As Chipper Jones makes his 8th, and final, All-Star Game roster, I decided to take a look back on some Braves All-Star history, along with the rest of the league. Perennial players, such as Jones, Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn and others are not the focus. I will be searching for the best career players to not make a roster, and the worst to make one.
My main reference for evaluating a player will again be B-R WAR. Since 1933, the year of the first All-Star Game, only one player in MLB history has compiled over 40 WAR without making a team, Tony Phillips. While posting consistent 4-5 WAR seasons from ’90-’95, Phillips never had a breakout year, and he was also overlooked due to his high BB approach. Tim Salmon, Kirk Gibson, Garry Maddox, and Eric Chavez all posted/posting about 35 WAR in their career without making the midsummer classic.
The best Braves player to not make an All-Star roster was all the way down to #22 on the list, Sid Gordon. Gordon only played four seasons with the Braves, ’50-’53, but he accumulated nearly 18 WAR in those four seasons. He was an all-star for the Giants the two seasons before heading to Boston, but while maintaining the same production, could not crack the team. Tommy Holmes and Joe Adcock just miss the list, making one All-Star roster apiece.
The best pitcher in league history to not make an All-Star team is knuckleballer Tom Candiotti. He posted just shy of 40 WAR in his career, getting snubbed of a spot in 1991 when he was a Top 5 pitcher in the league. Contemporaries Danny Darwin, John Tudor, and Charlie Liebrandt, along with WWII pitcher Fritz Ostermueller are the other pitchers above 30 WAR.
The best Braves pitcher to not make a team is Rick Mahler. Only contributing 15 WAR over 1500+ IP, Mahler was just above average, though he did have a couple consecutive 4-WAR seasons in ’84 and ’85. Surprisingly, Tim Hudson has only made one all-star team in his seven healthy seasons with the Braves. Bob Buhl and Jim Tobin also managed one all-star appearance while accumulating a higher WAR total.
Switching gears, the player with the lowest career WAR total to make an all-star roster is Joe DeMaestri. The Kansas City A’s SS in 1957 made the team in his only season above replacement level. His -5.2 WAR just beat out Ken Reitz of the 1980 St. Louis Cardinals, with an (dis)honorable mention going to Myril Hoags of the ’39 Browns and Jerry Morales of the ’77 Cubs.
The Braves worst position player to make a team is Gerald Perry on the awful ’88 team. Perry played at replacement level, despite hitting .300, on the team that went 54-106. Ron Gant and Dale Murphy, plus pitchers Pete Smith and Jose Alvarez were all more deserving to go than Perry. Catcher Biff Pocoroba made the ’78 team, even though he was worth -1.2 WAR that year and for his career.
The worst career pitcher in league history to make the all-star game is Hal Gregg. The Brooklyn Dodger in the war-torn year of 1945 had a nice 2.5 WAR season, but when the best players came back, he finished his career nearly 2 wins below replacement. Some of you may remember Phillies rookie pitcher Tyler Green in 1995. After posting a 2.81 ERA in the first half of the season, earning an roster spot, Green imploded with a 10.68 ERA in the second half, ending up below replacement level for the season and his career.
Don McMahon made the ’58 team, despite an unremarkable .4 WAR and career 2.3 WAR with the Braves. He eventually went on to pitch until age 44, bouncing around to seven teams and compiling about 21 WAR. The other two pitchers with the lowest WAR totals were relievers at the end of their careers, actually posting great numbers in a short time. Billy Wagner was worth 2.4 WAR in 2010, while Hoyt Wilhelm posted 2.4 WAR in 93 IP, ages 46-48 from ’69-’71.
As you can see, there can be some really odd selections/non-selections over the years (such as Martin Prado this year). It’s just another reminder that the All-Star rosters aren’t necessarily the best players.