The Pyramid Rating System’s All-Time Boston Red Sox

Dustin Pedroia is one of the best second baseman in Red Sox history. (via Arturo Pardavila III)

Dustin Pedroia is one of the best second baseman in Red Sox history. (via Arturo Pardavila III)

In my last installment of the Pyramind Rating System series, I began to tackle the best all-time rosters I could put together for each team. The first team I broke down was the Orioles, and today I’m tackling the Red Sox.

Paul Moehringer’s Pyramid Rating System & All-Time Teams

Aug. 27, 2015: The Pyramid Rating System: JAWS on a Career Scale

March 15, 2016: The Pyramid Rating System: The Results

Aug. 12, 2016: The Pyramid Rating System All-Time League and the All-Time Baltimore Orioles

What is the Pyramid Rating System and what is the thesis behind my all-time teams? Well, if you’re interested in diving into the minutae, I would suggest reading the articles in the box on the right. But if not, here’s the quick breakdown, from the article entitled “The Pyramid Rating System All-Time League and the All-Time Baltimore Orioles.”

The idea behind this is not just to imagine what each of these teams would like look on its own but also to mirror what the Great American Fantasy League does, and put each of the teams in context of what a whole league of all-time teams would look like. What I’ve tried to do with each of these franchises is build a team and a strategy behind it for a 162-game regular season as opposed to just naming off the best players at each position, or just listing the best season a player had at each position.

Again, there’s more to it than that, but that should you give the basic idea.

Franchises Included: Boston Americans (AL) 1901-1097, Boston Red Sox (AL) 1908-Present
# Of Hall of Famers on 25-man roster: 6
Manager: Terry Francona

Despite the franchise’s history and long-term success, the Red Sox have surprisingly only had two managers in their team’s history who have managed at least 1,000 games. One is Joe Cronin and the other is the manager of the Pyramid Rating League’s all-time Red Sox, Terry Francona.

Throughout Francona’s seven year tenure in Boston, the Red Sox were a consistent American League powerhouse, reaching the postseason five times, winning the World Series twice, and never experiencing a single season below .500. In fact, Francona has the longest tenure of any manager in Red Sox history never to experience a losing season.

Since his somewhat controversial firing, Francona has gone on to experience continued success in Cleveland, where he has yet to post a losing season to this point, and is putting himself into serious Hall of Fame discussion.

Best Overall Player, Hitter and Position Player: Ted Williams

Even though its been over 50 years since he retired, “The Splendid Splinter” still easily ranks as the greatest Boston Red Sox player of all-time. In this league, Williams would be a solid contender for the Silver Slugger, but may be taken out of MVP discussion due to the fact that on this team he will be used almost solely as a DH. Doing this covers Williams’ biggest weakness as a player, which was his defense, and with a left field platoon of Fred Lynn and Carl Yastrzemski the Red Sox will have one of the best defensive left fielders around no matter who plays.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Among AL hitters who could match Williams at the plate, you could count the number on one hand and still have fingers left over. Over a 19-year career with the Red Sox, Williams batted .344 and had a .482 on-base percentage, which ranks first all-time. Added to a .634 slugging percentage, he had a career OPS of 1.116, second only to Babe Ruth in both categories.

Williams led the league in walks eight times, and never struck out more than 50 times in a season. While that strikeout total might rise given the increased number of power pitchers Williams would be facing, even in a league as deep and talented as this one Williams would be a threat to win the Triple Crown. Without having to worry about defense, Williams would be able to focus solely on hitting. Given his dedication to the science, it could be enough free time to make him the best hitter in either league.

Best Pitcher: Roger Clemens (Honorable Mention: Pedro Martínez)

I promise I won’t be doing a 1 and 1A mention for every team, but as with Baltimore it wouldn’t be fair to mention one without also bringing up the other, given how closely the two rank and how great both pitchers were. With all due respect to Jim Palmer and Mike Mussina, neither was even close to how dominant both Clemens and Martínez were at their peak with the Red Sox.

Between Clemens and Martínez, they led the AL in ERA eight times, wins three times and strikeouts five times. They have a combined five Cy Young Awards between them. Martínez’s 2000 season is viewed by many as the greatest season ever by a pitcher. His 1.74 ERA would rank among the league leaders in any year, but in the teeth of the steroid era a 1.74 ERA ranked nearly two full runs lower than the second-ranked pitcher in the AL that year — Clemens.

In Clemens, we have what is in my opinion the greatest pitcher of all-time. Without the one-team-only rule, Clemens would be on the 25-man roster for all four teams he pitched for, including Toronto. Two years is normally not enough for me to justify somebody being on an all-time team, but when your ERA+ over those two years in 196, and you pitched over 230 innings in both years, I would make an exception.

Without question, though, his best years came in Boston. His 13-year tenure with the Sox was by far the longest he had with any team and his three Cy Young Awards were also the most he won with any team.

With all due respect to the other dream one-two combos, I think this is the best of the bunch. Unlike a lot of the other dream one-two combos however, this could actually have happened if the Red Sox had kept Clemens.

Best Player Not on the Roster Due to the One-Team-Only Rule: Lefty Grove

The Red Sox could have featured the best starting rotation in the AL. In addition to losing out on Grove, the Sox also lose out on Cy Young. (Keep in mind what I mentioned in the first article about including Young’s peak seasons and being “city-centric” with where players were placed.)

With the Red Sox, Grove led the AL in ERA four times. If that were added in with Clemens and Martínez, the front three of the Red Sox rotation would have led the AL in ERA 12 times over a combined 28 seasons, or more than 40 percent!

As great as Grove was in Boston, there is little doubt that his golden years came under Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s, who are included as their own team independent of the Oakland Athletics.

Even without Grove and Young the Red Sox still have one of the deepest and strongest rotations in the AL, but their joint loss takes them out of contention for having the best rotation in the AL.

