July 29, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Andruw Jones (22) pops out to second during the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Braves All-Decade Team: The 1990's

Continuing the all-decade teams, we now move on to the best decade of the franchise’s history: the 1990′s.  An explanation of my methodology can be found here.

C – Javy Lopez

The only catcher with significant production in the decade, Lopez’s 119 home runs led him to around 13 WAR in his 6+ seasons.  As I stated last post, his biggest season didn’t come until 2003, but he had a couple good seasons.  Greg Olson and career backups Eddie Perez and Charlie O’Brien barely provided above replacement level production.

1B – Fred McGriff

Costing just Melvin Nieves and a couple minor leaguers, McGriff provided 12 WAR in his 4+ seasons, most of which came his first year and a half.  Andres Galarraga probably had the best season of all first basemen of the decade, posting a 5-win season in 1998.  While Sid Bream provided one of the greatest moments in franchise history, he was not very productive as a Brave.

2B – Mark Lemke

Easily the weakest position of the decade, Lemke’s great defense and 3500 PA give him the spot.  Never rating above replacement level offensively, his +69 defensive rating was as his only value.  Keith Lockhart and Jeff Treadway gave the Braves a couple wins in the decade.

SS – Jeff Blauser

The Brave with the most plate appearances mans the shortstop position for the 90′s team.  While Blauser was not much defensively, he put up a .362 OBP, leading to around 18 WAR for the decade.  Having troubles staying healthy, his two seasons with at least 600 PA were his best, amassing 5 WAR each year.  Walt Weiss was the only other shortstop above replacement level during the decade.

3B – Chipper Jones

Again the best Braves player of the decade, Chipper provided 25 WAR in his first five seasons, culminating in his 7-win MVP season in ’99.  His .301/.394/.529 slash line is not quite as impressive as his 2000′s line, but still among the best in the game.  Terry Pendleton also won an MVP in ’91, providing two great seasons before a sharp dropoff.

LF – Ron Gant

After playing his way out of the infield, Gant settled into the outfield to start the decade.  His 30-30 seasons gave the Braves about 16 wins in his four seasons in Atlanta before the ATV accident.  Ryan Klesko was worth about 11 WAR in his six seasons, while Lonnie Smith had a couple good seasons while Gant was in center field.

CF – Andruw Jones

It’s quite impressive to make the team when you are 22 years old at the end of the decade.  In about three full seasons, Andruw was only a bit above average offensively, but rated out at an astonishing +98 defensively, leading to about 18 WAR.  Like right field in the 2000′s, there were many different quality players in center field during the decade.  Gant, Otis Nixon, Marquis Grissom, Kenny Lofton, and Deion Sanders were all productive in the position.

RF – David Justice

Winning Rookie of the Year in 1990 and hitting a home run in the series-clinching 1-0 win in the ’95 World Series, DJ was the first star of the decade.  His 24 WAR before his trade to Cleveland just ranks behind Chipper for the top spot.  Michael Tucker and Brian Jordan succeeded Justice in right, providing about 3 WAR each.

SP – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery, Charlie Leibrandt

With a combined six CYA’s in Atlanta, the Big Three combined for at least 120 WAR over the decade.  Maddux won the last three of his four straight Cy’s with the Braves, posting historic ’94 and ’95 seasons, ERA’s around 1.60 both seasons.  Glavine won the ’91 and ’98 CYA, with ’91 being his only elite season.  Smoltz won the ’96 award, along with many great postseason performances.  Avery had three solid seasons before slowly fading by ’96.  Leibrandt was a reliable strike-thrower who had three decent seasons with Atlanta.  Denny Neagle and Kevin Millwood each had two solid seasons, just missing the cut.

