The ‘Aughts’ at a Glance: 2000-2009 Superlatives

Even since Dark Overlord Dave Appelman updated the FanGraphs leaderboards to allow multi-year analyses, I’ve been meaning to do something fun with them.  The feature lends itself well to answering questions with a large scope, like: who’s been the best first baseman over the last five seasons? What team has had the best bullpen over the last three seasons? What’s the highest single-season strikeout rate any starting pitcher has had over the last ten years? The possibilities are nearly endless.

While this feature obviously has analytical purposes, I feel it has a larger, much more important use: trivia! As pointless as inane baseball statistics can be, what baseball fan doesn’t love their trivia? It’s something we all grew up with, as you can’t escape digesting large amount of pointless facts if you watch or listen to baseball, and I’ve found that even the most ardent statheads love a bit of mindless fun every now and then. Numbers don’t always have to mean something; sometimes, it’s enough for them to merely provide a chuckle or a shake of the head.

So let’s use this amazing multi-year leaderboard to take a look back through time. What sort of fun superlatives will we find if we flip open the yearbook to The Aughts (2000-2009)?

Team Superlatives

Best Position Players (Offense and Defense): The Cardinals, 272 WAR

Surprise! I bet you were expecting this to be the Yankees or Red Sox, right? I certainly was, and it’s true that both those teams absolutely destroy the league when you look solely at offense. The Yankees had a .351 wOBA as a team over that decade – yes, that is as impressive as it sounds – and the Red Sox had a .348 wOBA, while the next closest team was the Rangers with a .340 wOBA. The Yankees were horrible at defense for the majority of the decade, though, posting the worst defensive ratings in the majors by a wide margin (for the record, both UZR and DRS agree on this). The Yankees theoretrically lost around 50 wins during the Aughts as a result of poor defense, while the Red Sox (who ranked within the worst third of teams defensively) only cost themselves about 10 wins.

EDIT: I meant no disrespect to the Cardinals by glossing over them here. See my little write-up on them in the comments below.

Best Pitching Staff: The Red Sox, 248.7 WAR

As with any discussion of pitching value, this verdict is up for debate. The Red Sox didn’t have the best team ERA, FIP, or xFIP – in fact, they ranked ninth best in ERA and second best in FIP. However, the Dodgers were the team that had the best ERA and FIP, and their pitchers obviously don’t have to worry about allowing homeruns as much as Red Sox pitchers. However you look at it, though, the Sox had some of the best overall pitchers during the Aughts.

Worst Overall Team: The Nationals, 212.7 WAR

This actually took a bit of spreedsheet work, so the above link won’t take you to the results. But yes, the Nationals – apparently their offense, defense, and pitching combined didn’t provide as much value as the Red Sox’s pitching staff alone. Or, for that matter, the Indians’ position players (225.6 WAR). This surprises me somewhat, as the Nationals actually had a few decent seasons in there. They cracked .500 not once, not twice, but three times over the course of the Aughts, which is three times more than the Pirates can say (who just barely sneaked ahead of the Nats with 217.2 total WAR).

If we break down suckiness by area, the Royals had the worst overall position players (103 WAR), while the Padres had an awful pitching staff (87 WAR, only one of two teams to drop into the double digits). Yet despite having such a bad staff, the Padres were actually dead smack in the middle of the league in Runs Allowed (16th overall). It helps to have a good home ballpark, huh?

Most Patient Team: The Yankees, 9.8% walk rate

Finally, an area where the Yankees were best! I’m sorry to all the Yankee fans out there that had to wait this long to read it. I know it must have been tough.

Most Hack-tastic Team: The Brewers, 22.3% strikeout rate

Strikeouts aren’t any necessarily much worse than any other type of out, but they do make it tough for you to hit for a high batting average. The Brewers had the worst batting average in the majors during the Aughts (.255), which meant that despite their middle-of-the-road patience (15th best) and above-average power (10th best), their overall offense still rated as 8th worst in the majors (.324 wOBA). If you’re going to strike out that much, you need to be able to walk a ton to make up for it in your OBP.

Best Bullpen: The Twins, 55.1 WAR

Thank you Joe Nathan, as his 15.1 WAR catapulted the Twins into first place. But at the same time, the Twins had a large collection of great bullpen arms during the Aughts: Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, Juan Rincon, Johan Santana (remember that?), J.C. Romero….the list goes on. The Twins had the seventh best starting pitching staff during the Aughts, and they almost always had a dominant bullpen to finish the game.

Worst Bullpen: The (Devil) Rays, 11.2 WAR

If not for the Rays having an improved bullpen in 2008 and 2009, the Rays would have come darn close to ending up in the negatives here. Seth McClung, Dewon Brazelton, Jesus Colome, Chad Orvella, Jae Kuk Ryu, Jae Seo Wong – I mean, doesn’t this list inspire confidence? Casey Fossum was the 19th best relief pitcher the Rays had during the Aughts and compared to many of the others on the list, he was an attractive option. Oh, and who was the worst reliever on the team with the worst bullpen? That’d be “proven closer” Troy Percival, at -1.1 WAR.

Does any of this mean anything? No, not necessarily. But this information sure is fun to peruse, and it’s just one of the many things you can do with the multi-year function of the Leaderboards.




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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.

25 Responses to “The ‘Aughts’ at a Glance: 2000-2009 Superlatives”

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  1. Will says:

    It’s kind of funny that although the Cards had the most position player WAR for the decade, the author spends the entire blurb talking about the Yankees and the Red Sox.

