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— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Greatest Player Ever?

From Ron Wargo, post #41 on the 1934 Ballot Discussion thread:

“Maybe this deserves its own thread.

Yeah, I think so.

It’s 1934, a perfect time to ask:

Who is the greatest player ever?

I begrudgingly say the greatest eligible is Ty Cobb. Many people will say Honus Wagner. Some might even say Walter Johnson. Any other candidates?

Of course, it being January 1934, I think one more player (although still active) had a good enough 1933 to top the career WS and WARP lists, and he likely has the best peak ever, so my vote goes for greatest player as of January ‘34 goes to:

Babe Ruth.”

Thanks for the idea Ron!

Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: August 31, 2004 at 03:56 AM | 63 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Alex_Lewis Posted: August 31, 2004 at 04:17 AM (#828186)
Can't say there's a way to argue that one. The Babe wins.
   2. DavidFoss Posted: August 31, 2004 at 04:27 AM (#828193)
686 Homers so far for the Babe.

(2004 note -- Hard to believe there are now 3 people in that club)


CAREER
1871-1933

HOMERUNS                        HR     
1    Babe Ruth                   686   
T2   Lou Gehrig                  299   
T2   Rogers Hornsby              299   
4    Cy Williams                 251   
5    Hack Wilson                 238   
T6   Al Simmons                  222   
T6   Jimmie Foxx                 222   
T8   Ken Williams                196   
T8   Goose Goslin                196   
10   Jim Bottomley               194   

   3. Dolf Lucky Posted: August 31, 2004 at 02:33 PM (#828534)
Since this list is about to change drastically in a couple of weeks, how about a list of the top ten HoMers to date:

1. Wagner, Honus
2. Johnson, Walter
3. Lajoie, Nap
4. Young, Cy
5. Mathewson, Christy
6. Anson, Cap
7. Brouthers, Dan
8. Walsh, Ed
9. Connor, Roger
10. Delahanty, Ed
   4. dan b Posted: August 31, 2004 at 02:59 PM (#828568)
Top ten players eligible to date:

1.Wagner
2.Johnson
3.Cobb
4.Speaker
5.Collins
6.Lloyd
7.Young
8.Williams
9.Lajoie
10.Mathewson
   5. yest Posted: August 31, 2004 at 03:22 PM (#828596)
my top 5 ever in order
1. Cobb
2. Ruth
3. Young
4. Speaker
5. Gehrig
   6. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 31, 2004 at 03:47 PM (#828633)
my top 5 ever in order
1. Cobb
2. Ruth
3. Young
4. Speaker
5. Gehrig


Yest, what is with you and shortstops? Don't you think maybe you're underrating them just a tad? Do you think Cobb, Ruth, Speaker and Gehrig would have had the same offensive numbers at short than they did at the much easier positions of outfield or first?
   7. yest Posted: August 31, 2004 at 04:43 PM (#828735)
Do you think Cobb, Ruth, Speaker and Gehrig would have had the same offensive numbers at short than they did at the much easier positions of outfield or first?
I don't think that Wagner would have put up such good numbers as them at first or in the outfield.
   8. yest Posted: August 31, 2004 at 04:45 PM (#828740)
by the way how do I make bold or italics comments.
   9. smileyy Posted: August 31, 2004 at 04:52 PM (#828755)
The spirits have told me that in 70 years, a man named Jeter will surpass all of your exploits.
   10. DavidFoss Posted: August 31, 2004 at 05:06 PM (#828786)
by the way how do I make bold or italics comments.

{em} italic {/em}

{strong} bold {/strong}

Except use square brackets [] instead of curly brackets {}
   11. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 31, 2004 at 05:16 PM (#828798)
The spirits have told me that in 70 years, a man named Jeter will surpass all of your exploits.

Yeah, but then you woke up. :-)
   12. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 31, 2004 at 05:28 PM (#828826)
I don't think that Wagner would have put up such good numbers as them at first or in the outfield.

His numbers would have gone down at first or in the outfield?!? You can make an argument for first base during the Deadball Era as being tough on the body, but during Gehrig's time?

