Franchise All Star Teams (Divisional Era Version) - Part I - Kickoff

August 28, 2022
Introduction/Kickoff
 
As anyone familiar with my articles is aware, I love researching and compiling "teams". All-time teams by college attended, all-time teams by birth place, all-time teams of players who were inspired by Harold Baines or Fielder Jones or Nomar Garciaparra or Billy Grabarkewitz, and so on. I find it a fun exercise to establish the criteria, pull up baseball-reference.com or other sites to dig into the data, and then assemble the rosters.
 
The granddaddy of this type of exercise, in my mind, is creating all-time, all-star rosters by franchise. I first got hooked on this as a young fan when I started getting into baseball board games. The version I was introduced to was Sports Illustrated baseball, which was certainly lesser-known than Strat-O-Matic or APBA, but it was similar in nature. I had a friend who owned the 1971 Sports Illustrated version, and we played many a game with the rosters from that season, re-creating the exploits of Joe Torre and Willie Stargell, Vida Blue and Fergie Jenkins, and even Ralph Garr and Glenn Beckert
 
In the early 1970’s, Sports Illustrated also came out with an all-time all-star version of the game. I was still a young fan, but it was fascinating to see the rosters that were assembled based on the all-time greats who I had started to get familiar with when reading and learning about baseball’s past. 
 
In those mythical all-time franchise teams, the Yankees could start a dream outfield of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle (with Mantle having to move to LF or RF to accommodate the trio). The Giants had a "big 3" rotation of Christy Mathewson, Carl Hubbell, and Juan Marichal. The White Sox had an appalling lack of power – I believe the best HR hitters on their roster were Minnie Minoso and Sherm Lollar – but they had a lot of speed and defense, and could start an up-the-middle quartet like Ray Schalk, Eddie Collins, Luis Aparicio, and Johnny Mostil, each of whom had a very high defensive rating in the board game. 
 
The Cardinals had an awesome heart of the batting order with Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, and Johnny Mize. The Senators/Twins franchise was loaded with left handed hitters, especially in the outfield (Goose Goslin, Heinie Manush, Sam Rice, Clyde Milan, Tony Oliva), but also the likes of Cecil Travis, Joe Judge, and the 2 Buddys (Myer & Lewis). On the other hand, the Cubs tilted heavily to the right with Cap Anson, Gabby Hartnett, Ernie Banks, Hack Wilson, Kiki Cuyler, Riggs Stephenson, Ron Santo, Billy Herman, Joe Tinker, and Frank Chance, with Billy Williams, Johnny Evers, and Stan Hack being the primary lefty options available on the roster. I was always fascinated how the franchises developed different characteristics, styles, and identities.
 
But….although I’ve drawn up many franchise all-time all-star rosters of my own over the years, I never submitted an article on that particular topic, for 2 main reasons:
 
  • The first reason is that, quite frankly, it’s been done to death. I could compile teams and write about them, but it probably wouldn’t look much different from dozens of other ones you could find online.  I don’t think I’d add much to what’s already out there.
 
  • The second one is, if you’re interested in including something along the lines of a simulation or a tournament (which I am), the expansion teams would find it hard to compete. 

    To elaborate on that…..the 16 oldest franchises (Reds, Dodgers, Braves, Cardinals, Giants, Cubs, Pirates, Phillies in the NL, and the Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, Tigers, A’s, Indians/Guardians, Browns/Orioles, Senators/Twins in the AL) have a distinct advantage over the expansion teams that came along in the 1960’s and later. Those 16 older franchises date back to at least 1901 or (in the case of the NL franchises) even earlier than that. That gives those franchises 120 years or more of players to select from, while most of the expansion teams have around 50-60 years, or even fewer. It’s really tough for the younger franchises to compete with that much of a difference in the depth of the talent pool, especially given the presence of the old-time legends that the older franchises enjoyed.
 
So, I thought of a different angle. Much as I did in another series I wrote about not too long ago ("the best players of the last 50 years"), I decided to limit the all-time franchise selections to the Divisional Era (1969 to present).  That would accomplish the following:
 
1)      It aligns the selections with the time frame in which I have followed baseball (I technically started in 1970, but I also started collecting cards at that time, which meant I got very familiar with the 1969 season, so that works out perfectly).

2)      It gives the expansion teams a fighting chance to be competitive, as it significantly reduces the player pool that the 16 oldest franchises have to select from.
 
So, that’s what I’m going to do this time. No Babe Ruth, no Honus Wagner, no Walter Johnson, no Christy Mathewson, no Stan Musial, and no Ted Williams. Only players that I have personally experienced.
 
So, let’s kick off this project. The Divisional Era Franchise All-Stars!
 
Approach
 
Here are the guiding principles of this exercise.
 
·         Only seasons from 1969 to the present are considered. I took my data snapshot a few weeks ago, so it’s not 100% up to the moment for 2022, but it’s close enough. Players like Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Pete Rose, and Hank Aaron who all started playing before 1969 are eligible, but they will only be evaluated on 1969 and later.

·         Players are eligible to be selected for more than one franchise (Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, etc.)

·         I’m selecting full rosters, not just starting lineups. 

·         The rosters must resemble a real team. In other words, each team has to have legitimate backups for every position, which I’m defining as a player who has at least a "reasonable" amount of experience at a position. I can’t just select 6 reserve outfielders for a team’s bench and call it a day.

·         I tried to select at least 2 left handed pitchers on each pitching staff, unless doing so would clearly would result in an unqualified selection. Most franchises were able to do this without having to pick a substandard option, but if a cluster of pitchers for the last slot were close and the team really needed a left hander, I tended to give it to the lefty.

·         I went with 15 position players and 10 pitchers for each roster, which I know is inconsistent with roster construction in today’s MLB, but I felt this worked better for what I was doing.

·         I am using the designated hitter for all teams, so there will be 9 position players designated as starters, and 6 for the bench.
 
