Best Team in MLB 1994

In August 1994, MLB players walked out after being provoked by their owners threatening to unilaterally impose a salary cap system.  Owner representative & MLB commissioner Bud Selig cancelled the World Series a month later, for reasons discussed in greater detail in an earlier piece. [1]

Pedro & Felipe

No one knows who would have won the 1994 World Series, but the Montreal Expos and New York Yankees seemed the most likely match-up.  Each were clearly the best team in their league.  This piece is an analysis of something that never happened, as MLB has never acknowledged a “Best Team of 1994,” in lieu of its traditional ‘World Series champions.’

It seems necessary to do so, in the name of fairness, especially to a group of fans who saw their team robbed of the best chance they ever had to win a World Series.  The great irony of all this was the 1994 MLB strike was provoked by the owners & their commissioner– Bud Selig, in the name “small-market competitiveness.”

The scope of this piece is the understanding of numbers, to determine the superior team.  Recognizing the correct numbers (and their integrated weighted values), is where math and baseball knowledge blend. Everything a fan needs to know to solve the 1994-season is provided in the numbers below, which were gleaned from

Final note to ATL fans: the Braves divisional winning streak was broken in this season, as they finished second in the NL East to the Expos. Yes, the season was shortened; and yes there were no playoffs, but the record still stands as the Braves losing the division in 1994. The Braves two consecutive division-winning streaks from this era run: 1991-1993, and 1995-2005.

Expos 1994

1994 Montreal Expos
74-40, Finished 1st in NL East
Manager: Felipe Alou
GM: Kevin Malone (Promoted 1/27/1994), Farm Dir: Kent Qualls, Scouting Dir: Ed Creech
Scored 585 runs, Allowed 454 runs. Pythagorean W-L: 70-44

Moises Alou_LF

Pos  Name                Age  G     PA    AVG/OBP/SLG
C      Darrin Fletcher  27    94   325      .260/.314/.435
1B    Cliff Floyd          21   100   366     .281/.332/.398
2B    Mike Lansing    26    106  435      .266/.328/.368
SS   Wil Cordero       22    110  467      .294/.363/.489
3B    Sean Berry       28    103  359      .278/.347/.453
LF    Moises Alou      27    107  471      .339/.397/.592
CF  Marquis Grissom 27   110  521      .288/.344/.427
RF  Larry Walker        27   103  452      .322/.394/.587

C Lenny Webster     29       57 166    .273/.370/.448
LF Lou Frazier          29       76 160    .271/.358/.307
2B Juan Bell             26       38 114    .278/.372/.381
LF Rondell White      22       40 109    .278/.358/.464

Pedro Martinez-Expos

Starters             Age   W/L  ERA G GS   IP       WHIP
Ken Hill                28    16 5   3.32 23 23  154.2   1.222
Pedro Martinez    22    11 5   3.42 24 23 144.2    1.106
Jeff Fassero         31     8 6   2.99 21 21  138.2    1.147
Butch Henry         25     8 3   2.43 24 15  107.1    1.090
Kirk Rueter           23     7 3   5.17 20 20   92.1     1.397

Bullpen               Age   W/L  ERA  G GF   IP       WHIP
John Wetteland    27      4 6    2.83  52  43  63.2    1.052
Mel Rojas             27      3 2    3.32  58  27  84.0    1.095
Gil Heredia           28      6 3    3.46  39   8   75.1    1.301
Jeff Shaw             27      5 2    3.88  46 15   67.1    1.218
Tim Scott             27       5 2    2.70  40  8    53.1    1.294

Expos team fielding % of .979, ranked 11th of 14 NL teams

Stade Olympique · Attendance: 1,276,250 (11th in NL)

Total Expos payroll: $26,388,500 (27th in MLB)

Buck Showalter & Boss Steinbrenner

1994 New York Yankees
70-43, Finished 1st in AL East
Manager: Buck Showalter
GM: Gene Michael, Farm Dir: Mitch Lukevics, Scouting Dir: Bill Livesey
Scored 670 runs, Allowed 534 runs. Pythagorean W-L: 68-45

Wade Boggs 3B

Pos  Name                Age  G     PA    AVG/OBP/SLG
C      Mike Stanley       31  82     333   .300/.384/.545

1B    Don Mattingly      33  97     436   .304/.397/.411
2B    Pat Kelly              26  93     329   .280/.330/.399
SS    Mike Gallego       33  89     357   .239/.327/.359
3B    Wade Boggs        36  97     434   .342/.433/.489
LF    Luis Polonia         30  95     394   .311/.383/.414
CF   Bernie Williams    25 108    475   .289/.384/.453
RF   Paul O’Neill          31 103    443   .359/.460/.603
DH Danny Tartabull    31 104    470    .256/.360/.464

IF Randy Velarde        31  77     310  .279/.338/.439
UT Jim Leyritz            30  75      293  .265/.365/.518
LF Gerald Williams     27  57       91   .291/.319/.523

