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April 18, 2012

The Platoon Advantage

All Done With All-Time Teams

by Michael Bates

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I have a confession.  I suppose it’s not a very juicy confession.  But all the same, I feel like I need to confess that I love All-Time teams.  Or, at least, I used to love them.  I used to make them when I was bored in school in the backs of my notebooks.  All-Time Twins.  All-Time Yankees.  All-Time Guys Named Mike.  And I was a sucker for other people’s All-Time teams too.  Babe Ruth made a team of what he thought were the greatest players in baseball history back in the 1930s and named Hal Chase and Ray Schalk to it.  Walter Johnson, and Rogers Hornsby and Ty Cobb published their dream teams too.  Cobb put Buck Weaver at third base, while The Big Train honored both Chase and Johnny Kling.  One of my first baseball books I owned as a kid was an old library book from 1963 that listed Pie Traynor as the greatest 3B in history.  I’d read any of that stuff.

Which is why I was excited to hear about Graham Womack’s All-Time Dream Project, which asked fans to vote on the greatest players in baseball history and got heavy-hitting writers like Craig Calcaterra, Josh Wilker, and Dan Szymborski to write about them.  Graham’s project, which is also raising money to run journalism workshops for kids, is great.  And I don’t want to take anything away from it.  But in the afterglow, Craig wrote about how the results illustrated that we may be overvaluing the past, saying “We get locked into older things first, and it’s that much harder for us to appreciate more recent greatness….  I think [voters] pick Rogers Hornsby over Joe Morgan because their father said he was the best and because the pictures of him are in black and white and, boy, if that ain’t history, I don’t know what is.”  

Adam Darowski, of Beyond the Boxscore, agreed and noted that Womack’s team exactly matches the one you get if you go by Baseball-Reference’s EloRater, and wondered “Why in general do we seem to love nostalgia so much when taking part in projects like these? I keep hearing people say ‘the players are better now than ever’, but we never seem to vote that way.”

Moreover, the lists are virtually identical to the one published by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1997 (although the BBWAA also chose a DH, a left-handed starting pitcher, and a reliever for its team).  And it would be the same if you chose the highest-listed player at each position on Sporting News’ 100 Greatest Players of All Time list.  And if you look at the WAR leaders at each position from 1900-2012 (WARP only goes back to 1950 and therefore doesn’t account for the careers of Ruth, Gehrig, Wagner, Hornsby, Johnson), it turns out these lists are all just WAR lists, except that enough people want to pretend that Barry Bonds’ career didn’t happen that he gets stuck in behind Teddy Ballgame.

The list of baseball’s best seems to have become calcified in the public consciousness, supported by stats, and is unbudgable.  That takes a hell of a lot of the fun out of it, if you ask me.  We have the answers, or at least a set that are generally agreed upon, so why bother asking the question when the only debate we get left with is about Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and where the rest of the Negro Leaguers would stack up. And even that question is largely unknowable.

Which is why we need to look at the history of the game with a fresh eye and stop comparing so much across eras.  If we’re going to keep having this discussion (and I think we should, given the interest it tends to generate in fans of all stripes), I’ve long believed that it doesn’t make sense to consider pitchers like Walter Johnson or Cy Young in the same categories as Greg Maddux and Tom Seaver.  Nor do I think it’s particularly instructive to compare Ty Cobb with Ken Griffey, Jr.  The games they played, in my mind, are far too different. Fielding percentages are far higher and balls travel further in the modern game, reducing the advantage of simply making contact.  The expectations of pitchers for both a game-to-game and a full-season basis have radically changed with the invention and implementation of the modern bullpen and safeguards to at least try to keep pitchers on the field for as many years as possible.  

Finally, it’s ludicrous to rank players like Hornsby and Wagner relative to Morgan and Ripken by comparing them to their peers when Hornsby and Wagner were indisputably not facing the best baseball talent available.  And I’m not just talking about the shameful ban against black and Latino players, but also a strong minor league system where teams often found it in their best interest to hold onto their local stars for as long as possible, or to sell them to the Pacific Coast League, instead of passing them up the food chain at the whim of the major-league clubs.  Today’s amateur ranks and minor leagues are set up so that prospects don’t fall through the cracks, and the cream rises, but that has not been the case for much of baseball’s history.

