Top 100 Second Basemen: 30-21

At this point on the list, all of the players here should be considered among the all-time greats, worthy of retired jerseys and historical comparisons and fully worth remembering. My pick for the Hall of Fame cutoff lies just higher than this...there should be many more second basemen in the Hall than there are, even if we say that only a truly fantastic player should be included. These next ten were not truly fantastic, by historical standards, but they were all great. You'll be surprised by some of them.

30. Gil McDougald, Yankees 1951-60
Career WARP3 66.5, Career EqA .273, 1 season 10+ WARP3, 8 total seasons 6+, Rookie of the Year, 5-time All-Star

Gil McDougald did not screw around. He played on the Yankees dynasty teams of 1951 to 1960, making 5 All-Star appearances and 8 World Series appearances. The Yankees repaid him by allowing him to be expansion-drafted by the new Washington Senators, so he packed up his bat and went home, leaving behind a ten-year career that sparkled. Widely regarded as an excellent player (hence the All-Star appearances), McDougald was primarily a defensive specialist with reasonable average and power. Not even for a season was he a below-average fielder, and he was usually near the top of the AL with Nellie Fox. He and Fox were clearly the best AL second-baggers of the era, and Fox is in the Hall of Fame. McDougald didn't do quite enough to reach that level, especially since he quit at 32, but who would want to leave 8 World Series for the expansion Senators?

29. Carlos Baerga, Indians 1990-96, Mets 1996-98, Padres/Indians 1999, Red Sox 2002, Diamondbacks 2003-04, Nationals 2005
Career WARP3 55.1, Career EqA .270, 1 season 11+ WARP3, 1 season 10+, 3-time All-Star, 2-time Silver Slugger

If Carlos Baerga had retired at 26, after the 1995 season, he would have had about 48 WARP3 and a career triple-slash of .304/.341/.450. His real career triple-slash isn't much worse, but it's *that* Baerga, the one who was so good for the Indians, that's really worth remembering. A hit machine with power and strong defense, Baerga was legitimately tied for the best second baseman in baseball with now-legend Roberto Alomar during 1991 and 1992. Outside of Cleveland Municipal Stadium and his era, he'd have slugged about .545 three times, no mean feat for a second baseman. I heavily value players' peak seasons, and Baerga had some awesome ones.

28. Julio Franco, Phillies 1982, Indians 1983-88, Rangers 1989-93, White Sox 1994, Indians 1996-97, Brewers 1997, Devil Rays 1999, Braves 2001-05, Mets 2006-07, Braves 2007
Career WARP3 92.3, Career EqA .286, 3 seasons 8+ WARP3, 5-time Silver Slugger, 3-time All Star

Those of us who know Franco as the Ageless Wonder of the Braves are failing to remember his years as a middle infielder for the Indians and Rangers. I am fudging a bit here; Franco played more short than second, but he was a bad shortstop and moved to second where he did less damage with his fielding. As a hitter, Franco was a great second-hitter type: some speed and a little home run power and OBP, but mostly hits, hits, hits. He had 180 or more 6 times. In 1991, Franco's best year at the plate, he hit .341 to win a batting title; that was the last of his very best years, and his worst in the field. Franco was on the verge of entering third gear in 1994 as the White Sox DH, as he hit .319/.406/.510 with 20 homers in the shortened season, garnering the Silver Slugger for DHs. Franco didn't just compile over the course of his marathon career; his comparables by age include luminaries Barry Larkin, Lou Boudreau, and Alvin Dark.

27. Davey Lopes, Dodgers 1972-81, A's 1982-84, Cubs 1984-86, Astros 1986-87
Career WARP3 82.2, Career EqA .284, 1 season 9+ WARP3, 2 seasons 8+, 3 seasons 7+, 4-time All-Star

The odd ending and pronunciation of Davey Lopes' last name derives in part from the fact that he is a Cape Verdean American, much like Minnesota Timberwolf Ryan Gomes and former Detroit Lions coach Wayne Fontes. These sorts of things interest me. As the premier base-stealer of the mid-1970s, Lopes was a key part of the well-known lineup of the Dodgers of that era, who lost three World Series and finally got over the hump in 1981. Lopes was good at most things; he could motor and hit for a little power, and drew walks fairly well but inconsistently from season to season. Defensively Lopes was inconsistent as well, near Gold Glove caliber some seasons and well below in others. He ended his career about average. Lopes was positively heroic in the 1978 postseason, hitting .389/.389/.889 in the LCS and .308/.357/.654 in the World Series, with two homers in the four-game LCS and three in the six-game World Series. Lopes' 12 RBIs that postseason weren't enough to deliver the Dodgers a championship.

26. Ray Durham, White Sox 1995-2002, A's 2002, Giants 2003-08, Brewers 2008

Career WARP3 86.3, Career EqA .276, 1 season 10+ WARP3, 8 total seasons 6+, 2-time All-Star

Consistently playing at a level just below the best second baseman in baseball for almost his entire career, Durham has been a little underrated and underpaid, grossing just $59,000,000 for his long, productive, retired-jersey-worthy career. That said, the switch-hitting solid defender has put together one of the great fantasy baseball careers of all time, with the 60th best Power-Speed Number of all time at a tough middle infield position. Durham is a player who typifies his era, especially appropriate considering that he played during the "fantasy era." His comparables by age are all near contemporaries: Felipe Lopez, Rafael Furcal, Craig Biggio, and Jay Bell. Durham has been above average at basically everything including contact, power, defense, running, and drawing walks, but he has no signature skill or signature moment to define his career. Ray deserved better than three Division Series losses as his only postseason opportunities; he has hit .271/.375/.542 with three homers in 54 PA during postseason play only to see his teams fail to exit the first round. If the Brewers can get themselves a Wild Card spot, maybe his luck will change this year.

