The correct way to rank the top players of the decade

This decade has been filled with some of the best baseball players we have ever seen. You could even argue that the best player in the history of baseball played this past decade. Mike Trout is a phenomenal baseball player and is on track to rank amongst the best of all time. When you look at his career numbers you can even argue that they even deserve a boost based on the fact that the competition he is facing is the best the game has ever seen. Players are throwing harder than they ever have before and performing at a higher physical level than ever before. Mike Trout is a phenomenal baseball player and he shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Mike Trout was definitely the best player of this past decade but certainly not the only one. The game is being played at a higher level than ever before. So not only are these the best players of the decade but arguably some of the best players of all time.

I want to start with the top 10 players in WAR from 2010 through 2019. Definitely not my top 10 players of the decade but I want to lay this top 10 out there so that you can see how it compares to my top 10 rankings and how I utilize it to create my list.

  1. Mike Trout – 73.4
  2. Clayton Kershaw – 59.1 
  3. Max Scherzer – 55
  4. Justin Verlander – 53.8 
  5. Buster Posey – 53
  6. Joey Votto – 48.1
  7. Andrew McCutchen – 46.5
  8. Robinson Cano – 46.3
  9. Chris Sale – 44.5 
  10. Miguel Cabrera – 43.4

That list contains some great baseball players, some of which will end up in the hall of fame. However, when I look at the decade these are not the best ten players in Major League Baseball that played during that time. It’s because when you set apart a chunk of time like a decade, there is a flaw in evaluating it. So many great players from the decade either came into or left the league at some point. Only some of those players on that list above have played through the entire decade and those are the ones that don’t deserve to be on the list. They are only on the list because they played for so long and were able to rack up a high WAR. Yes, those players had to perform at a high level to record a high WAR but with time on their side, this becomes much easier.

Many lists ranking the top players from the decade look similar to the one listed above. They simply base it off of the WAR leaderboard and not much else. So how do we correctly go about evaluating the top players of the decade? I believe that I can come up with a method for player analysis that exceeds just your simple WAR leaderboard.

The way that I evaluated each player from the decade was by taking WAR and changing it so that it accounted for time for each player. I know I am not the first person to use this formula as I have seen light references to it before but take a look below to what I came up with to correctly analyze player performance this decade.

WAR per Game = Total WAR / Games Played

So I took those numbers off of FanGraphs for the decade and then calculated the metric for each player. However, I had two separate lists. One for position players and one for pitchers. The reason for the separation is that in a game a pitcher racks up a higher WAR than a hitter which means that the WAR per Game metric is much higher for pitchers. You can see that you can’t just take the top WAR per Game leaders and throw them in a list without accounting for their position. Before I rank my top 10, take a look below to see the metrics on the top 10 WAR per Game players for position players and pitchers.

Position Players

  1. Mike Trout – 0.0612
  2. Mookie Betts – 0.0469
  3. Aaron Judge – 0.0449
  4. Buster Posey – 0.0424
  5. Matt Chapman – 0.0403
  6. Josh Donaldson – 0.0399
  7. Alex Bregman – 0.0397
  8. Kris Bryant – 0.0394
  9. Francisco Lindor – 0.0379
  10. Corey Seager – 0.0372

Pitchers

  1. Clayton Kershaw – 0.201
  2. Cliff Lee – 0.201 
  3. Jose Fernandez – 0.191
  4. Jacob deGrom – 0.184
  5. Max Scherzer – 0.172
  6. Justin Verlander – 0.168 
  7. Corey Kluber – 0.166
  8. Roy Halladay – 0.163
  9. Noah Syndergaard – 0.158
  10. Shane Bieber – 0.154

There are definitely some names on those lists that may come as a surprise. I certainly didn’t expect Shane Bieber to crack the top 10. By looking at that list there is one flaw that comes to mind. Most of the players that are on the list are young or are in their peak. The list can’t account for their eventual regression in performance because it hasn’t happened yet. That’s the flaw in evaluating any form of time period in baseball. Players will always have some form of a competitive advantage over another. However, I still find this to be the most accurate representation of player performance from 2010 to 2019 available. With that being said let me finally dive into my rankings for top players of the decade.

TOP 10 PLAYERS FROM 2010 – 2019

Image via USA Today
  1. Mike Trout – 73.4 WAR, 0.0612 WAR per Game, 0.419 wOBA, 172 wRC+, 3x MVP, 8x All-Star, 7x Silver Slugger, and Rookie of the Year
Image via CBS Sports

2. Clayton Kershaw – 59.1 WAR, 0.201 WAR per Game, 2.86 xFIP, 2.31 ERA, 3x Cy Young Award, 8x All-Star, and 1 MVP

Image via Clutch Points

3. Mookie Betts – 37.2 WAR, 0.0469 WAR per Game, 0.377 wOBA, 135 wRC+, 4x All-Star, 3x Silver Slugger, 1 Batting Title, and 1 MVP

Image via Sports Illustrated

4. Aaron Judge – 17.8 WAR, 0.0449 WAR per Game, 0.397 wOBA, 152 wRC+, 2x All-Star, 1 Silver Slugger, and Rookie of the Year

Image via The New York Times

5. Buster Posey – 53 WAR, 0.0424 WAR per Game, 0.357 wOBA, 129 wRC+, 6x All-Star, 4x Silver Slugger, 1 MVP, and Rookie of the Year

Photo by Christopher Szagola/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images

6. Cliff Lee – 26.9 WAR, 0.201 WAR per Game, 2.9 xFIP, 2.95 ERA, 3x All-Star

Image via Fish Stripes

7. Jose Fernandez – 14.5 WAR, 0.191 WAR per Game, 2.72 xFIP, 2.58 ER, 2x All-Star, and Rookie of the Year

Image via MLB Trade Rumors

8. Jacob deGrom – 31.5 WAR, 0.184 WAR per Game, 3.04 xFIP, 2.62 ERA, 3x All-Star, 2x Cy Young, ERA Title, and Rookie of the Year

Image via Federal Baseball

9. Max Scherzer – 55 WAR, 0.172 WAR per Game, 3.23 xFIP, 3.12 ERA, 7x All-Star, and 3x Cy Young Award

Image via CBS Sports

10. Justin Verlander – 53.8 WAR, 0.168 WAR per Game, 3.57 xFIP, 3.10 ERA, 6x All-Star, 2x Cy Young Award, and 1 MVP

It can be difficult to determine as to who are the best players this past decade, especially when trying to value WAR per Game when it is weighted so differently. However, I like this list and I believe that it gives a great representation of the players who dominated baseball this past decade. I know that this list doesn’t conform to many other lists that have been put together but that excites me. This list may be different but it provides an in-depth and analytical look at this past decade.