Tuesday, June 27, 2017
All-Name Teams: Part Three
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 third 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 Charles and Mike, as well as the All-Girl-Names Team. Two weeks ago, we covered the All-Ed Team and the All-Lou Team. Last week, we addressed the All-George Team and the All-Rob Team. This post covers the All-William Team and the All-John Team.
includes Bill, Billy, Willard, and Willie
C: Bill Dickey
1B: Willie McCovey
2B: Willie Randolph
SS: Willie Wells
3B: Bill Dahlen
LF: Billy Hamilton
CF: Willie Mays
RF: Willie Keeler
DH: Willie Stargell
Rotation: Bill Foster, Billy Pierce, Bill Lee, Will White, Bill Byrd
Bench: catcher Bill Freehan, infielder Billy Herman, pinch hitters Willard Brown and Billy Williams, outfielder/pinch runner Willie Wilson
Bullpen: Bill Henry, Willie Hernandez, Willis Hudlin, Bill Monbouquette, Billy O'Dell, Billy Wagner
No all-name team is more stacked with great position players. The lineup features Hall of Famers Bill Dickey, Willie McCovey, Willie Wells, Billy Hamilton, Willie Mays, Willie Keeler, and Willie Stargell, plus HOF reserves Billy Herman, Willard Brown, and Billy Williams. Dahlen, a terrific defensive shortstop, starts at third base because (1) he's better than any true third baseman available — probably you'd go with Willie Kamm — and (2) he had a better arm than Devil Wells. He's kind of the Manny Machado of the All-Will Team. Similarly, Sliding Billy Hamilton plays left because (1) Mays is in center, and (2) left fielders Willie Stargell and Billy Williams are on the team for their bats, not their gloves.
Randolph and Dahlen, either of whom could be in the Hall of Fame, are the only regulars not in Cooperstown. Randolph was a six-time All-Star, a great fielder who had 2,200 hits, 1,200 walks, and 271 stolen bases (74.5%). He had 80 bases on balls seven times, and scored over 1,200 runs. Dahlen was a magnificent fielder from 1891-1911. He was also a good batter, especially early in his career. Dahlen slugged .550 twice, had a 42-game hitting streak in 1894, and led the National League in RBI in 1904.
This team doesn't include worthy Willies Bill Mazeroski, Bill Monroe, Bill Terry, Bill White, Will Clark, or Willie Davis. Freehan, the backup catcher, is the only non-Hall of Famer on the bench. He played for 16 seasons, hit 200 home runs, and caught Denny McLain the year Denny went 31-6. Mazeroski and Terry are Hall of Famers, but there's just no room for them.
The pitching staff is considerably less impressive; there are two really good players, both southpaws. Hall of Famer Willie Foster played in the Negro Leagues in the '20s and '30s; they called him the black Lefty Grove. Foster had the most wins, shutouts, and postseason wins in the history of the Negro Leagues; only Satchel Paige had more strikeouts. Contemporaries have suggested that Foster was the greatest pitcher in the history of the Negro Leagues, and he went 6-1 in documented competition against major league all-star teams. Satchel Paige, Smokey Joe Williams, Bullet Rogan, Foster, and maybe Hilton Smith are the players you talk about as the best Negro League pitcher of all time. In 1926, Foster pitched complete game shutouts in both games of a doubleheader against the Kansas City Monarchs, sending his team (the Chicago American Giants) to the Negro World Series, in which he pitched three complete games with a 1.27 ERA.
Pierce, the All-Wills' other standout pitcher, made seven All-Star teams, but that undersells his career. Pierce also got MVP votes in 1952, when he wasn't an All-Star, and finished third in Cy Young voting in 1962 — when there was only one Cy Young for both leagues — he wasn't an All-Star that season, either. In '53 Pierce led the American League in strikeouts and K/9. In '55 he led the majors in ERA, FIP, and WHIP. The next three years he led the AL in complete games. Pierce went 211-169 with a 3.27 ERA and 1,999 strikeouts.
There are two pitchers named Bill Lee who played in the All-Star Game. The one in the rotation started for the Cubs in the 1930s and the early '40s. He won 169 games, and his 3.54 ERA was good for that era. In 1938, Lee went 22-9 with a 2.66 ERA. The other Bill Lee, the Red Sox' "Spaceman", was a character and a half, but also a pretty good pitcher.
Will White won 40 games in 1879, 1882, and 1883. He led the National League in shutouts three times and ERA once. His 2.28 career ERA ranks in the top 10 all-time. Bill Byrd had only one losing season over a fourteen-year period in the Negro Leagues.
The bullpen is strong, led by closer Billy Wagner, a seven-time All-Star who saved over 400 games, retiring with a 2.31 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. Henry and Hernandez were true relievers, as well.
The Wills don't benefit tremendously from adding nicknamed players. The only ones likely to make the team are HOF catcher William "Buck" Ewing, and Cincinnati pitcher William "Bucky" Walters. The last name Williams would obviously augment the team; the biggest gains are Ted Williams and Smokey Joe Williams. Smokey Joe is a bigger deal, since he wouldn't be knocking Keeler out of the starting nine.
