This is the third post in a series that has already covered the all time franchise leaders in WAR (and some WAR components) for the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. Today we'll talk about the Chicago White Sox.
I started with the Red Sox because they're my hometown team. Then I opened the series up to requests. The Twins came first, and they were fun because it brought me back to a childhood of multiple Twins championships and having a player from the team (Greg Gagne) living in my hometown. I don't really have much of an attachment to the White Sox, however. Ozzie Guillen did happen to be one of my favorite players as a kid (I picked some random guys to get attached to—and I can never really remember why). Other than that… there was that movie, I suppose.
Anyway, let's jump in with the career leaders. (All numbers lovingly crunched from Rally's WAR database.)
By total WAR:
#1 isn't really much of a surprise to us stat geeks. Big Frank just retired this past offseason ranked at #42 all time in position player WAR. When he left the White Sox, he was ranked as #1 on the franchise list. Long timer Luke Appling, one of the few guys you'll see with over 10,000 plate appearances for a single club, ranks right behind him. After Eddie Collins ranked third (with 66.0 of his 126.7 career WAR), there is a considerable dropoff. Two players are tied with 42.7—Hall of Famer Nellie Fox (did it in 9200 PAs and was worth 44.6 WAR overall) and many-argue-he-should-be-a-Hall-of-Famer Minnie Minoso (did it in 5800 PAs, but was worth 52.7 WAR overall). The chronically undervalued Robin Ventura follows at #6 before Fielder Jones. As an FYI—Fielder Jones' range was worth 73 runs for his career. That would have been a bummer if he was negative.
Moving down the list I see Harold Baines way down at #14. Not once in that man's career did he reach 4.0 WAR in a season. Considering he had 2866 hits, 384 home runs, and 1628 RBI, you'd think he'd have more value. Besides his offense (283 runs), every other WAR category for Mr. Baines is negative. We're talking –12 on the bases, –20 for grounding into double plays, –20 for failing to incude errors, –6 in range (when he was actually in the field), –7 for his arm, and—the final blow—a staggering –215 for his positional adjustment. Yikes. Contrast that with Chet Lemon, a player I severely undervalued. He ranks #17 on this list but was sorth 49.8 WAR for his career (similar to or better than a ton of Hall of Famers). In addition to his 190 runs on offense, Lemon was worth 101 runs for his range.
Lyons, Faber, Walsh, and Pierce give the ChiSox four pitchers worth over 50 wins in the neighborhood of 3000 to 4000 innings. All played just about their entire careers in Chicago and all but Pierce are in the Hall of Fame. The next three guys on the list (before a significant dropoff) are also interesting. Wilbur Wood reached 300 innings three times in the 1970s, posting WAR totals of 10.7, 9.7, and 7.0. He also had 5.1 the next season in 291 innings. Eddie Cicotte, of course, was infamously banned for life for his role in the 1919 scandal. Then there's current starter Mark Buehrle. Buehrle could be one of the most underrated starting pitchers in the game today. At just 31, not only does he have 39.4 WAR (more than Hall of Famers like Chief Bender, Jack Chesbro, Catfish Hunter, and more), but he also has 137 wins. You hear a decent amount of talk about Roy Halladay making a run at 250 wins, or even (unrealistically) 300. Well, Buehrle is just 13 wins behind Halladay and is two years younger. Buehrle has also never made fewer than 30 starts in a season.
By WAR used as a rate stat
I use a minimum of 2000 plate appearances here. If I softened the requirement to 1400 or so, we'd have a new #1 with Dick Allen (7.70 WAR/700). Alas, a rule is a rule and Shoeless Joe is our man here (he also of limited plate appearances). George Davis, tied for 24th all time with 90.8 WAR, ranks second and is worth nearly 7.0 WAR per season. What's pretty remarkable is that Davis played with Chicago at the end of his career (ages 33–38). For his career, he was worth 6.37 WAR/700, so he actually was better at the end. This is mostly due to his top four Total Zone seasons (all 14+ runs) coming with Chicago. Eddie Collins and Frank Thomas were monsters over a long period of time and you'd expect to see them rank this highly. But then comes Robin Ventura. Ventura and Kevin Appier were two incredibly underrated names on the last Hall of Fame ballot. Ventura is remembered as a pretty good hitter, and the numbers say he was (+146 runs). His range alone was worth even more, though (+154). That's some incredible range.
We usually tend to see a couple relievers at the top of this list and the White Sox are no different. In fact, we don't actually see a starting pitcher until Jim Kaat at #6. Kaat only pitched 2+ seasons in Chicago, though, picking up just 623 innings. The first starter to spend a substantial amount of time in the Chicago rotation is Mark Buehrle. He is followed closely by Walsh and Cicotte. How did Lyons, Faber, and Pierce do? Lyons and Faber accrued just 2.83 and 2.70 WAR/200, respectively, while Pierce was worth 3.43. I've noticed a trend that the old school, workhorse, turn-of-the-century starter tends to have a lower WAR/200 than more modern pitchers. I wonder how much of this is due to pitching to contact because they needed to be more efficient (in order to throw 300+ innings) and the era's relative lack of strikeouts. Can't help but notice Chicago has a lot of relievers on this list.