Starters               Age    W/L  ERA  G  GS   IP     WHIP

Jimmy Key            33     17 4   3.27  25 25 168.0    1.363
Jim Abbott             26       9 8   4.55  24 24  160.1   1.441
Melido Perez         28       9 4   4.10  22 22  151.1   1.269
Terry Mulholland    31      6 7   6.49  24 19  120.2   1.550
Scott Kamieniecki 30       8 6   3.76  22 16  117.1   1.483

Bullpen               Age     W/L   ERA   G  GF    IP      WHIP
Steve Howe          36        3 0   1.80    40  25   40.0    0.875
Bob Wickman       25        5 4   3.09    53  19   70.0    1.157
Xavier Hernandez 28        4 4  5.85     31 14   40.0    1.725
Donn Pall               32        1 2  3.60     26  7    35.0    1.486
Paul Gibson          34        1 1   4.97    30  15   29.0    1.483

NYY had a fielding % of .982, good for 4th of 14 AL teams

Yankee Stadium · Attendance: 1,675,556 (7th in AL)

Total Yankees payroll: $66,208,334 (1st in MLB)

Yankee Stadium_8-3-94

Wrap-up: Interpreting the correct numbers correctly, we see the Montreal Expos were clearly the best team in MLB in 1994, and likely would have won the World Series had there been a full season.  If these teams played our hypothetical World Series ten times, the Expos would win seven.  Montreal starting pitching was dominant, and so was their bullpen.  The ’94 Expos also got on-base (OBP) & mashed (SLG). They were a bit below-average defensively, which was their only weakness.

The Yankees had a great lineup, a notch better than the outstanding Expos. However, Yankees pitching was several notches worse. Compare ERA & WHIP for both staffs.  Thin all-around would be the best description for NYY, as they were overly-reliant on veteran lefty Jimmy Key to be an ace. Self-destructive Steve Howe was their closer.  After that it was pedestrian arms at best, in the rotation & pen.  The Yankees were good, but not great defensively, so that advantage over the Expos would have been minimal.

Both teams had good managers, as indicated by the fact that both overplayed their Pythagorean projections. Both had bench depth. Compare player ages, and notice how much younger the Expos were, as compared to the veteran Yankees. In 1994, the Expos did it purely with scouting & player development; meanwhile the Yankees (again) had the largest payroll in MLB, as only Bernie Williams was homegrown.

1994 Montreal Expos


Mariano Rivera #42: Elegance in Performance

Every season in every sport, great stars leave their game due to age and limitations in their ability to perform.  This is often a painful reality for once-great athletes, who can no longer live up to their earlier levels of excellence.  The ending is mostly a sentimental journey for these players, with fans usually honoring them as old heroes, about to be put out to pasture.  It is often difficult to watch at this point, without cringing slightly.

Mariano Rivera is different, and here is why?

Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera, at age 43, (with 3 games left in his final season) is still just as good as he’s ever been.  His career ERA is 2.21.  His 2013 ERA is 2.11.  He injured his knee during the 2012 season, in a freak accident, shagging fly balls in batting practice.  No one wanted to see it end that way for him, even though it looked like it was the end.

rivera injured

Rivera promised to come back to finish on his terms; and what would be impossible for most, appeared as inevitable & effortless as any other time he took the mound in the 9th inning, during his career.

Mariano Rivera pitched on the biggest stage, in the biggest media market in the world, for 18 seasons; and NEVER once in all that time was there any type of scandal connected to his name.  This quiet, unassuming gentleman was satisfied enough with simply being the greatest closer ever, helping his team win 5 World Series championships.  No PEDs. No tabloid scandals. No negotiating his contracts through the media.  No badmouthing, anyone.  Just elegance & class.

Mariano Rivera is everything we want our athletes to be.  That is the only explanation for the ovations he received in every stadium he pitched, in 2013.  Rivera made rooting for the Yankees acceptable for non-Yankee fans, through how he conducted himself; in victory as well as defeat.  It is impossible to hate Mariano Rivera; if you do, then you are a hater.  It would be comparable to not liking the Beatles.

Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax was always revered for retiring when he was on top.  Koufax, the best pitcher of his era, was forced to retire at age 30, due to an elbow injury that threatened to cripple him if he continued to pitch.  His sense of dignity would not allow him to become ineffective and maimed.  Under difficult circumstances, he correctly made the most important career decision any successful athlete ever has to make.

Rivera retires like Koufax, only with his career fully completed.  Rivera had the advantage of modern sports science, training, nutrition, surgery, etc.; that allowed him to finish the way he & his fans wanted it to finish.

Jackie Robinson 2

The symmetry of Rivera being the last MLB player to wear #42 is recognized by baseball fans everywhere.  No better player from this era could represent that connection to Jackie Robinson first wearing #42 in Brooklyn on April 15, 1947.  MLB’s #42 ends with the most extraordinary player of our modern era– the way it should be. Very rarely is there such universal love & admiration for any player.  Rivera’s performance, along with his personal conduct, throughout his amazing career are what make him so special, and so loved by fans everywhere.