Top 100 Second Basemen: 70-61

Welcome back, everyone, to the latest installment of my exhaustive Top 100 countdown of second basemen. On with the show at #70.

70. Mark Ellis, A's 2002-08
Career WARP3 39.5, Career EqA .272, 1 season 9+ WARP3, 1 season 8+

Ellis is an underrated second baseman primarily because the things he is best at -- good defense and decent middle-infield power -- tend not to show up in statistics or make people good fantasy players. Ellis has, however, been an All-Star quality player in the years his hitting has been good, and still above average when he hasn't hit well due to his defense. Where he ends up career-wise will essentially be a battle between whether he hits like 2005 (.316/.384/.477), 2007 (.276/.336/.441), or 2008 (.229/.327/.377). Ellis apparently hits like a decent-hitting catcher; his top 10 comparables through age 30 include Don Slaught, Terry Steinbach, Hal Smith, Sandy Alomar Jr., Dan Wilson, Darren Fletcher, and Bengie Molina.

69. Tony Taylor, Cubs 1958-61, Phillies 1961-71, Tigers 1971-73, Phillies 1974-76
Career WARP3 59.2, Career EqA .254, 1 season 8+ WARP 3, 1 season 7+, 1-time All-Star

Antonio Nemesio Sanchez Taylor played from 22 to 40, settling into a utility role at the end of his career. A good young player with the Cubs, his real salad days were with the Phillies, where he turned in a few really good seasons along with a huge number of average ones. His best years were good, but there weren't as many years where he was above average to rank him higher than this, even though he may have been worth more for his career than many players higher on the list. Taylor was a very inconsistent hitter with very little power; he hit a home run less than every 100 at-bats and only 298 doubles in 7680 at-bats. Taylor was pretty fast, which was his primary offensive asset alongside average-at-best singles hitting and patience. In his standout years, 1959, 1960, and 1963, Taylor's batting average was up and his defense was above average. Much of the rest of the time, he was unspectacular.

68. Luis Castillo, Marlins 1996-05, Twins 2006-07, Mets 2007-08
Career WARP3 53.9, Career EqA .266, 6 total seasons 5+ WARP3, 3-time All-Star

A 3-time Gold Glover between 2003 and 2005, those were his best defensive seasons at just above average. For his career, Castillo was a barely below average defensive second baseman. He probably did not deserve his defensive reputation, but he has at least been an acceptable defender during most of his years in the league. Castillo's best attributes are easily his "leadoff attributes": average, patience, and speed. He's in sixth place among active players in steals, 18th in triples, and 16th in singles, all at age 32. Castillo puts balls into play, striking out very little; but has almost no power, hitting about 15 doubles and 2-3 home runs per season. Castillo's a pretty good hitter anywhere outside the middle of the order; the fact that he's got almost no platoon split in his non-power switch-hitting numbers is just a bonus. With Edgar Renteria, Castillo formed the youngest middle infield in National League history--they were both 21 in 1997, though Castillo was hurt in 1997 and missed the postseason and the World Series title. He got his real chance in 2003.

67. Pete Runnels, Senators 1951-57, Red Sox 1958-62, Colt .45s 1963-64
Career WARP3 54.6, Career EqA .268, 2 seasons 7+ WARP3, 3-time All-Star, 6-time MVP vote recipient

Runnels won AL batting titles in 1960 and 1962, narrowly losing out to teammate Ted Williams in the 1958 race. A doubles hitter, Runnels was not a good runner or much of a home run threat, but had excellent on-base ability including a career average of .291 and an OBP of .375. Mostly a shortstop and first baseman with the Senators, he neither hit nor fielded at those positions as well as he did in his Boston years at second base, which is both strange and a clear indication that he was being played well out of position at first for essentially no reason. A below-average defender, Runnels gets on the list because he was a very fine hitter at his best, twice finishing in the league top 10 in OPS+, a rarity for a second baseman.

66. Damion Easley, Angels 1992-96, Tigers 1996-02, Rays 2003, Marlins 2004-05, Diamondbacks 2006, Mets 2007-08
Career WARP3 50.5, Career EqA .260, 2 seasons 8+ WARP3, 1-time All-Star, 1-time Silver Slugger

Easley's two best years, the years he was worth 8 wins and may have been the best second baseman in the AL in 1997-98(Roberto Alomar was having down years), were Detroit's doldrum, early-Comerica years with long fences and even longer odds against much winning. Easley hit 22 and 27 homers despite the long fences. Essentially an average fielder at second, third, and short, Easley has also been an overall average hitter when those two seasons are taken out of the equation. He was good for a little everything: some walks, some steals, some doubles, some homers, and some strikeouts; no surprise there--these were the 1998 Tigers. Easley is proof that hang-around value as a solid infielder with some pop is actually worth something; it won't get you higher up this list unless you have a good peak, but Easley did.

