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Mr. Slate
2003-06-10 08:36
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Slate has had some great stuff with Moneyball and Bill James over the past week. Rob Neyer and James Surowiecki, an extremely lucid writer from The New Yorker, have been the key participants. Really worth reading if you haven't already.

1. The Book Club - Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (Check out all three days of entries.)

2. A Conversation with Bill James

The All-Time Los Angeles Dodger Team


Quick - I told myself - without doing any research, name your all-time Big Blue Wrecking Crew.

Then - I told myself - I can't do it. I need to look this stuff up. Catcher - Piazza, easy. First base - Garvey, easy. Second base - hmm, probably Lopes. Shortstop - Wills was overrated, but who could take his place? Third base - Cey. Outfield? Lots to choose from. Starting rotation? After Koufax, could be anyone. Bullpen - after the past 15 months, can anyone top Gagne?

The reason for this mental ping-pong? ESPN.com has excerpted bigtime from
Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups
to offer us all-time teams for all 30 major-league franchises.

Aside from testing the all-time marketing question of whether giving you a free taste of the book will make you go out and buy the entire publication, this gives us a fodder-filled point for Dodger discussion.

This particular list picks a lineup for the Los Angeles Dodgers only, although my understanding is that the book also includes a list for Brooklyn. For reference, here is the all-time Dodger lineup, year-by-year, so you can see who the candidates were.

Neyer's picks:

C-Mike Piazza
1B-Steve Garvey
2B-Davey Lopes
SS-Maury Wills
3B-Ron Cey
LF-Gary Sheffield
CF-Willie Davis
RF-Raul Mondesi
SP-Sandy Koufax
SP-Don Sutton
SP-Don Drysdale
SP-Orel Hershiser
RP-Jim Brewer

I'm not gonna disagree too much with this list, because Neyer's a smart guy who's done a lot of work on this. But here are my alternative picks:

CF-Brett Butler

Sacrilege? Butler played 703 games in center field for the Dodgers, while Willie Davis played 1,901. But for most his tenure with the Dodgers, Butler was a stunningly effective player. Even adjusted for era, Butler comes out ahead. Davis' top EQA was .301; Butler topped that twice. (An average EQA is .260.) Butler's four top seasons, coming all in a row, are better than any four seasons you pick from Davis' career. If Gary Sheffield can be the left fielder over Dusty Baker (and he should be, I was surprised to find - Sheffield's EQAs with the Dodgers were .343, .316, .348 and .339), then I can pick Butler over Davis.

RF-Reggie Smith

Another tough call. As a right-fielder with the Dodgers, Smith posted EQA marks of .297, .338, .328, .293 and .318. Working against him is that he rarely played an entire season: his game totals for those years were 65 (after his midseason acquisition from St. Louis), 148, 128, 68 and 92. Mondesi has lower EQAs: ..287, .290, .287, .305, .277, 280 but after the 1994 labor crisis season, never played fewer than 139 games. So I can certainly understand the case for Mondesi, but he can come off the bench on the all-time team.

That's it. I can't find a good argument against anyone else on the team. And although it's hard to imagine Eric Gagne won't be the all-time Los Angeles relief pitcher someday, I have to say I had never before really focused on the long-term excellence Jim Brewer brought to the team.

Just one more thing...

DH-Pedro Guerrero

Problem? Uh, yeah. The Dodgers don't use a designated hitter. I don't even like the designated hitter. But when it comes to perhaps the greatest offensive force in Los Angeles Dodger history, I have to make a mention. I just don't know where to put him.

Offensively, Guerrero had the following EQAs with the Dodgers, starting in 1980: .306, .295, .323, .320, .298. .350, .283 (in 31 games), .332, .304. The guy simply mashed the ball. Guerrero ranks fourth all-time in OPS+ with the Dodgers at 149, behind Sheffield, Piazza and Smith. But Guerrero had 1,000 more plate appearances with the Dodgers than Piazza did, and 2,000 more than Sheffield and Smith. I think the difference between them is minor, but if I were ranking all-time Los Angeles Dodger hitters, I would probably go 1) Piazza, 2) Guerrero, 3) Sheffield, 4) Smith.

Defensively with the Dodgers, Guerrero played 373 games at third base, 239 games in right field, 199 games in left field, 108 games in center field, 104 games at first base, 12 games at second base, and was not very good at any of them. Which is why he's not on the official team.

I'm almost tempted to stick Guerrero in center ahead of Butler and Davis just to have him in there, but that seems more egregious than putting him in the position he was frankly born to play. We'll just wait for a game in an AL park to play him.

As for Neyer's question - who would be the all-time best Los Angeles pitcher if Buttercup had not been traded away, I've got to say, I have to vote for Pedro Martinez. His statistics adjusted for the current era make you think he would have surpassed Koufax or anyone else in a Dodger uniform.

At the time I voted in ESPN.com's poll, the votes were 87.1 percent in Koufax' favor.

Finally, here's my all-time Dodger batting order:

Wills, SS
Butler, CF
Sheffield, LF
Smith, RF
Piazza, C
Garvey, 1B
Cey, 3B
Lopes, 2B
Koufax, P

With Mondesi, Davis, Guerrero, Mike Scioscia, Steve Sax, Bill Russell and Manny Mota on my bench, and Gagne, Ron Perranoski, Charlie Hough and Steve Howe filling out my bullpen.

That's a fun lineup.

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