Tagged: …of the decade

Second Baseman of the Decade

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Second base is my favourite position.  I played baseball for 15 years and second
base was the position I played more than anywhere else.  The reason I started there when I was really
young was without a doubt Roberto Alomar, who was my favourite player as a kid;
as with many other Canadian kids.

 

Second baseman of the decade is another no-brainer.  There’s only one name that comes to mind,
although defensively was never considered elite, he was at least good enough
with the glove to remain at that position for his entire career.  That player is Jeff Kent.  You could make the case that Kent is the best
offensive second baseman of all time (or at least he’s up there with Sandberg
and Hornsby).  We’ll get more into his
numbers shortly, for now, let’s reel off the top three.

 

3rd
Chase Utley

chase utley.jpgThe only reason
Utley isn’t higher on this list is that he didn’t start his career until 2003, missing
the first three years of the decade.  In
spite of that, Utley was still 2nd in home runs (161) and RBI (585)
and was first in On-Base Percentage (.379) and On-Base Plus Slugging (.902).  The power Utley possesses is remarkable when
you consider his listed weight is only 170; I outweigh him by about 10 pounds
and am considered by some to be scrawny. 
When all is said and done, Utley may be the best we’ve ever seen at his
position.  He’s already had three
30-homer seasons and has driven in more than 100 in four seasons.

 

2nd
Placido Polanco

placido polanco.jpg

MLB Network’s list of the top 9 second baseman did not include Polanco, which was flat out
crazy.  Guys like Dustin Pedroia, who
made the list, will no doubt one day be one of the best, but to put him on this list ahead of Polanco is
insane.  INSANE.  Polanco led all
second basemen in both hits (1,581) and was second in games played (1,332) and
average (.305).  Polanco is also
considered one of the best defensive players in all of baseball.  He has been moved to third by his new
employers, the Phillies, but has proven in the past that he is just as competent
there.

 

1st – Jeff
Kent

jeff kent.jpg

Kent was hands-down, number one among second basemen.  He hit 216 home runs, 55 more than second
place Utley and had 850 RBI, 265 more than Utley.  Kent will assuredly be a first ballot
Hall-of-Famer, providing his name does not surface in any steroid scandal.

 

Honourable Mention

Ray Durham – one of the most underrated players in the game

 

Jose Vidro — .303 average and fourth in both hits and RBI
in the decade.

 

Robinson Cano – only played in half of the decade, but still
hit .306, better than any other second baseman in the decade

As always, here are the numbers:

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Games Played

Luis Castillo

1346

Placido Polanco

1332

Adam Kennedy

1323

Ron Belliard

1270

Jeff Kent

1266

 

Average

Robinson Cano

.306

Placido Polanco

.305

Jose Vidro

.303

Jeff Kent

.300

Freddie Sanchez

.299

 

 

Home Runs

Jeff Kent

216

Chase Utley

161

Bret Boone

146

Craig Biggio

139

Ray Durham

132

 

 

RBI

Jeff Kent

850

Chase Utley

585

Ray Durham

579

Jose Vidro

560

Bret Boone

559

 

Hits

Placido Polanco

1581

Luis Castillo

1547

Jeff Kent

1429

Jose Vidro

1287

Brian Roberts

1274

 

OBP

Chase Utley

.379

Luis Castillo

.374

Jeff Kent

.371

Jose Vidro

.366

Roberto Alomar

.362

 

OPS

Chase Utley

.902

Jeff Kent

.889

Robinson Cano

.818

Jose Vidro

.818

Bret Boone

.814

First Baseman of the Decade

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Fitting that on the day that one of the greatest first
basemen of all-time admits to using steroids that I do my first baseman of the
decade post.

 

First basemen are the anchors of the infield.  Traditionally one of the most powerful
hitters in any lineup, first basemen are usually large in stature to help them defensively,
but the by-product of a large frame is a powerful bat.  The candidates for first baseman of the
decade are no different. 

 

I say “candidate” as if there’s actually a competition.  Let’s not beat round the bush; Albert Pujols
is the first baseman of the decade.  We’ll
get into the numbers in a few paragraphs, for now, let’s just talk about who
finished second and third to Pujols.

