The Nomar Garciaparra All Star Team

November 25, 2021
Introduction
 
I decided to write another article using the "Build-a-Team" format that I’m so fond of. Recently, I did an article on the "Fielder Jones All Star Team" that identified players who had careers which, as I called it, tended to stay in the "middle of the road", resulting in a large number of seasons (and a high percentage of their careers) between 2.0 and 5.0 WAR, seasons that could loosely be characterized as being of starter quality, but generally short of all-star quality.   
 
This time, I’m looking for players who had a much different career experience. This time, I’m looking for players who had several good-to-excellent seasons, but then didn’t really generate a lot of quantifiable value outside of that. In other words, their "peak" pretty much represented most or all of their career value, at least in terms of total WAR accumulated. Towards this end, I was tinkering around with the "JAWS" data available on baseball-reference.com, and decided to use that as my primary data source. 
 
Fun with JAWS
 
As you are probably aware, JAWS is a methodology and ranking system created by Jay Jaffe primarily designed to help identify quality Hall of Fame candidates at each position. It’s a pretty simple approach, taking a player’s career WAR (using the baseball-reference.com version, or rWAR for short) and averaging it with his 7-year "peak" WAR total (known as "WAR7"), which is defined as his 7 highest season rWAR figures (not necessarily resulting from 7 consecutive seasons). Its intent is to give credit to a player for both his career and his peak value.
 
It's a popular methodology, one often cited by Hall of Fame afficionados, including many who are actual Hall of Fame voters. I have mixed feelings about it – I think it does a decent quick and dirty job of trying to objectively rank players, and I think it has some appeal as one benchmark in evaluating Hall of Fame candidates, but I also think it’s ultimately just one piece of evidence. I think other factors, including the impact of a player’s individual seasons, his contribution to winning teams, his awards and honors, his standing relative to peers, being among league leaders in statistical categories (Black & Gray Ink Tests), and much more, are all valid considerations for Hall of Fame worthiness. And, when it comes to identifying "peak", I’d personally rather use something less than 7 seasons. I’d rather use 4 or 5, and I sorely miss the feature that was available on the now-defunct Baseball Gauge site that allowed users to easily capture that information.
 
Nevertheless, I do have to say that I like the data that is readily available on baseball-reference.com on each position’s JAWS section.  It’s easy to download each player’s WAR, WAR7 (total WAR in his 7 highest seasons), oWAR (offensive WAR), dWAR (defensive WAR), WAA (Wins Above Average), information on MVP award finishes and All Star Games, and several basic stat categories, including OPS+. They’ve really beefed it up over the years, and it’s nice to have all of that in one place. 
 
One of the things that intrigues me, and the primary basis for my approach in this article, is the relationship between WAR and WAR7, and which players had WAR7 figures that represented a high % of their total career WAR. Each JAWS position goes 500 players deep (technically 498 since a couple of the rows are summary information rather than players), so I downloaded all position players into a dataset (I did pitchers separately since they have different statistical categories) and started playing around with the data. That gave me 3,984 players across the 8 positions (there were another 996 pitchers in my separate pull – 498 starters, 498 relievers).
 
First, I wanted to get an overall sense of the relationship between WAR and WAR7. Totals for the nearly 4,000 position player data set yield an aggregate career WAR of 57,871.2, and an aggregate WAR7 of 50,326.4. Per player, that’s an average career WAR of 14.5 and an average WAR7 of 12.6. So, for an average position player who is in the top 500 at his position, about 87% of career WAR is realized in his 7 best seasons.
 
As you would expect, that isn’t consistent at different levels throughout the listings. Generally speaking, the higher a player ranks on the JAWS listings, the lower % his WAR7 will be of his career total, which only stands to reason. The players at the bottom of the list tend to have very little career value beyond their 7 "best" years (and often have "negative" WAR figures beyond their top 7), whereas great players typically accumulate lot of value even after accounting for their 7 best years.
 
Here’s a little summary of how the relationship changes as you move down the list. For brevity, I didn’t do all 3,984 position players in this summary - I just included he top 200 at each position (1,600 total) and calculated the average career WAR and WAR7 within each group (note, I did not filter anyone out, so the list includes players from all leagues, including Negro League players for whom data only represents a portion of their actual playing career):
 
JAWS Position Rank Range (Excluding Pitchers)
Avg. Career WAR
Avg. WAR7
WAR7 % of Career WAR
1-25
69.8
44.4
63.5%
26-50
42.7
32.3
75.7%
51-75
32.9
27.0
81.9%
76-100
26.0
23.1
88.8%
101-125
21.2
19.9
93.8%
126-150
17.7
17.0
96.0%
151-175
14.6
14.9
102.1%
176-200
12.2
12.7
104.3%
Overall
(top 200 at each position only)
29.6
23.9
80.7%
 
To give you a sense as to what kind of player we’re talking about, by the time you get to #200, the #200 catcher is Jim Leyritz, the first baseman is Scott Hatteberg, the second baseman is Manny Trillo, the shortstop is Frank Duffy, and so on.
 
In general, as you can see, the better the player, the lower % WAR7 is of his career total. By the time you get down past the top 150 or so, WAR7 generally is representing about 100% or more of a player’s career WAR.
 
So, what intrigued me, and what led to this article, is who were the best players who had a large percentage of their career WAR wrapped up in their WAR7? Here’s how I approached it.
 
1)      I excluded any active players since their career and WAR7 figures are still in flux. 

2)      I developed a "Fibonacci" (sort of) type of calculation to give a player a score as a single number that included both bulk and rate aspects.
 
As you may be familiar with, Bill James came up with a Fibonacci number in his "Politics of Glory" book to help evaluate pitchers by blending Wins, Losses, and Winning Percentage into a single number. The formula is Wins times Winning Percentage plus Wins minus Losses. I came up with something similar to help me with this exercise. 
 
The formula I used is: WAR7*WAR7%-(WAR-WAR7)
 
Walking through that a step at a time:
 
1)      Take WAR7 and multiply by the % that WAR7 represented of career WAR. In performing this calculation, I capped the WAR7% at 100%.

