The Ten Best Players in Each Decade Who are not in the Hall of Fame

July 30, 2018

The Ten Best Players from Each Decade

Who Are Not in the Hall of Fame



1.        Jim McCormick, p

2.       Tony Mullane, p

3.       Bob Caruthers, p-of

4.       Jim Whitney, p

5.       Guy Hecker, p-of

6.       Paul Hines, cf

7.       Harry Stovey, of

8.       George Gore, cf

9.       Jack Glasscock, ss

10.   Hardy Richardson, 2b



1.       George Van Haltren, of-p

2.       Jack Stivetts, p

3.       Bill Dahlen, ss

4.       Kid Gleason, p-inf

5.       Jimmy Ryan, of

6.       Herman Long, 2b

7.       Cupid Childs, 2b

8.       Elmer Smith, of-p

9.       Mike Tiernan, of

10.   Bill Hutchison, p



1.       Jimmy Sheckard, of

2.       Tommy Leach, of-3b

3.       Fielder Jones, of

4.       Roy Thomas, of

5.       Cy Seymour, of-p

6.       Jack Powell, p

7.       Topsy Hartsel, of

8.       Ginger Beaumont, of

9.       Doc White, p

10.   Harry Davis, 1b



1.       Sherry Magee, of

2.       Larry Doyle, 2b

3.       Clyde Milan, cf

4.       Ed Konetchy, 1b

5.       George Burns, lf

6.       Larry Gardner, 3b

7.       Heinie Groh, 3b

8.       Hippo Vaughn, p

9.       Babe Adams, p

10.   Slim Sallee, p



1.       Joe Judge, 1b

2.       Dolf Luque, p

3.       Urban Shocker, p

4.       Jack Quinn, p

5.       Ken Williams, of

6.       Eddie Rommel, p

7.       Jacques Fournier, 1b

8.       George Uhle, p

9.       Jimmy Dykes, 2b-3b

10.   Cy Williams, of



1.       Wally Berger, cf

2.       Wes Ferrell, p

3.       Ben Chapman, of

4.       Buddy Myer, 2b

5.       Dick Bartell, ss

6.       Mel Harder, p

7.       Bob Johnson, of

8.       Larry French, p

9.       Tommy Bridges, p

10.   Lon Warneke, p



1.       Bob Elliott, 3b-rf

2.       Dixie Walker, racist

3.       Vern Stephens, ss

4.       Stan Hack, 3b

5.       Bill Nicholson, of

6.       Charlie Keller, rf

7.       Phil Cavaretta, 1b

8.       Dizzy Trout, p

9.       Bucky Walter, p

10.   Dutch Leonard, p





1.       Minnie Minoso, of

2.       Gil Hodges, 1b

3.       Eddie Yost, 3b

4.       Billy Pierce, p

5.       Mickey Vernon, 1b

6.       Al Dark, ss

7.       Gene Woodling, lf

8.       Gil McDougald, inf

9.       Don Newcombe, p

10.   Ted Kluszewski, 1b



1.       Norm Cash, 1b

2.       Vada Pinson, of

3.       Frank Howard, of

4.       Dick Allen, 3b-of

5.       Maury Wills, ss

6.       Willie Davis, cf

7.       Johnny Callison, rf

8.       Larry Jackson, p

9.       Ken Boyer, 3b

10.   Jim Kaat, p



1.       Bobby Bonds, of

2.       Reggie Smith, of

3.       Graig Nettles, 3b

4.       Ted Simmons, c

5.       Ken Singleton, of

6.       Amos Otis, cf

7.       Rusty Staub, of

8.       Luis Tiant, p

9.       Tommy John, p

10.   Jerry Koosman, p



1.       Dwight Evans, rf

2.       Keith Hernandez, 1b

3.       Darrell Evans, 3b

4.       Willie Randolph, 2b

5.       Jose Cruz, rf

6.       Brian Downing, c-of-dh

7.       Buddy Bell, 3b

8.       Dave Parker, rf

9.       Charlie Hough, p

10.   Dan Quisenberry, p



1.       Barry Bonds, of

2.       Roger Clemens, p

3.       Rafael Palmeiro, 1b

4.       Mark McGwire, 1b

5.       Gary Sheffield, rf

6.       Fred McGriff, 1b

7.       Larry Walker, rf

8.       Mark Grace, 1b

9.       Edgar Martinez, dh

10.   Will Clark, 1b



I’ll let you critique the lists for a couple of days, and then I’ll pop on here and explain briefly how the lists were generated.   It was done with a formula; they’re not subjective lists. 


