Braves All-Decade Teams: The 1940's

Moving on with the all-decade teams, we now hit possibly the most unique decade of the modern era, the 1940’s.  World War II removed nearly all of the quality players from the league for one to four years, so the ’44 and ’45 seasons were probably the worst quality play in the league since the 19th century.  The Braves were very bad until after WWII, when they finished in the top half and even won the ’48 pennant.

C – Phil Masi

Spending the entire decade with the Braves, save for a trade halfway through the ’49 season, Masi was an average hitter and fielder with no strengths or weaknesses.  He was only worth about 12 WAR because catchers were not as valued as they are now.  Ernie Lombardi and Bill Salkeld each had a .400 OBP during their short stints in Boston.

1B – Earl Torgeson

Only spending the last three years of the decade with the Braves, Torgeson used his good OBP approach and speed to accumulate about 7 WAR in the decade.  After starting his career with the club at age 18, Elbie Fletcher rejoined the Braves after a Torgeson injury in ’49 to be the only other primary first baseman with a positive contribution in the decade, posting a .400 OBP.

2B – Connie Ryan

With nearly 2500 PA during the decade, missing the ’45 season while in the Navy, Ryan overcame a bad rookie season to post about 8 WAR in the decade.  Eddie Stanky was a close second, posting a .429 OBP in his two seasons with Boston.  Bama Rowell was a solid player until he spent four years in the Army.  Billy Herman even spent a good half-season with Boston, posting a .409 OBP.

SS – Eddie Miller

While he wasn’t the greatest hitter, Miller used his outstanding defense to provide about 10 wins to the Braves in the first three years of the decade.  His range factor numbers were good, but his fielding percentage was his biggest strength, making about 40% less errors than the average shortstop.  Future manager Al Dark started his playing career in Boston, winning the second Rookie of the Year award as a big part of the pennant-winning ’48 team.

3B – Bob Elliott

Another forgotten player in Braves history, Elliott came over from Pittsburgh and posted two great seasons upon his arrival, winning the ’47 NL MVP.  His 18 WAR in three seasons came from a .294/.410/.487 slash line and decent defense.  Sibby Sisti was with the organization the entire decade, though he missed three years in the Coast Guard and the ’46 season in the minors.

LF – Max West

While he never fulfilled the potential he showed in the ’39 season, West had three solid years before spending the prime of his career in the Army.  He hit a lot of gaps and split time between left and first, accumulating around 8 WAR for the decade.  Jeff Heath posted a .990 OPS in his final season-plus of his career with Boston, playing a big part in getting the Braves to the ’48 World Series.

CF – Johnny Hopp

Hopp was a Brave for the ’46 and ’47 seasons, posting about 6 WAR total.  He was a very rare, Darin Erstad-type player, using contact and speed as his main attributes, splitting time between first base and center field, even similar down to the Nebraska ties.  Carden Gillenwater had a nice ’45 season, but became irrelevant after that season.

RF – Tommy Holmes

While his best season was in ’45, Holmes was more than just a product of the wartime shortage of players.  He was an above-average hitter every season of the decade, ending up around 33 WAR in his eight seasons.  His 28 homers in ’45 were greatly influenced by the “Jury Box,” a shortened right field corner much like Pittsburgh’s “Greenberg’s Gardens” and “Kiner’s Corner.”  Even more amazingly, Holmes only struck out 105 times in over 5000 PA during the decade.

P – Warren Spahn, Johnny Sain, Jim Tobin, Nate Andrews, Al Javery, Red Barrett

As one would expect, “Spahn and Sain, and two days of rain” reign supreme.   After receiving a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his actions in Remagen, Germany during WWII, Spahn returned to become one of the best lefties of all-time.  He was worth about 18 WAR in his first four seasons, with his ’47 season as possibly the best of his career, posting a 2.33 ERA and around 9 WAR.  Sain also debuted with Boston before missing three years during WWII.  He was essentially as good as Spahn, leading the staff during the ’48 season, but his effective career was done after the 331 IP that season.  Tobin was the #1 starter for the franchise before and during the war, combining about 14 pitching WAR and 5 hitting WAR to provide decent value for Boston.  He threw back-to-back one-hitters in his best season, 1944, something not done again by a NL pitcher until this past year by R.A. Dickey.  Andrews was a 5-WAR pitcher in ’43 and ’44, though his 2.57 ERA in ’43 resulted in a 14-20 record.  Javery put up three good seasons before his control left him in ’45.  Barrett had a couple decent seasons before breaking out after a midseason trade to St. Louis in ’45.  He then returned to Boston in ’47, providing a couple more average seasons before retiring.  He is also known for his nine-inning complete game, during which he threw a record 58 pitches.  Bill Voiselle and Mort Cooper each had a couple decent seasons with the Braves, but not good enough to make the list.

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