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Updated by GOAT Series Staff on Apr 17, 2018
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Greatest Baseball Player of All Time

Who is the greatest baseball player of all time?

1

George Herman "Babe" Ruth

George Herman "Babe" Ruth

The most legendary baseball player in the history of the game. George Herman Ruth, known to us all as "The Babe", is to baseball as Abraham Lincoln is to the American Presidency. Not the first star, that honor probably goes to Honus Wagner or Cy Young, but without a doubt, at the peak of his stardom Babe Ruth was one of the most impressive and beloved sports stars in the entire history of athletics. His career statistics are like something out of a video game. With a .342 career BA (9th all-time), 714 career homeruns (3rd all-time), an insane 1.164 career OPS (1st all-time), and a career WAR of 168.4 (also 1st all-time), Babe Ruth has the most impressive statistical career of any hitter ever. Oh yea, he also pitched, and pretty damn well at that. His career ERA of 2.277 is good for 16th all-time. He pitched 29 consecutive scoreless innings in the World Series, a record that would stand for over 40 years. There are so many legendary stories and facts about the Babe you’d need an entire book to fit them all in (and there are several), but suffice it to say that he is one of the greatest athletes, baseball or otherwise, of all time.

Career Stats: Games: 2503 | BA/OBP/SLG: .342/.474/.690 | Hits: 2873 | R: 2174 | HR: 714 | RBI: 2217 | SB: 123 | OPS: 1.164 | WAR: 168.4 | UZR: NA

World Series Championships: 7 | MVPs: 1 | Batting/Homerun Championships: 1/12 | Gold Gloves: NA

2

Willie Mays

Willie Mays

The greatest defensive player, and one of the best overall players in the history of baseball. "The Say Hey Kid" was born in 1931 in Westfield, Alabama. His professional career started in the Negro Leagues where he played for only 2 seasons before catching the eye of big league scouts. After a brief stint in the minors, Mays was promoted to the New York Giants in 1951 and he never looked back. While we don’t have the advanced defensive statistics available for Mays that we have on the players of today, most historians would agree that he is one of the greatest defensive players in history. His overhead catch in centerfield during Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, known today only as The Catch, is without a doubt one of the most significant defensive plays in history. But his defensive prowess should not overshadow what he did at the plate. With a career BA over .300, 660 homeruns (4th all-time), and career WAR of 149.9 (3rd all-time), Mays is without a doubt one of the most impressive players to ever step on a diamond.

Career Stats: Games: 2992 | BA/OBP/SLG: .302/.384/.557 | Hits: 3283 | R: 2062 | HR: 660 | RBI: 1903 | SB: 338 | OPS: .941 | WAR: 149.9 | UZR: NA

World Series Championships: 1 | MVPs: 2 | Batting/Homerun Championships: 0/0 | Gold Gloves: 12

3

Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds

The best baseball player of the steroid era. Juice or no juice, Bonds was an undeniably phenomenal baseball player. He’s one of only 4 players in history to hit 40 homeruns and steal 40 bases in a single season (no, don’t look up the list, it’s embarrassing . . . ok fine . . . Canseco, A-Rod, and Alfonso Soriano are the other guys to do it, so sue me!). Bonds is both a beneficiary of his era, and a victim of it. Having started playing in 1986, he entered the league weighing about 170 lbs soaking wet. And he immediately became one of the most feared hitters in the game, with an exceptionally rare blend of power and speed. Bonds would wreak havoc on the league for over a decade. Then Big Mac and Sammy had their nation-wide PED showcase tour in 1998, and Bonds was almost forced to show them what happens when the artificial playing field is leveled and talent matters again. He proceeded to shatter the MLB single season homerun record when he hit 73 bombs in 2001. Finishing his career as the most prominent example of PED use in sports, but in era when it seems like everyone was using, we can’t forget that Bonds was still the best player in the history of the steroid era.

