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Home Grown Teams and Table Scraps Teams

February 13, 2023
 Hey Bill, quick question which I don’t expect you to do a lot of research for because you may know the answer off the top of your head. Which team(s) won a World Series with the most home-grown talent? I’m assuming some 1950s Yankee team would be in there. I assume it was a lot more common before free agency. Thanks!

Asked by: RichEddy44

 


Answered: 2/9/2023

 It's an interesting question but I don't have a list.  I would assume the answer is the 1940s Cardinals.   The Yankees, too, but Casey was a juggler.  Casey was great at keeping all of the balls in the air.   Woodling was not home-grown talent, and Maris was not, and Whitey was but their 2-3-4 starters were completely different every year.   They'd bring in guys like Bob Turley and Don Larsen and Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat, none of whom were home grown.  After those guys were finished it was Bob Grim and Ralph Terry, also picked off the weak teams.  I don't think Bauer was originally in the Yankee system, maybe he was, but Irv Noren wasn't, and Johnny Mize wasn't, and they brought in Eddie Robinson for the Johnny Mize job after Mize was finished.  Casey LIKED to move people in and out.  

 

 

       This was a "Hey, Bill" question that I tried to answer last week.  (I didn’t mean "Bob Grim"; I was thinking of Art Ditmar.)  It occurred to me as I logged off that I could actually figure this, at least more of less.  The "more or less" part is that we have to move from "home-grown" talent to "talent that reached the majors with this team." I have a couple of data bases that I can patch together to create a fairly complete list (1876 to 2019) of what percentage of each team’s talent was "home grown" in the sense that the player is playing for his first major league team.  It is mostly the same thing, but occasionally there is a significant major league player who changes organizations at the minor league level but then plays a long time with his first major league team.   Cleveland in 2002 got Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips—all minor leaguers with no major league games—in exchange for Bartolo Colon.  That, however, is a historical one-of-a-kind.  The terms "home grown" and "first major league team" are in general synonymous. 

       So you can buy that or not; it’s up to you.  Anyway, I now know the answer to the question "Which team(s) won a World Series with the most home-grown talent?"  The answer is "the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers".   The 1955 Dodgers (98-55) won their first-ever World Series, with Johnny Podres pitching a shutout in the seventh game.  97% of the talent on that team had never played in the white major leagues for any other team.  Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Gil Hodges, Carl Furillo, Pee Wee Reese, Clem Labine, Jim Gilliam, Sandy Amoros, Jackie Robinson, Don Hoak, Billy Loes, Johnny Podres. . . all of them. They all came to the majors as Dodgers.

       Of course, there is always another way to interpret the data.  Campanella, Newcombe, Gilliam and Jackie Robinson had all played in the Negro Leagues, which are NOW regarded as major league teams, although this designation came 60-some years later.  Also, some people will say that Pee Wee Reese had played in the Red Sox minor league system, although this is not exactly true; Reese had played for a team that was partially owned by Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, but that team had no responsibility to sell Reese to the Red Sox and did not, and it was not the Red Sox who sold or traded Reese; it was the minor league team.  The Red Sox never had control of Reese; they merely thought that they did.

       Anyway, 97% of the 1955 Dodgers’ Win Shares were accounted for by players who had never played for any major league team before playing for the Dodgers.  There are like a million other interesting things that come out of this study, so let me get to them.

       For fuller understanding, if a player came up with one team, went to some other team and then came back to the first team, he does NOT count as a first-team player for purposes of this study after he has played for somebody else.

 

 

1) Other World Championship team with high percentages of home grown talent

 

   AFTER the 1955 Dodgers at 97%.

1.   The 1946 St. Louis Cardinals, 96%

2.   The 1941 New York Yankees, 94%

3.   The 1942 St. Louis Cardinals, 92%

4.  The 1913 Philadelphia Athletics, 91%

5.  The 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers, 91%

6.  The 1944 St. Louis Cardinals, 90%

7.  The 1956 New York Yankees, 87%

8.  The 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers, 87%

9.  The 1947 New York Yankees, 85%

10. The 1943 New York Yankees, 84%

 

So you can see there kind of how the pattern breaks out; it is the Cardinals and Yankees of the 1940s and the Dodgers of the 1950s and 1960s which relied the least on talent developed by any other team.

 

 

2)  World Championship Teams with the LOWEST percentages of value coming from players who had never played for any other major league team. 

 

 

1.  2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, 16%

2.  2004 Boston Red Sox, 16%

3.  1923 New York Yankees, 17%

4.  1919 Cincinnati Reds, 18%

5.  1906 Chicago White Sox, 19%

6.  1977 New York Yankees, 22%

7.  1916 Chicago Cubs, 22%

8.  1978 New York Yankees, 22%

9.  1905 New York Giants, 31%

10. 1922 New York Giants, 32%

 

 

      

       The 2001 Diamondbacks won the World Series in their fourth year of existence with star players Luis Gonzalez (37 Win Shares), Randy Johnson (26), Curt Schilling (24) and Mark Grace (16).   The most significant player who had not played for another team in the majors was Byun-Hyung Kim; others included Erubiel Durazo, Junior Spivey and Rod Barajas. 

 

       You probably would have expected to see the 1997 Florida Marlins on this list, perhaps at the top of this list, and they’re close to the list, with 34%.  But they had three key regulars who were brought to the majors by the organization in their brief history—Catcher Charles Johnson, Second Baseman Luis Castillo and Shortstop Edgar Renteria—plus two rookie pitchers, Tony Saunders and Livan Hernandez, plus reliever Jay Powell.  34% of the team.

 

       And from this list you can see that the modern era is not alone in history.  There have been other eras (1900-1923 specifically) in which championship teams often did not develop their own talent, for reasons very different than today.  We’ll talk more about that later. 

 

 

3) The overall distribution curve.

 

Throughout the history of baseball, 50% of team value has come from players who had never played for any previous major league team, and 50% from players who had played for some previous team.   It’s 50/50, which I think is really neat; I love those kind of simple rules that actually work.  It’s not EXACTLY 50%, of course; it’s actually 49.56% (first team) and 50.44% (not first team.)  But still. . .50/50.

And if it is 50/50 for teams, you know what that means?  It has to be 50/50 for players as well.   So we learn something here:  Throughout major league history the average player has had 50% of his career value while playing for his first team, and 50% while playing for some other team.

The norm is 50%, the standard deviation is 19%, and there are a handful of teams in history going all the way from 100% to 0%. 

 

 

 

 

4) Extreme outliers.

 

This is the sort of thing you don’t think about until you get your hands dirty, but I started the study at 1876.  That means, of course, that all of the teams at the start of the 1876 season were composed entirely of players who had never previously played for some other team.  This would be true no matter where you started the study; there would always be teams like that unless you started the study at 1900 but included the data from the 19th century or some such.

 

On the other end of the scale, the "zero percent" end, the 1884 Wilmington team went out of business after winning only two games, thus amassing only 6 Win Shares.  All of those went to players who had previously played for other teams, so they’re at 0%, as are the 1890 Brooklyn Dodgers and the 1896 Cincinnati Reds.  Unusual conditions.   And there is one more that we’ll get to in the next section. 

 

5) Expansion and other churning factors. 

