all Time Top Ten: Pitchers

This is the last post before I eventually overhaul this site and turn it into a more colorful site dedicated to baseball cards.  But I imagine I’ll still publish posts related to statistics.  Here are the top ten pitchers of all time as I see it.

1. Walter Johnson 1907-1927 417-279 WL, 3509 SO, 2.17 ERA, 147ERA+, 1.061 WHIP

Unlike other positions would really have to use more advanced statistis and “massage” the numbers to get a sense of where pitchers really rank in history.  Much like Babe Ruth though, no matter how you slice or dice it Walter Johnson always comes out on top. Speaking of Johnson and Ruth I saw a video once, where Walter Johnson was pitching batting practice to Ruth in an exhibition in the 1940s.  Ruth looked like Ruth after his playing days:  Fat, old, etc.  Johnson, who was eight years older, looked trim, in shape,  like he really could have stepped back out on the mound and pitched a few to Dimaggio or Williams without being embarrassed.

2. Tom Seaver 1967-1986 311-205 WL, 3640SO. 2.86ERA,127 ERA+, 1.121 WHIP

I guess I should explain this one.  Most people would probably put Lefty Grove here, and maybe Seaver a little lower on the list.  But you know in life time WAR they’re pretty close, Grove has a slight edge,  and Seaver played a lot more recently so I like to give a little more credit for that.  But i compare Seaver to his contemporaries.. Seaver vs. Carlton.. Seaver vs. Palmer.. Seaver vs. Ryan, Seaver vs. Perry.   And Tom Seaver comes out on top every time..by a clear margin.  And keep in mind the last ten years of his career Seaver was overweight.. and for whatever reason clearly not the same pitcher.. and his statistics suffered relative to some others on the list because of that.  This ranking is based on early 70s Tom Seaver.

3. Lefty Grove 1925-1931  300-141 WL, 2266 SO. 3.06 ERA, 148 ERA+. 1.278 WHIP

Statistics are a funny thing.  I was going to talk about this when I got to Cy Young, but Grove is just as good.  How do we measure the ability of pitchers through eras? One of the judgements we use is velocity, and if you go by anecdotes and what statistics are available Lefty Grove was one of the fastest in history.  His speed was legendary.  So Was Walter Johnson.  So was Cy Young.  But what if they were really in the low 90s?  And maybe people just THOUGHT they were fast.  old timers who claimed to have seen Cy Young and Feller just KNEW Young was faster.  Later those who saw both Feller and Nolan Ryan KNEW Feller was faster.  Heck if you go by anecdotes Steve Dalkowski was probably the fastest man in history at around 105-110 mph.  Nolan Ryan held the record for years at 100.9 MPH, which was clocked in the mid 70s.  But he almost certainly threw faster at some point.  Today’s fastest pitchers regularly hit over 100.  What this leads me to is that ultimately you have to judge what they accomplish on the field.  And Grove, despite a mediocre-seeming ERA and strikeout total was the best of the day.  He led the league in ERA nine times and in strikeouts seven times.  He might have led more often but Connie Mack didn’t want to bring him to the majors too early for fear another team would grab him.  There are three men in baseball history who have higher ERA+ ratings.  Jim Devlin, who was 19th century and doesn’t count, Mariano Rivera who was exclusively a relief pitcher, and doesn’t count (for this purpose), and Pedro Martinez.  He’s another story I’ll get to later. On the other hand Grove has a WHIP of 1.278, that’s not real good, though he did lead the league five times.  You just have to take it for granted that for the same reason players like Babe Herman and Lefty O Doul weren’t HOF caliber just because they had great hitting seasons in those days that Lefty Grove was MUCH MUCH better than his somewhat modest stats would indicate.

4. Pete Alexander 1911-1930 373-208 WL, 2198 SO. 3.56 ERA, 136 ERA+. 1.121 WHIP

If not for WWI and alcoholism may have had statistics rivaling Walter Johnson.  Had another 45 wins in the minors.

5. Greg Maddux 1986-2008 355-227 WL, 3371 SO, 3.16 ERA, 132 ERA+,  1.143 WHIP

Well if not for steroids I might rank Clemens higher than Maddux.  Plus I saw Maddux pitch, not so much Roger Clemens.  Maddux absolutely lived off the outside corner.  I mean he packed a lunch, headed there, and just pitched a tent in a little 2 inch by 2 inch window just off the strike zone low and away..  once he lost his ability to nail that precise spot every single pitch he became far less effective.  He also hung around a couple seasons too long… hurting his lifetime totals.  His two best years were 1994 and 1995..  unfortunately he lost 13 or 14 starts due to work stoppages but still posted some amazing totals:

1994-95    53G   20 CG  6SHO   411.6 IP 297H   54 BB  73 ER     35-8 W-L   337 SO   1.60 ERA      WHIP  0.853

That’s just sick.  It’s amazing he only had 6 shutouts those two years.  He was also considered the best defensive pitcher in the majors his entire career.

6. Roger Clemens 1984-2007 354-184 W-L, 4672 SO, 3.12 ERA, 143 ERA+, 1.173 WHIP

I dunno.. it’s all subjective really.  I never got the sense watching Clemens that he was doing anything other than throwing with good velocity, with decent control.. but he just seemed to win, win, win.  Seven Cy Young awards.. hard to argue with that.

