Position Players by WAR: Modern Era

Baseball Prehistory | Deadball Era | Liveball Era | Post-War
Expansion | Free Agency | Modern Era

I think we’re all familiar with the Modern Era, so I’m not going in to too much detail:

I drew the line wrong though. I should have started it in 1993, with the introduction of two new teams: the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins, and the huge boost in runs scored per game. Instead, I set it to 1995 because I had noted the wrong date for the two expansion franchises. They were joined by the Tampa Bay Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998. For the most part, it doesn’t change much, but as I’ve learned doing this series, you guys catch everything, so it’s better to be up-front about it.

Here are the players that move in to the Modern Era if I change the cutoff to 1993:

By strong request of Big Jgke I have updated the images to include these players.

Here is the first half of the Modern Era, almost all retired:

The second half finishes up with some players still starting their careers but are already in the top 500 for WAR. Just look at Pujols!

None of these players are in the Hall of Fame (yet). How many of them do you think are deserving? Who do you think has a shot, even though they may still be playing?

Player list (career WAR in parentheses):

Barry Bonds (169.7) Alex Rodriguez (107.4)
Ken Griffey Jr. (85.6) Chipper Jones (85.5)
Jeff Bagwell (83.9) Albert Pujols (80.6)
Frank Thomas (79.1) Jim Thome (73.5)
Ivan Rodriguez (73.4) Manny Ramirez (72.2)
Larry Walker (72.2) Scott Rolen (71.6)
Edgar Martinez (71.6) Andruw Jones (70.5)
Derek Jeter (70.4) Craig Biggio (70.1)
Roberto Alomar (68.2) Mike Piazza (68.2)
Jim Edmonds (68.1) Gary Sheffield (65.8)
Kenny Lofton (65.1) Sammy Sosa (64.6)
John Olerud (62.4) Jeff Kent (61.9)
Vladimir Guerrero (61.7) Bobby Abreu (61.5)
Robin Ventura (61.3) Todd Helton (60.6)
Luis Gonzalez (60.1) Brian Giles (57.8)
Lance Berkman (56.2) Jason Giambi (54.3)
Carlos Beltran (54.1) Moises Alou (53)
Jorge Posada (51.9) Adrian Beltre (50.8)
Ichiro Suzuki (50.7) Mike Cameron (50.4)
Carlos Delgado (49.1) Mark Grace (48.7)
Omar Vizquel (48.4) Ellis Burks (48.1)
Bernie Williams (47.8) J.D. Drew (46.9)
Chase Utley (44.3) Miguel Tejada (44)
Nomar Garciaparra (43.2) Steve Finley (43)
Chuck Knoblauch (42.6) David Justice (42.4)
Jason Kendall (42.2) Ray Lankford (42.2)
Magglio Ordonez (41.8) Johnny Damon (41.8)
Reggie Sanders (41.4) Juan Gonzalez (38.8)
Derrek Lee (38.3) Ken Caminiti (38)
Edgar Renteria (37.7) Placido Polanco (37.4)
Miguel Cabrera (37.3) Tim Salmon (37.1)
Jimmy Rollins (36.7) David Wright (36.6)
Mark Teixeira (36.3) Brady Anderson (36.2)
Jeff Cirillo (36.1) Troy Glaus (36)
B.J. Surhoff (35.8) David Ortiz (35.6)
Shawn Green (35.1) Javy Lopez (34.6)
Carl Crawford (34.5) Tino Martinez (33.8)
Mo Vaughn (33.7)  

I think you commenters are the best copy writers. You’ve kept me honest. Even when I make dumb mistakes.

I’d like to apologize heartily to Andre Dawson for forgetting him. As fredsbank so eloquently put it:

so I know FG hates that Dawson is in the Hall, but to blatantly omit it seems a little over the top

(An additional thanks to My echo and bunnymen and ofMontreal who said the same, but were kinder about it)

Additional apologies to Mark Belanger (caught by Joe of Chop-n-Change, and Rick Ferrell (caught by SF 55 for life).

Thank you Rich for letting me know that just because they share a name, the American Association and the American League didn’t actually have a direct connection. Thank you Sam, Dash, Richard Gadsden, fredsbank, Rafael J, hunterfan, and Rally for letting me know that I should really have made my cutoffs better, specifically in regards to Ty Cobb (as stated by Rally):

I can see using those cutoffs Cobb gets lumped into the liveball era. But you know that isn’t right – he exemplified the way to play baseball in the deadball era. His peak years were all deadball.

Thank you to ibn Bob for reminding me there was more than one strike-cancelled World Series, dorasaga for reminding me of the proper year when the Cubs last won the World Series (happy 103rd birthday!), and ofMontreal for pointing out that the Red Sox are not in the National League (bet they wish they were though).

And a super-special thanks to bcp33sox and James III for helping me improve the graphs and WAR lists at the end of each article to make the experience less painful for you people reading.

Making mistakes is the best way of improving. Thank you all for taking the time to read, and especially for those of you who take the time to comment and correct me. All the mistakes brought to my attention should (theoretically) be fixed now. Let me know if you find any more.

