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The Hundred Million Dollar Infield
2004-08-20 00:05
by Mike Carminati

Thanks, Pop. Mine's full of more holes than the Pittsburgh infield.

—Kayo in "On the Waterfront" accepting a loaned jacket

The other day, my friends and I were deriding an old Joe Morgan article on the Rangers infield that basically devolved into an homage to his old Reds teammates.

Amid the claims that he and Dave Concepcion were the first doubleplay combo ever to attempt to speed up turning the doubleplay and Joe's dubious choice of adding catcher to the mix so that he could buttress his argument with potentially the best catcher of all time in Johnny Bench, the Big Red Morgan selected the mid-Seventies Reds as the best infield ever, a quite unbiased appraisal. Surprise!

Sure, the Reds had a great infield (Rose, Morgan, Perez, and Concepcion), but was it much better than that of their division rival, the Dodgers (Garvey, Cey, Lopes, and Russell), let alone the best all-time?

I mean there's Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance. There's the "Hundred Thousand Dollar Infield". There's the Steve Jeltz-era Phillies.

Well, I decided to put Morgan's claims to the test. After deriving the starters at all positions (most games at each position), I created a ranking of the best infields by OPS, OPS above the park-adjusted average, and Win Shares per game. I also ran the numbers with and without catchers. Here are the results.

Here are the top infields (including catcher) based on OPS:

YrTeamInf OPS
1936New York Yankees.948
1933Philadelphia Athletics.940
1937Detroit Tigers.934
1925St. Louis Cardinals.921
1871Boston Red Stockings.911
1930New York Yankees.909
1938Detroit Tigers.908
1938Boston Red Sox.906
1922St. Louis Cardinals.904
1894Baltimore Orioles.901
1930New York Giants.901
1932Philadelphia Athletics.901
2001Texas Rangers.893
1930Philadelphia Athletics.892
1927New York Yankees.891
1994Houston Astros.887
1934Detroit Tigers.886
1934New York Yankees.883
1950Boston Red Sox.881
1930Chicago Cubs.881
1939Boston Red Sox.881
2002Texas Rangers.880
2002New York Yankees.876
1998Atlanta Braves.873
1998St. Louis Cardinals.872
1894Washington Senators.872
1928New York Yankees.872
1953Brooklyn Dodgers.872

Here are the top infields (excluding catcher) based on OPS:

YrTeamInf OPS
1925St. Louis Cardinals.956
1933Philadelphia Athletics.932
1936New York Yankees.931
1994Houston Astros.930
1938Boston Red Sox.928
1922St. Louis Cardinals.925
1937Detroit Tigers.917
1930New York Yankees.917
1894Baltimore Orioles.912
1939Boston Red Sox.906
1928New York Yankees.905
1930New York Giants.902
1927New York Giants.899
1927New York Yankees.899
1924St. Louis Cardinals.897
1930Pittsburgh Pirates.897
1998St. Louis Cardinals.896
1894Washington Senators.896
1932Philadelphia Athletics.896
1940Boston Red Sox.895
1934Detroit Tigers.895
1871Boston Red Stockings.894
2001Texas Rangers.894
2001Oakland Athletics.892
1997Houston Astros.892
2000Oakland Athletics.891

That's great, but you may notice that the two eras with the most offensive in baseball history (the last 12 years and the late 1920s/early 1930s) get over-represented. What if we adjust for era and ballpark by added in the league's average OPS and the team's ballpark factor? Here are the results (including catcher) based on adjusted OPS:

1875Boston Red Stockings.795.571104136.63%
1876Chicago White Stockings.841.598112132.64%
1884Milwaukee Brewers.600.58854132.58%
1871Boston Red Stockings.911.695103129.07%
1933Philadelphia Athletics.940.732101127.77%
1873Boston Red Stockings.863.659108126.02%
1888Detroit Wolverines.758.609100124.45%
1913Philadelphia Athletics.813.66198124.14%
1912Philadelphia Athletics.826.68196123.71%
1922St. Louis Cardinals.904.75395123.22%
1871Philadelphia Athletics.851.69599123.06%
1936New York Yankees.948.78497122.77%
1886Detroit Wolverines.797.641103122.46%
1884Chicago White Stockings.795.626108122.08%
1934New York Yankees.883.75093122.06%
1994Houston Astros.887.74795121.79%
1914Philadelphia Athletics.765.64296121.58%
1884New York Metropolitans.726.60498121.46%
1973Cincinnati Reds.826.69895121.38%
1884Buffalo Bisons.769.626103121.04%
1872Philadelphia Athletics.779.644100120.92%
1931New York Yankees.865.74094120.51%
1927New York Yankees.891.75197120.43%
1924St. Louis Cardinals.867.72998120.20%
1969Minnesota Twins.838.690102120.16%
1930New York Yankees.909.77296120.16%
1937Detroit Tigers.934.770102120.12%
1976Cincinnati Reds.826.681102120.03%

Here are the results (excluding catcher) based on adjusted OPS:

