Re-thinking the All-Time Starting Nine

The consensus all-time starting nine seems to be:

POS

PLAYER

FROM

TO

WAR

WAA

C

Johnny Bench

1967

1983

75.2

46.7

1B

Lou Gehrig

1923

1939

112.5

78.6

2B

Rogers Hornsby

1915

1937

127.0

97.4

3B

Mike Schmidt

1972

1989

106.5

73.3

SS

Honus Wagner

1897

1917

130.6

91.6

LF

Ted Williams

1939

1960

123.2

94.2

CF

Willie Mays

1951

1973

156.1

110.0

RF

Babe Ruth

1914

1935

163.2

126.0

SP

Walter Johnson

1907

1927

152.3

97.3

When Classic Sports Network (along with a panel of 36 BBWAA members) made their starting nine in 1997 these were the players they chose. When Graham Womack asked readers on his Baseball Past and Present site to vote on the all-time dream team, they chose the same nine. Young internet readers and grumpy old sportswriters both picked the same team. Finally, agreement!

However, I have some problems with this team.

Purely from a numbers point of view the consensus starting lineup seems about right. If you’re looking at numbers and numbers alone, it’s tough to leave Barry Bonds off as your starting left fielder. One could easily make a case that Bonds is best player ever, however I think many are a hesitant to do so because of his connections to illegal PEDs.

That’s fair.

Those people are just trying to put Bonds’ career into context which is honestly difficult to do. However, if we are willing to overlook the numbers in Bonds’ case shouldn’t we be willing to do the same for others on the team?

I think so.

The first thing I noticed about the consensus lineup is that five of the nine players started their career before 1924. Four before 1916. All five of those players played their entire careers in a segregated league comprised almost entirely of American born white males. Not only was the game segregated it was also still developing. I question, I think fairly, the level of competition these players were competing against.

My problems with the consensus team are at 1st, 2nd, SS, and pitcher. I can’t dispute the greatness of any of those players selected; they were all dominant and deserve their place in history. Statistically, (perhaps excluding Johnson) they are all the runaway choices too. Gehrig, Hornsby, Wagner, and Johnson have been the guys that we have been conditioned and taught to believe are the greatest ever for over 75 years now. That’s part of my problem, as more great players have come in to a more developed league; the all-time team has stayed the same.

The dead ball era has come and gone, so has World War 1 &2. The spitball was banned, and slider came into the game. Air travel was invented, integration happened, night games happened. Minor leagues systems were created to better develop players. The DH became a thing, free agency became a thing, bullpens developed, specialists came into the game, as did the defensive shift. Countries from all over the world all started producing high quality talent expanding MLB’s potential player pool while doing so. Data is readily available on every hitter, pitcher and ballpark in the league, and players are more aware of health, nutrition, and training than ever. They also have access to better performance-enhancing drugs and the money to afford them with ease. The game has changed, but the all-time starting nine hasn’t. That doesn’t make any sense to me.

My nine would look like this:

POS

PLAYER

FROM

TO

WAR

WAA

C

Johnny Bench

1967

1983

75.2

46.7

1B

Albert Pujols

2001

Active

93.0

67.0

2B

Joe Morgan

1963

1984

100.4

63.3

3B

Mike Schmidt

1972

1989

106.5

73.3

SS

Cal Ripken

1981

2001

95.6

53.2

LF

Ted Williams

1939

1960

123.2

94.2

CF

Willie Mays

1951

1973

156.1

110.0

RF

Babe Ruth

1914

1935

163.2

126.0

SP

Pedro Martinez

1992

2009

86.0

61.4

C- Johnny Bench- (1967-1983)

Unless you want to make a case for Gibson or Santop I don’t really see an argument against Bench. He was a dominant offensive and defensive catcher who also changed how the position is played by popularizing the one-handed style of catching. He played his entire career in an integrated league, and was a key contributor on two championship teams.

1B- Albert Pujols- 2001-Present (signed through 2021)

Pujols’ slash line

.321/.410/.599 that’s good for 1.008 OPS and an OPS+ of 165

Gehrig’s slash line

.340/.447/.632 that’s good for 1.080 OPS and an OPS+ of 179

Gehrig also tops Pujols in wOBA (.477-.419), wRC+ (173-161), and WAR using both FanGraphs (116.3-87.4) and Baseball-Reference (112.5-93).

