With the news of the Upton/Prado trade starting to die down, the look back at the Braves teams will continue. Instead of doing just one decade, I will speed things up by going back to 1900. The main reason for this is the lack of success of the Boston franchise (acquiring nicknames of the Bees, Doves, Rustlers, and Beaneaters over time), finishing in the top 3 of the NL just four times in those four seasons, highlighted by the 1914 “Miracle” Braves. This team started out 3-16 and was 26-40 on Independence Day. An insane 68-19 run to finish the season lifted them to the pennant and sweeping the heavily-favored Philadelphia A’s in the World Series.
C – Hank Gowdy
Playing with Boston over parts of 14 seasons, missing 1918 while serving in active combat in WWI, Gowdy chipped away to about 13 WAR over his Braves career. To show how different the 1910’s and early 20’s were offensively, his .260/.339/.339 slash line rates at league average for the time. No other catcher was worth at least 5 WAR over the timeframe.
1B – Fred Tenney
Debuting in 1894, Tenney was starting a mid-career struggle in 1900, but he recovered to provide about 25 WAR his last nine seasons with the Braves. This was before first basemen were expected to be sluggers, as Tenney had at least 10 sac bunts in his last 15 seasons in the league. Buck Jordan had 165 extra-base hits during his 2500 PA during the mid-30’s, and Ed Konetchy had a couple good seasons during WWI.
2B – Tony Cuccinello
Ending the 30’s with four good seasons, Cuccinello was worth around 15 WAR as a Brave. ’36 and ’37 were his best seasons, worth about 5 WAR each, strong in all facets. Bill Sweeney was a utility player in the late 00’s before settling in at second base for a couple good seasons then faded fast. Johnny Evers was an important piece of the ’14 team, while Rogers Hornsby had the best season of any player during the time, good for about 9 WAR in ’28.
SS – Rabbit Maranville
Spending most of the ’10’s and, after a tour around the NL, returning to Boston in ’29, Maranville accumulated nearly 30 WAR in his 7500 PA with the franchise. He was an Omar Vizquel type, great defense and not much offense. His HOF choice must have been credited to his great leadership skills, but I’ll have to defer to Fred on that one… Dave Bancroft had a couple very good seasons during Maranville’s hiatus, and overlooked early great Bill Dahlen had a couple good seasons at age 38 and 39 to close out the ’00’s.
3B – Red Smith
Coming up from Brooklyn during the fateful ’14 season, Smith added about 18 WAR as part of the franchise the rest of the decade. Tony Boeckel replaced Smith, as his decent bat hid his iffy defense. However, Boeckel became the first active major leaguer to die in an automobile accident just before the ’24 season.
LF – Joe Connolly
In his 3+ season career, Connolly used a very good bat to provide about 8 WAR during the mid-teens. His 137 OPS+ is the third-highest figure by anyone since 1901 between 500-1500 PA in his career.
CF – Wally Berger
The best player during the timespan, Berger blasted his way to at least 35 WAR in his 7+ seasons as a Brave. His 199 HR were over six times more than the next highest Braves total during these two scores, though the early 30’s were on par offensively with the Steroids Era. Sliding Billy Hamilton ended his HOF career in ’01, still posting a .400 OBP.
RF – Gene Moore
Another power-based hitter concludes the lineup, as Moore’s gap power led to about 10 WAR in his 2+ seasons during his first stint with Boston. Lance Richbourg had a solid ’28 season among his four years as a full-time starter.
While this doesn’t include his best season of 1899, Willis is the ace of this staff, accumulating about 30 WAR before heading to Pittsburgh in ’06. Rudolph was the #2 pitcher behind Bill James on the ’14 team, but he had a decent career of 22-24 WAR extending through the rest of that decade. Pittinger had a couple good seasons at the turn of the century, though his control was among the worst in the league. Brandt had a couple good seasons in the early 30’s, also providing some value at the plate. Smith started his career in the mid-20’s as an infielder, but after two seasons of not hitting, he turned into a successful pitcher. Dinneen had two very good seasons at the turn of the century for hopping across town to play for the Red Sox. Many other pitchers produced around 10 WAR during that time, including a past-his-prime Kid Nichols, Jesse Barnes, Lefty Tyler, Ben Cantwell, Irv Young, Tom Zachary, and Danny MacFayden.