2)      Subtract the difference between WAR and WAR7. If WAR7 was higher than WAR, I didn’t subtract anything.  
 
That second step is necessary in order to prevent players like Ruth, Hornsby, Gehrig, etc. from having the top scores, because they’re not what I’m looking for. Those players did have great peaks, but they also had a lot of career value beyond their 7 peak seasons, and simply doing step 1 wasn’t enough. 
 
I’m calling the figure I end up with "Fibonacci Peakness Number", which you’ll see referenced in the tables to come as "FPN". I’m sure there are some flaws (including the fact that I’m not sure that "Peakness" is a legitimate word), but I’m generally happy with the lists of top candidates that resulted from the approach.
 
You may note that if someone’s WAR7% is greater than or equal to 100% (that is, if his WAR7 is at least as high as his career WAR, his FPN is equal to his WAR7
 
Let’s use a real-life example for Nomar Garciaparra. Garciaparra had a career WAR of 44.3 and a WAR7 of 43.1. His WAR7% is 43.1/44.3, which is 97.3%. 
 
The calculation is: 43.1*.973-(44.3-43.1)=40.7
 
One other note, because I’m sure many of you will notice this anyway: the mathematics of this approach yields a lot of players with relatively short careers, which is kind of to be expected. Not in all cases, of course, but if you were a good player but only had a career of 10 years or so, you’re probably going to score well on something like this that’s based on your best 7 years.  Many of the top candidates had short careers due to injuries, the color barrier, military service, and other such factors. Again, not always, but quite often there are obvious mitigating factors.
 
I think you get the idea. Let’s get started with the team. For each position, I’m going to display:
 
·         The top 10 candidates at each position based on FPN (in some cases I may show a few more)
·         Each player’s JAWS and JAWS7 position rank so you can see their relative results.
·         I’ll call out any Hall of Famers who made the leader boards.
·         A few observations on the candidates.
·         Active players who, at least currently, have high FPN’s, although most of them would be expected to drop off as their careers continue to unfold.
·         My selection for the "team".
 
Related to that second bullet point, it is essentially true that these players will (I believe without exception) rank higher within their respective positions as measured by JAWS7 vs. JAWS, which is certainly what you’d expect. I think that those types of players tend to get a bit underrated in Hall of Fame discussions because it’s my opinion that Hall of Fame voters tend to put more weight on career accomplishments vs. a player’s "peak" performance. JAWS7 is designed to give some representation to both career and peak, but I do think sometimes the peak guys still get a little overlooked because they come up short on the career total. 
 
In any case, I think it’s interesting to see how much higher some of these players rank when looking solely at their best seasons rather than their total careers.
 
Catchers
 
Top Candidates:
Name
From
To
WAR
WAR7
WAR7 %
FPN
JAWS Position Rank
JAWS7 Position Rank
Elston Howard
1948
1968
27.0
26.5
98.1%
25.5
38
30
Tony Pena
1980
1997
24.7
24.7
100.0%
24.7
50
35
Manny Sanguillen
1967
1980
27.6
26.5
96.0%
24.3
37
31
Darren Daulton
1983
1997
22.9
23.7
103.5%
23.7
58
42
Victor Martinez
2002
2018
32.0
29.0
90.6%
23.3
30
23
Roy Campanella
1937
1957
41.8
35.0
83.7%
22.5
17
12
Buster Posey
2009
2021
44.9
36.6
81.5%
21.5
14
9
Johnny Bassler
1913
1927
21.6
21.5
99.5%
21.3
65
55
Thurman Munson
1969
1979
46.1
37.0
80.3%
20.6
12
8
Chris Hoiles
1989
1998
23.5
22.3
94.9%
20.0
62
49
 
Active Player(s) with Relatively High FPNs (at least for now):
J.T. Realmuto (23.2), Jonathan Lucroy (18.8)
 
Observations
·         Campanella is the lone Hall of Famer on the list, although Posey will probably join him someday, and Munson might eventually.

I should note that Campanella’s figures do include both his Major League career and his data from the Negro Leagues (214 games over 8 seasons), although of course his Negro League totals certainly understate his total performance from those years due to incomplete data. If I only counted his MLB data (35.6 career WAR and 34.4 WAR7), Campanella would leap to the top with a 32.0 FPN, But I decided not to get into those kind of micro-adjustments.

·         Martinez had a lot of time at DH, so I subjectively eliminated him. 

·         2 of the best catchers in Pirates’ history (Pena and Sanguillen) appear high up on the list. 

·         I find it interesting that Sanguillen and Daulton wound up next to each other in this listing, as I had seen them "together" in another context. In the New Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James had observed (under Sanguillen’s player profile, #42 catcher) that Sanguillen and Daulton were exact opposites of each other in so many ways (particularly in hitting approach).
 
My Selection:
Elston Howard
 
I like Howard for this team in a close 4-way battle with Pena, Sanguillen, and Daulton. His peak was quite good, and he had 3 top-ten MVP finishes in a 4 year span (including winning in 1963) and had 9 consecutive All Star seasons. He had several mitigating factors that impacted his potential career totals (color line, military service, having to contend with Yogi Berra), but I still think he’s the best fit for this concept.
 
First Basemen
 
Top Candidates:
Name
From
To
WAR
WAR7
WAR7 %
FPN
JAWS Position Rank
JAWS7 Position Rank
Dolph Camilli
1933
1945
43.2
40.0
92.6%
33.8
35
22
George Sisler
1915
1930
54.8
47.1
85.9%
32.8
19
7
Hank Greenberg
1930
1947
55.5
46.5
83.8%
30.0
18
11
Kevin Youkilis
2004
2013
32.4
31.2
96.3%
28.8
58
44
Mo Vaughn
1991
2003
27.1
27.1
100.0%
27.1
81
64
Jason Giambi
1995
2014
50.5
42.2
83.6%
27.0
26
17
Dave Orr
1883
1890
27.8
27.4
98.6%
26.6
79
60
Prince Fielder
2005
2016
23.8
24.9
104.6%
24.9
97
78
Hal Trosky
1933
1946
30.1
28.0
93.0%
23.9
76
58
John Reilly
1880
1891
23.4
23.9
102.1%
23.9
107
88
Don Mattingly
1982
1995
42.4
35.7
84.2%
23.4
39
32
Ted Kluszewski
1947
1961
31.5
28.5
90.5%
22.8
67
56
 
Active Player(s) with Relatively High FPNs (at least for now):
Paul Goldschmidt (26.9), Anthony Rizzo (23.3)
 
Observations
·         Travis Hafner is listed in JAWS as a first baseman and was in the original list with a 24.2 figure, but he’s really more of a DH, so I subjectively eliminated him from the final listing.

