Recently, I was looking at a list of the worst teams in history (’99 Spiders, ’62 Mets, ’16 A’s, etc). I agree that these teams were terrible, but they each had stars on their rosters. The Mets had Ashburn and Hodges, the A’s had Lajoie, and even the Spiders had Lave Cross.
So I took a look at each team’s top career WAR earner to see which team had the lowest. I narrowed the search to 1901-2007 and also took out the Federal League. As a side note, I understand that Career WAR is not the only factor in determining a player’s “superstar” level, but this is the term I decided to use.
Here are the Top 10 teams with the lowest career WAR leader.
The above list was originally peppered with teams from 2011/12, but I took them out since their players are still active. The lowest current team is the Royals, whose leader is Alex Gordon with 13.6 WAR. I’d bet good money that Hosmer, Moustakas, or even Wil Myers will end up with far more than 13.6.
Since the ’21 Braves are the only team to finish above .500, I decided to take a look only at the teams with more victories than losses…..
Save for the ’21 Braves, I was quite surprised that no other team has had their top player with less than 30 career WAR. You would think there would be another .500+ team over the course of a century.
The ’05 Athletics may climb off this list before it’s said and done, since they have a few active players with some good years left in them (most notably Dan Haren).
While I’m at it, I’ll take a look at each team’s average career WAR weighted on playing time (plate appearances and innings pitched). This should give us a good overall view a team’s “star power”, not just their top player. I also added each team’s attendance rank in their league.
|1||1954||PHA||2.6||51-103||8 / 8|
|2||1902||SLN||3.1||56-78||4 / 8|
|3||1943||PHA||3.4||49-105||6 / 8|
|4||1972||SDN||3.4||58-95||12 / 12|
|5||1910||BSN||3.8||53-100||8 / 8|
|6||1977||SEA||4.4||64-98||8 / 14|
|7||1973||SDN||4.5||60-102||12 / 12|
|8||1906||BRO||4.7||66-86||7 / 8|
|9||1971||SDN||4.8||61-100||12 / 12|
|10||1948||SLA||4.8||59-94||8 / 8|
The ’54 A’s were truly an awful team. They did have Gus Zernial and Vic Power (playing CF), but they also had a bunch of negative career WAR players. Their attendance also reflects their “star power”, finishing dead last in the AL. The 3,957 per game average was just 31% of the league average. To compare that to today, the Indians have the worst attendance at under 20,000, but it is still 65% of the league average.
We’ll give the ’43 Athletics a break because of The Second World War. The talent pool was severely limited.
Just off the list at 13, the 1964 Mets had an average career WAR of 5.3 and still finished second in the league in attendance. With a shiny new stadium, those New Yorkers sure were happy to once again have National League baseball!
Now let’s take a look at the highest average career WAR…..
|1||1933||NYA||45.8||91-59||1 / 8|
|2||1928||PHA||45.2||98-55||2 / 8|
|3||1932||NYA||44.8||107-47||1 / 8|
|4||1918||BOS||43.5||75-51||3 / 8|
|5||1927||PHA||43.5||91-63||4 / 8|
|6||1931||NYA||43.4||94-59||1 / 8|
|7||1904||BOS||42.7||95-59||1 / 8|
|8||1926||NYA||42.3||91-63||1 / 8|
|9||2005||NYA||42.1||95-67||1 / 14|
|10||1902||BOS||41.8||77-60||2 / 8|
It doesn’t hurt to have Babe Ruth on your team, seeing as how he played for half the teams on the list. The ’33 Yankees had 9 Hall of Famers, while the ’28 A’s had 7.
The 1927 Athletics finished just 4th in the league in attendance. I guess Ty Cobb, Zack Wheat, Eddie Collins, Al Simmons, Lefty Grove, and Mickey Cochrane weren’t enough to bring the fans to the park. In fact, their attendance dropped over 2k per game from the previous season.
The list is dominated by the Yankees, Red Sox, and Athletics. They actually took the top 19 spots. Other top teams were the mid-1920’s Senators, late 90’s Braves, and late 50’s Braves.
And finally, I’ll take a look at the lowest average career WAR of all the Pennant Winners……
|1||1944||SLA||10.0||89-65||6 / 8|
|2||1914||BSN||13.9||94-59||1 / 8|
|3||1990||CIN||15.9||91-71||4 / 12|
|4||1943||NYA||16.7||98-56||1 / 8|
|5||1993||PHI||16.7||97-65||4 / 14|
|6||1917||NY1||16.9||98-56||1 / 8|
|7||2002||ANA||17.2||99-63||7 / 14|
|8||1945||DET||17.9||88-65||1 / 8|
|9||1967||BOS||18.4||92-70||1 / 10|
|10||1987||SLN||18.5||95-67||1 / 12|
As you might imagine, the list was dominated by recent pennant winners, so I removed the teams with active players who have years ahead of them. As before, we’ll give the World War teams a break due to talent pool restrictions.
Some history buffs may have been able to peg the ’14 Braves to top this list. Their roster contained two Hall of Famers (Maranville and Evers), but their star pitchers either had career years in 1914 or flamed out due to injury.
This was a long post, so thanks for your patience.