Unblurring History: MLB's All-Time Top 10 Third Basemen

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Unblurring History: MLB's All-Time Top 10 Third Basemen
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

We will list the 10 best third basemen in the history of the major leagues.

All 10 third basemen are an A+ overall and an A+ offensively, so I won't need to include a letter grade for either area.

However, a letter grade will be given to each player defensively.

Many third basemen, like Al Rosen, are hihgly underrated by most historians because of their short careers.

I'm not afraid to put players like Rosen in the top 10 where they belong.

If you're interested in the best careers ever, read Bill James' books, he nails it.

Not what I wanted to know, Bill.  

Anyway, here they are, the 10 best third basemen in the history of MLB, the way it really was.

 

10. George Brett (1980's): B+ Defensively

Brett was the real deal, a heck of a hitter day in and day out.

He ended his career with a .305 batting average, and most historians argue that he was an even better hitter than that. Brett was a great clutch performer who was also a heck of a defensive player.

His 665 career doubles is first all time for a third baseman, fifth all time for all players.

Here are the 10 players that were in serious contention of taking this spot from Brett. I'll list them in order from oldest to newest: Jimmy Collins (1900's), Frank Baker (1910's), Pie Traynor (1920's), Harlond Clift (1940's), Ron Santo (1960's), Bob Horner (1980's), Howard Johnson (1980's), Paul Molitor (1980's), Wade Boggs (1990's), and Troy Glaus (2000's)

 

9. Scott Rolen (2000's) A Defensively 

Rolen is the entire package, offensively and defensively. We easily forget he had over 20 home runs in eight consecutive seasons.

Not to mention all the doubles he hits to go along with his big flies.

 

8. Al Rosen (1950s) B- Defensively

Rosen could hit the crud out of the ball, and if his career wasn't cut short by injuries, he would be a Hall of Famer for sure

When he was healthy, he had over 20 home runs in six consecutive seasons, and had over 100 RBI in five consecutive seasons.

Rosen is absolutely one of the most offensively productive third basemen in history.

Without being a Brooks Robinson, Rosen more than got the job done defensively. In fact, my B- defensive grade might be harsh.

 

7. Edgar Martinez (1990's) D+ Defensively

Martinez played a lot of DH because of his poor defense. He was still better defensively than guys like Chipper Jones, but his glove was certainly an issue.

Offensively, however, he was explosive, and one of the ten best third basemen in history.

 

6. Chipper Jones (2000's) F Defensively

Even with an F defensively, he's one of the 10 best third basemen in history because he is so dominant offensively.

Jones is first in slugging percentage for a third baseman, and has hit over 20 home run in 12 consecutive seasons.

 

5. Denny Lyons (1890's) D Defensively

Lyons scored runs like they were going out of style. He's in the top 20 all time in runs per at-bats.

His career .310 batting average was great, even for a third baseman of the 1890's. His .407 career on-base percentage was great, tooleading the league with a .461 on-base percentage in 1890.

A heck of a base runner for a third baseman, Lyons could steal bases and  scored 135 runs during the 1889 season.

Defensively, he was not a failure, but he was below average.

 

4. Eddie Mathews (1960's) C+ Defensively

Mathews had over 20 home runs in 14 consecutive seasons!

He is absolutely one of the best and most explosive third basemen offensively. Without being great, got the job done defensively, too.

 

3. Bill Joyce (1890's) F Defensively

Offensively, one of the best third basemen the game has, or will ever, see.

Defensively, one of the worst third basemen the game has, or will ever, see.

Even with his F defensive rating though, Joyce is one of the best ever. His .435 on-base percentage is seventh all time among all players, and he is third all time in runs per at-bats.

Joyce is also third all time in triples per at-bats, drilling over 10 triples every season of his career, except for his last season.

Joyce had seasons in which he had less than 250 at-bats and still hit 15 triples.

One of the great base-running third basemen in the history of the game, he had over 20 stolen bases every season of his career.

Had power too, leading the league in home runs in 1896.

Joyce was the entire package offensively, but played in just over 900 games during his career. His short career is the reason he is generally underrated by historians.

 

2. Mike Schmidt (1980's) A+ Defensively

Was he better offensively or defensively? It's a tough question.

Schmidt is definitely among the few third baseman who was great at each.

Like Mathews, Schmidt had over 20 home runs in 14 consecutive seasons, and was a better offensive player than his .267 career batting average lets on.

Offensively, one of the most explosive third basemen in history. Defensively, one of the best third basemen in history.

What else can we say?

 

1. John McGraw (1890s) B Defensively

His .466 career on-base percentage is third all time, behind only Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, first all time for a third baseman.

McGraw had at least a .420 on-base percentage in 12 consecutive seasons, and his .547 on-base percentage in 1899 still ranks as the fourth best single season OBP in the history of MLB.

It was a record that stood for over 40 years, until Ted Williams broke it in 1941.

McGraw is seventh all time in stolen bases, first all time for a third baseman. He's also fourth all time in runs per at-bats among all players.

His .334 career batting average is first all time for a third baseman, and he had a batting average over .320 in nine consecutive seasons.

Probably the best offensive third baseman in history, McGraw belongs in the Hall of Fame. However, he only played in about 1,100 games, a fairly short career, and because of that he is sometimes rated as low as 15-20 on all-time third basemen lists.

But his short career is the only reason he is sometimes underrated.

When you unblur history and put less of a weight on length of career, McGraw clearly becomes the best third baseman of all time.

He was also one of the best managers in MLB history and a heck of a defensive player.

 

There it is, history unblurred. The way it really was.

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