65. Delino DeShields, Expos 1990-93, Dodgers 1994-96, Cardinals 1997-98, Orioles 1999-01, Cubs 2001-02
Career WARP3 57.0, Career EqA .272, 4 total seasons 6+ WARP3

A speed demon with a take-pitches approach and bad-to-ok defense, DeShields was a free agency migrant and leadoff-man-for-hire during 1990s. He sure was fast; his 463 steals are good for 45th all time and his career was practically over by age 31. DeShields' double-play partners read like a who-isn't-who of 1990s shortstops: Spike Owen, Jose Offerman, a cooked old Greg Gagne, Royce Clayton, and Mike Bordick. Bordick and Offerman are both in DeShields' top 10 comparables, though it's not really clear why.

64. Juan Samuel, Phillies 1983-89, Mets 1989, Dodgers 1990-92, Royals 1992, Reds 1993, Tigers 1994-95, Royals 1995, Blue Jays 1996-98
Career WARP3 50.8, Career EqA .270, 1 season 8+ WARP3, 5 total seasons 5+ WARP3, 3-time All-Star, Silver Slugger

A free-swinger's free swinger, Juan Samuel was never outside the top 5 in the league in strikeouts from 1984-1991, leading the league in 1984-1987. A pretty good slugger who hit huge numbers of doubles and quite a few homers, Samuel was probably best during his early career when he was a tremendous baserunner. This was the mid-1980s NL: Tim Raines, Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, and Juan Samuel all tore up the basepaths. Samuel was a rotisserie-league stud, filling columns with runs, RBI, steals, homers while hitting around .260. Unfortunately, he's a bit of a stathead's nightmare: he had no patience, walked very little, and just hacked away at everything for his whole career. Some guys like that get more patient and have a late-career resurgence. Samuel just pretty much sucked after '91, but hung around the big leagues unlike some cooked old players. Samuel's strikeout feats are impressive: he's 52nd all time despite only ~6521 plate appearances.

63. Harold Reynolds, Mariners 1983-92, Orioles 1993, Angels 1994
Career WARP3 43.7, Career EqA .254, 1 season 8+ WARP3, 2 seasons 7+ WARP3, 2-time All-Star, 3-time Gold Glove

The final Baseball Tonight analyst on our list, Harold Reynolds was at least a very good defensive second baseman from 1988-1990, when he won his three Gold Gloves. During his prime he was also an above-average offensive player, though most of his value was from his speed. Not a particularly good hitter for average (.258 career), Harold was a pretty good doubles hitter and would have put up generally superior offensive numbers away from the Kingdome. As it is, Harold's done pretty well for himself, combining defense and offense during his best years to become a strong player for five straight seasons.

62. Mark McLemore, Angels 1986-1990, Indians 1990, Astros 1991, Orioles 1992-94, Rangers 1995-99, Mariners 2000-2003, A's 2004
Career WARP3 61.3, Career EqA .256, 3 seasons 7+ WARP3

McLemore is best known to current fans for his "supersub" role with the Mariners, where he somewhat surprisingly played his best baseball as a 36-year-old utility man. McLemore was an everyday second baseman for most of his late-blooming career, and was excellent defensively despite an uninspiring physical stature and playing most of his games after age 30. A singles hitter with on-base capacity and a good set of wheels, McLemore had career highs in slugging and stolen bases (stealing 39 and only being caught 7 times) at age 36 with the Mariners, bucking every reasonable statistical trend and proving himself to be a much better second-sacker than almost anyone remembers him being.

61. Tom Herr, Cardinals 1979-88, Twins 1988, Phillies 1989-90, Mets 1990-91, Giants 1991
Career WARP3 54.0, Career EqA .268, 1 season 8+ WARP3, 8 total seasons 4+ WARP3, 1-time All-Star

As the double play partner of Ozzie Smith on a team that won a World Series and appeared in two others, Tom Herr is probably more famous than his production would merit by itself. Still, Herr had some very good qualities and good years despite being a slightly-below-average defender and a poke-hitter (.350 career SLG). Herr's best qualities were judicious baserunning (188 steals to 64 caughts), occasional doubles-mashing, and during his best years, walk-drawing. His 1985 season, which got him to 5th in the MVP voting, was a pretty good hitting year (.302/.379/.416) that got him a ton of "80s stats" (RBI and runs) and probably makes up the bulk of his career reputation.


Top 100 Second Basemen: 80-71

Before we continue the countdown, I wanted to mention at least the following about my methodology.

A) A player is associated with a position based on where he played the most career games. Rod Carew is therefore a first baseman, though he played a lot of second base as well.

B) Players who played more than half of their career before the Major League era (i.e. pre-1901) are left off the list. I don't see sufficient evidence to believe that the pre-modern era is really all that comparable to the early major leagues, what with the unbalanced schedules and the nonstandardization of playing conditions. That means, unfortunately, that the following players who were in many cases really good have been left off the list of second basemen:

Cupid Childs
Bobby Lowe
Hardy Richardson
Kid Gleason
Bid McPhee
Fred Dunlap
Tom Daly
Fred Pfeffer
Yank Robinson

There is little doubt that McPhee would crack the top 20, and that Childs would be in the top 40, if I felt their numbers could really be trusted.

C) Negro league-only players are out. This is lamentable, but there is such a dearth of data. That said, Jackie Robinson is receiving some credit for his Negro League play--he was so great in the majors that it is obvious he was a good player without them.

