By: James Esatto
Ed.: This is Part II of a three-part project ranking all of the 30 MLB franchises by their “all-time” best possible rosters. We’d like to thank Jimmy for putting all of the thought and effort into this and for allowing us to publish it here at The Read Zone.
Part I was published on Monday, and Part III, with the Top 8 All-Time Franchise Teams, will be posted on Friday.
1. Only contributions for that franchise count toward the total.
2. The roster must be made up like a real roster, meaning players must play specific positions.
3. Two extra positions round out the roster: an extra OF and a Utility spot.
4. Players could play any position they could have reasonably been asked to play in real life. (Example: Craig Biggio represents the Astros at catcher)
5. The criteria is simple – career WAR while with the franchise.
Results thus far:
- 30. Tampa Bay Rays, 1998-2013, 45.6 W%, 0 World Series, 247.3 WAR
- 29. Miami Marlins; 1993-2013, 47.1 W%, 2 World Series, 267.3 WAR
- 28. Arizona Diamondbacks 1998 – 2013; 49.9 W%, 1 World Series, 281.2 WAR
- 27. Colorado Rockies 1993-2013; 47.3 W%, 0 World Series, 316.6 WAR
- 26. San Diego Padres 1969 – 2013; 46.4 W%, 0 World Series, 342.9 WAR
- 25. Milwaukee Brewers 1969 – 2013, 47.8 W%, 0 World Series, 442.3 WAR
- 24. Texas Rangers 1961-2013, 47.6 W; 0 World Series, 451.6 WAR
- 23. Toronto Blue Jays 1977-2013, 49.6 W%, 2 World Series; 451.6 WAR
- 22. Washington Nationals 1969-2013, 47.9 W%, 0 World Series, 463.7 WAR
- 21. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 49.9 W%, 1 World Series, 477.1 WAR
- 20. Seattle Mariners 1977-2013, 46.6 W%, 0 World Series, 501.1 WAR
19. New York Mets, 47.8 W%, 2 World Championships, 4 Pennants, 7 Playoff Appearances; 511.4 WAR
C – Mike Piazza 28
1B – Keith Hernandez 26.2
2B – Edgardo Alfonzo 28.7
3B – David Wright 47.8
SS – Jose Reyes 30.7
OF – Daryl Strawberry 35.4
OF – Carlos Beltran 29
OF – Cleon Jones 18.1
OF – Mookie Wilson 17.3
Util – Howard Johnson 22.7
SP – Tom Seaver 72.1
SP – Doc Gooden 50.6
SP – Jerry Koosman 43.2
SP – Jon Matlack 29.2
SP – Sid Fernandez 24.6
RP – John Franco 7.8
I find it fascinating how certain franchises seem to perpetually struggle to fill the same holes year after year. Just like the current iteration of the Mets, this team struggles in the outfield. Wright has already become the most successful offensive player in franchise history by a surprisingly large margin, and the next active player is Daniel Murphy who sits at a whopping 7 WAR, so Wright should be in first for a very long time.
The most interesting thing about the team’s pitching is actually the 6-8 starters (David Cone, Al Leiter, Ron Darling) who would make a hell of a broadcast team. Seaver’s 72.1 is the highest total by a single player we have seen thus far and they also got more out of Gooden and Koosman than I was expecting. Franco rates surprisingly poorly but his career ERA with the Mets was only 3.10, nothing special for this list.
The Mets are currently in a transitional state and other than Wright, no one has a chance of impacting the list any time soon. Johan Santana got off to a good start but has stalled at 12.6 WAR and none of the young position players have set the league on fire. Matt Harvey (5.1 WAR) is the current odds on favorite to be the next Met to break through onto the all-franchise team.
Brian: The Mets are lucky, insofar as this project is concerned, because almost none of their stars have overlapped positions. Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Keith, Piazza, Fonzie, Seaver – all of my favorites – have played different positions and prevented a bottleneck at Utility.
