the menu. I remember frugal Christmases and birthdays. My mom also was and is an avowed bargain hunter, one of the most savvy people I know at stretching the value of a dollar, and it would be almost antithetical to her to have paid $10 for that picture. But I think the solution that she and Nancy came up with was much better.

***

My mom took the photo atop this page. Candlestick used to allow people to snap their own photos for free from the sides of their displays, and if there’s been one thing I miss with the Giants’ move to a new stadium a decade ago, it’s that such practices are seemingly a distant memory amidst the more upscale culture of AT&T Park. Nancy and my mom both got photos that day, and while I was initially disappointed, since there was no display of Clark and the photo we got of Mitchell, Devin, and myself looked nothing close to real, it’s become one of my favorite childhood photos. Better than any $10 fake photo could, it captures the realities of my youth. Of not having a lot. Of close friendships. Of baseball.

I’m lucky and thankful to have the life that I do, a life filled to this day with family, friendships, and a game that gives me perspective on it all. It’s funny when I think about it. We could have paid $10 that day at Candlestick for an official picture, and I doubt we’d have gotten our money’s worth. I’ve learned that the best things in life, like the photo my mom took, sometimes don’t cost anything.

Observations thus far in spring training

I’ve been able to watch some spring training games over this past week and it’s a welcome return and signals the end of a long winter despite the snow and cold which continues to stick around up here in the north. I’ve spent the week merely observing and enjoying the game for what it is instead of the analysis which will follow every game once the real season begins. It seems that everyone sitting in the stands at least for the first couple of weeks until things get serious has the same attitude.

The announcers seem to be in mid season form already and even the annoying trend over the past few seasons of hiring former major leaguers instead of actual skilled announcers making inane comments and talk far too much hasn’t been bothering me as much as it will during the regular season. Yup, that’s how good it is to see baseball once again.

But I digress. Spring baseball is fun especially from Florida. In addition to the sights and sounds of the game there are the beautiful palm trees, birds nesting on the light standards and lots of older folks dressed in the t shirt of their favorite team, shorts, sandals and sun glasses. Some sit religiously keeping score but most are simply happy to sit in the sun and enjoy the day.

Games from Arizona seem a little more formal and the desert to the casual observer doesn’t afford many opportunities to observe the surroundings such as they are or the wildlife. The game seems more mercenary somehow. Perhaps it’s the traditionalist in me but baseball in March in Florida just seems more like the real thing.

Of course in this early going, many of the players I have seen won’t be with the team in the next week or two and by the middle of spring training the veterans seem to be bored and anxious to head north and get on with regular season. Averages and ERA don’t seem to have the importance and scrutiny they have once the regular season begins. At least not to management. The majority of the big league jobs have already been penciled in and it is only the backup spots or injury replacements that remain to be decided for most teams. Players often work on certain aspects of their game and are not overly concerned with specific results. The rookies however, need to hit .400 or pitch nothing but shutouts if they hope to crack the roster. For them, spring training is anything but a paid vacation. They have to impress for later or a later season call up.

Spring training is also a time in which players, managers and umpires get along and no one sweats the details. A close call which in the regular season would at the very least elicit comments from the dugout is met with silence or only a smile. A blown call on the bases might call for an under the breath metaphor but usually little else. There is time enough for frank on field discussions once the season really begins. Umpires, players and managers can afford to laugh off a mistake now. Everyone is getting back into the swing of things.

Players in March are trying to get in baseball shape and avoid injuries. The bad season of last year is only a distant memory. A good season is something to build on. Umpires are getting used to the speed of the game. Managers are getting used to press conferences again. Fans are enjoying the sun and a vacation from the cold. Writers have something current to write about. Life makes sense once again.

A Pittsburgh Perspective on the Andrew McCutchen Deal

For the last two seasons, when asked about the possibility of locking up Andrew McCutchen up long term, Pittsburgh Pirates’ General Manager Neil Huntington was purposely vague.

