Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT
Saturday, August 30, 2003
Don't Short A-Rod's All-Time Ranking

News Item: Alex Rodriguez hits home run #40 for the sixth year in a row, the second longest 40-HR streak ever. With another 40-HR campaign in 2004, Rodriguez will tie Babe Ruth at seven for the most consecutive seasons of 40 or more homers.

Two weeks ago, I compared A-Rod's standing in baseball history among 27-year-olds and all-time home run sluggers (including mentioning the likelihood of reaching the above milestone). This week, the focus is on Alex The Great and how he rates among shortstops.

A comparison of A-Rod vs. his peers at SS follows. Rate stats are based on a minimum of 4,000 plate appearances. The source for these lists is the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia.

RATE STATS, 1900-2002

OBP                             OBP    

1 Arky Vaughan .406
2 Luke Appling .399
3 Honus Wagner .394
4 Johnny Pesky .394
5 Joe Sewell .391
6 Joe Cronin .390
7 Derek Jeter .389
8 Lou Boudreau .380
9 Alex Rodriguez .380
10 Barry Larkin .372

Working on a .394 OBP this year, A-Rod has passed Lou Boudreau on a real-time basis. Unless Derek Jeter falters, it may prove difficult for Rodriguez to move up on this list. Still, there is nothing pedestrian about ranking among the top ten all-time in a category that perhaps is Alex The Great's weakest.

OBP                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Arky Vaughan .068 .406 .338
2 Honus Wagner .067 .394 .328
3 Derek Jeter .047 .389 .342
4 Luke Appling .045 .399 .354
5 Johnny Pesky .045 .394 .349
6 Alex Rodriguez .038 .380 .342
7 Barry Larkin .036 .372 .336
8 Lou Boudreau .034 .380 .347
9 Julio Franco .034 .366 .332
10 Kid Elberfeld .032 .353 .321

A-Rod moves up to sixth when measured by the difference in his OBP vs. the league average. Arky Vaughan, perhaps the most underrated infielder of all time (at least up until the days of Bill James), sits atop the list for the second consecutive category.

Parenthetically, I'm not really comfortable with Julio Franco as a shortstop given that he played fewer than half of his games at that position. However, he played more games there than anywhere else on the diamond, so shortstop it is. Franco was a good-hitting SS although he enjoyed his best years as a 2B. Julio ran well and had decent range as a middle infielder, but he also made a lot of errors. As a result, he has been a DH/1B almost exclusively from 1992-on.

OBP                             RATE   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Honus Wagner 120 .394 .328
2 Arky Vaughan 120 .406 .338
3 Derek Jeter 114 .389 .342
4 Johnny Pesky 113 .394 .349
5 Luke Appling 113 .399 .354
6 Alex Rodriguez 111 .380 .342
7 Barry Larkin 111 .372 .336
8 Julio Franco 110 .366 .332
9 Kid Elberfeld 110 .353 .321
10 Lou Boudreau 110 .380 .347

The five shortstops above Rodriguez rank ahead of him in all three OBP measurements. Among players eligible for the Hall of Fame, only Johnny Pesky is on the outside looking in. Pesky lost three full years to World War II, which probably cost him 600 hits and the opportunity to exceed 2,000 for his career. According to Bill James in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Pesky's 1942 season was the best ever by a rookie shortstop. He finished third in the MVP voting that year, went off to war, and then returned in 1946 and was fourth in the MVP voting.

Norman Elberfeld, who ranks in the top ten in OBP relative to the league based on difference and ratio, played from 1898-1914. Elberfeld, nicknamed "The Tabasco Kid" for his fiery play, was 5'7", 158 pounds and led the league in HBP twice.

SLG                             SLG    

1 Alex Rodriguez .579
2 Ernie Banks .500
3 Honus Wagner .468
4 Joe Cronin .468
5 Derek Jeter .463
6 Vern Stephens .460
7 John Valentin .454
8 Arky Vaughan .453
9 Jose Valentin .448
10 Barry Larkin .448

Everyone knows that power is A-Rod's strong suit, and he ranks number one in career slugging percentage among shortstops. Rodriguez is slugging at a .600 clip this year and is adding to his huge lead over Ernie Banks, who captured back-to-back MVPs in 1958 and 1959 even though the Cubs had losing records and ended up in fifth place both years. Ironically, A-Rod seems to have been penalized by voters the past couple of years for playing on a team with a losing record. If the trend continues, Rodriguez could end up being one of the best players in the history of baseball never to win an MVP Award.

If I relaxed the number of plate appearances from 4,000 to 3,000, Nomar Garciaparra would place second in slugging percentage. Garciaparra had a SLG of .562 entering the 2003 season and is roughly maintaining that level this year. Upon retirement, A-Rod and Nomar stand an excellent chance of being 1-2 in SLG.

SLG                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Alex Rodriguez .144 .579 .434
2 Honus Wagner .122 .468 .346
3 Ernie Banks .097 .500 .402
4 Vern Stephens .078 .460 .382
5 Arky Vaughan .064 .453 .390
6 Joe Cronin .051 .468 .417
7 Rico Petrocelli .045 .420 .375
8 Cal Ripken .036 .447 .411
9 Robin Yount .036 .430 .394
10 Barry Larkin .035 .448 .412

Once again, A-Rod ranks number one in the slugging department, heading a list of mostly Hall of Famers and HOFers to be. Only Vern Stephens and Rico Petrocelli, two of the many great Boston Red Sox shortstops over the years, never made it to Cooperstown. Stephens placed in the top ten in the A.L. MVP voting six times during the 1940s in an era that featured Luke Appling, Lou Boudreau, Johnny Pesky, and Phil Rizzuto as rival shortstops.

SLG                             RATE   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Honus Wagner 135 .468 .346
2 Alex Rodriguez 133 .579 .434
3 Ernie Banks 124 .500 .402
4 Vern Stephens 120 .460 .382
5 Arky Vaughan 116 .453 .390
6 Joe Cronin 112 .468 .417
7 Rico Petrocelli 112 .420 .375
8 Robin Yount 109 .430 .394
9 Cal Ripken 109 .447 .411
10 Barry Larkin 109 .448 .412

A-Rod slips to second based on the ratio of slugging percentage to the league average. Honus Wagner slugged a remarkable .468 during the Dead Ball era when the league average was only .346 and the positional average was .321.

OPS                             OPS    

1 Alex Rodriguez .958
2 Honus Wagner .862
3 Arky Vaughan .859
4 Joe Cronin .857
5 Derek Jeter .852
6 Ernie Banks .830
7 Barry Larkin .820
8 Vern Stephens .815
9 John Valentin .814
10 Joe Sewell .804

A-Rod shows his absolute prowess in OPS similar to SLG. Nomar, at .937, would rank second if he met the minimum number of plate appearances. Rodriguez is increasing his lead this year with a .993 SLG, while Nomar is holding his own at .923.

Joe Sewell was a 21-year-old rookie when he replaced Ray Chapman as the Cleveland Indians shortstop in 1920 after the latter was killed by a pitched ball. Sewell committed 15 errors in only 22 games that first season, then made six more in the World Series. Sewell, who was the most difficult man to strike out in baseball history by far (fanning once every 63 AB), had more than seven time as many walks as strike outs in his career.

OPS                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Honus Wagner .189 .862 .674
2 Alex Rodriguez .182 .958 .776
3 Arky Vaughan .132 .859 .728
4 Ernie Banks .098 .830 .732
5 Vern Stephens .087 .815 .728
6 Joe Cronin .083 .857 .775
7 Derek Jeter .075 .852 .776
8 Barry Larkin .072 .820 .748
9 Lou Boudreau .061 .795 .734
10 Rico Petrocelli .055 .752 .697

Wagner overtakes Rodriguez when it comes to OPS minus the league average, but A-Rod is within striking distance of The Flying Dutchman.

OPS                             RATE   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Honus Wagner 128 .862 .674
2 Alex Rodriguez 123 .958 .776
3 Arky Vaughan 118 .859 .728
4 Ernie Banks 113 .830 .732
5 Vern Stephens 112 .815 .728
6 Joe Cronin 111 .857 .775
7 Derek Jeter 110 .852 .776
8 Barry Larkin 110 .820 .748
9 Lou Boudreau 108 .795 .734
10 Rico Petrocelli 108 .752 .697

Wagner makes it three-for-three on all three major rate stats (OBP, SLG, OPS) when it comes to the ratio vs. the league average. By comparison, Rodriguez ranks sixth, second, and second, respectively. Attention future Hall of Fame voters: There are only four SS who rank in the top ten in all three of these measurements--Wagner, Rodriguez, Vaughan, and...Barry Larkin.