·         I went 12 deep on this one instead of 10 because I wasn’t sure whether to keep Orr or Reilly, 2 stars of the American Association in the 1880’s. I decided to keep them on the list, but brought in 2 more players (Mattingly and Kluszewski) to round out the field.

·         2 Hall of Famers (Sisler and Greenberg) make the list, and they are both prime examples of players that had extenuating circumstances as to why they appear on this list.

Sisler’s primary mitigating factor was his severe sinus infection that affected his vision. Sisler’s top 7 seasons were all prior to age 30, and at the rate he was going (47 WAR through age 29, with his age 29 MVP season perhaps being his best to date), it’s easy to imagine how he would have ended up with 70 to 80 career WAR, which would have taken off the radar for this exercise, but at this point he’s still in play.

I think it’s interesting to note that Sisler, whose reputation I think has taken a hit over the years, has the 7th highest WAR7 figure among first basemen. At his peak, Sisler was a helluva player.

Greenberg’s mitigating factor was losing several key seasons to military service. Conservatively, he’s probably missing 25-30 WAR from his potential career total, and that would have taken him completely off the list of candidates.
 
·         Youkilis had a very brief career (10 seasons), and only had about 6 seasons that could be considered full seasons, but he was a good one, with a couple of high MVP finishes.
 
 
My Selection:  
Dolph Camilli
 
Camilli’s a good fit for this concept. Like Elston Howard, he took home an MVP. His 7-year peak occurred in consecutive seasons (1936-1942) in which every season was between 4.8 and 6.9 WAR, and then had no other season higher than 1.8.
 
 
Second Basemen
 
Top Candidates:
Name
From
To
WAR
WAR7
WAR7 %
FPN
JAWS Position Rank
JAWS7 Position Rank
Ben Zobrist
2006
2019
44.5
39.7
89.2%
30.6
25
17
Eddie Stanky
1943
1953
41.4
37.6
90.8%
30.3
34
23
Jackie Robinson
1945
1956
63.9
51.5
80.6%
29.1
10
6
Snuffy Stirnweiss
1943
1952
27.5
28.8
104.7%
28.8
65
50
Chuck Knoblauch
1991
2002
44.6
38.6
86.5%
27.4
26
18
Brian Roberts
2001
2014
29.5
28.1
95.3%
25.4
64
52
Joe Gordon
1938
1950
55.8
44.9
80.5%
25.2
17
12
Bret Boone
1992
2005
22.8
25.2
110.5%
25.2
76
66
Robby Thompson
1986
1996
33.8
30.3
89.6%
23.7
49
41
Ross Barnes
1871
1881
28.0
26.5
94.6%
23.6
68
55
 
Active Player(s) with Relatively High FPNs (at least for now):
Jose Altuve (32.6)
 
Observations
·         Zobrist tops the list, and I think he’ll go down as one of the more interesting players from this era.   He’s got to be right up there when the great multi-position utility players of all time are discussed (Tony Phillips would be my personal choice as the greatest true utility player). Zobrist only had 4 seasons where he played 100 or more games at a given position (3 times at second base, once in right field).

·         Stanky had a brief career (11 seasons, only 8 with more than 100 games), but he was a good one, a great on-base artist.

·         Robinson and Gordon are Hall of Famers that appear on the list. Robinson’s totals, of course, are greatly shaped by his well-documented set of circumstances, and Gordon lost a couple of prime seasons to military service that probably would have dropped him off this list.

·         Stirnweiss famously had 2 extremely strong seasons during the talent-depleted World War II era that stand out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of his career. Those 2 seasons alone represent over 60% of his career total.

·         Boone’s top 3 seasons generated 18.9 WAR (8.8 in his memorable 2001 season, 5.9 in 2003, and 4.2 in 2002), but then he did not exceed 1.9 in any of his other 11 seasons.

·         I didn’t put in a minimum games threshold, and therefore Barnes (499 games, mostly in the 1870’s) makes an appearance on the list.
 
My Selection:
Eddie Stanky
 
Going in, I thought Knoblauch would have been the best overall fit for this exercise, but I’m going to go with Stanky over Zobrist in a close call.
 
Shortstops
 
Top Candidates:
Name
From
To
WAR
WAR7
WAR7 %
FPN
JAWS Position Rank
JAWS7 Position Rank
Nomar Garciaparra
1996
2009
44.3
43.1
97.3%
40.7
25
13
Hughie Jennings
1891
1918
42.3
39.0
92.2%
32.7
30
22
Troy Tulowitzki
2006
2019
44.5
40.2
90.3%
32.0
27
20
Johnny Pesky
1942
1954
34.2
33.2
97.1%
31.2
53
37
Hanley Ramirez
2005
2019
38.0
35.1
92.4%
29.5
39
30
John Valentin
1992
2002
32.5
31.4
96.6%
29.2
57
45
Cecil Travis
1933
1947
30.4
29.2
96.1%
26.8
62
56
Jim Fregosi
1961
1978
48.8
41.0
84.0%
26.6
21
18
Ron Hansen
1958
1972
24.1
25.8
107.1%
25.8
94
70
Billy Rogell
1925
1940
25.1
25.8
102.8%
25.8
88
71
 
Active Player(s) with Relatively High FPNs (at least for now):
Carlos Correa (34.1), Francisco Lindor (31.1), Andrelton Simmons (27.6), Trevor Story (26.8), Marcus Semien (26.2), Xander Bogaerts (26.1)
 
Observations
·         Jennings is a Hall of Famer who makes the list.
 