RED SOX COACHING STAFF
Position Person
Manager Terry Francona
Bench Coach Jimmy Collins
First Base Coach Billy Werber
Third Base Coach Dom DiMaggio
Hitting Coach Mike Greenwell
Pitching Coach Bill Fischer
Bullpen Coach Rich Garcés
tht_field_design_BOS_V2
RED SOX STARTING LINEUP
DH vs RHP DH vs LHP
Pos B T Name Pos B T Name
3B L R Wade Boggs CF L L Tris Speaker
DH L R Ted Williams DH L R Ted Williams
LF L L Fred Lynn 2B R R Dustin Pedroia
1B L R Carl Yastrzemski RF R R Dwight Evans
CF L L Tris Speaker 1B R R Kevin Youkilis
 C R R Carlton Fisk LF L R Carl Yastrzemski
RF R R Dwight Evans  C R R Carlton Fisk
SS R R Nomar Garciaparra SS R R Nomar Garciaparra
2B R R Dustin Pedroia 3B L R Wade Boggs
vs RHP vs LHP
Pos B T Name Pos B T Name
3B L R Wade Boggs CF L L Tris Speaker
LF L R Ted Williams LF L R Ted Williams
RF L L Fred Lynn 2B R R Dustin Pedroia
1B L R Carl Yastrzemski RF R R Dwight Evans
CF L L Tris Speaker 1B R R Kevin Youkilis
 C R R Carlton Fisk  C R R Carlton Fisk
2B R R Dustin Pedroia 3B L R Wade Boggs
SS R R Nomar Garciaparra SS R R Nomar Garciaparra
 P R R Roger Clemens  P R R Roger Clemens
RED SOX EXPANDED ROSTER
Pos B T Name
C S R Jason Varitek
1B L R Mo Vaughn
3B/2B L R Larry Gardner
SS/3B L R Johnny Pesky
SS/3B R R Rico Petrocelli
OF L R Harry Hooper
OF R R Jim Rice
OF S R Reggie Smith
SP R R Josh Beckett
SP R R Howard Ehmke
SP L L Mel Parnell
SP R R Frank Sullivan
RP L L Hideki Okajima
RP R R Mike Timlin
RP R R Koji Uehara

Strengths

Offensively, the Red Sox have one of the top three lineups in the AL. Nearly every starter was an MVP at one point in his career with the Red Sox, and those that weren’t all finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in at least two seasons. It is this type of depth that allows the Red Sox to leave both Jim Rice and David Ortiz off the 25-man roster, as there is more than enough offense to make up for their loss, and there are plenty of better defensive players to choose from. Of the first six hitters in the Red Sox lineup against righties, five are in the Hall of Fame and with the exception of Fisk, all bat from the left side of the plate.

One of my favorite little quirks with this team is the platoon situation at first base with Carl Yastrzemski and Kevin Youkilis. No matter if you’re a lefty or a righty, you’re facing a perennial .300 hitter with power hitting from his favorite side of the plate.

We have another platoon situation in left between Lynn and Yastrzemski, both far better defensive players than Williams. The biggest reason Lynn is not in the Hall of Fame is because he could never hit lefties (just a career OPS of .710). But with the depth of this team, he never has to and can focus solely on bashing righties, something he did quite well. In 1979, Lynn batted .364 against righties and hit 34 of his 39 home runs on the year in just under 400 at-bats. That’s a home run in roughly every 12 at-bats.

Defensively, the Sox are nearly as strong, featuring a former Gold Glover at every position. The big question mark to me would be the man in center, Tris Speaker. One the most underrated players in baseball history and the all-time leader in doubles, he is a fairly easy call to get the starting nod, but while his bat’s greatness is a given, his glove may not be.

Its nearly a unanimous consensus that Speaker was the greatest defensive outfielder of his era, but how would the greatest defensive outfielder of the 1910s and ’20s compare against Andruw Jones, or Paul Blair? We don’t know.

I don’t think any outfielder from that era would compare well against his modern counterparts, but Speaker might be the one exception. The way he played center field probably couldn’t be replicated in this league given how much livelier the ball is. How well Speaker could make that adjustment can’t be tested, but if he is even as half as good as his legend claims he was, I still think we are at worst looking at an average defensive center fielder and combined with his bat, he would still be an All-Star candidate. If his glove was anything better than average, he could be a dark horse for MVP and with Williams being limited to just DH duty, Speaker might be the most valuable position player the Sox have.

Returning to pitching, the Red Sox have one of the AL’s better rotations. Having Ellis Kinder as the No. 3 starter might seem like a bit of a gamble, but he had a 23-win season and if there were any struggles I would have no issue with moving him to the bullpen and bringing in either Tex Hughson or Derek Lowe to take his spot in the rotation.

In terms of the bullpen, the Red Sox have one of the best seventh-eighth-ninth combos in all of baseball. Most remember Bob Stanley for being on the mound when the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs in the ’86 World Series, but Stanley was also one of the most dominant relievers in the American League throughout the ’80s, appearing in two All-Star Games and twice finishing in the top 10 in Cy Young voting. For several teams that would be good enough to be the closer. On the Red Sox he’s a “bridge man” for the non-green monster.

In Dick Radatz, the Red Sox have one of the best closers in this all-time league. From 1962-’64, I think it could be argued that Radatz wasn’t just the best reliever in baseball, but the best pitcher as well. Over that three year stretch Radatz went 40-21 with a 2.17 ERA over 414 innings pitched, struck out more than a batter an inning and had a strikeout to walk ratio of better than 3:1. Some even argue that he’s a Hall of Famer. I don’t know that three great years is enough to justify that, but few pitchers, starter or reliever, had as great a stretch as Radatz had from ’62-’64. For this reason, I would put Radatz in the top five for closers around the league.

Weaknesses

Probably the biggest strength on this Red Sox team is that it has no real weaknesses. Aside from Dustin Pedroia, there isn’t a single easy out to be had when facing a righty and against lefties only Carl Yastrzemski stands out as a player I would prefer not to have up, but calling a former MVP and a Hall of Famer an easy out relative to the rest speaks to how dangerous the Red Sox lineup really is.

