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Cards' WAR Lords -- C and 1B

AA couple of days ago, Sky Kalkman over at BtB drew my attention to a project that philkid3 over at Lone Star Ball put together. They ranked the top 25 Rangers’ position players by WAR using Sean Smith’s historical WAR database. I was going to do the same for the Cards (post 1955 – no WAR has been collected prior to ’55, screwing Musial and Hornsby royally) and then noticed that Brew Crew Ball is doing this position by position so I thought I’d try that here as well. Today I’m going to start w/ the catchers and first basemen.

The first thing I noticed is that the Cardinals, while having had a couple of good catchers, have had a number of really bad ones as well. #1 is probably no surprise to most of you. I discussed him back in November as a borderline Hall of Famer. He’s easily the best Cardinal catcher of the last 55 years.

1. Ted Simmons

As a Cardinal, Simmons had 46.6 WAR. In his best 5 years w/ the team, he had 28.4 WAR – nearly 6 WAR per season. His best seasons were in ’78 and ’79 and he clearly wasn’t the player he had been by the time he was jettisoned to Milwaukee. Still, he ended up 3rd on the Brewers’ list as well.

2. Tim McCarver

As insufferable as this guy is as an announcer, it’s easy to forget how good he was as a player. As a Card, he had 18.6 WAR and 16.1 in his 5 year peak. His best season was 6.1 WAR in 1967.

3. Darrell Porter

Another former Brewer, Porter actually is the best Brewers’ catcher of all time. He was a solid offensive performer w/ the Cards as well and was the NLCS and World Series MVPs in 1982. His best season was in 1983 when he had 3.8 WAR. His 5 year total as a Cardinal was 11.8.

4. Tom Pagnozzi

I never thought Pags would finish in the top 5, much less above Yadi but he was a much better catcher than we thought he’d be when he first arrived. His 5 year peak was actually higher than his career WAR total – 9 to 7.3. He had some very bad years but the 3.1 WAR he produced in 1991 is better than any single season that Yadi has had.

5. Yadier Molina

Yadi’s still adding to his total, of course, but he’s posted just 5.6 WAR in his 4+ seasons in St. Louis. He had 1.9 in ’07 and 1.8 WAR last year. Depending on whether we’re comparing them by their total WAR as a Cardinal or by their best 5 years, Molina should push past Pags this season.

Catcher Total WAR 5 year peak
Simmons 46.6 28.4
McCarver 18.6 16.1
Porter 11.8 11.8
Pagnozzi 7.9 9.0
Molina 5.6 5.6

Now, on to the first basemen:

1. Albert Pujols

Duh! Do I really have to say anything here? He’s played 8 seasons in the big leagues and is already 39th on the all-time WAR list (remember, post 1955). In 8 seasons, Albert has produced 67.8 WAR and has produced 47 WAR in his best 5 seasons. Last year, by the way, was only his 2nd best season – right behind 2003 when he had a ridiculous 11.1 WAR In 2002, he only had 5.7 – slacker!

2. Keith Hernandez

This guy was a solid performer throughout his tenure as a Card, producing 35 WAR in those 7.5 seasons. His best 5 years produced 28.9 WAR – nearly 6 per season. His best seasons were in 1979 and 1980 – 7.6 and 7.3 WAR, respectively. Not only was he a strong offensive player, he was also a tremendous defensive 1B. Hernandez was, of course, the league MVP in 1979 and won 5 Gold Gloves as a Cardinal.

3. Stan Musial

Remember, Musial was an OF for most of his career but began playing 1B fairly regularly in 1955 before returning to the OF in 1960. For 5 years as a 1B, he produced 23.4 WAR. (These were his age 34-38 years.) It’s fortunate for our purposes here that we have a record of his WAR as a 1B. Certainly one of the best players of all time.

4. Bill White

Bet you were looking for someone else here, huh? White was a solid 1B for the Cards in the early to mid 60s. For 6 years as a 1B, he produced exactly the same number of WAR that Musial produced in his 5 years (23.4) and his peak 5 years produced 21.6 WAR. White finished 3rd in the MVP voting during the Cards’ championship run in 1964.

5. Mark McGwire

In terms of WAR calculations, McGwire is hurt badly by the number of DPs he grounded in to and his atrocious defense at first. Still, his offense was nothing if not tremendous. In his 5 seasons as a Card, he produced 19.7 WAR with a peak of 7.3 in 1998. Doesn’t it say something about the value of defense that Hernandez’s best 2 seasons were about equal to McGwire’s in St. Louis?

First Baseman Total WAR 5 year peak
Pujols 67.8 47.0
Hernandez 35.0 28.9
Musial 23.4 23.4
White 23.4 21.6
McGwire 19.7 19.7

Hope you enjoyed this little stroll down memory lane. Next weekend I’ll look at the middle infielders.

BTW, astute readers will notice that I ripped off my title from that at Brew Crew Ball. Sorry, guys, it was just too good to pass up.