It would be too much work to do this, but if you could look at what % of the overall WAR accumulated for the franchise actually made the Franchise Team, that the Mets would rank very highly. Also, as Jimmy mentioned, they have clear paths to improvement at SP and OF, so should improve in the near future with some luck.
18. Kansas City Royals 1969 – 2013, 48.0 W%, 1 World Championship, 2 Pennants, 7 Playoff Appearances; 534.4 WAR
C – Darrell Porter 17
1B – John Mayberry 21.8
2B – Frank White 31.3
3B – George Brett 84.8
SS – Freddie Patek 17.1
OF – Amos Otis 42.3
OF – Willie Wilson 35.5
OF – Hal McRae 27.9
OF – Carlos Beltran 24.9
Util – Mike Sweeney 20.2
SP – Kevin Appier 44.4
SP – Mark Gubicza 42.5
SP – Bret Saberhagen 39.8
SP – Dennis Leonard 35.7
SP – Paul Splittorff 34.3
RP – Dan Quisenberry 14.9
Not a particularly relevant franchise since the mid-80s, Kansas City still bests most of their contemporary teams thanks to George Brett. It is pretty amazing how much of a difference one superstar on your roster makes, something that will become more and more obvious as we move further through the rankings. The rest of the lineup is made up of a bunch of solid but non-star level players, and Carlos Beltran who left just as he was peaking.
Add Kevin Appier to the list of underappreciated pitchers, I was shocked he beat out Gubicza and Saberhagen. This pitching staff is very deep, getting 34.3 WAR out of their 5th starter, no other team thus far has even managed 30 and most are well below that. Another team with a fun reliever battle, Quisenberry edging out Jeff Montgomery, with Joakim Soria a decent ways back.
I had been expecting Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to be storming up the batting list by now but both have struggled mightily. Alex Gordon, however, continues to chug away and is up to 18.5 career WAR, just off the list. Other than him, the Royals will not move any time soon.
Brian: Like you said – unlike the Mets, the Royals don’t appear to be going anywhere for a while aside from Alex Gordon. Perhaps Salvador Perez can take the next step as well and help them improve at catcher? And like Jimmy also said … George Brett, wow.
17. Houston Astros / Houston Colt .45’s 1962 – 2013, 49.1 W%, 0 World Championships, 1 Pennant, 9 Playoff Appearances; 611.5 WAR
C – Craig Biggio 65.2
1B – Jeff Bagwell 80.1
2B – Joe Morgan 29.4
3B – Doug Rader 19.1
SS – Dickie Thon 14.6
OF – Lance Berkman 51.4
OF – Jose Cruz 48
OF – Cesar Cedeno 46.7
OF – Jimmy Wynn 38.7
Util – Bill Doran 27.4
SP – Roy Oswalt 43.6
SP – Nolan Ryan 36.4
SP – Larry Dierker 35.8
SP – Shane Reynolds 31
SP – J.R. Richard 30.8
RP – Billy Wagner 13.3
The Astros win the title of best franchise for expansion-era teams, and it is the killer B’s that get them there. The Bagwell/Biggio/Berkman trio racked up almost 200 WAR on their own and combined with a strong outfield, Houston easily defeats all their contemporaries despite a terrible left-side of the infield. The Astros actually have outfielders to spare as Terry Puhl, Bob Watson and Richard Hidalgo were all in the 20-27 WAR range but failed to make the cut.
Roy Oswalt leads a decent pitching staff made up predominately of pitchers from the late 70s – early 80s teams. Don Wilson and Mike Scott fell just short of the list on the starting end while Wagner blew away Dave Smith and Brad Lidge among relievers.
With the team in complete rebuild mode it is hard to see Houston moving on the list any time soon. Luckily, they have quite a cushion between them and Kansas City. They also have a fairly easy route to improvement with no decent franchise shortstop or third baseman, maybe Carlos Correa can change that in a few years.
