Saturday, April 24, 2004

With all the emphasis on “Moneyball” the last [long] while I thought it’d be fun to construct an all-time “Moneyball” team. I’m going to put together a lineup that would be far better than the sum of its parts. Nowadays, most teams carry about twelve pitchers. So I've picked thirteen others to man every position on the diamond including the DH and some bench players. The difference between the starters and the scrubs is mainly defense, although there are a couple of players who had other things to offer with the bat that would help offset any defensive shortcomings. For the most part, however, this group wouldn't boot away too many ballgames. Since the main thrust of this new philosophy is the value of on-base percentage, we’ll put together this roster with that as the main criteria. The four stats you see listed along with the player are batting average, on base percentage, career walks, and Runs Created Above Average (RCAA).

Leadoff: 2B--Max Bishop (.271/.423/1153/53 RCAA)

Max Bishop was the lead-off hitter and second baseman for Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics three time American League pennant and back-to-back World Champions (1929-1930--lost the WS in '31). Bishop was a poor man's version of the Yankees' Earle Combs, in that he set the table for sluggers Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons, and Mickey Cochrane much the same way as Combs did for Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Tony Lazzeri. With the 1929 world champs, he batted .232 for the season yet posted an OBP of .398 due to leading the league in walks. Over twelve big league seasons he drew 1153 walks and posted a career on base mark of .423 despite a batting mark of .271 lifetime. Bishop had some extra base power too, as evidenced by banging out 236 doubles, 35 triples, and 41 home runs over the span of his career (albeit in a big hitting era). He has the dubious distinction of being the last out in the history of the Philadelphia Athletics' World Series play, when he flied out to St. Louis Cardinal centerfielder Pepper Martin in Game Seven of the 1931 World Series. Nicknamed, "Camera Eye," he lived up to that moniker superbly.

#2: 3B--Tony Phillips (.266/.374/1319/160 RCAA)

Phillips was a player whose game aged like a fine wine (as evidenced by his leading the AL in free passes in both 1993 and 1996). For example, from 1982-1990 he was a below average player (.251/.343/.350 -9 RCAA). Then at age 32 a light went on and he went on a five year tear (.282/.402/.422 154 RCAA) and continued on as a useful spare part (.259/.378/.401 15 RCAA) until his retirement in 1999. Although Tony Phillips lacked the speed of a young Rickey Henderson or a Tim Raines, he was an accomplished lead-off hitter and savvy baserunner. From 1990, he didn't post an on base mark below .362, and as he got older he developed more power. From 1982-1990 he hit 41 home runs; after that, he launched 131 (with a career high 27 in 139 games in the strike shortened 1995 season). Four times he topped 100 runs. Although not a Gold Glove calibre defensive player, he hardly embarrassed himself either. He was capable both in the infield as well as the outfield, including CF. A durable player, he played in 1326 games starting in 1989, despite not having a fixed position. A favorite of Tony LaRussa because of his versatility, he was a vital cog in the Oakland A's World Championship team of 1989.

#3: RF--Jimmy Wynn (.250/.369/1224/320 RCAA)

Like Bob Allison, Gene Tenace, and Mickey Tettleton (whom will be dealt with shortly), "the Toy Cannon" was that valuable mix of power and selectivity and certainly belongs on this roster. Among his achievements are eight 20+ home run seasons with three over 30. He walloped 285 career doubles and went yard 291 times. Wynn had a fabulous 10 year peak from 1965-74 where he was 300 Runs Created Above Average despite batting just .259. Despite playing the bulk of his games in tough hitter’s parks and in a low offensive era he averaged 25 HR and 90 BB during that span--not too shabby for a guy who was just a tad smaller than Pee Wee Reese. It's all the more impressive when you consider that he was a contemporary of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson, Warren Spahn etc. He also spent a couple of campaigns in another venue (Dodger Stadium) noted for leeching power hitters' numbers and slammed 40 HR in 947 AB toward the end of his career.

Other tidbits:

Wynn lead the National League in walks twice: 1969 and 1976. Wynn was among the top six in walks drawn in the National League every year from 1968-76. Although Wynn never hit .300 in any season, he twice posted an OBP over .400 (1969 and 1975). In 1968 and 1969, Wynn finished sixth in National League OPS. Both years he hit just .269. Despite playing half of his games in pitchers' parks, Wynn finished among the top ten in NL home runs five times over eight years (1967-74). He was in the top six in all but one of those seasons (he finished 10th in 1972). In 1969, and 1975-76 Wynn finished the season with more walks than hits. In his 30 game stint with the 1977 Yankees, Wynn walked (15) more often than he hit (11).

