Monday, August 22, 2011

Best Infields Ever For Real This Time

I really should have recognized that the Tigers infields of the 1930s were missing from my previous tables.  Those tables only went from 1954-2010.  The correct all-time tables are below.

Earlier in the year, I presented the best outfields in the history of baseball according to the Baseball-Reference WAR statistic.  Most of the best outfields played before 1970 and some played as early as the 19th Century.  In fact, it was difficult to find modern outfields which compared to those of the early days of the game.

Of particular interest to readers here were the Tigers outfields of the early 20th Century featuring Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Harry Heilmann and Bobby Veach.  Those great Detroit outfields took three of the top 15 spots on the major league list.

I decided to do the same exercise with infielders.   With teams shifting towards more offensive infielders in later years, my guess was that some of the best infields would be more recent. This turned out to be only somewhat true.

First, remember that WAR is an estimate of the number of wins a player contributed to his team's win total above what you would expect from a replacement level player - a player who could be acquired for league minimum salary.  An example of a replacement player would be a player in Triple-A, who is good enough to get some time in the majors, but is not regarded as a top prospect.  WAR takes into consideration everything a player does on the field, including hitting, fielding and baserunning.

I use the WAR system developed by Sean Smith, now a statistician for a major league team.  Most of my analysis uses a database purchased from Sean a couple of years ago.  The data are now housed at Baseball-Reference.  There may be a few small discrepancies between the old database numbers I'm using and Baseball-Reference due to recent upgrades of the sytstem, but nothing that should significantly change the conclusions.  A very accessible explanation of the system can be found at Beyond The Boxscore.

Basically, what I did was sum the WARs for the four most commonly used infielders (one each at first base, second base, third base and shortstop).  I required that each infielder had 400 or more plate appearances and had played at least half of his games at his primary position.  This guaranteed that each qualifying infield would have four regulars. For example, an infield with a star first baseman, second baseman and shortstop and group of part-time players sharing the third base spot would not qualify.

The 15 top single season WAR totals in the history of the game are shown in Table 1 below.   The best infield according to WAR was the Philadelphia Athletics $100,000 infield of 1912-1914. The outstanding quartet of first baseman Stuffy McInnis, second baseman Eddie Collins, third baseman Frank Baker and shortstop Jack Barry took three of the top four spots on the all-time list.  The same group also excelled in 1911 and barely missed the top 15.  The 1898 Baltimore Orioles infield featuring John McGraw and Hughie Jennings finished second.

The best Tigers infield ever was in 1934 when Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Marv Owen and Billy Rogell combined for 25 WAR.  They finished fifth all-time.  The same group also accumulated WAR 22.4 WAR in 1935, good for 12th on the list.

Table 1: Best Single Season Infields According to Baseball-Reference WAR

Year
Team
first baseman
WAR
second baseman
WAR
third baseman
WAR
shortstop
WAR
Total WAR
1913
PHA
Stuffy McInnis
5.8
Eddie Collins
10.4
Frank Baker
9.4
Jack Barry
4.6
30.2
1898
BLN
Dan McGann
6.0
Gene DeMontreville
5.6
John McGraw
8.5
Hughie Jennings
8.8
28.9
1912
PHA
Stuffy McInnis
5.2
Eddie Collins
9.2
Frank Baker
10.0
Jack Barry
3.6
28.0
1914
PHA
Stuffy McInnis
4.5
Eddie Collins
11.3
Frank Baker
8.3
Jack Barry
3.9
28.0
1934
DET
Hank Greenberg
6.7
Charlie Gehringer
9.5
Marv Owen
3.5
Billy Rogell
5.3
25.0
2001
OAK
Jason Giambi
10.3
Frank Menechino
3.7
Eric Chavez
6.4
Miguel Tejada
4.4
24.8
2004
SLN
Albert Pujols
9.4
Tony Womack
3.2
Scott Rolen
9.2
Edgar Renteria
2.5
24.3
1906
CHN
Frank Chance
8.4
Johnny Evers
3.2
Harry Steinfeldt
7.8
Joe Tinker
3.9
23.3
1948
CLE
Eddie Robinson
0.2
Joe Gordon
6.4
Ken Keltner
6.2
Lou Boudreau
10.5
23.3
1927
NY1
Bill Terry
5.0
Rogers Hornsby
10.3
Freddie Lindstrom
2.8
Travis Jackson
4.9
23.0
1975
CIN
Tony Perez
3.1
Joe Morgan
12.0
Pete Rose
4.4
Dave Concepcion
3.4
22.9
1935
DET
Hank Greenberg
8.3
Charlie Gehringer
8.4
Marv Owen
0.3
Billy Rogell
5.4
22.4
1976
CIN
Tony Perez
1.8
Joe Morgan
10.0
Pete Rose
6.7
Dave Concepcion
3.8
22.3
1890
BRO
Dave Foutz
5.9
Hub Collins
7.7
George Pinkney
7.1
Germany Smith
1.5
22.2
1951
BRO
Gil Hodges
5.4
Jackie Robinson
9.8
Billy Cox
2.3
Pee Wee Reese
4.6
22.1


