Rating the Greatest Baseball Players of All Time

My rankings of the greatest baseball players ever, starting with number 1, in order.

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Friday, October 17, 2003
 
Number 72: Bert Blyleven

This ranking will probably surprise a lot of people. Blyleven took a long time to get in the Hall of Fame. However, he is one of the greatest pitchers ever. He pitched for a lot of mediocre teams, but still won nearly 300 games in his career.

Blyleven reached the majors in 1970 at age 19, with the Minnesota Twins. The Twins were winding up a strong era, and would soon fall apart at the seams. Blyleven was given a heavy workload, including 325 innings in 1973. His best pitch was a stunning curveball, one of the best ever seen. He wasn't a big fastball pitcher, but with that knockout curve and good control, he got lots of strikeouts and issued few walks. His biggest weakness was the home run ball, because if the curve hung instead of breaking it could be hit a long way.

He won 20 in a season only once, in that 1973 campaign, but he won 17 a lot, with records like 17-14 pretty common. He was traded from Minnesota to Texas in midseason 1976, then went to Pittsburgh after the 1977 season. The Pirates were a pretty good team then, and he was part of the 1979 World Series champions. He departed there after 1980 for Cleveland, another bad team. He went back to Minnesota in midseason 1985 as the Twins were building back up, and became part of their 1987 World Series winners. He finished up in California and pitched until 1992 although 1989 was his last good season.

His highest finish in the Cy Young voting was 3rd, and he made only two all-star teams. He never led the league in wins or ERA, and in strikeouts only once. So why does he rate so highly? Well, he was very good, for a very long time. Many of the teams he played for, even when they were good, did not have very good defenses, hurting some of his numbers. His defense-independent numbers, aside from homers, are very strong, and he did it year after year for 20 years. He missed most of 1982 due to injury, but other than that he was dependable and effective for a very long time.

Blyleven earned 180.56 ratings points.

Blyleven's stats: 287-250 record, 3.31 ERA, 3701 K, 242 CG, 60 shutouts.


Monday, October 13, 2003
 
Number 71: Satchel Paige.

He is the best-remembered player of the Negro Leagues, and he had a bit of a major league career to boot. He didn't get to play in the majors until he was past 40, but he still pitched effectively. It is for that reason that I suspend my rules about not guessing how people like Oscar Charleston and Josh Gibson would have done if they had played in the majors. Certainly they would have been great, but how great? With Satchel, we at least have some sense of that.

Through much of the 1930s, he was baseball's greatest gate attraction, barnstorming in exhibitions with first Dizzy Dean and later Bob Feller, among others. He was so good he got to play by his own rules, show up when he wanted, and get money other black players never dreamed about. He debuted in the majors in 1948 at age 41, and it was decried as a stunt, but he went 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA as a spot starter and reliever and the Indians won the World Series. Satch even got two outs in the World Series.

He really only pitched for Bill Veeck and Charlie Finley teams in the majors, guys who were promoters, but he did so effectively. In 1952 for the St. Louis Browns, admittedly a bad team, Paige at age 45 tied for the team lead in wins and led in saves, with the best ERA on the club among pitchers with 50 innings. It was an impressive showing for a veteran hurler.

He was an American original, Satchel Paige.

Paige has 180.91 ratings points, with much being given as compensation for his being kept out of the majors due to the color line.

Paige's major league stats: 28-31 record, 32 saves, 3.29 ERA, 124 ERA+, all after age 40.