#4: CF--Bob Allison (.255/.360/795/194 RCAA)

Allison won the 1959 American League Rookie of the Year with the Washington Senators. He blasted 30 circuit clouts, a very impressive total in old Griffith Stadium for a right handed hitter. Why? The dimensions (in Allison's time) were 421 ft to center, 380 ft to left center, and 350 ft to left. Griffith Stadium was considered to be a very pitcher friendly park. Hall-of-Fame hurler Hal Newhouser once quipped: "Give a pitcher a ball-hawk in centerfield and he will win in Washington." Due to Griffith Stadium, Washington never produced an American League Home Run King until Roy Sievers turned the trick in 1957 (with 42).

Metropolitan Stadium was a little kinder to his swing and he continued to post impressive numbers. Like Jimmy Wynn, he was forced to spend his prime years during the pitching-friendly 1960's (1963-68). During that six year span he posted a fine OPS of .847 (164 RCAA) and finished top in that category in 1963 with the phone number of the Blue Jays dugout: .911. In the full seasons he played those years (he batted only 168 times in 1966) he averaged close to 28 HR per year -- not Killibrew-esque to be sure, but -- a fine total nonetheless.

Career highlights include topping 20 home runs eight times and 30 thrice. Of his 1281 career hits, 525 went for extra bases. Possessor of a keen batting eye for a slugger, he would post an on base mark .100 points higher than his batting average regularly. Strangely, his three worst seasons coincided with one pennant winner (1965 as the transplanted Twins) and two divisional champions (in 1969 and 1970, again with Minnesota--although he was clearly on the downside of his career, they were his last two seasons). He had back to back 100 RBI seasons in 1960, and 1961.

#5: 1B/DH/#3 catcher--Mickey Tettleton (.241/.369/949/167 RCAA)

"Fruit Loops" was usually was among the top in the [American League] loop of walks drawn and on base percentage. Although his best defensive position is designated hitter, he could also fill in at first, catcher and the outfield corners if needed. He had a selective batting eye and a booming bat. He had hit 212 round trippers from 1989 to his retirement 44 AB into the 1997 season. Like Phillips, it took awhile for Tettleton to put it together. He didn’t get over 300 AB until he was 28. Once he was given regular at bats, he flourished posting an RCAA of 179 hitting 185 HR and walking 715 times from 1989 to 1995. You could usually count on Tettleton for 30 homers, 100 walks and 100 whiffs. Pitchers who faced him could usually count on a long ordeal, he was well known as a player who worked pitchers deep into counts looking for a pitch he could drive. The proud(?) possessor of a batting stance that ranked with Bobby Richardson and Tony Batista's in X-Files bizarre-ness he nonetheless flourished under Sparky Anderson while with the Tigers, and even led the Junior Circuit in walks in 1992 while stationed in MoTown (122).

#6: DH/supersub--Brian Downing (.267/.373/1197/289 RCAA)

One could forgive Brian Downing if he were to take a trip into the countryside, go deep into the woods, and when he was absolutely certain that no one was around--scream hysterically at the injustice of it all. He was present at the three of the four greatest triumphs of the Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Angels baseball franchise (division titles in 1979, 1982, and 1986). So, of course, he was also part of the two greatest disappointments in franchise history (1982 vs Milwaukee , when they lost the ALCS. 3-2 after leading 2-0, and 1986 vs Boston when they lost the ALCS. 4-3 after leading 3-1 ).

Yet in this period, he remained a superior offensive force as well as a serviceable multi-positional player as well, being a fixture in west coast baseball over three different decades (he played with the Halos from 1978-1990). Although his post season ledger is nothing to write home about (.197/.292/.262 average in three ALCS's, although in the 1986 series he did drive in seven runs) he had several standout seasons in AL play. He had six seasons of 20+ longballs as well as eleven consecutive campaigns of 10+ HR (1982-1992). All totalled: he banged out 360 doubles, blasted 275 HR, garnered 2099 hits, scored 1188 runs and drove home 1073 over 20 big league tours of duty. As befits this roster, he was also a selective hitter, walking (1197 times with a league topping 106 in 1987) as often as he whiffed (1127). He finished his career as a DH posting a .270/.378/.449 (140 RCAA) in that role over his final six seasons.

#7: LF--Roy Cullenbine (.276/.408/853/234 RCAA)

When you think of the 1945 Detroit World Series champions, what names come to mind? How about: Hank Greenberg, Hal Newhouser, or Rudy York? Perhaps Virgil Trucks or Dizzy Trout? How aboooooout--Roy Cullenbine? Who's Roy Cullenbine? If you happen to know who he is, then you may object: "What about him? He only hit .227 in the 1945 Fall Classic." Well yes, he did hit .227, but hey, Rudy York didn't even break the "Mendoza Line." But, getting back to the aforementioned Mr. Cullenbine, he did much more than just hit two-and-a-quarter (plus two pennies, keep the change). How's this for starters? In 30 trips to the plate, he reached base 13 times (that's an OBP of .433). He scored five runs, and his five hits produced four RBI. That's nine runs produced in a seven game series. That is a top quality World Series performance by anybody's reckoning.