Rosters and Scoring
 
I used a consistent roster construction template for each team. I designated a starter at each of the 8 field positions, 1 designated hitter, 5 starting pitchers, 2 relief pitchers, 3 pitchers who could be any type of pitcher (starter, reliever, hybrid, spot starter, what have you), and 6 reserve position players. I didn’t put any restrictions on the reserve players other than I had to have 1 reserve catcher and the full roster had to possess at least 2 players who could reasonably cover each field position. I did not mandate "x" number of reserve infielders or "x" number of reserve outfielders. They just had to provide adequate position coverage.
 
I also assigned each roster slot a "weight" that will come into play later when I talk about how I "scored" each roster. Basically, I’m multiplying each weight by a player’s individual "score", which I’ll explain later, but it gives the starters heavier weight than the reserves as a means of representing the expected playing time.
 
Below are the weights I used for each roster slot. It adds up to 100%, with the weights of the position players adding up to 65%, and the pitchers add up to 35%.  I applied this on the premise that 50% of the game is offense and 50% is defense, and I’m estimating that 70% of defense is pitching, with the other 30% being position player fielding. 70% of 50% is 35% (pitching), and 30% of 50% is 15% (fielding), so position players get the 50% for offense plus the 15% for fielding, or 65% total. That may or may not hold up in court, but that’s the approach I’ve consistently taken when doing this kind of exercise.
 
Pos
Weight
C
6.0%
1B
6.0%
2B
6.0%
3B
6.0%
SS
6.0%
LF
6.0%
CF
6.0%
RF
6.0%
DH
5.0%
SP1
6.0%
SP2
5.0%
SP3
4.0%
SP4
3.5%
SP5
3.0%
RP1
4.0%
RP2
3.0%
P
2.5%
P
2.0%
P
2.0%
Res
2.0%
Res
2.0%
Res
2.0%
Res
2.0%
Res
2.0%
Res
2.0%
 
The "scoring" used is WAR-based, but I didn’t just add up a player’s raw WAR total that he accumulated with the franchise. I wanted it to capture quality relative to opportunity (that is, to be more of a "rate" metric) rather than relying on raw accumulation, although I did also want to reward players for the time spent with a franchise. So, the scoring methodology I used combines those 2 things.
 
By way of example (and I’ll used them throughout this kickoff), I’ll use my beloved Cincinnati Reds to illustrate. Here are the top 10 Reds’ position players in terms of total, cumulative WAR realized while playing for the franchise since 1969 (any pre-1969 seasons are not included in the totals):
 
Name
WAR
G
Johnny Bench
70.6
1,978
Barry Larkin
70.5
2,180
Joey Votto
64.2
1,936
Joe Morgan
57.9
1,154
Pete Rose
54.1
1,825
Dave Concepcion
40.1
2,488
George Foster
39.5
1,253
Tony Perez
36.5
1,417
Eric Davis
30.6
985
Brandon Phillips
28.1
1,614
 
That’s a good list, and (spoiler alert), all of these players will make the Reds’ roster. However, I didn’t want to just use their raw WAR total to compile the roster and represent the player "score". The thing that drove my thinking on this is attributable to the #4 guy above: Joe Morgan.
 
To this Reds fan, Joe Morgan is the greatest performer the Reds have had during the time that I have followed the team, and I don’t think it’s particularly close, no offense to Johnny Bench, who might be the greatest catcher who ever lived. Bench would be a fine and iconic selection as well, but, to me, Morgan is the one who really made the 1970’s Reds special.
 
If I went with simple WAR totals, Bench, Larkin, and Votto would "rate" above Morgan, but clearly the reason their WARs are so much higher is that they all had nearly twice the number of games played for the franchise than Morgan did. They were all in the vicinity of 2,000 games, Morgan around 1,100. That didn’t set well with me.
 
So, what I decided to do was to use a WAR per 162 games figure as the primary baseline for coming up with a score. Here would be the top 10 Reds if by that measure:
 
Name
 WAR
 G
 WAR-162
Joe Morgan
57.9
1,154
8.1
Mike Cameron
5.5
146
6.1
Jose Guillen
4.5
122
5.9
Johnny Bench
70.6
1,978
5.8
Kevin Mitchell
7.7
225
5.5
Kal Daniels
12.5
366
5.5
Joey Votto
64.2
1,936
5.4
Barry Larkin
70.5
2,180
5.2
George Foster
39.5
1,253
5.1
Eric Davis
30.6
985
5.0
 
Morgan rises above the crowd by a considerable margin. However, this approach, because it uses it as a "rate" result, introduces some players (such as the ones in yellow like Cameron, Guillen, Mitchell, and Daniels) who, while certainly productive during their time with the Reds, really weren’t with them long enough to legitimately consider them for the team. 
 
So, to address that, I decided to give bonus points for games played with the franchise. After fiddling with it a little, I ended up with the following formula for an overall score for position players:

(WAR divided by games, then times 162, then times 10) + (Games divided by 162, then times 2).
 
For pitchers, I did something similar. I took WAR per 200 innings pitched, times 10, and then added bonus points for every 75 innings pitched. WAR per 200 innings pitched tends to favor relief pitchers (who are generally more effective per inning than starters), while the innings pitched potion favors the starting pitchers. On balance, I feel OK with the results.
 
Anyway, the result of these scores is that (on average) about 75% of a player’s final score is driven by the WAR "rate" figures, and the other 25% is represented by the "service" (games or innings) factor. It can vary a lot by individual, but overall, those are the relative weights, and while I don’t think it’s perfect, I felt it yielded the general results I was shooting for in representing the best overall fits for the teams.
 