On to 80-71!

80. Buck Herzog, Giants 1908-09, Braves 1910-11, Giants 1911-13, Reds 1914-16, Giants 1916-17, Braves 1918-19, Cubs 1919-20
Career WARP3 46.9, Career EqA .253, 1 season 8+ WARP3, 1 season 6+ WARP3

Like earlier listmate Bucky Harris, with whom he also shares a nickname, Charles Lincoln Herzog became a "boy manager" of the Reds at 29, managing the team for his three years in Cincinnati. For whatever reason -- probably because he was 29 and 30 and peaking -- Herzog had his very best years in his full seasons in Cincy, fielding 15 and 11 runs above average while hitting .281 and .264 and stealing a fair number of bases. Basestealing statistics from this era are difficult; the NL *did* record caught stealing in 1915 and 1916, but not in the years around it, so we have to just assume that a guy like Herzog got caught a little less than when he was 31 during those years. He was one of the best in the league in terms of total steals, coming in between 5th and 2nd six times between 1911 and 1919, and he hit with a little bit of power. Overall Herzog appears to have been a well-rounded player with good speed and average everything else. Why he could never stay with a team, and why they always kept bringing him back, is not clear to me. Bill James would know.

79. Jim Lefebvre, Dodgers 1965-72
Career WARP3 35.8, Career EqA .270, 1 season 9+ WARP3, 1 season 8+ WARP3, Rookie of the Year, 1-time All Star

Lefebvre would be remembered by more recent fans as the guy who got kicked off the Dodgers coaching staff for trying to punch Tommy Lasorda. Who among us hasn't wanted to punch Tommy Lasorda? Okay, maybe it's just me. Lest we forget, though, Lefebvre's career in 1965 and 1966 started with a big, Chase Utley-like bang. In his rookie 1965 season, Lefebvre played above-average defense and hit .250/.337/.369 at Chavez Ravine. That doesn't look outstanding, but translating those numbers to the all-time average shows .273/.367/.430. His 24-homer season in 1966 was even better: .274/.333/.460 which is really more like .296/.367/.542 -- totally badass for a second baseman. The Dodgers moved him to third base, where he was below average, then back to second, where he persisted in being above average; a clear argument for playing guys in the right position. Lefebvre now coaches international baseball teams, including recently the Chinese national team at the 2006 World Baseball Classic. I wonder how the Chinese pronounce his name.

78. Adam Kennedy, Cardinals 1999, Angels 2000-06, Cardinals 2007-08
Career WARP3 45.3, Career EqA .257, 1 season 8+ WARP3, 7 total seasons 4+ WARP3

Adam Kennedy is a very consistent player, in terms of total value. Only in his post-prime last two years in St. Louis has he not been worth 4 wins a season, and he was usually worth more. Kennedy is closely associated with basemate David Eckstein; they are nearly the same age, played together a lot, and have accumulated roughly the same amount of value in their careers. If anything, Kennedy is better than Eckstein even though the tiny Eck gets more press. Kennedy's best year was in 2002, a fortuitous year that saw the Angels win the Series and Kennedy hit .312. Kennedy has been a great postseason performer in 78 at-bats, hitting .308/.317/.526, showing power that he rarely shows during the regular season and a dearth of walks that has unfortunately always held down his value as a player. However, fairly good hitting and speed and generally great defense make Kennedy a player worth remembering, at least before he turned 31.

77. Randy Velarde, Yankees 1987-95, Angels 1996-99, A's 1999-2000, Rangers 2001, Yankees 2001, A's 2002
Career WARP3 50.3, Career EqA .273, 1 season 10+ WARP3, 2 seasons 6+ WARP3

Most players' defensive value decreases significantly as they age. SuperUtility man Randy Velarde, whose 630 games at 2nd only make up half of his career, was pretty much an average defender for his whole career, though the years he got to play second almost exclusively were his best defensive seasons and may bolster an argument for sticking a guy in a position and leaving him there. Still, the Bill Hall of his era was horribly underutilized and underappreciated; he has a lifetime OPS+ of 101, which is very good for a middle infielder, and yet was only able to get ~4707 plate appearances and 1273 games in parts of 16 Major League seasons. Velarde has been wasted, at short, second, and third, for Mike Gallego, Pat Kelly, Andy Stankiewicz, and Charlie Hayes, among others. The main reason is probably because this late bloomer got pigeonholed as a backup and utilityman instead of the well-rounded average/homers/walks hitter that he was. His career looks a little like Mark DeRosa's, actually. Velarde's 10-wins-above-replacement season was actually the '99 campaign split between the Angels and the A's, where he hit in total .317/.390/.455 while hitting 16 homers and stealing 24 bases in a Jeter-like season...with above-average defense. Velarde would be much higher on this list if he had just been allowed to go out there and play more. As it was, his signature highlight might be his unassisted triple play in 2000, of the rare catch-tag-touch 2nd variety. All of this said, he was one of the "named names" in the Mitchell report...but I stand by the statement that he would have been productive *throughout* his career if given a chance.