All you have to do is look at over a hundred and thirty years of baseball by analyzing the offensive stats for each position to see that you are wrong about this, Yest. Shortstop was and is brutal on the body.
   13. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 31, 2004 at 05:34 PM (#828845)
by the way how do I make bold or italics comments.

Cover the area that you want the italics for using the left button on your mouse, then hit the <em> button from the <strong> <em> <u> <strike> Link Email Close All bar above the comment section.

BTW, <strong> means bold type, <u>=underline, <strike> will make a line through one or more of your words, Link is used for hyperlinks to another page or thread, and email is obvious.
   14. DavidFoss Posted: August 31, 2004 at 05:42 PM (#828858)
Slick! I suppose I could do it before, but your method is so much quicker and easier.

Thanks John!
   15. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 31, 2004 at 06:22 PM (#828943)
Slick! I suppose I could do it before, but your method is so much quicker and easier.

Thanks John
!

Don't mention it, David. Glad I could help!
   16. Reidmar the Mediocre Posted: August 31, 2004 at 06:23 PM (#828948)
Longtime lurker (as in, since "1905") checking in here.

My feeble attempt at the top 15, considering only those eligible through 1933 (therefore, no Cobb, Speaker, Collins, or Lloyd). I'm probably forgetting a lot of people. No system, really, just personal opinion. ;)

1) Honus Wagner
2) Walter Johnson
3) Cy Young
4) Nap Lajoie
5) Christy Mathewson
6) Ed Delahanty
7) Kid Nichols
8) Dan Brouthers
9) Roger Connor
10) George Davis
11) Sam Crawford
12) Cap Anson
13) Billy Hamilton
14) Louis Santop
15) George Wright

I think I might be underrating Cap Anson as the weakest of the ABC first basemen; he might belong above Crawford (maybe even Davis). I'm probably underrating Santop, as well (as in, should be above Hamilton). Either way, he beats the tar out of Ewing and Bennett for best catcher to this point.

With the 1934 eligibles included, things change a lot... Cobb jumps in between Wagner and Johnson, Lloyd and Speaker between Johnson and Young, Collins between Young and Lajoie, and I have no idea where Smokey Joe Williams goes.

Once I get a methodology worked out (roughly sometime between two weeks from now and never), I'll probably revisit this.
   17. Thane of Bagarth Posted: August 31, 2004 at 06:29 PM (#828973)
Can someone explain to me how anyone would rank a player other than Ruth at #1. I can imagine accepting arguments that the likes of Bonds, Williams, Mays, Wagner, etc. were better position players; however, when you take Ruth's pitching into account, it seems like he stands out as a considerably better player.

I am very interested to hear the thoughts of people who feel otherwise.
   18. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 31, 2004 at 06:42 PM (#829014)
however, when you take Ruth's pitching into account, it seems like he stands out as a considerably better player.

Thane, should Ruth have played his whole career as a pitcher, a pitcher/outfielder or as strictly as a position player?
   19. Thane of Bagarth Posted: August 31, 2004 at 07:21 PM (#829093)
Thane, should Ruth have played his whole career as a pitcher, a pitcher/outfielder or as strictly as a position player?

John, I think it would have been fascinating to see what kind of numbers he could have put up as a hybrid starting pitcher/right fielder. He was a good pitcher but his value as a hitter was so disproportionate to the rest of the league that I don't think there was any way for Ed Barrow to keep him out of the everyday line-up after seeing how good he was batting semi-regularly in 1917 & 1918 .

It is simply amazing that the guy who turned out to be the greatest hitter ever (arguably) was also one of the best pitchers of his time.

Maybe some of the other legitimate "best ever" candidates could have done that, but Ruth is the only one who showed that he could really do it.

He was a kinesthetic genius. A portly, gluttonous, kinesthetic genius.
   20. The definitely immoral Eric Enders Posted: August 31, 2004 at 07:59 PM (#829159)
A portly, gluttonous, kinesthetic genius

That'd make a great handle, if anyone's looking....
   21. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 31, 2004 at 08:02 PM (#829164)
Maybe some of the other legitimate "best ever" candidates could have done that, but Ruth is the only one who showed that he could really do it.