TOTAL AVERAGE                   TA     

1 Alex Rodriguez 1.005
2 Honus Wagner .957
3 Arky Vaughan .892
4 Joe Cronin .859
5 Derek Jeter .858
6 Barry Larkin .836
7 John Valentin .785
8 Joe Sewell .778
9 Luke Appling .774
10 Vern Stephens .765

Once again, A-Rod jumps to the top of the pack when it comes to absolute levels (in this case Total Average). Rodriguez is extending his lead this year with a TA of 1.063 through the end of August. Wagner and Vaughan, the only other shortstops to rank number one in any of the rate stat categories, follow at two and three.

Given that John Valentin made his mark just prior to today's big, powerful shortstops, it is easy to forget how good his career year was in 1995 when he finished 9th in the MVP voting as a result of hitting .298/.399/.533 with 27 HR, 20 SB, and more than 100 runs and 100 RBI in only 135 games.

TOTAL AVERAGE                   DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Honus Wagner .309 .957 .648
2 Alex Rodriguez .273 1.005 .732
3 Arky Vaughan .229 .892 .663
4 Barry Larkin .138 .836 .699
5 Joe Cronin .127 .859 .732
6 Derek Jeter .126 .858 .732
7 Ray Chapman .108 .750 .643
8 Vern Stephens .104 .765 .660
9 Lou Boudreau .080 .748 .667
10 George Davis .077 .701 .624

A-Rod slides to number two based on the difference between TA and the league average. Wagner, Rodriguez, and Vaughan are 1-2-3 and well ahead of the rest of the pack.

George Davis, whose career spanned the late 1800s and the early 1900s, had his best year before the modern era. In 1897, Davis hit .353 with 31 doubles, 10 triples, and 10 home runs, along with 65 stolen bases, 112 runs scored, and a league-leading 136 RBI. Davis wasn't elected to the HOF until 1998 when the Veterans Committee finally saw fit to enshrine the switch-hitting great from a bygone era.

TOTAL AVERAGE                   RATE   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Honus Wagner 148 .957 .648
2 Alex Rodriguez 137 1.005 .732
3 Arky Vaughan 135 .892 .663
4 Barry Larkin 120 .836 .699
5 Joe Cronin 117 .859 .732
6 Derek Jeter 117 .858 .732
7 Ray Chapman 117 .750 .643
8 Vern Stephens 116 .765 .660
9 George Davis 112 .701 .624
10 Rico Petrocelli 112 .702 .625

The top eight players remain in the same order, giving a pretty good indication of their relative TA merits--no matter how it's measured.

BPA                             BPA    

1 Alex Rodriguez .623
2 Honus Wagner .582
3 Joe Cronin .530
4 Arky Vaughan .530
5 Derek Jeter .525
6 Barry Larkin .523
7 Ernie Banks .513
8 Jose Valentin .509
9 John Valentin .496
10 Ray Chapman .490

Surprise, surprise. Rodriguez finds himself in first place in another absolute rate stat (Bases per Plate Appearance). The Texas Rangers SS is widening the gap between himself and Wagner with a league-leading BPA of .673 this year. Joe Cronin edges out Vaughan for third place.

BPA                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Alex Rodriguez .147 .623 .476
2 Honus Wagner .145 .582 .437
3 Arky Vaughan .097 .530 .432
4 Ernie Banks .075 .513 .438
5 Barry Larkin .064 .523 .459
6 Vern Stephens .060 .489 .429
7 Ray Chapman .057 .490 .433
8 Joe Cronin .055 .530 .475
9 Derek Jeter .049 .525 .476
10 Rico Petrocelli .041 .458 .417

Rodriguez maintains a slim advantage over Wagner in BPA minus the league average.

BPA                             RATE   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Honus Wagner 133 .582 .437
2 Alex Rodriguez 131 .623 .476
3 Arky Vaughan 122 .530 .432
4 Ernie Banks 117 .513 .438
5 Vern Stephens 114 .489 .429
6 Barry Larkin 114 .523 .459
7 Ray Chapman 113 .490 .433
8 Joe Cronin 112 .530 .475
9 Derek Jeter 110 .525 .476
10 Rico Petrocelli 110 .458 .417

Wagner returns to his customary #1 spot when it comes to ratios, a sign that he was slightly more dominant vs. the players from his era than his closest pursuer 100 years later.

RUNS CREATED/GAME              RC/G    

1 Honus Wagner 8.31
2 Alex Rodriguez 8.16
3 Arky Vaughan 7.61
4 Derek Jeter 6.92
5 Joe Cronin 6.81
6 Barry Larkin 6.34
7 Luke Appling 6.26
8 Joe Sewell 6.03
9 Johnny Pesky 5.98
10 Vern Stephens 5.93

Wagner, Rodriguez, Vaughan. A-Rod is improving his career average this year at 8.58 RC/G.


1 Honus Wagner 3.85 8.31 4.46
2 Alex Rodriguez 2.93 8.16 5.23
3 Arky Vaughan 2.75 7.61 4.86
4 Derek Jeter 1.68 6.92 5.24
5 Barry Larkin 1.46 6.34 4.88
6 Joe Cronin 1.24 6.81 5.57
7 Vern Stephens 1.15 5.93 4.78
8 Johnny Pesky 1.05 5.98 4.93
9 Ernie Banks 0.98 5.56 4.59
10 Luke Appling 0.94 6.26 5.32

This is a recording. Wagner, Rodriguez, Vaughan.


1 Honus Wagner 186 8.31 4.46
2 Arky Vaughan 156 7.61 4.86
3 Alex Rodriguez 156 8.16 5.23
4 Derek Jeter 132 6.92 5.24
5 Barry Larkin 130 6.34 4.88
6 Vern Stephens 124 5.93 4.78
7 Joe Cronin 122 6.81 5.57
8 Johnny Pesky 121 5.98 4.93
9 Ernie Banks 121 5.56 4.59
10 Lou Boudreau 119 5.81 4.90

Wagner, Vaughan, Rodriguez this time. Almost tripped me up there.


TOTAL BASES                     TB     

1 Cal Ripken 5168
2 Robin Yount 4730
3 Ernie Banks 4706
4 Honus Wagner 4228
5 Joe Cronin 3546
6 Luke Appling 3528
7 Luis Aparicio 3504
8 Alan Trammell 3442
9 Rabbit Maranville 3423
10 Barry Larkin 3290

With 2845 TB (and counting), Rodriguez should pass Cronin for fifth place by the end of 2005 when he will be just 30 years old.

Cal Ripken goes to the head of the class when it comes to career total bases. Ripken failed to make the top ten on any of the above absolute rate stats although he placed 8th and 9th in the two SLG categories relative to the league. His cumulative stats and peak production rank among the best, but he was no better than an average hitter the last ten years of his career (except for 1999 when he hit .340/.368/.584). Cal's longevity helped his counting stats immensely, but it hurt him in the area of rate stats.

TOTAL BASES                     DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Honus Wagner 1400 4228 2828
2 Ernie Banks 977 4706 3729
3 Alex Rodriguez 729 2535 1806
4 Vern Stephens 603 2991 2388
5 Arky Vaughan 589 3003 2414
6 Robin Yount 537 4730 4193
7 Nomar Garciaparra 514 1771 1257
8 Cal Ripken 503 5168 4665
9 Joe Cronin 421 3546 3125
10 Barry Larkin 370 3290 2920

A-Rod should pass Banks for second place by the end of 2004 or early 2005. If, and when, he catches Wagner will depend upon his health and his future production. Garciaparra should catapult into fourth place by the end of this season.

TOTAL BASES                     RATE   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Honus Wagner 149 4228 2828
2 Alex Rodriguez 140 2535 1806
3 Ernie Banks 121 4706 3729
4 Vern Stephens 125 2991 2388
5 Arky Vaughan 124 3003 2414
6 Derek Jeter 114 2031 1788
7 Joe Cronin 113 3546 3125
8 Robin Yount 113 4730 4193
9 Barry Larkin 113 3290 2920
10 Rico Petrocelli 112 2263 2013

The top five names remain the same, but this time A-Rod is already ahead of Banks.

RUNS CREATED                    RC     

1 Honus Wagner 2011
2 Cal Ripken 1709
3 Robin Yount 1644
4 Luke Appling 1511
5 Ernie Banks 1496
6 Joe Cronin 1448
7 Arky Vaughan 1331
8 Barry Larkin 1298
9 Alan Trammell 1246
10 Joe Sewell 1218

With 1097 RC (and counting), A-Rod should enter the top ten sometime during the second half of 2004. He is on pace to pass Ripken by the time he reaches his early 30s and stands a good chance of catching Wagner before his playing days are through.

