Archive for May, 2015

Ian Kinsler’s Walking, Not Running

While the Detroit Tigers’ decision to trade Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler prior to last season initially came as a shock to Tigers fans, the positive early returns on the trade seemed to provide a calming influence. As I wrote in late April 2014,

Kinsler has provided some real spark, though. Looking at the right side of this graph, you can see that, while he and Prince posted similar batting averages last season, Kinsler has kept the pace this year, but Prince has dropped off sharply with the Rangers.


While Fielder has the edge in on-base percentage, probably due to his ability to draw walks (of the intentional and unintentional varieties), Kinsler’s hitting for more power (.133 ISO vs. .121 ISO) and is posting a better wOBA— a catch-all offensive metric– than Fielder (.319 vs. .277). They also have the same number of home runs (two), with Kinsler driving in nearly twice as many runs as Fielder (14 vs. 8), while stealing three bases (to Fielder’s zero, obviously).

Less than a month later, Prince’s season would be over, a completely understandable side-effect of probably overdue neck surgery.

Kinsler powered right along, though, making 726 plate appearances in a career-high 161 games. His bat seemed to cool off in the second half of 2014 (.353 wOBA vs. .276), but he still managed to finish the season tied with Miguel Cabrera for the title of most valuable Tiger, as determined by fWAR (5.1 fWAR apiece), although much of that was due to Kinsler’s defense (and Cabrera’s lack thereof).

In reviewing last year’s statistics in anticipation of this season, Kinsler’s numbers jumped off the page for one main reason: his walks had disappeared. Read the rest of this entry »

Velocity and the Likelihood of Tommy John Surgery

Around a month ago I wrote an article entitled “Tommy John Surgery and Throwing 95+ MPH”. Basically what I was trying to find out was, are pitchers who throw harder more likely to have Tommy John. The article fell short of this discovery, mainly because I only looked at pitchers who threw 95 or more. I wanted to get more in-depth but as my semester was coming to an end, I simply didn’t have the time to do an expanded study. Since then my semester has ended and I do have the time to get more in-depth.

First, however, we’re going to tread back and look at old work. In November 2012, Jon Roegele came out with an article introducing his and Jeff Zimmerman’s Tommy John surgery list. At this point, I think it’s pretty safe to say it’s the most complete list of Tommy John surgeries. The list can be found on Jeff’s site Below is an updated chart of the list.




Then in July of 2013 Will Carroll came out with an article stating that 33% of opening day Major League pitchers had undergone the surgery. I, however, found the study problematic, which I discussed in my previous article.

In March of 2014, Jeff looked at players who threw a pitch 100MPH or harder and found that 25% of them had the surgery. And finally at this year’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Dr. Glenn Fleisig found that 16% of all pitchers had Tommy John, 15% of Minor Leaguers had Tommy John, and 25% of Major Leaguers fell under the knife.

So how does this relate to velocity? Well in my previous article I found that 32% of pitchers who threw 95+ MPH on average had the surgery. If we are to believe Will Carroll’s findings then really there isn’t any significant risk of throwing harder. If we, however, choose to look Dr. Fleisig’s results then throwing harder does increase your chances of having Tommy John.

There are essentially two sources where velocity data can be found, PITCHfx, which dates back to 2007 and Baseball Info Solution (BIS), which dates back to 2002. Below is the yearly velocity data.


2002 89.56
2003 89.6
2004 89.77
2005 90.01
2006 90.17
2007 91.67 90.05
2008 91.39 90.43
2009 91.6 90.71
2010 91.82 91.01
2011 92.21 91.19
2012 92.34 91.32
2013 92.5 91.44
2014 93.05 91.43

As you can see velocity is on the rise. There are also discrepancies in the data. This is why when I did my study I looked at PITCHfx and BIS data separately to see if I would get different results.

Before we get into my results, however, I’ll explain my methodology. I gathered the PITCHfx data in Baseball Prospectus’ leaderboard. I looked at all the years available and did not set an innings limit, in order to get as large of a sample size as possible. This gave me 1484 pitchers to work with. I then looked up, which pitchers had Tommy John surgery. I basically did the same thing for the BIS data, which was gathered at FanGraphs. Again did not set an innings limit and this gave me a sample size of 2097 pitchers. I did not include position players as I felt they would skew the data.

I also set buckets for the velocity. The goal was to get as close to the exact velocity, while at the same time maintaining a respectable sample size. I did my best with this; you’ll find that in some cases there are some sample size issues.

So let’s begin. Below you will find the percent of pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery based on their velocity group.



Velo Sample Size TMJ Count TMJ %
96+ 99 36 36.36%
95+ 196 61 31.12%
92 to 95 584 158 27.05%
89 to 92 530 106 20%
86 to 89 151 34 22.51%
86- 23 4 17.39%



Velo Sample Size TMJ Count TMJ %
96+ 36 8 22.22%
95+ 113 40 35%
92 to 95 547 147 26.87%
89 to 92 890 190 21.34%
86 to 89 429 83 19.34%
85- 118 16 13.55%


From this data it’s pretty clear that velocity does increase one’s likelihood of getting Tommy John surgery. The biggest increase happens from the 89-92 bucket to the 92-95 bucket. There is also a pretty big increase when looking at the 95+ bucket, in both tables, although I would argue that the sample size there is somewhat small. This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t come to any conclusions. A 113 or 196 sample is definitely not as accurate as a 500 sample, but I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to suggest, based on this data, that throwing 95+ increases one’s likelihood of getting the surgery.

Also you might have noticed that in the PITCHfx table the 86 to 89 buckets are actually more likely to have Tommy John than the 89 to 92 group. This can be due to a couple of factors: A) We can definitely attribute some of this to a small sample size, especially since in the BIS table (where the sample is bigger) it shows a drop in percentage. B) The pitchers who are throwing in that group are probably older and therefore are more prone to the injury.

You’re at this point probably curious to see the results, so here they are. I was debating (with myself) whether I should show this or not. The sample is really small and I’m not sure we can really conclude anything from it. But I figured that showing some data is better than no data.



Velo Sample Size Avg. Age
96+ 36 23.44
95+ 61 23.48
92 to 95 158 24.85
89 to 92 106 25.56
86 to 89 34 27.05
86- 4 33.5



Velo Sample Size Avg. Age
96+ 8 25.87
95+ 40 23.87
92 to 95 147 24.51
89 to 92 190 25.65
86 to 89 83 27.02
85- 16 28.68


So pitchers in the lower groups are older, this would seem to make sense, although again each sample is small. More data needs to be gathered here to come to an accurate conclusion. (The age chosen, for each individual pitcher, was the age of the year the Tommy John surgery occurred).

I also wanted to look at the difference between starting pitchers and relievers, or at least see if there was a difference. The logic being that on average relief pitchers will throw harder than starters so maybe they would have a higher likelihood of getting Tommy John surgery based on their velocity.

A relief pitcher was defined as this: GS/G < 0.5. Jeff Zimmerman deserves the credit here. For a while now I’ve been struggling to define what qualifies as a relief pitcher. Then I read Jeff’s latest article at The Hardball Times and stupidly asked how he defined a relief pitcher. Obviously he had defined it in the article (GS/G <0.5) and I missed it. I personally like this barometer for a relief pitcher. While I could have simply sorted the pitchers by there type on FanGraphs and BP, I don’t know where they draw the line on a relief pitcher. This at least gives us a concrete definition of what a reliever is. I also like this better than an arbitrary innings limit.

Important to also note is that the overall relief and starting pitcher data has nothing to do with velocity. It is rather the overall percentage of relief and starting pitchers who have undergone Tommy John. For BIS it dates back to 2002 and PITCHfx it’s 2007. Ok enough chitter-chatter, here are the results.


Overall PITCHfx RP

Sample Size TMJ Count TMJ %
1016 241 23.72%



Overall BIS RP

Sample Size TMJ Count TMJ %
1475 321 21.76%



Velo Sample Size TMJ Count TMJ %
96+ 89 30 33.70%
95 + 175 51 29.14%
92 to 95 412 110 26.69%
89 to 92 340 61 17.94%
86 to 89 77 16 20.77%
86- 12 3 25%



Velo Sample Size TMJ Count TMJ %
96+ 35 8 22.85%
95+ 101 32 31.68%
92 to 95 437 121 27.68%
89 to 92 604 118 19.53%
86 to 89 262 42 16.03%
86- 71 8 11.26%


And now the starters.


Overall PITCHfx SP

Sample Size TMJ Count TMJ %
464 121 26.07%


Overall BIS SP

Sample Size TMJ Count TMJ %
623 155 24.87%



Velo Sample Size TMJ Count TMJ %
95 to 98 20 9 45%
92 to 95 169 48 28.40%
89 to 92 190 45 23.68%
89- 85 19 22.35%



Velo Sample Size TMJ Count TMJ %
94 to 97 23 10 43.47%
91 to 94 191 47 24.60%
88 to 91 272 69 25.36%
88- 137 29 21.16%


Ok, let’s start with the relief pitchers, they’re less complicated. Basically the results aren’t very surprising, the harder one throws the higher chance one will fall under the knife. There again seems to be this vast increase between the 89 to 92 bucket and 92 to 95. Also, and this was surprising to me, the overall results for relievers show that they are actually less likely to have Tommy John, than the starters. Even more interesting was while BIS and PITCHfx data show different numbers, they seem to be telling the same story here. That starting pitchers are about 3% more likely to have Tommy John than relief pitchers.

Now let’s focus on the starters, and this is where there is a serious discrepancy in the data. With PITCHfx it shows that velocity does impact a starter’s likelihood of getting the surgery. While with the BIS data, the evidence is more ambiguous and the sample size is larger in the BIS data. I’m not sure what to personally make of this. Some might point out that the sample is not ideal. I would agree with that, a sample of 400 or 500 would be more accurate but a sample of 272 or even 169 are nothing to sneeze at. This is when the evidence is starting to take shape. What was even more surprising was that it was the BIS data that was more ambiguous because the sample is bigger.

There could also be a larger number of factors at play here. Starting pitchers throw more innings than relief pitchers, which puts added stress on the arm. They also throw more pitches, which based on which pitch they throw could also increase their chances of getting the surgery. Finally, and this is more of a hypothesis than anything, starting pitchers tend to have longer careers than relief pitchers. Therefore the older a pitcher gets the more likely he is to having a drop in velocity, while still maintaining the risk of Tommy John. This is of course a hypothesis. I think more data needs to be acquired to make a more accurate statement, but now at least I wouldn’t be surprised if the starting pitchers data was more ambiguous.

Finally let’s look at the overall results. This has nothing to do with velocity, just general Tommy John percentage.


Overall PITCHfx

Sample Size TMJ Count TMJ %
1484 363 24.46%


Overall BIS

Sample Size TMJ Count TMJ %
2097 476 23%


As you can see these results are more in line with Dr. Fleisig’s results (25% Major League pitchers). I don’t think it’s unreasonable there are some differences, however. This would depend on our methods of gathering the data and how we defined what a Major League pitcher is. My definition was very loose. Basically if a pitcher came up and threw one inning, then I put him in the results. The reason why I didn’t have a stricter definition of what a Major League pitcher was was because my goal wasn’t to find the percentage of Majors League pitchers who had Tommy John. Rather it was to examine the relationship between velocity and Tommy John surgeries. This is really just an added bonus. Also, Dr. Fleisig’s goal was to see how many current pitchers had Tommy John. My results are the percentage of pitchers who have had Tommy John since 2002 and 2007. We, however, now can accurately conclude, in my estimation, that Carroll’s results were way too high and that velocity does increase a player’s chance of having Tommy John.

This can make pitcher selection now very interesting. For example, if you are trying to decipher whether to get a pitcher who throws 96 MPH who is just as good as a pitcher who throws 90 MPH, you might be better off taking the guy who throws 90. By doing that you would be reducing the odds that that pitcher has Tommy John by about 7 to 10 percent, which is pretty good if you ask me. Also if you’re a GM or in fantasy and are terrified of relievers because you think they all tear their ulnar collateral ligaments, well you shouldn’t be. Your starters are actually slightly more likely to tear their UCL. There are of course other factors to consider here but these can serve as basic general guidelines. Finally velocity does increase your likelihood of tearing your UCL, although with starters the data is a little murkier.


Bonus: Pitchers who have had multiple Tommy John surgeries.


Sample Size Velo Age
25 93.53 24.68



Sample Size Velo Age
31 92.17 25.12


Hardball Retrospective – The “Original” 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers

In “Hardball Retrospective: Evaluating Scouting and Development Outcomes for the Modern-Era Franchises”, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original team. Therefore, Frank E. Thomas is listed on the White Sox roster for the duration of his career while the Yankees declare Fred McGriff and the Twins claim Rod Carew. I calculated revised standings for every season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s “original” players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition.  Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the “original” teams are compared against the “actual” team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills.

Expanding on my research for the book, the following series of articles will reveal the finest single-season rosters for every Major League organization based on overall rankings in OWAR and OWS along with the general managers and scouting directors that constructed the teams. “Hardball Retrospective” is available in digital format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, GooglePlay, iTunes and KoboBooks. The print edition will be available soon. Additional information and a discussion forum are available at

Don Daglow (Intellivision World Series Major League Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball, Tony LaRussa Baseball) contributed the foreword for Hardball Retrospective. The foreword and preview of my book are accessible here.


