Commentary: Players 11-20
|11. Hank Aaron
Like Mays, Aaron had incredible longevity, but not the ultra-dominant individual seasons that
one expects from the game’s best players. Unlike Mays, Hank has been underrated as a
fielder, having logged 84 more assists than errors in the outfield during his career. Aaron’s
speed also tends to go under-appreciated, as he was one of the NL’s better basestealers in
the 60’s. The startling fact about Aaron is that despite being the all-time home runs leader, he’
s only 20th all-time in slugging percentage.
12. Tris Speaker
Clearly the best defensive outfielder of all-time. Leads all outfielders in double plays, assists,
assists minus errors, fielding runs, fielding win shares, and fielding win shares per season. His
fielding percentage was 10 points higher than the league average over the course of his
career. In terms of pure hitting, he doesn’t rank far behind Mantle and Mays. What hurts
Speaker is his abysmal 56% stolen base rate during the years in which that statistic was kept
13. Stan Musial
Musial was very likely intentionally walked more than anyone in history other than Barry Bonds.
This shows that Stan probably wasn’t as overlooked when he was playing as he is now. It also
makes his being fourth all time in RBIs even more impressive. Musial did play in both the
offense-friendly Sportsman’s Park and a great offensive era, but his overall numbers are
staggering even when you take those factors into account.
14. Eddie Collins
Eddie is credited with 512 sacrifice hits in his career, the most all-time by a wide margin. You
have to wonder whether this contributed to Collins’ teams having such great records, and what
his other numbers might have looked like had he swung away in those opportunities.
Regardless, Collins is the second best hitting second baseman ever, and one of the best
fielders to ever man that base also.
15. Cy Young
Denton True Young had two Younger brothers who combined for a 63-98 Major League record
(.391 Win %). That means that they were almost as unproductive (.109 % points below .500)
as Denton was stellar (.118 % points above .500).
How many Cy Young Awards would Cy Young have won if the Cy Young Award had been
around during Cy Young’s time? Impossible to say, given the alarming rate at which the best
pitcher in the league does not win the Cy Young Award. But it is interesting to note that Cy was
only clearly the best pitcher in his league on three occasions (1892, 1901, and 1902). Since
the award began in 1956, it could have just as easily been named the Dazzy Vance Award
(1924, 1928, and 1930). More on Denton True Young.
How valuable is a good third baseman? Total Baseball calculates that third baseman have
generally hit better than second baseman, yet much worse than center fielders. However, an
everyday center fielder will have more total chances than a third baseman. He needs more
speed, an equally good arm, but not necessarily the same reflexes. A second baseman will
have more total chances than either position, needs more range and agility than the man at the
hot corner, but not as good of an arm. The point being, third basemen as a whole do not have
the same offensive plus defensive value as other positions. So where to rank the best third
baseman of all-time, when he’s less valuable on offense than four second basemen and five
17. Mel Ott
Ostensibly, Ott has similar offensive value to Frank Robinson. That is, before you look at
double plays. Ott has one of the best DP% of all time, getting into twin killings almost half as
often as Robinson.
Ott also has the second most effective outfield arm of all time (to Speaker, of course) as he’s
thrown out 158 more runners than he has allowed to take an extra base via the error. It’s a
distant second, however, as Speaker finished at 227 in the A-E category.
18. Eddie Mathews
Mathews suffers from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, that is, being the second-best hitter on his team
even though he is one of the best hitters of all-time. Mathews numbers weren’t aided much by
the arrival of Aaron, however, as arguably his three best season’s (‘53-’55) came before Hank
was even an established slugger in the league.
Note from the KOR and DPOR statistics that Matthews was actually the best hitting third
baseman ever, just ahead of Schmidt. It’s Schmidt’s defense that causes him to be ranked
19. Rickey Henderson
One of the few problems with batting runs is that in using the average run values for each play,
leadoff hitters are slightly undervalued. In my Offensive Runs (KOR), a double is worth .78
runs and a walk plus a stolen base is worth .63 runs. Obviously, both events actually have the
same value when leading off an inning. So if we assume, conservatively, that out of Rickey’s
2,190 career walks and 1,406 stolen bases he has led off an inning with a walk and stolen base
300 times, we could award him an extra 45 KOR (300*.15), bumping him up from 784 to 829. If
we instead credit his leadoff walks as singles, the number approaches 900 (Willie Mays is at
20. Grover Cleveland Alexander
Had Alexander not missed all but three starts in the 1918 season due to WWI, he would be
fourth all-time in innings pitched. Pete is already second on the shutouts list with 90, tied for
third on the wins list with 373, and third in Wins Above Team with 81.6. His 1915 season is
quite probably the fourth best pitching season of all-time. For an in-depth comparison between
Alexander and Lefty Grove, click here.