RUNS CREATED                    DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Honus Wagner 933 2011 1078
2 Arky Vaughan 482 1331 849
3 Alex Rodriguez 350 975 625
4 Barry Larkin 298 1298 1000
5 Joe Cronin 263 1448 1185
6 Ernie Banks 260 1496 1236
7 Robin Yount 258 1644 1386
8 Luke Appling 226 1511 1285
9 Nomar Garciaparra 222 656 434
10 Vern Stephens 207 1070 863

The top three names should be familiar to all of us by now. A-Rod may pass Vaughan by the end of next year, but he has a long ways to go to reach Wagner (who ranks 14th all time in the modern era and 11th if one also includes his pre-1900 stats).

RUNS CREATED                    RATE   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Honus Wagner 187 2011 1078
2 Arky Vaughan 157 1331 849
3 Alex Rodriguez 156 975 625
4 Derek Jeter 132 818 619
5 Barry Larkin 130 1298 1000
6 Vern Stephens 124 1070 863
7 Joe Cronin 122 1448 1185
8 Johnny Pesky 121 776 639
9 Ernie Banks 121 1496 1236
10 Robin Yount 119 1644 1386

Wagner, Vaughan, Rodriguez with A-Rod once again within earshot of second but quite a distance from first.

RCAA                           RCAA    

1 Honus Wagner 938
2 Arky Vaughan 478
3 Alex Rodriguez 347
4 Robin Yount 284
5 Barry Larkin 274
6 Joe Cronin 243
7 Luke Appling 239
8 Nomar Garciaparra 217
9 Derek Jeter 213
10 Ernie Banks 207

Wagner, Vaughan, and Rodriguez sit atop the all-important stat of runs created above average. Garciaparra has leapfrogged Appling and Cronin into sixth place this year and may become worthy of junior partner status in the law firm of Wagner, Vaughan, and Rodriguez by scaling the heights into fourth by the end of 2004.

RCAP                           RCAP    

1 Honus Wagner 981
2 Arky Vaughan 598
3 Barry Larkin 478
4 Joe Cronin 432
5 Alex Rodriguez 419
T6 Robin Yount 408
T6 Cal Ripken 408
8 Luke Appling 377
9 Alan Trammell 365
10 Joe Sewell 348

Rodriguez falls to fifth place and Larkin rises to third in runs created above position because this stat compares a player vs. the specific league rather than the overall majors. As a whole, A-Rod's competition has been more difficult within his league (given the presence of Garciaparra, Jeter, and Miguel Tejada) than Larkin (Jay Bell, Jeff Blauser, and Ozzie Smith). Nonetheless, Alex The Great should surpass Larkin by the end of this year or perhaps early next year.

I have also included the top ten for those who like the Baseball Prospectus stat of Equivalent Average (EqA). EqA is a measure of total offensive value per out, with corrections for league offensive level, home park, and team pitching. The scale is deliberately set to approximate that of batting average with a level of .260 the norm.


1 Honus Wagner .321
2 Alex Rodriguez .320
3 Nomar Garciaparra .313
4 Arky Vaughan .312
5 Derek Jeter .302
6 George Davis .294
7 Lou Boudreau .293
8 Barry Larkin .292
9 Joe Cronin .291
10 Robin Yount .288

Given the importance of defense at the shortstop position, I would be remiss if I didn't discuss this aspect of the equation. No matter whether one uses the raw fielding stats (such as assists, putouts, double plays, and range factor), fielding runs as determined by Total Baseball, or the more sophisticated stats used by Baseball Prospectus or those incorporated into Win Shares and Zone Ratings, it doesn't change the fact that a great-hitting, average-fielding shortstop is still better than an average-hitting, great-fielding shortstop. In other words, I would take Ernie Banks at his peak over Ozzie Smith at his peak.

As best as I can determine, the following lists rank the premier fielding shortstops by the more advanced metrics.


1 Bill Dahlen 1094
2 Rabbit Maranville 927
3 Honus Wagner 916
4 Ozzie Smith 887
5 Bobby Wallace 867
6 Joe Tinker 847
7 George Davis 844
8 Cal Ripken 766
9 Luis Aparicio 745
10 Mark Belanger 708

To score well here, players need to be strong defensively and benefit from long careers. For what it's worth, A-Rod stood at 252 prior to the 2003 season.


1 Bill Dahlen 354
2 Joe Tinker 338
3 Ozzie Smith 325
4 Mark Belanger 302
5 Art Fletcher 271
6 Honus Wagner 258
7 Bobby Wallace 242
8 George McBride 232
9 Marty Marion 224
10 George Davis 222

This defensive stat is similar to the one above except with a higher hurdle rate (vs. an average player rather than a replacement level player). A-Rod came into the current season with 19, meaning that he was slightly above average defensively at shortstop for his career.


1 Joe Tinker 118
2 Art Fletcher 117
3 Mark Belanger 116
4 Bill Dahlen 116
5 Dal Maxvill 116
6 Marty Marion 115
7 Lou Boudreau 114
8 George McBride 114
9 Everett Scott 114
10 Ozzie Smith 113

The Baseball Prospectus "Rate" stat is another way to look at the fielder's rate of production. A player with a rate of 110 is 10 runs above average per 100 games, a player with an 87 is 13 runs below average per 100 games, etc. A-Rod's rate stat is 102 or two runs above average per 100 games.

Lastly, shortstops who received letter grades of "A+" by Bill James according to Defensive Win Shares (in alphabetical order):

Mark Belanger
Lou Boudreau
Rick Burleson
Dave Concepcion
Bill Dahlen
Mickey Doolan
Art Fletcher
Charlie Gelbert
Rabbit Maranville
Marty Marion
Dal Maxvill
Phil Rizzuto
Everett Scott
Ozzie Smith
Joe Tinker
Honus Wagner

A-Rod was rated "C+" by James through the 2000 season in his Win Shares book. A-Rod's defense has improved since then and would probably rate a "B-" today.

There are very few players who appear in the top ten in various offensive and defensive rankings. Given that Honus Wagner ranks number one the most times offensively and is generally regarded as among the top ten defensive shortstops of all time, I believe it follows that John Peter Wagner is the best shortstop ever.

Top Ten

Here is Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT's top ten shortstops of all time (minimum of 10 or more seasons):

1. Honus Wagner
2. Alex Rodriguez
3. Arky Vaughan
4. Cal Ripken
5. Robin Yount
6. Ernie Banks
7. Barry Larkin
8. Joe Cronin
9. Lou Boudreau
10. Luke Appling

Just Missed: Pee Wee Reese, Joe Sewell, and Alan Trammell.
Most Underrated: Vern Stephens.
Sadly Forgotten: George Davis and Bill Dahlen.
Coming on Strong: Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter. With a couple of more outstanding seasons, Garciaparra could climb all the way to fourth place and Jeter would be worthy of a top ten spot, at least based on his offensive contributions.

I feel strongly about the order of my top three, and I believe the other seven are worthy of being named in the top ten. However, I recognize the order of the last seven could be more easily argued than the top three.

Does Alex Rodriguez have a chance of becoming number one? Yes, if A-Rod can maintain today's level of productivity for another 7-8 years, he may wind up supplanting the immortal Honus Wagner as the best offensive shortstop of all time. Whether Rodriguez can overtake Wagner as the most complete SS is debatable. In any event, Alex The Great will most likely end up no worse than the second best SS ever and, quite possibly, the number one home run hitter among all players in terms of cumulative totals.

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT

Sunday, August 24, 2003
Bonds...Bobby Bonds

News Item: Bobby Bonds died on Saturday at age 57.

The following article is meant to be a tribute to Bobby Lee Bonds in a Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT sort of way.

My attachment with Bonds goes back 35 years. In fact, I watched him hit a grand slam in his first game in the major leagues in 1968--the only player in the modern era to accomplish that feat. The Giants were playing the Dodgers and the game was on TV in the Los Angeles market, as was the custom in those days for all the games the Dodgers played at Candlestick Park.

