July 15, 1999

In Response To The Experts
by Steve Lombardi

During the week of June 21, 1999, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) released the results from their "Top 100 Players of the Century Survey" (voted upon by 865 SABR members).  Below is NetShrine's official riposte to the SABR poll final tally - followed by the complete "Top 100" list issued by SABR:

Many of the results from SABR's Top 100 of the 20th Century poll are peculiar. For example: # 32, Brooks Robinson.

Robinson is a man of exemplary character and was a splendid fielding third baseman. However, his offensive ability was somewhat ordinary.

Brooks played from 1955 to 1977 and had a career .325 On Base Average (OBA) and .401 Slugging Percentage (SLG%). During this same time, the average Major League OBA was .322 and the average Major League SLG% was .377. As a hitter, Robinson was slightly above average.

Perform the comparison in a smaller box. From '55 to '77, Brooks' team (the Orioles) had an OBA of .323 with a .373 SLG%. Again, Robinson was just a shade over the norm. (Note that during 1961 to 1977, Boog Powell - who played along side Brooks - had a .364 OBA along with a .462 SLG%.)

Actually, Robinson's closest contemporary offensive match was Vada Pinson (who was also a fine glove man - albeit in the outfield).

Pinson played from 1958 to 1977 - during which time he had a career .330 OBA and .442 SLG%. These levels actually exceed Brooks' output. Additionally, for their career, there is less than a 10% variance between Robinson's and Pinson's AB, hits, doubles, and HR totals. (Pinson has an 11% advantage in runs scored - while Robinson has a 14% advantage in RBI. A virtual push.)

It's not a stretch to argue that Pinson was just as talented as Robinson. However, while Brooks is #32 on the SABR list, Pinson did not make the cut for the final 100. If Vada can't make the list, there's no way that Brooks should be #32.

There are other oddities within the SABR list as well. Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor, and Robin Yount rate higher on the list than Eddie Murray - yet, they are his inferior by far in terms of long ball production. The Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All-Time, Rickey Henderson, appears on the list below Rod Carew, Ozzie Smith, and Tony Gwynn. No one may ever match Rickey's career numbers - but several have matched the totals of Carew, Smith, and Gwynn. How is it possible that someone as unique as Henderson is ranked so low?

Lastly, according to my math, the Top 100 players should represent those in the top one percentile of the game's history. Kirby Puckett and Ryne Sandberg both made the SABR top 100. While Kirby and Ryno were fine players, their achievements fail to warrant the distinction "Top 1%" - in fact, Dave Winfield and Nellie Fox would have been much better picks (but, they were not selected for the Top 100 by SABR).

On the whole, the SABR list is similar to witnessing a pitcher hurl a no-hitter in which he walks four batters and his SS commits an error. Entertaining? Oh yeah, for sure. But, it's far from a perfecto.

 

