The All-Time Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers Team

I tried to be clever with the title of the Angels all-time team post, but I’m not even going to attempt that here.

How would that go? The All-Time Brooklyn/Los Angeles Atlantics/Grays/Grooms/Bridegrooms/Superbas/Robins/Dodgers Team?

Anyway, I want to make the point that this, and every other post in this series, is an all-time team considering the entire history of the franchise. In this case, that dates all the way back to the 1884 Brooklyn Atlantics.

Franchise History

Los Angeles Dodgers (1958- )
Brooklyn Dodgers (1911, 1912, 1932-1957)
Brooklyn Robins (1914-1931)
Brooklyn Superbas (1899-1910, 1913)
Brooklyn Bridegrooms (1888-1890, 1896-1898)
Brooklyn Grooms (1891-1895)
Brooklyn Grays (1885 – 1887)
Brooklyn Atlantics (1884)

The Dodgers weren’t one of the original National League franchises. In fact, their history starts in the American Association, where they played as the Atlantics, Grays and Bridegrooms from 1884 to 1889. They joined the NL in 1890 and promptly won the championship in their first year.

Actually, the team’s franchise timeline on their web site considers 1890 to be origination of the franchise’s history, but I’m not going to get into that controversy. For my purposes, it turns out to be a moot point, although the infamous Bob Caruthers did play for the team in their pre-NL days.

When selecting these teams I emphasize the advanced metrics since it’s difficult to compare players across eras otherwise. But, I do like to consider where guys rank in franchise history in terms of some of the traditional counting stats, so I’ve included those as well.

 

WAR Statistics referenced for each player are from Baseball-Reference.com. All other statistics used here are gathered from that site as well.

An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer.

Starters

C – Roy Campanella* (1948-1957)
4815 PA, 31.6 WAR, 123 OPS+, 242 HR (4th), 856 RBI (8th)

1B – Gil Hodges (1943, 1947-1961)
7935 PA (6th), 40.1 WAR (7th), 120 OPS+, 1088 R (5th), 1884 H (9th), 361 HR (2nd), 1254 RBI (2nd)

2B – Jackie Robinson* (1947-1956)
5804 PA, 58.7 WAR (3rd), 132 OPS+, 947 R (7th)

SS – Pee Wee Reese* (1940-1942, 1946-1958)
9470 PA (2nd), 63.1 WAR (1st), 99 OPS+, 1338 R (1st), 2170 H (1st), 885 RBI (7th), 232 SB (10th)

3B – Ron Cey (1971-1982)
6108 PA, 45.4 WAR (6th), 125 OPS+, 228 HR (5th), 842 RBI (10th)

LF – Zack Wheat* (1909-1926)
9721 PA (1st), 56.5 WAR (4th), 130 OPS+, 1255 R (2nd), 2804 H (1st), 1210 RBI (3rd)

CF – Willie Davis (1960-1973)
8035 PA (4th), 51.2 WAR (5th), 107 OPS+, 1004 R (6th), 2091 H (3rd), 849 RBI (9th), 335 SB (3rd)

RF – Duke Snider* (1947-1962)
7633 PA (7th), 62.8 WAR (2nd), 142 OPS+ (9th), 1199 R (3rd), 1955 H (4th), 389 HR (1st), 1271 RBI (1st)

Now, that’s a pretty amazing lineup, isn’t it? Five Hall of Famers, and three others whose names are known to come up to varying degrees in such debates. I haven’t done this before in this series, but just for the heck of it, I’ll throw my idea for a batting order into the potential discussion:

Robinson 2B
Reese SS
Wheat LF
Snider RF
Campanella C
Cey 3B
Hodges 1B
Davis CF

Zack wheat

Zack Wheat
Image via Wikimedia Commons

That’s more of an old school lineup than a sabermetrically-optimized one, but let me assure you, Reese is batting second because of his OBP, not his ability to bunt.

So, what were the toughest decisions here?