76. Rennie Stennett, Pirates 1971-79, Giants 1980-81
Career WARP3 41.4, Career EqA .240, 2 seasons 8+ WARP3

Renaldo Antonio Stennett of Colon, Panama was an excellent defensive second baseman at his best, worth 20 runs above average for three straight seasons 1974-76. He peaked early, crashing out of the league before his 31st birthday, but had some memorable moments along the way: the We Are Fam-A-Lee 1979 Series winners (for whom he didn't play much in the postseason), an injury-shortened 1977 season that he finished hitting .336, and one insanely rare hitting performance. On September 16, 1975, the Pirates thrashed the Cubs 22-0 in the largest shutout victory in the modern era. In that nine-inning game, Rennie Stennett went 7-for-7, making him the only modern player to do so in nine innings. Still, it's definitely the glove more than the bat that moves Rennie up our list; he rarely walked or hit home runs, and only slugged .400 once, in 1977.

75. Marcus Giles, Braves 2001-06, Padres 2007
Career WARP3 41.5, Career EqA .275, 1 season 11+ WARP3, 1 season 9+ WARP3, 1-time All Star

It is unclear if Giles will right the ship after an abysmal hitting year in 2007, but here's the catch: he is a vastly underrated, well-above-average defender at second base. If someone realizes this, Giles may just find his way back to a modestly productive career. Giles' best season was of course his 2003 MVP-caliber year, overshadowed by teammates Javy Lopez and Gary Sheffield but worth 11 wins above replacement level, an epic all-time year for second basemen. Giles was no slouch in 2005 either. Though not a walk machine like brother Brian, Marcus was during his good years a solid on-base player, a good power hitter, a good defender, and a good baserunner. The only knocks on him from a total-career standpoint are (a) that he strikes out too much and (b) he seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. I would invite him to training camp tomorrow if I had a choice.

74. Mark Grudzielanek, Expos 1995-98, Dodgers 1998-02, Cubs 2003-04, Cardinals 2005, Royals 2006-08
Career WARP3 61.3, Career EqA .255, 7 total seasons 4+ WARP3, 1-time All Star

While I've declared a preference for guys who have had excellent or great seasons in their career, there has to be a place on the list for consistent guys who played well for a large number of years. Grudzielanek is exactly that sort of player: a shortstop-turned-2B who never really has had a bad year. His averages, OBP, and slugging all hover around his lifetime .290/.332/.395, he is a career 6 runs above average as a fielder, and he is basically a consistent league-average second baseman in every way. Grudzielanek has been alternately maligned (early in his career with the Expos) and then lauded for his defensive play (later with the Royals) when in fact he's been pretty much average pretty much always. His best season may actually be 2008, as he's hitting .305 with better OBP than usual and playing some of the best defense of his career. He'll be soon winding down an unremarkable, but remarkably steady, career as a middle infielder. It bears mentioning that Grudzielanek was traded to the Cubs by the Dodgers in a horrible deal that the Cubs won utterly, by shipping the cooked Todd Hundley and the awful Chad Hermansen for Grudzielanek and Eric Karros, both of whom had productive years in helping the 2003 Cubs to the postseason.

73. Marty McManus, Browns 1920-26, Tigers 1927-31, Red Sox 1931-33, Braves 1934
Career WARP3 60.7, Career EqA .259, 3 seasons 6+ WARP3, 4-time MVP vote recipient

Much like Grudzielanek, McManus was average or just above at both hitting and defense for most of a long career. During his breakout 1922 season, he hit .312/.358/.459, which today would be worth less in the average department but about the same in terms of slugging; that was his best year. McManus was a bit different from most of the 2B's of his era; perhaps that's unsurprising because he also played 700 games at third. He was a slugger type: he hit double digit home runs four times, and exactly 9 homers three times. Playing in a modern park, a lot of his doubles and triples would turn into homers; he'd have 250 in his career. McManus was basically an average fielder, and loses a little bit of value because his hitting at third base wasn't worth as much as his hitting at second. A more modern-type player, his career comparables include Carney Lansford, Ray Durham, and Edgar Renteria. He could appear higher than this, if only he'd had one memorable season. McManus managed the South Bend Blue Sox of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1944-1948.

72. George Grantham, Cubs 1922-24, Pirates 1925-31, Reds 1932-33, Giants 1934
Career WARP3 55.7, Career EqA .284, 3 seasons 6+ WARP3, 4 seasons 5+ WARP3

Grantham, who played 500 games at first as well as over 700 at second, was a really good hitter. His numbers (.302/.392/.461, translating to .264/.370/.456) look a little worse when viewed in the context of his era, but the guy could mash homers, triples, and doubles in addition to hitting for average. Hence, he's got the highest EqA of anyone on the list so far. What hurts Grantham is that he spent so many games at first, thus providing less value at an easier fielding position. He wasn't a particularly bad fielder at second, 33 runs below average in 848 games, but he had a short enough career that he couldn't accumulate the kinds of numbers that tend to move you up the list. A mainstay of the Traynor/Waner/Waner Pirates (so fun to say like that) of the 1920s, Grantham appeared in two World Series and won one. He would have been an excellent fantasy baseball player: lots of steals and homers at a scarce position that wasn't as scarce then as it is today. Somewhere around the number 70 on the list, we transition from guys who were pretty good to guys who were damn good, and Grantham may be more in the damn good category. Again, he's hurt by his first base playing and his lack of any special seasons.