References:



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I'm an expat living in Japan since 2003, doing sales and marketing work. More of my work is available on Henkakyuu, my personal blog. Also feel free to inspire me to use twitter more often @henkakyuu


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Jimmy
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

It’s really mind-boggling that Jeff Bagwell only got 41.7% of the HoF vote.

Matt
Guest
Matt
5 years 3 months ago

Agreed. You have to wonder how long he could have sustained that nice, long run of dark squares if his shoulder ahdn’t given out on him. It was torturous those last few years to see how badly he wanted to play, but just couldn’t due to his shoulder. His throws turned to shot-puts and he winced on every swing, but he still got out there. That guy was a gamer.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan
5 years 3 months ago

Chipper only needs 0.2 WAR to move into third place in the modern era!

Nik
Guest
Nik
5 years 3 months ago

Pujols is right behind him though

jacob
Guest
jacob
5 years 3 months ago

it seems like your argument is not statistically significant. WAR of 85.5=85.6=85.7 unless someone can show me that the WAR formula doesn’t have any variation and is perfect.

Guy
Guest
Guy
5 years 3 months ago

Griffey, Jeter and Ichiro are first ballot locks, Pujols needs a few more seasons before being considered. Who knows what’s gonna happen with Bonds?

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
5 years 3 months ago

Has there been a person with such strong rumors of POE selected?

YankeeFan
Guest
YankeeFan
5 years 3 months ago

Pujols will get into the HOF even if he doesn’t play in another game.

Mike
Guest
Mike
5 years 3 months ago

I didn’t realize he’s already played 10 years in the bigs. I still feel like he’s young.

Big Jgke
Member
Big Jgke
5 years 3 months ago

No offense, but once you realized you had the wrong dates for this era, shouldn’t you have started over again and done everything correctly? It seems more than a little a half-assed to have an introduction saying you messed up and then presenting your incorrect data anyways.

Steve
Guest
Steve
5 years 3 months ago

Since you were so kind, BJ, the word is “anyway”, not “anyways”. Unless you are eight years old.

Big Jgke
Member
Big Jgke
5 years 3 months ago

Mistakes like that are why I’m in the comments section. What’s his excuse?

fred
Guest
fred
5 years 3 months ago

Anyways is used in many dialects, for example Canadian English: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anyways. As long as we are correcting grammar, I should point out that “unless you are eight years old” is a sentence fragment.

Matt
Guest
Matt
5 years 3 months ago

Name the player based on this season’s stats — 744 PA, 34 HBP, 0 GIDP

Guy
Guest
Guy
5 years 3 months ago

Oliver Perez?

JohnF
Guest
JohnF
5 years 3 months ago

Biggio

Steve
Guest
Steve
5 years 3 months ago

Perez!!! Perfect!!! Brilliant Guy!

jacob
Guest
jacob
5 years 3 months ago

I’d be willing to bet Griffey is the first of this list into the HOF

I’d be willing to bet that Bonds doesnt get in unless BBWA voting rules change drastically.

I’m worried about a log jam in a few years where lots of players get <75% of the vote, more than 5% of the vote, voters turn in ballots with 10 names and none of the players see their vote tally's increase very much.

TsB
Guest
TsB
5 years 3 months ago

That could well happen. Steroids aside, there really have been and are a relatively large number of great players in this era. Both hitters and pitchers. Internationalisation? Expansion? Whatever it is, I can’t help but feel that you’re right about a log jam occuring. Not only will the large number of names contribute to this, but we also have to consider that there will be a situation where some writers are voting for steroid-users and some are not, thereby splitting the ballot and making it hard to reach 75%. Bonds, A-rod, Clemens, etc. will (opinion) probably all stay on the ballot and ‘clog it up’ in this way for years to come. Although on the other hand, quite a few of this era’s players should be first balloters, and perhaps the writers will choose to start voting for more than 10 names? I don’t know if that’s a good thing but that’s another discussion.

On another note, I’ve really enjoyed this series and I do look forward to reading more of your work Mr. Maciel. It’s been really well structured and presented.

Jason
Guest
Jason
5 years 3 months ago

Bonds was amazing.

adohaj
Guest
adohaj
5 years 3 months ago

Roberto Alomar is in the HOF now

Xave
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

Great series, Joshua, I’ve really enjoyed it!

Albert
Guest
Albert
5 years 3 months ago

Wow, Jeter and Tejada are like identical from age 25+.

J-Dog
Guest
J-Dog
5 years 3 months ago

Bonds was literally the best hitter ever, except maybe Babe Ruth. The fact that this dude isn’t getting in to HoF sucks. He used steroids. Put it everywhere. On his plaque next to his name, in his picture, on any kind of memento of his, larger than his name. Put it on his grave even, but this dude could seriously hit.

Give steroids to Jeff Francoeur and it wouldn’t make him a good player. Steroids don’t make a player. They enhance performance, and a hell of a performance it was. He should be inducted with the asterisk, sort of like the pitchers that messed around with the surface of the baseball in the old days.

