Where Does the 2014 Hall of Fame Class Rank Among MLB's Best Ever?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2014

Where Does the 2014 Hall of Fame Class Rank Among MLB's Best Ever?

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    After 2013 saw the BBWAA elect no one to the MLB Hall of Fame for the first time since 1996 and just the third time since 1960, three players earned the nod this year.

    A pair of 300-game winners in Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and one of the most feared sluggers of all time in Frank Thomas earned enshrinement in their first year on the ballot.

    They will be joined by a trio of managers in Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre, who all rank in the top five all-time in wins.

    There is no question this year's group of Hall of Fame inductees is great, but where does it stack up among the greatest classes of all time?

    A few different factors went into making the following list:

    • Number of inductees: The 1982 class featured two of the best hitters to ever play the game in Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson. However, the lack of a third star-caliber inductee kept that class from making the cut. Others missed out for the same reason.
    • Cumulative WAR of inductees: This was not the deciding factor on where classes were ranked, but it did help narrow down the field and put together a preliminary list of the top 10.
    • Number of Top 100 players: A few months back, I put together a list of the Top 100 players in MLB history. The number of players each class had and where they fell on that list also helped play a part in refining the rankings.
    • Subjectivity: Even with stats, this was still a subjective exercise. The above factors helped narrow this list down to 10 classes, but subjectivity certainly played a role in putting the finishing touches on them.

    With that out of the way, let's take a look at the 10 best MLB Hall of Fame classes of all time.

Honorable Mentions

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    Associated Press

    1969: C Roy Campanella, SP Stan Coveleski, SP Waite Hoyt, 1B/OF Stan Musial

    1982: RF Hank Aaron, SS Travis Jackson, RF Frank Robinson

    1984: SS Luis Aparicio, SP Don Drysdale, C Rick Ferrell, 1B/3B Harmon Killebrew, SS Pee Wee Reese

    1989: C Johnny Bench, 2B Red Schoendienst, LF Carl Yastrzemski

10. 1973

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    RF Roberto Clemente (Special Election)


    A fantastic all-around hitter, Clemente was also arguably the greatest defensive right fielder in baseball history. He posted a 204.0 UZR for his career and holds the record for outfield assists among right fielders with 254. He also hit over .300 in 13 different seasons, before his career and life were tragically cut short at the age of 38.


    1B George "High Pockets" Kelly (Veteran's Committee)


    One of the more questionable inductees into the Hall of Fame, Kelly was overshadowed by contemporaries Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx, but he was a solid first baseman in his own right. During his prime from 1921 to 1925, he hit .315/.360/.496 and averaged 19 home runs and 113 RBI.


    SP Warren Spahn (83.2%, First Year on Ballot)


    The winningest left-handed pitcher in baseball history, Spahn topped the 20-win mark 13 times in his career, which is tied with Christy Mathewson for the most ever. He spent three seasons serving in World War II, or he likely would have eclipsed the 400-win mark easily.


    SP Mickey Welch (Veteran's Committee)


    The third player in baseball history to win 300 games back in 1890, Welch ranked third in the 1880s with 295 wins for the decade. He topped 30 wins four times, including a great 1885 season that saw him go 44-11 with a 1.66 ERA and a 1.022 WHIP.


    Other Inductees

    Billy Evans (Umpire), LF Monte Irvin (Negro Leagues)

9. 1991

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    1B/2B Rod Carew (90.5%, First Year on Ballot)


    With an impressive seven batting titles to his credit, Carew was arguably the best contact hitter of the 1970s, and he did it while playing a premium position in second base. He made the All-Star team each of the first 18 seasons of his career, as he was the gold standard at his position in the American League.


    SP Fergie Jenkins (75.4%, Third Year on Ballot)


    The ace of some bad Chicago Cubs teams, Jenkins still managed to top the 20-win mark six straight seasons from 1967 to 1972, winning the NL Cy Young in 1971. His 267 complete games are the second most of the Expansion Era (1961-present).


    2B Tony Lazzeri (Veteran's Committee)


    The second baseman and No. 6 hitter on the legendary New York Yankees teams of the 1920s, Lazzeri topped 100 RBI seven different times in his career, despite never hitting more than 18 home runs in a season. His .846 OPS is ninth all-time among second basemen who played more than 1,000 games.


