Best of the Best

June 6, 2018
 
Reader Bertrecords sent Bill the following question:
 
My fantasy team currently has the best hitter so far this season per the player raters (Mookie Betts) and the best pitcher (Justin Verlander).  The team correspondingly is doing well.  What are examples of MLB teams simultaneously with the best hitter and the best pitcher?  Have any of these MLB teams not been upper tier?
 
Because I happened to be looking around for a quick article to write, I decided to tackle Bert’s question. What examples are there of major league teams having the best hitter and the best pitcher in the same season? How have those teams fared? Have any of them failed to win?
 
Tackling the last question first: every team that had the best pitcher and the best hitter in the league were pretty good. All of them were winning teams. Most of them were very winning teams.
 
But…they weren’t thatgreat. Fifteen teams in baseball history have been luck enough to have the best offensive player and the best pitcher in the league, and all of them had very winning records. But very few of them would be counted as great teams.
 
Fifteen teams had the best hitter and best pitcher…only six of those teams managed to come in first.
 
And, actually, that’s a little bit of a cheat. One of those teams were the 1981 Phillies. The 1981 Phillies had the best offensive player (Michael Jack Schmidt) and the best pitcher (Steve Carlton), and they finished the first half of the 1981 season in first place, locking in a playoff spot. But they weren’t nearly as successful in the second half, and they actually ended up with the third-best record in their division. They got credited with a first-place finish because baseball decided on a loopy decision in dealing with the strike, but the Phillies weren’t really the best team in the league.
 
So five-and-a-half of our teams can be credited as finishing in first.
 
Five of those teams managed to reach the World Series…all of them except the Phillies. Our lucky teams were five-for-fifteen in reaching the Series.
 
And those teams lost most of those Series. The teams with the best offensive player and the best hitter in the league lost four of the five World Series they played in.
 
Okay…we’re a little ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a step back and talk about criteria, and then introduce you to some teams.
 
*             *             *
 
To find the ‘best’ offensive players and pitchers, I used Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR. Using bWAR probably cost us a few eligible teams, a few teams that you'd think would end up on our list. The 1990 Pirates come to mind. T had Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek….Baseball-Reference’s WAR identifies Bonds as the best offensive player in 1990, but they pick Ed Whitson ahead of Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, by a pretty good margin. What are you gonna do?
 
Drabek and Bonds won their league’s respecctive awards for best player and best pitcher. This has happened 19 times since the Cy Young Award came into existence, with Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer of the 2013 Tigers being the most recent teammate duo to win the awards.
 
What’s remarkable is that, of those nineteen MVP/CY teammate combos, only one of them shows up on our list of teammate bWAR leaders. The 2013 Tigers aren't that team: Miguel Cabrera rated behind Mike Trout in bWAR in 2013, and Max Scherzer’s season, spectacular as it was, shows up behind Hisashi Iwakuma’s great year in Seattle. It'
 
So let’s start introducing our teams. We’ll go in chronological order.
 
 
1906 Pittsburg Pirates – Honus Wagner (9.3), Vic Wills (8.1)
 
Our first pair isn’t a cheat: Honus Wagner was one of the original players elected to the Hall-of-Fame, and while Vic Wills had to wait nearly a century to gain his plaque, both men were elite players. Wills, playing his first year in Pittsburg, managed to toss 322 innings without giving up a home run. Wagner has a typically Wagnerian campaign, pacing the NL in runs scored, batting average, doubles, and total bases.
 
But the great team in the league was four hundred miles west in Chicago, where the Cubs ran rampage over the rest of the league, en route to an 116-win season. The Pirates won a respectable 93 games, but that was good enough to have them 23.5 games back at season’s end.
 
1915 Philadelphia Phillies – Gavvy Cravath (7.0), Pete Alexander (10.9)
 
This was a team carried by their two best players. Gavvy Cravath had his third straight stellar season in 1915, pacing the NL in just about every category except batting average. Pete Alexander, not yet ‘Old’, threw 376 innings and posted a 1.22 ERA, having one of the very best seasons of his career.
 
