Greatest RHH of all time?

BaseballJones

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I'm honestly not sure if this should be here or in MLB or in P&G so mods, please place it accordingly.

There's an article up on ESPN right now on Albert Pujols. Just how incredible he was. It got me thinking of who's the greatest right-handed hitter baseball has ever seen. After thinking about many possibilities, I narrowed the field down to six candidates. Let me first state that Josh Gibson was a player I considered, but there's just no way to accurately gauge his statistics and his ability, so reluctantly I had to leave him off the list. This is only talking about HITTING, not defense, not base running, just hitting. Note: by "fantasy season", I put their best number they've ever put up into one season, and the ops might not add up. I might take their best obp from one season and combine it with their best slg from a different season, and their ops from a third season; I won't take their best obp and slg and add them up to form their mythical best ops. Here are the six candidates, in alphabetical order:

Joe DiMaggio
- Career line: 7672 pa, 361 hr, 3948 total bases, .325/.398/.579/.977, 155 ops+
- Best season: 1939, 524 pa, 30 hr, .381/.448/.671/1.119, 184 ops+
- Peak five seasons: 1937-1941, 3070 pa, 169 hr, .350/.420/.638/1.058, 168 ops+
- Fantasy season: 141 r, 215 h, 44 2b, 15 3b, 46 hr, 80 bb, .381/.459/.673/1.119, 184 ops+, 418 tb
- Notes: 790 bb to only 369 (!) career strikeouts. 56-game hitting streak. 5 times with an ops over 1.050. In his career, at various points, he managed to lead the AL in batting average, slugging, ops, ops+, total bases, runs, triples, and rbi. So a very well-rounded hitter, whose numbers stack up historically and against his peers. Lost three prime seasons to WW2.

Willie Mays
- Career line: 12496 pa, 660 hr, 6066 total bases, .302/.384/.557/.941, 156 ops+
- Best season: 1965, 638 pa, 52 hr, .317/.398/.645/1.043, 185 ops+
- Peak five seasons: 1954-1958, 3316 pa, 192 hr, .328/.401/.618/1.019, 167 ops+
- Fantasy season: 129 r, 190 h, 43 2b, 20 3b, 52 hr, 141 rbi, 112 bb, .345/.425/.667/1.078, 185 ops+, 382 tb
- Notes: 10 seasons with ops+ of 160 or better. 10 seasons with 35 or more homers. At various points in his career, he led the NL in hits, triples, homers, walks, average, obp, slugging, ops, ops+, and total bases.

Albert Pujols
- Career line: 11823 pa, 639 hr, 5701 total bases, .301/.381/.553.934, 149 ops+
- Best season: 2008, 641 pa, 37 hr, .357/.462/.653/1.114, 192 ops+
- Peak five seasons: 2006-2010, 3354 pa, 207 hr, .330/.435/.628/1.064, 177 ops+
- Fantasy season: 137 r, 212 h, 51 2b, 4 3b, 49 hr, 137 rbi, 115 bb, .359/.462/.671/1.114, 192 ops+, 394 tb
- Notes: Has led his league in runs, hits, doubles, homers, rbi, average, obp, slugging, ops, ops+, and total bases. 10 straight seasons of 30+ homers, 100+ rbi, and .312+ average. 7 times with 40+ homers. 6 times with ops+ of 173 or better.

Manny Ramirez
- Career line: 9774 pa, 555 hr, 4826 total bases, .312/.411/.585/.996, 154 ops+
- Best season: 2000, 532 pa, 38 hr, .351/.459/.697/1.154, 186 ops+
- Peak five seasons: 1999-2003, 2989 pa, 193 hr, .331/.435/.637/1.072, 172 ops+
- Fantasy season: 131 r, 185 h, 45 2b, 3 3b, 45 hr, 165 rbi, 100 bb, .351/.457/.697/1.154, 186 ops+, 348 tb
- Notes: 5 times with 40+ homers. 6 straight seasons with an ops of 1.009 or better. Led the AL in homers, rbi, average, obp, slugging, ops, ops+, and total bases.

