erik lundegaard

Friday January 31, 2020

Joe's Top 100: 61-70

No. 70? Some question that. Including me.

I keep adding columns. Originally there were four. Last time, I added a fifth: the player's all-time bWAR placement. Now Position for the sixth. So many things to see. So many connections to make. 

Here's the latest 10 in Joe Posnanski's rankings:

70 Sandy Koufax -24 48.9 321 P
69 Monte Irvin 2 21.3 x OF
68 Gaylord Perry 15 90 46 P
67 Hank Greenberg 7 57.6 215 1B
66 Robin Yount -4 77.3 69 SS
65 Ernie Banks -10 67.5 125 SS
64 Johnny Mize 16 70.9 93 1B
63 Steve Carlton -10 90.2 45 P
62 Smokey Joe Williams 17 n/a  n/a 
61 Arky Vaughan 12 72.9   SS

A lot of howls. So many thought Koufax should be higher. I do, too, but I get it. He's a legend but he only have five great years. That said, if your life hangs on a baseball game, and you can start Sandy Koufax (No. 70) or Gaylord Perry (No. 68), no one's choosing Perry. Not even Perry. Not even Perry's father. Good story, by the way, on Perry's father in the Gaylord piece. The point of this is to read the pieces, after all. 

I particulary don't get the Koufax ranking since at the beginning of all this, Poz wrote the following:

2. I lean toward players who were great at their peak, even if that peak only lasted a short time, and lean away from those who were consistently but not toweringly good for a long time.

Was anyone greater at their peak than Koufax? So why drop him 24 places from the earlier top 100 list? 

One area where Joe's been consistent has been with the following:

4. I take a lot of care to make educated guesses about players whose careers were shortened by things beyond their control — World War II, for example, or baseball's tragic and infuriating color line. I don't make the same adjustment for injuries. As Bill James has written, there's a big difference. The years when Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams or Bob Feller were at war, the years when Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston played in the Negro Leagues, they were still the best players on earth. They just couldn't play in the big leagues because of larger issues. When players get hurt — take Don Mattingly, for example, and his back problems — they stop being the best players in the world. I wish Donnie Baseball didn't get hurt, we all do, but he did, and he was never quite the same player after that. That's not the same as saying that Bob Feller lost four years when he was still the best pitcher on earth.

That's four of the above guys—Greenberg and Mize lost time to WWII, Irvin and Williams lost time an careers to the color line—so they all moved up in Posnanski's estimation: 2, 7, 16 and 17 places over his early 2010s ranking. 

Where will Feller wind up? Who knows? He was ranked 48th in the first go-round. One assumes higher now. 

What might this mean for the top players? Like a Ted Williams? He missed three prime years to WWII and most of two seasons to the Korean War, and he‘s still ranked 14th all-time in terms of bWar. That’s nuts. Before WWII, he had a 10.6 WAR, and after WWII he had a 10.9. One assumes he might‘ve done the same in the intervening years. Same with Korea. Prior: 7.2; after: 7.8. If you add another 42 or so WAR for him, that puts him at 165—second-best ever to Babe Ruth. 

But I think Willie Mays might trump him. There’s this:

3. I lean toward players who did multiple things well over specialists (no matter how great) who basically did just one thing well.

No one did multiple things better than Mays. No one. And while he didn't lose time to WWII (he was 14 when the war ended), he lost two good, early years to the draft. Before he went in, he was Rookie of the Year, when he returned he was MVP. Before he went in, in a partial season, he had a 4.0 WAR; his MVP year was 10.6. Split the difference, give him 15 WAR those two seasons, now he's No. 2 with 171. Ruth is still ahead at 182; but he played in a segregated era. He faced the best white players and that was it. Mays faced the best white and black players. I think the Mays argument can be made with advanced stats. I'd make it.

Posted at 08:00 AM on Friday January 31, 2020 in category Baseball  
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