Baseball’s Best at Each Position

Posted by on Aug 3, 2017 in Baseball | 0 comments

Baseball’s Best at Each Position

Adrián Beltré’s recent 3000th career hit kicked off a conversation in my baseball circles about where he ranks in history among the game’s best third basemen. I took a statistical approach, looking at each player’s career WAR and using a positional adjustment for games they have actually played at their position.

For example, through August 2, 2017, Beltré has played 2667, or 96.1%, of his 2774 regular season games at third base. So I take his career WAR, 92.4, and multiplied it by 96.1% to come up with a positionally adjusted WAR of 88.8.

Using this method, here are the top 10 third basemen in baseball history:

Player HOF? Career WAR G at Pos. Total G % at Pos. Adjusted WAR
Mike Schmidt HOF 106.5 2212 2404 92.0% 98.0
Adrián Beltré 92.4 2667 2774 96.1% 88.8
Eddie Mathews HOF 96.4 2181 2391 91.2% 87.9
Wade Boggs HOF 91.1 2215 2440 90.8% 82.7
Brooks Robinson HOF 78.4 2870 2896 99.1% 77.7
Scott Rolen 70.0 2023 2038 99.3% 69.5
Chipper Jones 85.0 1992 2499 79.7% 67.8
Ron Santo HOF 70.4 2130 2243 95.0% 66.9
Home Run Baker HOF 62.8 1548 1575 98.3% 61.7
Graig Nettles 68.0 2412 2700 89.3% 60.7

Using this method, I went ahead and calculated the top 3 at each position:

Pos. Player HOF? Career WAR G at Pos. Total G % at Pos. Adjusted WAR
C Iván Rodríguez HOF 68.4 2427 2543 95.4% 65.3
C Gary Carter HOF 69.9 2056 2296 89.5% 62.6
C Carlton Fisk HOF 68.3 2226 2499 89.1% 60.8
1B Lou Gehrig HOF 112.4 2137 2164 98.8% 111.0
1B Cap Anson HOF 93.9 2152 2524 85.3% 80.1
1B Jimmie Foxx HOF 96.4 1919 2317 82.8% 79.8
2B Eddie Collins HOF 123.9 2650 2826 93.8% 116.2
2B Joe Morgan HOF 100.3 2527 2649 95.4% 95.7
2B Nap Lajoie HOF 107.4 2035 2480 82.1% 88.1
3B Mike Schmidt HOF 106.5 2212 2404 92.0% 98.0
3B Adrián Beltré 92.4 2667 2774 96.1% 88.8
3B Eddie Mathews HOF 96.4 2181 2391 91.2% 87.9
SS Honus Wagner HOF 131.0 1887 2794 67.5% 88.5
SS Ozzie Smith HOF 76.5 2511 2573 97.6% 74.7
SS Cal Ripken HOF 95.5 2302 3001 76.7% 73.3
LF Barry Bonds 162.4 2715 2986 90.9% 147.7
LF Ted Williams HOF 123.1 1982 2292 86.5% 106.5
LF Rickey Henderson HOF 110.8 2421 3081 78.6% 87.1
CF Willie Mays HOF 156.2 2829 2992 94.6% 147.7
CF Tris Speaker HOF 133.7 2691 2789 96.5% 129.0
CF Ty Cobb HOF 151.0 2188 3034 72.1% 108.9
RF Hank Aaron HOF 142.6 2174 3298 65.9% 94.0
RF Roberto Clemente HOF 94.5 2305 2433 94.7% 89.5
RF Mel Ott HOF 107.8 2161 2730 79.2% 85.3
SP Cy Young HOF 170.3 815 906 90.0% 153.2
SP Roger Clemens 139.4 707 709 99.7% 139.0
SP Walter Johnson HOF 152.3 666 802 83.0% 126.5
RP Mariano Rivera 56.6 1105 1115 99.1% 56.1
RP Hoyt Wilhelm HOF 50.1 1018 1070 95.1% 47.7
RP Dennis Eckersley HOF 62.5 710 1071 66.3% 41.4

I guess it’s mostly who you’d expect. But some interesting things are revealed when you rank the players like this:

  • Ruth and Musial get knocked down because they split their careers at different positions.
  • Mantle was good but didn’t play as long as other centerfielders and also split time at other positions.
  • Honus Wagner was incredible, despite having only played 67.5% of his games at SS. Similar situation for Hank Aaron in RF.
  • Pete Rose is way down at every position because he played almost all of them.
  • Roger Clemens had a better career than Pedro Martinez or Greg Maddux.
  • Tom Gordon is somehow the 5th best relief pitcher ever.
  • The only players on this list not in the Hall of Fame are suspected steroid users or those who are not eligible yet.
  • Having Beltré listed with these guys goes to show how good he really is.

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