71. Glenn Hubbard, Braves 1978-87, A's 1988-89
Career WARP3 49.2, Career EqA .249, 1 season 7+ WARP3, 1 season 6+ WARP3, 1-time All Star

Almost entirely associated with the mostly-bad Braves teams of the 1970s and 1980s, Hubbard was not much with a bat. However, his consistently excellent defense alongside the likes of Rafael Ramirez, Andres Thomas, and Luis Gomez was more than enough to make up for his rather poor batting. Presumably because he batted eighth, Hubbard managed to appear among the NL leaders in intentional walks in 1986 and 1987. This padded Hubbard's walk totals, making him look like a better on-base player in those days; why managers saw fit to ever walk someone hitting .230 and slugging .304 in 1986 remains a mystery. Atlanta's many pitchers that season averaged about .185, which is worse but not that much worse.


Correction and Note

The 1933 Giants were not, in fact, the worst-hitting double-play combo to ever win a World Series, though they come in second. In fact, the 1916 Red Sox with 2B Jack Barry's 51 OPS+ and SS Everett Scott's 73 OPS+ averaging a 62, slightly worse than the Giants.

Out of curiosity, I found that the 1948 Indians had the best-hitting double-play combo of all World Series winners, with 2B Joe Gordon's 134 and SS Lou Boudreau's 164.

Top 100 Second Basemen: 90-81

90. Cass Michaels, White Sox 1943-50, Senators 1950-52, Browns 1952, Athletics 1952-53, White Sox 1954
Career WARP3 36.7, Career EqA .253, 1 season 10+ WARP3, 2-time All-Star

Casimir Eugiene Kwietniewski, a.k.a. Cass Michaels, had one of the top 100 seasons ever by a second baseman in 1949. He fielded a little better than his career average (+10 in a -42 season with one bad year), which bolstered his total, but his hitting was really exemplary. Mashing 6 home runs at Comiskey, which would be about 20 today, was one thing; but it was the .308 average and .417 OBP that really made this season one of the best one-hit-wonder seasons in history. Generally Michaels was a slightly below-average fielder who was good at drawing walks and stole a few bases in an era where no one did. Though he played 11 seasons starting at age 17, Michaels' continued career was robbed of him by a bean ball from Marion Fricano of the Athletics at age 28. While he never had a season even close to '49, that massive year and a career .253 EqA was enough to put him on this list.

89. Jose Vidro, Expos/Nationals 1997-2006, Mariners 2007-2008

Career WARP3 42.6, Career EqA .276, 1 season 7+ WARP3, 1 season 6+ WARP3, Three-time All-Star, Silver Slugger

Vidro, at one point the "-two" in the Expos' one-two punch including Vladimir Guerrero, has never been even an average fielder in any season (-86 career fielding runs above average). If he were, he'd be much higher on the list, but as it is he's hit his way into the top 90. A well-rounded hitter, Vidro hits for average (.298 career) and power (.445 career slugging), though his power has shown up more in doubles than in homers. He hit .300 for 5 straight years from 1999-2003, in salad days whose value was mitigated by his relatively inept fielding. He's an oddball player, though; he hit well for the Mariners as a DH, but how valuable is a DH who hits .314 while slugging .394? Vidro is a great example of what happens when a player is a good hitter at a tough fielding position, but not so good he can really play an easier position and still be an All-Star. He may yet stage some late-career heroics and move up the list; he's logged 1000+ games at second, so he won't have to move positions historically.

88. Jorge Orta, White Sox 1972-79, Indians 1980-81, Dodgers 1982, Blue Jays 1983, Royals 1984-1987
Career WARP3 42.8, Career EqA .272, 1 season 7+ WARP3, 1 season 6+ WARP3, 2-time All-Star

Jorge Orta is almost the exact same player as Jose Vidro once you adjust for era. A complete disaster most of the time in the field, Orta was a good enough hitter to become the leading Mexican major league home run hitter of all time for 10 years until Vinny Castilla broke his record, then broke it all over on his way to 360. Orta would have slugged .500 somewhat regularly in the mid-1970s if such a thing had been possible then; as it was, he hit for average and power, didn't walk enough, but stole some bases to make up for it. Double-digit runs above average at second base were common for Orta, who late in his career was a pinch-hitter on the Royals' World Series champs. It is fun to mention that his double-play partner on the Sox was Bucky Bleeping Dent, nearly his polar opposite in terms of hitting-defense balance.

87. Ted Sizemore, Dodgers 1969-70, Cardinals 1971-75, Dodgers 1976, Phillies 1977-78, Cubs 1979, Red Sox 1979-80
Career WARP3 40.4, Career EqA .239, 1 season 7+ WARP3, 1 season 6+ WARP3, Rookie of the Year

Al Oliver probably should have been the Rookie of the Year in 1969, as Sizemore hadn't really come into his own as a fielder yet. Generally above average, he had two very slick fielding years in 1973 and 1974 as the double-play partner of Mike Tyson (not that one). In those years, Sizemore's good eye was on display, as he walked twice as much as he struck out. Not striking out might have been his best ability as a hitter, unfortunately; career highs of 23 doubles, 4 homers, and 54 RBI attest to his relative impotence at the plate. Sizemore played with a large number of second-tier shortstops, many of whom became managers. He played with Maury Wills, Bill Russell, Larry Bowa, and Dal Maxvill.

