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A thread on BBTF about Chipper Jones got me to thinking about how long players stay with one team and has it changed drastically recently. So I figured, what the heck, lets check!

Using the Lahman Database - all stats from 1871 through 2011 in MS Access/SQL/csv format - I was able to make a table of players who have stayed with one team for various lengths of time and for their full careers.

Some basic trivia first...
  • The 3000 Game Club (aka most games for one franchise)...
    • Carl Yastrzemski, 3308 for Boston
    • Hank Aaron, 3076 for Milwaukee/Atlanta
    • Stan Musial, 3026 for St Louis
    • Cal Ripken, 3001 for Baltimore
  • Number of times a player has played x games for a franchise (note: lots of double counting of players)
    • Just 1: 1,941
    • 2-99: 26,218
    • 100-499: 10,006
    • 500-999: 1,595
    • 1000-1999: 540
    • 2000-2999: 58
    • 3000+: 4
Fun stuff. Now on to the single franchise players....
  • Total Players with just 1 franchise: 8,032 (out of 17,735 ML players ever or 45.3%)
  • Total Players with 1000+ games with 1 franchise: 115
  • Total Players with 2000+ games with 1 franchise: 36
  • Total Players with 3000+ games with 1 franchise: 3 (Aaron played for the Brewers at the end)
Wow does that cut the number down eh?
For those 115 who played 1000+ games with just one 1 franchise we see the following breakdown...
  • Still active in 2011: 18
  • Retired in the decade starting...
    • Pre 1890: 0
    • 1890: 2
    • 1900: 0
    • 1910: 1
    • 1920: 6
    • 1930: 6
    • 1940: 11
    • 1950: 12
    • 1960: 8
    • 1970: 18
    • 1980: 8
    • 1990: 14
    • 2000: 11 (doesn't count guys who retired in 2009 or 2010)
Another interesting bit there. Peaked in the '70s with 18 (Banks, Clemente, Kaline, Mazeroski, Brooks Robinson are highlights), but the 1980's, the first decade with free agency from start to finish, had the same number (8) as the 1960's which was the last decade without.

However, there is a piece missing. How many players retired with 1000+ games total in each decade and what percentage stayed with just one team?
  • 1880: 4 players, 0% with one franchise
  • 1890: 57 players, 3.5% with one franchise
  • 1900: 58 players, 0% with one franchise
  • 1910: 79 players, 1.3% with one franchise
  • 1920: 84 players, 7.1% with one franchise
  • 1930: 79 players, 7.6% with one franchise
  • 1940: 92 players, 12.0% with one franchise
  • 1950: 78 players, 15.4% with one franchise
  • 1960: 111 players, 7.2% with one franchise
  • 1970: 124 players, 14.5% with one franchise
  • 1980: 182 players, 4.4% with one franchise
  • 1990: 166 players, 8.4% with one franchise
  • 2000: 195 players, 5.6% with one franchise
  • Still Active: 153 players, 11.8% with one franchise
Interesting... the golden age (1950's) when many books were written and teams started to move was the most 'loyal' time for players but the 1970's was a close 2nd despite the start of free agency. The 2000's dropped to just 1/3rd of the peak level and, outside of the 80's, was the lowest since the days when Babe Ruth was a top pitcher and Ty Cobb the best hitter. Also interesting to see how little loyalty existed pre-1920 retirements. Probably due to rival leagues appearing and disappearing (Players League, American Association, Federal League, Union Association) and teams coming and going often too (NL had a massive contraction in 1900) plus the American League coming to life in 1901.

Basically what this shows is players being with just one franchise was an extremely rare thing in the early days of baseball, then it became common for players retiring in the 40's/50's and 70's with two big drops, the 1980's and the 2000's. The 80's would've had most stars who peaked in the 70's when free agency first came to being. I suspect 10%+ of 1000 game players will not stick with teams anymore, that a 5% rate is most likely going forward for an assortment of reasons. From teams trying to cut their budgets (Montreal in the 90's/00's, Oakland & Tampa Bay today) to players hanging on to break records or reach milestones or just not wanting to quit.

Also of note: just to make everyone depressed not one Jay has played for 1000 games with just Toronto. Our top 'single franchise' guy is Garth Iorg at 931 followed by the top active player, Adam Lind at 621 then it drops to Russ Adams at 286 and Travis Snider at 232 (!) with Danny Ainge at 211 the only other one over 200 games. Jerry Garvin's 196 is the highest for a pitcher followed by Casey Janssen at 166. The guys with 1000+ in Toronto are Tony Fernandez (1450), Carlos Delgado (1423), Vernon Wells (1393), Lloyd Moseby (1392), Ernie Whitt (1218), George Bell (1181), Willie Upshaw & Rance Mulliniks (1115 each), Joe Carter (1039) and Jesse Barfield (1032). Whitt was the closest to being a 'pure Jay' with just 110 games elsewhere while Moseby, Wells, Upshaw and Barfield only played for one other team. Carter actually played more games with other teams than he did for Toronto (1150 vs 1039).
Players Careers With One Team | 12 comments | Create New Account
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GregH - Tuesday, March 13 2012 @ 02:47 PM EDT (#252668) #
Interesting information here, but I'm posting this here because I'm not sure where else to put it.  I just noticed that Paul Quantrill's 16 year old son Cal pitched 2 innings for the Canadian Junior National Team against a Blue Jays split squad in Dunedin today.  My son played against Cal in the Ontario Baseball Association Bantam Championships in 2008.  Here is a short article about Cal Quantirlle:
Mick Doherty - Tuesday, March 13 2012 @ 10:32 PM EDT (#252674) #

Nice work, John. I did a piece on this same topic area (basically, determining the "Mr. Franchise" equivalent of each team's quivalent to Ernie Banks as Mr. Cub) a few years back, but it was much less statistically sound.  The one problem I have with your methodology is that it completely and totally discounts some forty percent of the baseball world ... pitchers!