Top to bottom this ranks as one of the best teams in the AL, but facing a lefty heavy lineup could potentially cause problems for Boston. Jon Lester and Tom Burgmeier aren’t the only left-handed pitchers. When Clemens and Martinez are on the mound, I don’t think it would be much of an issue, but with every other starter a left-handed dominant lineup would give me some cause for concern.

Conclusions

In the Red Sox, I see a team that even in this league should be a given to win 90+ games. The fact that there are MVPs who don’t make the 25-man roster is the biggest testament I can offer to how deep the offense is.

The biggest omission from the team obviously is David Ortiz. In my opinion, he is the best player in history not on a 40-man roster for some team. As mentioned in the first article, my primary purpose is to show how these teams would be built, which is not the same as a straight ranking system. If I were to rank Red Sox position players all-time, Ortiz would be in the top 10. But so would Jim Rice, who also misses the 25-man roster for much the same reason as Ortiz. They provide value in areas where the Red Sox are already incredibly strong.

For Ortiz to be on the team, he would have to be the DH; he doesn’t meet the position qualifications for any defensive position, including first base. Throughout his career in Boston, the Red Sox have always carried two first basemen and the same would have to happen here. Yastrzemski and Youkilis take care of that, but the real issue lies in who Oritz would be replacing. The obvious choice would be either Bobby Doerr or John Valentin. Ortiz ranks far ahead of them, but losing either would leave the Red Sox without a backup second baseman or shortstop.

The likely victim would be the starting right fielder, Dwight Evans. Against righties it makes no difference. The Red Sox would be defensively downgraded with Williams being forced out to left field and Lynn in right. Against lefties though, Lynn and his career .710 OPS would still be starting in right field, in a league where virtually every team has at least one starting left-handed pitcher who was an All-Star. That pretty much wipes what you gain with Ortiz hitting instead of Evans who, keep in mind, led the AL in OPS twice during his career and, unlike Lynn, is a very good hitter to have up against righties. Dwight Evans had a career OPS of .910 against lefties. That’s why I have him batting fourth against lefties as opposed to seventh against righties. How would the Red Sox lineup look with Ortiz in the lineup?

RED SOX STARTING LINEUPS WITH DAVID ORTIZ
DH vs RHP DH vs LHP
Pos B T Name Pos B T Name
CF L L Tris Speaker CF L L Tris Speaker
LF L R Ted Williams LF L R Ted Williams
RF L L Fred Lynn SS R R Nomar Garciaparra
1B L R Carl Yastrzemski 1B R R Kevin Youkilis
DH L L David Ortiz 2B R R Dustin Pedroia
C R R Carlton Fisk RF L L Fred Lynn
2B R R Dustin Pedroia C R R Carlton Fisk
SS R R Nomar Garciaparra DH L L David Ortiz
3B L R Wade Boggs 3B L R Wade Boggs

The right-hand side of the lineup, I think, is an overall upgrade. The five batters hitting in front of Ortiz (Boggs, Speaker, Williams, Lynn and Yaz) would set him up for tons of RBI opportunities. The left-hand side, though, is a far bigger downgrade than the right side is an upgrade and that’s on top of the defensive downgrade with Williams in the field now in place of one of the all-time great defensive right fielders. They go from being beatable against lefties to flat-out vulnerable, and if you want to have any chance at beating the Yankees, you will need to hit left-handed pitching. Also remember: The Philadelphia A’s are their own team. They’re in the AL East along with the Red Sox, and their starting staff contains three Hall of Fame lefties.

As fun as it would be to have Ortiz on the roster, there’s just no way to get him in without also taking out a would-be starter. If it’s any consolation though, I think having Ted Williams as a DH is a pretty good replacement and not having to play Williams in the field gives the Red Sox perhaps the best defensive outfield in the league. Even assuming the worst with Speaker, few could hold a candle to what the Red Sox have.

It’s tougher to explain why Ortiz isn’t on the 40-man roster. If the team didn’t have Williams, I would put Ortiz on the 40-man roster, probably even on the 25. But unless Williams was injured, Ortiz would be a left-handed pinch hitter for an AL team loaded with left-handed bats.

If Williams got hurt for an extended period of time I would probably put Ortiz on the 40-man roster in place of Rico Petrocelli and promote him to the 25-man team in place of Williams.

But again, this is not a straight ranking system. It’s building a team, where it’s not always the best players who play every day. Just because I don’t have Ortiz listed doesn’t take away from the fact that he has over 500 career home runs, is maybe the greatest DH of all-time, and is a possible future Hall of Famer. I look at it as an indication of how great the Red Sox have been as a franchise that they could do away with someone like Ortiz and still be one of the most dominating teams I will write about in this series. Like a guy who doesn’t want a free Porsche because he already has a Ferrari in the garage. That’s the Red Sox.


Paul Moehringer is a data analyst, a SABR member and inventor of the Pyramid Rating System; originally from Mount Olive, NJ, now living in Westwood, MA. Follow him on Twitter @PMoehringer.
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George
5 years ago

Where’s Tony C.? The ultimate What could’ve been,had he not been hit in the eye. RIP young man

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  George

Top ten in OPS in both ’65 and ’66, was still in his very early 20’s and was having an even bigger year in ’67 before he went down.

I don’t know if he would have been able to crack the 25 or even the 40 man, but he certainly was on a track to before he went down.

If I based this list just on pure talent, Conigliaro may have made it. I agree that his story is one of the most tragic in baseball history. That injury effectively ended what could have otherwise been a first ballot HOF career.

Old Guy
5 years ago
Reply to  George

Fred Lynn over Jim Rice as a Red Sox player is a joke. Also, Lynn was a center fielder not a corner outfielder. And John Valentin over Pesky or Vernon Stephens? Don’t quit your day job bro

CoolWinnebago
5 years ago
Reply to  Old Guy

Lynn had a career 129 wRC+, Rice had a career 128 wRC+, whats the joke?

