All Time Top Ten: Shortstops

1.  Honus Wagner 1897-1917  2794G, 101HR, 1733RBIs, .328BA, 151 OPS+

Wagner is, in my opinion, one of two players in baseball history that had absolutely no flaws as a player. Willie Mays is the other.  There just wasn’t anything he didn’t do well. As far as I can tell, Wagner didn’t really play organized ball at all until 1895 at the age of 21.  I find that amazing.

2.  Ernie Banks 1953-1971 2528G, 512HR. 1636 RBIs, .274BA, 122 OPS+

Ernie Banks had something of an odd career.  Only a shortstop until 1961, he won two MVPs, finished in the top ten three other times,  hit over 40 home runs 5 times, and won a gold glove in 1960. Injuries forced his move to first in 1962, and he became more or less an average player for the next 10 years. But he’s best known as a shortstop and this is where he ranks based off that, despite limited time there.

3.  Cal Ripken 1981-2001 3001G, 431HR, 1695 RBIs, .276BA, 112 OPS+

If Ripken had hit 5 less home runs in 1991 he would have broken Al Kaline’s record for most home runs in a career without hitting 30 in a season.  It’s little things like that I notice.

4. Derek Jeter  1995-2013 2586G, 255 HR, 1255 RBIs, .313BA, 117 OPS+

He’s not done of course,  but I don’t quite see him overtaking Ripken for 3rd, or doing anything to merit a fall in the rankings.  He’s this generation’s “Mr. Yankee”

5.  Alex Rodriguez 1994-2012 2524G, 647 HR, 1950 RBIs, .300 BA, 143 OPS+

See.. this is the problem with steroids.. where do I even put ARod?  I touched on this with the 3rd basemen article.  In a way Rodriguez’s career is similar to Ernie Banks, though he moved away from short for different reasons.  In terms of peak value, you could argue he’s even higher than Wagner.  I just can’t get over the steroid issue though. In any case while he deserved to rank high based on sheer ability, it’s my list and I’ll put him where I want to.

6.  Arky Vaughan 1932-1948 1817G, 96HR, 926 RBI, .318BA, 136 OPS+

You could probably make the  case that Vaughan belongs higher on the list.  But he had a short career and the five men ahead of him were all much better fielders.  Had a somewhat strange, premature end to his career.  A dispute with Dodgers manager Leo Durocher led to him retiring from baseball at the age of 31 after leading the National League in runs and stolen bases in 1943. When Durocher was suspended for Jackie Robinson’s debut season in 1947 (Shown in the movie “42” in 2013), Vaughan decided to make a comeback.  He hit .325 in 1947 playing part time, but only .244 in 1948 when he was released. He played one last year in the PCL hitting .288 in 1949 before retiring for good at 37.  In 1952 he was fishing with a friend in a lake and their boat capsized, drowning both men.  He was 40.

7. Barry Larkin 1986-2004 2180G, 198HR, 960 RBIs, ..295BA, 116 OPS+

With the current log jam in the hall of fame voting process Larkin is lucky to have squeaked in in 2012.  It might be a while before anyone else makes it.

8.  Alan Trammell  1977-1996 2293G, 185 HR, 1003 RBIs, .285 BA, 110 OPS+

Trammell really should be in the hall of fame.  Unfortunately he finished his career right before the juiced era, so his numbers don’t look all that great. He was kind of a jack of all trades, doing everything well, but nothing spectacular on the field.  So he tends to be a little overlooked.

9. Luke Appling 1930-1950 2422G, 45 HR, 1116 RBIs, .310BA, 113 OPS+

I remember as a kid watching Luke Appling hit a home run in the old timers game off Warren Spahn at the age of 75. Feel free to Youtube it.  Of course he wasn’t much of a home run hitter in his playing career.  Now the really interesting thing to me is that is the ONLY time the two ever faced each other in a game.  Since Spahn and Appling played in different leagues, and they never reached the postseason at the same time (Appling never did), the only time they MIGHT have was in the 1947 All Star game.  Appling however had just one at bat in the 6th inning, while Spahn pitched the 8th inning for the national league.

10. Ozzie Smith 1978-1996 2573G, 28 HR, 793 RBIs, .262BA, 87 OPS+

People may be surprised to see Smith so low on the list.. but he was an awful hitter.  Of course he’s mostly known for his fielding, but that only makes up for so much.

