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The All-Time MLB Team, left field: nominations and ballot

Some giants here. And some red sox too. :)

Sports Contributor Archive 2020 Photo by SPX/Ron Vesely Photography via Getty Images

Well, an interesting discussion, though it only appears that three players were the subject of any nominations, as I write this on Thursday afternoon. However, that works out quite well. One of the nominees was a player who would have slipped through the cracks, not qualifying by our criteria at either 1B (because he played less than half his career there) or in LF (because that was not his primary position). Seems perfectly legit to include him here. As I noted in the original piece, “there appear to be four obvious candidates.” Two of them were not formally nominated: so in addition to the man noted above, I’ll also be including them to round out the ballot.

Barry Bonds

Three MVP wins by the time he was 28, and he was only getting started. For from 2001-04, Bonds then added four more in a row - and you can argue he should have won in 2000, posting more bWAR than the winner, SF teammate Jeff Kent (7.7 to 7.2). But over those four season, Bonds hit .349/.559/.809 for a 1.368 OPS. Never mind a four-year stretch, only one major-leaguer has had a single season with an OPS that high (Babe Ruth’s 1.379 in 1920). No-one outside Bonds and Ruth has even reached 1.300. His 2001 bWAR of 11.9 is second-highest all-time at any position in the NL, and he followed that up with 11.7 the following year. the greatest consecutive seasons in league history. But what’s that elephant doing?

Rickey Henderson

While respectable, Henderson’s career OPS+ of 127 pales beside many of those we’ll be discussing here. But that doesn’t reflect his greatest asset: Rickey’s speed. In the eighties he averaged 84 stolen bases per season, and his career total of 1,406 is #1 all-time, almost half as many again at the runner-up, Lou Brock. In 1982, Henderson stole 130 bases. For context, no NL team has stolen 130 bases in any of the last five seasons. But he was no Billy Hamilton. Rickey won three Silver Sluggers, led the league in walks four times, and had more walks than strikeouts in 19 seasons. He was the American League MVP in 1990, one of two occasions in which Henderson posted an OPS above a thousand.

Stan Musial

This is the player who “fell through the cracks” between here and first-base. If he’d been ranked in left, Musial’s bWAR of 128.7 would have placed him second on the chart in our previous article, just ahead of Ted Williams. He won a trio of MVP awards, and came second on four more occasions - with a case to be made he was better than the actual winner in both 1950 and 1951. He ranks eighth all-time for plate appearances, fourth for hits and second in total bases; he could have been higher, but for missing the 1945 season due to military service. He appeared in 24 All-Star Games, a number no player has surpassed, finishing his career with a .331 BA and .976 OPS.

Ted Williams

As Jack noted, Williams’ career numbers would look even more stellar, if he’d been serving his country at his age 24-26 season, during World War II. Based on the two seaons before and after that absence, we’d likely be looking at least at another 100 home-runs and 30+ additional bWAR. Ted was the last qualifying batter to hit .400 in the majors, batting .406 in 1941. [Over the 80 years since, only three others have reached even .380] But his plate discipline was legendary. He never K’d more than he walked in a season, ending with close to three times as many walks as strikeouts, and an all-time high career on-base percentage of .482. With 521 home-runs, he was truly a triple threat.

Carl Yastrzemski

Yastrzemski only won a single MVP award, but what a season it was - arguably the best in the integrated era of baseball. That came in 1967, when he led the Red Sox (for whom he played his entire 23-year career) to the pennant, and won the American League Triple Crown, a feat not done again for 45 years. Yastrzemski batted .326 with 44 home-runs and 121 RBI that year. The 12.4 bWAR he was worth that year is the highest by any position player since 1927, and the player was almost as good the next year, posting 10.5 bWAR. Pete Rose is the only man to have appeared in more major-league games than ‘Yaz’, and he was no slouch defensively, winning seven Gold Gloves in the outfield.


Who was the greatest left-fielder ever?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Barry Bonds
    (33 votes)
  • 7%
    Rickey Henderson
    (6 votes)
  • 10%
    Stan Musial
    (8 votes)
  • 36%
    Ted Williams
    (29 votes)
  • 3%
    Carl Yastrzemski
    (3 votes)
79 votes total Vote Now