Lynn was better defensively and his career line against righties was .298/.378/.518. Rice managed a .293/.340/.495 against righties.

I would easily take Lynn as a strong side of a platoon over Rice full time.

Check your facts, Bro.

Cliff Blau
5 years ago
Reply to  CoolWinnebago

The joke is that Lynn created 626 runs for the Red Sox while Rice created 1384.

Guy at desk
4 years ago
Reply to  Old Guy

Lol no kidding

Greg R
5 years ago

This has no credibility without Ortiz.

BostonBob
5 years ago
Reply to  Greg R

Agreed. The LARGE father is imo the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history (maybe of all time regardless of team or era) he should at least be 1 and 1a with Teddy Ballgame as you’ve done with *Roger Clemens* and Pedro Martinez . Imo no Ortiz no credibility

Carl
5 years ago

Is Ruth as a pitcher out because of the one team only rule? On the Yankees as an OFer, could the rule putting him on the Red Sox as be a nice exception?

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Carl

Ruth does get taken out by the one name only rule, but if he were on this team I would probably use him as a spot starter/long reliever and would also platoon him with Dwight Evans out in right to give me an extra lefty bat in the lineup against righties as well as a possible pinch hitter.

I wouldn’t want to put him in the starting rotation or make him a full time starting outfielder because I would always want the option to use him in either role. I think the versatility he provides is his best asset and I wouldn’t want to take that away by pigeon holing him into just one role. I also don’t think he was good enough with the Red Sox to excel at either role in this league, which is another reason why I don’t think it would be a great idea to use him as a traditional pitcher or hitter.

I would say realistically he would be looking at around 80 innings pitched, 300 plate appearances and 100 games played. There’s no other player who I would even consider using like that. If nothing else he would be the most unique player in the league and unfortunate we don’t get to see that, but as great as he was in Boston, I think there’s little doubt as far as to which team he was better with.

Zeke
5 years ago

You’ve sold me on Ortiz getting squeezed off the active roster, but not the 40-man. Gotta protect him from the fantasy Rule 5 draft…

(If nothing else, isn’t Mo Vaughn just a slightly worse version of the same player?)

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Zeke

If there was a rule 5 draft I can tell you teams like the Mariners and Marlins would look very different.

As far as Ortiz vs Vaughn goes if you want to argue that Ortiz was a better player than Vaughn, you’ll get no dissention from me on that end.

The problem is this isn’t a straight ranking system and if I’m calling up Mo Vaughn it means that either Kevin Youkilis or Yaz is hurt and I another first baseman. I know Mo can play first. My guess is there’s a probably a very good reason why the Red Sox have always carried at least two first baseman on the roster in addition to Ortiz during his tenure in Boston.

Vaughn’s limited enough as it is defensively, but at least I know what I’m getting. If I put Ortiz out there and he’s making an error every 5-10 games to go with zero range, I don’t care how good his bat is, its just not going to work and that’s my big fear.

My thought with Ortiz is its DH or bust and if I put him on the team now instead of having to go two deep as seven positions using 11 players, now I have to do it with 10 which means there’s tools coming out of the tool box.

If I was to take a player off the 40 to get Ortiz on, it wouldn’t be Mo Vaughn it would Petrocelli just because I already have Pesky and they basically serve the exact same role as a backup shortstop/third baseman. You can do that, but I don’t think it makes much of a difference either way.

With Ortiz its basically just square peg round hole and he’s not the only player who falls into that category. He just might be the most significant example of it, but its also why I prefer this over a straight ranking system. If you just rank guys 1-10, you can throw baseball strategy completely out the window and look at it much the same as you would a fantasy team. This forces you to make hard choices that nobody wants to consider and I think that gives you a much better picture of what type of players they were and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

Brian
5 years ago

I’m assuming you have Manny in a Cleveland uniform? I would argue his time in Boston was more important in the franchise history than anything he did in Cleveland and I know he was a liability in the field but that would solve your left handed heavy lineup. He and papi were the modern day Ruth and Gehrig, which fueled the Red Sox to 2 championships. I think it’s great to have all of the usual all time Red Sox players in here but something has to be said for performing in the playoffs and to not have either one of them seems wrong.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Think about what you have to do to get Manny into the lineup.

He can play left so that takes Fred Lynn off the roster. Against righties he goes in over Yaz in left. Huge offensive upgrade, huge defensive downgrade.

Against he’s in over Fred Lynn. Not sure how many people are aware of just how good Fred Lynn was against righties, but during his tenure in Boston he was a .328 hitter against them. He can’t hit lefties to save his life, but the way this team is built I don’t need him to. There’s a reason why he’s sandwiched right in the middle of five Hall of Famers against righties and that .328 average is coming in a far more offensively restrictive era than the one Manny played in, so its downgrade both offensively and defensively.

The Red Sox also have what I believe is the best defensive outfield for any team. You put Manny on the roster that’s no longer the case.

I’d love to have Manny’s bat in the lineup against lefties. He’s arguably the best hitter the Red Sox have ever had against lefties, but what I’m losing to get that is more than what I’m gaining.

Dingles
5 years ago

Left field defense at Fenway is useless plus Manny played the wall great. Also, his impact on Ortiz and the rest of the lineup cannot be understated. Finally, he won two rings here and was instrumental in each playoff series he was a part of. He’s better than Yaz and Jim Rice and more valuable. This is a joke.

Paul G.
5 years ago
Reply to  Dingles

Presumably, Manny would have to play half his games on the road sans Green Monster. Even if left field defense at Fenway is meaningless, it only mitigates its importance.

Of course, Manny being Manny even if he was on the roster who knows where he might wander off. A new team every week!

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Paul G.

The other issue with putting Manny on the team over Lynn which I forgot to mention but is in the article is that you need someone to back up Speaker in center field.

The closest thing they have to a backup center fielder outside of Lynn would be Yaz who with only five percent of his games played in center doesen’t qualify for eligibility at the position under the criteria I’m using.

