From the Pages of Vine Line: WAR All-Stars—Third Base
All month, we’ll be unveiling the best single seasons by a Cubs player at each position in the team’s more than 100-year history, using the advanced statistic Wins Above Replacement (WAR). For the fifth installment of our WAR All-Star team, we turn to third base. Unlike at some of the other positions, the representative at the hot corner comes as no surprise. Ron Santo’s 1967 season was one of the best individual seasons for a third baseman in the game’s history.
Here’s how we chose our team.
What WAR essentially does is aggregate everything an individual contributes—offensively and defensively—into one definitive number that conveys his value, typically ranging from -1 to 10. The purpose of the formula is to quantify how much a team would lose if a player was swapped for an average replacement player.
In order to qualify for our team, each player had to spend the majority of his time at a single position during the season being measured. And because the team wasn’t officially christened the Chicago Cubs until 1903, players who represented the Orphans, Colts and White Stockings were excluded (apologies to Bill Hutchison and his 10.6 WAR in 1892).
For more information or the entire team, be sure to pick up a copy of July’s issue of Vine Line. And watch the blog in the coming weeks for the rest of the roster.
Third Baseman: Ron Santo, 1967—9.4 WAR
Ron Santo has always been considered the gold standard for Chicago third basemen. Statistically speaking, his 1967 campaign was not only the greatest for a third baseman in Cubs history, it was also a top five all-time WAR total at the position. Advanced statistics show it was his finest year defensively, with 391 assists at the hot corner, but he was just as tough at the plate. Santo was third in the NL in home runs, sixth in on-base percentage and seventh in RBI. He also displayed his customary patience at the dish, leading the league with 96 walks, tied for the highest total of his career. He didn’t get an All-Star nod that season, but he did come in fourth in MVP voting and claimed his fourth of five Gold Gloves. While the younger generation of Cubs fans probably remembers Santo for his work on WGN Radio, his stats in 1967 put into relief just how talented No. 10 was with the bat and the glove.
Rob Neyer’s Take:
“In a pitcher’s year, Santo batted .300 with power and led the National League in walks. He also won his fourth Gold Glove at third base and finished fourth in the MVP balloting.”
Other Notable Seasons:
Ron Santo – 8.6 WAR (1964)
Ron Santo – 8.4 WAR (1968)