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The Great Player of Year X

November 28, 2022
                                       The Greatest Player of Year X

I have concluded that it is no longer reasonable to say that Mike Trout is the best player in baseball.  That honor now rightfully belongs to Freddie Freeman. 

This is merely an opinion, of course, and probably no better than your opinion.  I am not saying that YOU should not continue to regard Mike Trout as the best player on the block; I am just saying that I no longer regard that as a reasonable thing for ME to believe.  This is not an off-the-cuff or unstudied opinion; it is a conclusion arrived at by research and reflection.  Let’s see if I can take you along with me.

When we ask "Who was the greatest player in baseball in Year X?", we have something larger in mind than simply what happened in Year X.   Shane Mack had a much better season in 1992 than Cal Ripken did, but this is not quite the same as saying that "in 1992, Shane Mack was a much better player than Cal Ripken."  Things that happened are not quite the same as what IS.  Babe Ruth in 1925 had a bad year, while his teammate Bob Meusel had a career year.  "I have the best player in baseball," said their manager, "and his name is Bob Meusel."  In retrospect, we would not say that Bob Meusel was ever a greater player than Babe Ruth; it was just something that happened. 

When I ask "Who is the greatest player in baseball" at a certain point in the past, I don’t want to know who had a big year; what I want to know is or who was the dominant player at that time.  This is my list, starting in 1900:


1900 (actually 1896 to 1901)


Cy Young

1902 to 1910


Honus Wagner

1911 to 1917


Ty Cobb



Tris Speaker

1919 to 1929


Babe Ruth

1930 to 1934


Lou Gehrig

1935 to 1939


Mel Ott


1940 to 1941


Joe DiMaggio

1942, 1946-1947


Ted Williams

1943-1944, 1948 to 1954


Stan Musial



Lou Boudreau



Mickey Mantle



Willie Mays



Hank Aaron



Pete Rose



Joe Morgan



Mike Schmidt



Rickey Henderson



Barry Bonds



Alex Rodriguez



Albert Pujols



Miguel Cabrera



Mike Trout



Freddie Freeman



I assume you can probably read a chart, but just in case, I regard Cy Young as the biggest star in baseball from 1896 to 1901, then Honus Wagner (1902-1910; the Glory of Their Times era), then Ty Cobb (1911-1917).  Then there is a one-year period in which Ty Cobb is fading just a little bit, Babe Ruth has not truly arrived as the player we remember, and Tris Speaker stepped into the gap for just one year, which I am kind of trying to avoid, but Speaker was a great player who was number two on the list for a long time.  Then Babe Ruth gook over for eleven years, then Gehrig for five, then Mel Ott for five.  In our own century, the title of baseball’s greatest player has passed from Barry Bonds to A-Rod to Pujols to Miggy to Mike Trout and, now, to Freddie Freeman, but you will notice that it did not stop to visit Jeff Kent or Gary Sheffield or Joey Votto or Mookie Betts, not that those are not also great players. 

Some of that list will change later in the article.  The point I am trying to make here is that I think you would have to agree that, historically, the method has generally worked OK.   You pick a time and go back to that time and ask "Who was the greatest player in baseball back then?", and you get an answer, and you will generally have to say "OK, I guess that makes sense." 


It GENERALLY makes sense, but not PERFECTLY.  I see two issues with the list above, other than the 2022 choice.  Those two issues are (1) Pete Rose, 1970-1972, and (2) Tris Speaker, 1918. 

Regarding Rose there are two issues, (1) that some people will say that he was not up to the standard of the list, and (2) that the years are wrong. 

Rose was an immense media figure in his day, but there were always people who would say (1) that he was a singles hitter, (2) that he wasn’t fast, (3) that he didn’t have a position on the field,  and (4) that his famous hustle was more show than substance.  That covers point one from the previous paragraph; point two is that the list shows Rose as the #1 player from 1970 to 1972, but (1) he had career highs in all three triple crown stats in 1969 (16 homers, 82 RBI, .348), and (2) he won the MVP Award in 1973.  So what’s with the 1970-1972 designation? Why not 1969-1973, years that were probably better for him than 1970, 1971 or 1972. 