I also saw Bonds perform in person many times after the Yankees traded him to the California Angels in 1976. Bonds was the Angels best offensive player in 1977 when he hit 37 homers and stole 41 bases along with 103 runs scored and a career-high 115 runs batted in. Expectations were high for the Angels that year as Gene Autry reached into his saddlebags and signed Bobby Grich and Joe Rudi in the dawn of free agency. However, Grich and Rudi got hurt and only played in 116 combined games. The starting rotation was comprised of Frank Tanana, Nolan Ryan, and two days of cryin'. As a result, the Angels ended the season with a disappointing won-loss record of 74-88, fifth in the division. Bonds was traded in the off-season to the Chicago White Sox and was later dealt to the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals, and Chicago Cubs.

I played APBA, the baseball board game with dice and player cards, back in those days and had Bobby Bonds on my team. One look at Bonds' APBA card and seeing the 1s, 5s, 11s, and 14s (especially the 14*s) taught me as much about sabermetrics and the benefits of power, speed, and walks as reading the first edition of The Bill James Baseball Abstract in 1977. While my friends extolled the virtues of high-average hitters such as Matty Alou, Ralph Garr, Ken Griffey Sr., Bill Madlock, and Bake McBride, I began to get a feel for what really created runs well before the runs created stat was developed by James.


                      AB    R    H    2B  3B  HR   RBI  BB   SO   SB   CS  AVG   SLG  OBA   OPS

BONDS 7043 1258 1886 302 66 332 1024 914 1757 461 169 .268 .471 .353 .824
LG AVERAGE 6977 876 1826 291 51 159 816 688 1007 129 72 .262 .386 .329 .715
POS AVERAGE 7063 971 1895 313 58 205 901 766 1159 150 83 .268 .416 .341 .757

As detailed above, the strength of Bobby Bonds was his extraordinary power and speed. He hit home runs at more than twice the league rate and stole bases at over three times the league rate. Bonds also walked about 33% more than the league average. Even though Bonds' batting average was about equal to the league average, his unique combination of power, speed, and walks resulted in generating far more runs (382) and RBI (208) than his peers for the same number of outs.

              RC   RCAA  RCAP OWP   RC/G   ISO   SEC  BPA

BONDS 1216 315 203 .629 5.96 .203 .374 .553
LG AVERAGE 897 0 0 .500 4.40 .125 .231 .428
POS AVERAGE 1010 112 0 .547 4.95 .148 .266 .461

Bonds created 315 more runs than the league average and 203 more than those who played the same position. His Offensive Winning Percentage (.629) and Bases Per Plate Appearance (.553) were significantly above the league and positional norms. What set apart Bonds from the crowd the most was his Isolated Power (.203) and his Secondary Average (.374), highlighting his power, speed, and ability to get on base via walks.

Bobby Bonds is perhaps best known for his 30-30 seasons. He and his son, Barry Bonds, hold the record with five each. Bobby entered the 30-30 club in his first full season in 1969. He repeated the achievement in 1973, joining Willie Mays as the only players to in baseball history to go 30-30 twice. Bonds then passed Mays in 1975 when he became the first Yankee ever to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season--a feat unmatched until Alfonso Soriano turned the trick last year.


T1   Bobby Bonds               5

T1 Barry Bonds 5
3 Howard Johnson 3
T4 Raul Mondesi 2
T4 Ron Gant 2
T4 Willie Mays 2
T4 Vladimir Guerrero 2
T4 Sammy Sosa 2
T4 Jeff Bagwell 2
T10 Dante Bichette 1
T10 Jose Canseco 1
T10 Bobby Abreu 1
T10 Joe Carter 1
T10 Jose Cruz Jr. 1
T10 Eric Davis 1
T10 Ellis Burks 1
T10 Hank Aaron 1
T10 Tommy Harper 1
T10 Preston Wilson 1
T10 Barry Larkin 1
T10 Dale Murphy 1
T10 Alex Rodriguez 1
T10 Alfonso Soriano 1
T10 Darryl Strawberry 1
T10 Larry Walker 1
T10 Ken Williams 1
T10 Shawn Green 1

There have been only 27 players who have put together a 30-30 season in more than 100 years of baseball. These players have performed this combo 43 times. The father-son team of Bobby and Barry Bonds account for 23% of these seasons.

Bonds is also in exclusive company when it comes to career HR and SB as he is one of only four players with 300 of each. Interestingly, when Barry Bonds joined the group in 1996, Bobby was coaching first base and Andre Dawson was playing left field for the Florida Marlins. The game was played at Candlestick so it's possible that Mays may have been among the 15,711 fans to witness this historic event.


                                 HR       SB     

1 Willie Mays 660 338
2 Barry Bonds 652 500
3 Andre Dawson 438 314
4 Bobby Bonds 332 461

Bobby's son, Barry, became the only player to hit 500 homers and steal 500 bases earlier this summer. Bobby had more SB than Mays and Dawson but hit fewer HR. Bobby Bonds overlapped the end of Mays' career and the beginning of Dawson's career. In my mind, Bonds was a cross between Reggie Jackson and Cesar Cedeno. He ran a little bit better than Reggie but didn't have quite the same power, yet he had more power than Cedeno but not as much speed. As a lead-off hitter, Bonds was the pre-cursor to Rickey Henderson--a player who struck fear in opponents from the first pitch to the last pitch. Eric Davis and Darryl Strawberry had similar tools as Bonds, yet it could be argued that none of these three players lived up to the high expectations that were placed upon them when they became big leaguers.

Bobby Bonds ranks fourth in the power/speed number developed by James, trailing only his son, Rickey, and Willie. The following list is one of the most talented group of players I have ever seen based on one statistical ranking. Eight of the top ten are either in the Hall of Fame or will be as soon as they become eligible. The best outfielders from the 1950s-on are all among the top 20 other than Mickey Mantle, who ranks 44th in power/speed. As a side note, I thought it was interesting to find three second basemen (Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg, and Roberto Alomar) on this list and no shortstops.

1	Barry	Bonds		546.49

2 Rickey Henderson 487.5
3 Willie Mays 447.05
4 Bobby Bonds 386.01
5 Joe Morgan 385.9
6 Andre Dawson 365.78
7 Hank Aaron 364.22
8 Reggie Jackson 324.56
9 Paul Molitor 319.61
10 Sammy Sosa 317.67
11 Eric Davis 311.94
12 Ryne Sandberg 309.93
13 Don Baylor 309.25
14 Frank Robinson 302.64
15 Dave Winfield 301.44
16 Cesar Cedeno 292.26
17 Joe Carter 291.79
18 Tim Raines 280.9
19 Roberto Alomar 280.13
20 Jose Canseco 279.15

Although the players mentioned above seem to be better fits, has determined that the following ten players are the most similar to Bonds in terms of career statistics. Bobby Murcer is an interesting link, given the fact that he was on the other end of the high-profile, controversial deal between the Yankees and Giants--a trade, by the way, that failed to deliver the desired results to either team. It may be fitting that his comparables, like Bonds himself, are all on the outside of Cooperstown looking in. If baseball had a Hall of Fame for good players, then Bonds and most of these players would have made it on the first ballot.


Ron Gant (907)
Reggie Smith (888)
Jack Clark (884)
George Foster (883)
Fred Lynn (875)
Roy Sievers (868)
Dick Allen (866)
Ellis Burks (865)
Bobby Murcer (864)
Rocky Colavito (862)

Unfortunately, based on the Hall of Fame standards set by Bill James, Bobby Bonds comes up a tad short. He was a very good player in his day, but his peak and career numbers don't quite measure up to the players in the HOF.

Black Ink: Batting - 6 (Average HOFer ~ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 132 (Average HOFer ~ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 35.8 (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 65.5 (Likely HOFer > 100)

Source: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia

Although Bobby will never be enshrined in Cooperstown, he will most definitely be enshrined in my mind as one of the truly special players I had the privilege of watching.

"...and Bobby Bonds can play for everyone."

--Terry Cashman, "Willie, Mickey & The Duke (Talkin' Baseball)"

Thank you for the memories, Bobby. You will be missed by us all.

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT

Friday, August 22, 2003
Following Up On Passing The Time...

The Other Alex The Great, Alex Belth of Bronx Banter, informed me that "Bang the Drum Slowly" was not Robert DeNiro's first starring role. Alex, who is an expert when it comes to films as his background includes having worked on the Ken Burns "Baseball" documentary, pointed out DeNiro was the lead in two of Brian DePalma's early movies--"Greetings" and "Hi Mom". Alex indicated these movies were "low-budget cheapies so, for all intents and purposes, you weren't wrong". Nonetheless, my email exchange with Alex made me reassess my Top Ten Baseball Movies because I had left out documentaries altogether.

