The Half of a Year Too Early MLB All-Decade Team

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The Half of a Year Too Early MLB All-Decade Team
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

I just recently put up my article covering the best NFL players this decade. Or at least for the first nine seasons of the decade.

 

I thought I would do the same for baseball, although this includes nine and a half seasons.

 

For the sake of this, I took a guy like Alfonso Soriano—who has played several different positions—and applied all the statistics to the number one position he played.

 

So Soriano is credited as a second basemen for the sake of this, and all MVP awards, Gold Gloves, All-Star selections, and statistics are applied to Soriano as a second basemen.

 

I also looked more at guys who had played for most of the decade, rather than just several years.

 

For example, Dustin Pedroia has accomplished a lot so far in his major league career—an MVP award, a Rookie of the Year award, and a World Series title.

 

However, he has played in just 411 games in his career—the equivalent of only two and a half seasons.

 

So I tried to go for those guys who have been around longer than Pedroia, using 600 games played (about four full seasons) as the minimum to make the team.

 

 

Catcher

 

Probably the toughest position out of all of them.

 

There is no clear-cut catcher of the decade. Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez came to my mind originally, but a lot of their damage was done in the '90s.

 

I narrowed it down to four choices, of which I will compare their statistics and accolades this decade. These players are Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Jorge Posada, and Jason Varitek.

 

I checked each player's offensive numbers, notably batting average, home runs, runs batted in, and adjusted OPS – by far my favorite offensive statistic.

 

Name

Games Played

Offensive Statistics

Accomplishments

Ivan Rodriguez

1168

.300-158-626-112+

6 AS, 5 Gold Gloves

Mike Piazza

931

.285-187-567-127+

5 AS

Jorge Posada

1246

.283-197-776-129+

5 AS

Jason Varitek

1164

.261-146-583-101+

3 AS

Joe Mauer

623

.324-59-349-135+

3 AS, 1 Gold Glove

 

Joe Mauer comes up in the lead in batting average and adjusted OPS, while Jorge Posada takes the lead in the power numbers—home runs and RBI.

 

I-Rod leads in the All-Star selections (six to both Piazza and Posada's five). He is the only one to have taken two different teams to the World Series and he also has five Gold Gloves this decade, four more than everyone else on the list combined.

 

I think it pretty much comes down to Mauer's short career vs. I-Rod's long career.

 

Mauer is the best catcher in the game, no questions asked, and he is having an MVP season. However, he didn't become a full-time catcher until 2005, meaning he has just 4 ½ seasons to his credit.

 

He is a much better hitter than I-Rod. At least, the I-Rod of the 2000s.

 

Mauer is a two-time batting champ (with a third on the way). His adjusted OPS is the highest of the bunch, a full 23 points higher than I-Rod.

 

I-Rod is better with the glove though. He has five Gold Gloves this decade to Mauer's one, although Mauer gets a little credit for catching a Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, in 2004.

 

It's close. Who would I rather have for the decade? Probably the guy who played a little longer, because he was of more value to the team.

 

Who would I rather have for one game? Joe Mauer. Easily.

 

My pick? I have to go I-Rod.

 

It's so close. I changed my mind about six times here, but I can't ignore I-Rod's substantial lead in games played, and overall edge in All-Star selections, Gold Gloves, and World Series appearances.

 

Runners-Up: Mauer, Posada, Piazza, Varitek

 

 

First Base

 

Easiest selection on here, and that's a testament to this guy considering how many great first basemen there have been this decade.

 

Who else but Albert Pujols?

 

His credentials speak for themselves: a .335 career batting average that leads all active players, 351 home runs, a .631 slugging percentage, and 173 adjusted OPS that ranks higher all-time than Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, and Joe DiMaggio.

 

He has never failed to register a .300-30-100 line during each of his eight full seasons. He has been voted an All-Star in eight of his nine years. A two-time MVP, he has finished in the top ten in MVP voting eight times in eight years, the top four seven times, and runner-up three times.

 

He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and will retire as arguably the greatest right handed hitter who ever lived.

 

Runners-Up: Jason Giambi, Carlos Delgado, Mark Teixeira, Jim Thome, Lance Berkman, Derrek Lee, Ryan Howard, Jeff Bagwell

 

 

Second Base

 

This is a tough one. I did another breakdown, like the one I did for the catchers.

 

Name

Games Played

Offensive Statistics

Accomplishments

Jeff Kent

1266

.300-216-850-129+

4 AS, 1 MVP

Jose Vidro

1246

.303-114-560-111+

3 AS

Chase Utley

819

.300-150-553-131+

4 AS

Alfonso Soriano

1276

.279-283-737-114+

7 AS

Placido Polanco

1259

.305-84-517-100+

1 AS, 1 Gold Glove

 

I think this is a pretty disappointing group of players compared to the other positions.