    SP Gaylord Perry (77.2%, Third Year on Ballot)


    The definition of a workhorse, Perry ranks sixth on the all-time list with 5,350 career innings. His 303 complete games are the most in the Expansion Era (1961-present), and he was the first pitcher to win the Cy Young award in both leagues, winning it in 1972 with the Cleveland Indians and in 1978 with the San Diego Padres.


    Other Inductees

    Bill Veeck (Executive)

8. 1974

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    1B Jim Bottomley (Veteran's Committee)


    One of the best hitters in the National League during the 1920s, Bottomley was a consistent producer during his time with the St. Louis Cardinals. From 1923 to 1930 he hit .325/.389/.541 and averaged 36 doubles, 13 triples, 20 home runs and 118 RBI per season. He won NL MVP honors in 1928.


    SP Whitey Ford (77.8%, Second Year on Ballot)


    The ace of the New York Yankees staff throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Ford helped lead the Yankees to 11 World Series appearances and six titles during his time with the team. He topped the 15-win mark 10 times and won AL Cy Young honors in 1961.


    CF Mickey Mantle (88.2%, First Year on Ballot)


    The definition of a five-tool player and the face of Major League Baseball during the 1950s, Mantle would have had even more impressive career numbers had he avoided injury late in his career. He had some of the best raw power the game has ever seen, leading the league in home runs four times and topping the 50 mark twice. He was also a three-time AL MVP and a 16-time All-Star.


    RF Sam Thompson (Veteran's Committee)


    Thompson ranks 29th in MLB history with a .331 career batting average, and he hit .415 back in 1894 while playing with the Philadelphia Phillies. He had eight 100-RBI seasons, leading the league in that category three times while also winning three home run titles.


    Other Inductees

    CF Cool Papa Bell (Negro Leagues), Jocko Conlan (Umpire)

7. 1955

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    3B Frank "Home Run" Baker (Veteran's Committee)


    Baker was a rare long ball threat during the Dead Ball Era, leading the league in that category each season from 1911 to 1914 when he hit a total of 42 homers and also led the league in RBI twice. He won three World Series as one of the key members of the Philadelphia Athletics' great teams of the 1910s.


    CF Joe DiMaggio (88.8%, Fourth Year on Ballot)


    Best known for his record 56-game hitting streak during the 1941 season, DiMaggio would have had some of the best numbers in baseball history if not for losing his age-28 to age-30 seasons while serving in World War II. He won AL MVP in 1939, 1941 and 1947, and he was named to the AL All-Star team in each of his 14 seasons.


    C Gabby Hartnett (77.7%, 12th Year on Ballot)


    The star of the Chicago Cubs throughout his 20 seasons with the team, Hartnett ranks eighth among catchers with a 53.4 career WAR. When he retired, he was the all-time leader in home runs among backstops, and he won NL MVP in 1935.


    SP Ted Lyons (86.5%, 10th Year on Ballot)


    Lyons spent his entire 21-year career pitching for the Chicago White Sox, and he was one of the better pitchers in baseball during the 1920s and 1930s. He won double-digit games an impressive 17 times, leading the league in victories twice and ERA once.


    C Ray Schalk (Veteran's Committee)


    The catcher on the infamous 1919 Black Sox team, though he was not involved in the scandal, Schalk was a solid offensive catcher in an era that was thin on them and a terrific defensive backstop to boot. He spent 17 of his 18 big league seasons playing for the White Sox.


    SP Dazzy Vance (81.7%, 16th Year on Ballot)


    The ace of the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1920s, Vance led the league in wins twice, ERA three times and strikeouts an impressive seven times. He won NL MVP honors in 1924 when he went 28-6 with a 2.16 ERA and 262 strikeouts.

6. 1947

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    C Mickey Cochrane (79.5%, Sixth Year on Ballot)


    A two-time AL MVP and one of the best offensive catchers of all time, Cochrane ranks ninth among backstops with a 52.1 WAR. He never won a batting title but ranks 52nd in history with a .320 career batting average. He hit over .300 in eight full seasons.


    2B Frankie Frisch (84.5%, Sixth Year on Ballot)


    A key cog in helping both the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals to World Series titles, Frisch was part of eight pennant-winning teams and four World Series winners. He won NL MVP in 1931, and his 70.4 career WAR is eighth all-time among catchers.


    SP Lefty Grove (76.4%, Fourth Year on Ballot)


    Grove finished his career 300-161, giving him the best winning percentage of any 300-game winner. His 148 ERA+ is the fourth-best total among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings, and he earned AL MVP honors in 1931 when he went 31-4 with a 2.06 ERA and 175 strikeouts.