So the Pirates caught Pittsburgh by surprise with the announcement that the team signed McCutchen to a six-year contract worth $51.5 million with a club option for 2018 valued at $14.75 million. The deal included McCutchen’s first two free agency years.

Signing McCutchen was something the Pirates had to do—but for non-baseball reasons. The only thing that’s certain for the Pirates in 2012 is that it will endure its 20th consecutive losing season. Ticket prices have been increased. Last year’s second half fold put the team at an 81 game winning percentage lower than the 2010 John Russell-led squad that lost 105 games. By signing McCutchen, the Pirates can deflect the inevitable fan grousing about how ownership refuses to spend money. But since McCutchen was already on the squad, fans are skeptical that it will make any short term difference.

The Pirates had a rough off season making only marginal, at best, upgrades. The addition of Clint Barmes at shortstop is an improvement over the unpredictable head case, Ronnie Cedeno. Gone are catchers Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit. Their replacement is 36-year-old Rod Barajas. Casey McGehee also joined the team which might help if Pedro Alvarez can’t improve on his .191 batting average.

Perhaps more significantly the Pirates couldn’t lure potentially productive players to Pittsburgh despite dangling millions in front them. Roy Oswalt didn’t return phone calls. Edwin Jackson turned down three years at $30 million to instead sign with the Washington Nationals for one year, $11 million.

Even though Derrek Lee hit .337 with seven home runs in 113 at bats for the Pirates, he had no interest in returning. According to Lee, he would rather retire and forego $6-8 million than play another season in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates pitching staff consists of five hurlers (Eric Bedard, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, James McDonald and Brad Lincoln) who, in a competitive rotation, would be number three or four starters.

Let’s be honest. The ill-fated A.J. Burnett is a Yankee cast off that, coming off two terrible years, no other team wanted. He’s only around because the Pirates opted not to sign free agent Paul Maholm, five years younger than Burnett, 1.5 runs lower in 2011 ERA. Burnett is $2 million cheaper than Maholm would have been.

Luckily, the Pirates have All Star closer Joel Hanrahan to protect those hard earned and always tenuous late game leads. Somehow the Bucs must try to hold opponents to four runs or less since the team is no offensive juggernaut. The Buccos need more pop from the traditional power positions: left and right field, first and third base and catcher.

The sense around town is that there are so many Pirates’ holes to plug that McCutchen is only one tiny piece of the solution. And many long suffering fans are far from convinced about McCutchen’s worth. In the second half of the season, with his team falling off the cliff, McCutchen’s .216 batting average was awful.

Still, McCutchen is a skilled player with unlimited upside who has the gift of speed and power with tremendous outfield range. Last season, he hit 23 homers and drove in 89. McCutchen has the automatic green light and could steal 30-40 bases.

McCutchen’s guaranteed $51 million is great for him and, for the Pirates, an important symbolic gesture. Fans want this year’s team to succeed. If McCutchen leads the charge back to the top, fantastic. But we want results and not more talk about the minor league prospects, last year’s draft picks or the international signings. We’ve heard all that before—for two decades!

More will be known a mere 18 games into the season. The Pirates open with three at home against the National League East champion Philadelphia Phillies before going on the road for nine against the Dodgers, the Giants, the Diamondbacks then returning for six against the Cardinals and the Rockies. Along that path, they will likely face Roy Halliday, Cliff Lee, Cole Hammels, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Ian Kennedy and Chris Carpenter.

Although the early road is tough, Bucco backers expect at a minimum 9-9. A break even record would be the first step to the elusive .500 mark.

Help support 826 Valencia with the BPP All-Time Dream Project

Editor’s note: I originally posted this at FirstGiving.com.

_______________

As founder, editor, and writer of a baseball website, I am continually amazed at the collaborative possibilities of the Internet. This is a Golden Age for reading and writing, one where anyone can make their voice heard and be a part of the creative process, one where more great content than ever is produced, much of it free. One of my pleasures operating a website is bringing as many people as I can into the fold and giving them an opportunity to write, and now, I’d like to help an organization with a similar philosophy.

