Thursday, March 8, 2012

All-Decade Teams: The 1930s

During the Great Depression, baseball remained as one of the strong areas in the American culture.  Offense remained at some of the highest levels in the modern era.  There were a couple of the best first basemen ever to play the game dominating this decade.  Only two pitchers really separated themselves as great, though one of them was an all-time great.  11 of the players selected are in the Hall of Fame.

C- Bill Dickey
The forgotten Yankees catcher, Dickey amassed about 45 WAR with a balanced offensive approach.  His only spectacular rate was his 3.7% K rate, but the other good stats led to a 132 wRC+ behind the plate.  Mickey Cochrane and Gabby Hartnett finished about 10 WAR behind, with Cochrane doing so in about 1000 less PA.

1B- Lou Gehrig
The best first baseman of all time makes the team, despite the tragic end to the decade.  While healthy, Gehrig produced about 80 WAR, mainly due to his 175 wRC+.  Jimmie Foxx finished around 75 WAR, finishing with the same wOBA, but park factors led him to a 168 wRC+.  Hank Greenberg had a great beginning and Bill Terry had a great end to his career, providing about 40 WAR each.

2B- Charlie Gehringer
A runaway winner, Gehringer combined great plate discipline and defense, along with a good BABIP and power, to accrue nearly 65 WAR.  Only Gehrig and Foxx scored more than Gehringer's 1179 runs in the decade.  Billy Herman and Buddy Myer each had nice decades, compiling about 35 WAR.

3B- Harlond Clift
In a very unimpressive group, Clift sneaks in the third base starting spot, despite posting only about 25 WAR.  Starting in 1934, he put up a 119 wRC+, highlighted by his .404 OBP.   Red Rolfe, Stan Hack, Woody English, Billy Werber, and Pepper Martin round out the group of third basemen who would not have even gotten consideration most other decades.

SS- Arky Vaughan
Despite not starting his MLB career until 1932, Vaughan amassed over 50 WAR in the decade, narrowly beating out Joe Cronin, who had 1100 more PA.  Cronin's small advantage in power could not make up for his lower OBP, mostly due to batting average, which was caused by a higher K rate.

LF- Babe Ruth
Barely reaching 3000 PA and the minimum 33% of games played at the position, Ruth gets the nod in left field.  He provided nearly 45 WAR in essentially five seasons, producing a 187 wRC+ from age 35-39.  Al Simmons used a couple great seasons early in the decade to accumulate nearly 40 WAR.  Joe Medwick was also in the 40 WAR range, still the last NL Triple Crown winner in '37.

CF- Earl Averill
In a very close battle, Averill's 45 WAR give him the center field spot.  He had good patience and very good power, though his defense profiled more like a corner outfielder.   Ben Chapman and Wally Berger each finished just above 40 WAR.  Chapman was one of the few stolen base threats, but his speed and defense could not make up for his lesser power.  Berger matched Averill's offensive value, but had about 800 less PA.

RF- Mel Ott
Another runaway choice, Ott produced around 70 WAR with a 162 wRC+ and +50 defense.  He did not have a legendary year, but was consistently put up 5-9 WAR seasons.  Paul Waner had a great contact approach, compiling about 45 WAR for the decade.

P- Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell, Mel Harder, Dizzy Dean, Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing, Wes Ferrell, Tommy Bridges
One of the best pitchers of all time, Grove amassed over 65 WAR in the decade, despite a sub-replacement '34 season.   The screwball led Hubbell to just over 50 WAR, also relying on great control.  Harder had a couple great seasons with the Indians during the decade, just exceeding 40 WAR overall.  He mainly relied on keeping the ball in the park.  Dean did not get significant MLB innings until '32, accumulating less than 2000 IP, but still accrued 40 WAR.  During the '37 All-Star Game, Averill hit Dean's toe with a line drive, causing Dean to change his motion and killing his arm.  Gomez had two outstanding seasons and won five World Series rings with the Yankees, also right around 40 WAR.  His teammate Ruffing also won five rings and was known for his bat, hitting .285/.330/.407 in the decade.  Ferrell was even better as a hitter, and his effective pitching days were done at age 28, in 1936.  Bridges was a very consistent 3-6 WAR pitcher for the Tigers over a span of 12 years.

SS  Arky Vaughan
RF  Mel Ott
LF  Babe Ruth
1B  Lou Gehrig
2B  Charlie Gehringer
CF  Earl Averill
C  Bill Dickey
3B  Harlond Clift
P  Lefty Grove

Amazingly, Clift is the only right-handed hitter in the lineup.

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