If you’ve followed along this summer, you probably have gotten the feeling that we have shaken up our thinking about baseball’s totem pole. That’s true, and while we’ve hinted a couple times at what that might mean for our individual rankings, we have not gone into detail yet. Today I’m going to get specific.
Our segregation adjustment and our decision to elect Negro Leaguers and MLBs in a single stream has three noticeable effects.
- 1) Pre-Robinson Black players take the place of borderliners
- 2) Post-expansion players climb in the ranks by virtue of not losing any value to our segregation adjustment
- 3) Pre-Robininson white players around fifteenth and lower at their position lose spots in the rankings and in some cases drop out of contention for a HoME spot.
These effects are probably more pronounced among pitchers but are very visible among all players. I’m going to share my rankings at each fielding position from the 18th slot on down to the 28th and, next week, from the 61st spot on down to the 98th among pitchers. These rankings will include only players eligible through our 2021 election. I’ll also present notable player movement. Here you’ll see these new dynamics at work very closely. Remember that we’re electing 264 players, so the approximate in/out line for a perfectly balanced Hall of Miller and Eric would be 23 at each position and 79 pitchers.
Negro Leaguers entering top 25: Louis Santop (8), Biz Mackey (14), Regiño Garcia (19)
Modern players entering top 25:
Players exiting top 25: Roger Bresnahan, Wally Schang
RK NAME CHEWS+ 18 Jim Sundberg 107.8 19 Regiño Garcia 105.2 20 Charlie Bennett 104.8 21 Gene Tenace 103.1 22 Mike Scioscia 101.7 23 Bill Freehan 101.6 24 Javy Lopez 101.0 25 Jason Kendall 98.7 26 Quincy Trouppe 98.0 27 Wally Schang 97.9 28 Jorge Posada 96.1
This one’s pretty simple. Good Negro Leaguers came in, the segregation adjustment came along, and they canceled each other out. Makes me wonder whether we will elect very many early catchers. Schang and White may represent their eras better than Lopez or Kendall and may have a strong argument that way.
Negro Leaguers entering top 25: Gibson (13), Leonard (19)
Modern players entering top 25: Lance Berkman
Players exiting top 25: Jake Beckley, George Sisler, Bill Terry
RK NAME CHEWS+ 18 Eddie Murray 111.9 19 Buck Leonard 109.9 20 Mark McGwire 109.8 21 John Olerud 108.7 22 Will Clark 107.3 23 Hank Greenberg 107.1 24 Lance Berkman 103.4 25 Harmon Killebrew 102.4 26 Bill Terry 98.2 27 George Sisler 98.1 28 Jason Giambi 97.2
Three-true outcomes fans, Harmon Killebrew is now in the house! Competitors Clark and Olerud ascend the ladder while Jake Beckley spirals off into never-ever land. This is news for us because those four (Killer, the Thrill, Olerud, and Becks Lite) have occupied the same space for years, just off the tail end of key candidates. These new rankings provide the two modern players a little separation from Killebrew and shunt Beckley into the deep, deep backlog. Oh, and Hank Greenberg takes a big tumble from around 10th to 23rd. That’ll leave a mark.
Negro Leaguers entering top 25: George Scales (19)
Modern players entering top 25: Jim Gilliam, Chuck Knoblauch
Players exiting top 25: Bobby Doerr, Lonnie Frey, Hardy Richardson
RK NAME CHEWS+ 18 Cupid Childs 102.2 19 George Scales 101.7 20 Ross Barnes 99.5 21 Bid McPhee 96.8 22 Billy Herman 94.6 23 Jim Gilliam 93.3 24 Fred Dunlap 92.5 25 Chuck Knoblauch 90.9 26 Julio Franco 90.8 27 Bobby Doerr 89.4 28 Hardy Richardson 89.1
Obviously, Childs’ position has become less tenable, but he remains above this line, which is a strong argument for him. Barnes essentially sits on the line, but McPhee, Herman, and Doerr, HoMERs all, fall below the 100 mark in CHEWS+. The double whammy they face comes in the form of Frank Grant (not shown above), probably Black Baseball’s best player from around 1885–1905. We don’t have enough statistical evidence to run an MLE for him (though what exists backs up his reputation), so we need to leave a little space for him. The aforementioned trio of threatened HoMERs benefits, however, from the weak crop great second basemen. At any other position a player with a 94.6 CHEWS would rank closer to 30 than Herman’s 22nd.