SABR's "Top 100 Players of the Century Survey" Results:
1. Ruth, Babe P-OF 1914-1935
2. Gehrig, Lou 1B 1923-1939
3. Williams, Ted OF 1939-1960
4. Aaron, Hank OF 1954-1976
5. Musial, Stan 1B-OF 1941-1963
6. DiMaggio, Joe OF 1936-1951
7. Cobb, Ty OF 1905-1928
8. Mays, Willie OF 1951-1973
9. Hornsby, Rogers 2B 1915-1937
10. Wagner, Honus IF 1897-1917
11. Johnson, Walter P 1907-1927
12. Mantle, Mickey OF 1951-1968
13. Mathewson, Christy P 1900-1916
14. Foxx, Jimmie 1B 1925-1945
15. Spahn, Warren P 1942-1965
16. Schmidt, Mike 3B 1972-1989
17. Gibson, Bob P 1959-1975
18. Young, Cy P 1890-1911
19. Bench, Johnny C 1967-1983
20. Clemente, Roberto P 1955-1972
21. Koufax, Sandy P 1955-1966
22. Feller, Bob P 1936-1956
23. Speaker, Tris OF 1907-1928
24. Robinson, Frank OF 1956-1976
25. Alexander, Grover P 1911-1930
26. Berra, Yogi C 1946-1965
27. Banks, Ernie IF 1953-1971
28. Seaver, Tom P 1967-1986
29. Brett, George 3B 1973-1993
30. Carlton, Steve P 1965-1988
31. Mathews, Eddie 3B 1952-1968
32. Robinson, Brooks 3B 1955-1977
33. Grove, Lefty P 1925-1941
34. Clemens, Roger P 1984-1999
35. Greenberg, Hank 1B-OF 1933-1947
36. Robinson, Jackie 2B 1947-1956
37. Morgan, Joe 2B 1963-1984
38. Lajoie, Nap 2B 1896-1916
39. Gwynn, Tony OF 1982-1999
40. Maddux, Greg P 1986-1999
41. Hubbell, Carl P 1928-1943
42. Ott, Mel OF 1926-1947
43. Ripken, Cal SS-3B 1981-1999
44. Ryan, Nolan P 1966-1993
45. Yastrzemski, Carl OF 1961-1983
46. Gehringer, Charlie 2B 1924-1942
47. Campanella, Roy C 1948-1957
48. Rose, Pete IF-OF 1963-1986
49. Collins, Eddie 2B 1906-1930
50. Cochrane, Mickey C 1925-1937
51. Carew, Rod 1B 1967-1985
52. Jackson, "Shoeless" Joe OF 1908-1920
53. Griffey, Ken Jr. OF 1989-1999
54. Ford, Whitey P 1950-1967
55. Sisler, George 1B 1915-1930
56. Smith, Ozzie SS 1978-1996
57. Palmer, Jim P 1965-1984
58. Marichal, Juan P 1960-1975
59. Kaline, Al OF 1953-1974
60. Henderson, Rickey OF 1979-1999
61. McGwire, Mark 1B 1987-1999
62. McCovey, Willie 1B 1959-1980
63. Dickey, Bill C 1928-1946
64. Eckersley, Dennis P 1975-1998
65. Bonds, Barry OF 1986-1999
66. Simmons, Al OF 1924-1944
67. Jackson, Reggie OF 1968-1987
68. Snider, Duke OF 1947-1964
69. Killebrew, Harmon 1B-OF 1954-1975
70. Traynor, Pie 3B 1920-1937
71. Waner, Paul OF 1926-1945
72. Frisch, Frankie 2B 1919-1937
73. Brock, Lou OF 1961-1979
74. Dean, Dizzy P 1930-1941
75. Brown, Mordecai "Three Finger" P 1903-1916
76. Fingers, Rollie P 1968-1985
77. Wilhelm, Hoyt P 1952-1972
78. Terry, Bill 1B 1923-1936
79. Yount, Robin SS/OF 1974-1993
80. Boggs, Wade 3B 1982-1999
81. Molitor, Paul IF/DH 1978-1998
82. Murray, Eddie 1B 1977-1997
83. Roberts, Robin P 1948-1966
84. Cronin, Joe SS 1926-1945
85. Walsh, Ed P 1904-1917
86. Appling, Luke SS 1930-1950
87. Mize, Johnny 1B 1936-1953
88. Aparicio, Luis SS 1956-1973
89. Kiner, Ralph OF 1946-1955
90. Crawford, Sam OF 1899-1917
91. Heilmann, Harry OF 1914-1932
92. Fisk, Carlton C 1969-1993
93. Stargell, Willie OF 1962-1982
94. Plank, Eddie P 1901-1917
95. Puckett, Kirby OF 1984-1995
96. Jenkins, Ferguson P 1965-1983
97. Waddell, Rube P 1897-1910
98. Sandberg, Ryne 2B 1981-1997
99. Joss, Addie P 1902-1910
100. Medwick, Joe OF 1932-1948

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