OWAR – Wins Above Replacement for players on “original” teams

OWS – Win Shares for players on “original” teams

OPW% – Pythagorean Won-Loss record for the “original” teams


The 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers      OWAR: 47.1     OWS: 289     OPW%: .546

Five General Managers shaped the roster of the 2012 Dodgers over a 24-year period. Henry Blanco (1989) and Miguel Cairo (1990) were acquired before Paco Rodriguez was born! 37 of the 49 team members were selected through the Amateur Draft process. Notable exceptions (signed as amateur free agents) include Hiroki Kuroda, Adrian Beltre and Carlos Santana. Based on the revised standings the “Original” 2012 Dodgers edged the Diamondbacks by two games to secure the National League Western Division crown.

Adrian Beltre paced Los Angeles with 28 Win Shares, collected his fourth Gold Glove Award and posted a .321 BA with 36 round-trippers. Three backstops made significant contributions to the Dodgers in 2012 as A.J. Ellis, Russell Martin and Carlos Santana combined for 52 circuit clouts. Matt “The Bison” Kemp batted .303 with 23 jacks in an injury-shortened campaign and first-sacker Paul Konerko swatted 26 big-flies.

Alejandro DeAza LF/CF 2.78 17.96
A. J. Ellis C 3.86 21.15
Adrian Beltre 3B 4.16 28.4
Matt Kemp CF 2.92 20.41
Paul Konerko 1B 2.24 18.69
Shane Victorino RF/LF 2.31 18.05
Tony Abreu 2B -0.07 1.24
Dee Gordon SS -0.36 3.86
Russell Martin C 3.26 11.15
Carlos Santana C 3.12 19.28
Justin Ruggiano CF 2.24 12.17
David Ross C 1.28 7.63
Franklin Gutierrez CF 0.9 4.56
Xavier Paul LF 0.34 2.91
Trayvon Robinson LF 0.32 2.54
Elian Herrera LF 0.28 4.7
Ivan De Jesus 2B -0.08 0.71
Jason Repko CF -0.13 0.2
Jerry Sands LF -0.15 0.11
Scott Van Slyke RF -0.31 0.39
Koyie Hill C -0.33 0.17
Blake DeWitt 2B -0.36 0.21
Henry Blanco C -0.4 1.46
Josh Bell 3B -0.45 0.25
Miguel Cairo 1B -1.08 1.01
James Loney 1B -1.28 4.62

Clayton Kershaw (14-9, 2.53) led the National League in ERA and WHIP (1.023) while placing runner-up in the Cy Young balloting. Hiroki Kuroda notched a career-best 16 victories along with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.165 WHIP. The bullpen excelled as Jonathan Broxton, Joel Hanrahan and Kenley Jansen saved a collective 90 games.

Clayton Kershaw SP 6.1 19.56
Hiroki Kuroda SP 5.38 16.72
Eric Stults SP 1.71 6.82
Edwin Jackson SP 1.64 8.43
Chad Billingsley SP 1.53 8.3
Kenley Jansen RP 1.52 13.48
Jonathan Broxton RP 1.17 10.11
Joel Hanrahan RP 1.16 10.39
Wesley Wright RP 0.84 4.61
Javy Guerra RP 0.77 5.1
Steve Johnson SP 1.53 5.08
Nathan Eovaldi SP 0.7 3.86
James McDonald SP 0.64 7.12
Scott Elbert RP 0.63 3.36
Ted Lilly SP 0.3 3.36
Paco Rodriguez RP 0.2 0.65
Josh Lindblom RP 0.11 4.07
Bryan Morris RP 0.03 0.36
Josh Wall RP -0.05 0.34
Rubby De La Rosa RP -0.17 0
Shawn Tolleson RP -0.31 1.7
Takashi Saito RP -0.83 0
Cory Wade RP -1.18 0

The “Original” 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers roster

NAME POS WAR WS General Manager Scouting DIrector
Clayton Kershaw SP 6.1 19.56 Ned Colletti Logan White
Hiroki Kuroda SP 5.38 16.72 Ned Colletti Tim Hallgren
Adrian Beltre 3B 4.16 28.4 Fred Claire Terry Reynolds
A. J. Ellis C 3.86 21.15 Dan Evans Logan White
Russell Martin C 3.26 11.15 Dan Evans Logan White
Carlos Santana C 3.12 19.28 Paul DePodesta Logan White
Matt Kemp CF 2.92 20.41 Dan Evans Logan White
Alejandro De Aza CF 2.78 17.96 Kevin Malone Ed Creech
Shane Victorino LF 2.31 18.05 Kevin Malone Ed Creech
Paul Konerko 1B 2.24 18.69 Fred Claire Terry Reynolds
Justin Ruggiano CF 2.24 12.17 Paul DePodesta Logan White
Eric Stults SP 1.71 6.82 Dan Evans Logan White
Edwin Jackson SP 1.64 8.43 Kevin Malone Ed Creech
Chad Billingsley SP 1.53 8.3 Dan Evans Logan White
Steve Johnson SP 1.53 5.08 Paul DePodesta Logan White
Kenley Jansen RP 1.52 13.48 Paul DePodesta Logan White
David Ross C 1.28 7.63 Fred Claire Terry Reynolds
Jonathan Broxton RP 1.17 10.11 Dan Evans Logan White
Joel Hanrahan RP 1.16 10.39 Kevin Malone Ed Creech
Franklin Gutierrez CF 0.9 4.56 Kevin Malone Ed Creech
Wesley Wright RP 0.84 4.61 Dan Evans Logan White
Javy Guerra RP 0.77 5.1 Paul DePodesta Logan White
Nathan Eovaldi SP 0.7 3.86 Ned Colletti Tim Hallgren
James McDonald SP 0.64 7.12 Dan Evans Logan White
Scott Elbert RP 0.63 3.36 Paul DePodesta Logan White
Xavier Paul LF 0.34 2.91 Dan Evans Logan White
Trayvon Robinson LF 0.32 2.54 Paul DePodesta Logan White
Ted Lilly SP 0.3 3.36 Fred Claire Terry Reynolds
Elian Herrera LF 0.28 4.7 Dan Evans Logan White
Paco Rodriguez RP 0.2 0.65 Ned Colletti Logan White
Josh Lindblom RP 0.11 4.07 Ned Colletti Tim Hallgren
Bryan Morris RP 0.03 0.36 Ned Colletti Logan White
Josh Wall RP -0.05 0.34 Paul DePodesta Logan White
Tony Abreu 2B -0.07 1.24 Dan Evans Logan White
Ivan De Jesus 2B -0.08 0.71 Paul DePodesta Logan White
Jason Repko CF -0.13 0.2 Kevin Malone Ed Creech
Jerry Sands LF -0.15 0.11 Ned Colletti Tim Hallgren
Rubby De La Rosa RP -0.17 0 Ned Colletti Tim Hallgren
Scott Van Slyke RF -0.31 0.39 Paul DePodesta Logan White
Shawn Tolleson RP -0.31 1.7 Ned Colletti Logan White
Koyie Hill C -0.33 0.17 Kevin Malone Ed Creech
Blake DeWitt 2B -0.36 0.21 Paul DePodesta Logan White
Dee Gordon SS -0.36 3.86 Ned Colletti Tim Hallgren
Henry Blanco C -0.4 1.46 Fred Claire Ben Wade
Josh Bell 3B -0.45 0.25 Paul DePodesta Logan White
Takashi Saito RP -0.83 0 Ned Colletti Logan White
Miguel Cairo 1B -1.08 1.01 Fred Claire Ben Wade
Cory Wade RP -1.18 0 Paul DePodesta Logan White
James Loney 1B -1.28 4.62 Dan Evans Logan White

Honorable Mention

The “Original” 1973 Dodgers             OWAR: 45.9     OWS: 308     OPW%: .552

Jack Billingham (19-10, 3.04), Bill Singer (20-14, 3.22) and Don Sutton (18-10, 2.42) established a formidable rotation for the L.A. crew. Joe Ferguson (.263/25/88) topped the squad with 26 Win Shares. Ron Cey smashed 15 long balls and knocked in 80 runs in his rookie campaign. Los Angeles tied Cincinnati for second place with a record of 89-73 as Houston claimed the Western Division title with 92 victories.

On Deck

The “Original” 2005 Angels

References and Resources

Baseball America – Executive Database


James, Bill. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York, NY.: The Free Press, 2001. Print.

James, Bill, with Jim Henzler. Win Shares. Morton Grove, Ill.: STATS, 2002. Print.

Retrosheet – Transactions Database

Seamheads – Baseball Gauge

Sean Lahman Baseball Archive

By Request: Mike Trout Facts!

As kind-of-requested in the comments section of a recent Mike Trout-centric article, here are some fun Mike Trout facts!

***all statistics, ages, etc., are as of May 13, 2015***

1. From May 21-24, 2013, Mike Trout had four consecutive multi-hit games. Over that stretch, he went 10-for-17 (.588) with a walk, double, two triples, and two home runs. In the first game of that stretch, Trout hit for the cycle. In this four-game multi-hit streak, Trout accumulated 19 total bases in 18 plate appearances. This was one of Trout’s two career streaks of four consecutive multi-hit games; the other was just a month earlier.

2. Mike Trout has 107 home runs in 526 games, and is still just 23 years old. But Mike Trout did not hit two home runs in the same game until homers #77 and #78.

3. Mike Trout has 107 home runs. If he plays in as many games as did all-time home runs leader Barry Bonds (2,986), and homers at his current rate the whole time, Trout will finish with 607 home runs, good for 9th all time.

4. Mike Trout has 109 steals. If he plays in as many games as did all-time steals leader Rickey Henderson (3,081), and steals at his current rate the whole time, Trout will finish with 638 steals, good for 15th all time.

5. Bearing in mind facts #3-4, this is a complete list of all the players in the top HUNDRED all-time for both home runs and steals: Barry Bonds.

6. Mike Trout has 607 hits in 526 games. If he plays in as many games as did all-time hits leader Pete Rose (3,562), and gets hits at his current rate the whole time, Trout will finish with 4,110 hits, good for 3rd place all time. Rose and Ty Cobb are the only players to ever get more than 4,000 hits.

7. Mike Trout is 23 years, 9 months, and 6 days old, and has 607 hits. At that exact age, Pete Rose had 309 hits.

8. After reaching an 0-2 count, Mike Trout reaches base successfully 27% of the time (career). This year, it’s 35%. Mike Trout’s on-base percentage in 0-2 counts this year is better than the on-base percentages, in all counts, of 29 entire major league teams.

9. Mike Trout has 8 bunt attempts in his career and reached base safely in 4 of 8.

10. In his last three months of regular-season play, the longest Mike Trout has gone without a hit is 2 games.

11. The longest Mike Trout has ever gone without a hit is 4 games. This has happened three times. Two of those three times were in Trout’s first full month in the major leagues, in 2011. He has only done it once in the last four seasons.

12. When he pulls the ball, Mike Trout has a career batting average of .488. When he hits the ball to center, Mike Trout has a career batting average of .443.

13. Give or take a few tenths of a percent, the percentage of balls hit by Mike Trout which are classified as “hard-hit” has increased every year of his career, to 2015’s 41.6%. (That ranks 9th in the MLB this year.)

14. Inside Edge classifies all defensive plays based on whether they are Impossible (0% chance of being made), Remote (1-10% chance of being made), Unlikely (10-40%), Even Odds (40-60%), Likely (60-90%), or Routine (90% chance). Since 2012, Mike Trout ranks 10th on converting Remote chances, 1st on making Unlikely plays, and 9th on converting Even chances.

15. Last year’s two Rookie of the Year winners were, respectively, three and four years older than Mike Trout. Only one of the four Rookies of the Year elected since Trout is younger than he is. (Of course, Bryce Harper, elected at the same time as Trout, is the youngest of all. Harper has yet to face a single MLB pitcher younger than he is. But this isn’t Bryce Harper Facts.)

16. Measured by Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Mike Trout is responsible for 95.8% of the offensive value of the 2015 Angels roster. This is partly because Matt Joyce, C.J. Cron, Drew Butera, and Chris Iannetta have provided negative value by hitting a combined 41-for-270 (.152).

17. Measuring again by Wins Above Replacement (WAR), and bearing in mind that hitters can give their team negative value: in 2013, Mike Trout was more valuable (10.5 WAR) than all the hitters on the Mariners, Marlins, White Sox, and Astros, COMBINED (10.4 WAR).

18. Over 2012-15, Mike Trout is in the top ten players for home runs (#6), triples (#1), hits (#6), stolen bases (#7), batting average (#8), on-base percentage (#2), weighted on-base average (wOBA) (#2), isolated power (#6), batting average on balls in play (#1), and plays made in the outfield (#2).

Assembling the Avengers

A big part of baseball and sports in general is playing the “what if” game. What if Babe Ruth was never traded to the Yankees? What if Pete Rose never bet on baseball? What if Bill Buckner had fielded that ground ball cleanly? As a proponent of sabermetrics, I am fascinated by numbers and what they say about each individual player’s performance. One of my most interesting projects has focused on assembling the greatest lineup of hitters to ever play the game. To do this, I found the players with the highest all-time on base percentage (OBP) at each position, and structured them accordingly to create a run-producing powerhouse. The reason behind choosing OBP over popular statistics such as batting average and home runs is because on-base percentage is one of the most accurate indicators of run value. If a batter gets on base, the team has a higher chance to score more runs, and more runs means a greater chance of winning. Each of these players has a particular set of skills (just like the Avengers, and Liam Neeson), that could be utilized to create the most successful lineup. Here is the order I came up with:


Billy Hamilton CF (Line: .344/.455/.432)- No, I do not mean the speedy sensation for the Cincinnati Reds. I’m talking about the turn-of-the-century, Hall-of-Fame outfielder who had one of the greatest seasons in the history of Major League Baseball. In 1894, Hamilton posted an unbelievable stat line, hitting .403 with a .521 on base. He cashed out 225 hits to go along with 128 base on balls, and swiped 100 bases. Oh and did I mention that Hamilton scored 198 runs? One. Nine. Eight. That record has yet to be broken.