·         There’s a strong Boston flavor at this position as are there are 3 candidates who starred primarily for the Red Sox (Garciaparra, Pesky, Valentin), and Ramirez got his start as a big-time prospect for Boston before being traded to the Marlins.
 
·         Travis was an excellent player through age 27, but wasn’t the same player after his military service during World War II, during which time he developed frostbite on his toes.

My Selection:
Nomar Garciaparra
 
I think this is an easy choice. Nomar really personifies the concept, and that’s why I named the team in his honor.  He had 6 seasons of over 6.0 WAR (plus one of 2.5), but everything else was 1.3 or lower. Virtually all of his WAR was realized before his age 30 season. His FPN of 40.7 is the only figure of 40 or higher in the dataset among non-active position players.
 
Third Basemen
 
Top Candidates:
Name
From
To
WAR
WAR7
WAR7 %
FPN
JAWS Position Rank
JAWS7 Position Rank
Al Rosen
1947
1956
32.3
32.9
101.9%
32.9
53
36
Bill Bradley
1899
1915
36.6
34.4
94.0%
30.1
41
33
Edgardo Alfonzo
1995
2006
28.8
28.9
100.3%
28.9
69
55
Bill Joyce
1890
1898
31.0
29.8
96.1%
27.4
67
51
John McGraw
1891
1907
45.7
39.1
85.6%
26.9
28
22
Whitey Kurowski
1941
1949
24.8
24.9
100.4%
24.9
94
84
Jim Ray Hart
1963
1974
24.9
24.9
100.0%
24.9
92
85
Martin Prado
2006
2019
27.7
26.7
96.4%
24.7
82
70
Art Devlin
1904
1913
36.1
32.1
88.9%
24.5
46
38
Red Smith
1911
1919
27.0
26.1
96.7%
24.3
87
75
 
Active Player(s) with Relatively High FPNs (at least for now):
Josh Donaldson (36.5), Nolan Arenado (32.7), Anthony Rendon (31.0), Jose Ramirez (30.4), Kris Bryant (28.7), Manny Machado (27.2), Matt Carpenter (26.8), Justin Turner (26.7), Alex Bregman (26.1)
 
Observations
·         There are 9 active third basement who currently have FPN’s higher than Whitey Kurowski, but, again, I’m not including active players in the leader boards since their careers are still ongoing, and most of the third basemen currently sitting with high figures (such as Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Jose Ramirez, and Alex Bregman) are still in their prime and figure to roll off the list as their careers progress.   

However, some of those could eventually end up here. In particular, Josh Donaldson, although he had a nice season last year, is now 35 and might not tack too much more onto his career, and he’s a prime candidate to be high up on this list once he’s done. Also, Matt Carpenter (who’s more third base than anything else) is probably near the end of his career as well, and he’d be between McGraw and Kurowski at this point.

·         Santo and McGraw are Hall of Famers who are on the list, but McGraw of course is in more for his managerial success.

·         There’s a bit of a Cleveland flavor at the top of the list with Rosen and Bradley finishing #1 and #2.
 
My Selection:
Al Rosen
 
Rosen was another easy choice for me, and I almost named the team in his honor, but went with Nomar instead.
 
Rosen had a fascinating though brief career. Only 10 seasons in total, and 3 of those were minimal in terms of games played as he had to wait in line for the third base job at Cleveland behind Ken Keltner. He really only had 7 full seasons, but he got in some pretty good ones. In fact, he has a legitimate argument for having the greatest single season for any third baseman in the history of MLB:
 
Top 10 seasons by WAR – MLB Third Basemen (50% or more games at 3B that year):
 
Rk
Player
WAR
Age
Year
Tm
Lg
G
PA
HR
RBI
R
BA
OBP
SLG
1
Al Rosen
10.1
29
1953
CLE
AL
155
688
43
145
115
.336
.422
.613
2
Mike Schmidt
9.8
24
1974
PHI
NL
162
686
36
116
108
.282
.395
.546
3
Ron Santo
9.8
27
1967
CHC
NL
161
697
31
98
107
.300
.395
.512
4
Adrian Beltre
9.6
25
2004
LAD
NL
156
657
48
121
104
.334
.388
.629
5
Alex Rodriguez
9.4
31
2007
NYY
AL
158
708
54
156
143
.314
.422
.645
6
Alex Rodriguez
9.4
29
2005
NYY
AL
162
715
48
130
124
.321
.421
.610
7
George Brett
9.4
27
1980
KCR
AL
117
515
24
118
87
.390
.454
.664
8
Home Run Baker
9.3
26
1912
PHA
AL
149
648
10
130
116
.347
.404
.541
9
Scott Rolen
9.2
29
2004
STL
NL
142
593
34
124
109
.314
.409
.598
10
Wade Boggs
9.1
27
1985
BOS
AL
161
758
8
78
107
.368
.450
.478
 
Rosen’s got a good case for the best ever single-season at 3B. He led the league in HR & RBI, and just missed out on the triple crown as Mickey Vernon nosed him out in batting average .337 to .336.
 
Left Fielders
 
Top Candidates:

Name
From
To
WAR
WAR7
WAR7 %
FPN
JAWS Position Rank
JAWS7 Position Rank
Ralph Kiner
1946
1955
48.1
42.7
88.8%
32.5
21
9
Charlie Keller
1939
1952
43.9
39.4
89.7%
30.9
30
14
Don Buford
1963
1972
36.2
33.5
92.5%
28.3
44
36
Albert Belle
1989
2000
40.1
36.0
89.8%
28.2
41
29
Lefty O'Doul
1919
1934
27.1
27.3
100.7%
27.3
71
61
Pedro Guerrero
1978
1992
34.4
31.9
92.7%
27.1
49
43
George Stone
1903
1910
26.0
26.0
100.0%
26.0
75
67
Wally Moon
1954
1965
24.9
25.7
103.2%
25.7
81
69
Alfonso Soriano
1999
2014
28.6
27.6
96.5%
25.6
69
56
Mike Greenwell
1985
1996
25.8
25.7
99.6%
25.5
77
70
 
Active Player(s) with Relatively High FPNs (at least for now):
Christian Yelich (28.5)
 
Observations
·         Kiner is a Hall of Famer making an appearance with his brief but illustrious 10-year career.