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

Joe Cronin – Honestly the more I look at Cronin the more I think he should be on this list instead of Ozzie Smith.  But I’d probably be beaten by Cards fans if I did that.  Appling and Cronin are pretty close in value I think, but I just wanted to tell my Appling-Spahn factoid.  I don’t think Cronin was quite as good as Trammell.  Call him rank 10.5 if you like.

Robin Yount- Maybe another surprise he’s not on the list.   But Yount only played half his career at short and unlike Banks and Rodriguez I don’t think his half is quite good enough.  If he had played his whole career at SS I suppose I’d rank him 5th.  Any excuse to move Alex Rodriguez farther down the list.

Bill Dahlen – Just simply  too long ago.  The game was so different, I try not to rank 19th century players unless they’re SO amazing I can’t really avoid it.

George Davis – See Bill Dahlen

Omar Vizquel – I think he’s not quite as good a fielder as Ozzie Smith, and not quite as good a hitter either.  And I barely have Ozzie ranked as it is.  So no.

Pee Wee Reese – Ultimately just not quite enough to justify a ranking.

Lou Boudreau – too short a career.

Luis Aparicio – Much like Vizquel it’s either him or Ozzie Smith, and I’ll go with Smith.

Nomar Garciaparra –  Nomar is an interesting guy, and a fun discussion is whether he belongs in the hall of fame or not.  It’s a closer call than you might suspect at first. If you give him a huge amount of consideration for what might have been you can discuss where he ranks among the all time great shortstops, but ultimately he barely played 1000 games there.. it’s too little.

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All Time Top Ten: Third Basemen (Finally Finished)

In honor of Ron Santo, I’ll skip ahead to third basemen.

1.  Mike Schmidt 1972-1989  2404G, 548HR, 1595RBIs, .267BA, 147 OPS+

I’m not sure people realize how good Mike Schmidt was.  I think partially this is because he played in the “deadball” era of the 70s and 80s, wasn’t flashy, and because he had a low batting average usually, he seemed like just another muscle bound home run hitter.  But Schmidt actually hit 15-20 points above the league average in most years.  He also stole 174 bases and won 10 gold gloves.  He really had very few flaws.

2.  Eddie Mathews 1952-1968 2391G, 512HR. 1453 RBIs, .271BA, 143 OPS+

Take a look at Ed Mathew’s baseball cards year by year.  He just seems to age before your eyes..  turning into an old man before the age of 35.  After 1960, his production entered a steep decline.. had he been able to squeeze out 5 or so more productive years he might have challenged Ruth’s record before Aaron.

3.  Chipper Jones 1993-2012 2499G, 468HR, 1623 RBIs, .303BA, 141 OPS+

Had Jones been a better fielder he migh be number one on this list.  But a fine career, all with one team, nonetheless.

4. George Brett  1973-1993  2707G, 317 HR, 1596 RBIs, .305BA, 135 OPS+

Brett only played 1692 games at 3rd.  Most people might be surprised at that, But those were his best years.

5.  Brooks Robinson 1955-1977 2896G, 268HR, 1357 RBI, .267BA, 104 OPS+

Robinson of course gets most of his value from being the finest defensive 3rd baseman of all time.

6.  Wade Boggs 1982-1999 2440G, 118 HR, 1014 RBIs, .328 BA, 131 OPS+

It’s hard to describe Wade Boggs to someone today..  average looking guy with a 19th century mustache who posted batting averages that also looked like they were from 100 years ago.. but while also drawing huge numbers of walks..  I don’t really know another guy with that high average/large walks combo.

7. Ron Santo 1960-1974 2243G, 342 HR, 1331 RBIs, .277BA, 125 OPS+

It’s really a crime Santo was overlooked by the hall of fame for so many years.  He should have been a shoo in. But he was somewhat unassuming.. regionally popular, and had a somewhat short career due to diabetes, leaving at the age of just 34.

8. Frank Baker 1908-1922 1575G, 96 HR, 987 RBIs, .307BA, 135 OPS+

I don’t really have a whole lot to say about Home Run Baker.. On Jun13/14 1921 on consecutive days Baker hit home runs at the Polo Grounds while playing with the Yankees against the Tigers.  On both days Babe Ruth hit two home runs as well.  Kind of sums up Baker I suppose..  always being overshadowed by other players.

