The list of Yankees who have had superstar Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 8.0 or higher in season (note that Aaron Judge had 7.9 in 2017):
- 2012 Robinson Cano 8.4
- 2010 Robinson Cano 8.1
- 2007 Alex Rodriguez 9.4
- 2005 Alex Rodriguez 9.4
- 1999 Derek Jeter 8.0
- 1985 Rickey Henderson 9.9
- 1976 Graig Nettles 8.0
- 1972 Bobby Murcer 8.2
- 1961 Mickey Mantle 10.4
- 1958 Mickey Mantle 8.7
- 1957 Mickey Mantle 11.3
- 1956 Mickey Mantle 11.2
- 1955 Mickey Mantle 9.5
- 1945 Snuffy Stirnweiss 8.8
- 1944 Snuffy Stirnweiss 8.6
- 1941 Joe DiMaggio 9.4
- 1939 Joe DiMaggio 8.4
- 1937 Lou Gehrig 8.3, Joe DiMaggio 8.4
- 1936 Lou Gehrig 9.7
- 1935 Lou Gehrig 8.7
- 1934 Lou Gehrig 10.2
- 1932 Lou Gehrig 8.2, Babe Ruth 8.5
- 1931 Lou Gehrig 8.8, Babe Ruth 10.5
- 1930 Lou Gehrig 9.6, Babe Ruth 10.5
- 1929 Babe Ruth 8.0
- 1928 Lou Gehrig 9.4, Babe Ruth 10.2
- 1927 Lou Gehrig 11.8, Babe Ruth 12.5
- 1926 Babe Ruth 11.4
- 1924 Babe Ruth 11.7
- 1923 Babe Ruth 14.1
- 1921 Babe Ruth 12.6
- 1920 Babe Ruth 11.7
The above is overall WAR as computed by Baseball-Reference.com. Overall WAR combines Offensive WAR and Defensive WAR. There are two leading WAR algorithms — the one by Baseball-Reference.com, and one by FanGraphs.
WAR is the best of the modern advanced analytics — it does what fans always did verbally — such-and-such player’s offensive numbers have to be viewed compared to the position he plays, and the defense he plays at that position has to be added into his overall value.
Graig Nettles = Hall of Famer
So for example, people gig Graig Nettles for his career .248 batting average when considering him for the Hall of Fame, disregarding the dead-ball 1970’s era that he played in, and his phenomenal defense at that position, and the fact that he STILL holds the American League record for home runs by a 3rd baseman (and the fact he and George Brett were the best two 3rd basemen in the American League throughout the 70’s). WAR takes that all into account — and Nettles 8.0 WAR in his MVP year 1976 pops out.
Where Are the Catchers?
As Sean Shilinsky noted on Twitter, “Bill Dickey is the most underrated Yankee ever, you could actually make a solid case that he is a better catcher then Yogi Berra.” Which brings to mind: Where are the Catchers?? Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey‘s single season high for WAR was 6.7 in 1937; Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra‘s single-season high for WAR was 6.2 in 1956. This despite him winning 3 MVP’s in the 1950’s. Thurman Munson had an all-time high of 7.2 in his MVP 1976 season. WAR is supposed to be position neutral. Is there a hole in the algorithm that prejudices against catchers?
We asked Sean Forman, founder and CEO of Baseball-Reference.com, and he said: “Maybe but it’s because they play fewer innings than non catchers.”
Other Things that Pop Out
Bobby Murcer. As Ted Williams said of Murcer in 1972, he had the best chance of being the next player to win the Triple Crown, because Murcer was dueling for batting titles and home run titles in an era of the dead ball. Murcer’s 33 homers in 1972 would have led the league the year before (1971, Bill Melton led with 31) or after (1973, Reggie Jackson led with 32) but Murcer unfortunately finished 2nd to Dick Allen (36) in 1972. And Murcer just missed the batting title in 1971 (he batted .331 to Tony Oliva‘s .337). If Murcer gets those two titles and if Baltimore doesn’t win its last 9 in a row (and go 16-2 down stretch) in 1974, and Yanks go deep in those playoffs — Murcer gets remembered differently?
Derek Jeter only had one year of an 8.0 WAR but Snuffy Stirnweiss had two?? The reason was Stirnweiss had his best two seasons during the War, and was facing essentially minor league pitchers. As we pointed out in an article on Yanks to lead league in Total Bases, Stirnweiss was a reserve who became a starter because of the war, and once the war ended he went back to being a reserve. And he met with a horrible early death in a train crash.
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig
Clearly Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig jump out with their MASSIVE WAR’s. “Gehrig and Ruth a class onto themselves”, notes John Snyder. “Truly. I remember Shohei Ohtani being compared to Ruth. Talk about an unfair comparison.”
What About the “Say Hey Kid” & Other Superstars?
“How ’bout the Say Hey kid or Hank Aaron? Or perhaps Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire?”, asks John Morra.
Sammy Sosa had a career high 10.1 WAR in 2001, and had a WAR of 6.5 in 1998, his big home run year. Mark McGwire‘s career high WAR was in his record setting home run year of 1998 — he had a 7.5.
Hank Aaron had 6 years of WAR’s in the 8’s and 2 years with WAR’s over 9.0, including a career best 9.5 in 1961.
Willie Mays was amazing also:
- 2 times had WAR’s over 11.0,
- 6 times had WAR’s in the 10’s,
- 2 times had WAR’s in the 9’s
- and 2 times had WAR’s in the 8’s
- Grand total of 12 years of WAR’s over 8.
Was he that much better than Mantle or was is that the National League didn’t have as many good outfielders in the 1950’s as the American?
And finally we have steroid Barry Bonds. With and without steroids, Bonds had:
- 2 years of WAR over 11.0 — a career high of 11.9 in 2001 and an 11.7 in 2002,
- 1 year of a WAR over 10.0 — the 10.6 he laid down in 2004
- 4 years of WAR over 9.0
- 2 years of WAR over 8.0
- Grand total of 9 years of WARs over 8.0
Importantly, Bonds had a 9.7, a 9.0 a 9.9, and two 8.0’s in years BEFORE he apparently started taking steroids at age 36.
The photo at top of this article is courtesy https://twitter.com/Jamesyankee. Follow James Michael (@JamesYankee) for terrific old-time Yankee photos.
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