It is certainly noteworthy and interesting that Ruth was talented in both areas, but it doesn't mean that he had more value as a pitcher/outfielder than purely as an outfielder. Obviously, Barrows felt he was better just hitting the ball.

Yes, I do expect my good friend karlmagnus to dispute my assertion. :-D
   22. yest Posted: August 31, 2004 at 10:44 PM (#829469)
testing
   23. yest Posted: August 31, 2004 at 10:45 PM (#829470)
testing
   24. yest Posted: August 31, 2004 at 10:46 PM (#829471)
testing
   25. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 31, 2004 at 11:03 PM (#829503)
Good job, Yest!

Now about Wagner... :-)
   26. yest Posted: August 31, 2004 at 11:11 PM (#829516)
His numbers would have gone down at first or in the outfield?!?
I feel his numbers would have gone up but not up as high as Cobb, Ruth, Speaker, Gehrig, or Hornsby.

Can someone explain to me how anyone would rank a player other than Ruth at #1.

One of the reasons I have Cobb as number 1 is because he acomplished his hitting feats in the deadball era.
for example Cobb hit .1029 points higher then the leauge for his career the next highest differnce beetween their batting avg and their leagues is Ted Williams with .0841
also I think Cobb's personality actualy helped his team win with the exeption of the game he was suspended for beeting up the man with no legs.
   27. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 31, 2004 at 11:27 PM (#829613)
Does Oscar Charleston have enough career under his belt by 1934 to get some consideration as best-ever in the same way that Ruth does?
   28. The definitely immoral Eric Enders Posted: August 31, 2004 at 11:55 PM (#829799)
One of the reasons I have Cobb as number 1 is because he acomplished his hitting feats in the deadball era.

Of course, that's the exact reason why many of us wouldn't have Cobb at #1 -- he was playing against weaker competition than, say, Bonds. (So was Ruth, though.)

And yes, Charleston's career was mostly over by 1934, so he probably belongs in the discussion.
   29. OCF Posted: September 01, 2004 at 12:26 AM (#829973)
It is simply amazing that the guy who turned out to be the greatest hitter ever (arguably) was also one of the best pitchers of his time.

Let's not go too far overboard on this. He had two great years in 1916 and 1917, at the ages of 21 and 22, and had there been a Cy Young Award, he would have deserved one, for 1916. My RA+ system has his equivalent record for those two years as 24-12 and 23-13. For the four years 1915-1918, I have a total of 71-44, for a .621 winning percentage. (Overall, 80-55, .592.) That's very, very good. But Hippo Vaughn had a 4-year stretch in which he went an equivalent 84-47. Slim Sallee had a 74-48 4-year stretch. Rube Marquard was 60-35 over three years, Bob Shawkey had individual years of 21-9, 20-11, and 22-12. Smokey Joe Wood was equivalent 99-60 overall. These are all very good pitchers, but they also all (except for Wood) had other good years to add career bulk to that. Many, many pitchers (including many young pitchers) had a couple of standout years and then faded from the scene. There was nothing particularly unusual about Ruth's strikeout rates, and those rates weren't increasing.

Had he remained a pitcher, it's possible he could have a long, great career. But that's a best possible outcome - it's far from certain, and I wouldn't even call it likely.
   30. karlmagnus Posted: September 01, 2004 at 12:31 AM (#829989)
Top 10, including '34 eligibles:

1) Cobb
2) Wagner
3) Johnson
4) Caruthers
5) Young
6) Anson
7) E. Collins
8) Matty
9) Brouthers
10) Speaker

Reserves: Radbourn, Connor, Beckley.