Frank Robinson
- Career line: 11742 pa, 586 hr, 5373 total bases, .294/.389/.537/.926, 154 ops+
- Best season: 1966, 680 pa, 49 hr, .316/.410/.637/1.047, 198 ops+
- Peak five seasons: 1965-1969, 3068 pa, 159 hr, .301/.401/.553/.954, 171 ops+
- Fantasy season: 134 r, 208 h, 51 2b, 7 eb, 49 hr, 136 rbi, 88 bb, .342/.421/.637/1.047, 198 ops+, 367 tb
- Notes: Led the league in runs, doubles, homers, rbi, average, obp, slugging, ops, ops+, and total bases. Four straight seasons leading the league in intentional walks (which speaks to how feared he was).

Mike Trout
- Career line: 3979 pa, 247 hr, 2278 total bases, .306/.418/.573/.990, 175 ops+
- Best season: 2018, 608 pa, 39 hr, .313/.460/.628/1.088, 196 ops+
- Peak five seasons: 2014-2018, 3183 pa, 178 hr, .303/.422/.588/1.010, 179 ops+
- Fantasy season: 129 r, 190 h, 39 2b, 9 3b, 41 hr, 111 rbi, 122 bb, .326/.460/.629/1.088, 196 ops+, 338 tb
- Notes: Has led the league in runs, rbi, walks, obp, slugging, ops, ops+, and total bases. 5 out of his 8 full seasons, he's had an ops+ of 168 or better.

Let me just put the slash lines and ops+ numbers up there to compare them all differently. In each listing, the best number in that category (avg, ops, etc.) is bolded.

Career line:
DiMaggio: .325/.398/.579/.977, 155 ops+
Mays: .302/.384/.557/.941, 156 ops+
Pujols: .301/.381/.553.934, 149 ops+
Ramirez: .312/.411/.585/.996, 154 ops+
Robinson: .294/.389/.537/.926, 154 ops+
Trout: .306/.418/.573/.990, 175 ops+

Best season:
DiMaggio: .381/.448/.671/1.119, 184 ops+
Mays: .317/.398/.645/1.043, 185 ops+
Pujols: .357/.462/.653/1.114, 192 ops+
Ramirez: .351/.459/.697/1.154, 186 ops+
Robinson: .316/.410/.637/1.047, 198 ops+
Trout: .313/.460/.628/1.088, 196 ops+

Best 5-year peak:
DiMaggio: .350/.420/.638/1.058, 168 ops+
Mays: .328/.401/.618/1.019, 167 ops+
Pujols: .330/.435/.628/1.064, 177 ops+
Ramirez: .331/.435/.637/1.072, 172 ops+
Robinson: .301/.401/.553/.954, 171 ops+
Trout: .303/.422/.588/1.010, 179 ops+

Fantasy season:
DiMaggio: .381/.459/.673/1.119, 184 ops+
Mays: .345/.425/.667/1.078, 185 ops+
Pujols: .359/.462/.671/1.114, 192 ops+
Ramirez: .351/.457/.697/1.154, 186 ops+
Robinson: .342/.421/.637/1.047, 198 ops+
Trout: .326/.460/.629/1.088, 196 ops+


So how would you guys rank these six? To me, Robinson is #6 (yet obviously an all-time, elite inner circle great), but otherwise, man it's really hard. Manny stacks up very well, especially in the slash categories. Not as much in the raw totals. Trout obviously has a problem with the raw totals because he hasn't played that long, and his slash numbers aren't as good as I thought (compared to these guys). But what he does have going for him is that *relative to his era*, he's the best of the bunch by a significant margin. The thing that helps Trout is that he doesn't have his "decline phase" impacting his stats yet. While playing longer helps raw totals and counting stats, they hurt the slash lines. Trout has the opposite thing going here - his slash line and ops+ numbers are great, but his counting stats suffer.

How would you rank these guys and why?
 

SirPsychoSquints

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Yeah, it's Aaron - 877 batting runs above average, only righty close is Rogers Hornsby at 861. If you looked at above replacement, the lead over Mays (809) and Pujols (681) would grow, as Aaron had more PA's than them.

Trout is currently at 422 - a run at Aaron seems unlikely. I say this as someone who thinks Trout is likely to cement himself as the greatest player of all time.
 

BaseballJones

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I am ashamed to admit I totally blanked on Aaron and Hornsby. All that work and I forgot those guys. Good grief.
 

NYCSox

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Aaron, Mays, Robinson and even Manny were also very productive into their late 30s which sadly isn't the case with Pujols (edit: and Hornsby). And DiMaggio lost three prime years to military service.
 