25. Lonny Frey, Dodgers 1933-36, Cubs 1937, Reds 1938-47, Yankees 1947-48, Giants 1948
Career WARP3 74.8, Career EqA .277, 1 season 11+ WARP3, 1 season 10+, 3-time All Star

Linus Reinhard Frey was named the Reds all-time second baseman at a 100th anniversary celebration in 1969, while Joe Morgan was still playing in Houston. That underscores the level of respect that Reds fans had for Frey, a well-rounded hitter who was also a Gold Glove-caliber defender once he moved over from shortstop and out of Brooklyn, where he was positively heckle-worthy. Frey thrived with the Reds as a leader the very good but unsung Bucky Walters - Ernie Lombardi back-to-back NL and 1940 World Series champions. A good walk-drawer, Frey led the league in steals in 1940 with 22: it was the depths of the no-steal era, and Frey was therefore a bit atypical. He got one over on the Dodgers in 1947, riding the pine on the World Series champion Yankees.

24. Tony Lazzeri, Yankees 1926-37, Cubs 1938, Dodgers 1939, Giants 1939
Career WARP3 85.0, Career EqA .284, 2 seasons 10+ WARP3, 5-time MVP vote recipient, 1-time All-Star, Hall of Fame

A member of the Murderer's Row, Lazzeri might actually have been the best Yankee in 1929, hitting .354/.429/.561, scoring 101 runs and batting in 106 in a career year. Lazzeri was many of the things Joe DiMaggio gets credit for being: a bona fide star plucked from the west coast Italian community who played on the biggest stage in the majors. Never a very good defender, Lazzeri's career value is almost entirely based on batting, and he was not in all honesty as good at that as some people think. A career .292 hitter in his era, he'd hit about .269 in a park and era neutral world, which softens his career numbers significantly. Lazzeri had a relatively short and soft peak compared to a bona fide Hall of Fame second baseman. Still, he had the best year of anyone on the 1929 Yankees and is worth remembering as a great hitter at a scarce position. Would you believe that this lower-tier Hall of Famer is the greatest Yankee second baseman of all time? It's true...I'm looking at you, Robinson Cano. Well, maybe not.

23. Eddie Stanky, Cubs 1943-44, Dodgers 1944-47, Braves 1948-49, Giants 1950-51, Cardinals 1952-53
Career WARP3 72.2, Career EqA .288, 1 season 11+ WARP3, 1 season 10+, 3-time All-Star

Leo Durocher said of Stanky that he couldn't hit, field, or run. He was wrong on at least one count: Stanky was surely a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman all his years in the league. He wasn't a tremendous hitter or runner, either, but he was a specialist in a skill beloved of statheads and the authors of this blog: walking. Despite being basically a powerless, Walt Weissish type with the bat, Stanky posted a career OBP of .410, a full 62 points higher than his slugging and 142 points higher than his batting average. He led the league in walks three times and OBP twice, in years when he hit .273 and a career-high .300. Stanky had a skill set that's not much beloved among certain types of people: defense and walks. Fundamentals can move you pretty far up a list populated with big bats, and Stanky's right up there at the cusp of the Hall of Fame in our book.

22. Bret Boone, Mariners 1992-93, Reds 1994-98, Braves 1999, Padres 2000, Mariners 2001-05, Twins 2005
Career WARP3 80.2, Career EqA .267, 1 season 14+ WARP3, 1 season 13+, 3-time All-Star, 2-time Silver Slugger, 4-time Gold Glove

Essentially a well-below-average hitter (.219 EqA twice, an early-career high of .284) throughout a nine-year career as a defensive specialist before his 32-year-old 2001 season, Boone was an underrated, workmanlike middle infielder. I'm not sure I buy the steroid argument; Boone had hit double-digit home runs seven times despite horrible batting averages throughout his career. What really went up in 2002 wasn't his power at all; it was his AVERAGE. Boone hit .331/.372/.578 in 2001 while playing enormous Hall of Fame defense, then turned in a couple more excellent years before finally getting old. In his age-32, age-33, and age-34 seasons, Boone was Roberto Alomar. Sure, it's a weird time to be...but that doesn't change the fact that he really just found a way to hit the ball. He'd always hit it hard, never mind which years.

21. Chuck Knoblauch, Twins 1991-97, Yankees 1998-2001, Royals 2002
Career WARP3 83.9, Career EqA .286, 1 season 12+ WARP3, 1 season 10+, 4-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove, 2-time Silver Slugger

Chuck Knoblauch has one of the great postseason records (14-1 in career postseason series) despite hitting only .258/.339/.324 in his postseason career. Lifetime, he was .289/.378/.406, which is every bit as good as it sounds considering six years in the Metrodome. Knoblauch at his peak was a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman, though a lot of folks remember him for his late-career difficulties throwing to first base. Knoblauch apparently may have been an HGH user, but it's difficult to discern anything specific from his numbers; a moderate increase in home runs followed his move to New York, but these were his prime 29-30 years and he was moving from the Metrodome to Yankee Stadium. Knoblauch was an excellent baserunner and leadoff type, almost a Craig Biggio with speed instead of power. It is a shame, to me, that he couldn't exorcise the demons even in left field with the Royals. Knoblauch might just have been a Hall of Famer with 2-3 more years of productive play.


Anonymous said...

Where are the articles ranking the top 20 second basemen of all time?

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aloe acne treatment said...

I think that the journey of Mr. McDougald has been quite exciting as well as full of struggle. He is an idol for me.

Cure Acne said...

The best thing i like here is the struggle with which this guy has risen. Still the simplicity in him is adorable.

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