 

Chase Utley is by far the best second basemen in any given season, but he missed an entire half of the decade and has over 400 fewer games played than anyone else on the list.

 

I think I will give this one to Jeff Kent by a solid margin. He has the most All-Star selections out of the group, other than Soriano – and I can't say I agree with Soriano making seven All-Star teams.

 

Kent is actually a very underrated player with a decent shot for the Hall of Fame. He is a .300 hitter this decade with over 200 home runs and a 129 adjusted OPS. And he is the only one on the list with an MVP award to his credit.

 

Runners-Up: Utley, Soriano, Vidro, Polanco

 

 

Third Base

 

Alex Rodriguez this decade:

 

6,942 innings at third base.

 

5,448.2 innings at shortstop.

 

So A-Rod is listed as a third basemen here, which pretty much eliminates any other player in baseball.

 

Since 2000, A-Rod is a .303 hitter with 422 home runs, 1,193 runs batted in, 168 stolen bases, and a 155 adjusted OPS. He has won three MVP awards, two Gold Gloves, and been voted to nine All-Star teams.

 

Simply put, we have been watching one of the best baseball players of all-time over the last decade... steroids or no steroids.

 

Runners-Up: Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Aramis Ramirez, David Wright, Miguel Cabrera, Troy Glaus, Mike Lowell

 

 

Shortstop

 

I initially thought of Derek Jeter, but I figured Miguel Tejada and Jimmy Rollins could give him a little competition. Here is a stat breakdown:

 

Name

Games Played

Offensive Statistics

Accomplishments

Derek Jeter

1429

.315-153-698-121+

8 AS, 3 Gold Gloves

Jimmy Rollins

1332

.274-132-578-97+

3 AS, 2 GG, 1 MVP

Miguel Tejada

1509

.297-244-1009-117+

6 AS, 1 MVP

Michael Young

1300

.301-126-689-104+

6 AS, 1 Gold Glove

Jose Reyes

791

.286-63-325-101+

2 AS

 

These shortstops have far more games played than any other position thus far.

 

Jeter leads in batting average and adjusted OPS, All-Star selections, Gold Gloves, and World Series appearances, although his defense has often been the topic of criticism from baseball experts.

 

Rollins, Reyes, and Young surprised me with their OPS's – all posting marks much lower this decade than I expected.

 

Rollins and Tejada are the only shortstops to have won MVP awards, while Rollins and Jeter are the only to have played on a World Championship team.

 

I have always felt Rollins is the best defender of the group, and it's probably between Rollins and Reyes for the best baserunner.

 

Tejada has the most power of the group, and has averaged over 100 RBI per season this decade. He also has the second best adjusted OPS of the bunch.

 

It's close.

 

I'll go with Jeter though. His offensive numbers are much better than J-Roll's, and I can't ignore an OPS a full 24 points higher.

 

Runners-Up: Tejada, Rollins, Young, Reyes, Hanley Ramirez

 

 

Left Field

 

Barry Bonds. No questions asked.

 

Bonds has won more MVP awards this decade (4) than any other baseball player in history. His statline since 2000 is a whopping .322-.517-.724 with a 221 adjusted OPS, thanks largely to 1,128 walks, including 390 intentional.

 

His four-year span from '01 to '04 that includes four MVP awards is arguably the greatest four-year stretch of any professional athlete in history, and it culminated in 2007 when Bonds hit his 756th home run to pass Hank Aaron for sole possession of the most prized record in all of sports.

 

Runner-Up: Manny Ramirez

 

 

Center Field

 

Arguably my favorite position in all of baseball, for there is nothing like a watching a man who was born to grace center field. I looked much heavier at defense for center fielders than I did for any other position.

 

I narrowed it down to five guys and compared:

 

Name

Games Played

Offensive Statistics

Accomplishments

Carlos Beltran

1373

.282-249-912-122+

5 AS, 3 Gold Gloves

Jim Edmonds

1216

.280-261-768-140+

3 AS, 6 Gold Gloves

Torii Hunter

1315

.275-221-817-110+

3 AS, 8 Gold Gloves

Andruw Jones

1381

.258-305-908-113+

5 AS, 8 Gold Gloves

Grady Sizemore

748

.275-124-396-122+

3 AS, 2 Gold Gloves

 

Edmonds is the best hitter out of the bunch, with the second-most home runs and the highest OPS by a wide margin.

 

Beltran is the best combination of power and speed, having hit 249 home runs with 256 stolen bases this decade, including an amazing 90 percent stolen base success rate.

 

Sizemore is penalized greatly for his games played – nearly four fewer seasons than any other guy on the list—although he has a decent shot for the 2010s All-Star Decade Team.

 

Hunter and Jones are in the discussion for the greatest defensive center fielder of all-time (although Jones was a lot better in the '90s).

