Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 18, 2004
BASEBALL: The Team That Might Have Been Actually Was

The 1994 Montreal Expos are one of baseball's great "what-if" stories - what if they'd played out a full season? What if they'd won the World Series? Would they have been able to hold together such a talented team? Would they have saved baseball in Montreal?

Well, we can't answer those questions precisely . . . although we can approximate an answer to the first question, and without resort to "what-ifs." I was playing around with the Streak Reports on Baseball-Reference.com some time ago, and noticed that from August 19, 1993 through May 5, 1995 - a full 162-game schedule including the entire 1994 regular season - the Expos won 110 games and lost just 52. (The Expos finished the 1993 season on a 31-10 tear in a futile attempt to catch the Phillies, went 74-40 to post the best record in baseball in 1994, and opened 1995 with a 5-2 spurt before slumping to a last-place finish with a depleted lineup. For that stretch, they were, in plain sight, a great team for one full season's worth of games, similar to, say, the 1975 Reds (108 wins), the 1986 Mets (108 wins), or the 1984 Tigers (104 wins). And now, thanks to the magic of Retrosheet, we can not only see that 110-win record; we can flesh out the picture by reconstructing the individual stats of the players who made up a great team. Let's take a look:

Batting Stats

PLAYERGABH2B3BHRRRBIBBKSB-CSAvgSlgOBPDPHB
Darrin Fletcher13241911027215467931350-0.263.444.31477
Cliff Floyd11738710519454744277912-3.271.380.32143
Mike Lansing14553214529255949425519-10.273.363.334158
Wil Cordero149555161404208390507917-5.290.485.356108
Sean Berry139427121273186960517219-1.283.487.361113
Larry Walker14052416050426101112739123-8.305.565.390105
Marquis Grissom1516481983041813072548260-7.306.448.356141
Moises Alou12949716637626939046757-7.334.590.39376
Lou Frazier103188483202918193322-5.255.293.32511
Rondell White69185501426283017362-3.270.465.34033
Lenny Webster57143391005132316240-0.273.448.37076
Randy Ready321052761117101862-1.257.362.37141
Juan Bell389727402121015214-0.278.381.37210
Randy Milligan478219202101214210-0.232.329.33710
Freddie Benavides478516510863150-0.188.271.22221
Oreste Marrero2766154119314121-3.227.364.36300
Tim Spehr7672247111696193-0.333.500.38500
Delino DeShields1761152109413109-0.246.311.36201
John Vander Wal24491041083830-1.204.327.31610
Jeff Gardner1832701041350-0.219.281.28610
Roberto Kelly729720153041-1.241.414.24130
Tony Tarasco620930032140-0.450.600.47600
Shane Andrews616520235250-0.313.813.38900

Team Totals

PLAYERGABH2B3BHRRRBIBBKSB-CSAvgSlgOBPGDPHPB
NON-PITCHERS1625265149733041155808746523798203-57.284.451.35210354
PITCHERS162343465201816211340-0.134.160.18440
TOTAL1625608154333543155826762544932203-57.275.433.34210754

One thing that really jumps out at you about the Expos' offense is its incredible balance. The team leader in homers hit 26, but they managed 209 155 home runs - an average of 26 19 per non-pitching lineup slot. [NOTE: Yes, my arithmetic goofed there somehow, as Travis Nelson has pointed out to me. I'll fix any other arithmetical errors as they come to my attention.] Nobody on this team walked a whole lot - besides Walker with 73, nobody drew more than 54 walks - but everybody drew at least a halfway respectable number of walks and hit for a good enough average to not have a horrid OBP, and nobody struck out 100 times. Everybody could steal a few bases. And everyone hit gobs of doubles. It doesn't look like a terrifying offense, but it was solid all the way through.

Walker and Alou, of course, were the offensive stars, and would go on to distinguished careers elsewhere. The hidden big year here was Grissom, who was dazzling - playing by far the best baseball of his long, erratic career - down the stretch in 1993, batting .353, scoring 34 runs and stealing 24 bases in 25 attempts in 41 games. And, of course, all the way down the depth chart (see more below) you see guys who have had long, productive major league careers.

As you can see, the Expos had an unusually poor-hitting pitching staff; if you break the numbers down (see below), the mainstays of the rotation were especially awful, while guys like Butch Henry, Denis Boucher and the relievers did OK in limited action.