86. Julian Javier, Cardinals 1960-1971, Reds 1972
Career WARP3 49.4, Career EqA .240, 1 season 7+ WARP3, 3 seasons 5+ WARP3, 2-time All-Star

Julian Javier was Ted Sizemore's immediate predecessor at second for the Cards, and received more recognition than Sizemore despite not being a significantly better player. Javier had abysmal patience, drawing less than one walk every five games played, although he could whack a little bit (2 seasons of 10+ home runs). Javier's value is primarily as a fielder; he was Gold Glove-quality in 2 seasons and above average in the rest. Javier played in four World Series, winning two; he hit 18 for 54 with four doubles, for a lifetime .333/368/.463 postseason line. There is something amusing in the fact that after he was old and riding the bench, he still got to the Series with the Reds as Joe Morgan's little-used backup. The strength of his Cards teams was never really the middle infield; Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Ken Boyer, Tim McCarver and Orlando Cepeda made sure of that. His son Stan was an underrated leadoff/fast outfielder type who played for basically everyone throughout the 80s and 90s.

85. Fernando Vina, Mariners 1993, Mets 1994, Brewers 1995-1999, Cardinals 2000-2003, Tigers 2004
Career WARP3 39.6, Career EqA .255, 2 seasons 7+ WARP3, 1-time All-Star

The second but not last Baseball Tonight announcer on the list, Vina was above average as a fielder and just a touch below average as a hitter. During his best year, 1998, he hit .311/.386/.427 for the Brewers while fielding just around average, in the only year he had an above-league-average OPS. Still, a second baseman with an above-league-average OPS is a pretty good thing, especially when his power was all doubles: his 39 that year were one less than his career home run total. Vina was a patient hitter and a halfway-decent baserunner, and with shortstop Jose Valentin was one of the bright lights on the unspectacular league-switching Brewers teams of the 1990s. A hit-by-pitch fiend a la Craig Biggio, Vina gets a lot of credit for leadership and intangibles from teammates and the press. His career postseason line of .333/.364/.460 in 2000-2002 shows he was helping the Cardinals even though they couldn't make a World Series until right after he left.

84. Don Blasingame, Cardinals 1955-59, Giants 1960-61, Reds 1961-63, Senators 1963-66, Athletics 1966
Career WARP3 41.2, Career EqA .241, 1 season 8+ WARP3, 1-time All-Star

In 4 players, we have 20 straight and 24 total years of Cardinals keystone-sackers. A player of the tumultuous Westward Expansion era, Blasingame played for everybody. His 1957 season was outstanding, as he turned in a Gold Glove-level fielding performance and hit .271/.343/.368, stealing 21 bases and scoring 108 runs. Blasingame had no power, but provided some solid fieldwork and strung together enough good seasons with the Stan Musial teams to be worthy of mention here. His nickname was Blazer, which has led me to wonder whether I have been pronouncing his name incorrectly (short A?).

83. Felix Millan, Braves 1966-1972, Mets 1973-1977
Career WARP3 43.2, Career EqA .247, 1 season 7+ WARP3, 2 seasons 6+ WARP3, 3-time All-Star

The first Brave to really start his career in Atlanta, Millan was a rookie on the 1966 team that had just moved from Milwaukee. Millan appears to have been a slightly overrated fielder; he was never truly outstanding and was only slightly above average until the end of his career when, like everyone, he plummeted. Felix the Kitten was a hit-for-average guy who was basically not patient, leading the league in at-bats per strikeout 4 times while walking quite rarely. A fun anecdote: Millan had a great game and got 4 singles on July 21, 1975. Each time he appeared on base, Joe Torre grounded into a double play, setting the single-game record for GIDP. Millan hit .306 in 325 games for the Taiyo Whales of the Japanese Central League after the end of his MLB career.

82. Johnny Temple, Reds 1952-59, Indians 1960-61, Orioles 1962, Colt .45's 1962-63, Reds 1964
Career WARP3 44.6, Career EqA .263, 1 season 7+ WARP3, 2 seasons 6+ WARP3, 4-time All-Star

Temple was a solid leadoff man, a no-power guy who hit singles and walked without striking out much. A percentage-player type, he was a great light hitter; think Biggio without any power. The Biggio comparison, unfortunately, continues to be apt because Temple killed his career value with below-average defense (108 runs below average for his career). Still, he compiled OBPs above .380 four times in his career and set the table for...well...really only for Frank Robinson. Temple scored more than 100 runs only once, and that was not his fault; he was a good base-stealer in a running-free era.