    SP Carl Hubbell (87.0%, Third Year on Ballot)


    There were few better than Hubbell while he was in his prime, and he won NL MVP honors in 1933 and 1936. He is perhaps best known for his performance in the 1934 All-Star Game, when he struck out five future Hall of Famers in Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in order.

5. 1999

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    3B George Brett (98.2%, First Year on Ballot)


    Far and away the best player in Kansas City Royals history, Brett is certainly in the conversation for greatest third basemen in baseball history. He won a batting title in three different decades as well as made a serious run at hitting .400 in 1980, when he finished the season hitting .390 and won AL MVP honors.


    1B Orlando Cepeda (Veteran's Committee)


    Cepeda burst onto the scene with a .854 OPS and 25 home runs to win NL Rookie of the Year honors as a 20-year-old in 1958, and that would be just the start of a terrific 17-year career. He topped 20 home runs 12 times and had a huge season in 1961 when he had a .970 OPS with 46 home runs and 142 RBI.


    SP Nolan Ryan (98.8%, First Year on Ballot)


    The all-time strikeouts king, Ryan led the league in punch-outs 11 different times, and he also holds the record with seven no-hitters for his career. His longevity was as impressive as his stuff, as he pitched until the age of 46, despite his profile as a power pitcher.


    SS/CF Robin Yount (77.5%, First Year on Ballot)


    Yount spent his entire 20-year career with the Milwaukee Brewers, splitting his time between shortstop and center field. He brought a good mix of power and speed on the offensive side of things, earning him AL MVP in 1982 and 1989. He helped lead the Brewers to their only World Series appearance in '82.


    Other Inductees

    SP Smokey Joe Williams (Negro League), Nestor Chylak (Umpire), Frank Selee (Manager) 

4. 2014

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    SP Tom Glavine (91.9%, First Year on Ballot)


    He played second fiddle to Greg Maddux most seasons, but Glavine was one of the best pitchers of the past 30 years in his own right. His 305 career wins rank fourth all-time among left-handed starters, and he topped the 20-win mark five times. He won NL Cy Young honors in 1991 and 1998 and finished in the top three four other times.


    SP Greg Maddux (97.2%, First Year on Ballot)


    With 355 wins, Maddux ranks eighth on the all-time list. He won four straight NL Cy Young Awards from 1992 to 1995 and was a key cog in the Atlanta Braves winning 14 straight division titles. His 1995 season will go down as one of the best single-season pitching performances in baseball history, as he went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA (260 ERA+) and 0.811 WHIP.


    1B Frank Thomas (83.7%, First Year on Ballot)


    An imposing figure in the batter's box and one of the faces of the league during the 1990s, Thomas was an elite power hitter but also consistently hit over .300. He won back-to-back AL MVP awards in 1993 and 1994 while playing for the Chicago White Sox, and his .974 OPS is the 14th-highest total in baseball history.


    Other Inductees

    Bobby Cox (Manager), Tony LaRussa (Manager), Joe Torre (Manager)

    Three of the greatest managers of all time boost an already phenomenal class of players and push this class into the No. 4 spot.

3. 1972

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    C Yogi Berra (85.6%, Second Year on Ballot)


    Longevity, home run power and an enigmatic personality earned Berra a place among the all-time New York Yankees greats. His 14 World Series appearances and 10 World Series titles are both records, as he was a part of some truly great teams. On an individual level, he won AL MVP three times in 1951, 1954 and 1955.


    SP Lefty Gomez (Veteran's Committee)


    The ace of the New York Yankees during the 1930s, Gomez made seven straight All-Star Games and won 189 games in his fairly brief 14-year career. He led the league in wins and ERA twice and strikeouts three times.


    SP Sandy Koufax (86.9%, First Year on Ballot)


    Koufax pitched just 12 big league seasons before arthritis in his left elbow forced him to retire at the age of 30 and on top of his game. The left-hander went 97-27 with a 1.86 ERA from 1963 to 1966, winning three NL Cy Young awards and one NL MVP, putting together perhaps the most dominant prime of any pitcher in big league history.


    SP Early Wynn (76.0%, Fourth Year on Ballot)


    Wynn is 19th on the all-time list with 611 games started, and he won his 300th and final game in his 23rd big league season. His 188 wins during the 1950s were third-most, behind Warren Spahn and Robin Roberts, and he topped 20 victories five different times.