 

The 20th century list of teams with the lowest percentages of players who had not previously played for another major league team is dominated by expansion teams.   Expansion teams, of course, have not had much time to develop farm systems and draw from them, so historically, they have all had very low percentages of players with no previous major league history.  Specifically:

 

    1961 Washington Expansion Senators       16%

    1961 Los Angeles Angels                        4%

 

    Those being easily the two lowest figures in baseball in 1961, or for many years prior to 1961. The lowest in the National League that year was 37%, but in 1962 the NL expanded.   

 

    1962 New York Mets       12%

    1962 Houston Colt .45s   10%

 

    1969 Montreal Expos      19%

1969 Kansas City Royals 14%

1969 San Diego Padres   12%

    1969 Seattle Pilots           7%

      

    The 1969 Expos had a Rookie of the Year candidate who had never played for any other team, in Coco Laboy.  Laboy had spent ten full seasons in the minor leagues, in the Giants organization (four years) and then the Cardinals (six years).  He was a good minor league hitter, usually hitting around .300 with 15-20 homers and a lot of doubles, but had never put on a major league uniform until taken by the Expos in the expansion draft.  He hit .377 with an OPS over 1.000 in his first month in the majors, 77 at bats, then gradually came down to earth.  He drove in 83 runs as a pure rookie, and finished second to Ted Sizemore in NL rookie of the year voting. 

 

The 1969 Seattle Pilots moved to Milwaukee in 1970, and their first-team percentage in 1970 dropped to 1%.  I believe the only player they had who didn’t have a history somewhere else was rookie catcher Darrell Porter, two win shares.  Continuing with the list of first-year expansion teams:

 

       1977 Toronto Blue Jays   22%

       1977 Seattle Mariners     15%

 

       1993 Florida Marlins          5%

       1993 Colorado Rockies       3%

 

       1998 Tampa Bay Rays    16%

       1998 Diamondbacks           0%

 

 

       The 1998 Snakes had some guys who had not played before 1998, but they were zero-value guys. 

 

       But expansion is not the ONLY factor that scrambles the talent and creates teams composed almost entirely of veterans taken from other teams.   The 1901 creation of the American League—which is sometimes referred to as an "expansion" although that is not exactly what it was—but the 1901 American League was also composed largely of players who had previously played in the National League.  The American League percentages in 1901 ranged from 33% (Washington) to 6% (Baltimore). 

 

       Of course, teams did not HAVE farm systems in 1901.   There were minor league teams in 1901, and they were called farm teams, but there weren’t farm SYSTEMS.  The gap between the majors and the minors was much smaller at that time, so the good players who dropped out of the majors went "down" to the PCL or the American Association or the International League, which was just barely a step down, if it was a step down at all, and quite often they were back in the majors in a year or two.  Teams didn’t have farm systems, but they purchased talent from the lower leagues to put teams together, so it was sort of the same although it was also significantly different. 

       A third factor which churned talent, thus causing the percentage of players still playing with their first team to drop very sharply, was the "Syndicate System" of the 1890s  In the 1890s most of the teams or all of the teams had interlocking ownership systems, with the same people owning all of or owning parts of different teams.   A group might own part of the Cincinnati Team and part of the New York team, and if the New York team was having a good year they would transfer the best players on the Cincinnati team to New York.  After a year or two almost everybody had been moved from one team to another.   More on this later.   

 

 

6) Other teams that were notably high in the percentage of their talent developed by the organization.

 

Not counting the 1876 teams, which are clearly an aberration, the team with the highest percentage ever of home-grown talent was the 1949 St. Louis Cardinals.  The Cardinals, who lost the pennant race on the last day of the season, had 98% of their talent from their own Branch Rickey-created farm system, which had produced not only all of their talent, but much of the talent for the rest of the league as well.  Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Howie Pollet, Harry Brecheen, Marty Marion. . .they’re all products of the Cardinal system.  I think the only meaningful player on the team who had previously played for some other team was Ron Northey, with 6 Win Shares.   They probably got Ron Northey because the manager of the team was Billy Southworth.  They were trying to get Luke Easter and Max West, so they would be covered from all directions.

Anyway, these are the 10 teams with the highest percentages of home-grown talent, not counting the 1876 teams:

 

1.  1949 St. Louis Cardinals (96-58)    98%

2.  1955 Brooklyn Dodgers (98-56)     97%

3.  1954 St. Louis Cardinals (72-82)    96%

4.  1946 St. Louis Cardinals (98-56)    96%

5.  1950 St. Louis Cardinals (78-76)    96%

6.  1933 Philadelphia A’s      (79-75)   96%

7.  1962 Los Angeles Dodgers (102-63) 95%

8.  1941 New York Yankees (101-53)   94%

9.  1958 Los Angeles Dodgers (71-83)  93%

10. 1947 St. Louis Cardinals  (89-65)  93%

 

       So, while I wasn’t exactly right in guessing that the 1940s Cardinals would have the highest percentage ever for a championship team, I wasn’t exactly wrong, either. 

 

7) 20th and 21st century teams which were notably low in the percentage of their talent developed by the organization.

 

1.   1998 Arizona Diamondbacks, 0%

2.   1970 Milwaukee Brewers       1%

3.   1902 St. Louis Browns           1%

4.   1994 Florida Marlins              1%

5.   1902 Baltimore Orioles          3%

6.   1993 Colorado Rockies           3%

7.   1904 New York Highlanders    4%

    (Yankees)

8.    1961 Los Angeles Angels      4%

9.    1901 Brooklyn Dodgers         4%

10.   1993 Florida Marlins           5%

 

All of those connected to expansions, of course.  The lowest 20th-century figure NOT connected to an expansion is 8%, by the 1924 Boston Red Sox.  The Red Sox were living off of hand-me-down players at that time. 

 

8) The period norms. 

 

The average in the 1870s was 52%.

 

           1870s      52%

           1880s      36%

           1890s      26%

           1900s      35%

           1910s      54%

 

 

       In the 1890s, 74% of value came from players who had previously played for some other team. 

       The 1910s figure does not include the Federal League; for some reason I excluded them from the study.  I will also note that it was very common in that era (1910-1919) for a player to get a shot in the majors, play maybe 5 or 10 games or play a month, and return to the minors, then re-surface with a different team. Many players who did this later became very good players. The "farm system" that Branch Rickey perfected was already forming in 1910; alliances were being made between minor league operators and major league teams.   But UN-affiliated minor league teams were still dominant, so a player would come up like Ernie Shore with the 1912 New York Giants, play one game in the majors, get sold back to the minors, then be sold by the minor league operator to somebody else (the Red Sox). Many players who "failed" their first trial like this proved to be very good players. This is unlike the present system, when a player who fails his first major league trial normally stays in the system and gets his second trial and his third trial with the same team. 

 

           1920s      49%

           1930s      56%

           1940s      59%

 

       From the 1890s to the 1940s, the percentage of players playing for their first major league team went up from 26% to 59%; actually it went from the low 20s to the high 60s is we look at one-year data rather than ten-year averages.  59% of players in the 1940s were presently playing for their first major league team.  Breaking that down by year, it was 55% in 1940, 58% in 1941, and 61% in 1942, then dropped 53, 51 and 53% during the war years (1943-1945).  After the war it recovered to 64% in 1946, 66% in 1947, and 67% in 1948. 

       This number—the percentage of players who were still with their first major league team—began dropping in 1949.  Coincidentally or not coincidentally that was the year that Casey Stengel came to the Yankees.   It never got back to 67%, and had dropped quite significantly BEFORE EXPANSION.  The number was 59% in 1957, 56% in 1958, 54% in 1959, and 52% in 1960.   By 1960 players were already changing teams significantly more than they had ten years earlier—perhaps just because, without the interruption of the war, they were staying in the league longer, having longer careers.

