Man, it feels good to be kinda, sorta back doing this, at least for a little while. On Wednesday we updated the Mount Rushmores in the National League. Today we’ll do the same in the Junior Circuit.
- Cal Ripken (95.5 WAR) is forever the king.
- Brooks Robinson (78.4) backs him up.
- And Jim Palmer (69.4) is very safe in third place.
- A year ago this spot was occupied by Manny Machado. Alas Oriole fans. Other actives with 10+ WAR in Baltimore included Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop, and Kevin Gausman. Oh well. At least the O’s tried to rebuild. The top active Oriole now is Chris Tillman at 9.3 WAR. But there’s virtually no chance he ever catches the fourth face of the Orioles, Chris Hoiles (23.5). Let’s be fair, Hoiles was a fine player for a number of years. He’s a better representative on the Mount than a lot of guys you’ll see below.
- Ted Williams (123.1) holds the third spot on the on the game’s single-team Rushmore, behind Walter Johnson and Stan Musial.
- Carl Yastrzemski (96.1) is the second-best second-best player ever, behind Mickey Mantle.
- Dustin Pedroia (52.1) remains third. I hope he retires in Boston, but not for a few years.
- It’s going to be a couple of seasons before we see the great Mookie Betts climb enough. For now, it’s Bobby Doerr (51.4) who leads the way for this spot. If Pedroia ever finds himself on another team, Jim Rice steps in until it’s Mookie time.
- Though too often remembered for his Old Timers’ Day home run at age 75 rather than his spectacular career, Luke Appling (74.5) leads the way.
- Also largely forgotten, Ted Lyons (71.5) is second.
- Red Faber (64.8) is third and will remain there for as long as any of us can imagine.
- The fourth face is that of Jim Scott (26.1), a righty pitcher from 1909-1917 who is currently fighting off Jose Abreu (18.7).
- Bob Feller (63.6) is safe.
- Bob Lemon (48.8) is safe.
- Mel Harder (43.8) is safe.
- And Addie Joss (43.7) is pretty safe. At least for a while. Corey Kluber (33.6) is making a run at it.
- The Tigers have just about the safest Rushmore of any team outside of the Bronx with Al Kaline (92.5) starting things off.
- Charlie Gehringer (80.6) is locked into second place.
- Lou Whitaker (74.9) is third and waiting on his Hall of Fame plaque.
- Alan Trammell (70.4) already has his. These four are locked in for 12-15 years at a minimum since no active Tiger has even 10 career WAR.
- As you might expect, Jeff Bagwell (79.6) leads this list.
- And since Bagwell’s first, Craig Biggio, (65.1) must be second.
- After another very impressive season, Jose Altuve (35.1) remains in third.
- Don Wilson (27.9) is fourth, but the trio of George Springer (18.7), Carlos Correa (18.3), and Dallas Keuchel (18.1) is coming.
- We get started with George Brett (88.4)
- I bet you wouldn’t have guessed that Alex Gordon (35.2) is now second. He’s a failed prospect. He’s a failed third baseman. He can’t hit, certainly for a corner outfielder. Yet he’s valuable. For left field defense. Something many of us joked about as unimportant 20 years ago.
- Frank White (34.7) drops to third.
- And Dennis Leonard (26.3) closes things out. However, Salvador Perez (22.2) is making things interesting. He’s only two years away and is signed for three more. Could be interesting.
- Mike Trout (64.3) continues to lead the way.
- Tim Salmon (40.5) isn’t leaving second place for years.
- The first time I covered the Angels was about midway through the 2017 season. Since then Kole Calhoun (13.6) has limped his way into third place.
- That means Scot Shields (12.4) falls to fourth. And Gary DiSarcina (11.2) falls off the list. That’s okay, Gary. There’s virtually no chance Calhoun is a career Angel.
- The best player in baseball history to play for only one team is Walter Johnson (165.6).
- Joe Mauer (55.1) is second in Minnesota and may lock in his place for good by retiring.
- Kirby Puckett (50.9) is next.
- And Brad Radke (45.5) rounds things out for a long time.
- Lou Gehrig (112.4) leads the way for the game’s most boring Rushmore.
- Mickey Mantle (109.7) is second.
- Joe DiMaggio (78.1) follows.
- And Derek Jeter (71.8) closes things out.
- To the surprise of many, I suspect, Brett Gardner (37.5) is more than half way to a place on the Rushmore of Rushmores. Of course, as wonderfully solid as his career has been, he’s never getting close to the second Rushmore of Mariano Rivera, Whitey Ford, Bill Dickey, and Bernie Williams. But there’s a shot at the third. Ron Guidry, Thurman Munson, and Mel Stottlemyre are safe for now. Jorge Posada (42.8) is the low hanging fruit. Gardner has a shot.
