Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New Top 100 & Thoughts

Last February, March, and April, I painstakingly rated my top 100 players of all time and made note of any connections each one had with KC. Click here to see all my top 100 related posts. With another season in the books and some new thoughts about how to adjust my rankings, I've rejiggered them a bit, and you can find my new list below.

In my original formula that greatly informed my rankings, I did not include a "timeline adjustment" to give more recent players a bonus. I considered it, thanks to Bill James arguing for and using one in his Historical Baseball Abstract top 100. Last off-season, my thinking was that all that really matters is how much a player dominates in his own era. If Babe Ruth was worth 10 WAR one season and Barry Bonds worth 10 WAR in another, then they were equally valuable. But after finalizing last off-season's ratings, I did a check to see how well my list was distributed throughout baseball history. Using a reverse numbering system where my #1 player was rated as worth 100 points in each year of his career, #2 worth 99 points in each year of his career, etc., I came up with a year-by-year index of how my top 100 were distributed. It looked like this:

The replacement and average level player keeps getting better and better, making it harder and harder to dominate the later in baseball history you get. I did not doubt that before, but now I understand how important it is to take into consideration when comparing one era to another. While thinking about this recently, I came across a fantastic 1977 study by Richard Cramer that actually quantified this ever-increasing skill level in baseball. (I would love to see someone smarter than me update that study.)

So I've added this timeline adjustment, stolen from James, to my formula: (year of birth - 1852)/6. On the extremes of players that made my list, Albert Pujols has an 18 point edge on Cy Young, worth roughly 9 WAR in the formula.

Here's how the year-by-year greatness breaks down in my new list:

It's especially satisfying how much this evens things out between 1953-2007. There's still that conspicuous bump centered around 1927, which I'm still not sure what to make of. It could be that there was just a random huge influx of greatness at that time. It's also possible that I'm overrating the 17 Negro leaguers included in my list. But maybe the most likely thing is that another adjustment is needed to penalize players from the segregated era. Keeping out a large population of the best players surely drove down the overall replacement/average skill levels, making it easier for very good players to dominate at all-time great levels. I'm going to keep thinking about that, but may add in a segregated era penalty in next year's revision.

Only four players fell off of my original list, victims mostly of the timeline adjustment: Joe Jackson, Ernie Banks, Home Run Baker, and Yogi Berra, replaced by newcomers Adrian Beltre, Chase Utley, Alan Trammell, and Carlos Beltran. Here is the new list, with a note for whether the player moved up, down, stayed in the same spot, or is new relative to my first rankings (the new top five by position is at the end):
  1. Babe Ruth -
  2. Willie Mays -
  3. Ted Williams -
  4. Oscar Charleston -
  5. Walter Johnson -
  6. Barry Bonds -
  7. Ty Cobb -
  8. Rogers Hornsby -
  9. Hank Aaron -
  10. Roger Clemens 
  11. Honus Wagner 
  12. Satchel Paige 
  13. Lou Gehrig 
  14. Stan Musial -
  15. Pete Alexander -
  16. Tris Speaker 
  17. Mickey Mantle 
  18. Lefty Grove -
  19. Josh Gibson 
  20. Bullet Rogan 
  21. Eddie Collins -
  22. Cy Young 
  23. Rickey Henderson 
  24. Randy Johnson 
  25. Martin Dihigo 
  26. Albert Pujols 
  27. Alex Rodriguez 
  28. John Henry Lloyd 
  29. Mike Schmidt 
  30. Greg Maddux 
  31. Tom Seaver  
  32. Christy Mathewson 
  33. Joe Morgan 
  34. Jimmie Foxx 
  35. Pedro Martinez 
  36. Nap Lajoie 
  37. Frank Robinson 
  38. Joe DiMaggio 
  39. Carl Yastrzemski 
  40. Mel Ott 
  41. Bob Gibson 
  42. Cal Ripken, Jr. 
  43. Willie Wells 
  44. Turkey Stearnes 
  45. Roberto Clemente 
  46. Johnny Bench 
  47. George Brett 
  48. Wade Boggs 
  49. Bert Blyleven 
  50. Sadaharu Oh 
  51. Ken Griffey, Jr. 
  52. Eddie Mathews 
  53. Kid Nichols 
  54. Gary Carter 
  55. Curt Schilling 
  56. Phil Niekro 
  57. Biz Mackey 
  58. Steve Carlton -
  59. Warren Spahn 
  60. Willie Foster 
  61. Al Kaline 
  62. Gaylord Perry 
  63. Chipper Jones 
  64. Bob Feller -
  65. Jose Mendez 
  66. Cool Papa Bell 
  67. Johnny Mize 
  68. Mule Suttles 
  69. Mike Piazza 
  70. Hilton Smith 
  71. Jeff Bagwell 
  72. Ivan Rodriguez 
  73. Smokey Williams 
  74. Robin Roberts 
  75. Hank Greenberg 
  76. Fergie Jenkins -
  77. Adrian Beltre +
  78. Roy Halladay 
  79. Rod Carew -
  80. Mike Mussina 
  81. Carlton Fisk 
  82. Chase Utley +
  83. Reggie Jackson 
  84. Larry Walker 
  85. Ed Walsh 
  86. Ron Santo 
  87. Charles Gehringer 
  88. Robin Yount 
  89. Jackie Robinson 
  90. Brooks Robinson 
  91. Ray Dandridge 
  92. Tom Glavine 
  93. Pete Rose -
  94. Buck Leonard 
  95. Eddie Plank 
  96. Nolan Ryan -
  97. Arky Vaughan 
  98. Duke Snider 
  99. Alan Trammell +
  100. Carlos Beltran +

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