Balanced vs IM-Balanced Teams
Dr. D's pals assure him of 30 dingers standin' still

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Along with the usual shtick, POTD's and "Last Night In Seattle Mariners World," we like to mix in some pure baseball.  Saber stuff, F-500, Sports Is Life and what-have-you.  Back in April 2012 James had an interesting question and reply.  BJOL, $3 per month:

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Which is the most balanced championship team in the history of major league baseball?
Asked by: Ben from New York

Answered: 1/31/2012
I believe that the best answer is the 1930-1931 St. Louis Cardinals, who won the pennant both years and the World Series in 1931.   In 1930, of course, you had huge, huge numbers all around the league; Hack Wilson set the RBI record, Bill Terry hit .400 with 254 hits and power, Babe Herman hit .393 with 35 homers/130 RBI, Chuck Klein drove in 170 runs, Kiki Cuyler had what would ordinarily be MVP numbers, as did a lot of other players--Mel Ott, Lefty O'Doul, etc. 
 

The Cardinals did not have any of those players with the mega hitting numbers, but every regular hit .300 and four of the five bench players hit .366, .374, .396 and .321.   They didn't have a pitcher who won more than 15 games, while there were a couple of 20-game winners in the league, but they had five good starting pitchers (15-9, 13-8, 13-6, 12-10, 12-8) and four pretty decent guys in the bullpen who also made spot starts in double headers.   The 1931 team almost the same; it is a very deep collection of pretty good players, but no legitimate superstars.  

 
Other candidates:  the 1960 and 1976 Pittsburgh Pirates, both managed by Danny Murtaugh (I guess the '76 team didn't win, but they were a good team), the 1990 Cincinnati Reds (the Nasty Boys, Lou Piniella), the 1989 Oakland A's (the Bash Brothers), the 1907 Cubs, 1977 Dodgers, 1980-1981 Houston Astros, 1972 Pirates, 1963 Yankees, and the 1987 San Francisco Giants.    The Minnesota Twins teams of 2002-2003 were good teams and were extremely balanced.  
 
 
Good teams that were very IM-balanced include the 2001 Giants (Bonds, Aurelia and Kent covering half of an offense and a nearly non-existant starting rotation), the 1908 Pirates (Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke, Tommy Leach and three or four good pitchers dragging along a bunch of .220 hitters), the 1912 Red Sox (Joe Wood and Tris Speaker pulling the weight for some pretty mediocre players), and the 1921 Yankees (thin pitching, no center fielder, a couple of so-so infielders.)    The 1956 Yankees also won with Mantle, Berra, and two or three pitchers.  

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If you don't have anything else to read, and y'probly don't, it's amusing to back and flip the b-ref almanac.  Here is the 1930 Cardinals page to start:  They had a 98 offense and 116 pitching staff but no hitter below the mid-80's. I mean none of their top 13 hitters failed to chip in.  They did have HOF'ers Frankie Frisch and Chick Hafey on that team.  Pitching-wise they had four #3 starters plus spitballer Burleigh Grimes who slimed his way to a 169 ERA+ that year.  Would have been an entertaining team to watch, for sure.

James gave a good answer but Dr. Detecto wouldn't be at all afraid to nominate the 2001 Mariners as the most balanced good ballclub in history.

(1)  They led the league in Runs Scored, playing in a pitchers' park.  Not to mention hits (Ichiro 242, Boone 206, Olerud 173, Cameron and Edgar 144) ... they led the league in Stolen Bases, and were #2 in triples, so they were very fast.  They were #1 in OBP.  They were in the top 3-4 in absolutely everything -- RBI, SF's, you name it.  They simply had the league's best offense, 5 excellent bats and 4 average bats.

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(2) They led the league in defense -- that is, DER (percentage of batted balls turned into outs) by a huge margin.

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(3) They led the league in ERA and ERA+, with 4 starters going 115-204 (Garcia, Moyer, Sele, Piniero) and then Paul Abbott went 17-4, 4.25 as the weak link.

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(4) Of course the bullpen was a Nasty Boys brigade, with Sasaki-Rhodes-Nelson all way high on the K/IP leaderboard and then even Norm Charlton and Jose Paniagua as spare parts.

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(5) For all that, their highest-paid player was Aaron Sele on a 2x$7M deal, almost an afterthought in ST the year before.  They had 8 All-Stars not including Dan Wilson, Al Martin, Moyer and Sele, which gave them 12-13 players making $3+ to $7M.  Really spreading the dollars around.

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(6) For all that, history's most balanced team got blown out of the postseason with ease.  It would be interesting to see how many of James' 17 nominees won the World Series (in shorter postseason tourneys).  It looks kind of like he riffled back through his memory thinking of champions?  He's got the Bash Brothers, the 1990 Reds and so forth.

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2018 OAKLAND A'S

Said all that to say this.  A few weeks ago I looked at their b-ref card and couldn't believe how balanced they were.  Here you had a 97-win team using an opener in the Wild Card game against a 100-win team.