His regular season ledger reads like a CAA/AAA road map. Over a 10 year career he spent time with the Brooklyn Dodgers, St. Louis Browns, Detroit Tigers (twice), Washington Senators, New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians. A baseball enigma, he played his best baseball toward the end of his career. In his final season, he hit 18 doubles and blasted 24 home runs, of his 104 hits, 43 went for extra bases. He also scored 82 runs and drove in 78. He also drew 137 walks (and struck out only 51 times), turning an apparently anaemic .224 batting average (before you turn your nose up at this figure remember the 1945 World Series) into an eye popping OBP of .401. For those that might brand him a wartime wonder (.272/.401/.444/174 RCAA from 1941-45) in his final three seasons (1945-47) he hit 57 of his 110 HR, and was .271/.420/.459 with 111 RCAA before retiring. Also among his achievements is 209 doubles, drawing two walks for every whiff, and left the game with an on base mark of .408, despite hitting .276.

#8: SS--Eddie Stanky (.268/.410/996/122 RCAA)

A close call as to who'd get the nod for the start, “the brat,” or Donie Bush. Hall-of-Fame manager Leo Durocher put it best, when he said of Eddie Stanky: "He can't hit, he can't run, he can't field (he was about average defensively if you crunch the numbers), he can't throw. He can't do a damn but beat you." Stanky was a hard nosed, somewhat nasty ballplayer -- sort of a poor man's Ty Cobb -- who would go to any extent to help his team win. As a manager for the White Sox, he wasn't above a little skulduggery to give his team an edge. According to a Comiskey Park groundskeeper, Stanky would place balls into a humidifier twelve days before a homestand. He would then take them out hours before the game with the effect being that the outer surface of the ball would be dry, yet the balls would have gained a couple of ounces of moisture, thereby deadening them. The theory being, since the punchless Sox couldn't hit, then neither shall anybody else.

As for his playing career, he played on three National League Pennant winners for three different clubs: the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, the 1948 Boston Braves, and the 1951 New York Giants. Although not a power hitter, he knew how to create runs by being unbelievably picky at the plate drawing close to three walks for every strikeout. He garnered an on base mark .142 higher than his batting average and .062 higher than his slugging average (for the record he hit .268, slugged .348, and had an OBP of .410) In an eleven year career, he twice topped 100 runs, leading the league in 1945 and had five seasons of hitting twenty plus doubles while splitting time between second, third, and short. He finished at the top in walks three times (1945, 46, 50) and OBP twice (1946, 50). Stanky drew 685 walks in the six years from 1946-51, and had an RCAA of 113 despite a .368 SLG and hitting just 28 HR.

#9: Catcher--Wes Westrum (.217/.357/489/-16 RCAA)

A superb backstop for some excellent New York Giant teams; Wes Westrum handled some fine pitching staffs. Probably his best effort was the 1954 World Series when he played a big part in engineering the Giants stunning sweep of the heavily favored Cleveland Indians. Primarily a defensive backstop, he nonetheless would make opposing pitchers pay for any inattention on their part. He topped 20 circuit clouts and seventy ribbies in consecutive seasons (1950-51). Westrum also proved himself a top notch post season player as well. Besides his catching duties, he distinguished himself at the dish as well. In two World Series (1951 and 1954), he batted .250 drew six walks for an OBP of .371 and drove in five runs in ten games. He had an outstanding batting eye, despite hitting only .217 for his career he was so selective, he had a sparkling on base mark of .357. He finished his career with the same team he started with, playing all eleven seasons with the Giants. Although he was below average in comparison to other NL hitters, he was above average for a catcher and was 22 runs created better than an average NL catcher. He enjoyed a fairly respectable peak from 1949-52 hitting 64 HR with an RCAA of 31 despite batting .228 (.382 OBP).

The Bench:

INF UT--Donie Bush (.250/.356/1158/-90 RCAA)

Some guys just can't buy a break. In his first full season in the majors with the Detroit Tigers, Donie Bush found himself part of a pennant winning club only to lose the 1909 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates. No matter, it was the third straight pennant for the Tabbies plus they had Ty Cobb, Germany Schaefer and 'Wahoo Sam' Crawford still in their primes--right?