·         Keller and Belle are both strong candidates -  they were both powerful hitters who made significant impact in their relatively brief careers. In both cases, injuries (Keller with his back and Belle with his hip) contributed to their abbreviated careers.

·         O’Doul has one of the more fascinating MLB careers as he transitioned from a player who was primarily a pitcher (and not a particularly successful one) into a devastating hitter post-age 30, a two-time batting champ with a .349 lifetime average, twice placing in the top-3 in MVP voting.

·         Buford is listed as a left fielder for this exercise, but his career was pretty evenly split among LF, 3B, and 2B. I was a little surprised to see him finish so far up, but he did have a short (10 year) career, and that increases the chances of scoring well in something like this.
 
My Selection:
Ralph Kiner
 
I never had anything in my criteria that would eliminate a Hall of Famer, so I’m going with Kiner, although Keller and Belle would be really good choices as well.
 
Center Fielders
 
Top Candidates:
Name
From
To
WAR
WAR7
WAR7 %
FPN
JAWS Position Rank
JAWS7 Position Rank
Dale Murphy
1976
1993
46.5
41.2
88.6%
31.2
27
18
Hack Wilson
1923
1934
38.7
36.1
93.3%
31.1
45
29
Paul Blair
1964
1980
37.7
35.4
93.9%
30.9
50
33
Benny Kauff
1912
1920
29.0
29.0
100.0%
29.0
83
61
Grady Sizemore
2004
2015
27.8
28.2
101.4%
28.2
89
68
Tommie Agee
1962
1973
25.3
26.2
103.6%
26.2
106
89
Bill North
1971
1981
26.8
26.5
98.9%
25.9
98
84
Dave Henderson
1981
1994
27.6
27.0
97.8%
25.8
95
82
Bobby Murcer
1965
1983
32.0
29.8
93.1%
25.6
71
59
Josh Hamilton
2007
2015
28.2
27.1
96.1%
24.9
93
80
 
Active Player(s) with Relatively High FPNs (at least for now):
Mike Trout (44.7), Kevin Kiermaier (25.4)
 
Observations
·         Among active players, Mike Trout has an extremely high figure right now, but he figures to drop way down by the time his career is over. 

·         Much like his team mate Don Buford among the left fielders, I was a little surprised to see Paul Blair rank so high, but it makes sense. Blair generated some terrific seasons (both offensively and defensively) in the late ‘60/early ‘70’s, and though he did have a relatively long career (17 seasons), a lot of those seasons added very little to his career WAR total.

·         Hamilton is one of the more fascinating players in recent vintage. A former #1 overall draft pick who got mired in drug abuse, lost several years in the process, came back with a valuable half-season with Cincinnati at age 26 in 2007 (19 HR in 90 games), was sent to Texas in a big trade, posted 5 All Star seasons with the Rangers (including a memorable Home Run Derby performance in 2008) and was named AL MVP in 2010. After his time with Texas, his career deteriorated pretty rapidly, and he only ended up with 9 MLB seasons.
 
My Selection:
Dale Murphy
 
Bit of a toss-up here between Murphy and Wilson, and Blair was right up there. Murphy and Wilson were very different players physically, but both had a fairly concentrated run where they were among the best power hitters going, each one leading the league multiple times in HR and RBI. Murphy is a 2-time MVP, and Wilson might very well have won one if they had an MVP vote in 1930 when he led the league in HR and in RBI (he knocked in a record 191, although at the time it was only 190 before it was adjusted many years later). Or, maybe he wouldn’t have won it, as that was the year Bill Terry hit .401. 
 
In any case, there’s some similarities in Murphy and Wilson’s careers, including the fact that neither one rates as a very good defensive center fielder, Murphy’s 5 Gold Gloves notwithstanding. 
 
In the end, I went with Murphy.
 
Right Fielders
 
Top Candidates:
Name
From
To
WAR
WAR7
WAR7 %
FPN
JAWS Position Rank
JAWS7 Position Rank
Jose Bautista
2004
2018
36.7
38.2
104.1%
38.2
49
25
Shoeless Joe Jackson
1908
1920
62.2
52.5
84.4%
34.6
13
7
Dave Parker
1973
1991
40.1
37.3
93.0%
31.9
40
30
Tony Oliva
1962
1976
43.0
38.6
89.8%
30.3
34
23
Roy Cullenbine
1938
1947
32.5
31.7
97.5%
30.1
67
51
Alex Rios
2004
2015
27.3
28.2
103.3%
28.2
83
72
Ross Youngs
1917
1926
32.7
30.8
94.2%
27.1
70
60
Johnny Callison
1958
1973
38.4
34.4
89.6%
26.8
51
38
Tommy Holmes
1942
1952
35.7
32.5
91.0%
26.4
62
46
Brian Jordan
1992
2006
32.9
30.5
92.7%
25.9
71
61
 
Active Player(s) with Relatively High FPNs (at least for now):
Mookie Betts (43.2), J.D. Martinez (28.8, listed in RF although he’s had a lot of games at DH), Bryce Harper (27.7), Aaron Judge (26.3)
 
Observations
·         Youngs is in the Hall of Fame, one of the notorious "Frisch Committee Selections". Youngs’ selection is typically seen as a mistake, and I would agree, although he was a fine player whose career (and his life) were tragically cut short by Bright’s Disease. Youngs probably was bound for a career WAR total at least in the 50’s, maybe higher, so he’s only on here because of the brevity of his career. 

·         Much like Trout in center field, Betts is still very much in his prime and his FPN will likely drop quite a bit as his career continues to unfold.

·         I was glad to see Callison make the list of candidates. He was a very valuable player, especially during 1962-1965.
 