All of which makes me think:  maybe it’s time to stop wondering so much about who the best players of “all time” are and start wondering about the best players of our time.  Let’s focus on the history of the game after World War II, when we are more confident in the talent-development system, when all players were welcomed into the majors regardless of race, and when the game more closely resembled what we are watching now.  At least then we’ll know what we’re talking about.  And if we can all agree to do that, here are my nominations for the modern dream team:

C - Johnny Bench
1B - Albert Pujols
2B - Joe Morgan
3B - Mike Schmidt
SS - Pee Wee Reese
LF - Barry Bonds
CF - Willie Mays
RF - Hank Aaron
DH - Edgar Martinez
SP - Roger Clemens
RP - Mariano Rivera

There.  I’m sure we can all disagree with somebody on that list.

Michael Bates is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Michael's other articles. You can contact Michael by clicking here

51 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Can't quibble with too much on the list although I may consider Frank Thomas over Edgar and Maddux over Clemens, but no wrong choices there.

The one that surprises me is Pee Wee Reese over Ripken, Jeter, etc. Care to elaborate on that one?

Apr 18, 2012 03:34 AM
rating: 1
BP staff member Mike Bates
BP staff

Sure. People tend to forget how good Reese was because he's constantly lumped in with Phil Rizzuto (who I'll contend is also underestimated by statheads), but Reese was actually much, much better. We're talking about a guy who averaged 4.9 WARP from ages 31-35 (the first years we have WARP data), and somewhere around 5.5 WAR per season from 1946-1955 (give or take a couple tenths of a win, depending on what WAR you're using.

That blows away everybody on a per-year basis, with the exception of Alex Rodriguez, who I have a hard time considering a SS at this point (though he does still have more career games there than at 3B). While Ripken's peak seasons are better than Reese's, Pee Wee's peak was far more consistently excellent.

If Reese starts his career in 1946 instead of 1940 (and thus doesn't get three seasons and three war years cut off on the front end), it's close to a dead heat between him and Cal, and I'm willing to give Pee Wee a little extra credit for his contributions to the Dodgers, his ability to stick at SS until he was 38, and (of course) the cool nickname.

Apr 18, 2012 05:04 AM


I think it's hard to make a case for anybody other than Ripken. Reese's career is like Ripken's plus 2 MVP caliber seasons added on top.

And this coming from a guy who grew up idolizing Barry Larkin.

Apr 18, 2012 13:04 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Mike Bates
BP staff

The problem I see with that analysis is that you're missing three prime seasons for Reese due to WWII, ages 24-27, and you're including several seasons there where Ripken wasn't a SS. I think that matters. Also, that's only one of the WAR methodologies. Check out WARP and rWAR, and I think you'll see it's much closer.

Apr 18, 2012 13:17 PM

Pee Wee Reese? Are you kidding me? Pee Wee Reese isn't even a top 5 SS of that era. I'd love to hear you defend that over Ripken, or even Jeter for that matter.

Also, is there a reason the 2nd greatest offensive force the game has ever seen isn't represented on the list? I refer of course to Ted Williams. I have no problem picking Bonds over him in LF, as Bonds was a far more complete player. But is there some reason E Martinez gets the nod over him at DH? It can't be becauase of the era defined, as Williams played more seasons after WWII than the illustrious Reese. It seems to me, if I were picking an "all-time" DH, the 2nd greatest hitter the game has ever know would get a nod over E Martinez. F Thomas, or J Thome, would be better picks at DH as well if for some reason the DH needs to have "experience" in the DH role.

The rest of it is fine. Although, I'm sure there'd be great debate over the SP. But those would all be debatable positions. Martinez and Reese just seem to me egregious errors.

Apr 18, 2012 04:58 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Mike Bates
BP staff

See above, Tim. But again, this is where the debate gets fun again.

Apr 18, 2012 05:05 AM

Well, Mike, I guess I still things to day directly regarding Reese and Ripken.

1) Reese is a HOF. I don't want to undersell him. He was not Rizzuto. I still don't think he's a top 5 SS of that era though.

2)If you look at the WARP #s at BB-Ref, it isn't even close. Ripken comes out to 90 for his career and Reese is at 55. Even giving him credit for the three years he missed due to WWII, and adding 15 wins to his total, still leaves him 20!!! wins shy of Ripken over the length of their careers.

3) And I'm not even sure how much weight we should put in WAR numbers that are that old. How much faith do we really have in the defensive metrics compiled over half a century later?

What is clear is that Ripken was a far superior offensive player, w a far superior peak,and a fine defender, who twice was seen as the MVP, an award which Reese never won. And why should Reese get extra credit for playing for the Dodgers? Ripken won as many WS as Reese did.