       Resuming the list

 

           1920s      49%

           1930s      56%

           1940s      59%

           1950s      59%

           1960s      56%

           1970s      53%

           1980s      50%

           1990s      45%

           2000s      45%

           2010s      50%

 

       So there wasn’t really a sudden eruption of well-established norms at the beginning of Free Agency.  There was, rather, a decline pattern beginning 20 years before free agency (mid-1950s), accelerating because of expansion and because of free agency, and gradually eroding the established norms.  

       And this data shows, at least, that the number is now going UP, that MORE players now are playing for their first major league team than was the rule in the 1990s and early 2000s.  I would suggest that one reason may be that more players now have long-term contracts and aren’t actually worth what they are being paid, thus can’t be traded. 

       When I came to the Red Sox, we were sometimes able to move bad contracts.  Players who weren’t playing well enough that we wanted to keep them were still playing well enough to have value to some other team, and yeah, they were bad contracts but other teams could still afford to pick them up to fill a hole.  But by the time I left the Red Sox, you couldn’t really do that anymore.   If you signed a bad contract, you were pretty much stuck with it, because the numbers were too big for somebody else to eat them.   We signed quite a number of not-good contracts in the 2012-2019 era, and we wound up having to trade GOOD players that we would have preferred to keep because that was the only way to reduce the payroll. I think that is related to these numbers going up.    

 

10)  Stengel’s Yankees.  

 

I don’t want to assume that what I said yesterday, off the top of my head, was true  Maybe it was true, maybe it wasn’t. 

 

       The first four great farm systems were the two Branch Rickey systems in St. Louis and then Brooklyn, then the Yankees, then the Giants.  The Giants’ system, mid-fifties on, was built around signing international talent—Marichal and Cepeda and the Alou brothers and many others. Other teams had very good farm systems for a few years (the Red Sox and Cleveland in the late 1930s, the Phillies in the late 1940s) but didn’t sustain it long enough to become talent suppliers to the rest of the league. 

       But my point was, Branch Rickey’s original idea was to develop more talent than his team could use and then SELL the surplus.  Branch didn’t want your goddamned used player back in a trade; he didn’t figure that anybody you didn’t want was good enough to play for his Cardinals or his Dodgers.   He kept the best players, and sold off the second-best.  The Giants, when they got a really good system going, mostly did that, as well; they would make "trades" but the trades were often disguised sales, I believe.  Don’t quote me on that; it’s an impression.

       Anyway, the Yankees started their farm system I think in 1933.  George Weiss, Yankees top executive, didn’t like the idea of a farm system and tried to resist it, but when he realized this was the way it was going to be, he set to work to build the best farm system going, and by 1940 it was humming, producing more talent than the Yankees could use.

       But rather than simply selling off the excess, the Yankees (at least sometimes) preferred to target another team’s best player or one of their best players, put together a package of three or four players for him, and make 3-for-1 or 4-for-1 trades.  They traded three guys to Chicago for Eddie Lopat.  They traded 10 players to the Orioles for Don Larsen and Bob Turley.  A result of this was that the Yankees, although their farm system was fantastic, usually had some guys in the lineup that they had poached from other teams—which the Cardinals and Dodgers had never had. 

       The Yankees home-grown percentage was the highest in the American League every year in the 1940s, without exception.  In 1950 they dropped to 72%, behind Cleveland at 75%.  In 1951 they dropped to third in the league at 68%, behind Cleveland and Boston.  In 1952 they were second, but down to 66%, while Cleveland was at 83%.   In 1953 and again in 1954 they were third behind Cleveland and Boston.

It wasn’t a DRAMATIC change; in the late 1950s their home grown percentages were back to the highest in the league, but not at the level of the top NL teams.  Cleveland dropped the ball about that time, got tired of finishing second, and the Red Sox farm system produced a lot of home-grown talent but it wasn’t really that good. . . Dick Gernert and Jimmy Piersall and Sammy White and Willard Nixon and Walt Dropo and Ike Delock. Detroit produced less bulk but more quality—Kuenn and Kaline and Bunning and Frank Lary. The White Sox fought their way to the top of the league mostly with second-chance talent, built a farm system and then had a truly horrific winter, trading away Johnny Callison, Norm Cash, Earl Battey, Johnny Romano and Don Mincher in one winter.    The Yankees retained the best farm system in the league until the 1959-1963 era, when Baltimore and Minnesota really got rolling, and eventually were able to pull ahead of the Yankees until free agency re-set the table.

 

11) How long does it take an expansion team to build a home-grown team? 

 

The Angels, who started with 96% second-hand players in 1961, were 63% home-grown by 1964.  That’s still the fastest any expansion team has reached the level of 50% first-team talent, although many or most of those players had originally been the "property" of some other organization.  The first-team players on the 1964 Angels included the Cy Young winner, Dean Chance, a second very good starter in Fred Newman, plus Jim Fregosi, Buck Rodgers and defensive wizard Bobby Knoop.   The 1964 Angels, by the way, were also an absolutely fantastic collection of eccentrics and colorful players.  There has never been ANY team that I know of which had as many oddballs, weirdos and compelling human-interest stories as the 1964-1965 Angels. 

Their expansion partners, the new Washington Senators, NEVER reached the level of 50% home-grown players, not until they had moved to Texas.  1974.  13 years.  That is the longest that any expansion team has taken to get to 50/50. 

The Colt .45s/Houston Astros, starting in 1962, made 50% in 1966, while their expansion twin, the Mets, made that level two years later. 

Their were four expansion teams in 1969.  The San Diego Padres reached 50% first-run talent in 1973, the fastest that any expansion team has done that other than the Angels (the Rays and Astros also four years.)  The Padres in their early years built a tremendous scouting system that brought to the majors three Hall of Famers by 1982--Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith and Tony Gwynn. 

The Royals and the Montreal Expos, both starting in 1969, had 50% home-grown players by 1975, the Pilots/Brewers by 1976.  This is the normal time frame—six or seven years.  And all three of those organizations generally stayed over 50% for about 15 years and fielded strong, competitive organizations in the 1975-1990 era.  Whereas the Padres, despite drafting very well in their startup phase, began relying on free agents as soon as free agency began, and were less consistently successful.

 

The Toronto Blue Jays, beginning in 1977, reached 50% home-grown talent in 1982, and their expansion mates, the Mariners, did so in 1984. 

The Florida Marlins, starting in 1993, reached 50% home grown status in 2000, while their expansion mates, the Rockies, did not get there until 2005.

The Diamondbacks, who started at 100% second-hand players in 1998, didn’t reach 50/50 until 2007, when they were at 60%.  The Rays, on the other hand, reached that mark in 2002. 

 

       Without having the benefit of free agency, the early expansion teams essentially accepted that they were noncompetitive organizations for several years, and worked on gradually developing their teams.  With the availability of free agency, the Marlins and the Diamondbacks both put a lot of money on the water right away, working on the theory that a few years of a strong organization at the outset would build the fan base and create a thriving organization.  Whereas some organizations in baseball have gone 100 years between World Series victories, and actually MANY teams have gone 50 years between World Championships, the Diamondbacks and Marlins both rushed to the top of the mountain very quickly. 

       But it is hard to see that this theory has worked, the theory of a quick championship to validate the franchise in the eyes of the populace.  Despite winning early championships the Diamondbacks and Marlins haven’t been what you could call highly successful organizations in their first quarter-century of competition. 

