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Finding the WAR leader outliers in Red Sox history: Part two

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In installment two, its time to take a trip from 1940 to 1979.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles

Between 1940 and 1979, the Boston Red Sox employed Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, Luis Tiant, Fred Lynn, Johnny Pesky and numerous other legends. Although each of those greats was never able to win a World Series with the organization, there’s no denying that this four-decade span featured some of the best players to ever call Fenway Park home.

While the work of those players may still be celebrated today, there were other players who had their days in the sun as well. In part two of this series, we’ll pick up where we left off last week and identify the wins above replacement leader outliers for the Red Sox between 1940-49, 1950-59, 1960-1969 and 1970-79. As a reminder, we will be using Baseball Reference WAR. Now let’s get to it.

1940-1949

Player: Eddie Lake

Season: 1945

WAR: 6.8

If Ted Williams didn’t miss the 1943, 1944 and 1945 seasons while fighting in World War II, its likely that you wouldn’t be ready about Lake right now. Lake was one of three players other than Williams to lead the team in WAR during this decade and all three did so while Williams was overseas. Lake’s turn came in 1945 when he led the American League in on-base percentage (.412) while setting career-highs in batting average (.279) and OPS+ (137). Lake had never posted an OPS+ above 100 in the first five years of his career and he wouldn’t do so again in the five after 1945 when he played for Detroit, which makes his 1945 campaign stand out all the more.

1950-1959

Player: Billy Goodman

Season: 1952

WAR: 3.9

Williams still dominated this decade as well, leading the Red Sox in WAR five times while also fighting in the Korean War. In 1952 he played in only six games, which opened the door for Goodman. The infielder had some other strong years, as he led all of baseball in batting average in 1950 and made two All-Star teams, but he only accumulated 26.9 total WAR in his career and was normally about a two to three win player during his prime, with eight seasons of at least 2.0 WAR. His total in 1952 didn’t jump above that by much, but he slashed .306/.370/.394 with an OPS+ of 106, marking one of five times in his 16-year career that he got above 100 in that metric. There are some other outliers in this decade as well, but Goodman has the lowest career WAR of them all.

1960-1969

Player: Bill Monbouquette

Season: 1961

WAR: 4.4

Although Williams retired after the 1960 season, Carl Yastrzemski would make his MLB debut the following year. He would go on to lead the Red Sox in WAR five times in the 1960s and once in the 1970s. Before he reached the summit, a few other guys got their turn, including Monbouquette. A four-time All-Star, the right-hander actually missed the Midsummer Classic in 1961 when he went 14-14 with a 3.39 ERA and 122 ERA+ while leading the team in WAR. He would make back-to-back All-Star games in the next two seasons and finish with a 3.68 ERA across 1,961 13 career innings, but when the rest of the decade featured leaders like Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli and his 10-win campaign in 1969 and Dick Radatz and Pete Runnels, who both led the team more than once in their careers, its clear that Monbouquette is the odd man out.

1970-1979

Player: Sonny Siebert

Season: 1971

WAR: 6.6

Siebert took the WAR crown in 1971 after Yastrzemski took it for the final time during his career in 1970. After Siebert, the rest of the winners in the decade were Calrton Fisk (twice), Bill Lee, Luis Tiant (twice), Fred Lynn (twice) and Jim Rice, with Lynn also leading the way in 1980. Those are some pretty recognizable names in Red Sox history. That’s not a shot at Siebert. He had a perfectly solid career and made two All-Star teams, including in 1971 while with the Red Sox. However, after posting a 128 ERA+ during that campaign, he never got to 100 again while playing for five teams between 1972 and 1975 when his career came to an end.

There’s a real argument to be made that Lee’s 1973 season is the bigger outlier. After all, even though he led the Red Sox in WAR that season, he finished with a lower number in his career compared with Siebert and many of his other career numbers pale in comparison as well. However, Siebert only posted two seasons in Boston with a positive number in WAR compared with nine such seasons from Lee. In addition, Lee played in Boston longer, produced one more year with an ERA+ above 100 during his career and is a name that stands a bit taller in franchise lore. Maybe that’s not exactly fair but before I started this exercise, if someone had told me Bill Lee once led the Red Sox in WAR, I wouldn’t have been stunned. I would have been with Siebert.