By WAR components (for position players)
This is the spot where Harold Baines is supposed to shine. I'm shocked to see him way down at eighth. Baines did reach 25 batting runs in a season six times, but just two of those were with the White Sox. That's probably why. Frank Thomas' offense was worth almost twice as muh as anyone else in franchise history. Seriously.
Go-Go Sox! Dom DiMaggio, #1 on the Red Sox list, would have ranked just fifth on the White Sox. How well do baserunning runs correlate to stolen bases? Bonus table!
Seems pretty straightforward, with one notable exception. WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON WITH NELLIE FOX???!! Well, baserunning runs aren't just stolen bases. Here's how Rally explains it all:
BSR - Baserunning runs. Includes stolen bases, advancement on hits, outs, wild pitches, passed balls, and outs made on bases. This is estimated from a regression formula for seasons without play by play data.
So, while Fox wasn't a good base stealer (like, at all), his overall baserunning was worth about the same as Lance Johnson, a guy who stole 226 bases at a clip over 75%. Interesting to say the least.
Again we see Fox at #2. This time he is eclipsed by the range of Lee Tannehill. Who's Tannehill? Lee played from 1903 to 1912, all with the White Sox (he had 400+ PA in seven seasons). The 3B/SS was just as weak at the plate (–106 runs) as he was incredible in the field (+112 runs). He was a career .220/.269/.273 hitter with three home runs in over 4000 PA. Imagine how much Ozzie Guillen would love this guy today. Speaking of Ozzie, there he is! Ozzie ranked fifth with +94 of his +106 career runs in Total Zone. Ozzie had this unreal 4-year stetch where he was worth +82 runs in the field (over 20 per season!) and –101 runs at the plate (over 25 per season!). There are many elite fielders who made up for their offensive woes. Ozzie is not one of them. While his +106 Total Zone is sexy, his –303 batting runs is downright ugly. His career was worth 16.0 WAR.
No Yaz or Evans in this crew. Jim Rivera played in the 1950s and collected 11 of those OFarm runs in one season (1955). He posted 3 Total Zone runs and 2 batting runs that year while posting a career high 2.2 WAR, so his value came almost exclusively from his arm. He gunned out a staggering 22 runners that year from the outfield (16 from right, 4 from center).
|6||Mark L. Johnson||9|
I had heard that Ron Karkovice was a good defensive catcher. 62 runs (while accumulating less than 3000 PAs) is downright impressive. Ray Schalk's 46 runs in a career that spanned 6000 PAs is nice, but this is a guy who's in the Hall of Fame for his defense. Guys like Lance Parrish or Del Crandall had similar or better catching skills with much better offense. Interesting group of players tied for tenth—we've got Downing (almost forget he started as a catcher), Alomar (surprisingly worth just 6 runs behind the plate for that huge career), Moe Berg (THE SPY!!!), and Carlton Fisk (who ranked first on the Red Sox list).
By WAR in a single season
While Eddie Collins takes two of the top four spots, it is Frank Thomas who appears on the list most often (five). Other repeat performers include George Davis (3), Luke Appling (2), and Joe Jackson (2). Among those with just a single season, I have to mention Dick Allen (who places #2 with a 9.3 WAR season) and Minnie Minoso (#3 with an 8.3 WAR year). Also, Albert Belle and Ron Hansen had single seasons that place them in the top ten. I'm still impressed that George Davis posted three of his four most valuable seasons while with Chicago at age 33, 34, and 35. WAR loves that guy.
I don't know about you, but three names jump out at me—George Bell, Roy Schalk, and Ron Santo. But first, what's up with Tony Lupien? I saw that this season was his last after a two-year layoff. Why the layoff? Thank you to the Baseball-Reference Bullpen:
Lupien had an unusual wartime and post-wartime experience. He played major league ball during World War II in 1942-44 and then served in the military for six months in 1945 before coming back to play a few games in 1945 for the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies sold him to Hollywood for 1946, but Lupien challenged the Phillies, saying that the G.I. Bill of Rights guaranteed him the right as a returning veteran to have the same employment for at least a year that he had before his service. Tony apparently couldn't afford to fight the case in court, so he gave in and played for Hollywood in 1946-47 before coming back to the majors in 1948. However, he counseled Al Niemiec, who did file suit and won the case, which allowed for payments to hundreds of former major and minor league ballplayers.
The Harvard grad never played after 1948.