  • Adam‘s latest wWAR formula gives Mike Piazza’s Dodgers days a slight edge over Campanella at catcher, but I feel pretty confident going with Campy for the first-team.
  • I’m sure an argument could be made for Steve Garvey over Hodges at 1B. When I was witnessing Garvey’s career as a youngster, I’ve got to admit he felt like a Hall of Famer to me. With hindsight, and the benefit of advanced statistical analysis, I don’t feel that way anymore. But, to be honest, I still have trouble wrapping my head around evaluating the careers of players who were perennial all-stars during my formative years, but quite possibly were over-rated.
  • I’m curious what the reaction will be to the fact I’ve moved Snider to RF for Davis. Let me get one thing straight first, though. If I had to choose between the two, I’d obviously choose Snider. But, since I rate Davis as the third best outfielder in Dodgers history, and it seems pretty clear he was a better defender than the Duke, I think the move makes sense.

 

Rotation

Dazzy Vance* (1922-1932, 1935)
2759 IP (4th), 59.8 WAR (1st), 129 ERA+ (5th), 190-131 W-L (3rd in Wins), 1918 SO (4th)

Sandy Koufax* (1955-1966)
2324 IP (10th), 50.3 WAR (3rd), 131 ERA+ (4th), 165-87 W-L (5th in Wins, 6th in W-L%), 2396 SO (3rd)

Don Drysdale* (1956-1969)
3432 IP (2nd), 57.4 WAR (2nd), 121 ERA+, 209-166 W-L (2nd in Wins), 2486 SO (2nd)

Nap Rucker (1907-1916)
2375 IP (8th), 45.5 WAR (5th), 118 ERA+, 134-134 W-L, 1217 SO (10th)

Don Sutton* (1966-1980, 1988)
3816 IP (1st), 46.6 WAR (4th), 110 ERA+, 233-181 W-L (1st in Wins), 2696 SO (1st)

That’s quite the rotation as well, including four Hall of Famers and one guy maybe some of you have never heard of, but who should be more celebrated than he is.

Flickr - …trialsanderrors - Nap Rucker, pitcher, Brooklyn Superbas, ca. 1910

Nap Rucker
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]

I suppose I’ll get some flack, if you’re assuming the order these guys are listed in represents their respective place in the rotation–it does–for Koufax at #2. In fact, based on wWAR–which does give extra credit for a player’s peak–Drysdale edges out Koufax, but it’s close enough that I’m going to succumb to peer pressure and move “The Left Arm of God” up from #3. [Actually, if you factor in batting value, Drysdale begins to pull away, but the decision whether or not to dock Koufax for his ineptitude at the plate is a tough call.]

The thing is, though, there’s a strange aspect to this all-time teams thing. Basically, we’re pretending each player is a composite (I’m sure there’s a better word than that, but it’s not coming to me right now) of the different versions of him throughout his career. In other words, Koufax is not just the pitcher who had one of the greatest peaks in history from 1961-1966 (1633 IP, 129-47, 156 ERA+, 44.4 WAR). He’s also the pitcher who struggled early in his career (1955-1960, 692 IP, 36-40, 100 ERA+, 5.9 WAR). Combining those two versions of Koufax brings him back down to earth a bit.

Now, if we’re having the proverbial “who would you want on the mound in one game for all the marbles?” discussion, I’d definitely choose Koufax, as long as we’re talking about the 1961-1966 version. Otherwise, you could definitely make a case for Vance, despite the fact he was a very late bloomer who didn’t win his first major league game until he was 31. But, all of those pre-30s struggles were before he came to Brooklyn, so they’re ignored for the purposes of this exercise.