81. Ronnie Belliard, Brewers 1998-2002, Rockies 2003, Indians 2004-06, Cardinals 2006, Nationals 2007-08
Career WARP3 43.1, Career EqA .262, 1 season 8+ WARP3, 2 seasons 6+ WARP3, 1-time All-Star

A journeyman who has never played for a real contender in a full season, Belliard has combined just-above-average hitting with just-above-average fielding enough to surpass many of the other second basemen who are weak in one of the two areas. Belliard is an impatient guy who doesn't walk enough, but he packs a lot of pop for a middle infielder, especially when it comes to doubles. In 2005 he combined 17 home runs with a gold-glove caliber year in the field (his best) to put up a great season. As a late-season pickup by the Cardinals, Belliard won the 2006 World Series, hitting very well against the Padres in the NLDS but going 0-for-12 in the Series itself. Then it was off to the Nationals, where Belliard still slugs at a solid clip. If he's got some years at second left in him, Belliard can move up this list.

Top 100 Second Basemen: 100-91

I spent a good bit of time compiling a ranking of the best 100 second basemen of all time. I primarily used Baseball Prospectus' DT Cards and translations to compare players across eras. One thing worth noting is that I presented a HEAVY bias toward players who had one or more seasons where they could reasonably have been considered excellent (worth 7-8 or more wins above a replacement player).

I am not quite sure why I started with second base. I think it has to do with the fact that there are 4 people with entirely legitimate claims to the top spot, and I wanted to sort them out. But, as with all good countdowns, we begin in reverse order.

100. Horace Clarke, Yankees 1965-74, Padres 1974
Career WARP3 33.3, Career EqA .238, 1 season 7+ WARP3, 1 season 6+ WARP3

Clarke, a St. Croix native, was the second baseman on the mostly-forgettable old-Mickey-Mantle, young-Joe-Pepitone Yankees of the late 1960s, and then the Thurman Munson/Bobby Murcer teams of the early 1970s. The double-play partner of the unspectacular Gene Michael among others, Clarke had two quite good years in 1967 and 1969. An average fielder, Clarke was primarily valuable in those seasons (and others) because of his decent speed (33 steals in 1969) and his singles hitting. Clarke probably should not have hit leadoff; modern lineup-makers would realize that his lifetime OBP of .308 (.339 as a high) was killing the team with huge numbers of outs. He led the league in outs in 1970.

99. Sparky Adams, Cubs 1922-27, Pirates 1928-29, Cardinals 1930-33, Reds 1933-34

Career WARP3 39.9, Career EqA .242, 2 seasons 5+ WARP3, 9th MVP 1931

Sparky Adams was 5'4", the smallest major league player during much of his career. An average fielder (12 runs above average, career) and a generally below-average hitter, his best seasons were those where he hit and fielded fairly well. Adams had basically no power whatsoever, slugging .353 on top of a reasonable average (.283) and on-base (.343). Adams just barely played more second than third, and played third on the 1930 and 1931 Cards World Series teams, making way for Frankie Frisch at second. He is probably best remembered on those Cardinals teams, but his best years were on Pete Alexander's Cubs teams in the 20s, which finished above .500 consistently but never made a World Series. Is it insulting to name little guys "Sparky"?

98. Tommy Helms, Reds 1964-71, Astros 1972-75, Pirates 1976-77, Red Sox 77
Career WARP3 38.7, Career EqA .235, 2 seasons 6+ WARP3, Rookie of the Year, 2-time All-Star

Tommy Helms was traded with Lee May to the Astros in the trade that brought Joe Morgan to the Reds. The Reds did win the pennant in 1970 with Bench, Perez, Rose, Carbo, and Concepcion, with Helms at second, but it wasn't until Morgan showed up that the Big Red Machine was born. Helms simply was a bad offensive player most of his career, but he had several highly-valuable defensive seasons of 14 or more runs above average, which gets him onto the list. His 1966 Rookie of the Year award was actually a perfectly acceptable choice; the other options didn't do any better than his .284/.315/.380, and he had a career high 9 home runs that season. After 1968, his batting average--his only offensive asset--dropped off a cliff and he became essentially a solid defensive performer who couldn't hit. In another interesting liaison with history, Tommy Helms replaced Pete Rose as the Reds manager at the height of the gambling scandal in 1988, though he did not last long.

97. Billy Goodman, Red Sox 1947-1957, White Sox 1958-1961, Colt .45s 1962

Career WARP3 44.6, Career EqA .261, 2 seasons 5+ WARP3, 2-time All-Star, 2nd MVP 1950

Truly this was a different era. Goodman started his career at FIRST base, because of the entrenched Bobby Doerr (who appears a lot higher on our list); it's hard to imagine a player today moving from first to second instead of the other way around. This is especially true when one considers that Billy Goodman hit a sum total of 19 home runs in his entire career, which today would be more like...46! He could hit for average, though, and that 1950 season (in which he only played 110 games) was proof positive as he hit .354. Goodman's career value is almost entirely from his batting average (.300) and OBP (.376); he wasn't too fast and could only muster doubles (SLG .378). Goodman was a league-average fielder at second and third, which he played with the White Sox alongside Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio before transitioning into a bench role and finally retirement.

