Thursday, August 9, 2018

Top 106 Baseball Players: Breakdown

Because I can't help myself when it comes to statistics, I decided to break down the 106 players from my countdown by when they played, what position they played, and where they played.

By Decade

These are broken down by primary decade played:

1880's: 3
1890's: 3
1900's: 7
1910's: 8
1920's: 5
1930's: 13
1940's: 7
1950's: 5
1960's: 10
1970's: 8
1980's: 6
1990's: 15
2000's: 13
2010's: 3

There was quite a spike around the turn of the millennium, even if you don't count the cheaters.

By Position

These are broken down by position played in the most games:

Pitcher - 40
First Base - 14
Left Field - 11
Right Field - 11
Center Field - 10
Second Base - 7
Third Base - 4
Catcher - 3
Shortstop - 3
Designated Hitter - 3

By Team

These are broken down by primary team, with total players who appeared with that team in parentheses:

New York Yankees - 16 (29)
Philadelphia/Oakland Athletics - 10 (18)
Boston Red Sox - 9 (18)
Saint Louis Cardinals - 8 (17)
New York/San Francisco Giants - 8 (12)
Detroit Tigers - 7 (13)
Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers - 5 (12)
Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves - 5 (7)
Philadelphia Phillies - 4 (12)
Saint Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles - 3 (14)
New York Mets - 3 (13)
Cleveland Indians - 3 (10)
Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins - 3 (7)
Cincinnati Reds - 3 (7)
Chicago Cubs - 2 (8)
Chicago White Sox - 2 (8)
California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels - 2 (5)
Houston Astros - 1 (10)
Texas Rangers - 1 (6)
Toronto Blue Jays - 1 (6)
Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals - 1 (6)
San Diego Padres - 1 (5)
Pittsburgh Pirates - 1 (5)
Seattle Mariners - 1 (4)
Milwaukee Brewers - 1 (4)
Kansas City Royals - 1 (3)
Florida/Miami Marlins - 1 (2)
Arizona Diamondbacks - 1 (2)
Colorado Rockies - 1 (1)
Tampa Bay Rays - 0 (1)

The only team that didn't have a player represented in the top 106 was Tampa Bay, but they at least had the twilight years of Wade Boggs. The other 3 most recent expansion teams also had fewer representatives than most, while the Yankees obviously dominated.

Thanks to everybody who followed this countdown and commented (mostly through Facebook). I hope you enjoyed it, and I can't wait to unveil my next set of all-time rankings.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Top 106 Baseball Players: #1 - Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player of all time, and it isn't even close. Even if you remove all of his pitching performances from his statistics, he is still the greatest of all time by a considerable margin.

Ruth joined the Red Sox in 1914, but was hardly used as a rookie. He started out as a pitcher, and in his third season he led the league in ERA and shutouts, and also led the Red Sox to the World Series, where he had the best pitching performance of anyone that year, pitching a 14-inning complete game that Boston won 2-1 over Brooklyn.

After the 1917 season, he grew tired of only playing once or twice a week, and asked to be used in the outfield more often. He was used occasionally in that role in 1918, but because the Red Sox were in the pennant race, they wanted to use him more as a pitcher. He did tie for the league lead with 11 home runs that year, and he also ended up with his second title.

With the Red Sox out of the running pretty early in 1919, they allowed him more time in the outfield, and he took full advantage, breaking the previous home run record by hitting 29, 2 more than the old record. With the owner short on cash after the season, and recognizing the value he was sitting on, Ruth was sold to the Yankees for $100,000.

In his first season in New York, he obliterated his own record, hitting 54 home runs to nearly double his record from the previous season, and he finished far ahead of the next-highest total of 19 that year. He also led the league in runs scored, RBI's, walks, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, making him easily the best player in the league.

The next year was his best overall. He broke the home run record again, this time upping it to 59, far ahead of the 24 of his nearest competitor. He also led the league with 177 runs, 168 RBI, and 145 walks, and batted .378 for the season. He also took over the career home run lead that season when he hit #139, and he would extend that record nearly 600 more times over the course of his career.

Ruth was suspended for the first 6 weeks of the 1922 season for playing exhibition games following the World Series, which was not allowed at the time. The rule was changed before the season ended, but it was enough to prevent Ruth from winning the home run title for one of the few times in his career.

When he returned in 1924, he played like a man on a mission, leading the league in all of his regular categories while batting a career high .393 and leading the Yankees to the World Series for the third year in a row against the New York Giants, with which they shared a stadium. He had a great series, batting .368 with 3 homers and 8 walks, and finally defeated the Giants on their third attempt.