1. Billy Hamilton, LF
2. Willie Mays, CF
3. Willie McCovey, 1B
4. Willie Stargell, DH
5. Willie Keeler, RF
6. Willie Wells, SS
7. Bill Dickey, C
8. Willie Randolph, 2B
9. Bill Dahlen, 3B
That's the best everyday lineup for any all-name team. I once wrote that Sliding Billy Hamilton "is the one player in history that, no matter who else was on the team, he would be the optimal leadoff man. Hamilton hit .344/.455/.432 and stole over 900 bases. He had three times as many walks as extra-base hits, and he was the greatest base stealer of his generation."
Coming up behind the most perfect leadoff man in the history of the sport, you've got three incredible power hitters and five more pretty good batters. The weakness of the team is its rotation, although Bucky Walters would push Byrd to the bullpen. Foster-Pierce-Walters would be an unbelievable top three for a real ballclub, but if you're going up against the Eds (Ed Plank, Whitey Ford, Ed Walsh, Eddie Cicotte, Ed Reulbach) or the Robs (Lefty Grove, Bob Gibson, Bob Feller, Robin Roberts, and Bob Lemon), it won't inspire great confidence. The Wills are a very strong team, maybe the best all-name team, but the good-not-great pitching staff keeps them from ranking clearly at the top.
includes Jon, John, Johnny, and Juan
C: Johnny Bench
1B: Johnny Mize
2B: Johnny Evers
SS: John Henry Lloyd
3B: John McGraw
LF: Juan Gonzalez
CF: Johnny Damon
RF: Johnny Callison
DH: John Olerud
Rotation: John Clarkson, John Smoltz, Juan Marichal, Jon Lester, John Lackey
Bench: catcher Johnny Bassler, infielders John Montgomery Ward and Johnny Pesky, outfielder John Titus
Bullpen: Johnny Antonelli, John Candelaria, Johnny Cueto, John Franco, Jon Matlack, John Tudor, John Wetteland
The Johnnies have a solid outfield. Most readers will remember Johnny Damon and two-time AL MVP Juan Gone. Johnny Callison was a three-time All-Star with the Phillies in the 1960s. He led the NL in doubles once and triples twice, and he slugged .500 two times, which was no joke in the '60s.
But the strength of this team is its catcher and infield. Bench, Mize, Evers, Lloyd, and Ward are Hall of Famers. McGraw, although he's in as a manager, had a .466 OBP and stole 400 bases. Johnny Bench and Pop Lloyd are the superstars of the team. At various times in his career, Bench led the majors in home runs (twice), RBI (three times), and total bases. He is the only catcher ever to lead MLB in any of those categories. Bench was a two-time NL MVP, World Series MVP (1976), Rookie of the Year, 10-time Gold Glover, and a 14-time all-star. Lloyd was a great hitter, great fielder, fast, and played forever; he was among the best players in the Negro Leagues for more than 20 years.
Monte Ward won 164 games as a pitcher, with a 2.10 ERA. He also played second, short, and third, collecting over 2,000 hits and scoring 1,400 runs, second-most of any John. He didn't walk much and had no power, but he was a terrific fielder and he stole over 500 bases. On this team, he's a backup and defensive replacement for all the infielders, as well as a pinch runner and bullpen arm.
The rotation features three Hall of Famers and two recent players. John Clarkson went 328-178 with a 2.81 ERA. Marichal won 25 games three times, and I'm going to assume you remember John Smoltz, as well as Lester and Lackey. The bullpen is strong enough that Johnny Vander Meer misses the cut.
There are some really good Johns we know by nicknames, but the upgrade to the team is fairly small because, for some reason, Johns seem to cluster toward the infield. The only one who would crack the starting lineup is Hall of Fame second baseman Bid McPhee. He was a terrific fielder who stole almost 600 bases and scored more runs than anyone else named John, 1,678. He'd push Evers to the bench and Pesky off the team.
Boog Powell and Buck O'Neil were named John; Powell would make the roster as a pinch hitter, but I don't think there's room for Buck. Dusty Baker is named Johnnie; he would probably be the fourth outfielder, replacing Titus.
None of those are earth-shattering upgrades. McPhee was great, but not a massive advantage over Johnny Evers. Powell's one of the five or six best hitters on the team, but he's still a backup, as is Baker.
What's interesting are the Jacks. Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Chesbro was named John Dwight Chesbro. Jack Morris is John Scott Morris. Both would make the All-John rotation, pushing Lackey and Lester to the pen. I also feel like Tommy John should be on the team, though I draw the line at Johnson. We're not letting the Big Train, Big Unit, or anyone else Big onto this team. Similarly, you can forget about John Franklin Baker. He went by Frank and became known as Home Run Baker. He doesn't belong on a team full of Johns.
This, then, is the batting order I came up with:
1. John McGraw, 3B
2. Johnny Mize, 1B
3. Johnny Bench, C
4. John Henry Lloyd, SS
5. John Olerud, DH
6. Juan Gonzalez, LF
7. Bid McPhee, 2B
8. Johnny Damon, CF
9. Johnny Callison, RF
The rotation is John Clarkson, John Smoltz, Juan Marichal, Jack Chesbro, and Tommy John. That's four Hall of Famers and a guy who won 288 games, with Jack Morris ready to join the rotation if someone goes on the DL.
Next week, we'll finish with the J's, unveiling two very strong teams, both in contention for the greatest all-name team: Jim and Joe.