The Value Production Standings:  1951-1955

In our previous installment of this series, we introduced a method to quantify the strength of production of each team’s farm system. For a review of the methodology we employ, please see the References and Resources section below.

Here’s the key to the figures we’re examining:

WSP = Win Shares Produced: the total of major league Win Shares produced that season by all players credited to the organization
Lg. WSP = League Win Shares Produced: the percentage of the league total of WSP credited to the organization
MLB WSP = Major League Baseball Win Shares Produced: the percentage of the MLB-wide total of WSP credited to the organization
W = Wins: the actual win total of the team that season
Lg. W = League Wins: the percentage of the league Win total won by the team
W% – WSP% = League Wins minus League Win Shares Produced: a measure of how much better or worse a team actually performed than the league-wide value produced by their organization

Here’s a summary of what we saw last time, in the first period in which all 16 major league organizations had fully functioning (if greatly unequal in size) farm systems in place:

The Value Production Standings Summary, 1946-1950

Year  Yankees   Tigers   Red Sox   Indians  Athletics  Senators   Browns  White Sox      AL WSP
1946     1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8          56.5%
1947     1         2         4         3         5         6         8         7          55.3%
1948     1         3         4         2         5         7         6         8          55.6%
1949     1         3T        3T        2         5         7         6         8          51.9%
1950     1         3         4         2         7         6         5         8          50.4%



Year  Cardinals Dodgers    Cubs      Reds    Phillies   Pirates    Braves    Giants      NL WSP
1946     1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8          43.5%
1947     1         2         4         3         7         6         8         5          44.7%
1948     1         2         3         4         6         7         8         5          44.4%
1949     1         2         3         4         5         7         8         6          48.1%
1950     1         2         5         6         4         7         8         3          49.6%

The Yankees and the Cardinals dominated their respective leagues in value production, with the Dodgers consistently in second behind St. Louis in the NL, and the Indians coming on strong in the AL. With regard to league-wide production, the American League had shown a large advantage in the first few years, but by 1950 the NL had almost entirely closed the gap.

So let’s see what happened next.

The 1951 Value Production Standings

AL Organization     WSP Lg. WSP MLB WSP       W   Lg. W  W% - WSP%
Indians             358   21.8%   10.7%      93   15.1%     - 6.7%
Yankees             350   21.4%   10.5%      98   15.9%     - 5.4%
Red Sox             268   16.4%    8.0%      87   14.1%     - 2.2%
Tigers              194   11.8%    5.8%      73   11.9%     + 0.1%
Athletics           138    8.4%    4.1%      70   11.4%     + 2.9%
Senators            131    8.0%    3.9%      62   10.1%     + 2.1%
White Sox           104    6.3%    3.1%      81   13.1%     + 6.8%
Browns               96    5.9%    2.9%      52    8.4%     + 2.6%

AL Total           1639    100%   49.0%     616    100%       0.0%

NL Organization     WSP Lg. WSP MLB WSP       W   Lg. W  W% - WSP%
Cardinals           387   22.7%   11.6%      81   13.1%     - 9.6%
Dodgers             352   20.7%   10.5%      97   15.7%     - 5.0%
Giants              225   13.2%    6.7%      98   15.8%     + 2.6%
Reds                194   11.4%    5.8%      68   11.0%     - 0.4%
Cubs                167    9.8%    5.0%      62   10.0%     + 0.2%
Phillies            146    8.6%    4.4%      73   11.8%     + 3.2%
Pirates             128    7.5%    3.8%      64   10.3%     + 2.8%
Braves              105    6.2%    3.1%      76   12.3%     + 6.1%

NL Total           1704    100%   51.0%     619    100%       0.0%

MLB Total          3343    n/a     100%    1235    n/a        n/a

Cleveland broke the Yankees’ American League stranglehold by producing 358 Win Shares, the most in their organization’s history to that point. The good news for the Indians was that a significant portion of the bounty of talent they’d produced was still on the roster, providing the backbone of an outstanding ballclub: outfielders Larry Doby and Dale Mitchell, third baseman Al Rosen, second baseman Bobby Avila, and pitchers Mike Garcia, Bob Lemon, and Bob Feller. The bad news was that quite a few highly talented Cleveland products were playing elsewhere, having been sent away in trades of varying degrees of wisdom, most notably outfielder-third baseman Minnie Miñoso and first baseman Eddie Robinson (White Sox), pitcher Allie Reynolds and outfielder Gene Woodling (Yankees), and catcher Sherm Lollar (Browns). As a result, the Indians found themselves in second place to the Yankees in the actual standings.

