I believe WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is a more accurate value than Bill James’ Win Shares, although both underrate relief pitchers and pitchers in general, since they don’t play every day. That being said, you can still look at WAR stats and compare apples to apples (Mariano Rivera’s WAR vs John Franco’s WAR).
Anyway, the way the media hypes players, our memories can be a bit fuzzy and our perceptions can get skewed when it comes to remembering how long a player was actually good. Sometimes a player could have a career year, and we allow him to live off the rep for years.
Years ago I was talking with DailySkew co-founder Tony Vahl, as we were looking at baseball player statistics, and I mentioned how our favorite Mets players were really flash in the pans. And of course guys like Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy come to mind for having a high peak and then falling off the cliff.
Every era has pitchers who fans and the media worship and they are put on the Hall of Fame track, but injuries and just SUCKING prevented them from getting 300 wins- still the magic number for automatic induction (unless your name is Roger Clemens).
Okay, without further ado…How Many Good Years Did My Favorite Baseball Players From Really Have? [I'm using the WAR value for a "starting player" as a cut-off point for good; I'm not breaking down values for Starter, All-Star, or MVP. If a player was above Replacement and Backup, it is a productive season- trust me, the numbers jive].
Random order, some of my favorite players:
David Cone: 12 out of 17 good seasons. WOW! Talk about being underrated. I’m glad my eyes did not deceive me.
Don Mattingly: 9 out of 14 seasons. The fact is that although Mattingly lost his power and slugging, he was still able to walk, get hits, and field. (WAR gives Mattingly 4 All-Star seasons.) So once again, this jives with what my memories were.
Doc Gooden: 11 out of 16 seasons. Since WAR ignores Win/Loss records and makes adjustments, I *knew* Dwight Gooden was still good during the Mets dark ages.
Howard Johnson: 5 out of 14 seasons. Yup…HoJo was one of the guys Tony and I mentioned. He had an awesome year in 1987 and 4 more seasons that were good after that. HoJo was truly and literally a 5-year man. During that peak, I thought he was THE MAN, but only having 36% of your seasons being good…well, kinda sucks.
Kevin McReynolds: 6 out of 12 seasons, that’s 50% right there. His total WAR are more than HoJo’s, although HoJo had one super year. K-Mac’s raw stats look bad because he played in some bad stadiums, but WAR adjusts all of that. Don’t really have a comment on what his 6/12 good seasons mean…he was never a “superstar”, he was just the Mets “RBI man”.
Ron Darling: 4 out of 13 seasons. Ouch. I knew Ron Darling was overrated by Mets fans, but not that much. WAR doesn’t like Ronnie- it’s not even buying his 1992 A’s campaign (15-10, 3.66) as a good season! Darling’s best WAR season is 1986. He’s good in 1984, 1985, and 1988- some great Mets teams. Other than that……………………ugh.
John Franco: 13 out of 21 seasons. Since WAR devalues relief pitchers, I make concessions with their WAR, so a WAR of 1 is a good season for them to me (case in point-I consider Franco’s 1999 season to be good: 2.88 ERA, 40.2 innings, 19 Saves, ERA+ 155). When you consider how Johnny fell off the cliff the last 5 years of his career, you have to admit he was valuable for the bulk of his career. It’s true he was frustrating to watch, and can’t hold up to the Mariano in the Bronx, but he did his job at the macro level.
Kevin Elster: 1 out of 13 seasons. Elster was hyped as the second coming of Cal Ripken. He never was able to stay healthy. WAR likes his 1989 Mets season, but it’s barely good (2.3 WAR). WAR even knows that his later day Texas resurgence was an illusion (1.3 WAR). HORRIBLE, KEVIN!
Ron Guidry: 10 out of 14 seasons. One problem with perception of Guidry is that he set his own bar too high with a WAR MVP season in 1978 (8.5 WAR). (That’s his famous 25-3, 1.74 ERA, 273.2 IP, 208 ERA+ season.) He was still serviceable in his mid-30′s. Underrated pitcher.
Dave Righetti: 8 out of 16 seasons. Yeah, I usually overrated Rags. I thought he was much better. However, just looking at his Yankees career, he was good 8/11 years, which correlates to my memories.
Rickey Henderson: 19 out of 25 seasons. I always knew that Rickey was still valuable even when he was jumping from team to team when he got real old. Undisputed 1st Ballot Hall of Famer. ’nuff said.
Gary Carter: 11 out of 19 seasons. Superb, especially for a catcher. HOF.
Keith Hernandez: 12 out of 17 seasons. Very consistent. As much as I grew up viewing him as a Hall of Famer, his lack of power at 1B will always be used against him, so his stats look like Mark Grace and Wally Joyner’s. Heck, when Mattingly got hurt, he became Keith Hernandez..lol. Because of his lack of power, WAR never gave him an MVP season (8 WAR). I’d still draft Keith for his career.
