Friday, October 29, 2004
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ALL-TIME GREATEST HITTER: UPDATE
One of the very first blog entries that I wrote when I started this site was the "Who is the Greatest Hitter of All-Time?" entry. At the time, it did receive quite a bit of discussion in a few online places, which was very cool. However, it was done in June of 2003 and only included stats through the 2002 season. Barry Bonds has continued to put up incredible, MVP numbers since then (as we all know). On numerous occasions during the past year, people have e-mailed me and asked me to update that report to see if Barry Bonds has moved up the list. I wanted to wait until after the season before updating that entry.
Well, now the season is over. The Red Sox are the World Champions. And there will not be a regular season baseball game until next April. Thatís about five months! Well, Spring Training is only three-and-a-half months away. And we have the Arizona Fall League and all the Winter Leagues. But itís just not the same.
Over the offseason, I will continue to update this site most weekdays. We do have a few articles in the works. But today, we are going to update our Greatest Hitters of All-Time list. Here is just a quick reminder of the results from the previous report. The numbers will make more sense after youíve read the below. If you want to see how this looked last June, please click here.
Ranking (1-8) Scale Scoring (scale to 10)
1.) Babe Ruth 2.27 1.) Babe Ruth 8.80
2.) Ted Williams 3.27 2.) Ty Cobb 8.13
3.) Ty Cobb 3.67 3.) Ted Williams 7.95
4.) Barry Bonds 4.67 4.) Hank Aaron 7.34
5.) Hank Aaron 4.73 5.) Barry Bonds 7.19
6.) Willie Mays 5.13 6.) Willie Mays 7.05
7.) Mickey Mantle 5.73 7.) Mickey Mantle 6.65
8.) Joe Dimaggio 5.87 8.) Joe Dimaggio 6.28
Where will Mr. Bonds rank after this report is updated? Letís find out!
(Updated from Tuesday, June 3, 2003)
Who Is The Greatest???
As promised, todayís writing will be on "Who is the Greatest Hitter of All-Time". Well, by the time you get to the bottom of this, you will see who, in my highly scientific statistical analysis, is the greatest. Iíd like to thank the folks at Baseball-Reference.com for their work and making researching all of the below numbers so much easier.
Before doing this research, I was of the opinion that Willie Mays was the greatest overall hitter. Not a very popular choice. Was I right? Was I wrong? See below:
The Candidates (in alphabetical order)
Hank Aaron - 1954-1976 (23 seasons).
Hammeriní Hank played in 21 All-Star games. He finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting 13 times, winning the NL MVP award in 1957.He led the league in batting average twice, slugging percentage 4 times and OPS+ 3 times. Oh yeah, heís the all-time home run king too!
Barry Bonds - 1986-Current (19 seasons, and counting)
Barry Lamar Bonds broke Mark McGwireís single-season home run record with 73. He has pretty much demolished the record books the last four years. He has appeared in 13 All-Star games, so far. He has finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting 13 times winning an unprecedented 6 MVP awards (1990, 1992, 1993, 2001, 2002 and 2003), so far (and lets be honest, heís going to win the 2004 MVP as well!). He led the league in batting average in 2002 and 2004, has led the league in On-Base percentage eight times, in slugging percentage seven times, and in OPS+ nine times. And, barring major injury, he could play a few more quality years and move his way up any list of greatest players ever! (UPDATE - I updated the MVPs and league leaders above. Bonds has continued to hit home runs (passing 700 this season) in masses despite pitchers not being willing to pitch to him! His On-Base Percentage was over .600. With all the walks, his batting average has risen drastically. And, his numbers above the average player is continuing to increase.)
Ty Cobb - 1905-1928 (24 seasons).
The Georgia Peach was anything but peachy, but he could hit! The 1911 AL MVP hit for the Triple Crown in 1909. He led the league in batting average 11 times, and his career .366 average is the best in major league history. He also led the league in on-base percentage seven times, slugging percentage eight times and OPS+ 11 times. He and Pete Rose are the only two major leaguers with over 4,000 hits.
Joe Dimaggio - 1936-1951 (13 seasons, because he Did Not Play in 1943-1945 to serve in the war) -
Joltiní Joe played in 13 All-Star games. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting ten times and won the award three times (1939, 1941, and 1947). He won the batting title twice, led the league in slugging percentage twice and OPS+ once. What is he best known for? Well, it could be the 56 game hitting streak in 1941. Or, it could be for being married to Marilyn Monroe!!
Mickey Mantle - 1951-1968 (18 seasons)
The Mick played in 16 All-Star games. He was in the Top 10 in MVP voting nine times winning the award three times (1956, 1957, 1962). He led the league in batting average once, on-base percentage three times, slugging percentage four times and OPS+ eight times. Injuries affected and cut-short his amazing career.