Baseball (A Film By Ken Burns)

Despite some flaws, Baseball is the most important and enjoyable film I have ever seen in regards to the national pastime. I believe all baseball enthusiasts and students of the game's history should have this masterpiece in their movie library. The PBS Gold collection features over 25 hours on 10 DVDs. There are "nine innings" plus an "extra inning". The first inning begins with baseball origins through 1900 and each subsequent inning is produced on a decade-by-decade basis through 1970 with the eighth inning covering the period from 1970-1994. The extra inning is The Making of Baseball. The film is awesome in the use of archival photographs and clips along with outstanding narration by John Chancellor.

When It Was A Game

My second favorite baseball documentary of all time is "When It Was A Game". I wholeheatedly endorse purchasing the Triple Play Collection, a three-part series spanning 1925 through the 1960s. "When It Was a Game" is composed entirely of never-before-seen 8 and 16 mm footage taken by fans and the players themselves. The documentary does as good a job of transporting the viewer to a time gone by as any I've ever seen. The music, narration, and interviews with several players and celebrities add to the nostalgia and bring back to life baseball when it was a game.

The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg

A third documentary that is worthy of a Top Ten mention is "The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg". I don't own the DVD but saw the film in a movie theatre in the first week of its limited release in 2000. The documentary does an outstanding job of telling the true story of baseball's first Jewish star in the face of prejudice and isolation during the Great Depression and the War Years. The black and white newsreels from the 1930s and 1940s help us understand the obstacles Greenberg had to overcome in a story that previously had never been told to the mainstream public.

Lastly, speaking of Alex The Great Belth, be sure to check out his two most recent interviews with Jane Leavy (the author of "Sandy Koufax--A Lefty's Legacy") and Jim Bouton (former pitcher and author of "Ball Four" and "Foul Ball"). Alex has developed a well-earned niche in this area and his interviews are all must reads.

Check back this weekend for more on the other Alex The Great, aka A-Rod.

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT

Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Fool Me Once, Shame On You...

"It's deja vu all over again!"

--Yogi Berra

Sean McAdam wrote an article for on Wednesday, August 20, entitled Ichiro leads long list of AL MVP candidates. Although Ichiro Suzuki is not at the top of most sabermetricians' lists of MVP candidates, he apparently is the choice of many baseball writers and analysts (including ESPN's Peter Gammons, Joe Morgan, Tom Candiotti, and Tony Gwynn).

I don't have a problem with Ichiro's inclusion per se. However, I cannot for the life of me understand how Alex Rodriguez could be overlooked again. In fact, A-Rod wasn't even mentioned as one the top seven candidates by McAdam. Not only is he worthy of serious consideration this year, a strong case could be made on behalf of Alex The Great winning the MVP in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2002. Amazingly, A-Rod has never won the award despite the fact that the talented and productive shortstop has clearly been the A.L.'s best player over the past seven-plus years.



1 Alex Rodriguez 425
2 Manny Ramirez 363
3 Edgar Martinez 331
4 Bernie Williams 319
5 Jim Thome 302
T6 Derek Jeter 283
T6 Jason Giambi 283
8 Nomar Garciaparra 266
9 Roberto Alomar 242
10 Ken Griffey Jr. 225

Ichiro vs. A-Rod

Forget for a moment about whose team is in first place. Instead, ask yourself, "Which player do I want on my team?" Do you really think Seattle wouldn't still be in first place and Texas in last place if they switched teams? Or is the difference in won-loss records more a function of pitching (5.70 ERA for Texas, 3.77 ERA for Seattle) than anything else?



Ichiro .338 .379 .464 .842
A-Rod .305 .400 .602 1.002

Oh, and another thing, the guy with the higher OPS also plays the more demanding position (SS vs. RF). Granted, Ichiro is a Gold Glove outfielder (and arguably one of the best defensive right fielders of all time), but A-Rod is a Gold Glove shortstop (and an excellent defensive player in his own right).

OK, what about the fact that Ichiro plays in an extreme pitchers' ballpark and A-Rod plays in an extreme hitters' park? Good question. Let's examine that a bit closer.



Home .341 .392 .473 .865
Road .336 .366 .457 .823

Is Ichiro really hurt by playing his home games at Safeco Field? Although the Mariners in general hit better on the road (.289/.358/.451) than at home (.266/.341/.402), Ichiro's stats are actually better at home across the board.

Perhaps a more fair comparison would be to compare Ichiro's numbers on the road vs. A-Rod's.



Ichiro .336 .366 .457 .823
A-Rod .287 .391 .574 .965

A-Rod's OPS advantage over Ichiro barely declines from .160 overall to .142 on the road, suggesting the difference in home ballparks is not that great of a factor.

I guess I really shouldn't be too surprised if Ichiro were to win the MVP Award over A-Rod. He won it in 2001 despite having similarly inferior stats so why not repeat the mistake in 2003?



Ichiro .350 .381 .457 .838
A-Rod .318 .399 .622 1.021

I think I could better handle the voters' bias toward Suzuki over Rodriguez if the former were the middle infielder and the latter the outfielder. But, with Ichiro being an OF and A-Rod a SS, I find it a bitter pill to swallow. Don't get me wrong. I believe Suzuki is a fantastic player--a high average hitter who can run extremely well and field his position with the best of 'em. There is no doubt in my mind that Ichiro is underappreciated when viewed through the looking glass of sabermetrics. The irony though is that A-Rod seems to be even more underappreciated by the MVP voters.

The fact that Ichiro's salary ($4,697,000) is substantially lower than A-Rod's ($22,000,000) may make him a more affordable player but not necessarily a more valuable player. And isn't it the latter that we're voting on here?

Does the MVP have to be on a winning team? How do we define "winning"? Does a team have to win the World Series? Or the pennant? Does finishing first in one's division qualify? How 'bout just making the playoffs? Or is it enough to be on a team with a winning record? Rather than being so vague, let's add some definition here, folks. If baseball wants to change the "Most Valuable Player" award to the "Best Player on the Best Team", then I say fine, go ahead and call it that. But let's not kid ourselves anymore and allow that player to call himself the MVP. "BPBT", yes; "MVP", no.

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT

Sunday, August 17, 2003
Where Does Alex The Great Rate as of This Date?

As I wrote last week in Drilling Deeper Into The Greatest HR Hitters Ever, there is one player who has the potential of becoming the all-time home run leader on a cumulative basis before he retires--yet has not appeared on any of the lists thus far because his career plate appearances prior to the 2003 season were below the 5,000 minimum I required for inclusion. There is no need for a little drumroll here. Not surprisingly, Alex Rodriguez is his name. Hitting home runs (among other things) is his game.

Rodriguez turned 28 years old on July 27. Using the universally accepted cut-off date of July 1st to determine age for a given season, A-Rod will be classified as a 27-year-old in 2003. Alex the Great hit his 33rd home run tonight vs. the Chicago White Sox and has now hit 331 HR in his career, far surpassing all of the other players in baseball history in homers through age 27.


1    Alex Rodriguez              331

2 Jimmie Foxx 302
3 Eddie Mathews 299
4 Ken Griffey Jr. 294
5 Mickey Mantle 280
6 Mel Ott 275
7 Frank Robinson 262
8 Juan Gonzalez 256
9 Hank Aaron 253
10 Johnny Bench 240

Earlier this season, A-Rod became the youngest player to hit 300 home runs and is likely to be the youngest to reach each of the next several century marks, provided he remains healthy. According to (which uses the "Favorite Toy" method created by Bill James), A-Rod is projected to hit 683 HR in his career and has a 35% chance of passing Hank Aaron. By comparison, Barry Bonds is estimated to hit 740 HR and has a 47% chance of passing Aaron's record. Despite comments by Bonds that could be interpreted to the contrary, it is highly unlikely that he will end his career 15 short of the all-time record unless, of course, he is unable to play due to injury or poor health.


1    Babe Ruth                11   

T2 Hank Aaron 8
T2 Harmon Killebrew 8
4 Ken Griffey Jr. 7
T5 Willie Mays 6
T5 Mark McGwire 6
T5 Barry Bonds 6
T5 Sammy Sosa 6
T9 Alex Rodriguez 5
T9 Ralph Kiner 5
T9 Juan Gonzalez 5
T9 Lou Gehrig 5
T9 Jimmie Foxx 5
T9 Duke Snider 5
T9 Ernie Banks 5

A-Rod is within striking distance of hitting 40 HR in a season for a sixth time this year. Similarly, Bonds is only three away from doing it a seventh time and Sammy Sosa has an outside chance of hitting 40 for a seventh time as well. Alex the Great and Ernie Banks are the only non-OF/1B to slug 40 HR in at least five separate seasons--and both happened to do it as shortstops, arguably the most difficult defensive position on the field.


