For information about how this list was compiled please read part 1 of this series. This section is for players ranked 100-76.
100: Jim Thome– Even though Thome only led his league in home runs once, he finished his career with 612 of them. He is one of ten players in the 500 home run club to also have a career OBP of .400 or higher.
99: Ron Santo– Santo led the NL in walks four times, and on-base percentage twice. He was a nine time All-Star, and won five Gold Glove awards. He finished his career with 342 home runs and an OPS+ of 125.
98: Carlton Fisk– When Fisk retired he had caught more games (2,157) than anyone else, and hit more home runs (351) than any catcher ever had (both records have since been broken). He was an 11 time All-Star who was a well above average hitter and defender. He holds the MLB record for most home runs hit (72) after turning 40.
97: Willie McCovey– Even though he played in a low run scoring environment, McCovey had big time power. He finished his career with 521 home runs, and an OPS+ of 147. He was named NL Rookie of the Year in 1959, and NL MVP in 1969.
96: Ryne Sandberg– Sandberg was an All-Star ten times, a Gold Glove winner nine times, and the NL MVP in 1984. He could run (344 SB), hit for power (282 HR), and hit for average (.285). From 1984-1992 he averaged 5.8 wins a year (bWAR), and five times he posted a WAR greater than 6.0.
94: Gary Carter– Catchers tend to get underrated. They don’t play as many games as other position players, the position itself takes a physical toll on their bodies which limits offensive production, and none of them reach any of MLB’s big milestone numbers. No catcher has hit 500 home runs or reached 3,000 hits (in MLB). Very few even finished their careers with a batting average over .300. But they’re important. They directly influence the game perhaps more than anyone except the pitcher. We’re learning more about pitch framing, pitch blocking, and the pitcher-catcher relationship. Wins Above Replacement is real, it represents the best estimate we have right now of a player’s single season or career value. That stat is great particularly at grouping players together, however one area the metric can be fairly criticized is how it measures catcher’s defense. Great defensive catchers are almost certainly more valuable than WAR (any version) is currently giving them credit for. That takes us to Gary Carter. Carter ranks as one of the best defensive catcher’s ever, which sounds about right. Keep in mind those rankings are not giving him (or anyone else) credit for pitch framing, pitch blocking, or pitch sequencing. He was better than we are giving him credit for, and we already know he was great.
92: Barry Larkin– Larkin won the NL MVP in 1995 and won a World Series championship in 1990. He was a twelve time All-Star, nine time Silver Slugger, and three time Gold Glove winner. His only weakness was staying on the field. He played in 140 games or more in only seven of his nineteen seasons.
90: Mike Piazza– In 1997 Piazza posted the highest single season OPS (1.070), and OPS+ (185) by a catcher in MLB history. That year he hit .362/.431/.639 with 40 home runs. Using WAR that season rates as the best ever for a catcher. Among catchers he’s the career leader in SLG%, OPS, ISO, and home runs. He also places in the top 10 in batting average, on-base percentage, RBI, and total bases. He was quite simply the best hitting catcher Major League Baseball had ever seen. Not bad for a guy picked in the 62nd round of the draft. Rumors of his steroid use followed him his entire career and have thus far kept him out of the Hall of Fame. Piazza has denied ever using and there is no evidence to support the claims that he ever did.
89: Miguel Cabrera– Hank Aaron through his age 31 season: 7,855 PA, 2,266 H, 398 HR, 1,305 RBI, 158 OPS+. Miguel Cabrera through his age 31 season: 7,811 PA, 2,186 H, 390 HR, 1,369 RBI, 154 OPS+. Aaron maintained his excellence until he was forty, if Cabrera does the same he will likely be considered one of the top ten players ever to live. He still has a long way to go to get to that level.
88: Robin Roberts– Even though he never won a Cy Young, MVP, or a World Series ring, from 1950-1955 Roberts was pretty much the best pitcher around. During that stretch he led the NL in innings pitched five times, complete games four times, wins four times, and strikeouts twice. He retired with the most home runs allowed in MLB history (505), that record has since been broken by Jamie Moyer.
87: Iván Rodríguez– Rodriguez made his MLB debut at the age of 19, he ended up catching more games (2,377) than anyone else in history. Known for his defensive excellence, Rodriguez also compiled the most career hits (2,844), runs (1,354), and doubles (572), ever by a catcher. He won the AL MVP in 1999, albeit under dubious circumstances. Rodriguez’s former teammate Jose Canseco claims to have personally injected him with steroids. When asked if he failed MLB’s initial survey test for steroids in 2003, Rodriguez replied “Only God knows”. He will be kept out of the Hall of Fame due to Canseco’s claims.
