Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Comparing Franchises

On Sunday night I noted Todd Helton's pinch-hit grand slam (in a losing cause) against the Mets and reflected on how the career .322 hitter is generally overlooked due to his playing half his games at hitter-friendly Coors Field. It's true – he's a great hitter at home (.353, 214 HRs, 800 RBI) and just a good hitter on the road (.290, 137, 524). Is that a fluke? No. Carlos Gonzales is .330, 54, 184 at Coors and just .264, 27, 98 on the road! Jay Payton is an example of a player who was mediocre with a bat except for the two years he played in Colorado – .339 and .322 at home and .267, .281 on the road. One last example – Garrett Atkins – .321 at Coors, .251 lifetime elsewhere.

Anyway, I got thinking about how Derek Jeter was breaking Yankee team records and decided to see how Helton rates among Rockie record holders. (Very few players have spent most, much less all, of their careers in Colorado.) Well, Larry Walker (right) holds the Colorado records for batting average (.334), Slugging Average, OPS, and On Base Percentage, and Eric Young is their top career base stealer, but Helton holds just about every other offensive record – games, hits, runs, singles, doubles, home runs, extra base hits, RBIs, walks, strikeouts, runs created, and sacrifice flies.

And then I noticed a truly depressing number – most career wins. The team record holder is Aaron Cook (left)– - with a measly 72 wins. That says a lot about the franchise. Compare that to other MLB franchise leaders starting with the 'original' franchises. Here are the all-time leaders in the National league. Reds – Eppa Rixley – 179, Cubs – Charley Root – 201, Pirates – Wilbur Cooper – 201, Dodgers – Don Sutton 233,  Cards – Bob Gibson – 251, Braves – Warren Spahn – 356, and the NL team wins champ – the Giants – Christy Mathewson – 372.

The AL 'original' team leaders are Red Sox - Roger Clemens and Cy Young - 192 (but Cy won 286 games with the Spiders, Perfectos, and Cardinals), Tigers - Hooks (good curveball) Dauss (right) - 222, Yankees - Whitey Ford - 236, White Sox - Ted Lyons - 260, Indians - Bob Feller - 266, A's - Ed Plank - 284, Orioles - Jim Palmer - 286, and the guy ain't nobody gonna catch ... Senators - Walter Johnson - 417 (Jim Kaat's a few back with 190).

Now, to be fair, let's compare Cook's 72 wins to the top winners among the new or newish teams.  Rays - James Shields 72.  (He tied Cook, but the Rockies started in '93 and the Rays in '98), Brewers - Jim Slaton - 117, Rangers - Charlie Hough - 139,  Astros - Joe Niekro - 144, Mariners - Jamie Moyer - 145,  Royals - Paul Splitorff - 166,  Toronto - Dave Stieb - 175,  Mets - Tom Seaver - 198.

I got to thinking about all-time franchise lineups. I'll pick an 'original' franchise - the Tigers (for John). Here's my lineup. C- Mickey Cochrane 1B - Hank Greenfield, 2B - Charlie Gehringer, 3B - George Kell, SS - Alan Trammell, OF - Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Harry Heilmann, Al Kaline, DH - Norm Cash, Starting Pitchers - Hal Newhouser, Tommy Bridges, Denny McLain, Hooks Dausss, Mickey Lolich, Relievers -Todd Jones, John Hiller.

Okay, their starting pitching isn't great, but that's quite a batting order. Cobb, Heilmann, Crawford, Greenberg, Gehringer, Cochrane, Cash, Kell, Trammell. (Sorry Al, you're warmin' the bench with Harvey Kuenn, Kirk Gibson, and Cecil Fielder.

Now let's look at a newer franchise, the Astros. Here they are .. C - Alan Ashby, 1B - Jeff Bagwell, 2B - Craig Biggio, 3B - Doug Rader, SS - Dickie Thon (left), OF - Jimmie Wynn, Cesar Cedeno, Terry Puhl, Lance Berkmann, Bob Watson. Starting pitchers Larry Dierker, J. R. Richard, Mike Scott, Joe Niekro, and Nolan Ryan. Relief pitchers -  Billy Wagner, Dave Smith. Certainly nothing like the Tigers is it. 

Here's my all-time Colorado Rockies team. Hold onto your hats. C - Joe Girardi, 1B -  Todd Helton  2B - Cliff Barnes, 3B - Vinny Castilla,  SS - Troy Tulowitzki (right), OF - Larry Walker, Dante Bichette, Matt Holliday  SP - Mike Hampton, Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Jennings, RP - Jose Jimenez, Brian Fuentes, Jerry Dipotot. I'm not sure that group is good enough to beat the lineup of any other team in any given year much less their all-time team!

Anyway, here is your interesting fact from the past. Louis Birbauer, who played for the Philadelphia Athletics, was the best second baseman in the American Association.  He jumped to the Players League in 1890 and played alongside shortstop John Montgomery Ward, the league's founder. When the league folded the next year it was assumed that he would return to the Athletics due to the reserve clause. But the Athletics had somehow left him off their list and an arbitrator declared him a free agent. In a move that was described as "piratical", he was stolen by the Pittsburgh Alleghenies, who were soon named for their treachery. The Pirates have kept their name longer than any other club. The Phillies would have the record, but were known as the Blue Jays in 1944-45. Perhaps Rick can impress the gang at the bar with that bit of baseball lore. 


John Trembath said...

That's quite a Tiger all time team. Thanks, Will, for choosing those incredible names from Tiger lore. When you can sit Kaline and Kuenn and Gibson, you've go the lumber alright.

History helps, as well as hitter type
ballparks. Unfair but true. The
Rockies and Astros have along way to go to reach the levels of the older franchises.

Will Braund said...

It was a shame to have to leave Rudy York, Bill Freehan, Ron LeFlore, Lou Whittaker, Willie Horton, and Rocky Colavito out of the lineup too. And I would have to find some bullpen work for Willie Hernandez.