 

Closer

Ron Perranoski (1961-1967, 1972)
767 IP, 14.0 WAR, 132 ERA+ (3rd), 101 SV (5th)

 

Reserves

C – Mike Piazza (1992-1998)
3017 PA, 30.7 WAR, 160 OPS+ (1st), 177 HR (8th)

1B – Steve Garvey (1969-1982)
7027 PA (8th), 34.1 WAR (9th), 122 OPS+, 1968 H (5th), 211 HR (6th), 992 RBI (5th)

2B/3B/OF – Jim Gilliam (1953-1966)
8322 PA (3rd), 37.7 WAR (8th), 93 OPS+, 1163 R (4th), 1889 H (8th)

SS/3B – Maury Wills (1959-1966, 1969-1972)
6745 PA, 29.7 WAR, 87 OPS+, 876 R (10th), 1732 H (10th), 490 SB (1st)

OF/3B/1B – Pedro Guerrero (1978-1988)
4089 PA, 30.8 WAR, 149 OPS+ (5th), 171 HR (9th)

OF – Carl Furillo (1946-1960)
7022 PA (9th), 31.8 WAR, 112 OPS+, 895 R (8th), 1910 H (7th), 192 HR (7th), 1058 RBI (4th)

 

Bullpen

Orel Hershiser (1983-1994, 2000)
2181 IP, 37.4 WAR (6th), 116 ERA+, 135-107 W-L (10th in Wins), 1456 SO (6th)

Jeff Pfeffer (1913-1921)
1748 IP, 31.4 WAR (7th), 125 ERA+ (10th), 113-80 W-L

Bob Welch (1978-1987)
1821 IP, 30.6 WAR (8th), 114 ERA+, 115-86 W-L, 1292 SO (9th)

Fernando Valenzuela (1980-1990)
2349 IP (9th), 30.4 WAR (9th), 107 ERA+, 141-116 W-L (9th in Wins), 1759 SO (5th)

Burleigh Grimes* (1918-1926)
2426 IP (5th), 26.8 WAR, 105 ERA+, 158-121 W-L (6th in Wins)

 

When I began this series over at my little corner of the internet, I asked for input from fellow bloggers on whatever team(s) they wished to offer contributions. Our very own Bryan O’Connor sent me his all-time Dodgers team, but I left a few of his suggestions off this squad. I think I can summarize our differences of opinion by saying Bryan places more emphasis on peak value and pure greatness, while I’m trying to determine what players contributed the most to the history of the franchise in question (see comment re: Sandy Koufax above).

Here are the players Bryan advocated for that didn’t make my final cut:

Don Newcombe – Despite a 116 ERA+ and his status as the inaugural winner of the Cy Young award (in 1956), I felt Newk’s overall career fell a little short.

Eric Gagne – Assessing the all-time greatness of relievers is tough. I just thought Perranoski was better (14.0 WAR, 6.2 WAA, 132 ERA+ in 766 2/3 IP) than Gagne (10.4 WAR, 4.9 WAA, 125 ERA+ in 545 1/3 IP) and Jim Brewer (15.1 WAR, 6.5 WAA, 127 ERA+ in 822 IP), and didn’t think any other true relievers were worthy of the final bullpen spots.

Matt Kemp – It was pretty early in the 2012 season that Bryan sent me his picks, and Kemp didn’t really pad his resume this year (mainly due to injuries), so maybe he would take this one back. Kemp may very well get there someday, but I’m not ready to bump Guerrero or Furillo off for him. Among current players, I honestly came closer to taking Clayton Kershaw.

Johnny Podres – Podres’ inclusion would have been a defensible pick (as would all of these guys), but it was simply a numbers game. That is, there were just too many good pitchers to choose from.

Kevin Brown – See below.

 

Manager

Walter Alston (1954-1976)
2040-1613 W-L, 7 NL pennants, 4 World Series titles

I don’t have a magic formula I use to compare managers, so I suppose we could just as easily go with Tommy Lasorda here, but Alston won almost 500 more games and he led the team to four World Series victories to Lasorda’s two.

 

Greatest Eligible Non-Hall of Famer

Although for the purposes of the all-time Dodgers team, I considered only each player’s performance in a Dodgers (or Robins or Superbas) uniform, when it comes to deciding the franchise’s greatest eligible non-Hall of Famer, my criteria are slightly different. Obviously, I want to consider each player’s entire career, so the approach I take is to choose the best career among players who would likely enter the Hall of Fame with a Dodgers cap depicted on their plaque.