Using the formula, here are the results of that formula for the top 12 Reds position players:
 
Name
WAR
G
WAR-162
Score
Joe Morgan
57.9
1,154
8.1
95.6
Johnny Bench
70.6
1,978
5.8
82.2
Barry Larkin
70.5
2,180
5.2
79.3
Joey Votto
64.2
1,936
5.4
77.6
Pete Rose
54.1
1,825
4.8
70.6
George Foster
39.5
1,253
5.1
66.5
Eric Davis
30.6
985
5.0
62.5
Kal Daniels
12.5
366
5.5
59.7
Tony Perez
36.5
1,417
4.2
59.3
Kevin Mitchell
7.7
225
5.5
57.9
Dave Concepcion
40.1
2,488
2.6
56.8
Reggie Sanders
21.5
805
4.3
53.1
 
Then, as a final pass, I applied some minimum games played stipulations based on the team’s status as an "original" or an expansion franchise. Here are the minimum requirement guidelines I applied:
 
Franchise Group
Seasons Required
Position Players Games Played
Starting Pitchers Games Started
Relief Pitchers Games Relieved
"Original" 16 Franchises
4
600
100
200
1960's and 1970's Expansion
3
450
75
150
Post 1970's Expansion
2
300
50
100
 
  • The top row applies to the "original 16" franchises outlined earlier.
 
  • The middle row would apply to Texas/Washington, New York Mets, Houston, LA/California/Anaheim, San Diego, Washington/Montreal, Kansas City, Milwaukee/Seattle, Toronto, and Seattle
 
  • The bottom row would apply to Colorado, Miami/Florida, Arizona, and Tampa Bay
 
If there were a lack of candidates at a position or if it was close, or if it were a special case, sometimes I used my judgement to override these, but I pretty much stuck to those guidelines. In the subsequent articles when I review each individual team, I’ll call out any special exceptions.
 
Now, some of you might question why I separated the 4 early 1960’s expansion franchises and the 4 1969 franchises from the original 16. After all, all of those 24 franchises have had the same number of years of existence in this era, correct? 
 
Yes, they do. However, I still felt like those expansion franchises were at some disadvantage to the "original" 16 because they were not as well established in terms of both organizational status and talent pools, and that had some effect on depth of their player candidates, even for the ones like the Rangers/Senators, the Astros, the Angels, and the Mets that date back to the early 1960’s. This was just another way to give those less-established franchises a few more options in their player pools to come up with a competitive roster.
 
Anyway, circling back to the Reds…..since the Reds were one of the "original" 16, this requirement causes the two highlighted players from above (Kal Daniels and Kevin Mitchell) to be removed from consideration for the Reds. For the record, both of them were absolutely amazing in their brief time with the team – Daniels slashed .301/.406/.506 with a 149 OPS+ over his 4 seasons with the Reds, and Mitchell slashed .332/.414/.631 and a 172 OPS+ over his 3 seasons. They were incredible, as were Mike Cameron and Jose Guillen (also highlighted earlier) in their even briefer stints. But, I don’t think any of them should be considered for an all-Reds team.
 
So, in the end, the Reds’ "top 10" position player candidates are reflected below. Again, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they’ll all make the team (although in this case they all do), just that they scored the highest among eligible candidates, and I did leverage this methodology heavily in making the roster selections.
 
Name
WAR
G
WAR-162
Score
Joe Morgan
57.9
1,154
8.1
95.6
Johnny Bench
70.6
1,978
5.8
82.2
Barry Larkin
70.5
2,180
5.2
79.3
Joey Votto
64.2
1,936
5.4
77.6
Pete Rose
54.1
1,825
4.8
70.6
George Foster
39.5
1,253
5.1
66.5
Eric Davis
30.6
985
5.0
62.5
Tony Perez
36.5
1,417
4.2
59.3
Dave Concepcion
40.1
2,488
2.6
56.8
Reggie Sanders
21.5
805
4.3
53.1
 
 
Divisional Era – Overview of the Last 50(ish) Years
 
Before walking you through an example of how I approached final roster construction (I’ll continue to use the Reds for that), I wanted to give some data on overall team performance during this era. Again, team success doesn’t necessarily mean that it will translate to a strong all-star roster, but it does give some background on how the different franchises performed overall relative to each other, and how that performance may have changed over time.
 
Below is a grid showing decade by decade winning percentage by franchise. The green/yellow/red shows relative performance within in each decade (the darker the color, the stronger/weaker the relative performance was, with greens being positive, reds being negative, and yellows closer to the middle).
 
Team Winning Percentage, 1969-2021, by Decade
(Sorted by overall winning percentage)
*   includes 1969
** includes 2020 and 2021
 
Team
World Series Titles
Overall W-L %
1970's*
1980's
1990's
2000's
2010's +**
NYY
7
.562
.550
.547
.564
.597
.568
LAD
3
.544
.561
.527
.511
.532
.580
BOS
4
.542
.554
.525
.521
.568
.536
STL
3
.528
.500
.529
.495
.564
.554
OAK
4
.521
.523
.512
.481
.550
.522
ATL
2
.517
.462
.457
.618
.551
.525
CIN
3
.511
.588
.499
.515
.464
.483
SFG
3
.510
.498
.493
.506
.529
.520
HOU
1
.509
.493
.522
.530
.514
.496
LAA
1
.502
.480
.500
.472
.556
.502
BAL
2
.501
.598
.512
.517
.431
.452
NYM
2
.498
.486
.523
.486
.504
.486
TOR
2
.496
.343
.523
.513
.497
.498
PHI
2
.495
.493
.501
.470
.525
.487
CLE
0
.494
.453
.455
.537
.504
.527
CHW
1
.494
.464
.486
.520
.529
.473
MIN
2
.491
.514
.468
.464
.532
.474
CHC
1
.489
.494
.472
.476
.499
.501
TEX
0
.487
.471
.462
.520
.479
.502
WSN
1
.487
.451
.519
.497
.439
.527
PIT
2
.487
.566
.470
.488
.421
.474
ARI
1
.486
n/a
n/a
.509
.497
.472
MIL
0
.483
.452
.514
.480
.458
.514
DET
1
.483
.496
.536
.448
.450
.480
TBR
0
.483
n/a
n/a
.407
.429
.543
KCR
2
.479
.519
.529
.468
.415
.466
SEA
0
.472
.386
.430
.495
.517
.475
COL
0
.470
n/a
n/a
.478
.474
.463
SDP
0
.462
.406
.486
.490
.474
.464
MIA
2
.461
n/a
n/a
.442
.501
.438
 
A few quick observations:
 
  • Only the Yankees, the Dodgers, and the Red Sox have had winning records in each decade, with the Cardinals coming close (missing out in the 1990’s with a .495 mark)
 
  • The top 8 teams were "original 16" franchises, but then 4 of the next 5 were expansion franchises.
 
