03 Sep Hardball Retrospective – Sustained Excellence
The following article is an excerpt from “Hardball Retrospective: Evaluating Scouting and Development Outcomes for the Modern-Era Franchises”.
Would your favorite baseball team make the playoffs if player X had not been traded? Imagine your team’s roster from any particular year. Remove all of the players that your team acquired through trades and free agency. Would you be able to field a competitive team? All right, let us re-populate the roster with every player that the organization originally drafted and signed. Yes, we will include undrafted free agents and foreign players who signed with their first Major League team, as well. How does the team stack up now? Is the club better or worse than the squad that you imagined at first?
In Hardball Retrospective, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original teams. Using a variety of advanced statistics and methods, I generated revised standings for each season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s “original” players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition. Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the “original” teams are compared against the real-time or “actual” team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills.
OWAR – Wins Above Replacement for players on “original” teams
OWS – Win Shares for players on “original” teams
OWARavg – Wins Above Replacement divided by Player-Seasons (based on Draft Round)
OWSavg – Win Shares divided by Player-Seasons (based on Draft Round)
Note: the tables and charts accompanying this chapter in the book have been omitted from this post.
The Bronx Bombers rank first in terms of “Sustained Excellence,” denoted as OSE (Original Sustained Excellence) and ASE (Actual Sustained Excellence) and defined as consecutive seasons above League average in OWAR and OWS for the “Original” teams or AWAR and AWS for the “Actual” teams. The Yankees achieved OSE status from 1927-43 and followed up with a 19-year run covering 1946-64. This remarkable achievement is eclipsed only by the dominant “Actual” Yankees streak of 39 straight seasons above league average in AWAR and AWS (1926-64). The “Core Four” version of the Pinstripers composed the second-best ASE performance, delivering 20 consecutive seasons (1993-2012) coinciding with the careers of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.
OWAR+, AWAR+, OWS+ and AWS+ are defined as Wins Above Replacement or Win Shares above League average for an “Original” or “Actual” team. The Yankees reign supreme among all Major League franchises in AWAR+ (91 of 113 seasons or 80.5%), AWS+ (79.7%) and OWS+ (62.8%) while the Indians top the OWAR+ charts with 56.6%. The Mariners’ OWAR+ (54%) leads all of the “Expansion” franchises as does the Nationals OWS+ (55.6%). The Blue Jays alight atop the AWAR+ charts at 62.2% and the Diamondbacks AWS+ (62.5%). The Orioles maintain the worst OWAR+, OWS+ (19.5%), AWAR+ (39.8%) and AWS+ (38.9%) in Major League history among the “Turn of the Century” franchises while the White Sox (5) rank last in OSE seasons. Kansas City (2) trails the “Expansion” franchises in OSE excluding the Marlins, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Rays.
The “Original” Minnesota Twins overshadowed the American League during the 14-year period covering 1962-75 with substantial contributions from Harmon Killebrew, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew and Bert Blyleven. Conversely the “Actual” Twins managed only four ASE seasons on three occasions, all coming in the franchise’s first incarnation as the Senators. The Boston Red Sox place third with 13 OSE seasons from 1974-86, aligning with the peak seasons of Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans and Carlton Fisk. The “Actual” Bostonians attain runner-up status with a run of 16 ASE years covering 1967-82 which encompasses the majority of Carl Yastrzemski’s career. The Beantown crew recently posted a 13-year stretch from 1998-2011.
Cleveland conquered the American League during the course of a 13-year OSE stretch that encompassed 1947 through 1959. The talented Tribe, led by Al Rosen, Larry Doby, Bob Feller and Bob Lemon, collected six pennants and paced the Junior Circuit in OWAR in 10 of the 13 seasons. The “Actual” Giants assembled three streaks of 10+ ASE seasons. Excluding the 1915 campaign, John McGraw’s club streamrolled the opposition from 1903-1925 while the “Original” Giants composed a 12-year OSE period spanning 1908-1919. The franchise commenced a prolonged OSE stint covering 1958-1971 with a potent lineup including Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Bobby Bonds and Orlando Cepeda and a starting rotation featuring Juan Marichal.
