LAD second base has a fine history, Part One
As the 2017 LAD search for their second baseman, I thought it would be a good time to look at the LAD historical second baseman.
I first did this using the Bill James Win Share formula over at TBLA in January of 2009. Things have changed quite a bit since that day. Ever since Peter Palmer came up with Linear Weights more advanced models have done a good enough job that we feel fairly confident in how a player’s offensive production is measured. Same can’t be said with defensive stats, but everyone uses them from Win Shares to b_War to f_War.
When you are trying to figure out which players have produced the most value, which stat of the day do you use? Use the stat you trust in, which is either of wRC+/OPS+, or incorporate WAR?
For example, Jeff Kent had the second highest OPS+ for a LAD 2nd baseman in 2005 with a 133 mark. Davey Lopes had the 16th highest OPS+ with a 104 mark 1975. Yet if you add in all the components that make up b_WAR that 1975 season by Davey Lopes checks in as the best bWAR season (5.3) for a LAD second baseman. One of the key components that got Davey Lopes to the top was because he stole 77 bases while being caught only 12 times that year.
I think the only way to do this is to show all of the possible iterations, so I’m going to show OPS+, b_WAR, and w_RC+, F_WAR when I can. It is easier to use OPS+ and bWAR because http://www.baseball-reference allows me to easily incorporate these numbers into my spreadsheets. Fangraphs which is responsible for w_RC+ and f_WAR are not as easy.
It was kind of fun to look back at the values of WinShares and see how they look compared to the newer WAR stats. For example, both b_WAR and f_WAR show Davey Lopes with his 1975 season as his best year with 5.3 and 5.1 WAR respectively. The old Bill James Win Shares rates his 1979 and 1978 seasons higher. I was kind of disappointed that Win Shares went the way of the horse and buggy only because I had spent considerable time manually adding every Win Share for every Dodger from the Bill James annual handbooks to my Dodger spreadsheets.
So let’s start with OPS+, just looking at the best offensive seasons for a season and for a career.
Top Ten Best OPS+ Season:
The LAD have had several ROY winners who played second base but none of those seasons made it to the top ten list. First was Jim Lefebvre in 1965, Ted Sizemore in 1968, and Steve Sax in 1982. Frenchy made the list by virtue of his excellent 1966 season. Steve Sax made the top of the list with his brilliant 1986 season. Ted Sizemore was never much of a hitter and his greatest value to the Dodgers came when they traded him for Dick Allen who was later traded for Tommy John.
Should be noted that Jeff Kent only played four seasons for the Dodgers, but he managed to crack the top ten best OPS+ seasons three times in those four years.
You know who you won’t find here. Delino DeShields.
Jeff Kent owns the OPS+ tables but as we dig deeper into the WAR stats you will see why he would probably be hard pressed to be considered the best LAD second baseman.
Junior Gilliam played a lot of 2nd base before coming to Los Angeles. While a LAD, Junior only played full-time second in 1962 and 1963 and thus did not meet the cumulative requirement of at least 65% of his games coming at 2nd base.
I like that Delino DeShields holds up this list. Jody Reed is also near the bottom. They deserve each other.