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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Thursday, July 14, 2011
 
With a nod to Derek Jeter getting his 3000th hit, the top ten shortstops in baseball history (through 2010).

1. Honus Wagner
2. Alex Rodriguez
3. Cal Ripken
4. Arky Vaughan
5. Ernie Banks
6. Pee Wee Reese
7. Luke Appling
8. Joe Cronin
9. Lou Boudreau
10. George Davis

Jeter's defense is what holds him back on this list: he comes in at #13. He could move up, but this year's performance so far does not bode well for that.


 
That completes a top 250: next we will look at some lists of top by position.


 
Number 250: Stan Hack.

Hack was a .300 hitter with walks, a leadoff man, a bit unusual for third basemen. A lifelong Cub, Hack joined the team in 1932 at age 22 as a part-timer. Woody English was the regular in those days, but Hack played some, pinch-hit, and even appeared briefly in that October's World Series. He played less in 1933, but became the regular in 1934 and pushed English to the background. He started on the 1935, 1938, and 1945 pennant teams, and scored 100 runs in six consecutive seasons.

Hack led the league in hits twice and stolen bases twice, and received support for the MVP award in eight different seasons. He has never gotten much Hall of Fame consideration, because leadoff men get overlooked with the overemphasis on the RBI column. But he was a good one.

Hack earned 132.43 ratings points.

Hack's stats: .301 average, 2193 hits, 1239 runs, .394 on-base.


 
Number 249: Kevin Appier.

He never won 20 games in a season, so it doesn't seem he should be this good. However, he pitched for a lot of bad teams in Kansas City, not going elsewhere until he was in his thirties. He also pitched quite well for a number of years. Pitchers are affected by the players around them more than any other players, so sometimes you get the good pitcher masked by the poor team.

Appier reached 200 innings eight times, and 180 three other times. He was durable and effective. The Royals' 1987 1st round draft pick delivered performance year after year.

Appier earned 132.57 ratings points.

Appier's stats: 169-137 record, 3.74 ERA, 121 ERA+.


 
Number 248: Hack Wilson.

With only twelve years in the major leagues, and only nine of those with 100 games played, Wilson owes his Hall of Fame election to peak value. He led the league in home runs four times and RBI twice, and put together a 1930 season that remains one of the most remarkable of all time. His 56 homers stood as a National League record for years, and his 191 RBI remain the single-season standard. The feat is tainted somewhat by its happening in the offensive peak of its time, but is nonetheless impressive.

Wilson was a short, stocky fellow who moved surprisingly well and played a solid center field in his prime. That prime was shorter than it could have been. His .319 average in two World Series is a plus, though.

Wilson earned 132.68 ratings points.

Wilson's stats: .307 average, 244 HR, 144 OPS+.


 
Number 247: Don Sutton.

Sutton pitched most of his career for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was signed by the Dodgers in the pre-draft days of 1964, and was in the rotation of the 1966 NL champs, Sandy Koufax's last year. Sutton was 12-12 but ably filled a rotation spot, then was suddenly thrust into a leading role when Koufax and later Drysdale retired. Sutton was about an average pitcher through 1971, when he hit his prime at age 26 and went 17-12 with a 2.54 ERA. He won 19 in 1972, with a 2.08 ERA in arguably his best year. Sutton continued to anchor the Dodgers' rotation, as part of the 1974, 1977 and 1978 pennant winners. He got his only 20-win season in 1976, with 21 victories. That year was his best showing in the Cy Young voting, at third. He led the league in ERA in 1980, then left the Dodgers as a free agent and went to Houston.

Sutton pitched well in 1981 and started 1982 well, but went to Milwaukee at the end of August for three minor leaguers to champion the Brewers' pennant drive. Sutton went 4-1 down the stretch to help lift the Brewers to the postseason, then to the brink of World Series victory. He slumped in 1983, was better in 1984, and then was traded to the A's after the season. He went to the Angels for the 1985 stretch run, and pitched for them in the 1986 ALCS. He was released by the Angels after 1987, and then picked up by the Dodgers after 1988 but was finished, going 3-6. He was released in August.

Sutton was never spectacular, but he was reliable, taking his turn time after time. He rarely missed a start, and was never injured for an extended period. Blessed with one of those reliable arms, Sutton steadied many a rotation in his career, and was in great demand as a veteran influence up to the end of his career at age 43. His career ERA+ was only 106, but that was lowered partly by hanging on as that "proven veteran."

Sutton earned 132.69 ratings points.

Sutton's stats: 324-256 record, 3.26 ERA, 3574 K, 58 shutouts.


 
Number 246: Jim Rice.

South Carolina native Jim Ed Rice spent all sixteen years of his major league career with the Boston Red Sox. He led the league in homers three times, RBI twice, won the 1978 MVP award and finished in the top five of voting six times. He was productive and obviously well-respected by people around the game.

His election to the Hall of Fame was opposed by a vocal minority, who pointed to mediocre defense, a poor batting record in road games, and a lack of overwhelming statistical evidence. Nonetheless, he did gain election, and certainly qualifies on the fame issue.

Rice earned 132.75 ratings points.

Rice's stats: .298 average, 382 HR, 1451 RBI, 128 OPS+.


Sunday, July 10, 2011
 
Number 245: Bob Elliott.

Elliott began his career as a right fielder but ended up spending most of it at third base. He started out in Pittsburgh with the Pirates, then was dealt to Boston at the end of 1946. He won the 1947 NL MVP, followed by the Braves winning a surprise 1948 NL pennant. That was his only World Series, but Elliot was a solid power hitter and a pretty good third baseman. The San Diego native was on seven All-Star teams. He drove in at least 100 runs in six seasons. Elliott carried a rep as a clutch hitter and an RBI man.

Elliott earned 132.9 ratings points.

Elliott's stats: .289 average, 2061 hits, 382 doubles, 1195 RBI.


 
Number 244: Jack Stivetts.

Stivetts was a 19th century pitcher who was a major leaguer for just eleven years. Pitchers threw out their arms pretty quickly in those days. He was an above-average pitcher and hitter, and that moves him up the list.

Stivetts led the league in ERA in 1889, his first year as a major leaguer. He pitched over 400 innings each of the next three years, then pitched some more as a regular starter with ERAs that were not impressive, but still better than normal for the era. He spent his career with St. Louis and Boston, with a few games in Cleveland.

Stivetts earned 133.11 ratings points.

Stivetts's stats: 203-132, 120 ERA+, .298 average, 106 OPS+