Brian: Wait – Shane Reynolds and J.R. Richard both had 30+ WAR? That’s a shocker to me, both in general and relative terms. 30+ WAR for pitchers places them ahead of Jon Matlack with the Mets, Jamie Moyer with the Mariners, John Lackey with the Angels, and even Mike Scott.
Shane Reynolds (one time All Star managed through long-term mediocrity had 103 wins with the Astros and an ERA+ of 106 over 11 full seasons, while JR Richard’s short career burned more brightly than I realized, with a four year stretch where he notched 74 wins, 1044 strikeouts and a 118 ERA+. Mike Scott, it turns out, notched 110 wins for the Astros with an ERA+ of 107, but a very large percentage of that value came in his otherworldly 1986 season. Reynolds’ long time consistency triumphed.
16. Baltimore Orioles / St. Louis Browns / Milwaukee Brewers, 47.5 W% 1901-2013, 3 World Championships, 7 Pennants, 12 Playoff Appearances; 686 WAR
C – Chris Hoiles 24.8
1B – Eddie Murray 56.6
2B – Bobby Grich 33.8
3B – Brooks Robinson 80.8
SS – Cal Ripken Jr. 92.5
OF – Boog Powell 40.7
OF – Harlond Clift 37.7
OF – Paul Blair 36.9
OF – Frank Robinson 33.8
Util – George Sisler 50.1
SP – Jim Palmer 51.7
SP – Mike Mussina 45.6
SP – Urban Shocker 32
SP – Dave McNally 30.3
SP – Mike Flanagan 29.8
RP – Gregg Olson 8.9
The Orioles win the dubious distinction of being the worst of the old-school franchises. The names on the roster are formidable but only Ripken, Brooks Robinson and the always overrated George Sisler spent their whole career with the Orioles. Being unable to find a spot for Bobby Wallace’s 41.5 WAR does not help either, but missing out on so much of Grich and Frank Robinson’s career production hurts.
Pitching wise, the Orioles have surprisingly little to offer historically. Mussina did almost as much for the Yankees as he did for the Orioles and Palmer was very good but not historically great. Shocker was very effective but in a relatively short career and no one else stands out.
The Orioles have returned to contention after a very long hiatus but there is not anyone in line to help them immediately. Brian Roberts is catching up to Grich but seems unlikely to ever get there. Markakis continues to put up solid numbers but has a long way to reach Frank Robinson and even if he makes it, he will not blow by him. Matt Wieters has the easiest route to contributing as the Orioles’ catcher history is poor but he is only halfway to Hoiles thus far and has gone backwards this season.
Brian: This one is interesting to me for a number of reasons. First, I am surprised at how poorly the Orioles ranked overall, given the history/prestige of the franchise. I am also surprised what a small gap there is between them and the Astros (only 75 WAR despite the 60 year head start). I guess that’s a testament to the Killer B’s.
One other note. It’s easy to say Cal Ripken Jr. was great, but I know that I personally think of him more for the “Ironman” thing than for his incredible ability. He posted two seasons of 9.8+ WAR, but none after 1991. In fact, before 1991 he posted a .282/.354/.469 128 OPS+ line over 1455 games and after 1991 posted only a .271/.329/.424 97 OPS+ line in 1363 games. He’s exactly the kind of combination of skill, health, and longevity, which you need to accumulate 92.5 career WAR in the modern game.
15. Chicago White Sox 1901-2013, 50.6 W%, 3 World Championships, 6 Pennants, 9 Playoff Appearances; 730.3 WAR
C – Sherm Lollar 32.2
1B – Frank Thomas 68.3
2B – Eddie Collins 65.1
3B – Robin Ventura 39.5
SS – Luke Appling 73.2
OF – Minnie Minoso 41.7
OF – Fielder Jones 31.4
OF – Joe Jackson 27.2
OF – Harold Baines 24.9
Util – Nellie Fox 43.8
SP – Ted Lyons 62.2
SP – Red Faber 59.2
SP – Ed Walsh 53.9
SP – Billy Pierce 53
SP – Mark Buehrle 43.9
RP – Matt Thornton 10.8
A franchise that has been consistently solid but rarely dominant, they had their best stretch cut off by the Black Sox scandal and this team also suffers significantly because of it. Joe Jackson had a lot left to give at the time he was banned, posting a 382/444/589 line in 1920 as a 30-year-old before being sent to exile. Happy Welsch almost certainly would have made the outfield list if his career had continued and Buck Weaver had a chance too. Eddie Ciccotte finished just behind Buehrle and may have been able to set a higher bar with a couple more seasons.