I agree that Rose was as a player was not quite up to the standard of the list, meaning that he was not as great a player as those who preceded him (Musial, Mantle, Mays and Aaron) or those of the 21st century (Bonds, A-Rod, Pujols, Miggy and Trout.)   But that’s not a flaw of the method; that’s just the way it was.  There are the superstars who were born in the 1930s (Mantle, Mays, Aaron), and there are the superstars who were born after the war years (Schmidt, Brett), and there is a little gap between them where there just isn’t anybody of quite the same stature.   It’s not my fault; it’s not a failure of the method; it’s an external reality, being observed by the method.

Pete Rose has scores of 28.51 (1970), 28.41 (1971) and 28.73 (1972).   These are not fantastic scores.   In 1961 Hank Aaron had a score of 32.27, but ranked third on the greatest-players-of-1961 list behind Mays and Mantle.  In 1960, Pete Rose’s 28.51 figure would have ranked fifth in baseball, behind Mays, Mantle, Aaron and Eddie Mathews.  In 1970, Rose’s 28.51 figure was the top one around. 

The other complaint, about 1969 and 1973 being better years for Rose than 1970 to 1972. . .well, yes, but that’s addressing a different question.   The question here is not "What were Pete Rose’s best seasons?", it is "Who was the greatest player in baseball in 1969?" or "Who was the greatest player in baseball in 1973?"   In 1969 Henry Aaron was 35 years old and fading a little and no longer valuable in the outfield, but he still hit .300 with 44 homers and a .396 on base percentage.   In 1973 Joe Morgan hit 26 homers, stole 67 bases, drew 111 walks and won the Gold Glove at second base.  Pete Rose never did those kind of things, never hit 26 homers or stole 67 bases (or half that many) or drew 111 walks, although he did win Gold Gloves in 1969 and 1970.  When our method has to choose between a slightly fading Henry Aaron or a full strength Pete Rose, our method chooses Aaron for 1970, and that seems reasonable to me.  

There ARE other players from that era that you could argue for as the #1 player in baseball; there’s Yastrzemski, Bob Gibson, Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson, or you could argue for Aaron in 1970 and 1971 and Joe Morgan for 1972.  You also can argue for Bobby Murcer or Billy Williams.  I’m not saying that Rose is an inevitable choice there; I’m just saying it is a reasonable choice.   A player who gets 200 hits a year and scores 120 runs a year and wins Gold Gloves and hits doubles and some homers and has more walks than strikeouts is a great player, not Willie Mays great but still a great player.  


Tris Speaker in 1918, on the other hand. . .well, I think our system has failed us on that one.  I can’t really defend that choice.   I have Speaker ranked as the #2 player in baseball, behind Ty Cobb, from 1914 to 1917, and as the number 2 player behind Babe Ruth in 1919 and 1920.  In between them, in the moment when the baton was being passed from one hand to the other, Speaker pulled ahead for just a second.  That’s the argument.

But is it true?  Not really.  In 1918 Ty Cobb had more Win Shares than Speaker (31 to 27) and more WAR (6.5 to 5.5).  It’s a multi-year selection; I can defend Babe Ruth, 1925, based on what Babe Ruth did in 1920, 1921, 1923, 1926 and 1927.   1925 is a one-off, a fluke, not a real representation of the player.   But when the selection is tied to one specific year, 1918, the player tagged in that one year can’t be measurably behind other players who could also very reasonably be regarded as the best on a multi-year basis.  My system simply fails in that case. 