By the numbers and numbers alone, Gehrig is better. However, the league that Pujols is playing in is fully-formed, or as developed as we have seen to date. The average player playing today is a much better baseball player than your average player in 1927. Gehrig also played his entire career in a fully segregated league competing almost exclusively against American born players. Gehrig didn’t have to face fresh relievers who came into the game throwing 100 mph, or left handed specialists who would occupy a roster space just to get someone like him out. The overall quality of defenders has also improved; fielders cover much more range than they did 80 years ago.

Gehrig should be remembered as an all-time great, a tier-1 obvious Hall of Famer. He’s a legend of the game and always will be. However, I think it’s time, after 75 years, that we re-evaluate his position on the all-time starting team. I doubt anyone, including Pujols, will occupy the first base spot for another 75 years

It’s time for baseball to move beyond the 1920s.

This brings us to second base.

2B- Joe Morgan – (1963-1984)

Morgan’s numbers pale in comparison to Hornsby’s. Not only does he lose the battle of statistics vs. Hornsby (1915-1937), Collins (1906-1930) and Lajoie (1896-1916) best him as well.

I favor Morgan for the same reasons listed above with Pujols. Baseball is about context. Even though Hornsby and company produced the better numbers, I’m more impressed with Morgan’s considering the era he produced them in.

Morgan finished his career with a slash line of .271/.392/.427 that’s good for an OPS of .819 and an OPS+ of 132.

Morgan is the only post integration (1947-present) second basemen with a WAR (Baseball-Reference) over 100 (100.4). There are only nine position players (1947-present) with a career WAR over 100.

They are:

Rk

Player

From

To

Age

WAR

1

Barry Bonds

1986

2007

21-42

162.6

2

Willie Mays

1951

1973

20-42

155.9

3

Hank Aaron

1954

1976

20-42

142.3

4

Alex Rodriguez

1994

2013

18-37

116.2

5

Rickey Henderson

1979

2003

20-44

110.6

6

Mickey Mantle

1951

1968

19-36

109.7

7

Frank Robinson

1956

1976

20-40

107.2

8

Mike Schmidt

1972

1989

22-39

106.6

9

Joe Morgan

1963

1984

19-40

100.3

That’s the company Morgan keeps.

Morgan was also a key contributor on two championship teams, playing alongside Johnny Bench on the great “Big Red Machine” teams of the 1970s.

3B- Mike Schmidt (1972-1989)

I don’t see much of a case against Schmidt. He was an elite offensive and defensive player who played his entire career in a developed, integrated league. Schmidt leads all third basemen in career WAR on both Baseball-Reference (106.6) and FanGraphs (106.5). He also tops them in OPS+ (147) and home runs (548).

Schmidt also led the Phillies to a World Series championship in 1980.

*Please note at the time of this post Alex Rodriguez has still played more than 50% of his games at shortstop.

SS- Cal Ripken (1981-2001)

The consensus choice at shortstop (Wagner) didn’t play in the 1920s, he played from 1897-1917. That’s McKinley to Wilson. Statistically there is no real case against Wagner, unless you want to go with Alex Rodriguez but both players come with legitimate concerns over the authenticity of their numbers. Rodriguez of course has been linked to steroids on multiple occasions, and Wager played in a fully segregated league when the game was still developing.

Ripken was an excellent defensive and offensive shortstop. He produced six seasons with a bWAR over six, including his 1991 season when he posted an integration era high for shortstops at 11.5.  His career bWAR of (95.6) ranks 3rd behind only Wagner and Rodriguez and A-Rod has played nearly 50% of his games at third base.

Ripken is one of just eight players in MLB history to finish his career with 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. He also led the Orioles to a World Series championship in 1983.

And then there’s the streak. From May 30th 1982 to September 19th 1998 Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive games breaking Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,131. The streak itself is not just one the more impressive records in all of the sports, it also helped bring baseball fans back to the game after the 1994 strike.

