By In Stuff

Question of the Day 6/20

Just to finish up yesterday’s thought, Brilliant Reader Gary would like to know if any World Series winner has ever led their league in stolen bases AND in runs. Those two things don’t often go together.

The answer is: Yes, it has happened three times since 1945.

— The 1976 Reds led the National League in, basically, every offensive category: Runs and stolen bases, yes, but also doubles, triples, home runs, walks, average, on-base percentage, slugging and hits. Every starter except Pete Rose stole double digit bases, and, yes, that includes Johnny Bench, who stole a career high 13 and was caught just twice.

— The 1975 Reds led the league in stolen bases and led the league in by more than 100 runs. Someone wrote a book about them.

— The 1955 Dodgers led the league in stolen bases and runs scored, but the stolen base was not a weapon teams used much. The Dodgers only stole 79 bases as a team — Jim Gilliam led the team (and was fifth in the league) with 15 stolen bases. Those Dodgers also led the league in homers, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging.

And that takes us back to World War II.

* * *

Brilliant Reader Bill has a theory that it is necessary to have a Hall of Fame player in order to win a World Series. He wonders if that checks out.

Well, it’s a big and complicated issue. The truth is, there are two kinds of Hall of Fame players. Well, there are many more than two kinds, but let’s focus on two kinds: (1) The Hall of Fame player having a Hall of Fame season and (2) The Hall of Fame player at the end of his career.

For instance, the 1987 Cleveland Indians lost 101 games with two Hall of Fame starting pitchers. Unfortunately, those two pitches were Steve Carlton and Phil Niekro after each was no longer even mildly effective.

I mentioned on Twitter that the Yankees lineup as currently constructed looks like a misprint it is so bad. Look:

  1. Brett Gardner, 8
  2. Jayson Nix, 6
  3. Robbie Cano, 4
  4. Vernon Wells, DH
  5. Thomas Neal, 9
  6. Ichiro Suzuki, 7
  7. David Adams, 5
  8. Lyle Overbay, 3
  9. Austin Robine, 2

That was the lineup that got shut out by Chris Capuano, Chris Winthroe and Brandon League in the second game of a doubleheader. It’s a lineup that, honestly, could get shut out anywhere and any time. The big problem for the Yankees is injuries, of course, but the point here is that lineup is preposterously bad.* Even so, it DOES have a sure Hall of Famer in Ichiro, and Cano is on pace for a Hall of Fame career and having a great season.

*On May 22 — I marked the date – I sent an email to pal Michael Schur that, essentially said, “OK, the Vernon Wells magic will stop right now.” Michael had been peppering me with Wells updates — at the time Wells was hitting .287 with 10 homers and slugging better than .500. I have nothing against Vernon Wells, I’ve heard players — in particular Jose Bautista — praise Wells’ as a teammate and leader. But … it was just SO ILLOGICAL. Wells was all but unplayable in Anaheim. Michael’s point was that this was Yankees magic at work. And maybe there is Yankees magic. But I just didn’t think Vernon Wells could keep that up, not even in Pinstripe Bizarro World.

Since May 22, Wells is hitting .105/.114/.116, with nine hits, one of them a double. I’m so rarely right but that one just seemed too obvious.

So, it seems to me the question is: Do you need a Hall of Famer playing at a Hall of Fame level in order to win a World Series?

I’m pretty sure the answer is no. No matter how much we — and I’m as guilty as anybody — like to talk about baseball individuals, the truth is that the game is just bigger than one or two players. I’m writing a piece now about the Dodgers, and when you look at that team’s individuals it simply DOES NOT SEEM POSSIBLE for them to be in last place. But they are.

There might be a comprehensive way to break down this concept, but for fun let’s just look at the last 10 World Series winners and whether or not they had any Hall of Famers playing like Hall of Famers:

2012 Giants: I don’t see an obvious Hall of Famer on the team. Buster Posey had a Hall of Fame season and certainly could go on to a Hall of Fame career, but it’s way early for that kind of talk. TIm Lincecum looked like a Hall of Famer for his first five full seasons, but now seems to be on the Bret Saberhagen, Dave Stieb track.

2011 Cardinals: Albert Pujols — first ballot Hall of Fame having a Hall of Fame type season. Will Yadier Molina make a Hall of Fame case for himself before he’s done? Maybe. He’s become an offensive force to go along with his defensive genius.

