Joe Posnanski's top 100 Baseball Players of All Time

Kliq

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I'm not as familiar with Posnanski's work as others, but given he is doing an entry a day, I imagine he had almost all of them, if not all 100, done before he published the first entry.
 

Merkle's Boner

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I'm not as familiar with Posnanski's work as others, but given he is doing an entry a day, I imagine he had almost all of them, if not all 100, done before he published the first entry.
That's not normally how he does things, and he certainly is implying that it is a Herculean task in his newsletter, preventing him from doing other things like his HOF candidate writeups. But as I said, I imagine his is reproducing a fair amount of old material where possible.
 

Kliq

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That's not normally how he does things, and he certainly is implying that it is a Herculean task in his newsletter, preventing him from doing other things like his HOF candidate writeups. But as I said, I imagine his is reproducing a fair amount of old material where possible.
That is a really dumb way to do this then. Not to turn this into something about me, but I did a similar exercise where I did 50 installments, once a week for a year. They were fairly lengthy, but I was finishing up college and had a lot of time on my hands, but when I started I probably had about 30 of the installments already written, and finished them by April, so there was no stress in "finishing" the list. There is absolutely no way I could have produced one installment a day for 100 straight days. Now, Posnanski is a far more prolific, experienced writer than myself, but this seems like a complete recipe for disaster, or at least a lot of half-assed entries. With the exception of a handful of modern players, there is nothing time sensitive about any of the entries.
 

The Gray Eagle

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He did his previous lists on his personal blog, so he could post them or not post them whenever he wanted to. Now he's posting them on the Athletic, where he presumably agreed with the editors to post one every day until Opening Day. Not finishing now would be way different than when it was on his own blog.

He surely has most of them already written if not all of them. Not following through all the way to the end would not go over well with his employers. It's a completely different obligation than it was in the past. That's why I think he wouldn't have started this unless he had most of them already written, at least in draft form.

My guess is he posts all of them on time, just like the Athletic said he would, then in a year or so he publishes them all in a book.
 

jon abbey

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My guess is he posts all of them on time, just like the Athletic said he would, then in a year or so he publishes them all in a book.
I would agree that this is the plan and it will very likely happen, but hopefully he redoes the Jeter one for the book.
 

The Gray Eagle

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The Jeter post reminded me of this article from 2006 where Bill James compares Jeter's defense to Adam Everett's:

Jeter, in 40 plays, had maybe three plays in which he threw with his feet set. He threw on the run about 20-25 times; he jumped and threw about 10-15 times, he threw from his knees once. He threw from a stable position only when the ball, by the way it was hit, pinned him back on his heels.

Everett set his feet with almost unbelievable quickness and reliability, and threw off of his back foot on almost every play, good or bad. Jeter played much, much more shallow than Everett, cheated to his left more, and shifted his position from left to right much, much more than Everett did.
The low defensive rating for Derek Jeter is not based on computers, it is not based on statistics, and it is not based on math. It is based on a specific observation that there are balls going through the shortstop hole against the Yankees that might very well have been fielded. Lots of them—93 of them last year, not counting the ones that might have gone through when somebody else was playing short for the Yankees. Yes, there are computers between the original observation and the conclusion; we use computers to summarize our observations, and we do state the summary as a statistic. But, at its base, it is simply a highly organized and systematic observation based on watching the games very carefully and taking notes about what happens.

Jeter, given the balls he was challenged with, had an expectation of recording 439 groundball outs. He actually recorded 400. He missed by 39. Everett, given the balls hit to him, had an expectation of 340 groundball outs. He actually recorded 374. He over-achieved by 33-point-something.
 

jon abbey

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Updating this, Brooks Robinson today:

No. 100: Ichiro Suzuki
No. 99: Mike Mussina
No. 98: Carlos Beltrán
No. 97: Roberto Alomar
No. 96: Larry Walker
No. 95: Tony Gwynn
No. 94: Roy Campanella
No. 93: Ozzie Smith
No. 92: Bullet Rogan
No. 91: Mariano Rivera
No. 90: Max Scherzer
No. 89: Mike Piazza
No. 88: Curt Schilling
No. 87: Charlie Gehringer
No. 86: Gary Carter
No. 85: Sadaharu Oh
No. 84: Cool Papa Bell
No. 83: Phil Niekro
No. 82: Kid Nichols
No. 81: Ferguson Jenkins
No. 80: Carlton Fisk
No. 79: Derek Jeter
No. 78: Clayton Kershaw
No. 77: Miguel Cabrera
No. 76: Willie McCovey
No. 75: Justin Verlander
No. 74: Frank Thomas
 