9. Ron Cey 1971-1987 2073G, 316HR, 1139 RBIs, .261BA, 121 OPS+

Bet you didn’t see this one..  6 time all star, and one of the best defensive players never to win a gold glove (thanks to Schmidt).

10.  Stan Hack 1932-1947 1938G, 57 HR, 642 RBIs, .301 BA, 119 OPS+

Hack isn’t thought of too much these days.. but he was the best 3rd baseman in either league for at least ten years..  I think that deserves a HOF nod.. but I doubt it will happen.

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

Dick Allen –  too few games at 3rd.  I could say a lot about Allen, since he won’t appear on any of these lists..  but he’s one of the most gifted athletes/players to ever set foot on a baseball field.  Unfortunately injuries and attitude took their toll.

Pie Traynor – Up until the 1980s virtually every all time list you’d ever see had Pie Traynor as the greatest 3rd baseman of all time.  Looked at in a modern sense.. his statistics just don’t look that good.

Graig Nettles – always sort of saw him as a poor man’s Mike Schmidt – He hit for power.. but not as much as Schmidt, was a great fielder, but not quite as good as Schmidt.. drew 1088 walks.. but not as many as Schmidt.  Was a worse baserunner than Schmidt.. I just couldn’t see him in the top ten.

Alex Rodriguez – I kind of limited the list to 1500 games played at 3rd.. If you relaxed that a bit you could plop A-Rod in 5th or 6th place..  but we’ll see how he winds up his career.

George Kell – I hated Kell as a HOF choice.. there  just were, and still are better candidates.  His stats just don’t quite measure up other than batting average.

Ken Boyer – If Graig Nettles is a poor man’s Mike Schmidt Boyer is a poor man’s Ron Santo.  Unlike Nettles I could see Boyer in the Hall of Fame.  But I don’t think he quite belongs in the top ten.

All Time Top Ten: First Basemen (updated 7/21/13)

Continuing my posts on the ten greatest of all time at each position –

1. Lou Gehrig  1923-1939   2164G, 493HR, 1995 RBI, .340 BA, 178OPS+

No surprise here, although Pujols may have the best chance since Jimmie Foxx to knock Gehrig out of this spot.

2.  Albert Pujols 2001-Present  1958G, 492HR, 1498RBI, .321 BA, 165OPS+

Even though he’s still active, I have no reservations about putting Pujols this high.  We are watching a legend in action.  (Update 7/21/13)  I now have some reservations..  Pujols had mediocre (for him) seasons in 2011 and 2012, and he’s had an even worse 2013..  the end result is he’s dropped ten points on his lifetime batting average and 7 points on his OPS..  a bad 2014 and he’ll slip behind Jimmie Foxx most likely into 3rd.

3. Jimmie Foxx 1925-1945  2317G, 534HR, 1922 RBI, .325BA, 163OPS+

Foxx was essentially done as a player at 32. I can’t imagine what he might have done had his career lasted longer.

4. Hank Greenberg 1930-1947 1394G, 331HR, 1276 RBI, .313BA, 158 OPS+

Greenberg was an absolute monster hitter.  He played in relatively few games due to a few factors.  He missed most of the 1936 season due to a wrist injury, and spent more service time in WWII than any other major leaguer.  he was actually discharged honorably due to age before the war even started, but reenlisted after the bombing of pearl harbor.  In 1945 at age 34 he returned to the majors hitting .311 with 13 home runs in 78 games.  In 1946 he led the American league in home runs and RBIs but hit a career low .277  He finished 8th in MVP voting although he was the second best hitter in the league to Ted Williams.  In 1947 he was traded to the Pirates and hit 25 home runs in just 402 At Bats and lead the National league in walks. His average was just .249 however and he retired at age 36.

5.  Jeff Bagwell 1991-2005  2150G, 449HR, 1529 RBI, .297 BA,  149OPS+

Maybe a surprising choice.  With first basemen, unless you’re a really bad fielder – it’s all about how good a hitter you are.. and Bagwell was among the best..I see no reason not to rate Bagwell 4th.

6.  Willie McCovey 1959-1980 2588G, 521HR, 1555RBI, .270BA, 147OPS+

The second best Willie in Giants history.