You can make a "fun" debate for Reese. But you can't make a good one, and I doubt you could do the same for Reese over Jeter, or Trammel, or Larkin, or Rodriguez either.

Apr 18, 2012 05:24 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Mike Bates
BP staff

You also need to consider another four seasons from 1946-1949 for which there's no WARP data, but for which he would have (if healthy) have averaged 5 wins as a conservative estimate and Cal has another 5 WARP or so from seasons where he wasn't a SS.

Apr 18, 2012 05:36 AM
BP staff member Mike Bates
BP staff

I'll also admit that I might have some Ripken fatigue. There is no doubt that his best seasons were better than Reese's, but there's a significant portion of his career that he was at less than his best because of the bruises and breaks he played through during The Streak. But Ripken only had a WARP above 4.0 in 8 of his 21 seasons, while Reese did in 5 of the 9 seasons for which we have data (and a much higher percentage overall.

Finally, and I don't think this is a little point, I think there were times that Ripken's streak hurt his team. It's possible the Orioles could have won at least one more AL East title (1989) if he'd kept himself rested.

Apr 18, 2012 05:48 AM

Is it fair to ding Ripken for playing every game in 1989, when he played every game in 1991 and won the MVP?

Apr 18, 2012 16:36 PM
rating: 0

BB-REF has WARP data for those years, and it is compiled in his original total of 55 which I presented earlier.
I also think you're overselling his longevity a bit. Reese did play SS through age 37, but Ripken lasted through 35, and if I recall, was pretty good about staying on the field for most of that time.

And you have, of course, picked a subject to write about which is eminently debatable so mission accomplished.

Apr 18, 2012 05:42 AM
rating: 1

Oh, and excuse me, I made a typo in my posts. Reese's career WARP comes to 66! not 56. This accounts for all his career, including 46-49. Again, giving him credit for the 3 years he missed to WWII still leaves him 10 shy of Ripken. Not as monumental as I first presented it, but still signifigant. I apologize for the mistake.

Apr 18, 2012 05:47 AM
rating: 0

Yea... Reese is the real head-scratcher. That has to be a idiosyncratic pick designed to get the comments going. Using Prospectus' own numbers you'd have to assume Reese averaged almost 5.0 WARP a year from his debut through age 30 to equal Ripken. By bb-ref's numbers Reese is 33 WAR behind Ripken, meaning you'd have to assume he would have had (by far) his three best seasons during the time his missed for the war, just to catch Ripken.

And that's not taking into account any timeline adjustment for the lesser competition Reese faced. Reese was into his mid-30s before you could consider the majors fully integrated.

Apr 18, 2012 06:01 AM
rating: -1
BP staff member Bill Parker
BP staff

First of all, why are you suggesting the total WAR(P) leader is the only legitimate answer? Putting aside that that's exceptionally boring and completely obliterates any reason to write an article like this, you're putting a heavy thumb on the "longevity" side of the scale. Ripken lasted forever, and that's great (but he also got 8 more scheduled games a year, which adds up to a full extra season over Ripken's whole career), but it's certainly not everything.

Per 660 plate appearances (my own preferred "per full season" number), Ripken averaged 3.60 WARP. For the years when we have data, Reese averaged 3.74. And he was already 31 when WARP kicked in, so we can assume his advantage in that area goes up if we were able to get WARP numbers for those earlier years. That's before even considering giving him extra credit for those WWII years (which I think you absolutely have to do, and considering he had excellent years on either side, I think that probably adds a ton).

Ripken's very best years were better than Reese, and he has five seasons' worth of PA on him (three due to the war and one due to the schedule, so I think you can cut that down to one if you're being fair to Reese). Reese's highs were lower, but his lows were higher, so you could say he was more consistently excellent than Ripken. On *average*, Reese was better.

I'd probably lean toward Ripken overall, but it can go either way. But suggesting he did it just to start a discussion, on the basis that the total WARP doesn't stack up, seems profoundly silly to me.

Apr 18, 2012 06:30 AM
BP staff member Bill Parker
BP staff

I meant to include the BREF WAR averages, too, since those do cover Reese's whole career. It's closer: 4.65 per 660 for Reese, 4.61 for Ripken. Reese's average probably goes up a bit if he gets his WWII years back, though.