Speaking of the White Sox, they were the story of the year in terms of on-field success despite meager farm system production. Not only Miñoso and Robinson, but also second baseman Nellie Fox and ace pitcher Billy Pierce had been picked up by General Manager Frank Lane in a sequence of remarkably advantageous trades. Guided by dynamic rookie manager Paul Richards, the long-downtrodden Pale Hose improved by 21 wins over 1950, and won a major-league high 6.8% more games than their proportion of value production.

The opposite side of that coin was the St. Louis Cardinals. With the farm system that had been built by Branch Rickey as the standard for all others to follow, the Cardinals in 1951 not only led the National League in WSP (as they had done every season since 1946) but the major leagues as well, and yet finished a distant third on the field.

Overall, the National League, which had trailed the American in total WSP every season from 1946 through 1950, gained a small advantage for the first time by generating 51.0% of major league-wide organizational production.

The 1952 Value Production Standings

AL Organization     WSP Lg. WSP MLB WSP       W   Lg. W  W% - WSP%
Yankees             387   24.1%   11.5%      95   15.4%     - 8.7%
Indians             366   22.8%   10.9%      93   15.1%     - 7.7%
Red Sox             221   13.8%    6.6%      76   12.3%     - 1.4%
Tigers              186   11.6%    5.6%      50    8.1%     - 3.5%
Athletics           145    9.0%    4.3%      79   12.8%     + 3.8%
Senators            123    7.7%    3.7%      78   12.7%     + 5.0%
White Sox           106    6.6%    3.2%      81   13.1%     + 6.5%
Browns               72    4.5%    2.1%      64   10.4%     + 5.9%

AL Total           1606    100%   47.9%     616    100%       0.0%

NL Organization     WSP Lg. WSP MLB WSP       W   Lg. W  W% - WSP%
Cardinals           374   21.4%   11.2%      88   14.3%     - 7.1%
Dodgers             341   19.5%   10.2%      96   15.6%     - 3.9%
Giants              250   14.3%    7.5%      92   15.0%     + 0.6%
Reds                220   12.6%    6.6%      69   11.2%     - 1.4%
Cubs                189   10.8%    5.6%      77   12.5%     + 1.7%
Phillies            167    9.6%    5.0%      87   14.1%     + 4.6%
Braves              124    7.1%    3.7%      64   10.4%     + 3.3%
Pirates              80    4.6%    2.4%      42    6.8%     + 2.2%

NL Total           1745    100%   52.1%     615    100%       0.0%

MLB Total          3351    n/a     100%    1231    n/a        n/a

Another year, another year of frustration for the Cardinals. For the seventh straight season, the Redbirds led the National League in WSP, yet the only championship they had to show for it was way back in 1946.

The 1952 Cards were, for the third year in a row, a good team but not a close contender. They featured a strong core of home-grown talent, including superstar outfielder-first baseman Stan Musial, second baseman Red Schoendienst, shortstop Solly Hemus, right fielder Enos Slaughter, pitcher Gerry Staley, and catcher Del Rice. However, the Cardinals hadn’t managed to import many significant players to help out, and meanwhile the rosters of various other clubs contained eight St. Louis products who earned at least 11 Win Shares in 1952: pitcher Ken Raffensberger (Reds), pitcher Murry Dickson and catcher Joe Garagiola (Pirates), pitcher Jim Hearn (Giants), pitcher Preacher Roe (Dodgers), second baseman Bobby Young (Browns), pitcher Max Surkont (Braves), and outfielder Johnny Wyrostek (Reds-Phillies).