7.  Frank Thomas 1990-2008 2322G, 521 HR, 1704HR, .301 BA, 156 OPS+

Oh, what could have been.. for the first 8 years of his career Thomas was as good as any first baseman, or even hitter in history.. then the Big Hurt became, well, hurt.  injuries sapped him of his talent and relegated him to a full time DH.  He was never a good fielder anyway

8.  Harmon Killebrew 1954-1975 2435G, 573HR, 1584HR, .256BA, 143 OPS+

Where to put a guy like Harmon Killebrew? He only played 969 games at first, but that was almost 200 more than anywhere else.  He basically did two things:  Hit towering home runs and draw walks.  But he did both these things better than anyone else in the 60’s.

9.  Cap Anson 1871-1897 2524G, 97HR, 2075RBI, .334BA, 142 OPS+

The guy who this blog is named after.  He, more than anyone else epitomizes 19th century baseball. He played every year except two in that century.

10. Mark McGwire 1986-2001 1874G, 583HR, 1414RBI, .263BA, 162 OPS+

I debated leaving McGwire off altogether.  In the end I just decided to guesstimate where he’s be if steroids never existed.. I think around here.  statistically he’s the greatest power hitter of all time… but I think minus the juiced era he rates below both Foxx and Killebrew among power hitting first basemen.

Honorable Mention:

Fred McGriff 1986-2004  2460G, 493HR, 1550 RBI, .284 BA, 134 OPS+

I have a soft spot in my heart for Crime Dog.  He’s the guy who did everything right, kept his nose clean while those around him didn’t, and kept plugging away with productive season after productive season.  I think he should get in the Hall of Fame someday.

Will Clark 1986-2000 1976G, 284HR, 1205RBI, .303 BA, 137OPS+

I mention Clark, because if you care to drop McGwire off the list this is who I’d push up on it at number 10.  Clark hit .319 with 21 home runs at age 36 and then retired. I really don’t know why.  His stats look artificially mediocre but he was much better than people realize.  Like McGriff he really should be a hall of famer someday.

Eddie Murray would be about 13th if you’re wondering.. his peak value was just never high enough.

All Time Top Ten: Catchers (updated 7/21/13)

Top Ten players at Each Position

Part One: Catchers

My Rankings of the top ten baseball players of all time begins with the Catcher position.  I limit myself to only major league players, which leaves out Japanese Leaguers, Negro Leaguers, etc.  Mainly this is because I don’t have a good way to judge them.  I don’t think I’m biased… intuitively Josh Gibson seems like he would be in the top three catchers of all time at a minimum, but I can’t know enough to be sure, and that ultimately isn’t fair.  I won’t go into an in depth bio of these guys. Just quick notes about what I think of them where appropriate. Agree?  Disagree? Comment.

1.   Johnny Bench  1967-1983  2158G, 389HR, 1376RBI, .267BA, 126OPS+

Probably the top 5 catchers or so aren’t that far apart in value.  Bench is  one of the top ten fielding catchers ever, and certainly one of the ten best hitting as well.  I’m not sure any other catcher would make the top ten in both.

2.   Yogi Berra  1946-1963, 1965  2120G, 358HR, 1430 RBI, .285BA, 125OPS+

Berra has one of the best HR/SO ratios ever with only 414 strikeouts in his career.

3.   Carlton Fisk 1969-1993   2499G, 376HR, 1330RBI, .269BA, 117OPS+

An extremely long career for a catcher.

4.   Mickey Cochrane 1925-1937   1482G, 119HR, 832RBI, .320BA, 128OPS+

Short Career, but he packed a lot into it.  Two MVP awards (oddly enough in two of his worst seasons),  Five World Series Appearances with Three Championships and was the best of his generation of catchers.

5.   Mike Piazza  1993-2007    1912G,  427HR, 1335RBI, .308BA, 142OPS+

Easily the best hitting catcher of all time, except perhaps the aforementioned Gibson.  Piazza is also a good example of why catchers are as a rule not so great hitters with short careers, because if they were any better they’d be moved off of position to save on wear and tear.  Piazza stuck behind the plate until his last season however and as a result injuries forced him out of the league. Piazza wasn’t real good as a catcher, and couldn’t throw out runners to save his life.  That’s why he only ranks 5th.

6.   Ivan Rodriguez  1991-2011    2543G, 311HR, 1332RBI, .296BA, 106OPS+

Pudge Rodriguez is a modern day Carlton Fisk, he just keeps going and going. He has had Johnny Bench-level fielding abilities but isn’t as good a hitter as Bench was.  (Update: Rodriguez retired after the 2011 season so updated stats.. doesn’t really affect his ranking.)

