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Wagner/Mays: Who Do You Rank Higher as Historical Players?

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  • Wagner/Mays: Who Do You Rank Higher as Historical Players?

    We've done this debate before, but its been a little while, and I'd like to see how we rank these 2 superstars today.

    Please use all the normal criteria.

    Honus Wagner

    Willie Mays
    198
    I rank Honus over Willie.
    46.97%
    93
    I rank Willie over Honus.
    53.03%
    105
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 06-17-2009, 12:23 PM.

  • #2
    I will go first. We are comparing the 2 players with possibly the most complete skill sets ever to play the game, along with Negro Leaguer Martin Dihigo.

    In our first round of polls, we chose Wagner 3rd best ever, followed by Willie in 4th best ever.

    In our next round of polls, we reversed their rankings, selecting Willie as our 3rd best ever, and Honus as our 4th best ever. So, clearly, the Willie forces are in ascendancy. That raises the question in my mind, how we feel lately.

    Wagner over Mays:

    From 1900-1910, Wagner achieved an almost impossible feat. On the whole, he was the best hitter, fielder and runner in his league. Others may have had a better year than he did in one of the skills, but overall - he was dominant.

    Now, I am fully informed that someone will immediately post that the only reason Honus could do that was due to the chronic weakness in the NL, due to the incessant AL raids. And they may be quite right on that. But does anyone doubt that Hans couldn't have done that even if his league had stayed strong? Holding a man responsible for the inherent weakness of his competition is so wrong.

    Many players only play as good as they have to to win, and can improve their game if their rivals push them. Like Cobb/Jackson, 1911-13, or Ruth/Gehrig, '27.

    In hitting, Wagner led his league so many more times than Willie in hitting categories that it isn't even funny. Now I am also aware, that Willie had to contend with a level of competition in the 1950-60's, mostly in the form of fellow black players, that Hans didn't face.

    Honus may have appeared easy-going, but beneath the Lincolnesque facade, burned an intensely competitive spirit. Could he have remained supreme, if John "Pop" Lloyd had been in the NL? I think he could have, and if you know me, I'm saying a mouthful! So that is how highly I regard Wagner!

    Fielding: I must consider Wagner much the better fielder, because the best SS is better defensively than the best CF. Mays had rivals in Ashburn. Even considering Richie's fly-ball throwing pitching staff. Mays had a much bigger OF turf to patrol in the Polo Ground, which allows more flys to be caught, up to '57. If Mays was as good a fielder, he'd have been an infielder. No one good enough to handle the infield, especially SS, is assigned the gardens. You put your sluggish sluggers there. Willie wasn't sluggish, by any means, but not agile enough to handle an infield post, surely not SS.

    To those who cry foul, at comparing a SS with an OF, let me remind you, that SS is a far more demanding post than CF, and requires more defensive talent.

    I wouldn't call Honus the best fielding SS of his day, but he surely was one of them, challenging whoever was. Bobby Wallace might have been better, but not by a lot. Very slight margin.

    Running: Again, I must rate Hans over Willie. Yes, Willie ran very well, but Hans was one of the all time runners. Willie was not. And when a SS runs that well, that is something. Simply because we lack SB% in his era, we can't assume that Wagner was a poor % runner. Hans was expected to run, while Willie was not. So I do give Mays extra bonus points, but not nearly enough to overcome Wagner's SB totals. Hans is still 10th all time, with 722 SB. Hans was leading a league of base stealers 5 times, while Willie was leading a league of non-runners 4 times.

    Led their leagues:

    ---------------BA---Hits--2B---3B---HR Runs---RBI--TB--OBA-SLG.-SB
    Honus Wagner--8-----2----7----3----0----2-----5----7---4----6---5
    Willie Mays-----1-----1----0----3----4----2-----0----3---2----5---4

    Although Willie led his league in homers 4 times, Honus finished in the top 5 in homers 4 times. Honus played from the age of 23 to 32 in Exposition Park, which featured 400 ft. foul lines down BOTH sides. That's a massive OF expanse which required all sluggers to modify their hitting attack. Instead of going for the long ball, which fell in for loud outs, they had to hit hard line drives into the power alleys. Increased their triples, decreased their HRs.

    It is easy to see at a glance that in hitting, both super-stars are among the elite hitters. Their stats cut across the board, in the same way as Cobb, Hornsby, Bonds and several others. They didn't merely bunch their good numbers in a few power categories, but cut across the boards.

