The Most Perfectly Average Team of All-Time
It’s common, of course, to wonder and argue who the best players are who ever played the game of baseball. People also sometimes even make lists of the worst players who ever played baseball.
Lately, though, while reviewing certain pitchers’ career ERA+ and position players career OPS+, I decided to see if I could put together the All-Time Most Perfectly Average Team.
I decided to look at all pitchers who finished their respective careers with an ERA+ of exactly 100, and then examine all position players who finished their careers with an OPS+ of right around 100 as well.
I decided to begin with the pitchers, and I was gratified to find that there were 47 pitchers with a career ERA+ of exactly 100 to choose from. My goal was to choose nine pitchers from this list that were the most average, even within this group, from which I would create my team’s pitching staff.
To narrow down my list, I first decided to eliminate any pitcher still currently active, so there went Brett Myers, Ervin Santana, and Vicente Padilla.
Then I eliminated Cy Young award winners Mike Scott and Mike Flanagan because if you win a major award, well I guess that makes you well above average.
Being narrow-minded, I also chose to cut out 19th century pitchers because the game itself changed more than a little once it entered the 20th century, and because these guys are all dead and couldn’t care less what I think. So there went Frank Foreman, Dupee Shaw and some guy named Kitson.
Still left with far more mediocre pitchers than I needed, I then erased 15 pitchers at once by eliminating all pitchers who won 20 games in at least one season. It surprised me that nearly one-third of all pitchers who finished their careers with an ERA+ of exactly 100 enjoyed at least one 20-win season. The list included: Dave Stewart, Danny Jackson, Dick Ellsworth, Pat Dobson, Dave Boswell, Ray Caldwell, Mudcat Grant, George Earnshaw, and Jumbo Elliott, among others.
Finally, I waved farewell to pitchers Mark Portugal, Billy Loes, and a handful of others who failed to make at least 200 starts, but who were also not primarily relief pitchers during their careers.
I also eliminated Jerry Reuss because he won over 200 games in his career, and that’s pretty impressive for a guy with an ERA+ of 100.
When all was said and done, I was left with nine pitchers, which I am content with. Here, then, are the nine remaining pitchers:
Steve Avery, Todd Stottlemyre, Tex Carleton, Kris Benson, Dave Burba, Bob Smith, Tom Underwood, Dan Schatzeder, and Skip Lockwood. More on those guys later.
Now a brief description of how I chose my position players.
This provided much more of a challenge because unlike pitchers, where you only have to find starters and relievers, I had to find at least once perfectly average position player for eight positions, plus a few more for my bench (I decided to go with a 24-man roster, including the pitchers.)
I settled on a range of OPS+ for my players of between 99-104, no higher, no lower. I did not pay much attention to WAR, though I preferred players with a career WAR of less than (or at least not much more than) 20.0. I was pretty successful in that regard.
I also eschewed players who won several major awards, played in more than a couple of All-Star games, or who in any other significant way displayed any hint of greatness.
Here, alphabetically, are my perfectly ordinary position players:
G. Bell, H. Brooks,, M. Flack, S. Hatteberg, W. Jones, M. Lieberthal, M. Macfarlane, F. Mantilla, W. Montanez, R. Oldring, R. Smalley, R. Swoboda, T. Teufel, J. Youngblood, A. Zarilla.
In list form, then, I now present to you the Most Perfectly Average Team of All-Time:
SP – Steve Avery: 96-83, WAR: 11.3
SP – Todd Stottlemyre: 138-121, WAR: 19.7
SP – Tex Carleton: 100-76, WAR: 16.4
SP – Kris Benson: 70-75, WAR: 11.4
SP – Dave Burba: 115-87, WAR: 13.7
SP/RP – Tom Underwood: 86-87, WAR: 10.8
SP/ RP – Bob Smith: 106-139, 40 saves, WAR: 20.1
RP – Skip Lockwood: 57-97, 68 saves, WAR: 10.8
RP – Dan Schatzeder: 69-68, 10 saves, WAR: 7.8
C – Mike Lieberthal, OPS+ 101, WAR: 15.3
C – Mike Macfarlane, OPS+ 99, WAR: 15.1 (notice how you never see these two catchers in the same room together?)
1B – Willie Montanez, OPS+ 1o1, WAR: 0 (Offensive WAR, 6.4, DWAR, -6.4 = 0, gotta love it!)
1B – Scott Hatteberg, OPS+ 101, WAR: 8.3 (and he’s my 3rd string catcher, too. Thank you, Billy Beane.)
2B – Tim Teufel, OPS+ 104, WAR: 14.2 (Teufel, with his gaudy 104 OPS+, is the Outback Steakhouse of this chain-restaurant of a list of players.)
2B – Felix Mantilla, OPS+ 101, WAR: 3.3
SS – Roy Smalley, OPS+ 103, WAR: 25.1 (May be a touch rich for this list, but his DWAR was negative 1.1, so it’s not as if I was trying to sneak Cal Ripkin, Jr. by you.)
SS – Hubie Brooks, OPS+ 100, WAR: 10.6 (Mets played Hubie at third base, but when Expos got him in the Gary Carter trade, they converted him to shortstop, where he won two Silver Sluggers, which just goes to show…something.)
3B – Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones, OPS+ 101, WAR: 23.3, (but never more than 3.9 in a season.)
OF – Gus Bell, OPS+ 102, WAR: 14.3 (A perfectly ordinary, average guy from the heartland.)
OF – Al Zarilla, OPS+ 102, WAR: 5.0
OF – Max Flack, OPS+ 101, WAR: 12.1
OF – Ron Swoboda, OPS+ 101, WAR: 7.3 (Once made an extraordinary catch)
OF – Rube Oldring, OPS+ 103, WAR: 14.7
PH / IF / OF – Joel Youngblood, OPS+ 103, WAR: 10.4
So those are my boys. I tried to convince Al Bumbry to join my team (OPS+ 104, WAR 22.0), but he would have none of it.
Who would you add or subtract to make this team even more perfectly average? I’d like to know.
One thing about Montanez–he may have been a run-of-the-mill first baseman, but his home run trot was Cooperstown worthy.
Ever see him draw a walk and saunter on down the first-base line as if he was walking home from church on a Sunday morning? It was a thing of beauty, though I’m sure the pitchers weren’t too impressed.
A couple of thoughts. How’s about Charlie Hough who, has the same number of wins as losses 216-216. Second, wonder how many games your team might win? You suppose they’d be 81-81?
Fun list, Bill.
I considered Hough. You gotta love that perfect .500 record, but I decided against him because his ERA+ of 107, and career WAR of 37.5 put him a cut above the others on my list. If he’d been on some better teams, he would have finished above .500 for his career. It would be fun to make another list with all pitchers who finished right at .500. I wonder how many there are?
I, too, was wondering how many games my team would win in real life. I suspect they’d be a little under .500. But it would be fun to play a 162-game season against a team that really did go .500 (like the 2011 Blue Jays), and see which team would come out on top.