Career Stats: Games: 2986 | BA/OBP/SLG: .298/.444/.607 | Hits: 2935 | R: 2227| HR: 762| RBI: 1996 | SB: 514| OPS: 1.051 | WAR: 164.0 | UZR: 4.6

World Series Championships: 0 | MVPs: 7 | Batting/Homerun Championships: 0/2 | Gold Gloves: 8

4

Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb

The greatest all-around baseball player in the history of the game. There may have never been a player quite like Ty Cobb, some make the comparisons to Pete Rose or Mike Trout, but no player can match the career resume of "The Georgia Peach". With a career that spanned from 1905 to 1928, Ty Cobb was a true baseball fan’s kind of player. He stole home more than any player in history. He’s 1st all-time in career BA, 2nd in hits, 2nd in runs, 4th in stolen-bases (only 700 behind Rickey Henderson! :). He was a hard-nosed, take no prisoners type of player that would run through a wall to make an out, or run through a catcher to make a run. He played the 5th most games of any player in history. When the first ever Hall of Fame ballot results were announced, Cobb received votes from 222 of 226 ballots, more than Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, or Walter Johnson. While his legacy may have always been slightly overshadowed by the Babe, anyone who knows baseball should understand the true greatness of Ty Cobb.

Career Stats: Games: 3035 | BA/OBP/SLG: .366/.433/.512 | Hits: 4189 | R: 2246 | HR: 117 | RBI: 1937 | SB: 892 | OPS: .945 | WAR: 149.3 | UZR: NA

World Series Championships: 0 | MVPs: 1 | Batting/Homerun Championships: 12/0 | Gold Gloves: NA

5

Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig

The second best New York Yankee of all-time. In his now legendary farewell speech, Lou Gehrig once called himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth”. But the truth is, we were the lucky ones to have witnessed his greatness. Let’s start with the career numbers: 1995 RBI (5th all-time), 493 homeruns (27th), 1888 runs scored (12th), 1.08 OPS (3rd), 116.3 WAR (12th). It certainly didn’t hurt that he spent much of his career batting ahead of the great Babe Ruth, but Lou would have held his own with Ruth Bader Ginsburg batting behind him. He was tragically taken too early, dying from the disease than now carries his name at the age of 37. But Lou’s legacy to the New York Yankees, and to the entire game, will live on forever.

Career Stats: Games: 2164 | BA/OBP/SLG: .340/.447/.632 | Hits: 2721| R: 1888 | HR: 493 | RBI: 1995 | SB: 102 | OPS: 1.080 | WAR: 116.3 | UZR: NA

World Series Championships: 6 | MVPs: 2 | Batting/Homerun Championships: 1/3 | Gold Gloves: NA

6

Ted Williams

Ted Williams

The best pure hitter in the history of baseball. Ted Williams was like a mad scientist when it came to the art, science, and craft of hitting a baseball. He carefully considered the laws of physics when shaping his approach at the plate. Even going so far as hiring videographers to document his swing so he could analyze and improve it. He was a student of power and leverage, constantly tinkering his swing to maximize output. Ted’s career resume includes: .344 BA (10th), 521 homeruns (18th), 1.1155 OPS (2nd), 130.4 WAR (8th), With a career that was interrupted at its zenith by the second world war, Ted Williams was still able to compile a list of career accomplishments that stand among the titans of the game. And while not quite the “what-could-have-been” type tragedy of a Bias or a Prefontaine, we will always wonder how high Ted would have ranked had he spent those 4 years launching baseballs instead of military campaigns.

Career Stats: Games: 2292 | BA/OBP/SLG: .344/.482/.634 | Hits: 2654 | R: 1798 | HR: 521 | RBI: 1839 | SB: 24 | OPS: 1.116 | WAR: 130.4 | UZR: NA

World Series Championships: 0 | MVPs: 2 | Batting/Homerun Championships: 6/4 | Gold Gloves: NA

7

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux

The best National League pitcher in history. Ted Williams is to hitting, as Greg Maddux is to pitching. A meticulous genius on the mound, Greg Maddux is one of the smartest players to ever play the game. While he was an extremely good athlete, Maddux didn’t have a 99 MPH fastball, or devastating movement on his breaking pitches. But he had a god-like ability to command the location of his pitches and embarrass one opponent after another. Consider that from 1995 to 1997, Maddux walked only 2.7% of the batters he faced. Over that same 3 year span, only two players posted walk rates that weren't twice as bad as that (Reynolds 5.0%, Neagle 5.2%)! He pitched over 200 innings every season from the age of 22 to the age of 41. His career WAR of 113.9 is good for the 4th best of any pitcher in history, and his career win total of 355 is 8th all-time. He is also, hands down, the best defensive pitcher in history, winning an insane 18 gold gloves in his career. Having pitched in an era when PEDs increased hitting output by up to 20%, Maddux was the impossible outlier that kept his elite pitching numbers well within the upper echelons of the sport.