Apr 18, 2012 06:33 AM

Well, again, I guess it depends on which WAR numbers you use. BB-REF has Ripken over 4 in 11 of 21 years, and Reese over 4 10 years, admittedly at a higher percentage. Ripken also exceeded Reese's career high in WAR 3 times, and matched it another.
I also think it's a bit unfair to hold the Streak against him. I'm not trying to give him extra credit for it; so it shouldn't be held against him either. The 89 Orioles were a team that vastly overachieved, and were led by a 6 win Ripken, who finished 3rd in the MVP race that year. And that's a negative how? Because they fell a game short, and in some parallel universe where Ripken- the team's best player mind you- missed a few games in the summer, you belive they might have won the division? I can't say that's analytical.
I understand that peer review might now always be the best way to go about things. But in this case take it for what it's worth: Ripken- 2 MVPs and 1st Ballot HOF with a record high percentage; Reese- 0 MVPs (and not to unjustly drive my point home, an impressive 8 top 10 finishes. Although that might lose some of its luster if you realize he was on the top 10 w usually another handful of his own teamates) and a Vet. Ballot admission.

Apr 18, 2012 06:05 AM
rating: 1

No Rickey Henderson? Your outfielders are hard to argue with, and Edgar's awesome, but my team has to have Rickey leading off. I agree with you 100% though, the arguments are what's fun about this sort of exercise. My team would match yours, with the following changes:
C I.Rod, SS Ozzie (not Guillen), Henderson replaces Aaron, DH Manny being Manny, and my starting pitcher is either Maddox or Randy Johnson.

P.S. Any list of this sort which doesn't have Mariano Rivera as the best reliever is just trolling.

Apr 18, 2012 06:24 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Mike Bates
BP staff

Well, Rickey only played 27 games in RF, and I was trying to differentiate between the corner OF spots. There's also the fact that Aaron is just ridiculously more qualified that Rickey to contend with. I wasn't terribly concerned with making sure that I had a traditional leadoff hitter, but if I have to have one, Reese was an ok base stealer with a .366 career OBP.

And I don't know why we need to bring Garry Maddox into any of this. :)

Apr 18, 2012 07:09 AM

To heck with the Reese/Ripken debate. Can somebody join me in some righteous indignation that Edgar Martinez gets the nod over the Big Hurt?

Schmidt's great, too, but over A-Rod?

And what of the recent suggestion that Piazza was one of the best game-callers of all-time? Surely he can get some love here.

Apr 18, 2012 06:27 AM
rating: 0

"Schmidt's great, too, but over A-Rod?"

Oh, god, yes.

Apr 18, 2012 09:54 AM
rating: 3

Agreed. I'd take Brooks Robinson over A-Rod too.

Apr 18, 2012 13:17 PM
rating: -2

Did anyone "see" Nolan Ryan pitch for the Angels in the 1970s? I take Nolan and this Dream Team and Nolan wins over 200 games in a single decade - he was that good. Go back and look at how many games he lost 1-0, 2-0, and 2-1. The likes of Clemens, Johnson, and Maddux played on good teams and sometimes great teams, while Ryan was sentenced to the 1970s Angels.

Apr 18, 2012 06:34 AM
rating: -3

Yep. I saw him. And pretty much anyone of the era thought Tom Seaver or Steve Carlton was a better pitcher. Maybe even Jim Palmer. I guess I missed all those years he pitched in an extreme pitchers park and led the AL in ERA--oh wait, he never did that. He did lead the AL in strikeouts 7 times-- and walks six times. He walked 202 batters in 1974. He got lots of publicity for the strikeouts, but he walked almost as many.

Apr 18, 2012 17:23 PM
rating: 2

Only quibble would be Reese at SS. Being you have Bonds and Clemens on your team I'd put A-Rod at SS.

Apr 18, 2012 06:55 AM
rating: 1

I'd like to point out that in my intial post on the subject, I expressed my skepticism on using WAR numbers as an end all be all. However, in a situation like this, they clearly have some value. Still, ignoring them, really only strengthens the arguments for Ripken.

What can we ascertain w/o them?

Ripken was the superior hitter.

Ripken was considered a fine defender in his own right, and was frankly undervalued for much of his career in that regards. In fact, I belive he's viewed as the 3rd most valuable defender of all-time, behind a couple of guys named Smith and Belanger, if you want to use metrics. The idea that Reese made up for his offensive shortcomings, in comparison w Ripken, defensively, is tenuous- at best.