  • Most of the teams at the bottom are expansion franchises, although 2 of the bottom 10 are "original" franchises (Tigers and Pirates). 
 
  • The Padres and the Rockies are the only teams that have not experienced at least one "winning decade".
 
  • Also worth noting is that the 3 highest winning percentage franchises of the first decade of my baseball youth (the 1970’s) were Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh, but they have all been among the lower performing franchises over the past couple of decades.
 
Assembling and Analyzing the Roster
 
Next, I wanted to give you a sneak preview of what the upcoming entries in the article series will look like, although I’m doing a "deeper dive" into this example than I plan to do for the others, just to give you a taste of my thought processes. 
 
For each franchise, I’m going to comment on things like:
  • Background/team overview
  • Roster decisions and position battles
  • Candidates who didn’t make the cut
  • Team strengths, weaknesses, and characteristics
  • Other miscellaneous observations
 
Again, I’ll use the Reds as my example. Let’s start with some background, and then walk through the process.
 
Background:
The Reds have generally not been a good franchise for quite some time now, although they did manage a winning record in 2021 and in the abbreviated 2020 season. They also had some success in the early 2010’s with a couple of division titles and 3 appearances in the playoffs over the 4 year span of 2010 to 2013. 
 
The Reds’ performance over the last couple of decades is quite an about-face from their success early in the Divisional Era, when they were one of the elite franchises in MLB. The Reds had the 2nd highest winning percentage in the 1970’s (behind only Baltimore). Despite their recent struggles, over the entire era they’ve had a .511 winning percentage, which is the 7th highest figure among all 30 teams (only 11 of the 30 franchises have winning percentages of .500 or higher). They are tied for 4th in World Series titles with 3 (tied with the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Giants).
 
From a decade standpoint, the team’s high point was clearly the 70’s, and the low point was the 00’s (they had 9 consecutive losing seasons from 2001-2009). As we go through the roster construction, we should probably expect a heavy dose of the Big Red Machine as well as the other championship entry (1990), with a few others sprinkled in.
 
Roster Decisions
Let’s start with catcher, one of the easier calls for any franchise at any position. It’s Johnny Bench, and it’s not even close. The problem is, who to pick as his backup? There aren’t very many quality choices. The best candidates were Jason Larue, Ed Taubensee, Tucker Barnhart, and Ryan Hanigan. I opted for LaRue.
 
The infield falls pretty easily into place for most positions. Joe Morgan is a no-brainer at 2B, and Joey Votto is a pretty easy choice at first base, although they do have a Hall of Famer there in Tony Perez. Perez is missing a few years that were pre-1969, but he’s still a very good player and a valued team leader. He can back up Votto, and we’ll keep Perez in mind for 3B and/or DH.
 
Shortstop is pretty easy too with Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, although the team has a really strong alternate in Dave Concepcion. From the early 1970’s until the early 2000’s, Reds fans were treated to roughly 30 years of outstanding shortstop play. Larkin is the starter, with Concepcion as a valuable backup.
 
Third base is a decision point. The 2 strongest candidates are players who played a lot at other positions (Tony Perez and Pete Rose), and then there’s a trio of more traditional third basemen in Chris Sabo, Todd Frazier, and Eugenio Suarez. The last 3 rate fairly close in my scoring.   I decided to install Rose as the primary third baseman. Perez is still in play for DH, and the others will compete for backup status. Rose can also play OF or 1B if necessary (his 2B days were in the 1960’s, so he’s not an option there even if he were needed, but the team is well covered there anyway).
 
In the outfield, George Foster in left and Eric Davis in center were pretty easy selections for me. The biggest position battle on the team is in right field, where Reggie Sanders and Ken Griffey Sr. are the leading candidates. Ultimately, it will probably be a time-share arrangement, but I went with Sanders as the starter and Griffey as a backup.
 
To round out the position players, I went with Brandon Phillips, Dan Driessen, and Chris Sabo. Tony Perez is installed as DH.
 
So, here’s the roster at this point (the "Weighted Score" is the individual’s score as explained earlier, multiplied by the roster slot value, and then finally multiplied by 15 just to put it back on a scale where differences are a little easier to visualize).
 
Pos
Player
Score
Weight
Weighted Score x 15
Games
C
Johnny Bench
82.2
6.0%
74.0
1,978
1B
Joey Votto
77.6
6.0%
69.9
1,936
2B
Joe Morgan
95.6
6.0%
86.0
1,154
3B
Pete Rose
70.6
6.0%
63.5
1,825
SS
Barry Larkin
79.3
6.0%
71.4
2,180
LF
George Foster
66.5
6.0%
59.8
1,253
CF
Eric Davis
62.5
6.0%
56.2
985
RF
Reggie Sanders
53.1
6.0%
47.8
805
DH
Tony Perez
59.3
5.0%
44.4
1,417
Res
Jason LaRue
29.2
2.0%
8.8
715
Res
Brandon Phillips
48.1
2.0%
14.4
1,614
Res
Dave Concepcion
56.8
2.0%
17.1
2,488
Res
Chris Sabo
44.5
2.0%
13.3
818
Res
Ken Griffey
48.7
2.0%
14.6
1,224
Res
Dan Driessen
38.6
2.0%
11.6
1,480
 
How did we do on position coverage? Bench and LaRue cover catching. Votto, Perez, Driessen, and Rose can all play 1B. Morgan and Phillips have 2B covered, Larkin and Concepcion have SS covered, and Rose, Perez, and Sabo can all play 3B (Driessen too, if we’re desperate). The primary outfielders are Foster, Davis, Sanders, and Griffey Sr., and Rose can also easily bounce out there too, as well as Driessen in a pinch and Bench if he needs a day off from behind the plate.
 
