All-Decade Teams: The 1950s

The 1950s were the beginning of baseball’s Golden Age.  Integration had finally occurred, while expansion was not yet here.  The level of talent was very high since only 16 teams had all these new players to choose.  One quirky thing about the 50’s was the lack of stolen bases.  No player stole 200 bases during the decade.  Every position player chosen is in the Hall of Fame, while four of the pitchers are also inducted.

C- Yogi Berra
A very easy choice, Berra produced a 129 wRC+ in almost 6000 PA, coming out to about 50 WAR for the decade.  Six World Series wins doesn’t hurt either.  Roy Campanella produced in a very similar fashion but in about a third less PA, leaving him about 20 WAR behind Berra.

1B- Stan Musial
Qualifying at both first and left field, Musial gets the nod at first base at just over 60 WAR.   He was an extra-base machine, nearly reaching 700 for the decade.  He also walked 2.5 times as much as he struck out, absolutely unheard of nowadays.  Gil Hodges had a very good decade, hitting over 300 HR and accumulating over 40 WAR.

2B- Jackie Robinson
Despite retiring after the 1956 season, Robinson managed 45 WAR to claim the starting spot.  Using Musial-like plate discipline and great defense, Robinson held off Nellie Fox and Gil McDougald.  Fox had nearly 7000 PA and his offensive value came from striking out only 2% of those, while McDougald had a bit more power.  Both played very good defense, compiling about 40 WAR.

3B- Eddie Mathews
Another clear cut choice, Mathews used his power and patience to amass over 55 WAR the last eight years of the decade.   His 299 HR led the charge to a 151 wRC+.  McDougald also qualified at third, while Al Rosen had a great pace going before having to retire at age 32.  He had about 35 WAR after that 1956 season.  Eddie Yost couldn’t play defense but walked almost 1200 times in the decade.

SS- Ernie Banks
Another late starter in the decade, Banks produced about 45 WAR starting in 1954.  Banks showed power never seen before out of a shortstop, with his .558 SLG% over 130 points higher than the next shortstop in the decade.  Behind Banks were Alvin Dark at 35 WAR and Pee Wee Reese and Johnny Logan just above 30 WAR.

LF- Ted Williams
Missing almost two full years for the Korean War and beginning the decade at age 31 can’t even stop Ted from making this team.  His .336/.476/.622 slashline (184 wRC+) over 4000 PA led him to 50 WAR.   Minnie Minoso also reached 50 WAR but had 50% more PA to do so.

CF- Mickey Mantle
Easily the best position of the decade, Mantle was the best player, earning the spot in center.  Using a 174 wRC+ in 5400 PA, he accumulated over 70 WAR, starting in 1951.  Willie Mays was the third best player and Duke Snider the fourth, both amassing around 60 WAR, though Mays missed most of  ’52 and ’53 due to the Korean War.  Richie Ashburn compiled nearly 50 WAR and Larry Doby just over 40 WAR to round out the great list.

RF- Hank Aaron
While not ranking well overall, two all-time greats led the charge in RF beginning deep in the decade.  Aaron managed 40 WAR in his first six seasons, spurred mostly by his 150 wRC+.  Al Kaline also started in 1954, using a very good bat and great defense to compile almost 35 WAR in the decade.

SP- Robin Roberts, Warren Spahn, Billy Pierce, Early Wynn, Bob Rush, Mike Garcia
One of the weaker rotations so far, Roberts leads the group, amassing about 60 WAR.  While he did allow plenty of home runs, he didn’t give many free passes, walking about 500 hitters in 3000 innings.  Spahn provided just shy of 60 WAR, despite starting the decade at age 29.  He was the only pitcher to win at least 200 games in the decade.  Pierce is the start of the dropoff, compiling only 45 WAR as the #3 starter.  He was one of the best strikeout pitchers of the time, striking out 15% of batters faced.  Wynn accumulated right around 40 WAR in his thirties, striking out more than average but walking almost 10% of batters.  Rush used an 85 FIP- over 2000 innings to total up around 35 WAR.  He is the only pitcher of the group with a losing record in the decade.  Garcia squeaks in around 30 WAR, showing better peripherals than his competitors, with his 84 FIP- being the best of any pitcher with at least 1500 IP.  Johnny Antonelli, Sal Maglie, Whitey Ford, and Bob Lemon are narrowly missed the cut.

RP- Hoyt Wilhelm, Ellis Kinder
Wilhelm amassed around 20 WAR out of the bullpen, despite not beginning his MLB career until 1952 at age 29.  Kinder finished his career strong, providing about 17 WAR before retiring in 1957.  With ERA- of 72 and 71 respectively, these two were only matched by Ford in the decade.  Marv Grissom was the only other pitcher to pick up 50 saves in the decade.

2B- Jackie Robinson
1B- Stan Musial
CF- Mickey Mantle
LF- Ted Williams
RF- Hank Aaron
3B- Eddie Mathews
SS- Ernie Banks
C- Yogi Berra
P- Robin Roberts

This is probably the best lineup of them all so far.

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