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SirPsychoSquints

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You could also look at some measure of peak. Only 108 righthanded hitter seasons have accumulated 60 or more batting runs in MLB history. Thomas and Hornsby have 8 of them, each. Pujols & Foxx 7 each. Trout/Mays/Greenburg/Bagwell 4 each.

Aaron only had 3.
 

InstaFace

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Yeah I think the unexpected speed of Pujols' decline takes him out of the running. Meanwhile, DiMaggio should get at least a slight boost for his 3 prime years lost, but a corresponding hit (like everyone in his era or before it) for playing against something less than the best available competition.

Aaron's best 5-year run, btw, was 1959-1963:
.323 / .383 / .600 / .984 -> 170 OPS+

The best player on that list is almost certainly Mays or Aaron, but just talking hitting, Aaron is way ahead in adj. batting runs (due to longevity), Mays edges Aaron on Offensive WAR (with the nearest righty in striking distance who played after integration being... A-Rod). On peak value it's pretty close between several of them. I think taking into account the various meanings of "greatest", you've really got to give it to Hank Aaron.
 

SirPsychoSquints

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Yeah I think the unexpected speed of Pujols' decline takes him out of the running. Meanwhile, DiMaggio should get at least a slight boost for his 3 prime years lost, but a corresponding hit (like everyone in his era or before it) for playing against something less than the best available competition.

Aaron's best 5-year run, btw, was 1959-1963:
.323 / .383 / .600 / .984 -> 170 OPS+

The best player on that list is almost certainly Mays or Aaron, but just talking hitting, Aaron is way ahead in adj. batting runs (due to longevity), Mays edges Aaron on Offensive WAR (with the nearest righty in striking distance who played after integration being... A-Rod). On peak value it's pretty close between several of them. I think taking into account the various meanings of "greatest", you've really got to give it to Hank Aaron.
Important note - the only reason Mays edges Aaron in Offensive WAR is because Mays is credited for playing CF to Aaron's RF. Same reason ARod comes close, because of SS/3B.
 

shaggydog2000

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The answer is Manny. All day, every day. Nobody else on that list caught a fly ball and then climbed a wall to high five a Sox fan in Camden yards. Or cut off Johnny Damon's throw from 20 feet away. I could make up some statistical excuse for it, but we all know we're making those up to qualify what we feel in our hearts.

Also, do you want to buy a grill? Cause Manny's got a grill for you.
 

PC Drunken Friar

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Frank Thomas' 5 year run of 93-97-

.334/.456/.635/1.091 OPS+ 185

Of those listed, that is 2nd in average, 1st in OBP, 3rd Slug, 1st in OPS, 1st OPS+

His 7 Peak- 91-97

.330/.453/1.050 182 OPS+

Good for 4th BA, 1st OBP, 5 Slug, 3rd OPS, 1st OPS+
 
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Ale Xander

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The answer is Manny. All day, every day. Nobody else on that list caught a fly ball and then climbed a wall to high five a Sox fan in Camden yards. Or cut off Johnny Damon's throw from 20 feet away. I could make up some statistical excuse for it, but we all know we're making those up to qualify what we feel in our hearts.

Also, do you want to buy a grill? Cause Manny's got a grill for you.
Of the players mentioned, only Manny won a World Series while a member of the Red Sox. And he did it twice.

Plus I'm an OPS guy, and his career .996 leads from the list. All Manny, all day, every day.
 

BaseballJones

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I included (for the guys I remembered and didn't forget - doh!) their career stats, their best season, and their 5-year peak (not their five best years, but the best five-year consecutive stretch) to get a gauge of both what they were like at the very top of their games, and also how they held up over time.

Aaron's peak wasn't as good as some of these other guys (though obviously it was insanely good), but his consistency over a LONG period of time was just unparalleled. Hornsby gets penalized for the era he played in (whites only) but holy crap his peak was.....off the charts.

Best season:
1925 - 39 hr, 143 rbi, .403/.489/.756/1.210, 210 ops+

And his 5-year peak was similarly absurd:
1921-1925 - 144 hr, .402/.474/.690/1.164, 204 ops+

Good lord.
 