Al Zarilla

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Gwyn is way too low
Yeah, he must mean Gwynn Jr. there. No, but Gary Carter, for example, ahead of Gwynn is shocking. Even more shocking is Gary Carter noses out Gwynn in BWAR. Tony gets hosed for defense, whereas Gary shines there. .338 lifetime hitter vs. .262. I don’t know, sometimes I think that War, what is it good for?
 

Kliq

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Yeah, he must mean Gwynn Jr. there. No, but Gary Carter, for example, ahead of Gwynn is shocking. Even more shocking is Gary Carter noses out Gwynn in BWAR. Tony gets hosed for defense, whereas Gary shines there. .338 lifetime hitter vs. .262. I don’t know, sometimes I think that War, what is it good for?
My first instinct with Robinson was that he was too high; bWAR likes him a lot mainly because he both played a long time and also kills it in dWAR, with 39.1 career dWAR, third most all time behind Ozzie Smith and Mark Belanger (man, that was some left side of the infield Baltimore had in the 60s and 70s). To place Robinson that high, you have to value dWAR pretty highly, which can be faulty. That being said, everyone who saw him play seems to believe that Robinson was the best fielding 3B of all-time, so maybe this is a case of the advanced metrics backing up the eye test.

However, Robinson has a career OPS of .723 and a career OPS+ of 104. Is defense really as valuable as offense? Teams don't seem to function like that in real life, otherwise Kevin Kiermaier would be getting a $250 million contract. If I was starting a team, I would rather have a complete banger like Frank Thomas or Miggy than a defensive ace like Robinson. In the age of a DH, you can also hide your big hitters weakness and pay a cheap Brendan Ryan type to play defense for them.

Bill James I know frequently criticized Robinson, saying that he was below average hitter, his defense was overrated by hero-worshiping sportswriters and that Ken Boyer was just as good.
 

Jim Ed Rice in HOF

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I think Pos wanted to get out ahead of the "x is ahead of y" critique with the quote posted earlier in the thread (shown below). It's a bit of a cop out but I can also understand him wanting people to focus on the players and not necessarily whether player x is truly better than player y. That's probably easier to do until you get towards the top when people are naturally going to compare the rankings.

As for the rest: This list is a moving target. I have done it three times using different methods and the rankings are quite different. This is because there’s no significant difference between a player ranked 72 and 48 and 31. I could swap them, for the most part, without it changing much of anything. So if you believe a player ranked 97th should actually be 53rd, well, it might be that way the next time.
 

Kliq

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I think Pos wanted to get out ahead of the "x is ahead of y" critique with the quote posted earlier in the thread (shown below). It's a bit of a cop out but I can also understand him wanting people to focus on the players and not necessarily whether player x is truly better than player y. That's probably easier to do until you get towards the top when people are naturally going to compare the rankings.
Everyone that has ever done a list like this has to say something like this. At the same time, you can't have the attraction of ranking baseball players from 100 to 1 and then also say that there is no use arguing about why X is ranked higher than Y.


Also, if someone says there is no difference between who is ranked 53rd and who is ranked 97th, that makes me less interested in the list. Have a little bit of pride in your methodology and make the case for why someone is ranked 50 spots higher.
 

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I’m not sure which type of commenter is more annoying/hilarious, the person arguing about the ranking and how this guy is ranked higher than my guy, or the person freaking out over the others freaking out and arguing that no one should argue with Joe. I tend to believe that these lists are supposed to engender discussion and debate.

Today’s ranking and debate is perfect for this. Gaylord Perry comes in at 68, two days after Koufax registered at 70. I believe there’s no doubt Koufax was a better pitcher than Perry, but Gaylord has twice the innings pitched and twice the WAR. Does that mean he should be ranked higher (and yes, I understand that two spots is meaningless, but I also believe Pos put them that way intentionally)? I would say no, that in any list of the greatest baseball players, Koufax should be ahead of Gaylord, but I do get the numbers are hard to argue with.
 