Ruth missed much of the 1925 season due to a mysterious belly problem, probably the result of overindulgence in alcohol and hot dogs. He came back strong in 1926, having another Ruthian season, and led them back to the World Series, where he had his best postseason series, hitting 4 home runs and walking 11 times, but the Yankees lost to the Cardinals in 7.

In 1927 he broke his home run record one more time, reaching 60, a number that would not be touched for 34 seasons. He also had another good postseason, batting .400 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI in the World Series as the Yankees swept Pittsburgh. They repeated the feat in 1928, with Ruth hitting .625 with 3 home runs in a sweep of the Cardinals.

He spent a few more seasons as the best player in baseball, leading the league in home runs 3 more times, making it a total of 12 seasons in his career. He also led the league in RBI's 5 times in his career, runs 6 times, and walks 11 times. He retired as the all-time leader in home runs, RBI's, walks, and slugging percentage, and is still in the top 3 in each of those categories, and still leads in slugging. There has never been a player who dominated in the way he did, and he did it for over a decade, so there is no doubt at all that he is the greatest player of all time, and may be forever.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Top 106 Baseball Players: #2 - Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig was a great all-around player who rarely missed a game before he was forced into an early retirement by the disease that was named for him and took his life soon afterward.

Gehrig first joined the Yankees in 1923, as a 19-year-old, and was used sparingly as a pinch hitter in his first two years, and wasn't included on the postseason roster when they won the 1923 World Series. Midway through the 1925 season, first baseman Wally Pipp sat out with a headache, allowing Gehrig to start the game, and he didn't sit out another game until 1939.

He had his breakout season in 1927, the year in which the Yankees' lineup was known as Murderer's Row. He batted directly behind Babe Ruth in the lineup for most of his career, but still managed to lead the league in RBI's 5 times, including that season. He broke Ruth's record by knocking in 175 RBI's that season, fell two short of Ruth's record for extra-base hits, and 10 short of his record for total bases. Though Ruth set the record with 60 home runs that year, Gehrig was awarded the league's MVP.

Gehrig had won his first World Series in 1927, but he had his best World Series in 1928, when he hit .545 with 4 home runs and 9 RBI in a 4-game sweep of the Cardinals. He would finish his career with 6 total championships, spread out from 1927 to 1938, his final full season.

From 1930 to 1932, Gehrig had a total of 509 RBI, which is a higher total than any other player had in their 3 best career seasons. That included 185 in 1931, which is the highest in AL history and the second-highest of all time. He also tied with Babe Ruth for the home run title for the first time in his career, and he was the MVP runner-up in both 1931 and 1932.

In 1932, he became the first player ever to hit 4 home runs in a game, and nearly had a fifth that was pulled back from over the fence by an outfielder. He and Ruth were able to lead the Yankees back to the World Series that year after a 3-year absence, and Gehrig was again the driving force behind a sweep, this time against the Cubs. He hit .529 with 3 home runs and 8 RBI in the series as he took home his third ring.

That was Ruth's last great season, and Gehrig took over as the team's biggest star for the next several years. In 1934 he won the Triple Crown with 49 home runs, 166 RBI, and an average of .363, and led the league in total bases. In each of the next 3 seasons, he led the league in walks, and won a second MVP in 1936 when he also led the league in home runs and runs scored.

Between 1926 and 1938, Gehrig did not miss a single game, and also surpassed both 100 runs scored and 100 RBI in each season. He started to feel tired midway through the 1938 season, and when he was unable to hit with any power or cover first base through the first few games of 1939, he voluntarily removed himself from the lineup after playing 2130 straight games, and he would never play again.

He was diagnosed with ALS in June, and a ceremony was held to honor him between games of a doubleheader on July 4th, during which he gave his famous farewell speech and was honored by being the first player ever to have his number retired by any team. After the season ended, a special election was held to induct him into the Hall of Fame before his death, and he was the youngest elected until Sandy Koufax.

In addition to the impressive RBI records listed above, he also holds the record for most times reaching 400 total bases in a season, and is one of only 2 players to hit 40 doubles and 40 homers in the same season 3 times, along with Albert Pujols. He holds the record by scoring the game-winning run in 8 different World Series games, and is definitely one of the all-time great men in baseball history, as well as one of the greatest players ever.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Top 106 Baseball Players: #3 - Barry Bonds*

Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds has hit more home runs than any other player in history, but accusations of steroid use have added controversy to that record and prevented him from being elected to the Hall of Fame so far.