Babe Ruth RF (Line: .342/.474/.690)- There’s no question that the Sultan of Swat would be in this elite assembly, but I want to make a case for the great slugger batting second. With Hamilton’s hefty OBP and base path presence, Ruth would see an increase in fastballs per plate appearance in the number two spot. The reasoning behind this is that because a fastball will reach the plate faster, there is a higher likelihood that the catcher will be able to release the ball quickly when trying to catch the lead off hitter stealing second.

Ted Williams LF (Line: .344/.482/.634)- If the number three batter is often described as the best hitter on the team, then this lineup will have the greatest hitter who ever lived in that spot as well. Ted Williams was just that. With the highest on base percentage of all time, Ted Williams was a master of plate discipline. He could analyze a pitch like no other, and capitalize on even the smallest mistake made by a pitcher.

Lou Gehrig 1B (Line: .340/.447/.632)- Gehrig was an artist of driving in runs, shown by his astounding 7 seasons of 150+ runs batted in. He is the perfect all-time cleanup hitter, and a dangerous force behind Ruth and Williams.What’s scary is that Gehrig and Ruth had the chance to play on the same team, a fierce combination that was dubbed “Murderer’s Row.”

Rogers Hornsby 2B (Line: .358/.434/.577)- There are few second basemen in the history of the game that have shown as much offensive prowess as Hornsby. The Cardinal slugger won 7 batting titles to go along with 2 triple crowns during a time where his production was overshadowed by the likes of Ruth and Gehrig. His 1922 season was one for the books: 42 big flies, 152 RBIs, 250 hits, and a line of .401/.459/.722. That’s about as good as it gets ladies and gentlemen.

Mickey Cochrane C (Line: .320/.419/.478)- Despite only playing 13 years in the majors, the Hall-of-Fame catcher won 2 MVP awards and posted a .419 lifetime on base percentage. Names like Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, and Mike Piazza are labeled as having the better offensive force, but none was more consistent than Cochrane in getting on base and into scoring position.Yes I am still bitter about Cochrane defeating Gehrig in the 1934 MVP race, but as a  phenomenal catcher for a playoff bound Tigers squad, he definitely had the credentials.

Arky Vaughan SS (Line: .318/.406/.453)- Vaughan’s reign in the big leagues came over a decade after his predecessor, Pirate short stop Honus Wagner, ended his career ranked third all time in hits. Although Wagner received greater attention and ranks significantly higher in several offensive categories, Vaughan wins the spot in this lineup based purely on his OBP. He was also a triples machine, averaging 12 per year in his first 9 seasons.

John McGraw 3B (Line: .334/.466/.410)- McGraw follows the same pattern as the men at the bottom of this lineup: not a big name and no popular accomplishments. However, this third baseman could beat you every which way on the base path. A lifetime .466 on base and 436 stolen bases, it pains me to put McGraw in the 8 spot, but someone had to be there. His power numbers aren’t as good as Vaughan or Cochrane’s, but that was mainly due to a different ball era and McGraw could do well at any of the 6-8 positions.

Les Sweetland P (Line: .272/.341/.338)- Who??? Yeah, I don’t blame you. Lester Leo Sweetland pitched 5 years in the majors, going 33-58 with a whopping 6.10 ERA. This guy’s only black ink was the 15 batters he hit during the 1928 season. Despite the terrible pitching campaign, Sweetland hit .272 with a .341 on base in 325 career plate appearances, making him one of the greatest hitting pitchers of all time (THE greatest in terms of on base).

MLB Franchise Four: NL East

Major League Baseball has a campaign asking fans to vote for the four “most impactful” players in their team’s history, with the winners being announced at the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati. A panel of experts created an eight-man ballot for each team. This panel consists of MLB’s Official Historian John Thorn and representatives from MLB’s official statistician (the Elias Sports Bureau),, MLB Network, and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

“Most impactful” is open to interpretation, which makes this an interesting exercise. It isn’t “best” or “most famous” or “most popular”, but “most impactful.” I decided to look at the eight players on the ballot for each franchise and where they rank in FanGraphs WAR during their time with that franchise.

For each franchise, I’ve listed their top 10 in FanGraphs WAR along with any players who are on the ballot who are below the top 10. The players in BOLD are those who are on the ballot and the years listed are the years in which they played for that team.


Atlanta Braves (1871-2015)

(1) Hank Aaron, 136.0 WAR (1954-1974)

(2) Eddie Mathews, 94.3 WAR (1952-1966)

(3) Chipper Jones, 84.6 WAR (1993, 1995-2012)

(4) John Smoltz, 80.3 WAR (1988-1999, 2001-2008)

(5) Warren Spahn, 74.3 WAR (1942, 1946-1964)

(6) Greg Maddux, 73.9 WAR (1993-2003)

(7) Kid Nichols, 72.8 WAR

(8) Phil Niekro, 71.0 WAR

(9) Andruw Jones, 64.3 WAR

(10) Tom Glavine, 57.0 WAR (1987-2002, 2008)

(11) Dale Murphy, 44.3 WAR (1976-1990)


On the ballot: The players on the Braves Franchise Four ballot range from Warren Spahn, who first played in the big leagues in 1942, to Chipper Jones, who hung up his spikes after the 2012 season. Three of the players on the ballot—Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, and Hank Aaron—were part of the 1957 World Series Champion Milwaukee Braves team. Four players—Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine—were key members of the consistently good Atlanta Braves teams of the 1990s. Then there’s Dale Murphy, who played for the Braves from 1976 to 1990 and experienced just three seasons in which the team finished in the upper half of the standings. The Braves finished in last place eight times in those 15 years but Murphy was a bright spot, winning back-to-back MPV Awards in 1982 and 1983.

Hank Aaron hit .280/.322/.447 as a 20-year-old rookie for the 1954 Milwaukee Braves. He was not an All-Star that year, but he would be an All-Star for the next 21 years of his career. He was the National League MVP in 1957, the year the Braves won the World Series. He led the league in home runs and RBI four times each and in total bases eight times and was the all-time leader in career home runs when he retired. He’s an easy pick for the Braves Franchise Four.

Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn were teammates of Hank Aaron in the 1950s and 60s. Mathews ranks third all-time in FanGraphs WAR for third basemen. Spahn is sixth all-time in wins for a pitcher. Both were key contributors to the Braves back-to-back World Series years in 1957 and 1958. Mathews had 7.3 WAR in 1957 and 5.8 WAR in 1958. Spahn was the Cy Young Award winner in 1957and led the National League in wins both years.

The Atlanta Braves made the playoffs every year from 1991 to 2005, except for the 1994 season that was ended by a labor dispute. Chipper Jones joined the team as a regular in 1995 and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, then won the NL MVP Award four years later when he hit .319/.441/.633 during the 1999 season.

John Smoltz was a very good starting pitcher from 1989 to 1999, which included an NL Cy Young Award in 1996. He was injured and missed the entire 2000 season, then came back as a relief pitcher and saved 144 games over three seasons from 2002 to 2004.

Greg Maddux won his first Cy Young Award with the Cubs in 1992 but was at his absolute best with the Braves from 1993 to 1998 when he averaged 7.9 WAR per season, won three more Cy Young Awards, and had a 2.15 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. In 1994 and 1995, Maddux was 35-8 with a 1.60 ERA over 411 2/3 innings.

Tom Glavine didn’t reach the heights that his fellow pitchers did. He never had a season with as much as 6 WAR. He was an above-average pitcher for a long time, though, and finished his career with over 300 wins.

Notable ballot snubs: Phil Niekro and his 71.0 WAR with the Braves (8th all-time) give him an argument for inclusion over Glavine (57 WAR) and Murphy (44.3 WAR) but it’s a tough call.

My Franchise Four: Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Chipper Jones, John Smoltz


Miami Marlins (1993-2015)

(1) Hanley Ramirez, 30.4 WAR

(2) Giancarlo Stanton, 21.4 WAR (2010-2015)

(3) Luis Castillo, 21.1 WAR (1996-2005)

(4) Josh Johnson, 20.8 WAR

(5) Miguel Cabrera, 19.6 WAR

(6) Dan Uggla, 18.1 WAR

(7) Ricky Nolasco, 17.9 WAR

(8) Mike Lowell, 17.3 WAR (1999-2005)

(9) Dontrelle Willis, 17.1 WAR

(10) Jeff Conine, 16.7 WAR (1993-1997, 2003-2005)

(13) Gary Sheffield, 14.4 WAR (1993-1998)

(14) Charles Johnson, 14.0 WAR (1994-1998, 2001-2002)

(15) Josh Beckett, 13.9 WAR (2001-2005)

(50) Livan Hernandez, 3.9 WAR (1996-1999)


On the ballot: The Marlins have made the playoffs twice in the 22 seasons they’ve completed (and won the World Series both times). Their two World Series squads are well represented on their Franchise Four ballot. Luis Castillo, Jeff Conine, Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, and Livan Hernandez were on the 1997 team that beat the Indians in the World Series. Castillo, Conine, and Johnson were also on their 2003 World Series team, with Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett joining them on the roster. The only player on the team’s Franchise Four ballot who wasn’t a part of either World Series team is Giancarlo Stanton, their current superstar. Stanton is starting his sixth season with the team and is already second on their all-time WAR leaderboard. In his first five years with the team, he averaged 31 home runs and 127 games played. Before this season he signed a 13-year, $325 million contract so his place on the Marlins Franchise Four is likely a sure thing.

Luis Castillo is the longest tenured Marlin on the ballot. He played 10 years with the team and accumulated 21.1 WAR, with his best season being the 4.9 WAR season of 2003. He hit .314/.381/.397 that year, made his second All-Star team, and won the first of three straight Gold Glove Awards.

Jeff Conine and Charles Johnson each had two separate stints with the Marlins. Conine and Johnson were teammates on the 1997 World Series winners. Conine was selected by the Marlins in the 1992 Major League Baseball expansion draft and his best year with the Marlins was in 1996 when he hit .293/.360/.484 and was worth 4.4 WAR. He’s one of the most loved players in franchise history, still works in the team’s front office, and is known as “Mr. Marlin”. Charles Johnson hit .250/.347/.454 in 1997, with good defense behind the plate. He followed up his good regular season play by hitting .357/.379/.464 in the ’97 World Series.

Gary Sheffield played for eight different MLB teams in his 22-year career. Six of those seasons were with the Marlins from 1993 to 1998 but two were partial seasons. He joined the Marlins in the middle of the 1993 season then left partway through the 1998 season. His best year with the team was in 1996 when he hit .314/.465/.624 and was worth 6.5 WAR.

Livan Hernandez, like Sheffield, played for many different MLB teams. Hernandez spent 17 years in the bigs and spent time with nine different teams. He had more starts with Washington and San Francisco than he did with the Marlins but his work in the 1997 postseason earned him a place on the Marlins’ ballot. Hernandez won two games in the NLCS and two more in the 1997 Fall Classic and was named MVP of each series. Of course, if he makes the team’s Franchise Four, MLB might want to carve out some space for Eric Gregg and his generous strike zone that helped Livan strike out 15 Atlanta batters in Game 5 of the 1997 NLCS.

Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett were both 4 WAR players for the Marlins’ 2003 World Series championship team. Lowell had a career-high 32 homers that year. Beckett only started 23 games during the 2003 regular season but made five starts in the postseason and was named MVP of the World Series.

Notable snubs: Well, Livan Hernandez is way down the list of career WAR for Marlins players (50th). His spot on the ballot is almost solely due to his 1997 postseason heroics. Is he more worthy than the team leader in career WAR, Hanley Ramirez?

My Franchise Four: Giancarlo Stanton, Jeff Conine, Luis Castillo, Mike Lowell


New York Mets (1962-2015)

(1) Tom Seaver 68.5 WAR (1967-1977, 1983)

(2) Dwight Gooden 52.6 WAR (1984-1994)

(3) David Wright 52.2 WAR (2004-2015)

(4) Jerry Koosman 41.9 WAR

(5) Darryl Strawberry 35.5 WAR (1983-1990)

(6) Jose Reyes 30.7 WAR

(7) Jon Matlack 29.5 WAR

(8) Carlos Beltran 29.4 WAR

(9) Edgardo Alfonso 29.0 WAR

(10) Mike Piazza 27.0 WAR (1998-2005)

(12) Keith Hernandez 26.2 WAR (1983-1989)

(32) Gary Carter 12.8 WAR (1985-1989)

(53) John Franco 8.9 WAR (1990-2001, 2003-2004)


On the ballot: Tom Seaver is the Mets’ all-time leader in FanGraphs WAR, was named to 10 All-Star teams, won three NL Cy Young Awards with the team, and was the #1 starter on the 1969 “Miracle Mets” team that won the first World Series in franchise history. He should be a lock.

Four players on the ballot—Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, and Gary Carter—were part of the 1986 Mets team that won the World Series in seven games over the Boston Red Sox.

Gooden was good in 1986 (5 WAR) but he was at his best the previous year when he went 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts in 276 2/3 innings (9 WAR).

Similarly, Darryl Strawberry was a good player in 1986 (3.4 WAR) but had five other seasons with the Mets that were more valuable, with his best season coming in 1990 when he hit .277/.361/.518 with 37 homers and 108 RBI.

