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Top 100 players of the decade

12/18/2009 - MLB

When making a list like this -- the 100 greatest players of this decade, which by the way I've officially and irreversibly dubbed "the 0's" -- it's easy to look at statistics. But which statistics exactly? And how does one compare hitters to pitchers? I took a shortcut, ranking the players (including pitchers) by wins above replacement (with a great deal of help from Baseball Projection.com).

From there, it was relatively easy to arbitrarily bump players up and down the list based on quality of competition, postseason performance and pure excellence. (Six great seasons are better than eight good ones.) Generally, my advice on these matters is to avoid taking these things too seriously ... unless you think your favorite player has been shortchanged, in which case it's appropriate to file a letter of protest with the proper authorities.

With all that in mind, let the protesting begin!

It's not easy to choose between the top two, but by all accounts Pujols is a model ballplayer and model teammate. Plus, his numbers are as good as A-Rod's even though he's played one fewer season.

If he'd stayed at shortstop, he would be No. 1. If he'd been healthier this year or if the Yankees had won another World Series or two, he would be No. 1. On this list, though? No. 2 isn't a bad place to be.

Yes, he ranks third despite not having played in 2008 or '09. Deal with it. (And if this helps, Bonds was, for five years, probably the most feared hitter in the history of the game.)

How much credit do we give to the postseason and intangibles? Not a lot, but Jeter has played shortstop throughout the decade and racked up nearly 2,000 hits.

Has it really been nine years? Because Ichiro seems to play and look exactly like he did when he arrived in Seattle nine years ago. Only major leaguer with more than 2,000 hits in the decade.

Beltran excelled in all phases of the game -- hitting, running, fielding -- and gets a couple of bonus points for his brilliant run with the Astros in the 2004 postseason.

No, he wasn't much of a fielder … but what a hitter! All the silly questions about Chipper's Hall of Fame credentials finally were answered when at age 36 he hit .364 for his first batting title.

With the exception of 2008, Helton just plowed through the decade with impressive production, even accounting for his home ballpark. And he's been underrated with the glove.

No pitcher until now? There just wasn't a pitcher who was brilliant for the whole decade, as Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens were in the 1990s or Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver were in the 1970s.

Little separates Santana and Halladay, and Santana's best seasons were slightly better than Halladay's. But Halladay pitched more and did all his work in the game's toughest division.

It's a shame that Rolen wasn't able to stay healthy in the latter half of this decade; otherwise his brilliant defense would have him headed for Cooperstown. (Maybe it should anyway.)

Jim Edmonds, No. 12? Really? Yeah, really. A player who can hit and play Gold Glove-quality center field is immensely valuable … and yet so often undervalued. Just ask Dale Murphy.

Ramirez's postseason stats are almost exactly what you'd expect considering his regular-season stats. He has this spot because the next guy on the list has struggled so terribly in October.

He's been a great player, no question. But it's fair to mention that he's hit only two home runs in 29 postseason games, and that costs him a spot or two here.

Among the nine catchers with at least 4,000 plate appearances during the 0's, Posada is No. 1 in on-base percentage and slugging percentage and also tops in homers (by a lot) and walks (ditto).

It wasn't even one of his best seasons, but in 2009 Abreu finally (if temporarily) lost the underrated tag … he finished just 12th in the MVP ballot, but that was the best he had ever done.

Berkman has never really gotten his due, even though he's been consistently outstanding; when the Astros were good, he was the only "Killer B" who thrived in the postseason.

Three of the Big Unit's four straight Cy Young Awards came in this decade; it's amazing considering that he was in his late 30s at the time. It's almost as amazing that he stuck around for the rest of the decade.

Sure, you know about the power. But in the 0's, when Giambi did most of his best work, he also rang up a .418 on-base percentage, fifth-best in the majors.

When the end came -- the end of Jones' greatness, anyway -- it came quickly. But in the first eight years of this decade, Jones won eight Gold Gloves and routinely co-anchored the Braves' division-winning lineups.

Forget about the bloody sock (for a moment, anyway). Schilling won just 117 games in the 0's but also lost only 63 and was uniquely instrumental in three world championships.

Don't laugh. Drew has averaged only 123 games per season, but when he's played he's hit, fielded and run with great skill. The Red Sox knew what they were getting and don't have any regrets.

Oswalt's numbers are practically identical to Roy Halladay's; the difference is that they spent the entire decade in different leagues, and you know what that means.

Instead of asking why Mo's not higher on this list, you might ask why he's not lower, having thrown only 713 innings in the 0's. Well, he's not lower because he pitched 86 postseason innings with a 0.94 ERA.

Didn't become a great pitcher until his sixth season but obviously blossomed into one of the game's most effective and durable starters. And mostly in the American League, no less!

He's never won 20 games and has been close just once, but he's pitched at least 200 innings in nine straight seasons and has never had a bad year.

Thome hit 368 home runs during the decade; only A-Rod (who lapped the field) hit more. Thome also ranked fourth in walks, seventh in OPS and first in 500-foot homers to straightaway center field.

