Position Players by WAR: Expansion Era

Baseball Prehistory | Deadball Era | Liveball Era | Post-War
Expansion | Free Agency | Modern Era

The Expansion Era saw the Major Leagues grow from 16 teams in 1959 to 24 teams in 1975. The Washington Senators moved to Minnesota in 1960, and MLB decided to expand earlier than planned at risk of losing its anti-trust exemption. The new Washington Senators would become the Texas Rangers in 1972. They were joined by the Los Angeles Angels in the same year. 1962 saw the Houston Colt .45s and the New York Mets join the Majors, followed by the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots (later to become the Milwaukee Brewers), San Diego Padres, and the international addition of the first Canadian Team, the Montreal Expos.

I cut off the Expansion Era at 1975, right before Free Agency took hold, but there were two new teams formed in 1977: the Seattle Mariners, and the Toronto Blue Jays.

If you looked at a map of the MLB in 1950, this is what it would look like:


The same map in 1977 after Expansion was finished would look like this:

The Expansion era also saw a couple rule changes. The pitching mound was lowered in 1968, and the Designated Hitter rule was introduced in 1973. Baseball looks more and more like the modern game. Integration sees the rise of all-time great non-white players like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Let’s take a look at those players:

Part II:

Who jumps out to you?

Player list (career WAR in parentheses):

Willie Mays (163.2) Hank Aaron (150.5)
Frank Robinson (116.3) Carl Yastrzemski (108.7)
Joe Morgan (108) Al Kaline (101.9)
Brooks Robinson (94.6) Pete Rose (91.4)
Roberto Clemente (91.3) Johnny Bench (81.5)
Reggie Jackson (81.4) Rod Carew (80.3)
Ron Santo (79.3) Harmon Killebrew (78.4)
Willie McCovey (75.7) Reggie Smith (71.8)
Graig Nettles (71.8) Willie Stargell (70.9)
Joe Torre (70.8) Billy Williams (69.7)
Dick Allen (67.9) Tony Perez (67.8)
Norm Cash (64.8) Luis Aparicio (63.6)
Bobby Bonds (63.3) Willie Davis (63.3)
Ken Boyer (63.3) Sal Bando (62.7)
Ted Simmons (61.1) Jimmy Wynn (60.7)
Rocky Colavito (59) Orlando Cepeda (58.3)
Rusty Staub (56.6) Vada Pinson (56.4)
Cesar Cedeno (55.2) Jim Fregosi (53.9)
Boog Powell (53.8) Bert Campaneris (53.7)
Lou Brock (53.4) Bill Freehan (52.8)
Al Oliver (50.2) Tony Oliva (48.6)
Roy White (47.5) Gene Tenace (47.4)
Frank Howard (46.8) Felipe Alou (45.7)
Rico Petrocelli (45.7) Amos Otis (45.6)
Dick McAuliffe (44.6) Thurman Munson (44.4)
Roger Maris (44.3) Bob Allison (43.9)
Maury Wills (43.7) Ron Fairly (43.1)
George Scott (43) Curt Flood (42.5)
Paul Blair (42.1) Johnny Callison (41.6)
Dick Groat (41.6) Don Buford (41.1)
Richie Hebner (40.9) Mark Belanger (40.5)
Bill White (40.1) Bill Mazeroski (39.5)
Rico Carty (39.4) Elston Howard (39)
Bobby Murcer (38.6) Bob Bailey (38.1)
Ken McMullen (38) Clete Boyer (38)
Rick Monday (38) Garry Maddox (37.3)
Chris Speier (36.1) Davey Johnson (35.6)
Willie Horton (34.7) Tom Haller (34.4)
Ron Hansen (34.4) Ron Hunt (34.4)
Leo Cardenas (34.4) Lee May (34.3)

References:



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Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
John R
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

Willie Mays was a 10 WAR player 6 times in his career.

Pujols has never had a 10 WAR season.

Incredible.

Jim Lahey
Guest
Jim Lahey
5 years 3 months ago

Willie Mays gets a huge positional bonus for playing CF, and I can only assume he rates quite well defensively on top of playing CF.

SF 55 for life
Member
SF 55 for life
5 years 3 months ago

are you saying that’s a negative thing?

Albert Lyu
Member
5 years 3 months ago

I think he’s saying that’s why Pujols probably never had a 10 WAR season.

fredsbank
Guest
fredsbank
5 years 3 months ago

no, he’s saying its easier to post 10 WAR out of CF than 1B, which is fact, especially since by any measure mays was an outstanding fielder and albert is slightly above average at best

fredsbank
Guest
fredsbank
5 years 3 months ago

or what albert said

Fergie348
Guest
Fergie348
5 years 3 months ago

Yet their cumulative WAR totals are equal through their age 30 season:

http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?playerid2=1008315&playerid3=1177&playerid4=&playerid5=

Willie played a long time – we’ll see if Albert can keep piling up enormous value for the next 10-12 years.

fredsbank
Guest
fredsbank
5 years 3 months ago

also, per rWAR, albert has had 1 10+ season and 3 others above 9 whereas mays has 3 each 10+ and 9-10

William
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

Very cool. Super. Certainly makes you appreciate Ron Santo and wonder why he isn’t in the Hall of Fame. And it looks like Graig Nettles has a case too.

