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The Best in (The) Show, II
2005-09-14 21:54
by Mike Carminati

Regarding my post on the best player in the game, my Toaster-mate Cliff "Don't Call Me Tim" Corcoran said:

I think you place too much emphasis on career achievement here, thus you get Ott, not Williams or DiMaggio in '41. Cobb and not Ruth in '21. And, just eyeballing it, no triple crown winners in the years they actually won the thing.
The way I see it, the best player in the game should be a player that's at the peak of his abilities, not one on the down slope, as so often occurs in your chart.
Prior to the 2004 season I tried to determine the best player in the game (obviously it was Bonds) in an article about Alex Rodriguez (linked on the Bronx Banter sidebar), and my method was to use the previous three seasons, but no more. I wonder how this chart would change if you used a similar short-term system.

So on Cliff's advice, I ran the numbers for three- and five-year periods. For the given year, I looked at the player with the most Win Shares for that season and the previous two (or four for the five-year approach). I also imposed a minimum of ten Win Shares in each of the years for the player to qualify. I just thought that a baseline was necessary.

The three-year leaders are first:

YrWin SharesCareer Win SharesBestAge
2005115176Albert Pujols25
2004141664Barry Bonds39
2003142611Barry Bonds38
2002135572Barry Bonds37
2001105523Barry Bonds36
2001105166Jason Giambi30
200091288Jeff Bagwell32
200091204Sammy Sosa31
200091334Mark McGwire36
200091129Jason Giambi29
1999104306Craig Biggio33
1998109418Barry Bonds33
1997111384Barry Bonds32
1996100348Barry Bonds31
1995108309Barry Bonds30
1994113273Barry Bonds29
1993125248Barry Bonds28
1992115201Barry Bonds27
1991103179Will Clark27
1990106145Will Clark26
1989106120Will Clark25
1988100208Wade Boggs30
1987102202Tim Raines27
1986100168Tim Raines26
198597120Cal Ripken Jr.24
198597136Tim Raines25
198499229Robin Yount28
1983102341Mike Schmidt33
1982104306Mike Schmidt32
1981100269Mike Schmidt31
198093239Mike Schmidt30
1979101160Dave Parker28
197893129Dave Parker27
1977111382Joe Morgan33
1976118352Joe Morgan32
1975121315Joe Morgan31
1974116271Joe Morgan30
1973108234Joe Morgan29
1972101123Bobby Murcer26
197196575Hank Aaron37
1970106282Willie McCovey32
1969107231Carl Yastrzemski29
1968102205Carl Yastrzemski28
1967101527Willie Mays36
1966118506Willie Mays35
1965119469Willie Mays34
1964117426Willie Mays33
1963113388Willie Mays32
1962117434Mickey Mantle30
1961114401Mickey Mantle29
1960110275Willie Mays29
1959120317Mickey Mantle27
1959106237Willie Mays28
1958139287Mickey Mantle26
1957141248Mickey Mantle25
1956126197Mickey Mantle24
1955112218Duke Snider28
1955106125Eddie Mathews23
1954101182Duke Snider27
1953109404Stan Musial32
1952108371Stan Musial31
1951111334Stan Musial30
1950118295Stan Musial29
1949123322Ted Williams30
1948132282Ted Williams29
194795172Hal Newhouser26
1946106148Hal Newhouser25
194591218Augie Galan33
1944105108Stan Musial23
1943102148Charlie Keller26
1942118150Ted Williams23
1941106200Joe DiMaggio26
194095159Joe DiMaggio25
1939103128Joe DiMaggio24
1938104352Mel Ott29
1937109161Joe Medwick25
1936113428Lou Gehrig33
1935111390Lou Gehrig32
1934115356Lou Gehrig31
1933110315Lou Gehrig30
1933105203Jimmie Foxx25
1932113279Lou Gehrig29
1931108669Babe Ruth36
1930115631Babe Ruth35
1929122593Babe Ruth34
1928135561Babe Ruth33
1927103516Babe Ruth32
1926103471Babe Ruth31
1925113426Babe Ruth30
1924129413Babe Ruth29
1923137368Babe Ruth28
1922133313Babe Ruth27
1921147284Babe Ruth26
1920134231Babe Ruth25
1919119180Babe Ruth24
1918117495Ty Cobb31
1917134464Ty Cobb30
1916122306Tris Speaker28
1915134284Walter Johnson27
1914139242Walter Johnson26
1914132229Tris Speaker26
1913132204Walter Johnson25
1913110203Eddie Collins26
1912132273Ty Cobb25
1911136233Ty Cobb24
1910131508Honus Wagner36
1909145478Honus Wagner35
1908149436Honus Wagner34
1907136377Honus Wagner33
1906135333Honus Wagner32
1905124287Honus Wagner31
1904113241Honus Wagner30
1903117470Cy Young36
1902106163Honus Wagner28
190198394Cy Young34
190093285Ed Delahanty32
190093408Kid Nichols30
1899116390Kid Nichols29
1898118359Kid Nichols28
1897108262Cy Young30
1897108315Kid Nichols27
1896119234Cy Young29
1895125243Amos Rusie24
1894129215Amos Rusie23
1893127170Kid Nichols23
1892148165Bill Hutchison32
1891135334John Clarkson30
1890159197Silver King22
1889152153Silver King21
1888157218Bob Caruthers24
1887162172Bob Caruthers23
1886160294Charley Radbourn31
1885188262Charley Radbourn30
1884199223Charley Radbourn29
1883139139Jim Whitney25
1882130169Jim McCormick25
1881129153John Ward21
1880131225Tommy Bond24
1879157204Tommy Bond23
1878154154Tommy Bond22
1877113113Jim Devlin28

