Baseball BeatAugust 17, 2003
Where Does Alex The Great Rate as of This Date?
By Rich Lederer

As I wrote last week in Drilling Deeper Into The Greatest HR Hitters Ever, there is one player who has the potential of becoming the all-time home run leader on a cumulative basis before he retires--yet has not appeared on any of the lists thus far because his career plate appearances prior to the 2003 season were below the 5,000 minimum I required for inclusion. There is no need for a little drumroll here. Not surprisingly, Alex Rodriguez is his name. Hitting home runs (among other things) is his game.

Rodriguez turned 28 years old on July 27. Using the universally accepted cut-off date of July 1st to determine age for a given season, A-Rod will be classified as a 27-year-old in 2003. Alex the Great hit his 33rd home run tonight vs. the Chicago White Sox and has now hit 331 HR in his career, far surpassing all of the other players in baseball history in homers through age 27.


1    Alex Rodriguez              331
2    Jimmie Foxx                 302   
3    Eddie Mathews               299   
4    Ken Griffey Jr.             294   
5    Mickey Mantle               280   
6    Mel Ott                     275   
7    Frank Robinson              262   
8    Juan Gonzalez               256   
9    Hank Aaron                  253   
10   Johnny Bench                240

Earlier this season, A-Rod became the youngest player to hit 300 home runs and is likely to be the youngest to reach each of the next several century marks, provided he remains healthy. According to (which uses the "Favorite Toy" method created by Bill James), A-Rod is projected to hit 683 HR in his career and has a 35% chance of passing Hank Aaron. By comparison, Barry Bonds is estimated to hit 740 HR and has a 47% chance of passing Aaron's record. Despite comments by Bonds that could be interpreted to the contrary, it is highly unlikely that he will end his career 15 short of the all-time record unless, of course, he is unable to play due to injury or poor health.


1    Babe Ruth                11   
T2   Hank Aaron                8   
T2   Harmon Killebrew          8   
4    Ken Griffey Jr.           7   
T5   Willie Mays               6   
T5   Mark McGwire              6   
T5   Barry Bonds               6   
T5   Sammy Sosa                6   
T9   Alex Rodriguez            5
T9   Ralph Kiner               5   
T9   Juan Gonzalez             5   
T9   Lou Gehrig                5   
T9   Jimmie Foxx               5   
T9   Duke Snider               5   
T9   Ernie Banks               5

A-Rod is within striking distance of hitting 40 HR in a season for a sixth time this year. Similarly, Bonds is only three away from doing it a seventh time and Sammy Sosa has an outside chance of hitting 40 for a seventh time as well. Alex the Great and Ernie Banks are the only non-OF/1B to slug 40 HR in at least five separate seasons--and both happened to do it as shortstops, arguably the most difficult defensive position on the field.


1    Babe Ruth                1926-32    7   
T2   Alex Rodriguez           1998-02    5
T2   Ralph Kiner              1947-51    5   
T2   Duke Snider              1953-57    5   
T2   Ken Griffey Jr.          1996-00    5   
T2   Sammy Sosa               1998-02    5   
T7   Ernie Banks              1957-60    4   
T7   Harmon Killebrew         1961-64    4   
T7   Mark McGwire             1996-99    4   
T10  Jimmie Foxx              1932-34    3   
T10  Ted Kluszewski           1953-55    3   
T10  Eddie Mathews            1953-55    3   
T10  Frank Howard             1968-70    3   
T10  Jay Buhner               1995-97    3   
T10  Juan Gonzalez            1996-98    3   
T10  Vinny Castilla           1996-98    3   
T10  Andres Galarraga         1996-98    3   
T10  Barry Bonds              2000-02    3

If, and when, A-Rod hits his 40th roundtripper this year, he will be in second place all by himself and only one behind Babe Ruth's record of seven for the most consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs. Repeat after me. If, and when, A-Rod hits his 40th roundtripper this year, he will be in second place all by himself and only one behind Babe Ruth's record of seven for the most consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs..

Not a One-Trick Pony

Setting aside home runs for a moment, A-Rod is simply one of the best players of all time through age 27. Using two comprehensive stats invented by Lee Sinins of the ATM Reports and the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia--Runs Created Above Average and Runs Created Above Position--Alex The Great ranks among the most elite players in baseball history. (RCAA is the difference between a player's runs created and the total for an average player who used the same amount of his team's outs. A negative RCAA indicates a below average player in this category. RCAP is just like RCAA, except the comparision is to players at his position.)