Behind them, the supporting cast was thin. Fred Luderus, a player I’ve never heard of until writing this sentence, was the team’s second-best position player, and while Alexander had Eppa Rixey in the rotation with him, Eppa was a young pitcher who hadn’t developed into the star he’d become after the War. Erskine Mayer, a decent pitcher having his last full season in the majors, was the team’s #2 pitcher. 
 
The Phillies won the pennant, mostly because someone had to win it, and they were the team best equipped to answer the call. They weren’t a good team…the Phillies were a losing team in 1914, and they’d slip back to losing by 1918…but Alexander and Cravath were good enough to get them to the promise land, where they got thumped by the Red Sox.
 
1934 New York Yankees – Lou Gehrig (10.4), Lefty Gomez (8.3)
 
I trust that enough of you will be familiar with these players to not require an in-depth description. Lou Gehrig won a Triple Crown, Lefty Gomez won the pitcher’s Triple Crown, and the Yankees, suffering through the last year of The Babe in pinstripes, got beat by Mickey Cochrane’s Tigers.
 
This is the only Yankees team that makes our list, a fact that surprised me at the start. The Yankees have often had the best offensive player in the league, and while their history of pitchers doesn’t quite compare to their batters, they’ve had a lot of big years from the likes of Ruffing and Ford and Guidry and Clemens and Mussina. But 1934 is the only year the stars aligned for the Bronx Bombers, and it was one of the rare years when the Yankees didn’t win a damned pennant.
 
That's interesting, I think.
 
One of my pet theories about baseball teams is that elite players cause a slackness in how a team plays. This theory cuts across all aspects, from the front office decisions to game-day management to player performance. If a team has a Mays or a Mantle or a Maddux or a Marichal on the roster (or a player of equal ability, but no ‘M’ in their surname), that team will have a tendency to worry less about the gaps on their team. The GM will count on a Mays or a Mantle to carry the offense, and tolerate the presence of a shortstop hitting .220. The manager will ask Maddux to give them a lead, and not put effort into finding a reliable arm to come in to finish things off when the ace is running on fumes. The lesser hitters on a team will give away at-bats, trying to get the game in the hands of Miggy or Manny or Machado.  
 
I have often thought that the best teams are the teams where the center is dispersed; where responsibility for winning and losing is spread out across the roster. The Yankees, the winningest team in baseball history, have mostly been a team of diverse talents: for all the fame of Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio and Mantle, there have always been secondary players of exceptional talent able to rise to the challenge when the situation demands it. The Yankees success as a franchise isn’t built on the greatness of individual players: it has always rested on the aggressive assembling of a roster of competent performers. The Yankees are famous for their great players, but their great players have operated as an illusion to why the team has been so good for so long. They’ve won because their organizational ethos is to pursue excellence everywhere, and to not allow sentiment (or cost) keep them from that pursuit.
 
I said it surprised me that the Yankees didn’t show up more often. It did surprise me, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. The Yankees are too good a team to show up on this list.
 
1935 Pittsburg Pirates – Arky Vaughan (9.2), Cy Blanton (7.2)
 
This was another ‘carry’ team, where the best players (Vaughan, Blanton, The Waner Bros.) did the bulk of the heavy lifting. The Pirates, at this moment in their team history, were in a period of treading water: they were good enough to win more games than they lost, but not really good enough to pull it together and challenge the best teams for a crown. They finished 3rd in 1935.
 
1936 New York Giants – Mel Ott (7.8), Carl Hubbell (9.8)
 
This is another team where the bulk of the wins rested in a few players: Hubbell, Ott, and shortstop Dick Bartell. The Giants won the pennant and lost the World Series to the Yankees, and they’d win the pennant again in 1937 (and lose another World Series). These were the last clangs of the Ott/Hubbell/Terry Giants teams…the post- McGraw team that reached the World Series three times in five years. I don’t think this was a great team, but they were the best NL team of their era (1933-1938).
 
It’s interesting to note that there is a ‘clustering’ of teams around years. We’ve had three seasons in a row represented now, and we’re about to get another cluster.
 