Next are the five-year leaders:

YrWin SharesCareer Win SharesBestAge
2005176176Albert Pujols25
2004227664Barry Bonds39
2003193611Barry Bonds38
2002188572Barry Bonds37
2001175523Barry Bonds36
2000164288Jeff Bagwell32
1999165306Craig Biggio33
1998170418Barry Bonds33
1997183384Barry Bonds32
1996188348Barry Bonds31
1995186309Barry Bonds30
1994187273Barry Bonds29
1993185248Barry Bonds28
1992168207Will Clark28
1991165179Will Clark27
1990153261Wade Boggs32
1989160237Wade Boggs31
1988159208Wade Boggs30
1987163202Tim Raines27
1986155424Mike Schmidt36
1985154393Mike Schmidt35
1984165367Mike Schmidt34
1983172341Mike Schmidt33
1982160306Mike Schmidt32
1981156269Mike Schmidt31
1980161239Mike Schmidt30
1979153231Ken Singleton32
1978165399Joe Morgan34
1977188382Joe Morgan33
1976197352Joe Morgan32
1975189315Joe Morgan31
1974169271Joe Morgan30
1973160299Pete Rose32
1972158265Pete Rose31
1971164288Carl Yastrzemski31
1970164267Carl Yastrzemski30
1970164282Willie McCovey32
1969162517Hank Aaron35
1968170170Dick Allen26
1967177527Willie Mays36
1966197506Willie Mays35
1965194469Willie Mays34
1964189426Willie Mays33
1963183322Hank Aaron29
1963183388Willie Mays32
1962186434Mickey Mantle30
1961204401Mickey Mantle29
1960205353Mickey Mantle28
1959210317Mickey Mantle27
1958216287Mickey Mantle26
1957203248Mickey Mantle25
1956184197Mickey Mantle24
1955168463Stan Musial34
1954171434Stan Musial33
1953181404Stan Musial32
1952194371Stan Musial31
1952162183Jackie Robinson33
1951182334Stan Musial30
1950191341Ted Williams31
1949172322Ted Williams30
1948157199Hal Newhouser27
1947146177Stan Musial26
1946149152Stan Musial25
1945130159Bill Nicholson30
1944135142Lou Boudreau26
1943148148Charlie Keller26
1942168232Joe DiMaggio27
1941175200Joe DiMaggio26
1940159159Joe DiMaggio25
1939167380Mel Ott30
1938177352Mel Ott29
1937185464Lou Gehrig34
1936187428Lou Gehrig33
1935185390Lou Gehrig32
1934190356Lou Gehrig31
1933181315Lou Gehrig30
1932189705Babe Ruth37
1931198669Babe Ruth36
1930205631Babe Ruth35
1929180593Babe Ruth34
1928193561Babe Ruth33
1927203516Babe Ruth32
1926187471Babe Ruth31
1925195426Babe Ruth30
1924233413Babe Ruth29
1923231368Babe Ruth28
1922216313Babe Ruth27
1921223284Babe Ruth26
1920207231Babe Ruth25
1919197527Ty Cobb32
1918191495Ty Cobb31
1917199349Walter Johnson29
1916217320Walter Johnson28
1915212284Walter Johnson27
1914206242Walter Johnson26
1913207304Ty Cobb26
1912212273Ty Cobb25
1911213233Ty Cobb24
1910221508Honus Wagner36
1909237478Honus Wagner35
1908238436Honus Wagner34
1907214377Honus Wagner33
1906205333Honus Wagner32
1905196287Honus Wagner31
1904184241Honus Wagner30
1903174470Cy Young36
1902170432Cy Young35
1901166440Kid Nichols31
1900167408Kid Nichols30
1899183390Kid Nichols29
1898189359Kid Nichols28
1897185315Kid Nichols27
1896198234Cy Young29
1895198241Kid Nichols25
1894207207Kid Nichols24
1893185185Bill Hutchison33
1892203241Silver King24
1891218334John Clarkson30
1890233294Bob Caruthers26
1889254264Bob Caruthers25
1888218218Bob Caruthers24
1887242316Charley Radbourn32
1886270294Charley Radbourn31
1885262262Charley Radbourn30
1884223223Charley Radbourn29
1884223262Jim McCormick27
1883203209Jim McCormick26
1882184184John Ward22
1881153153John Ward21
1880225225Tommy Bond24
1879204204Tommy Bond23
1878154154Tommy Bond22

OK, there are a lot of similarities, but I do prefer Pujols to Sheffield for best today. Now let's sum up, shall we.

