Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Baseball’s Most Achieving Players: 1893-2009

I am working on a project to rank outstanding players performing mainly from 1893 through 2009. Almost all ranked performed as regulars for at least five seasons during the Twentieth Century and present considerable “star-type” features. I elect not to rank players active in 2009. (I believe in at least a brief “cooling off” period after a player retires, before determining his place in history.) My rankings will differ from many other similar work products of excellent quality, in that I will do my best to describe the achievements of particular players, but also to explain why they rank ahead or behind others.

How far I intend to go in ranking the thousands of eligible players depends on a variety of factors. I begin with a group of 26 whom I regard as “supreme”. Besides being players of high historical impact, all 26 present: massive career statistics; high numbers of star quality seasons; premier long-term status among contemporaries and/or at positions, and/or in important skill areas. The 26 separate form the many other prominent contenders because they all present major features of “number one” quality or close. All were the best or nearly the best among all players in their leagues during significant time periods.

Another point is that all 26 reasonably contend for high ranking within the group. After Babe Ruth at number one, this cluster contains several sub-groups of players, all extremely close in career achievement. Final rankings depend on which of the superb features and combinations of features presented by each of these players are, given greater weight. Although more than 26 might qualify for inclusion at the edges of this cluster, I don’t believe any others present the same quality of “number one” credentials.

Yes, I know this cluster includes no Catchers. Positional factors do influence my rankings, but the fact that a player was the best at a position does not always mean that he ranks ahead of others on a list including all players from all time periods and all positions.

For later discussion, I have identified a second cluster approximately 35 “nearly supreme” performers. That group includes three Catchers.

In ranking players, I do my best to minimize visceral feelings as to how “good” they were. My focus is on career achievement. Fairly often, particular players achieve more than do others who may be perceived as more highly skilled.

I generally consider the following evaluation areas, some of which over lap: 1.) career statistics; 2.) number of “star or near star” qualify seasons; 3.) unique skills or combinations of skills, 4.) contributions to winning or contending teams (value); 5.) status among contemporaries; 6.) positional factors including longer and shorter team rankings; 7.) achievements of historical importance; 8.) career longevity and the lengths of quality of the player’s “peak period”; 9.) weaknesses or deficiencies, if any. (These areas vary in importance and are not listed above in any particular order.) In some cases, the evaluations may be influenced by features not falling into any of the above evaluation areas.)

Players don’t necessarily deserve higher ranking because they present more features in more evaluation areas, but because they present more important features. Players in the “supreme” cluster present massive features including some “number one” quality or close.

Following is my list of 26 “supreme” players. Players are listed at their main positions and chronologically. I welcome any suggestions and comments regarding rankings. You might want to try your hand at ranking these players from one through 26.

“Supreme” Baseball Players – Top 26
1893 – 2009
(Listed at Main Position and Chronologically)
Pitchers (8)Outfielders
Cy YoungTy Cobb
Christy MathewsonTris Speaker
Walter JohnsonBath Ruth
Grover "Pete" AlexanderMel Ott
"Lefty" GroveJoe DiMaggio
Warren SpahnTed Williams
Roger ClemensStan Musial
Greg MadduxMickey Mantle
 Willie Mays
First BasemenHank Aaron
Lou GehrigPete Rose
Jimmie FoxxRicky Henderson
 Barry Bonds
Second Basemen 
Rogers Hornsby 
Honus Wagner 
Third Basemen 
Mike Schmidt