Friday, January 07, 2011

All-Time Player Ranking Project Part 3

Part 1 & 2

First Basemen

1.Lou Gehrig - Another one that I expected, but I was surprised just how big of a lead Gehrig has on everyone else. Often in Ruth's shadow, Gehrig's quiet personality may have worked against him and kept him from getting all the credit he deserved.

2.Albert Pujols - No first baseman has ever been both the best hitter in baseball and had a long career, ever, (except Cap Anson but we'll get to him). Gehrig, Foxx, Greenberg, and even Bagwell all had relatively short careers for one reason or another and players like Murray or McCovey never quite hit well enough at any point in their careers. Pujols may change that.

3.Jimmie Foxx - The 1930s were the decade of the first baseman, and Foxx's career mirrors Gehrig's in many ways, but even at his best, he was not quite as good as Gehrig at his best.

4.Jeff Bagwell - Almost no one realizes that through the first 10 years of his career, Bagwell was 90% the hitter Pujols was, an equal defender and a better baserunner. There were a lot of sluggers who peaked around the late-90s but Bagwell's patience and baserunning separated him. The gap was only increased by the fact that he played his prime in the Astrodome, the PetCo Park of the 90s.

5.Johnny Mize - Mize hit his prime just as Gehrig was leaving the game and lost three and a half prime seasons to the war. Even if I did not make any adjustment for this, he would still rank seventh all-time among first baseman.

6.Frank Thomas - A better hitter at his peak than Bagwell but nowhere near the defender or runner. Even with his deficiencies, Thomas' bat could have carried him ahead of Bagwell if not for his balky feet.

7.Jim Thome - A classic slugger with power and patience to spare. Thome should reach 600 home runs in 2011 and should stroll into the Hall of Fame five years later.

8.Cap Anson - Anson posted an OPS+ over 100 for 26 straight seasons. Unfortunately he did all of that before 1900 when the game was in its infancy and nowhere near as competitive as it is now.

9.Dick Allen - I don't know if it was his attitude or people's inability to evaluate players properly 30 years ago, but it is hard to find a more under appreciated player than Allen, who was simply the best hitter in baseball for multiple seasons.

10.Dan Brouthers - Brouthers led the league in OPS six straight seasons during the 1880s, like Anson it is impossible to know just where to rank him, but dropping him any lower seems like a disservice to someone who dominated his league so convincingly.

Other players of note: Willie McCovey (11), Todd Helton (12), Eddie Murray (13), Keith Hernandez (14), Hank Greenberg (15), Rafael Palmeiro (16), Harmon Killebrew (20+), Mark McGwire (20+), George Sisler (20+). McCovey was all bat and had a very short prime while Murray never really had a prime in a sense. Hernandez ranks way higher than I expected but the guy was a wizard with the glove and always had great OBPs. Killebrew and McGwire never did much with the glove and in Mcgwire's case his career was also short. Sisler was singled out by Bill James as the most overrated players ever and I do not see anything to refute that comment.

Pujols and Bagwell continue to amaze me with how well they rate historically. I do think the general public took Bagwell for granted and that is happening, albeit to a lesser degree, with Pujols as well. If the next eight years of his career are half as good as the last eight we are watching the best player since Aaron/Mays... or Bonds depending on your perspective. I was really surprised how poorly Palmeiro and Killebrew ranked in particular, they both have some crazy good raw numbers but took awhile to get there and sacrificed other parts of their game on the way.

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