I’m going to go ahead and end it here.  I’m kind of tired of this.  Time to move on to new things.

All Time Top Ten: Right Fielders

Amazing, amazing depth at this position.  Probably more than any other spot in baseball history.  

1. Babe Ruth 1914-1935 2503G, 714HR, 2220RBIs, .342BA, 206 OPS+

Obviously.  Well maybe not so obviously. He played left field as well as right interchangeably, so I could have put him on that list instead.  He also pitched some in case you hadn’t heard.  Everyone knows about Ruth so moving on… 

2. Hank Aaron 1954-1976 3298G, 755HR. 2297 RBIs, .305BA, 155 OPS+

Of course many consider Aaron the “real” home run king.  It doesn’t matter, who wouldn’t rather have Hank Aaron on their team than Barry Bonds?  I had a chance once in the late 80’s to pick up an Aaron rookie card.. in I think nrmt.. maybe exmt condition for $75.  I passed on that and instead got:

1966 Pete Rose nrmt for $7

1966 Sandy Koufax nrmt for $5

1958 Harmon Killebrew nrmt for $5

1909 T206 John Mcgraw exmt for $25

1909 T206 Roger Bresnaham exmt for $25.

and my crowning jewel – a 1955 Al Kaline in gem mint for 12 dollars.

I think I talked him down to $75 for the group.  I no longer have any of those cards.  I still weep when I think of that Kaline.  I foolishly traded it to my friend once.. had sellers remorse and wanted to trade back for it the following week:  it was no longer nrmt.  The others I sold when I was hard up for cash in the mid 90s.  What does any of this have to do with Hank Aaron?  Not much I suppose. 

3. Frank Robinson  1956-1976 2808G, 586HR, 1812 RBIs, .294BA, 154 OPS+

People tend to think of Robinson as kind of a poor man’s Hank Aaron.  So maybe he’s not quite as hugely popular as Aaron, but his lifetime OPS is almost exactly the same.  Won the triple crown in 1966, but oddly that was the ONLY year he ever led the league in ANY of the triple crown categories.  So I looked and sure enough every single other triple crown winner led the league at some point in something other than his triple crown year.  Robinson finished 2nd in BA twice, 2nd in home runs twice, and 2nd in RBIs four times.  Like Ruth played a lot of games in left as well.  

4. Mel Ott 1926-1947 2730G, 511 HR, 1860 RBIs, .304BA, 155 OPS+

The right field position is just absolutely loaded.  Ott appeared in eleven straight all star games.. from 1934-1944.. every game EXCEPT the first one in 1933.  In 1945 Ott was still effective at 36,  hitting 21/79/.308  151 OPS.  But next year just fell off the map and was quickly out of the league.  Another weird thing about Ott is he hit 323 of his home runs at home vs. 188 on the road, yet he hit .311 away while only .297 at home.  

5. Reggie Jackson 1967-1987 2820G, 563 HR, 1702 RBIs, .262 BA, 139 OPS+

Jackson  was a phenomenal athlete,  and might surprise people being ranked so high but he played in a depressed statistical era. He was a great baserunner, but a rather bad fielder for some reason. 

6. Roberto Clemente 1955-1972 2433G, 240HR, 1305 RBI, ..317BA, 130 OPS+

Did I mention right field was loaded?  Many people would likely rank Clemente higher.. but home runs count for a lot.  He certainly wouldn’t rank above Robinson.  I wrote an article comparing Clemente to Kaline on this site.  They are quite comparable and closer in ability than people might think.  I’ll give Clemente the edge though.  Not really based off anything other than reputation however.

7. Al Kaline 1953-1974 2834G, 399 HR, 1583 RBIs, .297BA, 134 OPS+

Al Kaline is one of my favorite players, in case you couldn’t tell.  And he retired when I was one, and I’m not from Detroit so I don’t know why.  I think it’s the fact he played year in, year out.. not a whole lot of accolades but well regarded.. and ultimately with a career that holds up well against some of the big name HOF players.  Kaline holds what is probably my favorite record in baseball as well:  Most home runs in a career without ever hitting 30 in a season.  I dunno why but I like that one.  

8. Gary Sheffield 1988-2009 2576G, 509 HR, 1676 RBIs, .292 BA, 140 OPS+

People forget about Sheffield.  How good he really was.  As a hitter I mean.  He was a sucktacular fielder.  he was a career journeyman, kind of odd and rare for a hitter of his quality.  He also played a number of positions,  just mostly in right.  Truth is if you want to move him down father on the list I wouldn’t much care.

9. Dwight Evans 1972-1991 2606G, 385 HR, 1384 RBIs, .272BA, 127 OPS+

I was trying to figure out who to put in this spot.. Tony Gwynn?  Harry Heilman?  Maybe move Gary Sheffield down?  Maybe even Sammy Sosa.. but Dwight Evan’s name just kept popping out at me.. taunting me.  So here he is.  Truth is Evans was criminally underrated and should probably be in the hall of fame.  There’s two type of ball players statistically.  Well three types if you count the Babe Ruth/Willie Mays mega stars.  The two are those players whose statistics are worse than they appear and those that they’re better than they appear.  Dwight Evans is certainly in the latter.  He had a fair amount of power.. drew plenty of walks.. hit for a pretty decent average considering the era.  He was actually a much better than his long time teammate Jim Rice, who did make the hall of fame.  What he’s really known for is being a fantastic fielder.  Probably the 2nd or third best on this list behind Clemente and maybe Kaline. 