OK, the position players were fun. However, we still have the pitching staff to consider…..
 
The first 3 starters are pretty easy – Jose Rijo is an easy #1 for me, followed by Johnny Cueto and Mario Soto. Lots of similarity among those 3 in that they were top notch starters when healthy, but they all had their careers derailed by injuries. 
 
Rounding out the rotation is Tom Seaver and Tom Browning. Seaver wasn’t the nearly force he was with the Mets, of course, but he did pitch in 6 different seasons with the Reds, 4 of which were pretty good, and he had three top-4 Cy Young finishes, so there’s enough there to give him the #4 slot. Browning wasn’t a great pitcher, but he was a bulldog, he’s got the most games started, innings, and pitcher wins for the franchise in this era, and he’s a lefty to boot, so he gets the #5 slot.
 
In the bullpen, a couple of left handers (of very different types) lead the way. Aroldis Chapman is my closer. He started out with a couple of years in a setup role, but then put together 4 straight dominant years as a closer throwing as hard as anyone we’ve ever seen before moving on to the Yankees. The other top lefty out of the pen was known more for his change-up than his fastball – John Franco. Franco is probably much better remembered for his 14 seasons as a Met, but his first 6 seasons were spent as a very effective relief pitcher for the Reds.
 
Continuing in the bullpen, my next choice is another hard thrower, this time from the right hand side, Rob Dibble. Dibble basically self-destructed his last year in Cincinnati, but overall he was a highly effective reliever.
 
Rounding out the staff are two pitchers from the Big Red Machine era who can spot start, one righty and one lefty: Gary Nolan and Don Gullett. Much like Rijo, Cueto, and Soto, they represent the type of pitcher Reds fans have become very familiar with – pitchers with enormous promise and potential, but who were ultimately slowed down and impacted by injuries.
 
Candidates Who Didn’t Make the Cut
 
Others strongly considered as position players included:
 
Catchers: Ed Taubensee
Infielders: Sean Casey, Hal Marris, Ron Oester, Todd Frazier, Eugenio Suarez, Zack Cozart
Outfielders: Adam Dunn, Jay Bruce, Cesar Geronimo, Bobby Tolan, Ken Griffey Jr.
 
I didn’t select Dunn, which may surprise some of you. If he had scored higher, I might have reconsidered him, but he didn’t, so I’m totally fine leaving him off. I’m sure many would question passing on a consistent 40 HR, .380+ OBP guy, but frankly he’s not my type of player anyway - he’s a horrible defender (although we do have the DH as an option), and I think I have better overall options. He might be a minor league callup if needed, but I’m completely comfortable leaving him off.
 
A lot of people would also endorse Griffey Jr., who did end up putting in 9 seasons with the franchise, and he had a couple of nice seasons, but he just doesn’t score well in this system, and frankly his years with the team were mostly kind of sad for me. He wasn’t even close to being the defensive player he was with Seattle, there wasn’t enough offense to offset that, and he was constantly injured.  There’s just not enough there for me to put him on the team.
 
In the pitching area - I passed on the #1 and #2 franchise saves leaders from this era – Danny Graves and Francisco Cordero. Graves is the #1 saves guy, but his ERA was near 4.00, his ERA+ was an underwhelming (for a closer) 112, and he struck out fewer than 5.0 batters per 9. He’s not my idea of a closer. Cordero was better than Graves, but he scored lower than the others I selected, and he always seemed to be walking a tightrope closing out games, so I went with the others. Raisel Iglesias was close, but Dibble just barely edged him out. Clay Carroll was another option that came up a little short for me. Two Jeffs (Shaw and Brantley) were terrific, but their time with the franchise was relatively short.
 
Among starting candidates, Luis Castillo was a decent option, but there just seemed to be not enough there during his sting with the Reds, some of which I’m sure is due to the lack of support he got. In any case, I opted for others. Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo both had some selling points, but came up short in my book.
 
Strengths and Weaknesses
 
So, after putting everything together, here’s how the entire roster looks, with extended team totals and also naming the manager (Sparky Anderson)
 
Pos
Player
Score
Weight
Weighted Score x 15
C
Johnny Bench
82.2
6.0%
74.0
1B
Joey Votto
77.6
6.0%
69.9
2B
Joe Morgan
95.6
6.0%
86.0
3B
Pete Rose
70.6
6.0%
63.5
SS
Barry Larkin
79.3
6.0%
71.4
LF
George Foster
66.5
6.0%
59.8
CF
Eric Davis
62.5
6.0%
56.2
RF
Reggie Sanders
53.1
6.0%
47.8
DH
Tony Perez
59.3
5.0%
44.4
SP1
Jose Rijo
69.0
6.0%
62.1
SP2
Johnny Cueto
55.3
5.0%
41.5
SP3
Mario Soto
54.1
4.0%
32.4
SP4
Tom Seaver
48.4
3.5%
25.4
SP5
Tom Browning
46.1
3.0%
20.7
RP1
Aroldis Chapman
70.6
4.0%
42.4
RP2
John Franco
55.6
3.0%
25.0
P
Rob Dibble
51.2
2.5%
19.2
P
Gary Nolan
43.5
2.0%
13.0
P
Don Gullett
39.5
2.0%
11.9
Res
Jason LaRue
29.2
2.0%
8.8
Res
Brandon Phillips
48.1
2.0%
14.4
Res
Dave Concepcion
56.8
2.0%
17.1
Res
Chris Sabo
44.5
2.0%
13.3
Res
Ken Griffey
48.7
2.0%
14.6
Res
Dan Driessen
38.6
2.0%
11.6
Mgr
Sparky Anderson
---
Total
946.5
 
The total team "score" is 946.5, which I’ll elaborate on in a little bit. Here’s another view of the roster in grid form, and also displaying the batting order I’d go with:
 
