Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Monday, July 14, 2014

The All-Time, All-Year All Star Team

For this post, I really wanted to do something involving the All-Star Game, so I stole an idea from Grantland writer Bill Simmons, with the premise of, aliens come down to earth, blow everything up, and challenge us to a basketball game for control of the universe. The Aliens have a time machine and we can go back to any year to get a player and bring him to the future to play against the aliens. I'm applying that idea to baseball. There are a few rules though.
  • I'm avoiding anyone from before 1920, before the game changed. It's just too hard to project how someone like Christy Mathewson or Honus Wagner would have done in current times. They probably be fine, but I'd rather not take the risk with the universe at stake.
  • Remember, this isn't just a collection of players, it's a team, so if you put someone like Barry Bonds or Ty Cobb on the team you have to deal with the headache too.

Pitching Rotation

’64 Sandy Koufax

 19-5, 1.74 ERA, 0.928 WHIP
For me, by far the most disappointing aspect of Koufax's arm problems was that he never got to pitch in 1968. They would have rewritten quite a few records. I can say that with complete certainty. In the years leading up to '68, Koufax's numbers trump Bob Gibson by quite a bit. Here they are from 1964 to 1966
Koufax: 72-22 1.85 ERA
Gibson: 60-36 2.85 ERA
Yeah. That's how good Sandy Koufax was.

’78 Ron Guidry

25-3, 1.74 ERA, 0.964 WHIP 201 Ks
Guidry's one of the most confusing pitchers of all time. This was just his second full season and he dominated everybody. The next year he lead the league in ERA again before posting and 3.66 ERA the rest of his career. To put that in perspective, that would be like Kershaw having his two great seasons in 2011 and 2012 before pitching nine more years in which he's just an average pitcher when he should be nearing the heights of his powers.  Regardless of the rest of his career, Louisiana Lightening gets the nod here. 

’85 Dwight Gooden

24-4, 1.53 ERA, 0.965 WHIP 268 Ks
In the 80s, when cocaine was all the rage, two victims stand out: Len Bias and Dwight Gooden. His 1985 season is the biggest reminder of how good he could have been if he had stayed clean.

                                                                    ’95 Greg Maddux

19-2 1.36 ERA 0.811 WHIP 
Maddux's peak season happened right in the middle of the steroid era. If he can handle Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa he can handle some aliens.

’00 Pedro Martinez

18-6, 1.74 ERA, 0.0737 WHIP
This is part of an absurdly good stretch from 1997 to 2003 in which he went 118-36 with a 2.20 ERA and an ERA+ of 213. In other words, he was 113% better than the average pitcher during that stretch. Another stat to make you stare at the computer in shock for the next five to ten minutes. In those seasons Pedro also allowed 344 earned runs while striking out 1761 batters. So for every run he allowed he struck out about five guys. Not a bad ratio.

’03 Eric Gagne

55 SVs, 1.20 ERA 37 Hits Allowed

’90 Dennis Eckersley

48 SVs, 0.62 ERA, 0.641 WHIP

’08 Mariano Rivera

39 SVs, 1.40 ERA, 0.665 WHIP

’81 Rollie Fingers

28 SVs, 1.04 ERA, 0.872 WHIP

'81 Goose Gossage
20 SVs, 0.77 ERA 0.771 WHIP

’71 Tom Seaver

20-10, 1.76 ERA, 0.946 WHIP

We are not blowing a lead in the late innings. See the bottom for details.

Starting Catcher: ’09 Joe Mauer

.365, 28 HRs, 96 RBI

Backup: ’97 Mike Piazza

.326, 40 HRs, 124 RBI
No, I'm not just doing this because I'm a homer. Mauer won a gold glove that year while Piazza is known as one of the worst fielding catchers of all time. I read Piazza's book Long Shot, and he doesn't exactly seem like the type of guy to be particularly enthusiastic about being a backup. If he refuses, we can just say to him, "Ok, Mike, then don't come. I'm sure 1970 Johnny Bench would jump at the opportunity to play behind Mauer. Meanwhile, you can explain to all of your friends why you passed up the opportunity to come to the future," I bet he joins.

Starting First Baseman: ’32 Jimmie Foxx

.364, 58 HRs, 169 RBI

Backup: ’34 Lou Gehrig

.363, 49 HRs, 165 RBI
Foxx gets the ever so slight edge. His batting average was one point higher, he had four more RBIs and hit nine more homers. Foxx would take home the triple crown the next season despite having better numbers in 1932. That leads to my favorite piece of trivia of all time. That season someone in both leagues won the triple crown, and they both played in Philadelphia. The Phillies Chuck Klein was the other. You can add that to list of "things that would cause ESPN to not talk about anything else for the next 24 hours."

