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Inspired by the Yunel Escobar trade, I cobbled up the Bobby Cox All-Stars, a lineup of the best single-season performances that Cox has received at each position over the course of his 30-year managerial career. Due to a massive storm of requests–well, one guy, but I assume he stands for an army of millions–we now move on to LaRussa's best, culled from 33 seasons of managing. As with Cox, LaRussa's latest is for the most part his best–I couldn't find a place for early players like Chet Lemon 1980 or Harold Baines 1984. Those guys were very good, but didn't tower over their leagues the way some of Tony's later, possibly jet-fueled, hitters. 

Once again, the format is borrowed from Bill James' The Bill James Guide to Managers, which contains several of these "teams" for various historical managers. I've mostly relied on offensive measures to rank players, but did consult WARP, which does include defense, in the case of two similar players. I needed to do that here far more than with Cox; LaRussa has had so many good performances (everywhere except second base) that I had to add a DH and still didn't have room for everyone:

    YR AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG Tav
C Carlton Fisk 1983 488 85 141 26 4 26 86 46 88 9 .289 .355 .518 .289
1B Albert Pujols 2008 524 100 187 44 0 37 116 104 54 7 .357 .462 .653 .367
2B Mike Bordick 1992 504 62 151 19 4 3 48 40 59 12 .300 .358 .371 .283
3B Scott Rolen 2004 500 109 157 32 4 34 124 72 92 4 .314 .409 .598 .327
SS Edgar Renteria 2003 587 96 194 47 1 13 100 65 54 34 .330 .394 .480 .307
LF Rickey Henderson 1990 489 119 159 33 3 28 61 97 60 65 .325 .439 .577 .363
CF Jim Edmonds 2004 498 102 150 38 3 42 111 101 150 8 .301 .418 .643 .341
RF Jose Canseco 1988 610 120 187 34 0 42 124 78 128 40 .307 .391 .569 .330
DH Mark McGwire 1998 509 130 152 21 0 70 147 162 155 1 .299 .470 .752 .376

 

 
YR WL SV IP H BB SO ERA SNLVAR/WXRL
SP Chris Carpenter 2005 21-5 0 241.2 204 51 213 2.83 8.6
SP Adam Wainwright 2009 19-8 0 233.0 216 66 212 2.63 8.5
SP Dave Stewart 1990 22-11 0 267.0 226 83 166 2.56 8.3
SP Darryl Kile 2001 16-11 0 227.1 228 65 179 3.09 7.6
SP Matt Morris 2001 22-8 0 216.1 218 54 185 3.16 7.4
RP Dennis Eckersley 1990 4-2 48 73.1 41 4 73 0.61 6.8

I've got notes again:

  • As with Cox, this ranking is premature given that LaRussa doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
  • Bob Welch’s 27-win season of 1990 was a 5.3 SNLVAR. Despite his Cy Young, he wasn’t the best pitcher on the team either. Dave Stewart was not only better, he was one of the five best starters LaRussa has had.  
  • Albert Pujols was, at least on an offensive basis, also LaRussa’s best third baseman and left fielder. I opted to list him only once. You can decide which year and which position I should have picked; the one I went with seemed the best choice, but there are no bad Pujols years.
  • It didn’t seem right to have Mark McGwire eliminate Pujols, or have him force Pujols to a position at which he played only transiently, so I added a DH.
  • Second base could have gone to Delino DeShields 1997 (.295/.347/448), but since his TAv of .283 was equal to Bordick’s, I decided to give the benefit of the doubt to the player I felt was the better defender.
  • At 5.2 SNLVAR this year, Adam Wainwright seems likely to displace himself on the starting pitcher’s list. Chris Carpenter would have gotten another season if I allowed more than one from a player.
  • How good was Rickey Henderson in 1990? Almost as good as Pujols and McGwire, that's how good, and WARP says he was better–Pujols '08 rates 11.1, McGwire '98 9.4, but Rickey is a golden 12.
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69wildcat
7/16
This would be a heck of a team; second base seems a little light but I suppose someone has to bat 9th and provide good defense. You would probably need to include another outfielder to cover for the inevitable injuries to Rickey and Jim Edmonds.
BillJohnson
7/17
DeShields' 1997 line was .295/.357/.448/.805, not .295/.347/.448/.795 -- the slight uptick may push him ahead of Bordick, although I suspect the typo-free line was what was used to generate the TAv. If B-R's stats are to be believed, he also was about a league-average defender that year, in contrast to the defensive butcher he became as he aged. Combine that with the fact that Bordick only played second about half the time in 1992 (66 games started at short), and I think I'd take DeShields at 2B. It's close, though. Who's next on this highly entertaining exercise? Joe Torre? Lou Piniella?
jocampbell
7/17
Add Dusty Baker & Jim Leyland as possibilities, maybe even some lower profile managers who have been around a long time and managed more than one club (Jim Tracy, Brucy Bochy).
Nowhereman
7/18
I'd be curious to see how many of the pitchers on Dusty Baker's list landed on the DL for an extended period of time or hand their careers come to an end shortly after having a great season for him ;-)
mattymatty2000
7/17
I'd love to see Mr. Goldman go farther back and use a manager like John McGraw, or Connie Mack, or even Earl Weaver. Just my two cents. Thanks for the fun series!
Lindemann
7/20
You can read James' book for a good first crack at those teams...
mattymatty2000
7/17
Steven, I wonder how many runs would that team score? I think there's a run estimator or run calculator out there in the wilds of the internet somewhere. Anyone know where it is?
Oleoay
7/18
Steinbach's 1992 edges Fisk WARP wise, though his Tav is .286.