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How can Posnanski rate Cool Papa Bell as the 84th best player? Posnanski was born several years after Bell stopped playing ball and then Bell played in the Negro Leagues and Mexico. trying to compare players from differing periods is bad enough without throwing in ones whose stats aren't remotely comparable.

I have no doubt that Cool Papa Bell was one of the great baseball players but how can he be ranked?
 

BoSox Rule

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He’s telling stories with a rough ranking. Enjoy it and stop caring who is 84th or 63rd.
 

PC Drunken Friar

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How can Posnanski rate Cool Papa Bell as the 84th best player? Posnanski was born several years after Bell stopped playing ball and then Bell played in the Negro Leagues and Mexico. trying to compare players from differing periods is bad enough without throwing in ones whose stats aren't remotely comparable.

I have no doubt that Cool Papa Bell was one of the great baseball players but how can he be ranked?
These rankings are a chance to tell some of the best baseball history stories there are. Cool Papa Bell deserves an audience.
 

Merkle's Boner

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How can Posnanski rate Cool Papa Bell as the 84th best player? Posnanski was born several years after Bell stopped playing ball and then Bell played in the Negro Leagues and Mexico. trying to compare players from differing periods is bad enough without throwing in ones whose stats aren't remotely comparable.

I have no doubt that Cool Papa Bell was one of the great baseball players but how can he be ranked?
I think it does a tremendous disservice to not rate black players because of The racism of MLB. In Joe’s Monte Irvin essay he does a great job of walking through the 1950s and showing how each year new black players entered the league and immediately became stars. Why in the 20 or 30 years before Jackie broke the color barrier would the best Negro League players not have been in the upper echelon of MLB players if given the chance? It just doesn’t make sense, and to Joe’s credit, he, through his friendship with Buck O’Neil, has down a ton of work to figure out these players’ proper rank.
 

Rough Carrigan

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My first instinct with Robinson was that he was too high; bWAR likes him a lot mainly because he both played a long time and also kills it in dWAR, with 39.1 career dWAR, third most all time behind Ozzie Smith and Mark Belanger (man, that was some left side of the infield Baltimore had in the 60s and 70s). To place Robinson that high, you have to value dWAR pretty highly, which can be faulty. That being said, everyone who saw him play seems to believe that Robinson was the best fielding 3B of all-time, so maybe this is a case of the advanced metrics backing up the eye test.

However, Robinson has a career OPS of .723 and a career OPS+ of 104. Is defense really as valuable as offense? Teams don't seem to function like that in real life, otherwise Kevin Kiermaier would be getting a $250 million contract. If I was starting a team, I would rather have a complete banger like Frank Thomas or Miggy than a defensive ace like Robinson. In the age of a DH, you can also hide your big hitters weakness and pay a cheap Brendan Ryan type to play defense for them.

Bill James I know frequently criticized Robinson, saying that he was below average hitter, his defense was overrated by hero-worshiping sportswriters and that Ken Boyer was just as good.
And add in young Bobby Grich at 2nd and Paul Blair in center. Year after year Jim Palmer's actual ERA was better than his FIP.
 

HowBoutDemSox

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I think it does a tremendous disservice to not rate black players because of The racism of MLB. In Joe’s Monte Irvin essay he does a great job of walking through the 1950s and showing how each year new black players entered the league and immediately became stars. Why in the 20 or 30 years before Jackie broke the color barrier would the best Negro League players not have been in the upper echelon of MLB players if given the chance? It just doesn’t make sense, and to Joe’s credit, he, through his friendship with Buck O’Neil, has down a ton of work to figure out these players’ proper rank.
I also liked Joe’s aside related to this in his piece on McCovey:
And if you ever find yourself wondering about the quality of the players in the Negro Leagues, think about this: If Aaron, Williams and McCovey had been born 20 years earlier, all three of them would have spent their primes in the Negro Leagues, and their stories would be told as legend. People would be telling tall tales about the power of Stretch McCovey or the impossibly quick bat of Henry Aaron or the gorgeousness of Billy Williams’ hitting and … would you believe it? I wouldn’t worry about people overrating Negro Leaguers. I’d worry about people underrating them.
 

jon abbey

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I think it does a tremendous disservice to not rate black players because of The racism of MLB. In Joe’s Monte Irvin essay he does a great job of walking through the 1950s and showing how each year new black players entered the league and immediately became stars. Why in the 20 or 30 years before Jackie broke the color barrier would the best Negro League players not have been in the upper echelon of MLB players if given the chance? It just doesn’t make sense, and to Joe’s credit, he, through his friendship with Buck O’Neil, has down a ton of work to figure out these players’ proper rank.
I'm going to post this even though it's long because I think it really answers this question nicely (not the entire Irvin essay but a big chunk of it):

"To understand Monte Irvin, we must work backward. Whenever you hear someone question the extraordinary talent hidden in the Negro Leagues, give them this little timeline. It’s useful.