Ruth I regard as potentially a second Caruthers, but alas spoilt his greatness somewhat by becoming only a hitter :-))
   31. yest Posted: September 01, 2004 at 12:35 AM (#830012)
does Caruthers get any better as time goes by?
   32. yest Posted: September 01, 2004 at 12:46 AM (#830047)
John if you think I'm hard on Wagner then what do you think a bought I saw a poll recently which voted Wagner the 4th best shortstop ever after Ozzie, Ripken, and Rodregez in that order
   33. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 01, 2004 at 12:53 AM (#830090)
John if you think I'm hard on Wagner then what do you think a bought I saw a poll recently which voted Wagner the 4th best shortstop ever after Ozzie, Ripken, and Rodregez in that order

If you were referring to that Fox Sports debacle from last weekend, I wanted to hurl. What a joke!
   34. yest Posted: September 01, 2004 at 01:20 AM (#830199)
I think thats the one I saw the most disgusting thing a bought their shortstops list is that only 3 out the top 10 didn't play in the 90's.
   35. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 01, 2004 at 01:37 AM (#830244)
Yest, I'm surprised that Rey Ordonez hadn't make the list. :-)
   36. yest Posted: September 01, 2004 at 01:53 AM (#830290)
well Omar Visqul was there Honarable mention.
until I saw Wagner I thought it was the best shortstops f rthe past fifty years.
   37. sunnyday2 Posted: September 01, 2004 at 03:20 AM (#830478)
I'm not prepared to eval. partial careers, so among those eligible as of 1933:

1. Billy Hamilton, cf
2. Honus Wagner, ss
3. Nap Lajoie, 2b
4. Ed Delahanty, lf
5. Sam Crawford, rf
6. Dan Brouthers, 1b
7. Cap Anson, dh
8. Frank Baker, 3b
9. Buck Ewing, c

That is, of course, a batting order, not a rank order.

SP: Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Kid Nichols

Rank Order

1. Wagner
2. Johnson
3. Lajoie
4. Young
5. Mathewson
6. Brouthers
7. Anson
8. George Wright
9. Delahanty
10. Nichols

Rank Order as of 1934

1. Ty Cobb (character aside)
2. Wagner
3. Tris Speaker
4. Johnson
5. Lajoie
6. Eddie Collins
7. Pop Lloyd
8. Young
9. Smokey Joe Williams
10. Mathewson

5 of the top 9 all in one year! New batting order:

1. Cobb, rf
2. Collins, 2b
3. Wagner, ss
4. Speaker, cf
5. Lajoie, dh
5. Delahanty, lf
7. Brouthers, 1b
8. Baker, 3b
9. Ewing, c

SP: Johnson, Young, Williams, Mathewson
   38. sunnyday2 Posted: September 01, 2004 at 03:33 AM (#830494)
PS.

1933: Home Run Johnson #12, Rube Foster #19, Louis Santop #20

1934: Lloyd and Williams in top 10, Johnson #17, Foster and Santop bumped out of the top 20 but still in the top 25
   39. yest Posted: September 01, 2004 at 03:45 AM (#830517)
in your batting order you have Anson as a DH and Brouthers as at first. why when Anson was clearly the bester fielder?
   40. jimd Posted: September 01, 2004 at 06:04 PM (#831251)
5 of the top 9 all in one year!

Question. If 19th century baseball was so inferior, so much easier to dominate, then why didn't it produce superstars of this magnitude?
   41. Jim Sp Posted: September 01, 2004 at 07:11 PM (#831386)
This is a little off topic, but a fun game to play. I tried to figure out who the greatest living retired player was, since Brouthers retired in 1896.

Greatest Living Retired (honorary chair at the HoM inductions):

Brouthers 1896-1907
Nichols   1907-1911
Young     1911-1917
Wagner    1918-1927
Johnson   1928-1928
Cobb      1929-1935
Ruth      1936-1948
Cobb      1949-1961
Williams  1962-1973
Mays      1974-present

currently my line of succession is Aaron, Musial, Robinson, Morgan.

after that I think my list overrates catchers but some good candidates are Bench, Schmidt, Fisk, Carter, Ripken, Seaver, Brett, and Berra.

I considered Charleston and Gibson, but couldn't quite convince myself that they were better than the competition...it's a tough list to make. Even the Big Train just sneaks in for a year.
   42. The definitely immoral Eric Enders Posted: September 01, 2004 at 08:17 PM (#831492)
I considered Charleston and Gibson, but couldn't quite convince myself that they were better than the competition...

It would be very difficult for Gibson to have ever been the greatest living retired guy, since he died while still an active player.
   43. Chris Cobb Posted: September 01, 2004 at 08:54 PM (#831570)
Question. If 19th century baseball was so inferior, so much easier to dominate, then why didn't it produce superstars of this magnitude?

