The HyperTexts

Baseball's All-Time Leaders in WAR per Season (WAR per 162 Games, or WAR/162)
with consideration of WAR7, WAR5, cWAR5 and WAR per Plate Appearance


The WAR Hall of Fame below is based on WAR per season (that is, WAR per 162 games). We also have a team based on WAR per plate appearance. The position indicated is the player's primary position. The team indicated is the player's primary team. Babe Ruth's WAR has been adjusted to not reflect years when he was primarily a pitcher. If his pitching WAR were included, his WAR/162 would be 10.90.

We will also consider peak WAR in the form of WAR7, WAR5 and cWAR5 (for five consecutive seasons). Anyone who appears on all the lists will be a star of the highest magnitude. For pitchers, we have rankings of WAR per 100 innings pitched and WAR per 200 innings pitched. Our research on pitchers convinced us that one of the most dynamic pitchers of all time, Smoky Joe Wood, has been unfairly snubbed by the Baseball Hall of Fame and should be inducted forthwith. We will explain why in our expanded pitcher rankings at the bottom of this page.

Please keep in mind that 8 WAR is MVP level. So the top players on the lists below played at a composite MVP level for their entire careers. The all-star level is 5 WAR, so every player on this list played at a composite all-star level for his entire career. It seems safe to say that any player who made the first list below was elite, while those who averaged 6 WAR or higher were transcendent. For pitchers, anything over 4 WAR per 200 innings is transcendent.

The Best Players by Position, according to WAR per Season and WAR per 200 Innings (with starters underlined and active players bolded)

When thinking about the Baseball Hall of Fame, this list reminds us how historically good Buster Posey, Joey Votto, Chase Utley and the other bolded names have been. It also reminds us that Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts are transcendent players. It reminds us how spectacular players like Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Joe Gordon were, despite shorter careers. And it makes us question why Smoky Joe Wood, Bobby Grich, Scott Rolen, Reggie Smith and Dick Allen (with that 156 OPS+) are not in the HOF.

Catcher: Johnny Bench (+7.03/5.62), Mickey Cochrane (5.50), Buster Posey (5.38), Thurman Munson (5.25), Roy Campanella (5.11), Bill Dickey (5.10), Mike Piazza (5.00)
First Base: Lou Gehrig (8.50), Dan Brouthers (7.70), Roger Connor (6.84), Jimmie Foxx (6.50), Hank Greenberg (6.50), Cap Anson (6.10), Johnny Mize (6.10), Jeff Bagwell (6.04), Joey Votto (5.49), Albert Pujols (5.43)
Second Base: Rogers Hornsby (9.10), Jackie Robinson (7.30), Eddie Collins (7.10), Nap Lajoie (7.00), Joe Morgan (6.10), Charlie Gehringer (5.90), Joe Gordon (5.80), Bobby Grich (5.74), Dustin Pedroia (5.60), Chase Utley (5.39)
Shortstop: Honus Wagner (7.58), Arky Vaughan (7.0), Alex Rodriguez (6.80), Lou Boudreau (6.34), George Davis (5.76), Jack Glasscock (5.75), Francisco Lindor (5.60), Cal Ripken Jr. (5.20), Andrelton Simmons (5.10)
Third Base: Mike Schmidt (7.18), John McGraw (6.70), Eddie Matthews (6.52), Home Run Baker (6.51), **Matt Chapman (6.5), **Alex Bregman (6.5), Josh Donaldson (6.00), Wade Boggs (5.87), Scott Rolen (5.58), **Kris Bryant (5.51), Chipper Jones (5.48)
Right Field: Babe Ruth (10.48), Mookie Betts (8.34), **Aaron Judge (7.40), Hank Aaron (6.70), Mel Ott (6.56), Roberto Clemente (6.31), Frank Robinson (6.00), Larry Walker (5.92), Elmer Flick (5.81), Reggie Smith (5.27)
Center Field: Mike Trout (9.57), Willie Mays (8.47), Ty Cobb (8.06), Tris Speaker (7.79), *Joe DiMaggio (7.75), Mickey Mantle (7.58), Billy Hamilton (6.44)
Left Field: *Ted Williams (9.22), Barry Bonds (8.83), "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (7.36), Stan Musial (6.89), Ed Delahanty (6.14), Charlie Keller (6.10), Rickey Henderson (5.80)
Designated Hitter: Dick Allen (5.44), Mark McGwire (5.38), Rod Carew (5.33), Ralph Kiner (5.24), Al Simmons (5.07)
Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw (5.94), Smoky Joe Wood (5.57), Pedro Martinez (5.37), Roger Clemens (5.22), Lefty Grove (4.99), Johan Santana (4.92), Sandy Koufax (4.69), Roy Halladay (4.63), Randy Johnson (4.44)
Relief Pitcher: Mariano Rivera (9.16), Trevor Hoffman (6.05), Bruce Sutter (4.80), Lee Smith (4.70), Dan Quisenberry (4.66), John Hiller (4.54), Rich Gossage (4.42), John Franco (4.14)
Utility: Pete Rose (an all-star at five different positions, playing more than 500 games at each, while averaging 6.4 WAR in his seven best years and 5.6 WAR for twelve consecutive years), Buck Ewing (played catcher, first, second, short, outfield, and even pitched a few games, averaging 5.9 WAR/162)

+ We believe WAR fails to reflect the overall contributions of catchers and would add at least 25% to each catcher's WAR, giving Johnny Bench an adjusted seasonal WAR of 7.03 and making him comparable to Mike Schmidt and Hank Greenberg, which we think are fair comparisons. In a draft of all-time players, I would take Bench over Greenberg because there are more great-hitting first basemen than there are great-hitting catchers with ten consecutive gold gloves who shut down other teams' running games with cannon arms. And Bench was a very efficient base stealer in his prime, going 24-2 in two seasons before mounting injuries took their toll. Hell, he even played all three outfield positions, including centerfield. Hopefully some day soon the creators of the WAR algorithms will figure out how to be fair to catchers.

* Adjusted for military service

** Young players off to great starts, but with too few games played to really warrant the comparisons at this point. They are included only as current references.

Biggest Hall of Fame Snubs without "issues": Smoky Joe Wood, Charlie Keller, Jack Glasscock, Bobby Grich, Scott Rolen, Dick Allen, Reggie Smith, Thurman Munson, Lou Whitaker, "Bad" Bill Dahlen, Ken Boyer, Johan Santana, Curt Schilling, Kevin Brown

WAR/162 helps us see why Reggie Smith has a good case for the Hall of Fame. His 64.6 career WAR puts him in the top 15 all-time in right field, with about an equal number of Hall of Fame right fielders below him. But Smith did a lot more with less. He only had five seasons with 145 games played, due to injuries. But when he did play, Smith was top 10 at his position. And the great Roberto Clemente once said that Smith had the strongest arm in baseball. Opposing players would assemble around the dugout during pre-game warm-ups to watch Smith's howitzer in action. Smith's glittering 137 OPS+ makes him comparable to Reggie Jackson, Vladimir Guerroro and Chuck Klein, but he was a better runner, a better defender and had one of the best outfield arms baseball has seen. Let him in!

If Hall of Fame discussions interest you, we invite you to see why our current favorites include "Bad" Bill Dahlen, Reggie Smith, Albert Pujols and Buster Posey by clicking here: The Best Baseball Hall of Fame Candidates.