Willie Mays - 1951-1973 (23 seasons)
The Say Hey Kid played on 20 All-Star teams. He was the 1951 NL Rookie of the Year. He was the NL MVP in 1954 and 1965 and finished in the top 10 in voting 12 times! He led his league in batting average and on-base percentage once, slugging percentage five times and OPS+ six times.
George Herman Ruth - 1914-1935 (22 seasons)
The Babe revolutionized the game of baseball. He made the home run special as he frequently had more home runs in a season than some teams. Babe Ruth played in just 2 All-Star games, but of course, the All-Star game didnít start until 1933. He was the 1923 AL MVP. He led the league in batting average once, on-base percentage ten times, slugging percentage thirteen times, and OPS+ thirteen times. His career slugging percentage (.690) and OPS+ (207) are the best all-time. Oh, and not related to hitting, he was 94-46 with a 2.28 ERA as a pitcher in his early years.
Ted Williams - 1939-1960 (16+ seasons, because he served our country in two wars)
The Splendid Splinter is the last player to hit .400 (1941). He was a 17-time All-Star. He won the Triple Crown in 1942. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting twelve times, winning the award in 1946 and 1949. He led the American League in batting average six times, on-base percentage twelve times, slugging percentage nine times, and OPS+ nine times. His .482 career on-base percentage is the best in major league history. I apologize, but these kinds of numbers should be frozen in time.
In my mind, there is more to "the greatest hitter" than just number of hits. If so, Pete Rose is the best, Ty Cobb is second. I think that a compilation of all stats are important in determining whoís the greatest. Can a player hit for average, get on base, and hit for power? I also think that by-products of this are runs scored and RBIs. I went into developing my theory with three thoughts in mind:
1.) Raw Numbers do matter. People downgrade Hank Aaronís numbers sometimes because he has so many at bats more than anyone else. I happen to believe that his numbers speak for themselves and are important.
2.) Longevity - I understand that Aaron and Cobb had longer careers than Dimaggio or Williams. Baseball is a great game, and a game of numbers. Injuries are a part of the game, otherwise Ken Griffey Jr. might have to be added to this list too. The fact that Dimaggio and Williams served their country in war time and are regarded as heroes is tougher. I guess I could try to project, but 1.) thatís hard, and 2.) whoís to say that they would have lived up to those projections or wouldnít have been hurt? So, Iíll just again leave the numbers to themselves.
3.) Another factor in my judgment will be how these players compared to the average player during their era. How much are their numbers better than others who played at that time? I will talk about their numbers in relation to the League Average Park Adjusted numbers. This basically is saying what the average major league player playing in the same ballparks as the player would have done. For instance, Barry Bonds played in Pittsburgh from 1986-1992, and in 2 different ballparks in San Francisco since. The park adjusted league average shows what the average player playing in his exact career path would have done. Clear as mud?
So, here are the 15 statistics used:
1.) Hits, 2.) 2B, 3.) 3B, 4.) HR, 5.) RBI, 6.) Runs, 7.) Batting Average, 8.) % Batting Average Above League/Park Adjusted Average, 9.) On-Base Percentage, 10.) % On-Base Percentage Above League/Park Adjusted Average, 11.) Slugging Percentage, 12.) % Slugging Percentage Above League/Park Adjusted Average, 13.) OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging), 14.) OPS Above League/Park Adjusted Average, and 15.) OPS+.
I wanted to look at the data 2 ways. These players are generally considered the eight greatest players. I realize there are others that could be considered for hits, home runs, etc. But, by doing two ratings, we would hope to have a consensus for the #1 overall player.
1.) Ranking - For each of the 15 categories, I ranked the players 1 through 8. Then, I added up the sum of the 15 numbers and divided by 15 to get the average. This results in a number between 1 and 8. If a player ranked first in each of the 15 categories - (15x1)/15=1. So, the lower the score, the better the player ranks.
2.) Scale Score - I took the leader of the 8 in each category and assigned 10 points to him. Using their statistic as the denominator, I put the other playersí statistics in the numerator. The result of that division was taken times ten the result being between 0 and 9.9. Example - In 1998, Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs, Sammy Sosa hit 66. In that case, McGwire would receive a 10 for leading the category. Sosa would receive 66/70x10=9.4. I think this more fairly distinguishes the difference between the player and the leader. In this case, the higher the score (closest to 10) is the leader.
I will now enter the leaders by category with the Ranking shown first then Scale Score in parentheses.