Like many kids of the 1980s, I was led to believe George Bell was quite a player. He was pretty good for a little while, but only totaled 18.2 WAR for his career. Of course, his final season was so bad that he would have been worth 20.6 if he had decided to skip it altogether. Instead, he hit .217/.243/.363. Every single one of his WAR compoents was negative, from positional adjustment to baserunning to (obviously) batting.
Roy Schalk caught my eye because I assumed he was related to Ray Schalk. Apparently, he's not. His claim to fame is a 12-year layoff in his career between big league seasons. Upon his return, –2.2 WAR. Ouch. Finally, Ron Santo is another star (though much better than Bell) who had a rough final year in Chicago. He never should have played anywhere besides Wrigley. He ended up hitting .221/.293/.299.
Repeat performers here include Ed Walsh (5), Wilbur Wood (3), Eddie Cicotte (2), Red Faber (2), and Billy Pierce (2). Four of Walsh's seasons are even in the top ten while Wood has two spots in the top five. Thornton Lee is the only non-repeat guy to crack the top ten. How 'bout that Rich Gossage at #15? That year he posted the highest single-season WAR by a pitcher who didn't start a single game.
The only guy here I know is Jason Bere, but with a Patsy, a Pat, and a Sloppy, did you really expect these guys to be any good? Flaherty's 1903 included leading the league in losses (11–25) and hits allowed (338) while posting a 3.74 ERA and 75 ERA+. Caraway followed up a 3.8 WAR rookie campaign with his –3.0 1931 season. He also led the league in losses (10–24) while also leading in earned runs allowed (152). He posted a 6.22 ERA for an ERA+ of 68. Bere, the modern guy on the list, followed up a 2.8 WAR season with his –2.8 WAR one. He also led in losses (8–15). I always did think losses were a better (but still not a good) indicator of actual performance than wins. Bere's ERA was a downright sexy 7.19.
All Time Team
- Catcher: Carlton Fisk (29.6 WAR, 3.8 WAR/700)
- First Base: Frank Thomas (70.6 WAR, 5.8 WAR/700)
- Second Base: Eddie Collins (66.0 WAR, 6.5 WAR/700)
- Third Base: Robin Ventura (38.8 WAR, 5.2 WAR/700)
- Shortstop: Luke Appling (69.3 WAR, 4.8 WAR/700)
- Outfield: Joe Jackson (28.4 WAR, 7.3 WAR/700)
- Outfield: Minnie Minoso (42.7 WAR, 5.1 WAR/700)
- Outfield: Fielder Jones (35.1 WAR, 5.0 WAR/700)
- Starting Pitcher: Ed Walsh (55.0 WAR, 3.7 WAR/200)
- Starting Pitcher: Ted Lyons (58.8 WAR, 2.8 WAR/200)
- Starting Pitcher: Red Faber (55.2 WAR, 2.7 WAR/200)
- Starting Pitcher: Mark Buehrle (39.4 WAR, 3.8 WAR/200)
- Relief Pitcher: Keith Foulke (13.9 WAR, 6.2 WAR/200)
- Relief Pitcher: Roberto Hernandez (11.7 WAR, 5.8 WAR/200)
Catcher and the infield were pretty obvious, though it didn't feel quite right to leave Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio off the team. Looking at the numbers, though, there was no question. The outfield seemed tricky, but since the Top 3 outfielders in WAR and WAR/700 are the same, the choices ended up being easy.
The rotation was tricky. I try to take a combination of longevity (total WAR) and dominance (WAR/200). Clearly, the top 7 starting pitchers in total WAR are the ones we'd consider for this team. After that there is a heck of a dropoff. Here is a table of those seven pitchers:
Doesn't it figure the guys on the top of one list are at the bottom of the other list? One thing I know is Walsh is clearly our #1. He places third on one list, second on the other. Lyons and Faber have weaker WAR/200 numbers, but they're #1 and #2 in total WAR and spent their entire careers with the White Sox. I think they have to be on the list. That leaves Pierce, Wood, Cicotte, and Buehrle battling for the last spot. Buehrle has the highest WAR/200, but the lowest WAR. Pierce has the highest WAR, but lowest WAR/200. The fact that I've already taken two total WAR guys (Lyons and Faber) despite the lack of WAR/200 makes me think it's appropriate to select Mark Buehrle here for the final spot. Pierce, Wood, and Cicotte make for some nice reserves, though.
In the pen, Foulke was the easy choice for #1. I passed over low inning guys Jenks and Marte for Roberto Hernandez. Jenks could potential take Hernandez's place at some point—although Matt Thornton may be the better bet at this point.
The total for this all-time club is 68.5 WAR. The starting pitching really brings them down. So, keeping a tally on the total values of our all time teams:
- Red Sox (88.9 WAR)
- Twins (71.6 WAR)
- White Sox (68.5 WAR)
Again, this series will run sporadically by request. In the queue:
Boy, do I have my work cut out for me…