Tuesday, June 20, 2017

All-Name Teams: Part Two

By Brad Oremland

This is one of the stupider ways I have ever spent a lot of time: I exhaustively assembled MLB all-name teams, coming up with the best all-time baseball teams comprised of players with the same first name. This is the second in a series of posts revealing and explaining the most dominant such teams. The top eight teams are: the All-Ed Team, the All-George Team, the All-Jim Team, the All-Joe Team, the All-John Team, the All-Lou Team, the All-Robert Team, and the All-William Team.

Later in the series, we'll address a few all-name teams that missed the cut, such as Dave and Mike, as well as the All-Girl-Names Team. Last week, we examined the top infields, the All-Ed Team and the All-Lou Team. This post covers the All-Rob Team and the All-George Team.

All-Rob Team

includes Bob, Bobby, Robert, Roberto, and Robin Roberts

C: Bob Boone
1B: Bob Watson
2B: Roberto Alomar
SS: Bobby Wallace
3B: Bob Elliott
LF: Bob Johnson
CF: Bobby Thomson
RF: Roberto Clemente
DH: Bobby Abreu

Rotation: Bob Gibson, Bob Feller, Robin Roberts, Bob Lemon, Bob Caruthers

Bench: catcher Bob O'Farrell, infielders Bobby Doerr and Bobby Grich, outfielders Bobby Bonds and Bobby Veach

Bullpen: Bob Friend, Roberto Hernandez, Robb Nen, Bob Rush, Bobby Shantz, Bob Veale, Bob Welch

Team Rob has excellent fielding and pitching; I think it's the best all-name team defensively.

The All-Robert Team is lousy with right fielders. You've got Roberto Clemente, Bobby Abreu, Bobby Bonds, Bob Meusel, Bobby Murcer, Bobby Veach, Bob Allison... I debated moving Clemente to center to get Bonds into the starting lineup, but decided against it. Bonds will get plenty of action as a pinch hitter and fourth outfielder. The other position at which the Roberts have ridiculous depth is second base, with two Hall of Famers (Roberto Alomar and Bobby Doerr) plus Bobby Grich. Bobby Avila and Bobby Richardson were fine second basemen, and Robby Thompson was a two-time All-Star, but you don't need six second basemen. I kept three, and even that's probably too many. There were some hard cuts on this roster, though I don't think it's as strong across the board as the All-Ed Team.

I didn't count the name Robin as belonging to this team — we'll come back to that — nor did I count the surname Roberts; we'll come back to that, too. But Robin Roberts, with his double-Rob name, had to be on the roster. The team has eight Hall of Famers: Alomar, Wallace, Clemente, Doerr, Gibson, Feller, Roberts, and Lemon. Wallace, who played from 1894-1918, was a brilliant fielder and an okay hitter, the Phil Rizzuto of his generation, except that Wallace had more power.

Boone, the patriarch of a ball-playing family, was a four-time All-Star with the Phillies and Angels in the '70s and '80s. He couldn't hit, but he was a terrific defensive player. Watson was the opposite. A two-time All-Star with the Houston Astros in the '70s, he hit .295 / .364 / .447 in a pitcher's park, but he's not a fielder. Bob Elliott was a seven-time All-Star with the Pirates and Braves; he won NL MVP in 1947.

In the outfield, "Indian Bob" Johnson was a terrific hitter with a great arm, an eight-time All-Star (mostly with the A's) who hit for average (.296), got on base (1075 BB, .393 OBP), and hit for power (.506 SLG, highest of any Bob). Bobby Thomson is famous for his "Shot Heard 'Round the World", but he was a two-time All-Star before that, and the following year he led the majors with 14 triples. Thomson drove in 100 runs four times and retired with 264 HR. He wasn't a great fielder, but he spent more time in center field than at any other position. You probably remember Abreu; he has the most RBI (1363) on the All-Rob Team, and the second-most runs scored (1453), behind Alomar.

The rotation is the strength of the team, featuring three all-time fireballers: Gibson, Feller, and Roberts, all of whom are among the hardest throwers in history. Lemon went 207-128, led the AL in wins three times, and made seven All-Star Teams. "Parisian Bob" Caruthers went 218-99, and might be the best-hitting pitcher this side of Babe Ruth; he was probably a better hitter than All-Rob catcher Bob Boone, batting .282 / .391 / .400 for his career.