The lineup that is here is based around a stacked infield that is actually using a second baseman in the util slot. Appling played over 2400 career games for the franchise and just edges out Thomas and Collins for the top player honors. I was most surprised to see Lollar over Fisk, but his .358 OBP is pretty darn impressive for a catcher in the era he played.
Lyons and Faber both had over 4000 IP for the Sox but were nowhere near as effective as the other pitchers on this list. Walsh barely pitched in his 30s, succumbing to the heavy workloads; Pierce hung around longer but faded sharply after a big start to his career. Buehrle was never exceptional but he played during big hitting years when Chicago was an easy place to hit a ball out, earning his spot over Cicotte and Wilbur Wood.
Matt Thornton is the lone active player on the team’s all time roster but he is just creeping along at this point. Konerko sits at 27.2, he will never get there considering how crowded the infield is. No one else seems likely to make any noise. Chris Sale’s career is off to a fine start, but who knows if he will keep going or fade in a similar fashion to John Danks before he ever gets close.
Brian: It looks like the White Sox’ easiest path to improvement is in the outfield, but who knows who will be able to help there? (Dayan Viciedo looks unlikely). All I’ve got to say about this team is that I’ve been trying to tell people for half a decade that Mark Buehrle is underrated.
14. Cleveland Indians / Cleveland Naps / Cleveland Bronchos / Cleveland Blues 1901 – 2013, .50.9 W%, 2 World Championships, 5 Pennants, 10 Playoff Appearancs; 755.7 WAR
C – Victor Martinez 20.2
1B – Jim Thome 46.2
2B – Nap Lajoie 74.6
3B – Joe Sewell 40.5
SS – Lou Boudreau 62.5
OF – Tris Speaker 72.5
OF – Earl Averill 47.5
OF – Larry Doby 45.1
OF – Kenny Lofton 43.2
Util – Ken Keltner 35.7
SP – Bob Feller 69.9
SP – Mel Harder 54.5
SP – Stan Coveleski 47.2
SP – Sam McDowell 42.9
SP – Mike Garcia 40.3
RP – Doug Jones 12.9
Often the icon for futility, the Indians are actually over a 50% win rate in their career thanks to two dominant stretches in the 50s and late 90s. They fall short of most of the other old teams because they max out at 74.6 WAR, a very high total for a single player, but well behind the all-time greats. Interestingly, this team is hurt significantly by World War II. Several of their better players, particularly pitchers, lost time during the war and curtailed their franchise total.
The Indians’ strength is the middle infield where Lajoie and Boudreau team up. If their careers had been as long as Luke Appling’s, they would both be over 100 WAR, but neither even got to 7,000 plate appearances with the Indians franchise. Speaker and Averill also failed to get there. In fact, the Indians have never had a hitter take more than 6708 plate appearances for their team, very surprising compared to some of the other teams coming up. This is the biggest reason they failed to crack the top 10. Of the more contemporary players who did not make the team, Manny Ramirez comes the closest at 30.8, slightly ahead of Grady Sizemore, Albert Belle, and Omar Vizquel who was not as good defensively as most people seam to think and slugged only .379 while with Cleveland.
If asked to name the pitchers who would make the Indians rotation, I would have certainly picked Addie Joss, and maybe Early Wynn or Bob Lemon. However, Lemon got a late start to his career, Wynn spent a lot of his career with other teams and Joss pitched during the dead ball era. Joss was seventh, behind Willis Hudlin who I honestly know nothing about. Coveleski and McDowell get overlooked because they lack the gaudy win totals and pitched when the franchise was not very good. Feller obviously stands head and shoulders above the rest, having thrown the most innings and being very effective while doing so.