COMMENTS (23 Comments, most recent shown first)

Thank you, Steve161, for the comments about my book.

David K
7:07 PM Aug 1st
No Pete Browning? I thought for sure he would be Top 10 1880s. The best drunk to ever play.
12:16 PM Aug 1st
No Bobby Grich. I would've thought he'd be high up there.
8:33 PM Jul 31st
The more flat-out-ly one puts something: the smarter one feels, the better it feels :-) .....and the more apt it is to get attention.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of being wrong approaches certainty.​
7:27 PM Jul 31st
I don't know how many of you read David Kaiser's book. I did. I don't regret the hours invested in it. I recommend it.

Which is not to say I don't have some quarrels with it.

Relying on Humphreys for defensive rankings is not obviously wrong; his may well be the best system out there. But it's still not very good. His methodology chapter describes a multi-step process for evaluating defenders, with the steps varying depending on era. The problem is this: even if each step is 90% reliable, after 4 steps you're down to 66%. But, as usual in sabermetrics, there are no error bars. We're supposed to take these very approximate results much more seriously than they deserve.

And I have to say this: after reading for the umpty-umpth time a sentence like "X has N seasons with 4 WAA; he belongs in the Hall of Fame", it becomes tiresome. A few more umpties and it becomes infuriating.

I could go on, but I don't want to overemphasize the negative. It's a good book.
11:19 AM Jul 31st
(sorry for the 2 typos; i assum y'al cn tel wht I ment) :-)
10:16 AM Jul 31st
re Kaiser, re Jimmy Wynn not being on there:
" Looking at this list, I can only think that whatever method Bill used took no account of eras and park factors" -- I think that pretty general we can be sure that he did. And in fact, the information in the follow-up article make it clear that he did.​
10:15 AM Jul 31st
Let me try to make myself clear.

As most of you know, I'm the author of Baseball Greatness: Top Players and Teams According to Wins Above Average, 1901-2017, which ranks players by generation and includes a lot of comments about who is and who isn't in the Hall of Fame. It computes WAA (not WAR, which is typically about 2 wins higher) by combining baseball-reference offensive statistics with Michael Humphreys' DRA fielding statistics which I and many others believe are the most accurate stats for earlier periods of history. Rankings are based n seasons of 4 WAA or more, which turned out to be the measure of Bill's Keltner Test question, "If this guy were the best player on your team, is it likely that you could win the pennant?"

Someone with 5 seasons of 4 WAA or more definitely ought to be in the Hall--and for the most part, the Hall voters have accepted that argument. Some one with 4 such seasons has been much less likely to reach the Hall.

Now this is just a peak value measurement which takes no account of lifetime totals--but there is generally a pretty strong correlation between your number of 4 WAA seasons and lifetime totals.

Bill hasn't shown us his formula (I haven't looked at the second article yet) so I don't know how, exactly, his conclusions about a number of players could be so different from mine. He is also using different fielding stats in his evaluations--I'm assuming he is using fielding stats.

So anyway, here are my major disagreements. I'm only referring to people who I think should definitely be in the Hall.

1910s: Art Fletcher, Mike Humphreys found, was one of the greatest shortstops of all time, measured against his contemporaries. Because of his outstanding defensive stats he had 4 seasons of 4 WAA or more. That makes him a better player than any of the other NY shortstops who are in the Hall: Bancroft, Jackson, Reese, Rizzuto. Much better. It's way overqualified for a shortstop. Of Bill's list, Hippo Vaughn definitely deseres to be in the Hal but no one else, in my opinion, is even close.

1920s: I have no one to add for that decade but I don't think any of those guys is anywhere near Cooperstown quality. (Of course, Bill is not claiming that they were, either.)

1930s: Of all pitchers in their generation only Hal Newhouser had as many seasons of 4 WAA or more as Wes Ferrell, and he should be in Cooperstown. None of the others belong.