LF- Ted Williams (1939-1960)

Trying to decide between Williams, Musial and Bonds made left field one of the most difficult positions to determine on the team. Really, you could make a case for any of them and not be right or wrong. I believe all three are among the top ten players to ever play the game.

I started by comparing Williams to Musial, while it’s very close I gave the slight edge to Ted. Williams betters Musial in all three slash line stats and has a higher career OPS+ (190-159).

So, it came down to Williams vs. Bonds. Which really means, how much credit do I give Williams for the time he missed during World War Two and Korea? And how much do I take away from Bonds’ enhanced numbers later in his career? Of course there is no scientific way to tell what Williams would have done or what Bonds would not have, but here is how I broke it down.

Williams missed all of his age 24, 25, and 26 seasons due to his military service in WW2. The two seasons before he left (41 & 42) he produced a WAR of 10.6 each year. When he came back in 1946 he produced a WAR of 10.9. Crazy!

Here is a chart of the most WAR produced during a player’s age 24 through 26 seasons.

Rk

Player

WAR

From

To

Age

1

Babe Ruth

34.3

1919

1921

24-26

2

Mickey Mantle

31.3

1956

1958

24-26

3

Rogers Hornsby

30.4

1920

1922

24-26

4

Lou Gehrig

28.9

1927

1929

24-26

5

Jimmie Foxx

28.6

1932

1934

24-26

6

Tris Speaker

28.4

1912

1914

24-26

7

Alex Rodriguez

27.5

2000

2002

24-26

8

Ty Cobb

27.2

1911

1913

24-26

9

Barry Bonds

25.6

1989

1991

24-26

10

Ron Santo

25.5

1964

1966

24-26

11

Mike Schmidt

25.3

1974

1976

24-26

12

Albert Pujols

25.2

2004

2006

24-26

13

Willie Mays

24.9

1955

1957

24-26

14

Joe DiMaggio

24.5

1939

1941

24-26

15

Eddie Collins

24.2

1911

1913

24-26

16

Hank Aaron

23.8

1958

1960

24-26

17

Bobby Grich

22.9

1973

1975

24-26

18

Rickey Henderson

22.7

1983

1985

24-26

19

Ralph Kiner

22.6

1947

1949

24-26

20

Frank Robinson

22.6

1960

1962

24-26

Not surprisingly, this list features many of the greatest players ever to play the game. I think it’s safe to say Williams would have made the top 20 as well.  To be fair, I averaged out the WAR numbers for the 20 players listed above. That came to 26.3. Let’s add 26.3 to Williams’ career WAR (Baseball-Reference) total which is 123.2. That gives Williams a WAR of 149.5. I think that’s reasonable. I still have to account for Williams’ lost time during his age 33 & 34 seasons when he was in Korea.

Before I get into that chart, notice who ranked number nine on the first list? Barry Bonds.

Williams missed significant parts of his age 33 & 34 seasons (52-53) due to his service in the Korean War. Before he left in 1951 he produced a WAR of 7.1. When he returned for a full season in 1954 he produced a season worth 7.7 wins. Crazy!

Here is a chart of the most WAR produced during a player’s age 33 and 34 seasons.

