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, June 18, 2005
 
Number 181: Jason Giambi.

Giambi got a late major league start, 54 games for the A's in 1995 at age 24, batting .256. He became a regular the next year, batting .291 with 20 HR, but they didn't know where to play him. Some third base, left field, but in 1998 he settled at first base. He also hit .295 with 27 HR and 110 RBI, and then moved into MVP territory. He won the 2000 MVP, was second in 2001, then went to New York as a free agent. He had a solid 2002, then his average dropped from .314 to .250. In 2004 he reported to spring training noticably smaller and lighter.

The steroid scandal hit. Giambi was visibly at the center of it, as his rapid weight loss could not be explained any other way. He apologized to fans without ever mentioning exactly what he was apologizing for. 2004 was terrible, and 2005 started the same way but then he got it turned around. Giambi produced 30-plus homer seasons in 2005, 2006, and 2008, and continues to play as a backup with low batting averages but impressive walks and power.

Giambi has earned 144.61 points through 2010.

Giambi's stats (through 2010): .281 average, 416 HR, 1369 RBI, .523 slugging percentage.


Thursday, June 16, 2005
 
Number 180: Frank Chance.

The California native came east to play major league baseball. It wasn't that common then, but a few did, and in 1898 Chance became a member of the Chicago National League team, at age 21, the year after the venerable Cap Anson had finished his career. Chance began as a backup catcher and utility man, and was a part-time though very effective player in his early years. In 1903, manager Frank Selee got the idea to make Chance the regular first baseman, and he led the league in steals that year with 67. Didn't think of Chance as a speedster? He was fast, and had good power for the dead-ball era too.

That formed the Tinker-Evers-Chance infield, and with Johnny Kling catching they had the basics of a dynasty in Chicago. They continued gathering pieces, in mid-season 1905 Selee stepped down and Chance took charge (they called him The Peerless Leader) and the Cubs won four pennants in five years. He was really only an everyday player through 1908, and played less as he got into his thirties. They didn't usually last as long in those days, with primitive sports medicine. By 1911, age 34, Chance was essentially done as a player. He was a good one though, with a 137 OPS+ and an excellent glove at first base in a time when that was an important defensive position, responsible for nimbly fielding bunts.

Chance earned 144.71 ratings points.

Chance's stats: .296 average, .394 on-base, 403 steals.


 
Number 179: Jimmy Wynn.

Wynn was signed by the Reds in early 1962, but then picked by Houston in the NL expansion draft. So, he is probably the best player ever selected in an expansion draft. There was lots of opportunity on an expansion club in the pre-free agent era, so Wynn was in the big leagues in 1963 at age 21. He batted .244 in 70 games, then .224 in 67 games the next year. He became a regular in 1965, batting .275 with 22 HR.

He had power and speed, covered a lot of ground in center field although he had a lousy arm. He was called the "Toy Cannon," because he packed a lot of power in his 5'9" frame. He hit 37 homers in 1967 even though the Astrodome was his home park, a remarkable achievement. The park did a lot to hide his skill as a hitter, as did the low-offense 1960s when he played.

Wynn was traded to the Dodgers after 1973 for Claude Osteen, and even though Dodger Stadium is a lousy hitting park too, it's better than the Astrodome. Wynn batted .271 with 32 HR and 108 RBI for the pennant-winning Dodgers in 1974, and perhaps should have won the MVP. He finished fifth in the voting. His 1975 was sub-par, and he was traded to Atlanta in the offseason. It was a much better hitters' park there, but Wynn at 34 was running out of gas and hit just .207, although he drew 127 walks. His OPS+ was still 108, but after batting .175 in 1977, he was done. He was a fine player, though. Conditions conspired against him compiling numbers that would make him a Hall of Fame candidate, although with more favorable home ballparks and eras he would be. Being a Red in the 1960s and 1970s would have helped, too.

Wynn earned 144.72 ratings points.

Wynn's stats: .250 average, 291 HR, 1105 runs, 1665 hits, 1224 walks, 128 career OPS+.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005
 
Number 178: Norm Cash.

Cash had an odd career, with one really great year, but a lot of very good ones. He was absolutely terrific in 1961, batting .361 with 41 homers and 132 RBI and finishing second in the MVP race, but didn't have another season at that level. He had a lot of years with a .270 average, 70 walks, 25 or 30 homers, and 80 or 90 RBI. He also got outed for using corked bats.

The thing is, a corked bat doesn't really help, except psychologically. It won't make the ball travel any farther. Apparently it made Cash feel like they did. He also got sat against lefties a lot, which held down his at-bats in some seasons, and therefore his stats. He also played in a low-offense era. If you check his OPS+, you will get an idea of how good a hitter he was.

Cash earned 145.4 ratings points.

Cash's stats: .271 average, 377 HR, 1103 RBI, 139 OPS+.


Monday, June 13, 2005
 
Number 177: Rick Reuschel.

He was a big, rawboned country boy who was drafted in the 3rd round by the Cubs in 1970. He went into the rotation in midseason 1972 and posted a 10-8 record. He pitched a lot for the Cubs, briefly for the Yankees, then for the Pirates and the Giants. He won 20 in 1977, but his main role was workhorse and ace.

Reuschel didn't look much like an athlete, but he could hit, and was a good fielder. He was dependable, posting 200-inning seasons for eight straight years at one point, then after fighting through arm problems for four more consecutive years. He was a consistent pitcher who won a couple of Gold Gloves.

Reuschel earned 145.51 ratings points.

Reuschel's stats: 214-191 record, 3.37 ERA, 3548 innings, 114 ERA+.


 
Number 176: Charlie Keller.

"King Kong" Keller was a hairy, muscular fellow who would have had a long and great career except for two things: World War II, and a bad back. Keller batted 500 times in just five seasons, but when he played he was exceptional.

Keller drove in 100 runs in three seasons, and scored 100 in three as well. He was a capable left fielder with good speed and put up a lifetime OPS+ of 152. Keller was a five-time All-Star in his short career.

Keller earned 145.58 ratings points.

Keller's stats: .286 average , 189 HR, .410 on-base, .518 slugging.


Sunday, June 12, 2005
 
Number 175: Wes Ferrell.

It is unusual for a pitcher with a career ERA of over 4.00 to be highly regarded. That is often used as a threshhold for adequacy. But Wes Ferrell's 4.04 career ERA comes with some caveats. For one, he pitched his career in an extreme hitters' era, the period of 1927-41. His ERA was high, but his ERA+ of 117 says that he was still well above average. Plus, he was a terrific hitter himself, with a lifetime batting average of .280, and a career OPS+ of 100. For his career, he was a league-average hitter!

Ferrell toiled for a lot of below average clubs, and never reached the postseason. Still, he once placed 2nd in the MVP voting, that in 1935 when he led the league in wins. He wasn't even an All-Star that year, something he managed but twice. However, for ten years, 1929-38, in the middle of the Lively Ball years, he was one of the best pitchers in the AL. He won 20 in a season six times.

Ferrell earned 145.71 ratings points.

Ferrell's stats: 193-128 record, 227 CG, 38 HR hit.