1942 Boston Red Sox – Ted (10.6), Tex Hughson (6.4)
 
The last Red Sox team before Teddy went to war had the component parts for the team to give the Yankees a challenge. In addition to Williams and Hughson, this team had Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Dom DiMaggio, all young men eager to win baseball games. They’d have to wait a few years to do it, but win they would, netting a pennant in 1946 and almost snagging another one in 1949.
 
It’s speculation, but I think that World War II cost the Red Sox a couple championships. The Yankees 1942 roster certainly had a lot of young talent (DiMaggio, Gordon, Rizzuto, Keller, Henrich), but the span between 1942 and 1949 was the time when the Red Sox came the closest to having a little more talent. Unfortunately, the war interrupted three of those years, and then Enos Slaughter ran through the stop signal, and Ted Williams didn’t get a ring. By the time the Red Sox got around to winning, the Yankees had regrouped and the National League, helped by aggressive integration, had become the dominant league in the game. Boston missed their window, and they would see another one until 1967.
 
The 1942 squad finished second, nine games behind the Yankees.
 
1943 St. Louis Cardinals - Stan Musial (9.4), Mort Cooper (5.8)
1948 St. Louis Cardinals – Stan Musial (11.1), Harry Brecheen (8.9)
 
The 1943 Cardinals were a good team taking advantage of a league weakened by the draft: they won the pennant going away and then lost the World Series. The Cardinals had enough talent to win the Series again in 1944 and 1946, but by 1948 the team was nearing the end of their run as the best WWII-era NL team. St. Louis finished 2nd in both 1948 and 1949, before dropping all the way downto fifth place in 1950.
 
1949 Boston Red Sox – Ted (9.1), Mel Parnell (7.9)
 
This is the Red Sox team that lost the famous 1949 pennant race by losing the last two games of the season to the Yankees. If you haven’t read David Halberstam’s book on the subject, I’d encourage you to check it out. I can’t do any better, and I don’t feel compelled to try.
 
In many ways, the Cardinals and Red Sox had parallel team arcs: both clubs were built around the best player in the league (Musial, Williams). Both teams had good supporting players and were strong contenders for the bulk of the 1940’s, but neither one could quite find an answer for the Yankees, and then the circle turned.
 
1963 Minnesota Twins – Bob Allison (7.4), Camilo Pascual (6.1)
 
This was not a depthless team: Minnesota had a lot of talent surrounding Allison and Pascual on their roster. The Twins had good hitters in Killebrew and Earl Battey and Jimmie Hall, and they had Jim Kaat and Jim Perry backing Pascual in the rotation. Bill Dailey was their closer (21 saves, 1.99 ERA, 108 IP). It was a good, diverse team, and they probably would have won in a league that didn’t have the Yankees. They did win: 91 games, and they’d sneak a pennant in two years later when the Ford/Mantle/Berra Yankees finally got too old to get in the way.
 
1965 San Francisco Giants – Willie Mays (11.2), Juan Marichal (10.3)
 
The memories and measures of these men seem indistinct. Did they scale further heights, or was this the one season in which they blazed like twin meteors across the game’s horizon?
 
1980 Philadelphia Phillies – Mike Schmidt (8.9), Steve Carlton (10.2)
1981 Philadelphia Phillies – Mike Schmidt (7.7), Steve Carlton (5.6)
 
The 1980-81 Phillies were an old, lousy team that happened to have the best hitter and the best pitcher on the planet, and they rode those horse (and a great season by Tug McGraw) to a 1980 World Championship. They got old and then they got older, and they somehow managed to sneak another World Series appearance in 1983, mostly because no one else in the NL East could get things together enough to mount a challenge.

Take a look at the 1980 Phillies team page sometime and you’ll see what I mean. Mike Schmidt stands out, but who is the second best hitter on this team? It was almost certainly Bake McBride, having his last full year as a major league player. After that it’s Greg Luzinski, who hit .228 with 19 homers. After that it’s Manny Trillo or one of their bench players. Their offense was 70% Mike Schmidt.
 
