Hardball Retrospective – The “Original” 1939 New York Yankees

In “Hardball Retrospective: Evaluating Scouting and Development Outcomes for the Modern-Era Franchises”, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original team. Consequently, Giancarlo Stanton is listed on the Marlins roster for the duration of his career while the Mets declare Ken Singleton and the Expos / Nationals claim Tim Raines. I calculated revised standings for every season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s “original” players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition.  Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the “original” teams are compared against the “actual” team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills.

Expanding on my research for the book, the following series of articles will reveal the finest single-season rosters for every Major League organization based on overall rankings in OWAR and OWS along with the general managers and scouting directors that constructed the teams. “Hardball Retrospective” is available in digital format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, GooglePlay, iTunes and KoboBooks. The paperback edition is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and CreateSpace. Supplemental Statistics, Charts and Graphs along with a discussion forum are offered at TuataraSoftware.com.

Don Daglow (Intellivision World Series Major League Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball, Tony LaRussa Baseball) contributed the foreword for Hardball Retrospective. The foreword and preview of my book are accessible here.

Terminology

OWAR – Wins Above Replacement for players on “original” teams

OWS – Win Shares for players on “original” teams

OPW% – Pythagorean Won-Loss record for the “original” teams

Assessment

The 1939 New York Yankees          OWAR: 60.8     OWS: 345     OPW%: .607

Based on the revised standings the “Original” 1939 Yankees registered 94 victories and outlasted the Indians to secure the pennant by a 7-game margin. New York paced the American League in OWS and OWAR. GM Ed Barrow acquired all of the ballplayers on the 1939 Yankees roster.

“Joltin’” Joe DiMaggio claimed his first batting title and the 1939 American League MVP Award. “The Yankee Clipper” produced a .381 BA with 30 four-baggers, 126 ribbies and 108 runs scored. Red Rolfe (.329/14/80) topped the leader boards with 213 safeties, 139 aces and 46 two-base knocks. Fellow third-sacker Billy Werber registered 115 runs scored and drilled 35 doubles. Bill Dickey belted 24 round-trippers and tallied 105 RBI along with a .302 BA. George “Twinkletoes” Selkirk (.306/21/101) posted career-bests in homers, runs scored (103) and bases on balls (103). Joe Gordon smashed 28 long balls and drove in 111 baserunners during his sophomore season. Charlie “King Kong” Keller supplied a .334 BA in his inaugural campaign.

Lou Gehrig is listed as the top ballplayer in the All-Time First Baseman rankings according to Bill James in “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.” Teammates listed in the “NBJHBA” top 100 rankings include DiMaggio (5th-CF), Dickey (7th-C), Gordon (16th-2B), Keller (17th-LF), Tony Lazzeri (19th-2B), Dixie Walker (30th-RF), Rolfe (44th-3B), Ben Chapman (55th-CF), Frankie Crosetti (67th-SS), Lefty Gomez (67th-P), Werber (78th-3B) and Lyn Lary (80th-SS).

LINEUP POS WAR WS
Red Rolfe 3B 6.59 29.64
Joe Gordon 2B 7.1 24.83
Joe DiMaggio CF 8.71 34.04
Bill Dickey C 5.82 27.2
George Selkirk LF 5.58 25.02
Charlie Keller RF 5.49 21.47
George McQuinn 1B 3.11 18.15
Frankie Crosetti SS 1.58 16.52
BENCH POS WAR WS
Billy Werber 3B 5.15 25.15
Pinky May 3B 2.51 12.54
Buddy Hassett 1B 1.91 13.83
Ben Chapman CF 1.23 18.88
Willard Hershberger C 1.09 6.93
Dixie Walker LF 0.99 10.84
Tony Lazzeri 2B 0.7 3.94
Joe Glenn C 0.6 5.05
Buddy Rosar C 0.35 3.4
Ernie Koy LF 0.31 13.53
Les Powers 1B 0.09 1.67
Arndt Jorgens C 0.01 0.02
Chris Hartje C 0 0.23
Joe Gallagher RF -0.01 5.64
Len Gabrielson 1B -0.06 0.07
Lyn Lary SS -0.08 2.55
Leo Durocher SS -0.29 10.99
Lou Gehrig 1B -0.4 0.08
Don Heffner SS -0.77 4.2
Myril Hoag RF -1.23 6.73

Lefty Gomez (12-8, 3.41) earned his seventh All-Star nomination. Atley Donald furnished a 13-3 mark with a 3.71 ERA. Marius Russo contributed an 8-3 record with a 2.41 ERA and a 1.095 WHIP in his freshman year.