10.  Tony Gwynn  1982-2001 2440 G, 135 HR, 1138 RBIs, .338 AVG.  

I could have put any number of players here, but I’ll talk about them in the honorable mentions.  Of all the players I’ve personally seen (mostly on TV naturally),  I’ve never seen a player with the ability to put the bat on the ball like Tony Gwynn.  It seemed like he just never struck out, and a few years it looked like he really might have challenged the .400 mark.  Didn’t work out, but just a fascinating guy to watch at the plate.  Pretty good base runner in the 80s before he turned into a butterball.  also won 5 gold gloves but was really an average fielder for the most part. 

 

Honorable Mention (and why I didn’t pick them)

Paul Waner –  Might be surprising he isn’t on the list but I’m not sure who I’d replace with him.  Not much power but otherwise a great hitter.  Poor defense.

Sammy Sosa – Really not off the list due to steroids but taken as a whole his OPS is too low and not that great a fielder anyway. A lot of right fielders are surprisingly bad in that regard. Anyone looking for proof of steroids just look at his career. In 1990 he hit 15 home runs in 532 At Bats.  As late as 1997 he hit 36 in 642 At Bats.  He then proceeded to tear off 66,63,50,64,49.  Once he was forced to quit the juicing his numbers fell back to earth:  in 2005 he hit 14 in 380 At Bats and in 2007 it was 21 in 412.  

Bobby Abreu – Pretty good all around career – but his stats are like Dwight Evans – if Evans was a below average fielder.   

Dave Winfield – Very very close to making the list,  and would have had he not gotten injured before the 1989 season.  He was never the same player after that.  He won seven gold gloves which sounds great,  but then I looked at his fielding stats, and well they just look kind of bad.  Gold gloves might be the most subjective award in baseball.  

Dave Parker – In terms of just sheer raw ability one of the top five players on the list, but somehow it just didn’t pan out.  Had some injuries in the early 80s.  Made a comeback but just didn’t quite play at the same level afterwards.  Very similar to Fred Lynn in many ways like that.  

Larry Walker – A good solid hitter, and a pretty good fielder as well, BUT he played a lot of his career in Coors field which artificially inflated his statistics to a great extent.

Ichiro Suzuki – a hard guy to judge..  His hitting is not as good as people think –  he’s basically a better version of Lloyd Waner in that regard – very good average, but low walks,  therefore huge amounts of hits – yet virtually no power.  Problem is Lloyd Waner doesn’t belong in the hall of fame so that’s not really a plus.  What is a plus is Suzuki’s baserunning.  472 Steals with an amazingly low 102 caught stealing at his age? That’s incredible.  Plus his fielding..  The man is a hoover vacuum in right field. His arm may not be like Clemente or Evan’s   but he’s probably one of the top five fielders in right of all time.  

Sam Rice – .322 average in a day when a .322 average wasn’t particularly special.  So-so fielding.  No power.  

Vladimir Guerrero – Again it’s the fielding that gets him.  140 lifetime OPS,  but awful glove.  

Harry Heilmann – If it were just hitting he’s rank 6th or 7th.  But well you know the story.. terrible fielder.. so he’s off the list. 

Bobby Bonds – I suspect were it not for injuries he might rank higher and probably would have made the hall of fame.  But you know you could say that for a lot of people at a lot of positions.  That’s life.  Career was basically done at 33. 

Chuck Klein –  Take a gander at his home/away statistics.  Go ahead take a peek.  I’ll wait.  Still think he belongs in the top ten on this list, much less the hall of fame?  Thought so.

Rocky Colavito –   There’s quite a bit of underground support for Colavito as a player and for the hall of fame.  And those people may actually have a point.  Hit for a fairly solid average for the day.. had Harmon Killebrew level power.. drew plenty of walks.  Reasonable fielder. 132 OPS lifetime.   Problem is his career was just too short.  Retired at the age of 34 due to injuries.  And really he had been done for a few years prior to that.  There’s a lot of guys like that, Hall of fame level ability- had good careers, but injuries just cut them a little too short to really be considered for the hall of fame.  Dick Allen, Tony Oliva,  Colavito,  maybe Ron Guidry pitching.  Charlie Keller might be the poster boy for that type of player.  

Andre Dawson – Much better fielder than many of the players on this list, but his complete inability to draw walks HURTS man.  

 

All Time Top Ten: Center Fielders

1. Willie Mays 1951-1973 2992G, 660HR, 1903RBIs, .302BA, 156 OPS+

See my entry for Honus Wagner under the shortstop article. There’s not a whole lot I can say about Mays that hasn’t already been said.  Mays of course is the all time leader in games played in center field.  Guess who’s second?  Steve Finley.  Can you believe that?  Actually it’s Ty Cobb but they didn’t divvy up the outfield positions in box scores before 1916.  Steve Finley is not on this top ten list by the way.