Trade Offer To Red Sox Fans
5 years ago

Cleveland fans would gladly swap Manny Ramirez to Boston for Tris Speaker. As player-manager of Cleveland’s 1920 World Series championship team, who played the majority of his career with Cleveland, Tris means more to Cleveland than he does to Boston. And, as Brian pointed out, Manny means more to Boston. It makes more sense for both fan bases.

Speaker could still anchor “the best defensive outfield for any team,” but it would be with Cleveland. As for Boston’s defense, factor in all of the time that Lynn will miss due to injuries, and add Hooper or D.DiMaggio as a 14th position player for defense/depth. Activate Hughson only if/when a spot starter is actually needed.

All pending approval from Commissioner Moehringer, of course.

Jody Mooney
5 years ago

I’d have to leave out Lynn, have Yaz start in left, and have Papi at first. Papi has always done reasonably well at first when called upon, and his bat is spectacular. This has zero credibility without Ortiz in the lineup. His bat alone makes him better than Lynn, and Yaz is the greatest defensive leftfielder in Sox history. Don’t recall Freddie playing much left. I’m sure he could play it fine, but I’d rather have Papi’s bat in lineup at 1B and Yaz in left.

Brian
5 years ago
Reply to  Jody Mooney

I don’t think it’s much of a defensive downgrade having manny in. He wasn’t good in the field, but at Fenway, it really didn’t matter. He was quick to send the ball back in and he was the best hitter I’ve ever seen. Again, with lefties, I’ll take his defensive downgrade for the production he put up and nobody was better in the clutch than him.

Paul G.
5 years ago

I am mildly surprised that Jimmy Collins is only a coach. He typically rates as the second or third best third baseman pre-WWII and had an outstanding defensive reputation, which would make him an interesting offense/defense platoon partner with Boggs. Of course, he is position locked at third and with the expanded bullpens you are using it is difficult to keep single position players unless they are starting. There is also the issue of whether his defense is a product of his era and would not translate. He is credited with revolutionizing how to play the position, but if everyone is using his innovations the advantage is lost.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Paul G.

I would rank Jimmy Collins as the second best third baseman in Red Sox history and pretty much on par with Wade Boggs defensively.

I already have Youkilis and John Valentin on the team who can both play third. Pesky, Gardner and Petrocelli all qualify as third baseman as well. The Red Sox don’t need anymore third baseman and that’s what knocks Collins out.

As a manager I’d put Collins as the third best the Red Sox have ever had after Francona and Cronin and the bench coach is typically the second best manager a team had which with Cronin playing for Washington falls to Collins and his .548 career winning percentage. Definitely a key figure on those early 1900’s Red Sox teams.

pjd
5 years ago

Koufax and Kershaw > Clemens and Martinez?

PeskyPole302
5 years ago
Reply to  pjd

Great question … and one I would pay dearly to see played out…

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  PeskyPole302

There’s a few 1-2 combos out there that are simply off the charts in terms of what it would look like if it was a real team. Kershaw and Koufax certainly meet that mark and they will be featured on the all-time LA Dodger team.

My claim with Clemens and Martínez was made with Koufax and Kershaw in mind, but as Pesky said you don’t really know who would come out on top. Your dealing with four guys who could all be considered the best pitcher in baseball for multiple seasons and who you consider better almost comes down to a matter of personal preference.

robkill
5 years ago
Reply to  pjd

Looking at the Pyramid HOF numbers, I’d take Maddux, Spahn, and Niekro, assuming Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves are treated as one team.

Paul G.
5 years ago

What happened with “Smoky” Joe Wood? His pitching career was cut short, but it was really good for a relatively short period of time.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Paul G.

Guys like Smoky Joe Wood are some of the toughest players to evaluate for this because there is so little to go off, but what’s there is incredibly dominating.

The guy I most like to compare him to from that era is Vean Gregg. He was three time 20 game winner and former ERA champ from the Indians but hardly anyone has even heard of Vean Gregg and that’s kind of my point. His individual achievements alone would probably not be enough to garner the amount attention he’s received over the years. Put Smoky Joe Wood on a team like the Phillies and I don’t think he’s anywhere close to being as well known as he is now. He was just lucky to have one of the best pitching seasons of all-time on one of the most dominating teams in baseball history and performed brilliantly in one of the greatest World Series of all-time.

If you want to look at guys purely at their peak, Smoky Joe Wood probably makes the 25 man roster, but Jackie Jensen would also be starting in right over Dwight Evans even though Evans had more than double the hits with the Red Sox than Jensen had. That’s why I didn’t go solely by best year.

Like Dizzy Dean the legend of how great he was has overtaken reality for reasons that have as much to do with storytelling as it does on field performance.

BobDD
5 years ago

OK, Williams over Ortiz makes sense, but Yaz at 1B over Ortiz doesn’t seem to. Yaz was OK defensively and if at that position from the start would have likely been better. But Ortiz has shown acceptable defense, at least in small applications. There is no need to have a backup DH, but for Ortiz to be off the team entirely he has to be less valuable than Yaz, Evans, Lynn, Youkalis – all of them have to be better than him. If Ortiz can only DH and PH, then maybe you’re right, but if he can play 1B, then I think not.

BobDD
5 years ago

re Speaker: Sounds like timeline mumbo-jumbo

If Speaker was the best defensive CF of his day, then how can you mark him down to average or below today? Sure he had a worse glove; sure he positioned oddly for today’s game, but marvelously for the game he played. He also had poor SB percentages compared to modern speedsters, but again, he was one of the best of his day. Sure they played a different game, but Speaker played the one that happened to be around at the time . . . brilliantly!

BobDD
5 years ago
Reply to  BobDD

“worse glove”

I meant as equipment.

RobotBoy
4 years ago
Reply to  BobDD

Yeah. With such vastly different eras, the only way to make a reasonable comparison is to put that player in the context of his era. Speaker was the best defensive outfielder of his, so one assumes with advances in nutrition, training, etc., he’d be that good today.
If you don’t strictly treat different eras this way, you’re constantly flirting with loose comparisons – Pedro’s 1999 is even better because…etc. Have to be consistent.