HITS 2B 3B HR
1.) Cobb 4,192 (10.0) 1.) Cobb 724 (10.0) 1.) Cobb 295 (10.0) 1.) Aaron 755 (10.0)
2.) Aaron 3,771 (9.0) 2.) Aaron 624 (8.6) 2.) Mays 140 (4.7) 2.) Ruth 714 (9.5)
3.) Mays 3,283 (7.8) 3.) Bonds 563 (7.8) 3.) Ruth 136 (4.6) 3.) Bonds 703 (9.3)
4.) Ruth 2,873 (6.9) 4.) Williams 525 (7.3) 4.) Dimaggio 131 (4.4) 4.) Mays 660 (8.7)
5.) Bonds 2,730 (6.5) 5.) Mays 523 (7.2) 5.) Aaron 98 (3.3) 5.) Mantle 536 (7.1)
6.) Williams 2,654 (6.3) 6.) Ruth 506 (7.0) 6.) Bonds 77 (2.6) 6.) Williams 521 (6.9)
7.) Mantle 2,415 (5.8) 7.) Dimaggio 389 (5.4) 7.) Mantle 72 (2.4) 7.) Dimaggio 361 (4.8)
8.) Dimaggio 2,214 (5.3) 8.) Mantle 344 (4.8) 8.) Williams 71 (2.4) 8.) Cobb 117 (1.5)
RUNS RBI Batting Avg BA Above Lg Avg.
1.) Cobb 2,246 (10.0) 1.) Aaron 2,297 (10.0) 1.) Cobb .366 (10.0) 1.) Cobb 34% (10.0)
2.) Aaron 2,174 (9.7) 2.) Ruth 2,213 (9.6) 2.) Williams .344 (9.4) 2.) Williams 24% (7.1)
2.) Ruth 2,174 (9.7) 3.) Cobb 1,937 (8.4) 3.) Ruth .342 (9.3) 3.) Ruth 20% (5.9)
4.) Bonds 2,070 (9.2) 4.) Mays 1,903 (8.3) 4.) Dimaggio .325 (8.9) 4.) Dimaggio 18% (5.3)
5.) Mays 2,062 (9.2) 5.) Bonds 1,843 (8.0) 5.) Aaron .305 (8.3) 5.) Aaron 17% (5.0)
6.) Williams 1,798 (8.0) 6.) Williams 1,839 (8.0) 6.) Mays .302 (8.3) 6.) Mantle 16% (4.7)
7.) Mantle 1,677 (7.5) 7.) Dimaggio 1,537 (6.7) 7.) Bonds .300 (8.2) 7.) Mays 15% (4.4)
8.) Dimaggio 1,390 (6.2) 8.) Mantle 1,509 (6.6) 8.) Mantle .298 (8.1) 8.) Bonds 15% (4.4)
On-Base % OBP Above Lg Avg Slugging % Slg % Above Avg.
1.) Williams .482 (10.0) 1.) Williams 35% (10.0) 1.) Ruth .690 (10.0) 1.) Ruth 73% (10.0)
2.) Ruth .474 (9.8) 2.) Ruth 34% (9.7) 2.) Williams .634 (9.2) 2.) Williams 55% (7.5)
3.) Bonds .443 (9.2) 2.) Bonds 34% (9.7) 3.) Bonds .611 (8.9) 3.) Bonds 50% (6.8)
4.) Cobb .433 (9.0) 4.) Mantle 28% (8.0) 4.) Dimaggio .579 (8.4) 4.) Mantle 44% (6.0)
5.) Mantle .421 (8.7) 5.) Cobb 27% (7.7) 5.) Mantle .557 (8.1) 5.) Dimaggio 43% (5.9)
6.) Dimaggio .398 (8.3) 6.) Mays 17% (4.9) 5.) Mays .557 (8.1) 6.) Aaron 41% (5.6)
7.) Mays .384 (8.0) 7.) Aaron 14% (4.0) 7.) Aaron .555 (8.0) 7.) Cobb 40% (5.5)
8.) Aaron .374 (7.8) 8.) Dimaggio 12% (3.4) 8.) Cobb .512 (7.4) 8.) Mays 39% (5.3)
OPS OPS Above Lg Avg OPS +
1.) Ruth 1.164 (10.0) 1.) Ruth 55% (10.0) 1.) Ruth 207 (10.0)
2.) Williams 1.116 (9.6) 2.) Williams 46% (8.4) 2.) Williams 190 (9.2)
3.) Bonds 1.033 (9.0) 3.) Bonds 43% (7.8) 3.) Bonds 184 (8.9)
4.) Mantle .978 (8.4) 4.) Cobb 34% (6.2) 4.) Mantle 172 (8.3)
5.) Dimaggio .977 (8.4) 5.) Aaron 29% (5.3) 5.) Cobb 167 (8.1)
6.) Cobb .945 (8.1) 5.) Dimaggio 29% (5.3) 6.) Mays 156 (7.5)
7.) Mays .941 (8.1) 5.) Mantle 29% (5.3) 7.) Aaron 155 (7.5)
8.) Aaron .928 (8.0) 5.) Mays 29% (5.3) 7.) Dimaggio 155 (7.7)
Ranking (1-8) Scale Scoring (scale to 10)
1.) Babe Ruth 2.27 1.) Babe Ruth 8.80
2.) Ted Williams 3.47 2.) Ty Cobb 8.13
3.) Ty Cobb 3.73 3.) Ted Williams 7.95
4.) Barry Bonds 4.07 4.) Barry Bonds 7.75
5.) Hank Aaron 4.73 5.) Hank Aaron 7.34
6.) Willie Mays 5.33 6.) Willie Mays 7.05
7.) Mickey Mantle 5.80 7.) Mickey Mantle 6.65
8.) Joe Dimaggio 6.00 8.) Joe Dimaggio 6.28
So, either way you look at it, Babe Ruth appears to be the Greatest Hitter of All-Time. A big part of that is his complete dominance of his era. His percentages above his eraís averages is more than the others. From there, itís a toss-up as to whether Ted Williams or Ty Cobb is #2 all-time. Iíd give the edge to Ted Williams because of his time lost to the wars. Itís another toss-up for #4 between Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. Bonds is still playing, so his numbers will continue to rise, so Iíll give him the edge there. With 3 or 4 more healthy, successful years, I could see Bonds jumping as high as #2 on this list.
My final listing of the Top 8 Greatest Hitters of All-Time:
1.) Babe Ruth
2.) Ted Williams