2. Ty Cobb 1905-1929 3034G, 117HR. 1938 RBIs, .366BA, 168 OPS+

Ty Cobb probably has more anecdotes told about him than any other player except Babe Ruth.  My favorite is this one:  One day a reporter was apparently giving Cobb a hard time about Ruth being a better hitter than Cobb because he hit tons of home runs.  Cobb of course took offense and claimed that any yahoo could hit home runs… but it took real skill to hit for a high average, that there was more art to it.  To support his claim Cobb went out and hit three home runs in one game, then went out the next day and hit two more. “See”, Cobb said.  “Anyone can do it”.   Now my problem with this story is there is no way a player of Cobb’s ability couldn’t see the value of the home run, and had he been able to, surely he would have hit plenty more.  Only an idiot would think a single is worth more than a home run.  In any case while the story might be false or exaggerated the games actually occurred.  On May 5 and 6, 1925 in St. Louis against the Browns Cobb went 9-12 with 5 homers (4.27% of his lifetime total) , 11 RBIs and 6 runs scored.  Possibly the most devastating two game performance in baseball history.  He was 38 years old at the time. As for why I rank him below Mays, well Willie’s power is a big factor.  But mostly I like to think it would irritate Cobb to no end.

3. Ken Griffey Jr.  1989-2010 2671G, 630HR, 1836 RBIs, .284BA, 136 OPS+

For a while there it looked like Griffey would own the all-time home run record..  put it in a lockbox.. and have it for the rest of eternity.  The same was also said of Alex Rodriguez.  But while Rodriguez ran into the PED monster Griffey just simply had too many injuries.  The last ten years he was a shadow of his former self.

4. Mickey Mantle 1951-1968 2401G, 536 HR, 1509 RBIs, .298BA, 172 OPS+

I suppose you could switch Mantle and Griffey.. but Griffey was a better fielder and well, I just like him better.  I’ll just go ahead and state it:  Mickey Mantle was the most naturally talented athlete to ever play the game of baseball.  He was one of, if not the fastest men in the league, and strong as an ox.  While visiting the hall of fame one time there was a candid photo of Mantle in the locker room without his shirt on one of the walls.  I’ll tell you… Mr. Universe would not have been out of the question for Mantle if he had so chosen.  But you know… honestly Mantle has always left me cold.  He wasn’t a very nice person in many ways, and of course that’s partly or even mostly due to the drinking.  But that excuse only goes so far.  Despite everything he accomplished on the field you just think there was a little more… just more overall he could have done.  With most players who didn’t live up to potential you blame fate.. like Tony Conigliaro for instance.. and you feel bad.  With Mantle you just have to blame Mantle. In many ways one of the sadder men in baseball history.

5. Tris Speaker 1907-1928 2789G, 117 HR, 1531 RBIs, .345 BA, 157 OPS+

Tris Speaker isn’t thought of as much these days, mostly because he’s seen as a lesser version of Cobb, and it was so long ago.  But his career closely paralleled Cobb’s and he really wasn’t that much worse. He interrupted Cobb’s streak of batting titles in 1916, as many knowledgeable baseball people know, but most probably think he was robbed of a lot more titles by Cobb. In fact Cobb never took a single title from Speaker.  He finished second in batting average just two seasons:1920 to George Sisler, and 1925 to Harry Heilmann.  Speaker did finish third seven times however.

6. Joe Dimaggio 1936-1951 1736G, 361HR, 1537 RBI, ..325BA, 155 OPS+

Dimaggio only really deserved one of his three MVP awards, the 1939 one.  His other two should have gone to Ted Williams.  Dimaggio however was a better baserunner and fielder than Williams.  So you could at least make a case that when healthy he wasn’t THAT much worse a player.

7. Duke Snider 1947-1964 2143G, 407 HR, 1333 RBIs, .295BA, 140 OPS+

Duke Snider was actually much younger than he looked.  He prematurely greyed and was only 37 when he retired.  For the five year period between 1953-1957 he was an absolute monster, topping 40 home runs all five years, leading the league in runs three straight years, making the all star team all five years and finishing in the top ten in MVP voting four of those years.  In 1955 he finished second to Roy Campanella even though he had a distinctly better year (Willie Mays really should have won it however.) After 1957 it was difficult for him to stay healthy and productive and thus his career stats don’t quite measure up to many all time greats (Maybe he was allergic to Los Angeles)

8. Richie Ashburn 1948-1962 2189G, 29 HR, 586 RBIs, .308 BA, 111 OPS+

If Richie Ashburn had any power at all he might rank higher.  He hit for a good average, drew plenty of walks.. and that combo let him lead the league in on base percentage four times.  He won two batting titles, and was an excellent fielder.  The 1940s and 50s were really spoiled when it came to center fielders.

9. Earl Averill 1929-1941 1669G, 238 HR, 1164 RBIs, .318BA, 133 OPS+

I have Ashburn ahead of Averill because Averill had a much shorter career (and Ashburn’s was semi-short), he didn’t run as well, and wasn’t as good a fielder.  Nonetheless Averill was considered one of the most dangerous hitters of the 1930s.  He didn’t make the majors until age 27,  playing in the PCL before (and after) his career.  Had somewhere in the neighborhood of 3500 hits and 400 home runs if you count semi-pro ball, which I guess I just did.

10. Kirby Puckett 1984-1995 1783G, 207 HR, 1085 RBIs, .318 BA, 124 OPS+

I would never have guessed Puckett would have made the top ten, but here we are. I couldn’t think of another player better really.  Could pump out staggering numbers of hits. Had power, some speed. Won six gold gloves.  His major flaw is that he just couldn’t draw a walk to save his life. Really there’s a big drop off after Duke Snider and you can put the last three in any order you choose, or even pick someone else.. it doesn’t matter.