1    Babe Ruth                1926-32    7   

T2 Alex Rodriguez 1998-02 5
T2 Ralph Kiner 1947-51 5
T2 Duke Snider 1953-57 5
T2 Ken Griffey Jr. 1996-00 5
T2 Sammy Sosa 1998-02 5
T7 Ernie Banks 1957-60 4
T7 Harmon Killebrew 1961-64 4
T7 Mark McGwire 1996-99 4
T10 Jimmie Foxx 1932-34 3
T10 Ted Kluszewski 1953-55 3
T10 Eddie Mathews 1953-55 3
T10 Frank Howard 1968-70 3
T10 Jay Buhner 1995-97 3
T10 Juan Gonzalez 1996-98 3
T10 Vinny Castilla 1996-98 3
T10 Andres Galarraga 1996-98 3
T10 Barry Bonds 2000-02 3

If, and when, A-Rod hits his 40th roundtripper this year, he will be in second place all by himself and only one behind Babe Ruth's record of seven for the most consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs. Repeat after me. If, and when, A-Rod hits his 40th roundtripper this year, he will be in second place all by himself and only one behind Babe Ruth's record of seven for the most consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs..

Not a One-Trick Pony

Setting aside home runs for a moment, A-Rod is simply one of the best players of all time through age 27. Using two comprehensive stats invented by Lee Sinins of the ATM Reports and the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia--Runs Created Above Average and Runs Created Above Position--Alex The Great ranks among the most elite players in baseball history. (RCAA is the difference between a player's runs created and the total for an average player who used the same amount of his team's outs. A negative RCAA indicates a below average player in this category. RCAP is just like RCAA, except the comparision is to players at his position.)


AMERICAN LEAGUE                  RCAA

1 Ty Cobb 657
2 Mickey Mantle 645
3 Jimmie Foxx 643
4 Babe Ruth 547
5 Ted Williams 526
6 Lou Gehrig 506
7 Joe DiMaggio 463
8 Joe Jackson 443
9 Frank Thomas 420
10 Tris Speaker 417
11 Ken Griffey Jr. 385
12 Alex Rodriguez 384
13 Eddie Collins 365
14 Hank Greenberg 325
15 Rickey Henderson 317
16 Charlie Keller 281
T17 Hal Trosky 274
T17 Goose Goslin 274
T19 Al Simmons 256
T19 George Brett 256

Whaddya know? Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas are the only active players ahead of A-Rod. Readers of Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT shouldn't be surprised to see Griffey's and Thomas' names among these greats. Of note, every player listed above A-Rod who is eligible for the Hall of Fame has already been enshrined. A-Rod is the highest-ranked non-OF/1B. Eddie Collins and George Brett are the only other 2B-SS-3B.

Charlie Keller and Hal Trosky are the only eligible players on the list not in the HOF. Keller, a lefthanded-hitting slugger who played RF for the Yankees in the 1940s, was headed to Cooperstown after his first five years with OPS+ scores of 144, 141, 162, 163, and 168. However, Keller lost nearly two years to World War II at his peak, returned and played 150 games in 1946 (with an OPS+ of 159), and then never played 100 games in a season the rest of his career due to back troubles. He retired with an OPS+ of 152, tied for 29th all time. Trosky, a lefthanded-hitting 1B with the Indians, enjoyed one of the greatest rookie seasons ever in 1934 (.330/.388/.598 with 35 HR and 142 RBI). He knocked in more than 100 runs in each of his first six campaigns, including a league-leading 162 in 1936. Trosky retired at the age of 28, then returned for three seasons and hit only 23 HR the rest of his career.


MAJOR LEAGUES                    RCAA    

1 Ty Cobb 657
2 Mickey Mantle 645
3 Jimmie Foxx 643
4 Babe Ruth 547
5 Mel Ott 545
6 Ted Williams 526
T7 Rogers Hornsby 506
T7 Lou Gehrig 506
9 Stan Musial 464
10 Joe DiMaggio 463
11 Joe Jackson 443
12 Frank Thomas 420
13 Eddie Mathews 419
14 Tris Speaker 417
15 Hank Aaron 392
16 Ken Griffey Jr. 385
17 Alex Rodriguez 384
18 Arky Vaughan 374
19 Eddie Collins 365
20 Johnny Mize 363

All of the players on the above list eligible for Cooperstown have been inducted. That should speak well for the three active players (Thomas, Griffey Jr, and A-Rod) who are not yet eligible.


AMERICAN LEAGUE                  RCAP    

1 Mickey Mantle 602
2 Ty Cobb 575
3 Babe Ruth 515
4 Jimmie Foxx 479
5 Ted Williams 475
6 Alex Rodriguez 465
7 Lou Gehrig 428
8 Joe DiMaggio 409
9 Ken Griffey Jr. 375
10 Joe Jackson 372

A-Rod has created the sixth most runs above the average player compared to one's position through age 27 in A.L. history. He should surpass Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx before the season is out, placing him fourth behind only Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, and Ruth. Rarefied air indeed.


MAJOR LEAGUES                    RCAP    

1 Mickey Mantle 602
2 Ty Cobb 575
T3 Rogers Hornsby 515
T3 Babe Ruth 515
5 Jimmie Foxx 479
6 Ted Williams 475
7 Alex Rodriguez 465
8 Arky Vaughan 456
9 Mel Ott 449
10 Lou Gehrig 428

Source: sabermetric baseball encyclopedia

At the conclusion of the season, A-Rod should rank as the fifth most productive offensive player relative to his position through age 27 in major league history, behind only Mantle, Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Ruth. If Rodriguez can maintain a similar pace throughout his career, he will enter baseball's pantheon as one of the truly most outstanding players ever.

I will continue with Alex The Great Part II next weekend with more detailed information on his current year and career stats as well as how he stacks up in the rankings vs. the greatest shortstops of all time.

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT

Friday, August 15, 2003
Frank's Rank in Baseball's All-Time Bank Revisited

As a follow-up to the Let's Be Frank About The Big Hurt article last month, I compiled four extra screens to highlight his standing among the hitting greats of the game. For anyone who remains skeptical about the White Sox slugger's place in baseball history, I believe they should take note of the following lists:


1    Babe Ruth                12   

2 Ted Williams 10
T3 Jimmie Foxx 9
T3 Lou Gehrig 9
5 Barry Bonds 7
T6 Frank Thomas 6
T6 Stan Musial 6
T6 Hank Greenberg 6
T6 Rogers Hornsby 6
T10 Larry Walker 5
T10 Mickey Mantle 5

Could that be right? Wow! Only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, and Barry Bonds have put together more seasons of .400+ OBP and .600+ SLG than Frank Thomas. Granted, Big Frank is unlikely to catch Ruth, Williams, Foxx, Gehrig, and even Bonds (who is well on his way to his eighth such season), but, c'mon now, those players just might be the five greatest hitters in baseball history. Ranking only behind these giants of the game and being on par with Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, and Hank Greenberg is impressive company indeed.

Let's scroll down and take a look at the next list for additional proof as to how awesome Thomas has been over the years.

1    Babe Ruth                1926-32    7   

T2 Frank Thomas 1993-97 5
T2 Lou Gehrig 1930-34 5
T2 Jimmie Foxx 1932-36 5
T5 Hank Greenberg 1937-40 4
T5 Ted Williams 1946-49 4
T5 Manny Ramirez 1999-02 4
T8 Babe Ruth 1919-21 3
T8 Johnny Mize 1938-40 3
T8 Joe DiMaggio 1939-41 3
T8 Eddie Mathews 1953-55 3
T8 Duke Snider 1953-55 3
T8 Mickey Mantle 1955-57 3
T8 Larry Walker 1997-99 3
T8 Barry Bonds 2000-02 3

Let me see now, only Ruth has had more consecutive seasons of .400+ OBP and .600+ SLG than Thomas? Holy cow! That should leave a greater impression than Dolly Parton falling face first on you.

Ruth also had a streak of six seasons (1919-1924) in addition to the one listed above but failed to qualify based on coming up just shy of the minimum requirement of 500 plate appearances in 1922. Similarly, Hornsby would have joined Thomas, Gehrig, and Foxx with five seasons in a row (1921-1925) had he not fallen a tad below the minimum number of PA in 1923.

By definition, if a player reaches .400 OBP and .600 SLG in a single season, then he will also have an OPS of 1.000 or more. However, it's also possible that a player could get to that magical mark by having an OBP of, say, .375 and a SLG of .625 or an OBP of .425 and a SLG of .575. Therefore, so as not to be biased toward .400-.600 seasons, let's delve deeper into OPS as a standalone category.