The system, I keep saying, but what is it?   I’ll make some adjustments to this system later on, but to start with it is based on Win Shares.  The same approach would work as well (and would generally reach the same conclusions) if it was based on WAR; I just don’t have organized historical data about Win Shares.  Suppose that we weight a Player’s Win Shares in Year 1 at 1 each, in year 2 at 2 each, in year 3 at 3 each, etc., up to year 10, which is weighted at 10 points.   We’ll figure Mickey Mantle’s rank in 1960. His Win Shares by year, 1951 to 1960, are 13, 32, 26, 36, 41, 49, 51, 39, 30, and 36.  That’s 13 points, plus 64 (32 times 2), plus 78 (26 times 3).  . . 13 + 64 + 78 + 144+ 205 + 294 + 357 +312 + 270 + 360, which is 2097. 

But then, to evaluate Mickey Mantle in 1960, we ALSO look at what he did in 1961, and in 1962 (to a lesser extent) and in 1963 (to a lesser extent) and in 1964 (to a lesser extent) and in 1965 (to a lesser extent) and in 1966 (to a lesser extent) and in 1967 (to a lesser extent) and in 1968 (to a lesser extent.)   Everything the player does in his career is relevant to how we evaluate his greatness in 1960, basically, but the 1960 season is MOST relevant, and the seasons closest to 1960 are more relevant than those further away in time from that year. 

So Mantle through 1960 has 2,097 points; then in 1961 he adds 432 (48 times 9), then 264 (33 times 8), then 98, then 204, then 80, then 72, then 75, then 48.    If I copied that all correctly from the actual work, it adds up to 3,370 points. 

    If you add 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 9 + 8 + 7 + 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 +2 + 1, that adds up to 100.  So to return the numbers to their original scale, we divide the 3,370 points for Mantle in 1960 by 100, which gives us 33.70.  What we mean is 33.70 Win Shares.  Mantle in 1960 earned 36 Win Shares, but we evaluate him, by including the surrounding seasons, at 33.70 Win Shares. 

            We have a nice, smooth chart of who is the best player in baseball in each year, without inserting any special notes for Phil Rizzuto, who was the best player of 1950 if you only look at 1950, or Al Rosen, who was the best player of 1953 if you only look at 1953.  The only problem now is the transition points. 

            In the chart I gave you before, the transitions frequently or perhaps usually happen at a questionable moment.  Our chart before showed Honus Wagner replacing Cy Young as the number one player in the game in 1902, but in 1902 Cy Young earned 38 Win Shares, Honus Wagner only 35.   In 1903 they had exactly the same totals, 38 for Young, 35 for Wagner.  It wasn’t until 1904 that Wagner actually passed Young in that season

            So I’m amending the chart.  Honus Wagner has a higher total than Cy Young in 1903, 34.90 to 29.83; nonetheless, we are going to continue to regard Cy Young as the greatest player in the game until Honus Wagner has a better score and also has a better season.  That doesn’t happen until 1904.   This also effects Cy Young on the other end.  Kid Nichols had a higher score than Young through 1895, but Young had more Win Shares than Nichols in 1894 and 1895, so we’re going to back up Cy Young’s assumption of the #1 spot from 1896 to 1894.

            Similarly, Ty Cobb takes over in 1909, rather than in 1911; Honus Wagner is getting screwed on both ends of this deal.  Babe Ruth takes over in 1918, rather than 1919, since Ruth had a better year in 1918 than either Cobb or Speaker, which eliminates Speaker from the list entirely.  Joe DiMaggio takes over in 1939, rather than in 1940, which makes sense if you look at their 1939 stats (for DiMaggio and Mel Ott.)  Ted Williams takes over from DiMaggio in 1941, rather than 1942; I assume you all know about DiMaggio and Williams in 1941, Win Shares has it Williams, 42, DiMaggio, 41, so that gives that season to Ted Williams.  Mantle takes over from Musial in 1954, rather than in 1955.  Mays takes over the top of the list in 1958, rather than in 1960. 