Honorable Mention (and why I didn’t pick them)

Larry Doby –  Played fewer games than anyone else.. but not just because of the color line.. he still broke in when he was 23..  If you ranked on peak ability would .be right behind Snider in the eighth position.

Billy Hamilton – 18th century…

Fred Lynn – Surprisingly close to making the list.  People forget what a marvel Lynn was in the late 70s.  He won the MVP, ROY, gold glove and was an all star his rookie season in 1975.  He hit .314 in 1976 and hit 22/82/.298 in 1978.  Then at the age of 27 he had his best year leading the league in batting average, OBP and SLG.  He probably should have won his second MVP but finished fourth.  After 1979 though Fred Lynn kind of settled into a .280 average, 23 home run kind of season year in, year out . I think people started taking him for granted or ignoring him.  Partly this was also due to him missing 40-50 games a season.  His 23 home runs a year were really around 32 Remarkably consistent his home run totals from 1982-88 were 21,22,23,23,23,23,25.   The only other player in history to hit the same total four straight years I know of is Adam Dunn who hit 40 from 2005-2008.  Fred Lynn was a much better player than Dunn though.  I guess what I’m saying is that with fewer injuries and one or two more big seasons Lynn would be in the hall of fame.

Andruw Jones – Andruw might have made the top ten.. if he had felt like it.  His indifference on the field leads to mine in making this list.

Oscar Charleston – Ok I know I said I wouldn’t really bring up negro league players since ranking them with major league players is way too subjective for my taste, but by all accounts Charleston was the real deal.  Willie Mays before Willie Mays.  Just pure utter guessing , but if I had to I’d put Charleston maybe 4th between Griffey and Mantle.  I just wish there were more complete statistics, film, something to judge those players on.

All Time Top Ten: Left Fielders

How many players would you guess have played over 2000 games in left field off the top of your head? I would have guessed more than 4, but that’s all there is: Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Luis Gonzalez and Lou Brock. War and injuries caused Ted Williams to play fewer games and Carl Yastrzemski ended up moving to first later in his career. Anyway here are the top ten players of all time for left field.

1. Ted Williams 1939-1960 2292G, 521HR, 1839RBIs, .344BA, 190 OPS+

Had Williams had a little more speed and not been a slightly below average fielder we might be discussing the greatest player of all time. As it is many would rank Williams the greatest ever hitter and I can’t argue too much against that. He was fantastic. He got totally screwed in many of his MVP races as is well known. In 1941 he hit .406 and led the league in home runs. He finished 2nd to Dimaggio. In 1942 he finished 2nd to Joe Gordon even though he won the triple crown. He scored 53 more runs than Gordon and he was almost 2 and a half WAR ahead of Gordon. In 1946 he won the triple crown for a 2nd time and again finished 2nd, once more to Dimaggio. In this case Williams finished over FIVE WAR ahead of Dimaggio. Not even remotely close. In 1951 he finished 13th, even though he was the best hitter in the league that year. In 1957 he finished 2nd and was technically was the best hitter in the league, though Mantle had a higher WAR and won the award. Overall he should have won five MVP awards and could have possibly won more. No wonder he became such a moody SOB. Now on to a guy who didn’t deserve many of the MVP awards he won.

2. Barry Bonds 1986-2007 2986G, 762HR. 1996 RBIs, .298BA, 182 OPS+

There are few words to describe the loathing I feel for Barry Bonds. I’ll never forget watching the 1998 home run derby at the all-star game, and Mark McGwire launching moon shots. (McGwire actually didn’t do that well and Ken Griffey won the contest, but McGwire LOOKED impressive) The camera would cut to Barry Bonds watching this, and his eyes were just so wide…he looked like a kid seeing Santa Claus for the first time. In 1999 Bonds was injured much of the year, though he did hit 34 home runs in 355 At Bats. In 2000 however, at the age of 35, after the wear and tear of over 2000 games and coming off an injury Bonds suddenly appeared.. bulked up.. forehead popping.. no longer able to run anywhere near as fast.. and just suddenly became the most awesome, unstoppable offensive force in baseball history. He started hitting home runs, drawing walks, and raising his batting average to unbelievable levels. That’s just not statistically possible at that point in your career…UNLESS you account for steroids. Even today Bonds has his defenders. Anyway so where do I rank him? Ultimately I think you have to rank Bonds pre-1998. Basically where he was as a player before he started obviously juicing up. Even without PEDs I would rank him as the 2nd best left fielder, and maybe in the top ten players of all time. Power, speed, average, a great glove. Just a shame he had to ruin his legacy.

3. Rickey Henderson 1979-2003 3081G, 297HR, 1115 RBIs, .279BA, 127 OPS+

How does a player last almost 30 years in professional baseball putting the wear and tear on his body that Rickey did? I have no idea, but he was an amazing player that really took years for people to truly appreciate. I can’t imagine that his stolen base record will be broken in our lifetime. He was even prouder of breaking the all time runs scored record than he was of the stolen base mark. He developed some home run power to go with his speed and was a pretty good fielder as well.

