Braves All-Time Team Introduction

Yeah, Neyer did something like this in his book a few years ago, but I want to do it again. There are certain players who are automatic, of course:

RF Aaron

And with all due respect to Chipper, another is almost as automatic:

3B Mathews

I want to pick five starting pitchers. Three are automatic, but not the three you might think:

LHP Spahn
RHP Nichols
RHP Niekro

That leaves two spots between Glavine, Maddux, and Smoltz. Respectful nods to a number of other pitchers, Lew Burdette in particular. Oh, heck, we’ll go with six pitchers. Smoltz can relieve.

RHP Maddux
LHP Glavine
RHP Smoltz

Leaving aside the bullpen — is Smoltz the closer? — that leaves six positions to decide. I figure we’ll vote on it. I’m imposing a minimum standard of 2000 PA in a Braves uniform for all candidates, and they are to be rated solely on what they did with the Braves, not with other teams. We’ll start at catcher, the entry to come in a few minutes.

14 thoughts on “Braves All-Time Team Introduction”

  1. Marcus Giles cuts it close with the 2000 PA minimum, which was essentially the point I was trying to make yesterday (which got swallowed up in the game thread) – but I’ll save that for when you got to the secondbasemen.

    I’m not so sure Nichols is more automatic than Maddux, but since you end up taking both, all is OK.

  2. Nichols is more automatic, based entirely on what they did with the Braves. He won more games with the team than any pitcher but Spahn — 61 more than Niekro. His winning percentage is fifth in team history, higher than Glavine’s. Third in innings pitched, even sixth in strikeouts. His adjusted ERA+ is second in team history to Maddux, and while it’s not close to Greg’s it’s also a long way ahead of third.

    Yes, it was a different era, and Maddux is — I feel very strongly — a greater player. But almost half his career was/is spent with the Cubs. Nichols spent almost his entire career with Boston.

  3. You know, the competition at third base is so interesting that I’m thinking of opening it to a vote anyway, though I might just declare the vote void. Or maybe I should have a vote for second place, though Chipper would win easily.

  4. Maddux was with the Braves 11 seasons, Nichols for 12. Maddux’s ERA+ with the Braves was better. Nichols advantage in innings is due to the era, he led the league in IP only once, and in GS not at all. Maddux led three times each, while with the Braves. It depends, I guess, how much you want to discount the pre-1900 era.

  5. Another point is that Maddux is clearly the best Brave, because Nichols was technically a Beaneater.

  6. Maybe. But Nichols is in the Hall of Fame exclusively for what he did with the Braves, while Maddux’s career with the club probably wouldn’t put him in. He led the league in wins three times and in saves (though nobody knew or cared) four. He led the league in batters faced seven times, and shutouts three times. He’s seventh all-time in wins, ninety percent of them with the Braves. If you take away some things for era you have to give back that his short career was also due to an era when pitchers were ridden hard and only Cy Young survived. In the 1890s, Nichols won 297 games. Young, who came up the same year as Nichols, a little later, won 267.

    As a side note, I’ve never agreed with the 1900/01 cutoff point, which is an accident of history and round numbers. The real cutoff points are ca. 1920 and ca. 1947. I’d guess that the quality of baseball when Nichols started his career in 1890 was probably lower than in 1920, but I doubt it was as much lower as some think.

  7. I think Maddux is a Hall-of-Famer based only on his Braves career. Compare Maddux as a Brave with two other pitchersover their entire career:

    Maddux – ERA+ 162, IP 2526.7, Wins 194
    Pedro – ERA+ 167, IP 2296.0, Wins 182
    Koufax – ERA+ 131, IP 2324.3, Wins 165

    Of course Koufax is in, and I’ve heard many argue that Pedro is in even if he never throws another pitch.

    1901 is a convenient cut-off because that’s when the AL started up and the leagues settled on the 16 franchises which would last the next 50 years. I don’t know how much the style of play changed then, if at all. Weren’t there some big rule changes in the 1890s regarding distance of the pitching mound, throwing overhand, etc, or were those earlier?

  8. You’re probably right that Maddux would make it in just on his Braves career. But it’s his whole career that makes him an inner-circle HOFer.

    The pitching distance was moved back in 1893, the foul-bunt rule came in in 1894. There were a number of other changes at the time, but those two were the ones that really made a difference — one in both directions. Baseball rule change timeline.

    But my basic point is that Nichols, in his time, was the best pitcher in the league, when there was only one league.

    As far as I can tell, the 1900/01 line was drawn for the reason you mentioned, probably in the course of establishing the Hall of Fame. It’s an institutional line, though, not one that really reflects the style of play, which was more or less constant with slow changes from 1895-1909 (when the first real ballparks came in).

  9. I guess I shouldn’t make it too much of an argument – I’d make Nichols the No. 4 starter on my all-time Braves/Beaneaters team, you’d make him No. 3 (or 2? – I haven’t really looked at Niekro). Either way they are both in the rotation.

    Anyway, its neat that the Braves go back far enough where we can have these arguments.

  10. Mac, don’t kid yourself, it’s Greg’s Braves career that makes him a top 10 All-Time pitcher. He was of course good before Atlanta, but outside of Atlanta all he really accumulated was innings. His ERA+ outside of Atlanta was just 117, and without 1992 it is only 112. His career in Atlanta is his [I]career[/I], and is what makes him a great player.

    Consider that many statheads consider Pedro the greatest pitcher of All-Time, basically because of his ERA+ because the rationale is dominance over impact, and that Greg’s Braves career is basically an exact paralell to Pedros full career(of course the reason that Pedro is the most dominant is because he hasn’t had a decline phase yet). If we are going by straight value then we might as well just rank them by Win Shares accumulated in the organization. If you want the greatest Braves pitcher of All-Time, Greg laps not only Kid, but Phil and Warren as well.

  11. Obviously I have no idea how to put words in italics. I made a blind stab at it and failed miserably.

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