Bob Gibson came to the big leagues in 1959. That was the year the Boston Red Sox became the last team in baseball to integrate. In his career, Bob Gibson won two Cy Young Awards and an MVP, and he set the modern record with a 1.12 ERA in 1968.

Oh, Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Billy Williams entered MLB that year, too.

In 1958, Orlando Cepeda debuted at age 20. He won the Rookie of the Year award by hitting .312 and leading the league in doubles. Led the league in homers in ’61, twice led the league in RBIs, won an MVP award and Baby Bull was elected to the Hall of Fame.

John Roseboro came up to Brooklyn in 1957. He was one of the first full-time black catchers in the game and he would make four All-Star teams, win a couple of Gold Gloves, and be behind the plate catching the very best of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.

In 1956: Frank Robinson. He won two MVP awards and a Triple Crown. He was one of the greatest hitters and most forceful personalities ever to play in the major leagues.

In 1955: Roberto Clemente. He won four batting titles, 12 Gold Gloves, one MVP and finished with exactly 3,000 hits. You cannot tell the story of baseball without him. Elston Howard debuted that year, too — he won an MVP award.

Henry Aaron debuted in 1954. Nothing more needs to be said.

Ernie Banks played his first game in 1953. He undoubtedly wished he could have played two.

In 1952, a whirlwind named Joe Black entered the league. Nobody had seen anything quite like him. He was tough and thoughtful and brilliant and he won 15 games and saved 15 more (though this was before the save was a statistic) and won the Rookie of the Year award. He almost won the MVP, too. The writer Roger Kahn called Joe Black in ’52 the most ferocious pitcher he ever saw.

In 1951: Willie Mays. Nothing more needs to be said.

There weren’t many black players signed to play in the big leagues in 1950, but Sam “The Jet” Jethroe finally made it. He was 33, and his legs were shot. It was said that in his prime, The Jet could outrun the word of God. As it was, Jethroe led the league in stolen bases in each of his first two seasons (along with hitting 18 home runs each year) and won the Rookie of the Year award.

Minnie Miñoso debuted in 1949. He led the league in triples three times, stolen bases three times, he won three Gold Gloves even though the award wasn’t invented until he was in his 30s and he finished with a career 130 OPS+ even though he didn’t get to play when he was young. Don Newcombe also debuted that year, and he won the first Cy Young and the MVP award in ’56.

Roy Campanella debuted in 1948. He won three MVP awards and is in the Hall of Fame.

Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby debuted in 1947. Nothing more needs to be said about that.

Look at that list — and remember I’ve only chosen the all-timers — and think that every single one of those players, every last one, would have played in the Negro Leagues had he been born just a few years earlier. This is something that is both obvious and hidden; if any of them had played their careers in the Negro Leagues, their legacies would not be 755 home runs or a whirling over-the-shoulder World Series catch or throws from right field that boggle the mind or a pitching motion so violent and wonderful that each time you think the arm will go with the ball. No, for many people, Aaron, Mays, Clemente, Gibson, all of them, would have become stories, legends, nicknames, wonderfully impossible-to-believe tales.

This is the part that I think so many miss about the greatest Negro Leagues players. People tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt. There is no doubt. I just pointed to one or more great African-American and dark-skinned Latino players coming into the league every single year after Jackie Robinson crossed the line, even in those years when most Major League teams refused to sign a black player. And it’s not like you have to stop there. In 1960, it’s Juan Marichal. In 1961, it’s Lou Brock. In 1962, it’s Willie Stargell. In 1963, it’s Joe Morgan.

So what happens when you count backward? It’s the same story.