Five years ago I would have expected a ton of change on the Indians list as C.C. Sabathia was charging quickly up the ranks and Grady Sizemore looked headed for stardom. Neither will ever make the team at this point for obvious reasons and with them went any hope for change in the near future. Asdrubal Cabrera is maybe half way there at this point, and I love Jason Kipnis but he is already 26 and only getting established right now. Expect Cleveland to stay put.
Brian: I’m not trying to be a fanboy here but I love reading Jimmy’s insights into these historic franchises. I think he’s hit it right on the nose when he mentions World War II and overall longevity as the primary factors holding back a team who otherwise has had a ton of special talent on it over the years. Feller and Lajoie were generational talents – a shame that they didn’t stay longer. Sabathia, for what it’s worth, is up to 60.6 WAR and, with 1.9 WAR this season (4 WAR pace) probably has another 10 WAR in the arm before it falls off.
13. Oakland Athletics / Kansas City Athletics / Philadelphia Athletics 1901 – 2013, 48.7 W%, 9 World Championships, 15 Pennants, and 24 Playoff Appearances; 759 WAR
C – Mickey Cochrane 40.4
1B – Jimmie Foxx 65.1
2B – Eddie Collins 56.3
3B – Sal Bando 47.4
SS – Bert Campaneris 42.5
OF – Rickey Henderson 68.6
OF – Al Simmons 52.2
OF – Reggie Jackson 45.1
OF – Bob Johnson 45
Util – Mark McGwire 44.4
SP – Ed Plank 61.6
SP – Lefty Grove 54.8
SP – Chief Bender 42.1
SP – Rube Waddell 41.9
SP – Vida Blue 33
RP – Dennis Eckersley 18.6
The history of the Athletics franchise is filled with short, dense, pockets of contention followed by a rapid collapse and long period of futility. From 1909-1914 they were the top franchise, ditto from 1929-1931, and very competitive from 1971-1975 and 1999-2006. In between were long stretches of awful, dragging the all-time winning percentage into the upper 40s. The individuals are much like the franchise, incredible players who spent some time with the team but not an extended period, resulting in a roster of half-careers from super duper stars.
If I cared enough to spend the time to compile a list of players who achieved the most WAR outside of the franchise list for which they appear, I feel like the Athletics would be first. Foxx, Collins, Henderson, Jackson, Mcgwire, and Grove especially achieved fame elsewhere. Even so, the worst hitter in their lineup still achieved 40.4 WAR, outstanding balance that makes up for the lack of one or two hugely impactful guys.
The top four starters all played a million years ago but three of them could boast being the best pitcher in baseball for a stretch. Blue peaked as a rookie and then finished his career elsewhere (like most of the roster) which results in him lagging behind the other starters. Eckersley was an easy choice for reliever.
You might notice zero players from the contemporary Athletics. Simply put, all of them were traded away or allowed to leave before racking up enough value to make the team. Hudson is 6th among starters, Zito 8th. Chavez ended with 32.1 WAR, Giambi 27.9 and Tejada way back at 16.8. As long as the Athletics remain a small market team expect this trend to continue, they may not move up ever at this rate.
Brian: This is a franchise that everybody thought was going to do better on this list, and Jimmy points out exactly why. Here is a look at some of their modern players and where they would have stacked up if they had stayed: Tim Hudson 48.1 WAR; Barry Zito 32.4 WAR (off list); Mark McGwire 66.3 WAR; Miguel Tejada 42 WAR (behind Campaneris); Jason Giambi 49.9 WAR. Not as much help there as you might have expected.