3.) Ty Cobb
4.) Barry Bonds
5.) Hank Aaron
6.) Willie Mays
7.) Mickey Mantle
8.) Joe Dimaggio
I hope youíve enjoyed this document, because I know I enjoyed researching it. I guarantee, I never enjoyed writing a paper and researching as much in college as I did doing this! If you have any comments, questions, concerns, suggestions, etc, please E-mail me!
Well, I am actually surprised that in the big picture, there was very little change, even with Barry Bonds' incredible 2003 and 2004 seasons! Yes, he is officially now in fourth place by both measures. He has solidified his numbers and they continue to move up. I really believe that if he is able to play two more full, healthy seasons, he will continue to pass the likes of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. Certainly, we can all see that he will pass both Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron on the Home Run lists. He will continue to move up the other lists as well. It will be interesting to see just how far he even can move up the list. Babe Ruth's dominance over the other players in his era make him very difficult, if not impossible to pass.
One question I have for you, the readers, is what more should be done with this report? Sure, I could use Win Shares, or VORP, or other far more highly technical metrics to do this. However, as I mentioned, I believe that many of the raw numbers are important too because I do believe that longevity is important to determining career accomplishments. My main question is this: I used eight players that I believe are most mentioned when talking about the all-time greats. Are there other names that should be considered as well? If so, who? I have thought that Rogers Hornsby and Honus Wagner should be included from the early years (although there are a number of reasons that I don't trust their numbers, but that's the same issues as I should have with Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.). Frank Robinson may be one of the more underrated players in baseball history. Are there other more current players that should fit into such a report? I'd love to hear your comments on this. Please e-mail me.
The Vikings play the NY Giants on Sunday at noon at Metrodome. The Giants have been a surprise team this year with Kurt Warner re-establishing himself as a quality NFL QB. Tiki Barber is the leader RB in all-purpose yards this year. The Giants are a very good team.
However, the Vikings are also a very good team. They have the best QB in the NFL (statistically at the very least). Mewelde Moore has taken over the RB position and does not appear to want to give it up. Mike Tice is saying that Randy Moss will play this weekend in a more real role. Even if he isn't, the likes of Marcus Robinson and Nate Burleson are legit receiver options, and Jermaine Wiggins provides another weapon.
But, the Vikings have really struggled against the Giants in recent years, so don't be surprised if this is a close game.
Seth's Prediction - VIKINGS 31, GIANTS 23.
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First, congratulations to Ben Jacobs, one of the best online writer's you will find, and a life-long Red Sox fan! I'm sure you can imagine how happy he is feeling these days! Be sure to check out his article and send him a quick congratulatory e-mail!
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On that note, I am going to call it a day and a week. Have yourself a great weekend! Happy Halloween and be safe! Next week, the Timberwolves begin their new season, so I will have a preview of the team and the NBA next week, along with more baseball information as it comes. If you have any questions, comments or ideas for future topics, please e-mail me.
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