Contrast their situation with that of the Yankees: like the Cards, the Yankees’ organization was responsible for a long list of front-line players and up-and-comers around both leagues, including NL MVP-winning outfielder Hank Sauer (Cubs), pitchers Bob Porterfield and Spec Shea (Senators), pitcher Karl Drews (Phillies), catcher Clint Courtney, third-baseman outfielder Jim Dyck, and pitcher Duane Pillette (Browns), pitcher Lew Burdette (Braves), and outfielder Jim Greengrass (Reds). The difference was that the Bronx Bombers under GM George Weiss had done a much better job of supplementing the home-grown core they had retained (outfielders Mickey Mantle and Hank Bauer, catcher Yogi Berra, infielders Phil Rizzuto and Gil McDougald, pitcher Vic Raschi, and first baseman Joe Collins) with first-rate imported talent (primarily pitchers Allie Reynolds, Eddie Lopat, and Johnny Sain, and outfielders Gene Woodling and Irv Noren). Thus the Yankees’ prodigious farm system production—1952 marked the sixth time in seven years they had led the AL in WSP—coincided with domination of the actual standings.

The 1953 Value Production Standings

AL Organization     WSP Lg. WSP MLB WSP       W   Lg. W  W% - WSP%
Indians             336   21.6%   10.0%      92   15.0%     - 6.6%
Yankees             327   21.1%    9.7%      99   16.2%     - 4.9%
Red Sox             314   20.2%    9.4%      84   13.7%     - 6.5%
Tigers              177   11.4%    5.3%      60    9.8%     - 1.6%
White Sox           140    9.0%    4.2%      89   14.5%     + 5.5%
Senators            116    7.5%    3.5%      76   12.4%     + 4.9%
Athletics            76    4.9%    2.3%      59    9.6%     + 4.7%
Browns               67    4.3%    2.0%      54    8.8%     + 4.5%

AL Total           1553    100%   46.2%     613    100%       0.0%

NL Organization     WSP Lg. WSP MLB WSP       W   Lg. W  W% - WSP%
Dodgers             418   23.2%   12.4%     105   17.0%     - 6.1%
Cardinals           339   18.8%   10.1%      83   13.5%     - 5.3%
Braves              199   11.0%    5.9%      92   14.9%     + 3.9%
Reds                198   11.0%    5.9%      68   11.0%     + 0.1%
Phillies            196   10.9%    5.8%      83   13.5%     + 2.6%
Giants              191   10.6%    5.7%      70   11.4%     + 0.8%
Cubs                151    8.4%    4.5%      65   10.6%     + 2.2%
Pirates             113    6.3%    3.4%      50    8.1%     + 1.9%

NL Total           1805    100%   53.8%     616    100%       0.0%

MLB Total          3358    n/a     100%    1229    n/a        n/a

After finishing second to them for seven straight years, the Dodgers finally broke through and vanquished the Cardinals in WSP (with the Brooklyn farm system that had been set up by Branch Rickey in the 1940s, after he had left St. Louis). It coincided with the season in which the “Boys of Summer” Dodgers obliterated the National League pennant race, winning a franchise-record 105 games.

As with all the most productive organizations, many Brooklyn products were now plying their trade for other teams; notable former Dodger farmhands in 1953 included first baseman Dee Fondy and pitcher Paul Minner (Cubs), shortstop Alfonso “Chico” Carrasquel (White Sox), infielder Danny O’Connell and pitcher Elroy Face (Pirates), and outfielder Irv Noren (Yankees). But that list paled in comparison to the enormously talented home-grown crew the Dodgers still employed: MVP catcher Roy Campanella, center fielder Duke Snider, first baseman Gil Hodges, second baseman Jim Gilliam, infielder-outfielder Jackie Robinson, right fielder Carl Furillo, and pitchers Carl Erskine and Clem Labine.

The Braves, in their first season in Milwaukee, displayed a ball club that was on the rise in several respects. Not only did they jump from seventh to second in the actual NL standings, and from last to first in attendance, the Braves also sprang from seventh to third in value production. In their final several years in Boston, the Braves had put a generally competitive ball club on the field despite a very meager farm system, but the organization under owner Lou Perini and General Manager John Quinn had now established a first-rate system that was rapidly bearing fruit. Braves’ products on their roster in 1953 included such young talents as sensational young third baseman Eddie Mathews, shortstop Johnny Logan, catcher Del Crandall, center fielder Bill Bruton, and pitchers Bob Buhl and Johnny Antonelli, joining home-grown ace Warren Spahn. And a prodigiously talented 19-year-old second baseman in their system was named Henry Aaron.