4. Carl Yastrzemski 1961-1983 3308G, 452 HR, 1844 RBIs, .285BA, 130 OPS+

I only got to see Yaz play once in my life. Where I grew up the only two stations we got were WGN for the Cubs and WTBS for the Braves. So I rarely if ever got American league teams. I did get a Sox game in Yaz’s last year though, I guess on ABC or something. I don’t remember too much about the game, it was later in the year I think.. the Sox were well out of first.. it was a meaningless game really.. but Yaz came up to bat, hit a ball to right center which got past the fielder, and Yaz tried to stretch it into a double.. so this 43 year old man is just chugging towards second.. his eyes wild, his arms flailing.. just a tornado of chaos.. his helmet flies off and Yaz slides head first in a pile of dust as the ball arrives. SAFE. And Yaz gets up.. hair disheveled, brushes off a mountain of dirt to the roar of the crowd. What impressed me as a ten year old is that it was like he knew this was his last hurrah and he was just going to give it 120% every play, right to the end.. and squeeze every tiny bit of baseball he could out of his career. That’s what I think of when I think of Carl Yastrzemski.

5. Al Simmons 1924-1944 2215G, 307 HR, 1828 RBIs, .334 BA, 133 OPS+

Al Simmons was one heck of a ball player. He benefited greatly from the explosion of offense around 1930. He topped .380 four times, winning back to back batting titles in 1930 and 31. He also had 150-plus RBIs three times, winning a title in 1929. He appeared in the first three all star games and though injuries and age caught up with him, he was still a dangerous hitter at late as 1938, when he hit 21/95/.302. He was an outstanding defensive player though he drew few walks.

6. Billy Williams 1959-1976 2488G, 426HR, 1475 RBI, .290BA, 133 OPS+

Billy Williams just flew under the radar for many years. 1. He was a Cub 2. He rarely led the league in anything.. runs and hits in 1970, batting average in 1972. 3. He played out his career in relative obscurity.. finishing with the A’s AFTER their world series runs.. 4. He played most of his career in a low offense era where his stats are actually much better than they look. When he was elected to the hall of fame in 1987 I had to look him up to know just who he was. But I’ve learned to gain an appreciation for Williams over the years. Wasn’t a particularly great fielder.

7. Tim Raines 1979-2002 2502G, 170 HR, 980 RBIs, .294BA, 123 OPS+

I’ve always thought of Tim Raines as Rickey Henderson lite. I think most people probably think of him that way.. It’s not really a fair comparison. He drew plenty of walks.. just not as many as Rickey.. had some power, but not as much as Rickey.. stole lots of bases.. just not quite as many as Rickey. Hmm come to think of it maybe Rickey Henderson lite is a pretty good description of Tim Raines. There are two things he did better than Henderson though.. he hit for a somewhat higher average, winning a batting title in 1986, and Tim Raines is the most accurate base stealer in history.. he was rarely caught. Raines is probably the best player not in the hall of fame that isn’t excluded for steroids or banishment.

8. Zach Wheat 1909-1927 2410G, 132 HR, 1248 RBIs, .317 BA, 129 OPS+

The only major statistic Wheat ever lead the league in was batting average in 1918, although he was in the top ten in the National League in most offensive categories almost every year. Later in his career he hit .375 two years in a row and .359 at the age of 37. But that was in the live ball era and he was only as good as he had always been. Had Wheat played his entire career with the live ball he would have finished over 3000 hits with a lifetime average near .330. He was a pretty good fielder too.

9. Joe Medwick 1932-1948 1984G, 205 HR, 1383 RBIs, .324BA, 134 OPS+

Joe Medwick is mostly known for his triple crown season in 1937, though he was a fine player for many years. He and Johnny Mize led the Cardinals attack in the late 30s. He had over 220 hits three years in a row.. led the National league in RBIs three straight years from 1936-1938, and stayed the league through WWII. After getting traded he ended his career back in St. Louis as a teammate of Stan Musial.

10. Goose Goslin 1921-1938 2287G, 248 HR, 1610 RBIs, .316 BA, 128 OPS+

The Senators greatest non-pitcher. Goslin wasn’t considered that good a fielder, yet his fielding statistics aren’t that bad really. He probably should have been moved to first base I suppose. Had a good mix of power and speed. Not really a whole lot else I can say about him.

Honorable Mention (and why I didn’t pick them)

Joe Jackson –  When baseball reinstates him and puts him in the hall of fame, I’ll rank him fourth on this list.  Until then.  I dunno.

Ralph Kiner – Kiner’s OPS+ would rank third among left fielders but he was a terrible fielder and just didn’t play long enough for me.

Willie Stargell – Stargell played fewer games than Kiner in left, and was also a terrible fielder. In fact in many ways they’re similar.

Jim Rice – All those RBIs just became too much for hall of fame voters and they just couldn’t resist electing him to the hall of fame in 2009. He’s certainly not the worst player in the hall of fame but he’s definitely in the lower tier. He was a meh fielder.

Lou Brock – Lou Brock is one of the more overrated players in baseball history. Yes he stole lots of bases but he was also caught a lot. Many players had better percentages. He hit .293 with over 3000 hits but it was a rather empty average. He didn’t hit many home runs or draw many walks. His lifetime OPS+ was a slightly better than average 109 and he was a train wreck as a fielder.