Steve Carlton was Steve Carlton, but who was behind him in the rotation? Dick Ruthven went 17-10 with a 3.35 ERA, but he struck out only 86 batters in 223.1 innings, while walking 74. He Bob Walk had a 4.57 ERA. Randy Lerch lerched his way to a 5.16 mark. Nino Espinosa and Larry Christienson were at 3.77 and 4.03. There’s a reason you’ve never heard of any of those guys: they were all terrible major league pitchers.
 
And the bullpen, outside of Tug, wasn’t any kind of special. The ERA’s of Phillies relief pitchers, sorted by inning pitched, read as follows: 4.05, 3.85, 3.42, 3.15, 3.72, 4.15, 1.50.
 
The Phillies had perhaps the two best players in all of baseball performing at the height of their powers, and they surrounded them with aging ‘name players’ like Pete Rose and Sparky Lyle and Larry Bowa and (later) Joe Morgan and Gary Matthews and Garry Maddox and Tony Perez. They had no talent bubbling up to fill in the gaps because they traded half of their young players away to acquire old farts, and then let those old farts block the few kids remaining from every reaching their potential. And then they’d trade an old fart and a prospect for a mediocre player…hence the Cubs winding up with Bowa and Ryne Sandberg for Ivan DeJesus.
 
If you want the perfect demonstration of the theory that brilliance causes blindness, you couldn’t find a better case study than the Phillies of 1979-1983. But they won a championship: the 1980 Phillies are the only team on our list that managed to win the World Series.
 
And the 1980 Phillies were the only team on our list whose hitter/pitcher duo received the actual MVP and CY awards. It was a decisive vote: Schmidt was the unanimous MVP, while Carlton netted 23-of-24 first-place votes for the Cy Young Award.
 
1982 Montreal Expos – Gary Carter (8.6), Steve Rodgers (7.7)
 
Of all the teams on our list, the 1982 Expos are the most interesting to me.
 
They are interesting because they are the worst team on our list, tallying an unimpressive .531 winning percentage. And they are interesting because they had so much damned talent that it seems impossible they couldn’t win ninety-two games it would’ve taken to grab a division title.
 
Gary Carter was the best player in the National League, at least by bWAR. And Steve Rodgers was the best pitcher. But the Expos also had Andre Dawson, who hit .301 with 23 homers, 39 stolen bases, 107 runs scored, and a Gold Glove. Dawson rated as the second-best player in the NL in 1982…our friends at Baseball-Reference have the best players in the NL in 1982 as:
 
Rank
Player
Team
WAR
1
G. Carter
MON
8.6
2
Dawson
MON
7.9
3
Rodgers
MON
7.7
4
Soto
CIN
7.6
5
Schmidt
PHI
7.4
 
That’s something, isn’t it? The Expos had the three best players in the league in 1982. And we’re not talking about two corner outfielders and a DH. With Carter, Dawson, and Rodgers, Les Expos had the best players in the game covering them at catcher, centerfielder, and starting pitcher. That seems like a tremendous advantage.
 
And they won 86 games.
 
Well, the rest of the team was shallow, right?
 
No, it was not. Al Oliver hit .331 with 22 homers at first base. Tim Wallach hit 28 homers and drove in 97 at third base. Tim Raines, batting leadoff, posted a .353 on-base percentage and stole 78 bases in 94 attempts.
 
Well..the rotation was terrible, right?
 
No, it wasn’t. Behind Rogers, (152 ERA+), the Expos had Bill Gullickson (102 ERA+), Scott Sanderson (106), Charlie Lea (113), and David Palmer (115). Their starters behind Rogers weren’t spectacular, but they were, to a man, competent. They got the job done.
 
And they had Jeff Reardon in the bullpen. Reardon threw 109 innings and went 7-4 with 26 saves and an ERA of 2.06. Woodie Fryman, the best lefty in the pen, went 9-4 with 12 saves and a 3.75 ERA. They had Bryan Smith on their roster: he wasn’t great in 1982, but he’s become a good relief pitcher.
 
The team’s glaring hole was at second base: Montreal rotated a bunch of nobodies through the position, and they produced exactly as you’d expect, posting a .244/.289/.315 triple-slash line. (Trying to find a silver lining: Montreal second basemen went 31-for-37 on stolen base attempts, which is an 84% success rate).
 