Negro Leaguers entering top 25: Jud Wilson (7)
Modern players entering top 25: Toby Harrah, Robin Ventura, Tim Wallach
Players exiting top 25: Bob Elliott, Heinie Groh, Stan Hack, Tommy Leach, Ned Williamson
RK NAME CHEWS+ 18 Ron Cey 108.4 19 Matt Williams 101.3 20 Jimmy Collins 100.4 21 Robin Ventura 99.6 22 Deacon White 96.9 23 Toby Harrah 95.6 24 John McGraw 95.5 25 Tim Wallach 94.5 26 Ken Caminiti 93.9 27 Tommy Leach 93.2 28 Ned Williamson 90.6
Attack of the 1980s/1990s third basemen! Williams, Ventura, Wallach, Caminiti, and Bonilla all make big strikes while five old-school dudes drift away. In fact, the only top-25 third basemen who debuted prior to Eddie Mathews were Home Run Baker, Jimmy Collins, John McGraw, and Deacon White. Third base is a modern player’s position, and right now, I’m also seeing an attack of the 2010/2020s third basemen! David Wright, Evan Longoria, Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson, and Manny Machado have already supplanted members of the top 25. We’re just waiting for Wright to gain Hall eligibility (2024) and for Longo, Arenado, Donaldson, and Machado to retire. Kris Bryant follows very closely behind, while Alex Bregman and Jose Ramirez have already put themselves on a top-flight trajectory. Even Anthony Redon has an outside shot of finishing in that kind of company despite a lost 2021 season. By the way, this list of third basemen includes Edgar Martinez and Paul Molitor both of whom really qualify at DH.
Negro Leaguers entering top 25: John Henry Lloyd (5), Willie Wells (8), John Beckwith (14), Dobie Moore (20), Dick Lundy (21), Grant Johnson (27)
Modern players entering top 25:
Players exiting top 25: Dave Bancroft, Hughie Jennings, Joe Sewell, Joe Tinker, Johnny Ward
RK NAME CHEWS+ 18 Derek Jeter 109.9 19 Lou Boudreau 108.2 20 Dobie Moore 107.6 21 Dick Lundy 101.6 22 Pee Wee Reese 100.8 23 Bert Campaneris 100.3 24 Miguel Tejada 99.0 25 Art Fletcher 98.9 26 Jim Fregosi 98.6 27 Grant Johnson 94.6 28 Joe Tinker 93.8
Thank God that’s over! We’ve lobbed Hughie Jennings’ name back and forth so many times and drawn no conclusion thanks to his all-peak career. Now he won’t make so much noise at 29th and 92.8 CHEWS+. The Negro Leagues developed an amazing array of talent at shortstop, so much, in fact, that it pushes five players into the top 25 and as many old MLBers out of it. In fact, Fletcher dropped down ten ranks and hangs on by his finger nails as the only old MLBer to hang in with the top guys at the position. See also, centerfield.
Negro Leaguers entering top 25:
Modern players entering top 25: Albert Belle, Brian Downing, George Foster, Luis Gonzalez, Jim Rice, Willie Stargell
Players exiting top 25: Bob Johnson, Joe Kelley, Joe Medwick, Zack Wheat
RK NAME CHEWS+ 18 George Foster 103.7 19 Luis Gonzalez 103.2 20 Bobby Veach 103.0 21 Willie Stargell 102.7 22 Sherry Magee 99.0 23 Jimmy Sheckard 95.7 24 Charlie Keller 93.0 25 Ralph Kiner 90.5 26 Jim Rice 90.1 27 Brian Downing 88.6 28 Zack Wheat 88.3
By the way, Albert Belle now checks in at 17, an eight-rank gain. What happened here? If you’ve followed us over the years, you may remember that Kiner, Keller, Kelley, and Medwick formed a rolling blockade just below the in/out line. Well, they’ve mostly cleared out and so have Zack Wheat and Bob Johnson. That allows their modern counterparts Belle, Downing, Foster, Gonzalez, Rice, and Stargell to enter the fray and ascend to places where they could easily draw votes. This probably represents the most shocking turning of the tables among the eight fielding positions. Interestingly, it has zero to do with Negro Leaguers but everything to do with segregation.