 

Jones was much better offensively than Hunter, hitting over 300 home runs in the decade, including a major-league leading 51 in 2005 in a year that nearly earned Jones the NL MVP award.

 

This is a deep position, and it's a tough call. Beltran, Jones, and Edmonds are the top three.

 

I'll take Edmonds overall. He has the highest OPS by far, and he is close to as good a defensive center fielder as Jones and Hunter.

 

Runners-Up: Beltran, Jones, Hunter, Sizemore

 

 

Right Fielder

 

This is probably the deepest and most talented position out of any on the list, and any one of the five would help my team.

 

Name

Games Played

Offensive Statistics

Accomplishments

Vladimir Guerrero

1378

.324-304-1008-147+

7 AS

Magglio Ordonez

1289

.314-224-930-132+

5 AS

Gary Sheffield

1241

.295-273-861-141+

4 AS

Sammy Sosa

945

.282-273-726-142+

4 AS

Ichiro Suzuki

1259

.332-79-493-118+

9 AS, 8 Gold Gloves

 

I wanted to put Ichiro. I really did. He is one of my favorite players in the MLB.

 

Ichiro is a lock for 200 hits every season and has led the league in hits five times and batting average twice. He is a .332 career hitter who has earned eight Gold Gloves in eight seasons. He won the MVP award as a rookie in 2001 and has made the All-Star team every year of his career.

 

But he just isn't as good as Vlad Guerrero.

 

I believe Vlad has long been one of the most underrated players in baseball. He is a .324 hitter this decade with 304 home runs and over 1,000 runs batted in. His adjusted OPS is 147, higher than Ichiro by nearly 30 points.

 

Vlad has a cannon of an arm in right field and while he hasn't won a Gold Glove, he is a very talented fielder.

 

Runners-Up: Ichiro, Sheffield, Ordonez, Sosa

 

 

Designated Hitter

 

Have to go David Ortiz here.

 

Steroids or not, Ortiz has belted nearly 300 home runs with close to 1,000 RBI in his tenure in Minnesota and Boston. He has earned five trips to the All-Star Game, finished in the top five in the MVP voting five straight years, and helped the Red Sox capture two World Championships in four years.

 

He is a dynamic hitter in the postseason and has gained a reputation as the one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history.

 

Runners-Up: Edgar Martinez, Travis Hafner

 

 

Right Handed Pitcher

 

There are a lot of candidates for this position, and I thought about doing an entire five-man rotation, but I decided to just do the best right and left handed pitcher.

 

There have been eight right handed starting pitchers since 2000 to win a Cy Young award, with only one man (Roger Clemens) doing it twice.

 

Name

GS

CG

SHO

W-L

Pct

IP

K

WHIP

ERA

ERA+

Josh Beckett

211

7

4

100-65

.606

1309.2

1241

1.216

3.74

118

Roger Clemens

228

3

1

107-50

.682

1454.1

1356

1.201

3.34

133

Roy Halladay

252

41

11

132-62

.680

1767.1

1298

1.172

3.45

132

Tim Hudson

282

21

11

135-75

.643

1881.0

1240

1.247

3.50

125

Greg Maddux

308

16

7

134-101

.570

1939.2

1211

1.172

3.70

117

Pedro Martinez

218

18

6

107-49

.686

1423.1

1583

1.029

2.99

153

Roy Oswalt

260

17

6

134-68

.663

1741.1

1430

1.200

3.18

137

Jake Peavy

212

7

3

92-68

.575

1342.2

1348

1.186

3.29

119

Curt Schilling

221

26

7

117-63

.650

1569.1

1545

1.129

3.54

133

Carlos Zambrano

226

8

3

101-65

.608

1484.0

1254

1.288

3.48

128

*Rankings done as of July 23

 

Surprisingly, Tim Hudson is the winningest pitcher on the list with 135 wins. He is also the second most durable, with 282 starts and 1,939.2 innings pitched.

 

Martinez was probably the most dominant in his prime, although he only pitched effectively in six seasons, and not since 2005. He leads in winning percentage, strikeouts per nine innings, ERA, and adjusted ERA – by a full 16 points.

 

Clemens is the only one to have won two Cy Young awards, with Martinez, Halladay, and Peavy each taking home one.

 

There is no clear cut winner here—not even close. I thought I would do a similar chart to the one I just did, only this time I would rank the ten right handers in each category.