Are you talking about the players' reputation, or their dominance relative to their peers as indicated by comprehensive metrics?

Here are two explanations that come to mind:

1) The top stars of through 1891 were reaching seasonal levels of excellence that came close to those achieved by Cobb, Speaker, and Collins (i.e. seasonal win share totals between 40 and 50, adjusted to 154 games). However, a) the gap between the top players and the very players was not so great, b) the shorter seasons might also have made it harder for the top players to stand out from the crowd in the spectators' perceptions, and c) conditioning practices were not such that players were able to sustain this level of excellence for nearly as long as did the superstars of the teens.

2) There were superstars of this magnitude. They were pitchers, and their accomplishments are so alien to our understanding of the game that we discount them.

I don't know that either of these explanations is true, but both could be tested against the evidence.
   44. Jim Sp Posted: September 01, 2004 at 09:35 PM (#831649)
Eric,
You're right, I forgot that Gibson had no eligibility period. I put the list together several weeks ago.
   45. sunnyday2 Posted: September 02, 2004 at 03:23 AM (#832761)
jimd's question in #40 seems to have been addressed to me (the fierce anti-timeliner). But the question itself presents an inaccurate inference:

Why didn't the 19th century produce stars of the magnitude of Cobb, Speaker, etc?

First, Chris' #43 gets at some of the obstacles to greatness of a magnitude to still be honored in the 1930s...but also correctly notes that there were stars of that magnitude.

OK, not exactly of the Cobb (or Ruth) magnitude, but...

But note also that even including the class of 1934, I have Brouthers, Delahanty and Ewing on my all-time team. And while my top 10 includes only half of Cy Young from the 19th century, #11-15 are:

11. Brouthers
12. Anson
13. G. Wright
14. Delahanty
15. Nichols

Again, short seasons and lack of modern conditioning explains their falling at #11-15 rather than higher.

As to yest's question (#39), Brouthers at 1B and Anson at DH is meant to indicate that I selected Brouthers ahead of Anson, though that is also indicated by Brouthers' presence and Anson's absence on my all-time team in 1934.
   46. Chris Cobb Posted: September 02, 2004 at 04:15 AM (#832795)
If I were going for peak value in the all time team through 1934 eligibles, as Sunnyday2 is, I'd put Connor at first and Brouthers at DH.
   47. sunnyday2 Posted: September 02, 2004 at 10:21 PM (#833803)
For a player to be the greatest ever, he must first, of course, be the best of his own time. I've used WS to id. the best player each year 1901-2001 on three measures:

• 3 year peak
• 5 year peak
• career total WS

Only three players have ever led all three at the same time. Usually, by the time a player becomes the career leader, he is well past his peak. Not so with:

• Babe Ruth 1929. Became the career leader with Cobb's retirement with 593 WS at the end of the season. Was the 3 year leader as of the end of 1920-21 and 1923-29, and the 5 year leader as of 1919-31 (the record for the longest run at the head of any of these three measures). 1929 was the only year he led all three.

• Lou Gehrig 1935-36. Took over as the career leader with Ruth's retirement with (just) 390 WS (the only career leaders with less were Waner, Appling, DiMaggio, Musial, Yaz). He was the 3 year leader 1930-32 and 1934-37, and the 5 year leader 1932-36.

• Stan Musial 1952-53. Musial became the career leader in 1952 with the retirement of Joe DiMaggio, though he would have overtaken Joltin' Joe within a couple years in any case. He was the career leader for a record 12 years, but only the first two of those were still peak years. He was the 3 year peak leader in 1944-45 and 1950-53, and the 5 year peak leader in 1944, 1946-47 and 1950-53.