            Aaron takes over from Mays in 1967, rather than 1965; it was kind of silly to say that Aaron moved ahead of Mays in 1965, since Mays had perhaps his greatest season in 1965, and Aaron was a little down in 1964-65.  Joe Morgan takes over from Pete Rose in 1971, rather than in 1973, which leaves Rose in first place for only one year.   Schmidt takes over from Morgan in 1977, rather than in 1978.   Bonds takes over from Rickey Henderson in 1991, rather than in 1990; Bonds and Henderson were both MVPs in 1990, but Rickey had more WAR and more Win Shares.  Bonds had more Win Shares than A-Rod in both 2003 and 2004, which takes A-Rod entirely off the list.   Trout takes over from Cabrera in 2012, rather than 2013, which leaves Miggy as a one-year champion. 

            And Freddie Freeman takes over from Trout in 2020, rather than in 2022.

            OK, we’ll talk about that later.  This is the revised chart:

1900 (actually 1894 to 1903)


Cy Young

1904 to 1908


Honus Wagner

1909 to 1917


Ty Cobb

1918 to 1929


Babe Ruth

1930 to 1934


Lou Gehrig

1935 to 1938


Mel Ott

1939 to 1940


Joe DiMaggio


1941 to 1942


Ted Williams

1943 to 1944


Stan Musial (Williams in the Marines)



Lou Boudreau (Williams, Musial in military)

1946 to 1947


Ted Williams

1948 to 1953


Stan Musial



Mickey Mantle



Willie Mays



Hank Aaron



Pete Rose



Joe Morgan



Mike Schmidt



Rickey Henderson



Barry Bonds



Albert Pujols



Miguel Cabrera



Mike Trout



Freddie Freeman


            That’s a better chart than the earlier one. 

            We are basing our rankings on a 19-year performance window, 1963 for Willie Mays is actually based on 1954 to 1972.  Some of you will want to say that that’s too long, that you can get on board with a multi-year approach to the issue, but that 19 years is just too long.  You could go along with a 5-year-window, perhaps (two years before the focus season and two years after), or a 7-year-window, perhaps, or even 9 or maybe 11, but not 19.

            OK; you draw up the chart.  I looked at all of the options from a 3-year window to a 17-year window.   A three-year window you weight the seasons 30-40-30 or 25-50-25; a five-year window you go something like 12-22-32-22-12.  There is always some way to weight the years that forms a pyramid with the apex in the focus year and adds up to 100.  

            I looked at all the options; this is the one I like best.  The shorter the window, the choppier the list becomes.   You start getting guys like Wade Boggs and Wally Berger at the top of the list for one year.   That’s not really the list I want; feel free to make your own.  But if you use a shorter window, Mike Trout falls farther down the list.  If you use a three-year window, he’ll drop out of the top 10, maybe out of the top 20, I don’t know.  The long multi-year look is the only thing that keeps Mike Trout in the conversation for recent seasons. 

            But this is the point I am really trying to make.  I don’t see the logic of keeping Mike Trout at the top of the list anymore.  I just don’t see it.  He’s not the biggest star on his own team anymore.  

            The Troutvocates will say that he has "only" lost the top spot because of injuries, but, at bat to at bat, he was still fantastic in 2022, still as great as ever, and better than Freddie Freeman.    

            Well, yeah.  That’s what happens to players.  That’s what happened to Mickey Mantle, that put Willie Mays at the top of the list; that’s what happened to Mel Ott, that let Joe DiMaggio take over.  You get older, you get injured. 

            The Troutvocates will say that Trout isn’t old, at all; he’s younger than Freddie Freeman.  He turned 31 in August; many players older than that have stayed at the top of the list.

            The Troutvocates will say that Trout had higher WAR than Freddie Freeman did in 2022.  Well, yeah, but Freeman had more Win Shares, 34 to 22, and I think that’s accurate.  Regardless of what WAR says, Freddie Freeman was more valuable in 2022 than Trout was.  