Bonds first played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, joining the team in 1986. After a few years of growing into his role, he became the MVP in 1990, when he joined the 30-30 club with 33 homers and 52 stolen bases, and also hit above .300 for the first time. A slight dropoff in homers led to him being the MVP runner-up the next year, but he was not nearly finished.

In 1992, he won his 2nd MVP, with another 30-30 season in which he also led the league in runs as well as walks. He became a free agent after the season, and the Pirates were unable to offer him a large enough contract, so he signed with the San Francisco Giants for what was then the largest contract in history.

During his first season in California, he led the league in home runs for the first time, as well as RBI and total bases, which earned him a 3rd MVP, tying the all-time record. Over the next 4 years he continued to hit home runs at a good pace, while leading the league in intentional walks and total walks each time.

He started a career resurgence in 2000, when he hit 49 home runs, which was then his career high, and led the league in walks for the 6th time. It was also during that season that he tested positive for steroids, though that result was not made public for several years.

In 2001 he started his assault on the record books, starting when he joined the 500-home-run club in April. By the end of the season, he had broken the season records for walks and slugging percentage, as well as the famous home run record. He also had the highest on-base percentage of any player in over 40 years, and took home his record 4th MVP award.

In 2002, it was more of the same for Bonds. He reached 600 home runs, less than a year after his 500th. He broke the walks record again that year, along with the intentional walk record and the on-base percentage record, which was previously held by Ted Williams. It was no surprise that he took home his 5th MVP that season.

That was also the first season in which he won a playoff series. He was able to guide the Giants to the World Series that year, and he was great, batting .471 with 4 home runs and 13 walks, and he set an all-time record with a slugging percentage of 1.294, but they lost to the Angels in 7 games, which was the closest he ever got to a championship.

In 2003 he became the first player ever to reach the 500-500 club, with 500 home runs and stolen bases, and he was already the only member of the 400-400 club, and no player has joined either one since either. Though he did not break any major records that year, he did win his 3rd straight MVP and 6th overall, both records.

He had his best season in 2004, when he again broke several records. He reached 700 home runs in September, becoming the 3rd player ever to reach it. He also hit 45 home runs while only striking out 41 times, which is an extremely rare feat. He also destroyed his old records for walks, intentional walks, and on-base percentage. He won his 4th straight MVP, which is more in a row than any other player has total, also becoming the oldest MVP ever, and broke Rickey Henderson's all-time steals record.

He missed most of 2005 with injuries, then returned for two final seasons. He passed Babe Ruth for 2nd place on the all-time home run list in 2006, then surpassed Hank Aaron in 2007. At the conclusion of the season, the Giants declined to re-sign him, and no other team expressed interest, even though he still had enough talent to play, most likely because of the steroid allegations.

Though it is apparent that he cheated for a while in his career, Bonds' greatness is still indisputable. He had a record 13 straight seasons with at least 30 home runs, holds the all-time records for stolen bases, home runs, walks, and intentional walks, and the single-season records for home runs, walks, intentional walks, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage, along with those 7 MVP's, more than double any other player's total. There is no denying that Barry Bonds is one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Top 106 Baseball Players: #4 - Bob Gibson

Bob Gibson

Bob Gibson was the first great modern power pitcher, who was largely responsible for the last change to the pitching mound and was an absolute monster in the World Series.

Gibson first appeared with the Cardinals in 1959, but was used sparingly through his first 2.5 seasons, partly due to racial prejudice on the part of his manager. When the manager was replaced midway through 1961, Gibson was installed as a full-time starter, and remained one for the remainder of his career.

He showed steady improvement, increasing his win total each year through 1966, but it was in the 1964 postseason when people really began to take notice. He started 3 games in the World Series, losing a close one in Game 2, then winning Games 5 and 7, the latter a complete game on 2 days rest, to earn the series victory for the Cardinals. He set a new World Series record with 31 strikeouts, and was named the MVP as well.

He had his first two 20-win seasons in 1965 and 1966, and was on pace for another when a ball hit by Roberto Clemente hit him in the leg, breaking his fibula in half. He missed 3 months, but returned in time to lead the Cardinals to the pennant, where he was again great. He pitched 3 complete games, giving up only 14 hits, and struck out 26 with an ERA of 1.00 as he won all 3 of his starts and won another World Series MVP.

