It’s hard to believe that the Hall of Miller and Eric has been around for nearly five years now. As transparently as we can, we’ve tried to determine the players, managers, executives, and pioneers who should rightfully be enshrined in Cooperstown. Also, we’ve tried to respond to what our readers have requested. With both transparency and commitment to our readers in mind, today we embark on the start of a 22-week journey where we reveal the top-40 players at every position based on Eric’s CHEWS+ (CHalek’s Equivalent WAR System) and my MAPES+ (Miller’s Awesome Player Evaluation System).
Each Monday until we finish the tour around our rankings, we’ll reveal half of a position’s top-40. As for pitchers, we’ll go 120 deep. Along the way, we’ll work on finding a place to store the information so you have quick access to it – and so you can see how our rankings compare to yours. So let’s get started!
First Base – The Top-20 All-Time
Where do we project the active players to finish in our rankings?
Pujols is no longer a good player, and he’ll be 38 this year. The only way he moves from 7th on the list is when I change my evaluation system. –Miller
I project him speaking at a podium in Cooperstown about eight to ten years from now.—Eric
A lot depends on how done one thinks he is. Even if he can still play better than 2017, he’s at an age where a regression won’t be toward his career-average productivity, but to a rate somewhere between there and 2017. Maybe he’s got a couple three-WAR years left in him? Either way, he’s a HoMEr, it’s only really a question of whether he’s #20 or #16—Eric
I choose to be positive here. Miggy is “only” 35, and he was an excellent hitter as recently as 2016. He could pass two or three more guys, and that’s the optimistic point of view. –Miller
It’s kind of hard to say, actually. Votto is a very uncommon player type when you start to drill down into his profile. The reason he’s uncommon is that he’s far less athletic than other super productive hitters of his caliber. So I drew up a list using the BBREF Play Index (subscribe today! It’s cheap and amazing!). Critera: Ages any through 33, with baserunnning runs less than 0, sorted by batting runs. Votto has 428 batting runs, and here’s everyone above 350:
- Miguel Cabrera: 581 Rbat in 9000 PA
- Frank Thomas: 565 Rbat in 6878 PA
- Manny Ramirez: 499 Rbat in 7225 PA
- Jim Thome: 452 Rbat in 7039 PA
- Joey Votto: 428 Rbat in 6141 PA
- Gary Sheffield: 415 Rbat in 7357 PA
- Todd Helton: 404 Rbat in 6758 PA
- Reggie Jackson: 394 Rbat in 7340 PA
- Wade Boggs: 393 Rbat in 6725 PA
- Mike Piazza: 388 Rbat in 5734 PA
- Willile McCovey: 373 Rbat in 5734 PA
- Lance Berkman: 371 Rbat in 6355 PA
- Harmon Killebrew: 359 Rbat in 5525 PA
- Mark McGwire: 358 Rbat in 5633PA
- Eddie Murray: 357 Rbat in 8480 PA
- Jason Giambi: 354 Rbat in 5784 PA
Before we talk about what happened after age 33, a note that on a per-PA basis, the only hitter on this list who outperformed Votto is the great Frank Thomas.
Next I plotted out what each of these guys did after age 34 and compared the group’s aggregate performance at each age to their overall performance through age 33. Then I used the age-by-age comparisons to project Votto through age 40 with simple math based on his career total through age 33. That added up to 550 batting runs for Votto. I wanted to account for those players whose careers ended before age 40, and for those seasons, I used Excel’s trend function to provide Rbat estimates for missing seasons, which, as you might surmise, weren’t very flattering in most cases. Even doing so, I got to 530 Rbat for Votto. So a range of 530–550 runs.
I ran a PI search in the expansion era to see how many players have cleared 500 Rbat. It’s just 16 total. Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera are the only active players on the list. Alex Rodriguez is on the list but not yet eligible to be voted on by the Hall of Fame or the Hall of Miller and Eric. Here’s the list of every currently eligible player that the Hall of Fame hasn’t elected who exceeded 500 Rbat for their careers: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Edgar Martinez. Two steroid guys and a DH who will be elected in 2018. We’ve elected all 14 eligible players so far. Heck, the only eligible players we haven’t elected among the 23 with 400+ Rbat thus far are Vlad Guerrero, Willie Stargell, Harmon Killebrew. Vlad has already drawn my vote, and he may get Miller’s someday soon as well. Jason Giambi and Lance Berkman are probably below the in/out line for us too, but they haven’t had to run the gauntlet yet. None of them is as good a hitter as Joey Votto.
Votto has, in my opinion, already done enough to get my vote. As long as the rest of his career progresses pretty normally, he’ll start climbing the ladder at his position and surprise a lot of people with how high he could finish.—Eric
Where do our rankings diverge the most from the conventional wisdom?
I’m proud to say it’s Keith Hernandez. He belongs in the Hall, and it’s not a particularly close call. Oh, and voters next winter will show us by just how much we eschew conventional wisdom when 26 of them vote for Todd Helton. –Miller
For me, it’s clearly Keith Hernandez. A lot of people have talked him up, but I’m probably his best friend on the internet. I probably place more emphasis on fielding at first base than most observers. But Hernandez is the Ozzie Smith of first basemen with a good enough bat. Also, my 1985 Topps All-Star card informs me that he’s a leader in Game-Winning RBIs.—Eric
Where do we disagree with one another the most?
We basically don’t disagree at first base at all. The rankings are a bit different, but all are within anyone’s comfort level for margin of error. The thing we disagree on most as far as first base is concerned is selecting the guys who fit the position. I put Ernie Banks, Pete Rose, Rod Carew, and Dick Allen here, while Eric sees them as a shortstop, a left fielder, a second baseman, and third baseman, respectively. I place guys at the position they played most, while Eric prefers to place them where they accumulated the most value.—Miller
Ernie Banks is a good example that demonstrates why each of our positions makes sense. Miller says the place where a fellow played the most is his primary position, which makes a lot of sense. I look at the fact that Banks accumulated roughly 35 Wins Above Average and 54.7 Wins Above Replacement at shortstop, then added -1.5 WAA and 10 WAR at first base, and I think he’s a shortstop. Actually, I use my own adjusted WAA/WAR totals when I’m assigning positions, but in this case, it doesn’t matter much. But it’s not always cut-and-dried for me. Rod Carew is within tenths of a win, and I could put him at either first or second base. I chose to stay consistent and place him where he accrued the most value, second base.—Eric
Are there any players that MAPES+/CHEWS+ might overrate or underrate?
Frank Thomas played more than half his games at DH. For the purposes of ranking players, we’ve chosen to place majority DHes at the position they fielded the most. Someday when there are enough DHes in the HoME to split them back out, we may find that Thomas (and Edgar Martinez at third base) are a little better or a little worse in our rankings when they are only compared to designated hitters. For now, it’s good enough. —Eric
I sometimes wonder if three of the seven best first basemen ever really could have played before the turn of the last century. Though I suspect they didn’t, I just don’t have a better way. —Miller