There are so many candidates for this distinction: Gil Hodges (40.7 career b-r WAR), who peaked at 63.4% on the BBWAA ballot, then was passed over by this past year’s Veteran’s Committee; the under-rated (but better appreciated by modern metrics) Ron Cey (50.4) and Willie Davis (56.8); Deadball era standout Nap Rucker (45.5); the sometimes under-appreciated Orel Hershiser (48.0); and Steve Garvey (34.4) and Maury Wills (37.5), who, along with Hodges, are the only other players here to remain on the writer’s ballot for the maximum 15 years.

So, I thought it would be interesting if we put it to a vote. Who do you consider the greatest Hall of Fame eligible player who would identify as a Dodger and is not (yet) enshrined?

I’m also going to throw two more names into the mix: Tommy John (56.9) and Kevin Brown (64.5), guys who didn’t make this team because they only played six and five years respectively for the Dodgers and there were just so many other good choices. For both of these players, it’s not certain what cap would be depicted on a potential Hall of Fame plaque, so I’ll let you make that decision before deciding whether or not to vote for them.

John played eight years with the Yankees and seven years with the White Sox, and rates higher by WAR for his time with both teams, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he considered the Dodgers the team that most defined his career. Brown played eight years in Texas, but his best years were definitely with the Dodgers and Marlins, although he was only a member of the latter for two seasons.

 



Comments

The All-Time Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers Team — 59 Comments

  1. I went with Kevin Brown because he’s the most deserving player on the list and he had more value with the Dodgers than any other team. It’s certainly a vote that’s open to how you want to interpret it, though.

    I thought your reasoning was pretty much spot-on throughout. I like the Campanella over Piazza choice. Remember—wWAR only gives credit for what happened on the field. Campanella is hurt on both sides of his career in this respect.

    • I kind of wanted to go with Willie Davis, but I ended up on Kevin Brown as well.

      I like that it’s open to interpretation. If enough people don’t think Brown should be considered a Dodger, for instance, then collectively that will sort of determine whether or not he fits the criteria.

  2. Well, since they were never called the Brooklyn/L.A. Alstons (or LaSordas for that matter), I might call into question your choice of manager. I realize that Alston did somethng that John McGraw’s favorite catcher couldn’t do, but still, they were named after him for over 25 years.

    • Let’s not forget Alston’s stature. Six-time Manager of the Year, 7 pennants and 4 WS titles in 23 years, including the only championship in Brooklyn. Uncle Robbie won 2 pennants in 18 years.

      If Alston had had his success with Robinson’s timing, the team might have been called the Brooklyn Wallies.

      • I like the Wallies idea and I agree that naming the team after the manager was totally a pre Great War thing (the Cleveland Naps, for instance), so they never were going to be named after Alston. I would probably go with Alston anyway. My argument for Robinson would be that he made the Brooklyn team into a competitive team, something they never had not been for quite a while. Alston took over a ready made pennant winner.

  3. What a fantastic Zack Wheat card!

    For the reserves, I would take Davey Lopes over Maury Wills, if we’re actually composing a real team.

    Wills’s value is concentrated in his speed and his SS defense, but with Reese being an iron man and also a solid hitter, Wills just isn’t going to get in the field much.

    Lopes gives you essentially as much speed as Wills — from 1974-79 Davey averaged 56 SB and 10 CS, compared to 63 and 18 for Maury’s best 6-year run. But Lopes also gives you power off the bench, and he can play the outfield.

    • I was going to go with one older (Brooklyn) and one newer (Los Angeles) image, but man those older cards/images are just way better.

      Great points about Wills and Lopes, John. I had Lopes rated higher than Wills, but I was a stickler for realistic backups at every position, especially catcher, shortstop and center field. Lopes played 16 games there in his career and that would’ve been the most of anybody if I didn’t take Wills. I just didn’t consider him a realistic backup to Reese.