Keith Hernandez’ best season with the Mets was in 1986 when he hit .310/.413/.446. Hernandez is an interesting choice for the Mets’ ballot. He played more seasons and had more WAR with the St. Louis Cardinals but did not make their eight-man ballot. Gary Carter also played more years with a team other than the Mets. He spent 12 years with the Expos and is their franchise leader in WAR. He played just five seasons with the Mets and is 32nd on their all-time WAR leaderboard. Both Hernandez and Carter were big contributors to the last Mets’ World Series-winning team, so that likely sealed their place on the Franchise Four ballot. Hernandez may get some votes because he’s been an announcer with the team for many years in addition to his playing career.

Mike Piazza and John Franco were teammates on the 1999 and 2000 Mets teams that made the playoffs. The 1999 team lost the NLCS in six games, while the 2000 team made it to the World Series but lost in five games to the New York Yankees. As a Met, Piazza hit .296/.373/.542 and averaged 3.4 WAR per season. Franco saved 276 games for the Mets in his career but his overall total of 8.9 WAR in 14 seasons with the team suggests he doesn’t really belong on the Franchise Four ballot.

Finally, David Wright has been the face of the franchise over the last decade and is third all-time in WAR for the team. He’s a seven-time All-Star with a career batting line of .298/.377/.494.

Notable snub: Jerry Koosman and Jose Reyes are fourth and sixth in WAR for the Mets, yet did not make the eight-man ballot. Koosman even had two wins in the 1969 World Series. Perhaps he and/or Jose Reyes would have been a better choice than John Franco.

My Franchise Four: Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez


Philadelphia Phillies (1883-2015)

(1) Mike Schmidt, 106.5 WAR (1972-1989)

(2) Steve Carlton, 73.5 WAR (1972-1986)

(3) Ed Delahanty, 64.8 WAR

(4) Robin Roberts, 62.7 WAR (1948-1961)

(5) Chase Utley, 60.9 WAR (2003-2015)

(6) Richie Ashburn, 52.3 WAR (1948-1959)

(7) Sherry Magee, 51.5 WAR

(8) Pete Alexander, 50.8 WAR

(9) Jimmy Rollins, 49.1 WAR (2000-2014)

(10) Bobby Abreu, 47.2 WAR

(17) Chuck Klein, 34.0 WAR (1928-1933, 1936-1944)

(20) Jim Bunning, 31.2 WAR (1964-1967, 1970-1971)


On the ballot: Mike Schmidt played his entire career with the Phillies, was a three-time NL MVP, 12-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, and led the league in home runs eight times. He was also the MVP of the 1980 World Series championship team. He’s a lock for the Phillies Franchise Four.

While perhaps not as well liked as Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton should be a lock also. He won three NL Cy Young Awards with the Phillies and was an All-Star seven times. His 1972 season is legendary. That year, Carlton went 27-10 for a team that won just 59 games. He led the league in wins, ERA (1.97), games started (41), complete games (30), innings pitched (346.3), and strikeouts (310). In the Phillies’ World Series in 1980, Carlton won two games.

Robin Roberts averaged 4.5 WAR per season for the Phillies in his 14 years with the team. He was a workhorse, averaging 267 innings per year and eclipsing the 300-inning mark in six consecutive seasons with the Phillies. Richie Ashburn was a longtime teammate of Roberts who was well known for his defensive prowess but also had good on-base ability (.396 lifetime on-base percentage).

Chuck Klein put up eye-popping numbers during the great hitter’s era of the early 1930s. In his first six years with the Phillies, he averaged 32 homers and 121 RBI per year with a batting line of .359/.412/.632 and was the 1932 NL MVP.

Jim Bunning averaged 6.6 WAR per season in his first four years with the Phillies. This included the heart breaking 1964 season when the Phillies held a 6 ½-game lead with 12 games left to play but lost 10 of their last 12 games and were overtaken by the St. Louis Cardinals.

The two active players on the Phillies ballot are Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Utley and Rollins were part of the Phillies run of playoff teams from 2007 to 2011 that resulted in back-to-back World Series appearances and one World Series title (2008). Utley became a regular in 2005 and reeled off six straight years with 5 or more WAR. Rollins best stretch of play for the Phillies was from 2004 to 2012, during which he averaged 4.2 WAR per season and won the NL MVP Award in 2007.

Notable snub: Most of the Phillies top players are on the ballot with Ed Delahanty being the notable exception. Delahanty is third all-time in WAR for the Phillies but played most of his career before 1900 so would unlikely to get much traction in the voting as a Franchise Four candidate.

My Franchise Four: Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Chase Utley, Robin Roberts


Washington Nationals (1969-2015)

(1) Gary Carter, 53.8 WAR (1974-1984, 1992)

(2) Steve Rogers, 51.5 WAR (1973-1985)

(3) Tim Raines, 49.3 WAR (1979-1990, 2001)

(4) Andre Dawson, 44.3 WAR (1976-1986)

(5) Tim Wallach, 35.3 WAR

(6) Ryan Zimmerman, 34.1 WAR (2005-2015)

(7) Vladimir Guerrero, 33.8 WAR (1996-2003)

(8) Dennis Martinez, 24.3 WAR (1986-1993)

(9) Javier Vazquez, 24.1 WAR

(10) Bryn Smith, 20.9 WAR

(11) Rusty Staub, 18.0 WAR (1969-1971, 1979)


On the ballot: It just doesn’t feel right to me to consider the Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals to be the same franchise. I know it’s true of other franchises, like the Braves who played in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, and the Athletics, who played in Kansas City and Philadelphia, but it feels different to me. Maybe it’s because the Expos to Nationals change happened in my lifetime and I have read from die-hard Expos fans that their allegiances did not transfer to Washington. The Expos are their team and their team ceased to exist after the 2004 season. Expos fans did not become Nationals fans. Still, this is how the Franchise Four balloting is designed, so we have to consider Steve Rogers along with Ryan Zimmerman.

The top five leaders in war for this franchise are all old Montreal Expos players. One of them, Tim Wallach, did not make the eight-man ballot. At the top of the leaderboard is Gary Carter, who came up as a 20-year-old with the Expos in 1974. Caster had his first really good season in 1977 and that started an extended run of greatness that lasted through the 1986 season. In Carter’s final eight seasons with the Expos, he averaged 6.1 WAR per season as a good-hitting catcher who was also very good behind the dish and had a great arm. Carter’s best season was 1982, when he hit .293/.381/.510 with 29 homers and 97 RBI. He was also very good in the 1981 postseason when he hit .421/.429/.895 in the divisional series then hit .438/.550/.500 in the NLCS that the Expos lost in five games to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Steve Rogers played his entire 13-year career with Montreal and had nine seasons with 4 or more WAR. He won three games with a 0.98 ERA in three starts during the 1981 postseason.

Tim Raines and Andre Dawson were teammates with the Expos from 1979 to 1986. Although Dawson is in the Hall of Fame, it was Raines who was the more valuable player. Hopefully, he will get into Cooperstown soon. Raines played the first 12 seasons of his career in Montreal then one final partial season late in his career. In his 13 years with the team, Raines hit .301/.391/.437 and stole 635 bases with a success rate of 86%. Dawson averaged 4 WAR per season in his 11 years in Montreal and was the 1977 NL Rookie of the Year.

Dennis Martinez played more years and pitched more innings for the Baltimore Orioles but was a three-time All-Star with the Expos from 1990 to 1992. Vladimir Guerrero was not only a good player with the Expos, he was also very entertaining to watch. He had a rifle arm in the outfield but occasional issues with accuracy that made things interesting. He never saw a pitch he didn’t want to swing at but was still able to consistently post on-base percentages of .370 or higher throughout his Expos’ career. He was a joy to watch.

Ryan Zimmerman is in his 11th season with the Nationals. Injuries have limited him at times during his career. His best stretch of play was in 2009 and 2010 when he had 6.6 WAR each season.

The low man on the Expos/Nationals Franchise Four ballot is Rusty Staub, who ranks 18th all-time in WAR for the franchise. Staub had more plate appearances with three other teams than he had with the Expos but “Le Grand Orange” was the team’s biggest star and most-liked player in the first few years after they came into existence in 1969.

Notable snubs: None, really. Tim Wallach had more WAR than four players on the ballot but all four players below him have good supporting stories behind their placement on the ballot, so it’s understandable that Wallach didn’t make the cut.

My Franchise Four: Gary Carter, Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, Vladimir Guerrero

MLB Franchise Four: NL Central

Major League Baseball has a campaign asking fans to vote for the four “most impactful” players in their team’s history, with the winners being announced at the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati. A panel of experts created an eight-man ballot for each team. This panel consists of MLB’s Official Historian John Thorn and representatives from MLB’s official statistician (the Elias Sports Bureau),, MLB Network, and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

“Most impactful” is open to interpretation, which makes this an interesting exercise. It isn’t “best” or “most famous” or “most popular”, but “most impactful.” I decided to look at the eight players on the ballot for each franchise and where they rank in FanGraphs WAR during their time with that franchise.

For each franchise, I’ve listed their top 10 in FanGraphs WAR along with any players who are on the ballot who are below the top 10. The players in BOLD are those who are on the ballot and the years listed are the years in which they played for that team.


Chicago Cubs (1871-2015)

(1) Cap Anson, 81.8 WAR

(2) Ron Santo, 71.9 WAR (1960-1973)

(3) Ernie Banks, 63.3 WAR (1953-1971)

(4) Ryne Sandberg, 61.0 WAR (1982-1994, 1996-1997)

(5) Sammy Sosa, 60.7 WAR (1992-2004)

(6) Billy Williams, 58.9 WAR (1959-1974)

(7) Stan Hack, 55.8 WAR

(8) Fergie Jenkins, 53.3 WAR (1966-1973, 1982-1983)

(9)Gabby Hartnett, 52.7 WAR (1922-1940)

(10) Frank Chance, 48.1 WAR

(16) Mordecai Brown, 41.0 WAR (1904-1912, 1916)


On the ballot: Half of the players on the Cubs’ ballot were members of the team in the late 1960s, a rare period of success for the team. From 1967 to 1972 the Cubs never finished lower than third place. Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Fergie Jenkins, all Hall of Fame players, formed the core of those Cubs teams.

Santo provided strong hitting ability with Gold Glove play at third base and is the Cubs’ all-time leader in WAR among players who played for the team post-1900. Ernie Banks won back-to-back NL MVP Awards as a shortstop and was a seven-time All-Star for the Cubs in the late 1950s. He then moved to first base and played in four more All-Star games. Billy Williams manned left field in Wrigley for sixteen years, won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1961, and led the league in hitting in 1972. Fergie Jenkins averaged 301 innings pitched and 20 wins per season from 1967 to 1973, including six years in a row with 20 or more wins. During this stretch he led the league in complete games three times and innings once and finished in the top three in Cy Young voting three times, winning the award for his 1971 season.

Two players of more recent vintage on the Cubs’ ballot are Ryne Sandberg and Sammy Sosa, who were teammates at the end of Sandberg’s career and the early part of Sosa’s career. Sandberg’s best season was in 1984 when he was worth 8 WAR and named NL MVP. He hit .314/.367/.520 with 19 homers and 32 steals while playing above-average defense at second base. The Cubs made the playoffs that year for the first time since 1945 but lost the NLCS to the San Diego Padres in five games. Sandberg was also part of the 1989 Cubs team that made the playoffs but lost to the San Francisco Giants. In 10 playoff games, Sandberg hit .385/.457/.641. Sammy Sosa joined the Cubs in 1992 but only played 67 games. He became a full-time player for the Cubs in 1993 and began a stretch of 10 seasons during which he averaged 5.5 WAR per season. His best year was the 9.9 WAR season of 2001 when he hit .328/.437/.737 with 146 runs, 64 homers, and 160 RBI.

The two old-time players on the ballot are Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and Gabby Hartnett. Brown pitched for the Cubs during a time when they were one of the top teams in the National League. They went to four World Series in five years from 1906 to 1910, winning twice. During this five-year stretch, Brown averaged 292 innings and 25 wins per season, good for 5.7 WAR per season. During his 19 years with the Cubs, Gabby Hartnett played on four World Series squads. They lost each time, of course, because they’re the Cubs. Hartnett was the 1935 NL MVP.

Notable snubs: Cap Anson is one of three players who leads his franchise in WAR but is not on their team’s ballot. Of course, he played more than 100 years ago and likely would not resonate with today’s voters. He also is considered to have been one of the driving forces in keeping baseball segregated because he refused to take the field with African American players numerous times in his career, so he may not really be a snub. Perhaps one could argue for Frank Chance or Mark Grace having a place on the ballot. Chance was a big part of the Cubs’ World Series teams from 1906 to 1910 and Grace was one of the Cubs’ most popular players in the 1990s.

My Franchise Four: Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams


Cincinnati Reds (1882-2015)

(1) Pete Rose, 76.2 WAR (1963-1978, 1984-1986)

(2) Johnny Bench, 74.8 WAR (1967-1983)

(3) Barry Larkin, 67.0 WAR (1986-2004)

(4) Bid McPhee, 62.7 WAR

(5) Frank Robinson, 59.6 WAR (1956-1965)

(6) Joe Morgan, 57.2 WAR (1972-1979)

(7) Tony Perez, 49.5 WAR (1964-1976, 1984-1986)

(8) Paul Derringer, 45.6 WAR

(9) Vada Pinson, 42.8 WAR

(10) Edd Roush, 42.0 WAR

(14) Dave Concepcion, 39.7 WAR (1970-1988)

(26) Eric Davis 29.3, WAR (1984-1991, 1996)


On the ballot: “The Big Red Machine” is well represented on the Reds Franchise Four ballot with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, and Dave Concepcion all making the cut. All five were teammates on the Reds teams that went to three World Series and one NLCS in five years from 1972 to 1976. They won back-to-back championships in 1975 and 1976. In both of those seasons, Joe Morgan was the NL MVP, leading the league in on-base percentage both years. Joe Morgan was quite amazing. In his eight years with the Reds from 1972 to 1979, Morgan averaged 7.2 WAR per season while hitting .288/.415/.470 and playing good defense at second base. Even though Morgan played more games in his career with the Houston Astros, it’s his time with the Reds that made him a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Pete Rose played the first 16 years of his career with the Reds and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1963 and was the NL MVP for his 1973 season. He also played wherever the team needed him. In his career, he played over 500 games at five different positions (1B, LF, 3B, 2B, RF). He came back to the Reds for the final two seasons of his career and broke Ty Cobb’s all-time record for career hits.