My Selection:
Jose Bautista
 
I really wanted to go with Parker or Oliva, two of my favorite candidates who have each appeared on multiple Veteran’s Committee ballots, but, ultimately, I felt like I had to go with Bautista. Parker and Oliva both had really nice peaks with several consecutive season runs of being at or near the top of their position, but Bautista fits the numeric criteria a little better. Jackson didn’t seem like a good fit to me despite the high score, but I think any one among Bautista, Parker, or Oliva makes for a good choice.
 
Starting Pitchers
 
Top Candidates:
Name
From
To
WAR
WAR7
WAR7%
FPN
JAWS Rank
JAW7 Rank
Ed Walsh
1904
1917
65.9
62.3
94.5%
55.3
27
14
Wes Ferrell
1927
1941
60.1
54.4
90.5%
43.5
48
26
Sandy Koufax
1955
1966
48.9
46.0
94.1%
40.4
90
58
Nap Rucker
1907
1916
47.1
44.7
94.9%
40.0
97
64
Dizzy Dean
1930
1947
46.2
44.1
95.5%
40.0
104
72
Sam McDowell
1961
1975
41.8
41.1
98.3%
39.7
136
87
Jeff Pfeffer
1911
1924
38.1
38.0
99.7%
37.8
171
118
Wilbur Wood
1961
1978
50.0
45.7
91.4%
37.5
87
59
Jose Rijo
1984
2002
36.5
37.4
102.5%
37.4
184
127
Jim Maloney
1960
1971
37.5
36.9
98.4%
35.7
180
131
Hal Newhouser
1939
1955
62.7
52.7
84.1%
34.3
43
31
Russ Ford
1909
1915
34.0
34.0
100.0%
34.0
216
177
Cliff Lee
2002
2014
43.2
39.7
91.9%
33.0
137
97
Camilo Pascual
1954
1971
40.9
38.2
93.4%
33.0
156
115
Thornton Lee
1933
1948
34.4
33.9
98.5%
32.9
212
178
Hippo Vaughn
1908
1921
46.8
42.0
89.7%
32.9
110
81
Jim Bagby
1912
1923
30.9
32.8
106.1%
32.8
246
191
Johnny Antonelli
1948
1961
31.8
32.6
102.5%
32.6
239
194
Johan Santana
2000
2012
51.7
45.0
87.0%
32.5
83
62
Jon Matlack
1971
1983
39.4
36.9
93.7%
32.1
170
132
 
Active Player(s) with Relatively High FPNs (at least for now):
Jacob deGrom (35.5), Corey Kluber (34.5)
 
Observations
·         Several Hall of Famers are on the list of top candidates - Walsh, Koufax, Dean, and Newhouser.  

·         A very important footnote on starting pitchers is that I only included pitchers who started their careers in 1901 or later.   If I hadn’t made that adjustment, the list would have been skewed and would have been dominated by early-history pitchers. For full disclosure, if I hadn’t made that adjustment, the list would have looked like this (highlighting the pitchers who would have appeared if included). As you can see, it would have been almost entirely a different list.
 
Original, Unadjusted List
Name
From
To
WAR
WAR7
WAR7%
FPN
JAWS Rank
JAW7 Rank
Tommy Bond
1874
1884
60.9
62.7
103.0%
62.7
32
13
Al Spalding
1871
1878
60.3
60.4
100.2%
60.4
37
18
Charlie Buffinton
1882
1892
60.7
60.2
99.2%
59.2
36
19
John Clarkson
1882
1894
83.2
74.7
89.8%
58.6
11
3
Amos Rusie
1889
1901
65.8
63.3
96.2%
58.4
26
12
Ed Walsh
1904
1917
65.9
62.3
94.5%
55.3
27
14
Jim McCormick
1878
1887
76.2
68.7
90.2%
54.4
16
7
Jim Whitney
1881
1890
56.0
54.7
97.7%
52.1
58
25
Old Hoss Radbourn
1880
1891
75.4
67.3
89.3%
52.0
19
8
Silver King
1886
1897
50.4
50.0
99.2%
49.2
75
43
Bob Caruthers
1884
1893
59.5
55.7
93.6%
48.3
44
23
Joe McGinnity
1899
1908
59.0
54.1
91.7%
44.7
50
29
Noodles Hahn
1899
1906
44.6
44.5
99.8%
44.3
108
66
Wes Ferrell
1927
1941
60.1
54.4
90.5%
43.5
48
26
Theodore Breitenstein
1891
1901
50.6
48.2
95.3%
43.5
78
53
Bobby Mathews
1871
1887
55.1
50.3
91.3%
41.1
66
41
Sadie McMahon
1889
1897
40.8
40.9
100.2%
40.9
145
90
Pud Galvin
1875
1892
73.4
61.9
84.3%
40.7
25
15
Sandy Koufax
1955
1966
48.9
46.0
94.1%
40.4
90
58
Nap Rucker
1907
1916
47.1
44.7
94.9%
40.0
97
64
 
 
My Selections:
Ed Walsh, Wes Ferrell, Sandy Koufax, Nap Rucker, Dizzy Dean
 
Unlike my position player selections which, except for left field, consisted of non-Hall of Famers, 3 of the 5 starting pitchers I selected are enshrined in Cooperstown. Walsh, Koufax, and Dean were all elected to the Hall because, despite not having long careers that resulted in impressive career totals, were able to post enough dominant, eye-catching seasons (including postseason success) that made them into big-time stars. That was their common thread - big seasons, memorable seasons, lots of Black Ink (Koufax is 14th all-time in Black Ink, Walsh is 17th, and Dean is 29th).
 
By the way, in the interest of giving you something you may never have seen before, I calculated a new (simple) metric – Black Ink Score per Season. I’m sure it’s got some flaws, and there are biases with Black Ink based on league sizes and eras, but it’s a quick and dirty measure of how dominant some pitchers were and then adjusted to the context of how many seasons they pitched.  I put a minimum requirement of 10 seasons on it.
 