One criticism of WAR is that the fielding portion of the system is not that reliable if we are only looking at one year of data.  It is even more shaky in very early years where less detailed data are available.  Thus, I also wanted to construct a list with fielding excluded.  The Offensive WAR (oWAR) results are shown in Table 2.  The Athletics infields of 1911-1914 dominate this table as well.

In a later post, I'll look at just the Tigers infields throughout history.


Table 2: Best Single Season Infields According to Baseball-Reference oWAR


Year
Team
first baseman
OWAR
second baseman
OWAR
third baseman
OWAR
shortstop
OWAR
Total OWAR
1913
PHA
Stuffy McInnis
4.9
Eddie Collins
9.2
Frank Baker
9.5
Jack Barry
3.8
27.4
1898
BLN
Dan McGann
4.9
Gene DeMontreville
4.7
John McGraw
8.0
Hughie Jennings
8.2
25.8
1914
PHA
Stuffy McInnis
4.0
Eddie Collins
11.2
Frank Baker
7.9
Jack Barry
2.5
25.5
1912
PHA
Stuffy McInnis
4.7
Eddie Collins
8.6
Frank Baker
9.1
Jack Barry
2.7
25.0
2005
NYA
Jason Giambi
5.1
Robinson Cano
2.4
Alex Rodriguez
9.5
Derek Jeter
6.0
23.0
1934
DET
Hank Greenberg
6.4
Charlie Gehringer
8.4
Marv Owen
4.1
Billy Rogell
4.0
23.0
2001
OAK
Jason Giambi
9.9
Frank Menechino
3.0
Eric Chavez
5.1
Miguel Tejada
4.5
22.5
2002
NYA
Jason Giambi
7.2
Alfonso Soriano
6.0
Robin Ventura
3.6
Derek Jeter
5.2
22.0
1936
NYA
Lou Gehrig
9.8
Tony Lazzeri
3.3
Red Rolfe
4.3
Frankie Crosetti
4.2
21.6
1931
NYA
Lou Gehrig
10.5
Tony Lazzeri
2.8
Joe Sewell
3.6
Lyn Lary
4.6
21.5
1976
CIN
Tony Perez
1.4
Joe Morgan
10.1
Pete Rose
6.5
Dave Concepcion
2.9
20.8
1975
CIN
Tony Perez
2.4
Joe Morgan
10.5
Pete Rose
5.6
Dave Concepcion
1.9
20.4
1911
PHA
Stuffy McInnis
3.3
Eddie Collins
7.4
Frank Baker
6.9
Jack Barry
2.4
20.0
1946
SLN
Stan Musial
10.0
Red Schoendienst
2.4
Whitey Kurowski
5.4
Marty Marion
1.9
19.7
1927
NY1
Bill Terry
4.2
Rogers Hornsby
9.1
Freddie Lindstrom
2.7
Travis Jackson
3.8
19.7

No comments:

Post a Comment

Sabermetrics Book

Sabermetrics Book
One of Baseball America's top ten books of 2010

Blog Archive

Subscribe

501 Baseball Books

501 Baseball Books
Recommended by Tiger Tales

Stat Counter

Site Meter