Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Top Ten Players by Decade 2000-2012, at a Glance

So last week, David Schoenfield wrote about Jimmy Rollins and his chances to make the Hall of Fame, noting that he was one of the top ten players from 2003 to 2012, going by WAR. That was surprising, but it made me wonder: how good is it to be one of the top ten players in a decade?

Well, I mean, it’s obviously good. But what effect does it have on someone’s Hall of Fame chances? Well, one thing that I disagreed with was that Schoenfield only used a specific set of years-namely, decades that started in years that ended with a 3. As in, 2003 to 2012, 1993 to 2002, and so on. You need to use rolling decades; 2003 to 2012, 2002 to 2011, and so on. That will give you the full scope of who you’re dealing with.

So, with that in mind, what do the top ten batters in Fangraph’s WAR over a decade typically look like?

2003-2012: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Chase Utley, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, David Wright, Ichiro Suzuki, Matt Holliday, Jimmy Rollins

That’s a pretty solid group. I would say 1 through 8 are well on a path to the Hall, and Matt Holliday is a possibility. I hesitate on Rollins, though.

2002-2011: Pujols, A-Rod, Beltran, Utley, Lance Berkman, Ichiro, Beltre, Scott Rolen, Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter 

And as soon as we go back one decade, Rollins falls off the list. He’ll probably get at least a second decade, though; Berkman would need to have 0.5 more WAR in 2013 and Jeter would need to beat him by a full win. An injury might also open the door for Mark Teixeira (1.7 back) or Joe Mauer (4.2).

Also, I’d like to note the first appearance of Scott Rolen, who will almost certainly be under-appreciated come Hall voting.

2001-2010: Pujols, A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Ichiro, Berkman, Beltran, Rolen, Chipper, Jeter, Utley

Bonds makes an appearance in third place despite not playing in three seasons in this decade. Other than that, a pretty standard set of names.

2000-2009: A-Rod, Pujols, Bonds, Chipper, Berkman, Todd Helton, Beltran, Rolen, Andruw Jones, Jeter

Todd Helton and Andruw Jones finally appear, and Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols swap places at the top. Other than that, again, I would probably support everyone in this group for the Hall.

1999-2008: A-Rod, Bonds, Pujols, Chipper, Andruw, Beltran, Brian Giles, Helton, Rolen, Berkman

And Brian Giles makes an appearance, coming in at seventh. This won’t be his last appearance, either. I...would probably still support Giles for the Hall, but even then, I acknowledge that it definitely requires an emotional aspect to push him over the edge for me.

1998-2007: A-Rod, Bonds, Andruw, Chipper, Pujols, Rolen, Helton, Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero, Giles

Abreu and Guerrero make appearances now too. They’re probably right on my borderline, as far as Hall of Fame corner outfielders go.

1997-2006: Bonds, A-Rod, Andruw, Rolen, Chipper, Giles, Jeter, Jim Edmonds, Abreu, Guerrero

Giles reaches his highest mark, finishing at sixth over this decade. And Jim Edmonds shows up for the first time. He doesn’t appear as much as I would have thought, though, with only three times in the top ten. This also marks Scott Rolen’s highest appearance, as well as the last time Barry Bonds led a decade.

1996-2005: Bonds, A-Rod, Andruw, Chipper, Jeff Bagwell, Edmonds, Ivan Rodriguez, Rolen, Manny Ramirez, Giles

This caps Giles’ four-time run in the top ten in the league, a surprisingly long time, even for someone who's a fan of his. Also of note, this was the first of three times that Andruw Jones finished third over a decade. UZR really likes his fielding. Bagwell, Pudge, and Manny all appear for the first time. Manny’s value was hurt by his abysmal fielding; he only had one other top ten finish. And a final note, this was Rolen’s first (chronological) appearance, giving him seven (!) top ten finishes, with an appearance every year from 1996 to 2011.