And so we count backward for Monte Irvin."
 

teddywingman

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I trust Posnanski will be able to do it justice, but I think it is hard to thread the needle between acknowledging that athletes have consistently gotten better over time due to various advancements in training and nutrition and also give ample respect to the players of previous generations. I think too much of the former leads to some interesting arguments that I'm not sure people want to see; like that if Babe Ruth played today in the era of the shift, without 5 pitching changes a game, black and Latin players, advanced scouting, etc. he wouldn't even be a replacement level player. Of course, you could make the same argument that if Ruth lived today and had today's advantages such as a nutritionist telling him that he shouldn't eat 13 hot dogs before a game, he would be even better. I just think it gets kind of messy and impossible to prove what would and what would not be true.

If you want to argue that since athletes are all getting better over time, realistically you could take the top 25 players of today's game, and with a few minor adjustments, argue that these are the 25 greatest players of all time, but that isn't any fun.

I think the most logical way to look at it is to assess players based on their dominance in their era, and factor in the advantages/disadvantages of their era appropriately. So Ruth, or Honus Wagner or Cap Anson are docked for playing in a rather unrefined era for the game, while a player like say, Ken Griffey Jr.'s dominance can be taken more at face value. Maybe that is too tricky, IDK.

The inclusion of the Negro league players is fair, but it has to be acknowledged the way Bill James did, by admitting that realistically there is no fair way to rank those players since even statistical records of their games are scarce and the level of competition varied greatly. Since the dying days of the Negro leagues managed to produce some of the best MLB players in history (Mays, Aaron, Campy, Jackie Robinson) it is reasonable to believe that players pre-integration were among the best players of all-time as well, so if you want to put Josh Gibson or Oscar Charleston in the top ten, that is fine by me. James I believe ranked Charleston fourth all time, which I found delightfully ambitious.
We've had this argument here before, but there are so many other factors to consider when comparing players from different eras. Beyond conditioning and strength, how many players were there in 1930 compared to today? How did they travel and what were their accommodations? There's ballpark factors like field conditions and the conditions of the ball itself. A lot of those guys were playing a ton of games in the offseason, or working other jobs.

Obviously integration and the global spread of baseball has increased the talent pool, but kids (in the US at least) are playing a lot less baseball than generations before.

The idea that the best 25 players right now could comprise the best 25 of all time is silly. Babe Ruth replacement level? I doubt it, but that's a harder one to argue. Ted Williams and Willie Mays would still be raking in todays game, maybe not at the same level (though with the conditioning, who knows). I would bet anything they would be well above replacement level. I'm pretty sure Benintendi wouldn't be starting on the Sox.
 
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I don't think players from the Negro Leagues or even other leagues should be ignored but I think it is ridiculous to rank players that you've never seen as the 84th or 44th or 4th greatest. If you want to tell their histories, fine, but rank them alphabetically or chronologically.
 

teddywingman

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I don't think players from the Negro Leagues or even other leagues should be ignored but I think it is ridiculous to rank players that you've never seen as the 84th or 44th or 4th greatest. If you want to tell their histories, fine, but rank them alphabetically or chronologically.
So as someone who is just over 40, Hank Aaron couldn't be on my list as one of the greatest, just first alphabetically? Okay.
 

Kliq

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We've had this argument here before, but there are so many other factors to consider when comparing players from different eras. Beyond conditioning and strength, how many players were there in 1930 compared to today? How did they travel and what were their accommodations? There's ballpark factors like field conditions and the conditions of the ball itself. A lot of those guys were playing a ton of games in the offseason, or working other jobs.

Obviously integration and the global spread of baseball has increased the talent pool, but kids (in the US at least) are playing a lot less baseball than generations before.

The idea that the best 25 players right now could comprise the best 25 of all time is silly. Babe Ruth replacement level? I doubt it, but that's a harder one to argue. Ted Williams and Willie Mays would still be raking in todays game, maybe not at the same level (though with the conditioning, who knows). I would bet anything they would be well above replacement level. I'm pretty sure Benintendi wouldn't be starting on the Sox.
That is basically what I'm saying. If you took 1925 Babe Ruth and put him into a time machine and plunked him into the middle of the Yankee's order, I don't know how good he would be. That isn't exactly a fair way to assess things, since a great athlete in the 1920s should theoretically have all the physical tools to be a great athlete in the 2020s, provided that they grew up and matured in an environment that is more advantageous to athletic development. But if you want to purely assess a player based on how good they actually were at baseball, I think the modern players would be superior to the players of the past; that is just how athletics work.
 