Rk

Player

WAR

From

To

Age

1

Willie Mays

22.3

1964

1965

33-34

2

Honus Wagner

20.4

1907

1908

33-34

3

Babe Ruth

18.2

1928

1929

33-34

4

Lou Gehrig

16.8

1936

1937

33-34

5

Roberto Clemente

15.6

1968

1969

33-34

6

Jackie Robinson

15.4

1952

1953

33-34

7

Hank Aaron

15.3

1967

1968

33-34

8

Charlie Gehringer

14.8

1936

1937

33-34

9

Dan Brouthers

14.5

1891

1892

33-34

10

George Davis

14.4

1904

1905

33-34

11

Nap Lajoie

14.2

1908

1909

33-34

12

Ozzie Smith

13.9

1988

1989

33-34

13

Mike Schmidt

13.8

1983

1984

33-34

14

Lonnie Smith

13.4

1989

1990

33-34

15

Johnny Mize

13.4

1946

1947

33-34

16

Tris Speaker

13.3

1921

1922

33-34

17

Ed Delahanty

13.3

1901

1902

33-34

18

Jim Edmonds

13.1

2003

2004

33-34

19

Stan Musial

13.0

1954

1955

33-34

20

Adrian Beltre

12.6

2012

2013

33-34

It’s probably safe to assume that Williams would have made this group too. Although since we are only talking about two seasons it’s possible he could have had a down year that would have caused him to fall a bit short. I took the average WAR from the top 20 that worked out to 15.1. I added 15.1 to Williams’ adjusted total and that brought his career WAR to 164.6 Bonds’ career WAR total is 162.5.

So, Williams’ adjusted WAR tops Bonds’ career mark even before I adjusted Bonds down.

Here is how I did that.

According to the book Game of Shadows, Bonds started doping after the 1998 season. Let’s assume (perhaps unfairly) that Bonds continued to use illegal PEDs for the rest of this career.  That would mean Bonds juiced from 1999 to 2007, his age 34-42 seasons.

So, here is a chart of the most WAR produced during a player’s age 34 through 42 seasons.

Rk

Player

WAR

From

To

Age

1

Barry Bonds

63.0

1999

2007

34-42

2

Honus Wagner

54.9

1908

1916

34-42

3

Babe Ruth

48.7

1929

1935

34-40

4

Willie Mays

47.0

1965

1973

34-42

5

Cap Anson

43.2

1886

1894

34-42

6

Ted Williams

39.1

1953

1960

34-41

7

Hank Aaron

38.2

1968

1976

34-42

8

Ty Cobb

38.1

1921

1928

34-41

9

Tris Speaker

36.5

1922

1928

34-40

10

Luke Appling

35.5

1941

1949

34-42

11

Edgar Martinez

32.7

1997

2004

34-41

12

Stan Musial

31.6

1955

1963

34-42

13

Eddie Collins

31.4

1921

1929

34-42

14

Nap Lajoie

31.0

1909

1916

34-41

15

Chipper Jones

28.6

2006

2012

34-40

16

Sam Rice

28.1

1924

1932

34-42

17

Ozzie Smith

26.9

1989

1996

34-41

18

Paul Molitor

25.9

1991

1998

34-41

19

Mike Schmidt

25.6

1984

1989

34-39

20

Roberto Clemente

25.0

1969

1972

34-37

21

Joe Start

24.9

1877

1885

34-42

Not surprisingly Bonds dwarfs the rest of the list.  He clearly got a boost late in his career. I don’t think Bonds would have broken Aaron’s career home run mark without steroids nor do I think he would have produced a WAR of 63 over that time period.  However, he also wouldn’t have hit zero home runs or produced no value what so ever. The idea that we should give Bonds no credit for anything he produced after 1998 is just foolish.

Prior to 1999 Bonds was a lean five tool player, who was already one of the best players ever to play. He probably would have aged quite well.  To be fair, I took the average WAR from players 2-21. That worked out to 34.6. Bonds’ career WAR after the 1998 season was 99.6, add the 34.6 and you get his adjusted total is 134.2. I think that’s a reasonable estimate of what Bonds would have produced without chemical enhancements. It’s certainly more reasonable than sixty three or zero.

Bonds’ adjusted WAR of 134.2 would rank 5th all-time among position players behind only (Ruth, Mays, Cobb and Aaron). Factoring in Williams’ adjusted numbers he would actually rank 6th.

*I’ve decided to update Bonds’ adjusted WAR chart. Instead of looking at the most WAR accumulated all-time for a player’s age 34-42 seasons, I’ve decided to focus on age 34-42 for integration era players only. It was too easy for dominant players of the late 19th and early 20th century to compile WAR given the discrepancy in talent levels between them and a league average or replacement level player. I also don’t think comparing Bonds’ age 34-42 numbers to players like Joe Start or Cap Anson accomplishes anything.  Below is the updated chart.

