I’m going to be honest, this was supposed to be the last part of this series. But alas, it is not. But the problem is not mine, I planned it out well: 100 players, 25 per, list done, argument goes frantic.
But these folks from these high numbers at the end of this list made that impossible. Either that or this would’ve cracked the 2000 word barrier, and nobody’s reading this blog with the desire to feel like they are reading a great novel or the instructions to working a Deloran.
Nah, it’s become clear that the Top 10 needs it’s own write up too, but that doesn’t mean that we’re settling in any fashion with today’s list. There’s Cy Young winners up and down the list to come today. An MVP or three or four as well. So in perfect kickoff style, lets start back up with a coast sailing, record breaker who fits into several of the promised upcoming categories, all in one….
25. Ichiro, Mariners: Yeah, he had a down year (which meant only 184 hits), but the big picture is still unchanged: he led the AL in hits for 5 consecutive years & collected 10 Gold Gloves in 10 years. What’s more, despite nine years in Japan before coming over, he’s still within range for 3,000 MLB hits and has topped the mark already as a professional. His 3,706 combined hits would be good for 4th all-time.
24. Joe Mauer, Twins: Injuries have kept him from being him recently, but let’s not be short sighted; this is already one of the greatest hitting catchers of all-time by the age of 28. His three batting titles in a four year span (’06 to ’09) are the most of any player at the position over their entire career.
23. Prince Fielder, Tigers: He may have the most raw power of any hitter in the game (nearly halfway to 500 3 years before he’s 30). He’s moving out to the spacious Comerica Field this year & a new league to boot, but he averaged over 430 feet per homer last year, so he’s immune to any ballpark’s confines.
22. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: He got comfortable in a hurry in his new confines in Fenway Park. Released from the restrictions of both a cavernous park and lack of talent from his peers in San Diego, Gonzo had career highs in hits and average & won his fourth consecutive Gold Glove in his new league as well.
21. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins: Another case of injuries keeping a superior talent of the game a year ago. Now he’ll return to a new look/name team, a new ballpark & even a new position at third base. If he’s the same player who averaged 27 homers and 86 RBI with a .319 average over his full-season career coming into last year, the Fish could be on their way to some familiar levels of success again.
20. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: He came back from an injury ravaged 2010 a new man last year. Always a premier speed threat (120 steals in 2008-09) he kept that part of his game, but hit 30 more homers than he had in his entire career and also set a career high in batting average by 20 points as well. All before coming into a contract summer this time around.
19. CC Sabathia, Yankees: Nobody wins like CC does. The lone dependable arm on the game’s most highlighted roster, he’s won 70% of his starts since re-locating to the Bronx, leading the league twice. He’s averaged 19 W’s a year since 2007, on an average of 240 innings a year.
18. Mark Teixeira, Yankees: A power bat & RBI machine as well (8 straight years over 30 homers & 105 RBI), he’s the axis the Yankee lineup works around. His well rounded attack doesn’t relent anywhere; the switch hitter’s 12 games with home runs from both sides of the plate is a Major League record, and he can make legit claim to best corner glove in the game as well.
17. Felix Hernandez, Mariners: Despite being supported by one of baseball’s worst offenses over the past few years, King Felix has still managed to dominate the game like few other pitchers. Despite only a 27-26 record over the last two years, batters have hit just .230 against him over 483 innings, and striking out 454 times.
16. Josh Hamilton, Rangers: What a ride he’s been on: his historical Home Run Derby run in 2009, a batting title, MVP & World Series trip in 2010, followed by a return to the Series in 2011. There may not be a more naturally skilled player in the game, and if he can keep his demon low, the sky may not even be limit enough for him.
15. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: LA decided to take the restrictions off their 23 year old phenom and he responded with a 21 win, 248 strikeout, 2.28 ERA season. He won 80% of his games on the way to that pitching Triple Crown performance, which brought him home a Cy Young. He even grabbed a Gold Glove on his way out as well.
14. Tim Lincecum, Giants: For a guy with two Cy Young Awards in his first five years and three consecutive strikeout titles, his 13-14 record in 2011 should appear as a disappointment. However, when you look deeper and see he received the least run support of any pitcher in the game (zero runs in 10 starts, 2 or less in 21), and then see he still 2.74 ERA, it becomes clear he was still his usual self.
13. Cliff Lee, Phillies: He started the year by coming back to Philly & becoming half of the best 1-2 punch in the game. He finished it with 17 wins, six of which were shutouts and three came consecutively. Overall, he compiled a 34 inning shutout streak in June and had 0.21 ERA for the month.
12. Joey Votto, Reds: No MVP hangover for the Reds first baseman. Despite a rougher year for his club, he set career highs in doubles, hits, walks & on-base percentage, as well as took his overall game to another level in gathering his first Gold Glove.
11. Evan Longoria, Rays: The most complete infielder in the game. He kept a greatly depleted Rays in contention, and sealed their return to the playoffs with a walk-off homer in extra innings on the last day of the season. A complete hitter at the plate & a shutdown defender at third base, he’s the closest thing to Mike Schmidt since the original.
10….. It’s getting real tomorrow. We’re finishing this thing up & drawing baselines in the concrete all the way to #1.
Until then, follow me on Twitter for the word in-between at @CheapSeatFan