Asher's Top Ten Reactions to Elliott "Mr. Stats" Kalb's Top 100 List

Asher Chancey, Baseball Evolution

November 24, 2005


10. Negro Leaguers


I noticed you included Negro Leaguers on your Top 100. That's nice. I just have one thing to point out  - you also included Japanese players, Sadaharu Oh for example, and for that you should be commended. Part of the hypocrisy of people who put Negro Leaguers on their list is that they rarely include Japanese players. Oh is the World leader in home runs. Ichiro ripped it up in Japan before coming to the U.S. to rip it up here. For that matter, Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes and Warren Cromartie also ripped it up in Japan. The Japanese and Negro league situations, statistically, are parallel, made different only by the United States' history of oppression (though victims of Japanese internment during World War II would argue that even that is not different).


9. Alex Rodriguez


Kudos. I have been tempted to make the argument that ARod is one of the all time greats for several seasons, but I never have really focused in on it. ARod is clearly establishing himself as one of the all time great players, and I give you props for saying so.


8. Pitchers


Sandy Koufax number 25 – You should be ashamed. No. Really. Ashamed.  If Koufax is 25, then why are Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez ranked behind him, and where is Addie Joss? Is brief flourishes of greatness are all we require, then those three should be at least as high as 25th on your list. Koufax's career could have been reuly special, but if he had hung around for five more years, it could have also been mediocre. A player does not merit placement in the Top 25 of all time based on four and a half seasons of play. Period.


Warren Spahn ahead of Cy Young – I will need an explanation for that. Cy Young was simply better than Spahn in every way.


Bob Feller and Steve Carlton ahead of Carl Hubbell and Whitey Ford - Wow. That is odd. This element of your list most accurately reflects your nickname, "Mr. Stats," because Feller and Carlton have more gaudy stats that Hubbell and Ford. Feller and Carlton both had better strikeout totals, the money stats, and better career win totals, but Ford and Hubbell both have better winning percentages and ERAs. I have no real problem with your ranking of Bob Feller, because he was pretty fantastic and missed three prime years to the war, and I do suspect that Whitey Ford would not have performed as well had he not been playing for the Yankees. But the ranking of these four players does leave me with one question - where is Nolan Ryan?


7. Ted Simmons


Awesome! I love Ted Simmons! Keith has suggested before that he should be on my list, but I have never dared put him on.


One problem though – if you take away non-Major Leaguers, you have only 92 players on your list. And I just don't think Ted Simmons would be on my Top 92 of all time. Especially considering some of the current players you have included.


6. John Smoltz and Nomar Garciaparra


Interesting. How it is that two players who may not even be one of the Top 50 current players could crack your Top 100 is mind-boggling. These are simply errors. This is not something that people argue about (like Bonds vs. Ruth, Foxx vs. Ott, Hornsby vs. Morgan), this is simply an error. Nomar has had exactly six good seasons. If Nomar is on your list, then where is Al Rosen? And Smoltz is not even one of the Top 50 pitchers of all time. If he is on your list, then where are David Wells, David Cone, Bret Saberhagen, and Mike Mussina? Take them off, and go find yourself two more deserving players. Like, I dunno, perhaps Craig Biggio, Ryne Sandberg, Nolan Ryan, Joe Cronin, Barry Larkin, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, Gabby Hartnett, Three-Finger Brown, Home Run Baker . . .


5. Vlad Guerrero


Vlad is ranked 80th on your list. He has played exactly ten seasons. Let me put it this way. If Vlad is 80th after 10 seasons, then Manny Ramirez is way too low at 67th after 13 seasons of superior offensive play. Let me put it another way. If Vlad is 80th after 10 seasons, then where is Albert Belle, who played 12 seasons and put similar numbers? And yet another way – if Vlad is 80th after 10 seasons, then where are Jim Thome, Gary Sheffield, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and host of other active players with Top 100 stats? You may want to wait on Vlad Guerrero.


4. Eddie Murray ahead of Hank Greenberg and Frank Thomas, but Frank Robinson behind Joe DiMaggio


Wow. I would think that Murray ahead of Greenberg and Thomas reflects a bias towards career totals, which I have no problem with. Greenberg and Thomas were superior to Murray in every way except longevity, but I am even unclear myself about whether career totals versus per at-bat averages are more important, so I can't fault you one way or another. However, I would note that if Murray is ahead of these guys, so too should Palmeiro be.