Rank Player WAR G From To Age
1 Barry Bonds 63.0 1088 1999 2007 34-42
2 Willie Mays 47.0 1144 1965 1973 34-42
3 Ted Williams 39.1 865 1953 1960 34-41
4 Hank Aaron 38.2 1179 1968 1976 34-42
5 Edgar Martinez 32.7 1119 1997 2004 34-41
6 Stan Musial 31.6 1192 1955 1963 34-42
7 Chipper Jones 28.6 848 2006 2012 34-40
8 Ozzie Smith 26.9 945 1989 1996 34-41
9 Paul Molitor 25.9 1143 1991 1998 34-41
10 Mike Schmidt 25.6 766 1984 1989 34-39
11 Roberto Clemente 25.0 480 1969 1972 34-37
12 Carlton Fisk 24.6 1104 1982 1990 34-42
13 Brian Downing 23.6 1060 1985 1992 34-41
14 Larry Walker 23.3 603 2001 2005 34-38
15 Darrell Evans 22.0 1219 1981 1989 34-42
16 Rafael Palmeiro 21.9 1049 1999 2005 34-40
17 Tony Phillips 21.8 869 1993 1999 34-40
18 Wade Boggs 21.7 958 1992 1999 34-41
19 Carl Yastrzemski 21.5 1220 1974 1982 34-42
20 Jose Cruz 21.2 921 1982 1988 34-40
21 Jeff Kent 20.4 948 2002 2008 34-40
22 Rickey Henderson 20.1 1120 1993 2001 34-42

 

As you can see, Bonds towers over the rest of the field. He tops the number two man on the list (Mays) by 16 wins. Again, Bonds clearly got a boost late in his career. So, using the same math that I used above, I removed Bonds’ total and averaged out the WAR totals for the remaining 21 players on the list (I used 21 to include Henderson, his contemporary who played the same position). The average WAR for those 21 players is 26.8. Which shaves an additional 7.8 wins from the adjusted estimate above off of Bonds’ career.

Bonds’ career WAR after the 1998 season was 99.6, add the 26.8 adjusted total from his age 34-42 seasons and you get his adjusted total WAR of  126.4. I think that’s a better estimate than the one listed above, and I certainly think it’s reasonable to assume that Bonds would have placed somewhere in the top 21 without chemical enhancements. Bonds’ adjusted career WAR of 126.4 would rank 10th all-time, right between Rogers Hornsby (127) and Eddie Collins (124).  Factoring in Williams’ adjusted numbers (123.2 to 164.6) he would actually rank 11th.

These estimates are by no means perfect; there are several other all-time greats who would also benefit or suffer from similar adjustments. Those adjustments would also shift around the career WAR leaders but I think it’s reasonable to conclude that even without steroids Bonds would have placed among the top fifteen position players of all-time.

Now, just because Williams out produced Bonds in these adjusted WAR numbers, that doesn’t mean I was ready to select him as the best left fielder ever. Bonds was a better defender and baserunner than Williams, he also played in a more advanced league facing left-handed specialists and the defensive shift regularly.  Factoring in all of those things I strongly considered Bonds but in the end I chose Williams, a decision I still go back and forth on.

CF- Willie Mays (1951-1973)

Since 1947 there have been 25 seasons where a position player posted a WAR (Baseball-Reference) of 10 or higher. Willie Mays has six of them. Mays added another nine seasons with a WAR of 6 or greater.

Mays finished his career with a slash line of .302/.384/.557. That works out to an OPS+ of 156. He also hit 660 home runs and was widely regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation.

Mays also led the Giants to a World Series championship in 1954.

He remains the best combination of power, speed, and defense the game has ever seen. Even with several other all-time greats to consider for center field, Mays was an easy choice.

RF- Babe Ruth (1914-1935)

Babe Ruth led the majors in OBP ten times and slugging percentage thirteen times. He is the all-time leader in SLG% (.690), OPS (1.164), and OPS+ (206). He is also the all-time leader in WAR (183.8), and has the three highest single season WAR marks (14, 12.9, 12.4) on Baseball-Reference.

In 1920 Ruth hit 54 home runs eclipsing the total of any team in the American League. He finished his career with 714 home runs, which was the all-time record when he retired.