The following players led in two of the three measures:

1902-03 Cy Young 5, career
1904-09 Honus Wagner 3, 5
1911-12 Ty Cobb 3, 5
1914 Walter Johnson 3, 5
1916 Tris Speaker 3, 5
1917-18 Cobb 5, career
1919 Cobb 3, career
1920-21 Babe Ruth 3, 5
1923-28 Ruth 3, 5
(1929 Ruth all three)
1930-31 Ruth 5, career
1932, 34 Lou Gehrig 3, 5
(1935-36 Gehrig all three)
1937 Gehrig 3, career
1939-41 Joe DiMaggio 3, 5
1944 Stan Musial 3, 5
1948-49 Ted Williams 3, 5
1950-1 Musial 3, 5
(1952-53 Musial all three)
1963-65 Willie Mays 3, 5
1970 Carl Yastrzemski 3, 5
1976-77 Joe Morgan 3, 5
1981-83 Mike Schmidt 3, 5
1989 Will Clark 3, 5
1992-96 Barry Bonds 3, 5

This is as good a list as any from which to select the greatest player ever. (Even as a "fierce anti-timeliner" there are no 19C players who would do more than grace the lower reaches of this list.)

Note also that for the career list, I limit eligibility to players with ?10 WS that year. IOW, he's got to be a "regular," not just "active." And so during WWII many players were not active...but upon their return in 1946, I used their 3 or 5 consecutive active seasons. This was the only departure from WYSIWYG.

Big surprises: Mel Ott was the career leader 1940-45 despite being the peak leader only once (5 years, 1938). Paul Waner was the career leader 1939 without ever leading in peak; ditto Luke Appling, but that is a fluke of WWII; ditto Pete Rose, George Brett, Rickey Henderson.

How about these for 3 year leaders: Klein, Medwick, Newhouser, Killebrew, Foster, Rice (2 years), Carter, Piazza.

And 5 years: Medwick, Charlie Keller (1943), Augie Galan (1945), Bobby bonds (1971), Bobby Murcer (1972), Tim Raines (3 years!), Will Clark (3 years), Craig Biggio, Sammy Sosa.

Or this: Mantle was the best for 5 years from 1956-62 except for 1960 while only twice the 3 year leader--1958 and 1960. He was career leader 1964-68. And Aaron was the career leader for 2 years and peak leader twice (1959, 3 years and a full decade later, 1969, 5 years).
   48. karlmagnus Posted: September 02, 2004 at 10:29 PM (#833817)
Caruthers must have been 3 year peak leader in at least 1887, and 5 year peak leader in 1889. Did he ever manage both?
   49. yest Posted: September 05, 2004 at 03:57 AM (#837759)
maybe we should have a thread devoted to who's the best non eligable HoFer exluding Jackson of course.
   50. karlmagnus Posted: September 05, 2004 at 03:34 PM (#837860)
Oh good idea, that will enable me to bang the drum for Parisian Bob for another 70 "years"! I was missing the conflict since we elected him :-))
   51. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 06, 2004 at 12:46 AM (#838451)
moving this to hot topics...
   52. EricC Posted: September 06, 2004 at 01:17 PM (#838598)
Through players eligible in 1934:

1. Walter Johnson
2. Cy Young

No way really to know how to compare pitchers and position players at this level, but these two seem like reasonable choices.

3. Ty Cobb
4. Tris Speaker
5. Eddie Collins
6. Honus Wagner

Expecting to get flamed for having Wagner so low, but he dominated a relatively weak league.

7. Nap Lajoie
8. Kid Nichols
9. Cap Anson
10. John Henry Lloyd

Through 1928 play, Ruth, Hornsby, and Alexander would crack the above list.
   53. TomH Posted: September 08, 2004 at 05:28 PM (#842875)
"6. Honus Wagner
Expecting to get flamed for having Wagner so low, but he dominated a relatively weak league."
--
WHOOOOSH (or other appropriate flame sound)!!!

If the diff in the 1910 AL-NL leagues was so large, I then expect Frank Robinson will finish ahead of Mickey Mantle on your ballot, and both of them will absolutley dwarf Ty Cobb.
   54. Jim Sp Posted: September 08, 2004 at 06:08 PM (#842961)
Eligibles through 1934:

1. Ty Cobb
2. Walter Johnson
3. Honus Wagner. tough choices to make here, there's a good argument to put him #1.
4. Tris Speaker
5. Eddie Collins
6. Cy Young
7. Nap Lajoie
8. Kid Nichols
9. Christy Mathewson
10. John Henry Lloyd. maybe I should have him at #8, it's hard to compare him with Nichols and Mathewson.
11. Dan Brouthers
   55. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: September 16, 2004 at 05:04 PM (#858769)
I think they should have used Ruth Caruthers-style for his whole career: pitch every fourth day, play RF the other three. In 1923 he could have broken 80 WS.