ROTATION POS WAR WS
Lefty Gomez SP 3.34 14.06
Marius Russo SP 3.16 11.54
Johnny Allen SP 1.69 9.48
Atley Donald SP 1.54 10.46
BULLPEN POS WAR WS
Vito Tamulis SP 1.21 8.9
Hank Johnson RP 0.48 2.88
Spud Chandler RP 0.32 2.32
Jim Tobin SP 0.26 6.64
Marv Breuer RP -0.06 0
Johnny Murphy RP -0.07 6.51
Russ Van Atta SP -0.4 0
Johnny Niggeling SP -0.8 0.1
Johnny Broaca RP -1.07 1.26

 

The “Original” 1939 New York Yankees roster

NAME POS WAR WS General Manager Scouting Director
Joe DiMaggio CF 8.71 34.04 Ed Barrow
Joe Gordon 2B 7.1 24.83 Ed Barrow
Red Rolfe 3B 6.59 29.64 Ed Barrow
Bill Dickey C 5.82 27.2 Ed Barrow
George Selkirk LF 5.58 25.02 Ed Barrow
Charlie Keller RF 5.49 21.47 Ed Barrow
Billy Werber 3B 5.15 25.15 Ed Barrow
Lefty Gomez SP 3.34 14.06 Ed Barrow
Marius Russo SP 3.16 11.54 Ed Barrow
George McQuinn 1B 3.11 18.15 Ed Barrow
Pinky May 3B 2.51 12.54 Ed Barrow
Buddy Hassett 1B 1.91 13.83 Ed Barrow
Johnny Allen SP 1.69 9.48 Ed Barrow
Frankie Crosetti SS 1.58 16.52 Ed Barrow
Atley Donald SP 1.54 10.46 Ed Barrow
Ben Chapman CF 1.23 18.88 Ed Barrow
Vito Tamulis SP 1.21 8.9 Ed Barrow
Willard Hershberger C 1.09 6.93 Ed Barrow
Dixie Walker LF 0.99 10.84 Ed Barrow
Tony Lazzeri 2B 0.7 3.94 Ed Barrow
Joe Glenn C 0.6 5.05 Ed Barrow
Hank Johnson RP 0.48 2.88 Ed Barrow
Buddy Rosar C 0.35 3.4 Ed Barrow
Spud Chandler RP 0.32 2.32 Ed Barrow
Ernie Koy LF 0.31 13.53 Ed Barrow
Jim Tobin SP 0.26 6.64 Ed Barrow
Les Powers 1B 0.09 1.67 Ed Barrow
Arndt Jorgens C 0.01 0.02 Ed Barrow
Chris Hartje C 0 0.23 Ed Barrow
Joe Gallagher RF -0.01 5.64 Ed Barrow
Len Gabrielson 1B -0.06 0.07 Ed Barrow
Marv Breuer RP -0.06 0 Ed Barrow
Johnny Murphy RP -0.07 6.51 Ed Barrow
Lyn Lary SS -0.08 2.55 Ed Barrow
Leo Durocher SS -0.29 10.99 Ed Barrow
Lou Gehrig 1B -0.4 0.08 Ed Barrow
Russ Van Atta SP -0.4 0 Ed Barrow
Don Heffner SS -0.77 4.2 Ed Barrow
Johnny Niggeling SP -0.8 0.1 Ed Barrow
Johnny Broaca RP -1.07 1.26 Ed Barrow
Myril Hoag RF -1.23 6.73 Ed Barrow

 