826 Valencia is a non-profit based in San Francisco, with locations across the country that teach journalism to kids ages 6 to 18. While hundreds of volunteers regularly help out, more help is needed. An average of 85 students a day visit the various writing centers, and 826 constantly needs support: $100 buys a week’s worth of supplies for a writing lab; $500 can fund a workshop, and the list of necessities goes on. For more information, please visit 826valencia.org.

I’ve recently launched the BPP All-Time Dream Project having people vote on nine player all-time baseball dream teams. Voting runs through March 27, I’ll be posting results on April 15 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day, and because of the broad appeal of my subject matter, I’d like to make this about more than just honoring a handful of ballplayers. I’m recruiting an All Star lineup of writers for the results post of my project, I’ve hired an illustrator to produce trading cards for the players who get selected, and now, I’d like to give something back. As one man, I can’t do a whole lot on my own, though my experience has been that joining together with others allows for all sorts of possibilities.

I’ll get to the point. I’d like to use the appeal of the BPP All-Time Dream Project to gather donations for 826 Valencia. I’ve set a goal of $3,000 by my publish date, April 15. It’s a modest amount, but I believe it’s enough to make a difference.

Anyone can make a donation by visiting my page at FirstGiving.com.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer incentives for donations. Here they are:

Any donation: You’ll be listed in the final results post of my project as a donor to 826 forever noting your generosity.

$25: You’ll receive a free set of original trading cards produced for this post (right now, I’m limiting this to the first 100 people who make this donation, since I’ll be paying out of pocket on shipping.) You’ll also be listed in the final results post of my project as a donor to 826 forever noting your generosity.

$50: You’ll receive an original frameable print that gets produced for this project of the player of your choice. You’ll also be listed in the final results post of the project as a donor to 826 forever noting your generosity.

$75: You get a guaranteed post. I’ll write 1,000 words on a baseball-related subject of your choice for my website or any other. Got a distant relative who played baseball 100 years ago? I’ll research and write about him or her. I’ll illuminate your favorite baseball-related charity. I’ll do everything short of endorse someone for the Hall of Fame or promote hate. I’ll also personally call or email to thank you for your donation. And, of course, you’ll be listed in the final results post of my project as a donor to 826 forever noting your generosity.

That’s all I can think of for now. Please email me at thewomack@gmail.com with any thoughts or feedback. Thanks, and I’m excited to see how this goes.

Sincerely,

Graham Womack, founder and editor

http://baseballpastandpresent.com/

Anyone can make a donation by visiting my page at FirstGiving.com.

A birthday present from Freddy Sanchez

After 60 years of attending Major League baseball games, I finally caught my first foul ball. On a cold, rainy April night at PNC Park San Francisco Giants’ second baseman Freddy Sanchez sent a lazy fly into the deserted stands. I only had to elbow one guy out of the way.

Like most fans, I’ve been close before. Friends have regaled me with their good fortune. In 1960, a buddy snagged a foul of the Chicago White Sox Nelson Fox. The ball had been in play during the previous out. As my friend recreated the inning, with Whitey Ford on the mound and Yogi Berra behind the plate, Luis Aparicio flied out to Roger Maris who tossed the ball into Bobby Richardson. Then, Richardson whipped it around the infield to Bill Skowron, Gil McDougald and Clete Boyer.

By the time the ball landed in my lucky friend’s hands, it had been touched by four Hall of Famers and four other outstanding Golden Era Yankees.

I took my ball home and placed it prominently on my desk. After a week, I thought that the ball would be even cooler if Freddy autographed it. As a Pittsburgh Pirates employee I knew from Freddie’s years with the team that he’s a solid guy who I could count on to sign. By mid-May, the ball along with a return postage pre-paid envelope was on its way to San Francisco. But not long afterward, Freddy returned to his Arizona home to rehab after going on the disabled list.