Negro Leaguers entering top 25: Oscar Charleston (4), Willard Brown (8), Turkey Stearnes (13), Cristóbal Torriente (14), Bullet Rogan (16), Martín Dihigo (19), Pete Hill (20)
Modern players entering top 25:
Players exiting top 25: Wally Berger, Max Carey, George Gore, Mike Griffin, Paul Hines, Jim O’Rourke
RK NAME CHEWS+ 18 Willie Davis 108.7 19 Pete Hill 106.3 20 Cesar Cedeño 104.7 21 Duke Snider 103.1 22 Bernie Williams 103.0 23 Brett Butler 102.4 24 Chet Lemon 102.3 25 Willie Wilson 99.2 26 Larry Doby 96.2 27 Dale Murphy 96.0 28 Kirby Puckett 94.8
Centerfield, the other position where the Negro Leagues churned out talent. You’ll notice that I put Rogan but not Dihigo here. The former fared a little better as a hitter, relative to history, than as a pitcher, so that’s where I stuck him. Getting Berger, Gore, and Griffin out of the way brings fresh air to centerfield, where suddenly the centerfielders you grew up with have a chance. I’m talking about Cedeño, Williams, Butler, Lemon, and even Willie Wilson. They’ve hung around our backlog for years, just a little too far from electable and not terribly easy to parse either. The other big deal? Duke Snider. Willie Wilson, Mickey Rivers, and the Duke? Snider takes a tumble, and in my eyes his case now resembles that of Bernie, Butler, and Chet the Jet.
Negro Leaguers entering top 25: Heavy Johnson (10), Hurley McNair (23)
Modern players entering top 25: Bobby Abreu, Brian Giles
Players exiting top 25: Sam Crawford, King Kelly, Enos Slaughter, Willie Keeler
RK NAME CHEWS+ 18 Bobby Bonds 111.0 19 Reggie Smith 110.5 20 Vlad Guerrero 110.4 21 Bobby Abreu 108.7 22 Brian Giles 108.0 23 Hurley McNair 102.1 24 Harry Heilmann 101.3 25 Elmer Flick 100.1 26 Tony Oliva 98.8 27 Sam Crawford 96.0 28 Jack Clark 93.5
Crawford’s ousting from the top-25 list boggles the mind, and Keeler’s drop all the way to 34th does too. Let me explain why this happens because it also affects big names like Harry Heilmann in right field and loads of old timers across the defensive spectrum. Remember that our segregation adjustment is based on a rate of -10 runs above average per 600 PA. I italicized that because long-timers like Crawford and Keeler appear to get extra hard. In fact, their in-season and career-long durability, and Keeler’s batting order position, lead to more plate appearances, and, therefore, more PAs to adjust. Friends of the old timers might argue that we penalize players for their availability. I would counter this with a reminder that every plate appearances in a segregated league comes against a less talented league. If we don’t adjust every plate appearance, we have only taken partial measures, and we provide an undue advantage to durable players beyond the advantages they naturally accrue. Now, is it possible we will elect Crawford anyway? Of course! But it’s interesting to see how a new perspective changes his outlook.
Oh, by the way, in case you wondered, Mookie Betts slides over in/out line at 101.2 CHEWS+. And that’s only through last year. As I’m writing, Betts has earned about 4.0 WAR. Let’s say he gets to 5.5 by year’s end. He’d end 2021 somewhere around Bobby Bonds, Joe Jackson, and Ichiro Suzuki. And that’s just eight seasons in the books. He’s an odds-on favorite to climb into the top-ten. Getting near the top five right fielders will be hard. We’re talking Ruth, Aaron, Frank Robinson, Clemente, and Ott after all. You don’t just prorate someone into their company. But Betts has so many skills and talents that I’d be hard pressed to bet against him.
Next week, we’ll check in without our friends on the mound where we’ll see our conventional wisdom crumbling again before our eyes.