Thursday September 19, 2019
Baseball Team WAR: The Answers
Yankees' Mr. October, yes. Yankees' Mr. WAR? Less.
Yesterday I posted nine questions about baseball team-related WAR. Here are the answers. If you'd rather check out the questions first, without the answers, go to yesterday's post.
1. Two active players lead their current team’s all-time WAR chart—meaning, in theory, they‘re the most valuable player that team has ever had. One of them is Mike Trout with the Angels. Who is the other?
Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. That's what started this whole deep dive into bWAR. I was like, “Wait, so, by this measure, Kershaw is the best player in the long history of the Dodgers/Robins/Superbas? That covers a lot of ground.” (Insert Groucho joke.) But yes, according to the Dodgers BR team page, he's at 67.7 bWAR, which is a tick better than previous record-holder Don Drysdale's 67.1. Pee Wee Reese(!) is third (66.3), followed by Duke Snider (65.7) and Jackie Robinson (61.4). Sandy Koufax is ninth. Short career. Brief moment in the sun.
2. Two other active players are the all-time WAR leaders for an MLB team but not the one they’re currently playing for. Name them.
Evan Longoria for the Rays (49.8) and Giancarlo Stanton for the Marlins (35.5). Stanton's is the lowest WAR for any best franchise player, Longoria's second-lowest. Every other team has at least one player who accumulated 50+ WAR for them.
3. Which player in baseball history accumulated the most WAR for one team?
Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins franchise with 164.3. Second is Willie Mays with the NY/SF Giants with 154.8. No one else is above 150.
4. Which player has the most overall WAR but didn't make the top 5 for any one team?
It's gotta be a great player who divided his time (and loyalties) between teams, right? And it is: Alex Rodriguez. He's 16th all-time in WAR with 117.8 but it's divided between the Mariners (38.1), Rangers (25.5), and Yankees (54.2). His Mariners WAR is sixth-best on that franchise, Rangers is 14th-best, Yankees 11th-best. BTW: The answer was nearly Cy Young, who is third all-time with 163.6, but most of that for a team/franchise that doesn't exist: the National League Cleveland Spiders. But he accumulated enough bWAR in eight seasons with the Red Sox (66.5) to tie Dwight Evans for fifth place. (Oh, and here's the story of my encounter with A-Rod.)
5. Thirty-one players in baseball history have accumulated 100+ WAR but only 15 managed to do so for one team. Which team has the most such 100+ WAR players? Hint: It's not the Yankees.
It's the New York/San Francisco Giants: Willie Mays (154.8), Barry Bonds (112.5), Mel Ott (107.8) and Christy Mathewson (104.0). The Yankees have three: Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle. Braves two: Hank Aaron and Kid Nichols. Senators/Twins, Tigers, Cards, BoSox, Pirates and Phillies each have one. See the chart below.
6. This is a bit convoluted. If you count the top 5 players in terms of WAR for each of the 30 MLB franchises—so 150 slots in all—only two names appear twice. One has the fourth-most WAR for one team and fifth-most for another. The second player has the most WAR for one franchise and the fifth-most for another. Name them.
Eddie Collins accumulated the fourth-most WAR in White Sox history (66.7) and fifth-most in A's history (57.3). And Randy Johnson has the fifth-most for the Mariners (39.0) and the most for the Arizona Diamondbacks (50.9).
7. Which player has the highest WAR for any expansion franchise?
George Brett's 88.7 WAR for the KC Royals is the best on any expansion franchise.
8. Here's a few for the Yankee fans and/or haters: Of the 22 numbers the team has retired, and excluding managers (Billy, Casey, Torre), who accumulated the least amount of WAR while in pinstripes?
Ready? It's Mr. October, Reggie Jackson. He managed 17.2 WAR in his five seasons with the Bronx Bombers. Second is Roger's Maris' 26.3. Both obviously had their numbers retired for other reasons: 61 for Maris, 3 for Reggie.
BTW: Haven't run the numbers yet, so take it with a grain of salt, but I assume the player who accumulated the least amount of WAR for a team and still had his number retired is Wade Boggs' two-year, end-of-career stint with the Tampa Bay Rays. His WAR for them was 1.2. Which kind of matches his #12 that they sadly retired.
9. Now reverse it: Which player accumulated the most amount of WAR for the Yankees but never had their number retired? Who's second?