Imbroglio21
Guest
Imbroglio21
5 years 3 months ago

I’m surprised to see the name of Ron Hansen on that list. I never would have expected it.

SF 55 for life
Member
SF 55 for life
5 years 3 months ago

Hall of Famers:

List one- Mays, Aaron, Clemente, Kaline, Robinson, Killebrew, Brooks Robinson, McCovey, Williams, Yastrzemski, Santo, Stargell, Torre, Allen

List 2- Morgan, Nettles, Smith, Carew, Jackson, Bench

20 in all

David
Guest
David
5 years 3 months ago

By the way, you’re old links at the top for the last two articles are broken. For some reason, they go to position-player-by-war instead of position-players-by-war in the URL. You might want to fix it.

Also, starting two posts ago (Liveball Era), I began thinking that, if there were to be an “automatic cutoff” for HOF induction, 68 fWAR would be a pretty good spot to do it – what I’m saying is not that no one below that threshold should get in, but rather just that, if a player reaches that level, it should be a no-questions-asked, virutally-unanimous induction. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

SF 55 for life
Member
SF 55 for life
5 years 3 months ago

I very much like the idea of a automatic induction level. However, I think 68 WAR is on the low side. Bobby Wallace is above 68 and he shouldn’t be in the hall. Willie Randolph has 69.7 and Darrell Evans has 67.8. Neither of them should be in. There are too many borderline guys that would be included on the list, I think you have to raise it to a level where only the truly GREAT players are being automatically inducted.

If we raise it to 70 there are still too many borderline guys including Graig Nettles, Zach Wheat, Dwight Evans and Lou Whitaker. Those players were very good but never had tremendous peaks as Joshua was saying. Even guys like Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, and Dave Winfield are borderline guys who would be automatically in the HOF if the cutoff was 70.

I think 75 is the perfect number. There is really only one person over 75 WAR that you can make case against their inclusion into the hall and that is Eddie Murray.

Scout Finch
Guest
Scout Finch
5 years 3 months ago

Joe Torre.

Had no idea. So I looked him up on baseball reference:

1971 !!! Yowzers! 1970 no slouch either.

How close did his Hall campaign come ?

Scout Finch
Guest
Scout Finch
5 years 3 months ago

Also noticed that Kansas City migrated further west of the Mississippi with expansion. Was this a function of the shifting center of population density ?

Al Dimond
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

Actually that dot just east of the river in the old map is the Cahokia ballclub. The team moved to KC due to Cahokia’s mysterious decline and eventual disappearance in the 14th century.

ofMontreal
Guest
ofMontreal
5 years 3 months ago

The red dot in map one is the Browns. They went to Balt and the red Phillie dot is the A’s.

JR Caines
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

Kansas City isn’t on the Mississippi, you are looking at the St. Louis NL and AL team. There was no KC team pre-expansion.

winojohn
Guest
winojohn
5 years 3 months ago

Not quite correct… The A’s were there for a few years.

JR Caines
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

Your correct, but not in 1950, as the map says.

Mike
Guest
Mike
5 years 3 months ago

Always funny to see a guy like Joe Morgan, who will forever be synonymous with anti-Sabremetric thinking due to a certain blog, be such an absolute force when measured in WAR.

RPS
Guest
RPS
5 years 3 months ago

The thing that jumped out at me was how well Joe Morgan aged. Pretty sick to do what he did from age 35 to 39, especially given that a major chunk of his value was defense.

shthar
Guest
shthar
5 years 3 months ago

No buddy ever said Joe wasn’t the best.

The trouble was he agreed.

Joe
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

Mark Belanger had a near 6 WAR season in a year where he OPSed .662. That’s amazing

buck turgidson
Guest
buck turgidson
5 years 3 months ago

Jim Fregosi. Sheesh!

fredsbank
Guest
fredsbank
5 years 3 months ago

Bill Mazeroski is in the Hall of Fame if i do recall…

jordan
Guest
jordan
5 years 3 months ago

yeah, he is

Jason
Guest
Jason
5 years 3 months ago

It was easier to amass huge war totals in the years following expansion becuase the talent pool gets thinned out and the “tails” of performance become more extreme. I think that is evidenced here.

jordan
Guest
jordan
5 years 3 months ago

baseball reference has Belanger down for 11.6 offensive WAR and 20.9 defensive WAR. That’s awesome.

winojohn
Guest
winojohn
5 years 3 months ago

He was awesome, as a defender! Easily the best fielding shortstop I ever saw. I’m suprised his oWAR is above zero.

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