Another argument for Caruthers' deserving inclusion in the HoM: perhaps the only better two-way player in MLB history is included within his name.
   56. The definitely immoral Eric Enders Posted: September 16, 2004 at 05:22 PM (#858802)
I think they should have used Ruth Caruthers-style for his whole career: pitch every fourth day, play RF the other three.

I agree that would be ideal. But the problem is, pitching takes a huge physical toll not just on the arm, but also legs, knees, etc. I think it would be physically impossible to play 150 games year after year while starting at pitcher every fourth day. There's a reason nobody has ever done it, not even Ruth.

The advent of the DH makes it much easier for a modern player to be used that way, though. Just as one example, Edwin Jackson has DH'd occasionally throughout his minor league career, with no ill effects (and a .300+ career average).
   57. OCF Posted: September 16, 2004 at 07:08 PM (#858974)
I think that the strain of pitching hurts offensive performance. Mostly that wasn't true before 1893 - pitchers seemed to become non-pitchers without it making much difference to offensive performance. But after 1893? One case is Cy Seymour. As a pitcher, he had years of OPS+ 59, 87, 108, then a part-time year. After he stopped pitching, his OPS+ was 94, 110, 134, 134, 181. The signal isn't very strong with Joe Wood, who was about as good a hitter pitching as not, although his outlier OPS+ 151 year happened after he wasn't a pitcher. There are some other cases I'm not remembering. Even the Babe was a better hitter after he stopped pitching.

<style for his whole career: pitch every fourth day, play RF the other three.</i>

Not even Caruthers was used that way. In a league that played 135-140 games a season, Caruthers never had 100 games played until his last year when he had mostly stopped pitching. And that was before 1893, which I believe does make a difference.
   58. sunnyday2 Posted: September 16, 2004 at 09:10 PM (#859164)
I once built a toy I call the Reputation Monitor. It's not a measure of value. It's more like the HoF Monitor, and not necessarily better, but it attempted to guage player's generalized reputations and also to predict their HoF chances.

A score of 200 is a NB, while a HoFer below 100 is a guy who almost everybody recognizes as a mistake. The weakness of the system is that there are scads of guys in the 100-150 range who are NOT in the HoF, but for those who are IN the HoF it does a decent job of sorting out the tiers.

Here is the input for position players (pitchers are similar with changes you can guess):

adjCareerWS (adj to 162 games)/10
adjPeakWS (3 yr + 5 yr peak adj to 162 games)/10
TPR/2
HoFMonitor+HoFStandards+GreyInk+BlackInk/2
(OPS+)-100
CareerDefensiveWS/2
HoFVotes (most BBWAA votes--since the number of voters is always increasing this is like a timeline)
My own numerical rating for MVP shares and all-star (top 3 at position) per year (10 MVP pts + 5 all-star pts possible at most in a given year)
"Juice," i.e. discounts for weak leagues and upward adjustments for WWII and similar

This of course only works for MLers. Here is the output, current through about 2001 if I recall. Given some of the inputs there is no way to rate active players:

1. Ruth 491
2. Williams 440--the system is a bit skewed toward hitting versus pitching and fielding, I admit
3. Cobb 418
4. Wagner 414
5. Mays 411
6. Aaron 394
7. Johnson 379
8. Speaker 376
9. Mantle 368
10. Musial 368

11. Hornsby 357
12. Schmidt 349
13. Young 349
14. Lajoie 345
15. Collins 342
16. Gehrig 333
17. DiMaggio 328
18. Alexander 320
19. F. Robinson 314
20. Mathewson 310

21. Grove 308
22. Berra 303
23. Morgan 302
24. Delahanty
25. Nichols

With a whole bunch of caveats, this ain't a bad system. It especially reveals the truly horrible HoF choices for who they are. The <100 gang includes:

G. Kelly 98, T. Jackson 96, Freddy Lindstrom 87, L. Waner 91, T. McCarthy 60, Waite Hoyt 99.5 (technically 100), Bender 96, Pennock 88, Haines 62, Marquard 57. I mean how bad is <100? Rick Ferrell is at 119, G. Kell is even at 128, Manush 124, Hafey 101, Combs 120, Hooper 124, M. Welch, Willis, Galvin and Chesbro between 102-112, nobody else below 125.