Yr5-yr Ldr3-yr LdrCareer WS Ldr
2005Albert PujolsAlbert PujolsGary Sheffield
2004Barry BondsBarry BondsBarry Bonds
2003Barry BondsBarry BondsBarry Bonds
2002Barry BondsBarry BondsBarry Bonds
2001Barry BondsBarry BondsBarry Bonds
2000Jeff BagwellJason GiambiBarry Bonds
Jeff Bagwell
Sammy Sosa
Mark McGwire
Jason Giambi
1999Craig BiggioCraig BiggioMark McGwire
1998Barry BondsBarry BondsBarry Bonds
1997Barry BondsBarry BondsBarry Bonds
1996Barry BondsBarry BondsBarry Bonds
1995Barry BondsBarry BondsBarry Bonds
1994Barry BondsBarry BondsBarry Bonds
1993Barry BondsBarry BondsRickey Henderson
1992Will ClarkBarry BondsDave Winfield
1991Will ClarkWill ClarkRickey Henderson
1990Wade BoggsWill ClarkGeorge Brett
1989Wade BoggsWill ClarkRobin Yount
1988Wade BoggsWade BoggsGeorge Brett
1987Tim RainesTim RainesMike Schmidt
1986Mike SchmidtTim RainesMike Schmidt
1985Mike SchmidtCal Ripken Jr.Mike Schmidt
Tim Raines
1984Mike SchmidtRobin YountMike Schmidt
1983Mike SchmidtMike SchmidtMike Schmidt
1982Mike SchmidtMike SchmidtJoe Morgan
1981Mike SchmidtMike SchmidtMike Schmidt
1980Mike SchmidtMike SchmidtReggie Jackson
1979Ken SingletonDave ParkerPete Rose
1978Joe MorganDave ParkerPete Rose
1977Joe MorganJoe MorganJoe Morgan
1976Joe MorganJoe MorganPete Rose
1975Joe MorganJoe MorganPete Rose
1974Joe MorganJoe MorganWillie McCovey
1973Pete RoseJoe MorganFrank Robinson
1972Pete RoseBobby MurcerBilly Williams
1971Carl YastrzemskiHank AaronWillie Mays
1970Carl YastrzemskiWillie McCoveyHank Aaron
1970Willie McCovey
1969Hank AaronCarl YastrzemskiHank Aaron
1968Dick AllenCarl YastrzemskiWillie Mays
1967Willie MaysWillie MaysMickey Mantle
1966Willie MaysWillie MaysWillie Mays
1965Willie MaysWillie MaysWillie Mays
1964Willie MaysWillie MaysMickey Mantle
1963Hank AaronWillie MaysWillie Mays
1963Willie Mays
1962Mickey MantleMickey MantleMickey Mantle
1961Mickey MantleMickey MantleMickey Mantle
1960Mickey MantleWillie MaysMickey Mantle
1959Mickey MantleMickey MantleMickey Mantle
Willie Mays
1958Mickey MantleMickey MantleTed Williams
1957Mickey MantleMickey MantleStan Musial
1956Mickey MantleMickey MantleStan Musial
1955Stan MusialDuke SniderStan Musial
Eddie Mathews
1954Stan MusialDuke SniderStan Musial
1953Stan MusialStan MusialStan Musial
1952Stan MusialStan MusialStan Musial
1952Jackie Robinson
1951Stan MusialStan MusialTed Williams
1950Ted WilliamsStan MusialJoe DiMaggio
1949Ted WilliamsTed WilliamsTed Williams
1948Hal NewhouserTed WilliamsJoe DiMaggio
1947Stan MusialHal NewhouserJoe DiMaggio
1946Stan MusialHal NewhouserLuke Appling
1945Bill NicholsonAugie GalanStan Hack