- Eddie Rommel (50.1) is the reason I started this project. Well, not him, but guys like him. I don’t think we generally associate him with the A’s. In fact, I don’t think we associate the 20s and early 30s hurler with anyone. While Rommel led the AL both in wins and losses twice, part of the reason we kept thinking about him for the HoME as long as we did was his relief work, which was significant. As it turns out, just about nobody has played their whole career for the A’s.
- Dick Green (16.0) is somehow second on the list. He played mostly 2B in both Kansas City and Oakland from 1963-1974 and retired with a sparkling career line of .240/.303/.347. Granted, he played in an era without much offense. But his 87 OPS+ tells us that he was pretty stinky at the plate.
- Welcome to the list, Matt Chapman (11.7). He jumps to third place with his outstanding 2018 campaign, knocking Rollie Naylor off the Mount.
- Steve McCatty (9.7), a Billy-Ball starting pitcher with a career 63-63 mark, closes things out. Sean Manaea (7.4) has a real shot to bump him off a year from now.
- Can Edgar Martinez (68.3) just get into the Hall of Fame, already?!
- Sadly, it seems that Felix Hernandez (50.9) won’t ever get there. His Wins Above Average for the last four years have totaled -2.6. That’s actually this year’s number. It was goose eggs the two previous seasons. He’s going to be 33 in 2019, and I just don’t see him turning things around. Of course, I said the same thing about Justin Verlander after 2015.
- Kyle Seager (27.9) limped forward in 2018. Still, for the third time in the four years Corey has been in the bigs, big brother was better.
- Hisashi Iwakuma (16.8) seems like he’s done now, at least in the United States. And he’s locked into the fourth spot until James Paxson (10.9) or someone else eclipses him.
- After kicking their best player in franchise history all the way across the country, the Rays looked for an Evan Longoria replacement, and Kevin Kiermaier (24.0) stepped up. Others who would have moved up are Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, and Alex Colome. Unfortunately, they were all shipped away too. And the Rays won 90 games!
- This team is going to be in flux for a while. As a result, Desmond Jennings (13.2) is going to remain in the conversation for many years.
- And the Rays hope Blake Snell (9.4) will be too. He won’t be a free agent until 2023, so he may be around for a while. Then again, he’ll hit arbitration in 2020, so…
- Fourth is Daniel Robertson (3.3). Seriously. If you don’t know who he is, you’re excused. He’s a utility guy with only 500 career at-bats. I assume he’ll be a Ray in 2019. Probably. Maybe.
- My hopes that an improved bat in 2016 and 2017 would mean another step forward in 2018 for Elvis Andrus (28.8) were dashed quite early in the season. I hoped he’d make a Hall run, but I just don’t see it now.
- If I were a team, I’d have signed Rusty Greer (22.3) after he left Texas. Always seemed like a good guy to have on a ball club. Maybe not, but Greer had a nice little peak from age 27-30.
- The great Roger Pavlik (10.6) is next.
- And Matt Harrison (9.1) is fourth. Like Greer, I’m surprised neither Pavlik nor Harrison hooked on with anyone else.
- The Blue Jays have had a lot of great players in their days, yet Kevin Pillar (14.3) tops their list. I think of him a lot like Juan Lagares if Lagares were respected by his franchise. Pillar is at -42 Rbat and 63 Rfield. Lagares is at -33 Rbat and 84 Rfield. For whatever reason, even though they both reached the majors in the same year, Pillar has come to the plate about 800 more times and has a better reputation.
- Up next is Marcus Stroman (10.9). Injuries likely mean he’ll never be what we hoped he might be. Still, he’s the second best player in Jays history by this measure.
- And Luis Leal (10.8) is third. Almost half of his value came in 1982, and the Jays got a useful pitcher for four seasons.
- Ricky Romero (9.7) closes things out. His last time with the Jays was 2013. He pitched in their minor league system in 2014 and in the Giants system the next three years. He didn’t pitch in 2018 and appears to be done now. Aaron Sanchez (9.2) should displace him next year.
That’s it for your 2018 Rushmore update. In the next few weeks we’re going to update you on the progress (or lack thereof) of active players on their journeys to the HoME.
An expansion team in 1977, it took until 1982 for the Blue Jays to not finish last. But by 1985 they made the playoffs, and they won the World Series in 1992 and 1993. By now, they’re getting to a point where they’re almost at .500 as a franchise, which is no easy task for a team that was more than 150 games under just three years in.