            Trout has not led his league in WAR since 2016.  That’s six years.  Trout narrowly edged Freeman in WAR in 2022 (6.3 to 5.9), but Freeman beats Trout in WAR over the last three seasons (2020 to 2022) by 40%, 13.9 to 9.9.   That’s kind of a big margin, don’t you think?   In Win Shares it is 78 to 42. 

            The Troutvocates will say that my system is blind to the future, to what happens AFTER 2022.  That’s true.  Any analysis you would offer is blind to the future, as well. If Trout is healthy next year and hits 55 homers and has an 1.100 OPS, he could not only move back into the top spot, but change the math so that he never leaves the top spot.   In reviewing any point from the past, things that were unknown then become important in retrospect.


Sure, he could lose the #1 spot and then regain it, but no one ever has, other Williams and Musial, who lost the top spot temporarily while they had a war to fight.

            The future may prove that we are wrong in how we have evaluated the present, but this is what I am saying.   Freddie Freeman didn’t come out of nowhere; we have him ranked as the #3 star in the game in 2016, and as the second-greatest player in the game from 2017 to 2019.   He’s been great for a long time.   Over the last three years he has had more value than Trout by a wide margin.   It is no longer reasonable to overlook that.   One year, sure; two years, OK.   But when the second-best player in baseball outplays the #1 guy for three years in a row and by a wide margin, that’s just too much.   You can argue that Shohei Ohtani is now the #1 guy; I suppose you can argue for Aaron Judge.  If we re-create this list ten years from now, we might say that the best player in baseball then wasn’t Freddie Freeman, it was Juan Soto. I just don’t see that there is any space left to say that Mike Trout is still the best player in baseball.   


COMMENTS (21 Comments, most recent shown first)

I think Yaz has a good case for the years 67-70. His win shares were 143 over those four years, compared to Aaron's 129 (for 67-69 only it's 107 Yaz, 104 Aaron), and Rose at 122. Having said that I do think it's tough to argue against Hank Aaron. Yaz vs. Rose in 1970 was tougher given 36 to 25 win shares, but a major drop off for Yaz in years after that hurt him. Bill, your analysis of this and prior articles on this are excellent and great reading, thank you!
10:49 PM Nov 29th
I think Bill's second list is quite defensible. In particular, extending Mays's dominant period to 1966 is dead on. I also wouldn't have a problem extending Aaron to 1971 and having Morgan start in 1972. Extending Schmidt through 1983 was dead on as well.

My quibbles are that Speaker really ought to be there in 1918 -- Bill got it right the first time, neither Ruth nor Cobb is quite right. Having Morgan's dominance begin in 1971, when he was still in Houston . . . . no, don't think so.

Finally, having Miggy not the top player in 2012, when he won the Triple Crown with Trout in the same league, makes little sense. And winning the TC, as Bill has proven in previous writings, is MUCH harder now than in the 60s; plus Cabrera took his team to the WS . . . .it's just too much. All hail Trout in the 2010s, but it should be 2013.

And I fully concur with the core conclusion about Freeman. Great arguments, Bill.

9:39 PM Nov 29th
Actually surprised Mookie didn't sneak in for a three-year window between Trout and Freeman, say 2017-2019. Also, I wonder how close Goldschmidt is to Freeman at this point.
4:22 PM Nov 29th
raincheck: No, it's the same definition as Bill's, as best I can tell. The "best player in the game" is, pretty much by definition, the player you project to be the most valuable in the near future. If you prefer to define that as the player who is likely to perform best *tomorrow* (rather than over the next 162 games), that's fine -- I don't think it changes anything.

Really, Bill should probably have stopped his calculations after 2012. A metric designed to work when it can look both backward and forward, as his does, will generally not work well for the most recent seasons (when it can only look backwards). Think about it: it's very hard for Soto, or Ohtani, or Turner to outscore Freeman in a metric that counts the last 10 seasons. Ten years from now, there is little chance that Bill's system will still consider Freeman the best player in 2022 -- by then, some of these younger stars will have eclipsed him.
3:18 PM Nov 29th
“The best player in baseball at time X, I think, should mean the player we expect to have the most valuable season next year. It is the player who, if all players were FAs and signed to 1-year deals, would get the biggest contract.”

