A-Rod’s place among all-time third basemen

2011 Season Preview: Phil Hughes
The RAB Radio Show: March 9, 2011
(Kathy Willens/AP)

Last week, while eulogizing Duke Snider, Joe Posnanski broke down the Hall of Fame by position. His main point centered on the lack of center fielders elected, but in the process he noted that there are just as few third baseman in the Hall. That might seem odd at first, but a glance at the career bWAR leader board for third baseman makes it a bit clearer. There just don’t seem to be many overly encouraging third basemen on the list.

Or are there? Yesterday Beyond the Boxscore’s Adam Darowski looked at Hall of Fame third basemen in a different way. Instead of using straight WAR he used what he terms weighted WAR. That is, it places a greater emphasis on seasons in which the player produced 3 or more WAR, and even greater emphasis still on seasons with 6 or more WAR. He suggests that , based on this view, a number of other third basemen deserve enshrinement. That led me to wonder where Alex Rodriguez stood among them.

Figuring out A-Rod‘s case is a clean job, since he moved to third base in 2004 and hasn’t moved around since. During his shortstop years he produced 61 bWAR, which ranks 11th all-time among players with at least 75 percent of their games at shortstop. And that’s just the first nine years of his career. In the following seven seasons he has produced 40.9 WAR at third base, which puts him 18th, just behind Adrian Beltre. I asked Darowski about his wWAR, and said it was 67.4, which, if we look at his chart, places him on this list. A 1.6 WAR season, says Darowski, will put him within his wWAR cutoff. A 5.1 WAR season will put him ahead of Robin Ventura in wWAR.

If numbers with aggressive acronyms don’t do it for you, here’s another accomplishment A-Rod is nearing. If he hits 32 home runs this season he will have 300 since he moved to third base. There are only 10 third basemen in history with 300 or more home runs. None of them, of course, has 300 home runs as a shortstop. In fact, the only player in major league history with more than 300 home runs, with 80 percent of his games coming at the position, is Miguel Tejada, who has 300 exactly. A-Rod had 345 before 2003.

(After I finished this, Adam wrote up shortstops using wWAR. His 182.3 career wWAR destroys all non-Schmidt third basemen and non-Wagner shortstops.)

For some people we’re prone to exaggeration. Chuck Norris is a bearded Superman. Matt Wieters is the Hulk with a baseball bat. That need not be the case with Alex Rodriguez. The facts are mind-blowing on their own.

2011 Season Preview: Phil Hughes
The RAB Radio Show: March 9, 2011
  • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

    I’m not really a fan of the wWAR thing even as I appreciate the effort put into it. You just get some strange Hall guys (I love him, but Munson? Robin Ventura?). But there’s no doubt, A-Rod is one of the best players of all time. He rules. Very glad to have him as a Yankee.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      I like it as another evaluation tool. It puts WAR in a different perspective. I’m not sure what kind of value it has on its own, but for what it is I think it’s fine as a different take on the same issues.

    • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi
      • Mister Delaware

        Ventura was really underrated. He’s not a HoFer, but he’s safely in that next tier of very good 3Bs.

        • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Yeah, he’s one of those guys who, with a different career narrative, could have been in the HOF.

          • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

            Not tough enough to not get his ass kicked by Nolan Ryan, obviously.

          • Mister Delaware

            Like if you compare him to Brooks Robinson?

            • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

              Not sure I follow.

              • Mister Delaware

                Slightly above average hitter who reached the HoF largely on defensive narrative. Not that the narrative was wrong, oftentimes its not, but without it he’s not even close to the Hall. The numbers at the time did not support his case.

                (Despite playing forever, he’s not even in the top 50 3B for offensive WAR.)

                • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  Yeah but his total WAR is pretty HOF worthy, no? I don’t think anyone would argue that Robinson was a HOF hitter, but the other side of the game matters, too.

                  And we can argue about the value of defensive metrics, but even if you put that argument aside… Have you ever spoken with anyone – one person – who disagreed with the narrative about Robinson’s defensive value? Obviously using narrative as evidence is never ideal, but I think when it’s a universally agreed-upon narrative (like the praise of Robinson’s defense) we can probably give it some weight, no?

          • http://twitter.com/#!/iiKeane JobaWockeeZ

            Like being feared? I’m hating this Jim Rice selection more by the day.

        • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

          I agree with this, but I also feel he’s very firmly not a HOFer.

          • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            All depends on your criteria, obviously.

            (Universal HOF discussion comment, I know… I just feel like people tend to think their criteria are most certainly the right criteria, when really it’s a subjective matter. Per fWAR, he was more valuable than a handful of guys who got into the HOF recently (per my scientific off the top of my head study), one of them being a guy who uncontroversially got in after 3 years on the ballot.)

    • http://darowski.com Adam Darowski

      High Pocket Kelly? Jesse Haines? Rabbit Maranville? I’d take the Hall of wWAR over the Hall of Fame any day. :)

  • pat

    Sucks that we’ll never know how much of it was just Arod being godly and how much can be attributed to “extraneous factors”. Really sucks because I’ve actually come to genuinely like the guy and would like to celebrate him as the great player that he is.

  • Plank

    If Arod gets one more HR at SS, he will be tied as the all time leader at the position. He has been one HR away since 2003.

    • pat

      And he’s never ever said a peep about it to the media or anybody.

      • Johnny O

        Agreed that not enough is said about this. No pressure whatsoever has been put on The Captain to abdicate SS long enough for A-Rod to hit 2 HR and get the record. A-Rod doesn’t help himself, but there’s a double standard that applies to him and then one for everyone else.

        • king of fruitless hypotheticals

          how awesome would a one day fill-in with a pair of dingers be???

          got to tell you, if I’m Jeter and looking for a way to rehab (or improve or maintain) my image, offering the position to Arod for a game or two against a lesser opponent (looking at you KC…) would go a long way.

  • Jared

    This may be a stupid question (I haven’t yet had an opportunity to read the original article), but can someone explain to me the point of wWAR? How does emphasizing certain seasons give a more objective look at HOF candicacy?

    • radnom

      How does emphasizing certain seasons give a more objective look at HOF candicacy?

      I didn’t read the article either, but I imagine the idea is to value players with a high peak over players who were “number compilers” who just suck around and accumulated more WAR.

      • Jared

        Thanks Rad– that makes sense to a degree. I am not sure why that calculation would count as more valid though. Although the “number compiler” may not be as singularly prolific as the “high peak” guy, sustained success isn’t any impressive (at least in my eyes). Basically, what makes a player with great longevity and above average results less HOF worthy than a guy who had a much shorter period of dominance with extraordinary results?

        • radnom

          Basically, what makes a player with great longevity and above average results less HOF worthy than a guy who had a much shorter period of dominance with extraordinary results?

          Well its certainly subjective but I (and many others) feel that part of the qualification for being HOF worthy is that you were a dominant force in the league at your peak. But thats the tricky thing about the HOF – every single person has a different idea on what it takes to get in. Your interpretation is no less valid than mine, but I imagine that the creator of this stat agreed with my side and so that is why he created a number that best aligns with his view on what makes a player a HOFer.

          • Jared

            Fair enough. I’m not necessarily advocating for one way of determining a HOF over another. I just am having a hard time understanding how the wWAR isn’t complicated by subjectivity in it’s own right. I appreciate your explanation though; it did bring a little clarity to the article. I guess what it comes down too is that I just need to read the original article and see if there is a specific reason or just something along the lines of our speculation.

            • radnom

              how the wWAR isn’t complicated by subjectivity in it’s own right

              It is subjective though, you are not wrong about that. But its an objective measure to compare players against either other using a subjective philosophy. I think you understand whats going on fine but just got confused by the word ‘objective’, which doesn’t appear anywhere in Joe P’s original article. Its not objective in the sense you are thinking of, that is correct.

  • dkidd

    i’d love someone to crunch the math and guess what mike schmidt would have done playing in the steroid era

    schmidt was also the best defensive third baseman of his generation

    and a great interview

    • Plank

      According to bbref, if Schmidt played every season for the 2000 Rockies (the highest run scoring environment ever) he would have 740 HR.

      And his IORP was through the roof.

      • Plank

        That’s Interview over Replacement Player, by the way.

    • Mister Delaware

      To nitpick, the Fangraphs numbers say Buddy Bell was the best defensive 3B.