Ruth was also a dominant pitcher he led the Red Sox to two World Series championships in 1916 & 1918 going 3-0 with an ERA 0.87 over his three World Series starts.

Ruth won another four championships with the Yankees.

Perhaps no athlete has ever dominated a sport the way Ruth did to baseball during his career.

However, the entire point of this piece was to re-think the all-time starting nine. I questioned the credibility of a team that features five players who started their careers before 1924.

Ruth has been retired for nearly eighty years, and keeping him on this team means leaving Hank Aaron off, which is kind of absurd when you think about how good Aaron was.

While I find it hard to believe that five players who started their careers before 1924 would still make the consensus all-time team, I can believe that era produced one player that still belongs.

That player is Ruth.

SP- Pedro Martinez (1992-2009)

Starting pitcher was the hardest position to fill. You can realistically make a case for a dozen guys or so but here is mine for Pedro.

With all due respect to Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Bob Feller, Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove, and Satchel Pagie, I was deciding between Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez.

Those four pitchers pitched the duration of their careers in one of the highest run scoring environments baseball has ever seen. They dominated at a time when teams were scoring runs at record rates. PED use was rampant, smaller ballparks were being built seemingly on a yearly basis, the strike zone was shrinking, and several have suggested the ball was “juiced” as well.

Pedro didn’t have the longevity that his three contemporaries had, however his peak was nearly Ruthian.

From 1997-2003 during the height of the “steroid era” Pedro pitched in 1408 innings. He struck out 1761 batters (11.3 S0/9), had a WHIP of 0.94, and his ERA during that time was 2.20. That’s good for an ERA+ of 213. League average is 100.  During that stretch he led his league in ERA, ERA+, WHIP, H/9, and S0/9 five times each, and strikeouts three times.

In 1999 Pedro produced arguably the best season any pitcher ever has. He threw 213.1 innings and struck out 313 batters. He posted an ERA of 2.07, which is good for an ERA+ of 243. His WHIP was 0.923, and his SO/9 was then an MLB record of 13.2. His OPS against was .536, which translates to an insane OPS+ against of 35. His FIP was 1.39. His bWAR was 9.7, and his fWAR was 11.9

He followed that historic year by bettering himself in 2000. During the 2000 season Pedro pitched in 217 innings while striking out 284 batters. His ERA was 1.74 which is good for an ERA+ of 291, a modern record. His WHIP was 0.737 which is still the MLB single season record for starters. His OPS against was .473, which translates to a record low OPS+ against of 18. 18! His FIP was 2.17, his bWAR was 11.7 and his fWAR was 9.9.

Among starters who began their career after MLB integrated in 1947 Pedro ranks 1st in career ERA+ (154), OPS+ against (61) and WHIP (1.054). He ranks 3rd in S0/9 (10.0), and 4th in WPA (53.74). He is also one of just sixteen pitchers to finish his career with 3,000 or more strikeouts (3,154).

Pedro was also a key contributor to the Red Sox 2004 championship team.

As great as Pedro was, one could easily do a similar write-up about Clemens, Johnson, or Maddux. Even when I adjusted Clemens’ WAR total (139.4) down in a similar way I did for Bonds he is still the leader of the group. Clemens’ adjusted WAR came out to 119.8. Maddux is at 104.6, Johnson at 104.3, and Pedro at 86.0.

I’m sacrificing a lot of wins for Pedro’s peak, but I think his peak was just that good.

Babe Ruth began his career in 1914, Albert Pujols is signed through the 2021 season. That gives this team coverage for well over 100 years, and amazingly there are very few gaps where someone from this nine wasn’t playing.

The first gap is obviously pre-Ruth. Ruth began his MLB career in 1914, so no one among this nine represents the very early days of baseball.

Ruth retired in 1935 but Ted Williams came into the league in 1939. When Williams was serving in WW2 (43-45) no player from this nine was active. Williams retired in 1960, by that time Mays was already an eight year veteran. Mays’ career significantly overlaps with both Bench’s and Morgan’s and just as his career was ending (1973), Schmidt had come into the league (1972). Schmidt’s career overlaps with Bench’s, Morgan’s and Ripken’s. Ripken faced Pedro Martinez nine times during his career, and Pujols faced him seventeen times. Since 1946 at least one player from this dream team has been active in MLB.