Pos
Name
 Batting Order
Rotation
Bullpen/Spot
Reserves
C
Johnny Bench
 Pete Rose
Jose Rijo
Aroldis Chapman
Jason LaRue
1B
Joey Votto
 Joey Votto
Johnny Cueto
John Franco
Brandon Phillips
2B
Joe Morgan
 Joe Morgan
Mario Soto
Rob Dibble
Dave Concepcion
3B
Pete Rose
 George Foster
Tom Seaver
Gary Nolan
Chris Sabo
SS
Barry Larkin
 Tony Perez
Tom Browning
Don Gullett
Ken Griffey
LF
George Foster
 Johnny Bench
 
 
Dan Driessen
CF
Eric Davis
 Eric Davis
 
 
 
RF
Reggie Sanders
 Reggie Sanders
 
 
 
DH
Tony Perez
 Barry Larkin
 
 
 
 
Here are the team rankings among all 30 franchises in several areas:
 
Category
Score
Rank
Team Score
946.5
4
Offense
144.0
7
Defense
37.0
17
Speed
27.2
2
Infield
290.7
1
Outfield
163.9
16
Catching
82.8
2
Starting 9
573.1
2
Bench
79.8
25
Staff
293.6
20
Rotation
182.1
23
4 Starters
161.4
23
Bullpen
111.5
11
Short Relief
86.6
10
 
The scores in categories like offense, defense, and speed, are derive from WAR-based measurements like Rbat (Runs from Batting), Rfield (Runs from Fielding), and Rbaser (Runs from Baserunning), which I recalculated to a per-162 game basis. I leveraged them just to help me rate and rank the team’s strengths and weaknesses. The other categories are all based on my point system described earlier. "Short relief" refers to the first 3 pitchers in the bullpen, and the "Top 4 starters" are starters 1 through 4, which gives an idea of a relative strength or weakness that could come into play in a short series/playoff scenario.
 
As far as strengths? Well, the Reds are rated as the # 1 infield (Votto, Morgan, Larkin, Rose) and the #2 starting 9 (includes DH). They also rate very high in terms of team speed (#2 behind only Kansas City).
 
I should explain the catcher ranking as the Reds catching is #2 overall, which might cause some heads to explode and result in me being banished from living in Reds territory. Bench is the #1 individual catcher in the data, but I ranked each team’s catchers as a group, because I had exactly 2 catchers per team, and I was able to easily have my template total them (as opposed to infield and outfield, which wasn’t always consistent in the number of reserves in each of those segments, so infield and outfield rankings just reflect the starters, not the reserves). 
 
So, in the catcher rankings, the Dodgers (Piazza/Scioscia), edged the Reds (Bench/LaRue). There wasn’t much separating them, and Bench is still the #1 overall individual catcher, but LaRue was  weak enough (and Scioscia strong enough) to knock the Reds’ tandem below the Dodgers’. Also, they’re not much above the Rangers/Senators (Rodriguez/Sundberg), Nationals/Expos (Carter/Ramos), and Yankees (Muson/Posada). In any case, that’s what the ranking represents.
 
Despite the presence of Bench, Morgan, and Larkin, the defense only ranks middle of the pack (#17). I thought it might be better, but Davis, despite the spectacular, home-run stealing fashion in which he played center field, doesn’t have very good defensive metrics, and Rose is not a good defensive player.
 
In looking at the individual players and lineup, there is a high number of MVP’s on the team. The Reds, of course, pretty much dominated the MVP award in the 1970’s. Bench had 2, Morgan had 2, Rose had 1, and Foster had 1. Since then, they’ve also had Larkin and Votto with individual MVP awards. Perez had a high MVP finish (#3) in 1970. It’s a really good lineup.
 
As far as a batting order….well, let’s break it into thirds:
 
  • Rose, Votto, and Morgan at the top of the order translates into a lot of baserunners, with Votto and Morgan both drawing a lot of walks with OBP’s over .400, and Rose not too far behind (his OBP with the Reds in this era is .389, even better than his total Reds career figure).
 
  • The middle of the order is a strong power core of Foster, Perez, and Bench. Three players who had career highs of 40+ home runs. Nothing bad there.
 
  • Then you get to the bottom third and you have an intriguing trio of power/speed combinations – Davis, Sanders, and Larkin, all players who were 30 HR/30 SB players. OK, Sanders technically didn’t have one, as he was 28/36 in 1995, but that was a strike-shortened season, and he probably would have gotten there. In terms of career power-speed numbers, Davis is #17 all time, Sanders is #22, and Larkin is #45. Those are some pretty nice weapons to have in the lower third of a lineup.
 
So, overall assessment of the team? The starting 9 provide a flexible, muti-faceted offense, that can beat you a lot of ways. However, The biggest weaknesses on the team are lack of depth and the starting pitching rotation. I have their bench rated as #25, one of the lower marks of any team. And the rotation is only #23. Rijo is a decent starter, but overall they just don’t stack up well to most of the other teams. The bullpen isn’t bad (#11). 
 
So, pretty much in the mold of the Big Red Machine, it’s a strong team based on their everyday lineup, but starting pitching could be their albatross. The Reds come in as #4 overall.
 
Wrapping it Up
 
This article was just the initial kickoff, part one of a series. I don’t have the others fully written yet, but they won’t go nearly as deep as this one did (at least I’m not planning to do so). I’ll definitely be more concise and structured in presenting, assessing, and commenting on each team.
 
I’ll do them in chunks….I’ll start with the lowest ranked (#30 team) and submit a few team profiles (maybe 5 or 6) at a time, spanning several articles, building up to #1.  They won’t be rapid fire….there’ll be a little bit of time between each article. I have the team rosters and rankings finalized, I just need to finish writing the team reviews and assessments.
 
After that, if it seems like something that would draw some interest, I’ll organize a tournament, and maybe even see if there is any interest in having a contest with readers submitting bracket predictions. 
 
Watch for more to come.
 