There are cases in which WAR/162 can require further analysis. For instance players with extremely long careers like Pete Rose and Albert Pujols can look less-good than they actually were. I often hear would-be baseball experts opine that Rose was "not dynamic" and was "not really that good." But if we look at Rose's prime years, a 12-year period from 1965 to 1976, he averaged 5.6 bWAR per season and was third in fWAR with 65.7 behind only Joe Morgan and Carl Yastrzemski. Furthermore, Rose was nearly tied with Yaz and both Yaz and Morgan had insane two-year peaks, so the case can be made that for a 12-year period of time, Rose was MLB's most consistent superstar. Also, Rose was a great defensive left-fielder who won two Gold Gloves and had some of the best defensive metrics of all time for left fielders, but he often played out of position to help his teams, and that cost him substantial WAR. Even so, Rose was well ahead of every other player who played extensively during the same time period. Rose was 35 in 1976 and even Mr. Indestructible started to show the effects of time and slow down, but he remained in the top two to four players for fWAR in every screen starting in 1965 through 1984. In some screens the top three players were Rose and his teammates Morgan and Johnny Bench. In other screens Yaz pops up either ahead of Rose, or tied with him, or a notch below. As I played with the Fangraphs screens, one thing became obvious to me: For a 20-year period of time starting in 1965 and ending in 1976 or later, the most dominant player was always Joe Morgan, followed by Rose, Yaz and Bench as they jockeyed for order. Only Mike Schmidt would really challenge the ruling hierarchy. Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew and the vastly underrated Reggie Smith were other notable contenders. (In a side note: if Morgan or Carew could play short, we have a pretty damn good team for that era.) But in any case, I advise considering WAR7 along with WAR/162 to get a more complete picture. Rose's 44.9 WAR7 puts him seventh all-time at left field, ahead of legends like Goose Goslin, Ralph Kiner, Joe Medwick and Manny Ramirez. If they were dynamic players, as they obviously were, then obviously so was Pete Rose. One can also easily compute a player's WAR/162 for his prime years using a Fangraphs screen. Just take the total fWAR for the seasons in question, divide by the number of games played, then multiply by 162. Anything over 5 is all-star level, while 7-8 is MVP level and anything higher for an extended period of time is reserved for the elite of the elite.

Positive Surprises: Mike Trout (9.57), Dan Brouthers (7.60), Roger Connor (6.84), Arky Vaughan (6.47), Billy Hamilton (6.44), Lou Boudreau (6.35), Joe Gordon (6.27), Ed Delahanty (6.15), Josh Donaldson (6.10), Larry Walker (5.92), Elmer Flick (5.81), George Davis (5.76), Jack Glasscock (5.75), Bobby Grich (5.74),Scott Rolen (5.58), Al Rosen (5.46), Dick Allen (5.44), Chase Utley (5.39), Lenny Dykstra (5.39), Buster Posey (5.38), Adrian Beltre (5.32), Andrelton Simmons (5.30), Reggie Smith (5.27), Kenny Lofton (5.26), Wally Berger (5.12), Lou Whitaker (5.09), "Bad" Bill Dahlen (5.00), Ken Boyer (5.00), Joe Mauer (4.80)

The New York Gothams became known as the New York Giants because their six-foot-three first baseman, Roger Connor, was considered a giant in the late 1800s. Connor retired in 1897 and was MLB's all-time home run hitter for 23 years, until some guy named Babe Ruth showed up. Connor was a good base runner for his size, with 233 triples and 244 stolen bases. He also invented the pop-up slide, which must have scared the infield munchkins of his day! So it's no mistake that Connor ranks as high as he does.

And it's really no surprise that Mike Trout, the best player of his generation by a wide margin, is on this list. What is surprising and a bit breath-taking is that he has already eclipsed the immortal centerfielders and is now now second only to Babe Ruth in WAR per season! If he can stay healthy long enough, Trout has a chance to be the GOAT (greatest of all time), or at least finish in the top ten. Trout's teammate, shortstop Andrelton Simmons, did catch me by surprise, as did Josh Donaldson. They have a chance to join the all-time greats if they can stay healthy. Bobby Grich, Chase Utley and Scott Rolen clearly belong in the Hall of Fame, according to WAR per season. But all the players in "Positive Surprises" deserve careful consideration for inclusion if they're not already members. Lenny Dykstra only had 500 at-bats three times, due to injuries and a wild lifestyle, so he may be an exception.

Negative Surprises: Leo Durocher (0.51), Connie Mack (1.25), Harold Baines (2.27), "Little Poison" Lloyd Waner (2.27), Casey Stengel (2.55), High Pockets Kelly (2.55), Rick Ferrell (2.56), Ray Schalk (2.63), Bill Mazeroski (2.73), Jim Bottomley (2.87)

There are some questionable low-WAR players in the HOF, although Durocher, Mack and Stengel are better known as managers. While he batted .316 with 2,459 hits, Lloyd Waner was an average player according to WAR and OPS+. Harold Baines had a good career but he never had a five-WAR season. Rick Ferrell wasn't even the best hitter in his own family; his brother Wes, a pitcher, was! Mazeroski also never had a five-WAR season and his OPS+ was well below average at 84, although he may have been the best defensive second baseman of all time. Even the highly popular Derek Jeter begins to look questionable, when 18 shortstops bettered his 4.27 WAR per 162 games. Jeter had the second-highest plate appearances at short, which helped his counting stats, but he had five years below replacement and eleven seasons below 4.0 WAR, not counting his abbreviated first year. WAR per season suggests that Jeter was top 20 shortstop, not a top 5 or top 10 shortstop.

Other Negative Surprises: Dave Parker (2.63), Steve Garvey (2.65), Elston Howard (2.72)

We were surprised that Steve "my hair is always perfect" Garvey made this list. Ditto for the fearsome Cobra.

These are the players who should be considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame based on their Peak WAR and total WAR, with the players with the highest peaks underlined: Pete Rose (44.9/79.7), Shoeless Joe Jackson (52.5/62.2), Bill Dahlen (40.2/75.4), *Larry Walker (44.7/72.7), *Derek Jeter (41.8/72.4), Bobby Grich (46.4/71.1), Scott Rolen (43.7/70.2), Carlos Beltran (44.4/69.8), *Edgar Martinez (43.7/68.4), Kenny Lofton (43.4/68.3), Graig Nettles (42.4/68.0), Ken Boyer (46.3/62.8), Andruw Jones (46.5/62.8), Sal Bando (44.4/61.5), Todd Helton (46.5/61.2), Jim Edmonds (42.6/60.4), Jim Wynn (43.4/55.9), Dick Allen (45.9/55.1), Nomar Garciaparra (43.1/44.2)

* Elected to the HOF since our initial recommendation.

Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson are head and shoulders above the pack, so LET THEM IN! But really, all the underlined names deserve to be in the HOF, if our "negative surprises" are going to be included. We left out the "steroid monsters" because that debate is above our pay grade. But it makes absolutely no sense to ban Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson for gambling, when hall-of-famers like Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Rogers Hornsby were caught gambling, as explained here: Why Pete Rose Should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Players with a ton of WAR who may have fallen a bit short of the HOF due to lower peaks may include Johnny Damon (33.0/56.4), **Ted Simmons (34.8/50.3), Willie Randolph (36.3/65.9), Bert Campaneris (36.7/53.1), Thurman Munson (37.0/46.1), Ron Cey (37.1/53.8), Dwight Evans (37.3/67.1), Darrell Evans (37.3/58.8), Gary Sheffield (38.0/60.5), Fred Lynn (38.4/50.2), Robin Ventura (38.7/56.1), Sherry Magee (38.7/59.3), Willie Davis (38.9/60.7), John Olerud (39.0/58.2), Minnie Minoso (39.9/50.5), Vada Pinson (40.0/54.3), Buddy Bell (40.5/66.3), Bobby Bonds (41.1/57.9), Keith Hernandez (41.3/60.4), Cesar Cedeno (41.4/52.8), Bobby Abreu (41.6/60.0)

** While Ted Simmons averaged 3.32 WAR per 162 games, we supported his election to the Hall of Fame because we think WAR clearly undervalues catchers and because we have Simmons number ten in our rankings of all-time catchers: Johnny Bench #1, Roy Campanella #2, Mickey Cochrane #3, Bill Dickey #4, Mike Piazza #5, Yogi Berra #6, Carlton Fisk #7, Ivan Rodriguez #8, Gary Carter #9, Ted Simmons #10, Thurman Munson #11, Gabby Hartnett #12, Buster Posey #13, Ernie Lombardi #14, Joe Mauer #15, Buck Ewing #16, Yadier Molina #17, Lance Parrish #18, Jorge Posada #19, Joe Torre #20

While this page is primarily about position players, there are stats similar to WAR-per-162-games that can be used to evaluate pitchers: WAR-per-100-innings and WAR-per-200-innings. We think such stats should be used when considering pitchers for the Hall of Fame. We have posted tables at the bottom of this page that rank the top pitchers of all time by these measures. You will find the expected names: Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Walter Johnson, et al. But you will also find some REAL surprises! These tables tell us that top contenders for the Hall of Fame include Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Greg Kimbrel, Corey Kluber, Zack Greinke, Curt Schilling and Max Scherzer.

WAR per 700 Plate Appearances

                                                         WAR/
       Name                     PA   WAR     700

1     Babe Ruth         10503   172.0   11.46
2     Mike Trout       5184     71.7     9.80
3     Rogers Hornsby  9259   127.8     9.66
4     Barry Bonds      12511  171.8      9.61
5     Ross Barnes        2506    33.1      9.25
6     Ted Williams       9766  125.3      8.98
7     Willie Mays       12389  154.7      8.74
8     Ty Cobb           12777  159.4      8.73
9     Lou Gehrig         9554   118.4      8.67
10   Mickey Mantle   9848   120.2      8.54
11   Honus Wagner 11518   134.5      8.17
12   Tris Speaker     11679  133.0      7.97
13   Joe Jackson       5559     62.9      7.92
14   Jackie Robinson 5689     63.2      7.78
16   Eddie Collins   11525    126.7     7.70
17   Dan Brouthers   7656      83.7     7.65
18   Joe DiMaggio    7657     83.6      7.64
19   Mike Schmidt    9938   108.3      7.63
20   Alex Rodriguez  9513     99.0      7.28
21   Hank Aaron    13798   141.6      7.18
22   Nap Lajoie     10239    104.2      7.12
23   Stan Musial     12624   127.8      7.09
24   John McGraw   4894     49.3      7.05
25   Arky Vaughan   7605     75.6     6.96
       Albert Pujols 12077     99.9      5.79
 
Ross Barnes played in just 499 games (because of short seasons in baseball's early years). His slash line was .360/.389/.468/.857 with an OPS+ of 168.
Jackie Robinson, Shoeless Joe Jackson and John McGraw also had shorter careers.

WAR per 162 Games for Position Players [with peak WAR aka WAR7]

Because the Hall of Fame requires ten years and an all-star season is five WAR, our total WAR requirement for the HOF is 50 or higher. The peak WAR requirement of 40 was chosen because it's around the average for HOF members. If only total WAR is considered, a player may have just played a lot more games than the average HOFer. If just peak WAR is considered, the player may have been a "flash in the pan." But if we consider both, we know that a player accumulated enough total WAR for at least ten all-star seasons, and that he played above an all-star level for at least seven years. Because WAR seems to discriminate against catchers, we have reduced the peak WAR requirement for catchers. Otherwise, only Johnny Bench would be eligible! We have also made exceptions and adjustments for players who lost prime seasons due to military service.

In the table below, the all-time leaders for each position are starred with asterisks. Active players are bolded and their rankings can go up or down. Please note that a WAR7 of 56 or higher means that the player in question performed at an MVP level or higher, on average, for at least seven years. Players with high peak WAR but insufficient career WAR are listed in a following section, with notes about some players. This is where you will find most younger active players.

To see this list sorted by peak WAR, please click here: Baseball's All-Time Leaders in WAR7.

10.48 (RF)     (#1) Babe Ruth* (New York Yankees) not including pitching WAR [84.7]
9.57 (CF)      (#2) Mike Trout* (Los Angeles Angels) [65.1]

-------------- Mike Trout is more than just a generational player. Around 20,000 men have played major league baseball and Trout's had the highest career WAR for every age he reached, until being recently derailed by injuries.

9.22 (LF)        (#3) Ted Williams* (Boston Red Sox) adjusted for five years lost to military service (est. 170 WAR, 2986 games) [69.2]
9.10 (2B)        (#4) Rogers Hornsby* (St. Louis Cardinals) [73.5]
8.92 (LF)        (#5) Barry Bonds (San Francisco Giants) obviously inflated by PEDs [72.7]
8.50 (1B)        (#6) Lou Gehrig* (New York Yankees) [67.7]
8.34 (RF)       (#7) Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox) [47.7]
8.12 (CF)       (#8) Willie Mays (New York/San Francisco Giants) [73.7]
8.06 (CF)       (#9) Ty Cobb (Detroit Tigers) [69.2]
8.01 (SS)        (#10) Honus Wagner* (Pittsburgh Pirates) [65.4]
7.79 (CF)       (#11) Tris Speaker (Cleveland Indians) [62.4]
7.79 (CF)       (#11) Joe DiMaggio (New York Yankees) adjusted for three years lost to military service (est. 101 WAR, 2100 games) [51.2]

--------------- Joe DiMaggio lost playing time to military service, then retired early. This list reminds us how spectacular he was when he did play.

7.70 (1B)        (#12) Dan Brouthers (Many) [47.2]
7.58 (CF)       (#13) Mickey Mantle (New York Yankees) [64.8]
7.36 (RF/LF)  (#14) Shoeless Joe Jackson (Chicago White Sox) [52.5]
7.30 (2B)        (#15) Jackie Robinson (Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers) [52.0]
7.18 (3B)        (#16) Mike Schmidt* (Philadelphia Phillies) [58.7]
7.10 (2B)        (#17) Eddie Collins (Chicago White Sox) [64.2]
7.00 (SS)        (#18) Arky Vaughan (Pittsburgh Pirates) [53.2]
6.89 (RF/1B)   (#18) Stan Musial (St. Louis Cardinals) [64.7]
6.84 (1B/3B)   (#19) Roger Connor (New York Giants) [47.0]
6.80 (SS)        (#20) Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees) inflated by PEDs [64.3]
6.70 (RF)        (#21) Hank Aaron (Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves) [60.3]
6.56 (RF)        (#22) Mel Ott (New York Giants) [52.9]
6.51 (3B)        (#23) Eddie Mathews (Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves) [54.3]
6.50 (1B/3B)   (#24) Jimmie Foxx (Philadelphia Athletics) [59.5]
6.50 (1B)        (#25) Hank Greenberg (Detroit Tigers) [47.7]

-------------- The players above so far are the top 25 of all time. We are reminded how very good Jackie Robinson was, breaking the color barrier aside. Needless to say, he was the perfect choice.