The bullpen has two pitchers who were regular closers, rather than converted starters: Hernandez and Nen. Hernandez played 17 seasons, but had his best years with the White Sox and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 1990s. In 1996, he had a 1.91 ERA in 84.2 innings. He saved 30 games six times, and his 326 career saves are more than Nen (314), a three-time All-Star with a 2.98 ERA. A number of quality pitchers missed the cut.

Other than Robin Roberts, I didn't include Robins, which would bring Robinson Cano, Robin Ventura, and Robin Yount into play. Cano might not make the roster, on a team so stacked with second basemen, and I'd probably stick with Elliott over Ventura. But Robin Yount would be an impact player. I might stash him in center field since there's already a Hall of Famer at shortstop.

The last name Roberts wouldn't carry much impact, but the last name Robinson — with Brooks, Frank, Jackie, and perhaps Eddie — would revolutionize this team. The Roberts also have two excellent players who aren't listed because we know them by nicknames: Robert Moses Grove and Robert Rolfe. Lefty Grove would immediately become staff ace, creating an all-HOF rotation, and Red Rolfe would challenge Elliott at third.

1. Roberto Alomar, 2B
2. Roberto Clemente, RF
3. Bob Johnson, LF
4. Bobby Abreu, DH
5. Bob Elliott, 3B
6. Bob Watson, 1B
7. Bobby Wallace, SS
8. Bobby Thomson, CF
9. Bob Boone, C

Unlike the Eds and the Lous, this team is mostly right-handed hitters. Alomar switch-hit and Abreu was a lefty, but that's it. The lineup shown above does not include Yount or the Robinsons, but consider the rotation with Lefty Grove, Bob Gibson, Bob Feller, Robin Roberts, and Bob Lemon. This team won't allow many runs; not only can it start a Hall of Fame pitcher every day, it's loaded with terrific fielders. That's the strength of the team. It can't score with the other all-name teams, but it can probably win some games 1-0 and 2-1.

All-George Team

C: George Gibson
1B: George Sisler
2B: George Scales
SS: George Davis
3B: George Brett
LF: George Burns
CF: George Van Haltren
RF: George Hendrick
DH: George Foster

Rotation: George Stovey, George Uhle, George Mullin, George Wilson, George Mogridge

Bench: catcher George Mitterwald, pinch hitter George Carr, infielders George Kell and George Wright, outfielder George Gore

Bullpen: George Earnshaw, George McConnell, George McQuillan, George Sherrill, George Suggs, George Zettlein

The strength of this team is its infield, with Hall of Famers George Sisler, George Davis, and George Brett. Kell is also in the Hall of Fame; a third baseman in the '40s and '50s, he hit .306, but without much speed or power. Scales was a great second baseman in the Negro Leagues, and probably a better player than Kell. Scales was a good fielder, and like Kell, he hit over .300, but Scales also had a slugging percentage in the Negro Leagues of close to .500, he would take a walk, and he could run.

Burns was an outfielder for the Giants during the Deadball Era; he led the NL in runs five times and stolen bases twice; he also led in walks five times and on-base percentage in 1914. George Van Haltren scored 100 runs 11 times; his 1,639 career runs scored ranks 38th all-time, about the same as Ken Griffey Jr. (1,662) or Al Kaline (1,622). Hendrick was a four-time All-Star in the '70s and '80s. He was a good hitter, .278 with power, but a poor fielder. Foster was a power hitter on the Reds' championship teams of the 1970s, slugging .480.

Backup George "Tank" Carr was a switch-hitting first baseman in the Negro Leagues of the 1920s. A good athlete for his size, he had both speed and power. Hall of Fame first baseman George Kelly isn't on the team; Carr was a better hitter and the team isn't hurting for a defensive first baseman. Wright was the best shortstop of the 1870s. He had a very short career, 591 games, but he was a good hitter, and this team is desperate for a substitute who can play middle infield. George Gore is another old player — why isn't anyone named George any more? — the best center fielder of the 1880s, a .300 hitter with a great arm.

