For the All-Star Break: Your Team's Quintessential Hitter

For some baseball teams, there’s one guy who clearly stands out as that team’s quintessential player: Ernie Banks is Mr. Cub. Mike Schmidt the best Phillies position player by a long shot. Think of a Padre with a bat in his hand and (if you didn’t go to Catholic school) you think of Tony Gwynn.

For some teams it’s more of a head-sctratcher. Who’s the quintessential Mets hitter – Piazza, Strawberry, Wright? Or for the Brewers? Who on the Reds stands out from the others in the Big Red Machine?

I hate to start what should be a passionate and irrational discussion with a unfamiliar statistic, but here’s a list of all the MLB team’s hitters with the highest career WAR for that team. (I picked WAR because nothing else seemed to fit, and I got my stats from because that’s the website I was on when I thought of this, and I used Career War because it was at the top of the page.)

Some of these are no-brainers, some of them are Jim Fregosi. And yes, this does put the newer franchises at a big disadvantage (but only some of them).

Arizona Diamondbacks: Luis Gonzalez
Atlanta Braves: Hammerin’ Hank Aaron by a lot
Chicago Cubs: Cap Anson, followed by Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, and then Ernie Banks (surprised at this)
Cincinnati Reds: Pete Rose edges Johnny Bench (I would have guessed Joe Morgan)
Colorado Rockies: Todd Helton
Houston Astros: Jeff Bagwell beats Craig Biggio
Los Angeles Dodgers: Pee Wee Reese surprisingly edges Duke Snider. The first LA-centric player is Willie Davis at #6. (I wonder if an LA fan would say Jackie Robinson.)
Miami Marlins: Hanley Ramierez (over Luis Castillo and Miguel Cabrera)
Milwaukee Brewers: Robin Yount, big lead over Paul Molitor
New York Mets: David Wright is now ahead of Daryl Strawberry
Philadelphia Phillies: Mike Schmidt by a lot
Pittsburgh Pirates: Honus Wagner, over Roberto Clemente, Paul Waner, Arky Vaughan, and then Willie Stargell
St. Louis Cardinals: Stan Musial by a lot
San Diego Padres: Tony Gwynn by also a lot
San Francisco Giants: Willie Mays, way over Barry Bonds and Mel Ott (mildly surprised Willie McCovey is 4th, but it makes sense looking at the other 3)
Washington Nationals: for the franchise, Gary Carter edges Tim Raines and Andre Dawson (the first actual National is Ryan Zimmerman at 6)

Baltimore Orioles: Cal Ripken
Boston Red Sox: Ted Williams (these last 2 are among the no-brainers)
Chicago White Sox: Luke Appling (with a small lead over Frank Thomas & Eddie Collins)
Cleveland Indians: Napoleon Lajoie (Kenny Lofton is 4 and Jim Thome is 6, for players who were not living in black and white)
**Detroit Tigers: **Ty Cobb
Kansas City Royals: George Brett
Los Angeles Angels: Jim Fregosi, with a decent lead over Tim Salmon
Minnesota Twins: Rod Carew (beating Harmon Killebrew)
New York Yankees: Babe Ruth (by an unsurprising lot)
Oakland A’s: Rickey Henderson (leading Jimmie Foxx)
Seattle Mariners: Ken Griffey Jr (decent lead over Edgar Martinez)
Tampa Bay Rays: Carl Crawford (small lead over Evan Longoria)
Texas Rangers: Ivan Rodriguez
Toronto Blue Jays: Tony Fernandez (small lead over Carlos Delgado … Jose Bautista is currently #9, and will surely pass everyone else)

So who’s missing from this list?

(Pitchers to come.)

Ex-Astro. Just sayin.

Morgan didn’t spend all that much of his career with the Reds - the first 9 years were with the Astros, and he also spent the last 5 years of his career with four different teams. He actually spent more seasons with the Astros (10 to 8), though three of those seasons involved 10 games or fewer actually on the field.

Uh, yeah. Pre-B’s, top player is Cesar Cedeno (47.4 to Jim Wynn’s 39.4, Morgan’s 29.3, Jose Cruz 26.5)

Twins: Kirby Puckett

WAR takes defense into account, so if we are just talking pure hitters and not all around best position players I don’t know it it is the best stat. I would say OPS+ is probably the the better stat if you are going to use a single stat, and then you probably want to look at it combined with something else too like win probability or something.

I don’t have the time right this second, but maybe tomorrow I will see what I can put together looking at it just with OPS+ (if someone else hasn’t already beaten me to it, or had a better idea.)