6.46 (3B)        Frank Baker (Philadelphia Athletics) [46.8]
6.44 (CF)       Billy Hamilton (Philadelphia Phillies) [42.7]
6.43 (2B)        Nap Lajoie (Cleveland Indians) [60.3]
6.35 (SS)        Lou Boudreau (Cleveland Indians) [58.7]
6.31 (RF)       Roberto Clemente (Pittsburgh Pirates) [54.4]
6.27 (2B)        Joe Gordon (New York Yankees) [45.8]
6.15 (LF)        Ed Delahanty (Philadelphia Phillies) [48.6]
6.10 (2B)        Joe Morgan (Cincinnati Reds) [59.3]
6.10 (1B)        Johnny Mize (St. Louis Cardinals) [48.8]
6.10 (LF)        Charlie Keller (New York Yankees) [39.4] exception for military service
6.10 (1B)        Cap Anson (Chicago Cubs) [41.8]
6.04 (1B)        Jeff Bagwell (Houston Astros) [48.3]
6.00 (RF)        Frank Robinson (Cincinnati Reds) [52.9]
6.00 (3B)        Josh Donaldson (Atlanta Braves) [41.7] the lower WAR7 is due to injuries, not lack of performance

-------------- It's easy to forget how good Joe Gordon was in his prime.

5.92 (RF)        Larry Walker (Colorado Rockies) [44.7]
5.90 (2B)        Charlie Gehringer (Detroit Tigers) [50.5]
5.90 (C/UT)    Buck Ewing (New York Giants) [30.7]
5.87 (3B)        Wade Boggs (Boston Red Sox) [56.4]
5.81 (RF)        Elmer Flick (Cleveland Indians) [41.3]
5.80 (LF)       Rickey Henderson (Oakland Athletics) [57.6]
5.76 (SS)        George Davis (New York Giants) [44.4]
5.75 (SS)        Jack Glasscock (Cleveland Blues) [41.0]
5.74 (2B)        Bobby Grich (California Angels) [46.4]
5.62 (C)         Johnny Bench* (Cincinnati Reds) [47.1]
5.60 (2B)       Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox) [41.0]
5.58 (3B)       Scott Rolen (Philadelphia Phillies) [43.7]
5.58 (SS)       Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado Rockies) [40.3]
5.57 (1B)       Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona Diamondbacks) [39.9]
5.50 (C)         Mickey Cochrane (Philadelphia Athletics) [36.9]

--------------- (*) We believe WAR undervalues catchers and in our opinion Johnny Bench is a top 25 player.

5.48 (3B)        Chipper Jones (Atlanta Braves) [46.8]
5.45 (1B)       Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds) [46.9]
5.44 (3B)        Dick Allen (Philadelphia Phillies) [45.9]
5.43 (1B)       Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals) [61.7]
5.40 (CF)       Larry Doby (Cleveland Indians) exception for racial discrimination [39.6]
5.39 (2B)       Chase Utley (Philadelphia Phillies) [49.3]
5.38 (1B)       Mark McGwire (Oakland Athletics) [41.9]
5.38 (C)         Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants) [42.9]
5.37 (1B)       Bill Terry (New York Giants) [41.2]
5.33 (2B)       Rod Carew (Minnesota Twins) [49.8]
5.32 (3B)       Adrian Beltre (Texas Rangers) [49.3]
5.28 (3B)       Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays) [40.9]
5.27 (2B)       Ian Kinsler (Texas Rangers) [40.4]
5.27 (RF)       Reggie Smith (Boston Red Sox) [38.7] -------- WAR7 allowance for injuries; had only 5 seasons with 145 games or more
5.26 (CF)       Kenny Lofton (Cleveland Indians) [43.4]
5.25 (C)         Thurman Munson (New York Yankees) [37.0]
5.24 (2B)       Frankie Frisch (St. Louis Cardinals) [44.4]
5.24 (LF)       Ralph Kiner (Pittsburgh Pirates) [43.7]
5.23 (SS)       Barry Larkin (Cincinnati Reds) [43.1]
5.20 (CF)       Jim Edmonds (St. Louis Cardinals) [42.6]
5.20 (RF)       Harry Heilmann (Detroit Tigers) [47.2]
5.19 (SS)       Bobby Wallace (St. Louis Browns) [41.8]
5.18 (SS)       Cal Ripken Jr. (Baltimore Orioles) [56.3]
5.16 (2B)       Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners) [50.5]
5.16 (3B/DH) Edgar Martinez (Seattle Mariners) [43.7]
5.16 (3B)       David Wright (New York Mets) [40.2]
5.12 (3B)       Ron Santo (Chicago Cubs) [53.8]
5.09 (2B)       Ryne Sandburg (Chicago Cubs) [57.5]
5.09 (C)        Roy Campanella (Brooklyn Dodgers) [32.8] one of the great catchers was a victim of racial discrimination and injuries
5.08 (CF)      Ken Griffey Jr. (Cincinnati Reds) [54.0]
5.08 (RF)      Al Kaline (Detroit Tigers) [48.9]
5.07 (LF)      Al Simmons (Philadelphia Athletics) [45.8]
5.06 (3B)      George Brett (Kansas City Royals) [53.2]
5.06 (SS)      Joe Cronin (Boston Red Sox) [43.9]
5.03 (1B/DH) Frank Thomas (Chicago White Sox) [45.2]
5.01 (CF)      Duke Snider (Brooklyn Dodgers) [49.9]
5.00 (3B)      Ken Boyer (St. Louis Cardinals) [46.3]
5.00 (SS)      Allen Trammell (Detroit Tigers) [44.8]
5.00 (RF)      Bobby Bonds (San Francisco Giants) [41.1]
5.00 (SS)      Nomar Garciaparra (Boston Red Sox) [43.1]
5.00 (C)       Mike Piazza (New York Mets) [43.1]

Players whose WAR7 suggests they belong on the list above:

4.99 (SS)      Bill Dahlen (Chicago Cubs) [40.2]
4.98 (SS)      Luke Appling (Chicago White Sox) [43.8]
4.96 (1B)      Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers) [44.7]
4.94 (C)        Gary Carter (Montreal Expos) [48.2]
4.94 (3B)      Sal Bando (Oakland Athletics) [44.4]
4.88 (LF)      Manny Ramirez (Boston Red Sox) [40.0]
4.84 (SS)      Ozzie Smith (St. Louis Cardinals) [42.5]
4.84 (RF)      Sam Crawford (Detroit Tigers) [39.7]
4.80 (C)        Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins) [39.0]
4.73 (CF)      Richie Ashburn (Philadelphia Phillies) [44.5]
4.72 (CF)     Jim Wynn (Houston Astros) [43.4]
4.72 (LF)      Carl Yastrzemski (Boston Red Sox) [55.5] his peak was ultra-high, but longevity hurt some of his stats
4.68 (LF)      Goose Goslin (Washington Senators) [43.2]
4.68 (1B)      Keith Hernandez (New York Mets) [41.3]
4.64 (1B)      Jim Thome (Cleveland Indians) [41.5]
4.63 (CF)     Andruw Jones (Atlanta Braves) [46.5]
4.63 (RF)     Paul Waner (Pittsburg Pirates) [42.2]
4.59 (RF)     Tony Gwynn (San Diego Padres) [41.3]
4.57 (2B)      Roberto Alomar (Toronto Blue Jays) [42.9]
4.57 (3B)      Paul Molitor (Milwaukee Brewers) [39.7]
4.54 (LF)      Joe Medwick (St. Louis Cardinals) [39.7]
4.54 (C)        Yogi Berra (New York Yankees) [37.0]
4.49 (LF)      Tim Raines (Montreal Expos) [42.4]
4.46 (LF/3B) Minnie Minoso (Chicago White Sox) [40.0]
4.44 (2B)      Ben Zobrist (Tampa Bay Rays) [40.4]
4.39 (SS)      Robin Yount (Milwaukee Brewers) [47.3]
4.39 (3B)      Brooks Robinson (Baltimore Orioles) [45.7]
4.37 (1B)      Todd Helton (Colorado Rockies) [46.5]
4.32 (SS/1B) Ernie Banks (Chicago Cubs) [51.9] in his prime he was elite, the first of the major home-run crushers at shortstop
4.25 (1B)      George Sisler (St. Louis Browns) [47.0]
4.25 (RF)      Reggie Jackson (Oakland Athletics] [46.8]
4.04 (1B)      Willie McCovey (San Francisco Giants) [44.9]
3.63 (*)        Pete Rose (Cincinnati Reds) [44.9] extreme longevity hurt some of his stats but WAR7 confirms that in his prime Rose was comparable to Paul Waner, Al Simmons, Goose Goslin, Miguel Cabrera, Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas

Players with high WAR averages who fell short on WAR7, meaning they haven't played seven full seasons, or didn't sustain the highest level of play for at least seven years, using a cut-off of ~ 40 WAR7 except for catchers. Players with a WAR7 below 35 failed to play at an all-star level for seven years and are questionable for the Hall of Fame if they made it (13 such players are tagged with HOF??? toward the bottom of this section).

7.40 (RF)      Aaron Judge (New York Yankees) [16.3] a very promising start but a small sample size
7.03 (3B)      Matt Chapman (Oakland Athletics) [21.4] another small sample size, with only two full seasons played
6.68 (3B)      Alex Bregman (Houston Astros) [25.5]
6.70 (3B)      John McGraw (New York Giants) [39.1]
5.96 (3B)       Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies) [36.3]
5.91 (OF)      Christian Yelich (Milwaukee Brewers) [32.6]

5.80 (CF)      Lorenzo Cain (Kansas City Royals) [32.8]
5.78 (3B)       Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles) [35.3]
5.75 (1B)       Frank Chance (Chicago Cubs) [35.3]
5.60 (SS)       Francisco Lindor (Cleveland Indians) [31.1]
5.59 (RF)      Giancarlo Stanton (New York Yankees) [34.4]
5.51 (3B)       Kris Bryant (Chicago Cubs) [27.4]
5.47 (CF)      Benny Kauff (New York Giants) [29.0] only played five full seasons
5.46 (3B)       Al Rosen (Cleveland Indians) [33.3]
5.39 (CF)      Lenny Dykstra (Philadelphia Phillies) [33.0] his playing time was limited by injuries and a wild lifestyle
5.34 (LF)       Fred Clarke (Pittsburgh Pirates) [36.2]
5.27 (RF)      Reggie Smith (Boston Red Sox) [38.7]
5.12 (CF)      Wally Berger (Boston Braves) [35.8]
5.30 (SS)       Andrelton Simmons (Los Angeles Angels) [33.9]
5.09 (2B)      Lou Whitaker (Detroit Tigers) [37.9]
5.06 (CF)      Hack Wilson (Chicago Cubs) [35.8]
5.06 (2B)      Eddie Stanky (Brooklyn Dodgers) [35.7]
5.05 (C)        Bill Dickey (New York Yankees) [34.2]
5.04 (SS)      Joe Tinker (Chicago Cubs) [32.9] --------HOF???
5.03 (2B)      Jose Altuve (Houston Astros) [35.5]
5.01 (3B)      Jimmy Collins (Boston Red Sox) [38.5]
4.98 (LF)      "Indian" Bob Johnson (Philadelphia Athletics) [36.0]
4.85 (2B)      Willie Randolph (New York Yankees) [36.3]
4.78 (LF)      Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers) [39.2]
4.71 (OF)     Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals) [31.5]
4.64 (CF)     Kirby Puckett (Minnesota Twins) [37.6]
4.63 (1B)      Will Clark (San Francisco Giants) [36.1]
4.62 (2B)      Billy Herman (Chicago Cubs) [35.5]
4.57 (1B)      Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves) [32.9]
4.53 (CF)     Chet Lemon (Chicago White Sox) [37.2]
4.50 (CF)     Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburg Pirates) [37.4]
4.50 (OF/1B) Cody Bellinger (Los Angeles Dodgers) [16.7]