Steve
5 years ago

Tex Hughson’s (1941 -1948) best years were during WWII, against subpar competition. I think his inclusion is a mistake. Ellis Kinder’s best years were as a reliever. I would move him to the bullpen, putting Joe Wood in that SP vacancy.
You compared Wood with Vean Gregg; Gregg was only above average his first three years. Wood had an ERA+ of 149 over his eight years with BOS. As a quick comparison of different era players, Clemens with BOS was 144. By the way, looking solely at years with BOS, Pedro was much better than Clemens.
And, yep, Tris Speaker ought to be with Cleveland.
One more… IMO, Carlton Fisk should be with the ChiSox, although this is a very even, probably even volatile argument either way. With Fisk out, who would be the next catcher in? Rick Ferrell?
If Fisk remains with BOS, who would the catchers be for the ChiSox?
And one more.. Interesting that you would choose John Valentin over Joe Cronin. I believe I would have opted the other way.
oh, oh, one more… Cy Young ought to be included. He may have played a year or two more in CLE, but he was at his best with the BoSox. I understand I’ll have to look back at what you mentioned in the first article about including Young’s peak seasons and being “city-centric” with where players are placed. Will do that later, when I have more time.

Looking over everything I just wrote, it seems negative for what you’ve done. I certainly don’t mean it that way. This is very interesting, bringing up memories of a Sports Illustrated game from the 70’s. Rosters from all teams from 1971, and then a separate game that I loved, featuring all-time great rosters of most of the teams in the league. You could play your own seasons, with set pitching rotations, throwing say Mickey Lolich vs Yogi, DiMaggio, Ruth, Gehrig etc..
Actually, very much enjoyed your article, and am looking forward to other rosters as you come up with them.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Steve

I appreciate the feedback.

With regards to Hughson your right in that the outbreak of WWII has a lot to do with him getting in. To that I would again point out that his a value based system and not a talent one. If was a talent one then I would have to downgrade every player from the pre-segregation era of baseball because of the lack of negro league players, not to mention adjusting for PCL players who could have played in the majors but simply didn’t elect to such as Lefty O’Doul. The system as is only takes into account major league seasons and treats them all equally. Its not fair, but nothing is. Its just the easiest way to approach the problem IMO.

With Wood versus Gregg, I’m not claiming that Gregg is a better pitcher. Just pointing out the vast differences in terms of how well they are remembered relative to how well they pitched. To me that proves there’s no way Wood’s modern day reputation is garnered simply through on field accomplishments.

Kinder is a bit of a tough call because you are right in that his best years did come as a reliever. What give me confidence in the decision is that the line between reliever and starter is a bit more blurred in the 1950’s than it is today. Even in the years he’s coming out of the bullpen, he’s still throwing over 100 innings. Because the differentiation isn’t as clear I tend to be more liberal in the roles relievers from the 50’s and prior can take on, which really comes in handy with a team like the Philadelphia A’s who didn’t exist by the time relief specialization really began to take hold.

In terms of Clemens versus Pedro, one guy has three Cy Young’s to his name the other has two. For any opposing team I would say to them, you let me know who you rather face and I’ll make it happen. Either way I’m pretty confident with who I have on the mound.

With Speaker, I’ll have more to say about why I let him off Cleveland later. Obviously I think he had his best years in Boston. (The OPS+ he had for both teams had something to do with that opinion). Beyond that though for now I will just say I think people are already realizing that the “one name only” rule does not apply to all players or all teams equally. I like it because it makes things a lot more difficult than they would otherwise be, it brings up a lot of debates that wouldn’t otherwise happen, the Speaker Red Sox/Indians issue being one of them. He should be on both teams, but I’m forcing you to make a decision and as you can see the Indians are now going to an player on the roster who wouldn’t have otherwise made the team, so you avoid bringing up some of the same names over and over again. Once you see a name listed on a roster that’s it. It also helps a bit with competitive balance as this rule tends to go more in favor of newer franchises than older ones, but competitive balance in this league is not a stated objective. Just because team A has a HOF backup to go with and team B is far worse than team, that still doesn’t mean team B is getting the player(s) in question. If he can still be justified as a starter on team A and he had his best years with team A, he’s going to team A.

The White Sox lose out on three would be starters because of this rule and Fisk is arguably the worst of the three. He’s a starter with both Boston and Chicago so it simply goes to where I think he had the better seasons with. He played longer with the White Sox than he does with the Red Sox, but its pretty easy to see that his best seasons came with the Red Sox and more often than not that’s what it came down to. If Fisk wasn’t the starting catcher, the starting job would fall to platoon situation of Rich Gedman and Jason Varitek with Gedman getting the majority of the starts.

Cronin goes to D.C. simply because I can use him as a starter in Washington, but really can’t in Boston. You can thank Nomar Garciaparra’s two batting titles for that. If Cronin played his entire career in Boston he would win out easily, but its only his Boston years that count, so Nomar gets the edge. He also puts up a solid argument for being the all-time Red Sox manager as well. After Terry Francona I would rank him second for best managers in Red Sox history.

With Cy Young I won’t say what I’m doing with him completely but I think there’s enough breadcrumbs left from this article and the previous one to see where he’s going, but more importantly why which nobody in the comments has hit on or even eluded to.

With the Sports Illustrated game you mentioned that’s part of the inspiration behind this, but I’ve seen hundreds of all-time team articles and lists breaking down the top X number of players in a team’s history. I wanted to do something completely different and unprecedented in terms of both sheer depth and the way I’m interpreting the history of the game. I also wanted to be as consistent with my methods and unbiased as possible and the main thing what I’m talking about with that is era bias. I’m not surprised that the same people who want David Ortiz on the 25 man roster also want Manny Ramírez on the team. I can guess within ten years of how old someone like that is 90% of the time. When it comes down to any kind of past versus modern argument I don’t want people to have any idea as to which side I’m going to rule in favor of, because if they do it gives me the impression that I’m doing something wrong. Sometimes I’m going to go with the 1890’s guy, sometimes I’m going to go with the 1990’s guy and looking at what I’ve said about previous arguments of the same nature isn’t going to offer a ton of insight into where I’m going on this issue or this debate.

