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Thursday, January 5, 2017

The All-Willie Team

Last year I posted a blog comprising the "All-Dave team", the best historical roster I could make with 25 guys named Dave or David. That team was phenomenal, with a very balanced roster of hitting and pitching. I decided this time to challenge myself a little more, and make the all Willie team. I could have added Will's, or William's, or Bill's, but I wanted to try and make the roster with just Willies. I almost succeeded, I needed a little help at the catcher position but otherwise, without further ado, let's meet the All-Willie team!

Note: This is not just the 25 best players named Willie. In the interest of actual roster construction, I selected two catchers, a utility player, five starters, and a bullpen. There were some players left off the roster who are better than some players on it, but this is the best roster I could construct.

C: William Fischer (1913-1917, 7.0 WAR)

1B: Willie McCovey (1959-1980, 6 time AS, 1959 ROY, 1969 MVP, 64.4 WAR, 1986 HOF Inductee)

2B: Willie Randolph (1975-1992, 6 time AS, 1 SS Award, 65.5 WAR)

SS: Willie Bloomquist (2002-2015, 1.8 WAR)

3B: Willie Kamm (1923-1935, 35.2 WAR)

LF: "Wee" Willie Keeler (1892-1910, 54 WAR, 1939 HOF Inductee)

CF: Willie Mays (1951-1973, 20 time AS, 1954 ROY, 2 time MVP, 12 GG, 156.2 WAR, 1979 HOF Inductee)

RF: Willie Davis (1960-1979, 2 time AS, 3 GG, 60.5 WAR)

DH: Willie Stargell (1962-1982, 7 time AS, 1979 MVP, 57.5 WAR, 1988 HOF Inductee)

Batting line-up:

1. (L) Willie Keeler - LF                (.341/.388/.415, 3 hr, 62 rbi, 38 SB) 127 OPS+
2. (R) Willie Randolph - 2B           (.276/.373/.351, 4 hr, 51 rbi, 20 SB) 104 OPS+
3. (R) Willie Mays - CF                 (.302/.384/.557, 36 hr, 103 rbi, 18 SB) 156 OPS+
4. (L) Willie McCovey - 1B            (.270/.374/.515, 33 hr, 97 rbi) 147 OPS+
5. (L) Willie Stargell - DH              (.282/.360/.529, 33 hr, 106 rbi) 147 OPS+
6. (L) Willie Davis - RF                  (.279/.311/.412, 12 hr, 70 rbi, 27 SB) 106 OPS+
7. (R) Willie Kamm - 3B                (.281/.372/.484, 3 hr, 79 rbi) 97 OPS+
8. (L) William Fischer - C               (.274/.332/.374, 4 hr, 45 rbi) 110 OPS+
9. (R) Willie Bloomquist - SS         (.269/.316/.342, 3 hr, 35 rbi, 20 SB) 78 OPS+

This is a very interesting line-up. 3-4-5 is flat out dominant. With 33 all-star games, 4 MVP awards, and 1656 home runs between the three Hall of Famers, good luck to any pitchers having to face the heart of this order. HOFer Wee Willie Keeler and his .388 career OBP lead things off, followed by Willie Randolph, who brings a .373 OBP to the table setter spot. These two get on base with the best of them, and their speed combined with the power bats that follow should lead to lots and lots of runs. However, the line-up loses some of its luster in the bottom half. Willie Davis was a fine outfielder whose WAR is boosted heavily by his defensive numbers in CF, but he will shift to right for this line-up, bringing his somewhat pedestrian .279/.311/.412 line and a 106 OPS+. Willie Kamm could get on base, but had limited power and speed. And William Fischer and Willie Bloomquist round out the order. There is only one catcher in history named William (our backup is named Willard) who had a positive WAR. Fischer played five seasons, amassed a 7.0 WAR, and was slightly above average with the stick. We will take it. Bloomquist takes the SS position because the only other player to spend any time at SS named Willie was a player in the 50's named Willy Miranda, who played 9 seasons and over 1000 games at SS, but had a negative career WAR and a fantastically bad 55 OPS+. Bloomquist would make a phenomenal utility infielder for this team, but is forced into a starting role by virtue of his SS experience, despite his pedestrian hitting numbers and his -2.3 dWAR. However, the top half of this order should supply enough offense to carry the load for this squad, even if the bottom half leaves something to be desired.