7.   Gabby Hartnett 1922-1941   1990G, 236HR, 1179RBI, .297BA, 126OPS+

Hartnett was an all-star the first six years the game was held, won the NL MVP in 1935, and was second in 1937.  He appeared in four worlds series with the cubs.  They lost each time of course.

8.   Ted Simmons 1968-1988   2456G, 248HR, 1389RBI, .285BA, 117OPS+

Simmons was overlooked throughout his career because of Bench, Carter, Fisk, etc.  He was every bit in their class however.

9.   Roy Campanella  1948-1957    1215G, 242HR, 856RBI, .276BA, 124OPS+

I think Campanella tended to be a little overrated for many years.  He did win three MVP awards in 51, 53, and 55 with fantastic seasons.  I’m not sure he really was the best player in each of those years however, and in his other seven seasons was closer to average that one might expect.

10.   Gary Carter  1974-1992   2296G, 324HR, 1225RBI, .262BA, 115OPS+

Carter hurt himself trying to hang on just a little too long.  For a five or six year period in the late 70s/early 80s he was the best catcher in baseball.

Honorable Mention:  Jorge Posada, Bill Dickey, Bill Freehan, Elston Howard.

We’ll see where Joe Mauer is in ten years.

  

Ten players who should be kicked out of the Baseball Hall of Fame

A lot of people debate and argue about who should belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame,  but I’d like to shine a spotlight on some who chould be kicked out.  I’ll limit it to ten since it helps to focus.  Also for clarification I’ll ignore managers, contributors, negro leaguers, etc. from the discussions.  They are all in the Hall for subjective reasons and I can only make definite conclusions about those who are in primarily for their play in the major leagues.  Much as I’d love to exclude Bowie Kuhn or Effa Manley they can wait for another day.

Keep in mind there’s nobody in the Hall of Fame who was a “bad” player.  But most of these in the list were really average players who played long enough to compile impressive stats, or good players who had misleading numbers for various reasons. These aren’t neccesarily the absolute ten worst, but they’re probably pretty close.

1. Ray Schalk   C 1912-1929

Ray Schalk is a popular candidate for worst hall of fame player. He has the second worst OPS of any player elected primarily as a position player, with his .656 just beating out Luis Aparicio’s .653.  But there are good reasons to rate Aparicio a lot higher than Schalk.  Schalk had only 5306 at bats, and was generally a .250ish hitter with essentially no power, though he did draw a decent amount of walks.  In 1922 after the live ball was introduced he “exploded” for a .281 average and 4 home runs.  Despite playing half his career with the live ball he hit only 11 home runs in his career, less than Tom Seaver or Steve Carlton.  He was actually 3rd in the MVP voting that year (1922).  Other than that he didn’t make many headlines. He was a pretty good catcher, but not earth shatteringly good.  As far as I can tell he’s in the hall for catching  1721 games, which was a large amount at the time.

2.  Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, Frank Chance.  SS, 2B, 1B  1902-1916, 1902-1929, 1898-1914

All right maybe it’s cheating to list three in one spot, but all are in the Hall of Fame for the same reason, and none of them deserve it.  They are the subject of a famous poem, and were important cogs in one of the greatest dynasties, the Cubs of 1906-1910.  That being said as individuals they are all lacking.  Joe Tinker played the most games: 1806,  and had a lifetime 96 OPS+.  He was a pretty good fielder, even if the trio’s exploits are overstated.  He never led the league in anything other than games played in 1908.  Johnny Evers hit a Schalk-like 12 home runs in his career, though he did draw a decent number of walks, which put his OPS+ at 106.  He also had some speed, stealing 346 bases.  His fielding was somewhat better than average, though not as good as Joe Tinker.  He won an MVP award in 1913, though he didn’t deserve it.  He had a  far superior year in 1911, though he didn’t deserve it then either.  Frank Chance was the best hitter of the three, with an impressive 135 OPS+ lifetime.  Problem is, he only played 1288 games with 4299 at bats.  He led the league in runs once, stolen bases twice, and onbase percentage once.  He was also player-manager during the Cubs run.  I just don’t think his playing or managerial career was long enough to merit a Hall selection.