Starting Second Baseman: ’24 Rogers Hornsby

.424, 24 HRs, 94 RBI
Hornsby owns my favorite Baseball Reference page of all time. Seriously, look at all the bold in this thing. That's just to give you and idea of how far ahead of his time Hornsby was.

Starting Third Baseman: ‘13 Miguel Cabrera

.348, 44 HRs, 137 RBI

Backup: ’80 George Brett

.390, 24 HRs, 118 RBI
Brett and Cabrera are really similar players. Obviously Cabrera has more power while Brett is a better pure hitter, but both are eerily consistent and scare the living daylights out of you in late innings. 

Starting Shortstop: ’96 Alex Rodriguez

.358, 36 HRs, 123 RBI

Backup: ’87 Ozzie Smith
.303, 4.82 Range Factor per game
Yeah, I know what I said about putting jerks on the team, but there just isn't any shortstop coming close to A-Rod's level of talent besides Wagner. Jeter, Nomar, Ripken and Banks can't hold a candle to that season. Also, I'm doing everything I can to make sure A-Rod is as little as a distraction as possible. To avoid the media circus, after they all assemble in the future I'm bringing them to live and practice in the late 40s where Williams is the only player they would recognize. No friends or family will be allowed so nobody beats the crap out of him for hitting on his wife. As for Smith, I'm just bringing him in as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.

Other Backup/Pinch Runner: ’62 Maury Wills

.299, 104 SBs

One of the more underrated speedster seasons. No, he didn’t have as many steals as Brock or Henderson in their record setting years, but look at these numbers.

Brock: 118/151 .781 SB%

Henderson: 130/172 .755 SB%

Wills: 104/117 .888 SB%

Wills didn’t have as many steals, but he was over 10% more efficient than Henderson or Brock.

Starting Left Fielder: ’41 Ted Williams

.406, 37 HRs, 120 RBI

I considered ’02 Barry Bonds for this spot but thought better of it. While he did have a fantastic season, we can’t afford to have any A-Holes on this team. Barry would do nothing but sulk about hitting sixth in the batting order and annoy all of his teammates. With him out, Williams is the obvious choice.

Starting Center Fielder: ’57 Willie Mays
.333, 35 HRs, 38 SBs

Backup: ’30 Hack Wilson

.356, 56 HRs, 191 RBI
I considered a bunch of different Mays models before deciding on this one. There's plenty of slugging on this team but we need more table setters. I also had to bump Wilson out of the starting role after I realized the outfield would cover about 30 feet total with the Williams-Wilson-Ruth trio.

Starting Right Fielder: ’23 Babe Ruth

.393, 41 HRs, 131 RBI
Ruth would gain the most out of playing for this team assuming we have a few weeks to practice. With that going for us we can put the Babe through a rigorous workout schedule to make him even more of a force. No matter what he'll be a good guy to have in the clubhouse, maybe he'd even get Hornsby to smile once.

Just Missed the Cut

’13 Mike Trout

.323, 27 HRs, .432 OBP

‘09 Albert Pujols

.327, 47 HRs, 124 RBI

’13 Andrelton Simmons

.248, 17 HRs, .981 Fielding Percentage

’70 Johnny Bench

.293, 45 HRs, 148 RBI

’56 Mickey Mantle

.353, 52 HRs, 130 RBI

How I'd Play 'em
A team this good doesn't need a lot of managing, so for that reason I'll take 1970 Earl Weaver as my manager, the best at not over managing. Let's when we ask Weaver to come to the future he's too busy and goes off on a swearing tirade before we sprint back into the time machine and I have to manage them, (hey, we already have aliens invading and challenging us to a baseball game, can things really get any weirder?) Here's how it would go.
  • My lineup would be
  • If a pitcher gets knocked around in the first four or five innings I'm bringing in Seaver as a long man.
  • If a starter's doing well I'm sticking with him as long as possible but if I have to take him out my late inning relief is Rivera in the seventh, Gagne in the eighth, and Eck slamming the door shut. 
  • In the ninth inning of games that this superteam is leading, I'm putting in Smith for Rodriguez and Brett for Cabrera
  • Wills will pinch run for anybody except Mays with less than two outs in close games in the seventh inning on.
  • Ruth is my emergency pitcher in case a game goes 20 innings.
Bring on the aliens!

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