12. Los Angeles Dodgers / Brooklyn Dodgers / Brooklyn Robins / Brooklyn Superbas… and many other names 1884 – 2013, 52.4 W%, 6 World Championships, 22 Pennants, and 26 Playoff Appearances; 791.3 WAR
C – Roy Campanella 38
1B – Gil Hodges 41.3
2B – Jackie Robinson 57
3B – Ron Cey 50
SS – Pee Wee Reese 60.8
OF – Duke Snider 63.1
OF – Zack Wheat 63.1
OF – Willie Davis 48.8
OF – Dixie Walker 32.8
Util – Steve Garvey 36.3
SP – Don Drysdale 66.3
SP – Don Sutton 65.8
SP – Dazzy Vance 61.6
SP – Sandy Koufax 57.9
SP – Fernando Valenzuela 36.5
RP – Eric Gagne 12
So how does a franchise with such a high win percentage and five World Championships rate so low? They have never had a player with a historically monstrous career. All of their dominant players had short careers (Robinson, Koufax, Vance, Snider to a degree) and all of the players with long careers were never superstars (Wheat, Reese, Davis, Sutton). As a result you end up with a roster of very good but zero huge impact players.
The biggest strength historically for the Dodgers has always been up the middle. Campanella and Robinson would have had bigger numbers if he had been allowed to enter the league earlier, Reese lost time to the war but was an excellent player. Almost all the outfielders who made the team played centerfield. The corners have plenty of depth but not the same quality.
The Dodgers have always been known for their pitching, but the dirty secret is that the park they have played in since moving to Los Angeles deserves a lot of credit. For all the wins and strikeouts, Don Sutton’s ERA+ was only 108 for his career. Koufax was the pitcher of that era that was truly exceptional but only managed to have two-thirds of a normal career. Claude Osteen and Orel Hershiser who just missed are right behind Valenzuela. The gap between the fourth and fifth starters is surprisingly large.
The Dodgers best hope for advancement is clearly Clayton Kershaw, already at 24.8 WAR and rising fast. It seems highly likely he ends in the vicinity of the top four starters barring some major unforeseen hurdle. If Piazza or Beltre had stayed with the Dodgers they would both appear prominately on this list, Piazza was only just behind Campanella despite 1800 fewer at-bats.
Brian: This is a team that, after Part I, many people were speculating would be in the Top 5. But again – the famously short careers of guys like Robinson and Koufax hold them back from doing better. I’ve got $1 for anyone who guessed that Zack Wheat was tied for the lead in all-time franchise WAR.
Nonetheless, they do well for a team whose highest WAR total is only 63.1 (a mere 16 ahead of mid-career David Wright).
11. Cincinnati Reds / Cincinnati Redlegs / Cincinnati Red Stockings 1882 – 2013, 50.8 W%, 5 World Championships, 10 Pennants, 14 Playoff Appearances; 793.2 WAR
C – Johnny Bench 74.9
1B – Tony Perez 49.6
2B – Joe Morgan 57.2
3B – Heinie Groh 41.7
SS – Barry Larkin 67.5
OF – Pete Rose 76.3
OF – Frank Robinson 59.6
OF – Vada Pinson 42.8
OF – George Foster 42
Util – Bid McPhee 54.8
SP – Paul Derringer 44.6
SP – Eppa Rixey 43.1
SP – Noodles Hahn 40.7
SP – Jim Maloney 47.6
SP – Dolph Luque 37.4
RP – Rob Dibble 13.4
The “Big Red Machine” years is the lone dominant stretch in this franchise’s history and as expected is well represented on the franchise team. This is another team without a blow-you-away raw total player, but getting 74.9 out of the catcher spot is special. The biggest thing that kept the Reds out of the top 10 though is the pitching, which is shockingly bad for a 130 year-old franchise. This staff can’t even compete with a couple of the post-expansion teams.
The lineup carries this team, and Bench is the biggest piece. Rose kept compiling numbers for a million years and ends up just topping him in WAR, but there are a lot of outfielders on other teams above him. Bench is number one among catchers. Seeing that McPhee almost edged out Morgan shocked me, but his career was almost twice as long. Glove specialist Concepcion managed only 39.8 WAR despite a very long career, falling short.