Kliq

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Hornsby's baseball-reference page is one of my favorites, he's third all-time in Black Ink and it shows. In six straight seasons, he led the majors in average, OBP, SLG, OPS and OPS+. Over that stretch his average OPS+ was 200, better than the best single-season of any of the hitters mentioned in BaseballJones' original post. I feel like he's never mentioned in the same category as Ruth/Mays/Aaron/Williams/Cobb etc. as the greatest to ever play, he's probably seen as being a tier below, but he was as good of a hitter as anyone who ever stepped into the box.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Hornsby gets my vote.

BTW, the top ten by career wRC+ (with at least 5000 PA) are:

Hornsby 173
Foxx 158
McGwire 157
Dick Allen 155
Mays 154
Thomas 154
F. Robinson 153
H. Aaron 153
Manny 153
DiMaggio 152

Trout would be second on that list, at 172, if he made the 5000-PA cutoff (he'll get there this year). It's kind of the measure of Hornsby's greatness that he edges Trout even though we're counting his decline years, but not Trout's.
 

The Needler

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Hornsby gets my vote.

BTW, the top ten by career wRC+ (with at least 5000 PA) are:

Hornsby 173
Foxx 158
McGwire 157
Dick Allen 155
Mays 154
Thomas 154
F. Robinson 153
H. Aaron 153
Manny 153
DiMaggio 152

Trout would be second on that list, at 172, if he made the 5000-PA cutoff (he'll get there this year). It's kind of the measure of Hornsby's greatness that he edges Trout even though we're counting his decline years, but not Trout's.
Well, we might also be counting his peak years, and not Trout’s. Hornsby was .378/.465/.635 185+ from 28-33, which was his best stretch, and which Trout obviously hasn’t entered into. Also, Hornsby didn’t really get much of the career decline drag, because he only had 874 PA from age 34 on.
 

BaseballJones

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Ok well I'm glad that even though I royally screwed up by forgetting a handful of the best RHH ever to step into a batter's box, that we're having good conversation about this, because that was the goal!
 

Dick Pole Upside

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I'd throw in a vote for Rogers Hornsby.
Hornsby's baseball-reference page is one of my favorites, he's third all-time in Black Ink and it shows. In six straight seasons, he led the majors in average, OBP, SLG, OPS and OPS+. Over that stretch his average OPS+ was 200, better than the best single-season of any of the hitters mentioned in BaseballJones' original post. I feel like he's never mentioned in the same category as Ruth/Mays/Aaron/Williams/Cobb etc. as the greatest to ever play, he's probably seen as being a tier below, but he was as good of a hitter as anyone who ever stepped into the box.
My grandfather was born in 1902, raised in Cambridge and was a semi-pro baseball player. When I was young I used to love to ask him who was the best player he ever saw, thinking that it was a toss-up between Ruth and Cobb.

He said it was The Rajah, a contemporary of the other two. I asked him if he was biased against Cobb because he was such an unlikeable jerk. Grampy always said Hornsby was the better hitter, and an even bigger a-hole to boot. Now, he wouldn't have seen Manny or Pujols on this list, but he saw everyone else play in person multiple times. Hornsby was the best, in his mind.

His B-Ref page is crazy (Hornsby's, not my grandfather's ;)).
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

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Does Hornsby lose any points for playing in the dead ball era and before integration?

For the hitters who would face one or two pitchers per game, do the ones who had to face multiple and still excelled get more leeway in the consideration?
 

Captaincoop

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The concept of docking players somehow for playing prior to integration when comparing across eras doesn't make sense to me. Sure, there were awesome players in that time not permitted to play in MLB, and those Negro League greats deserve to be considered as such, but when you're looking at someone like DiMaggio, how do you put some intangible, extra discount on his stats (which stand out greatly versus his peers) because of the players he didn't play against?

There are differences in eras (e.g. usage of relief pitchers, juiced balls versus soggy, tobacco-stained balls, advances in PEDs and training techniques, the artificial turf and bowl stadium era, etc.) that can be taken into account in the comparative statistics by weighting eras differently based on league-wide numbers from the time. Putting aside the morality issue, the effects of segregation are captured the same way, no?

Do we discount current players more in some extra, intangible way because today the best athletes in America mostly don't play baseball because there's more money and fame in football and basketball? I may not be articulating this right, but something about it seems off.
 