It will be interesting to see where the differences are once you take out defense.

Yes I did read that as Quintessential Hitler

Taking a quick look at the leader board for the Dodgers (my team) it seems that if you are using multiple stats Duke Snyder is the best hitter the Dodgers ever had by a fair margin, though there are a few other contenders too.

He was such an asshole I really wish I there was an argument for Kaline who was such a great guy, But there is just no way to achieve that level of delusion.

Which gives me an idea for another thread, of each team’s “bad guy”: Designated Hitler!

I like the concept of WAR, but I’m not at all sold on the validity of this particular stat (or comparable stats put out by other sources).

In any case, I don’t agree that Stan Musial was far and away the best hitter in Cardinals’ history. I think Albert Pujols and Rogers Hornsby were at least as productive with the bat.

For the Indians, I’ll take Tris Speaker over Nap Lajoie.

And purely as a HITTER, I think Johnny Mize beongs higher on the Giants’ list (OBVIOUSLY, Willie Mays was a better overall player, but this is supposed to be about hitting only).

And lest we forget, Frank Robinson spent a long time with the Reds… and I make him a better HITTER than Rose or Bench (though I’d rather have Bench on my team than Rose OR Robinson).

In 1920, Sisler played every inning of each game, stole 42 bases (second in the American League), collected a Major League-leading 257 hits for an average of .407 (the latter stat being the highest ever for a 600+ at-bat performance in MLB history), and ended the season by hitting .442 in August and .448 in September. In breaking Cobb’s 1911 record for hits in a single season, Sisler established a mark which stood until Ichiro Suzuki broke the record with 262 hits in 2004.

In 1922, Sisler hit safely in 41 consecutive games - an American League record that stood until Joe DiMaggio broke it in 1941. His .420 batting average is the third-highest of the 20th century, surpassed only by Rogers Hornsby’s .424 in 1924 and Nap Lajoie’s .426 in 1901. He was chosen as the AL’s Most Valuable Player that year, the first year an official league award was given, as the Browns finished second to the New York Yankees. Sisler stole over 25 bases in every year from 1916 through 1922, peaking with 51 the last year and leading the league three times; he also scored an AL-best 134 runs, and hit 18 triples for the third year in a row
Maybe Cal Ripken is a no-brainer but I’ll take George Sisler (St. Louis Browns)

White Sox: Joe Jackson

For the A’s (Philadelphia): Al Simmons in 9 years with A’s averaged 199.5 hits per season and 5 times had OPS over 1.0. He had 208 Hr’s and 98 triples in that same period.

This is the problem with going with WAR; you get results like this.

If you ask 100 long time Blue Jay fans who the team’s “quintissential” hitter is, I assure you the plurality, if not majority choice, will be Roberto Alomar. And I would wholly agree with that choice. Alomar is 7th in career WAR with the Jays, but here’s the thing:

  1. Alomar played with Toronto for only five years,
  2. He was, in peak form, better than anyone above him on the list,
  3. He was the best player during the team’s glory seasons,
  4. He’s the only Blue Jays-capped guy in the Hall of Fame, and
  5. He played brilliantly in the postseason for Toronto.

I loved Tony Fernandez and he’s the only player I think reasonably there can be an argument for ahead of Roberto, but I’d still pick Alomar. As great as Carlos Delgado was, he is ahead of Alomar only because he played in Toronto longer; he wasn’t a better player, and he played in Toronto during a time that the team accomplished nothing. Alomar, to a much greater extent, represents Blue Jay history.

(WRT the other thread, I agree with the choice of Dave Steib as the team’s quintissential pitcher; some would argue Tom Henke.)

You could make similar arguments for Puckett over Carew with the Twins - Carew was a better player, but Puckett’s the guy with the statue, and for good reason - or Jackie Robinson over Pee Wee.

As a Nats fan (and, back in the day, a Washington Senators v.2.0 fan), I’m not big on mixing cities, just because a franchise moved from one city to another. Gary Carter is NOT the quintessential Nats hitter; he’s never BEEN a Nats hitter. He was a MONTREAL EXPOS hitter.

Ryan Zimmerman is the quintessential Nats hitter. Frank Howard was the quintessential Senators v.2.0 hitter.

Jem Fregosi and Tim Salmon? Yikes. Can Rod Carew be the quintessential hitter for 2 teams, because, although I’m not an Angels fan, that’s the guy I think of for them.

As a Red Sox fan, we have the easiest choice of all.