Well, that’s a very different definition from Bill’s. He is trying to determine the best player in baseball in year x, not who is expected to the best in year x+1. That is a speculative exercise, and has as much to with scouting as numbers. You expect Freeman to fall off, but that is an expectation, not a fact.
2:29 PM Nov 29th
I understand the method, and I think it's as good as any I've seen. Thanks to Bill for doing all of that work. I don't think Rose or Boudreau pass the "sniff test" as greatest player in baseball at any point in time. For the Aaron to Morgan gap, I would've guessed Bench, Seaver, Clemente or Yastrzemski would have fit in there nicely. The Greatest Player in Baseball in 1945 was probably not playing in the big leagues, so Boudreau is as good a placeholder as anyone.

Question: How much did Rose's seasons in 1980 and beyond help his score? He was a below average major league player in those seasons.
12:22 PM Nov 29th
About the "window": Should the 'past' and 'future' portions really be equal?

Of course it depends on what's our concept of greatness-at-a-given-time.
Mine, and I would have guessed most people's, wouldn't involve as much 'future' stuff as 'past' stuff.
i.e. what the player is going to do in the future (or not do) matters less than what's he's done already.

Like, if for the first portion of the window, we're taking 10 years (as is done here for the 19-year window), my concept of a player's "greatness at that time" wouldn't involve nearly the next 9 years (as is done here). It would be more like the next 2 or 3 or 4 years, tops.

I know that it all depends on what we mean, what we're trying to get at. But I have trouble understanding why any concept of it would involve an equal future period.

Anyone else??
11:40 AM Nov 29th
The best player in baseball at time X, I think, should mean the player we expect to have the most valuable season next year. It is the player who, if all players were FAs and signed to 1-year deals, would get the biggest contract. I agree that Mike Trout is probably not that player today, but I also can't see Freddy Freeman as the choice.

If I were betting now on the most valuable player in 2023, I would rank Mookie and Judge ahead of Freeman. And I would think seriously about putting all these guys ahead of Freeman too: Trea Turner, Soto, Ohtani, Arenado, Machado, Ramirez, and Bregman . If you polled MLB general managers and let them pick one player to put on their 2023 team, does anyone think Freeman would be the top choice? To expect a 33-year-old first baseman, who is an average fielder and baserunner, to be the best player in MLB, he would have to provide all-time great hitting. And while Freeman is an excellent hitter, he just doesn't have that kind of bat (140 OPS+).
8:49 AM Nov 29th
Jack, Trout's OPS+ was 26 points higher than Freddie Freeman's and he hit almost twice as many home runs in 40 fewer games. Per Statcast, Trout was 3 runs above average in CF and Freeman was 1 run above average at first and the hundred or so games I saw Trout play confirm that he absolutely belongs in CF. If you're making the argument that a 1B is "much better" than a CF, he should be able to outhit the guy. Even Trout's arm strength is better than the average outfielder & that was supposed to be his weakest tool. You stick Freeman in CF and he'll make Trout look like 2002 Darin Erstad real fast.

While Trout stopped attempting stolen bases, his sprint speed remained in the 95th percentile while Freeman's was a shade below average. Trout's durability is a very real issue and it's entirely sensible to argue that you would have rather had Freeman on your team over the last 3 years. I like Freeman. The Angels should have drafted Freeman; the kid grew up in Orange County. I would have loved spending the last decade watching him hit behind Trout. I don't mind the Freeman praise up to a point but when it takes Trout down so many pegs he turns into something completely distinct from reality, I have to step in.