Craig Biggio, Luis E. Gonzalez and Johan Santana showcased their abilities for the “Original” Astros in the course of an OSE run that extended from 1996-2006. Pete Rose’s peak years correspond with the blistering runs posted by the “Original” Reds (1962-1970) and the “Big Red Machine” (1972-1981) and similarly, Tony Gwynn settled into the “Original” San Diego lineup as the Friars sizzled from 1985-1993. The “Actual” Cubs are tied for the fifth-best ASE streak with a 14-year stretch from 1926-1939 while the “Original” Cubs’ finest era (1939-1946) coincides with World War II.
The A’s “Mustache Gang” maintained a strong grip on the American League throughout the Seventies. The “Original” Phillies rallied around Nap Lajoie to yield 8 straight OSE campaigns from 1904-1911 while the “Actual” ballclub reached its zenith during Mike Schmidt’s peak seasons (1975-1984). Joe Cronin, Arky Vaughan and Paul Waner propelled the “Original” Pirates through the Thirties whereas the “Actual” Bucs, led by Honus Wagner, slashed through the National League in the early Twentieth Century (1901-1913). Alas, Wagner’s exploits are otherwise relegated to the Charts and Leader Boards section of this book as he began his career with the Louisville Colonels – a franchise that ceased to exist when the National League contracted from 12 to 8 teams following the 1899 season.
Randy D. Johnson and Vladimir Guerrero initiated the Expos-Nationals 8-year OSE run which spanned 2001-08. The Braves’ triad consisting of Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn were chiefly responsible for 14 successive ASE seasons (1953-1966). A quarter-century later, the “Actual” Braves repeated the feat with three aces in the starting rotation (Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz) along with Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones. “Dem Bums” from Brooklyn rattled off a 13-year ASE streak from 1945-1957 while the “Original” Dodgers compiled 7 OSE seasons from 2007-2013 on the strength of Adrian Beltre, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.
Earl Weaver guided the Orioles to 13 ASE seasons spanning 1968-1980 and the ballclub posted 7 OSE seasons during the same stretch. Stan Musial and the Cardinals registered an 11-year ASE stint encompassing the Forties while Jack Morris and the Tigers’ stacked offense mauled the opposition from 1978-1987. Luis Aparicio and the “Go-Go” White Sox tallied 8 ASE campaigns while Dwight “Doc” Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and the “Amazin’ Mets” achieved OSE and ASE status in the mid-Eighties. In the same way the Mariners successfully navigated through the American League for the period covering 1999-2003. The Blue Jays soared over the Junior Circuit for 11 ASE seasons (1983-1993) behind Dave Stieb, Jimmy Key and a powerful offense.
Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia piloted the ballclub through the finest OSE and ASE seasons in team history (2002-09). Kevin Brown, Ivan Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa sparked a 4-year OSE run for Texas (1998-2001) while the “Actual” Rangers triggered a similar stretch one decade later. Paul Molitor and Robin Yount ignited a six-year ASE stint for the “Brew Crew” which spanned 1978-1983. Evan Longoria and David Price spurred the Rays to a comparable period covering 2008-2013. Randy D. Johnson and Curt Schilling subdued opposition batsmen as the Diamondbacks contributed 5 ASE campaigns from 1999-2003. Miguel Cabrera and the “Actual” Marlins managed to shine during a brief period of brilliance covering three seasons (2003-05). Colorado claims last place with only 2 ASE seasons and finish in a four-way tie with the other expansion clubs from the 1990’s in OSE.
References and Resources
The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at “www.retrosheet.org”.
About the Author
I am a New Jersey native with a passion for baseball, statistics, computers and video games who enjoys spending quality time with his family.
“Hardball Retrospective” is available in digital format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, GooglePlay, iTunes and KoboBooks. The paperback edition is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and CreateSpace. Supplemental Statistics, Charts and Graphs along with a discussion forum are offered at TuataraSoftware.com.
Don Daglow (Intellivision World Series Major League Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball, Tony LaRussa Baseball) contributed the foreword for Hardball Retrospective. The foreword and preview of my book are accessible here.
“Hardball Retrospective – Addendum 2014 to 2016” supplements my research for Hardball Retrospective, providing retroactive standings based on Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Win Shares (WS) for each “original” team over the past three seasons (2014-2016). Team totals from 2010 – 2013 are included for reference purposes. “Addendum” is available in paperback and digital formats through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and CreateSpace.
** NOTE ** This article was originally posted on Seamheads.com, January 18, 2015.