I have no idea how to fix that, but I don't think conclusions can be drawn about "baseball players" as a whole using Games Played as the central stat for this reason.

John Northey - Wednesday, March 14 2012 @ 09:52 AM EDT (#252678) #
Good point Mick, although there have been a few pitchers to reach 1000 games (15) with just one spending his whole career (so far) with just one team (Rivera).

FYI: 1252 is the record for games pitched, by Jesse Orosco. Rivera' 1042 is the highest for active pitchers followed by Arthur Rhodes 900, LaTroy Hawkins 823, and Kyle Farnsworth at 776.

I'll have to see if I can do another chart based on years in the majors instead. I suspect pitchers will be less likely to stick with one team but it could just be speculation.
greenfrog - Wednesday, March 14 2012 @ 10:09 AM EDT (#252679) #
BA's staff has posted their 2012 season predictions (they see the Jays finishing fourth in the AL East, with the Yankees winning the division and the Angels and Rays claiming the WC positions - although they call the Jays "the best fourth-place team, by far, in baseball" and predict that Rasmus will be the team's next first-time All-Star):
Jonny German - Wednesday, March 14 2012 @ 10:48 AM EDT (#252680) #
Jason Frasor would be #3 in the only-a-Blue-Jay list at 455 games, if not for his recent 20-game sojurn in Chicago.
John Northey - Wednesday, March 14 2012 @ 01:50 PM EDT (#252688) #
To adjust to allow pitchers here are some total year stats...
  • 20+ years with just one team: 17 - record is 23 for Brooks Robinson & Carl Yastrzemski
  • 182 players played 10+ years with just one team (minimum to qualify for HOF is 10 years)
  • By team: most single team players: The A's with 502 followed by the Phillies with 447. Toronto has 72.
  • For inactive franchises the Louisville Colonels had 78 single team players. 4 ML franchises had just 1 player who played with no one else (original Milwaukee Brewers, Brooklyn Ward's Wonders, Chicago Pirates, and the Philadelphia White Stockings)
  • For 10+ years with just one team the Yankees lead by a good margin with 25 vs the Tigers at 16, San Francisco Giants & Minnesota Twins/Washington Senators 13, Boston Red Sox & Los Angeles Dodgers at 12, and Pittsburgh Pirates at 11. Strangly the Yankees also have the fewest 'single team players' for any of the pre-expansion franchises at 245 followed by the Dodgers at 316.
  • For active franchises the ones without a 10+ man are the Jays (72), Florida Marlins (66), Arizona Diamondbacks (44), and Tampa Bay Rays (38). Only the Expos/Nationals (Steve Rogers) and Senators/Rangers (Michael Young) have 1 player at 10+
  • The Jays expansion cousins, Seattle Mariners, have 2 10+ guys (Edgar Martinez, Ichiro)
  • Of the pre-expansion franchises the Chicago Cubs are lowest at 3 10+ guys - Ernie Banks, Stan Hack and Carlos Zambrano However, Zambrano will leave this club in his first game with the Marlins pushing them down to 2.
  • Of the expansion franchises the most 10+ guys belongs to the Royals at 5 followed by the Brewers at 4 and Astros & Angels at 3 each.
Single franchise players by decade 10+ years
  • 1870: 0
  • 1880: 0
  • 1890: 3
  • 1900: 0
  • 1910: 4
  • 1920: 10
  • 1930: 13
  • 1940: 19
  • 1950: 24
  • 1960: 11
  • 1970: 24
  • 1980: 26
  • 1990: 20
  • 2000: 11
  • Active: 17
Not bothering with percentages, but it is clear that the 00's (not counting 2009 retirees) was a low decade. One to two 10+ guys with one team retire each year it seems since the 1920's but the 2000-2009 stretch was low.
John Northey - Wednesday, March 14 2012 @ 01:55 PM EDT (#252689) #
Oh, forgot to list the most years for a 'pure Jay'.
Garth Iorg: 9
Jerry Garvin, Luis Leal, Adam Lind: 6 each (until opening day)
Mike Willis & Russ Adams: 5 each
Casey Janssen, Jesse Litsch, Dustin McGowan, Travis Snider: 4 each

Quite the group charging up the list there. Of the top 10 'Jays only' players 5 are active. Frasor & Stieb are the two who are super-close with Frasor having 20 games stopping him from tying Iorg this year and Stieb being 4 away from a 15 year 'pure Jay' career (16th year was those 4 games).
Jimbag - Wednesday, March 14 2012 @ 11:57 PM EDT (#252726) #
For a moment I was surprised to see 45% of all ML players had spent their entire careers with one franchise, then I remembered that every one of the 1.941 "one and outers" padded those numbers, as did quite a few of the 2-99 cup of coffee crowd.
cybercavalier - Thursday, March 15 2012 @ 07:59 AM EDT (#252734) #
Off topic, maybe a chat on how many personnel in the Jays or other MLB organization have initials beginning with same two alphabets.

Last season, the Jays had AA the GM, EE at DH and 3rd base, FF in bullpen, MM on the bench, and RR in starting rotation.

Mike Green - Thursday, March 15 2012 @ 08:58 AM EDT (#252737) #
Well said, CC. :)

Alas, Mick the Quick has covered this ground better than Devon White. 

greenfrog - Thursday, March 15 2012 @ 09:15 AM EDT (#252738) #
Don't forget about a former SS-turned-reliever acquired by AA named SS. The 'pen just got a whole lot more sibilant.
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