 

Name

GS

CG

SHO

Wins

Pct

IP

K

WHIP

ERA

ERA+

Avg

Josh Beckett

10

T8

7

9

8

10

8

8

10

9

8.7

Roger Clemens

5

10

10

T6

2

7

4

7

4

T3

5.8

Roy Halladay

4

1

T1

4

3

3

6

T3

5

5

3.5

Tim Hudson

2

3

T1

1

6

2

9

9

7

7

4.7

Greg Maddux

1

6

T3

T2

10

1

10

T3

9

10

5.5

Pedro Martinez

8

4

T5

T6

1

8

1

1

1

1

4.0

Roy Oswalt

3

5

T5

T2

4

4

3

6

2

2

3.6

Jake Peavy

9

T8

T9

10

9

9

5

5

3

8

7.5

Curt Schilling

7

2

T3

5

5

5

2

2

8

T3

4.2

Carlos Zambrano

6

7

T9

8

7

6

7

10

6

6

7.2

 

There is no clear-cut winner. Not even close.

 

The best pitchers overall are a pair of Roy's, with Roy Halladay at 3.5 and Roy Oswalt at 3.6.

 

I was surprised to learn how high Pedro was on the ranking, at third overall. It's a tribute to his dominance, as he finished first among all right handed pitchers this decade in winning percentage, strikeouts, WHIP, earned run average, and adjusted ERA, despite finishing just eighth in games started and innings pitched.

 

Greg Maddux was pretty much the opposite of Pedro, finishing first in games started and innings pitched, but just ninth in ERA and dead-last in winning percentage, strikeouts, and adjusted ERA.

 

I went for consistency throughout the decade, which unfortunately eliminated pitchers like Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, and Roger Clemens, who missed significant time due to injury or retirement.

 

The most consistent throughout the entire decade would be either Oswalt or Halladay. Both pitchers rank in the top six in each category, with Oswalt taking wins, strikeouts, ERA and adjusted ERA, and Halladay taking complete games, shutouts, winning percentage, innings pitched, and WHIP.

 

I initially thought I would go with Halladay, but I have to take Oswalt. He has been slightly more dominant and slightly more consistent in my opinion. Oswalt has never won a Cy Young award or even finished runner-up, but he has placed in the top five a total of five times.

 

Oswalt has also been successful in the playoffs, with a 4-0 record and a 3.66 ERA in seven starts, although he has managed to remain under the radar as he isn't a member of the Yankees or Red Sox.

 

He hasn't won a Cy Young award or even finished runner-up but he has quietly been the most successful right handed pitcher of the decade.

 

Runners-Up: Halladay, Hudson, Martinez, Maddux, Peavy, Schilling, Clemens, Zambrano, Beckett

 

 

Left Handed Pitcher

 

This one is the easiest race of them all. Either Johan Santana or Randy Johnson.

 

A quick comparison of the two:

 

Name

GS

CG

SHO

Wins

Pct

IP

K

WHIP

ERA

ERA+

Randy Johnson

281

32

12

143-78

.647

1881.0

2176

1.113

3.37

137

Johan Santana

230

9

6

121-59

.672

1680.0

1715

1.112

3.10

144

 

Randy Johnson has pitched in more games, completed more, and pitched more innings because he has been around for longer this decade.

 

As far as accolades, it's pretty close. Johnson has three Cy Young awards, four All-Star selections, one World Series ring, and a World Series MVP award to Santana's two Cy Young awards, four All-Star selections, and zero World Series performances. Both have one pitching triple crown.

 

Santana has a higher winning percentage, a slightly lower WHIP, a lower ERA, and a greater adjusted ERA. Those are some pretty valuable numbers in Santana's favor.

 

In terms of leading the league, both have been dominant. Check out the following table:

 

Name

GS

CG

SHO

Wins

Pct

IP

K

WHIP

ERA

ERA+

Randy Johnson

2

2

1

1

2

1

4

2

2

4

Johan Santana

2

---

---

2

---

2

3

4

3

3

 

Add up those league-leading categories and Johnson is at 21 with Santana at 19. Johnson leads in the single most important category – adjusted ERA, with four seasons leading the league to Santana's three, but Santana has the higher mark this decade (144 to 137).

 

You could easily make a case for either one of them.

 

Me? I'll take Johnson.

 

He has won three Cy Young awards this decade – and should have won four – while performing better in the postseason than Santana. Johnson has pitched an extra season's worth of innings, struck out two seasons as much, and done so with close to the same adjusted ERA as Santana.

 

 

Relief Pitcher

 

Mariano Rivera immediately jumped to mind. Eric Gagne was more dominant for a brief period of time, but not many closers have pitched effectively for the entire decade like Rivera.

 

Name

G

SV

IP

WHIP

H/9

BB/9

K/9

ERA

ERA+

Mariano Rivera

629

383

691.1

0.959

6.9

1.7

8.4

2.11

227

Trevor Hoffman

523

349

510.0

1.059

7.4

2.1

8.8

2.81

142

 

Hoffman is one of the best of all-time... and he doesn't even compare to Rivera.

 

That's how good Rivera has been for the Yankees. Check out that WHIP and adjusted ERA. And who can forget the postseason success on top of all his accomplishments?

 

Rivera is most likely the only player on this All-Decade Team who will go down as the greatest to ever play his position.

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