Willard Hershberger (C, 100 OPS+, 2.0 WAR)
Willie Upshaw (1B/LF, 103 OPS+, 13 WAR)
Willie Harris (OF/2B, 79 OPS+, 3.4 WAR)
Willie Jones (3B, 101 OPS+, 25.1 WAR)
Willie Horton (LF/DH, 120 OPS+, 26.4 WAR)
Willie McGee (CF, 100 OPS+, 34 WAR)
Willie Wilson (CF, 94 OPS+, 46 WAR)

There are a lot, I mean a lot, of good outfielders named Willie. They also almost all played in the same era (50's-80's). The outfield is historically where more African-American players have played, and the majority of the hitters on this team are from that era, and are African-American. It's an interesting concept, and it gives this team some depth in the grass, with power hitting slugger Willie Horton (325 home runs) and two speedy CFers in Willie McGee and Willie Wilson. Six OF may seem excessive, but Horton is certainly more of a DH type, and McGee or Wilson can both function in more of a PR capacity. Willie Upshaw had a short career but hit well when he did play, and he will serve as the third 1B/DH player on this squad, behind McCovey and Stargell. Willie Jones almost cracked the starting line-up but narrowly lost out to Willie Kamm. Jones has more power, and could be inserted into the line-up and they wouldn't miss a beat. Willard Hershberger is the only player on this team whose first name doesn't end in E or Y, but he is necessary to include as a backup catcher. The last roster spot was a toss up between Willie Greene and Willie Harris, but ultimately I went with Harris because he has more experience in the MIF. He didn't play much at SS in his career, so any rest for Bloomquist could compromise the defense. Willie Montanez and Willie Aikens were both fine outfielders in their career, but miss out on this roster because of the depth we already have in the outfield.

Just missed the cut: Willie Montanez, Willie Aikens, Willie Crawford, Willie Greene, Willy Miranda


SP: Willie Mitchell (1909-1919, 83-92, 2.88 ERA, 17.5 WAR, 104 ERA+)

SP: Willie Sudhoff (1897-1906, 102-135, 3.60 ERA, 14.4 WAR, 91 ERA+)

SP: Willie McGill (1890-1896, 71-73, 4.57 ERA, 10.5 WAR, 100 ERA+)

SP: Wily Peralta (2012-Now, 42-48, 4.18 ERA, 3.3 WAR, 94 ERA+)

SP: Willie Blair (1990-2001, 60-86, 5.04 ERA, 3.4 WAR, 88 ERA+)

It's interesting to me that the 60's and 70's were filled with good hitting ballplayers named Willie, but that finding a pitcher named Willie was damn near impossible. This rotation is pretty darn awful, and the three pitchers atop the rotation were all out of baseball around the first World War. Mitchell, Sudhoff and McGill are all interchangeable as average dead ball era arms, nothing to write home about. Peralta had a 17 win, 3.53 ERA season in 2014, but has only earned 12 wins and a 4.80 ERA since then. At age 27, he's running out of time to turn it around. Rounding out the rotation is Willie Blair, who managed to stick around in the big leagues for 12 seasons despite pretty awful numbers. He was a swingman who made 139 starts in his career, pitching to a 5.34 ERA as a starter. He went 16-8 with a 4.17 ERA in 1997 with Detroit, but was decidedly below average otherwise.


RP: Willie Hernandez (1977-1989, 119 ERA+) 1984 MVP and Cy Young winner
RP: Willie Ramsdell (1947-1952, 107 ERA+)
RP: Willie Banks (1991-2002, 90 ERA+)
RP: Willie Fraser (1986-1995, 90 ERA+)

It seems impossible, but this bullpen might actually be even worse than the rotation. Led by Willie Hernandez, who is easily the best pitcher on this team, the all Willie bullpen will struggle to hold down leads, assuming our starters can keep runs off the board early on. Ramsdell (4.05) and Banks (5.54) were both swing men, and both were actually worse as relievers than they were as starters. That doesn't really bode well for this squad. Either of them could step in and replace Blair, who was better as a reliever, but had over 50 starts more in his career than either of them. Our last arm, Willie Fraser, was at least better as a reliever (3.87 ERA) but his 165 K's in 316 innings out of the pen doesn't look great. Regardless of how you set the pitching rotation up, this team is going to surrender a lot of runs.

Future Additions

Last year, 21 year old second base prospect Willie Calhoun blasted 27 home runs in 132 games for the AA Tulsa Drillers, an affiliate of the LA Dodgers. Calhoun is now listed as the Dodgers 4th best prospect, and could make his MLB debut as soon as 2017. He doesn't project to stay at 2B after making 18 errors in 65 games there, but could still make the bigs as a 3B or a LF. He's undersized, but has raw power and a sweet left-handed swing. Cracking this squad as an OF would require a pretty spectacular career for Calhoun, but if he stays in the infield he could easily challenge Harris or W. Jones for a spot on this roster someday.

Final Thoughts

If your favorite era of baseball was the late 90's, when teams were winning games 9-7 and scoreless innings were a rarity, you would like this squad. It has tremendous OF/1B/DH depth, but is seriously lacking on the left side of the infield, behind the plate and on the mound. This team would probably be good against normal competition, based solely off of the Keeler/Randolph/Mays/McCovey/Stargell top 5, but I can't imagine them faring well against teams like the All-Dave team, or other "name" teams. The pitching is too thin, and the lack of power outside of the big three would hurt this team in the long run.

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