2010 Giants: Again, the best bet for a Hall of Famer is Posey, who was just a rookie.

2009 Yankees: A whole bunch. Derek Jeter is first ballot Hall of Famer who had Hall of Fame type season. Alex Rodriguez has had first ballot Hall of Fame career (though perhaps he is not a first ballot Hall of Fame player) and he had a good season. Mariano Rivera — first ballot Hall of Famer player having a Hall of Fame type season. CC Sabathia is on his way to a first-ballot Hall of Fame career, I think, and he had a Hall of Fame type season.This doesn’t even include Andy Pettitte or Robbie Cano … well, they are the Yankees.

2008 Phillies: I don’t think there was a Hall of Famer on this team. There might not be a player who will even get the 5% of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot. At the time, you might have pointed to Ryan Howard or Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins — I have heard some interesting Rollins Hall of Fame talk, though his 97 OPS+ hurts the cause and that probably will keep going down. Maybe Cole Hamels gets back in he conversation? Heck, Jamie Moyer might get more Hall of Fame support than anyone.

2007 Red Sox: Manny Ramirez had a first ballot Hall of Fame career, though we know the issues that will hold him back. He had a good year. Big Papi will get a lot of Hall of Fame support, I think, and he had a massive Hall of Fame type year. Dustin Pedroia is not yet 30 but I’m guessing he will make a compelling Hall of Fame case before he’s done Curt Schilling, I think, will end up in the Hall of Fame, but he only pitched 150 innings.

2006 Cardinals: Pujols being Pujols.

2005 White Sox: No Hall of Famers here. Mark Buerhle figures to win 200-plus games and might, with a Moyer-like effort, push it to 250 or higher. Paul Konerko is interesting because he is three good years away from 500 homers, but that no longer means what it once did. He’s a very good player, underrated, but not really a Hall of Famer.

2004 Red Sox: Pedro — first ballot Hall of Famer had only an OK season by his standards. Schilling — eventual Hall of Famer had a Hall of Fame kind of season. Manny — Hall of Fame numbers and Hall of Fame season. Papi — In the Hall of Fame discussion, had a Hall of Fame kind of season.

2003 Marlins: Pudge Rodriguez had a Hall of Fame career and a really good season. As a bonus, Miggy Cabrera was a rookie, just 20 years old and he only played in 87 games but someone gave him an MVP vote.

I don’t know if that answers the question but it might give an idea about the importance of singular stars … or the relative unimportance.

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28 Responses to Question of the Day 6/20

  1. terence mann says:

    Technically, that lineup is a mis-print

    “Austin Robine” 😉

  2. Will H. says:

    If Edgar Martinez isn’t getting the props he should (I mean, the DH is a position, after all, and he was the best at it, many can’t cut it once they are taken away from fielding, and hell, would it have been better if he had been a poor-fielding 1B?)

  3. Unknown says:

    Scott Rolen in 2006?

  4. Joe: Wouldn’t the second question be easier to answer by looking a bit further back, when the HoF discussion is already well underway?

    Being from Baltimore, I started with the ’83 Orioles: Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray had great seasons; Jim Palmer was at the end.

    ’84 Tigers: No HOF yet, but Jack Morris, who had a Jack Morris year, could change that.

    ’85 Royals: George Brett had a huge year.

    ’86 Mets: This team won 108 games and seemed more star-laden at the time. Gary Carter was solid.

    ’87 Twins: Kirby Puckett, a marginal HOFer, had an excellent year. Bert Blyleven threw 267 above-average innings.

    ’88 Dodgers: Don Sutton was bad, but he was 43 years old.

    ’89 Athletics: Rickey Henderson came back in a June trade and was the best offensive player. Dennis Eckersley was excellent. Mark McGwire had a good year and might still make the HOF some day. Billy Beane hit .241 — with a .238 OBP

    • dbutler16 says:

      You mention the ’84 Tigers and don’t mention the two Hall of Fame caliber players on their team – Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, both of whom were in their prime? If someone breaks this team’s HOF shutout, I hope it’s one, or better yet, both of them.

    • nightfly says:

      Agreed with dbutler… Trammel and Sweet Lou were true greats.

      For 1986, you have Carter (possibly his last good season); and as you mention, they have a list of almosts and shouldas. Keith Hernandez has good-to-great peak value but his decline was so sudden he never amassed the kinds of career numbers that could bolster his case. Straw and Doc were wonderful, but neither could sustain it. Lots of near-misses on what could have been a contender for years to come.