The Red Sox under owner Tom Yawkey and GM Joe Cronin notoriously eschewed signing and developing players of color in this period. Nonetheless, Boston was producing a lot of talent, surpassing the 300 mark in WSP for the first time in 1953. The Red Sox that year featured impressive home-grown youngsters in pitcher Mickey McDermott, catcher Sammy White, outfielders Jimmy Piersall and Tommy Umphlett, and first baseman Dick Gernert, along with veteran Boston products in left fielder Ted Williams, pitcher Mel Parnell, and infielder Billy Goodman.

For the third straight year, National League organizations outproduced their American League counterparts, this time by the widest margin yet, at 53.8% to 46.2%. Lest one presume that this was merely a manifestation of more rapid acquisition of black players in the NL, understand that through 1953 such really wasn’t yet the case. The players of color developed by NL teams achieved a total of 140 Win Shares in 1953, compared with 80 by AL organizations: a large percentage difference, but a gap of just 60 Win Shares, a modest proportion of the 252 Win Share distance between the leagues. In the early 1950s, the NL’s advantage in value production was largely a function of more extensive farm systems having generated a greater volume of white talent.

The 1954 Value Production Standings

AL Organization     WSP Lg. WSP MLB WSP       W   Lg. W  W% - WSP%
Indians             379   22.7%   10.8%     111   18.0%     - 4.7%
Yankees             379   22.7%   10.8%     103   16.7%     - 6.0%
Red Sox             301   18.0%    8.6%      69   11.2%     - 6.8%
Tigers              174   10.4%    4.9%      68   11.0%     + 0.6%
White Sox           141    8.4%    4.0%      94   15.3%     + 6.8%
Senators            111    6.6%    3.2%      66   10.7%     + 4.1%
Athletics            94    5.6%    2.7%      51    8.3%     + 2.7%
Orioles              91    5.4%    2.6%      54    8.8%     + 3.3%

AL Total           1670    100%   47.5%     616    100%       0.0%

NL Organization     WSP Lg. WSP MLB WSP       W   Lg. W  W% - WSP%
Dodgers             393   21.3%   11.2%      92   14.9%     - 6.3%
Cardinals           291   15.7%    8.3%      72   11.7%     - 4.0%
Braves              235   12.7%    6.7%      89   14.4%     + 1.7%
Giants              234   12.7%    6.6%      97   15.7%     + 3.1%
Reds                225   12.2%    6.4%      74   12.0%     - 0.2%
Phillies            175    9.5%    5.0%      75   10.4%     + 2.7%
Cubs                170    9.2%    4.8%      64   10.4%     + 1.2%
Pirates             126    6.8%    3.6%      53    8.6%     + 1.8%

NL Total           1849    100%   52.5%     616    100%       0.0%

MLB Total          3519    n/a     100%    1232    n/a        n/a

Giants’ owner Horace Stoneham employed his nephew Chub Feeney with the title of General Manager all through the 1950s and 60s. However, Stoneham himself was intimately involved in all significant decision making, including roster transactions, in close consultation with Feeney and a close circle of other long-time advisors. Among this executive board that ran the team was former Giants’ ace Carl Hubbell, Farm Director since the mid-1940s.

In 1954, the Giants pulled off the remarkable feat of winning the NL pennant by five games over the Dodgers, despite trailing them in WSP by a margin of 159, and going on to sweep the Indians in the World Series despite producing 145 fewer Win Shares than the Cleveland organization. The Giants’ farm system under Hubbell had been reasonably productive, and the ’54 team included home-grown standouts in MVP center fielder Willie Mays, third baseman Hank Thompson, right fielder Don Mueller, and pitchers Ruben Gomez, Sal Maglie, Marv Grissom, and Hoyt Wilhelm. But the key to the team’s triumph had been two trades that brought in stars who’d been developed by the Braves: shortstop Alvin Dark and ace pitcher Johnny Antonelli, as well as a brilliant performance in a utility role from a guy they’d purchased from the Cubs’ organization: outfielder/pinch-hitting specialist Dusty Rhodes.