luckiestman

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That is basically what I'm saying. If you took 1925 Babe Ruth and put him into a time machine and plunked him into the middle of the Yankee's order, I don't know how good he would be. That isn't exactly a fair way to assess things, since a great athlete in the 1920s should theoretically have all the physical tools to be a great athlete in the 2020s, provided that they grew up and matured in an environment that is more advantageous to athletic development. But if you want to purely assess a player based on how good they actually were at baseball, I think the modern players would be superior to the players of the past; that is just how athletics work.
It’s not that simple

View: https://youtu.be/8COaMKbNrX0
 

teddywingman

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That is basically what I'm saying. If you took 1925 Babe Ruth and put him into a time machine and plunked him into the middle of the Yankee's order, I don't know how good he would be. That isn't exactly a fair way to assess things, since a great athlete in the 1920s should theoretically have all the physical tools to be a great athlete in the 2020s, provided that they grew up and matured in an environment that is more advantageous to athletic development. But if you want to purely assess a player based on how good they actually were at baseball, I think the modern players would be superior to the players of the past; that is just how athletics work.
In general I agree with that, but I think that dismissing greats from the past as replacement level today is silly.

Andrew Benintendi is above RL, but does he have 20/10 vision? If you put him back in time to replace Ted Williams, do you think he could hit near .347/.467/.677 over a career 124 ABs against Bob Feller? (a pitcher who threw 100 regularly)
 

Kliq

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In general I agree with that, but I think that dismissing greats from the past as replacement level today is silly.

Andrew Benintendi is above RL, but does he have 20/10 vision? If you put him back in time to replace Ted Williams, do you think he could hit near .347/.467/.677 over a career 124 ABs against Bob Feller? (a pitcher who threw 100 regularly)
Yes.

And I'm not dismissing the greats, I love the old stars in baseball and I'm in awe of the numbers they put up in their own time. If I was making my own top ten it would probably look something like Ruth/Mays/Cobb/Williams/Charleston/Bonds/Gibson/Aaron/Wagner/Mantle.
 
Aug 11, 2019
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If you put him back in time to replace Ted Williams, do you think he could hit near .347/.467/.677 over a career 124 ABs against Bob Feller? (a pitcher who threw 100 regularly)
Or if you brought Ted Williams ahead in time and he had all the modern methods of studying pitchers, might he not hit even better than he did back in the '40s and '50s? And recall, the Ted Williams' shift was started in the middle of the 1946 season.
 

teddywingman

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Or if you brought Ted Williams ahead in time and he had all the modern methods of studying pitchers, might he not hit even better than he did back in the '40s and '50s? And recall, the Ted Williams' shift was started in the middle of the 1946 season.
Great point. The way Ted was obsessed with hitting, imagine him analyzing game footage of opposing pitchers.
 

Kliq

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In regards to including the negro league players; we seem to accept the statistics from the pre-integration era as relatively valid. However, no matter what way you slice it, there was clearly a lack of talent in the majors during that time period when compared to the game post-integration. Hitters would not look as good if they had to play against the best black pitchers of the day and pitchers would not look as good if they had to face the best black hitters. They didn't have too, though.

As I mentioned above, the dying days of the negro leagues managed to produce two of the absolute greatest players of all time in Willie Mays and Henry Aaron. If they were born 30 years earlier, you would have people questioning how you could rate them as all time greats. It is reasonable to believe that Oscar Charleston was as good as Ty Cobb, or that Josh Gibson was as good as Babe Ruth.
 

Marciano490

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If stats can project minors to majors, why can’t they project Negro Leagues to majors using the players who went to MLB and their rates there compared to their years in the Negro Leagues?
 

teddywingman

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Hitters would not look as good if they had to play against the best black pitchers of the day and pitchers would not look as good if they had to face the best black hitters. They didn't have too, though.
So everyone would have been worse? Not going to agree. Greater competition often leads to better performance.

It's an unfortunate history, for certain, but I would not say that Gibson, Paige, Bell, or any of the greats from that league statistically benefit from not competing with white players of that era while in their prime.