You're writing about Trout like he's some has-been who runs into the occasional pitcher mistake instead of a guy who just posted the best home run rate of his career (with MLB home runs down overall), can absolutely fly down the line and had an OPS+ that Willie Mays reached only once in 22 seasons. And Freeman's only posted an OPS+ better than Trout's *worst* season exactly once, and that was in the COVID year.

And for what it's worth, watching Trout battle back from injuries that seemed career-threatening to slug almost .750 during the last month for a nothing team was riveting in its own way. Freeman might have a better 2023 because he's a far safer bet to play 150+ games. And Bill's exercise is right about Trout's reign ending in 2019; I agree. But when both guys are on the field, Trout's still better.
11:38 PM Nov 28th
I live in LA, so I got to see a lot of both Mike Trout and Freddie Freeman. I've watched Trout since he came up, and I think last year was Trout's worst, though it was still pretty good. He struck out more, walked less, didn't run at all, and couldn't handle elite fastballs. He's not the greatest center fielder, probably better suited to left field at this stage of his career. And he spent a chunk of time on the disabled list, as has become routine over the last 6 years. He has become your standard slugger, pulverizing mistakes, particularly against lesser quality stuff. He can still hit a hanging slider 500 feet.

I had never seen Freddie Freeman play much prior to his signing with the Dodgers, but what I saw was a revelation. It wasn't just the fabulous numbers, leading the league in hits, doubles, runs and OBP, to go with a .324 average. It was that he hit all kinds of pitching, using the whole field, with a terrific feel for situational hitting. He didn't strike out a ton and got his share of walks. He was a great baserunner, especially for a big man, and made all the plays at first. He played practically every game, providing a consistent bat in the middle of the order all year long. He was the biggest reason why the Dodgers won 111 games in the regular season and was the only hitter to show up in the post-season, with a line of .357/.500/786. He was a joy to watch, and last year at least, a much better player than Mike Trout.
10:29 PM Nov 28th
oops, you were referring to your chart, my bad
9:26 PM Nov 28th
@shaugville: I count 4 years on top for TW on this chart, and it's really 7 since he'd be #1 if he played in 1943-1945
9:02 PM Nov 28th
On Rose: It's not surprising that there would be a drop in the quality of the best player in baseball around that time. I was thinking it was WW2 with all the dads in the military, but the birth rate went 30.1 per 1,000 population in 1910 to 18.4 in 1933 and 1936. (1933 had fewer births overall, 2.3 million.) Similar story if you use women aged 15-44 as the base. It went up to 22.7 in 1943, which surprised me (people got busy while on home on leave), down to 20.4 in 1945, then up to 26.6 in 1947. So, people weren't getting it on during the Depression, then started having fun again after the war, leading to a Baby Boom; absolute births peaked in 1957, with 4.3 million.

But the birth rate was at its lowest for awhile in the late 1930s, probably leading to effects on the quality of play in the late 1960s.
9:01 PM Nov 28th
Using a 10 year unweighted window hurts Ted Williams more than I would like. Having him only on top for 3 years seems not great.
7:55 PM Nov 28th
At Baseball Musings I publish the the best batter today list, similar to your pitcher power rankings. Here is what it looks like today:

Freeman is number one, Trout ninth. Note that due to his injury in 2021, Trout started the season close to the bottom of the list. His rise to ninth shows he's still very good, but right now Freeman is better.
7:49 PM Nov 28th
Here is the estimated revised list for the Hodges-Minoso years. I am not 100% positive for these year. I only am sure I have checked everyone with at least 200 career Win Shares, and some of these totals are a little below that--Billy Pierce had 179 WS from 1952-1961, so I suppose there could be someone higher.

Eddie Yost 5 1947
Billy Pierce 1 1952
Harvey Kuenn 0.5 1953t
Roy Sievers 0.5 1953t
Ken Boyer 2 1954

In any case, I agree that one would want a list with clear dominant players and clear hand-offs and the best non-HoFer list is not that. I wonder if there is a way to smooth it out a bit.