1944Lou BoudreauStan MusialMel Ott
1943Charlie KellerCharlie KellerArky Vaughan
1942Joe DiMaggioTed WilliamsMel Ott
1941Joe DiMaggioJoe DiMaggioMel Ott
1940Joe DiMaggioJoe DiMaggioArky Vaughan
1939Mel OttJoe DiMaggioMel Ott
1938Mel OttMel OttLou Gehrig
1937Lou GehrigJoe MedwickLou Gehrig
1936Lou GehrigLou GehrigLou Gehrig
1935Lou GehrigLou GehrigLou Gehrig
1934Lou GehrigLou GehrigLou Gehrig
1933Lou GehrigLou GehrigBabe Ruth
Jimmie Foxx
1932Babe RuthLou GehrigBabe Ruth
1931Babe RuthBabe RuthBabe Ruth
1930Babe RuthBabe RuthBabe Ruth
1929Babe RuthBabe RuthBabe Ruth
1928Babe RuthBabe RuthBabe Ruth
1927Babe RuthBabe RuthBabe Ruth
1926Babe RuthBabe RuthTris Speaker
1925Babe RuthBabe RuthTy Cobb
1924Babe RuthBabe RuthTy Cobb
1923Babe RuthBabe RuthTris Speaker
1922Babe RuthBabe RuthTy Cobb
1921Babe RuthBabe RuthTy Cobb
1920Babe RuthBabe RuthTris Speaker
1919Ty CobbBabe RuthTy Cobb
1918Ty CobbTy CobbTy Cobb
1917Walter JohnsonTy CobbTy Cobb
1916Walter JohnsonTris SpeakerTy Cobb
1915Walter JohnsonWalter JohnsonSam Crawford
1914Walter JohnsonWalter JohnsonSam Crawford
Tris Speaker
1913Ty CobbWalter JohnsonChristy Mathewson
Eddie Collins
1912Ty CobbTy CobbHonus Wagner
1911Ty CobbTy CobbHonus Wagner
1910Honus WagnerHonus WagnerHonus Wagner
1909Honus WagnerHonus WagnerHonus Wagner
Nap Lajoie
1908Honus WagnerHonus WagnerCy Young
1907Honus WagnerHonus WagnerCy Young
1906Honus WagnerHonus WagnerGeorge Davis
1905Honus WagnerHonus WagnerCy Young
1904Honus WagnerHonus WagnerCy Young
1903Cy YoungCy YoungCy Young
1902Cy YoungHonus WagnerCy Young
1901Kid NicholsCy YoungKid Nichols
1900Kid NicholsEd DelahantyJesse Burkett
Kid Nichols
1899Kid NicholsKid NicholsKid Nichols
1898Kid NicholsKid NicholsKid Nichols
1897Kid NicholsCy YoungKid Nichols
Kid Nichols
1896Cy YoungCy YoungKid Nichols
1895Kid NicholsAmos RusieAmos Rusie
1894Kid NicholsAmos RusieJack Stivetts
Amos Rusie
1893Bill HutchisonKid NicholsTony Mullane
1892Silver KingBill HutchisonJohn Clarkson
1891John ClarksonJohn ClarksonJohn Clarkson
1890Bob CaruthersSilver KingCharley Radbourn
1889Bob CaruthersSilver KingTim Keefe
1888Bob CaruthersBob CaruthersPud Galvin
1887Charley RadbournBob CaruthersPud Galvin
1886Charley RadbournCharley RadbournJim McCormick
1885Charley RadbournCharley RadbournCharley Radbourn
1884Charley RadbournCharley RadbournJim McCormick
1884Jim McCormick
1883Jim McCormickJim WhitneyJohn Ward
1882John WardJim McCormickJohn Ward
1881John WardJohn WardJohn Ward
1880Tommy BondTommy BondJohn Ward
1879Tommy BondTommy BondTommy Bond
1878Tommy BondTommy BondTommy Bond
Jim Devlin

