Monday, December 26, 2011

Top Ten Position Players of the Past Ten Years

Putting lists together is sort of like trying to run across the highway. Somebody is bound to run you over for your efforts. But lists are fun even if, in the end, people end up poking holes in your logic. For this little exercise, this writer went to Fangraphs and used their handy and amazing leader board to find the top ten position players for the past ten years (2002 through 2011). The criteria used was fWAR. Again, you can poke holes in that logic. But so what? The amazing thing about the list is that all of the players on it are still playing. Yeah, a few of them are getting ancient now, but they are all still with us. Such long term performance signifies greatness in this writer's book. There are a few obvious players on the list and a few that may surprise you.

So here's the list in descending order with a few comments:

  1. Albert Pujols: (80.1 fWAR): Ten of Albert's eleven year career are covered by these stats. And they are amazing. Everything about his ten seasons lead the world. In those seasons, he had the highest wOBA, the highest wRC+, the highest ISO, the highest slugging percentage, the highest batting average, the highest on base percentage. He scored the most runs, drove in the most runs, hit the most homers and struck out fewer than any player that follows him on this list. Incredible. But what about the next ten years?
  2. Alex Rodriguez: (67.9 fWAR): This is the Pujols Era and everyone else is chicken fodder. But with all the negative press he's received, A-Rod has been an amazing player. And even with a few years of late that were below his standards (he is getting old), he's been just below Albert in most every category.
  3. Carlos Beltran (51.2 fWAR): Surprised? You shouldn't be. Not if you have been a steady reader here in the FanDome. Beltran easily earned (as the Fan proved) his Mets contract with a decade of good defense, good base running and consistently good offensive numbers. He is the best centerfielder of his era.
  4. Chase Utley (50.6 fWAR): Utley has the fewest games played over the ten years of all the players on this list. But when he has played, he's been amazing. Great fielding metrics, very good base running and good offensive numbers. He might not be the best second baseman in baseball right now, but over the last decade, he has been.
  5. Lance Berkman (49.7 fWAR): Another surprise. Tucked away on the Astros for most of his career, few have really noticed how excellent he has been. It took a comeback year for a higher profile Cardinal team to show how really good Lance Berkman is and has been. Berkman has the second highest on base percentage on our list and third best slugging percentage and wOBA. If it wasn't for his positional adjustment (1B), his less than stellar fielding and his leaden base running, Berkman could easily have been third on our list. Even so, he's been far better than most realize.
  6. Ichiro Suzuki (46.9 fWAR): Ichiro along with the next two players on our list built his high fWAR based just as much on defense as he has on offense. He's not a great on-base guy and he has shown no power, his ability to blow past 200 hits every season takes somewhat of a hit because of those facts. But according to Fangraphs, Ichiro has saved 104.6 runs with his defense over the past ten years and has been an above average base runner. This writer would put him in the Hall of Fame already.
  7. Adrian Beltre (46.7 fWAR): Seattle Mariner fans might choke a bit on this one. But he was much better for them than people thought. And his overall defense for the past ten years make him the best defensive player on our list with 138+ runs saved at third base. His offense had some off seasons (hence the Seattle hate) but he's averaged 28 homers and 88 runs driven in over the ten year period. Hardly shabby. He's been a great, great player.
  8. Scott Rolen (46.3 fWAR): Rolen is the third of four third baseman that will make our list. And he is a surprise of sorts to be here. But he has saved 114.5 runs with his defense and his ten year slash line of: .281/.360/.485 is not chopped liver either. It's a shame that injuries have kept him from building more WAR and being the household name that he should be. He's played the third least amount of games of our list of ten players.
  9. Chipper Jones (46.2 fWAR): It's a shame that a lot of baseball fans will only remember the last couple of broken down memories of Chipper Jones. His offense might be the third best of our ten players with a ten year slash line of .302/.404/.521. Defense has chipped away a bit of his value and he hasn't been a great runner on the bases. But he's a first ballot HOF guy in this Fan's book.
  10. Derek Jeter (45.6 fWAR): Yes, Jeter has given away 48.9 runs on defense over the ten year period. But he's also averaged 189 hits, 100 runs scored, 70 RBI and 20 stolen bases. His base running over the decade was excellent (though he's stumbled the last two years). His offense put him four wins above replacement above Jimmy Rollins over the same time period.

So that's the Fan's list. The compiler will now commence dodging speeding cars on that highway! Happy Boxing Day everyone!


Bobby Aguilera said...

Did you really just rank them by fWAR without adding any other factors?

Bobby Aguilera said...

I'd say Miguel Cabrera is much better than a few of these guys.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Cabrera was actually eleventh on the list. He did not get his first full season in until 2004, so he lost two years in this time frame. If this list is updated two years from now, then certainly, you'll see Cabrera on this list (especially if he continues posting 7+ fWAR seasons.

Thomas Slocum said...

Let's face it, Adrian Beltre spent his career in some pretty hitter UNfriendly parks from the age of 19 all the way until he was 30. Seattle fans (and management) bought into the myth that a thoroughly aberrant season at age 25 (2004) was a harbinger of things to come, when Beltre's 3 seasons prior to that career year had him as a .255-.260 hitter with 20 home run power, good baserunning instincts, and a superb glove at third. In other words, he'd spent 5-1/2 years showing everyone what he was about playing in a pitchers park. He goes crazy one year (fabulous timing from a financial standpoint) and makes everyone else insane - in point of fact, he gave Seattle exactly what they should have expected but was termed a disappointment for the better part of his 5 years there (bet they remember him a bit more fondly after the Chone Figgins experience). Red Sox and Ranger fans have seen the hitter's park offensive force Beltre has been for nearly his entire career, though he's taken that to a higher level. So no surprise that he's on your list, though I have to think that had he remained in Seattle or gone to some other offensively negative park for the 2010 and/or 2011 seasons he would not be.

Jonathan C. Mitchell said...

Great list! Every name on this list is either a hall of famer or will have a serious debate over whether or not they belong in the hall.

Anonymous said...

Did you forget someone named Barry Bonds? Walking 200 times and hitting 73 homers, slugging 850 and obp 500?
No one else even close.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Bonds was not forgotten, Anon. But he only played five years in the ten-year period we are discussing here. Even so, he was in the top fifteen, which is amazing.

Bobby Aguilera said...

So, did you really just use Fangraphs WAR as the only factor for your list?

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Well, geez, Bobby, that was stated in the very first paragraph. So, obviously, the answer is yes. And just as obvious as your comment is that such a list is inherently flawed as such.