86: Mike Mussina– Unfortunately for Mike Mussina he pitched his entire career in the AL East. He retired with an ERA of 3.68 but his ERA+ is 123. 23% better than league average. By comparison, Tom Glavine’s career ERA is 3.54 but his ERA+ is 118. 18% better than league average. Mussina also had the misfortune of having his career overlap with four all-time greats, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez. He wasn’t as good as those guys, but if they represent the standard for the Hall of Fame, there would be about forty players in it. Mussina is a member of the elite 80 WAR/40 WAA club, the others are pretty much the best pitchers ever. A grouping he belongs in.
85: Harmon Killebrew– Killebrew was an elite run producer despite playing in a low run scoring environment. He led the AL in home runs six times and finished his career with 573. He won the AL MVP award in 1969. He is one of just nine players in MLB history with at least 500 home runs, 1,500 RBI, and 1,500 walks.
84: Buck Leonard– Leonard could hit for average and power. His bat was elite for the vast majority of his career. He was a longtime teammate of Josh Gibson’s, together they powered the Homestead Grays dynasty teams of the 1930s and 1940s. He played in eleven East-West All-Star games. Further reading on Leonard can be found here, here and here.
83: Smokey Joe Williams– Williams’ career predates radar but he could throw hard, perhaps harder and faster than anyone, black or white, at the time. In 1952 the Pittsburgh Courier polled several former Negro League players, writers, and officials and ask them to pick the all-time Negro Leagues team. Joe Williams received more votes than Satchel Paige. Ty Cobb once said he was, “A sure 30-game winner in the major leagues.” Further reading on Williams’ life and career can be found here and here.
82: Eddie Murray– From Murray’s rookie year in 1977 until 1988 his WAR never dipped below 3. It never rose above 8 either. During that stretch his OPS+ never fell below 120, it also never topped 160. He was nicknamed “Steady Eddie” because he was a remarkably consistent run producer for the better part of his 21 year career. He finished his career with 3,255 hits and 504 home runs. He’s one of only four players in MLB history to reach both milestones.
81: Ichiro Suzuki– Ichiro was a star long before he debuted in the United States. In Japan he was a three time MVP, seven time batting champion, seven time All-Star, and seven time Best Nine winner. He left Japan with 1,278 hits and a career batting average of .353. He didn’t make his MLB debut until his age 27 season, when he did he became the first Japanese-born position player to play in Major League Baseball. That year he hit .350, stole 56 bases, and won the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP awards. From 2001-2010 he hit over .300 ten straight years, led the AL in hits in seven of them, including setting the single season record with 262 in 2004. He’s won ten Gold Gloves and the defensive metrics suggest he deserved almost all them. Adding together his hit totals in NPB & MLB he has 4,122 hits (and counting). His WAR is 58.8 if he played his entire career in the United States he very likely would be an 80-90 win player.
79: Duke Snider– Snider finished his 18 year career with a slash line of .295/.380/.540 that converts to an OPS+ of 140. He was an eight time All-Star and won two World Series championships. He famously finished 2nd in voting for the 1955 NL MVP award. Joe Posnanski explains the controversy around that year’s voting process.
78: Ozzie Smith– Smith is on the short list of players with a legitimate claim to being the the best defender in MLB history. No matter what defensive metric or system you use, Smith is at or near the top in the rankings. He won 13 Gold Gloves, most ever for a shortstop. He was named to the All-Star team 15 times, and he won a World Series Championship in 1982. He could run too, he stole 580 bases over his nineteen year career.
77: Tony Gwynn– Gwynn led the NL in hits seven times, and batting average eight times. He hit over .300 in 19 of his 20 seasons. The most times he ever struck out in any season was 40. To put that in perspective star prospect Javier Baez whiffed 95 times in just 52 games this season. Gwynn finished his career with a .338 average, best among all players who started their career after MLB integrated in 1947. He would need zero hits in his next 1,183 at-bats for his average to drop below .300. More neat Gwynn stats can be found here and here.
76: Ernie Banks– In 1958 Banks won the NL MVP. He hit .313/.366/.614 with 47 home runs. His home run total that year was the new single season high for a shortstop, breaking his own record of 44 he established in 1955. In 1959 Banks won the NL MVP again. He hit .304/.374/.596 with 45 home runs. He finished his career with 512 homers. At his best he was A-Rod long before A-Rod was a thing. Knee problems eventually forced him to move to first base where he ended up playing the majority of his games.
Data courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
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