This pitching staff is very disappointing. I thought Tony Mullane or Bucky Walters might make it but neither was ever that good in context. Derringer and Rixey were both solid and had long but not exceptionally long careers with the Reds. Hahn was a more effective pitcher but only started 225 games. Jose Rijo was easily effective enough to make it but stalled at the seven spot with injuries.
Joey Votto has been the franchise’s star for awhile now and is already up to 30 WAR. That is actually a long way from making the team since the infield is crowded but I am not counting him out by any means. Brandon Phillips is up to 27 but faces and equally hard route and is not the player Votto is. Pitching seems like the easier route to making the team but no one is knocking down the door. Cueto is up to 12.8 only and keeps getting injured. Homer Bailey is young and keeps improving but he has only managed 9.4 so far, and is miles away.
Brian: Speaking of teams that have an itch they just can’t scratch (the Mets in the outfield and Padres at shortstop), the Reds pitching is just gross. I’ll award them a mental +1 for having Johnny Vander Meer. At least they have won five World Series’.
The fact that Joey Votto is so far away from making an impact here is surprising. But when you’ve got a franchise with a history as long as the Reds’, it really takes a full-career of excellent play to break through onto the list.
Also, slightly off topic, but I am really getting a kick out of the names of these Reds pitchers. Eppa Rixey and Noodles Hahn? And Dolph Luque looks like a spoonerism of El Duque.
10. Philadelphia Phillies / Philadelphia Quaker 1883 – 2013, 47.3 W%, 2 World Championships, 7 Pennants, 14 Playoff Appearances; 801.6 WAR
C – Darren Daulton 24.3
1B – Dick Allen 37.8
2B – Chase Utley 52.8
3B – Mike Schmidt 106.3
SS – Jimmy Rollins 45.8
OF – Ed Delahanty 62.2
OF – Richie Ashburn 52.4
OF – Sherry Magee 52.1
OF – Bobby Abreu 46.6
Util – Roy Thomas 41.3
SP – Steve Carlton 78.3
SP – Robin Roberts 66.2
SP – Pete Alexander 50.7
SP – Curt Schilling 39.5
SP – Jim Bunning 34.9
RP – Ron Reed 10.4
A down and out franchise for most of their existence, the Phillies have climbed into the top 10 thanks to Mike Schmidt and a couple of recent additions to the franchise team. Through the first 102 years of their existence the Phillies made the playoffs a grand total of two times, since then they had a pair of dominant stretches. They have a well rounded team but with a couple serious holes at catcher, first base and in the back of the rotation.
Schmidt is the first player to break the 100 WAR barrier that we have seen, and leads the lineup by over 40. Delahanty was one of the great sluggers of the league’s early years, followed quickly by Magee who appeared destined for a monster career until leaving the Phillies and quickly falling off. Utley and Rollins were big finds for Philadelphia who has no other middle infielders with more than 16.7 WAR. They are still pounding away, pushing Philadelphia further up the board.
The pitching staff has an excellent top three but falls off quickly afterwards. Carlton and Roberts pitched massive innings at a high level while Alexander was only around for 7 admittedly outstanding seasons. Schilling took awhile to hit his stride and left at the peak of his powers while Bunning only spent the second half of an excellent career with the Phillies. Curt Simmons and Chris Short are in a virtual tie for the fifth spot with Bunning.
Cole Hamels sits at 27.9 WAR and despite the sluggish season he is currently in, seems likely to jump on the team before too long. Halladay has stalled at 16 WAR and it is now unlikely he will ever get close. Not surprisingly, Ryan Howard is way behind his teammates Rollins and Utley. Howard always got too much credit and sits at only 20.6 WAR, miles away. Carlos Ruiz is in the 17.5 WAR range and could supplant Daulton eventually. It is interesting to note that Abreu made the team but Scott Rolen did not, getting chased out of town at 29.5 WAR, and accumulating over 40 after his departure.