  5. Well, if you go back far enough, you find some interesting teams that won the WS, without much (if any) HOF talent. The 1940 Reds had no HOFers, other than oft injured Ernie Lombardi, who did not start a game in the WS. The 1943 Yankees actually had a dearth of HOF talent. JoeD was in the military. Bill Dickey was 36 and only played in 85 games. Joe Gordon is now in the HOF and had an OK year that year, but not what I would call a HOF caliber year. The 1959 Dodgers had an aging Duke Snider in the OF and a couple of young pitchers (Drysdale and Koufax) who weren’t quite what they would be in a couple years. The Miracle Mets had no one remotely close to the HOF in their lineup, but had one at the top of their rotation and another one just starting his career as a flamethrower. The 1981 Dodgers didn’t have a single HOFer on their roster, but had a plethora of good players (that one is hard to believe actually).

    • Unknown says:

      The 1981 Dodgers weren’t even the best team in their division that year and if not for the idiotic split season, wouldn’t have even made the post season. The Reds were the best team in the NL that year with Tom Seaver having a should-have-been Cy Young season.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Unknown, that’s a little bit of hair splitting since the Reds won one more game than the Dodgers overall & the Dodgers were under no pressure to win games down the stretch of the “second half” since they were already in the post season via their “first half” record. Point is, it’s hard to know how the season would have played out as one full season.

  6. Cristina says:

    Another way to look at this question is how much WAR did HOF players accumulate on each WS winner? Therefore, the 1981 Dodgers “win” by having 0.0 WAR accumulated by HOF players. The 1940 Reds had 3.9 WAR earned by HOFers (all by Ernie Lombardi). The 1914 “Miracle” Braves had 10.1 WAR earned by HOF players (Evers and Maranville). The 1969 “Miracle” Mets had 7.9 WAR by HOFers (Seaver and Ryan). In contrast, the 1927 Yankees had 46.2 WAR by HOF players (Gehrig, Lazzeri, Ruth, Combs, Hoyt and Pennock) and the 1975 Reds had 24.8 (includes Pete Rose and also Bench, Perez, Morgan)


    • Ian R. says:

      It might also be interesting to look at differences in HOF talent between World Series winners and losers. The 1914 Braves, for instance, had those two Hall of Famers, but the 1914 Athletics, who they swept, had five (Home Run Baker, Chief Bender, Eddie Collins, Herb Pennock and Eddie Plank). Granted, Plank was in the twilight of his career (though he was still worth 1.8 bWAR) and Pennock was used “sparingly” (but still contributed 1.5 WAR in over 150 innings). The other three combined for more than 20 WAR, including a whopping 9.0 from Collins, and yet they lost. Amazing, that.

  7. How much of this is confounding of cause-and-effect? Is the Hall of Famer making a World Series champion, or is having a World Series ring boosting the Hall of Fame candidacy?

    • Grant says:

      Well, the guys who had big years undoubtedly helped make the championship.

      Championship rings do seem to have some effect on HoF voting. Then again, Alan Trammel (for example) isn’t in despite winning that ring…

    • Mark says:

      Well, Bill Mazeroski would never have made the Hall of Fame without his World Series home run.

    • djangoz says:

      Exactly. Winning the WS helps borderline candidates get into the HOF.

      Also, clearly a team does NOT need a HOF player to win the WS. Wayyy too many players involved in baseball for that to be necessary. However in basketball it is much more common if not mandatory.

  8. Unknown says:

    Falls in the category of Hall of Famer having a non-Hall of Fame season, but Frank Thomas did get 134 plate appearances in 05 with the Sox.

  9. KHAZAD says:

    The HOF is an interesting mix of longevity and reputation, which leads to even more questions.

    For instance, Chase Utley has hall of fame type talent, and had a great season in 2008. He was a late bloomer and his 30s have been marred by injuries, but he compares favorably with Ryne Sandberg in shorter periods.

    His best OPS+ was 146, Sandberg’s was 145. They both have 6 full seasons with OPS+ over 120, but Utley’s first season as a regular was at age 26, while Sandberg had a full season at age 22. From age 26-34, Utley was the better player, but Sandberg was a young phenom playing on WGN when that really meant something. Also there is fielding. Chase Utley is a much better fielder than Sandberg. Utley has a UZR/150 of 13.9 and has 141 Defensive Runs Saved in his career, but doesn’t have a gold glove. Sandberg is perhaps the most overrated defensive infielder of all time, partially because of that WGN factor, and was given gold gloves like candy despite being a good, but not great, fielder.

    My point is that Chase Utley was a hall of fame type player having a hall of fame type year in 2008. The fact that he won’t have the counting stats to make the hall because of a late start to his career doesn’t really take away from that.

    You might be better off studying whether teams have won it all without any players having a hall of fame type year rather than whether those players actually made it in.

  10. Steve O says:

    Interesting that you stopped at 2003, because the 2002 Angels are another team with almost no shot of having any HoF’ers on their team (not just the postseason roster, but the entire season).