And, again, using peer review, which I've also stated is not an end-all, be-all, Ripken was twice voted MVP. An award that Reese never captured. Furthermore, Ripken was a first-ballot HOFer, while Reese only gained admittance through the Veteran's Committee.

And what has been the support for Reese over Ripken?

WAR numbers, when they're convient.

The idea that he earns "extra credit" for being on consistently better teams.

The idea that Ripken loses value for playing every day, because in a hypothetical universe, the Orioles might have won more if their best player didn't play every day.

Frankly, I find the arguments for Reese, to run counter to the spirt of inquiry which BP is founded on.

Apr 18, 2012 07:22 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Bill Parker
BP staff

Oh, I'm very pro-WAR(P). Just not a fan of adding up the career totals and ignoring everything else.

I think the extent to which Ripken was the superior hitter might be overstated. Reese's TAv from 1950 on was about .272 compared to Ripken's career .279. Reese's probably approaches that if we have the numbers from pre-1950, and (especially) if he'd been able to play during the WWII years. To use a different metric, wRC+, you get a 111-104 advantage for Ripken, one that shrinks further if you add in the WWII years. Ripken was almost certainly a better hitter, but not by a ton. And there are some real questions about Ripken's defense -- +181 by Total Zone, -22 by FRAA. His reputation at the time wasn't actually all that stellar; the general opinion was that he was solid but not spectacular, as evidenced by his winning two Gold Gloves despite being a huge star and the Gold Gloves being generally a popularity contest.

You don't mention the Great War at all in your breakdown of the arguments in Reese's favor, and you list at least one counterargument (regarding the quality of his teams) that I certainly hope no one is making.

Again, I'd probably pick Ripken (or A-Rod). I don't have a horse in this race. Just think you're seriously overstating his case over Reese.

Apr 18, 2012 07:41 AM

If A-Rod had stuck at short just a handful more years, I think he'd have to be the consensus pick. But, alas, he didn't.

1) I have mentioned the fact that Reese missed time due to WWII several times. I've even accounted for the fact w regards to WAR lost, and even giving him a fairly generous 5 WAR a year, he still comes out behind Ripken, using BB-REF numbers.

2) I certainly don't think it's just safe to assume that Reese would have performed better before his 30th than after just because that is the normal aging curve. He had his best season w the bat as a 35 year old. And his performance was fairly consistent through his 36th birthday with what he did before his 30th.

3) Reese was no slouch w the bat, but by any metric, Ripken was his superior.

4) In regards to Ripken's defense, I don't think it's fair to say he won "only 2" GG as a detriment. I think his defense was overlooked because pundits of the time focues on his size and his bat and failed to realize what a defensive player he was. That is backed up by several metrics. Furthermore, when Ripken set the all-time record for fewest errors by a SS, and fielding % by a SS, in a single season, he lost the GG. If anything, he was often the victim of a reverse bias against his defense.

5) The arguement that Reese gets "extra credit for playing for the Dodgers" was provided by none other than the author of the article.

Apr 18, 2012 07:57 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Mike Bates
BP staff

I'll own that last thing, Tim, but I didn't mean that it should be used to determine how good a player Reese was. Just as I wasn't actually serious that Reese's nickname somehow makes him a better player.

And I agree that A-Rod would be the pick going away if it wasn't clear he's going to end up being regarded as either a 3B or as a nebulous multi-position guy a la Pete Rose or Harmon Killebrew.

If we give Reese credit for the time he missed (I think we need to, and that an extra 15 WAR is actually pretty conservative given that we're looking at his age 24-26 seasons), that would push him to around 80. And as Bill has pointed out, Ripken gets an extra 125-130 games or so because he played in the 162 game/season era.

I mean, if you want to discount defensive stats from the 1940s and 1950s, that's fine. But then we have to leave Reese and his contemporaries out of the discussion entirely. The best argument I've seen in this thread against Reese, BTW, is Drungo's point above about Reese's league not being fully integrated for much of his career (especially considering how many of the African-American stars were on his own team).

Apr 18, 2012 08:28 AM

The pick should still be A-Rod. He moved off of SS, not because he couldn't play the position anymore, but for PR reasons. He was almost certainly a better fielding SS than Jeter for much (or even most) of A-Rod's time with the Yankees. For the sake of argument, let's assume A-Rod played SS for his first 3 years with the Yanks (through his age-30 season) and add his games at 3B in those years to his career SS games. If you do that, A-Rod would have 1739 games at SS and would place in the all-time top 40 of games played at SS. That's more than several HOF'ers, including Arky Vaughan, Phil Rizzuto, and Lou Boudreau. And it's only 1 season of SS away from Honus Wagner and 2 seasons away from Reese.