Honorable Mention

The “Original” 1932 Yankees            OWAR: 52.6     OWS: 336     OPW%: .588

The Philadelphia Athletics ended the season in a virtual tie with the Bronx Bombers. The A’s edged the Yankees by a few percentage points to take the pennant while New York led the Junior Circuit in OWAR and OWS. Lou Gehrig pummeled opposition hurlers, belting 42 doubles and 34 round-trippers. “The Iron Horse” registered 138 tallies, 208 base knocks and 151 ribbies along with a .349 BA. Lefty O’Doul (.368/21/90) collected his second batting title and topped the 200-hit mark for the third time in four campaigns. Tony “Poosh ‘Em Up” Lazzeri supplied a .300 BA with 15 dingers and 113 RBI. Earle Combs aka “The Kentucky Colonel” scored 143 runs and posted a .321 BA as the Yankees’ primary leadoff hitter. Ben Chapman rapped 41 doubles, swiped a League-leading 38 bases and topped the century mark in runs scored (101) and RBI (107).  Bill Dickey (.310/15/84) and Kiddo Davis (.309/5/57) bolstered the prolific lineup. Lefty Gomez (24-7, 4.21) anchored the starting rotation and finished fifth in the 1932 A.L. MVP balloting in spite of his high ERA and walk totals. Johnny Allen fashioned a 17-4 record with a 3.70 ERA in his rookie year.

On Deck

The “Original” 1906 Cubs

References and Resources

Baseball America – Executive Database

Baseball-Reference

James, Bill. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York, NY.: The Free Press, 2001. Print.

James, Bill, with Jim Henzler. Win Shares. Morton Grove, Ill.: STATS, 2002. Print.

Retrosheet – Transactions Database

Seamheads – Baseball Gauge

Sean Lahman Baseball Archive



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Derek Bain is a New Jersey native with a passion for baseball, statistics, computers and video games. He has written a number of articles for Fangraphs and Seamheads, and enjoys spending quality time with his family.

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Tom
Guest
Tom

When ever I hear this argument for the 1939 Yankees as one of the greatest or even the greatest team of all time I just ask that person to answer this: who does he prefer at 1B, Babe Dahlgren or Lou Gehrig? The 1937 and 1936 Yankees both surpass the 1939 edition with the 1927 team still the #1 overall. Just my thoughts though.
Tom

Derek Bain
Guest
Derek Bain

Tom, Babe Dahlgren is not a member of the “Original” Yankees. By definition he signed his first MLB contract with Boston.

The “Original” Yankees totals from 1936-1939 are as follows.

OWAR OWS
1936 55.536 305.509
1937 57.614 339.863
1938 50.287 310.104
1939 60.803 345.561

1937 certainly ranks a close second to the 1939 squad based on those results. However I usually grant a five-year berth in either direction for my “Honorable Mention” selections in order to yield some significant differences in the rosters.

Gary Growe
Guest

So, if we substitute Gehrig for McQuinn, don’t we still have essentially the same question (i.e. 1939 over 1937?)

Derek Bain
Guest
Derek Bain

Gary, both rosters feature an incredible amount of talent and the end results are close enough that we could claim either team as the top Yankees squad of all-time. I looked at the 1937 roster vs. 1939 and it basically comes down to quantity. The ’39 Yankees have a 10-player advantage over the ’37 club, and those contributions (however small) tip the balance in favor of the 1939 Yankees. I am including the 1937 “Original” Yankees roster below, for the sake of comparison.

NAME POS WAR WS
————————————-
Joe DiMaggio CF 9.14 38
Lou Gehrig 1B 8.22 35.24
Bill Dickey C 6.78 32.94
Lefty Gomez SP 9.43 28.88
Lyn Lary SS 2.36 22.08
Johnny Allen SP 6.22 21.29
Dixie Walker RF 1.75 20.6
Red Rolfe 3B 2.08 19.15
Ben Chapman RF 3.02 18.91
Frank Crosetti SS 1.74 15.68
George Selkirk RF 3.08 14.07
Billy Werber 3B 1.74 13.39
Tony Lazzeri 2B 0.4 12.8
Buddy Hassett 1B 1.47 10.98
Johnny Murphy RP 0.82 9.59
Myril Hoag RF 0.44 9.54
Jim Tobin SP 1.64 9.32
Ivy Andrews SW 1.7 8.29
Spud Chandler SP 2.02 7.7
Jesse Hill CF -0.14 6.89
Leo Durocher SS -3.63 6
Kiddo Davis CF 0.31 4.99
Kemp Wicker SP 0.12 4.86
Don Heffner 2B -0.75 3.14
Russ Van Atta SP 0.43 2.93
Frank Makosky RP -0.65 2.86
Joe Glenn C 0.45 2.47
Johnny Broaca SP 0.02 1.53
Arndt Jorgens C -0.23 0.35
Jack Saltzgaver 1B -0.06 0.07
Don Brennan RP -0.95 0.04