The 1980s did not have much of an identity, serving more as a bridge between the 70’s and 90’s. Speed was the name of the game, but there were very few stars, especially among the pitchers. The left side of the field were the only strong points. This was also the last decade where closers were used in a more sabermetric-friendly fashion. Overall, there are eight Hall of Famers, while many of them never even sniffed induction.
C- Gary Carter
Carter used a balanced offensive approach and great defense behind the plate to the tune of nearly 45 WAR, easily earning the starting spot. Early in the decade, teams were attempting steals left and right, which made catchers more important. Carter threw out over 40% of baserunners, leading him to a +67 TZ the first four years and +73 for the decade. Lance Parrish and an aging Carlton Fisk were the only other catchers above 20 WAR.
1B- Eddie Murray
One of the most consistent performers in MLB history, Murray used good on-base skills, power, and defense to amass nearly 50 WAR for the decade. Keith Hernandez also had a great decade, finishing about five WAR behind Murray, lacking in power and having about 700 less PA.
2B- Lou Whitaker
Accumulating just over 40 WAR, Whitaker gets the second base start. With no strength in his game, he gets overlooked historically, but he had no weakness. It’s a shame he only got 2.9% of votes his first HOF ballot, even if he was a compiler. Willie Randolph’s high walk rate could not overcome his lack of power, leaving him about 5 WAR behind Whitaker. Ryne Sandberg could have contended for the position if he had not been in the minors the first 2 years of the decade.
3B- Wade Boggs
Here is where the quality begins. Boggs provided over 60 WAR, beating out Mike Schmidt by about 5 wins. George Brett also closed in on 50 WAR, but did not have the defense or exceptional offensive skill Boggs and Schmidt had. Boggs’ .443 OBP was 40 points higher than anyone else during the decade, plus he played great defense, something he is not remembered for. Paul Molitor also neared 40 WAR.
SS- Alan Trammell
In the closest battle among position players, Trammell sneaks by Cal Ripken Jr., with both right around 50 WAR. Another historic duo, Trammell and Whitaker had very similar skill sets. Ozzie Smith also amassed a +172 TZ to pull in with 45 WAR, despite being a bit below average offensively.
LF- Rickey Henderson
The best player of the decade, and not just by his own thoughts, Henderson ran past everyone to over 70 WAR. He was the other hitter besides Boggs with a .400 OBP and he stole 838 bases in the decade. He also had a +118 TZ, which was a stark contrast to the rest of his career. Tim Raines was essentially “Rickey Lite,” accumulating about 45 WAR with the same OBP and speed approach.
CF- Robin Yount
A dual qualifier at CF and SS, Yount gets the nod in centerfield due to the better competition at shortstop. His .305/.365/.485 slashline (136 wRC+), average defense, and great durability resulted in about 55 WAR.
RF- Dale Murphy
Primarily a centerfielder during the decade, Murphy played over 3700 innings in right field to nab the spot. Right around 45 WAR, Murphy used his walks and power to a 130 wRC+. Murphy also had over 6500 PA, the most of any player in the decade. Andre Dawson and Dwight Evans were very close in both total and style of production. Darryl Strawberry and Tony Gwynn started the decade in the minors, preventing them from passing Murphy.
SP- Dave Stieb, Nolan Ryan, Bert Blyleven, Fernando Valenzuela, Roger Clemens
By far the worst group so far, the rotation has a variety of approaches. Stieb outperformed his FIP by almost half a run, ending up under 45 WAR. Ryan was 33 at the beginning of the decade, but still managed about 40 WAR, striking out over 2000 batters. Blyleven overcame a couple replacement level seasons to about 40 WAR. Valenzuela sparked a craze in Los Angeles, spinning his way to over 35 WAR. The lone player from the 1990’s team, Clemens didn’t reach 1300 innings, while everyone else eclipsed 2000, but he still managed to put up 35 WAR to take the last spot. Dwight Gooden and Bret Saberhagen nearly managed a similar trick. Bob Welch put together a solid decade, but nothing was spectacular, leaving him off the list. Jack Morris and Steve Carlton also narrowly missed out.
RP- Dan Quisenberry, Lee Smith, Goose Gossage, Dave Righetti
The last multiple-inning closers, this group definitely supports the “poor” rotation. Quisenberry walked nor struck out anyone, pitching about 1000 innings in relief, accumulating just over 20 WAR. Smith was much more of a traditional closer, amassing about 20 WAR. Gossage used his 100 MPH fastball to produce just under 20 WAR. Righetti made 73 starts but also saved 188 games, ending up near 25 WAR. Dennis Eckersley began closing after over 200 starts in the decade, too many to consider him as a reliever. Jeff Reardon, Steve Bedrosian, and Jesse Orosco also eclipsed 15 WAR.
LF Rickey Henderson
3B Wade Boggs
CF Robin Yount
1B Eddie Murray
RF Dale Murphy
C Gary Carter
SS Alan Trammell
2B Lou Whitaker
P Dave Stieb
This is definitely the weakest lineup so far, and the rotation really stacks the odds against them.
Filed under: All-Decade Teams