Brian: The Phillies only edge out the Reds by 8 WAR, and do so largely because of Mike Schmidt.
Also, this is silly, but I love seeing teams that have a good mix of players from different eras. Unlike the Reds, who are comprised mostly of the Big Red Machine, the Phillies’ infield of Allen, Utley, Schmidt and Rollins covers 1963-1969, 1972-1989 and then 2000 to the present.
I had to Google who Ron Reed was. FYI, he was a big righthander who pitched for the Phillies from 1976 to 1983. He spent more time elsewhere, but his most notable years appear to have been in Philly when he converted to the bullpen. He won 13 games one year out of the pen, oddly enough, tallying a 57-38 record with 90 saves there and a 122 ERA+. His 10.4 WAR through longevity managed to outpace guys like Jose Mesa, Tug McGraw, Steve Bedrosian, and Brad Lidge (I forgot he had a 7.71 ERA one year) who had only 2.2 WAR.
9. Minnesota Twins / Washington Senators 1901 – 2013, 48.1 W%, 3 World Championships, 6 Pennants, and 14 Playoff Appearances; 802.6 WAR
C – Joe Mauer 42.1
1B – Joe Judge 44.5
2B – Rod Carew 57
3B – Harmon Killebrew 66.5
SS – Joe Cronin 36.1
OF – Sam Rice 49.2
OF – Kirby Puckett 44.5
OF – Goose Goslin 41.9
OF – Tony Oliva 40.8
Util – Buddy Myer 38.6
SP – Walter Johnson 125.9
SP – Bert Blyleven 57.5
SP – Jim Kaat 50
SP – Camilo Pascual 47.9
SP – Brad Radke 44.9
RP – Joe Nathan 15.2
The difference between #12 (Dodgers) and the Twins at #9 is a grand total of 11.3 WAR which is razor-thin. This is another franchise with a rough history although things have been better since the move to Minnesota. Still, their franchise player, Walter Johnson, and his monstrous 125.9 WAR total come from the Washington years. The Twins offense is exceedingly ordinary compared to the other teams in this area of the list, but Johnson and a deep staff put them just ahead of the previous three teams. Fan favorite Kent Hrbek just missed with 37.2 WAR.
Killebrew and his 559 home runs are obviously the biggest contributor to a primarily light-hitting lineup. Mauer may end up leading this offense by the time his days as a player are done, his career .406 OBP continues to be underrated. Behind Killebrew, Carew, Puckett and Mauer most of this lineup is relatively unimpressive; No one ever posted huge numbers and that is why, even with Walter Johnson, they cannot climb higher.
Johnson is in many people’s opinions the greatest pitcher to ever live, and every inning he threw was with the Senators. 5,912.2 innings of awesome goes a long way. Blyleven spent almost exactly half his career with Minnesota, easily landing him the second spot. Every member of the staff threw over 2400 innings for the franchise; Johan Santana finished 7th, only because he left after just 1308.2 IP.
It falls completely on Joe Mauer to keep the Twins ahead of the other three franchises breathing down their neck in the rankings. Although he has shared the spotlight, Justin Morneau is half the player Mauer is, up to only 19.7 WAR so far, and unlikely to break through. Check back in five years to see how Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are doing and we might have more to talk about.
Brian: Jimmy is right that the margin is razor-thin, but I am still surprised that the Twins franchise placed so well on this list. Mauer is likely to extend that lead, while the franchises behind them don’t have too many players still compiling WAR for them (Phillies: Utley, Rollins; Reds: None; Dodgers: None).
Tune in on Friday for the Top 8 All-Time Franchise Teams, and feel free to leave your speculation in the comments.
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James Esatto is a graduate of Marist College and amateur baseball historian who decided that his newborn son (congratulations!!!) was not enough work and volunteered this project for the site.
Site co-founder Brian Mangan is just happy to bask in the glow of Jimmy’s baseball wisdom and chime in with random quips.
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