    And they both star at both ends, actually are triple threats. But Wagner edges Willie in defense/running, and holds him to a draw in hitting. Hans' weaker league is compensated for, by leading it much more often, as he needed to do, given the discrepancy in league strength.

    Summary: Honus in all 3 categories. We cannot assume that Wagner would have been found wanting in power, had he been accorded his chances.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 08-19-2010, 02:24 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Willie Mays ----- 139.2 Rel. Slg. - 5 SLG. titles - 12,480 PA - 156 OPS+
      Honus Wagner - 132.9 Rel. Slg. - 6 SLG. Titles - 11,731 PA - 150 OPS+
      ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Relative Stats:

      -------------Relative BA------Rel.Slg.------Rel.onbase-----Rel.ISO-------OPS+
      Honus--------123.1 (16th)---132.9 (34th)---117.6 (48th)---170.9 (44th)----150 (t 31st)
      Willie---------114.3 (79th)---139.2 (17th)---116.8 (53rd)---186.1 (23rd)----156 (20th)


      Honus' Home/Away Breakdown splits.
      Home/Away-----BA----Slg.----onbase---HR----D-----T-----RBI------AB------BB
      Home:---------.335---480-----.378------43---316---146----???-----5,087----???
      Away:---------.320---.452-----.355------58---324---106----???-----5,352---???

      Willie's Home/Away breakdown splits:

      Home/Away-----BA----Slg.----onbase---HR-----D----T-----RBI------AB------BB
      Home:---------.302---567-----.389-----335---258---61---930-----5,239----719
      Away:---------.301---.549----.385-----325---265---79---973------5,642---744

      ...............OPS+....EqA.....BRAR....BRAR/650 PA
      Mays..........156.....328......1418........73.78
      Wagner.......150.....307......1003........55.54

      All-Time list for OPS+ (baseball-Reference)
      http://www.baseball-reference.com/le...s_career.shtml
      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Code:
      Wagner-------BA--Hits-2B---3B---HR---R--RBI--TB--OBA--SLG--SB--BB-OPS+
      led league----8---2----7----3----0---2---5----7---4----6----5---0--6
      2nd league----2---2----1----3----1---2---2----1---1----3----0---0--2
      3rd-----------0---5----3----2----0---2---2----4---2----2----2---0--2
      4th-----------2---3----0----0----1---2---3----2---1----1----0---1--1
      5th-----------1---1----1----0----2---1---1----2---2----0----0---0--0
      6th-----------1---0----0----1----2---0---1----0---0----1----0---1--0
      
      Willie Mays----BA---Hits-2B--3B---HR--Runs-RBI--TB--OBA-SLG-SB--BB-OPS+
      Led league------1----1----0---3----4---2----0----3---2---5---4---1--6
      2nd in league---3----1----1---1----1---5----2----5---1---3---0---1--1
      3rd-------------2----1----1---1----3---3----3----5---2---2---0---2--5
      4th-------------0----0----0---0----1---0----2----1---1---2---1---1--2
      5th-------------1----1----0---0----2---0----1----1---5---4---0---1--0
      6th-------------1----2----2---0----2---2----2----0---1---0---0---3--1
      Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-13-2010, 12:23 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        I have to have Mays #3, but now I'm not so sure. Wagner played SS, a way better defender than the rest of the league. Wagner's FP was 11 points above the league. Mays was 3 points above the league. both of them had longevity in them. Mays outhit his league by 41 points. Wagner by 39. Mays outslugged his league by 157 points. Wagner by 115 points. However, this is a Shortstop we are talking about. Outfield can be a power position. Not to mention Wagner played in the deadball era. I think I have Wagner ahead of Mays now.

        Comment


        • #5
          I don't see where the PA crowd is on this one...rank Honus as far ahead as they do over Cobb, you have to rank Honus ahead of Mays.
          "he probably used some performance enhancing drugs so he could do a better job on his report...i hear they make you gain weight" - Dr. Zizmor

          "I thought it was interesting and yes a conversation piece. Next time I post a similar story I will close with the question "So, do you think either of them have used steroids?" so that I can make the topic truly relevant to discussions about today's game." - Eric Davis

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqul1GyK7-g

          Comment


          • #6
            Hmm. Wow. Whatever happened here? What happened to Honus' vaunted ability to make up 17 OPS+ points on a CFer? Poof? Gone With the Wind?