The 1955 Value Production Standings

AL Organization     WSP Lg. WSP MLB WSP       W   Lg. W  W% - WSP%
Yankees             412   25.1%   11.8%      96   15.6%     - 9.6%
Red Sox             315   19.2%    9.0%      84   13.6%     - 5.6%
Indians             314   19.2%    9.0%      93   15.1%     - 4.1%
Tigers              192   11.7%    5.5%      79   12.8%     + 1.1%
Athletics           118    7.2%    3.4%      63   10.2%     + 3.0%
Senators            114    7.0%    3.3%      53    8.6%     + 1.6%
White Sox            94    5.7%    2.7%      91   14.8%     + 9.0%
Orioles              80    4.9%    2.3%      57    9.3%     + 4.4%

AL Total           1639    100%   46.7%     616    100%       0.0%

NL Organization     WSP Lg. WSP MLB WSP       W   Lg. W  W% - WSP%
Dodgers             421   22.5%   12.0%      98   15.9%     - 6.6%
Braves              272   14.6%    7.8%      85   13.8%     - 0.7%
Cardinals           264   14.1%    7.5%      68   11.1%     - 3.1%
Giants              201   10.8%    5.7%      80   13.0%     + 2.2%
Reds                199   10.7%    5.7%      75   12.2%     + 1.5%
Cubs                191   10.2%    5.4%      72   11.7%     + 1.5%
Phillies            169    9.1%    4.8%      77   12.5%     + 3.5%
Pirates             150    8.0%    4.3%      60    9.8%     + 1.7%

NL Total           1867    100%   53.3%     615    100%       0.0%

MLB Total          3506    n/a     100%    1231    n/a        n/a

The Phillies were an interesting case: as we saw last time, they’d built a farm system from scratch in the mid-1940s, and with the remarkable core of young talent it suddenly yielded, they won a surprise pennant in 1950. However, owner/GM Bob Carpenter’s organization seemed to have shot its wad with the burst of Whiz Kid production; by 1955 the team was still hanging around in the middle of the pack in wins, but with precious little new talent coming along, they had sagged to seventh in the NL in WSP.

The organizations Branch Rickey built in St. Louis and Brooklyn each became the greatest talent producers in the major leagues. Rickey had left the Dodgers in late 1950 and gone to Pittsburgh, where in his seventies he engaged in the challenge of reinvigorating a franchise that had one of the least productive farm systems in baseball.

Rickey invested vast sums to develop the Pirates’ system, but he enjoyed anything but immediate success. Through the early 1950s, the Pittsburgh ball clubs were ghastly, suffering through the worst period in franchise history, and few among the mob of young players Rickey rushed to the majors were ready to be competent. But ever so slowly, signs of improvement became evident: the Pirates’ WSP, from its low of a feeble 80 in 1952, rose to 113, then to 126, and in 1955 reached a franchise record of 150. This was still last in the National League (as was the Pirates’ win total of 60), but the performance of home-grown young Pirates such as pitchers Bob Friend and Vern Law, outfielder Frank Thomas, shortstop Dick Groat, and third baseman Gene Freese (along with a couple of kids Rickey had drafted out of the Dodgers’ organization: pitcher Elroy Face and outfielder Roberto Clemente) provided cause for optimism.

That last-in-the-NL production of 150 Win Shares would have placed the Pirates fifth in the American League: the farm systems of half of the franchises in the AL remained starkly nonproductive in the middle of the 1950s. The White Sox, as we saw above, had managed — through adroit dealing and remarkable pitcher development at the major league level — to sustain a highly competitive team through the first half of the decade, but without significant young talent coming through the pipeline, their capacity to keep it up was highly questionable. Meanwhile, neither the Senators nor the Athletics had been very competitive for quite a while, and the meager farm systems of both franchises gave little reason for hope.

