Since I’m a nerd who enjoys lists, I wanted to post the top 100 players by C-WAR. Below is that list.
Are those the top 100 players every to play baseball? No, but it’s a pretty good start. Here are the players that just missed this list:
Since Baseball Prospectus does not publish WAR data for players before 1950, this does create a bit of unfair advantage for those players. This is because of the three sites, Baseball Prospectus tends to have the lowest WAR values for a player (especially with pitchers), so it puts modern players (1950-present) at an unfair disadvantage. So to adjust for this, below is the top 100 excluding Baseball Prospectus’ WAR altogether.
Joe Cronin, Dazzy Vance, Sam Crawford, Bill Dahlen, and Willie McCovey fell off of this list entirely. Of that group only McCovey started his career after 1950. This version of the top 100 added Larry Walker, Ozzie Smith, Kevin Brown, Bobby Grich, and Roy Halladay, all of whom started their careers after 1950. Because BP values pitchers significantly lower than Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, modern pitchers made the biggest jumps between the two lists. Nolan Ryan went from 72nd to 53rd, Fergie Jenkins went from 73rd to 54th, and Mike Mussina jumped from 82nd to 70th place.
Here are the players that just missed this list:
I prefer this list to the one that includes BP’s WAR. Once BP publishes WAR data for every player, using all three will make more sense.
Baseball- Reference tends to represent the middle ground of value between all three sites. FanGraphs usually produces the highest WAR, followed by Baseball-Reference, and Baseball Prospectus. This is because each site has a different starting point for what a replacement level player is. FanGraphs has a lower starting point, thus produces higher WAR estimates. For example, Only four Hall of Fame position players have a greater rWAR (Baseball-Reference) than fWAR (FanGraphs). Those players are Cap Anson (91.1-86.9), Ozzie Smith (73.0-70.1), Ryne Sandberg (64.9-62.6), and Sam Thompson (42.1-40.6).
Since I calculated peak using only rWAR, below is the top 100 using just Baseball Reference’s WAR. Another words this is a player’s career WAR plus his eight year peak using on Baseball-Reference. FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus are not factored in to the chart below at all.
This list also includes Walker, Halladay, Grich and Smith. Not only does this list include Smith, he jumped up to 78th place. That big jump is directly attributed to how each site values and calculates defense. This list also added Alan Trammell, Ryne Sandberg, Mickey Welch, Stan Covelski, and Al Spalding.
I like this list as well, having one constant is nice and rWAR is the most stable of the three but this list does depend solely on the estimates from one source. There are pros and cons to this, but this list works just fine, especially if you only use Baseball-Reference’s WAR. I prefer the 2nd list that also includes FanGraphs but think all three are valuable to look at.
Here are the players that just missed this list:
So who’s missing? Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Juan Marichal, and Eddie Murray are among the notables not to make any of the lists. It would be impossible to make a list of the top 100 baseball players ever without including Robinson and Koufax, they both fall short of the C-WAR top 100 because of how brief their careers were. Robinson didn’t make his Major League debut until he was 28, Koufax threw his last pitch when he was only 30 years old. They didn’t accumulate enough career value, but their peaks are both top 100 (that’s another list). The other guys lose points because of their defensive shortcomings, and Marichal misses because WAR (along with traditional narrative) tends to overvalue pitchers from the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. Even with some of the notable omissions, these lists work. What do you think? What players surprised you the most?
One other note, because C-WAR focuses only on WAR, it makes it impossible for me to include players who played exclusively in the Negro Leagues with any of these calculations. Nothing has diluted stats and the integrity of the game like the exclusion of black players for over fifty years. While I can’t include them in C-WAR, I encourage you to visit the websites for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame to find out more about the players who likely would have cracked the top 100 had they simply been allowed to play in the majors.
Many thanks to the incredibly smart people who work at Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus. Without their tireless efforts to improve and maintain their sites and information none of this research would be possible.
Any questions or comments about the Hall, or a player listed or not listed above, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @Rosscarey
Originally posted 10/19/12