RP – Greg McMichael, Kent Mercker, Mark Wohlers

Again, much like the 2000′s team, the bullpen was not a strong point of the team.  McMichael, the changeup artist, had a tremendous rookie season, finishing second behind Mike Piazza in the ROY voting.  Mercker did make 53 starts for Atlanta along with his 178 relief appearances.  Among those starts, the only no-hitter by the Braves in the decade was a Mercker start, followed by a couple relievers.  Wohlers took a while to develop, had a great two seasons at the closer, then Jim Leyritz essentially ruined his career.  John Rocker took over for Wohlers before imploding himself.

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  • fireboss

    Terry Pendleton is another instance of statistics being too one dimensional to tell the whole story. During his induction into the Braves hall of Fame, Bobby Cox singled out TP for being one of the most important acquisitions JS made. in the worst to first season of 1991 he was league MVP,batting champ and led the league in hits with 188 while striking out only 70 times. IN 92 he again led the league in hits (199) came second n MVP voting and won a gold glove at third. He struck out more than 100 times once in 15 years. In his 3 (ages 30-33) full years in Atlanta he had 558 hits, 106 doubles, 10 triples and 60 home runs. Only Paul Molitor (682), Kirby Puckett (589) and Carlos Baerga (576) had more hits while TP led that trio in doubles (tied with Puckett) and home runs. He was well on his way to another good season when the strike hit in 94. He succumbed to too much good food and a series of injuries after leaving the Braves and the Chipper Jones era soon pushed TPs work into the shadows. Nevertheless, TP could pick it at third with the best from 85-94 and was a team leader on a team that had never won anything before his arrival while wearing the Tomahawlk.
    I remember Blauser for his ‘time-out’ home run more than anything else and before Chipper I loved watching David Justice, one of the prettiest swings I’ve ever seen. I hated seeing him leave, it was a mistake that probably cost us at least one WS maybe more.

    • Lee Trocinski

      I remember hearing about TP being a “culture changer,” much like Kirk Gibson with the Dodgers. His offense wasn’t that tremendous, as he was only 27th in times reached base over that same time period. There was also a lot of luck, as he never showed any signs of such offensive production.

      The Justice trade did not hurt the Braves that much. He only had two more great seasons after leaving Atlanta, and his $7M a year would have been a bit cumbersome by the end.

      • fireboss

        I’m not sure what a player has to do to be considered offensively tremendous and I didn’t say he was or that claim he was Hall of Fame material. Reggie Jackson called himself the straw that stirs the drink for the Braves at the begiining of their streak, that was Pendleton, he was the final element that made the lineup click. Adding TP and replacing Murphy with Bream – essentially a wash numbers wise – increased the lineup’s run production enough to take them from 7th in the league to 2nd and from 5th in the NL West to first.

        Pendleton led the league in hits in 91 and 92 and was also first in TB in 91 and 4th in TB in 92. I remember him always being on base or creating runs with an opposite field single or double. Looking at the whole player from 1985 to 1993 – his best years – only 9 players other than TP had a set of numbers better than his (I added some slack to allow those just under to be on the list H>=1361, RBI>=675
        and TB>=1900.) They were Robin Yount, Ryne Sandberg, Kirby Puckett Eddie Murray, Don Mattingly, George Brett, Joe Carter and George Bell. Since I used TP’s numbers as a baseline he ranks near the bottom of the ten but was 6th in walks and had a better average and OBP than Joe Carter. The list shows that over that time Hall of Famers Robin Yount and George Brett had an rWAR of 24.5 and Eddie Murray registered a 25.8. TP’s registered a 24.2.

        From 1985-1993, 145 players reached base without an error, Pendleton ranked 30th putting him in the top 20%. He was also 33rd in runs scored, 23rd in RBI, 20th in hits and 18th in doubles. The name of the game is runs and of his 684 RBI 581 were other peoples runs (rbi-hr) making him 11th on that list ahead of Brett, Winfield, Will Clark and a slew of others (http://tinyurl.com/cc2xbdh ) ]
        For a guy that wasn’t tremendous offensively that’s pretty good company.