 

The American League in 1901 was not truly an "expansion" league; an "expansion" is a planned increase in the size of your league, like an expansion of your house to make room for your mother-in-law.   The American League was a rival institution to the existing ‘house", not sanctioned by the existing power structure; their goal was to kick the National League’s ass and take their lunch money, and the National League did everything they could to fight back and murder the upstarts in their crib. 

But speaking of the American League as an expansion. . . no American League team reached the level of 50% first-team players until 1909, and then all eight teams reached that level between 1909 and 1911.  The Red Sox, the Tigers, the A’s and the Highlanders (Yankees) all reached 50% in 1909, the White Sox and the St. Louis Browns in 1910, and the Washington Senators and the Cleveland Indians in 1911.  

        

 

11)           Organizational review.

 

I’m not sure if this is helpful or necessary, but as an analyst,you don’t know what will work until you try it. 

I made 9-year running averages of home-grown percentage for each organization—that is, the long-term home-grown percentage for Houston in 2005 is the average of the averages from 2001 to 2009.  It’s 58%, which is one of the highest in baseball at that time.

This subject fascinates me because my first-love baseball team, the Kansas City A’s, was defined by this exact issue.  The A’s had NO development system, just nothing.  They basically never developed a player on their own until Dick Howser (1961) and then not really until the 1964-1965 era, when the organization started to produce the players who later won three World Championships in Oakland. They were an organization of second-hand players, rejects and factory seconds from other organizations—the Yankees, most famously, but also the Braves, Orioles, Red Sox, Dodgers and Tigers.  Sometimes they even got cast-offs from teams like the Phillies, who weren’t much better than the A’s were.  

We could generalize that there are three kinds of teams in history:

 

Supplier organizations like the Cardinals in the 1930s, 1940s and now who produce more talent then they can use, and distribute their secondary talent around the majors.

Sustainable organizations that produce most of some of their own talent, but don’t produce a significant amount of surplus talent, and

Table-scraps organizations that put out teams composed mostly of the rejects from the strong organizations. 

 

We could generalize that if your first-team percentage is 58% or higher, you’re probably a supplier organization.  42% or lower, you’re a table-scraps organization.  We could generalize that way and I will because that is generally true, but there are exceptions on both ends.  There are exceptions like the 1950s Red Sox and the late-1930s Philadelphia A’s, which produced most of their own talent (or purchased it directly from minor league operators), but which didn’t come up with enough talent to win, and there have been teams like the late-1970s Yankees which have been able to win or even dominate by predatory policies, taking the best players from other teams.   Let’s do five-year look-ins at teams which are highest and lowest on the scale, remembering now that these are 9-year moving averages, so "1905" actually means 1901 to 1909:

 

1905 Highest:  Phillies, Reds, Cubs, Cardinals, all National League teams.   The Phillies were the only major league team over 50%, at 52%. 

1905 Lowest:  Senators, Tigers, Indians, A’s, all American League teams.   The Senators were lowest at 29%, and the Senators were a weak organization.   But the home-grown percentages in this era are not highly correlated with success on the field. 

   

       1910 Highest:  Giants, Dodgers, A’s, Red Sox, Giants the highest at 66%.   The Giants were one of the strongest organizations in baseball at that time.  All four of these organizations except the Dodgers were strong organizations that scouted the minor leagues successfully and tended to find the best young players available from the minors.

       1910 Lowest:  Boston Braves at 38%.  The Braves were a very weak organization.   Lowest were Braves, Pirates, Chicago Cubs and Washington Senators. 

 

1910 was a transition point for the Pirates and Cubs. They were very strong organizations from 1906 to 1910, but were not renewing themselves, and slipped badly from 1911 to 1915.  It was a transition point for those organizations, which altered the balance of power between the leagues. 

 

 

       1915 Highest:  Red Sox, A’s, Senators, Tigers—all American League teams. The American League was BY FAR the stronger league in this decade, winning the World Series almost every year and with probably three times as many star players.  Red Sox were at 72% as a five-year average.

       1915 Lowest:  Reds, Cubs, Braves, Phillies.   Reds were the lowest at 33%. 

 

You may remember this from The Glory of Their Times. . .the Reds’ big star in this era was Heinie Groh, a castoff from the Giants who returned to the Giants in 1922. 

       After the 1915 season the Federal League folded, and the Reds signed several of the better players who had been in the Federal League, more cast-offs.  In early 1916 they acquired Edd Rousch, who had played for/been rejected by four previous teams, but who was only 22 years old and who had a Hall of Fame career ahead of him.  By 1919 they were down to 18% (season) and 23% (nine-year average), but of course they won the World Series, beating the heavily favored White Sox and putting up a kind of amazing 96-44 won-lost record, with what was almost entirely a team of cast-offs. 

       In that era the manager ran the team.   There weren’t any such things as "General" managers until the late 1920s; the manager decided who was on his team and who wasn’t.  The manager hired scouts, which was just two or three scouts for the best teams, maybe none for the weak teams. 

       The Reds manager was Pat Moran, who was apparently a very, very, very good manager.  He had managed the Phillies to the NL pennant in 1915; then the Phillies became the National League’s answer to the Red Sox.  As the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, the Phillies sold their superstar, Pete Alexander, to the Cubs, and also started selling off their other good players, as the Red Sox did.  I don’t know if Moran was fired by the Phillies or left, but anyway in 1919 he was hired by the Reds and just did a wonderful job, guiding a team of rejects to the World Championship.  He continued to be relatively successful from 1920 to 1923, although the Giants won the pennant every year.   But Moran died at the age of 48 before the 1924 season, and the Reds slid back into the second division.  In 1927 Rousch went back to the Giants, and by 1931 the Reds were back in last place.  And Edd Rousch, now 38, was back with them. 

 

       1920 Highest:  Tigers (75%), Senators (69%), A’s, Pirates. 

 

The Tigers by 1920 had entered a long, long, long period in which they were the most stable team in baseball.  A player could be Al Kaline or he could be Gates Brown or Don Wert; the Tigers were going to stay with him as long as they could either way.  That started about 1920 and lasted into the 1980s. . . one of the most clear "organizational philosophies" in baseball.  They had a period about 1960-1963 when they made some unnecessary trades. 

 

       1920 Lowest:  Yankees (20%), Reds, Phillies, Boston Braves.  

 

The Yankees first great team was almost entirely built out of players purchased from other teams—Babe Ruth, of course, but also Carl Mays, Bob Shawkey, Herb Pennock, Joe Dugan, Wally Schang and Home Run Baker.  The only home-grown part of that team was Bob Meusel.

 

 

       1925 Highest: Detroit (79%), Philadelphia A’s, 73%, White Sox 72%, Washington 65%.  All American League teams.  

 

The percentage of players still with their first major league team was moving upward rapidly, as the farm systems were getting organized.  The dominance of the American League waned a little bit about 1920, but was re-asserting itself by 1925.   The Yankees were not yet the apex organization in baseball, but were on their way toward becoming that.  The Yankees were about even with the New York Giants, and not substantially ahead of the other good organizations—the Pirates, Cubs, and others. The farm systems were starting to get organized.

 

       1925 Lowest:  Boston Red Sox, 31%.  The Red Sox after the sales of Babe Ruth and several others had become THE table-scraps organization of the American League.  Others:  the Reds, Dodgers and Boston Braves. 