1995-2004: Bonds, A-Rod, Bagwell, Chipper, Edmonds, Sammy Sosa, Jim Thome, Mike Piazza, Ivan, Manny

This marks two straight decades with three players dropping off the following year. This was also Alex Rodriguez’s first top-two finish. It’s easy to forget just how good he’s been, and even more, just how recently he’s been good. He still stands in second place, with a 6.3 Win lead on Chase Utley and a 9.3 Win lead on Miguel Cabrera.

1994-2003: Bonds, Bagwell, A-Rod, Sosa, Piazza, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper, Thome, Edgar Martinez, Ivan

It’s worth noting that Edgar Martinez shows up here. Yet another unfairly overlooked Hall candidate.

1993-2002: Bonds, Bagwell, Piazza, Griffey, Sosa, A-Rod, Larry Walker, Rafael Palmeiro, Craig Biggio, John Olerud

Larry Walker and Rafael Palmeiro appear, two more low-drawing players on the ballot. Although I guess Biggio would still fit under that heading, too, as would Bagwell and Piazza. I guess being the best in the league for a long period of time isn’t really a guarantee for an easy Hall of Fame induction, surprisingly. Also, John Olerud, who dropped off after one ballot, but like Kenny Lofton, deserved at least a second look

1992-2001: Bonds, Bagwell, Griffey, Piazza, Frank Thomas, Sosa, Martinez, Biggio, Walker, Kenny Lofton

Hey, speaking of Kenny Lofton, here he is, too. Also, Edgar reappears after a one-year disappearance (somehow).

1991-2000: Bonds, Griffey, Bagwell, Thomas, Martinez, Palmeiro, Biggio, Piazza, Robin Ventura, Mark McGwire

Yes, Robin Ventura, of all people, makes an appearance.

This is starting to drag on longer than I intended, so I’ll wrap it up quickly. The last time before this that Barry Bonds didn’t lead the decade was the 1984-1993 decade, when Rickey Henderson led. Bonds also only played in eight of those seasons, yet still finished fourth behind Henderson, Wade Boggs, and Cal Ripken (those three, in order, would finish second to him over the next three rolling decades before Griffey took over).

As for some final factors for comparison, in the thirteen rolling decades that ended from 2000 to 2012 (meaning the 1991-2000 decade to the 2003-2012 decade), gives us these tallies:

11 times: Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds
9 times: Chipper Jones
7 times: Scott Rolen (not too shabby, I must say)
6 times: Albert Pujols, Jeff Bagwell
5 times: Carlos Beltran, Andruw Jones, Mike Piazza
4 times: Lance Berkman, Derek Jeter, Brian Giles, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey
3 times: Chase Utley, Ichiro Suzuki, Todd Helton, Jim Edmonds, Ivan Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, Craig Biggio
2 times: Adrian Beltre, Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Larry Walker, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas
1 time: Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Matt Holliday, Jimmy Rollins, John Olerud, Kenny Lofton, Robin Ventura, Mark McGwire

First, three things, to be totally fair:

1) Not all appearances are created equal. I didn’t differentiate between first and tenth place finishes, or even tenth place finishes with 50 and 40 WAR.

2) These are still arbitrary endpoints. Some of the ‘90s stars (yes, even Robin Ventura) will pick up more top ten finishes if I keep going back

3) Some of the newer players will pick up more top ten finishes in the future, including (almost certainly) Jimmy Rollins.

But looking over that list, I think Jimmy Rollins is the only one that I instinctively say no to. That might actually be a fault on my part. And looking at his numbers again, he does already have 48.8 WAR going into his age 34 season. That’s much, much better than I realized, and I’m glad that I re-evaluated his place historically.

But even more...I would probably be okay if a top ten finish over a decade was an automatic Hall induction, like 3000 hits or 500 home runs. Like I said, I more or less support all of those players as is, to varying extents. I’d be interested to see who this would leave out, historically.

As the induction process is currently structured, though, it doesn’t really mean a lot for Rollins. Maybe in time he can build up his case more, but right now, the top-ten player status is nice, but not a guarantee of anything.

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