  4. Gil Hodges without a doubt. Absolute travesty he is not a HOF’er, when others like Freddie Linstrom are in. And yes, I know about the voting back in the day, and the cronyism factor.

      • I agree with you regarding Hodges vs. Lindstrom, John, but we can’t use poor Hall of Fame selections as our litmus test for who belongs in. Probably two-thirds of all players in history are better than Tommy McCarthy.

        • I agree…every Hall has a bottom line of talent. IMO baseball’s Hall, due to the voting practices of the Old-Timers committees of the past, has a bigger talent gap then the other 3 major sports Halls.

  5. Glad to see Fernando being recognized as an All Time Dodger Great. He was an icon during an entire decade, and an international baseball ambassador.

    Excellent choices, Dan. Looking forward to the next one.

  6. This is a phenomenal team. I think I have to use the “best at his peak” argument to defend all of my picks. Next to Jackie Robinson, Matt Kemp might be the best athlete ever to wear a Dodgers uniform. Whether that makes him one of the team’s 5 or 6 best outfielders of all time depends entirely on your preference for accumulated vs. peak value.

    I’ve honesly never heard of Ron Perranoski. I’m surprised to see that his ERA+ with the Dodgers was better than Gagne’s. I see now that his peak ERA+ with LA was 179 in 1963. Gagne had four consecutive years over 155, peaking at 337 in his 2003 Cy Young season.

    I may give Newcombe a little too much credit for years lost to segregation (though he may not have played much in MLB prior to age 23 anyway) and military service, but he was pretty dominant as a young pitcher before and after Korea.

    And I’m sure Brown’s exclusion comes down to service time, which is understandable. If his Florida years happened in LA, I’d have to think he’d skip to your starting rotation. He was a far better pitcher than Don Sutton.

    I’m fine with all the pitchers you named ahead of Johnny Podres.

    • I think I first heard of Ron Perranoski when he was Tommy Lasorda’s pitching coach in the ’80s, but he had a fine career, perhaps more consistent than Gagne’s. You make a good point about Gagne, though, and it kind of shows that maybe I let Gagne’s poor performance as a starting pitcher drag him down, and perhaps that’s not fair to his consideration as this team’s closer.

      You piqued my curiosity about how Brown would stack up if we added in his two phenomenal years in Florida. Based on wWAR, he’d be pretty damn close to Sutton, but his ERA+ would jump to over 150. Yes, it would be hard to justify not bumping him up to the rotation.

      • Gagne as a reliever for the Dodgers (I had to use an approximation for the 2000-2001 seasons where he mainly was a starter and for his partial season in 2006 for LA):

        1.93 ERA, 208 ERA+

        I think I’d pick Gagne as my reliever also on this team.

  7. It makes me feel truly ancient when someone as knowledgeable as Bryan has never heard of Ron Perranoski! :)

    Anyway, since this team is obviously bound for the postseason, perhaps the Perranoski pick should be reconsidered.

    Yoiks!

    • As a fellow ancient, I would pick Perranoski, although Mike Marshall (the pitcher/PHD, not the outfielder) deserves some recognition for his work as a member of some of Alston’s later teams.

  8. Fantastic job, Dan, really thorough. It appears we may have grown up at a similar time because you described my impressions of Steve Garvey perfectly: He just really seemed like one of the best players in the league a whole lot of years back in the day, but better metrics have proven that not to be true.

    • Agree with the Garvey assessment. I thought he was so consistent.

      He had that long consecutive game streak. Played in at least 160
      games 9 different times.

      Had at least 200 hits 6 times in 7 years.

      In 1976 he got 43 hits in the seasons last month
      to finish with exactly 200 hits. This was one
      of 3 times he had exactly 200 hits. He also had
      seasons of 202 and 204.

      Seemed he had a system to get 200.

      And yet such an arbitrary and meaningless number
      as career WAR of 34.4 attests. Ack!!

