Recently, I sat down with Billy Ballas to participate in the WAR exercise over at his blog, Box Seat Banter. The Apple Podcasts link is below, but you can listen on a number of other platforms as well.
We rapped casually about White Sox managers, Comiskey Park vs. new Sox Park, Chicago vs. New York pizza, ESPN forgetting about the 2005 champs, and much more. But the crux of the program is a dive into the last 25 years of White Sox players, and devising a sort of all-time roster.
The years covered are 1995-2019, and the guideline is picking the best WAR roster (five starters, seven relievers, 13 players including a backup catcher) without repeating a player or season.
That led to many dilemmas, given somewhat identical great seasons from the likes of Mark Buehrle, Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordoñez and others. The exercise also presents a challenge for losing seasons, namely the later 2010s, where there simply weren’t many strong options such weak teams.
Believe it or not (or, believe it, I’m the diehard White Sox fan, after all), I produced a stronger WAR roster than Billy. Key choices I made were finding room for James McCann’s terrific 2019 season on the roster (a dismal Tyler Flowers season was Billy’s guy) and getting Javier Vazquez (6.2 bWAR in 2007) in the starting rotation.
Ironically, as I pointed out to Billy on the podcast, his roster was kinder to the 2005 champions, as he found space for Paul Konerko, Bobby Jenks, Jermaine Dye and Mark Buehrle. I was heartless and ruthless, placing none of the three on mine.
Billy’s roster, with four lefties in the rotation, is available at his site. Below is my club.
c: James McCann (2019) 3.7 (over Yoán Moncada’s 4.8 and Lucas Giolito’s 5.7)
1b: Frank Thomas (1997) 7.3 (“only” -1.2 dWAR, so he gets the nod in the field over José Abreu)
2b: Ray Durham (2001) 4.3 (over Buehrle’s 6.0, I had no room on the roster for Mark!)
ss: Alexei Ramírez (2010) 5.6
3b: Joe Crede (2006) 4.8
lf: Albert Belle (1998) 7.1
cf: Aaron Rowand (2004) 5.7
rf/cf: Adam Eaton (2016) 6.6
dh: José Abreu (2014) 5.8 (plus a minus-2.0 dWAR, so technically if DHing he’s a 6.8 oWAR)
3b: Robin Ventura (1995) 4.7
ss: José Valentín (2000) 4.9
rf: Magglio Ordoñez (2002) 5.2 (his 2003 at 5.6 is better, but Esteban Loaiza was too good!)
c: A.J. Pierzynski (2012) 3.3
RHSP: Esteban Loaiza (2003) 7.2
LHSP: Chris Sale (2013) 6.5
LHSP: John Danks (2008) 6.4
RHSP: Alex Fernandez (1996) 6.4
RHSP: Javier Vazquez (2007) 6.2
RHRP: Jesse Crain (2011) 2.3
RHRP: Matt Alberts (2015) 1.4
RHRP: Cliff Politte (2005) 2.7 (very tough call in the World Series year, such a well-rounded team, honorable mention to A.J. and Tadahito Iguchi)
RHRP: Joakim Soria (2018) 1.1
RHRP: David Robertson (2017) 1.1 (chose over Anthony Swarczak’s 1.9 from 2017 because his wife later got into beef with the wives of Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito, so hell with him)
LHRP: Matt Thornton (2009) 2.8
CL: Keith Foulke (1999) 4.5
Total bWAR: 117.6
26th man (if there was one): 2b-3b-ss: Yolmer Sánchez (2017) 3.2
Yes, you read that correctly. The nature of the exercise led to Fat Alberts and a partial Joakim Soria season on my roster, but no Jim Thome, Jenks, Buehrle, etc. ...
This was a fun exercise for a stats nerd like me. In fact, I doubt my roster represents the highest possible WAR total out there — I sort of cobbled it together quickly and had some late research breaks get me the “win” over Billy — so feel free to play this game yourself and report your roster in the comments.