In 1968 he had one of the greatest pitching seasons ever. He posted a live-ball era record 1.12 ERA, led the league with 268 strikeouts and 13 shutouts, and pitched 28 complete games. During June and July, he started 12 games, winning them all in complete games, 8 of which were shutouts. He also posted an 0.50 ERA during that time, and had a 47-inning scoreless streak as well, and was named both the Cy Young and MVP winner after the season.

In Game 1 of the World Series, Gibson set an all-time record with 17 strikeouts, still the most ever in a World Series game, and it was also just the second time ever that a pitcher struck out at least one batter in ever single inning of a World Series game. After that shutout, he pitched the Cardinals to another victory in Game 4, then started strong in Game 7 before giving up a 3-run triple in the seventh that ended up costing them the series. He struck out 35 in that series, breaking his own record, and would have easily been named MVP again with a 1.67 ERA if they had won, but they fell just short.

After that season, the league decided to lower the pitchers mound and reduce the size of the strike zone, a set of rules often referred to as the "Gibson Rules." He was still the top pitcher that season, matching his 28 complete games from the previous season, getting one more strikeout, while his ERA rose only to 2.18 despite the rule changes.

The following season he set another new career high in strikeouts and led the league in wins for the first time, which enabled him to win his 2nd Cy Young award. He was also used regularly as a pinch-hitter that year, hitting .303 in 109 at-bats, an amazing feat for a pitcher.

In 1971, he had 2 major accomplishments. He reached 200 wins first, then pitched a no-hitter 10 days later, the first of his career. In 1974, he became the second pitcher ever to reach 3000 strikeouts, and the first to do it in the NL.

Though he is not at the top of any major pitching leaderboards, he has a load of impressive accomplishments. He won 2 Cy Young awards and an MVP, and had one of the best pitching seasons ever in 1968. He was a 2-time World Series MVP, and still holds the World Series record for most strikeouts in a game and in a series, and he ranks first, second, and fifth on the second list. He was the first pitcher in over 50 years to reach 3000 strikeouts, and is definitely one of the greatest players ever to take the mound.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Top 106 Baseball Players: #5 - Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan had the longest career of any player in baseball history, and set numerous Major League records along the way, though not all of them were positive.

Ryan started his career in 1966 with the New York Mets, but did not fully show his promise during his time there, partly due to service with the Army Reserve, which took him away from the team frequently throughout the season. He was a member of the World Series-winning 1969 Mets, pitching 2 shutout innings in relief in the lone World Series appearance of his career.

After the 1971 season, he was traded to the California Angels, where he was finally able to become a full-time starter, and he began to show his still immediately. In his first season with the Angels, he led the league with 329 strikeouts, which would be the first of 11 times he led the league. He also led the league in walks allowed for the first of 8 times, and wild pitches for the first of 6 times, which showed both sides of him.

In his second season with California, he broke Sandy Koufax's single-season strikeout record by one, fanning 383 batters that season. Koufax remarked jokingly that he had also broken his walk record by 91. He finished #2 in the Cy Young voting that year, the closest he would come to winning the award, which is one of the greatest travesties in the history of baseball.

He also recorded his first 2 no-hitters in 1973, and he struck out 17 batters in the second one, still the record for most in a no-hitter. The next year, he recorded his third, this time setting a record with 8 walks in a no-hitter. He threw his 4th in 1975, tying Sandy Koufax's career record, with all 4 coming within 3 seasons.

In his 8th and final season with the Angels, they finally made the playoffs, and he pitched well, giving up just one run and striking out 8 in 7 innings, but the Angels lost the game and the series anyway. After the season, he signed a big contract with the Houston Astros, allowing him to pitch in his home state.

He reached 3000 career strikeouts during his first season in Houston, and was able to pitch in the postseason a couple times. In 1981, he pitched against Fernando Valenzuela in the NLDS, giving up only 2 hits in a complete game win, which would be the second and final victory of his playoff career.

In 1983, he passed Walter Johnson for first place in career strikeouts. During the season Steve Carlton passed him several times to take the lead, but Ryan ended up pulling away and making the record his permanently. He was the first to reach 4000 strikeouts two years later.

During his first 7 seasons in Houston, he failed to lead the league in strikeouts, then had a sudden resurgence in 1987, when he led the league in ERA and strikeouts at age 40. Though he pitched well, the Astros did not offer him much run support, and he finished the season with an 8-16 record.