AMERICAN LEAGUE                 RCAA
1    Ty Cobb                     657
2    Mickey Mantle               645
3    Jimmie Foxx                 643
4    Babe Ruth                   547
5    Ted Williams                526
6    Lou Gehrig                  506
7    Joe DiMaggio                463
8    Joe Jackson                 443
9    Frank Thomas                420
10   Tris Speaker                417
11   Ken Griffey Jr.             385
12   Alex Rodriguez              384
13   Eddie Collins               365
14   Hank Greenberg              325
15   Rickey Henderson            317
16   Charlie Keller              281
T17  Hal Trosky                  274
T17  Goose Goslin                274
T19  Al Simmons                  256
T19  George Brett                256

Whaddya know? Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas are the only active players ahead of A-Rod. Readers of Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT shouldn't be surprised to see Griffey's and Thomas' names among these greats. Of note, every player listed above A-Rod who is eligible for the Hall of Fame has already been enshrined. A-Rod is the highest-ranked non-OF/1B. Eddie Collins and George Brett are the only other 2B-SS-3B.

Charlie Keller and Hal Trosky are the only eligible players on the list not in the HOF. Keller, a lefthanded-hitting slugger who played RF for the Yankees in the 1940s, was headed to Cooperstown after his first five years with OPS+ scores of 144, 141, 162, 163, and 168. However, Keller lost nearly two years to World War II at his peak, returned and played 150 games in 1946 (with an OPS+ of 159), and then never played 100 games in a season the rest of his career due to back troubles. He retired with an OPS+ of 152, tied for 29th all time. Trosky, a lefthanded-hitting 1B with the Indians, enjoyed one of the greatest rookie seasons ever in 1934 (.330/.388/.598 with 35 HR and 142 RBI). He knocked in more than 100 runs in each of his first six campaigns, including a league-leading 162 in 1936. Trosky retired at the age of 28, then returned for three seasons and hit only 23 HR the rest of his career.


MAJOR LEAGUES                   RCAA    
1    Ty Cobb                     657   
2    Mickey Mantle               645   
3    Jimmie Foxx                 643   
4    Babe Ruth                   547
5    Mel Ott                     545   
6    Ted Williams                526   
T7   Rogers Hornsby              506   
T7   Lou Gehrig                  506   
9    Stan Musial                 464   
10   Joe DiMaggio                463   
11   Joe Jackson                 443   
12   Frank Thomas                420   
13   Eddie Mathews               419   
14   Tris Speaker                417   
15   Hank Aaron                  392   
16   Ken Griffey Jr.             385   
17   Alex Rodriguez              384
18   Arky Vaughan                374   
19   Eddie Collins               365   
20   Johnny Mize                 363

All of the players on the above list eligible for Cooperstown have been inducted. That should speak well for the three active players (Thomas, Griffey Jr, and A-Rod) who are not yet eligible.


AMERICAN LEAGUE                 RCAP    
1    Mickey Mantle               602   
2    Ty Cobb                     575   
3    Babe Ruth                   515   
4    Jimmie Foxx                 479   
5    Ted Williams                475   
6    Alex Rodriguez              465 
7    Lou Gehrig                  428   
8    Joe DiMaggio                409   
9    Ken Griffey Jr.             375   
10   Joe Jackson                 372

A-Rod has created the sixth most runs above the average player compared to one's position through age 27 in A.L. history. He should surpass Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx before the season is out, placing him fourth behind only Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, and Ruth. Rarefied air indeed.


MAJOR LEAGUES                   RCAP    
1    Mickey Mantle               602   
2    Ty Cobb                     575   
T3   Rogers Hornsby              515   
T3   Babe Ruth                   515
5    Jimmie Foxx                 479   
6    Ted Williams                475   
7    Alex Rodriguez              465
8    Arky Vaughan                456   
9    Mel Ott                     449   
10   Lou Gehrig                  428

Source: sabermetric baseball encyclopedia

At the conclusion of the season, A-Rod should rank as the fifth most productive offensive player relative to his position through age 27 in major league history, behind only Mantle, Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Ruth. If Rodriguez can maintain a similar pace throughout his career, he will enter baseball's pantheon as one of the truly most outstanding players ever.

I will continue with Alex The Great Part II next weekend with more detailed information on his current year and career stats as well as how he stacks up in the rankings vs. the greatest shortstops of all time.