The idea for this posting came about after I stumbled upon the “Hall of 100” on the ESPN website. This list was published on December 4, 2012. ESPN summoned sports writers, and on-air personalities to compile a list of the top 100 baseball players of All-Time. They were given a list of more than 300 players who met certain milestones. They were then asked to rank them 1 thru 100. They were told to only consider their play between the lines.
I wanted to compare the ESPN top ten players to my list of top ten players, as they appeared in Chapter 18 of my book Sandlot Stats. ESPN’s top ten list was based on the subjective opinion of their chosen committee of experts. However, they were encouraged to use advanced metrics. My top 10 was based on nine quantitative statistics which included AVG (batting average), OBP (on-base pct.), SLG (slugging pct.), OPS (on-base plus slugging), BRA (OBP*SLG), HRA (home run average), H (Number of Hits), HR (number of home runs), and Runs Created for their team [(H+BB)*TB]/[AB+BB]. Also, credit was given for winning a Triple Crown, a Career Triple Crown, and ranking in the top 10 in either Bill James’ Black or Gray-Ink Test. In Chapter 18, you can read about my 26 finalists and their total points. Like the ESPN list, I only looked at what the players did between the lines. Since my list only considered positional players, I only chose ESPN’s top ten positional players. There was one other difference. The ESPN list considered hitting, fielding, and base-running whereas my list only considered hitting. Therefore, Rickey Henderson, who finished number 11 on the ESPN list, did not make my list of 26 finalists. My list was based on player accomplishments before 2009 (when Chapter 18 was written).
Notice how similar the two lists are. This shows how important hitting is in the evaluation of positional players. Of course, both lists have “The Babe” as number 1. I can understand the difference in rank 2 between the two lists. Willie Mays was a five-tool player in the important position of center field; whereas Ted Williams was an adequate left fielder. In fact, the Yankees turned down a proposed trade of Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio because they considered the center field position much more valuable than the left field position. Taking into account fielding and running, I can see why ESPN put Mays in front of Williams.
Except for the order of the 21 players on the two list, the only five players not on both lists are Nap Lajoie, Honus Wagner, Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Mantle, and Albert Pujols. Wagner and Mantle are on the ESPN top 10 list but not on my list. However, Wagner ranks 12th and Mantle 13th on my list of 26 players. The actual difference between the 8th ranked Lajoie and the 13th ranked Mantle is a total of five points in my scoring system. Excluding pitchers, Hornsby ranked 12th , Pujols ranked 15th , and Lajoie ranked 34th on the ESPN list My major beef with the ESPN list is the extreme difference in rank between Lajoie (rank 34) and Wagner (rank 9). Both players played in the same era (1896-1917) and both were infielders. Lajoie’s career AVG was .338 compared to Wagner’s.327. I gave the edge to Lajoie because in 1901 he was a Triple Crown winner. I guess ESPN liked the fact that Wagner played shortstop while Lajoie played second base. I could have easily called it a tie between the two players.As I mentioned before my All-Time favorite player was Mantle. In my opinion if it wasn’t for his reckless life-style and unfortunate knee injury, he would have been in the top 5 on both lists