Johnny Bench and Tony Perez provided the power to many of the Reds teams in the 1970s. Bench was a two-time NL MVP, winning the award in 1970 and 1972. He led the league in home runs and RBI both seasons and was a terrific defensive catcher. In his prime, Tony Perez made seven All-Star teams as a Reds player. Dave Concepcion didn’t provide the power that Bench and Perez did, but he was a nine-time All-Star who won five Gold Glove Awards.

One of the players in the “non-Big Red Machine” category is Frank Robinson, who came up with the Reds in 1956 and was terrific right from the start, winning the NL Rookie of the Year award and making the All-Star team. He won the NL MVP in 1961 with a .323/.404/.611 batting line. Even though he played more years with the Reds than any other team, Robinson may be better known as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.

Barry Larkin and Eric Davis were teammates in the late 1980s. Larkin had a Hall of Fame, 19-year career with the Reds that included the NL MVP Award in 1995. Eric Davis was immensely talented but injuries prevented him from ever playing more than 135 games in a season.

Notable snubs: None. I don’t think anyone is pining for Bid McPhee or Paul Derringer on the ballot.

My Franchise Four: Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin


Milwaukee Brewers (1969-2015) 

(1) Robin Yount, 66.5 WAR (1974-1993)

(2) Paul Molitor, 56.0 WAR (1978-1992)

(3) Ryan Braun, 32.6 WAR (2007-2015)

(4) Ben Sheets, 32.2 WAR

(5) Cecil Cooper, 29.5 WAR (1977-1987)

(6) Teddy Higuera, 26.8 WAR

(7) Don Money, 26.2 WAR

(8) Jeff Cirillo, 25.9 WAR

(9) Geoff Jenkins, 24.2 WAR

(10) Moose Haas, 22.1 WAR

(14) Prince Fielder, 20.2 WAR (2005-2011)

(16) Jim Gantner, 19.5 WAR (1976-1992)

(17) Gorman Thomas, 19.5 WAR (1973-76, 1978-83, 1986)

(74) Rollie Fingers,  5.1 WAR (1981-1982, 1984-1985)


On the ballot: In their first 39 years of existence, the Milwaukee Brewers made the playoffs twice, in 1981 and 1982. That 1982 team not only made the playoffs but also advanced to the World Series, which they lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. Six of the eight players on the Brewers’ ballot played on those two postseason teams. Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Cecil Cooper, and Jim Gantner were teammates for ten seasons from 1978 to 1987 and all but Gantner played in multiple All-Star games during this time. They are also the top four players in games played in Brewers’ history.

Robin Yount won MVP Awards at two positions—shortstop and center field—and had over 3000 hits in his career. Paul Molitor also had over 3000 hits and was an All-Star five times as a Milwaukee Brewer. Cecil Cooper won two Gold Gloves, was a five-time All-Star, and hit .302/.339/.470 for Milwaukee. Jim Gantner was the Ringo of the Brewers’ Fab Four. In 17 years with the team, he was worth 2 or more WAR just four times.

Gorman Thomas did very little in his first four seasons with the Brewers, hitting under .200 three times, but had a good stretch of play from 1978 to 1982 when he averaged 35 home runs and nearly 4 WAR per season. He led the league in home runs twice as a Brewer.

Rollie Fingers was only with the Brewers for four seasons. He led the league in saves in the strike-shortened 1981 season and was effective again in 1982 before being injured. The injury made him unable to pitch in the World Series. He missed all of 1983 but came back to have a good 1984 season (1.96 ERA, 23 saves) that was shortened by a herniated disk in July, then was terrible in 1985 before hanging up his spikes. He’s way down the list for Brewers’ career WAR but his contributions to the Brewers’ first two playoff teams and his top notch mustache will get him some votes.

The other two players on the Brewers’ ballot, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, were teammates for five years and played on the two most-recent Brewers’ playoff teams, in 2008 and 2011. Braun came up in 2007 and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award despite playing in just 113 games. In his first six seasons with the team, he made the All-Star team twice, won the Rookie of the Year Award, the 2011 NL MVP, and hit .313/.374/.568 while averaging 34 homers and 21 steals per season. Over the last two full seasons, he’s hit just .275/.339/.466. Prince Fielder was an All-Star three times in his six seasons with the Brewers, led the league in home runs once and RBI once, and had a .282/.390/.540 batting line.

Notable snub: Ben Sheets had more WAR as a Milwaukee Brewer than five guys on the ballot. Sure, he had problems with injuries that limited him during multiple seasons but he was very good when he was healthy and had 4.8 WAR during the 2008 playoff season.

My Franchise Four: Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Cecil Cooper, Gorman Thomas


Pittsburgh Pirates (1882-2015) 

(1) Honus Wagner, 127.0 WAR (1900-1917)

(2) Roberto Clemente, 80.6 WAR (1955-1972)

(3) Paul Waner, 70.5 WAR (1926-1940)

(4) Arky Vaughan, 63.3 WAR

(5) Willie Stargell, 62.9 WAR (1962-1982)

(6) Bob Friend, 60.0 WAR

(7) Max Carey, 57.7 WAR

(8) Fred Clarke, 50.9 WAR

(9) Babe Adams, 50.2 WAR

(10) Barry Bonds, 48.4 WAR (1986-1992)

(12) Ralph Kiner, 42.2 WAR (1946-1953)

(15) Pie Traynor, 37.8 WAR (1920-1935, 1937)

(23) Bill Mazeroski, 30.9 WAR (1956-1972)


On the ballot: The players on the Pirates Franchise Four ballot span every decade of the 20th century, from Honus Wagner to Barry Bonds. Honus Wagner has significantly more WAR than any other player in Pittsburgh Pirates’ history. The gap between Wagner and Roberto Clemente is 46.6 WAR, good for the third-highest gap between the top two players of any team. Honus Wagner played 18 seasons with the Pirates and averaged 7 WAR per season, including eight seasons with 8 or more WAR. He led the league in hitting eight times, on-base percentage four times, slugging percentage six times, and steals five times. And he did all that damage with the bat while playing shortstop. He’s fifth all-time in FanGraphs WAR, behind only Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, and Ty Cobb.

Roberto Clemente came up with the Pirates in 1955, had his first good season in 1958, was injured in 1959, then had a run of greatness from 1960 to 1972, averaging 5.6 WAR per season and helping the Bucs to two World Series titles. Along the way he was a 12-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove winner, and won the 1966 MVP. In the 1972 World Series, Clemente hit .414/.452/.759 and was named MVP of the series.

Paul Waner was good in his rookie year of 1926 but really came into his own in the 1927 season when he led the league in average (.380), hits (237), triples (18), RBI (131), and total bases (342). He was the MVP that year and led the Pirates to the World Series, which they lost in four games to the “Murderer’s Row” 1927 Yankees. He would lead the league in hitting two other times during his 15 years with the Pirates and is one of three Pittsburgh players with at least 3000 career hits (along with Wagner and Clemente).

During the 1970s the Pirates had an extended run of success when they made the playoffs six times in 10 years and won two World Series titles. After Roberto Clemente’s death following the 1972 season, Willie Stargell became the heart and soul of the “Lumber Company” Pirates. Stargell’s best year by WAR was 1971 when he hit .295/398/.628 with a league-leading 48 home runs. He was nearly as good in 1973 when he hit .299/.392/.646 and again led the league in home runs (44), and led in RBI also (119). As good as he was in 1971 and 1973, Stargell’s most-celebrated season was in 1979, when he was 39 years old. He was co-MVP of the National League during the regular season, then hit .455/.571/1.182 and was named MVP of the NLCS, and followed that up by winning the World Series MVP Award for his excellent hitting and clutch home runs in a seven-game series victory against the Baltimore Orioles.

Because Wagner, Waner, Clemente, and Stargell were so good, it’s hard to imagine any of the other four players on the ballot making the cut ahead of them. Barry Bonds, of course, was a terrific player with the Pirates. He averaged nearly 7 WAR per season but only played seven of his 22 years with Pittsburgh. His five best seasons by WAR were with the San Francisco Giants. Ralph Kiner only played eight seasons with the Pirates but led the league in home runs during seven of them. He had great power and good on-base abilities but was limited on defense.

At one time, Pie Traynor was considered the best third baseman of his generation, but a look back has diminished his standing historically. During the prime of his career, Traynor averaged 3.4 WAR per season. He was an above-average player but not an all-time great. Bill Mazeroski was a terrific fielding second baseman who never had even a league-average season with the bat (per wRC+). Despite this, he was a seven-time All-Star and part of two World Series-winning teams. His home run in the bottom of the ninth of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series was the first World Series walk-off ever.

Notable snub: Arky Vaughan averaged 6.3 WAR per season over 10 seasons with the Pirates and hit .324/.415/.472 while playing above-average defense at shortstop. Surely he deserves a place on the ballot.

My Franchise Four: Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Paul Waner


St. Louis Cardinals (1882-2015)

(1) Stan Musial, 127.0 WAR (1941-1944, 1946-1963)

(2) Rogers Hornsby, 93.5 WAR (1915-1926, 1933)

(3) Bob Gibson, 83.0 WAR (1959-1975)

(4) Albert Pujols, 81.4 WAR (2001-2011)

(5) Ozzie Smith, 59.5 WAR (1982-1996)

(6) Ken Boyer, 50.7 WAR

(7) Ted Simmons, 49.2 WAR

(8) Enos Slaughter, 47.0 WAR

(9) Jim Edmonds, 42.4 WAR

(10) Lou Brock, 41.6 WAR (1964-1979)

(14) Dizzy Dean, 37.1 WAR (1930, 1932-1937)

(25) Red Schoendienst, 29.2 WAR (1945-1956, 1961-1963)


On the ballot: Stan Musial is an icon in St. Louis. He was an amazing player for 22 years with the Cardinals and a baseball ambassador after his career ended. As a player, he was a three-time MVP Award winner, 20-time All-Star, seven-time batting champion, and helped the Cardinals to three World Series titles. Based on FanGraphs WAR, he’s one of the 10 best hitters to ever play the game.

Rogers Hornsby was another Cardinals player who was terrific with the bat. Hornsby played 13 years with the Cardinals and hit .359/.427/,568 with the team. He led the league in hitting six straight years from 1920 to 1925. Over that stretch, he averaged .397/.467/.666 and 10.3 WAR per season.

Bob Gibson and Dizzy Dean are the only two pitchers among the eight players on the Cardinals’ ballot. Gibson’s 1968 season is legendary. He completed 28 of 34 starts, had 13 shutouts, a 1.12 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 268 strikeouts in 304 2/3 innings. He was the NL Cy Young and NL MVP. He was the NL Cy Young again in 1970. From 1964 to 1968, Gibson helped the Cardinals make three World Series, winning in 1964 and 1967, with Gibson being named World Series MVP both years. Dizzy Dean’s stretch of greatness came about 30 years before Gibson. Dean was a meteor who shined brightly across the sky but burned out too quickly. From 1932 to 1936, Dean averaged 24 wins, 306 innings pitched, 25 complete games, and a 3.04 ERA during a hitter’s era. He was the NL MVP in the Cardinals’ 1934 World Series-winning season.

Albert Pujols averaged 7.4 WAR per season in his 11 years as a Cardinal. He also won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and three NL MVP Awards, while hitting .328/.420/.617 with an average of 40 home runs per year. Ozzie Smith was a wizard on defense who held his own with the bat. He won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves during his prime. Another well-regarded defensive player on the Cardinals’ ballot is Red Schoendienst. Red doesn’t rank high among the Cardinals’ all-time WAR leaders, but his post-career time as a manager and coach since his retirement has earned him a soft spot in the hearts of Cardinals’ fans.

Lou Brock played 16 years with the Cardinals and led the league in steals during eight of them. He was well regarded during and after his career and made the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, but more advanced metrics suggest he was a very poor fielder for many years and was not as good a player as many thought at the time.

Notable snubs: Ken Boyer is sixth in career WAR for the Cardinals, ahead of Lou Brock, Dizzy Dean, and Red Schoendienst, so he has an argument. He doesn’t have the narrative of the other three, but he was a more valuable player.

My Franchise Four: Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Albert Pujols, Ozzie Smith

Introducing a Concussions Database

Today, all everybody seems to care about is the Tommy John surgery. The surgery is on the rise and people want to find a solution. This is not unreasonable, according to Jeff Zimmerman and Jon Roegele’s Tommy John database; there are now 100 players who suffered the surgery, alone in 2014. It’s therefore understandable that many people are not only talking about it but also studying it, and trying to find solutions.

But, what about other baseball injuries? Sure, the Tommy John surgery is a devastating injury, but it’s certainly not the only devastating injury in baseball. What about torn labrums, torn Achilles, fractures, concussions? Most other types of baseball injuries haven’t had a lot of studies on them. (As you can probably guess from the title, I’m going to be focusing on concussions). 

