Thursday, March 1, 2012

All-Decade Teams: The 1940's

The 1940's probably contained the most change and adversity of any decade for Major League Baseball.  The big story in the first half of the decade was World War II and the legions of players who had to leave baseball to serve the country.  The brand of baseball suffered significantly in '44 and '45, but that turned around quickly with the end of the war.  Integration began with the signing of Jackie Robinson in '46, and the influx of African-American and Latin talent created the Golden Age of Baseball.  As a note, there will no relief pitchers selected, since there were no significant pitchers who pitched most of the decade in relief.  Six of the position players and two of the pitchers are in the HOF.

C- Walker Cooper
This is by far the worst player picked so far for an all-decade team, with Cooper providing about 20 WAR over the decade with his good power.  He missed most of '45 due to the war.  An aging Ernie Lombardi was his closest competition, about 2 WAR behind.

1B- Johnny Mize
Mize takes the starting spot, using his big power and great eye to amass over 40 WAR for the decade, despite missing '43-'45 due to the war.  His 217 HR were second for the decade and his 156 wRC+ was fifth.  Phil Cavaretta was the only other first baseman to approach 30 WAR.

2B- Joe Gordon
Missing all of '44 and '45 due to the war, Gordon crammed 50 WAR into his eight seasons.  He had a good 124 wRC+, but he earned the spot with his +118 defense.  Bobby Doerr was about 5 WAR behind Gordon, while Doerr missed '45 due to the war.  Snuffy Stirnweiss also neared 30 WAR for the decade, amassing half of that when Gordon was gone.

3B- Bob Elliott
Combining a 125 wRC+ and not missing any time, Elliott compiled over 40 WAR.  He did not have a standout season, though he did win the '47 NL MVP.  Stan Hack finished above 30 WAR, despite retiring in '47.

SS- Lou Boudreau
Not only did Boudreau provide over 55 WAR on the field, but he also managed the Indians most of the decade, starting in '42 at age 24.  His '48 MVP season was insane, hitting .355/.453/.534, walking 98 times and striking out 9 (?!) times.  An aging Luke Appling and a young Pee Wee Reese and Vern Stephens all produced around 35 WAR, creating possibly the strongest position of the decade.

LF- Ted Williams
The best player of the decade, Williams averaged 10 WAR a season while missing '43-'45 actively flying fighter jets in the war.  His .356/.496/.647 slashline was good for a 198 wRC+, 25 points ahead of the next best.  He could have won six MVPs, but only ended up with two.  Charlie Keller is the only left fielder within half of Williams' WAR total, finishing just shy of 40 WAR as a rarely-mentioned Yankee great.

CF- Joe DiMaggio
Perceived as Williams' competition for the best player in the game, DiMaggio totaled nearly 50 WAR for the decade.  Also missing '43-'45 in the war, DiMaggio amassed a 160 wRC+ with above average defense, far surpassing his brother Dom, who finished second with around half the total WAR.

RF- Stan Musial
Not starting until '42 and missing '45 in the war, Musial compiled 60 WAR in the decade.  His 173 wRC+ was second to Williams and was versatile in the field, playing right, left, first, and even some center.  Bill Nicholson, Dixie Walker, and Enos Slaughter each provided about 35 WAR in the decade.

P- Hal Newhouser, Bob Feller, Dizzy Trout, Dutch Leonard, Harry Brecheen, Mort Cooper, Tex Hughson
Often criticized as a pitcher who feasted on war-time subs, Newhouser was a legitimate great arm, posting great seasons well after the war.  He provided at least 6 WAR every season from '44-'49.  Despite starting the decade at age 21, Feller had almost 800 MLB innings under his belt before '40.  He missed nearly four full years in the war, yet totaled nearly 40 WAR while striking out the highest percentage of hitters.  Trout makes the team with his great '44 and '46 seasons, totaling over 30 WAR for the decade.  Leonard was the compiler of the group, taking 2000 innings to get to his 30 WAR in his age 31-40 seasons.  Brecheen did not throw significant innings in the majors until '43, yet posted nearly 30 WAR, peaking with his '48 season.  Cooper completes the only brother tandem so far, doing his work early in the decade.  He compiled over 25 WAR by '46, finishing his career with a couple below-replacement seasons.  Hughson jammed all of his value into five seasons; nearly 25 WAR from '42-'47, while missing '45 in the war.  Claude Passeau, Bucky Walters, Tiny Bonham, and Bobo Newsom all fell just short of making the list.

SS  Lou Boudreau
RF  Stan Musial
LF  Ted Williams
CF  Joe Dimaggio
1B  Johnny Mize
2B  Joe Gordon
3B  Bob Elliott
C  Walker Cooper
P  Hal Newhouser

A little weak on the top and bottom, but the middle is as good as any.

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