4.49 (LF)      Lance Berkman (Houston Astros) [39.3]
4.48 (RF)      Vladimir Guerrero (Montreal Expos) [41.2]
4.46 (3B)      Buddy Bell (Cleveland Indians) [40.5]
4.44 (C)        Carlton Fisk (Boston Red Sox) [37.6]
4.37 (CF)      Carlos Beltran (Kansas City Royals) [44.4]
4.37 (3B)      Robin Ventura (Chicago White Sox) [38.7]
4.37 (C)       Ivan Rodriguez (Texas Rangers) [39.8]
4.34 (RF)     Jason Heyward (Chicago Cubs) [36.9]
4.27 (SS)      Derek Jeter (New York Yankees) [41.8]
4.26 (CF)     Cesar Cedeno (Houston Astros) [41.4]
4.22 (1B)      John Olerud (Toronto Blue Jays) [39.0]
4.20 (3B)      Ron Cey (Los Angeles Dodgers) [37.1]
4.17 (RF)     Tony Oliva (Minnesota Twins) [38.6]
4.17 (RF)      Dwight Evans (Boston Red Sox) [37.3]
4.15 (LF)      Billy Williams (Chicago Cubs) [41.4]
4.13 (CF)     Fred Lynn (Boston Red Sox) [38.4]
4.11 (1B)      Rafael Palmeiro (Baltimore Orioles) [38.9]
4.08 (3B)      Graig Nettles (Cleveland Indians) [42.4]
4.05 (CF)     Willie Davis (Los Angeles Dodgers) [38.9]
4.03 (RF)      Sammy Sosa (Chicago Cubs) [43.8]
4.00 (CF)     Andre Dawson (Montreal Expos) [42.7]
4.00 (RF)      Bobby Abreu (Philadelphia Phillies) [41.6]
3.94 (LF)      Willie Stargell (Pittsburg Pirates) [38.0]
3.91 (2B)      Jeff Kent (San Francisco Giants) [35.7]
3.83 (1B)      Orlando Cepeda (San Francisco Giants) [34.6]
3.81 (RF)      Gary Sheffield (*) [38.0]
3.76 (RF)      Enos Slaughter (St. Louis Cardinals) [35.2]
3.75 (LF)      Jose Cruz (Houston Astros) [36.3]
3.72 (1B)      David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox) [35.2]
3.72 (2B)      Craig Biggio (Houston Astros) [41.8]
3.67 (CF)      Johnny Damon (Boston Red Sox) [33.0]
3.67 (1B/DH) Eddie Murray (Baltimore Orioles) [39.1]
3.62 (LF)      George Foster (Cincinnati Reds) [36.9]
3.62 (RF)      Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners) [43.7]
3.56 (CF)      Vada Pinson (Cincinnati Reds) [40.0]
3.55 (3B)       Darrell Evans (Atlanta Braves) [37.3]
3.50 (RF)      Dave Winfield (San Diego Padres) [37.9]
3.46 (CF)      Dale Murphy (Atlanta Braves) [41.2]
3.37 (3B)      George Kell (Detroit Tigers) [28.1] -------------HOF???
3.37 (SS)      Luis Aparicio (Chicago White Sox) [32.7] ------HOF???
3.35 (2B)      Nellie Fox (Chicago White Sox) [37.2] ---------With nearly 50 WAR, Fox squeaks in
3.19 (3B)      Freddie Lindstrom (New York Giants) [25.9]---HOF???
3.15 (1B)      Tony Perez (Cincinnati Reds) [36.5] ------------Perez had 1,652 RBI so I think he belongs
3.09 (1B)      Boog Powell (Baltimore Orioles) [30.9]
3.08 (C)        Manny Sanguillen (Pittsburg Pirates) [26.4]
3.05 (1B)      Ted Kluszewski (Cincinnati Reds) [29.2]
3.04 (SS)      George Wright (Boston Red Sox) [22.0]--------HOF???
3.04 (SS)      John Ward (*) [24.8]---------------------------HOF???
3.05 (C)        Ray Schalk (Chicago White Sox) [25.6]--------HOF???
3.02 (3B)      Pie Traynor (Pittsburg Pirates) [26.3]-----------Traynor hit .320 and averaged 106 RBI
2.99 (CF)      Al Oliver (Pittsburg Pirates) [28.1]
2.91 (1B)      George Scott (Boston Red Sox) [30.3]
2.90 (C)        Rick Ferrell (St. Louis Browns) [21.1]----------HOF???
2.89 (RF)      Billy Southworth (*) [20.1]---------------------HOF???
2.87 (1B)      Jim Bottomley (St. Louis Cardinals) [29.0]------HOF???
2.85 (1B)      Wally Joyner (California Angels) [23.6]
2.81 (LF)      Lou Brock (St. Louis Cardinals) [32.1]----------HOF???
2.75 (1B)      Joe Adcock (Milwaukee Braves) [23.7]
2.74 (2B)      Bill Mazeroski (Pittsburg Pirates) [26.0] --------HOF???
2.72 (C)        Elston Howard (New York Yankees) [26.4]
2.65 (1B)      Steve Garvey (Los Angeles Dodgers) [28.8]
2.63 (RF)      Dave Parker (Pittsburg Pirates) [37.4]
2.60 (SS)      Rabbit Maranville (Boston Braves) [30.4]-------HOF???
2.55 (RF)      Casey Stengel (*) [17.2]------------------------HOF???
2.53 (1B)      George "Highpockets" Kelly (*) [23.7]----------HOF???
2.52 (CF)      Willie McGee (St. Louis Cardinals) [28.7]
2.51 (RF)      Rusty Staub (Montreal Expos) [33.3]
2.30 (CF)     Ned Hanlon (*) [14.1]--------------------------HOF???
2.27 (OF)     Lloyd Waner (Pittsburg Pirates) [22.4]----------HOF???
2.22 (DH)     Harold Baines (Kansas City Royals) [21.4]-----HOF???
2.06 (RF)     Tommy McCarthy (*) [18.9]--------------------HOF???

NOTE: Anything below two WAR per season would be below average for a major league baseball starter.

WAR7

WAR7 is the sum of a player's seven highest WAR seasons.

       Player                 WAR7

1     Babe Ruth              84.7
(e)   Mike Trout          75.2  estimated by 2024 or later
2     Willie Mays            73.7
3     Rogers Hornsby     73.5
4     Barry Bonds          72.7
5     Ted Williams          69.2
6     Ty Cobb                69.0
7     Lou Gehrig             67.7
       Mike Trout          65.1 actual, but likely to rise if healthy (see estimate)
8     Honus Wagner       65.4
9     Mickey Mantle       64.7
10    Stan Musial           64.2
11    Eddie Collins         64.2
12    Alex Rodriguez     64.2
13    Tris Speaker         62.1
14    Albert Pujols         61.6
15    Nap Lajoie            60.3
16    Hank Aaron          60.1
17    Jimmie Foxx          59.5
18    Joe Morgan           59.2
19    Mike Schmidt        58.5
20    Rickey Henderson 57.4
21    Cal Ripken            56.3
22    Wade Boggs         56.2
23    Carl Yastrzemski   55.5
24   Eddie Matthews     54.5
25   Roberto Clemente  54.2

cWAR5

WAR5 works like WAR7 and helps us find the very highest extended peaks. In this case we are looking at consecutive years, so let's use the term cWAR5. Who were the players who were consistently the greatest for five years running? Every player in our top 20 played at an MVP level of 8 WAR per season for five consecutive years.

1     Babe Ruth (1920-1924) 56.9 WAR
2     Willie Mays (1962-1966) 52.3 WAR
3     Barry Bonds (2000-2004) 51.1 WAR inflated by PEDs
4     Roger Hornsby (1921-1925) 49.9 WAR
5     Mike Trout (2012-2016) 47.8 WAR
6     Mickey Mantle (1954-1958) 47.7 WAR
7     Joe Morgan (1972-1976) 47.7 WAR
8     Lou Gehrig (1927-1931) 47.2 WAR
9     Stan Musial (1948-1952) 44.7 WAR
10   Albert Pujols (2005-2009) 44.5 WAR
11   Hank Aaron (1959-1963) 43.6 WAR
12   Carl Yastrzemski (1966-1970) 43.4 WAR
13   Alex Rodriguez (2000-2004) 43.4 WAR inflated by PEDs
14   Jimmie Foxx (1932-1936) 42.9 WAR
15   Ted Williams (1946-1950) 42.3 WAR
16   Jackie Robinson (1949-1953) 42.2 WAR
17   Wade Boggs (1985-1989) 42.0 WAR
18   Ron Santo (1963-1967) 41.9 WAR
19   Mike Schmidt (1974-1978) 40.3 WAR
20   Roberto Clemente (1965-1969) 39.8 WAR

According to cWAR5, Mike Trout has already had one of the five highest peaks in baseball history. But if he hadn't been injured in 2017, and had performed as consistently as he always does, he would be in third place, above a steroid-infused Bobby Bonds. This list also demonstrates how very good Joe Morgan, Jackie Robinson, Wade Boggs, Ron Santo and Roberto Clemente were. We don't always hear their names mentioned with the Musials and Aarons, but they deserve their day in the sun. According to cWAR5, they were top 20 players in their primes. And in his prime, Joe Morgan was comparable to Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig.