June, July, and August passed—no baseball. As the months went by, I factored in that it would have to be time-consumingly forwarded from San Francisco to Arizona. I also made allowances for a bummed, injured Freddy following his flailing Giants’ being unenthusiastic about signing. Reluctantly, I downgraded the percentage of probability that I’d get the ball back from 100 percent to 75 percent and then to 50 percent.

When 2012 arrived, I dropped the probability to 10 percent. I had mailed it eight months ago! By then, I second guessed my wisdom in parting with the ball. Still, knowing Freddy’s reputation, I refused to set the likelihood at zero.

Eventually, Freddy rewarded my faith. In late February, the ball arrived inscribed as I had requested: “To Joe, Happy Birthday, Freddy Sanchez”

The blame didn’t rest with Freddy, as I knew it wouldn’t, but with—no surprise—the post office! When I purchased the return postage, the clerk warned me that not so much as a feather could be included with the ball since it would throw the weight off. The scales must work differently in Phoenix than they do in Pittsburgh. The envelope had multiple “insufficient postage” stamps emblazoned on it. Lesson learned—add a few bucks in extra frank to ensure you get your items back promptly.

My treasure is back where it was last April and where it will remain, safely atop my desk.

Any player/Any era: Eric Davis

What he did: In 1997, the Baltimore Orioles signed Eric Davis, but he appeared in just 42 games because he was diagnosed with colon cancer. However, he beat the odds and returned that year, eventually hitting the game winning homer in game five of the ALCS (let’s avoid what happened in game six). It was one of his two hits that series.

The Orioles brought him back in 1998 and he batted .327/.388/.582 and recorded a hit in 30 consecutive games (tied for the 29th longest streak in MLB history). He also went 35/37 in SB attempts, the 27th highest SB percentage in a season since 1951 (min. 20 SBs). He was the lone bright spot for a losing team with every regular over 30 that was fresh off a fantastic 90 win season. In reality, 1998 might be the last season there was optimism in Baltimore.

That’s why I remember Davis. You should remember Davis for many more reasons.

There have been 17 seasons in MLB history during which a player hit 20 HRs and stole 50 bases. Davis owns two of them. He also has the fourth highest stolen base success percentage in MLB history (min. 100 steals). His percentage, 84.1%, is behind Tim Raines, Pokey Reese and Carlos Beltran.

Davis burst on the scene in 1986 as a 24-year-old, batting .277/.378/.523 with 27 HRs and 80 SBs. From 1986-1990, Davis averaged a .277/.371/.527 line with 30 HRs and 41 SBs.

In 1990, he homered off Dave Stewart in his first World Series at bat. He also made a diving attempt at a ball in game four. The dive resulted in a lacerated kidney. He had surgery on that and his knee that off-season.

He appeared in 89 games the following season, which began an injury plagued trend.

Davis was so beaten down by injuries that he briefly retired after the 1994 season. He eventually made it back to the bigs and had that last gasp of brilliance for the Orioles in 1998 before retiring a few years later.

Era he might have thrived in: Davis could play in any era, but he would absolutely dominate the 1960s. Specifically, the St. Louis Cardinals had a glaring hole in right field and the need for someone to take the baton from Stan Musial.

Why: With Stan the Man in the twilight of his career, the Cardinals would need someone to bolster the offense. Adding Davis to a potent mix of Ken Boyer, Curt Flood, Tim McCarver, Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda and others to replace the weak hitting Mike Shannon would be a boon to a team that perennially finished around .500.

If you normalize the career of Eric Davis to the 1962 Cardinals, he hits .283/.375/.506 with 305 HRs and 386 SBs. Putting his peak years during that era would provide 34 HRs and 50 SBs on average a season.

Having Davis in the fold would also likely stop them from trading for Roger Maris in 1966, who batted just .258/.330/.392 with an 111 OPS+ in his two seasons there.