But if Murray is ahead of Greenberg and Thomas, then Frank Robinson must be ahead of Joe DiMaggio. I think DiMaggio was a better player, but had a briefer career. Maybe you think the fact that he was a better player outweighs the fact that his career was shorter. Okay. I agree.


Put Greenberg and Thomas ahead of Murray, then.


3. Rogers Hornsby number 18 and Stan Musial number 22


I am not sure what these guys did to you, but you have severely under-rated them here.


2. Mel Ott and Jimmie Foxx


I have always seen these two players as remarkably similar. I have usually ranked them consecutively, though now I have Ott at 22 and Foxx at 15 because Foxx is the second greatest first baseman of all time while Ott is about 10th on the outfielder list. But you have Foxx at 24 and Ott at 48. I just don't think there is that big of a gap between them. And I think you improperly have Tony Gwynn, Pete Rose, Yogi Berra, and Johnny Bench ahead of Ott.


1. Barry Bonds


I noticed that Barry Bonds is number one. You are either crying for attention, or simply haven't studied the stats (ironically) or you overvalue base stealing or single season performance. There are two types of people in this world – those who think Bonds was better than the Babe, and those who don't. You are apparently the former, while I am the latter. But you are wrong, and I am right. Additionally, I believe you are incorrect for having Bonds ahead of Ty Cobb as well.


Amidst all the talk about Bonds vs Ruth, I do sincerely think that the better debate may be Bonds vs. Cobb. Bonds proponents like to knock Ruth because he couldn't field or steal bases. (though I would point out that Bonds never pitched.) So, maybe we should compare Bonds to Cobb, who could steal bases and field.


Cobb played center field, which generally, though perhaps incorrectly, consider the better of the three outfield positions. Cobb's career range factor is higher than the league average, but so was Bonds'. Cobb also stole bases. In fact, he was the all time leader in stolen bases for decades before Lou Brock eclipsed him, and then Henderson eclipsed them both. Cobb is now third on the all time list, with just under 400 more than Bonds.


"But Cobb didn't hit home runs" one might say. Well, this is true, sort of. He didn't hit a lot of home runs by today's standards, but he played in a different era, and by the standards of his day, he hit plenty. If we look at how many times each player led their league in home runs, we will be surprised to find that Cobb led his league in home runs once, finished second three times, and finished in the top ten a remarkable eleven times. Barry Bonds has led the league in home runs twice, finished second 5 times, and finished in the top ten 14 times. Don't get me wrong – Bonds is clearly the better home run hitter, but it is a lot closer than it seems.


"But Bonds doesn't hit as many as he would because he walks so much." Of course this is true. No one can argue with that. Bonds clearly walks more than Ty Cobb ever did. But Ty Cobb's on base percentage is on .009 worse than Bonds, despite the fact that Bonds walks more and hits more home runs.


So, where this leaves us, clearly, is that Cobb is a lot closer to Bonds than we would have realized, but Bonds is still better. Except for one problem:


If we are going to ignore the fact that Babe Ruth was better than Bonds in on base percentage, slugging, and home run hitting because Bonds was a better fielder and base stealer, then shouldn’t we ignore the fact that Bonds is better than Cobb in on base percentage, slugging, and home run hitting because Cobb was a better fielder and base stealer?

I don’t think we should. Ruth is ahead of Bonds, and Bonds is ahead of Cobb.

Incidentally, I know you "Bonds over Ruth" guys like to point to Bonds having the higher single season home run total, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. You guys are right, Bonds is better at hitting home runs, getting on base, and slugging than the Babe was, except . . .

How do you account for the fact that the Babe's career home runs per at-bat (.085 vs. .077), career on-base percentage (.474 vs. .442) and career slugging percentages (.690 vs. .611) are all significantly higher than Bonds' totals. How do you account for the fact that Ruth had a career average of .342, while Bonds' average is merely .300? Don't get me wrong, if our lists were lists of the Top 100 Single Season Havers of All Time, Bonds would be above Ruth.

But I am pretty sure our lists are based on careers, and Bonds is simply not better than Ruth was.