1940s Charlie Keller, for me should head this list. He was very unlucky because of his injuries--he's comparable to Sandy Koufax, except that he had 5 seasons over 4 WAA and Koufax had only 4. He was twice the MVP on the Yankees. He should ne at the top of the list and for me it isn't even close. Vern Stephens is, in fact, very similar in peak value to Phil Rizzuto, but that doesn't mean he should be in the Hall.

1950s: Gil Hodges had 5 seasons of 4 WAA or more, thanks largely to his great defensive value. He should top the list. Minoso should be second (he had 4) and I think he should be in. Billy Pierce was clearly better than Bob Lemon (I have shown this in a presentation) and should be in. So basically we're in total agreement on ranking these players. On the other hand, Eddie Yost was a terrible third baseman (in the field), and Don Newcombe, after his great rookie year (when I think he must have hurt himself), was never a significantly above average pitcher (Bill in an earlier study noted how lucky he was in 1956). Al Dark was mediocre or worse for most of his career. It is possible that they rank among the 10 beset non HOFers from that decade but they certainly weren't great or even very good players.

1960s: Looking at this list, I can only think that whatever method Bill used took no account of eras and park factors. That's the only way Jim Wynn could not be on that list. He belongs at the top of it. Of all those players only Dick Allen (an exact contemporary) could be regarded as better than he was, and that's a very close decision, and of course, Wynn's career didn't have the other negatives that Allen's did. Both John Callison and Ken Boyer had 4 seasons of 4 WAA or more and should be higher on the list IMO. Willie Davis was a great player for a couple of seasons and should rank much higher than Maury Wills who never was.

1970s: Bobby Bonds had 6 seasons of 4 WAA or more and deserves to be where he is. Grich had 4 of those seasons and I don't know why he's missing--Bill has touted him in years past. Tiant had 4 such seasons and is clearly superior to Drysdale and should obviously be in the Hall.

1980s: Keith Hernandez had 7 seasons of 4 or more WAA, tying him with Eddie Murray and Wade Boggs. Dwight Evans had only 2, Darrell Evans 4. Dave Stieb had six such seasons which is very, very rare for a pitcher before Generation X and should I think be near the top of Bill's list even though he never has and never will get any serious HOF consideration. Buddy Bell has 4 such seasons and should be a much stronger candidate. So did Jose Cruz and Dave Parker, but also Jesse Barfield and Willie Wilson, who was one of the most remarkable outfielders, for a while, of all time.

1990s--too many steroid issues to deal with.

David Kaiser

8:08 AM Jul 31st
.....about Colavito and the "Fielding Jones" series:
Looks like the thing about him wasn't in that series, because, unless I missed some big things in looking back, looks like that series never got to outfielders!! (Is that so?)

About why Bill called it that: I guess it was just a takeoff on Fielder Jones?
6:50 PM Jul 30th
Ahhhh. Interesting list. Have kinda wondered where Ben Chapman and Dixie Walker would fit as far's a HoF case goes-both were about as good as my namesake and Kiki Cuyler, ditto Edd Roush, you know? And I've never quite figured how Bob Johnson just gets forgotten like that.

To the 80's--Jose Cruz Sr! I think Cheo was a LF though wasn't he? A fave. Has no chance of ever getting in. But he was great.

And recently-Mark Grace! Never seems to get that much of a HoF push or case done up for him, and he's gotta be as good's others who have *Cough Gene Tenace* you know? I'm intrigued. Bill James lists are fun.
6:18 PM Jul 30th
Re sayhey, Frank Howard: "he's very much a certain type, and I think there were a lot of guys like him who were more or less as good" -- very legit point, and for sure he's not a "clear" Hall of Famer. But, a couple of things:
-- the "more or less" is important. For example, among his top comps on, we find Joe Adcock, Greg Luzinski, Roy Sievers, George Foster, and Willie Horton, as well as a few others but I'm mentioning those guys because they're the ones who IMO most fulfill what sayhey said. I'd say sure, they're all more or less like him -- but all "less," and Howard is just enough "more" to make the difference.