 

Delgado-TO.jpeg3rd
Carlos Delgado

One of my favourite first basemen, given that he is one of
the best Blue Jays of all time, and maybe the best hitter ever to play for
Toronto, Carlos Delgado comes in third. 
Delgado has been one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball
for years.  Forgive me for being jaded,
but I’ve never been able to shake the “steroid” feeling with him, but I
maintain the innocent until proven guilty thing and Delgado has never been
named in any steroid scandal.  He
finished the 00s second in homeruns (324) and second in RBI (1,045), fifth in
hits (1,416) and on-base percentage (.394), and fourth in on-base plus slugging
(.947).  There are few players, not just
first basemen, who can claim to have had as good a decade as Delgado.

 

2nd – Todd
Helton

todd-helton.jpgThrow out the fact that Helton has played his entire career
in the mutant air of Colorado, with or without the help, Helton is one of the
best pure hitters of our generation.  He
was one of the most durable first basemen on this list, finishing the decade
second in games played with 1,466.  Only
Paul Konerko played more.  Having said
that, Helton still finished the decade with a .331 average, second to only
Pujols; he finished third in RBI with 981, by far first in hits with 1,756,
first in on-base percentage (.436), and he, along with Pujols were the only
first basemen to finish with an on-base plus slugging higher than 1 (1.006).  Not to mention that fact that Helton is one
of the best defensive first baggers in the game, winning 3 gold gloves in the
decade.

 

1st
Albert Pujols

albert pujols homerun.jpgI’m assuming we don’t need much justification here.  Pujols isn’t just the best first baseman in
the game today; he’s the best player in the game, period.  First among first basemen in average (.334), homeruns
(366), RBI (1,112), and on-base plus slugging(1.055), second in hits (1,717)
and on-base percentage (.427), there is little doubt that Pujols is a candidate
for MVP of the decade.  Providing he
doesn’t end up in some steroid scandal himself, Pujols should go down as one of
the greatest hitters ever.

 

Honourable Mention

Paul Konerko – one of the most underrated players in the
game.  He’s won as many World Series
rings as Pujols, Helton, and Delgado combined.

 

Derrek Lee – Consistency has been the only problem in an
otherwise stellar career

 

Sean Casey – If First Basemen who didn’t hit for too much
power got more respect, Casey might be a top 5 first baseman for the decade.

 

Here are the numbers:

 

Games Played

Paul Konerko

1477

Todd Helton

1466

Derrek Lee

1448

Albert Pujols

1399

Carlos Delgado

1368

 

Average

Albert Pujols

.334

Todd Helton

.331

Sean Casey

.300

Kevin Youkilis

.292

Derrek Lee

.292

 

Home Runs

Albert Pujols

366

Carlos Delgado

324

Paul Konerko

295

Derrek Lee

270

Richie Sexson

264

 

 

RBI

Albert Pujols

1112

Carlos Delgado

1045

Todd Helton

981

Paul Konerko

935

Derrek Lee

841

 

Hits

Todd Helton

1756

Albert Pujols

1717

Derrek Lee

1536

Paul Konerko

1491

Carlos Delgado

1416

 

OBP

Todd Helton

.436

Albert Pujols

.427

Nick Johnson

.402

Jeff Bagwell

.394

Carlos Delgado

.394

 

OPS

Albert Pujols

1.055

Todd Helton

1.006

Ryan Howard

.961

Carlos Delgado

.947

Prince Fielder

.931

Catcher of the Decade

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The most
physically demanding position on the diamond is also the position that requires
the highest amount of baseball knowledge. 
A good catcher not only fields his position well, but has to call the
game.  To do this he has to know his
entire pitching staff inside out; which pitches they throw, how they break, how
accurate are they, and how to handle the personality of their hurler.  On top of that, they have to have a good idea
of the tendencies, strengths and weaknesses of the hitters that are coming up
to the plate.  It’s a position that
requires an encyclopaedic amount of knowledge, and is oftentimes undervalued by
fans and the media.

