Rally's WAR database is my favorite baseball-related toy since I got that All Time Great Teams stats disc for Earl Weaver Baseball for the Apple II. Both provided me hours of playtime. It occurred to me a couple weeks ago that I could take the WAR CSV, sort the individual seasons by franchise code, use the "Subtotals" feature in OpenOffice (that I'm so glad I found), and come up with some all time franchise leaders. So, today I'm bringing you some all time WAR (and WAR component) leaders for my hometown team, the Boston Red Sox.
I know, I know. The Red Sox. You hear enough about them. Do I plan to do other franchises? Well, you tell me. Doing all thirty teams would be a bit much, but if there are specific franchises you'd like to see, let me know.
Okay, let's jump into it:
By total WAR:
Initial thoughts: You'd think Manny Ramirez (#15), David Ortiz (#22), and Mo Vaughn (#24) would be higher. Alas, WAR is all about total value, not just mashing. I expect these guys will do better in the Batting Runs component we'll look at in a bit. A pair of surprises for me were the high rankings of Reggie Smith (who I'm starting to see is severely underrated) and John Valentin (man, did he have some big years). Since Nomar Garciaparra announced his retirement, it has been stated a few times (including by our own Satchel Price) that he provided a ton of value while with Boston. That is evident here.
Initial thoughts: Who are some of these guys? Seriously, 24 WAR gets you in the Top 10? That's what Mo Vaughn has and he ranks 24th among hitters. Wake may be closing in on the club win record, but he's still way behind in WAR. Papelbon will pass Radatz this year and can then focus his attention on Bob Stanley (though I wonder how much of Stanley's WAR came from his 85 career starts). Derek Lowe ranks nicely—he's #18 (ahead of some guy named Babe Ruth).
By WAR used as a rate stat
Of course, total WAR doesn't tell the whole story. Here are the WAR leaders compared to their playing time.
Initial thoughts: Wow, look at Yaz (#2 to #18) and Evans (#4 to #20) drop. This is where guys like Fred Lynn (#18 to #6) and Vern Stephens (off the list at #31 up to #12) can jump up the list. Also of note is that Babe Ruth doesn't have the plate appearances to qualify (1308), but still posted 11.88 WAR per 700 PA.
When talking about Wins Above MVP Level, we decided that 6 WAR was a good baseline for an MVP season. During their time in Boston, Ted Williams, Tris Speaker, Wade Boggs, Nomar Garciaparra, Carlton Fisk, Fred Lynn, and Jimmie Foxx averaged an MVP performance every season. Jimmy Collins was right behind them. The next three are (again) the underrated Reggie Smith, the active Kevin Youkilis, and the previously mentioned John Valentin. I also find it interesting that Youk appears ahead of Manny Ramirez, who happens to be tied with Dustin Pedroia. I love you, total value metrics.
Oh, and where the heck is Jim Rice?
(Answer: Way down the list with 3.24 WAR per 700 PA.)
Initial thoughts: No, this does not mean that if they put Papelbon in the rotation he would produce 10 WAR seasons annually. He generally only pitches in high leverage situations, which gives those innings more value in WAR. Relievers Dick Radatz (4th) and Calvin Schiraldi (8th) ranks highly while Ellis Kinder (9th) pitched in both roles. Jon Lester (6th) surprised me in particular, the fact that he ranked so highly while Beckett was way down at #18. The fact that Dice-K slotted in seven spots above Beckett surprised me, too. Cy Young only ranks tenth. That looks low, but remember we're using per 200 IP here. He generally pitched about 1.2 million innings per season.
By WAR components (for position players)
Many different components go into WAR—everything from hitting to baserunning to range. Let's take a look at the leaders for some of the components.
Initial thoughts: Really hits home how incredible Ted Williams was. Otherwise, not a ton of surprises here, really. There's Manny, Rice, Ortiz, and Vaughn—four of the guys who take a beating in most of the remaining components. Yaz and Evans still stand up big. That's important since both were not one trick ponies. In fact, Yaz was anything but as you're about to see.
Initial thoughts: Ranking the greatest baserunners in Red Sox history is similar to ranking the best slap shot among Red Sox players. It just hasn't traditionally been a focus of the franchise. Jacoby is already tied for fifth (with a catcher! Ha!). Tommy Harper, a name Red Sox fans know for his longtime (albeit modest) club stolen base record, ranks right behind him in a 3-way tie. Johnny Damon is impressive, ranking right at the top with DiMaggio and Pesky.
Initial thoughts: Holy Yaz! That's quite the lead over Piersall. Valentin, already mentioned here a couple times, rates very well. He had three 20+ TZ seasons. Wade Boggs, though? I remember him getting no respect with the glove, then leaving and magically getting a Gold Glove with the Yankees. You know, Boggs was just really freakin' good. Nomar rounds out the list. Didn't he get traded partly because of diminished range (and a grumpy attitude)? Yes. Total Zone before 2004? +55. Total Zone from 2004 onward? –20.
Initial thoughts: Yaz again. This time, Evans is right there with him. Piersall again ranks well, but there's quite the gap between him and Evans. Rice and Ramirez actually rate pretty well here. So, basically when there's power involved, they do well. Greenwell rating as a positive arm surprises me. I remember him being Damon-esque. For the record, Damon's arm is worth –49 runs for his career. With the Red Sox, he was –15.