      • The low WAR total is due to his lack of walks. For a guy with a career BA of .294, Garvey only an OBP one point above his career league average for his career. Check out his OPS+ component parts:

        100 + [OBPcomponent] + [SLGcomponent] = 117 career OPS+

        100 + [0.3] + [16.2] = 116.5 => 117 career OPS+

        • I see what you mean.

          Shocked that someone who routinely made
          650-700 PA a year, only had 50 walks once.

          In fact, later in his career, he seemed to be
          even less patient.

          Over the last 3,560 PA of his career, Garvey
          drew the grand total of 157 walks.

          • Sorry…one of my pet peeves here. Dwar is not a useful measure. Someone with some clout really needs to talk to Sean and get him to take it off BR.

            Anyway, the relevant measure is Fielding Runs, for which Garvey had exactly 0 for his career. That’s mostly because of some poor seasons near the end of his career. During his prime he was generally a plus fielder though not necessarily gold glove quality.

          • Wow, 8 fielding runs for Garvey at 3B in 1971 in only 81 games. Did he miss his defensive calling? I guess he slid over to first to make room for The Penguin at third.

          • Looks like Garvey made quite a few errors at 3rd, even when he was in the minors. They tried him in left and he made a few errors there as well. So I guess first was all that was left, even though he was relatively short for the position.

  9. As a kid, when I first saw the name Brooklyn Superbas, I thought it was Superbras. (A kids mind tends to think about things like that). What I still don’t know is if it is pronounced Su-PER-bahs or SU-per-bahs or Sup-er-BAHS. And what the heck is a Superba anyway and what would the mascot be?

  10. Completely off topic, but watching the Braves/Cardinal game, do you want to know what really ticks me off? Watching the Braves play with a tomahawk on their jersey with their lamebrain fans doing the Tomahawk Chop while wailing a racist and stereotyped Indian chant Eye-Yai-YAI-Yai-YAI, Eye-Yai YAI-Yai-YAI …..while having witnessed my Astros have to grovel around to have the Peacemaker revolver on the retro Colt .45s uni. Not to mention not being able to so much as consider going back to the most awesome uni in baseball history. FNCK YOU, Selig, right up your hairy goat butt on the horse you rode in on. Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.

    • What exactly makes the Braves fans “lamebrain”? As much as I hate the tomahawk chant, it’s startlingly infectious if you happen to be at the stadium or at a sports bar in downtown Atlanta.

        • I think it’s quite unfair to call the Braves fans “lamebrains” based on what just happened. Are they the only fans that would have reacted that way. I highly doubt it.

          • That’s what booing is for. A sustained 10 minute booing would have been much more impressive and less dangerous than throwing cans and bottles onto the field. I’m guessing that all of those containers were brought illicitly into the park.

          • Guys, JA moved the discussion over to the Wednesday game notes article so as not to further clog up Dan’s Dodgers post.

  11. Dazzy Vance is tied with Koufax for the best season WAR in Dodgers history, 10.3.

    Jeff Pfeffer — I guess I never will be able to remember that he’s NOT the same as Big Jeff Pfeffer. It’s just an odd quirk of fate that Big Jeff Pfeffer (also a RHP) was in his final season just as plain ol’ Jeff — bigger, and much better — was making his debut.

  12. Willie Davis deserves more votes than he has in the poll, but I imagine that’s because anyone who would vote for him voted for Brown instead. Interesting old school/new school statistical battle at the top though in Brown vs. Hodges.

  13. Great choices, Dan. All reasonable – though a few arguable – and a good discussion to start the post. I’m particularly grateful that Furillo made your team. His ’57 Brooklyn card sits framed on my desk to recall that my first great encounter with the tragedy of life was realizing that I was not Carl Furillo.

    Your decision to extend Brooklyn back to the Atlantics postpones any claim I could have made to being a fan for half the franchise history, but I’m not sure, then, why you didn’t extend the franchise to the original Atlantics, National Association members from 1872. If you had, you could have considered the first Brooklyn manager: Death to Flying Things Ferguson. He wasn’t a particularly successful manager and only an average player, but no manager in world history ever had a better nickname.