Bob Johnson – Indian Bob Johnson is one of those players who falls through the cracks of baseball history. His lifetime OPS+ is a robust 139, he was a seven time all star, and he left the game after 1945 even though he had a quite respectable 12/74/.280 line after 13 years playing. Part of that was his age.. he was 39 and got started late in his career because the A’s had Al Simmons at the time and they just didn’t want to move him. He continued to play in the minor leagues until 1951. Overall in his professional career he had over 3000 hits and 400 home runs. Just not quite enough of that in the majors to crack the top ten for me. I would put him in the hall of fame though.

George Foster – Great peak.. but he just couldn’t sustain it. Also not a great fielder.

Roy White – Good solid player for a decade and a half for the Yankees. But good and solid generally isn’t good enough to make the top ten at a position.

Minnie Minoso – Minoso was a great all around player… power, speed, defense.. though he was caught stealing a lot.. also led the league in hit by pitch an amazing ten times. Amazing considering he only played eleven full seasons due to the color line. That’s not his fault. I supposed you could put him at the bottom of the list and kick Goslin off. If I were going to do that though I’d probably do it with Bob Johnson instead.

RIP George Scott 1944-2013

Former Red Sox first baseman George Scott passed away  July 28, 2013.  Scott played from 1966-1979 and was most famous for his time with the Red Sox.  he played in all 162 games his rookie season, and collected 27 home runs and 90 RBIs, albeit with a .245 batting average.  He made the all star team and finished 3rd in ROY voting.  His sophomore year he went 19/82/.303, finished 10th in MVP voting and won his first gold glove.  He was always considered a great defensive first baseman.  In 1968 Scott had perhaps the most inexplicably bad baseball season ever.  He started out in a slump he just never recovered from.  In 124 games he hit just 3 home runs to go along with 25 RBIs and a .171 average.  He did win his second gold glove however.  The following year he rebounded and never had a slump like that again.  His two best years came in Milwaukee after he was traded.  In 1973 he hit 24/107/.306 and in 1975 he hit 36/109/.285  leading the American league in home runs and RBIs.  Injuries diminished his abilities by the late 70s and he was reduced to a part time player.  After being released by the Yankees in 1979 he refused a part time role with the Rangers and joined the Mexican league,  finally retiring in 1984 at age 40.  I remember him from one of my first baseball cards being his 1979 Topps card.

Games: 2034

At Bats: 7433

Hits: 1992

Home Runs:  271

Runs Batted In: 1051

Batting Average: .268

OPS+: 114

All Star Games: 3

Gold Gloves: 8

Team Records

I love baseball-reference.com

I learn cute little facts like these:

The team with the most games played in history:  Chicago Cubs, 20,515.  Second place is the Atlanta Braves, which are technically the older team.  They are the only remaining original national league franchises from 1876.   Another interesting thing about these two teams is their original names would later be adopted by American league teams.  The Cubs were originally the White Stockings, and the Braves were the Boston Red Stockings.

The Yankees of course have the highest winning percentage of all time: 9917-7543 for .568.   The worst? The Tampa Bay Rays at 1165-1367 .460  The worst non expansion team?  The Philadelphia Phillies at 9367-10429 for .473.  There are a number of defunct teams worse than the Rays, however they’re all 19th century or Federal League teams..

The team with the most players:  The St. Louis Cardinals have had 2017 different men play for them.

Quick.. name the only team (current) that has never had a hall of famer play for them?  It’s the Colorado Rockies, though I suspect that will eventually change with Larry Walker or Todd Helton.

Did you know Babe Ruth has hit 4.43% of all home runs ever hit by Yankee players?  Sounds impressive.. but that got me thinking.. what are the records for that peculiar stat? Well thanks to expansion team players, who dominate the

list, Ruth isn’t even in the top ten.  The all time leader is Jeff Bagwell – by a mile – with 7.37% of all Astros home runs ever hit (449/6095)

If you throw out the expansion teams (post 1961 teams) there are five players who have hit a larger percentage of their team’s home runs than Ruth:

Harmon Killebrew, Senators/Twins) 5.6826% (559/9837)

Hank Aaron, Braves 5.6773% (733/12911)

Willie Mays, Giants 4.68% (646/13812)

Mike Schmidt, Phillies 4.4907% (548/12203)

Willie Stargell, Pirates 4.4905% (475/10578)

Babe Ruth, Yankees 4.43% (659/14862)

As time goes to infinity of course, this statistic will become meaningless as every team’s home run totals will go to infinity and it will simply be a matter of who has the most home runs for one franchise (Aaron).

 

One last factoid..did you know only 6 times in history has a team scored at least one run in all nine innings?  Of those,  two were in the insane 1894 season, and only 3 occurred after 1900, all in the national league:

June 1, 1923 Giants at Phillies  – Baker Bowl 22-8

September 13, 1964 Cardinals at Cubs – Wrigley Field 15-2

May 5, 1999 Rockies at Cubs – Wrigley Field 13-6

Of course it’s the away team accomplishing the feat each time since for the home team to bat nine innings, they’d have to come out on the losing side, which would be hard to accomplish scoring at least one run each inning.

The interesting thing to me is the Rockies game. It wasn’t at Coors Field where they did most of their run scoring.