Of course this assumes Davis wouldn’t need to benefit from modern medicine like he did in the late 90s. At the least, his peak would soften the blow for Cardinals fans when Stan Musial retired.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Al SimmonsAlbert PujolsBabe RuthBad News RockiesBarry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob WatsonBobby VeachCarl MaysCesar CedenoCharles Victory FaustChris von der AheDenny McLainDom DiMaggioDon DrysdaleDoug GlanvilleEddie LopatElmer FlickFrank HowardFritz MaiselGary CarterGavvy CravathGene TenaceGeorge W. Bush (as commissioner)George CaseGeorge WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jack MorrisJackie Robinson, Jim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh GibsonJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film),Mark FidrychMatty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate ColbertOllie CarnegiePaul DerringerPedro GuerreroPedro MartinezPee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRickey HendersonRoberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam ThompsonSandy Koufax Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Spud ChandlerStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTony PhillipsTy CobbVada PinsonWally BunkerWes FerrellWill ClarkWillie Mays

Any Player/Any Era: Spud Chandler

What he did: In an eleven-year career punctuated by injury and military service, Spud Chandler compiled a 109-43 record pitching for the New York Yankees. Chandler made his major league debut in 1937 at age 29 and played his last game in the 1947 World Series. In between, he pitched with the ferocity of a Bob Feller or Bob Gibson and was one of the reasons the Yankees won seven pennants during his tenure with the team. In 1943, Chandler was voted American League MVP.

Era he might have thrived in: In one respect, Chandler fell into a pretty good situation pitching for the Yankees in the ‘30s and 40s. The wins came easily, but wins came easily for most Yankees pitchers then. Run support was rarely a worry for Chandler with his hard-hitting teammates, a group that included at various points in his career Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri, Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich, Joe Gordon, Charlie Keller and Yogi Berra. Yet, Chandler might have done better in another era. He had a shorter career than he deserved, given his pitching talent. In the interest of giving Chandler a longer career and longer-lasting fame, let’s transport him to the expansion Kansas City Royals.

Why: Chandler’s major league career started later and ended earlier than it should have. The bookends of Chandler’s career were his late promotion to the major leagues and his inability to pitch through pain and injury at the end. Projecting Chandler to another era should address one or both of these limitations.

Any time more recent than the 1940s would offer an improvement in medical care, which might allow Chandler to squeeze more productivity out of his talents. Make that time recent enough that the five-man pitching rotation was also the norm, and Chandler would benefit even more. Give Chandler the chance to pitch in the 1970s, following baseball’s rapid expansion to 24 major league teams, and there would be no excuse for keeping a good man down.

Chandler’s late arrival in professional baseball had two causes. One was that he attended college, something rare for a future major leaguer in the ‘30s, and he did so later in life than is typical. Weeks shy of his 21st birthday, Chandler enrolled at the University of Georgia where he not only played baseball, but as a football player he became part of one of the era’s most productive offensive backfields. Chandler spurned offers from the Giants and Cardinals to leave school early and pursue his baseball career. Chandler’s minor league career did not begin until the summer of 1932, after he had completed college at the age of 24. The second reason for Chandler’s late arrival in the big leagues was that despite showing major league ability in his early years in professional ball, he spent nearly five years in the minors, thanks to the depth of pitching talent in the Yankees organization.

Let’s project Chandler’s 1907 birthday ahead 40 years to 1947. Let’s not begrudge him his University of Georgia education or his football exploits, but let’s have him enrolling at the more typical age of 18, which would have him graduating in the spring of 1969. As a football player, he would even have the opportunity to earn some fame as a member of the Georgia Bulldog teams that played in the Cotton Bowl following the 1966 season and the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 1969.

A two-sport college grad in 1969 could do a lot worse than to be drafted by the expansion Royals. The early years of any expansion team are a struggle. Expansion pitching staffs normally combine other teams’ castoffs with youngsters better suited to learning their craft in the minors. But the Royals rose above their class of ’69 expansion brethren in their ability to evaluate and develop young pitching talent.