Pitcher Red Ruffing tallied 57.3 bWAR for the Yankees from 1931 to 1946, which is the eighth-most in Yankees history—better than, among others, Whitey Ford, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite and Ron Guidry. But they didn't retire numbers much back then. Gehrig's was the first in MLB history, in 1939, and the Yankees did about one a decade after that: Ruth in ‘48, DiMaggio in ’52, Mantle in ‘69. Then it was off to the races; but Ruffing was generally overlooked. Plus the number he wore for most of his Yankee career, #15, was retired in 1979 when Thurman Munson died in a plane crash.
As for second-most Yankees WAR with no retired number? That’s A-Rod again. Unless attitudes toward him soften, I imagine A-Rod will be the greatest modern player to never have his number retired by any team he played on.
Here's a chart of the top three players in terms of bWAR in each MLB team's history, as sorted by first player WAR. Some head-scratchers in there:
|TEAM||PLAYER 1||WAR||PLAYER 2||WAR||PLAYER 3||WAR|
|Minnesota Twins||Walter Johnson||164.3||Rod Carew||63.8||Harmon Killebrew||60.5|
|San Francisco Giants||Willie Mays||154.8||Barry Bonds||112.5||Mel Ott||107.8|
|Detroit Tigers||Ty Cobb||144.8||Al Kaline||92.8||Charlie Gehringer||80.7|
|Atlanta Braves||Hank Aaron||142.5||Kid Nichols||107.2||Warren Spahn||98.9|
|New York Yankees||Babe Ruth||142.4||Lou Gehrig||112.4||Mickey Mantle||110.3|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Stan Musial||128.2||Rogers Hornbsby||91.4||Bob Gibson||89.1|
|Boston Red Sox||Ted Williams||123.1||Carl Yastrzemski||96.4||Roger Clemens||80.8|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Honus Wagner||120.1||Roberto Clemente||94.5||Paul Waner||68.2|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Mike Schmidt||106.8||Robin Roberts||71.7||Steve Carlton||69.4|
|Baltimore Orioles||Cal Ripken Jr.||95.9||Brooks Robinson||78.4||Jim Palmer||68.4|
|Kansas City Royals||George Brett||88.7||Kevin Appier||47.0||Amos Otis||40.8|
|Chicago Cubs||Cap Anson||84.7||Ron Santo||72.1||Ryne Sandberg||68.1|
|Cleveland Indians||Nap Lajoie||80.0||Tris Speaker||74.2||Bob Feller||63.4|
|Houston Astros||Jeff Bagwell||79.9||Craig Biggio||65.5||Jose Cruz||51.4|
|New York Mets||Tom Seaver||78.8||David Wright||50.4||Dwight Gooden||46.3|
|Cincinnati Reds||Pete Rose||78.1||Johnny Bench||75.2||Barry Larkin||70.4|
|Oakland Athletics||Eddie Plank||77.4||Rickey Henderson||72.7||Lefty Grove||64.9|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Robin Yount||77.3||Paul Molitor||60.0||Ryan Braun||47.7|
|Chicago White Sox||Luke Appling||74.5||Ted Lyons||70.7||Frank Thomas||68.3|
|Los Angeles Angels||Mike Trout||72.6||Chuck Finley||51.8||Jim Fregosi||45.9|
|Seattle Mariners||Ken Griffey Jr.||70.6||Edgar Martinez||68.4||Ichiro Suzuki||56.2|
|San Diego Padres||Tony Gwynn||69.2||Dave Winfield||32.0||Jake Peavy||26.8|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Clayton Kershaw||67.7||Don Drysdale||67.1||Pee Wee Reese||66.3|
|Colorado Rockies||Todd Helton||61.2||Larry Walker||48.3||Troy Tulowitzki||39.4|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Dave Stieb||56.7||Roy Halladay||48.0||Tony Fernandez||37.5|
|Washington Nationals||Gary Carter||55.8||Tim Raines||49.2||Andre Dawson||48.4|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Randy Johnson||50.9||Paul Goldschmidt||40.3||Brandon Webb||31.1|
|Texas Rangers||Ivan Rodriguez||50.1||Rafael Palmeiro||44.6||Adrian Beltre||43.2|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Evan Longoria||49.8||Ben Zobrist||36.0||Carl Crawford||35.6|
|Miami Marlins||Giancarlo Stanton||35.5||Hanley Ramirez||26.9||Josh Johnson||25.7|
Let me know if you notice any errors.