Pitching Stats

PitcherW-LSVERAGGSCGIPHHRBBKRER
Jeff Fassero15-803.0032312207.117617581897969
Ken Hill18-803.6630302196.219215611079280
Pedro Martinez13-513.2026251157.112112501565956
Kirk Rueter12-404.53272701351441531667568
Butch Henry9-512.8234170127.21201224784240
Mel Rojas4-3223.097900110.29613271034638
Gil Heredia9-313.2848701071171020894539
Jeff Shaw6-213.95630086.2881121564238
John Wetteland5-6422.31720085.2555251012422
Tim Scott8-223.12560069.164325572524
Dennis Martinez5-102.538805746516432116
Denis Boucher3-203.8315704748710312320
Gabe White1-116.0875023.224411171616
Chris Nabholz2-000.5962015.17081411
Brian Barnes0-106.001100121708798
TOTAL110-52713.4116216251466.113501334091133623556

What's striking here is that, even for a modern team, this staff never finished its starts. Felipe Alou had a great bullpen (and a deep roster to pinch hit for his helpless-hitting starters), and made extensive use of it. . . Ken Hill and Dennis Martinez went in opposite directions down the stretch in 1993, as Martinez salvaged what had been an awful year, while Hill had the swoon some were expecting again in 1994 when the strike hit . . . Wetteland was incredibly lights-out in 1993, and even moreso the end of the year.

More players:

Minor Hitters

PLAYERGABH2B3BHRRRBIBBKSB-CSAvgSlgOBPDPHB
Curtis Pride109411135031-0.4441.111.44400
Tim Laker39200012040-0.222.222.22200
Joe Siddall99110001020-0.111.222.11100
Frank Bolick47200000011-0.286.286.28610
Mark Grudzielanek25000010020-0.000.000.00000
Chad Fonville32200000000-21.0001.0001.00000

Minor Pitchers

PitcherW-LSVERAGGSCGIPHHRBBKRER
Brian Looney0-007.8841081212977
Rod Henderson0-109.453206.2917397
Heath Haynes0-000.004003.2303110
Carlos Perez0-000.002002.1000200
Luis Aquino0-009.003002311322
Reid Cornelius0-004.501002210011
Bryan Eversgerd0-000.003001.2101000
Curt Schmidt0-000.001001100000
Joey Eischen0-0054.001000.2400144

Pitchers' Batting

PLAYERGABH2B3BHRRRBIBBKSB-CSAvgSlgOBPDPHB
Jeff Fassero32644110403400-0.078.125.11900
Ken Hill31608100344200-0.133.150.18820
Pedro Martinez26484010153240-0.083.125.13510
Kirk Rueter27474000113130-0.085.085.14000
Butch Henry3434910052370-0.265.294.32400
Gil Heredia4825600011030-0.240.240.24000
Dennis Martinez816100002240-0.063.063.16700
Mel Rojas7913300010060-0.231.231.23100
Jeff Shaw638200000130-0.250.250.33300
Denis Boucher159220010040-0.222.444.22200
John Wetteland725100001020-0.200.200.20000
Gabe White74000000110-0.000.000.20000
Tim Scott564000000030-0.000.000.00000
Chris Nabholz62000000110-0.000.000.33300
Brian Barnes111000000010-0.000.000.00000
Brian Looney31000000010-0.000.000.00000
Rod Henderson31000000010-0.000.000.00000
Luis Aquino31100000000-01.0001.0001.00000

No what-ifs about it: when the Expos are gone from Montreal, this team will be worth remembering.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:25 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (4)
Comments

Thanks for posting this. I often grind my teeth when I hear sportscasters taut the hated Braves' "winning their division 12 consecutive years" or "every year since 1991, the Braves have won their division".

I'm sure the Braves would have made the race interesting, like they do every year - but I like to believe the Expos would have held on down the stretch.

Posted by: Mr. Kotter at August 18, 2004 5:07 PM

Looks like you got the error addressed. Use Excel, man, it'll save you a buncha time.

Interestingly, given the 110 wins as this "team" had, it's surprising that nobody on the pitching staff won more than 18 games. Gor that matter, only one pitcher even had 200 innings. I guess that's to be expected, since really there were two off-seasons for player movement in the midst of this 162 game span. It might be interesting to examine how a two- or three-headed player might stack up when you look at, say Pedro Martinez '94-95 and his predecessor from '93, or something.

Posted by: Travis M. Nelson at August 18, 2004 5:19 PM

Good original research and analysis, Crank.

We'll never know what may have been, but it could not have resulted in anything worse than what subsequently unfolded.

Posted by: Rich at August 24, 2004 2:26 AM
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