 

To be catcher
of the decade, you must possess this encyclopaedic knowledge and field your
position well, but you must also exhibit that you can hit the ball.  Historically, catchers have not generally
been known for their hitting prowess. 
They are valued much more for the other aspects of the game; a good
hitting catcher is considered a bonus.

 

So who is
the catcher of this decade?  A few names
jump out at you: Mike Piazza, Jorge Posada, Pudge Rodriguez, Jason Kendall.  Here’s how I break it down:

 

bengie-molina.jpg

3rd – Bengie Molina

I know this
may surprise you, but here me out. 
Bengie Molina might be the best defensive catcher of the decade (besides
Pudge, maybe) and nobody has more respect from his pitching staff.  His days with the Giants may be most
impressive in this respect.  Tim
Lincecum, Matt Cain, and the litany of other great young hurlers on the G-Men
have a ton of raw talent, but there aren’t many catchers in the league who
would be able to turn them into the pitchers they are so quickly.  I think Molina deserves a lot of credit for
how quickly those pitchers have developed into elite starters.  On top of that, Molina can hit.  For years he’s been the only legit RBI man on
the Giants and he was as good before he went out to Nor-Cal.  Only Posada had more RBI in the 2000s and he
sits fifth in hits.  He would probably be
higher in homeruns if it weren’t for him playing a large chunk of the decade in
the cavernous ballpark in San Fran.

 

posada.jpg

2nd – Jorge Posada

For the last
decade, nobody has been more consistent than Jorge Posada.  He’s starting to show his age now, but for
years he has been the best offensive catcher in all of baseball.  The fiery competitor is first in homeruns
(208), RBI (819), second in games played (1302), third in hits (1251), and
first in both On-Base Percentage and On-Base Plus Slugging.  His defense was suspect at times and he’s a
DH in waiting, but his ability to call a game and his desire to win have never
been questioned and oh yeah, the only year Posada missed significant time
because of injury was the only year in the decade the Yankees failed to make
the postseason.  Posada will go down as
one of the best catchers ever to play this game and the number 20 will one day
be immortalized in Yankee Stadium.  

 

ivan-rodriguez.jpg

1st – Ivan Rodriguez
Probably the only player on this list that you could argue was the best at
his position in each of the last two decades. 
He may go down as the best defensive catcher in history and is
considered by many to be the Best. Catcher. Ever.  Pudge showed his age toward the end of the
decade, but the numbers still speak for themselves.  Fifth in games played (1219), second in average
(.298), third in homeruns (161), third in RBI (643), second in hits (1378), and
fifth in On-Base Plus Slugging (.812). 
After spending much of his time in the 90’s with Texas, Pudge played the
00’s with Texas, Florida, Detroit, the Yankees, Houston, and then back in Texas
again.  He won a World Series with the
Marlins in 2003 and helped lead an underdog Tigers team to the AL Pennant in
2006.  There’s nobody better and I think
he still has a lot left in the tank.

 

Honourable Mention   

Mike Piazza –
Very one dimensional at the position but one of the best offensive catchers
ever to play the game.

 

Jason
Kendall – Led every catcher in games played and hits in the decade

 

Jason
Varitek – In terms of leadership and winning, there’s nobody better.  The Red Sox would not have been half the team
they were if it was for ‘Tek.

 

Here are the
numbers:

Games Played

Jason Kendall

1466

Jorge Posada

1302

Ramon Hernandez

1229

A.J. Pierzynski

1221

Ivan Rodriguez

1219

 

Average

Victor Martinez

.299

Ivan Rodriguez

.298

Paul Lo Duca

.287

A.J Pierzynski

.286

Javy Lopez

.285

 

Home Runs

Jorge Posada

208

Mike Piazza

187

Ivan Rodriguez

161

Jason Varitek

148

Javy Lopez

141

 

RBI

Jorge Posada

819

Bengie Molina

665

Ivan Rodriguez

643

Ramon Hernandez

618

Jason Varitek

596

 