The Georges are weakest at catcher. Gibson was a good defensive catcher and a highly-regarded handler of pitchers, but he was also a .236 batter with only 893 hits in the major leagues. His All-George backup, Mitterwald, caught for the Twins and Cubs in the '70s, retiring with an identical .236 average and 623 hits. Mitterwald had a little power (76 HR, .362 SLG), but his value was mostly on defense.

Granted that George was a more popular name 100 years ago, and the modern All-Star Game didn't exist until the 1930s, but this is stunning: all of the pitchers named George, in major league history, have made a combined total of one All-Star Game. George Sherrill went in 2008, and only because the Orioles needed a representative; Sherrill pitched 53.1 innings with a 4.73 ERA that season.

George Stovey was a left-handed pitcher in the 1880s and '90s, probably the best black pitcher of the 19th century. Stovey and, more famously, Fleetwood Walker, were the impetus for Cap Anson's demand that "colored" players be excluded from the National League. Wilson was another early Negro Leaguer, pitching in the late 19th century and the early 20th.

In both 1923 and '26, Uhle led the American League in complete games, innings pitched, and wins. He was a good batter with a .288 lifetime average, and depending on your source, he is sometimes credited with pioneering the slider. Uhle went 200-166 with a 3.99 ERA, but ERAs were high in the '20s. George Mullin won 20 games five times, including a 29-8 record in 1909. He went 228-196 with a 2.82 ERA, but ERAs were low in the Deadball Era. Mogridge pitched for the Yankees in the teens and the Senators in the '20s; he won 16 games four times.

In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James made up an All-Jim Team and wrote, "I think they would beat any other first name team, except that the Georges would hold their own if they got to use the Bambino..." That's the key to making the All-George Team competitive — you've got to include nicknames. That adds Babe Ruth, of course, but also Hall of Famers Mule Suttles and Rube Waddell. Suttles was a Negro League outfielder and first baseman, a right-handed power hitter who would start in the All-George outfield. Rube Waddell is sometimes confused with Rube Marquard; they're both in Cooperstown, but Waddell was the much better pitcher. He's the "good Rube." Allowing nicknames also salvages the catcher position, opening the door for Chippy, Chappie, and Birdie.

Chippy Britt played more than 20 years in the Negro Leagues, primarily as a pitcher and catcher, both of which utilized his strong right arm. Chappie Johnson was also a Negro Leaguer, and more of a true catcher. He was a sound defensive player but not a good hitter. Birdie Tebbetts was a four-time All-Star in the 1940s, with the Tigers and Red Sox. Throw those three in with George Gibson, and it's hard to say who was the best catcher, but it's nice to have more options, and to provide a backup backstop you can live with. Even better, Jorge is the Spanish translation of George — actually, a lot of young Jorges in the US pronounce their name "George" — and Jorge Posada would definitely be the starting catcher on this team.

Ruth has to play right field, of course, but the thought crossed my mind to make him a pitcher; other than maybe Waddell, he's the best-pitching George of all time. Anyway, here's the batting order I came up with:

1. George Davis, SS
2. Babe Ruth, RF
3. George Brett, 3B
4. Mule Suttles, LF
5. George Foster, DH
6. George Sisler, 1B
7. George Van Haltren, CF
8. George Scales, 2B
9. Jorge Posada, C

I originally had Sisler leading off, but that meant too many left-handed hitters near the top of the lineup, or George Brett hitting sixth. The switch-hitting Davis had a .361 OBP, stole 600 bases, and scored 1,500 runs; he'll lead off just fine. The bench, with Burns, Carr, Gore, Kell, and (probably) Tebbetts is now very sound.

The rotation is solid, not special, but Waddell provides some oomph as the staff ace, displacing Stovey and Uhle and sending Mogridge to the bullpen.

Even with Ruth, Suttles, Waddell, and Posada, the All-George Team probably wouldn't beat the Eds, Jims, Joes, or Wills with any consistency. I think it's matched pretty evenly with the Bobs and Johns, and probably a little better than the Lous. The pitching staff would still hold them back from consistently beating the best all-name teams.

The All-Will team is devastating; we'll do that one next week, along with the All-John team.

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