BTW, one of the guys from that baseball-ref comps list that I omitted, because I don't think he's that much "like him," is the top comp, Rocky Colavito, who's another noteworthy absence on the lists.
I'd guess he'd be there if the 'decades' didn't divide up as they do. Like, if it were 1956-1965 or something like that, I think we'd find him there.
Colavito is another player on whom I'd put a "should be in there." The reason I don't consider him that much "like" Howard is that his reputation prominently included fielding, specifically his arm. A couple of years ago or so, an article by Bill about some new analysis of fielding, maybe in the "Fielding Jones" series (BTW, why was it called "Fielding Jones"? I don't remember at all, and it seems curious), showed Colavito very favorably as a defensive outfielder. If that's the kind of defensive player that Colavito was, then, taken together with all else about him, to me that's a Hall of Famer.
5:55 PM Jul 30th
I've never viewed Frank Howard as a HOF'er. Clearly a great power hitter hurt by his era, and for three years at least he took a lot of walks, but for me he would have to have been even better than he was to make up for his one-dimensionality and lack of defensive value. His Baseball Reference comp list includes Greg Luzinski, Boog Powell, George Foster, and Willie Horton; he's very much a certain type, and I think there were a lot of guys like him who were more or less as good and none of whom I'd put in the Hall.
5:27 PM Jul 30th
Pleased to see Keith Hernandez so high up in the 1980s (looking at the updated list below). I don’t understand why there doesn’t seem to be more of a constituency for him.

I would have expected Fred Lynn and Bobby Grich to show up in the 1970s.
5:20 PM Jul 30th
I also was surprised by the absence of Grich.


Number of guys on each list that I'd say "should be" in (setting my bar reasonably high:

1876-1919: no idea
1920's: 0
1930's: 0
1940's: 2 (Elliott, who I keep thinking is in, and Hack)
1950's: 2 (Minoso, Hodges; glad to see Minoso as #1, and mildly shocked to see Hodges #2 in view of what Bill has written about how blatantly Hodges is a non-Hall-of-Famer)
1960's: 2 (Frank Howard, Ken Boyer)
1970's: 2 (Tiant, John)
1980's (per the corrected list): 2 (Keith Hernandez, Quisenberry; I'm leaving out Mattingly just to satisfy myself that I'm being reasonably dispassionate)
1990's: pass
5:06 PM Jul 30th
Eddie Yost #3 in the fifties? ahead of Billy Pierce? ....needs some 'splainen
4:54 PM Jul 30th
I was gonna scream a little about the '80's list. :-)
4:20 PM Jul 30th
Interesting. I don't follow the HoF closely but if I had been asked if Larry Doyle, Dick Allen, Frank Howard of a few others on these lists were in the HoF I would have answered YES. Might make an interesting quiz: who's in, who's not; and have players from these lists and relative unknown players who are in the HoF.
3:22 PM Jul 30th
The one player I was most surprised not to see listed is Bobby Grich, although I don't know if he belongs in the 1970s or the 1980s.

3:00 PM Jul 30th
Presumably Joe Jackson, too, if eligibility is not an issue.
2:49 PM Jul 30th
OK, I may have some other issues here. ...Rose should be here somewhere. I've got a couple of errands to run. I'll leave this article up (with all of it's flaws) and address it when I get back.

Rose was excluded because he was ineligible. Which is not right; he should have been included.
1:39 PM Jul 30th
Glad you asked about Lemon. I seem to have screwed up the 1980s list; not sure how this happened. OK, now I understand how that happened, but anyway, the 1980s list is wrong. It SHOULD go:

1. Dale Murphy
2. Dwight Evans
3. Keith Hernandez
4. Pedro Guerrero
5. Jack Clark
6. Lou Whitaker
7. Willie Randolph
8. Don Mattingly
9. Dave Stieb
10. Dan Quisenberry

1:37 PM Jul 30th
Hopefully a player's total contributions were measured and then a player was assigned to a decade.

Interesting that it's typically not the #1 player on Bill's lists that are closest (in my perception) to entering the Hall of Fame.

Also, my sense was that starting pitchers have been underrepresented in recent decades, but Bill's lists don't support that.

No Pete Rose?
1:26 PM Jul 30th
On another message board, when the subject of Chet Lemon came up, I mentioned that I remembered you identifying him as one of the most underrated players in the game. Was he at all close to making the '80s list? (When I looked at his career box, he seemed to have an Amos Otis problem in getting noticed, often falling a little short of identifiable benchmarks like .300/20 HR/100 RBI.)
1:21 PM Jul 30th
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