So I decided to zig to everyone’s zag. Over the past month I’ve constructed a concussions database. My database for the time being includes the start and end date of the concussion, days missed, DL type, Position, Team, Age, and cause. So far I’ve recorded 189 concussions.. This may not seem like a lot, especially when you compare it to Zimmerman and Roegele’s Tommy John database, which contains 962 cases of Tommy John. But concussions as I’ve found are not that common in baseball.

My database ranges from the years, 1985 to 2015. This, however, is very misleading. Since the year 2000 I found 187 recorded concussions, before the year 2000 I only found two. One was in 1985, suffered by Roy Smith, by a batted ball, which landed him on the 15-day DL. The other was by Ivan Rodriguez in 1999, which happened due to a collision at home plate; he was not put on the DL and didn’t even miss a game. I will obviously keep doing research and will try to find more players, but for the time being it appears that concussions were infrequently diagnosed or reported before 2000.

The database was constructed through many ways. My primary tool was the Pro Sports Transactions. I scoured through their injury database. I also used MLB Transactions, although that proved to be a very ineffective tool. A lot of the concussions I found on the Pro Sports Transactions were not included, and all of the concussions I found with MLB Transactions I already had compiled thanks to Pro Sports Transactions. Pro Sports Transactions, however, also had injury types described as “head”. While not all head injuries are concussions, I decided to do a player search of every player who suffered a “head” injury (according to Pro Sports Transactions).

I looked at many players through the Baseball Prospectus (BP) profile page because each players BP profile page includes their injury history. This also proved to be an indispensable tool in doing my research. It allowed me to find not only the injury type but also the injury cause. I therefore double-checked every player I found on the Pro Sports Transactions with their BP player profile page. The results and dates almost always matched up. If they didn’t I looked at other sources, such as online articles, or Rotoworld, which had a great transaction events in the players profile page. I also used bleacher reports and other news reports, which allowed me to find some but not lots info. (If you know of another site or way I could check to expand my list PLEASE let me know in the comment section or by email).

Finally before I get started I want to point out that I am not the first that will undergo or do studies on concussions. There was an article written by the NY Times recently, which identified a study published by the American Journal of Sports Medicine, which suggested that players performed worse when returning from concussions. The study, however, “…identified 66 position players who had concussions between 2007 and 2013, including some who never went on the disabled list.” There was also a study published by the SciMedCentral called “Epidemiology and Outcomes of Concussions in Major League Baseball”. The study looked at players from 2001 to 2010 who had concussions. The problem is that they only found 33 players who had concussions during that time. In both cases the sample size is really too small to come to any conclusion.

The way I see it the only database that can actually compete with mine is the BP, database, which according to this Ben Lindbergh article, “The Year of Living Less Dangerously,” contains 175 players from 2001 to 2013. I unfortunately, however, don’t know how big the database is today; the article was written in 2014 for Grantland.

What I hope to do with this database is construct similar and more complicated studies. The difference I believe, in the similar studies I will be conducting, is that my database simply has a larger sample size, which will allow us to get more accurate results.

For today, however, we’re just going to start off slowly. First we’re simply going take an overall look at the concussions I recorded. The chart below will show you the total amount of concussions I’ve been able to find from 2000 to 2014. The chart is also interactive — I used Tableau to create it. If you do some clicking around you’ll see that I’ve also included all the players who’ve landed on the DL, the players who’ve landed on the 7-day DL, the 15-day DL, 60-day DL, and those that didn’t end up on the DL (due to a concussion).

If for any reason you cannot interact with this graph here is a link to Tableau Public, which will allow you to interact with it.!/publish-confirm


Overall and DL Concussions data (2000-2014)

So hey look Tommy John surgeries are not the only thing that’s on the rise, concussions are too. While there’s a ton of variance in the 15-day, 60-day, and even the non-DL graphs, the amount of players landing on the DL due to a concussion is on the rise, and there might be an explanation for that.

You see, in the winter of 2011 Major League Baseball and the Players Association adopted new protocols regarding to concussions. The biggest change according to this Cash Karuth article “MLB, union adopt universal concussion policy” was the implementation of a seven-day disabled list for concussions. The protocol also forces teams to clear a, “club-submitted “Return to Play” form to Major League Baseball’s medical director. The submission of the form is required regardless of whether the player was placed on the disabled list.”

“New procedures will be implemented for evaluating players and umpires for possible concussions after such incidents as being hit in the head by a pitched, batted or thrown ball or bat; a collision with a player, umpire or fixed object; or any time the head or neck of a player or umpire is forcibly rotated.” (For more information I recommend reading the article.)

While there is a rise of concussions after the protocol was implemented, it’s hard to decipher based on these graphs whether it actually had a huge impact. Concussions were on the rise before the protocol was implemented and while there is a drastic increase in the 7-day DL department that was presumably inevitable due to the new rule. When looking at the overall concussions the drastic increase happened in years 2013 and 2014. For the overall DL stints it happened in 2013. In both cases it didn’t happen directly after the protocol was implemented. Maybe the protocol didn’t necessarily have a huge impact. Perhaps it only started to get enforced in 2013?

I also don’t know how many concussions were either not diagnosed or not reported. Before 2005 players rarely went on the DL due to a concussion. The concussions info before 2000 is almost non-existent. It’s hard to believe that players are suddenly getting concussed. This information was either not made public or poorly handled by Major League Baseball. Also maybe it’s simply that doctors are getting better at detecting concussions? Or they might just be paying more attention to it? These are questions unfortunately I simply don’t have an answer to at this point.

Let’s now take a look at which teams have been most impacted by this injury. The graph below again is interactive. The important element to note is that the bigger the circle the more concussions the team has suffered. If you’re not familiar with these types of interactive graphs, they’re relatively simple. Just bring your mouse over the circles and all the data will be there.

If for any reason you cannot interact with this graph here is a link to Tableau Public, which will allow you to interact with it.!/vizhome/Concussions2/Sheet1

Team Concussions 2000-2014

If we were living in an alternate universe and I had a gun to your head and made you guess the team which had suffered the most concussions, you’d probably guess the Twins. And you would be correct; since 2000 no team had suffered more concussions than the Twins, that is of course if you don’t count the Mets. Both teams have had a lot of players who underwent this injury. The Twins have most notably had Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau; both players’ careers have been seriously hampered by injuries. The Mets most notably had Jason Bay and David Wright.

Perhaps another interesting element to note is that the White Sox have the least amount of concussions suffered, at only two. That is of course if you don’t count the Padres who also have two. But for the sake of interesting trends let’s ignore the Padres.

The White Sox you see seem to have a knack or secret sauce for keeping their players healthy. According to this article by Jeff Zimmerman “2014 Disabled List Information and So Much More,” the White Sox have suffered the least amount of injuries since 2002. Also if we look this article by Jon Roegele, “Tommy John Surgeries: A More Complete List” the White Sox have suffered the least amount of Tommy John surgeries. I don’t and will not pretend to know what’s going on up there but it seems as though the White Sox are better than just about any other team at keeping their players healthy.

While I could have displayed a bigger sample of my database, I think all leave it here for today. I’ve given you a lot of information to absorb, and don’t want to overwhelm anyone.

MLB Franchise Four: NL West

Major League Baseball has a campaign asking fans to vote for the four “most impactful” players in their team’s history, with the winners being announced at the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati. A panel of experts created an eight-man ballot for each team. This panel consists of MLB’s Official Historian John Thorn and representatives from MLB’s official statistician (the Elias Sports Bureau),, MLB Network, and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

“Most impactful” is open to interpretation, which makes this an interesting exercise. It isn’t “best” or “most famous” or “most popular”, but “most impactful.” I decided to look at the eight players on the ballot for each franchise and where they rank in FanGraphs WAR during their time with that franchise.

For each franchise, I’ve listed their top 10 in FanGraphs WAR along with any players who are on the ballot who are below the top 10. The players in BOLD are those who are on the ballot and the years listed are the years in which they played for that team.


Arizona Diamondbacks (1998-2015)

(1) Randy Johnson, 54.9 WAR (1999-2004, 2007-2008)

(2) Luis Gonzalez, 33.8 WAR (1999-2006)

(3) Brandon Webb, 29.1 WAR (2003-2009)

(4) Curt Schilling, 24.9 WAR (2000-2003)

(5) Steve Finley, 18.2 WAR (1999-2004)

(6) Justin Upton, 16.0 WAR

(7) Chris Young, 15.3 WAR

(8) Paul Goldschmidt, 15.0 WAR (2011-2015)

(9) Miguel Montero, 14.1 WAR

(10) Dan Haren, 13.8 WAR

(17) Matt Williams, 8.8 WAR (1998-2003)

(87) Mark Grace, 1.3 WAR (2001-2003)


On the ballot: Six of the eight players on the Diamondbacks Franchise Four ballot played on their 2001 World Series Championship team. Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were the co-aces of that squad. The Big Unit was 21-6 with a 2.49 ERA and an amazing 372 strikeouts in 249 2/3 innings that season, then won three games in the World Series to share MVP honors with Curt Schilling. He also won the NL Cy Young award in 2001, one of the four he won in four consecutive seasons with the Diamondbacks. In two of those seasons, including 2001, Curt Schilling finished second behind the Big Unit in the NL Cy Young voting. In 2001, Schilling was 22-6 with a 2.98 ERA and 293 strikeouts in 256 2/3 innings, then started three games in the World Series and had a 1.69 ERA in 21 1/3 innings.

Luis Gonzalez provided some serious offense to the Diamondbacks’ 2001 championship team. He had 8.9 WAR that season as he hit .325/.429/.688 with 57 homers and 142 RBI.

Steve Finley was worth 4.6 and 3.3 WAR in his first two seasons with the Diamondbacks in 1999 and 2000, but slipped to 1.6 WAR in the 2001 season. He hit well in the 2001 World Series, though: .368/.478/.526.

Matt Williams was also better in his first two years with the team. He had 2.3 WAR in 1998 and 4.0 WAR in 1999 but was limited by injuries and had just 2.4 WAR total over the final four years of his career with the Diamondbacks.

Brandon Webb had 4.2 WAR in his rookie season in 2003 and was a mainstay in the rotation for the next five years, averaging 5 WAR per season. He won the NL Cy Young award in 2006 with a 16-8, 3.10 ERA season (6.4 WAR). Webb had an amazing ability to generate ground balls, with a GB% of 64.2% in his career. Unfortunately, the end came quickly. Webb was 22-7 with a 3.30 ERA in 2008 and finished second in the Cy Young voting for the second straight year. He then pitched four innings in 2009 and never threw another pitch in the major leagues. He tried to come back in 2011 but lasted just 12 innings in AA and had a 9.75 ERA.

Paul Goldschmidt is currently the best player on the Diamondbacks. He was worth 6.3 WAR in 2013 when he hit .302/.401/.551 and led the league with 36 homers and 125 RBI on his way to finishing second in the NL MVP voting. He was on a similar pace last year with 4.4 WAR in 109 games before his season ended when he was hit by a pitch that fractured his hand. He’s off to a good start to the 2015 season.

There are 86 players who were worth more wins than Mark Grace as a Diamondback. Grace joined the team at the end of his career after 13 seasons with the Cubs. He played three years with the Diamondbacks and was worth 2.6, -0.3, and -0.1 WAR. He was an announcer for the team after his career and is well liked in Arizona, particularly at the team’s annual fantasy camps.

Notable snubs: Based on value, one could argue for Justin Upton or Chris Young. In fact, I believe an argument could be made for any number of players over Mark Grace based on value to the team, but Grace was a very popular player so why not give the fans a chance to remember one of their favorites? I just don’t consider him to be “impactful.”

My Franchise Four: Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Luis Gonzalez, Brandon Webb


Colorado Rockies (1993-2015)

(1) Todd Helton, 54.8 WAR (1997-2013)

(2) Larry Walker, 44.4 WAR (1995-2004)

(3) Troy Tulowitzki, 33.7 WAR (2006-2015)

(4) Matt Holliday, 20.2 WAR (2004-2008)

(5) Ubaldo Jimenez, 18.5 WAR

(6) Carlos Gonzalez, 17.5 WAR (2009-2015)

(7) Aaron Cook, 17.5 WAR

(8) Vinny Castilla, 15.5 WAR (1993-1999, 2004, 2006)

(9) Jeff Francis, 14.9 WAR

(10) Andres Galarraga, 13.4 WAR (1993-1997)

(24) Dante Bichette, 6.6 WAR (1993-1999)


On the ballot: Todd Helton leads the Rockies in games played, hits, runs scored, RBI, home runs, doubles, and walks, among other categories. He also had five straight years from 2000 to 2004 with 5.5 or more WAR each season. I would guess he’s an automatic Franchise Four player for the Rockies. Larry Walker is second to Helton in most of those categories and tops the Rockies in career batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Walker hit .334/.426/.618 with Colorado.

Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Holliday, and Carlos Gonzalez were part of the only Rockies team to make the World Series, in 2007. On that team, Tulowitzki was in his second year but already one of the best players on the team, as he had 5.2 WAR and hit .291/.359/.479 with great defense at shortstop. Since then, he’s had five more seasons with 5 or more WAR despite being injured a number of times. Matt Holliday had a breakout season in the Rockies’ World Series year with a career-high 6.9 WAR. He followed that with a 5.9 WAR season in 2008 before being traded to the Athletics that winter in a deal that brought Carlos Gonzalez to the Rockies. When healthy, Gonzalez has generally been good with the Rockies but he hasn’t been healthy often enough the last couple years.