96. Bucky Harris, Senators 1919-1928, Tigers 1929-1931

Career WARP3 39.7, Career EqA .248, 4 seasons 5+ WARP3, Hall of Fame as Manager

Bucky Harris gets a few brownie points for having been a player-manager for the Senators from 1924-1928, which means his managerial career began at the ripe old age of 28. A pretty good fielder (23 career runs above average), and a below-average hitter (73 career runs below average), Harris was pretty good at knocking doubles and stealing bases. His career comparables include other light-hitting infielders of his era, Buck Weaver and Kid Elberfeld among them. The most interesting though is his #9 comparable, Tony Womack, of whom his career statistics are quite reminiscent: steals and doubles, but very little in the way of real power or getting on base. Being about league average for about 8 years is enough to get you into the top 100 on the list. Harris never had an outstanding season.

95. Eric Young, Dodgers 1992, Rockies 1993-97, Dodgers 1997-99, Cubs 2000-01, Brewers 2002-03, Giants 2003, Rangers 2004, Padres 2005-06, Rangers 06

Career WARP3 46.3, Career EqA .260, 2 seasons 5+ WARP3, All-Star, Silver Slugger

Eric Young hit a home run in the first ever Rockies at-bat at Coors. It was one of only 79 he would hit in his career. Because of those 4+ seasons in the early days of Coors, Young's career numbers are a little inflated; in reality he was .269/.346/.377, which is not awe-inspiring or even enough to get him on the list with his below-average defense. What gets him on the list is his speed; 465 steals to 168 caughts is a solid amount of production, even if 168 caughts is good for 15th all-time. You may not know that Young was very, very good at avoiding strikeouts, finishing in the top 10 in at-bats per strikeout 9 times in his career. In terms of real value, though, Young was a pure speed merchant with little else to offer; Juan Pierre with a smidge more power at a scarcer position.

94. Hughie Critz, Reds 1924-30, Giants 1930-1935
Career WARP3 44.6, Career EqA .229, 2 seasons 6+ WARP3, 2nd and 4th in MVP 1926/1928

Hughie Critz was a very good fielder (115 runs above average) and a really, really bad hitter (217 runs below average, 9 runs below *replacement* level). His 2nd-place appearance in the MVP voting in 1926 was almost certainly due to the one-time-per-player rule that made the awards of that era very hard to read on a historical basis. Critz was, like most keystoners in history, barely capable of hitting home runs, though he did manage four seasons of double-digit triples that might be homers in modern ballparks. Critz's real historical achievement was probably helping Carl Hubbell, Freddie Fitzsimmons, Hal Schumacher, Roy Parmelee, Hi Bell, et. al. to a staff ERA+ of 118 in the Giants' 1933 World Championship season; he had 35 fielding runs above average that season, which is remarkable for a 33-year-old second baseman. His double-play partner, Blondy Ryan, was also offensively inept in '33, and their average OPS+ of 63 may make them one of the worst offensive 2B-SS combos on a World Series winner. I'd have to look that up.

93. Tito Fuentes, Giants 1965-74, Padres 1975-76, Tigers 1977, A's 1978
Career WARP3 40.3, Career EqA .241, 1 season 7+ WARP3, 1 season 6+ WARP3

Yet another ok-fielding, light-hitting fellow down here at the bottom of the list, Rigoberto "Tito" Fuentes of Havana, Cuba was an inconsistent fielder who put up some very good seasons (+17) and some very bad (-15). Fuentes' career OBP of .307 is abysmal; even against the all-time average it would only be .315. He played alongside greatness: Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Bobby Bonds. Perhaps this makes him the Mark Lemke of his era.

92. George Cutshaw, Dodgers 1912-17, Pirates 1918-21, Tigers 1922-23
Career WARP3 44.6, Career EqA .240, 1 season 6+ WARP3, 2 seasons 5+ WARP3

Cutshaw was a good fielder for the Brooklyn whatchamacallums (Robins?) of the teens, stringing together some very good fielding years while hitting pretty badly for a 2B. Cutshaw was pretty good at stealing bases and good at avoiding strikeouts, and had a fair bit of pop in his bat, hitting 7, 5, and 4 home runs plus a fair number of triples during the dead-ball era. He'd have hit 20 HR twice in an average historical season, and his career numbers would have looked like a slugging, OBP-less infielder of today like Juan Uribe. One wonders if he'd have turned more double plays if he'd played with the same shortstop for more than two years in a row ever in his career.

91. Mike Lansing, Expos 1993-1997, Rockies 1998-2000, Red Sox 2000-2001
Career WARP3 34.8, Career EqA .246, 1 season 7+ WARP3, 1 season 6+ WARP3

A great fielder during the early part of his career, Lansing had a great year for a second baseman in 1997, hitting .281/.338/.472 with 45 doubles and 20 HR. He never played remotely that well again, yet the Expos still lost the trade when they sent him to the Rockies for Jake Westbrook, John Nicholson, and Mark Hamlin. Better to remember Lansing as the underrated double play partner of Wil Cordero on the 1994 Expos team that might just have won the whole darn thing, and might have saved the Expos. Lansing the best hitter, if not the best player, ever born in Wyoming. The only two players even on that list other than Lansing are Tom Browning and Mike Devereaux.