3.  Phil Rizzuto SS 1941-1956

Phil Rizzuto is in the Hall of Fame because he’s a Yankee.  Period.  You know it, I know it.  Phil Rizzuto knew it.  After intense lobbying for years he was finally elected in 1994.  He had a short career of 1661 games.  That’s not completely his fault due to his WWII service but since his lifetime OPS+ was a below average 93 it would have just meant more mediocre stats had he played longer.  Rizzuto came to the league late as a 23 year old and was washed up by 36.  In between he appeared in five all star games,  and in 1950 did have a really good year, hitting .324 and winning the MVP.  He was a pretty good fielder but not especially spectacular.  It’s worth noting that below average hitters who AREN’T good fielding shortstops won’t even stay in the majors.  Vern Stephens and Marty Marion are among the shortstops of that time who were at least as good, if not better than Rizzuto and not in the Hall of Fame.

4.  Rube Marquard P  1908-1925

From 1911 to 1913 Rube Marquard was 73-28 was an ERA around 2.50.  In those days that was good enough for maybe 4th, 5th best pitcher in the National League.  The rest of his career was 128-149 with a 3.26 ERA, especially bad when you consider most of his career was in the dead ball era.

5.  Travis Jackson SS 1922-1936

Elected mainly because he was on a good team and his buddies were on the veterans comittee.  Hit .291 with 135 home runs… in the best offensive era in baseball history. His lifetime OPS was 102 and he was an average fielder as well.  In fact that pretty much sums up Jackson.  Perfectly average.

6.  George Kell  3B  1943-1957

Probably my favorite “bad” selection.  Kell was elected by the Veteran’s committee in 1983 (the year after Jackson).  I remember thinking “who the crap is George Kell?”  Well he was an above average fielder at an important position. That’s good, but the real reason he was elected was his lifetime .306 batting average in an era where few players had averages over .300 .   To illustrate the point if he had 51 less hits he would have hit .299.  He would still be essentially the same player but never would have been considered by the Hall of Fame.  Kell led the league once in batting average, and had another year where he hit .340.  He led the league in hits twice, doubles twice, had very little power, and didn’t steal that many bases (though nobody did then).  Basically he was Carney Lansford with a better glove.  He didn’t have a particularly long career, though he somehow managed to make 10 all star games.  That’s pretty impressive when you consider he played 140 games or more only four times.  He had two top 5 MVP finishes.  Another possible reason for his inclusion is the fact he was a third baseman, and there aren’t (or weren’t) that many in the Hall.  But why not Ron Santo or Ken Boyer?  Both are FAR more qualified in every statistic except batting average.  Well they weren’t eligible to be considered by the Veteran’s committee but hey.  Ron Cey is more deserving of the Hall than George Kell for pete’s sake.  (Update 7/21/2013 – Ron Santo was elected to the hall of fame in 2012).

7.  Red Ruffing P 1924-1947

Did you know Babe Ruth has the highest OPS of any player in the hall of fame?  You probably did.  Did you know Ruth also has the ninth-lowest ERA of any pitcher in the hall of fame?  This guy however was no Babe Ruth.  Ruffing in fact has the highest ERA of any player in the Hall of Fame at 3.80.   I could have picked another Yankee pitcher for this list like Pennock or Hoyt but I’ll stick with Ruffing.  Red Ruffing was one of those Boston to NY pipeline players and he was terrible in Boston.  From 1925 to 1930 in Boston he posted a record of 39-96.  While he may have been a little better than his record indicated his adjusted ERA was still well below average.  He led the American League in losses in 1928 and 1929.   He was then traded to the Yankees and the sun started to shine.  My grandmother could have posted a winning record for the Yankees of the 1930’s.  And that’s considering she was only 12.  I’m exaggerating but not by a lot.  Ruffing posted a record of 77-51 from 1930-1934 with the Yankees despite pitching pretty much the same as he did with Boston.  Starting in 1935 he actually pitched well above average for a few years and his won loss record showed this.  At the age of 35 in 1940 though he began to slow down and pitch like an average guy again.  His lifetime adjusted ERA is 109.  The rest of his stats are mediocre as well.  He is in the hall of fame for two reasons: 1.  He pitched for the Yankees.  and 2.  He pitched for a fairly long time and compiled a lot of optically impressive stats (for the time).

