We now head back to the 60’s for today’s all-decade team, a time when the Braves spent more time in Milwaukee than Atlanta. It was a middling decade, as the team usually ended seasons with win totals in the mid-80’s.
July 11, 2011; Phoenix, AZ, USA; MLB vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre in attendance during the 2011 home run derby at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
C – Joe Torre
Starting with a cup of coffee at age 19 in 1960, Torre had a very good decade splitting time between catching and first base. His .294/.356/.462 line in one of the most extreme pitching eras of history was good for about 35 WAR before his trade to St. Louis. Del Crandall had two very good seasons early in the decade before Torre took over. And yes, Bob Uecker was as bad as he says he was, about two wins below replacement level in his Braves stint.
1B – Joe Adcock
To put an end to a great Braves career, Adcock put up 9-10 WAR in the first three years of the decade, averaging 30 HR a season. After Joe, the position was manned by committee, including Torre, this team’s centerfielder, Gene Oliver, and others until Orlando Cepeda came over in the Torre trade.
2B – Felix Millan
The full-time starter for two seasons, Millan used good defense and a miniscule 5% K rate to accumulate 6 WAR in the decade. Despite having nearly twice as many PA, Frank Bolling was only able to muster 5 WAR in his six years with the team.
SS – Denis Menke
Beginning his career as a utility infielder, Menke settled into the shortstop position during his 6-WAR 1964 season, where he mainly stayed until his departure to Houston in ’68. His average bat led him to 14-15 WAR for the decade. Roy McMillan was worth around seven wins during the early part of the decade.
3B – Eddie Mathews
At age 28, Mathews was already starting his decline phase when the decade began. Even so, his 194 HR and 650 BB led to about 40 WAR his final seven seasons with the franchise. Clete Boyer took over for Mathews, showing his standard great defense, but mediocre bat, for a couple above-average seasons with the Braves.
LF – Rico Carty
Despite his many injuries and a season-plus lost due to tuberculosis, Carty’s great bat carried him to 16-17 WAR in his five seasons of the decade. Lee Maye, not to be confused with the Cincinnati first baseman, provided about 10 WAR between left and center field early in the decade.
CF – Felipe Alou
In his six seasons with the Braves, Felipe had three tremendous seasons, good for about 22-23 WAR in all. His best offensive season came in ’66, hitting 31 homers leading off most of the season. The position was solid for the decade, with Maye and the raw but talented Mack Jones playing there before his immediate, but short-lived, fame in Montreal.
RF – Hank Aaron
The second-best player in the league for the decade (behind Mays), Aaron is still the model of quality consistency, posting between seven and nine WAR every season of the decade. Everyone knows the bat, but Hank also stole 204 bases in the decade and had a +82 defensive rating.
This group is about as weak as the 80’s staff, even with the two HOFer’s in the mix. Just over half of Niekro’s appearances in his 14-WAR decade were in relief, as it took a Medlen-esque 1.87 ERA in ’67 to get Phil out of the bullpen. Spahn had four good to great seasons before a disastrous ’64 season ended his 20-season run with the Braves. Lemaster makes the rotation due to quantity, not quality, as he was never much above average with the Braves. He was sent with Menke to Houston, where he had two very good seasons before falling off the map. Johnson was a strike-thrower who had two-and-a-half good seasons before age set in. Jarvis began his career with two-plus decent seasons, only good for around 8 WAR. Bob Shaw had two good seasons with the team, just missing the cut. Also missing the cut was Tony Cloninger, despite his 1200+ innings. Despite the 24 wins, his ’65 season was quite average, especially as the walks started to climb.
Upshaw baffled hitters with his submarine delivery, posting a 2.63 ERA as the Braves stopper, good for 3-3.5 WAR in his two-plus seasons this decade. The lefty O’Dell had a good, but fairly lucky, season-plus with the Braves, his first foray as a full-time bullpen member. Guys like Clay Carroll and Claude Raymond threw quite a few innings as relievers with the Braves, but didn’t have much sustained success, aside from Carroll’s ’66 season.