The Best Historical Line-Ups by Batting Side (LHH vs RHH vs BHH)
An interesting question was posed to me the other day,
“What is the best line-up that can be made up of only right/left-handed or switch hitters?”
It was an interesting thing for me to consider, and before I get into my findings, I want to thank Baseball Reference’s Leaderboards and Jay Jaffe’s JAWS metric enough, as the organization of this data helped make this exercise much easier to run through.
So, let’s get into it:
Notable Left-Handed Hitters Left Out:
Stan Musial (124.8 Career oWAR, #7 Overall oWAR Ranking); Tris Speaker (124.2, #8); Joe Morgan (104.4, #17); Met Ott (103.7, #18)
Notable Right-Handed Hitters Left Out:
Rickey Henderson (105.2 Career oWAR, #16 Overall oWAR Ranking); Nap Lajoie (98.3, #19); Derek Jeter (96.3; #20); Mike Schmidt (91.8, #23); Cap Anson (91.6; #24); Johnny Bench (65.8; #78)
Notable Switch Hitters Left Out:
Tim Raines (69.3 Career oWAR, #58 Overall oWAR Ranking); Eddie Murray (62.2, #90)
I took an analytic approach to this question, by looking at the best LINEUP (not the best all-around team by batting-side), so I ignored bWAR and instead opted for only oWAR, to get the best offensive team I could order.
This means that players whose value is highly boosted due to their defensive prowess (Ozzie Smith for example) lacked a fair amount. Especially in the case of Ozzie Smith, he probably would’ve made the switch-hitting team, as he still accumulated 76.9 bWAR while playing in a much different era (1978-96) than the shortstop who made in team George Davis (1890-1909).
I then wanted the best players per year, so my line-up would be the best it could be with notable players around diamond. I didn’t want to grab players who had careers of less than 10 years, to make sure of this, but in the case of Mike Trout, it was a very reasonable exemption.
Trout’s oWAR/year so far in his career is 0.69 better than Babe Ruth! (And 1.00 or more higher than every other player on these lists.) Like I said, the exception had to be made.
This system did favor players who had shorter but dominant careers, while disadvantaging some above players like Rickey Henderson, who played from 1979-2003 (!), thus dropping his- and similar players with lots of longevity- oWAR/year to a level that was easily passed (in this case by Frank Robinson) who contributed more offensive value per year he was playing. I like to think that this was a good way to remove other borderline players, who were able to play for a long time but lacked superstar prowess during their careers.
Now that being said, I would prefer Henderson on my team (as well as some other changes: Berra for Dickey, Bench for Piazza) because of line-up construction, but this is the best analytic line-up of a single-handed hitter you could have.
I did find it surprising to see so many Yankees players make these teams, given that I was trying to run this with as little bias as possible.
Within the Left-Handed Team, seeing Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig should be of little surprise, as would seeing a Yankees catcher. However, seeing Bill Dickey represented may be a surprise, as he was able to edge out Yogi Berra for the positive given his superior oWAR/year (3.17 to 2.98).
Within the Right-Handed Team, only one Yankee made the team in Alex Rodriguez, which again should be expected. Most of the famous Yankees hitters have been left-handed because they have been able to take advantage of the favor towards them playing a majority of their games within Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and other left-handed favoring ballparks.
Like many metrics (amount of players in the Hall of Fame as an example), the Yankees history shows prominently, ranking as the highest or among the highest teams in baseball. Yet again, these analytically created teams show the greatest of Yankee offensive players throughout history.
Who knows? Maybe some of the current names wearing pinstripes (Gleyber Torres or Gary Sanchez) may be able to crack these lists.
What do you think of the rosters I was able to create on an offensive-only basis?
Are there be any major tweaks that I should’ve made?
Does the number of Yankees represented surprise you?