T1   Ted Williams             13   

T1 Babe Ruth 13
3 Lou Gehrig 11
T4 Jimmie Foxx 9
T4 Barry Bonds 9
6 Stan Musial 8
T7 Frank Thomas 7
T7 Rogers Hornsby 7
T7 Mel Ott 7
T7 Ty Cobb 7
T7 Mickey Mantle 7

For the most part, the names remain the same. Mel Ott and Ty Cobb appear for the first time, but the other players are repeats.

1    Lou Gehrig               1927-37   11   

2 Babe Ruth 1926-33 8
T3 Frank Thomas 1993-97 5
T3 Jimmie Foxx 1932-36 5
T5 Ty Cobb 1910-13 4
T5 Johnny Mize 1937-40 4
T5 Hank Greenberg 1937-40 4
T5 Ted Williams 1939-42 4
T5 Ted Williams 1946-49 4
T5 Stan Musial 1948-51 4
T5 Mickey Mantle 1955-58 4
T5 Barry Bonds 1995-98 4
T5 Mark McGwire 1996-99 4
T5 Sammy Sosa 1998-01 4
T5 Manny Ramirez 1999-02 4

Source: sabermetric baseball encyclopedia

Gehrig...Ruth...Thomas. What can I say? The names and the ranking speak for themselves.

Williams, who is listed at four seasons twice, should arguably be given credit for at least eight consecutive years with an OPS of 1.000 or better. However, he fails to qualify on a technicality owing to not playing in 1943-1945 when he was serving in the military. Remarkably, The Thumper actually had an OPS of 1.000+ every year of his career except 1959. Accordingly, if it weren't for the missing seasons or falling short of the minimum requirement of 500 plate appearances, a case could be made that Williams had 17 straight campaigns with an OPS of 1.000+.

Bonds is working on a run of 11 consecutive seasons with an OPS > 1.000, but he fell short of the minimum requirement for plate appearances in 1994 and 1999 in order to qualify for the list above. Likewise, Ruth had a streak of six seasons (1919-1924) in addition to the one listed above but just missed meeting the minimum number of PA in 1922.

Manny Ramirez, who is on the bubble with a .998 OPS this year, will tie Thomas and Foxx for third place if he can finish with a bang similar to 2002.


Look, folks, these stats are what it's all about. On base percentage and slugging average. Scoring runs is about getting on base and driving the runners around the bases. Players who rank among the best at both are quite simply among the most valuable offensive players of all time.

If there is no disputing the greatness of Ruth, Williams, Foxx, Gehrig, Bonds, Musial, Greenberg, Hornsby, Ott, Cobb, and Mickey Mantle, why would anyone argue against Thomas and his accomplishments?

We need to recognize that the best players in baseball history didn't just come from the first half of the last century. Instead, we should realize that many of the very best players ever are active today. So, if you missed the opportunity to watch any of the above do their thing in person, make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to witness and appreciate some of the greatest players in baseball history while you can.

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT

Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Passing the Time...

In between weekend posts, I would like to refer readers to some of the other great baseball blogs and sports websites out there. There are numerous well-known and well-written blogs out there that should become a part of your daily reads. There are also a handful of sites that may be under the radar screen but should be worthy of your attention.

My son, Joe Lederer, and his best friend, John Kumpart, are the co-authors of Soapbox Sports, a fun and sometimes irreverent look at the world of sports. If you like editorials, opinions, point/counterpoint discussions, and top ten lists, then this website is right up your alley. Speaking of the latter, Joe and John have ranked their top ten sports movies of all time. Check these lists out and tell them what you think.

In the meantime, here are my top ten BASEBALL movies of all time:

1. Field of Dreams (1989). An adaptation of W.P. Kinsella's fantasy novel, Shoeless Joe. Starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, and Burt Lancaster. "If you build it, he will come." It's not so much a baseball movie as it is a story about pursuing your dreams, no matter the cost--literally and figuratively. "The one constant through all the years has been baseball...It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again." Poignant scene of son (Costner) and father (Dwier Brown) playing a game of catch at the end. One of the few movies that gets better with each viewing.

2. The Pride of the Yankees (1942). The Lou Gehrig Story. Starring Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, and Walter Brennan. Cameo roles by Babe Ruth, Joe McCarthy, Bill Dickey, Bob Muesel, and Mark Koenig. The movie was nominated for Best Picture and Wright for Best Actress. "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for." A must own DVD for any Gehrig fan or sentimental baseball enthusiast.

3. Bang the Drum Slowly (1973). Baseball's version of "Brian's Song". Starring Michael Moriarty and Robert DeNiro. OK, I'm a sucker for tear jerkers. Moriarty plays the star pitcher, Henry Wiggen, and DeNiro (in his first starring role) plays the simple-minded rookie catcher, Bruce Pearson, stricken with Hodgkin's Disease. "Everybody would be nice to you if they knew you were dying." A pre-cursor to the great baseball movies of the 1980s and 1990s.

4. Bull Durham (1988). Starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon. Written and directed by Ron Shelton, who spent five years in the minor leagues. An accurate look at the game, both on and off the field. Minor league journeyman catcher Crash Davis (Costner) tutors the hard-living and hard-throwing Nuke LaLoosh (Robbins), while attempting to court groupie Annie Savoy (Sarandon). "I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days." Fun and entertaining.

5. Eight Men Out (1988). Based on Eliot Asinof's book by the same name. The story of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Great cast including John Cusack and Charlie Sheen. Writer and director John Sayles does a masterful job of recreating the period, bringing the complexity of the gambling conspiracy to the screen, and playing a cameo role as baseball writer Ring Lardner. "Say it isn't so, Joe! Say it isn't so!" A good two-hour investment, if for no other reason than to learn more about the game's storied past.

6. The Natural (1984). Based on a novel by Bernard Malamud. An all-star lineup of actors and actresses, including Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, and Barbara Hershey. Redford stars as Roy Hobbs, the quintessential baseball hero. The game-winning HR off the scoreboard clock is probably one of the most memorable baseball film moments. "God, I just love baseball." Generally overrated but an enjoyable fable nonetheless.

7. A League of Their Own (1992). Based on the Women's Professional Baseball League in the 1940s. Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, and Jon Lovitz. Hanks and Davis star as the drunken manager Jimmy Dugan and star catcher Dottie Henson, respectively. Movie brought attention to a nearly forgotten part of baseball history. "There's no cryin' in baseball" has become part of the game's vernacular.

8. The Sandlot (1993). Tale of a kids' pickup team in the 1960s. James Earl Jones heads a cast of unknowns. One of the least known and underrated baseball movies ever. "Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid, and you'll never go wrong." Brings back fond memories of simpler times when my neighborhood friends and I played baseball and games like Over-The-Line, Home Run Derby, and Whiffleball. Fun for the whole family.

9. 61* (2001). Docudrama by Director Billy Crystal about the 1961 home run battle between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Starring Barry Pepper as Maris and Thomas Jane as The Mick. Pepper and Jane are perfectly cast in their roles with the former looking eerily like his character. Although pitted against one another in the newspapers, Maris' and Mantle's friendship is at the heart of the film. Great technical advice from former ballplayers adds reality. Insightful from a "behind the scenes" vantage point. Straightforward without a lot of the fluff that generally finds its way into such movies.

10. Bad News Bears (1976). Baseball comedy about Little League baseball. Starring Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal. The story line is simple: the coach is waiting for his next beer; the pitcher is waiting for her first bra; and the team is waiting for a miracle. Matthau, O'Neal, and all the foul-mouthed misfits are superb in their roles. "Hell no, Coach. I want to play ball." Big hit with kids in its day. Avoid the sequels, which are not even of replacement level caliber.

I also have a soft spot in my heart for Safe At Home (1962). It was the first baseball movie I remember seeing. I haven't watched it since I was a kid but am reluctant to do so again because my sense is that I would be disappointed the second time around. The M&M Boys (Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris) star as themselves with cameos by Whitey Ford and Ralph Houk.

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT

Sunday, August 10, 2003
Drilling Deeper Into The Greatest HR Hitters Ever

Trying to rank the greatest home run sluggers in history is no easy feat. Thus far, I have produced lists based on the standard cumulative totals as well as lists with the differences between the individual player and his league average expressed in absolute and relative terms.