The Dodgers of this time were "da Bums", a perennially non-competitive team although they had the best pitcher in baseball, Dazzy Vance.

 

 

 

       1930 Highest:  Philadelphia A’s (78%), with Cleveland, Detroit and the Pirates all over 70%.  The A’s had become the best team in baseball with a team of players purchased directly from the minors (Lefty Grove, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane, George Earnshaw) or signed to the major leagues as amateurs (Jimmie Foxx.) 

 

       1930 Lowest:  The same four teams as in 1925, in a little different order:  Cincinnati, Brooklyn and the two teams from Boston.   These were all pretty clearly table-scraps organizations.  In 1930 the Reds (28% home grown) had Bob Meusel, an aging Yankees castoff, in left field and sometimes in center, 39 games in center, with Harry Heilman, an even older player from the Tigers, playing right. 

 

 

       1935 Highest:  Philadelphia A’s again (84%), followed by the Yankees now, the Indians and the Pirates.  Other than the fact that the Yankees were transitioning very rapidly from a predatory team to a farm system-based team, the 1935 highest and lowest were pretty much the same as they had been for ten or 20 years. 

 

       1935 Lowest:  The Red Sox, again, at 24%, followed by the Reds, the Dodgers and the Phillies.   No other team close to as low as the Red Sox.

 

       The Yankees became the dominant team in baseball in 1936, beating the Giants in three straight World Series (1936 to 1938) and the Reds in a fourth.  From 1928 to 1935 (eight years) the Yankees had won two pennants and one World Series, clearly not the standard of a dominant team.   But then they dominated from 1936 to 1964, rivaled only by the two Branch Rickey teams—the Cardinals in the 1940s and the Dodgers in the 1950s.  In both cases Rickey had moved on before his teams hit their peak, but he had built the machines.

       By 1935 Connie Mack was selling off the parts of his second great team, the 1929-1931 team, but his home grown percentage remained very high, as he tried unsuccessfully to repeat his two earlier successes, signing players off of college campuses and sometimes straight out of high school, as he had done in 1905 and 1922.  But by 1940 about half of the teams had pretty good farm systems, and it just was not possible to compete with them without a development system.  By 1935 you couldn’t just sign college kids and sandlot players and make them into a championship team. 

 

       1940 Highest:  Yankees (81%) and Cardinals (81%), followed by Connie Mack’s A’s (69% home grown, but terrible) and Detroit, 69%. 

 

       1940 Lowest:  Dodgers, 26%, no one else under 41%, but the next three were the St. Louis Browns, the Reds and Boston Braves. 

 

By 1940 the Red Sox had a farm system that had already produced Bobby Doerr, Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio. 

 

       The National League in this era was far, far behind the American League.  The National League champions of 1939, 1940 and 1941 were the Reds, Reds, and Brooklyn Dodgers.  All three teams were pieced together by Hall of Fame managers out of spare parts and recycled players.   They were good enough to win the NL in that era, but there is no way in hell they could have competed with the Yankees over a 154-game season—the Yankees, or the Cardinals of the later 1940s or the Giants of the 1933-1938 era.   The 1939-1940 Reds had two great pitchers, Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer, and a fantastic defensive infield of Frank McCormick, Lonny Frey, Billy Werber and Billy Myers.  Frey, Werber, Walters, Derringer and Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi were all second-chance players.  There was just a window there where a team like that could win the league. 

 

 

       1945 Highest:   Cardinals (88%), New York Yankees (82%), followed by the Giants, Detroit and Cleveland, all 66-69%.   

 

       1945 Lowest:  Phillies, Pirates, Reds and Dodgers.  All National League teams. 

 

 

       As mentioned before, first-team percentages reached their all-time high in the late 1940s, and began declining the year I was born (1949). 

 

 

 

       1950 Highest:  Cardinals (91%), Dodgers (82%), Yankees and Indians (76 and 75%).  

      

       1950 Lowest:   White Sox (36%), St. Louis Browns (48%), Pirates and Senators (both 50%).

 

       The ground shifted suddenly in the late 1940s.  By 1950 the National was probably even with the American League or even a little bit ahead.

       Many people date the National League’s emergence as the obviously stronger league to 1947, when the Dodgers broke the color line.  That isn’t exactly incorrect—that is the correct moment to choose if you are going to choose one—but the subject is more nuanced than that.  In three ways:

 

1.   That the simple explanation ignores the fact that prior to 1947, the American League was pretty obviously well ahead of the National League,

 

2.  That Jackie Robinson by himself did not dramatically alter the balance of power between the leagues, and

 

3.   That there were other factors that tilted the balance of power to the National League, other than just the American’s League’s resistance to integration.  

 

The National League by the late 1950s had clearly more strong organizations.  In 1950 the NL had three strong organizations (Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants) plus the Phillies were quite good for a short period of time.  The American League just had the Yankees, plus the Indians were very good for a few years.   Over the course of the 1950s the Pirates also emerged as a strong organization, so the only weak organizations in the NL were the Phillies and Cubs, whereas the American League had three sorry-ass franchises—the A’s, Senators, and the Browns/Orioles, plus Detroit and the Red Sox and the White Sox were not really good. 

My point is that I believe that, even had there been no issue with integration, the power would have swung to the National League between 1945 and 1955 anyway, simply because they had more strong franchises.  The power didn’t go to the National League because they had all the good black players; rather, the National League got way ahead of the AL in the pursuit of black athletes because the NL teams had a lot better people running the ships. Being sharper, more progressive people, they saw the advantages of integration and went after it.

 

I don’t know WHEN exactly the National League became the stronger league; I think you can date it as early as 1949 or as late as 1952.  But it’s somewhere in there. 

 

 

Highest 1955:  Brooklyn (90%), St. Louis (80%), plus the Yankees and the Milwaukee Braves.

Lowest 1955:  The five lowest were all in the American League:  the White Sox (19%), the Orioles (23%), Washington, Kansas City and Detroit. 

 

Despite the fact that the home grown percentages were dropping by the mid-1950s, and despite the fact that their franchise moved in the middle of the era, the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1954 to 1962 used 92% home-grown talent—the highest figure ever for any franchise over a 9-year period.   The Cardinals had gotten to 91% in 1946-1954 era.

The LOWEST nine-year home-grown percentage since 1920 was 18%, by the White Sox in the years 1952-1960.  It is interesting that the highest percentage ever and the lowest are separated by just two seasons. There was clearly a transition going on at that time. 

The 1959 White Sox were able to win the pennant with a team built out of second-chance players, like the 1939-1940 Reds and the 1941 Dodgers, in part because the league just wasn’t that strong.  There was only one strong franchise in the league, the Yankees.  They didn’t have a good year, so. . . somebody else had to win. Which is unlike 1948 and 1954, when the Yankees had good teams but the Indians just beat them.  Red Sox had a good team in the late 1940s too, of course. 

 

 

Highest 1960:  The Dodgers (91%), followed by the Yankees, Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates (all 70-75%). 

Lowest 1960:  The White Sox (28%), the Kansas City A’s (31%), Orioles, Indians and Tigers.  Again, the five teams with the lowest home-grown percentages were all in the American League—not counting the two expansion teams, who don’t have any nine-year average established. 

 

 

In my best judgment, the gap between the leagues reached its widest point in 1963.   The American League was well ahead up to 1941. World War II scrambled everything and wiped out much or all of the gap.  The NL grabbed the momentum after the war, and had become the stronger league by about 1950.  The gap between the leagues grew steadily larger until probably 1963, when there were six strong organizations in the National League, and one or two in the American League.

