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The All-Time MLB Team, designated hitter: nominations open

Though not, perhaps, a traditional DH

Baseball Player Ty Cobb
Ty Cobb

My antipathy to the DH should be well-known to regular readers. So why am I including a spot for it in this feature? Simply put, it’s a result of looking at the amazing talent we have seen over the previous eight weeks, which has NOT been selected to the All-Time team, simply because of the available quality. I think it was ‘Hacks who suggested we add a “DH” spot to give another opportunity for a deserving player to make the cut, and it seemed a worthwhile idea. Though here, I must stress we don’t mean a designated hitter in the usual sense, of a player who only hits and doesn’t field. We are simply looking for the best all-round player, not previously selected.

There’s certainly some stellar talent remaining in the player pool, including six of the top ten all time by bWAR - so clearly there are still going to be some all-time greats who will be watching from the sidelines. The table below lists the ten highest by that metric, and excluding those who have previously been selected. As usual, the names link over to the players’ Baseball Reference page. If you feel like examining additional data, here’s the extended list, including more stats, those already on the team, and going past the top ten. As previously, I’m hoping Jack finds time to chip in with the best Negro League candidate for the last position player category, though I know he’s off on a business trip right now.

Best DH ever

Ty Cobb 151.4 168 1905 1928 3034 13103 2245 4189 117 1944 1249 680 .366 .433 .512 .945
Henry Aaron 143.1 155 1954 1976 3298 13941 2174 3771 755 2297 1402 1383 .305 .374 .555 .928
Tris Speaker 134.8 158 1907 1928 2789 12020 1882 3514 117 1531 1381 393 .345 .428 .500 .928
Honus Wagner 130.8 151 1897 1917 2794 11756 1739 3420 101 1732 963 735 .328 .391 .467 .858
Stan Musial 128.7 159 1941 1963 3026 12721 1949 3630 475 1951 1599 696 .331 .417 .559 .976
Eddie Collins 124.4 142 1906 1930 2826 12087 1821 3315 47 1299 1499 467 .333 .424 .429 .853
Ted Williams 122.1 191 1939 1960 2292 9792 1798 2654 521 1839 2021 709 .344 .482 .634 1.116
Alex Rodriguez 117.5 140 1994 2016 2784 12207 2021 3115 696 2086 1338 2287 .295 .380 .550 .930
Rickey Henderson 111.2 127 1979 2003 3081 13346 2295 3055 297 1115 2190 1694 .279 .401 .419 .820
Mel Ott 110.9 155 1926 1947 2730 11348 1859 2876 511 1860 1708 896 .304 .414 .533 .947

Despite what I said above, figured it might be interesting to look at the figures purely on the basis of offensive WAR - taking out any fielding component - and see how the top players stack up that way. There wasn’t actually an enormous amount of change, reflecting that hitting ability is still generally the most important factor in a player’s worth. Overall i.e. including players previously selected, Ty Cobb moves up from fourth to second, trailing only the Babe. Stan Musial also climbs a couple of places to sixth, and Ted Williams makes the top ten, landing in the seventh spot, replacing Eddie Collins. Barry Bonds, perhaps surprisingly, drops two places by oWAR, as do old-timers Tris Speaker and Honus Wagner.

Albert Pujols remains the highest-ranked active player, though it’s still questionable whether he can get his bWAR back over a hundred, where it was at the end of 2019. He has been below replacement level since, and is now officially 42, and even that probably deserves an asterisk. Ichiro is the only 42-year-old to be better than replacement value since 2010, so odds are against Albert doing so. Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Manny Machado are likely the other active players with the highest chances of being regard as among the best ever at their respective positions. But in all three cases, it’s likely a question of how well they age over the remainder of their careers.

This should be a particularly interesting set of nominations. 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!