Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Greatest Years in Worst Lineups

Not to get all cyber stalkerish on JoeBlogs, but there was a quick thought in the Weakest World Series Winners since WWII post that we mentioned in our EvRA post, that we thought was worth looking into.

Joe's counting down the weakest teams since 1946 to ever win the World Series and gets to #4 on his list, the '85 KC Royals:
"4. 1985 Royals
-- Many view the '85 Royals as the worst team to win the World Series in 50 years, but it's a similar illusion to the 2010 Giants. The Royals had a lot of really good pitching.
Offensively, though, yeah, it was a nightmare. Call them George Brett and the Eight Outs. I've often thought that Brett should have been MVP in 1985, not necessarily because he put up the best year (Rickey Henderson's year was awesome; Don Mattingly was certainly great) but because it would have been a nice gesture after making him play on that lineup all year. I think it would be hard, as you look through baseball history, to find a player have THAT GOOD an offensive season on a lineup THAT BAD. Maybe Ralph Kiner in '51. But I don't think so."
So, we took this as a mini-challenge.

First, try to find other players to throw into the discussion and see who would rate highest in Good Season : Bad Lineup ratio.  After searching baseball history online and in a couple of actual books, we settled on the following group.

Pittsburgh had great
shortstops and stars
on lousy teams.
Geore Brett, Royals 1985
Ralph Kiner, Pirates 1951
Tris Speaker, Indians 1916
Wally Berger, Braves 1935
Eddie Matthews, Braves 1953
Ted Kluszewski, Redlegs 1954
Roy Sievers, Senators 1957
Willie Mays, Giants 1964
Willie Mays, Giants 1965
Rusty Staub, Expos 1969
Andre Dawson, Cubs 1987
Kirk Gibson, Dodgers 1988
Brian Giles, Pirates 2002

Let's look at how these players' seasons and their team's lineups rate by three of our favorite offiensive statistics: OPS+, Baseball-Reference's Offensive Wins Above Replacement (oWAR), and wOBA from Fangraphs.

Sorted by Difference between OPS+ and TeamOPS+
Brian Giles 2002, 177 OPS+ 82 tmOPS+ (Diff: 95)
Tris Speaker 1916, 185 OPS+ 92 tmOPS+ (Diff: 93)
Ralph Kiner 1951, 185 OPS+ 93 tm OPS+ (Diff: 92)
Willie Mays 1965, 184 OPS+ 93 tm OPS+ (Diff: 91)
George Brett 1985, 178 OPS+ 95 tm OPS+ (Diff: 83)
Willie Mays 1964, 172 OPS+ 93 tm OPS+ (Diff: 79)
Rusty Staub 1969, 166 OPS+ 87 tm OPS+ (Diff: 79)
Roy Sievers 1957, 164 OPS+ 87 tm OPS+ (Diff: 77)
Ted Kluszewski 1954, 167 OPS+ 91 tm OPS+ (Diff: 76)
Eddie Matthews 1953, 171 OPS+ 96 tm OPS+ (Diff: 75)
Wally Berger 1935, 147 OPS+ 87 tm OPS+ (Diff: 60)
Kirk Gibson 1988, 148 OPS+ 90 tm OPS+ (Diff: 58)
Andre Dawson 1987, 130 OPS+ 97 tm OPS+ (Diff: 33)

To be clear, we aren't saying anything close to this being a Top Leaderboard.  These are people we thought could be in the discussion.  Dawson, of course, is the only player to ever win an MVP award on a last placed team, but he should not enter into this discussion.

We only included Kirk Gibson because someone in Joe Posnanski's comment section threw his name into the discussion in a forceful manner.  Check out the other two categories...

Sorted by Percentage of Team's oWAR
Brian Giles 2002, 93% (6.8 oWAR : 7.3 Team)
George Brett 1985, 85% (7.9 oWAR : 9.3 Team)
Wally Berger 1935, 73% (4.7 oWAR : 6.4 Team)
Roy Sievers 1957, 57% (6.8 oWAR : 11.9 Team)
Ralph Kiner 1951, 51% (8.9 oWAR : 17.6 Team)
Eddie Matthews 1953, 49% (8.6 oWAR : 17.5 Team)
Willie Mays 1964, 46% (8.6 oWAR : 18.7 Team)
Rusty Staub 1969, 45% (6.7 oWAR : 15 Team)
Willie Mays 1965, 40% (9.7 oWAR : 24.3 Team)
Tris Speaker 1916, 38% (8 oWAR : 20.9 Team)
Ted Kluszewski 1954, 36% (7.5 oWAR : 20.6 Team)
Kirk Gibson 1988, 32% (6.4 oWAR : 20.3 Team)
Andre Dawson 1987, 20% (2.9 oWAR : 14.3 Team)

The oWAR list is incredible, when looking at the comparable dominance of Giles and Brett.  It's interesting on the wOBA list (below) how Ralph Kiner and a 34-year old Willie Mays shoot up the chart, while Giles again finishes ahead of George Brett.  Another Posnanski Brilliant Reader uncovered Wally Berger in this comment.

Sorted by Difference in wOBA and Team's wOBA
Ralph Kiner 1951, .481 wOBA : .337 tm OPS+ (Diff: .144)
Willie Mays 1965, .448 wOBA : .310 tm OPS+ (Diff: .138)
Brian Giles 2002, .445 wOBA : .308 tm OPS+ (Diff: .137)
Tris Speaker 1916, .453 wOBA : .320 tm OPS+ (Diff: .133)
Ted Kluszewski 1954, .461 wOBA : .339 tm OPS+ (Diff: .122)
Willie Mays 1964, .428 wOBA : .306 tm OPS+ (Diff: .122)
Rusty Staub 1969, .424 wOBA : .303 tm OPS+ (Diff: .121)
George Brett 1985, .433 wOBA : .316 tm OPS+ (Diff: .117)
Roy Sievers 1957, .418 wOBA : .303 tm OPS+ (Diff: .115)
Eddie Matthews 1953, .450 wOBA : .336 tm OPS+ (Diff: .114)
Kirk Gibson 1988, .386 wOBA : .295 tm OPS+ (Diff: .091)
Wally Berger 1935, .402 wOBA : .312 tm OPS+ (Diff: .090)
Andre Dawson 1987, .378 wOBA : .329 tm OPS+ (Diff: .049)

Pirates Fans have had little
the cheer for since the '80s
Looking at these numbers make it seem, to us, that Brian Giles in 2002 was the best example of Great Player in a Bad Lineup.  If you like Offensive Wins Above Replacement, (and who here doesn't?) then, you have to be blown away by Giles and Brett.

Here's an assignment for all the aspiring sabermetricians out there.  It shouldn't be very difficult.  Let's see if we can find more people to add to the list of players who contributed over 50% of their team's oWAR.

Again, here is who we have so far...

Sorted by Percentage of Team's oWAR
Brian Giles 2002, 93% (6.8 oWAR : 7.3 Team)
George Brett 1985, 85% (7.9 oWAR : 9.3 Team)
Wally Berger 1935, 73% (4.7 oWAR : 6.4 Team)
Roy Sievers 1957, 57% (6.8 oWAR : 11.9 Team)
Ralph Kiner 1951, 51% (8.9 oWAR : 17.6 Team)

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