It’s an interesting mix of pitchers and eras – it includes Negro League stars such as Brown, Smith, and Paige, old-timers like Clarkson, Bond, and McCormick, current players such as Kershaw, Verlander, and Scherzer, and I think a pretty good overall mix of eras. In any case, Koufax is #5 on this list, Walsh is #13, and Dean is #18.
 
Average Black Ink Score per Season (minimum 10 seasons):
Name
Black Ink Score
# of Seasons
Black Ink per Season
Ray Brown
115
14
8.21
Walter Johnson
150
21
7.14
Lefty Grove
111
17
6.53
Pete Alexander
130
20
6.50
Sandy Koufax
78
12
6.50
Joe McGinnity
64
10
6.40
Hilton Smith
74
13
5.69
Bob Feller
98
18
5.44
Christy Mathewson
92
17
5.41
Amos Rusie
52
10
5.20
John Clarkson
60
12
5.00
Warren Spahn
101
21
4.81
Ed Walsh
67
14
4.79
Clayton Kershaw
65
14
4.64
Cy Young
102
22
4.64
Randy Johnson
99
22
4.50
Tommy Bond
45
10
4.50
Dizzy Dean
52
12
4.33
Roger Clemens
100
24
4.17
Tim Keefe
58
14
4.14
Dazzy Vance
66
16
4.13
Justin Verlander
66
16
4.13
Jim McCormick
40
10
4.00
Max Scherzer
55
14
3.93
Satchel Paige
80
21
3.81
Greg Maddux
87
23
3.78
Leroy Matlock
36
10
3.60
Bill Foster
50
14
3.57
Rube Waddell
46
13
3.54
Johan Santana
42
12
3.50
 
Not coincidentally, those 3 are also among just a handful of Hall of Fame pitchers who have fewer than 200 career wins. Excluding pitchers who were primarily relievers (Rivera, Wilhelm, Fingers, etc.), primarily played in the Negro Leagues (Paige, Cooper, Rogan, etc.), or were elected mostly for other reasons (Hank O’Day, Candy Cummings), the only pitchers in the Hall of Fame with fewer than 200 wins are Walsh, Koufax, Dean, Addie Joss, Monte Ward (who also played a fair amount as a position player), Rube Waddell, Dazzy Vance, and Jack Chesbro.
 
Among non-Hall of Famers, Ferrell is one of my favorites that I would love to see inducted. Ferrell has to contend with the stigma of having a career ERA in excess of 4.00, but I think most people that look at it objectively now understand that, relative to the context in which he pitched, Ferrell wasn’t just a decent pitcher who won a lot of games, he was an exceptional pitcher, period. 
 
Ferrell’s peak is pretty easy to identify – it was 1929 to 1936 (which is 8 years, but that encompasses his clear peak effectiveness). His average season in that span was 20-12, 3.72, which sounds good outside of the ERA, but even the ERA was good. His ERA+ over that span was an excellent 128.   If you look objectively at the data, I would say the only American League pitcher over that time span who was more valuable than Ferrell would be Lefty Grove. And we haven’t even talked about his hitting prowess.
 
Rucker is an interesting pitcher. He might very well be the best pitcher in MLB history who had a non-winning record.
 
Subjectively, I would have loved to have included Santana, but felt like his FPN was just not quite high enough. Same thing for 2 of my favorite all-time Reds pitchers (Rijo and Maloney).
 
Relief Pitchers
 
Top Candidates:

Name
From
To
WAR
WAR7
WAR7%
FPN
JAWS Rank
JAW7 Rank
Bruce Sutter
1976
1988
24.1
24.3
100.8%
24.3
18
12
Ron Perranoski
1961
1973
18.2
21.0
115.4%
21.0
49
24
Bob Stanley
1977
1989
23.9
22.9
95.8%
20.9
23
17
Keith Foulke
1997
2008
20.7
20.7
100.0%
20.7
37
29
Dave Righetti
1979
1995
21.3
21.0
98.6%
20.4
31
26
Mark Eichhorn
1982
1996
19.1
19.8
103.7%
19.8
51
33
Mike Marshall
1967
1981
18.2
19.7
108.2%
19.7
58
35
Dan Quisenberry
1979
1990
24.6
22.5
91.5%
18.5
22
18
John Hiller
1965
1980
30.5
26.3
86.2%
18.5
8
6
Ted Abernathy
1955
1972
15.9
18.4
115.7%
18.4
71
50
 
 
Observations
·         With relief pitchers, I put in an extra stipulation that they had to have at least 80% of their career appearances be in relief, as I didn’t want the "half starter, half reliever" type of pitchers muddying the waters.

·         Most of the pitchers in this group had WAR7 figures that were higher than their career WAR totals, indicating that they had some significant negative results in their "non-best 7" seasons.

·         There were certainly some famous "big relief" seasons represented by this group – Perranoski’s 1963 (16-3, 1.67), Hiller’s 1973 (10-5, 1.44, league-leading and record 38 saves) and 1974 (17-14 W-L record), Stanley’s 1978 (15-2 record), Abernathy’s 1967 (6-3, 1.27, league-leading 28 saves), Marshall’s Cy Young season of 1974 (15-12, 208 IP, although that wasn’t even his highest WAR season), Sutter’s Cy Young season of 1979 as well as his even better 1977 (1.34, 31 saves), Quisenberry’s brilliant 1982-1985 run (4 consecutive times leading the league in saves and top 3 Cy Young finish all 3 years), and Eichhorn’s legendary rookie season of 1986 (14-6, 1.72, 157 IP)
 
My Selections:
Bruce Sutter and Ron Perranoski
 
Thank you for reading,
 
 
 
 
 
 

COMMENTS (15 Comments, most recent shown first)

DMBBHF
Thanks, Owen.

Leave it to you to come up with a batting order and to notice that there was only one lefty..... :) I knew I should have gone with Parker or Oliva in RF.