If A-Rod went to any other team than the Yankees, odds are he would have played SS well into his 30s. If we're going to credit Reese for his special circumstance of WWII (as we should), we should also take into account the quirk of A-Rod being traded to the Yankees during Jeter's reign as King of NYC.

Furthermore, it's clear that A-Rod has performed at a much higher level than Reese or Ripken. Using BB-REF's WAR, A-Rod averaged 6.49 WAR per 660 PAs for his career and 7.08 WAR as a SS, 2+ wins more than either Pee Wee or Cal. By WARP, A-Rod averaged 6.51 WARP (per 660 PAs) for his career and 6.79 WARP during his years as a SS. That just blows Pee Wee and Ripken out of the water. Even if you don't give credit to A-Rod for his years playing out of position due to PR reasons, he was so superior during the fewer years he was at SS that arguably his peak value over a shorter time should rank him ahead of the other two. 12 years of being great vs 15-18 years of being very good.

If you just look strictly at what players actually did during their careers, ignoring mitigating circumstances, then you can certainly argue Ripken or Pee Wee over A-Rod for this all-time list. But if you asked 1000 knowledgeable baseball fans, players, historians, and executives to assemble a team from post-WWII players, knowing that they'll get to deploy those players how they want for their careers, I'm guessing 70% of them would choose A-Rod.

Pee Wee vs Ripken is a fun debate, but really no matter how you slice it, it's a debate over who's the 2nd best SS since WWII.

Apr 18, 2012 10:31 AM
rating: 6

Amen brother. You said all the things I was thinking better than I could have.

Apr 18, 2012 11:08 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Bill Parker
BP staff

Last thing I'll say here, but the fielding percentage thing Tim raises is exactly what I was talking about. As I said, he was "solid but not spectacular." He made all the plays he could get to, but he couldn't get to everything an Ozzie (Smith or even Guillen) could. His not winning the GG when he set those records suggests to me (a) an ahead-of-its-time acknowledgement that fielding percentage is a terrible statistic and defense is more than avoiding errors, and (b) a judgment that he was, exactly as I said, solid but not spectacular.

Apr 18, 2012 08:53 AM

Fair enough Mike. One of the best things about these discussions is that it makes you reevaluate the players involved as you attempt to support your position. I still contend Ripken is the pick; however, I don't think I was being totally appreciative of just the ballplayer Reese was initally. He's certainly the superior of Larkin and Trammel for instance. I would amend my original statement that he wasn't top 5. I think he's clearly that.
I think Drungo's arguement certainly holds sway. I would like to point out, that in what was billed as a post-WWII list, to prop up your pick of Reese, we are not only being asked to credit Reese for something he didn't do- rightly or wrongly, in giving him credit for the years he missed- we're also being asked to count what he did do prior to WWII.
So I will concede that Reese was a better ballplayer than I gave him credit for; however, I think it's still fairly obvious that Ripken was the best SS to play after WWII, all things considered.

Apr 18, 2012 08:51 AM
rating: 1

Maybe Bill, but then why did he win it in other years in which he didn't set those kind of records?

Apr 18, 2012 09:09 AM
rating: 0

Tangentially, when can we get historical WARP figures? I think Jay Jaffe has them for his JAWS research, but they aren't available to subscribers yet or apparently to this article's author.

Apr 18, 2012 10:08 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Yanksfan
BP staff

Can someone give me a few reasons why Mike Schmidt, with a career AVG under .270 and OBP of .380, takes the nod at third over A-Rod, who has a career AVG of .301, OBP of .386, and already almost 100 more HR's than Schmidt?

Apr 18, 2012 11:23 AM
BP staff member Bill Parker
BP staff

Here are three:

(1) Era: those raw numbers give Schmidt a 147 OPS+, vs. A-Rod's 144
(2) Defense: Schmidt is viewed as one of the greatest, A-Rod as...not
(3) Positional wishywashiness: several people above are arguing A-Rod should be on the list as shortstop. He's not really a SS and not really a 3B, so nobody knows where he belongs.

Apr 18, 2012 11:35 AM
BP staff member Yanksfan
BP staff

I definitely see your point on defense. I just don't know how I feel about using OPS+ as the deciding factor, since it is just about the only offensive statistic in which Schmidt outperforms A-Rod.