My main problem with ranking players based on cumulative totals only is that such rankings tend to be biased toward longevity and those who played in eras favoring that particular stat. As such, I prefer basing my rankings on how a player performed vs. the league average. The question then comes down to whether I should use absolute or relative differences. At the risk of losing those readers who may be mathematically challenged, let me try to explain why I think the best system is a combination of the two.

Although the ratios are the same, hitting 30 HR in a season vs. 10 for league average is clearly worth more than producing 12 HR in a league with an average of 4. As a result, a formula based on the ratio of HR vs. the league average will tend to overvalue hitters who played during the dead ball era and undervalue those who played during the live ball era.

The converse is also true. Although the absolute differences are the same, hitting 12 HR in a season vs. 4 for the league average is clearly more valuable than producing 18 HR in a league with an average of 10. As a result, a system based on the absolute differences of HR vs. the league average will tend to overvalue hitters who played when HR were more prevalent and undervalue those who played when HR were less prevalent.

Accordingly, it seems to me that evaluating the greatest home run sluggers of all time should be based on the combined standings of these two methods. After satisfying myself with the logic behind my system, I proceeded to create two lists. The first one ranked the top 100 HR hitters in modern baseball history by the absolute differences in HR vs. the league average and the second ranked the top 100 by the ratio of HR vs. the league average. To qualify for the next cut, I made it a requirement that a player make both lists. From there, I added the two rankings and then sorted them to come up with Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT's Top 30.

Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT's Top 30 HR Sluggers of All Time (1900-2002):

					VS LEAGUE			


1 Babe Ruth 714 1 1 2 12
2 Jimmie Foxx 534 4 3 7 4
3 Lou Gehrig 493 7 2 9 3
4 Mel Ott 511 9 6 15 6
5 Mark McGwire 583 3 14 17 4
Ted Williams 521 8 9 17 4
7 Mike Schmidt 548 10 19 29 8
8 Barry Bonds 613 5 29 34 2
9 Hank Greenberg 331 27 8 35 4
10 Mickey Mantle 536 12 24 36 4
Johnny Mize 359 23 13 36 4
12 Hank Aaron 755 2 37 39 4
13 Rogers Hornsby 301 34 7 41 2
Willie McCovey 521 14 27 41 3
15 Harmon Killebrew 573 11 31 42 6
Willie Stargell 475 16 26 42 2
17 Dave Kingman 442 18 25 43 2
18 Ralph Kiner 369 25 20 45 7
19 Joe DiMaggio 361 27 21 48 2
20 Willie Mays 660 6 43 49 4
21 Cy Williams 251 53 4 57 4
22 Chuck Klein 300 43 17 60 4
23 Sammy Sosa 499 17 44 61 2
24 Reggie Jackson 563 15 48 63 4
25 Frank Robinson 586 13 52 65 1
26 Ken Griffey Jr. 468 20 47 67 4
27 Dick Allen 351 38 32 70 2
28 Hack Wilson 244 64 10 74 4
29 Frank Howard 382 32 46 78 2
30 Eddie Mathews 512 18 63 81 2

This list is not meant to be the list. However, it is meant to be a list. I believe it does as good a job as any in measuring the combination of quantitative and qualitative totals, which, as detailed in The Quad articles, is my favorite way of evaluating and ranking players.

Interestingly, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, and Ted Williams are the only players who rank in the top ten based on HR minus the league average and HR divided by the league average. Mark McGwire and Mike Schmidt are the only other players who rank in the top 20 in both cases.

The rankings are dynamic rather than static, but they are not as apt to change as the standard career lists (which seemingly fluctuate on a daily basis). Barry Bonds (currently at #8), Sammy Sosa (#23), and other active players have the potential of moving up on this list although the climb will be much more difficult than rankings based on cumulative totals only. Although Bonds is a good bet to blow by Willie Mays, Ruth, and Hank Aaron in career home runs before he calls it quits, it will be almost impossible for him to supplant The Bambino as the most dominant HR hitter ever (as determined by my system).

There are three players--Frank "Home Run" Baker, Gavvy Cravath, and Harry Davis--who may have been shortchanged based on my formula. The common thread among these players is that they excelled at hitting four baggers during the "dead ball" era of the 1900s and 1910s. These hitters fare extremely well on the ratio rankings but they failed to make the top 100 on absolute differences. Baker (1911-1914) and Davis (1904-1907) each led the American League in HR for four consecutive years, while Cravath (1913-1915, 1917-1919) topped the National League in HR for three straight years twice (for a grand total of six titles).

Cy Williams once again shows up well in this ranking. Like Baker, Cravath, and Davis before him, Williams also played in the "dead ball" era. Of the top 30, only Williams (1916) and Ruth (1918 and 1919) won home run titles prior to the introduction of the live ball in 1920.

On a separate note, I thought it was noteworthy that four of the top ten HR hitters above (Ruth, Foxx, Gehrig, and Hank Greenberg) also ranked in the top ten in HR %, HR/100 Outs, and HR/100 Plate Appearances relative to the league in absolute and relative terms. These lists are shown for information only and were not used in calculating my rankings.
HR%                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Babe Ruth 7.30 8.50 1.20
2 Mark McGwire 6.52 9.42 2.90
3 Jimmie Foxx 4.85 6.57 1.72
4 Ralph Kiner 4.68 7.09 2.41
5 Ted Williams 4.63 6.76 2.13
6 Lou Gehrig 4.60 6.16 1.57
7 Barry Bonds 4.59 7.35 2.77
8 Hank Greenberg 4.52 6.37 1.86
9 Harmon Killebrew 4.42 7.03 2.61
10 Mike Schmidt 4.37 6.56 2.20

HR/100 OUTS                     DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Babe Ruth 10.80 12.40 1.60
2 Mark McGwire 8.45 12.15 3.71
3 Ted Williams 7.11 9.85 2.74
4 Jimmie Foxx 7.07 9.37 2.30
5 Lou Gehrig 6.87 8.98 2.11
6 Hank Greenberg 6.49 8.97 2.48

7 Ralph Kiner 6.34 9.47 3.13
8 Barry Bonds 6.30 9.84 3.54
9 Mickey Mantle 5.87 9.09 3.22
10 Harmon Killebrew 5.66 8.95 3.30

HR/100 PA                       DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Babe Ruth 5.67 6.73 1.06
2 Mark McGwire 5.04 7.61 2.58
3 Jimmie Foxx 4.00 5.52 1.52
4 Dave Kingman 3.90 5.95 2.05
5 Hank Greenberg 3.78 5.43 1.65
6 Ralph Kiner 3.76 5.90 2.14
7 Lou Gehrig 3.72 5.10 1.38
8 Sammy Sosa 3.70 6.32 2.62
9 Harmon Killebrew 3.51 5.83 2.32
10 Mike Schmidt 3.49 5.45 1.96

HR%                             RATE   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Babe Ruth 706 8.50 1.20
2 Lou Gehrig 394 6.16 1.57
3 Jimmie Foxx 382 6.57 1.72

4 Cy Williams 381 3.70 0.97
5 Ken Williams 366 4.03 1.10
6 Mel Ott 353 5.40 1.53
7 Hank Greenberg 343 6.37 1.86
8 Hack Wilson 342 5.13 1.50
9 Tilly Walker 340 2.33 0.68
10 Rogers Hornsby 328 3.68 1.12

HR/100 OUTS                     RATE   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Babe Ruth 777 12.40 1.60
2 Lou Gehrig 426 8.98 2.11
3 Jimmie Foxx 407 9.37 2.30

4 Cy Williams 390 4.98 1.28
5 Ken Williams 378 5.49 1.45
6 Mel Ott 372 7.54 2.03
7 Rogers Hornsby 365 5.45 1.49
8 Hank Greenberg 362 8.97 2.48
9 Ted Williams 359 9.85 2.74
10 Hack Wilson 351 7.13 2.03

HR/100 PA                       RATE   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Babe Ruth 635 6.73 1.06
2 Cy Williams 374 3.25 0.87
3 Lou Gehrig 369 5.10 1.38
4 Jimmie Foxx 363 5.52 1.52

5 Ken Williams 361 3.49 0.97
6 Tilly Walker 348 2.08 0.60
7 Home Run Baker 334 1.44 0.43
8 Hank Greenberg 330 5.43 1.65
9 Mel Ott 328 4.51 1.37
10 Hack Wilson 327 4.39 1.34

Source: sabermetric baseball encyclopedia

Next weekend, I will take a look at the one player who has yet to appear on any of my HR lists (due to falling just shy of the minimum number of plate appearances of 5,000) but has the potential of becoming the all-time leader on a cumulative basis before he retires.

Until then,

Richard Lederer
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT

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