Thanks,
Dan
2:51 PM Dec 4th
 
OwenH
Very cool article Dan. I, like you, love this kind of stuff. This team is pretty heavy on slow righty sluggers, and the outfield defense ain't great, but with those pitchers they would be awfully tough anyway. I think I'd line them up like this:

2B EStanky - R
SS NGarciaparra - R
3B ARosen - R
LF RKiner - R
1B DCamilli - L
CF DMurphy - R
RF JBautista - R
C EHoward - R

2:15 PM Dec 1st
 
DMBBHF
Guys, thanks for the ongoing comments....

Garywmaloney - Thanks for the nice remark on the article.

Regarding McLain, he's got a Black Ink Score of 22 over 10 seasons, or 2.2 per season. That puts him in a tie for 76th place with Matt Kilroy. Jim Palmer (2.32) and Juan Marichal (2.31) are just ahead of him, and Tony Mullane (2.15), Sam McDowell (2.13) and Kid Nichols (2.13) are just behind him.

On the FPN list, McLain has a figure of 22.2, which is 171st. You're right, not enough big seasons to give him a good starting baseline for the calculation. He does have a WAR7 larger than his career WAR, however, so if I had defined it a little differently (say, for example, if I didn't cap the WAR7% in the calculation at 100%), he would have been at least in the top 100 starting pitchers.

Thanks,
Dan
1:38 PM Nov 28th
 
garywmaloney
I would have expected Denny McLain to appear here, and maybe on the Black Ink list, but (like Gagne) maybe there just weren't enough big seasons.

Great to see Jim Maloney get some attention for his brief, brilliant career.

Another wonderful historical piece by Marks.
9:40 AM Nov 28th
 
FreeKresge
"Another interesting list would be players whose WAR is greater than 2*WAR7. That is quite hard to do. A quick glance at the top RFers gives Aaron, Ott, Robinson. In LF, only Bonds*. Mays, Cobb and Speaker in CF."

A thread on Don Sutton drifted there. In the thread, I looked at all players with at least 40 rWAR plus catchers and relief pitchers with at least 30 rWAR. The complete list of these players with a positive value for rWAR – 2(WAR7) is:

1. Henry Aaron — 22.5
2. Barry Bonds — 17.3
3. Ty Cobb — 13.4
4. Cap Anson — 10.8
5. Tris Speaker — 9.6
6. Willie Mays — 9.1
7. Cy Young — 7.6
8. Roger Clemens — 7.4
9. Jim O'Rourke — 3.7
10. Mel Ott — 3.5
11. Jake Beckley — 2.1
12. Frank Robinson — 1.6
13. Honus Wagner — 0.2

The original post is at boards.billjamesonline.com/showthread.php?16916-Don-Sutton&p=272867#post272867

1:31 AM Nov 27th
 
bearbyz
I never realized before but Troy Tulowitzki had a similar career to Nomar Garciaparra, with not quite the heights. I loved watching Tulowitzki in his prime, especially in the field.
6:07 PM Nov 26th
 
DMBBHF
Thanks for all the comments, guys.

sayhey,

You're correct - Greinke through 2015 had 48.9 pitching WAR with 40.6 in his top 7 seasons to that point, which would be a 25.4 FPN at that point. If I eliminate the pitchers whose careers were pre-1901, that would put Greinke at #80, right in a cluster with Rick Sutcliffe, Dave Goltz, and Ray Collins. Reasonably high, overall, but as you said, he's come down quite a bit since then. I have him currently with an FPN of only 6.6, which would be #382 among starting pitchers (excluding the pre-1901 pitchers).

Frisco,

Gagne seems like a good fit conceptually, but he has a low starting point, as his WAR7 is only 11.8, as he really just had those 3 big years, and even those weren't huge years by WAR. His career WAR was 11.7, so the math works out that his FPN is 11.7, which would place him 90th among the relievers in the data set (using the 80% games in relief threshold).

3for3,

Yeah, thanks for bumping that article. I remember that there was a thread along those lines, but had trouble locating it. Interesting contrast between the concepts.

Bruce,

Interesting observation on the 90's Red Sox connection. I hadn't picked up on that.

Thanks,
Dan
12:19 PM Nov 26th
 
evanecurb
I now have a nickname for Mattingly: “The Dolph Camilli of the 1980s”
10:34 AM Nov 26th
 
evanecurb
Fun article. The lists are a mix of guys who were injured, went to war, were affected by segregation, or had a mysteriously short career. Was something going on in Boston in the 90s? I see Garciaparra, Valentin, Vaughn, and Greenwell all listed at their positions. Give each of those players three more good years and the Red Sox probably win a title.
10:32 AM Nov 26th
 
3for3
I did a post a while back (bumped it today) looking at the opposite; Players who were not in the Hall, but had WAR-WAR7 >20. It wasn't particularly interesting, I got a bunch of SABR darlings and a few players who were just good for a very long time.

Another interesting list would be players whose WAR is greater than 2*WAR7. That is quite hard to do. A quick glance at the top RFers gives Aaron, Ott, Robinson. In LF, only Bonds*. Mays, Cobb and Speaker in CF.
10:25 AM Nov 26th
 
sayhey
Made a mistake in my earlier post: through 2015, Greinke's two best seasons accounted for 39.4% of his career bWAR, which to me seems very high. But I did the Fibonacci calculation, and even back then he fell short of the list; today, he wouldn't even be close.
8:56 PM Nov 25th
 
W.T.Mons10
Another similarity between Hack Wilson and Dale Murphy- they were both opposite field hitters.
8:50 PM Nov 25th
 
frisco
Thought Eric Gagne would be a candidate...
4:54 PM Nov 25th
 
frisco
Albert Belle was the guy I thought of immediately while reading the intro. Noticed him pretty high amongst LFers.

My Best-Carey
4:53 PM Nov 25th
 
sayhey
I became interested in a version of this concept a few years ago in connection to Zack Greinke. After his big 2015 season with the Dodgers, two seasons (2009/15) accounted for over 30% of his career bWAR. He's pitched well since then, so that percentage has dropped, but I thought he still might make your list.
12:16 PM Nov 25th
 
 
©2022 Be Jolly, Inc. All Rights Reserved.|Powered by Sports Info Solutions|Terms & Conditions|Privacy Policy