Vinny Castilla, Andres Galarraga, and Dante Bichette were teammates in the early years of the Rockies franchise, back in the pre-humidor days. They were part of a cast of hitters known as the “Blake Street Bombers.” Castilla and Galarraga each had three straight years with 40 or more homers from 1996 to 1998. Dante Bichette hit 40 bombs in 1995 and had 141 RBI in 1996. Of course, despite all the home runs these guys hit, they weren’t really all that valuable when you take park effects, base running, and defense into account.

Notable snubs: Considering he had just one season with more than 2 WAR with the Rockies, Dante Bichette could have been left off the ballot, perhaps for Ubaldo Jimenez or Aaron Cook.

My Franchise Four: Todd Helton, Larry Walker, Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Holliday


Los Angeles Dodgers (1884-2015)

(1) Don Sutton, 63.8 WAR

(2) Duke Snider, 63.4 WAR (1947-1962)

(3) Zack Wheat, 62.7 WAR

(4) Pee Wee Reese, 61.3 WAR

(5) Don Drysdale, 59.3 WAR (1956-1969)

(6) Dazzy Vance, 59.0 WAR

(7) Jackie Robinson, 57.2 WAR (1947-1956)

(8) Sandy Koufax, 54.5 WAR (1955-1966)

(9) Ron Cey, 49.9 WAR

(10) Willie Davis, 48.6 WAR

(12) Fernando Valenzuela, 39.4 WAR (1980-1990)

(14) Clayton Kershaw, 38.5 WAR (2008-2015)

(15) Roy Campanella, 38.2 WAR (1948-1957)

(16) Steve Garvey, 36.3 WAR (1969-1982)


On the ballot: The Dodgers are one of three teams whose leader in FanGraphs WAR is not on the eight-man ballot for the team’s Franchise Four. The Dodgers’ leader in WAR is Don Sutton, but he’s not one of the options (Cap Anson of the Cubs and Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins are the other two).

The players on the Dodgers’ ballot can be separated into groups. Three players on the ballot were part of the “Boys of Summer” group from the 1950s: Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, and Roy Campanella, all three of whom were part of the Brooklyn Dodger teams that went to the World Series five times in eight years from 1949 to 1956. After losing in their first eight attempts to win the World Series going back to the turn of the century, the Dodgers finally won it all in 1955, a year that saw Roy Campanella win his third NL MVP award in five years. Duke Snider finished second to Campy in the NL MVP balloting that year despite leading the league in runs and RBI and posting a better on-base percentage and slugging percentage than Campanella. Jackie Robinson was not the All-Star he had been in the previous six seasons as injuries limited him to 105 games, but he still had a .378 OBP. In the nine years that Snider, Campanella, and Robinson played together from 1948 to 1956, Campy and Snider were All-Stars seven times and Robinson was an All-Star six times.

Sandy Koufax was on the 1955 World Series championship team, but he was not yet SANDY KOUFAX, so he doesn’t really belong with the “Boys of Summer” group (in 1955, he pitched just 41-2/3 innings and walked six batters per nine innings). Koufax teamed up with Don Drysdale to lead the Dodgers of the early-1960s. Don Drysdale had been the Dodgers’ top starting pitcher in the late-1950s before ceding the title to Koufax in the 60s. The pair went to the World Series four times from 1959 to 1966, winning three titles. Drysdale was an eight-time All-Star and the 1962 NL Cy Young winner. Koufax was named to six All-Star teams and won three NL Cy Young awards, including the 1963 season in which he was the NL Cy Young winner and the NL MVP. Over the last four seasons of his career, Koufax was 97-27 with a 1.86 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and an average of 8.6 WAR per season.

Steve Garvey was the face of the Dodgers in the 1970s. He teamed with Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey to form a Dodgers infield that played together from 1973 to 1981. Together, they appeared in the World Series four times from 1974 to 1981, winning twice. Garvey was an All-Star for the Dodgers from 1974 to 1981 and won the NL MVP in 1974. The 1981 season was the last time these four players were together and they won the World Series with the help of 20-year-old rookie Fernando Valuenzuela. Fernandomania exploded in Los Angeles in 1981 as the young pitcher led the league in games started, complete games, shutouts, innings, and strikeouts en route to winning the NL Cy Young Award. In his first six full seasons with the Dodgers, which includes the strike-shortened 1981 season, Fernando averaged 5.4 WAR per season. He also averaged over 250 innings per season during this stretch, which could be why he was worth only 9.2 WAR over the remaining 10 seasons of his career.

The only active player on the Dodgers’ ballot is the amazing Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw has won the NL Cy Young Award three times in the last four seasons and was second in the season in which he didn’t win. He was also the NL MVP last year. During this four-year stretch, Kershaw had a 2.11 ERA and 0.95 WHIP and averaged 6.9 WAR per season.

Notable snubs: Don Sutton, the all-time leader in FanGraphs WAR for the Dodgers, must feel snubbed to not see his name on the Franchise Four ballot. He was a teammate of Steve Garvey from 1969 to 1980 and out-WAR’d him 52.1 to 33.2 during those years. If not Sutton, perhaps Pee Wee Reese would have been a better choice than Garvey, as he was also a big part of the “Boys of Summer” Dodgers.

My Franchise Four: Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella


San Diego Padres (1969-2015) 

(1) Tony Gwynn, 65.0 WAR (1982-2001)

(2) Jake Peavy, 29.3 WAR (2002-2009)

(3) Dave Winfield, 29.1 WAR (1973-1980)

(4) Randy Jones, 25.4 WAR (1973-1980)

(5) Trevor Hoffman, 25.3 WAR (1993-2008)

(6) Andy Benes, 20.8 WAR

(7) Chase Headley, 20.4 WAR

(8) Adrian Gonzalez, 19.2 WAR (2006-2010)

(9) Gene Tenace, 18.8 WAR

(10) Brian Giles, 18.4 WAR

(17) Nate Colbert, 16.6 WAR (1969-1974)

(208) Steve Garvey, 1.5 WAR (1983-1987)


On the ballot: Among the 30 franchise leaders in WAR, the 35.7 WAR gap between Tony Gwynn at #1 and Jake Peavy at #2 is the sixth largest. Gwynn played for the Padres for 20 seasons, was an All-Star for 16 consecutive years, won eight batting titles, five Gold Gloves, and had over 3000 hits with a .338 lifetime batting average. He was also a member of the only two teams in Padres history to make the World Series (1984 and 1998). You can’t think of the Padres without thinking of Tony Gwynn.

Joining Gwynn as a signature Padres player is Trevor Hoffman, who saved 552 games for the team in 16 seasons. Hoffman’s 601 career saves are second only to Mariano Rivera on the all-time list.

Jake Peavy was the Padres’ top starting pitcher from 2004 to 2008 when he averaged 4.9 WAR per season. He was the NL Cy Young winner in 2007 with a 19-6 record, 2.54 ERA, and 240 strikeouts in 223 1/3 innings.

Dave Winfield and Randy Jones both played for the Padres from 1973 to 1980, a stretch during which the team regularly finished in the bottom half of the NL West standings. Winfield played more years with the Yankees than he did with the Padres and is likely more well known as a Yankee by the average fan. Jones won the 1976 NL Cy Young Award with a 22 win season for the Padres. He had 25 complete games and threw 315 1/3 innings that year.

Adrian Gonzalez started his career with the Texas Rangers but came into his own with San Diego in 2006. From 2007 to 2010, he had four straight years of 30 or more homers and was an All-Star three times. Like Adrian Gonzalez, Nate Colbert had a short but productive career with the Padres. He had two 38-homer seasons with the team in the early 1970s.

Then there’s Steve Garvey. I don’t know who decided to put Steve Garvey on the ballot for the Padres. He ranks 208th all-time in WAR for the Padres and hit .275/.309/.409 in his five years with the team. His best season was worth 1.5 WAR. You have to give him some serious bonus points for being a member of the 1984 team that went to the World Series to think he deserves a spot on the Padres Franchise Four.

Notable snubs: It’s not hard to find a more deserving player for the ballot than Steve Garvey, so take your pick: Gene Tenace (4.7 WAR per season with the Padres), Ken Caminiti (won the NL MVP Award in 1996) or Benito Santiago (1987 NL Rookie of the Year, four-time All-Star with the team) would have been better choices.

My Franchise Four: Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman, Jake Peavy, Adrian Gonzalez


San Francisco Giants (1883-2015) 

(1) Willie Mays, 148.0 WAR (1951, 1952, 1954-1972)

(2) Barry Bonds, 116.0 WAR (1993-2007)

(3) Mel Ott, 111.0 WAR (1926-1947)

(4) Christy Mathewson, 90.0 WAR (1900-1916)

(5) Willie McCovey, 61.4 WAR (1959-1973, 1977-1980)

(6) Juan Marichal, 60.6 WAR (1960-1973)

(7) Bill Terry, 57.0 WAR

(8) Carl Hubbell, 56.5 WAR

(9) Roger Conner, 54.4 WAR

(10) Larry Doyle, 47.1 WAR

(30) Orlando Cepeda, 29.1 WAR (1958-1966)

(48) Buster Posey, 23.9 WAR (2009-2015)


On the ballot: Willie Mays is among a select group of players who are automatic picks for a spot on his team’s Franchise Four. Is there anything he didn’t do as a Giant? He was the Rookie of the Year, a two-time MVP, a 20-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove winner, led the league in homers four times, steals four times, hitting once, on-base percentage twice, and slugging five times. And the numbers don’t do him justice. He was an amazing player to watch, whether making an amazing catch in the deepest parts of the Polo Grounds or flying around the bases for a stand-up triple. He was baseball poetry.

Barry Bonds had 116 WAR in 15 seasons with the Giants, an average of 7.7 WAR per season. He had five seasons with 10 or more WAR, including back-to-back seasons in 2001 and 2002 when he had 12.5 and 12.7 WAR. From 2001 to 2004, he turned the major leagues into his own personal video game, hitting .349/.559/.809 with 209 homers in 1642 at-bats (one HR every 7.9 at-bats).

Mel Ott was a Giants’ lifer, spending 22 years with the team and hitting 511 home runs. He went to the All-Star game for 11 straight years from 1934 to 1944.

Christy Mathewson and Juan Marichal are the only pitchers among the eight players on the ballot for the Giants. Mathewson was part of four Giants’ teams that went to the World Series from 1905 to 1913 and he led the league in wins four times and ERA five times during that stretch. He pitched three complete game shutouts in the 1905 World Series against the Philadelphia Athletics. Juan Marichal pitched for the Giants from 1960 to 1973 and was teammates with Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda, who join him on the ballot. All three were members of the 1962 team that lost the World Series in seven games to the New York Yankees. Marichal and Cepeda were All-Stars during that season, while McCovey was still trying to crack a loaded Giants’ lineup.

The only active player on the ballot for the Giants is Buster Posey. All he’s done in his career is helped the Giants to three World Series titles in his first six years in the big leagues, along with a Rookie of the Year Award in 2010 and an NL MVP Award in 2012.

Notable snubs: A couple of famous (and valuable) Giants players who could have arguments for a spot on the ballot are Bill Terry and Carl Hubbell, who were teammates in the late 1920s and early 193s.

My Franchise Four: Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Mel Ott, Christy Mathewson

MLB Franchise Four: AL East

Major League Baseball has a campaign asking fans to vote for the four “most impactful” players in their team’s history, with the winners being announced at the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati. A panel of experts created an eight-man ballot for each team. This panel consists of MLB’s Official Historian John Thorn and representatives from MLB’s official statistician (the Elias Sports Bureau),, MLB Network, and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

“Most impactful” is open to interpretation, which makes this an interesting exercise. It isn’t “best” or “most famous” or “most popular”, but “most impactful.” I decided to look at the eight players on the ballot for each franchise and where they rank in FanGraphs WAR during their time with that franchise.

For each franchise, I’ve listed their top 10 in FanGraphs WAR along with any players who are on the ballot who are below the top 10. The players in BOLD are those who are on the ballot and the years listed are the years in which they played for that team.


Boston Red Sox (1901-2015)


(1) Ted Williams, 130.4 WAR (1939-1942, 1946-1960)

(2) Carl Yastrzemski, 94.8 WAR (1961-1983)

(3) Roger Clemens, 76.5 WAR

(4) Wade Boggs, 70.8 WAR

(5) Dwight Evans, 64.3 WAR (1972-1990)

(6) Cy Young, 54.8 WAR (1901-1908)

(7) Tris Speaker, 54.4 WAR

(8) Bobby Doerr, 53.3 WAR

(9) Pedro Martinez, 52.6 WAR (1998-2004)

(10) Jim Rice, 50.8 WAR (1974-1989)

(11) David Ortiz, 41.3 WAR (2003-2015)

(16) Carlton Fisk, 38.3 WAR (1969, 1971-1980)


On the ballot: It’s pretty amazing to think about Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzesmki manning left field for the Red Sox from 1939 to 1980, other than the few years Williams missed time because of his service to the military. For nearly 40 years, two all-time great players held down that spot in front of the Green Monster. Williams, of course, is one of the greatest hitters in baseball history who is 10th all-time in FanGraphs WAR. He hit .344/.482/.634 in his 19-year career and led the league in on-base percentage 12 times. He won two AL MVP Awards and arguably should have won more (he finished second the year he hit .406). Carl Yastrzemski was also very good during his 23-year career with the Sox. He had over 3400 hits, was an All-Star 18 times, won seven Gold Gloves, and was the AL MVP and Triple Crown winner in 1967. You can’t have a Red Sox Franchise Four without Teddy Ballgame and Yaz.

It’s interesting that Dwight Evans made the eight-man ballot despite getting little support in three years on the Hall of Fame ballot. He deserved better in the voting for the Hall of Fame. Evans is 14th all-time among right fielders in WAR, ahead of Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, and Andre Dawson. It’s nice to see him on the ballot here.