>175, eligible and not in the HoF? Thurman Munson, Ted Simmons and Bill Freehan; Sandberg, Grich, Gordon; Dahlen and Glasscock; Santo and Deacon White; Jim Rice, Minoso, Joe Jackson, Sherry Magee, Harry Stovey; Dawson, Browning, Hines, Gore; Oliva, Parker; Caruthers is the only starting pitcher, but then there is Quisenberry and Sutter.

All in the spirit of giving you a sense of how the system works as a whole. My bigger point is just that Ruth basically creams everybody on this system.
   59. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 22, 2004 at 05:04 AM (#1035309)
I just noticed that I never submiited my pick for greatest player of all-time here. Without further adieu, my top five:

1) Ruth
2) Wagner
3) Collins
4) Cobb
5) Johnson

This is up to 1942. I don't know if Oscar Charleston belongs on this list at this point yet.
   60. TomH Posted: December 22, 2004 at 01:47 PM (#1035689)
interesting list, John, but Walter J down at #5 begs a question or two:
- thru 2004, who is your all-time #1 pitcher, and
- would he even make your overall top 10?

Looking at your list so far, I'd have to guess the answer to Q2 is "no". Offline reply is OK.
   61. Rusty Priske Posted: December 22, 2004 at 02:33 PM (#1035699)
I believe that Bonds is the best player of all time. I also believe that Ruth is a close second.

My argument comes down to this:

BOnds has put up the numbers that he has, despite getting few opportunities to prove his worth. Opposing pitchers are terrified of him (for good reason). If he even got Ruth-level walks for the past three years (which were still a lot), he already would have passed Ruth's homerun numbers, if not Aaron's.

Now, is this an excuse? No. Bonds could go fishing for those pitches off the plate, to pad his homerun total, but instead he does the right thing for the team and takes the automatic base. He is not only the best power hitter ever, but he has incredible plate discipline.

Thus I believe that Bonds has surpassed Ruth, and third is a long way behind.
   62. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 22, 2004 at 03:24 PM (#1035742)
Looking at your list so far, I'd have to guess the answer to Q2 is "no".

I didn't think about it before you pointed it out, but I guess not, Tom. I should say that I could move the Big Train up a couple of spots, but then I would get hell to pay from the Georgia Peach fans.

BTW, Bill James had Johnson at #8, so I guess I'm in good company. :-)
   63. Paul Wendt Posted: May 27, 2007 at 05:59 PM (#2380487)
One observation regarding the greatest of all time in the 1960s.
In 1969 Major League Baseball Promotion Corp published professional BASEBALL: THE FIRST 100 YEARS: official centennial edition. Pages 96-97 is a promotional article for the greatest players poll.

The opening blurbs Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Walter Johnson in one sentence each.

The polls will cover all positions, at the grass roots generating one fan-elected team of ten for each club. So the article continues "If you were manager for one big game . . ." and names presumably obvious candidates by position. Jimmy Collins is eldest and Sandy Koufax youngest of the 29 players named (so sorry, Cy). My commas and semicolons represent the wordier grouping.

Outfield
Ruth, Cobb, Speaker; DiMaggio, Williams, Musial; Mays, Aaron, Mantle

Infield
Gehrig, Hornsby, Cronin, Traynor; Sisler, Lajoie, Wagner, Collins

Pitcher, right and left (there will be ten players on every "team")
Johnson, Hubbell; Mathewson, Grove; Dean, Koufax; Feller, Waddell

Catcher
Dickey, Bresnahan; Campanella, Cochrane

--
A couple of pages on each club include thumbnail portraits and blurbs for four players from the team history. For example,
Bo Belinsky, Eli Grba, Ted Kluszewski, Albie Pearson (Angels)

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