Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top 100: Intro

The top 100 player list is a common exercise in the world of the baseball obsessed: ESPN has what is apparently now a yearly-updated list, The Sporting News did one in '98, SABR put one together in '99, Bill James last did one for his Historical Baseball Abstract in 2000, and I'm sure there are 100 more out there to find. My favorite baseball writer, Joe Posnanski, is in the midst of slowly rolling out his own. In typical Posnanski fashion, he's dedicating a long, fantastic blog post to every single player he names. I'm enjoying his series immensely, but I've been surprised by how much I've disagreed with several of his choices so far. Several commentors have said it looks like he's leaning heavily on win shares in his rankings, which is something I don't look at much. I feel like he may also be giving too much weight to some of the glamorous milestones in the game like 3,000 hits or 500 homers put up by guys like Eddie Murray, Harmon Killebrew, or Ernie Banks. For some reason, these disagreements with Posnanski's list inspired me to put together a list of my own. It's mostly just to satisfy my curiosity, and I don't pretend to be an authority on baseball on par with the people who put together the above lists, but to help pass the time for the rest of the off-season, I'll be posting my list in chunks of 10.

I'm not going to comment on the players so much, but instead make note of connections the players had to Kansas City, if any. I'm also going to turn this into a drawing exercise. I'm no great artist, but there was a time, let's call it "college," when I was enrolled in a few drawing classes and was starting to get decent thanks to all the practice. But in the last 10-plus years, I've barely arted at all, so this is to see if I can get back into it some. At first I may just have two or three drawings for each post of 10 players, but who knows, maybe I'll keep it going and do all 100 eventually. Have to give a big tip of the cap to Summer Anne Burton and her Every Hall of Famer drawing project for the inspiration.

(My method for ranking: Like Posnanski, all players were considered, including Negro leaguers. For major leaguers, I gave the most weight to the following factors, in descending importance: 1. career wins above average, not counting any years with negative WAA (thanks to Adam Darowski), 2. career wins above replacement (an average of the B-Ref and Fangraphs varieties), 3. top seven bWAR seasons, 4. top three bWAR seasons, and 5. post-season performance. The goal is to capture extended greatness with WAA, general value with WAR, a mid-length peak with WAR7, and short bursts of greatness with WAR3. (If I had any coding skills, I would use WAA7 and WAA3 instead of WAR, but WAR has to do for now.) Post-season performance is a minor factor, but acts as a nice sort of tie-breaker for players who are otherwise very close. A formula with those five factors gave me my starting point for the list, and I moved around players from there as I saw fit. Even trying to rank major leaguers with meticulously kept stats proved extremely difficult, but of course it's nothing compared to deciding where Negro leaguers and Sadaharu Oh should fit. I ended up relying on reputations and the oral history, plus the piecemeal Negro league stats that are available on B-Ref. Fortunately, for players with long careers in the Negro leagues, those stats usually match up well with reputations. Sadaharu Oh might have been the toughest to rate, but I started with these major league equivalencies for him and went from there.)

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