    But that’s a case of a team with a lot of very good players, just no superstars. Tim Salmon had an incredibly solid career (one of the best players ever in the All-Star Game era to never be an All-Star, along with Kirk Gibson and Tony Phillips) and put up his last really good season (4.0 WAR (BB-Ref’s, not Fangraphs’), 133 OPS+ in 568 PAs). Troy Glaus, another guy with a very solid career, had a pretty good year. Garret Anderson, a guy who some used to push as a marginal HoF candidate (though the stats don’t back it up) had a great year. Darin Erstad had a bad year at the plate but he played great defense (great might be an understatement, as BB-Ref gives him a fantastic 4.2 dWAR!) and I’m sure he was gritty as all heck and did you know he used to be a punter at Nebraska?! Brad Fullmer, who isn’t even qualified for the Angels Hall of Fame, had a very good year.

    Their best Hall candidate is probably Kevin Appier (who had a good but not great year), and IIRC he got like 3 HoF votes on his first year of eligibility and dropped off the ballot. So unless the writers take their David Eckstein fetish to an insane level and decide to induct him, the 2002 Angels are a team that won the WS (and had a 99 win regular season, so they weren’t a fluke team) with no one even particularly close to being a Hall of Famer.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Most recent WS champion without a hall of famer, or even a close case? 2002 Angels, hands down.

  13. adam says:

    Sorry Joe, but it seems like the question should really be “Do you need someone having a Hall of Fame season to win the World Series?”

    The reason being….if you have someone having a Hall of Fame season in a given year, and you win the World Series that year, what does it matter what that player does in any other season? He played at a hall of fame season in the year you won; that’s all that matters.

    And what’s a Hall of Fame season? Basically an MVP or Cy Young candidate. So now the question finally is “do you need a candidate for either award to win the world series?”

    Maybe the 2005 White Sox fit the bill for a no answer. Paul Konerko was their best player, and he had a 4.1 WAR (baseball-reference). If a 4.1 WAR season is not a hall of fame season, then the answer to the original question is no.

    Someone mentioned the 2002 Angels. Darrin Erstad had a 6.4 WAR season there (!). That’s borderline MVP candidate, right?

    • Steve O says:

      It is, but it’s an odd one ot highlight because we tend to think of our “MVP Seasons” are being overwhelmingly good offensive years (or, for pitchers, utterly dominant seasons), whereas Erstad accrued an incredible amount of defensive value while being average to below average on offense. .313 OBP, 86 OPS+…to his credit, he stole 23 bases with a mere 3 CS. His Total Average, which figures in those good SB/CS numbers, was .635. I’m honestly not sure how good that is; either way, it pales when compared to his breakout offensive year of 2000, when he had a TotA of .998.

      Eckstein and Anderson had WARs of 5+, and Salmon, Glaus and Kennedy were all above 4.

      Just wanted to see how prevalent that was, so I did a BB-PI search since 2000 of all teams with 6 batters with 4+ WAR.

      Only two other teams qualify: The 2005 Indians (Peralta, Martinez, Belliard, Sizemore, Hafner and Crisp), a very good team who missed the playoffs because of a terrible last week of the season skid. The other qualifying team is the 2003 Braves (Furcal, Giles, Chipper, Andruw, Lopez, Sheff), who won 101 games, took the NL East for something like the 78th time in a row, and lost in a 5 game NLDS to the Cubs.

      Got a bit curious because of those results, so I did the same search for 1990-1999. But no team in that time period had 6 qualifying 4+ WAR players.

      So I did it for 1970-1989. I won’t list out every player, but again, very few teams qualify, and no team had 7 qualifying players. The team from 70-89: The 1974 A’s (WS Champs), 1976 Yankees (WS Losers), 1976 Reds (WS Champs), and the wildcard, the 1978 Brewers (93 wins, finished 3rd in their division).

      So we go even farther into the wayback machine, back to integration (1947), and only two more teams join our list: The 1953 Dodgers (WS Losers) and the 1969 Orioles (WS Losers).

      Even *farther* than that, you eventually pick up 3 Yankee teams of the 1930’s: 1931, 1936 and 1939. 39 and 36 won the WS. 31, the black sheep of the family, won 94 games but finished a distant second to the A’s.

      Well, that got off to a bit of a ramble. Anyway, moral of the story is that it’s quite rare to have 6 everyday players with 4+ WAR on a team, and when it happens, those teams tend to do very well. So the success of the 2002 Angels is no mystery.

  14. John says:

    But how many Championship Caliber Guys does a team need? To the archives!

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