I will get to the game, but right now running database queries on baseball history is a lot more fun than watching this team.
In my last installment, I asked about the worst team with the best players. This came up when I looked at the 1986 White Sox, who won 70 games with four Hall of Famers on the roster, admittedly mostly past their prime. JamesD84 suggested that an even better choice might be the mid-60’s Cubs.
JamesD84 is correct. I took every team’s roster in each year and calculated their lifetime WAR. I then calculated the Legacy Rating: Total WAR/(Winning Percentage in the year x 162). It takes 1 WAR during a season to generate 1 win over replacement. The Legacy Rating tells you how many WAR over your career it takes. There is no time travel involved – it doesn’t matter whether your WAR was achieved before that season or in seasons yet to come. And it really doesn’t have much to do with skill at all. It’s just fun.
So the team with the highest Legacy Rating, requiring the most career WAR to generate a win, was indeed the 1966 Cubs. They were a mix of aging stars (Ernie Banks, Robin Roberts, Billy Williams) and young up-and-comers (Fergie Jenkins, Ken Holtzman) and exactly one guy in his prime: the 8.9 WAR Ron Santo. This group of guys, who generated 771 WAR in their careers, generated only 13 as a team in 1966; when you see that Santo generated 8.9 it doesn’t give the team much of a chance. Sure enough, that team was 59-103.
It will come as no shock that the Braves team with the highest Legacy Rating was the 1988 Braves: Smoltz, Glavine, Ted Simmons, Dale Murphy, Lonnie Smith, Ken Griffey and Ron Gant all had over 30 WAR careers. But only two players generated over 3 WAR that year: Murphy (3.1) and Pete Smith, who generated 3.2 of his lifetime 5 WAR. A 54-106 record followed for a team with a combined lifetime 572 WAR.
The 1986 White Sox are a bit farther down the list: 629 Total WAR and a more respectable 72-90 record.
Another team worth mentioning, a team that might come in first place if you tweak the criteria a bit, are the 1935 Boston Braves. They had the ghosts of Babe Ruth (182 WAR) and Rabbit Maranville (43) and Wally Berger in his prime (42 total, 5.8 that year.) Only one other player had even 2 WAR and the Braves were 38-115. Of course, having 35% of your career WAR invested in Ruth, who generated 0.1 WAR that year, is going to explain this team’s problem.
I also took a glance at the other end of the list: teams that had good seasons despite few players with good careers. This list is dominated by recent teams with active players, which really shouldn’t count. Of the teams in which everyone is retired, one team sticks out: the 1921 Boston Braves finished 79-74 without a single player who accumulated 25 WAR in their careers, and only 4 players who accumulated more than 10.
Finally, a quiz: what team had the highest lifetime WAR from all of their players? The top 10 list in this category is dominated by the Yankees of the 2000’s, but the best of those teams in this regard, the 2005 Yankees (1133 WAR) trails one team in baseball history, and it wasn’t a Yankees team. Any guesses?
I Guess I Have To Talk About The Game
I missed the first 5 innings of the game because I was traveling. Acuña hit a homer to lead off and we couldn’t keep the Blue Jays from taking the lead. Sounds like the other 5 games against these guys. I missed all of Morton’s “performance,” which I take it was better than his recent performances, ie, merely not very good.
The 7th saw both a two-run Dansby HR to take the lead and the blessed return of Gwyneth Paltrow’s ex-husband, Viva la Vida, with a clean inning. Minter, however, coughed the lead up in short order, rescued by … wait for it… Luke Jackson. In addition, Jacob Webb turned in a good inning and a third, to everyone’s surprise. So we go to the 9th tied at 4.
In the top of 9th I, Robot star Will Smith took the mound. Apparently, the First Law of Baseball Robotics is that Toronto must have the lead. The Second Law is that it has to be insurmountable. It took all of three batters before we were down 2, and another three batters later we were down 3. A sac fly off Biddle made it a four run deficit. Ouch.
The other big news came from the emergency room: Christian Pache left with hamstring tightness and Ronald Acuña rolled an ankle crossing first base. One of these players matters much more than the other.