But their real glaring hole was a lack of a bench. Or…more specifically…the glaring hole is that the Expos used their bench so badly. One metric that demonstrates this is that Montreal got abysmal production from their pinch hitters. Just looking at the four winning teams in the NL East in 1982:
 
Team
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
STL
.275
.359
.358
.717
PHI
.221
.314
.284
.598
MON
.196
.250
.312
.562
PIT
.258
.345
.386
.731
 
The Cardinals and Pirates got solid production from their pinch hitters, because they had Whitey Herzog and Chuck Tanner managing the team, two men long in tooth at the job and experienced at understanding how to get production from your pinch hitters. The Expos had Jim Fanning, a first-year manager who never got another chance at the job.
 
Well, enough about the Expos. Last team.
 
1986 Boston Red Sox – Wade Boggs (8.3), Roger Clemens (9.4)
 
This was a good team, of course. In addition to Boggs, the Red Sox had Rice and Evans, still extremely capable major league hitters. They had Tony Armas, and when they realized that Tony Armas wasn’t up for the task, they acquired Don Baylor and Dave Henderson. They had Rich Gedman, a competent catcher who looked even better when the backup played. They had Hurst and Boyd in the rotation, Stanley and Schiraldi in the pen. I can’t remember who played first base for Boston…the name escapes me…but I’m sure he could turn a play if you hit it to him.
 
The Red Sox had talent, and they built a team around that talent. 1986 was Clemens’ breakout season, and by 1988 the team had brought up Mike Greenwell and Ellis Burks and Jody Reed and Brady Anderson and Sam Horn. They added Lee Smith and Mike Boddicker. By 1990 they had added Brunansky and Tony Pena and Jeff Reardon, and they had Phil Plantier and Tim Naehring and Scott Cooper waiting in the wings. They were a team that attempted to build around their great fortune, and while that building didn’t lead to a World Series appearance (mistakes were made: B-a-g-w-e-l-l), the Red Sox weren’t complacent about their fortune. They tried to build on it, in a way that set them apart from many of the other teams on this list. The organization identified problem areas and attacked them aggressively. It didn’t work out, and maybe they didn’t work out because the team was too aggressive at shuffling deck chairs, but they can’t be called complacent. The Red Sox tried to win with Boggs and Clemens, and they very nearly did. They’d get back to the playoffs in 1988 and 1990, getting swept by Oakland in the ALCS both times.
 
*             *             *
 
Here’s a table of all of the teams who could claim the best hitter and pitcher in a single season, along with their W-L records:
 
Year
Lg.
Team
Hitter
bWAR
Pitcher
bWAR
Team W-L
1906
NL
PIT
Honus Wagner
9.3
Vic Willis
8.1
 93-60 (3rd)
1915
NL
PHI
Gavvy Cravath
7.0
Pete Alexander
10.9
90-62 (1st)
1934
AL
NYY
Lefty Gomez
8.3
Lou Gehrig
10.4
94-60 (2nd)
1935
NL
PIT
Arky Vaughan
9.2
Cy Blanton
7.2
86-67 (3rd)
1936
NL
NYG
Mel Ott
7.8
Carl Hubbell
9.8
92-62 (1st)
1942
AL
BOS
Tex Hughson
6.2
Ted Williams
10.6
93-59 (2nd)
1943
NL
STL
Stan Musial
9.4
Mort Cooper
5.8
105-49 (1st)
1948
NL
STL
Stan Musial
11.1
Harry Brecheen
8.9
85-69 (2nd)
1949
AL
BOS
Mel Parnell
7.9
Ted Williams
9.1
96-58 (2nd)
1963
AL
MIN
Camilo Pascual
6.1
Bob Allison
7.4
91-70 (3rd)
1965
NL
SFG
Willie Mays
11.2
Juan Marichal
12.3
95-67 (2nd)
1980
NL
PHI
Mike Schmidt
8.9
Steve Carlton
10.2
91-71 (1st)
1981
NL
PHI
Mike Schmidt
7.7
Steve Carlton
5.6
59-48 (1st*)
1982
NL
MON
Gary Carter
8.6
Steve Rogers
7.7
86-76 (3rd)
1986
AL
BOS
Roger Clemens
9.4
Wade Boggs
8.3
95-66 (1st)
 