For Kansas City, the castoffs included Wally Bunker and Dave Morehead. Bunker had had a brilliant start to his career as a teenager in the early ‘60s with Baltimore, and Morehead had posted six mediocre seasons with Boston. Both pitchers were given ample opportunity to grow into the role of Royals staff ace, but neither lasted long enough to figure in the eventual success of the team. In contrast, the young arms that Kansas City brought along in ’69 and the early ‘70s included considerable major league talent. As judged by length of career, ERA+ and career WAR, Jim Rooker, Dick Drago, Al Fitzmorris, Tom Burgmeier, and Paul Splittorff were above-average big leaguer pitchers. Fitzmorris and Splittorff went on to become two-fifths of the KC starting rotation in 1976, the first year they won the AL West, while Drago was traded for Marty Pattin, who became a strong contributor to the team’s efforts as both a starter and reliever for much of the ‘70s. The Royals sent Burgmeier and Rooker away in trades that did not benefit the team, just proving that their ability to judge talent was not infallible.

Player (career)

ERA+

WAR

Tom Burgmeier (1968-1984)

119

11.9

Dick Drago (1969-1981)

103

21.3

Al Fitzmorris (1969-1978)

101

14.2

Jim Rooker (1968-1980)

105

16.7

Paul Splittorff (1970-1984)

101

20.9

Spud Chandler (1937-1947)

132

26.0


The glory days of the Kansas City franchise were the ten seasons from 1976 to 1985, when the team won six division titles, two pennants and the 1985 World Series. Although the success of those Royals teams is largely attributed to their pitching, Chandler could offer a substantial upgrade. If a 24 year-old Chandler had been available to be called up in 1972 following a three-year stay in the minor leagues, he could easily slot into the Royals starting rotation and soon become the staff ace. He would turn 29 in September of 1976, just entering his prime for Kansas City’s first playoff run. Nine years later Chandler would still be the leader of the staff, as judged by his real-life 1946 season, the second-best of his career, at age 38. With Chandler’s talents on board, perhaps the Royals teams of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s could have enjoyed an even higher level of success.

Injuries are the other side of the story. Chandler’s career with the Yankees was one in which he struggled to complete a season in good health. An injury during his football days and the hard delivery of his sinking fastball put unusual stress on his pitching arm. The four-man rotation and the expectation to go nine innings conspired to limit what might have been a brilliant career. Although the Yankees made seven World Series appearances during Chandler’s time, Chandler played a meaningful role in only two of them.

Chandler’s last campaign was 1947. He began the season by faithfully taking the mound every four days and pitching complete games in each of his first 13 starts. But by mid-season his career was over, except for a lone September start and a brief, ineffective appearance in the Fall Classic. He would not return to the big leagues following off-season arm surgery.

These days, Spud Chandler is largely forgotten, while his rotation-mates Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing have plaques in Cooperstown. However, Chandler’s career numbers compare favorably to those of Ruffing and Gomez in all ways but one. Chandler was better than Gomez and Ruffing in WHIP, ERA+ and winning percentage, but he pitched the fewest innings of the three by a large margin. He might have been well served by having the opportunity to play later in the century, in a more pitcher-friendly era, and for a team on which his talents would stand out against those of his teammates.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Al SimmonsAlbert PujolsBabe RuthBad News RockiesBarry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob WatsonBobby VeachCarl MaysCesar CedenoCharles Victory FaustChris von der AheDenny McLainDom DiMaggioDon DrysdaleDoug GlanvilleEddie LopatElmer FlickFrank HowardFritz Maisel, Gary CarterGavvy CravathGene TenaceGeorge W. Bush (as commissioner)George CaseGeorge WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jack MorrisJackie Robinson, Jim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh GibsonJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film),Mark FidrychMatty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate ColbertOllie CarnegiePaul DerringerPedro GuerreroPedro MartinezPee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRickey HendersonRoberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam ThompsonSandy Koufax Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe JacksonStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTony PhillipsTy CobbVada PinsonWally BunkerWes FerrellWill ClarkWillie Mays