The American League would catch up by the early 1970s, perhaps as early as 1970, perhaps as late as 1973.  (It is likely that the National League moved slightly back ahead, and was slightly ahead then until about 1980.)  The American League’s comeback really started with Baltimore. . .the exact moment at which the American League recovery started was when Paul Richards resigned as manager of the White Sox to take over the Baltimore organization.  Richards. . .and he did this all of his career; this is what he did with the White Sox before then and with Houston after that.   Richards had a unique ability to make his team a little bit better, and a little bit better, and a little bit better every year.  He did that better than anybody else in baseball history, and in Baltimore, he was working with an outstanding management team. 

The Orioles started piling up talent. Brooks Robinson, Milt Pappas, Ron Hansen, Gus Triandos, Boog Powell, Hoyt Wilhelm, Jim Gentile, Jerry Adair, Davey Johnson, Mark Belanger.  When one faded or got hurt, they had another one ready to go.  By 1962 they were a strong organization; by 1966 they were a formidable machine.

The Twins, hardly any less so.  The Washington Senators, after 20 years as a dormant organization, began adding quality young players about 1955.  Harmon Killebrew, Camilo Pascual, Earl Battey, Bob Allison, Zoilo Versalles, all on the team by 1960.  By the mid-1960s, now the Minnesota Twins, they were racing forward right beside the Orioles. 

Then Boston, not really good since 1950, suddenly came up with great young players at almost every position, Yaz and Petrocelli and George Scott and Reggie Smith and Jim Lonborg.  All of a sudden they were really good.  And then the Kansas City A’s, before they moved to Oakland; in four years they added Campy Campaneris, Dick Green, Catfish Hunter, Blue Moon Odom, Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando and Joe Rudi. All of a sudden that was a strong organization, as well. 

So the AL went from one strong organization to five in just a few years—five, not counting Detroit, which won the World Championship in 1968, or Chicago or California, although the White Sox had rotted away by 1970 and the Angels had mastered the art of shooting themselves in the foot.  The Yankees, although they were unable to come up with a superstar to replace Mantle, were still rolling out a lot of new talent—Bobby Murcer, Roy White, Mel Stottlemyre, Thurman Munson, Stan Bahnsen.  In 1963 the American League was miles behind the NL.  By 1970 they were more or less even. 

 

       Highest 1965:  1. San Francisco (82%), LA (80%), followed by the Yankees and Minnesota.

       Lowest 1965:  Washington (30%), Philadelphia, White Sox, Cleveland.

 

       Highest 1970:  San Francisco (86%), Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Oakland. 

       The Pirates by 1970 had assembled many of the pieces which led to World Championships in 1971 and 1979.

 

       Lowest 1970:  1. Senators (39%), Philadelphia, Cleveland and the White Sox. 

 

       Highest 1975: Pittsburgh (70%), Minnesota, San Francisco, Detroit.

       Lowest 1975:  Cleveland (33%), California, the Yankees and Montreal. 

 

       The low figure from the Yankees (1971-1979) reflects the late 1970s, when the Yankees abandoned their historic approach and began trading away their young players (Willie Randolph, Larry Gura) to bring in veterans.

       The history of the Yankees from 1920 to 1964 can very reasonably be represented as one thing, one cohesive thing, whether you call that a dynasty or whatever.  It is all knotted around a very few key people on the field (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle), and a very few people off the field (Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Dan Topping, George Weiss.)  The baton was securely handed from one relay runner to the next from 1920 to 1964.

       From 1964 to 1976. . .nothing.  You can’t make ANY link there beyond the name, the uniform and the field.  Steinbrenner was a great owner who unquestionably should be in the Hall of Fame, in my opinion, but what he built was HIS organization, not in any way a continuation of the past. 

 

       Highest 1980: Detroit (67%), Boston, Cincinnati, LA.

       Lowest 1980:  Yankees (20%), Cleveland, California, Cubs. 

 

       From 1915 to 1980 there are fourteen five-year installments of this list.  The Tigers make the list of the organizations producing the highest percentage of their talent eight times.  They would have made the list in 1960, 1965 and 1970 if Norm Cash had been an original Tiger, rather than just a player that everybody thinks of as an original Tiger. 

 

       The then-Indians elbowed the Yankees out of last place on these lists in 1982, and occupied the bottom spot on the ladder in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991.  The organization was producing some talent in the mid-1970s (Dennis Eckersley, Buddy Bell, Jim Kern), and obviously they had a great productive cycle in the early 1990s, but in the years that Phil Seghi was the Indians GM (1973-1985), the organization just completely went dry. 

 

       Highest 1985:  Red Sox (72%), Dodgers, Reds, Braves. 

       Lowest 1985:  Cleveland (22%), Yankees (28%), Cubs, Astros 

 

       George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973; Ted Turner bought the Braves in 1976.  His first effort was to do with the Braves what Steinbrenner had done with the Yankees:  buy all of the talent on the market.  That failed quickly and dramatically, and Turner switched tracks, making the Braves a development-driven organization.  By 1985 he had largely accomplished that, and laid the foundation for the great Braves teams that followed. 

 

 

       Highest 1990:  Brewers (71%), Red Sox, Blue Jays, Reds.

       Lowest 1990:  Cleveland (33%), Yankees, Pirates, Phillies.

 

       The Blue Jays had very good home-grown teams in the 1990 era, but pulled in outside help (Joe Carter, Jack Morris, Paul Molitor, etc.) to finish off the championship teams.

 

       Highest 1995:  White Sox (63%; the Robin Ventura- Frank Thomas-Jack McDowell teams. Ozzie Guillen counts as an original White Sox player because he was traded to the White Sox before playing a game for his minor league organization. Others:  Twins, Brewers, Braves.

       Lowest 1995:  Mets (30%), Padres, Pirates, Orioles. 

 

      

       Highest 2000:  Twins (76%), Angels, Expos, White Sox. 

 

       The Year 2000 was more or less the bottom of the chart for teams producing their own talent.  The Twins under Terry Ryan (1995-2007) were SO committed to developing their own talent that they stand out like a sore thumb in that environment. 

The Twins were under .500 every year from 1993 to 2000, but eventually it paid off, and the Twins were a fun, competitive team from 2001 to 2010, mostly under Ron Gardenhire.  The 2006 team went 96-66 with a team built around Joe Mauer, Justin Moreau, Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Johan Santana and Brad Radke.  I REALLY regret the logical need to bring this up again, because I admire Terry Ryan and I know that he has been beaten up too much for this, but the two things that prevented Minnesota from going to multiple World Series in this era were the David Ortiz decision and the failure of Lew Ford to develop into anything like the player he should have been.

 

       Lowest 2000:  San Diego (23%), Giants, Cubs, Mets.  All National League teams. 

 

 

 

       Highest 2005:  Twins (76%), Angels, Astros, Braves.  Nobody close to the Twins.

       Lowest 2005:  Padres (26%), Mets, Cubs, Giants.  The same four teams as 2000, and two of the same as 1995. 

 

       The American League won the majority of interleague games every year from 2004 to 2017, often by very wide margins.  In 2008 the American League had a .611 winning percentage against the National League; in 2008 it was .591.  In other words, the difference between an average American League team in that era and an average National League team was as large as the difference between a pennant-winning team and a .500 team.