    Robinson wasn’t the only manager whom the team was named after: Ned Hanlon, who led the team to two pennants (1899-1900) like Robbie, also had the team named after him (“Hanlon’s Superbas” [su-PER-bas, Larry] was a vaudeville revue of the time; when Hanlon came over from the Orioles after managing McGraw & Co. to three pennants, Brooklyn was rechristened and revived). Having lived through all the Alston years rooting for his teams, my feeling is that the Dodgers flourished in spite of him. I think the most effective manager they ever had was probably Durocher, but of course, Leo being Leo, I’m not proposing to start a fan club. Instead, let’s just make Branch Rickey manager.

    Does anyone else think Koufax was born to replace the pitching years that Vance lost? Apart from Vance’s false starts they could be a single player. I’m sure Koufax would have no problem with your putting Vance first: demigods can afford to be gracious. I’m with Bryan on Newcombe, though (biased: he won the first game I ever saw). I also think Perranoski can’t compare with Gagne.

    Voted for Hodges (big fan, big fan).

  14. An observation: of the 8 position starters and 6 reserves listed above, 7 played together four years, from 1953 to 1956, and 6 of those played together nine years, from 1948 to 1956, Junior joining the Campy, Jackie, Pee Wee, Gil, Duke, and Carl contingent rather late. Considering the storied history of this franchise, having half the A team appearing in one short era is rather strange. But I don’t argue the selection at all. Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer sentimentalizes the team and does disservice to Dylan Thomas in its choice of title, but they was something special in baseball history, a truly great team that nevertheless fell short time and again until the 1955 WS. A couple of good pitchers would have helped.

    • They were the flip side of the ’90s Braves.

      People say those Braves were undone by the lack of a stud closer, or because the starting aces didn’t do quite as well in the postseason. But to me, their regular lineup generally wasn’t what you’d expect from a dynasty team.

      From 1991-2000, there were 110 position-player-seasons of 5+ WAR in the NL. The Braves had 10 of those; the Astros had 17, the Giants 11.

      In that same period, the Braves had 14 of the 45 pitcher-seasons of 5+ WAR in the NL.

      By comparison, Jackie’s Dodgers (1947-56) had 21 of the 84 5-WAR seasons by NL position players, but only 4 of the 37 such years by NL pitchers.

      • John, That’s a very interesting comparison, and highlights the fact that while exceptional pitching may take on unusual weight in the postseason, it didn’t quite work out that way for the Braves.

        But in the case of the ’47-’56 Dodgers, if the issue is postseason failures the question would simply be how their pitchers compared to the Yankees’, not to the NL, since they faced NY in all 6 of their WS appearances. Pitting, say, Erskine, Newcombe, and Roe against Raschi, Reynolds, and Lopat, I don’t think there’s too much to choose – it was Cleveland that had great pitching, not the Dodgers’ Series opponents. The Yankees were actually much like Brooklyn – dominating hitters and only above average pitching.

        That said, take Newk out of the army and put him in the ’52-’53 Series (and suppose he pitches at his normal level) and Brooklyn probably takes at least one of those, so the idea that the Dodgers were simply one postgame starter short seems right to me. (We tend to forget how much impact those two-year draft stints had on teams when a star player like Newcombe disappeared – think of the Giants in ’52-’53 without Mays).

        That takes nothing away from the interest of your comparison. I had never really focused on the flip side of the Braves’ great pitching staff, since the hitting wasn’t actually weak. (On the other hand, look at the perfectly balanced Orioles teams of ’69-’71: 1-2 in the Series against teams that seem to me clearly inferior.)

      • JA, Couldn’t agree more with your assessment of the Braves’ offense in the 90s. When your roll-call of offensive postseason heroes are the likes of Mark Lemke, Deion Sanders, Lonnie Smith, and Mike Devereaux, that speaks volumes to your point.