Initial thoughts: Wow, there are really only three catchers with any significant value behind the plate. Fisk is obvious while Gedman always had a good reputation as well. Where the heck is Varitek? Varitek is at the break-even point for his career. What does that mean for his reputation or for the statistic itself? Well, Varitek is popular for a lot of things you just can't measure. If his preparation makes a pitcher's performance better, the value goes to the pitcher, not to him. If he helps position an outfielder, the value goes to the outfielder's total zone, not Tek's. The Red Sox traditionally have ignored the stolen base. This really hurts Varitek's catcher rating.
By WAR in a single season
Initial thoughts: Not terribly surprising, we see Williams, Yaz, Boggs, and Speaker here an awful lot. Yaz's MVP & Triple Crown year (1967) takes the cake while Williams' famous .406 year is bested by his 1946 MVP campaign. Williams other MVP year, 1949, ranks 10th while his Triple Crown years (1942 and 1947) rank 5th and 6th, respectively. The list also features single seasons by Babe Ruth, Rico Petrocelli, John Valentin, and Fred Lynn. You would expect Lynn's MVP/Rookie of the Year campaign of 1975 to appear. Instead it was his 1979 season. The 1975 year was worth 7.1 WAR.
How about the worst performances by a hitter?
Initial thoughts: After being worth +27 runs with the bat in 1967, Scott dropped to –23 in 1968 (thanks to a line of .171/.236/.237—from a first baseman!—for an OPS of .473 and an OPS+ of 39). Oof. In 1984, Gutierrez combined a –24 at the plate with a –17 range at short (and also –5 in turning two).
Initial thoughts: Like the hitter list, a lot of repeat performers. This time, it's Cy Young, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, and Lefty Grove. Smokey Joe Wood has a single season appear on the list (his remarkable 1912 season) and it's all the way up at #3. Mel Parnell, Dutch Leonard, Luis Tiant, and Babe Ruth also appear on the list once. Roger Clemens' Cy Young seasons (1986, 1987, and 1991) rank at #13, #7, and #18, respectively. Pedro's Cy Young years are #7 and #2 (1999 and 2000). Cy Young, of course, holds the record for most career wins without ever winning a Cy Young Award.
And the worst:
Initial thoughts: 1968 has both a hitter and a pitcher ranked highly on the list. Stephenson managed to be 2.5 runs below replacement in less than 70 innings. He had an ERA+ of 24 to go along with a WHIP of 1.791. Caldwell's 1919 total wasn't actually a full season. He spent 1910 to 1918 with the Yankees, picking up 23.5 WAR. Then he went to Boston and coughed up a –2.9 WAR in 86 innings. His raw numbers didn't look that bad—7–4 with a 3.96 ERA and 70 ERA+. What really hurt him was that weird "X" component in Rally's pitcher WAR (otherwise he was more or less replacement level). That's defined as:
X - Runs saved or allowed beyond measurable impact of hits, homers, walks, strikeouts, and HBP. This is a catch-all category that includes holding and picking off runners, defensive support including the DP, errors in the field, timing of events (pitching better or worse with runners on base), or any other explanation you can think of.
Caldwell ended up departing for Cleveland where he actually was worth 1.1 WAR (giving him a net WAR of –1.8 on the year). He then picked up 0.9 WAR in two more seasons for Cleveland (one of them a 20-win campaign). It's almost like he was sent to Boston to ruin them.
Going through these numbers made me realize that the number of longtime, incredibly productive pitchers in franchise history certainly trails the number of hitters. Offensively, Ted Williams, Wade Boggs, Carl Yastrzemski, and Tris Speaker lead a pack of amazing hitters that also includes Dwight Evans, Nomar Garciaparra, and Carlton Fisk. Among the pitchers, it is clearly Cy Young, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, and Lefty Grove. Papelbon and Radatz top the reliever list. This is beginning to look like an All-Time Red Sox team, so let's have at it:
- Catcher: Carlton Fisk (37.7 WAR, 6.1 WAR/700)
- First Base: Jimmie Foxx (33.6 WAR, 6.0 WAR/700)
- Second Base: Bobby Doerr (47.7 WAR, 4.2 WAR/700)
- Third Base: Wade Boggs (71.5 WAR, 6.9 WAR/700)
- Shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra (40.9 WAR, 6.7 WAR/700)
- Outfield: Ted Williams (125.3 WAR, 9.0 WAR/700)
- Outfield: Carl Yastrzemski (88.7 WAR, 4.5 WAR/700)
- Outfield: Tris Speaker (56.2 WAR, 8.8 WAR/700)
- Starting Pitcher: Roger Clemens (74.8 WAR, 5.4 WAR/200)
- Starting Pitcher: Cy Young (56.3 WAR, 4.1 WAR/200)
- Starting Pitcher: Pedro Martinez (47.6 WAR, 6.9 WAR/200)
- Starting Pitcher: Lefty Grove (38.7 WAR, 5.0 WAR/200)
- Relief Pitcher: Jonathan Papelbon (14.7 WAR, 9.9 WAR/200)
- Relief Pitcher: Dick Radatz (14.9 WAR, 5.4 WAR/200)
Beyond that squad, the offense has a lot more depth (Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Harry Hooper, Rico Petrocelli, Reggie Smith, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, etc.) than the pitching staff (Luis Tiant, Tim Wakefield, Mel Parnell, Joe Wood, Ellis Kinder, etc.). But I'd certainly take the field with that lineup as my all time team.
So, what caught your eye? Any other franchises you'd like to see?
Update: Sharp reader mickeyg13 pointed out that I missed Babe Ruth's 1919 season (can you blame a Red Sox fan for being in denial over that one?). The post has been updated.