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Monday, December 23, 2013

HHS: Autin: The Lou Whitaker All-Star Teams

To WAR with Whitaker…

For years, I’ve used the term “Lou Whitaker All-Stars” for players who had many good seasons, but no great ones. Now I’ve chosen two such teams, on the basis of Wins Above Replacement.

Since Whitaker’s best seasons rated 6.7 WAR, I set the main cutoff at “no 7-WAR seasons.” I started with the top 200 in career WAR among retired position players, then eliminated all those with any 7-WAR years, leaving 66 players. Since I’m dividing the teams by Hall of Fame status, I excluded the six who have not yet appeared on the ballot. Of the remaining 60 players, 27 are HOFers, 33 are not.

I chose 13 players per side: the eight fielding positions, plus a DH, a spare infielder and outfielder, a utility man, and a pinch-hitter. Selection criteria were a balance of career WAR and WAR per 1,000 games, with other factors used in hard cases. Each player is slotted at his primary position. I’ll note which of the chosen players meet the dual standard of 54 career WAR and 27 WAR per 1,000 games discussed in the latter half of this post. (And please note: These 13-man squads are not an endorsement of modern 12-man pitching staffs.)

...Chet Lemon might be a surprise choice for CF, but the WAR measures give him a clear edge on Bernie Williams, Brett Butler, Devon White and Tommy Leach. Lemon was an excellent defender (his 509 putouts in 1977 is the 3rd-best documented total by a CF) whose strong on-base ability, mid-range power and consistency gave him a career 121 OPS+. In his 12-year prime, 1977-88, Chester logged from 2.5 to 6.2 WAR every year, but he never put all his best stats into one big year, hitting .300 three times and 20+ HRs three times, but never both together. His counting stats were hurt by batting 5th or lower in 76% of his PAs.

  One of 14 retired CFs to meet the 54/27 standard. Among the 16 HOF CFs, Chet Lemon’s WAR total and rate would both rank 9th.

Reggie Smith would have been my CF, but he played a few more games in RF, so there he stands, beating out worthies like Dwight Evans and Jack Clark. An excellent all-around player who never had a bad year, Smith’s career 137 OPS+ ranks 18th of all those with 800+ games in RF and 4th among all switch-hitters with 5,000 PAs. Smith had six qualified years batting .300, but none over .309; averaged 26 HRs per 162 games, but never topped 32 in a season. Retired at 37 after posting a 134 OPS+ in 106 games.

  One of 15 retired RFs who meet the 54/27 standard. Among the 20 HOF RFs, Reggie Smith’s WAR total and rate would rank 10th and 3rd.


Repoz Posted: December 23, 2013 at 07:17 AM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. cardsfanboy Posted: December 23, 2013 at 09:41 AM (#4622783)
Not too bad of a concept, but the fact that it has Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Joe Torre and Ted Simmons as possibles, pretty much screams that he needs to make a modification to the catchers part of the formula.
   2. AROM Posted: December 23, 2013 at 10:00 AM (#4622791)
Yeah, I'd say "no 6+ WAR seasons" to account for catcher playing time.

Chet Lemon is an awesome choice as a fellow 1984 Tiger. Whatever WAR says, he fits better than the others.

Bernie was a superstar hitter, if he failed to post 7+ WAR it's because his defense dragged him down. Butler had no power, but was an ideal leadoff man. White was an ordinary hitter, but one of the greatest defenders to ever play in center.

Lemon was a good hitter, who was above average in power and OBP without being outstanding at either, and an above average fielder, but never won a gold glove nor does his name come to mind when thinking about the elite defenders of all time. He was just good at almost everything. That is except for base stealing. He was actually fast, despite one of the worst base stealing percentages of my lifetime (58/134).

Reggie Smith also fits the mold of good, but not great, at everything. Dwight Evans only meets the criteria here because of the 1981 strike. He had 6.7 WAR that year in 108 games.
   3. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: December 23, 2013 at 10:13 AM (#4622796)
Yeah, I'd say "no 6+ WAR seasons" to account for catcher playing time.

Only 10 catchers in history had a 7 WAR season, so yeah.
   4. DL from MN Posted: December 23, 2013 at 10:14 AM (#4622797)
Don't forget to adjust for season length when making these lists. WAR is a counting stat.
   5. Matt Welch Posted: December 23, 2013 at 03:55 PM (#4623028)
If you adjusted every season to 162 games -- which I think you absolutely should -- that list would look a lot different.
   6. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: December 23, 2013 at 04:01 PM (#4623034)
If you adjusted every season to 162 games -- which I think you absolutely should -- that list would look a lot different.

Yeah. Evans really shouldn't be there.
   7. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 23, 2013 at 04:13 PM (#4623039)
Yeah, I'd say "no 6+ WAR seasons" to account for catcher playing time.

And that DHs don't play defense. There have only been six 6 WAR seasons from a full-time DH in history, all of them from Edgar, Ortiz, or the Big Hurt.
   8. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: December 23, 2013 at 04:36 PM (#4623052)
So, looking over the teams got me looking at some of the players. Bob Johnson's career is just remarkable. 13 seasons, never played fewer than 117 games, never had an OPS+ below 125. Never had a season below 3 WAR. That last one is stunning. Almost every player has a sub par season, or one lost to injury, or a cup of coffee at the start, or a short and crappy finale. Not him. Now, it helped that he came into the league fully formed at 27 with 3 seasons as a good PCL player, but still. I can't find anybody who has 3.0 as a career worst WAR. Joe DiMaggio is close. He had a 2.8 in his final year. Pujols was there until last year, but it's not the same with active players.
   9. Davo Dozier (Mastroianni) Posted: December 23, 2013 at 05:36 PM (#4623102)
#8 Fun way to look at it!

Mickey Mantle is sort of close, too. BB-Ref gives him years worth 1.4 (rookie) and 1.8 (1965), but he was never really bad. He had a 117 OPS+ in 96 games his rookie year, and a 137 OPS+ in 122 games in 1965 (they really hate his defense then). And those are his two worst seasons!
   10. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: December 23, 2013 at 05:38 PM (#4623104)
Never had a season below 3 WAR. That last one is stunning

1: Never seriously injured
2: came "up" late, was likely MLB caliber well before he did (how late is ahd to tell, his pre-PCL stats are incomplete.
3: At the end was playing against seriously weakened competition, his 3.1 in 1943 and 3.0 in 1945 likely overstate his playing ability quite a bit (WWII)

but aside from that, remarkable consistent is right, 13 years no discernible peak

His BBREF comps are interesting in that the exception of Del Ennis, everyone had a better peak year or two, and yet most had less career value because of stinker seasons thrown in...

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