1875Boston Red Stockings.788.571104135.32%
1876Chicago White Stockings.856.598112135.06%
1884Chicago White Stockings.834.626108127.98%
1994Houston Astros.930.74795127.71%
1884New York Metropolitans.763.60498127.66%
1913Philadelphia Athletics.834.66198127.41%
1885Buffalo Bisons.783.606103127.21%
1871Boston Red Stockings.894.695103126.64%
1933Philadelphia Athletics.932.732101126.64%
1872Philadelphia Athletics.814.644100126.43%
1922St. Louis Cardinals.925.75395126.03%
1873Boston Red Stockings.862.659108125.86%
1884Milwaukee Brewers.570.58854125.83%
1912Philadelphia Athletics.837.68196125.41%
1890Syracuse Stars.785.66290124.95%
1969Minnesota Twins.871.690102124.87%
1904Cleveland Naps.765.61699124.83%
1888Detroit Wolverines.760.609100124.75%
1924St. Louis Cardinals.897.72998124.42%
1884St. Louis Maroons.746.588104124.34%
1925St. Louis Cardinals.956.762102124.24%
1871Philadelphia Athletics.860.69599124.23%
1927New York Giants.899.725100124.01%
1928New York Yankees.905.74197123.99%
1973Cincinnati Reds.843.69895123.87%
1908Pittsburgh Pirates.750.605100123.82%

Of course, that ignores defense and a lot of what infields do is play defense. The best way that I know of to weigh a player's offense and defense is Win Shares. Here are the results based on total Win Shares (including catchers; Note: Players from the NA, 1871-75, have no Win Shares associated with them, at least none to which I have access.):

1975Cincinnati Reds.840.696102119.44%143.1
1934Detroit Tigers.886.750100118.24%138.1
1914Philadelphia Athletics.765.64296121.58%135.6
1951Brooklyn Dodgers.871.721102119.58%134.3
1982Milwaukee Brewers.831.73094117.36%131.9
1913Philadelphia Athletics.813.66198124.14%131.2
1974Cincinnati Reds.814.69399118.13%130.4
2002New York Yankees.876.75598117.14%129.3
1936New York Yankees.948.78497122.77%129.0
1906Chicago Cubs.726.620106113.73%126.3
1912Philadelphia Athletics.826.68196123.71%125.3
1908Pittsburgh Pirates.710.605100117.24%125.2
1976Cincinnati Reds.826.681102120.03%124.8
1983Milwaukee Brewers.802.72892114.72%122.4
1935Detroit Tigers.865.75397116.55%122.0
1972Cincinnati Reds.785.68094119.09%121.4
1973Cincinnati Reds.826.69895121.38%121.4
1949Brooklyn Dodgers.832.723104112.78%120.9
2001Oakland Athletics.864.76296115.73%119.6
1999New York Mets.857.77195113.89%119.5
1933Philadelphia Athletics.940.732101127.77%119.3
1911Philadelphia Athletics.810.69698117.53%118.0
1908Chicago Cubs.691.605104111.91%117.6
1937New York Yankees.855.770101110.58%117.1
1953Brooklyn Dodgers.872.747102115.57%116.2

Now, here are the results for total Win Shares for an infield (excluding catcher):

1913Philadelphia Athletics.834.66198127.41%123.2
1914Philadelphia Athletics.763.64296121.36%117.1
1912Philadelphia Athletics.837.68196125.41%115.0
1934Detroit Tigers.895.750100119.37%114.8
1908Pittsburgh Pirates.750.605100123.82%113.5
1982Milwaukee Brewers.847.73094119.63%113.2
1975Cincinnati Reds.830.696102118.11%112.6
1927New York Giants.899.725100124.01%110.9
1898Baltimore Orioles.827.681102120.21%108.8
1946St. Louis Cardinals.803.684104115.12%107.9
2002New York Yankees.884.75598118.25%107.4
2001Oakland Athletics.892.76296119.56%107.0
1976Cincinnati Reds.844.681102122.60%105.4
1906Chicago Cubs.718.620106112.42%105.1
1911Philadelphia Athletics.829.69698120.31%104.9
1936New York Yankees.931.78497120.50%104.0
1987St. Louis Cardinals.808.732102109.34%103.1
1983Milwaukee Brewers.803.72892114.82%102.7
1951Brooklyn Dodgers.845.721102116.04%101.3
1996Houston Astros.848.73891120.32%100.7
1996Baltimore Orioles.878.79599110.90%100.1
1990Detroit Tigers.817.715101113.65%99.9
1909Philadelphia Athletics.746.611102120.86%99.8
1999New York Mets.838.77195111.44%98.3
1962Los Angeles Dodgers.731.72094104.69%98.3
1935Detroit Tigers.857.75397115.49%98.0
1939Cincinnati Reds.813.721101112.20%98.0

The '76 Reds do extremely well here, but drop a bit when Bench is out of the equation. They also played a 162-game schedule. What if we prorate the Win Shares by team game. Here are the best seasonal Win Shares per game (including catchers):