Apr 18, 2012 11:53 AM

Except that there has to be some way to balance their eras. I am confident that Schmidt would have hit more HR playing in current ballparks, let alone using the, shall we say, "nutritional supplements" which aided ARod's numbers and others of his era.

Apr 18, 2012 12:08 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Bill Parker
BP staff

But that's the whole point of using OPS+; all those other stats are better for A-Rod because he played at a time when it was a lot easier to hit, so you have to have some way of adjusting for context.

You can look at other stats that adjust for context with similar results. Over here, Schmidt has a .319 TAv to A-Rod's .318 (and 116.7 WARP to 105.4). By other measures on other sites, they're essentially tied.

Apr 18, 2012 12:20 PM
Pat Folz

It's hard to quibble with the Clemens selection on objective grounds, but I will cast a vote for Pedro Martinez as the top SP, because
1)I think Pedro's 1999-2000 peak is the best anyone has ever pitched, ever, and
2)Roger Clemens is awful and gross.

Apr 18, 2012 11:47 AM
rating: 2

So is this a list of best players at thier position after WWII, or is this a list of best players who played thier position after WWII, taking into account what they did before the war,and adding on what they hypothetically would have accomplished had they played during the war?

Apr 18, 2012 13:35 PM
rating: -2
BP staff member Mike Bates
BP staff

I suppose it depends on your definition of "best", Tim, and all that that implies. To me, it's about who was the best player, which is visible through some mixture of career and peak value, and that is informed by WAR(P) data, but not beholden to it if there are extenuating circumstances.

And regarding the issue of where we start considering a player's career given my decision to look in the post WWII era, I'd say it's complicated. As a case in point, a lot of people consider Cy Young one of the greatest pitchers of the 20th century, despite the fact that 10 of his 22 seasons came in the 19th. I would accept that, and view this as a similar situation.

Apr 18, 2012 14:03 PM

I wonder who represents the "safest" choice on the team.

In my mind, it is very, very difficult to argue against Morgan and Bench, but I do think that the class of players behind them is quite strong nonetheless. Schmidt may fit here, as well, but I think there are compelling arguments to be made for Chipper Jones, Wade Boggs, George Brett, and Eddie Mathews - the cream of the crop at 3B, it seems, comes after the War, for what that's worth.

My team would probably be:

C - Bench
1B - Pujols
2B - Jackie Robinson
3B - Schmidt
SS - Cal Ripken Jr.
LF - Ted Williams
CF - Mickey Mantle
RF - Aaron
DH - Martinez
SP - Pedro Martinez
RP - Rivera

I'm giving Robinson quite a bit of credit for his late start, as well as some substantial consideration for the grind he suffered through throughout his career. His best was damn close to Morgan's.

I take Mantle over Mays due, in part, to my belief that Mantle was the single greatest offensive force in the game between Ruth and Bonds, and he was a fine defender before injuries, alcoholism, and the like ravaged his body.

I think the rest fall more into the 'toss-up' category, so I don't think it makes sense to ramble on further.

Apr 18, 2012 15:09 PM
rating: 0

Your point on Robinson is well taken, I'm not sure Joe wouldn't agree with you - for what that's worth. I would probably still stick with Joe, but there is surely a case to be made.
It's nice to see Mantle get a call, although I strongly disagree with your preference.
There is a reason why 3B became a much stronger offensive position after WWII. Although this is starting to change, traditionally, managers have managed the game they played. The pre-WWII managers played in the dead ball era, where, because the bunt was so important to the game - and by extension, fielding bunts was equally important - 3B was thought of as primarily a defensive position. Pie Traynor was in a different world offensively from other 3B which is why he was considered the best with spectacular unanimity. Even the Yankee dynasty just had Joe Dugan and Red Rolfe, who were hardly impressive offensive forces, but were considered top shelf. Once managers showed up who had played in the lively ball era, where people stood around waiting for HR, rather than bunting guys over, they found hitters for that position.

Apr 18, 2012 20:07 PM
rating: 0

The same argument regarding the positional identity of 3B during the Deadball Era can almost be copied and pasted for 1B, as well - hence the proclivity towards Hal Chase.

I've often wondered if we don't give enough credit to the defensive chops of the Deadball Era 3B, as they lag behind the aforementioned sluggers in most every configuration of WAR(P). Could their value be far greater than we understand?