I’m certainly not convinced that having great players blinds teams to their areas of weakness, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility, either. There are dimensions to what causes a team to win or lose that our best metrics haven’t delved into in any great depth, and one of those is the ways that the structures of a team can influence the performance of a team. Is it better to have three guys who are MVP candidates, or is it better to have six or seven guys who each produce runs fifteen percent better than the league average?
 
I will say that this all seems a tad anachronistic, a tad ‘old.’ Teams are smarter today than they’ve ever been, and it seems unlikely that a team blessed with a new version of Schmidt and Carlton will squander those years by signing a bunch of expensive free agents on the wrong side of thirty-five. We’ll someday see a team that is again blessed with the league’s best hitter and best pitcher, and I’d expect that team to raise the bar for this list.  
 
 
Dave Fleming is a writer living in western Virginia. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com.
 
 
 
 

COMMENTS (22 Comments, most recent shown first)

bertrecords
Thanks for the great article and the other responses.
1:01 PM Jun 16th
 
FrankD
interesting article. Even as a budding Twins fan in early '60s, I would not have thought Allison and Pascual were number ones. However, the Twins of that era (say '62-'71) should have done better than 1 pennant. Here's an (crazy?) thought: maybe the top players on a team think they have to do even better to carry weaker team, thus exceeding their peers. Schmidt: I got to hit one out or we'll lose or Carlton, if I don't win this game we'll lose the next 3 .......
6:12 PM Jun 13th
 
MattD1
As far as a “bad” team the ‘87 Cubs finished in last place and almost had the MVP and Cy Young winners. I understand Dawson probably didn’t finish as one of the ten best players in the NL in WAR, and I don’t know if Sutcliffe deserved to come as close as he did to the Cy Young.
2:27 PM Jun 9th
 
DavidTodd
I appreciate the work. the Expos were my favourite team for years and like the Mariners of the late 90s they couldn't win. Tim Raines played some 2B that year, coulda/shoulda just stayed with him and his average fielding. the Mariners had Randy Johnson, and the 2nd 3rd and 4th best hitters in the game, or so it seemed, with Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr and Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds being the best.​
12:39 AM Jun 9th
 
MWeddell
Riceman1974 at least made me curious. Baseball-reference's WAR calculation thinks that Higuera pitched in an environment with 0.65 runs per 9 inning of higher offense due mostly to the difference in defensive quality between the 1986 Brewers and 1986 Red Sox and to a lesser extent park factors.
10:39 AM Jun 8th
 
Riceman1974
Another reason why WAR sucks. In what effin universe is Teddy Higuera better than Clemens in 1986? That is beyond laughable. That reason alone justifies my anti-WAR bias, and is enough to throw that whole stat out the window and forget it forever.

Nothing against Teddy. Career started too late.

1:17 PM Jun 7th
 
bhalbleib
Great article Dave. When I read the original question asked in the Ask Bill, I noted that the question stated the best "hitter" and the best pitcher, which is not exactly the same as the best player and the best pitcher. So, using that criteria I found another instance since the strike that probably applies, which is the 1995 Mariners. They had Randy Johnson, who was most definitely the best pitcher in the AL, and Edgar Martinez, who wasn't the best player in the AL, because John Valentin was a SS putting up great offensive numbers, but if defense (and in Edgar's case, even playing in the field at all) is taken out of the formula, Edgar was probably the best hitter in the AL that year (he did have the highest BA, OBP, OPS and OPS+ in the AL that year) They also had Ken Griffey, Jr, who was the best player in the AL in years around that year, but was hurt and had an off year and a 19 year old Alex Rodriguez. They went 79-63 and won the AL West, beat the Yankees in the Divisional Series before losing to the Indians in the ALCS. They were a good team, but not a great one.
12:56 PM Jun 7th
 
MWeddell
A long time ago, BIll modified his runs created formula to include batting average with runners in scoring position (back when that was a new statistic). Yes, it improves the fit to runs or wins, but is that really what one wants?