The darkest scenario might have been that of the Baltimore Orioles, as the transplanted St. Louis Browns lost 90+ games for the ninth straight season in 1955, and their bare-bones farm system had consistently been the weakest among the league’s very weak sisters. But in Baltimore there was reason for hope: the brilliant Paul Richards had been hired away from the White Sox in late 1954, and been given complete authority in a dual field manager/GM role to create the Oriole organization anew from top to bottom. Baltimore’s well-capitalized ownership had also provided Richards an extravagant budget with which to find, sign, and develop young talent. Richards had a very long way to go, but the germination of what would become one of baseball’s most successful and respected talent factories was underway.

However, in 1955 it remained the case that the value production initiative was fully in the hands of the National League. For the fifth straight season, the NL led in Win Share production, this time by 53.3% to 46.7%. With stronger farm systems already operating, in the years to come as the pace of acquisition and deployment of players of color would rapidly accelerate, the National League’s leadership position would only expand.

But that’s for next time.

The Value Production Standings Summary, 1946-1955

Year  Yankees  Tigers  Red Sox  Indians  Athletics  Senators  Orioles  White Sox  AL WSP
1946      1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8        56.5%
1947      1        2        4        3        5        6        8        7        55.3%
1948      1        3        4        2        5        7        6        8        55.6%
1949      1        3T       3T       2        5        7        6        8        51.9%
1950      1        3        4        2        7        6        5        8        50.5%
1951      2        4        3        1        5        6        8        7        49.0%
1952      1        4        3        2        5        6        8        7        47.9%
1953      2        4        3        1        7        6        8        5        46.2%
1954      1T       4        3        1T       7        6        8        5        47.5%
1955      1        4        2        3        5        6        8        7        46.7%
 

Year  Cardinals  Dodgers   Cubs    Reds   Phillies  Pirates   Braves   Giants     NL WSP
1946      1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8        43.5%
1947      1        2        4        3        7        6        8        5        44.7%
1948      1        2        3        4        6        7        8        5        44.4%
1949      1        2        3        4        5        7        8        6        48.1%
1950      1        2        5        6        4        7        8        3        49.5%
1951      1        2        5        4        6        7        8        3        51.0%
1952      1        2        5        4        6        8        7        3        52.1%
1953      2        1        7        4        5        8        3        6        53.8%
1954      2        1        7        5        6        8        3        4        52.5%
1955      3        1        6        5        7        8        2        4        53.3%

References & Resources

Methodology

First, we identify every player in the major leagues each season with a total of at least five career Win Shares. Then we identify which major league organization was responsible for originally signing and developing that player (or perhaps not originally signing him, but clearly being the organization most responsible for developing him), and then we credit every season’s production of major league Win Shares by that player to that organization, regardless of whether he actually played that season for that organization.

Sometimes it’s impossible to clearly assign a player to one organization: there are lots of players who were signed by one team, but then acquired by another organization while still a young minor leaguer. For such players, we assign half-credit to each of the two organizations (and in a few cases, we assign one-third-credit to each of three organizations).

And, even as late as the early 1950s, quite often it’s impossible to assign a player to any organization. More than a few major leaguers weren’t the products of any major league team’s farm system: they were acquired via draft, purchase or trade by a major league team directly from one of the remaining independent minor league operations. Prominent examples active in 1951-55 include Ferris Fain (drafted by the Athletics from the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals), Earl Torgeson (traded by the PCL’s Seattle Rainiers to the Braves), Jackie Jensen and Billy Martin (both purchased by the Yankees from the PCL’s Oakland Oaks), and Jim Rivera (purchased by the White Sox from the Rainiers). The Win Shares of such players aren’t counted in this analysis.

The handling of players arriving in the majors from the Negro Leagues is a bit of a tricky question: I decided to consider veteran Negro Leaguers (at least 30 years old when signed by the major league organization) as equivalent to those acquired directly from the independent minors. Thus the Win Shares of Satchel Paige, Luke Easter, and Monte Irvin aren’t included here. However, those Negro Leaguers who were under 30 (or at least passing at the time for under 30, such as Sam Jethroe) are credited to the major league team who signed them, even if they were brought directly to the majors (such as Larry Doby and Ernie Banks). For Hank Thompson, a young Negro Leaguer signed by the Browns, then released the next year and subsequently signed by the Giants, I’ve given half-credit to both organizations.

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