  • mko

    I really hope he gets into the HOF. Players that obviously deserve it based on their talent alone should go in, no matter what the hypocritical voters think.
    I hope A-Rod has a big season – they are so much fun to watch.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Monster year coming up if healthy. Weight loss/Cameron D.

    /deadly combo

    • CS Yankee

      Decent chance he’ll pace the lead with doubles due to his power and speed.

      If healthy, I could see 35 bombs, 55 two-baggers, and a .310 BA which would likely mean another MVP.

      • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

        Nitpicky but A-rod has never hit 55 doubles in his career, He hit 54 in 1996 and 40 in 1997, then hasn’t hit more than 35 since. 35 homers seem within the realm of possibility, a .310 BA less so, but I don’t think he’s going to be hitting 55 doubles any time soon.

        • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          … So you’re telling me there’s a chance.

        • CS Yankee

          The doubles were actually just pulled from thin air…It is based upon a leaner-liner prototype that I envision from Arod.

          However, it shouldn’t be out of the question on the doubles…if his time is a 1/2 second quicker to first it might be enough to end up at 2B another 20% of the time…if so, he is there.

          If he is back to the big fly versus a liner guy…maybe 45 dingers with 35-40 doubles are in the cards.

          I’m just hoping he stays healthy and off the hookers because whenever he has a steady famous blonde, he rakes (becomes clutch).

  • Monteroisdinero

    I was at the game in Sarasota monday night and watched BP from row 1 next to the dugout. ARod looked happy and in great shape kidding around with everyone and hitting some monster shots. Ran hard in windsprints in the OF with Tex/Golson and the lazy/out of shape Andruw Jones. He hit the ball hard in 3ab’s with only one hit to show for it. He left with the gorgeous Cameron in the 6th inning. Life is good and he will be too this year. Hopefully she will keep him super-productive :-)

    • Mister Delaware

      Watching him take BP in a non-Yankee Stadium environment is awesome. Saw him in Philadelphia a few years back and he was just peppering the walkway in Ashburn Alley.

    • Monteroisdinero

      Speaking of the lazy Andruw-can’t we just go with Golson and Maxwell instead of Andruw? Melky Mesa looked good too.

      • CS Yankee

        Andruw is not lazy, he is just pacing himself.


      • pete

        seriously? Andruw Jones right now is probably better than Golson and Maxwell put together, and I would be impressed/surprised if Mesa topped a .200/.225/.270 line in the bigs this year. Be patient.

  • Guest

    Ok, here’s a hypothetical that I will freely admit is highly unlikely to occur, but I’ve always found this intriguing. A-Rod has 345 career HRs as a SS. He currently has 268 HRs as a third baseman.

    If he averages 35 HR’s for the seven years remaining on his contract and finishes his contract out as a 3b, thats 245 more HRs as a 3B for a total of 513 as a 3B.

    Meaning, if something were to happen to allow him to hit two more HRs as a SS (which I frankly feel is the most unlikely to occur element of this entire scenario), A-Rod would finish his career as the career leader in HRs by a SS AND HRs by a 3B.

    Just unbelievable when you think about it.

    I know the roid thing always gets in the way, but I am amazed at the way A-Rod never gets any love in the GOAT discussions (even the GOAT non-Ruth discussions). Ever. And, really, it kind of felt this way before the roid revelations. And even Bonds biggest haters might say that while his accomplishments shouldn’t count, they are among the most amazing in the history of baseball.

    But, if A-Rod pulls off the above mentioned career HR feat, combined with everything else he’s accomplished/is likely to accomplish, I think he deserves to be in the conversation at least.

    Which means, I think Yankee fans need to step back and appreciate the greatness of what we’re seeing right now and leave all the worrying about how to view his career in the light of the roid revelations and “what it all means???!!!!????” to the geniuses at the BBWAA.

  • OldYanksFan

    I read 2 different analyses about ARod, one posted on BP. BP’s said ARod’s HRs number was NOT inflated by the 3 (admitted) years of Roid usage, and may have been a few HRs LOWER. The other article believed his 3 Roid years allowe him to gain FIVE HRs more then they projected he should have.

    We know that Balco was very scientific about the way they administered Roids. ARod had his cousin sneak some over the border, and probably ending up pouring some on his Wheaties.

    Yeah, he did them. He admitted it. But looking at his body, and having experts look at the numbers, tells me they had little, if any impact on his HR numbers.