It seems to me if our / Win Shares / uberstatistic of your choice is going to shift from what typically produces value to what directly produces value, then one has to consider using Win Probability Added to measure batting productivity, going all the way down that path to measure context by each plate appearance. Taking an intermediate approach -- inferring that if two batters have identical season totals the one that played for a team that won more games than expected had a better season -- isn't wholly satisfactory to me. It's kind of cool in that in makes Win Shares more distinctive but if I were to use just one uberstatistic like Dave did, I wouldn't choose to have it in there.
12:07 PM Jun 7th
 
3for3
MW said:
- I'm not at all persuaded by Bill's recent argument that the fact that Win Shares is calibrated to always match wins (if one multiples by three) and WAR doesn't do that is a bug.

Indeed, Bill criticized Palmer for this sort of retro fitting of statistics. I much prefer metrics that look at runs to wins.
8:33 AM Jun 7th
 
MWeddell
Maris:
- Win Shares was designed 15-20 years ago, because defensive play-by-play statistics were available.
- Whatever Win Shares that are out there aren't the current version that Bill uses. Hard to give credence to Win Shares as the best overall value metric when its creator doesn't use them.
- Win Shares overcompensates for playing time by not starting with a replacement level. Studes used to use Win Share Above Bench (in the pre-WAR days) to compensate for that in a simple but fairly effective manner.
- We've seen recently that the Baseball Gauge Win Shares aren't even recognizable to Bill. So, yes, that's part of my objection but just a small part.
- I'm not at all persuaded by Bill's recent argument that the fact that Win Shares is calibrated to always match wins (if one multiples by three) and WAR doesn't do that is a bug.

Layer onto that the practical advantages of WAR -- one can converse with other sabermetrically-oriented baseball fans win WAR and baseball-reference is an easy website to use for sorting and filtering -- and there are plenty of reasons to prefer WAR over Win Shares. Ideally, I'd prefer looking at different variations of WAR so that one isn't fooled by an outlier.

Giving credit to Win Shares where it's due, it was the first measurement of overall value that I recall and the first one to evaluate defense well. It just hasn't been kept current and publicly-available.
7:27 AM Jun 7th
 
MarisFan61
MW: Do you mean that you've had the impression that Baseball Gauge's Win Share data are particularly less good than Bill's, or just that they're "not Bill's"?
(IMO either thing would be well taken; just curious.)
8:44 PM Jun 6th
 
MWeddell
I prefer WAR, WAR or WARP over the Win Shares on Baseball Gauge. In any case, it's a reasonable choice. It's not as if the article would have been noticeably better or worse if a different metric from bb-refWAR had been used.
7:00 PM Jun 6th
 
trn6229
The 1967 Red Sox had Yaz, MVP and Jim Longborg, Cy Young. George Scott may have been the best 1stbaseman in the AL that year.

Take Care.
Tom Nahigian
6:19 PM Jun 6th
 
DaveFleming
Robinsong is correct...I missed the 1987 Red Sox and the 1932-1933 Philadelphia Athletics.

Interestingly, the 1986 Red Sox shouldn't be on the list, as Teddy Higuera inched out Rocket in bWAR, 9.4 to 8.9. I think I assumed that Roger's listing was his 1986 season, when it was actually his 1987 campaign.

The 1987 Red Sox went to hell: they had MVP years from Clemens, Boggs, and Evans, and Greenwell and Burks had promising rookie years, but everyone else on the team just fell apart. Bruce Hurst had a 4.41 ERA...that was good enough to rank second among Boston starters...everyone else was over 5.00 in ERA, and a lot of pitchers were well over 5.00. Rich Gedman was hurt, and the catching duties fell on Marc Sullivan, the owner's kid who had no business being on a major league field. Sullivan's OPS+ was 14.

It might be a stretch to blame a season-long disaster on the events of the previous postseason, but I don't know that it is much of a stretch. The Red Sox played like a team fighting a really bad hungover in 1987.

