The 200 Greatest Major League Baseball Players Ever 2011 Ed. #120-111

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

#130-121 is here.

120. Brooks Robinson WARP+WAR (B-R version)130.8
OPS+ 104
Translated BA/OBP/SLG .282/.336/.428
MVPQ none, Best season 1964 (15.4)

A combination of glove and longevity gets Robinson this spot, as that OPS+ does him no favors.  Here are the third basemen so far with corresponding OPS+: Collins 113, Nettles 110, Cey 121, Bell 109, Boyer 116,   Hack 119, Evans 119, Ventura 114, Baker 135, Allen 156

If you're considering Dick Allen a third baseman, then he's the best on the list - his bat is so, so much better than Robinson's, that it's really not close.  I'd also take Home Run Baker for sure over Robinson, and probably Boyer and Hack too.  But Dick Allen's the man here.  

119. Fred Clarke LF 130.9
OPS+ 132
MVPQ none, Best season 1897 13.0

A two decade solid bat.  Clarke hit an untranslated .324 with an OPS+ of 147 when he was 38.  Incidentally, that was his best season, by a good amount, in 8 years.  Oddly, there were no steroid accusations.  

118. Old Hoss Radbourn RHP/RF 130.9
ERA+ 120
OPS+ 72
MVPQ 1883 21.9, 1884 27.3

Radbourn breaks WAR, as it doesn't do a real good job normalizing the 19th century players; those two years zip past the curve; his 1884 might be the best season in baseball history in combined WAR/WARP; WAR's a good number and this is a good list, but were you to mentally deduct points from the 19th century players that wouldn't strike me unfair.

117. Ryne Sandberg 2B 131.1
OPS+ 114
MVPQ 1984 17.1, 1992 17

Not as good as Jackie Robinson, but were you to say he's the second best second baseman so far, that would be reasonable; I might take Joe Gordon - but probably not, probably it's Sandberg.

116. Bobby Wallace SS 131.6
OPS+ 105
MVPQ 1901 16.6

Really gets a slugging percentage bounce from the translation.  Shortstops on the list thusfar - Glasscock, Ward, Reese.  That's it.  That's not enough, you'd like a couple more, but methodologically, WAR doesn't do the type of job it should in giving a bump for defense (fangraphs WAR gives greater glove love); on the other hand, defensive valuation, particularly for pre video players like Wallace, is still really speculative.  

115. Lou Boudreau SS 132.2
OPS+ 120
MVPQ 1948 22.6 

And Boudreau arrives to make things right.  That's a big bat for a shortstop, really a third base level bat, as you can see by looking at the OPS+ scores of the third basemen on the list thusfar (why wasn't Boudreau in the War?  That's interesting to me, seeing which players didn't wind up losing time for the various wars fought).

Here's Boudreau's translated 1948 numbers: .367/.445/.608.  That is a gobsmacking good season.  From a shortstop?  It's an all time great year.  

114. Curt Schilling RHP 132.5
Phillies/Diamonbacks/Red Sox
ERA+ 128
MVPQ none, Best season 2001 13.5

Post season record: IP 133.1, 11-2, ERA 2.23, 120 strikeouts, 25 walks.  So, that happened too.

113. Jeff Kent 2B 133
OPS+ 123
MVPQ 2000 17.2

And one of my guys here at #113.  That's where he rightly falls I think - he had the best career of any second baseman on the list so far; you'd only for sure take Robinson over him were you choosing sides.  For a second baseman, that translated career slugging percentage of .516, 30 points higher than Sandberg's, is a real feat.  He's a Hall of Famer.  

 112. Carlton Fisk C 133.2
White Sox/Red Sox
OPS+ 112
MVPQ none Best season 1972 14.2

Catchers thusfar: Kelly (kinda), Torre (Torre had a better bat than Fisk, and maybe..maybe was a better player), Ewing, Hartnett, Dickey, Piazza.  

Piazza's the best catcher so far, his bat advantage outweighs Fisk's glove.

111. Rafael Palmeiro 1B 133.6
OPS+ 132
MVPQ none, 1993 13.8

You spend several years reading baseball statistics, and the "steroid era" becomes pretty clearly not much different from every other time in baseball history, pretty easy to normalize.  Raffy didn't have a crazy year, just a career full of solid.  He played 20 seasons, and the only one he didn't have an OPS+ over 100 was his rookie year.  Maybe he was on steroids when he had 191 hits in 1990, and 49 doubles in '91, and scored 124 runs in '93.  Or not.  And if he was, maybe some of his '91 OPS+ of 155 was due to steroids - as opposed to cortisone or amphetamines or HGH or eye surgery or platelet spinning or beta blockers or ritalin or whatever the hell it is.  It was pronounced to you that steroids turned ground balls to short into 600 foot bombs and you believed it and that's why Palmeiro got 16% of the vote for the HOF.  

It's silly.  Like Cy Young's 511 or Hack Wilson's 191, we can adjust for context.  Raffy had 3,000+ hits and 500+ homers and that doesn't mean he was one of the top dozen players ever.  But it also doesn't mean he was Mike Ivie either.  He belongs here, just outside the top 100.  And in the Hall of Fame.  

90 down.  110 to go.  I'll see you in a week.


John DeWolfe said...

Boudreau was classified 4-F, based on (if memory serves) arthritic ankles. How this allowed him to still play shortstop, I don't know, but he was definitely classified 4-F.

Jim said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah - there's a book in that, about athletes who didn't go to war - about the relationships between those who returned and those who never left after it was over.

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