By the time Pujols’ contract ends it should be time to add someone new to the team. That could be Mike Trout. No player in the history of the game has produced a better WAR than Trout through their age 21 season. Trout of course is a teammate of Pujols.

The all-time nine should evolve and change along with the game.  It should also be a microcosm of the history of the sport. Having four players that played together 88 years ago doesn’t really accomplish that.

One of the things that makes baseball unique is its connection to its past. Statistics (at least the traditional counting ones) have been meticulously kept since the 19th century. They provide a great look into the game’s history and help tell the story of baseball. However, they need to be put into context, and there is a difference between appreciating numbers and players from the past and clinging to them out of convenience. I think that’s what’s being done with the consensus all-time team.

That’s my take on the all-time starting nine. What’s yours?

Follow me on Twitter @RossCarey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Very provocative piece. And you know I’ve been skeptical of this type of thing, but realize your greater point.

    My impressions, position-by-position:

    C: I’m with you—it’s Bench (if not Gibson).

    1B: Pujols has a strong case over Gehrig. I’d feel better about it if Pujols was playing well this year. Another case could be made for Musial as a 1B. I saw Jay Jaffe has him there. He played 1B more than either LF or RF (though not his very best years).

    2B: This one’s really tricky. To be honest, if it’s not Hornsby, I’d probably go with a player you didn’t mention: Jackie Robinson. It’s not just for his importance, either. Get this—project Robinson’s WAR/PA over Joe Morgan’s PA total. You get 120 WAR. Holy shit, huh? Another way to look at this—Rogers Hornsby had 63.7 WAR through age 27. Jackie was held out of the league until age 28.

    Here’s the most WAR for a 2B from age 28 on:

    Rk Player WAR/pos From To Age
    1 Nap Lajoie 76.1 1903 1916 28-41
    2 Joe Morgan 73.2 1972 1984 28-40
    3 Eddie Collins 69.1 1915 1930 28-43
    4 Rogers Hornsby 63.3 1924 1937 28-41
    5 Jackie Robinson 61.6 1947 1956 28-37
    6 Charlie Gehringer 59.2 1931 1942 28-39
    7 Jeff Kent 47.2 1996 2008 28-40
    8 Craig Biggio 46.2 1994 2007 28-41
    9 Lou Whitaker 44.5 1985 1995 28-38
    10 Davey Lopes 41.6 1973 1987 28-42

    3B: Schmidt. Easiest position, honestly.

    SS: Scratch that—shortstop is easiest. I like Ripken a lot. But I see no way context fills the gap between these two. Plus, it seems like we’re making too much of an effort to exclude the Pre-Ruth era at this point. Wagner was sooooooo much better than anyone else.

    LF: if anything, you undersell Ted in your adjustments. That’s an innovative approach to Bonds. Seems like a fair discount.

    CF: I agree, but Ty Cobb’s name should probably be thrown in there somewhere.

    RF: Agree with Ruth. Interesting: Ruth’s Hall Rating gap over Aaron: 104. Wagner’s Hall Rating gap over Ripken: 96. This is why I stick with Wagner.

    P: This one’s really tricky. I think if you adjust for context and not PEDs, the obvious choice is Roger Clemens. In fact, I’d still have a hard time not naming Clemens here, if I did go with a modern pitcher. I love Pedro’s peak, though. It’s very unique and might be enough.

    Good stuff, though I’m not sure I’d call it an all-time team. Maybe a post-Ruth team. :) The best way to fix this? Include Wagner. That’s the biggest issue I have with this team.

    • Thanks, Adam. I love your Robinson selection. I considered him, I would probably put him on my second team but you made a compelling case for him to be on the 1st.

      If you’re willing to put Roger on the team, why not Bonds?

      Dear Honus, it’s time to move on. Signed, the 21st century.

      • Adam Darowski says:

        For me, after the war and PED adjustments, Williams passes Bonds in WAR. The PED adjustment does not close the gap between Roger and Pedro (though the peak is compelling).

Trackbacks

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