The A's offense is stuffed to the gills with 115 OPS+ players - Olson and Lowrie and Chapman (136) and Pinder and Canha and Piscotty and Khris Davis (136) and a bench pitching in nicely also.  The 4 benchies with the most AB's nabbed an aggregate 100 OPS+ between them.

The A's pitching staff had 5 starters with ERA+s from 103 to 116.  Their bullpen was better than their rotation.

Anyway, that has stuck with me since, a team whose highest-paid player makes $10.5M (Davis) and #2 player Lucroy makes $6.5M --  and essentially they had 20 above-average players.  LOL.

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2019 SEATTLE MARINERS

You could do this with any team.  But I think it's interesting here because for once, we've got no-names and it's easy to imagine a lot of them playing well.  I'm cherrypicking the best whole, intact statline from either 2017 or 2018 here and ignoring the bullpen for the moment:

Player Slash OPS+ Year
Mallex Smith .300/.370/.400 (40 SB) 115
Mitch Haniger .285/.365/.495 139
Jay Bruce .255/.325/.510 (36 HR, 101 RBI) 115 2017
Edwin Encarnacion .260/.380/.505 (32 HR, 107 RBI) 128 2017, but HR & RBI are 2018
Domingo Santana .280/.370/.505  (30 HR, 85 RBI) 126 2017
Ryon Healy .305/.335/.525 132 2016 lol
Omar Narvaez .275/.365/.430 120
Tim Beckham .255/.310/.450 115 combining 2017-18
Dee Gordon .310/.340/.375 95 2017

The big question at a glance is, to what extent will Bruce and Santana bounce back in the middle of the order.  The other guys were not over their heads and Edwin Encarnacion's latest 30-100 season was last season.

You guys are calling Santana for a full bounceback so I guess the biggest Q is Dan Vogelbach's performance once Bruce slows down.

Again, you could make a lot of teams look good this way but I think the vast majority of Denizens will recognize that in this particular case, Dipoto has scrounged the lineup rather well.

Player W-L, ERA ERA+ Year
Kikuchi 130 Estimated
Gonzales 13-9, 4.00 102
Sheffield 120 Estimated
Leake 10-13, 3.92 109 2017; probably won't do that well
LeBlanc 9-5, 3.72 109 May need Justin Dunn up here

If anybody gets interested in checking those James nominees for championships I'd be interested to see.

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2-and-0 !

James has been writing about the possibility that the Sox are the champions ... of all time.  LOL.  So I guess we'd be doing great with a 2/4 split there, and a 4-2 record coming out.

Against Oakland's 97-win staff, we fans were left much more encouraged than discouraged, about the possibility of a balanced attack in 2019.  After all, they did get 14 runs in 2 games against a good staff and a killer bullpen.  The M's had 5 players rake it and 3 players fake it:

  • Beckham 5-for-7 and even a homer with a double.  2 walks vs 0 K, too
  • Dee Gordon 3-for-10 with an easy SB
  • Ryon Healy 3-for-9 with TWO doubles AND a HR (in 2 games)
  • Maniger 2-for-8 with a HR and a double
  • Domingo 2-for-10 but with a grand slam, a double and 5 RBI

Three guys, nada in the first two games:

  • Jay Bruce 1-for-9
  • Edwin Encarnacion 0-for-6 but was on base 5 times, 4 walks and a HBP so .455 OBP
  • Narvaez 0-9

BABVA,

Jeff

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Comments

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So good to have you back in the saddle, doc.

My only tiny quibble would be the "good staff" thing. I actually think Oakland is in some serious trouble starting pitching wise.

But otherwise, I certainly agree with the thrust of the piece regarding both the 2001 mariners and the 2018 athletics vs. 2019 mariners (more similar than people think, aside from the bullpen)

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also reminded me of early 2000 M's so I wondered if their bullpen carried them similarly.  Consistent I'd say, but when the league MVP and #3 vote getters are powering the offense it's hard to call that balance.  Rhodes, Sasaki, Nelson, Charlton and Hasegawa with Franklin swinging was a huge strength.  Myers, Charlton, Dibble and (who else was actually nasty?) only have rings over them in my opinion. The most consistent, balanced and odd rotation might be the 2003 squad featuring 4 200 IP and an 186.1 inning 5th starter.  Of course there's no championship so they are out of the discussion while being the best team in the one year the entire world rooted the Yankees on.  It almost feels petty just pointing it out. 

Also that Dizzy Dean had a cup-a-524ERA+, 20 ERA- for those 1930 Cardinals.  The 2 most dominant years of Mariano were 32 ERA-.  Sure it's only 9 innings and only affected 1 game.  Yeah, it was a cuppa-complete-game facing 6 over the minimum without a DP, giving up 1 run.   He also got a Hit and scored a Run.  This was the final game of the season, which they came into with a 2 game lead on the Cubs.  He also got demoted to Houston for all of '31 and didn't pitch in the postseason until '34 because of clubhouse and personal issues:

https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/40bc224d

I'm thinking I'd rather go for consistency than balance but maybe I'm splitting hairs.  Maybe that's what Ben from New York meant in the first place.

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