        I see a similar problem in the post-Chipper era. Who’s going to anchor that lineup? Hopefully Heyward is up to the task.

        • Yep. During their 15 year run from ’91-’05, the Braves only had two teams with an OPS+ above 99. The ’98 team and the ’03 team. This year’s team was only at 90. McCann bouncing back would certainly help, assuming they exercise the team option for next year.

  15. although i am a big garvey fan, hodges got my vote.

    also, i am curious if any consideration was given to gary sheffield when assembling the team. i am by no means a big fan, but he put together some big numbers during his 3+ season tenure as a dodger. if he hadn’t been deemed a clubhouse cancer, he might have challenged some of those bench players in terms of career war as a dodger.

  16. Thanks for all the interesting comments, guys. Really enjoyed reading them, even the ones about last night’s Braves-Cards controversy. (Thanks for moving that conversation to a different thread. I think a playoff thread each night might be a good idea.)

    I’m gonna think about the Gagne-Perranoski decision. My only reservation about Gagne is when you look at just his stats as a reliever, they cover only about 1/3 as many innings as Perranoski. My gut feel is that I favor good x 3 over great x 1, but I’m going to think about it.

    • I guess there’s the ‘roids factor to think of, too, if that enters into your consideration. Dan, I apologize for my hot-headedness last night. I told Ed I was not going to pout about how that game ended, but I fumed late into the night.

  17. I don’t think you were hotheaded last night, bstar. Just stubborn, but I was too. And, of course, emotional because your team was involved. It was a crazy night. No hard feelings here. That’s for sure. :)

  18. Betcha didn’t know this: if you take SUPERBxx through its different Latin declensions you get Superbus (masc), Superba (fem) and Superbum (neuter). Hence, a neutered Superba is a Superbum, which is exactly what the Brooklyn faithful thought of them in their less than stellar moments.

    • Hats off to Larry! It is insights like these that America will lose if it continues to allow Latin to disappear from our school curriculum.

  19. Not to rekindle an old thread, but I’m going to do it. I happened to check back and see Gil Hodges in the lead by far. I went to my new wWAR numbers just to see where he placed—and it’s really not close. There are a ton of players ahead of him. So, my next thought was… what gives?

    Interestingly, when these things tend to happen, it is often because Total Zone thought differently of the player’s defense than the naked eye. That’s not true in this case. Total Zone has Hodges in the Top 20 among defensive first basemen of all time. He won three Gold Gloves. If anything, Total Zone might like him better than than naked eye did.

    What seems to be the issue is offense. Hodges was worth 200 WAR batting runs above average. That’s not a ton. It’s a little light for a guy with an OPS+ of 120, also. But Hodges was more of a slugger than a walker, and slugging percentage gets an extra boost in OPS+.

    Among players with 190-210 WAR batting runs and 7802-8402 PA, I see:

    Bobby Bonilla: 124 OPS+, 206 batting runs, 8257 PA
    Hal McRae: 123, 208, 8059
    Chet Lemon: 121, 208, 7874
    Shawn Green: 120, 201, 7963
    Paul O’Niell: 120, 195, 8329
    Gil Hodges: 120, 200, 8102
    Sal Bando: 119, 204, 8287
    Gary Mathews: 118, 197, 8189

    Offensively, I just don’t see it. Yes, Hodges does place second (behind Lemon) on this list in fielding runs, but he also was the only first baseman on the list.

    Hodges did average 32 homers and 108 RBI over a nine-year stretch. Over that 9-year stretch he was worth 213 batting runs (meaning that he was below average for the rest of his career) and 37.7 of his 40.7 WAR (and 18.6 WAA while his career total was just 13.8).

    Clearly, there are other reasons people think Hodges belongs. I think he gets a lot of credit for managing the 1969 Mets. But overall his win/loss percentage was .467 in nine seasons. That was his only pennant.

    Perhaps I’m a young kid with spreadsheets, but as hard as I try, I just don’t see it with Hodges. Please guys… help me out.

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