Detroit never went back to the Fall Classic during his playing days. To add insult to injury, he found himself in a Washington Senators uniform late in the 1921 season. He called it a career with the Senators in 1923. Washington then proceeded to win its first World Series title in 1924. Nonetheless, Bush was an offensive catalyst, getting on base, stealing, and scoring runs in bunches. Over a 16 year career he scored 1280 runs (great things happen when you hit ahead of Ty Cobb) topping 100 four times. He supplemented his .250 batting average by coaxing 1158 walks, posting a lifetime OBP of .356, as well as stealing 403 bases (I'd run a lot too if I had Mr. Cobb breathing down my back). Bush lead the AL in walks five times in six years (1909-1914). Bush makes the team because he was 106 runs created better than contemporary SS, but is relegated to the bench for being 90 runs created worse than average among AL hitters.

INF UT--Eddie Joost (.239/.361/1043/18 RCAA)

A versatile player, Eddie Joost could (and did) man all the infield positions. A (f)utility player defensively (read: the spiritual grandfather of Jose Offerman and Marv Throneberry) he kept himself in the lineup with a combination of patience and pop. In every season between 1947-1952, he tallied double digits in both doubles and homers with Connie Mack's Athletics. Seven times he posted 20+ doubles, and twice he topped twenty HR. He scored 100+ runs both in 1949 and 1951. His biggest offensive asset was his discerning batting eye. In six consecutive campaigns he drew 100+ walks, with a career high 149 in 1949 enabling him to post a lifetime on base mark of .361 despite batting an anaemic .239. Joost, like Tony Phillips, was a late bloomer. Joost opened his career (1936-47) with .221/.319/.307 and -88 RCAA. However, Joost had an RCAA of 106 with 96 HR despite hitting .257 from ages 32 through 36 while averaging 120 walks a season. He was a member of the 1940 World Champion Cincinnati Reds, playing shortstop and batting .200 in the seven game tournament.

1B/DH/backup catcher, pinch hitter--Gene Tenace (.241/.388/984/273 RCAA)

Gene Tenace used his unexpected 1972 World Series MVP as a springboard for a remarkable career. As a catcher, he threw like a Texas Rangers' starter, but made his bat his ticket to being a major league regular--putting in time at first, third, outfield, and designated hitter. Where he played, rings followed: from 1972-74 with the Oakland A's, and 1982 with the St. Louis Cardinals. Even as a bench coach, he attracted championships as Cito Gaston's first lieutenant (read: woke him up as the situation warranted) when the Toronto Blue Jays added two more rings to his collection in 1992 and 1993. As for his playing career he topped 20 home runs five times, drew 100+ free passes six times, and walked as often as he struck out (984 to 998) fashioning an OBP of .388 (despite only batting .241). Like many on this list, he appeared often among league leaders in bases on balls finishing in the top four every year from 1973-80 (save 1976) and landed on the summit in both 1974 and 1977. He enjoyed a remarkable eight year peak over that stretch hitting 169 HR (and 140 doubles), averaging over 100 BB, posting an OBP of .391 despite batting .241 and was 231 runs created above average.

INF/OF UT; Eddie Yost (.254/.395/1614/168 RCAA)

With the nickname "The Walking Man," Eddie Yost is a fine final addition to this roster. A relative unknown because he played the bulk of his career with some abysmal Washington Senator teams. He was an offensive standout out of necessity due to the fact that he could man several stations, none of them terribly effectively with mitt in hand. Still, he had excellent power numbers, especially for a right handed hitter playing in the pitcher friendly Griffith Stadium. Over 18 American League campaigns, he hit 337 doubles, 56 triples, and 'touched 'em all' on 139 separate occasions. Between 1950 and 1954 he scored 523 runs, averaged 130 walks (.268 BA/.410 OBP) and enjoyed an RCAA of 132. Yost also enjoyed a brief resurgence in 1959 and 1960 with the Tigers showing atypical power (35 HR....partly thanks to Tiger Stadium) to go along with his usual high walk totals (260). His .269/.425/.417/63 RCAA constituted the second best back-to-back seasons (1950 & 51 being his best) of his career. In all, Yost well earned his nickname, topping 100 walks a grand total of eight times. In those eight years the fewest free passes he totalled was 125 (1960). In 1956 he drew a staggering 151 BB, turning a mediocre .231 hitting mark into an sparkling OBP of .412. For his career he hit .254, drew 1614 walks for (.395 OBP). He also scored 1215 runs and drove in 683. He had a quietly remarkable career finishing atop the league in various offensive categories ten times: OBP (1959, 60), runs (1959), doubles (1951) and walks (1950, 52, 53, 56, 59, 60).

They ain’t the ‘27 (or ‘61, or ‘98) Yankees but with a decent pitching staff behind them I’d be willing to bet they’d be contenders. At the very least, Dusty Baker could blow out four arms in a four game series against them.

Today's link is The Society for American Baseball Research. If you're a baseball junkie, slice open your mouse cord and insert. Hours of ecstacy await.

Best Regards


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