Career Stats: Games Started/Inning Pitched: 740/5008 | Wins/Losses: 355/227 | ERA: 3.16 | K/9: 6.06 | FIP: 3.26 | WAR: 113.9

World Series Championships: 1 | MVPs: 0 | Cy Young Awards: 4 | Gold Gloves: 18 | Wins/ERA/K Champion: 3/4/0

8

Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens

The best pitcher of the steroid era. Roger Clemens is to pitching as Barry Bonds is to hitting. A player who’s career accomplishments rival that of any pitcher to ever take the mound, Clemen's legacy will forever be clouded by questions over his use of PEDs. And while we are discouraged by the difficulty of comparing the players who juiced to the players who didn’t, we have to consider that Clemens was pitching to guys like Bonds, Canseco, McGwire, Sosa, and Manny his entire career. So to put up the numbers he did, facing a gauntlet of PED gladiators, you still have to recognize how truly exceptional he was. By the numbers: 354 wins (9th all-time), 139.5 WAR (1st) , 4672 strikeouts (3rd all-time). He led the league in wins 4 times, ERA 7 times, and strikeouts 5 times. Roger Clemens is without a doubt one of the best pitchers, and players, in the history of baseball.

Career Stats: Games Started/Inning Pitched: 707/4916 | Wins/Losses: 354/184 | ERA: 3.12 | K/9: 8.55 | FIP: 3.09 | WAR: 139.5

World Series Championships: 2 | MVPs: 1 | Cy Young Awards: 7 | Gold Gloves: 0 | Wins/ERA/K Champion: 4/7/5

9

Mike Trout

Mike Trout

The best baseball player of this decade. Mike Trout is far too young to make this list. His career is less than four seasons old, and with only 571 career hits, 97 homeruns, a .306 career BA, and 102 stolen bases, his current accomplishments are not all that remarkable. But watch Mike Trout play one game, and you’ll immediately understand why he’s the most exciting prospect since Ken Griffey Jr. In 2012 (age 21) and 2013 (age 22), Trout had season-long WARs of 10.1 and 10.5 respectively. Those are good for the 43rd and 32nd best single-season performances in the last century. The names and ages of the players that we've seen put up single-season numbers in this range include: Willie Mays (age 33), Ted Williams (age 29), Barry Bonds (age 29), and Mickey Mantle (age 30). So basically before the prime hitting ages of 25-31, Trout was as good as all those hall of famers (maybe someday Barry), plus hundreds more. He’s an absolute stud at the plate, on the bases, and in the outfield. If the kid keeps progressing . . . who knows where he ends up. Any coach would be lying if they say he’s not considered as their first pick in a pickup baseball game featuring every player in history.

Career Stats: Games: 474 | BA/OBP/SLG: .305/.394/.546 | Hits: 554 | R: 355 | HR: 94 | RBI: 298 | SB: 100 | OPS: .940 | WAR: 28.0 | UZR: 14.3

World Series Championships: 0 | MVPs: 0 | Batting/Homerun Championships: 0/0 | Gold Gloves: 0

10

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

The most dominating pitcher in the history of baseball. Walter Johnson had a truly astronomical statistical career, including: 417 wins (2nd all-time), 3509 strikeouts (9th), 123.9 WAR (3rd), and 110 shutouts (1st). He led the league in strikeouts an amazing 12 times, including a run of 8 seasons in a row! Ty Cobb once said of Johnson, “every one of us knew we'd met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park.” With an overpowering fastball, many believe that Johnson threw the fastest pitch in history during his era. He played the entirety of his 21 season career with the Washington Senators, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1936. In Cooperstown, he is now considered one of the “Five Immortals” (joined by Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Christy Mathewson). It’s a fitting title for a man whose accomplishments seem larger than life, and whose legacy will live on in baseball lore forever.

Career Stats: Games Started/Inning Pitched: 666/5914 | Wins/Losses: 417/279 | ERA: 2.17 | K/9: 5.34 | FIP: 2.34 | WAR: 123.9

World Series Championships: 1 | MVPs: 2 | Cy Young Awards: NA | Gold Gloves: NA | Wins/ERA/K Champion: 3/4/12