Players of the decade: Subjective opinion versus WAR

I missed my exit on my way to see my girlfriend yesterday. The reason? I got wrapped up thinking about the best player in each decade of baseball history. Specifically, I was curious how my subjective opinion might compare to the leader from each decade for Wins Above Replacement.

With the help of Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index, my favorite baseball research tool, I hashed this out for position players. The results are as follows:

Subjective opinion
1871-79: Cap Anson
1880-89: King Kelly
1890-99: Ed Delahanty*
1900-09: Honus Wagner
1910-19: Ty Cobb
1920-29: Babe Ruth
1930-39: Lou Gehrig
1940-49: Stan Musial
1950-59: Willie Mays
1960-69: Hank Aaron
1970-79: Reggie Jackson
1980-89: Rickey Henderson
1990-99: Barry Bonds
2000-09: Albert Pujols
2010-now: Miguel Cabrera
*= I strictly looked at position players for this exercise. Were I to expand it to pitchers, the 1890s are the only decade I might select one for. I think Cy Young may have been the best player in baseball then.

WAR leader
1871-79: Ross Barnes, 26.6 (Anson fifth at 19.2)
1880-89: Cap Anson, 51.9 (Kelly tied for sixth at 35.2)
1890-99: Billy “The one from the 1800s” Hamilton, 53.5 (Delahanty second at 51.8)
1900-09: Wagner, 85.8
1910-19: Cobb, 84.3
1920-29: Ruth, 102.3 (seems unfair not to mention Rogers Hornsby, second at 93.1)
1930-39: Gehrig, 73.1
1940-49: Ted Williams, 65.8 (Musial third at 57.5)
1950-59: Mickey Mantle, 67.5 (Mays third at 58.7)
1960-69: Mays, 84.2 (Aaron second at 80.7)
1970-79: Joe Morgan, 66.9 (Jackson fifth at 51.2)
1980-89: Henderson, 70.8
1990-99: Bonds, 79.9
2000-09: Alex Rodriguez, 77.6 (Pujols second at 73.6; Bonds third at 59.1)
2010-now: Robinson Cano, 33.6 (Cabrera second at 31.5)

0 thoughts on “Players of the decade: Subjective opinion versus WAR”

  1. Before reading the WAR list, I took at guess. I almost NAILED that entire list. I didn’t have an opinion for the 1870s, because I know NOTHING about those early years. I probably would’ve picked Cap Anson, or maybe George Wright or something. But I had Anson in the 1880s, Cy Young from the 1890s with Billy Hamilton among position players, Wagner, Cobb (actually, I couldn’t choose between Cobb and Walter Johnson, but I’m counting it, anyway!), Ruth, Gehrig, Williams, Mantle, Mays, Morgan, Henderson, Bonds, and Pujols. Unfortunately, I had Cabrera for the current “decade.” Soooooo close. Oh well.

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