If you enjoyed those Sporting Illustrated teams I would say stayed tune. This is just second of the 36 teams. Each team will have their own strengths and weaknesses and their own strategy for winning games based on them.

Mark
5 years ago

Love that El Guapo made the team, if only as the bullpen coach! The current #34 gets all the attention.

Wilson
5 years ago

I think carrying two relatively similar second basemen without secondary positions creates a bit of a backup infield glut here. Have you considered replacing both Valentin and Doerr with a more versatile option like Johnny Pesky(2B/SS/3B) or alternatively, replacing both Youkilis and Doerr with someone like Billy Goodman(1B/2B/3B)? Either option would make room for Ortiz, possibly with Lynn and Evans platooning and serving as defensive replacements for Williams.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Wilson

Position requirements go franchise by franchise and Pesky only played five games with the Red Sox at second, so he doesn’t qualify for the position with them. Same thing prevents Billy Goodman from playing third.

The best player the Red Sox have who can play more than two infield positions is Tim Naehring and the best player the Red Sox have who qualifies to play both second and short is Jody Reed.

John G.
5 years ago

Position requirements go franchise by franchise, but Fred Lynn would be in LF? Lynn played 828 games for Boston, but only 6 of those games (51 innings) were in LF!

If the argument is that Lynn could handle LF since he played CF, that’s fine, but then it would be inconsistent to also argue that Pesky wouldn’t have been able to handle 2B instead of shortstop. The same ground rules cited to disqualify Pesky from backing up at 2B are not being applied to Lynn’s assignment as starting LFer despite his having only played 6 games in LF with Boston.

The ground rules are interesting and it is a challenging exercise, but if franchise position requirements are going to be cited as a key variable, then moving Lynn to LF (instead of using Ramirez or one of the 3 Hall of Famers who have played the most games in LF in franchise history, Williams/Yaz/Rice) is a huge exemption to the ground rules.

By extension, by moving Lynn to LF, the ground rules have been waived in order to assign Speaker to Boston. Others can come up with their own versions, that’s part of the fun and the challenge, but it might be difficult to present position-by-franchise as a convincing fixed ground rule in other cases when the requirement was waived for the Lynn-Speaker assignment.

Cleveland fans are likely to be pleased with whatever OFers would be assigned, since many great OFers have played in Cleveland, including a Hall of Famer who spent a decade with Cy Young on the Spiders, if he even makes the cut. But, still, Speaker in Boston is one thing, but waiving the otherwise-fixed rules by moving Fred (51 Innings) Lynn to LF in order to do it?

Bob Rittner
5 years ago

I think I would switch Mel Parnell and Tex Hughson.

Scott
5 years ago

Carlton Fisk on the White Sox? Although he played considerably more games for Chicago, he was a better player for the Red Sox 39.5 v 28.8 WAR, plus an incredibly famous home run.

It looks like Jimmie Foxx is on the Philadelphia A’s and Joe Cronin is on the Washington team. Including Lefty Grove and Cy Young, that’s five hall of famers, who provided considerable value to the Sox who are on other teams. I’m honestly a little surprised that Speaker isn’t on Indians team.

I like that Rick Ferrell isn’t on the team – probably the worst hall of famer.

Scott
5 years ago
Reply to  Scott

Never mind about Fisk, I see that he’s on the Red Sox team.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Scott

I’ll have more to say about Speaker when I get to the Indians. Its frustrating how much I’m having to bite my tongue on him, because where he goes was one of the tougher calls I had to make with the “one name only” rule.

Ctwink
5 years ago

I know you’ve read alot about how keeping Big Papi off the team means you are a know-nothing hack. However, your articles have gotten that much more interesting to me that you’d have the guts to put up with the vitriol to stay true to your gut.

I do however agree with the writer who said Tris Speaker should be on the Indians. Sure one could argue that his “best years” were with the Red Sox, but I think his 1916 season was the best of the bunch and 1923 was also one of his best five and both were with the Indians.

Conversely, Manny’s best seasons came with the Red Sox. No way he should be on the Indians… Maybe a little cherry picking on your part to ensure that the Red Sox had a stellar OF defense?

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Ctwink

I understand where people are coming from with Ortiz and this is by no means an attempt to discredit or disregard any of his career accomplishments.

I have an all-time great in Brooks Robinson sitting on the bench. Ortiz doesen’t even make the 40. Jim Rice who spent his entire 16 year HOF career with the Red Sox doesen’t make the 25. Very unfair decisions because it betrays the real abilities of these players.

But in every case I think what sets up these scenarios is amazing and that speaks to the truth depth of a team like the Red Sox.

The four left fielders the Red Sox have are all former MVP’s and three of them are sure fire HOFers. Two of them played 20+ years with the team. One of them led the AL in OPS 4 times and has 3,419 hits all with the Red Sox and the other is simply Ted Williams.

Who could see action out here? Possibly all four. If it turns out that Speaker got away playing the way he did without having any sort of an arm, but does have tremendous range, that could project out to be a better defensive left fielder than center fielder. If that winds up being the case I could just simply swap him for Fred Lynn for a lot of games. Yaz sees action in left against righties. Williams is the defecto left fielder without the DH and I can play Williams out in left and play around with the defensive alignments to give either Speaker, Lynn or Evans a day off.