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    • RC says:

      Not particualarly, when the Card’s high position player WAR can be summed up entirely in one player’s name : “Pujols”

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    • Whoops…yeah, sorry about that, Cards fans. I just found that defensive stat so overwhelming, I had to share it. Let me whip something together for you:

      “I find it ironic that I glossed over talking about the Cardinals, as they’re probably one of the most underrated or overlooked clubs from the Aughts. This is a team that averaged 96 wins for each of the first six seasons of the decade, making it to the playoffs seven times over the entire decade. They made it to the World Series twice in three years, which is an impressive feat for any team to do, and even during their down years in 2007 and 2008, they still fielded a competitive team. Having Albert Pujols on your team certainly helps (73.3 WAR), but they struck a nice balance between offense and defense and used it to keep on winning.”

      I’m rather amazed at how good the Cards were without drawing huge discussions of “DYNASTY!” or anything of that nature. One of the quieter runs of dominance, although maybe that’s because I was distracted by making fun of David Eckstein.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Thanks Steve. The 1980s (3 WS) were probably just as equally quiet due to the style of play (defense, speed, groundball pitching).

        The cards 3 best players were Rolen, Emdonds, and Pujols … guys who excel at the plate and bat. Where they had less offense, they did so with a focus on defense. Yadi and SS.

        The Cardinals rarely seem to have “bat only” guys, and I think Chris Duncan was the only one to really fit that description … and that was for a short time.

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      • Sandy Kazmir says:

        That read like a eulogy. They were a good team…

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  2. CircleChange11 says:

    Surprise! I bet you were expecting this to be the Yankees or Red Sox, right?

    I would have guessed Philly.

    Not surprised it the cardinals though.

    When you bring up those years, most fans have only heard about the “lucky” 2006 team that only had “86 wins” (or whatever it was). Perceptions become reality. Had the cardinals won the 2004 WS and made it to the 2005 WS, they would be in the “Team of the Decade” discussion with BOS, NYY, PHL. They didn’t, and the only one to win the WS was the “lucky” (i.e., finally healthy before the playoffs started) 2006 team.

    Looking at the difference between the best.worst offenses … it’s 60 WAR, or basically Pujols (65 WAR). One player has been the difference between the best/worst offense. His agent should be writing this down.

    I never appreciated Walt Jocketty enough when he was with StL. Interestingly enough, he may be the GM for the team that accumulates the most offense WAR for the next decade (2010-2019).

    Strange that your paragraph about the best team positional player WAR was all about BOS and NYY.

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    • Ian says:

      ‘Twas 83.

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    • Tom B says:

      An article on Hardball times today shows just how lucky that Cardinals team was.

      One of the worst combined ERA+/OPS+ in the history of world series winners.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Lost their #2 pitcher (Mulder) for the season.
        MVP injured for a month (Pujols).
        SS (Eckstein) injured for a month.
        Lost closer (Izzy) for the remainder of the year.
        Lost CF (Edmonds) for 6 weeks.
        Rolen injured on and off, including during start of playoffs.

        I concede they were lucky to be in the NLC. But as far as being a good team (when healthy), they won ~300 games from 04-06.

        What you’re telling me is that a great team, that experiences a lot of injuries, will have reduced seasonal stats, but still be potent in the playoffs. Isn’t that what I’ve been saying?

        The 2006 team was not “bad”. They were hurt.

        Check the Mets during the year they were predicted division champs, and then lost 7 starters. They were not a “bad” team, they were hurt. We all know the difference, right?

        The “luck” part was winning the division with 83 (thanks) wins. They had no business making the playoffs. But, once in they were as talented as anyone (more talented actually, and more experienced).

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      • shthar says:

        at least until the giants showed up…

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  3. don says:

    Poor Jeff Ridgeway, 2007. Season line:

    10 batters faced. 7 hits including a HR, one walk, one hit by pitch, one out recorded. ERA 189.00.

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  4. Dan says:

    Does anybody know how accurate those leader lists are? I clicked on the link for the best first basemen at the beginning of the article and Joey Votto notably hasn’t played first base over the last 5 years.

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  5. Anthony says:

    Personally I think the Cards are the team of the decade. I always handicap the filthy rich teams, IMO the Yanks and Sox winning isn’t impressive and really, they should have won more. The Phillies are fresh in everyone’s mind coz of their recent success but they weren’t that good earlier in the decade.

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  6. spliffbowl says:

    “They cracked .500 not once, not twice, but three times over the course of the Aughts, which is three times more than the Pirates can say.”

    The Pirates never cracked .500 in the decade, so how can 3 be 3 times as much as 0? 3 more times, yes, but not 3 times as much.
    Otherwise, awesome article, one of my recent favorites from the site.

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    • Los says:

      He said 3 times more not 3 times as much. 3 more times removes the confusion but 3 times more is just grammatically incorrect while still being factually correct.

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  7. David says:

    @spliffbowl

    “Three times more” meaning “three more times,” not “three times as many.”

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  8. Dave says:

    Remember that talk about a Pujols-Howard swap a few years back? I recognize it wasn’t seen as a straight-up trade (but a financial thing), but still. Pujols TWICE the WAR as Howard in merely 5 years (with the gap surely to widen)? Amazing.

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  9. Kredyt says:

    Thanks for another wonderful article. Where else could anybody get that type of information in such an ideal way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such information.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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