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)

4 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.

  2. Entering 2017, Miguel Cabreras stats for this decade in both leagues would be at or near the top in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, HR, RBI, TB’s, Hits, IBB’s, EBH, No other player comes close ! Even with a poor Situational stat in RISPlast season Cabrera has only Goldschmidt competing in the 4 main situational stats.

  3. Situational stats would be – RUNNER ON BASE, RISP, RISP W/2 Outs & Man on Base W/2 outs. After the 2016 season he was blowing everybody out of the water in each category with OPS. When was the last time anybody did that ?

  4. WAR – “Without Any Research”, it’s a cheap quick form of attempting to equate a players value. The “Objective” to winning a baseball game is easy : to advance more batters to home plate than your opponent. Baseball is played/managed by situations from pitch to pitch yet WAR Doesn’t utilize any situations to determine a players value. Why is that, because WAR doesn’t want to research situations because it’s time consuming which costs time and money.
    WAR doesn’t believe in the meaning of clutch because all situations are equal, seriously ? That is what separates a Miguel Cabrera from a Mike Trout – .083 BA in Post Season !

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