1876Chicago White Stockings.841.598112132.64%74.91.135
1934Detroit Tigers.886.750100118.24%138.10.897
1975Cincinnati Reds.840.696102119.44%143.10.883
1914Philadelphia Athletics.765.64296121.58%135.60.858
1913Philadelphia Athletics.813.66198124.14%131.20.858
1884New York Metropolitans.726.60498121.46%95.40.852
1951Brooklyn Dodgers.871.721102119.58%134.30.850
1936New York Yankees.948.78497122.77%129.00.832
1882Chicago White Stockings.734.622105115.21%69.70.830
1912Philadelphia Athletics.826.68196123.71%125.30.819
1890Brooklyn Bridegrooms.723.671100107.79%105.60.819
1906Chicago Cubs.726.620106113.73%126.30.815
1982Milwaukee Brewers.831.73094117.36%131.90.809
1908Pittsburgh Pirates.710.605100117.24%125.20.808
1883Boston Beaneaters.772.650102117.67%78.80.804
2002New York Yankees.876.75598117.14%129.30.803
1935Detroit Tigers.865.75397116.55%122.00.803
1883Philadelphia Athletics.714.613108112.05%78.60.802
1974Cincinnati Reds.814.69399118.13%130.40.800
1879Cincinnati Reds.685.59995117.20%63.90.789
1972Cincinnati Reds.785.68094119.09%121.40.788
1877Boston Red Caps.718.627104112.32%48.00.787
1894Baltimore Orioles.901.814104108.62%101.30.785
1933Philadelphia Athletics.940.732101127.77%119.30.785
1911Philadelphia Athletics.810.69698117.53%118.00.776
1886New York Giants.694.641101107.71%96.20.776
1949Brooklyn Dodgers.832.723104112.78%120.90.775
1884Buffalo Bisons.769.626103121.04%88.60.770
1976Cincinnati Reds.826.681102120.03%124.80.770
1880Providence Grays.591.58797102.22%67.00.770
1889Brooklyn Bridegrooms.690.687100100.36%107.20.766
1881Chicago White Stockings.713.628105110.71%64.30.765
1933New York Yankees.842.73294118.50%115.40.759
1994Houston Astros.887.74795121.79%87.20.758
1983Milwaukee Brewers.802.72892114.72%122.40.756
1932Philadelphia Athletics.901.750104117.72%115.50.750
1953Brooklyn Dodgers.872.747102115.57%116.20.750
1973Cincinnati Reds.826.69895121.38%121.40.749

Now, excluding catchers:

1876Chicago White Stockings.856.598112135.06%61.9660.938
1913Philadelphia Athletics.834.66198127.41%123.21530.805
1884New York Metropolitans.763.60498127.66%89.81120.802
1883Boston Beaneaters.806.650102122.74%73.7980.752
1912Philadelphia Athletics.837.68196125.41%115.01530.752
1934Detroit Tigers.895.750100119.37%114.81540.745
1914Philadelphia Athletics.763.64296121.36%117.11580.741
1908Pittsburgh Pirates.750.605100123.82%113.51550.732
1890Brooklyn Bridegrooms.730.671100108.76%94.31290.731
1994Houston Astros.930.74795127.71%83.31150.724
1927New York Giants.899.725100124.01%110.91550.715
1882Chicago White Stockings.754.622105118.36%59.7840.711
1898Baltimore Orioles.827.681102120.21%108.81540.706
1885Chicago White Stockings.706.606115108.34%79.31130.702
1975Cincinnati Reds.830.696102118.11%112.61620.695
1982Milwaukee Brewers.847.73094119.63%113.21630.694
1946St. Louis Cardinals.803.684104115.12%107.91560.692
1911Philadelphia Athletics.829.69698120.31%104.91520.690
1906Chicago Cubs.718.620106112.42%105.11550.678
1936New York Yankees.931.78497120.50%104.01550.671
2002New York Yankees.884.75598118.25%107.41610.667
1894Baltimore Orioles.912.814104109.89%85.91290.666
2001Oakland Athletics.892.76296119.56%107.01620.660
1909Philadelphia Athletics.746.611102120.86%99.81530.652
1976Cincinnati Reds.844.681102122.60%105.41620.651
1882Cleveland Blues.689.62297112.52%54.3840.646
1935Detroit Tigers.857.75397115.49%98.01520.645
1877Boston Red Caps.729.627104114.01%39.3610.644
1893Boston Beaneaters.776.736108101.40%84.31310.644
1951Brooklyn Dodgers.845.721102116.04%101.31580.641
1885Buffalo Bisons.783.606103127.21%71.81120.641
1886New York Giants.680.641101105.51%79.21240.639
1891Boston Reds.777.68299114.46%88.51390.637
1981Philadelphia Phillies.816.683104117.04%68.11070.636
1987St. Louis Cardinals.808.732102109.34%103.11620.636
1880Providence Grays.581.58797100.49%55.3870.636
1983Milwaukee Brewers.803.72892114.82%102.71620.634
1881Chicago White Stockings.715.628105111.07%52.9840.630

I have about, as Dr. Evil would say, a million comments on these teams and the ones that finished lower. Also, I want to look at these per decade. I am fascinated with these lists and given that the only thing going on with the Phils is the Larry Bowa deathwatch, I want to look at them in depth. I just hope I can get it rolling given that I'll be on vacation for four days starting Saturday.

To be continued…

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