Only problem is I can only give one of these players a day off at a time. Pulling Dwight Evans is so much more of a pain to do even though he’s a worse player because the Red Sox really don’t the same options as they do in left. Speaker can play here and maybe with the extra large Fenway right field it might be the one park where range means more than arm. Shane Victronio seemed to play it well and that’s probably a good arch type for the type of player Speaker would be. But that still leaves 81 road games where this isn’t the case. Offensively though Speaker still would definitely be able to make up for it and because of that I would actually classify him to be the Red Sox best right fielder. But he’s also their best center fielder. Can’t play both and a lot of times I really do think this does happen. The best center fielder on the ’86 Mets was probably Darryl Strawberry. It just made more sense to have him in right and either Dykstra or Wilson in center, so the scenario to justify where he would play center over right just never happened.

After Speaker it’s Dwight Evans. Third on that list I would say for the same reason Speaker is first is Fred Lynn. Still very solid I would say, but nothing compared to what they have out in left and there’s no real way to improve this. Williams is out, Yaz is out, Jim Rice is out and Manny is out. CF-RF-LF. You can move left to right, but not right to left and none of them go any higher than left.

This is the part of the team I’m most worried about breaking down, because there are not the same tools in toolbox to fix this as there are in the left field toolbox. Next up is Reggie Smith. 3 of the top 4 Red Sox right fielders are really center fielders. What is this telling you about what I have to do to bring in depth. It’s patchwork. Next best pure right fielder in Red Sox history is Harry Hooper. A solid 12 year career with the Sox and a HOFer, but I would agree with those who think he is one of the more underserved memebers. Somebody else noted my exclusion of Rick Ferrell.

Center field is pretty much the the same case, but at least here almost everyone is playing at their natural position. How you juggle that is the tough part of managing the Red Sox and having to go at least 2 players deep at 7 positions using only 11 players doesn’t make it much it any easier, but these are the real problems MLB managers and teams face everyday. When you do that you wind up having to factor in things like versatility and durability that don’t readily lend themselves to statistical evaluation.

I used to play a lot of sports video games as a kid and I always found it interesting how many games would have an injury or stamina rating of a player, but would never factor it in to a player’s overall rating, or do so but on a minute scale. Now in a best of one setting this makes sense. Who cares what his chances
are of him getting injured or not in the game. You’re playing him regardless. But if you plan on playing a full regular season that endurance/stamina/injury rating matters. Yaz can probably play in an extra 20 games than Ortiz can for instance and possibly without ever having to be the DH. 20 games I can potentially use to rest somebody else and it’s not like Yaz is chop liver as a player either. The versatility gives him value to because on this team if he were just a left fielder or just a first baseman, he wouldn’t be the same player. I’m primarily using him at first but really I’m planning on using him at both positions.

None of that shows up in a best of one, which is why I’ve never been a huge fan of those if I had one game and my life depend on it type of debates. There’s never any “one game” a season really ever comes down to. Thinking there is one is to ignore the impact of the other 161 that got you there. Same thing in the playoffs. The staff ace doesen’t always get the ball for game seven.

If there’s one thing I’m realizing now more so than when I started this its that I’m probably limited myself a lot more than I “realistically” could have. If I automatically assumed every shortstop could also play second, Hughie Jennings slides over to second, Ripken goes back to short and tada Brooks Robinson is back at third.

If there’s anyhing like that with the Red Sox it’s that I can’t use Smoky Joe Wood purely as a reliever. The main reason he loses out on making the roster is a lack of durability. He only pitches over 200 innings twice which adjust for the modern day relative to what others were doing in his era means he’s probably only good for five innings.

But I also look at that strikeout rate and that ERA and I could see the potential for something special even if it’s only for 50-70 innings.

Wilson
5 years ago

Allowing yourself more flexibility, particularly with shortstops, would also more closely reflect how teams manage their own rosters. Teams with more than one good shortstop often shift one of them over to another position (usually second or third) if there’s an opening on the team. That becomes particularly evident for bench players – on an actual team, a defensively capable shortstop who can’t quite crack the starting lineup will usually also play some second and/or third when needed. Certain reasonable assumptions when it comes to bench players (most shortstops can handle any infield position, most second or third basemen can serve as bench first-basemen, most fast infielders can learn a corner outfield position enough to serve as bench outfielders, etc.) could help to mitigate the potential problem of great players appearing less versatile than real bench players based on actual usage patterns.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Wilson

The reason didn’t do it was because I don’t see the same type evidence that I do with outfielders to make the same type of broad stroke assumptions.

I’m sure Ozzie Smith or Cal Riken could play second base if they had to, but in terms of how good they would be defensively at second, I don’t have much of an idea because its slightly different skill sets that are being tested.

Its too much of an unknown for me to tackle. Not all infielders are created equally with their ability to move around and I’m already being as liberal as with the positions as anyone I’ve seen doing something like this, so I can live with a “I didn’t go far enough” criticism because the same could be said for just about everyone else as well.

Rainy Day Women 12x35
5 years ago

Vern Stephens not being on the team at the expense of Valentin is dead wrong. He was the premier offensive shortstop of his era and played 5 seasonswith the Sawx. Also, Ellis Kinder, though a good pitcher, can’t compare with Smokey Joe Wood. And Kinder only started 122 games in his (entire) career, compared with 362 relief appearances. He was a fine pitcher, but had he not been the beneficiary of an offense scoring 896 runs during his big season (1949) would he even merit mention?

Marc Schneider
5 years ago

What the hell are you going to do when you get to the Yankees? 🙂 Wow! Talk about difficult decisions.

pounder
5 years ago
Reply to  Marc Schneider

Howard,Mattingly,Randolph,Kubek,Nettles,Maris,Williams,White………and those are the second and third stringers.

Philip
5 years ago

Marc Schneider said:
“What the hell are you going to do when you get to the Yankees? Wow! Talk about difficult decisions.”

Easy.

Paul can make two NYY clubs, one made up of former Red Sox. The ex Red Sox would probably be the better of the two clubs.

pounder
5 years ago

Clemens, in the writers opinion is the greatest pitcher of all time?? Sandy Koufax says HELLO !

RobotBoy
4 years ago
Reply to  pounder

Koufax’s peak was astonishing but short. Clemens was great for a long, long time.