8.   Rick Ferrell C 1929-1947

His brother Wes might belong on a list of 10 best ballplayers excluded from the Hall of Fame.  Interestingly despite being a position player and playing over 1500 more games Rick hit ten less home runs than pitcher Wes. Of course Wes was 4 inches taller and 40 pounds of muscle heavier so that might have something to do with it. Rick Ferrell was a fairly average fielder (maybe a little better than average) and a terrible hitter.  His adjusted OPS is 95  (100 being average of course) and as mentioned he rarely hit home runs.  He did occasionally hit over .300 and caught a lot of games.  I think this is why he was elected by the Veterans Committe in 1984 (them again!).  This was despite not being on the BBWAA list in 24 years and only getting a couple of votes then.

9.    Bill Mazeroski  2B  1956-1972

I’ve thought about this one a lot.  It just depends on how valuable you think his defense is.  Mazeroski may have been the greatest fielder ever to play.  He was certainly one of the top 5.  Thing is, I just am not convinced that translates into a whole lot more runs than an average replacement fielder.  I  wouldn’t have any problem with Mazeroski if he were a completely average hitter with his fielding stats.  But he was atrocious.  He gives Ray Schalk a run for his money as the worst hitter in the Hall of Fame.  I would say the five worst hitters in the Hall’s history are Mazeroski, Schalk, Ozzie Smith, Rabbit Maranville and Luis Aparicio.  Smith, Maranville, and Aparicio all had very long careers though and other complimetary skills like great baserunning.  Mazeroski had a little power, but not much, couldn’t run, drew very few walks, and hit .260 lifetime.  He is the only player in the Hall of Fame with  an on base percentage lower than .300  (except pitchers, managers, etc.).  The point is, he probably cost his team somewhere in the neighborhood of 150-200 runs or so over his career offensively with his suck-tacular play. He would have to make up all those runs with his defensive play just to be average. I don’t think he does.

10.  Catfish Hunter P  1965-1979

I really didn’t want to put him on the list.  I really didn’t.  He’s from North Carolina.  He was a nice guy as far as I know.  Tragically died young.  But man looking at the stats he just does not measure up.  His lifetime ERA+ is only 105… slightly above average, worse than Ruffing.  He only had three years above 115 in his career.  He had an extremely short career only pitching two full years for the Yankees after he was traded in 1975 (only one of them good), and was out of the league after 1979 at the age of 33 with arm trouble.  His won loss record is .574, good but not great.  Really not that great at all when you consider he pitched on spectacular teams.  Don Drysdale had a similar sort of career but was a much better pitcher and even his selection was controversial. I think Jim Hunter is in the Hall of Fame because he had a cool nickname.  And he was a Yankee.

My Super Bowl Review

My quick super bowl recap –

1.  Colts started strong

2.  Peyton Manning was off the field too damn long

3.  Saints surprise everyone with their onside kick to start the 2nd half. 

4. The Colts defense petered out as the game went on, and New Orleans just didn’t make any mistakes. 

Other thoughts- 

1.  Steve Winwood should retire.

2.  The Who still rock, I wish they would sometimes play more than the same three songs when they do shows though.

3.  The commercials on the whole were disappointing.  Too many were geared towards men being idiots as usual.

4.  The infamous Tebow ad was much ado about nothing.  A cheesy attempt at comedy followed by a please visit the Focus on the Family website pitch.

Roberto Clemente vs. Al Kaline

Roberto Clemente vs. Al Kaline

 Clemente overrated?

Roberto Clemente has often been listed as one of the greatest baseball players of all time.  He was a great ballplayer but while he’s often been listed in the top 20 of all time, does he really deserve that kind of ranking? Or does he suffer from a halo effect due to his early death on a humanitarian mission?  We can easily compare him to a player who was almost his exact contemporary: Al Kaline.  I would submit that Al Kaline was just as valuable a player, if not more so than Clemente, yet receives only a fraction of the acclaim. 

First a little about each player:

Clemente came into the league in 1955 at 20.  He really wasn’t that good for his first five years, having little power, drawing virtually no walks, and not hitting for a particularly high average.  He was always considered a good fielder though, and this kept him in the league.  In 1960 things started to turn around for Clemente.  The Pirates won the World Series that year in part to Clemente’s improvement.  Clemente hit .314 with a career high 14 home runs.  His bat was no longer a liability. He finished eighth in the MVP voting.  From there he just got better,  hitting over .300 every year until his death except 1968, when he hit .291. He topped .350 three times in an era when batting averages weren’t high. He won four batting titles, peaked with 29 home runs in 1966, when he won the MVP award, and won every single gold glove from 1961 to 1972. His lifetime OPS+ is 130, a solid number. In the 1971 World Series he led the Pirates to another championship hitting .414.