During the '50s as the leagues more or less merged, was there a noticeable drop in performance? (Other than the fact that many of the older greats were then passed their prime.)

Then 1961 expansion comes and adds openings for fringe level players.
 
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To use Japan as an example--"Between fiscal 1948, the first year after the war the survey was resumed, and fiscal 1995, the most remarkable change in height occurred among 14-year-old boys in the eighth grade. Today these boys average 159.6 centimeters (5 feet 2 inches), 19.8 centimeters (7 3/4 inches) more than their counterparts in 1948 ." from 1996 article, edited by Japan Echo Inc., based on domestic Japanese news sources

While that is undoubtedly more extreme than we'd find in this country, it does show that there has been a fairly substantial increase in body size in males (and undoubtedly females). There are a number of reasons for this: better nutrition, introduction of people from other countries, which lead to a generation producing larger offspring, leading to the next generation, etc. And we haven't gotten to the point where the muscle strength that was produced by work has been replaced by scientifically designed exercise regimens.

If you go back to the very early days of baseball, you probably would find players who also had a job and even when you got to the 1950s, many players had to work in hte off-season because they did not get paid a lot by MLB. They would show up at spring training out of shape and need to spend much time working themselves into condition to play the season. Spring training today still lasts as long as it does because baseball simply has not changed even though most players don't need to spend as much time getting ready as they once did.

It is really difficult to rate players from different eras against each other because of these things and other things like better equipment, better field conditions, generally smaller field sizes, video/computer data, etc. How do you measure fielding for a player from the 1920s to compare him to one playing today?

I once had the opportunity to talk with Zip Collins, who was a teammate of Honus Wagner back in 1914-15. He spoke glowingly of Wagner...but Wagner had reached 40 and was only a shadow of his former self. If he rated Wagner only on what he saw when they played together, I don't think he would have rated him as highly as he did based on his reputation. I started doing baseball stats as a kid back in the early '50s, trying to prove that Ted Williams was better than Babe Ruth. I even invented a version of OBP. Then, although I had never seen Ruth play I realized he probably would have made the Hall if he had remained a pitcher. Could I take NL and AL players who played when I was watching back then and rank AL shortstops versus NL, for example? No, because I almost never saw National League clubs play and the data available for fielding was certainly not sufficient for grading them. A lot of you here grew up in a much different age than I did and you are accustomed to all the advanced sabermetrics but what some of you seem to forget is that many of these metrics are based on estimations of estimations.
 

teddywingman

Looks like Zach Galifianakis
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Jul 31, 2009
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a basement on the hill
Didn’t Japan implement a program to increase its citizens’ heights?
Also, Japan in 1948 and 1995 could not be more disparate than any modern nation in the 20th century.

I understand that people have become bigger in most, if not all developed nations; but using Japan in 1948 as an example seems ludicrous.
 

Joe Sixpack

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If stats can project minors to majors, why can’t they project Negro Leagues to majors using the players who went to MLB and their rates there compared to their years in the Negro Leagues?
There isn't a complete statistical record like we have with the minor leagues today.
 

cannonball 1729

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Sep 8, 2005
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I amazed that I hadn't heard of him or the All Nations team.
You're not alone. He came 10 years before the heyday of the Negro Leagues, retired seven years before integration, never appeared on TV/film, and spent most of his 33 ballplaying years barnstorming against semi-pro competition, so he didn't get the coverage of other, later Negro Leaguers. No one really kept stats on him, either, so....without statistics, exposure, or famous teammates/opposing players to lionize him, he became largely forgotten after he retired. In fact, the only reason we have any sense now of how good he was is because some guy has spent the last 20 years digging up all of Donaldson's box scores one by one from local newspapers.
 

patoaflac

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Very nice page of the HOF regarding "El Maestro" Dihigo. Great references about him from other players.
 

cannonball 1729

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Here's film footage of John Wesley Donaldson pitching in 1925:

View: https://youtu.be/j4HZC14Wyww?t=101


Here's his Negro League Museum page:
The crazy part of that footage is that a.) it's the only known footage of Donaldson, b.) it was only (re-)discovered in 2010, and c.) the person who filmed it (W.T. Oxley) owned the hand-crank camera that took the video only because a store screwed up an alteration of one of his items (something jewelry-related, I believe, though I can't find it online) and offered the camera to make amends.