       That was an eye-opening experience to me.  It forced me to re-think the issue of league comparisons, and I struggled for years to try to get an understanding of that.  I had always believed—and had written—that it seemed impossible for one league to get to be too much better than the other.  "The players go through the minors together," I used to say.  "They all come out of the same pool.  They play against one another in college; they all go through the same draft together.  How does it happen that, when they get to the majors, one group is suddenly much better than the other?"

       But living through that era, I saw with my own eyes and with undeniable force that I was just completely wrong about that.  It was stunning.  The National League would bring in to Fenway Park teams that just couldn’t begin to compete with the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Angels or Twins of that era.   Even the good teams in the NL weren’t really good. 

       I realized that, rather than resting on the assumption that the leagues must be more-or-less even, I had to force myself to understand how they pulled apart, exactly how one league got to be stronger than the other.   And I realized that, while the talent at the ground level is evenly spread, each "team" is a product of an organization.  Any American League team in 1955 could have done what the San Francisco Giants did, which is to go after the international players.  Anybody could have done that, but nobody in the American League did.  The Giants did.  Organizations are strong or weak or somewhere in between. If you get six strong organizations in one league and one in the other, they’re not even. 

 

       This issue—talent production--was one of the keys to it.  The Red Sox were not really a talent-productive organization at that time; we were by 2010, but certainly not in 2005.  But the National League had several organizations at that time that just didn’t really produce much of anything.  That was one of the keys to the difference.

       And the other one was:  you run as fast as you have to run to keep up.  You do what you have to do to compete.  If somebody breaks from the herd and takes the lead, you take out after them.  It was good for me to be forced to re-think this issue.  I understand things now that I would never have done the work to understand if that experience had not run past in front of my nose. 

 

 

       Highest 2010:  Twins (66%), Rockies, Cardinals, Angels. 

       Lowest 2010:  Padres (35%), followed by the Tigers and the two Chicago teams. 

 

 

       Highest 2015: Cardinals (70%), Phillies, Twins, Mets.

       Lowest 2015:  Toronto (33%), Oakland, Detroit and San Diego. 

 

       The data I am studying here runs out in 2019, so I can’t give you the 2020 lists.  I could give you 2019 list, but it is a nine-year moving average, so the list from 2019 is not parallel to the data I have been relying on.  It is 2015-2019 rather than 2015-2023. 

 

 

 

13) High self-development percentages and winning. 

 

       To this point I have been relying on the assumption that producing your own talent is a good thing for an organization.  If you re-read this article, you’ll see that in many places I have assumed that organizations which produce talent are, over time, going to be stronger than organizations which rely on the talent available in the marketplace. I have been assuming that, and it is true, but to this point I have not proven that.  Let us directly address that issue. 

 

       For this study, I used only the teams in the years 1920 to 2019.  Teams from before the farm systems were organized would not be especially helpful to us here, although the same general pattern actually is visible in the early-years data, but I’m not going to get into that here.  For the years 1920 to 2019 there are 2,050 teams for which we can measure their home-grown percentage over a nine-year window.  We peg each nine-year entry to the center season, so expansion teams don’t have a nine-year window until their fifth season of play. 

       So 2,050 teams, which I divided into 10 groups of 205 teams each.  Group 1 is the teams which had the highest home-grown percentages over the nine-year window.  Group 10 is the teams which had the lowest home-grown percentages, over the nine-year window.  

       The data shows clearly that teams with high home-grown percentages are substantially more successful than teams with low home-grown percentages.  The teams in Group 1 had an overall winning percentage of .550, which would mean that they won, on average, just short of 90 games in a 162-game season. 

 

 

 

Group

Range

Percentage

Wins

Losses

Win Pct

1

71 to 92% home grown

77.2%

17640

14458

.550

2

65 tp 71% home grown

67.5%

16910

15288

.525

3

60 to 65% home grown

62.1%

16545

15696

.513

4

55 to 60% home grown

57.4%

16302

16162

.502

5

51 to 55% home grown

53.0%

15937

16482

.492

6

47 to 51% home grown

49.1%

16018

16503

.493

7

44 to 47% home grown

45.7%

15762

16697

.486

8

40 to 44% home grown

41.9%

15558

16703

.482

9

34 to 40% home grown

37.1%

15567

16879

.480

10

18 to 34% home grown

33.1%

15867

16396

.492

 

 

Most of this advantage disappears, however, if we focus on the free agent era.  Drawing a line at 1980 to mark the beginning of the free agent era. . . the years 1976-1979 are sort of in the free agent era, but sort of not in the free agent era, in that the free agent era is defined as much by expectations as by events.  Drawing a line at 1980, there are 998 teams for which we can form a nine-year moving average of their home-grown percentage.  I divided those 998 free-agent-era team into five groups, 199 teams in the top group and the bottom, and 200 teams in the other three.  The data first:

 

Group

Range

Percentage

Wins

Losses

Win Pct

1

57 to 79% home grown

66.7%

16168

15233

.515

2

50 to 57% home grown

53.5%

15957

15890

.501

3

45 to 50% home grown

47.7%

15926

15954

.500

4

38 to 43% home grown

41.7%

15569

16096

.492

5

20 to 38% home grown

32.1%

15684

15949

.496

 

       This data suggests that there is still some advantage to an organization which produces talent, but that about 70% of that advantage has disappeared in the free agent era.  Well, it is more than that, because if we took the post-1980 data out of the 1920-2015 data, then the 1920-2015 data (second above) would show a larger effect, so that would mean than more than 70% of the advantage has disappeared in the free agent era. 

 

 

Thank you for reading.  

 
 

COMMENTS (19 Comments, most recent shown first)

Robinsong
Bill is using Win Shares - what is the fraction of Win Shares produced by home grown players? This is a fascinating article. It was also interesting to get DefenseHawk's analysis of the 1975 winter trades. Those late 70s Yankees hooked me on the team. I had no idea that Martin played a big role on chossing the roster.
2:34 PM Feb 16th
 
FrankD
I third this:

hotstatrat
I second Gfletch's sentiments regarding yearning for more team evolution analysis vs. relatively overdone player evaluabtion analysis.

I would add I would like to see more analysis of 'team' success vs individual stats. Bill has mentioned (paraphrasing) that he didn't think of the importance of team chemistry until he worked for 'The Sox'.
11:09 PM Feb 15th
 
TonyClifton
PS: classic James, great job.
9:30 PM Feb 15th
 
TonyClifton
Well, I read...okay scanned....this twice and I missed my criteria question....how is Bill defining that team? Starters? 25? 40?
9:29 PM Feb 15th
 
Rallymonkey5
One thing I remember about the Red Sox of the early Jamesian era is that they had a clocking ticking down to 2004, at least going by the writings of Peter Gammons. Seemed like every column he’d write would talk about their window closing because so many of their big stars were set to become free agents. Pedro and Derek Lowe left after that year, Nomar would have if he hadn’t been traded. Might have been some others.

As a big market team, obviously the Red Sox could not possibly resign these players, or replace these players with trades or signings. They’d have to play short-handed, at least that’s the gist I got from Gammons.

In reality, they plugged other players in, and used comp picks from the free agents to add a lot of talent, like Ellsbury, Lowrie, and Buchholz.​
4:03 PM Feb 15th
 
CharlesSaeger
I had always assumed that Yankee dominance of the AL is what led to its stagnation. If you have the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Giants all fighting each other on equal terms, building a better farm system or raiding the Negro Leagues for players can give you the edge to win. If you have the Yankees dominating everything, with the Indians or Red Sox maybe slipping in if the Yankees have a few too many sprained ankles, the incentive is less.
11:23 AM Feb 15th
 
MWeddell
Wow, that was a terrific article.