Guys It’s Not
For whatever reason, Dave Stieb and his 57 Blue Jay WAR made four starts for the White Sox in 1993. Roy Halladay had his best years in Philadelphia. Jose Bautista was all over the place before finding a home up north. Tony Fernandez was shipped to the Padres in the McGroff/Alomar/Carter deal, and he played for five teams on top of that. Carlos Delgado was a Marlin and a Met. Jimmy Key was a Yankee and an Oriole. The list keeps going with one guy after another who played for other teams. When I got to Lloyd Moseby and his 25.9 WAR as a Jay, I thought I had my first honoree. Nope. I guess I blocked out his two years in Detroit. Even though Ernie Whitt, #21, had negative combined WAR at his three other stops, those 294 trips to the plate still count. This is not going to be a pretty Rushmore.
Blue Jay Mount Rushmore
Kevin Pillar: Yep, the defensive whiz is the single best player ever to play for the Jays and only the Jays. At 12.1 career WAR, he’s only tied for 24th among Blue Jay offensive players. Yet, he’s the only one not to play elsewhere. Pillar can’t hit, as his -39 career Rbat shows, but his 65 Rfield shows that he’s a great defender. Of course, it’s only a matter of time until he plays for another team.
Marcus Stroman: It has taken Stroman just 95 career games to reach 10.9 career WAR and become the best Blue Jay hurler ever not to play for another team. Promising in 2014, injured in 2015, struggling in 2016, it was 2017 during which Stroman became a star. He has plenty of time to move from his tie for 15th among Jay pitchers all-time. If he comes close to repeating, he’ll be in the top-10 after 2018.
Luis Leal: From 1980-1985, Leal was about a league average pitcher, finishing his relatively unknown career with a 51-58 record and 10.8 WAR. For a bit of trivia, he was the starter when Len Barker pitched a perfect game for the Indians in 1981.
Ricky Romero: For a minute there, it seemed like Romero might turn into something. Through three years in the major, he had 42 wins and 11.6 WAR. Things went south at some point in 2012 though. There was no injury. It’s just that his mediocre K rate dipped and his dangerously high BB rate rose. Those events in combination made a baseball career unsustainable. He didn’t pitch again in the majors after 2013 and has just 9.7 WAR to show for his career.
My Blue Jay Rushmore
Dave Stieb: With nine Blue Jay WAR on Halladay, Stieb is the best player in Jay history, and it’s not really close. Because he never won more than 18 games in a season and only won 176 in his career, he is an incredibly underrated pitcher. But at his 1982-1985 peak, he was far and away baseball’s best pitcher with 29.4 WAR. The only other hurler in the game within ten WAR of Stieb over those four seasons was Mario Soto at 22.2. And if we expand our range of seasons to 1980-1985, again, Stieb leads all of baseball, and he leads all but Steve Carlton by more than ten WAR. How about we expand some more. From 1979-1990, a period of twelve years, Dave Stieb posted 55.7 WAR. Roger Clemens is next at 46.3. Then Bert Blyleven at 41.3. Not a single other pitcher is within 17 WAR. Last one – since 1974, Stieb is fifth among AL pitchers in WAR.
Jose Bautista: He was nothing before he became a Blue Jay. Then in 2010 he exploded for an MLB-leading 54 homers. He’s hit over 200 more since then and made six straight All-Star teams. Whether it’s the 2015 playoff bat flip or the possibly related punch he took from Rougned Odor, Jose Bautista is who I think of when I think of the 21st century Blue Jays.
Tony Fernandez: Fourth on the Jays all-time WAR list, Fernandez makes the Toronto Rushmore because he put up 37.3 WAR in 1450 games with the Jays but only 7.7 in over 700 games elsewhere. Of course, if he never left Toronto, what’s below would not have happened.
Joe Carter: That’s right. On an analytics-oriented blog, we pay tribute to Joe Carter with a place on the Blue Jay Mount Rushmore. In his seven years in Canada, Carter averaged 29 HR and 105 RBI. He also averaged less than 1.2 WAR. He had a mediocre power bat and an incredibly important lineup spot. That explains the runs batted in. Check out the .308 on base percentage in Toronto and the 104 OPS+ for signs that he really wasn’t a very good player. Oh, but he did hit a home run, one of the most famous in baseball history, to get his face etched on this fake edifice. With the Jays trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of the sixth game of the World Series, Mitch Williams walked Rickey Henderson, induced a fly out from Devon White, and gave up a single to Paul Molitor to set the stage for Carter. Tom Cheek called it. “Touch ‘em all, Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”
Our final Rushmore installment, the Washington Nationals, is next week.