 

All Time Top Ten: Second Basemen

1. Rogers Hornsby 1915-1947  2259G, 301HR, 1584RBIs, .358BA, 175 OPS+

It’s really a four or five man race for 1st at second base. Ultimately Hornsby’s offensive stats were just too great to ignore, he leaves everyone else in the dust in that regard. Hornsby basically became a part time player after the 1929 season at the age of 33. He went 39/149/.380 that year. But he continued to play part time until 1937 in the majors, and appeared in his last game in the mexican league in 1944 at the age of 48, hitting a game winning grand slam. You could make the argument actually that Hornsby was the greatest hitter of all time, not Ruth, Williams, Bonds, or anyone else. But he didn’t draw as many walks as those guys.

2.  Eddie Collins 1906-1930 2826G, 47HR. 1300 RBIs, .333BA, 142 OPS+

Collins is one of those people who doesn’t immediately come to mind when talking about all time greats, as he more or less posted the same stats year in year out.. Eddie Murray style. Only Collin’s seasons were of the .350 batting average, .440 OBP, 50 SB, best defense in the league variety.

3.  Joe Morgan 1963-1984  2649G, 268HR, 1133 RBIs, .271BA, 132 OPS+

Before there was opinionated announcer Joe Morgan there was the most exciting player in baseball Joe Morgan. The only thing that keeps Morgan from the top spot in this list for me is consistency. From 1972-1976 he was the best player in baseball and posted possibly the greatest five year stretch of any second baseman in history (except maybe Hornsby of course).

4. Napoleon Lajoie  1896-1916 2480G, 82 HR, 1599 RBIs, .338BA, 150 OPS+

Lajoie is the only player to actually have a team named after him, as the Indians were renamed the Naps during his period there. Lajoie drew very, very few walks, so I rank him a little below the players higher up.

5. Jackie Robinson 1947-1956  1382G, 137 HR, 734 RBIs, .311 BA, 132 OPS+

Now normally I would never rank a player this high with so few games played, especially one with only 748 games played at the position. But Robinson gets a HUGE pass of course, not only because of the color line, but also because he was one of the most dynamic, exciting players of the 40’s and 50’s.. which sometimes gets overlooked in all the talk of integration. But I do rank him fifth, mostly because of his limited playing time. After Robinson there’s a huge gap between these top five and the bottom five in the top ten.

6.  Charlie Gehringer 1924-1942 2323G, 184HR, 1427 RBI, .320BA, 124 OPS+

Gehringer was just a solid all around ballplayer for Detroit for a decade and a half. Scored 100 or more runs an amazing 12 times. Only Aaron, Gehrig, Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Rickey Henderson have done it more often.

7. Bobby Grich 1970-1986  2008, 224 HR, 864 RBIs, .266BA, 125 OPS+

I love players like Bobby Grich, who were really outstanding players, had hall of fame level talent.. but just didn’t get the recognition they deserved. And most of the time it’s for the same reason.. they hit for power, but not THAT much power, they drew lots of walks, but nobody paid much attention to that when they played, they hit at or above the league average, but batting averages were generally depressed when they played, and they were among the better fielders in the league, but not THE best. That’s a good description of Grich. Ron Cey is another guy like that who also played in the 70’s .

8.  Roberto Alomar  1988-2004 2379G, 210 HR, 1134 RBIs, .300 BA, 116 OPS+

Alomar made the Hall of Fame in 2011 of course, while Grich will never get in. Where’s the justice? Anyway he gets the nod over Kent for this spot due to superior defense.

9. Jeff Kent 1992-2008 2298G, 377 HR, 1518 RBIs, .290 BA, 123 OPS+

I never really watched Kent much during his career, so I guess I never gained an appreciation of his talents. Mostly that’s because he played with barry Bonds and I avoided having to watch him like the plague. Might rank higher if everyone ahead of him weren’t much better fielders.

10. Craig Biggio 1988-2007 2850G, 291 HR, 1175 RBIs, .281BA, 112 OPS+

Biggio started out his career as a catcher.. after a few years switched to second base, which is unusual for a catcher. After ten years he moved to the outfield, and after two years shagging flies, he moved back to second base to finish his career. Good speed, good batting eye, good power, good glove. Biggio kind of snuck up on me. Seemed like one moment he was a good, but run of the mill player in the early nineties dinking 160 hits or so a year and the next thing I know it’s 2006/2007 and he’s knocking on the door of 3000 hits.

Honorable Mention (and why I didn’t pick them)

Ryne Sandberg – Sandberg was a good hitter, and great fielder.. just not enough of either to crack the top ten.

Lou Whitaker- Much as I would have loved to see Whitaker in the top ten, he just wasn’t productive enough.

Nellie Fox – Fox was just too weak a hitter.

Bill Mazeroski – Mazeroski is considered by many to be the greatest defensive player in the history of baseball. That may be, but he was an absolutely terrible hitter, probably the worst in the hall of fame.

Frankie Frisch – Frisch has always been overrated. It’s due to Frisch we have so many bad hall of fame selections from the Giants and Cardinals of the 1920’s and 30’s. I’d rate him about the 15th best second baseman of all time.

Bid McPhee – somewhat obscure 19th century player. For that reason alone he’s excluded.

Bobby Doerr – Not quite a good enough hitter.

Billy Herman – I sometimes wonder why some players hit as lightly as they do. Herman was 5’11 180lbs which was at least average size if not larger for the day, yet he only hit 47 home runs in his long career.

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