All Decade Team: The 1960’s

The 1960’s were the decade of the outfielder, with seven of the top nine position players overall being outfielders.  The middle infield was quite weak, however.  The starting rotation is pretty thin, with only two great pitchers, but with the lack of relievers, seven starting pitchers will be selected with only two relievers.  As the last full decade without free agency, 11 of the 17 players played with only one team during the span.  Eleven Hall of Famers comprise this list.

C- Joe Torre
In a very weak class, Torre had a good decade, compiling a .293/.357/.460 slashline (129 wRC+) and not quite 40 WAR.  The only other catchers around 25 WAR were a young Bill Freehan, an old Elston Howard, and Tom Haller.

1B- Harmon Killebrew
Leading the majors with nearly 400 HR for the decade, Killebrew accumulated over 50 WAR with his massive power and high walk total.  Norm Cash and Willie McCovey both used similar approaches, falling just shy of 50 WAR.

2B- Pete Rose
The weakest position player yet, Rose sneaks in right around 30 WAR.  He did not begin his career until ’63, so his rate of production was pretty good.  The only player close to Rose was Dick McAuliffe, who was primarily a shortstop but played enough second base to qualify.

3B- Ron Santo
In a very close race, Santo just gets the nod over Brooks Robinson for third base.  With both guys just above 55 WAR, Santo benefits from the 200 fewer PA and his lower dependence on defense.  Robinson had a +180 TZ to Santo’s +29, but Santo’s 131 wRC+ trumped Robinson’s 114 figure.  Eddie Mathews ended his career with 45 WAR during the decade.

SS- Jim Fregosi
Amassing about 40 WAR, Fregosi also got a late start, not playing full-time for the Angels until ’63.  He did not excel in any specific skill, but was above-average in all.  Luis Aparicio and Maury Wills used speed and defense approaches to about 35 WAR.

LF- Frank Robinson
Primarily a right fielder, Robinson played just over 300o innings in left, qualifying him for the position.  The “weak” spot of the outfield, Robinson totaled over 65 WAR with his great plate discipline and power, as only one of two players with a .400 OBP for the decade.  Carl Yastrzemski began his career with a solid 55 WAR for the decade, the only other left fielder surpassing 40 WAR.

CF- Willie Mays
This should not be a shock to anyone, with Mays providing about 85 WAR over the decade, almost entirely in his 30’s.  +113 defense and a 160 wRC+ will get you on this list any time.  Mickey Mantle ended his career with about 50 WAR in 4500 PA, the other hitter with an OBP over .400.

RF- Hank Aaron
Another no-brainer, Aaron played at a consistent high level just below Mays, using a 162 wRC+ to the tune of 80 WAR.  While the competition wasn’t close, it was still very good.  Roberto Clemente produced about 60 WAR with his free-swinging approach and great defense.  Al Kaline also had a great decade, accumulating 50 WAR with great discipline and power, along with great defense.

SP- Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Sandy Koufax, Jim Bunning, Don Drysdale, Larry Jackson, Jim Maloney
Not nearly as strong as the 70’s, this rotation starts strong with Gibson.  Everyone knows about his 1.12 ERA, 12 WAR 1968 season, but 1969 was also impressive, posting 11 WAR.  This decade encompasses Marichal’s best years, also compiling nearly 60 WAR.  While he did not have the double-digit WAR seasons like Gibson, Marichal had four with at least eight WAR.  Koufax fell just short of 50 WAR in essentially six seasons before having to retire with elbow problems.  His ’63-’66 stretch is possibly the best in history, averaging 9.5 WAR per season.  Bunning was 28 when the decade started, so by ’68 he hit a wall, but he had three straight 8 WAR seasons prior to then.  Drysdale led the decade in HBP, living up to his reputation.  He also accumulated about 45 WAR, consistently making 40 starts a season until retiring in ’69.  Jackson did not strike out many, but he also didn’t walk many and kept the ball in the park, giving him a consistent decade around 40 WAR.  Maloney had a few really good seasons for the Reds, barely getting to 30 WAR for the decade.  Dean Chance and Sam McDowell just missed the final spot, finishing just under 30 WAR.

RP- Hoyt Wilhelm, Ron Perranoski
Relief aces were not yet common in the 60’s, with Wilhelm as the only one who would have made it for any decade.  Starting the decade at 37 years of age, Wilhelm took his unusual career path to new heights, lasting through the decade and beyond, riding his knuckleball to about 20 WAR.  Perranoski makes it with his 2.55 ERA over 950 IP.  Lindy McDaniel, Stu Miller, and Dick Radatz all just miss the cut.

CF  Willie Mays
LF  Frank Robinson
RF  Hank Aaron
1B  Harmon Killebrew
3B  Ron Santo
C  Joe Torre
SS  Jim Fregosi
2B  Pete Rose
P  Bob Gibson

I had to get creative to avoid putting an inferior bat high in the lineup.  It’s tough to compete with the power shown here.

5 Responses

  1. One interesting thing about Marichal was that the defense behind him wasn’t very good. His runs were 18% higher than his earned runs, versus 12.8% for Gibson and 13% for Koufax. His teammate Gaylord Perry also had the same 18%. I have never seen any analysis that has taken this factor into account. Undoubtedly Marichal’s great numbers would look even greater; truly, he was underrated to a greater extent than some of us had realized.

    • Actually, the Rally WAR system, which is mostly what I used for pitchers in these posts, does have such a metric. It estimates the runs saved/cost by the defense using TotalZone, the standard defensive system used pre-2002. Gibson was the only pitcher with great defensive support, a +38 rating in the decade. The other 3 were within a few runs of average.

  2. Thanks for your response. Can you direct me to where there is a discussion of what Rally WAR is, that is, the components and weights for each of them and why? Also, are there any studies that looked at the validation of this system and where can I find them? Thanks.

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