Pitcher WAR per 100 Innings Pitched

Mariano Rivera 4.49
Smoky Joe Wood 3.88 (*)
Craig Kimbrel 3.87
Billy Wagner 3.11
Clayton Kershaw 3.07
Tom Henke 2.98
Pedro Martinez 2.97
Roger Clemens 2.85
Chris Sale 2.81
Walter Johnson 2.80
Lefty Grove 2.63
Trevor Hoffman 2.61
Johan Santana 2.54
John Hiller 2.49
Randy Johnson 2.47
Zack Greinke 2.47
Corey Kluber 2.47
Curt Schilling 2.45
Dan Quisenberry 2.43
Jim Devlin 2.41
Max Scherzer 2.40
Brandon Webb 2.38
Bruce Sutter 2.36
Roy Halladay 2.35
Wes Ferrell 2.35
Mike Mussina 2.33
Rich Gossage 2.32
Bob Gibson 2.31
Pete Alexander 2.31
Tom Seaver 2.31
Bret Saberhagen 2.31
Kid Nichols 2.30
Lee Smith 2.30
Cole Hamels 2.29
Cy Young 2.29
Dizzy Dean 2.28
Stephen Strasburg 2.26
Roy Oswalt 2.24
Justin Verlander 2.22
Ed Walsh 2.21
Harry Brecheen 2,21
Noodles Hahn 2.20
Urban Shocker 2.19
David Cone 2.16
Madison Bumgarner 2.16
Bob Caruthers 2.14
Greg Maddux 2.13
Christy Mathewson 2.12
Kevin Appier 2.11
Sandy Koufax 2.11
Hal Newhouser 2.10
Hoyt Wilhelm 2.10
Kevin Brown 2.10
Felix Hernandez 2.09
Adam Wainwright 2.08
Al Spalding 2.04
Dazzy Vance 2.02
John Smoltz 2.00
Eddie Plank 2.00
Rube Waddell 1.98
Dave Stieb 1.98
Rick Reuschel 1.97
Don Drysdale 1.96
Eddie Rommel 1.96
Stan Coveleski 1.95
John Franco 1.94
David Price 1.93
Bert Blyleven 1.92
Dennis Eckersley 1.92
Jimmy Key 1.91
Luis Tiant 1.91
Warren Spahn 1.91
Dwight Gooden 1.90
Fergie Jenkins 1.89
Carl Hubbell 1.88
Addie Joss 1.88
Jon Lester 1.88
Tim Hudson 1.88
Dizzy Trout 1.86
C.C. Sabathia 1.85
John Clarkson 1.85
Tom Glavine 1.85
Robin Roberts 1.84
Andy Pettitte 1.83
Amos Rusie 1.83
Kent Tekulve 1.83
Clark Griffith 1.83
Chuck Finley 1.83
Charlie Buffinton 1.82
Orel Hershiser 1.81
Whitey Ford 1.81
Tommy Bridges 1.81
Juan Marichal 1.80
Eddie Cicotte 1.80
George Uhle 1.80
Phil Niekro 1.79
Three Finger Brown 1.78
Mark Buehrle 1.78
Jim McCormick 1.77
Roberto Hernandez 1.77
Jack Stivetts 1.76
Jim Palmer 1.76
Bucky Walters 1.75
Babe Adams 1.74
Steve Carlton 1.73
Ted Breitenstein 1.73
Ted Lyons 1.72
Tim Keefe 1.72
Bob Lemon 1.71
Sparky Lyle 1.71
Mark Langston 1.71
Gaylord Perry 1.70
Candy Cummings 1.69
Tommy Bond 1.68
Old Hoss Radbourn 1.68
Joe McGinnity 1.68
Carl Mays 1.66
Bob Feller 1.66
Spud Chandler 1.64
Chief Bender 1.64
Silver King 1.63
Red Ruffing 1.62
Billy Pierce 1.61
Larry Jackson 1.60
Jim Whitney 1.59
Red Faber 1.59
Vic Willis 1.59
Jim Bunning 1.58
Al Orth 1.57
David Wells 1.56
Kenny Rogers 1.56
Wilbur Cooper 1.55
Rollie Fingers 1.53
Lefty Gomez 1.53
Nolan Ryan 1.52
Tony Mullane 1.50
Jack Quinn 1.48
Jack Chesbro 1.43
Jerry Koosman 1.40
Frank Tanana 1.38
Waite Hoyt 1.38
Early Wynn 1.34
Tommy John 1.32
John Lackey 1.32
Mickey Welch 1.31
Jack Powell 1.29
Don Sutton 1.28
Burleigh Grimes 1.27
Herb Pennock 1.26
Jamie Moyer 1.24
Eppa Rixey 1.23
Pud Galvin 1.23
Catfish Hunter 1.20
Jack Morris 1.15
Jim Kaat 1.13
Bobby Mathews 1.11
Jesse Haines 1.02
Rube Marquard 0.96

NOTE: We did not create these rankings so we cannot explain some of the differences.

Starting Pitcher WAR per 200 Innings Pitched

NOTE: The WAR used below is from the BaseballProjection.com rankings of the top 500 pitchers.

1 Clayton Kershaw 5.94
2 Smoky Joe Wood 5.57 (*)
3 Pedro Martinez 5.37
4 Roger Clemens 5.22
5 Lefty Grove 4.99
6 Johan Santana 4.92
7 Sandy Koufax 4.69
8 Roy Halladay 4.63
7 Randy Johnson 4.44
9 Brandon Webb 4.43
10 Bob Gibson 4.41
10 Tom Seaver 4.41
11 Roy Oswalt 4.38
12 Walter Johnson 4.32
13 Curt Schilling 4.27
14 Bret Saberhagen 4.27
15 Mike Mussina 4.20
16 Teddy Higuera 4.10
17 Harry Brecheen 4.07
18 Kid Nichols 4.05
19 Pete Alexander 4.04
20 Dizzy Dean 4.03
21 Kevin Brown 3.98
22 Tim Hudson 3.97
23 Cy Young 3.97
24 David Cone 3.97
25 C.C. Sabathia 3.95

(*) Smoky Joe Wood is a special case, with 40.0 WAR in limited playing time due to crippling arm injuries that ended his career ... but didn't. Smoky Joe Wood is seventh all-time with an otherworldly 146 ERA+ and he had a staggering 117 wins by age 25 despite only reaching 200 innings twice. What on earth would he have done if he had been healthy? The mind boggles. Smoky Joe got his nickname because his fastball—said to have been faster then Walter Johnson's (including by the Big Train himself)—sizzled as though burning through the air and setting it on fire. The only starting pitchers with a better ERA+ than Smoky Joe are Clayton Kershaw, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, and Walter Johnson. When the first all-star game was organized in 1912 to benefit the family of Adie Joss after Joss's untimely death, Smoky Joe started the game and Walter Johnson relieved him. Let's stick that in our pipes and smoke it. After serious injuries cost him two years in his prime and left him unable to pitch, Smoky Joe became an outfielder and hit .283 for the rest of his career. But it understandably took him some time to really excel as a batter. He hit .366 at age 31, drove in 92 runs at age 32, then retired. He could have been the greatest pitcher of all time, if he hadn't had such bad luck. But please consider what he did accomplish. How many pitchers could take two years off, then return to the majors to hit .366 and drive in 92 runs? Only a guy named Ruth did anything like that, and he was healthy. What Smoky accomplished was truly incredible. He has more WAR than hall-of-famers like Hack Wilson, Harold Baines, Lefty Gomez, George Kell, Roy Campanella, and quite a few others. And he did it in a LOT fewer games. He only played two full seasons at his best position. When he was able to pitch, he was a superstar for the ages. When he couldn't pitch, he became the best-hitting ex-pitcher of all time not named Babe Ruth. He belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame, so let him in!!!