Martinez went 75-26 with a 2.53 ERA from 2000 through 2004; in five seasons since, he has just 37 wins with 3.86 ERA, thus making the Red Sox look real smart to let him get away.

Would you believe that only two pitchers struck out more than 2,000 hitters in the 0's, and Vazquez was one of them? It's true. (Also true: Randy Johnson was the other.)

Playing shortstop is a tough job? Nobody played more games in the 0's than Tejada, who successfully fought off every attempt to move him to third base.

He hasn't won more than 16 games in a season since leaving Oakland but is the only one of the A's three aces to maintain his status as a top starter throughout the decade.

Closed the decade with one of the greatest World Series at-bats; the Red Sox were right about Pedro but probably wrong about Damon.

He didn't play in 2009 but still finished the decade with 850 RBIs, easily more than any other second baseman. Wasn't a good fielder … but he was good enough.

Devastating hitter through the first six years of the decade -- .309/.408/.564 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) -- but production fell off in later seasons as injuries mounted. He's the closest to Dick Allen that most of us have seen.

A truly great pitcher for so many years, Mussina answered all the critics by finally winning 20 games in 2008, his last season, and punching his ticket to Cooperstown.

Exactly the sort of player who's usually underrated: Low batting average, but midrange power, solid baserunning and outstanding defense in center field made Cameron better than you probably thought.

Maybe he should rank higher, but this is a lofty spot for someone who's been an everyday player for only five seasons. The National League's best-fielding second baseman and perennial leader in hit-by-pitches.

It's hard to believe that Delgado has been an All-Star just twice; for the decade ranks fifth -- behind future Hall of Famers (probably) -- in both home runs (324) and RBIs (1,045).

From 2000 to 2005, averaged 30 homers per season, won five Gold Gloves and was perennially underrated. Since then? Not so much, thanks to a sickening series of injuries.

He's been a regular for only five seasons but might be the most talented baseball player on the planet; just picked up his first MVP award but might deserve three of them.

Pudge spent the second half of the decade trying (and often failing) to keep his on-base percentage above .300, but five Gold Gloves and early-decade hitting punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame.

It was an odd decade for The Rocket, but let's not forget that he went 107-50 and won two Cy Young Awards (neither of which he really deserved, but Clemens did pitch well before finally retiring for good).

Teixeira didn't arrive until 2003 and didn't play well until 2004, but since then he's been the best-hitting non-Pujolsian first baseman in the majors.

It's easy to remember Zambrano's foibles but maybe not so easy to remember he went 105-68 with some teams that weren't always real great. And if he got into the occasional scrap … well, that's the Bull.

Yeah, he squeaks into the top 50 because he hit 48 homers one season. But Beltre has had plenty of good seasons, too, and all the while has played Gold Glove-quality defense at third base.

Hey, what's he doing here? Well, he's here because he's been a league-average hitter who's played distinctly better-than-average defense just about anywhere they've put him.

Like Beltre, Glaus once hit 48 home runs (well, 47 to be precise). Unlike Beltre, Glaus topped 35 homers in three other seasons. Was actually building a (mild) Cooperstown case before missing most of 2009.

Hey, it's not his fault the Giants thought he was worth $126 million. One big plus: Since coming up with the A's in 2000, Zito hasn't spent a single day on the disabled list.

After joining the Red Sox in 2006, Lowell bounced back brilliantly from the only poor season of his career. Among third basemen in the decade, ranks first in doubles and fourth in home runs.

He didn't quite earn this spot, but Pettitte did win more games (148) in the 0's than anyone -- Randy Johnson's No. 2 -- and he also built a 12-5 postseason record in this decade.

51. Grady Sizemore
52. Jimmy Rollins
53. David Ortiz
54. Brian Giles
55. Brandon Webb
56. David Wright
57. Miguel Cabrera
58. Derrek Lee
59. Magglio Ordonez
60. Rafael Furcal
61. Melvin Mora
62. Jake Peavy
63. Hanley Ramirez
64. Derek Lowe
65. Sammy Sosa
66. Larry Walker
67. John Lackey
68. Josh Beckett
69. Dan Haren
70. Torii Hunter
71. Ray Durham
72. Carlos Guillen
73. Greg Maddux
74. Edgar Renteria
75. Jarrod Washburn
76. Aramis Ramirez
77. Matt Holliday
78. Bartolo Colon
79. Adam Dunn
80. Randy Winn
81. Tom Glavine
82. Nomar Garciaparra
83. Cliff Floyd
84. Victor Martinez
85. Freddy Garcia
86. Vernon Wells
87. Michael Young
88. Jose Valentin
89. Tim Wakefield
90. Kevin Youkilis
91. Carl Crawford
92. Corey Koskie
93. Brad Radke
94. Chone Figgins
95. Jose Reyes
96. Kelvim Escobar
97. Frank Thomas
98. Carlos Lee
99. Kenny Rogers
100. Jamie Moyer