They all have their good points, but overall I do like the original list best.

2005-09-15 08:25:06
1.   Andy
The one thing that I notice is that it very much favors position players since 1917 (only pitchers were due to WWII.) Before then there were a number of pitchers that were the best player. Does Win Shares bias against pitchers because they don't play everyday or were pitchers in the game's early days that much better than hitters?
2005-09-15 09:34:15
2.   Cliff Corcoran
Mike, thanks for re-running those. I personally prefer the 3-year list, it looks much more like what I would have come up with off the top of my head, but also adds a lot of names that might otherwise get ignored on such a list (Will Clark, Dave Parker, Tim Raines etc.). Good stuff.

As for Andy's question, I believe it's primarly a function of playing time. But it's also about the balance of the game. That 1917 cut-off is darn close to the end of the dead-ball era. It's not so much that dead-ball era pitchers were better than those of today (one could argue just the opposite, actually), but that the balance of the game was heavily tipped in their favor, something that came to an end when a livlier ball was introduced, the spitball was outlawed, and new balls were regularly introduced over the course of a game, all of which came about around 1920.

2005-09-15 10:27:25
3.   Shaun P
Mike, again, very interesting lists. I'm surprised by some of the missing names from the two new lists (Rickey Henderson, e.g.), but seeing all 3 certainly gives a good perspective.

On a somewhat-related topic, recent discussions have me wondering what a chart of MVP winners vs. league leader in different 'clutch' stats - like avg/obp/slg with RISP or in 'close and late' situations - would look like, to see if there's any correlation. I don't know if its even possible - do we have such numbers for the 50s and 60s? Nonetheless, I'm really curious, if you're looking for a good topic. =)

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