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The All-Time MLB Team, Third base: nominations open

The most recent player so far shows up as a possible contender in this category

Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

By bWAR, it’s actually pretty close at the top, with only about fifteen career wins - so, less than one per season - spanning first and fourth place on the chart. It’s also a category where the modern era seems to dominate proceedings. All of the top ten played their entire careers in the integrated era, with the earliest to retire being Eddie Mathews, whose playing time ended in 1968. Three of them didn’t even make their first appearance in the majors until the nineties. But it appears the point of peak third-base was probably 1974, when half of the all-time top ten by bWAR were simultaneously active: Mike Schmidt, George Brett. Brooks Robinson, Ron Santo and Graig Nettles.

Right now, the top active third baseman is Evan Longoria. He’s currently #16, with 57.6 bWAR. He turned 36 in October, after a season where he was worth 1.8 bWAR. He’s under contract for one more season, with a team option for 2023, though the 10.6 bWAR he would need to break into the top 10 seems a bit of a stretch. Probably the man with the best shot at making the top 10 down the road is Manny Machado, who has already accumulated 45.2 through his age 28 season. If I re-run the numbers for third-baseman to that point, he is fourth on the list, trailing only Mathews, Santo and Brett. So if he ends up playing as long as they did - Brett until he was 40, for example - Machado could end up as highly-ranked.

The other player who stands out here is Wade Boggs, because of his late arrival. He didn’t make his major league debut until his age 24 season. He’s the only position player in the top 75 at any spot by bWAR to have arrived that late. Obviously, getting an early start is a big help in terms of racking up counting stats. But Boggs has 23 more career bWAR than other 24-year-old position player debutants, with the next best being Edgar Martinez and Kenny Lofton. Across the top 30 by career bWAR, almost half (14) debuted while still teenagers. Only three of the thirty were later than age 21 when they arrived in the majors: Boggs, Schmidt and Honus Wagner.

Below is the list of the top 10 (here’s the full chart, if you fancy exploring beyond them). As usual, their names go to the appropriate page at Baseball-Reference.com for full details of their careers.

Best 3B ever

Player WAR From To G PA R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
Player WAR From To G PA R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
Mike Schmidt 106.9 1972 1989 2404 10062 1506 2234 548 1595 1507 1883 .268 .380 .527 .908 148
Eddie Mathews 96.1 1952 1968 2391 10101 1509 2315 512 1453 1444 1487 .271 .376 .509 .886 143
Adrian Beltre 93.5 1998 2018 2933 12130 1524 3166 477 1707 848 1732 .286 .339 .480 .819 116
Wade Boggs 91.4 1982 1999 2439 10740 1513 3010 118 1014 1412 745 .328 .415 .443 .858 131
George Brett 88.6 1973 1993 2707 11625 1583 3154 317 1596 1096 908 .305 .369 .487 .857 135
Chipper Jones 85.3 1993 2012 2499 10614 1619 2726 468 1623 1512 1409 .303 .401 .529 .930 141
Brooks Robinson 78.4 1955 1977 2896 11782 1232 2848 268 1357 860 990 .267 .322 .401 .723 105
Ron Santo 70.5 1960 1974 2243 9397 1138 2254 342 1331 1108 1343 .277 .362 .464 .827 125
Scott Rolen 70.1 1996 2012 2038 8518 1211 2077 316 1287 899 1410 .281 .364 .490 .855 122
Graig Nettles 67.9 1967 1988 2700 10228 1193 2225 390 1314 1088 1209 .248 .329 .421 .750 110

Interesting to see a position which has apparently blossomed in the modern era. You have to go down to #13 to find anyone from before the war, in Home Run Baker (hey, 12 HR led the majors in 1913!). As usual, we took a look at Negro League contenders, for whom bWAR didn’t do justice. But here, there wasn’t anyone who stood out. Using the same criteria as above (50% of games played at 3B), no Negro League player reached even 20 bWAR. The leader is Dewey Creacy, who put up 18.1 bWAR over 957 games. That works out at 3.1 bWAR per 162 games, which is more “respectable everyday output” than Hall of Famer. Though at his peak of 3.4 bWAR over 83 games in 1925, he was probably at or near All-Star caliber.


As usual, we need to narrow the candidates down to five or thereabouts, for the final poll. This will be done largely on the basis of recs in the comments, though the decision of the judging committee i.e. me, will be final in this regard. Just identify the player in the subject line, and make your case in the body of the comment. If you agree with a choice already made, give it a rec. If you don’t see your choice, post a new comment. I will delete subsequent top-level comments about the same player. Poll to follow on Friday!