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Ranking former New Orleans MLB players using the WAR statistic

If you’ve recently followed the careers of Major League Baseball players, you’re probably aware there’s a statistic called WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Current players like Mike Trout and Mookie Betts are among the leaders. Ever wonder how some of New Orleans’ former players compare when measured by WAR?


MLB.com defines WAR as a “measurement of a player’s value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he’s worth than a replacement-level player at his same position (e. g. a Minor League replacement or a readily available fill-in free agent).”


WAR quantifies each player’s value in terms of a specific number of wins. For position players, its calculation includes hitting, fielding, and baserunning. Pitchers have a different WAR calculation.


While the stat was first introduced around 2008, it is able to be calculated for all MLB players regardless of when they played. Thus, it became a useful tool for comparing players across eras and across positions. For example, Mike Trout can be compared with Mickey Mantle, or third baseman Alex Bregman can be compared with outfielder Aaron Judge.


Below are tables showing WAR for the Top 7 position players and Top 5 pitchers from New Orleans, ranked by WAR, using Baseball-Reference.com calculations.


Position Players

 

Player

 

Timeframe

No. of Seasons Played

 

Career WAR

 

WAR in Best Year

Mel Ott, OF

1926-1947

22

110.9

1938 (8.9)

Will Clark, 1B

1986-2000

15

56.5

1989 (8.6)

Rusty Staub, OF-1B

1963-1985

23

45.8

1970 (6.3)

Zeke Bonura, 1B

1934-1940

7

21.5

1937 (4.3)

Connie Ryan, 2B-3B

1942-1954

12

17.7

1952 (3.6)

Lou Klein, IF

1943-1951

5

8.1

1943 (6.5)

George Strickland, SS

1950-1960

10

6.8

1953 (2.7)

 

Pitchers

 

Player

 

Timeframe

No. of Seasons Played

 

Career WAR

 

WAR in Best Year

Howie Pollet

1941-1956

14

34.3

1946 (6.8)

Mel Parnell

1947-1956

10

27.7

1949 (8.0)

Jack Kramer

1939-1951

12

11.3

1944 (5.2)

Chad Gaudin

2003-2013

11

2.4

2013 (1.5)

Steve Mura

1978-1985

7

1.0

1980 (1.3)

 

It’s not surprising that Mel Ott’s (McDonough Gretna HS) WAR is head-and-shoulders over all the players, since he is a Hall of Fame player. He had a career batting line of .304/.414/.533 with 511 and 1,859 RBIs. He was an 11-time All-Star and received league MVP votes in 13 seasons, with Top 7 finishes in five seasons. He spent his entire career with the New York Giants, never playing in the minors. By comparison, Mickey Mantle had a 110.0 WAR; Frank Robinson had a 107.0 WAR, and Ken Griffey Jr. had an 83.8 WAR.


Will Clark (Jesuit HS) had a career batting line of .303/.384/.497 with 284 home runs and 1,205 RBIs. He was a six-time All-Star and a Top 5 vote-getter for league MVP honors in four seasons. Clark played for the Giants, Rangers, Orioles, and Cardinals. By comparison, Keith Hernandez had a 60.3 WAR and current Cincinnati first-baseman Joey Votto has a 64.6 WAR.


Rusty Staub (Jesuit HS) was a six-time All-Star with a batting line of .279/.362/.431, 292 home runs, and 1,466 RBIs. He collected over 500 hits for four different teams, including the Astros, Expos, Mets, and Tigers. Later in his career, he became a valued DH and pinch-hitter. By comparison, Tony Perez had a 54.0 WAR and Steve Garvey had a 38.1 WAR, while Harold Baines had a 38.7 WAR.


If there had been a Rookie of the Year Award in 1934, Zeke Bonura (Loyola) would have won it based on his .302 average, 27 home runs, and 110 RBIs. Four of his seven seasons were with the White Sox. He also played for the Giants, Senators, and Cubs. He finished with a batting line of .307/.380/.487, 119 home runs and 704 RBIs.


Connie Ryan (Jesuit HS) was a National League All-Star in 1944 with the Boston Braves. He was a member of the 1948 Braves that won the National League pennant. In his best season in 1952, he had 12 HRs and 48 RBIs for the Phillies. His career batting line was .248/.337/.357. Ryan played for five different teams, the most seasons with the Braves (7).


George Strickland (S.J. Peters HS) was a light-hitting shortstop for the 1954 Cleveland Indians that captured the American League pennant with 111 wins. He started out his career with the Pirates, followed by eight seasons with the Indians. His career batting line was .224/.313/.311.


Lou Klein (S.J. Peters HS) had his best season as a rookie in 1943 for the pennant-winning St. Louis Cardinals, when he batted .287 with seven home runs and 62 RBIs. However, his career was impacted by jumping to the Mexican League for more money in 1947 and 1948, and he never regained his form from the rookie season. His career batting line was .259/.330/.381.


When the St. Louis Cardinals won the 1946 World Series, it was Howie Pollet (Fortier HS) who led the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff. It was his career-best season withs 21 wins and 2.10 ERA. He finished fourth in the NL MVP voting. The left-hander was a three-time All-Star who won 20 games in 1949. He finished his career with a 131-116 record. Pollet also played for the Pirates, Cubs, and White Sox. By comparison, Dizzy Dean had a 46.2 WAR and Joe Niekro had a 29.7 WAR.


Mel Parnell (S.J. Peters HS) had his career-year in 1949 when he led the league in wins (25), ERA (2.77), complete games (27), and innings pitched (295.1). He pitched a no-hitter against the White Sox in 1956, the last by a Red Sox left-hander. The lefty defeated the New York Yankees 15 times between 1949 and 1953. His career stats include a 123-75 record, a 3.50 ERA, and 20 shutouts. He is a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame. By comparison, Whitey Ford had a 57.0 WAR and Hal Newhouser had a 62.7 WAR.


Jack Kramer (S.J. Peters HS) played for the hapless St. Louis Browns for eight seasons. However, his best season came in 1944, the year the Browns won their first-ever National League pennant. The big right-hander was a two-time All-Star with a career record of 95-103 and 4.24 ERA. He also played for the Giants, Red Sox, and Yankees.


Chad Gaudin (Crescent City Baptist HS) was a journeyman pitcher having played for nine different clubs in his 11 seasons. His time with the Yankees in 2009 earned him a World Series ring. The right-hander’s career record 45-44 and 4.44 ERA in 344 games.


Steve Mura (Redemptorist HS, Tulane) was the second pick of the San Diego Padres in 1976. He had his best season with the Padres in 1979 when he posted a 3.08 ERA in 38 appearances, mostly in relief. As a starter, he won 12 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982 when they won the World Series. His career record was 30-39 with a 4.00 ERA in 167 games.

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