Who is the greatest baseball player of all time? MLB has given fans an unparalleled crop of young stars that can be engraved among baseball royalty. These burgeoning stars may one day be praised by history alongside the game’s greats.
It is subjective to select the best players in MLB. This requires you to look through stats from different eras (the dead-ball, the steroids, etc.). It involves analyzing stats from different eras (the dead-ball era, the steroid era, etc.) and placing them in context.
Stats are only one part of a player’s story. I chose to look at my stats from a different perspective and had other qualifications for my list.
1. Babe Ruth
This is a simple decision if ever there was one. Although he was part of an artificially limited talent pool, before Jackie Robinson broke it in 1947, and decades before advanced training programs produced athletes who looked like athletes, Ruth was such a historical talent that he transcends all these limitations. His arrival in the major leagues marked the end of the dead-ball era. The all-time record for home runs per season, which he set in 1914 when he joined majors, was 27 He had more than doubled his record in seven years with 59 and eventually reached a personal high of 60 dingers. He led the AL in home runs twelve times. His.690 career slugging rate is still the highest of all time. The gap between his mark (and second place) is greater than that between second and ninth. He was also a fantastic pitcher in his early years. In 1921, he led the AL with a 1.75 ERA and pitched 29 and two-thirds consecutive scoreless innings in two World Series. Because when you dominate the game like the Babe did in the first two World Series, it is important to do so in all aspects. The charismatic Ruth, who was a sports legend in America, regularly garnered national attention for his on-field achievements and off-field fame. Baseball gained national prominence thanks to his role with the legendary New York Yankees teams in the 1920s. Ruth was not only the greatest player in baseball history but also the most important.
2. Willie Mays
Willie Mays was the game’s best-rounded player. He combined elite contact, power, and defense to become the greatest center fielder of all time.
Mays was fifth with 660 home runs and also had a.302 overall average and 156 OPS+. His glove was enough to propel him to second place.
FanGraphs is the only outfielder to credit Andruw Jones for providing more defensive value. With 149.9 fWAR, he is third in all-time.
After his return from the military in 1954 the Say Hey Kid had a good season up until 1967 when he recorded a 124 OPS+ score and a 4.3 rWAR. Although he didn’t give much to the New York Mets in his last two seasons after 40, nobody should compare him with a star who played in 2,992 consecutive games.
Fans are witnessing the second coming Mays. But he was a special talent that earned him real estate on Mount Rushmore.
3. Barry Bonds
Bonds will always have a PED asterisk, just like Clemens. That’s fair enough.
It’s unfair to dismiss Bonds as another steroid-era slugger. Bonds holds the all-time record for home runs in both a career (762) and one season (73) and may have used some unnatural means to do so. But for most of his career Bonds was an amazing all-around player (and all-natural), who won eight Gold Gloves, stole 514 bases, and won eight Gold Gloves.
Bonds should have been a first-ballot Hall of Fame lock, despite his late-career cartoonish output.
Although the seven-time MVP is controversial, any argument that he wasn’t one of the greatest ever to pick up a bat or glove ignores the facts.
4. Ted Williams
Ted Williams is long known as “the greatest pure hitter ever to have lived.” He has 482 lifetimes on-base percentage, which ranks him among the top 20 for total runs, home runs and runs batted in. This despite missing almost five seasons of his prime due to military service. “The Splendid Splinter,” (see what I mean regarding the nicknames) His uncanny eye made him a household name. He posted the final major-league season with an average batting off.400 (.406 in 1941). In his 19-year career, Williams led the AL in batting percentage 6 times, slugging percent 9 times, and on-base percentage 12 more times. Williams is not content to be the greatest hitter, he has been called the best fisherman ever and the best fighter pilot. He was not only a recipient of many accolades, but he also had a strained relationship with the public. John Updike, a famous author, said it when Williams refused to call for a curtain call following his last home run. “Gods don’t answer letters.”
5. Hank Aaron
Although home runs are not everything, hitting 755 of these is a surefire way of joining the ranks of the greatest hitters of all time.
Hank Aaron was the all-time leader in dingers, holding a career average of.305 and an OPS+ of 155. He is the only player with a strikeout rate (9.9) lower than 10.0 among the 19 players who had 534 or more balls.
His longevity is what propels him up the leaderboard. Although his single-season homer total was 47, he still collected 24 between 1955 and 1973. This is not a sign of a lackluster peak dominance. The 1957 National League MVP was third on the ballot six more times.
All-Star bids can be seen as a contest of popularity and recognition of past achievements. However, they are not a reliable measure of a player’s greatness. Aaron’s extraordinary consistency as an elite slugger speaks volumes, even though he represented the NL for 25 consecutive years. Only the last two were lifetime achievement awards.
6. Hank Aaron
Hank Aaron, who set the all-time home run records in 1974 with 755 runs and was the only player to surpass that mark until 2007, will be forever remembered.
Hammerin’ Hank holds the all-time RBI and total bases records (2,297), and was a lifetime hitter who won three Gold Gloves.
From 1954, when he was 20 years old, he played in at most 112 games each season until 1975. This added durability to his long list of Hall of Fame achievements.