E5 Yaz

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Do we discount current players more in some extra, intangible way because today the best athletes in America mostly don't play baseball because there's more money and fame in football and basketball?
This is a great point that doesn't get brought up nearly enough when discussing the modern baseball era. For all we know, the guy who could have been one of the great baseball players ever, spent a career as a journeyman football or basketball player.

Of course, I've always thought the "of all time" concept was ridiculous to begin with.
 

Mooch

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Does Hornsby lose any points for playing in the dead ball era and before integration?

For the hitters who would face one or two pitchers per game, do the ones who had to face multiple and still excelled get more leeway in the consideration?
All I know is that Ted Williams revered Hornsby: "I've always felt Rogers Hornsby was the greatest hitter for average and power in the history of baseball." In fact, Williams credited Hornsby for giving batting tips when Ted was in AA Spring Training that helped him become a great hitter.
 

mwonow

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This is a great point that doesn't get brought up nearly enough when discussing the modern baseball era. For all we know, the guy who could have been one of the great baseball players ever, spent a career as a journeyman football or basketball player.

Of course, I've always thought the "of all time" concept was ridiculous to begin with.
I dunno - seems to lead to some pretty lively debte... :cool:
 

shaggydog2000

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This is a great point that doesn't get brought up nearly enough when discussing the modern baseball era. For all we know, the guy who could have been one of the great baseball players ever, spent a career as a journeyman football or basketball player.

Of course, I've always thought the "of all time" concept was ridiculous to begin with.
The "who would win head to head from different eras", or "what was the toughest era to play" seem to be the ones that just go nowhere good.

Almost like arguing politics or religion.
 

Captaincoop

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The "who would win head to head from different eras", or "what was the toughest era to play" seem to be the ones that just go nowhere good.

Almost like arguing politics or religion.
If you approach those from the standpoint of "If we had a time machine, collected all the great players at their prime, and put them on a field together, who would be the best?" - it feels like it would always just be the players from today, since they are standing on the shoulders of those before them in terms of nutrition, training, approach, etc.

Maybe a little less so in baseball than in the other sports. But still, I think if you dropped Mike Trout off in 1935, people would think he was from a different species and he would completely dominate. Also, they'd be all mad at him for not being able to bunt runners over.
 

nighthob

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My grandfather was born in 1902, raised in Cambridge and was a semi-pro baseball player. When I was young I used to love to ask him who was the best player he ever saw, thinking that it was a toss-up between Ruth and Cobb.

He said it was The Rajah, a contemporary of the other two. I asked him if he was biased against Cobb because he was such an unlikeable jerk. Grampy always said Hornsby was the better hitter, and an even bigger a-hole to boot. Now, he wouldn't have seen Manny or Pujols on this list, but he saw everyone else play in person multiple times. Hornsby was the best, in his mind.
I think our grandfathers would have gotten along famously. Mine hated the Boston Braves but he religiously went to their games against the Cardinals (and later the Cubs) just to watch Hornsby hit. He always told me that Ted Williams was the second greatest hitter that ever lived.
 

shaggydog2000

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If you approach those from the standpoint of "If we had a time machine, collected all the great players at their prime, and put them on a field together, who would be the best?" - it feels like it would always just be the players from today, since they are standing on the shoulders of those before them in terms of nutrition, training, approach, etc.

Maybe a little less so in baseball than in the other sports. But still, I think if you dropped Mike Trout off in 1935, people would think he was from a different species and he would completely dominate. Also, they'd be all mad at him for not being able to bunt runners over.
How about this - think about a currently mediocre major league pitcher like Joe Kelly. How far back in time would you need to send him before he was completely dominant with a 99 mph heater and breaking pitches that are non-terrible? Remember, if you send him back more than a decade or two he's going to be the only one throwing that hard. Today hitters other hard throwers all the time, but if it was once a month that you saw 95+, how could you possibly handle that?

But then again, it always felt weird that Kelly was so easy to hit in our day, so who knows.
 