Al Kaline was a wunderkind when he came into the league. A few months younger than Clemente he started even earlier in 1953 at the age of 18. He finished 3rd in the rookie of the year voting in 1954, although he really didn’t have that great of a year.  In 1955 however, Clemente’s rookie year, he had one of the best seasons a 20 year old has ever had in baseball. He led the American league in hits with 200, batting average with .340,  he was second in on base percentage, slugging average, OPS, and runs, he finished fourth in home runs with 27, and fifth in RBIs with 102. He finished a close second in the MVP voting to Yogi Berra, though honestly Mickey Mantle should have won the award. In a sense it was all downhill for Kaline after that, though he continued to be one of the premier players in the American league. He hit over .300 four of the next six years, leading the league in slugging in 1959 and doubles in 1961. After 1961 injuries started to take their toll on Kaline and he never really played a full healthy season again.  He still had bright spots though, In 1962 he hit 29 home runs with 94 home runs in just 100 games played.  He retired after the 1974 season after hitting .262 with 13 home runs in 147 games.  He led Detroit to a World Series win in 1968 where he played well, hitting .379 and like Clemente was a great fielder, winning 10 of the 11 gold gloves from 1957 to 1967. 

So one can see part of the problem already, Clemente started slowly, but then finished strong with big years and gaudy statistics.  Kaline started strong but then more or less slowly slid downhill with very good, but not optically impressive stats years after year.  Let’s look at the raw stats:

Clemente: 2433 games, 1416 runs, 1305 RBIs, .317/.359/.475

Kaline:  2834 games,  1622 runs, 1583 RBIs, .297/.376/.480

Kaline has an edge in runs and RBIs but this pretty much disappears if you take Kaline’s extra games into account.  Clemente hit for a higher average, but Kaline has a higher On Base percentage and slugging average.  This is why Kaline’s OPS is actually 134, while Clemente’s is 130.  Clemente hit a lot more triples than Kaline, but Kaline hit more home runs (He holds the record for most home runs without hitting 30 in a season).  Kaline drew a ton more walks, 656 more. Kaline even stole more bases than Clemente, although neither were known for their baserunning.  The point is that hitting-wise they are pretty much even for all intents and purposes, with perhaps a bit of an edge to Kaline.

But Clemente was one of the greatest fielders of all time people will say,  and that certainly makes him better doesn’t it? 

Well fortunately both were right fielders, so this makes comparing their fielding stats easy.  I was quite surprised at what I found:

Clemente:  2370 games(RF), 4696PO, 266Assists,140 Errors, 42 Double Plays, .973 FA

Kaline:  2488 games(RF), 5035PO, 170 Assists, 73 Errors, 29 Double Plays, .980 FA

The first thing one notices is that Clemente committed almost TWICE the number of errors Kaline did, leading to Kaline’s FA being seven points higher.  Clemente did have 96 more assists and 13 Double plays, but I’m not sure how much that really makes him a better fielder when you consider that’s an extra assist every 24 games or so and an extra double play every 180 games.  At any rate I would guess the slight advantage Clemente has due to that is about the same as Kaline’s slight advantage in hitting. 

The argument I then hear most often is that what doesn’t show up in the statistics is how many baserunners were prevented from advancing from Clemente’s fantastic cannon of an arm, and how many runs were saved due to the fear of being thrown out.  Well you tell me.  That’s the problem: We just don’t know or have any real way to calculate.  Kaline was no slouch himself in the field don’t forget, so was Clemente’s arm so great that it overrides everything else and makes him one of the all time greats while Kaline is relegated to the all time very goods?  I don’t think so, but I suppose in the end it’s a subjective opinion.  A couple other comparisons:

MVP awards:  Clemente 1, Kaline 0

Top ten MVP seasons:  Clemente 8, Kaline 9

All star seasons:  Clemente 12, Kaline 15

Gold Gloves, Clemente 12, Kaline 10

Kaline had more all stars and one more MVP type season, Clemente had the MVP and a couple more gold gloves.  Kaline however easily could have won the MVP in 1955, and probably would have in 1962 had he played a full season.  He also finished 2nd in 1963 and wouldn’t have been a bad selection over Elston Howard that year.  As for gold gloves Kaline played right field less and less due to injury after 1967 so didn’t really qualify in many years for the gold glove, though he could have perhaps won one in 1971 had the voters been so inclined.