10 Decades, 10 Legends: 1920s—Grover Cleveland Alexander
For our annual July All-Star issue, Vine Line set out to find the most valuable player from each 10-year span in Wrigley Field’s history to create a Cubs All-Star team for the ages. There are hundreds of ways to go about this, so we simplified things by using the baseball statistics website Fangraphs to find the player with the best Wins Above Replacement total for each decade.
Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR, takes all of a player’s statistics—both offensive and defensive—and outputs them into a single number designed to quantify that player’s total contributions to his team (though for pitchers, we used only their mound efforts and excluded offensive stats). For our purposes, a player received credit only for the numbers he posted in each individual decade and only for the years he was a member of the Cubs.
In the second installment of our 10 Decades, 10 Legends series, the 1920s saw one of the game’s greatest arms spend most of the decade on Chicago’s North Side.
1910s – Hippo Vaughn
1920s – Grover Cleveland Alexander, 28.8 WAR
Games-Games Started: 209-193
Grover Cleveland Alexander’s best days were already behind him by the 1920s. From his debut in 1911 through 1919, he averaged more than 300 innings per season and went 208-100 with a 2.09 ERA. Still, the Cubs got a pretty solid arm when they acquired Alexander from the Phillies in 1918. He won 27 games, put up a 1.91 ERA, made 40 starts, threw 33 complete games, logged 363.1 innings and fanned 173 batters in 1920. All of those numbers led the league for the year. In his seven 1920s seasons with the team, Old Pete’s ERA was never higher than 3.63, and he won 15 games or more five times. In 1938, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, receiving more than 80 percent of the vote on his third attempt.