After the 1988 season, he was unable to reach a deal with Houston, and signed instead with the Texas Rangers. With Texas, he led the league in strikeouts again in 1989 and 1990, surpassing 300 strikeouts in 1989 at age 42. It was also during the 1989 season that he became the only pitcher ever to reach 5000 strikeouts.

He threw two no-hitters for Texas, one in 1990 and another in 1991, giving him 7 for his career, still the most by any pitcher ever. He decided to retire at the end of the 1993 season, but ended up finishing a few weeks early when he tore a ligament in his elbow after giving up his record 10th career grand slam.

Ryan is the career leader in strikeouts by far, and threw more no-hitters than any other pitcher ever. He also holds the career mark for fewest hits allowed per 9 innings and most seasons played. He also, however, is the all-time leader in walks allowed and wild pitches. He is the greatest pitcher to never win a Cy Young, and had a small role on his only title team, but there is no doubt that he is one of the greatest ever to take the mound.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Top 106 Baseball Players: #6 - Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson was one of the greatest power pitchers in history, and played a huge part in the only championship in Diamondbacks history.

Johnson began his career with Montreal in 1988, but after struggling to find his control, he was traded to the Mariners in 1989. During his first 3 seasons in Seattle, he led the league in walks allowed, a dubious distinction for a pitcher, and not generally a sign of future greatness.

Late in the 1992 season, he sought out Nolan Ryan to ask for advice, and Ryan helped him find the flaw in his delivery, and his entire career changed. He had led the league in both strikeouts and walks in 1992, but he would never lead the league in walks again, while finishing as the strikeout leader 8 more times.

In 1993 he became the top pitcher in the game, almost overnight, leading the league with 308 strikeouts, the first of many times he would reach 300. He was on pace for another 300-strikeout season in 1994 before the season ended early due to a strike.

He took his game to another level in 1995, and was finally recognized with his first Cy Young. He fell just short of 300 strikeouts, but still led the league, and also led the league in ERA at 2.48 and had an 18-2 record, good for the second-best win percentage in history. In his first career playoff series that year, he won two games against the Yankees, striking out 16 in 10 innings, including 3 innings in relief in the deciding Game 5.

A back injury limited him to 8 starts in 1996, but he came back to form in 1997 with 291 strikeouts, but requested a trade in 1998 when the Mariners refused to offer him an extension, and he got his wish minutes before the trade deadline, being dealt to the Astros. He had a 10-1 record in Houston, with a 1.28 ERA. He had the most strikeouts of any player in the league, though it didn't count as leading the league because it was split between the two leagues.

After his short stint in Houston, he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who had just finished their first season. In his first 4 seasons in Arizona, he had 4 of the best pitching seasons in history, surpassing 300 strikeouts each time, setting an all-time record with 5 seasons in a row. He also won the Cy Young in all 4 seasons, tying Greg Maddux's record for consecutive Cy Young awards.

Johnson was incredible in the 2001 postseason, striking out 19 with a 1.13 ERA in 2 wins against the Braves in the NLCS, then pitching even better in the World Series. He struck out 19 against the Yankees as well, with an ERA of 1.04, while winning Games 2 and 6, then getting another win in relief in Game 7 as the Diamondbacks won their first and only championship, and he was named co-MVP of the Series, along with Curt Schilling.

In 2002 he won the pitching Triple Crown, winning 24 games, striking out 334, and recording an ERA of 2.32, which made him an easy choice for his 5th Cy Young, the second-most of any player in history. He missed most of the following season with various injuries, ending his streak of great seasons.

He had one more great season still in the tank, though, and he pulled it out in 2004, when he was 40 years old. He won the strikeout title yet again, became the oldest pitcher ever to throw a perfect game, and became the 4th pitcher ever to reach 4000 strikeouts. He finished as the Cy Young runner-up, the third time he had just fallen short of the award.

Over the final 5 years of his career, he reached some impressive milestones, including the 300 win mark, and passing Roger Clemens to take over 2nd place on the career strikeout list, behind his mentor, Nolan Ryan. He pitched his final game at age 46, and was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

In addition to the record for consecutive 300-strikeout seasons and consecutive Cy Youngs, Johnson also holds the record for most strikeouts per 9 innings, with 10.61. He also holds the record for most strikeouts in a game by a lefty, with 20, and has 5 of the top 11 strikeout seasons in history. He was a very deserving World Series MVP in 2001, and one of the greatest players the game has ever seen.