SumnerH

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How about this - think about a currently mediocre major league pitcher like Joe Kelly. How far back in time would you need to send him before he was completely dominant with a 99 mph heater and breaking pitches that are non-terrible? Remember, if you send him back more than a decade or two he's going to be the only one throwing that hard. Today hitters other hard throwers all the time, but if it was once a month that you saw 95+, how could you possibly handle that?
Guys like Feller and Newhouser were probably throwing 95+ with regularity in the 1940s (it's tough to know for sure, but later analyses of the motorcycle stunt and the chronograph both have Feller in the 98-99 range). And there were guys throwing 95+ in the 50s and 60s who couldn't sniff the bigs (e.g. Steve Dalkowski). Even back then, big velocity was only a small part of pitching.
 

Mooch

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Guys like Feller and Newhouser were probably throwing 95+ with regularity in the 1940s (it's tough to know for sure, but later analyses of the motorcycle stunt and the chronograph both have Feller in the 98-99 range). And there were guys throwing 95+ in the 50s and 60s who couldn't sniff the bigs (e.g. Steve Dalkowski). Even back then, big velocity was only a small part of pitching.
I would add that pitchers routinely purposely threw high and tight in that era as opposed to now where ONE of those gets you a warning from the ump most of the time. There's a pretty big difference between digging in against a hard-thrower in today's game vs. those days when "chin music" was considered basic baseball strategy to move a hitter off the plate. A guy who could throw 90 MPH with the ability to go under your chin with one pitch and dot the outside corner with the next has got to be damned near impossible to hit.
 

shaggydog2000

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Guys like Feller and Newhouser were probably throwing 95+ with regularity in the 1940s (it's tough to know for sure, but later analyses of the motorcycle stunt and the chronograph both have Feller in the 98-99 range). And there were guys throwing 95+ in the 50s and 60s who couldn't sniff the bigs (e.g. Steve Dalkowski). Even back then, big velocity was only a small part of pitching.
I have a hard time believing those numbers taken with different equipment with different methods. Guys throw so much harder than they did just 10-12 years ago (average fastball went up 3 mph over that time period), that I have my doubts these guys were that big of an outlier back then. And Kelly is a guy good enough to make the major leagues today throwing that hard. Throwing that hard with MLB (sufficient) control and breaking balls puts him pretty far ahead of minor leaguers who threw hard and didn't sniff the bigs.
 

BaseballJones

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My father said this once to me, and I think he's right. On the whole, today's athlete is much better, so the average NBA player is much better than the average NBA player in the 1960s. But the elite athletes will always be able to compete, no matter the era. Jesse Owens, using today's technology, would be every bit the world-class sprinter that he was. Elgin Baylor and Jerry West would do just fine in today's NBA. Maybe they'd be thrown off by the rules and what you can do with the ball, but if you gave them a little time to adjust, they'd be just fine - they're athletes of a superlative caliber. I'm sure Willie Mays and Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller would be fine in today's game. But yes the middle relievers back in the day couldn't hold a candle to Joe Kelly, I'm sure. But Goose Gossage or Dick Radatz would be fine today.
 

charlieoscar

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And there were guys throwing 95+ in the 50s and 60s who couldn't sniff the bigs (e.g. Steve Dalkowski).
1960 Stockton in the California League, Dalkowski struck out 262 and walked 262 and actually he only struck 50 more than he walked during his nine seasons in the minors, which is probably the reason he didn't get a sniff.
 

shaggydog2000

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1960 Stockton in the California League, Dalkowski struck out 262 and walked 262 and actually he only struck 50 more than he walked during his nine seasons in the minors, which is probably the reason he didn't get a sniff.
How many times did he hit the mascot?
 

charlieoscar

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How many times did he hit the mascot?
Don't know if there were mascots back then but surprisingly he only hit 37 batters in his career. Given that he was only charged with 671 hits in 970.0 IP, I'd guess batters stood as far away from the plate as they could. But there were 145 wild pitches, so if there were mascots they probably stayed out of the line of fire.
 

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I have said before that you can read about the '04 team all you want; I want the expose on the 2000-2002 teams. You had some maniacs. Carl Everett, Wilton Veras, Izzy Alcantara, Manny... A totally dysfunctional manager/gm relationship. They were insane.
 

dcmissle

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I have said before that you can read about the '04 team all you want; I want the expose on the 2000-2002 teams. You had some maniacs. Carl Everett, Wilton Veras, Izzy Alcantara, Manny... A totally dysfunctional manager/gm relationship. They were insane.
July 3, 2001. Our lives would soon change forever, but not because of anything baseball related.

Nobody brought the crazy better than Duquette. Nobody.