Best players at their experience level — 2011 edition
Who are the best offensive players at this point in their career, among players who are currently active? Younger players on such a list might very well turn into the stars of tomorrow. More established players on the list are building their resume for possible admission to the Hall of Fame.
For the last three years I have presented a list of the active players who had the most career Runs Created with the same or more plate appearances. Another way of thinking about it is that to make the list, nobody with more RC can have fewer PA. Here the list is updated for 2011 (the data comes from baseball-reference.com) with a minimum of 50 PA required:
This is a very interesting list. Most of the players near the top are often mentioned as possible future Hall of Fame candidates (steroids aside), and have been on the list before. Established players who were not on the list last year include Alex Rodriguez (who passed Manny Ramirez in RC), Lance Berkman (who was passed by Albert Pujols in PA), Jorge Posada (who passed Adam Dunn in RC), Chase Utley (who was passed by Matt Holliday in PA), Josh Hamilton, and Shin-Soo Choo.
Younger players who were on the list last year include Seth Smith, Matthew Joyce, Mike Stanton, Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison, Buster Posey, John Mayberry and Casper Wells. Newcomers include Chris Iannetta, Mike Morse, Alex Avila, Ike Davis, Chris Dickerson, Eric Hosmer and Allen Craig.
Notable players on last year’s list who dropped off include Chipper Jones (who passed Manny Ramirez in PA but has fewer RC), J.D. Drew and Mark Teixeira (who were passed by Miguel Cabrera in RC), Jason Bay (who was passed by Prince Fielder), Kevin Youkoulis (passed by Hanley Ramirez), Brad Hawpe and Jayson Werth (passed by Ryan Braun), Dustin Pedroia (passed by Joey Votto), Luke Scott (passed by Josh Hamilton), and Justin Upton (passed by Shin-Soo Choo).
There are a number of excellent players missing from the above ist. We can make a list of the players with the second highest RC for players with the same or more PA, to see who just missed the cut. Rather than showing all the numbers, I simply give the names here (again with a 50 PA minimum, in order of decreasing PA): Jim Thome, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkoulis, Jayson Werth, Brian McCann, Brad Hawpe, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Troy Tulowitski, Luke Scott, Justin Upton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Pablo Sandoval, Andrew McCutcheon, Miguel Montero, Ryan Spilborghs, Dexter Fowler, Garrett Jones, Ryan Roburn, Gaby Sanchez, Chris Coghlan, Jayson Heyward, Brennan Boesch, Nolan Reimold, John Baker, Freddie Freeman, Wilson Ramos, Kyle Blanks, Mike Carp, Desmond Jennings, Micah Owings (!), Brian Bogusevic, Salvador Perez, Yonder Alonso, Matt Pagnozzi, and Brian Dinkelman.
This second list is a very fine group as well, especially near the top where there are clear Hall of Fame candidates (again, PEDs aside) — but I think most people would say that overall the players on it a step down from the first list, especially near the bottom.
We can continue the process by finding players with the third highest RC for players with the same or more PA (this time 500 PA minimum to keep the list somewhat shorter): Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Aramis Ramirez, J.D. Drew, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Ryan Zimmerman, Jose Bautista, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Willingham, Mark Reynolds, Billy Butler, Jay Bruce, David Ross, Fred Lewis, Brett Gardner, Colby Rasmus, Drew Stubbs, Ian Stewart, Starlin Castro, Neil Walker, Joe Inglett, Jon Jay, Jose Tabata, Chris Johnson, Peter Bourjos, and David Freese,
Sometimes a great player is overshadowed by a better contemporary, so you wouldn’t want to look at just players on the first list to screen for Hall of Fame Candidates. On the other hand, not all players on the first list would necessarily be Hall candidates, even if they are still there later in their careers, since there might not be strong competition at all PA levels. But even if you don’t use these lists as a Hall of Fame measure, they provide an interesting perspective on who the better players are by experience level.