Apr 19, 2012 15:46 PM
rating: 1

Frank Robinson over Barry Bonds for sure...Bonds needed to 'roid up to produce his numbers and is the headliner for shameful cheating that has stained the game.

Pee Wee Reese and his below-average OPS plus?!!! Barry Larkin. Cal Ripken, of course. Ernie Banks I could defend. Or we could go Ozzie Smith. Or all sorts of other choices. Allen Trammell. Reese should not be in the discussion. I might even take the horrific defense of Derek Jeter before Reese.

Finally, Frank Thomas seems like a superior choice to Martinez. He was dominant when healthy, while Edgar was consistent but never as dangerous. Or, you could perhaps save Mickey Mantle's legs by putting him there.

Apr 18, 2012 21:23 PM
rating: -1

As to pitcher, Clemens is the pitching equivalent of Barry Bonds...a juicer who seems destined experience jail as a result of perjury when testifying before Congress (even though Congress has more important things to do) and was willing to throw friends and even his own wife "under the bus" to defend his battered reputation. Let's not sully a team of "greats" with such a player when guys like Seaver and Palmer and Martinez and Maddux and Carlton and Gibson are worthy of consideration. Pedro and Greg both experienced amazingly dominant primes, whereas Clemens kept breaking and then making remarkable recoveries and now we know how and why. Gibson gets props for being a World Series killer (much like Koufax). No juicers, please!!!

Apr 18, 2012 21:35 PM
rating: -1
BP staff member Doug Thorburn
BP staff

I propose an amendment to expand the SP spot to a full rotation, or perhaps let us cheat and stick some legends in our bullpen (Randy Johnson = top LOOGY of all time).

An argument could be made that four of the top five post-WWII hurlers were contemporaries in the 1990's, especially once we adjust for league context with the likes of Maddux, Pedro, Randy, and Clemens.

Apr 19, 2012 02:33 AM

I totally agree. Furthermore, Randy Johnson is probably the most underrated great pitcher of all time. For whatever reason, he gets left behind in all the conversations about all-time great pitchers, but he's arguably one of the 3 best starting pitchers in the post-war era. He was far more durable than people think, he won 5 Cy Youngs (more than anyone other than Clemens), won 303 games, and is 2nd on the all-time K list. And his nickname is the Big Unit.

He's 2nd only to Clemens in career PWARP (90.1 vs 100.5), despite having pitched nearly 800 innings less than Clemens. If you account for the fact that Clemens may have been PED-assisted, it's easy to imagine a little less effectiveness and/or endurance could make that PWARP gap nearly disappear. And Randy's way ahead of 3rd place by that measure.

I love me some Maddux and Pedro, Seaver's a stud, Nolan can't be overlooked, and Clemens seems to have the best claim to the top post-war spot. But Randy may well be second to none.

Apr 20, 2012 10:40 AM
rating: 1
Mark Hanson

Can you explain the rationale for crediting Reese with the 3 years he lost to military service? I can certainly understand doing so in fantasy what-if situations ("How many home runs would Williams have hit if...?"), but you're trying to come up with a list of the best ever at their positions.

Of course Reese -- and Williams, and dozens of others -- would have ended their careers with better numbers if not for the war, but at that point you're basically just making stuff up. He *didn't* play those games, and that's that. It's not that different from making an argument that Don Mattingly belongs in the HOF because if he hadn't hurt his back he'd have been a much better player. Um...

Anyway, if you're inventing stats to bolster your case that Reese was the best ever at his position despite the games he never played, then it's no less valid to fantasize that be broke his ankle going around third in 1944 and never played again. Oh, if only he'd had a full career...

I don't want to come across like I'm anti-Reese (though I admit I come down on the Rodriguez/Ripken side of the argument), but I don't think this particular part of your methodology holds up.

Apr 19, 2012 09:28 AM
rating: 0

The difference between Mattingly's back and Pee Wee's war service is that the former is a baseball-related matter and the latter is not. Staying healthy is a key baseball skill. Avoiding planet consuming wars isn't.

Furthermore, this isn't a conversation about who accumulated the most production at the position, it is about who was the best at the position. There's a difference. Pee Wee was an All-Star before he left for the war and was an All-Star when he came back. It isn't like his clearly established skill level somehow evaporated during his 3 years in the military. As such, "giving credit" to Pee Wee for his war years is just a way to normalize the career statistics between him and non-WWII era players for the purposes of comparing their true talent level.

Apr 20, 2012 11:04 AM
rating: 0
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