Thank you for reading,
 
Dan
 
 
 
 

COMMENTS (22 Comments, most recent shown first)

OleBiscuitPants
Very cool. Looking forward to this series! Let the debates begin ...
10:16 PM Aug 31st
 
DMBBHF
Yeah...that was quite the glitch :)

3for3.....I hear you on the SP weights. I'm open to adjusting, I think I could implement pretty quickly. It wouldn't change my raw scoring or roster decisions because I based those decisions mostly on the raw scoresabd other factors. It would just change the final weighted scores and the rankings. Do you have suggestions? I would prefer to keep pitching to 35% in aggregate. Would be interested in your suggestions. I'm also still chewing on jeffsol's DH weighting observation.

Bruce,

Well, if it doesn't ruin it for you, I can tell you that I did put McNally on the team, but it was a fierce competition. The team didn't feel right without him. :)

Dan
4:45 PM Aug 31st
 
evanecurb
Since everything here on BJOL comes back to Dave McNally, let's see how Dan's rules work for our guy (i.e. my guy):

1. Nothing counts before 1969: excludes his first six years, including Dave's best season (1968).
2. Uses WAR as an important metric - also not great for Dave, especially without that '68 season.
3. Dan didn't say this, but to the extent there's a subjective component for important moments in franchise history, McNally's 1-0 shutout of the Dodgers to clinch the 1966 title is ignored.

Not looking good for Dave McNally...not looking good at all.
3:23 PM Aug 31st
 
3for3
LOL at the BJOL glitch of Dan posting his response 10x.

I too wondered about the weights; in particular for the SP. I get having the #1 guy more, but the slope seems too steep. The #3 and #4 guys 'will' get the same number of starts in the regular season. The post season would be more appropriate for a steep slope.

As an aside, I wondered why Paul O'Neill wasn't mentioned. Then I looked at his numbers...what a stark contrast between the Reds and the Yankees.

This will probably lead to a more detailed post in the readers section.
3:07 PM Aug 31st
 
DMBBHF
All,

Thanks for all the comments. I'm looking to get part II (teams 26-30 in the countdown) hopefully posted in the next couple of days.

jonfel14 - I seriously considered going back to make it "Expansion Era", but ended up going with Divisional Era. Maybe as I go through the countdown I'll call out who might have made the cut had I gone back to the early 60's.

jeffsol - I think that's a fair question on the weights. The premise I was trying to keep to was to make offense and defense 50% each, with 70% of defense being pitching, so that the individual roster slots would add up to 65% for position players and 35% for pitchers. Since I had the 8 position players at 6% each, I shaved the DH back to 5% since there's no defense involved, although that individual player might not always be DH'ing. Regardless, I think it's a fair question as to whether a DH should be weighted as much as a #2 starter. I'm certainly not married to how the weights ended up, and I could see tweaking the %'s based on additional thought.

Thanks,
Dan
12:51 PM Aug 31st
 
DMBBHF
All,

Thanks for all the comments. I'm looking to get part II (teams 26-30 in the countdown) hopefully posted in the next couple of days.

jonfel14 - I seriously considered going back to make it "Expansion Era", but ended up going with Divisional Era. Maybe as I go through the countdown I'll call out who might have made the cut had I gone back to the early 60's.

jeffsol - I think that's a fair question on the weights. The premise I was trying to keep to was to make offense and defense 50% each, with 70% of defense being pitching, so that the individual roster slots would add up to 65% for position players and 35% for pitchers. Since I had the 8 position players at 6% each, I shaved the DH back to 5% since there's no defense involved, although that individual player might not always be DH'ing. Regardless, I think it's a fair question as to whether a DH should be weighted as much as a #2 starter. I'm certainly not married to how the weights ended up, and I could see tweaking the %'s based on additional thought.

Thanks,
Dan
12:51 PM Aug 31st
 
DMBBHF
All,

Thanks for all the comments. I'm looking to get part II (teams 26-30 in the countdown) hopefully posted in the next couple of days.

jonfel14 - I seriously considered going back to make it "Expansion Era", but ended up going with Divisional Era. Maybe as I go through the countdown I'll call out who might have made the cut had I gone back to the early 60's.

jeffsol - I think that's a fair question on the weights. The premise I was trying to keep to was to make offense and defense 50% each, with 70% of defense being pitching, so that the individual roster slots would add up to 65% for position players and 35% for pitchers. Since I had the 8 position players at 6% each, I shaved the DH back to 5% since there's no defense involved, although that individual player might not always be DH'ing. Regardless, I think it's a fair question as to whether a DH should be weighted as much as a #2 starter. I'm certainly not married to how the weights ended up, and I could see tweaking the %'s based on additional thought.

Thanks,
Dan
12:51 PM Aug 31st
 
DMBBHF
All,

Thanks for all the comments. I'm looking to get part II (teams 26-30 in the countdown) hopefully posted in the next couple of days.

jonfel14 - I seriously considered going back to make it "Expansion Era", but ended up going with Divisional Era. Maybe as I go through the countdown I'll call out who might have made the cut had I gone back to the early 60's.

jeffsol - I think that's a fair question on the weights. The premise I was trying to keep to was to make offense and defense 50% each, with 70% of defense being pitching, so that the individual roster slots would add up to 65% for position players and 35% for pitchers. Since I had the 8 position players at 6% each, I shaved the DH back to 5% since there's no defense involved, although that individual player might not always be DH'ing. Regardless, I think it's a fair question as to whether a DH should be weighted as much as a #2 starter. I'm certainly not married to how the weights ended up, and I could see tweaking the %'s based on additional thought.

Thanks,
Dan
12:51 PM Aug 31st
 
DMBBHF
All,

Thanks for all the comments. I'm looking to get part II (teams 26-30 in the countdown) hopefully posted in the next couple of days.

jonfel14 - I seriously considered going back to make it "Expansion Era", but ended up going with Divisional Era. Maybe as I go through the countdown I'll call out who might have made the cut had I gone back to the early 60's.

jeffsol - I think that's a fair question on the weights. The premise I was trying to keep to was to make offense and defense 50% each, with 70% of defense being pitching, so that the individual roster slots would add up to 65% for position players and 35% for pitchers. Since I had the 8 position players at 6% each, I shaved the DH back to 5% since there's no defense involved, although that individual player might not always be DH'ing. Regardless, I think it's a fair question as to whether a DH should be weighted as much as a #2 starter. I'm certainly not married to how the weights ended up, and I could see tweaking the %'s based on additional thought.

