Last week, we started our team of second-best players from their birth cities by presenting the position players and a bench. Today, I’m putting together a rotation and bullpen. There are a few caveats here, though. First, relief pitchers are tricky things because they don’t accumulate that much WAR. I think I did a fair job with the bullpen, but there’s certainly room to quibble. Second, well, let’s just get to the rotation and you’ll see…
Ace: Satchel Paige, 9.0 WAR, birthplace: Mobile, AL. Yes, I know, I used Ozzie Smith last week, and he has the second-most WAR from Mobile (behind Willie Mays). But Paige is a legend, even if he only managed 9.0 WAR in his major league career. The fact is, I don’t know which of them is better (though I suspect it’s Satchel), but I’m pretty confident that even in the best of circumstances, Paige still would have been below Mays. A commenter spoiled the surprise on this last week, but I’m fine with that. At least I know you guys are paying attention.
No. 2: Bob Gibson, 89.9 WAR, birthplace: Omaha, NE. Yeah, that’s right, Gibson is the number two starter. Or, at least, I’m slotting him behind Satchel. This is one of the closest calls on the teams as Gibson is just 1.2 WAR behind Wade Boggs, but close or not, I’m taking him.
No. 3: John Clarkson, 84.1 WAR, birthplace: Cambridge, MA. You knew there eventually would be a 19th-century player on the team. Interestingly, Clarkson narrowly misses leading Cambridge in WAR to Tim Keefe, another 19th-century hurler. Clarkson was an excellent pitcher for not quite a decade and was done at 32. For all the talk from certain sectors about how guys used to throw forever with no ill effects, I feel that whenever I look at a pitcher from the early days, I see a big drop-off in the late 20s or early 30s.
No. 4: Hal Newhouser, 63.2 WAR, birthplace: Detroit, MI. I think it’s fair to say that we all have blind spots when it comes to baseball. And I’ll be honest, until I started researching this article, I had never heard of Newhouser, who is a Hall of Famer and a two-time MVP. He was a great pitcher for his hometown Tigers. He also had some serious hard-luck seasons (8-14 with a 2.45 ERA, ouch). He loses out to latter-day pitcher John Smoltz.
No. 5: Mickey Welch, 63.2 WAR, birthplace: Brooklyn, NY. Yup, another 19th-century guy. And just like our other one, Welch was good for about ten years and was done at 32. It really is a familiar story. Interestingly, he loses out to the under-appreciated Lou Whitaker. who would be plenty good enough to play on our team, but whom HOF voters could hardly be bothered to sniff at.
As mentioned, choosing relievers is tough, but all of these guys saw some significant time in relief. Feel free to argue with me.
Closer: Trevor Hoffman, 28.5 WAR, birthplace: Bellflower, CA. Hoffman, you almost certainly are aware, briefly held the all-time saves record. He was very good for a very long time, but by the completely artificial rules of this article, he is the second-best player from his birthplace, as he loses out to Jeff Kent.
Long man: Smoky Joe Wood, 40.3 WAR, birthplace: Kansas City, MO. Wood is the ultimate swingman, with stints as both a starter and a reliever, not to mention a bat that was good enough (110 career OPS+) to get him significant time in the outfield. He’s the perfect player for a team that straddles as many eras as ours does. He loses out in his hometown to David Cone.
Middle relief: Joe Nuxhall, 30.3 WAR, birthplace: Hamilton, OH. Nuxhall, of course, is famous for being the youngest player in major league history, but when he hit the big leagues for real at age 23, he belonged. Nuxhall was often good, rarely great, and roughly split his time between starting and relieving. He wasn’t useless with the bat, either. All of those things mean Nuxhall can go on the days Wood is tired out.
Set-up: Dan Quisenberry, 25.6 WAR, birthplace: Santa Monica, CA. A lot has been written about Quisenberry. He was a great reliever for a long time and one of the early save accumulators. He loses out in his hometown to Dwight Evans.
Set-up: Rick Aguilera, 22.4 WAR, birthplace: San Gabriel, CA. After beginning his career as a starter, Aguilera blossomed when he was turned into a full-time reliever in his late 20s. He was then an excellent closer for nearly a decade. Aguilera loses out in his hometown to Mike Garcia, a good pitcher for the post-WWII Indians.
There you have it. This team, I realize, is far from perfect, but it was fun to put together, and it was fun to learn a little more about some of these guys. I hope you enjoyed it, too.