Hits

Jason Kendall

1549

Ivan Rodriguez

1378

Jorge Posada

1251

A.J. Pierzynski

1242

Bengie Molina

1197

 

OBP

Jorge Posada

.386

Victor Martinez

.372

Mike Piazza

.360

Jason Kendall

.359

Gregg Zaun

.349

 

OPS

Jorge Posada

.878

Mike Piazza

.872

Victor Martinez

.837

Javy Lopez

.819

Ivan Rodriguez

.812

Closer of the Decade

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I don’t
think there’s any point in beating around the bush for this one; Mariano Rivera
has been by far the best closer in the game in this decade.  His regular season numbers are better than
anyone’s.  First in saves with 397, third
among all qualifying relievers with a 2.08 ERA and a postseason track record
that is better than any other closer in the history of the game.

 

Comparing
closers of this decade to one’s of past decades is mostly pointless as the
development of specialized bullpens has completely changed the position.  But there hasn’t been much change within this
decade and Mariano Rivera has dominated from start to finish.  Trevor Hoffman was second among all closers
with 363 saves and Jonathan Papelbon had a ridiculous 1.84 ERA in the decade,
but in truth, no one comes close to the accomplishments of Rivera.

 

CLOSER OF THE DECADE – Mariano Rivera

Mariano-Rivera. celebtrates.jpeg

 

 He looks pretty happy that I named him closer of the decade.  It’s my pleasure Mr. Yankee-Man

Here are the
numbers to back it up:

 

Closing Pitchers

Saves

Mariano Rivera

397

Trevor Hoffman

363

Jason Isringhausen

284

Billy Wagner

284

Francisco Cordero

250

 

ERA

Jonathan Papelbon

1.84

Takashi Saito

2.05

Mariano Rivera

2.08

Billy Wagner

2.40

Akinori Otsuka

2.44

Starting Pitcher of the Decade

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Baseball is
a funny game.  It may be the hardest
sport to judge the best players.  There
are so many nuances and styles of each position that comparing two players
within the same era is difficult let alone players in different eras.  Records like Cy Young’s 511 wins or Hugh
Duffy’s single-season batting average record of .440 will never be broken in
the current era; the game’s just too different.

 

Someday
we’ll label most of the past decade part of the “Steroid Era” and many of the
homerun and run scoring records will be discounted as part of an era where
substance abuse seemed to be the rule rather than the exception.

 

Having said
that, I refuse to ignore those years; they still happened, and baseball was
still played and in spite of all the cheating, it was still one hell of a
decade.

 

I’ve decided
to start off the “…Of the Decade” series with the most important position on
the diamond: the starting pitcher. 

 

There’s
little doubt about the pitcher of the 90’s; it was clearly Greg Maddux.  Nobody in my lifetime has been more dominant;
not even Pedro Martinez.  But this decade
is a little different.  There have been a
handful of dominant pitchers, but none of them stand out from the rest.  So who is the best starting pitcher of the
2000’s?  Nobody started more games in the
decade than Livan Hernandez (332) but it’s safe to say that although he was a
good pitcher in his own right, he’s not the pitcher of the decade.  Why don’t I just talk about who I think are
the top 3:

 

3rdPedro Martinez

If
the decade was divided from 1995 to 2005, Pedro would easily be the best
pitcher, but the pedro-martinez.jpglast half of this decade has not been kind to the Dominican
pitching wizard.  He wound up leading the
majors with a 3.01 ERA in the decade, which was much better than second place
Johan Santana (3.12) and third place Roy Oswalt (3.23).  He also led the majors with a .691 winning
percentage in the decade.  The problem was
that he was only 22nd in wins with 112 and didn’t pitch the amount
of innings of some of the other pitchers in the conversation.  Pedro can take solace in the fact that he
will likely be a first-ballot Hall-of Famer.