Cy Young only pitched for the Red Sox for eight years but had 54.8 WAR during that time thanks in part to an average of 341 innings pitched per season. Those were different times. It makes for an interesting comparison with Pedro Martinez, who pitched for the Red Sox for seven years and had 52.6 WAR despite averaging just 198 innings per season. Pedro won his first Cy Young in his last season with the Montreal Expos in 1997. He joined the Red Sox in 1998 and won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 1999 and 2000. Over these two seasons, Martinez was at his absolute best, going 41-10 with a 1.90 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. FanGraphs has him worth 11.7 and 9.5 WAR for those two seasons. Pedro was also part of the 2004 Red Sox team that won their first World Series since 1918.

Jim Rice was a Red Sox slugger in the 1970s and 1980s and David Ortiz is a Red Sox slugger currently and they have been worth similar value in their years with the team. Rice averaged 3.2 WAR per season during his 16 years with the Red Sox. Ortiz has averaged 3.4 WAR per season in the first 12 full seasons of his Red Sox career. Ortiz has the added narrative of three World Series championships, including a World Series MVP award in 2013, while Rice was part of two Red Sox teams that went to the World Series but lost both times (1975 and 1986). Carlton Fisk was a teammate of Rice in that 1975 series and is famous for his game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th inning of Game Six. He actual played more years with the Chicago White Sox than the Boston Red Sox.

Notable snubs: Roger Clemens pitched more years and had more WAR for the Red Sox than Cy Young or Pedro Martinez, yet is conspicuously absent from the eight-man ballot. Wade Boggs had over 2000 hits and a .338/.428/.462 batting line with the Red Sox. Clemens and Boggs are third and fourth all-time in WAR for the Red Sox, which is better than six of the eight players who are on the ballot.

My Franchise Four: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz


New York Yankees (1901-2015)

(1)Babe Ruth, 149.9 WAR (1920-1934)

(2) Lou Gehrig, 116.3 WAR (1923-1939)

(3) Mickey Mantle, 112.3 WAR (1951-1968)

(4) Joe DiMaggio, 83. WAR 1 (1936-1942, 1946-1951)

(5) Derek Jeter, 71.6 WAR (1995-2014)

(6) Yogi Berra, 63.8 WAR (1946-1963)

(7) Andy Pettitte, 58.0 WAR

(8) Bill Dickey, 56.1 WAR

(9) Whitey Ford, 54.9 WAR (1950, 1953-1967)

(10) Willie Randolph, 51.4 WAR

25) Mariano Rivera, 39.8 WAR (1995-2013)


On the ballot: The Yankees have such an abundance of good candidates for their Franchise Four that it will be difficult for voters to figure out who to include and who gets left out. It’s hard to imagine a Yankees Franchise Four without Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, or Joe DiMaggio, but the current generation of Yankees fans will likely want a spot for Derek Jeter and, perhaps, Mariano Rivera.

Then you have Yogi Berra, a Hall of Fame catcher who won 10 World Series rings as a player and two more as a coach with the Yankees in the 1970s (and one as a coach with the 1969 Mets). Whitey Ford played with Berra for many years and was on 11 World Series teams, won six titles, and was World Series MVP in 1961. His career World Series ERA is 2.71.

Based on FanGraphs WAR, Babe Ruth is the greatest player in baseball history. In the context of his time what he did on the field was simply unreal. He led the league in on-base percentage 10 times, home runs 12 times, and slugging percentage 13 times. The Yankees went to the World Series seven times in his 15 years with the team, winning four world championships as Ruth hit .326/.470/.744 in World Series play.

Lou Gehrig batted right behind Ruth for many of those years and hit .340/.447/.632 in his career while leading the league in home runs three times and RBI five times. Like Ruth, Gehrig was very good in World Series play, hitting .361/.483/.731 in 34 World Series games.

Other than three years spent in the military during World War II, Joe DiMaggio was the Yankees’ centerfielder from 1936 to 1951. Mickey Mantle continued the run of great center field play for the Yankees into the 1960s. Both DiMaggio and Mantle were three-time AL MVPs and they have 16 World Series rings between them.

Derek Jeter won five World Series titles in a 20-year career that included 14 All-Star games, a Rookie of the Year Award, and over 3400 career hits.

Mariano Rivera is only 25th in WAR for the Yankees but he’s the best closer in baseball history, won five World Series rings with the Yankees, and has a 0.70 ERA in 141 career post-season innings. There are just too many good players to choose from on the Yankees.

Notable snubs: None, really. One could argue that Mariano Rivera’s place so far down the list of career WAR for the Yankees makes him less worthy than Bill Dickey or Andy Pettitte, but he was a major part of five World Series championships and almost unhittable in high leverage situations in postseason play.

My Franchise Four: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio


Baltimore Orioles (1901-2015) 

(1) Cal Ripken, Jr., 92.5 WAR (1981-2001)

(2) Brooks Robinson, 80.2 WAR (1955-1977)

(3) Jim Palmer, 59.1 WAR (1965-1967, 1969-1984)

(4) Eddie Murray, 56.7 WAR (1977-1988, 1996)

(5) George Sisler, 49.8 WAR

(6) Mike Mussina, 47.8 WAR

(7) Bobby Wallace, 41.7 WAR

(8) Boog Powell, 40.1 WAR (1961-1974)

(9) Ken Williams, 38.6 WAR

(10) Harlond Clift, 37.4 WAR

(11) Paul Blair, 36.4 WAR (1964-1976)

(13) Dave McNally, 34.0 WAR (1962-1974)

(15) Frank Robinson, 33.4 WAR (1966-1971)


On the ballot: The eight players on the Orioles Franchise Four ballot are divided between the players on the very good Baltimore teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s—Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Paul Blair, Dave McNally, and Frank Robinson—and two players who were part of the good Orioles teams in the early 1980s—Cal Ripken, Jr., and Eddie Murray.

Brooks Robinson and Paul Blair were defensive standouts for the Orioles teams that went to the World Series four times in six years from 1966 to 1971 (winning two championships). Robinson won Gold Gloves in 16 consecutive seasons from 1960 to 1974. Paul Blair won seven consecutive Gold Gloves and eight in nine seasons from 1967 to 1975.

Jim Palmer and Dave McNally were starting pitchers on those great Orioles teams, including the 1971 team that had four 20-game winners. Palmer led the league in innings pitched four times and ERA twice and won three AL Cy Young Awards in four years from 1973 to 1976.

Boog Powell and Frank Robinson brought the lumber for the O’s in those years. Powell was the AL MVP in the 1970 season when the O’s won the World Series and was second in MVP voting in 1969. Over those two years he hit .300/.398/.554 and averaged 36 homers and 118 RBI. Frank Robinson was the AL MVP in the Orioles’ 1966 championship year when he hit .316/.410/.637 with 49 homers and 122 RBI. At the end of his playing career, Robinson became the first African American to manage in major league baseball. He managed for four different MLB teams, including the Baltimore Orioles from 1988 to 1991.

Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken, Jr. were key contributors to the good Baltimore Orioles teams of the early 1980s. Eddie Murray was part of the Orioles team that lost the 1979 World Series to the “We R Fam-a-lee” Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games. The O’s finished second in 1980. Cal Ripken, Jr. came up in 1981 and the team finished second in the AL East in his first two seasons with the team, then made the playoffs and the World Series in 1983, beating the Phillies in five games. Ripken played 21 years with the Orioles, was an All-Star 19 times, an MVP twice, and won the 1982 AL Rookie of the Year Award.

Notable snubs: Mike Mussina should be one of the starting pitchers on the fictional “Bobby Grich All-Underappreciated team.” He’s 16th all-time in WAR for pitchers, ahead of numerous Hall of Famers, yet has received just 20.3% and 24.6% of the vote in his first two years on the ballot. And, true to form, he is not one of the eight players on the ballot for the Orioles Franchise Four despite having more career WAR as an Oriole than four of the players who made the ballot.

My Franchise Four: Cal Ripken, Jr., Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray


Toronto Blue Jays (1977-2015)

(1) Roy Halladay, 49.1 WAR (1998-2009)

(2) Dave Stieb, 44.0 WAR (1979-1992, 1998)

(3) Tony Fernandez, 35.1 WAR (1983-90, 1993, 1998-99, 2001)

(4) Carlos Delgado, 34.7 WAR (1993-2004)

(5) Jose Bautista, 29.7 WAR (2008-2015)

(6) Jesse Barfield, 29.6 WAR

(7) Jim Clancy, 28.7 WAR

(8) Jimmy Key, 28.2 WAR

(9) Vernon Wells, 24.6 WAR

(10)Lloyd Moseby, 24.6 WAR

(15) Roberto Alomar, 20.4 WAR (1991-1995)

(16) George Bell, 20.2 WAR (1981, 1983-1990)

(49) Joe Carter, 7.4 WAR (1991-1997)


On the ballot: After joining the American League as an expansion club in 1977, it took until 1985 for the Blue Jays to make the playoffs for the first time. Dave Stieb was the best pitcher on the Blue Jays during the 1980s. At his best he averaged 4.6 WAR per season from 1980 to 1985. As good as Stieb was in the 80s, Roy Halladay was that guy in the 2000s, although the Jays never made the playoffs during Halladay’s time with the team. Halladay was a six-time All-Star for the Blue Jays and won the AL Cy Young award in 2003.

Tony Fernandez had four different stints with the Blue Jays and hit well in three different American League Championship Series and the 1993 World Series. He was a teammate of George Bell from 1983 to 1990. Bell’s best year was his AL MVP season of 1987 when he hit .308/.352/.605 with 47 dingers and 134 ribbies (worth 5.3 WAR).

Carlos Delgado had two regular season plate-appearances on the Blue Jays’ 1993 championship team and did not play in the post-season. He didn’t do much at the big league level in 1994 or 1995 but broke out in 1996 with a 25-homer, 92-RBI season and was at his best in 2000 when he had 7.4 WAR, hitting .344/.470/.664.

The only two players on the Blue Jays’ eight-man ballot who were on both of the Blue Jays world championship teams are Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. Alomar was the MVP of the ALCS in 1992 and Joe Carter hit his famous game-winning home run off Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams that won the 1993 World Series. Despite his World Series heroics, Carter is 49th in career WAR for the Blue Jays and was worth negative WAR in his last three years with the team.

The one active player on the Blue Jays’ ballot is Jose Bautista, who joined the Blue Jays in 2008 and broke out big time in 2010 with a 54-homer season, then followed that up with a 43-homer season in 2011, leading the league both years. As good as he’s been in his seven-plus years with the team, last year was the first time they finished higher than third in their division since he’s been a Blue Jay.

Notable snubs: Well, Joe Carter has his signature moment with the Blue Jays, but his body of work with the team is unimpressive. He has less WAR as a Blue Jay than Roy Howell, Ricky Romero, and one of the Alex Gonzalezes, among many others (does it matter which Alex Gonzalez? No). Perhaps Jon Olerud would have been a better choice for the ballot than Carter. Olerud was part of the two Blue Jays World Series teams and led the league in hitting and on-base percentage with a .363/.473/.599 line in 1993.

My Franchise Four: Roy Halladay, Dave Stieb, Tony Fernandez, Roberto Alomar


Tampa Bay Rays (1909-2015) 

(1) Evan Longoria, 39.2 WAR (2008-2015)

(2) Carl Crawford, 36.7 WAR (2002-2010)

(3) Ben Zobrist, 35.0 WAR (2006-2014)

(4) James Shields, 24.0 WAR (2006-2012)

(5) David Price, 23.8 WAR (2008-2014)

(6) B.J. “Melvin” Upton, 22.3 WAR (2004, 2006-2012)

(7) Scott Kazmir, 15.5 WAR (2004-2009)

(8) Carlos Pena, 14.1 WAR (2007-20010, 2012)


On the ballot: All but one of these players is still active in the major leagues but only Evan Longoria is still with the Rays. He’s an easy pick for the Tampa Bay Rays Franchise Four with 5 or more WAR in five of his first seven full seasons with the team. In the years before Evan Longoria arrived, Carl Crawford was the Rays’ best player. He played nine full seasons in Tampa and had five seasons with 4.5 or more WAR, including a very good 7.7 WAR season in 2010.

Ben Zobrist ranks just below Crawford on the Rays leaderboard. It took Zobrist a few years to get going. He was on the 2008 team that lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies but was not yet a full-time player. He broke out in a big way in 2009, amassing 8.6 WAR as he hit .297/.405/.543 and played great defense at multiple positions. He continued to be one of the team’s best players until his trade to the Athletics last offseason.

James Shields was the Rays’ #1 starter on their 2008 World Series team and David Price was a rookie on that squad who pitched very well in the postseason. They are very close in career WAR in their time with the Rays but Shields accumulated his 24.0 WAR in 1454.7 innings, while Price had 23.8 WAR in 1143.7 innings. Price also had more All-Star appearances and won a Cy Young in 2012.

With his most-recent two seasons being so incredibly bad, it’s easy to forget that B.J. Upton was an above-average player for six years with the Rays from 2007 to 2012.

Scott Kazmir and Carlos Pena are a good deal behind the other six players on the ballot in WAR, but they each had their moments with the Rays. Kazmir was a two-time All-Star and Carlos Pena led the league in home runs in 2009.

Notable snub: None. The eight players on the ballot for the Tampa Bay Rays Franchise Four are the top eight players in career WAR for the team. The next-highest WAR total belongs to Julio Lugo and no one wants Julio Lugo on the ballot except maybe his mother, but definitely not his ex-wife.

My Franchise Four: Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, David Price