Relief Pitcher WAR per 200 Innings Pitched

Mariano Rivera 9.16
Trevor Hoffman 6.05
Bruce Sutter 4.80
Lee Smith 4.70
Dan Quisenberry 4.66
John Hiller 4.54
Rich Gossage 4.42
John Franco 4.14

THE EVIDENCE

People who know baseball sometimes question me when I say the greatest players often have their best years in their thirties, and sometimes in their late thirties. Here is the evidence:

Babe Ruth had four 10-WAR seasons in his twenties, and six in his thirties
Willie Mays had his best six-year span, according to WAR, from age 30–36, with four consecutive seasons of 10.5 to 11.2 WAR; he had 5.2 to 6.3 WAR three times from age 37–40
Honus Wagner had his seven best WAR seasons from age 30–38
Lou Gehrig had his best four-year WAR span in terms of consistency from age 31–34, never falling below 8.2 WAR and maxing out at 10.1, his second-best career mark
Ted Williams had 9.7 WAR at age 38 in only 132 games, an 11.9 rate that would have been his career-best mark
Tris Speaker had 9.1 WAR in 150 games at age 35, a 9.8 rate that was close to his career best
Ty Cobb had his best WAR season (8.8) at age 30; he hit .364 from age 30 on, essentially the same as in his twenties
Pete Rose had his two best WAR seasons at age 32 and 35
Rogers Hornsby had one of his best three-year spans, according to WAR, from age 31 to 33
Hank Aaron had 7.4 WAR in only 139 games at age 37, an 8.4 rate that was close to his career best; he also had 8.1 WAR in only 147 games at age 35, an even better 8.9 rate
Nap Lajoie had his best WAR season at age 31 and his best WAR span from age 31–35
Barry Bonds* had his best WAR seasons, by far, at age 36–39
Sandy Koufax had his best or second-best season at age 30, despite terrible arthritis in his left arm
Rod Carew had his best season, by far, at age 31 when he hit .388 with 9.7 WAR
Bob Gibson had his best season, by far, at age 32 when he had that otherworldly 1.12 ERA; Gibby had his 4 highest WAR seasons from age 32–36
Chipper Jones had his two best WAR seasons at age 35–36
Randy Johnson had his two highest WAR seasons at age 37–38
Some great players had more wins and/or more WAR in their thirties than in their twenties, including Cy Young, Dazzy Vance, Randy Johnson and Phil Niekro

According to BEYOND THE BOX SCORE the average height of a major league player has increased since the 1870s from 68.9 inches (5'7") to 73.7 inches (6'1"). The average ballplayer is almost 14% heavier than the average player of the 1870s, increasing from 167.3 lbs to 190.6 lbs. The study "Historical trends in height, weight, and body mass Data from U.S. Major League Baseball players, 1869–1983" conducted using data from TOTAL BASEBALL shows average player height and weight steadily and dramatically increasing from 1869 to 1979. Thus, a game between the best modern teams and the best teams of yore would be like still-growing teenage boys playing against grown men. And hitters of yore were not facing a constant stream of fresh pitchers throwing 95 to 100 mph heat. In other words, it would be a slaughter. To pretend otherwise strikes me as silly. The Giants are called the Giants because they had a star player who was considered to be a giant among men. His name was Roger Connor and he was one of baseball's early legends. But he was around my height and weight—6'2" and 200 pounds—and no one has ever called me a giant! Nearly every stat in every sport that has been around for a hundred years or more confirms that modern athletes are bigger, faster and stronger than athletes of yore. To live in a fantasy world where baseball is the only exception to the rule seems silly to me, like believing the earth is flat when it is obviously a globe.

THE EVIDENCE OF K/9

The method used to test Bob Feller’s fastball speed — using a motorcycle — seems far from accurate to me. I think we can agree that Feller had a great fastball for his day, but having him throw against a speeding motorcycle does not persuade me that the measurement was meaningful.

The increase in strikeouts is not a sudden thing. Like batting averages declining, it started long before pitchers stopped pitching complete games. Pitchers of yore struck out comparatively few batters, across the board. The rare exceptions were fireballers like Smoky Joe Wood, Dazzy Vance and Rube Waddell, so speed does seem to be the most critical factor in higher strikeout rates. Bob Feller was the Nolan Ryan of his day and he had a blazing fastball. But blazing fastballs were rare back then. Today blazing fastballs are no longer rare, but are par for the course, and strikeouts are much more common across the board. And even the great strikeout pitchers of yore do not compare to modern fireballers, based on the K/9 stat:

Rank — Player — K/9

#1 — Chris Sale — 11.09
#14 — Nolan Ryan — 9.54
#20 — Sandy Koufax — 9.28
#40 — Roger Clemens — 8.55
#140 — Bob Gibson — 7.22
#166 — Rube Waddell — 7.94 the first pitcher of yore is only #166 and dropping
#288 — Smoky Joe Wood — 6.21 threw faster than Walter Johnson, per WJ
#290 — Dazzy Vance — 6.20 strikeout leader 7 consecutive seasons 1922–1928
#308 — Bob Feller — 6.07 strikeout leader 7 times
#487 — Walter Johnson — 5.34 strikeout leader 12 times
#492 — Dizzy Dean — 5.32 strikeout leader 4 consecutive seasons 1932–1935

The odd thing to me is that we all records in all sports are falling continually to modern athletes. Why is “less hardship” or “laziness” only affecting hitters and no other athletes in any other sport anywhere on the planet? The best modern athletes are not lazy and train continually due to the intense competition. All the records are falling and continue to be broken on a regular basis. Obviously, modern athletes are bigger, faster and stronger than in the past. It makes no sense that all other athletes would keep improving and only hitters would go in reverse. The more reasonable answer, in my opinion, is that modern pitching has gained an advantage over modern hitting with a combination of speed and spin that makes pitches extremely difficult to hit, no matter how much batters practice. Also, modern defenses are better, so when contact is made and the ball stays in the park there are fewer hits. So it makes sense to swing for the fences, to maximize what happens when contact is made.

Related Pages: The Greatest Baseball Team of All Time, The Greatest Baseball Infields of All Time, Is Mike Trout the GOAT?, Best Baseball Nicknames, Weird Baseball Facts and Trivia, All-Time Cincinnati Reds Baseball Team, Cincinnati Reds Trivia, Baseball's All-Time Leaders in WAR7, Baseball's All-Time Leaders in WAR5, Baseball's All-Time Leaders in WAR per Plate Appearance, Baseball's 100 WAR Leaders, Baseball Hall of Fame: The Best Candidates, Why Pete Rose Should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Baseball Timeline, Baseball's All-Time Leaders in Strikeouts per Nine Innings (SO/9)

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