 

2nd – Roy Halladay

My
all-time favourite pitcher slides in at number 2 on the decade’s list.  Halladay is fourth in wins, fourth in winning
percentage and posted a 3.40 ERA in the decade. 
He was also first by far in alg_halladay.jpgcomplete games with 47.  Second on that list was Livan Hernandez with
36.  He also led everyone in shutouts
with 14 and did all of this on a team that never once made the postseason.  Not having pitched in October certainly does
hurt him, but if he had playoff success he would have been a clear choice for
number 1.  He’s the best pitcher in
baseball right now, and you cannot ignore that. 
And, oh yeah, he’s also pitched his entire career in the cut-throat AL
East.

 

STARTER OF THE DECADE – Johan Santana

Santana.jpgWho
would have thought that a Rule 5 draft selection would end up being the best
pitcher of the 2000’s.  He spent most of
the decade with the Minnesota Twins, winning two AL Cy Young awards.  He won 122 games (15th for the
decade) and he wasn’t even a staple in the Twins rotation until 2003.  He sits third on the decade in winning
percentage (.670), third in Strike Outs (1733), and second in ERA (3.12).  He also has three ERA crowns including one in
his first year in the NL.  There’s no one
in baseball (except maybe Halladay) that teams dread seeing on their schedule
more than Santana.  When the Mets landed
him in the ’07-’08 offseason it ensured that they would have an ace in their
staff for years to come.

 

Honourable Mention

Roy Oswalt – Finished tied for fifth in
wins (137), fifth in winning percentage (.662) and third in ERA (3.23).  Oswalt was actually my pick to win at first,
but I decided against it.

 

Andy Pettitte – Led everyone in the
decade in wins with 148.  I know, I was
surprised too!  Pettitte is a fierce
competitor who gives in to no one.  He’s
never dominant, but always consistent.

 

Javier Vazquez – Second in starts (327)
and in innings (2163), and one of only two pitchers to record 2000 strike outs
(2001) in the 2000’s (Randy Johnson was the other with 2182).  No one is more durable than Vazquez and in
the realm of pitching that counts for a lot.

 

Randy Johnson – Johnson was second
behind Pettitte in wins (143) and led everyone in strikeouts, but like Martinez,
Johnson tailed off in the second half of the decade.  There’s little doubt that he will be inducted
into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot and will go down as one of the most
dominant pitchers of all time.

 

If you
disagree with anything, just leave it in the comments.  Here are the numbers I dug up from
Baseball-Reference.com:

 

 

Starting Pitchers

In order to qualify, pitchers must have
started at least 60% of their games and have a minimum of 750 innings pitched

Games
Started

Livan Hernandez

332

Javier Vazquez

327

Jeff Suppan

321

Barry Zito

320

Jamie Moyer

315

 

Wins

Andy Pettitte

148

Randy Johnson

143

Jamie Moyer

140

Roy Halladay

139

Roy Oswalt/Tim Hudson

137

 

Winning %

Pedro Martinez

.691

Roger Clemens

.682

Johan Santana

.670

Roy Halladay

.668

Roy Oswalt

.662

 

Complete
Games

Roy Halladay

47

Livan Hernandez

36

Randy Johnson

32

C.C. Sabathia

28

Curt Schilling

26

 

Shut Outs

Roy Halladay

14

Randy Johnson

12

Tim Hudson

11

C.C. Sabathia

11

Chris Carpenter/Mark Mulder

10

 

Strike Outs

Randy Johnson

2182

Javier Vazquez

2001

Johan Santana

1733

Pedro Martinez

1620

C.C. Sabathia

1590

 

ERA

Pedro Martinez

3.01

Johan Santana

3.12

Roy Oswalt

3.23

Jake Peavy

3.26

Brandon Webb

3.27

…Of the Decade

I thought it was pertinent to have my next few posts dedicated to “decade awards” of some sort.  It’s been a weird decade for baseball.  No dynasties, no domination, a lot of cheating, a lot of lying, but also; a lot of great baseball moments as well

It would be easy to write off this decade as the darkest in baseball history, but for those of us that live and breathe baseball, that just isn’t possible.  A lot of wonderful things happened and it would be stupid to ignore them

I’ll try and have a post up in the next few days going over “Starting Pitcher of the Decade” but I cannot promise anything given that it’s the holiday season.  I shall do my best

Merry Christmas!