Jason
Guest
Jason
5 years 3 months ago

When you consider the size of the talent pool Bonds was definitely a better hitter than Ruth. (more variation in the extreme tails of performance in earlier eras due to the smaller talent pools). Your could make an argument for Ruth as the better player on the merits of his having been a pitcher too.

fredsbank
Guest
fredsbank
5 years 3 months ago

not necessarily, replacement level was probably higher in ruth’s time for the very reasons you assume bonds was better (smaller talent pool = better people playing = tougher to be a standout)
how many teams did bonds out-homer in his career, aside from 0?
oh, wait….

David
Guest
David
5 years 3 months ago

Zero doubt. He dominated in an extremely competitive era, before he used steroids and after he used steroids. Hundreds if not thousands of Major Leaguers used PEDs, and none of them can close to matching Bonds’ level of performance. The dude had an amazing batting eye (unfortunately plate discipline stats don’t cover most of his career, but there’s one season where he swung at 8.3% — eight point three percent! — of out of zone pitches), a compact, powerful swing, and a hell of a lot of baseball smarts. Also spent the non-steroid part of his career playing excellent defense and swiping bases at like an 80% success rate.

People are going to have all kinds of personal opinions on Bonds, but if you’re talking about doing a good job playing baseball, the conversation starts with Bonds for the modern era.

ToddM
Guest
ToddM
5 years 3 months ago

“Yeah, but he was a cheaty dickbag.”

Seriously, how long can that argument hold up?

fredsbank
Guest
fredsbank
5 years 3 months ago

well, at least until children cease being taught it’s wrong to cheat, so, forever?

ToddM
Guest
ToddM
5 years 3 months ago

As long as a large number of players from the era are kept out, I don’t really have a huge problem with excluding Bonds. Fact is, though, the first half of his career was exceptional, and it sure looks like he cheated the second half of his career, as did a significant portion of the entire league. He was still better than everyone else (all those other cheaters included) else by a significant margin.

fredsbank
Guest
fredsbank
5 years 3 months ago

he’s just got the same issue as clemens, already outstanding, HoF potential guys before they’re suspected of doing steroids whose legacies were tainted by maybe a little too much drive to better

gonfalon
Guest
gonfalon
5 years 3 months ago

There was an article a while back suggesting Bonds’ arm brace might have been more important than PEDs:

http://insidesportsgeek.wordpress.com/2007/08/07/barry-bonds-hr-record-tainted-by-elbow-armor/

The arguments sound logical to me, anyway.

DCN
Guest
DCN
5 years 3 months ago

Clemens and Bonds were near-locks, not just HoF potential. Alleged steroid use for Bonds was after 1998, for Clemens after 1996.

Here’s what they’d done, with traditional stats and standout accomplishments in mind:

Bonds: .290/.411/.556
411 HR, 445 steals (already the only player in the 400/400 club)
3 MVP awards (and 6 NL, 4 MLB WAR crowns)
40/40 season (second member of the club)
8 Gold Gloves (and excellent defensive metrics)
8x All Star
103.4 WAR (BR) – that’s right. Before steroids, in only 13 years, he racked up more WAR than anyone since Rickey Henderson has accumulated in an entire career (A-Rod is 1.5 WAR behind him, with many more years and his own steroid use) He’d be 20th all time among position players.

Clemens:
192-111 (.634), 3.06 ERA (145 ERA+), 2590 K
3 Cy Young Awards (3 AL, 4 MLB pitching WAR crowns), 1 MVP award
2 20-strikeout games, the MLB record for nine innings
5x All Star
3 20-win seasons, 1 sub-2.00 season
74.8 pitching WAR, which would put him in a tie with Mike Mussina for 24th of all time, ahead of Sutton, Drysdale, Feller, Palmer, Hubbell, Marichal, Bunning…

HoF voters have some weird patterns (especially with pitchers) but these guys (especially Bonds) had already established themselves as hall-worthy.

DCN
Guest
DCN
5 years 3 months ago

Should be 4 AL, 3 MLB pitching WAR crowns.

David
Guest
David
5 years 3 months ago

@fredsbank – Smaller talent pool doesn’t equal better players. Smaller league with the same talent pool does, but the size of the talent pool has increased more than the size of the league – much larger US population, plus African Americans, other American minorities, and foreign players. There’s also the fact that the modern training is so advanced that standing out is much harder. Something like out-homering an entire team is inconceivable because everybody with power potential is taught to hit home runs.

So what I’m saying is that Bonds-era replacement level is much higher than in Ruth’s age. There’s so many potential players, and so much knowledge to train them up to pro standards.

gdc
Guest
gdc
5 years 3 months ago

Also, Ruth’s era was for western US players like 1950 was for black ones or 2000 for Japanese ones, there were a few top ones but most played in their own league (PCL). If Ted Williams was the same age as Ruth he probably would not have gotten to the bigs until age 27 with three PCL triple crowns on his head. Even a few eastern minor league stars like Lefty Grove were held onto by the independent minor league clubs longer than they would today.

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