Oh, I must have excluded Pete Rose and Joe Jackson from these lists. Those two would dominate them, obviously, much as Barry Bonds does. That decision made sense to me at the time.
7:31 PM Nov 28th
Here is the equivalent list for non-HoFers. I need to update this because Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso have been inducted. Also, I might have been looking into the future with the ARod listing. That might be a Pujols year.

Again, excuse the formatting.

Jim McCormick 5 1876
Tony Mullane 2 1881
Bob Caruthers 4 1883
Jack Stivetts 4 1887
Bill Dahlen 6 1891
Jesse Tannehill 1 1897
Roy Thomas 3 1898
Jimmy Sheckard 2 1901
Sherry Magee 5 1903
Larry Doyle 3 1908
George Burns 4 1911
Heinie Groh 1 1915
Wilbur Cooper 2 1916
Urban Shocker 2 1918
Dolf Luque 2 1920
George Uhle 1 1922
George Grantham 1 1923
Babe Herman 3 1924
Wes Ferrell 2.5 1927
Wally Berger 2.5 1929t
Lon Warneke 1 1932
Stan Hack 6 1933
Dixie Walker 1.5 1939
Bob Elliott 1.5 1940t
Vern Stephens 3 1942
Andy Pafko 1 1945
Mickey Vernon 1 1946
Gil Hodges 3 1947
Minnie Minoso 5 1950
Ken Boyer 1 1955
Rocky Colavito 3 1956
Vada Pinson 1 1959
Norm Cash 1 1960
Frank Howard 2 1961
Dick Allen 4 1963
Rusty Staub 1 1967
Bobby Bonds 3 1968
Ken Singleton 4 1971
Jose Cruz 1 1975
Keith Hernandez 4 1976
Dale Murphy 3 1980
Lou Whitaker 1 1983
Barry Bonds 15 1984
Alex Rodriguez 1 1999
7:08 PM Nov 28th

About 20 years ago I did some very similar calculations using 10 year unweighted Win Shares totals. I got almost the same list. In the list below, the year is the _beginning_ of the first 10 year period where the person is the leader. So Wagner 1897 means the first 10 year period in which Wagner led in Win Shares was 1897-1906.

The boundaries change but the list of players is almost exactly the same, except:

1. No Dimaggio
2. Stan Hack for one year instead of Lou Boudreau
3. Dick Allen for one year in between Aaron and Rose

Apologies for the formatting.

Jim McCormick 3 1876
Pud Galvin 1 1879
Tim Keefe 1 1880
Old Hoss Radbourn 2 1881
John Clarkson 5 1883
Kid Nichols 4.5 1888
Cy Young 4.5 1892t
Honus Wagner 9 1897
Ty Cobb 5 1906
Tris Speaker 3 1911
Babe Ruth 11 1914
Lou Gehrig 5.5 1925
Mel Ott 6.5 1930t
Stan Hack 1 1937
Ted Williams 3 1938
Stan Musial 9 1941
Mickey Mantle 6 1950
Willie Mays 4 1956
Hank Aaron 4 1960
Dick Allen 1 1964
Pete Rose 3 1965
Joe Morgan 5 1968
Mike Schmidt 7 1973
Rickey Henderson 5 1980
Barry Bonds 10 1985
7:00 PM Nov 28th
Interesting study. I would probably use a shorter window, maybe 7 or 9 years, but each to his own. It would be interesting to superimpose salaries/contracts on these performance 'windows', at least for the more recent seasons. I would expect the higher salaries to lag the performance windows in that you get the big salary AFTER several good seasons .....
6:44 PM Nov 28th
Good stuff, Bill. You may be the best baseball writer of 2022!
5:42 PM Nov 28th
Being nit picky here. Near the top you say "I just don’t have organized historical data about Win Shares." I think that you meant to say WAR. I'm pretty sure that you have pretty good data on Win Shares.​
2:01 PM Nov 28th
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