Not sure how in the hell I missed Foxx and Grove, but they were the best position player/pitcher in the AL in 1932 and 1933. The A's finished second and third in those seasons, both times comfortably behind the pennant winner.

So we can add three teams to our list who didn't win the pennant or a World Series (1932-33 A's, 1987 Red Sox), and we can subtract one team that came very close to winning a World Series (1986 Red Sox).
2:20 PM Jun 6th
 
MarisFan61
Oh OK, thank you folks. I'm getting the idea that I need better glasses.

He did spell it Willis in the chart near the bottom, but that's not my excuse. I just didn't notice that he was saying "Wills" up top.

BTW nobody else minds particularly that he used "WAR" rather than something else?
Not that I'm in that much of a position, since I only used another site's version of Win Shares, not Bill's.
But at least I used Win Shares. :-)

I don't blame anyone for using what's readily accessible, and I realize that most of the time, that means using WAR, not necessarily meaning that the person prefers it.
But since I've discovered that there's a site that does provide Win Shares so readily, even though it differs some from Bill's calculations, I regard that as preferable to anything WAR.
1:28 PM Jun 6th
 
pgaskill
Maris,

Both Steve's corrections were of misspellings. Dave left the second i out of Willis, making it Wills, and also misspelled Christensen in a couple of inventive, creative ways. (No insult or embarrassment intended, Dave: great article.)
12:21 PM Jun 6th
 
Robinsong
I think that you missed two teams. The 1987 Red Sox (Clemens and Boggs again) and the 1932 Philadelphia Athletics. In both cases they were the best two in MLB, the only times besides the 1965 Giants. Neither team won the pennant and the Red Sox finished below .500, making that the exception to your statement.
12:10 PM Jun 6th
 
337
It says Vic "Wills" not "Willis."

Also Steve Rogers has an extra "d."
12:02 PM Jun 6th
 
MarisFan61
Steve: I don't understand what you mean by that first correction, because Vic Willis is the pitcher that he said.
The only correction I see to be made there is adding an h to Pittsburg. :-)​
11:52 AM Jun 6th
 
SteveN
A couple of corrections. The pitcher for the first team was, I believe, Vic Willis. Lived not far from where I live.

Larry Christensen was a pretty good pitcher who seemed to always be injured. I saw him go about 6 no hit innings vs the Mets once. (Famous locally because the Mets and Phils played 5 games in 3 days.)
11:09 AM Jun 6th
 
MarisFan61
It looked to me like he meant best players in the game, i.e. in the majors.

Let's see, better go back and look -- it wouldn't be the first time I read something wrong here.... :-)

Indeed it looks like he meant that:
"My fantasy team currently has the best hitter so far this season per the player raters (Mookie Betts) and the best pitcher (Justin Verlander). The team correspondingly is doing well. What are examples of MLB teams simultaneously with the best hitter and the best pitcher?"

Of course that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with what you looked at, but it's not what he was asking about.

Anyway:
I looked at it in a thread on Reader Posts.
If we use Win Shares for the single season as the criterion (and using the data from The Baseball Gauge -- I'd have preferred to use Bill's data but I was looking for a quick-and-easy; the numbers there are usually quite close to Bill's although not always), there would be just 3 such years:

1932 A's: Foxx, Grove -- finished 2nd, 13 games behind the Yanks
1980 Phillies: Schmidt, Carlton -- won World Series
1986 Red Sox: Boggs, Clemens -- as y'all know, might well have won World Series but didn't
10:59 AM Jun 6th
 
evanecurb
I think bertrecords was trying to find out if there were any bad teams that had the best hitter and best pitcher. It looks like there were not. I guess the '82 Expos came closest by your criteria. I did find the 7th place 1963 Red Sox (76-86). They had Yastrzemski, who led the league in hits, walks, doubles, batting average, and on base percentage, and Dick Radatz, who had a 1.97 ERA in 132 relief innings. Not first by your criteria (2nd and 3rd in bWAR), but a case could be made that they were the best player and best pitcher in the AL.
9:12 AM Jun 6th
 
 
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