Al Leiter: 9 out of 19 seasons. There’s a reason why he’s not mentioned with the greats. WAR gives him three All-Star seasons: 1995, 1996, and 1998. Overrated by Mets and Marlins fans.
Sid Fernandez: 7 out of 15 seasons. But while with the Mets, it was 7/10 seasons. Only had one WAR All-Star season (1992). Sid would be great in 2011, where pitchers only have to go 6 innings.
David Wells: 15 out of 21 seasons. The bottom line is that Wells is underrated. He’s someone who you could have plugged in as your #3 starter for a decade, and some years he’d be #2. Much better than A.J. Burnett being the #3 starter for the Yankees in 2011.
Frank Viola: 9 out of 15 seasons. And in the end, his total WAR is a little higher than Al Leiter’s. Viola had 4 WAR All-Star seasons (2 with the Twins). Actually was better in Boston than NY, according to WAR!
Darryl Strawberry: 9 out of 17 seasons. WAR doesn’t give Strawberry any MVP seasons, either.
Barry Bonds: 21 out of 22 seasons. ‘NUFF SAID, HATERS!
Bernie Williams: 9 out of 16 seasons. Bernie took a few years to develop and lost his power at the end. Around 6 All-Star WAR seasons.
Tino Martinez: 4 out of 16 seasons. WAR is not buying Tino’s typical season of 27 HR and 102 RBI, .271/.344 for a first baseman in a run scoring era. This is very disappointing to me. Looks like Tino is overrated by Yankees fans.
Jason Giambi: 8 out 16 seasons (still active, so he will be 8/17): Giambi was much better than Tino (total WAR is doubled). Eat that, Michael Kay.
Paul O’Neil: 9 out of 17 seasons. Like Bernie Williams he took a while to develop, but is a sure member of the Hall of Very Good.
Andy Pettitte: 12 out of 16 seasons: Proof.
Rick Reed: 5 out of 15 seasons, but 4/5 were with the Mets. I knew he was the Mets ace.
Bob Ojeda: 6 out of 15 seasons. There’s a reason why Mets fans remember him- 1986. Other than that, he’s an obscure Red Sox and NY pitcher. STILL BETTER THAN RON DARLING.
Mookie Wilson: 6 out of 12 seasons. WAR is kinder to Mookie than I thought because of his crazy stolen base totals and above average defense.
Greg Jefferies: 2 out of 14 seasons. ONE with the Mets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Randy Myers: 7 out of 14 seasons. Only 2 with the Mets because he was traded. But John Franco worked out fine.
John Wetteland: 8 out of 12 seasons. That speaks for itself.
Okay, well I can do this forever because I had a lot of favorites. Now, here are even more random names:
Lee Smith: 12 out of 18. Pretty good!
Mike Piazza: 11 out of 16. One MVP and 5 All-Star WAR seasons.
Yogi Berra: 14 out of 19 seasons. Around 6 All-Star WAR seasons.
Johnny Bench: 13 out of 17 seasons. One MVP and 6 All-Star WAR seasons.
Jorge Posada: 10 out of 15 seasons (Still active). 3 All-Star WAR seasons. Was benched early on.
Ivan Rodriguez: 14 out of 20 seasons (Still active). Around 5 All-Star seasons.
Alex Rodriguez: 15 out of 17 seasons (Still active). Should be 15/15 since his first two seasons were cups of coffee. Around 7 WAR MVPs and 3 All-Star WAR seasons.
Mariano Rivera: 15 out of 16 seasons (Still active). Best WAR was 1996 when he pitched 2-3 innings. Worst WAR was his failed bid to be a started in 1995. Most consistent relief pitcher of all time.
Goose Gossage: 12 out of 22 seasons. Goose likes to say how much better he is that Mo. I guess there’s a reason why the HOF voters took so long to vote for him- 10 seasons of not being good.
Hoyt Wilhelm: 16 out of 21 seasons. The only other relief pitcher that has a case to be better than Mariano Rivera comes from a different era. However, Mo has a higher WAR total.
Jose Canseco: 9 out of 17 seasons. Three All-Star WAR seasons. A legend in his own mind?
Walter “Big Train” Johnson: 20 out of 21 seasons. Eat it.
Roger Clemens: 21 out of 24 seasons.
Greg Maddux: 18 out of 23 seasons.
Randy Johnson: 15 out of 22 seasons.
Pedro Martinez: 13 out of 18 seasons.
Tom Glavine: 15 out of 22 seasons.
Tom Seaver: 16 out of 20 seasons.
Babe Ruth: 20 out of 22 seasons. (cup of coffee as a rookie, and bad last year)
Derek Jeter: 14 out of 16 seasons. (cup of coffee in 1995 and 2010).
Joe DiMaggio: 13 out of 13 seasons. “Perfect!”
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