Thanks,
Dan
12:51 PM Aug 31st
 
DMBBHF
All,

Thanks for all the comments. I'm looking to get part II (teams 26-30 in the countdown) hopefully posted in the next couple of days.

jonfel14 - I seriously considered going back to make it "Expansion Era", but ended up going with Divisional Era. Maybe as I go through the countdown I'll call out who might have made the cut had I gone back to the early 60's.

jeffsol - I think that's a fair question on the weights. The premise I was trying to keep to was to make offense and defense 50% each, with 70% of defense being pitching, so that the individual roster slots would add up to 65% for position players and 35% for pitchers. Since I had the 8 position players at 6% each, I shaved the DH back to 5% since there's no defense involved, although that individual player might not always be DH'ing. Regardless, I think it's a fair question as to whether a DH should be weighted as much as a #2 starter. I'm certainly not married to how the weights ended up, and I could see tweaking the %'s based on additional thought.

Thanks,
Dan
12:51 PM Aug 31st
 
DMBBHF
All,

Thanks for all the comments. I'm looking to get part II (teams 26-30 in the countdown) hopefully posted in the next couple of days.

jonfel14 - I seriously considered going back to make it "Expansion Era", but ended up going with Divisional Era. Maybe as I go through the countdown I'll call out who might have made the cut had I gone back to the early 60's.

jeffsol - I think that's a fair question on the weights. The premise I was trying to keep to was to make offense and defense 50% each, with 70% of defense being pitching, so that the individual roster slots would add up to 65% for position players and 35% for pitchers. Since I had the 8 position players at 6% each, I shaved the DH back to 5% since there's no defense involved, although that individual player might not always be DH'ing. Regardless, I think it's a fair question as to whether a DH should be weighted as much as a #2 starter. I'm certainly not married to how the weights ended up, and I could see tweaking the %'s based on additional thought.

Thanks,
Dan
12:51 PM Aug 31st
 
DMBBHF
All,

Thanks for all the comments. I'm looking to get part II (teams 26-30 in the countdown) hopefully posted in the next couple of days.

jonfel14 - I seriously considered going back to make it "Expansion Era", but ended up going with Divisional Era. Maybe as I go through the countdown I'll call out who might have made the cut had I gone back to the early 60's.

jeffsol - I think that's a fair question on the weights. The premise I was trying to keep to was to make offense and defense 50% each, with 70% of defense being pitching, so that the individual roster slots would add up to 65% for position players and 35% for pitchers. Since I had the 8 position players at 6% each, I shaved the DH back to 5% since there's no defense involved, although that individual player might not always be DH'ing. Regardless, I think it's a fair question as to whether a DH should be weighted as much as a #2 starter. I'm certainly not married to how the weights ended up, and I could see tweaking the %'s based on additional thought.

Thanks,
Dan
12:51 PM Aug 31st
 
DMBBHF
All,

Thanks for all the comments. I'm looking to get part II (teams 26-30 in the countdown) hopefully posted in the next couple of days.

jonfel14 - I seriously considered going back to make it "Expansion Era", but ended up going with Divisional Era. Maybe as I go through the countdown I'll call out who might have made the cut had I gone back to the early 60's.

jeffsol - I think that's a fair question on the weights. The premise I was trying to keep to was to make offense and defense 50% each, with 70% of defense being pitching, so that the individual roster slots would add up to 65% for position players and 35% for pitchers. Since I had the 8 position players at 6% each, I shaved the DH back to 5% since there's no defense involved, although that individual player might not always be DH'ing. Regardless, I think it's a fair question as to whether a DH should be weighted as much as a #2 starter. I'm certainly not married to how the weights ended up, and I could see tweaking the %'s based on additional thought.

Thanks,
Dan
12:51 PM Aug 31st
 
DMBBHF
All,

Thanks for all the comments. I'm looking to get part II (teams 26-30 in the countdown) hopefully posted in the next couple of days.

jonfel14 - I seriously considered going back to make it "Expansion Era", but ended up going with Divisional Era. Maybe as I go through the countdown I'll call out who might have made the cut had I gone back to the early 60's.

jeffsol - I think that's a fair question on the weights. The premise I was trying to keep to was to make offense and defense 50% each, with 70% of defense being pitching, so that the individual roster slots would add up to 65% for position players and 35% for pitchers. Since I had the 8 position players at 6% each, I shaved the DH back to 5% since there's no defense involved, although that individual player might not always be DH'ing. Regardless, I think it's a fair question as to whether a DH should be weighted as much as a #2 starter. I'm certainly not married to how the weights ended up, and I could see tweaking the %'s based on additional thought.

Thanks,
Dan
12:51 PM Aug 31st
 
jonfel14
I had the Sports Illustrated ATAS game myself and played the heck out of it. It’s actually still available as an Excel file on the web.

Too bad you didn’t go back to 1961-2, in order to get Mays, Aaron, Koufax, et.al. in there, but I understand. Looking forward to the rest of the series.​
10:08 AM Aug 31st
 
jeffsol
Looks like this will be a lot of fun. I’m a little puzzled as to why you view DH as equal value as a #2 starter and above the other starters. That seems a little off to me. But overall great setup.
11:24 AM Aug 30th
 
jeffsol
Looks like this will be a lot of fun. I’m a little puzzled as to why you view DH as equal value as a #2 starter and above the other starters. That seems a little off to me. But overall great setup.
11:24 AM Aug 30th
 
dburba
I'm very excited for this series, thanks!
1:49 PM Aug 29th
 
malbuff
Good stuff. Keep 'em coming.
11:43 AM Aug 29th
 
tigerlily
I'm eager to see the rest of the division era all time teams.
10:15 PM Aug 28th
 
tigerlily
I'm eager to see the rest of the division era all time teams.
10:15 PM Aug 28th
 
bearbyz
Fun, I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.
7:44 PM Aug 28th
 
 
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