So in today’s mailbag, one Ryan Cothran of Santa Rosa Beach, FL writes: “Who are the best Braves by first name?” Well, little Ryan, it’s almost Christmas, so I’ll answer your question.
Step 1: Who’s A Good Player?
I head over to Stathead and make a list of the top 1000 hitters and top 1000 pitchers by first name. Let’s not get too fancy here: “top” is measured by career WAR. These 1988 names (Babe Ruth is there twice and there are 11 names like Dutch Leonard that describe more than one player) includes every Hall of Famer of course; the batting list runs from Barry Bonds (162.8) to Hank Severeid (18.6) and the pitching list runs from Cy Young (165.7) to Luis Severino (11.7).
Step 2: Sort by First Names and Pick the Best
It’s easy enough to take this list and sort by first names, as long as you’re going to take the first names as BRef gives them to you.So Babe Ruth isn’t a George, Old Hoss Radbourn’s first name is “Old” and the 44 Jims, 11 Jimmys, 2 James’s, 1 Jimmie and 1 Jamie are treated as five separate names. (Jimy Williams isn’t on the list: -0.2 career WAR). The 1999 different players (adding up the Bambino’s two lines) have 668 different first names. The Jims lead with 44.There are 43 Bills, 41 Mikes, 38 Bobs and 32 Johns and Georges. On the other end, there are 412 unique first names and 95 names used just twice.
We now take the 668 best WAR results by first name.Before looking, you might try to guess the best Jim, Bill, Mike, Bob and John. Two of them are not in the HOF and another one is in, but one of the more obscure members. Answers below.(No prize for guessing the best Chipper.)
We take WAR as sacrosanct, but a number of these races are really close. Was Aaron Hill (24.4) really better than Aaron Harang (23.8)? It probably doesn’t matter much, since Aaron Nola (22.3) will probably pass both of them next year, and if he stays healthy Judge will pass them both as well. The Aarons Rowand, and Sele weren’t that far behind and I’m sure Aaron Cook, bringing up the rear at 15.7 had some good points in his favor. But Aaron Hill it is for this exercise. And, of course, all 412 unique first names win their competitions by default, allowing Melky Cabrera to be the top Melky of all time.
Step 3: Who was a Brave?
Finally, we look and see which of these 668 players played for the Braves.You didn’t have to play very much for the Braves (looking at you, Liván Hernandez) or very well (Melky again) but you had to don the uniform officially.
Step 4: The Best Braves
So it turns out that there are 108 Braves who are the best their first name has to offer. But 73 of these are unique names. To know that Chipper Jones was the best Chipper, or that Bartolo Colon was the best Bartolo is not that interesting. So I’ll focus on the remaining 35: the Braves Hall of Monikers
The Top 9
Cy Young (165.7): The best of the 6 Cys. It is somewhat surprising that there have been 6 Cys, but a big reason for this is that players were being compared to Young.
Babe Ruth (162.1 + 20.4): Babes Adams and Herman are far back. But come on… Neither Young nor Ruth were Braves of any importance. This leads to:
Hank Aaron (143.1): Not only was the Hammer the best Hank, but some of the other 9 Hanks were pretty good, particularly Greenberg. If you are wondering, there are two Henrys, the best of them the 19th century Henry Larkin (28.7).
Kid Nichols (116.7): Best of 3.
Greg Maddux (104.8): Best of 9. Vaughn and Swindell are way back.
Phil Niekro (97): Best of 8. Rizzuto and Cavaretta are next in line.
Dan Brouthers (79.8): Another HOFer with one short year in a Braves uniform.
Bill Dahlen (75.3): Another big surprise. There are 43 Bills on our list, and while Bill Dickey (57.3) is in the HOF, none have the WAR standing of perpetual egregiously overlooked Bill Dahlen. His long career had two Boston years near the end.
Kenny Lofton (68.4): Ahead of Rogers (50.5)
Vic Willis (67.5): Ahead of Wertz and 4 others
Sherry Magee (59.4): There was another Sherry? Yes.
Darrell Evans (58.8): Ahead of Porter (40.9). Glad to see Chaney didn’t make the list.
Jimmy Collins (53.5): Another big surprise. There have been 11 good Jimmys. None of them are truly great. I mean, he’s in the HOF and everything, but he was put there because he was good fielding bunts down the third base line. Third base is the most underrepresented position in the HOF, and he was the first. Jimmy Sheckard (49.7) is next, followed by Key (49.7) and Rollins (49).
Earl Averill (51.1): Best of 8
Orlando Cepeda (50.1): Best of 5
Brett Butler (49.7): Better than Gardner (43), but I guess there’s an outside chance he can be caught. Myers brings up the rear.
Wes Ferrell (48.9): Better than Parker
Dale Murphy (46.5): How does Dale Murphy have less WAR than Brett Butler? Career counting stats are just brutal. But he’s still the best Dale, well ahead of Mitchell (19.4)
Milt Pappas (46.2): Best of 5
Deacon White (45.7): Best of 3
J.D. Drew (44.9): Martinez (23.6) is not going to catch him.
Julio Franco (43.6): Take that, Teheran (18.7). We had both of them.
Hugh Duffy (43.1): Like Collins, a 1945 admission to the HOF. Take him out and put Murph in. Still the best of 3.
Josh Donaldson (41.5): Donaldson’s going to pass Duffy and yet he’ll never sniff the HOF. Ahead of Beckett, Hamilton, Reddick, Johnson and Willingham, in that order. Josh is a name that is clearly pretty recent.
Freddie Freeman (38.8): Now comfortably ahead of Fitzimmons (33.6), Lindstrom (27.5) and Patek (24.1).
Sid Gordon (38.3): Best of 3
Nick Markakis (34): The best Nick ever. Way better than Esasky (who didn’t make the list) and Swisher (21.4) the only other Nick who did.
Marty McManus (33.3): Best of 3
Chick Stahl (31.9): best of 4, but Hafey fell just short (31.1) and if Gandil hadn’t been thrown out of baseball….
Raul Mondesi (29.5): I like to forget he played for the Braves, but he had a better career than Ibanez.
Lloyd Waner (27.9):Yet another Iffy HOFer. 19 games played in Boston. Barely better than Moseby (27.5) and Brown.
Lew Burdette (25.5): Beat out Richie.
Clay Carroll (18.4): Better than Buchholz, barely, unless Buchholz comes back.
In WAR order, the 73 unique Braves first names: Rogers, Gaylord, Chipper, Old Hoss, Graig, Andruw, Cole, Enos, Hoyt, Bartolo, King, Burleigh, Bucky, Dolf, Javier, Rabbit, Felipe, Hardy, Nig (?! He was Bavarian!), Lonnie, Herman, Dusty, Andrelton, Doyle, Derrek, B.J., Stuffy, Elbie, Ezra, Mort, Andres, Ginger, Javy, Marquis, Anibal, Martin, Denis, Clete, Stu, Walker, Yunel, Ervin, Charley, Jouett, Garret, Liván, Nels, R.A., Erick, Dallas, Bernard, Marcell, Mack, Zane, Melky, Rey, Kurt, Jermaine, Moe, Pablo, Willard, Claudell, Vinnie, Togie, Pascual, Jhoulys, Pretzels, Gavin, Octavio, Alejandro, Len, Huck and Si.
So, young Mr. Cothran, does this answer your question? (Braun is the best of 5 Ryans. Klesko is in 3rd place. I am stuck with Papelbon.)
If you enjoyed this look back at Braves History, check this piece out as well by Jonathan F.