    RF Ross Youngs (Veteran's Committee)


    Youngs had his career tragically cut short when he died of Bright's disease at the age of 30, but he still managed to make his mark in 10 seasons. He helped lead the New York Giants to four straight NL pennants and back-to-back World Series titles in 1921 and 1922.


    Other Inductees

    C Josh Gibson (Negro Leagues), Will Harridge (Executive), 1B Buck Leonard (Negro Leagues)

    Many consider Gibson to be the greatest catcher of all time, and Leonard is also viewed as one of the best the Negro Leagues had to offer.

2. 1939

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    1B Cap Anson (Veteran's Committee)


    One of the stars of the Dead Ball Era, Anson played a whopping 27 seasons, 22 of which came with the Chicago Cubs. He ranks in the top 10 all-time in hits (sixth), runs (eighth) and RBI (third), and he also served as a player-manager for 21 of those seasons.


    2B Eddie Collins (77.7%, Fourth Year on Ballot)


    Part of Connie Mack's "Million Dollar Infield" during his time with the Philadelphia Athletics, Collins played 25 season and ranks 11th on the all-time hit list. His 128.9 career rWAR is good for 10th-best among position players, and he may be the best second baseman of all time not named Rogers Hornsby.


    C Buck Ewing (Veteran's Committee)


    The best catcher of his era and one of the greatest players of the 1800s, Ewing hit over .300 an impressive 10 times in his career.


    1B Lou Gehrig (Special Election)


    Gehrig may have played second fiddle to Babe Ruth as far as stardom goes, but he was one of the greatest of all time in his own right. He won AL MVP honors in 1927 and 1936, led the league in home runs three times and in RBI five times and goes down as arguably the greatest first baseman in baseball history.


    RF Willie Keeler (75.5%, Fourth Year on Ballot)


    Keeler came up just short of 3,000 hits for his career, and his .341 career batting average is the 14th-highest total in MLB history. He won a pair of batting titles, including hitting a whopping .424 back in 1897 while playing for the Baltimore Orioles.


    SP Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn (Veteran's Committee)


    Despite pitching just 11 seasons, Old Hoss managed to rack up 309 wins, putting up some eye-popping numbers in his brief career. He set the single-season wins record in 1884 when he went 59-12 with a 1.38 ERA and 441 strikeouts in 678.2 innings of work over 75 games (73 starts).


    1B George Sisler (85.8%, Fourth Year on Ballot)


    Sisler was one of the first great hitters in the game, and he twice posted a .400 average. That included a .420 mark in 1922 that stands as the seventh-highest single-season mark and earned him an MVP award.


    Others Inducted

    Charles Comiskey (Executive/Pioneer), Candy Cummings (Executive), Al Spalding (Executive/Pioneer)

1. 1936

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    CF Ty Cobb (98.2%, First Year on Ballot)


    Cobb is undoubtedly one of the best to ever play the game, and his .366 career batting average is the highest mark in baseball history. He won 12 batting titles and hit over .400 three times, and despite his prickly personality, he no doubt ranks among the greatest hitters in baseball history.


    SP Walter Johnson (83.6%, First Year on Ballot)


    The consensus top pitcher in baseball history, Johnson topped the 20-win mark 12 different times and led the league in ERA five times. He also captured 12 strikeout titles, and he was the all-time strikeout leader from 1921 until 1983 when Steve Carlton passed him. His 152.3 rWAR is second only to Cy Young among pitchers, and while Young did it for longer, Johnson did it better.


    SP Christy Mathewson (90.7%, First Year on Ballot)


    Mathewson topped the 20-win mark an impressive 13 times in his career, including 30-plus on four different occasions. His 2.13 career ERA ranks ninth all-time, and his 373 wins are good for third best. He almost single-handedly won the 1905 World Series for the New York Giants, pitching three complete-game shutouts as the Giants took the series 4-1.


    RF Babe Ruth (95.1%, First Year on Ballot)


    The greatest the game ever has and likely ever will see, Ruth revolutionized the sport and made the home run what it is today. There were seasons early on where he out-homered entire teams, and when all was said and done, and he won 12 home run titles during his career. He was also 94-46 with a 2.28 ERA on the mound, as one of the better pitchers of his era before moving to the outfield full time.


    SS Honus Wagner (95.1%, First Year on Ballot)


    The best shortstop the game has ever seen, Wagner won eight batting titles and hit over .300 a total of 16 times in his 21 big league seasons. He never had more than 10 home runs in a season but topped 100 RBI nine times and led the league in that category three times.


    Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com or Fangraphs.