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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Saturday, May 08, 2004
 
Number 107: Bobby Grich

I'm sure I surprise some readers when I pick guys who have relatively low batting averages to high spots on the list. This happens because these players have talents that are beyond those reflected in their batting average. Mike Schmidt was one example. Grich is another.

Grich was a second baseman who also played some shortstop. He was a terrific defensive player, played in a low offensive era, and also contributed good power and lots of walks. He also played in Baltimore and California, places which were good pitchers' parks, also helping to hold down his offensive numbers. So he only hit .300 once, only reached 30 homers and 100 RBI once: his OBP was consistently in the high .300s, better than many of those ".300 hitters." He won four Gold Gloves, 1973-76. He was 2nd in the league in OPS in 1981. His career OPS+ was 125, which is exceptional for a sharp fielding middle infielder. He never made it to the World Series, playing on the losing side of five ALCS. Grich was swift and sure on the double play, had tremendous range afield, and was a dangerous hitter in the middle of nearly every rally.

Grich earned 164.28 ratings points.

Grich's stats: .266 average, 224 homers, 320 doubles, 1033 runs, .371 OBP.


Thursday, May 06, 2004
 
Number 106: Willie Stargell.

Stargell was signed by the Pirates in 1958, and first appeared in the majors in 1962. He played 10 games that year, then became a part-timer the next year. Gifted with a strong arm, he backed up Roberto Clemente in RF, but ended up pushed over to LF. After batting .273 in 1964, with 21 HR, Stargell staked his claim to regular duty. In 1966 he posted a .315 average with 33 HR and 102 RBI.

Stargell was never speedy, but he held down LF for several years in Pittsburgh, with occasional forays to first base. In 1972 he played 1B regularly for the first time, but returned to LF for two years before becoming a full-time first baseman in 1975. In 1971 he batted .295 with 48 HR and 125 RBI, then in 1973 hit .299 with 44 HR and 119 RBI. Those seasons both earned him second place in the MVP voting, and he finally won one, or actually shared it, as an "elder statesman" on the 1979 "We Are Family" Pirates World Champions. His .281 average, 32 HR and 82 RBI were not particularly award-worthy, but his leadership was deemed sufficient by many voters.

After that he was a part-timer and pinch hitter for three years before retiring. He stayed active in the game through coaching and front office work until his 2001 death. His two World Championships (also 1971) bring back warm memories in Pittsburgh.

Stargell earned 164.47 ratings points.

Stargell's stats: .282 average, 475 HR, 1540 RBI, 2232 hits, .315 World Series average.


Monday, May 03, 2004
 
Number 105: George Sisler.

Sisler was a part-time pitcher at the beginning of his career, but that soon ended and he became the regular first baseman for the St. Louis Browns during the time of their greatest success. Part of that success was certainly due to Sisler, a solid hitter and excellent first baseman. Sisler batted .407 in 1920 and .420 in 1922, but then was felled by an eye infection that cost him all of 1923. He came back, but was not the same player afterwards. The high batting averages of his era and the kindness of the Browns' park to lefty hitters masked his difficulties. Sisler finished his career with the Boston Braves.

Sisler earned 164.85 ratings points.

Sisler's stats: .340 average, 2812 hits, 425 doubles, 164 triples, and 1284 runs.


 
Number 104: Ed Walsh

"Big Ed" was a hard-working White Sox pitcher who put together a terrific string of seasons from 1906-12, a great period of excellent pitching. Working during the deadball era with a legal spitball no doubt helped keep his ERA down, but Walsh was still an accomplished performer. He began in Chicago in 1904 at age 23, and spent that year and the next as a part-time pitcher, getting his feet (and the ball) wet. He was the team's #6 pitcher in 1904, the #5 guy in 1905, then took his place in the regular rotation the next year with the "Hitless Wonders." That year was Walsh's only World Series, and he won two games in it, cementing his rep as a big-game pitcher. Walsh won 40 games in 1908, but even that feat couldn't boost the Sox to another pennant. He led the league in wins that year, and in ERA in 1907 and 1910.

When they started an MVP award in the early teens, Walsh finished second in the voting in 1911 and 1912, showing the regard in which he was held by his peers and the press. Walsh ranks first among 2000 inning pitchers in ERA, and he is 11th in career shutouts. Of course the era makes a difference in ERA, but Walsh still ranks 7th in ERA+, which is very impressive. He pitched little after 1913, his arm mostly spent, or he would rank higher. He was a tremendous pitcher for several years.

Walsh earned 165.12 ratings points.

Walsh's stats: 195-126 record, 1.82 ERA, 57 shutouts, 250 CG.


 
Number 103: Ed Delahanty

"Big Ed" was one of five baseball playing brothers, and the best of them. Known as a big hitter, he played in the major leagues 1888-1903, mostly for Philadelphia. Hitting home runs was pretty uncommon then, but Delahanty led the league twice, in 1893 with 19 and in 1896 with 13. He led the league in batting average once, on-base average twice, and slugging average five times. He was known as one of the NL's premier power hitters. At this time, that meant doubles and triples as well as homers. He led the NL in doubles five times. It wasn't a park effect, either, as he led in the park-corrected metric OPS+ four times. He was the premier hitter of the 1890s.

Delahanty was a left fielder, and did a decent though unspectacular job in the field. He was paid for his bat work. His best season overall was 1896, although 1895 was almost as good. The team finished below .500, because they had little pitching, and limited help at bat for Delahanty. First baseman Roger Connor was old, 3B Lave Cross and CF Sam Thompson were slipping. Not enough help for the star.

Delahanty's death has long had a mystery attached to it. There is really no mystery, as he was thrown off a train for drunken behavior, wandered off in the fog, and fell to his death. This was in 1903, when he was 35 and winding up his career with the Washington Senators. The man is a Hall of Famer and deserves to be, but his death is no mystery, just a regrettable accident.

Delahanty earned 165.63 ratings points.

Delahanty's stats: .346 average, 101 homers, 546 doubles, 185 triples, .411 OBP, .505 SLG, 1599 runs, 1464 RBI.


 
Number 102: Robin Yount

Yount came to the majors at age 18, barely out of high school. He wasn't ready, but he was better than anything the still-expansion Brewers (then in their sixth year) had to go at shortstop. Yount batted .250 in 1974, then improved slowly to a competent major leaguer, playing good defense and wielding a respectable bat.

In 1978, Yount (still only 22) started the year hurt and on the bench. He sulked, and talked to the press of quitting baseball and turning to golf. When he healed, however, he returned to the lineup and began playing better than ever. He batted .293, and the Brewers had their best year yet, winning 93 games. With a capable and competent team finally on the field, the game became more fun, and Yount continued to improve. The Brewers continued to be contenders, won the division in 1981 and the AL pennant in 1982, putting Yount and his mates in the World Series. He won an MVP for a standout year in 1982, and won another in 1989 after he had moved to center field. Oddly, those were the only years he was even in the top 10 of MVP voting. Yount was a consistent player, with occasional peaks such as his MVP years, who played good but not great defense. He moved from shortstop to center field after the 1984 season, when injuries seemed likely to rob him of the quickness needed for shortstop.

He retired after the 1993 season, at age 37, with most of his power and quickness gone. Still, for 20 years he was the heart and soul of the Milwaukee Brewers, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Yount earned 166.1 rating points.

Yount's statistics: .285 average, 251 homers, 3142 hits, 1632 runs, 1406 RBI, 583 doubles, 271 SB, one Gold Glove (1982).