The 2004 Red Sox were mentioned early in the article, listed among teams with a low percentage of home grown talent. That would have been shortly after you joined the Red Sox. Were you aware that the team relied so heavily on acquired instead of homegrown talent? Later in the article, there are hints that the Red Sox organization realized it needed to improve the farm system, but the tale isn't told in the first person (if you are free to do so now).​
9:20 PM Feb 14th
 
hotstatrat
I second Gfletch's sentiments regarding yearning for more team evolution analysis vs. relatively overdone player evaluabtion analysis.
12:29 PM Feb 14th
 
RichEddy44
Bill, as somebody who fell in love with your work in 1983 at the age of 16, I am extremely humbled and awestruck that you spent that much time on my question and gave such a thorough answer. THANK YOU.​
11:53 AM Feb 14th
 
DefenseHawk
Warren,

As for Gura, well that was all Billy Martin. He hated Gura for any number of reasons, but what really got on Billy's nerves was Gura's love for playing tennis.
6:25 AM Feb 14th
 
DefenseHawk
WarrenJohnson,

You asked what was Pirates GM Joe Brown thinking when he made that deal with the Yankees in 1975? He wasn't.

Oh, I hated that deal at the time. I still do! It cost the Red Sox a couple pennants!

Along with sending RF Bobby Bonds to California for starting pitcher Ed Figueroa and CF Mickey Rivers and the earlier trade with Cleveland with starting pitcher Pat Dobson exchanged for OF/DH Oscar Gamble, the Yankees Gabe Paul and Billy Martin engineered a pennant in 1976 (and the foundations for two World Championships in 1977 and 1978) in 3 weeks during the Winter Meetings.

Martin, who managed the Yankees the last two months of 1975, already had a plan. He didn't like Bonds and he didn't like Dobson. Paul took advantage of the Angels desparate need for a power hitter and Brown's thinking that the Pirates team defense could be improved with better pitching (yes, he said that!).

(The Angels were about set to acquire George Scott from Milwaukee when the deal fell through because they apparently learned Bonds was now available.)

Brown had failed to make a deal with Kansas City, offering OF Al Oliver and INF Art Howe for CF Amos Otis and INF Cookie Rojas. The trade was nixed by Rojas, a 5/10 man who didn't fancy going to Pittsburgh.

(Why KC had kept trying to trade Otis is puzzling. They had also offered him in a package with SS Freddie Patek for LF Bill Buckner and SS Bill Russell, two guys who were injury plagued in 1975.)

But the Pirates defensive problems weren't in the outfield. They were on the left side of the infield, with 3B Richie Hebner and SS Frank Taveras. And one could hardly blame Al Oliver for the Reds stealing 11 bases in 11 tries during their three game sweep of the NLCS.

So here the Pirates sat with two top AAA infielders, Willie Randolph and SS Craig Reynolds and they got rid of both of them, Reynolds a year later to Houston.

Rennie Stennett was considered a good glove at second, so Randolph wasn't going to displace him. They might have tried Randolph at short, though. He had played some time at SS in the low minors. Although Randolph could have probably handled a move to third, that would have been considered too risky (moving Hebner's bat to make way for the rookie). But Taveras was a liability at SS.

There was a better trade option, too. The Twins were anxious to move Bert Blyleven and the Pirates wanted him, too, Minnesota was also planning on moving Rod Carew from second to first. The Pirates were offering Richie Zisk and made it known starting pitcher Dock Ellis (who was giving manager Danny Murtaugh headaches) was available but it wasn't enough.

Near the end of the year, the Twins traded Danny Walton to the Dodgers for AAA 2B Bob Randall.

Brown simply wanted to dump Ellis, was concerned about Ken Brett's arm, undervalued what he had in Randolph and overvalued Doc Medich.
6:21 AM Feb 14th
 
hortonwho
I just wanted to say that this was one of the most fascinating articles I've read here -- I really feel like I learned some very interesting things. Thank you!
11:07 PM Feb 13th
 
W.T.Mons10
Bill, you say the 1890 Brooklyns had 0% homegrown talent, but Adonis Terry, one of their top pitchers, had only played for them. Are you counting that team as being a different one from the 1889 club which played in the AA?
9:52 PM Feb 13th
 
Gfletch
Really, really good stuff. Thanks.

I love studies about the evolution of leagues and teams far more than studies of players (who is better than who, what is the HOF case for so-and-so). It's not that player specific stuff isn't important so much as that the larger questions aren't talked about nearly as much.

I long ago came to the conclusion (about the companies I worked for) that almost all problems are really management problems. I guess it depends on how you prefer to think about it, but I think that's right. A strong organization won't always win, but they will over the course of a significant number of years, always be in contention.

***

I also liked the observation that a typical player spends at least half of his career with his first MLB team. I only based this on what I superficially saw. I figured that when a player leaves an organization it is a sign of failure, and that the first change will signal several more, and more quickly. Not always, but usually.

This article helps refine that view, which I appreciate.​
4:35 PM Feb 13th
 
WarrenJohnson
This is a wonderful article, but I'm puzzled by the mention of Willie Randolph (and for that matter also Larry Gura), a young player acquired by the Yankees along with Ken Brett and Dock Ellis for Doc Medich. Even then, age 15, I couldn't understand what the Pirates were thinking, granted that Rennie Stennett was a fine player before
he broke his leg.
4:19 PM Feb 13th
 
shthar
I wonder how the Bill Veeck owned teams look.

He made a lot of trades.


2:31 PM Feb 13th
 
CharlesSaeger
Seeing the Orioles on the bottom list for the 1990s just reminds me of how Asbestolos was committed to buying scraps. The offseason of 1997-8 had the Orioles acquiring the carcasses of Doug Drabek, Joe Carter, and Ozzie Guillen for reasons that made no sense then. I was on a fan mailing list at the time and we were watching in horror as every corpse we joked the Orioles would sign the Orioles DID sign. I started mentioning Otis Nixon as a possible acquisition at the end, but luckily the Twins signed him before the Orioles could do another stupid, and plus he was somehow too good.
2:15 PM Feb 13th
 
hotstatrat
Thanks, Bill. Very cool.

I wrote to you in Hey Bill about the 1968 Tigers, suggesting they were Champions very high in "home grown" talent. Of their nine most significant position players and 7 most significant pitchers - making I would guess 98% or 99% of their value only Norm Cash and Earl Wilson did not debut in the Majors with Detroit. That's 88% of their talent by that simplistic measure. The homies were Al Kaline, Denny McLain, Dick McAuliffe, Bill Freehan, Jim Northrup, Willie Horton, Mickey Lolich, Mickey Stanley, John Hiller, Pat Dobson, Gates Brown, Joe Sparma, and Darryl Patterson. (Their most regular shorstop Ray Oyler also came up with Detroit, but had a negative WAR.) Cash and Wilson weren't the best of those nor the worse in 1968. I'd be surprised if they were such a high percentage of the talent that the Tigers would come out even a full percentage point below 84% as the 1922 Giants had - the number 10 on your list.
1:31 PM Feb 13th
 
FrankD
Excellent study. One question: is there any correlation to ownership change and change in a franchise's home-grown percentage?

and a nit: NYG did not win NL in 1938 .....
1:24 PM Feb 13th
 
 
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