7. Walter Johnson
Walter Johnson, the flamethrower, was a great talent and a legend in pitching. He was so outstanding that he led all of the AL in strikeouts, and topped the league 12 times during his 21-year tenure. He threw 110 complete games in his career for the Washington Senators. This record is still unbreakable. Clayton Kershaw is the current active leader with 15 wins in eight and a quarter seasons. He won 36 games in 1913 with a 1.14 ERA (walks and hits per inning pitched; a WHIP of 0.78 is considered exceptional) and was awarded the Chalmers Award, which is the modern equivalent to the MVP. In 1924, he was awarded the Chalmers Award as the Senators won their first World Series title. Johnson’s 3,599 career strikeouts were a record that lasted 56 decades. His 417 wins are second only to Cy Young’s 511.
8. Ty Cobb
Even though he lost his all-time hits record, Ty Cobb still has the best batting average of.366. He’s also second in triples (295) and fourth in stolen bases (897). He’s a top-10 lock.
He batted a career-high. 240 in 41 games and never batted below that level through his 23 seasons. He reached a batting record of.400 and won 12 batting titles.
It’s difficult to talk about Cobb without hearing stories about a bitter, racist man who sharpened his spikes in order to inflict injury on opponents using slides. In the classic filmic ode to baseball Field of DreamsShoeless Joe Jackson made fun of Cobb by saying that he couldn’t stand it.
Charles Leerhsen (author of Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty) found no evidence backing most of the claims against Cobb’s character. If Leerhsen’s findings are true, a generation has spent decades vilifying Cobb based on myths propagated by Al Stump, an autobiographer.
Leerhsen stated to Detroit Free Press‘ Anna Clark that “it’s unusual that all the really terrible stuff about Cobb began in 1961.” That’s when he passed away. It was all based upon ‘new evidence. One sportswriter began a torrent of lies.”
We don’t have enough information to address the moral dilemma of Cobb’s portrayal as a bad person so let’s just honor the first member of the Baseball Hall of Fame with prominent positioning.
9. Stan Musial
Stan “The Man”, Musial, was named to an impressive 20 All-Star teams. He also won three MVP awards in his 22-year MLB tenure.
He ended his career with a.331/.417/.559 line. He won seven batting titles and ranks fourth with 3,630 hits. Second with 6,134 total bases.
While this should not be a major factor in any GOAT discussions, it is worth noting that Musial played all 22 of his big-league seasons (with one missing in 1945 because of military service) with St. Louis Cardinals. This made him one of the most iconic faces of one of the game’s most beloved franchises.
10. Honus Wagner
Many modern baseball fans know Wagner as the subject of the most valuable baseball card ever produced. This rare 1909-11 T206 Wagner card was manufactured by the American Tobacco Company. It is rare and can fetch upwards of $2 million if it’s sold. However, it would not be nearly as valuable if it were just a regular player or one of the greatest players to ever have stepped on a diamond. The “Flying Dutchman”, a nickname that was popular back then, led the National League in batting an average eight more times. He retired in 1917 with a remarkable.328 average, having accumulated the second-most hits (3,420), doubles (643), triples (252), runs-batted-in (1,732) in major league history. All of these numbers still rank among the top 25 all-time. Wagner’s greatness can be seen in the 1936 balloting to the inaugural class of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was among five players chosen from the thousands of players who had played the game.
11. Lou Gehrig
Lou Gehrig’s.340/.447/.632 line and 493 home runs are not the only things that make him famous. Young fans can hear his voice echoing through Yankee Stadium, as he describes himself as “the luckiest person on the planet”.
Gehrig, who gave the famous retirement speech in July 1939 due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, (ALS) diagnosis, passed away on June 2, 1941. He was 37 years old.
The Iron Horse could have been slowed down only by the condition, now known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease after his diagnosis. He hit.295/.410/.523 and had 29 home runs in his final full season. He had played in 2130 consecutive games, which was a record Cal Ripken Jr. set in 1998.
Even though playoff performance is rarely included in these rankings Gehrig was awarded a few bonus points for his.361/.483/.731 average in seven World Series appearances. Six of those were won by the Yankees. He is third in wRC+, and fourth in adjusted OPS. His tragic loss to ALS has made him a top-10 player.
12. Roger Clemens
All statistics including WAR are courtesy Baseball-Reference
Roger Clemens, the first of two PED-tainted pitchers we’ll see on this list was one of the most outstanding pitchers to ever touch the rubber.
Clemens had a career of 24 seasons and a 3.12 ERA, 143 ERA+, as well as a record of 354-184. Clemens’ 139.2 cumulative WAR is eighth in the history of pitchers and ranks second. The Rocket won seven Cy Young Awards over three decades and was named American League MVP with the Boston Red Sox in 1986.
What did PEDs do to help him reach that elite level of success? How many pitches did he pitch well until age 44? We will never know.
13. Rogers Hornsby
Roger Hornsby, to borrow a little from John Oliver is a legend that you think about so much that you might not have realized that his real name was Rogers Hornsby.
Only Ty Cobb, out of all the hitters with at least 3,000 plate appearances had a higher average than Hornsby. He surpassed.400 in just three seasons, on his way to a career of.358. His greatest power came while displaying exceptional contact.
The career-high 42 home runs and a batting average of.401 were the achievements of the second baseman in 1922. He hit.403/.489/.756 three years later with 39 homers and a .540 OBA. Despite sporting an unbelievable.424/.507/.696 line and 12.1 RWAR, he didn’t win MVP honors.
These are the players with a higher wRC+ rating than Hornsby’s 173: Ted Williams and Babe Ruth. He is tied with Barry Bonds and Lou Gehrig, which supports his claim to the title of the best second baseman.