            Oh my. Any explanations here, PA advocates? Sounds like some people have a lot of explaining to do. Didn't someone claim that he gave every SS a huge OPS+ boost. And in this particular case, all he needs is a meesly 6 point OPS+ bump. Hmm.

            Appears all that SHORTSTOP rhetoric, about 'opening another hitting slot' got suddenly closed down. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. But the pattern is so obvious by now.

            Can anybody explain to me how Honus could make up a 17 point OPS+ gap on someone who outhit, outran him, but can't make it up a 6 point OPS+ gap on someone who he outhit, outran and outfielded, and had a massive PA adjustment on???!!! That's an awful lot of PA to disappear on us!!! Is it me, or has all logic flown out the window, again. Brings out the Inner Freak in me!
            Last edited by Bill Burgess; 03-19-2007, 08:28 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by [email protected]
              Hmm. Wow. Whatever happened here? What happened to Honus' vaunted ability to make up 17 OPS+ points on a CFer? Poof? Gone With the Wind?

              Oh my. Any explanations here, PA advocates? Sounds like some people have a lot of explaining to do. Didn't someone claim that he gave every SS a huge OPS+ boost. And in this particular case, all he needs is a meesly 6 point OPS+ bump. Hmm.

              Appears all that SHORTSTOP rhetoric, about 'opening another hitting slot' got suddenly closed down. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. But the pattern is so obvious by now.

              Can anybody explain to me how Honus could make up a 17 point OPS+ gap on someone who outhit, outran him, but can't make it up a 6 point OPS+ gap on someone who he outhit, outran and outfielded, and had a massive PA adjustment on???!!! That's an awful lot of PA to disappear on us!!! Is it me, or has all logic flown out the window, again. Brings out the Inner Freak in me!

              Well Bill I think I have the answer for you, they're hypocrites who use the argument when it suits their predisposed positions. I think the fact that he was a Short Stop and five times the runner puts him ahead of Mays. This is the true test for the PA new metric crowd whether or not to put Wagner above their darling Mays.
              "he probably used some performance enhancing drugs so he could do a better job on his report...i hear they make you gain weight" - Dr. Zizmor

              "I thought it was interesting and yes a conversation piece. Next time I post a similar story I will close with the question "So, do you think either of them have used steroids?" so that I can make the topic truly relevant to discussions about today's game." - Eric Davis

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqul1GyK7-g

              Comment


              • #8
                The case for Willie, at least as I see it, is largely an LQ one. Wagner dominated what is probably the weakest league outside of the Federal League since the 1880's or maybe even before. But I'll break things down for you ...

                Defense: Mays is arguably one of the greatest CFers ever. Wagner isn't quite as highly regarded as a defensive SS, but he's still considered to be an excellent defender at a much more important/valuable position. Big edge for Wagner.

                Running: I think you under estimate Willie. He played in the modern era when sluggers were not expected to run. In fact, they were often discouraged from running a lot due to the risk of injury. Baserunning was not a big part of the game in the 50's and 60's. Mays' first two seasons he only stole 15 total bases. Was because a young Willie was too slow? No, of course not, its because he wasn't asked/expected/told to run. If Willie had played in the deadball era, I could easily see him racking up 600 or more stolen bases. Mays did have 4 years in a row were he lead the league in steals. And 3 more years bracketing those league leading seasons in the top 5. The fact is league leaders didn't steal much back then. Keep in mind, Willie was able to swipe 23 bags in 1971 at the ripe old age of 40, and he did it to the tune of an 88% success rate. That's the most attempts he had in a decade. If he'd been allowed to run more in his youth/prime, Willie certainly would've had a lot more steals.

                And I do think we can safely assume that Wagner's overall stolen base percentage is not that great, at least by modern standards. Even the seasons we have for Ty Cobb, one of the greatest if not the greatest base runners ever, show his steal percentages to be below what we expect in today's game. That's not to say that Wagner wasn't a great runner. He was. I think this aspect is very close. I might be willing to give a slight edge to Wagner but its by a razor thin margin.

                Hitting: I just don't see how you can say Wagner wins here. Mays' career OPS+ is 156 to Honus' 150. Both of them had long careers, and when you factor in Willie playing a good chunk of his career with the 162 game schedule, their career PA is pretty even. Wagner's raw relative peak numbers are a little better, and yes he lead his league more, but level of competition has to be factored in.

                Which brings us to my main argument. LQ adjustment. Mays had to compete with Aaron, Robinson, Snider, Banks, and others for his ink scores. Aaron and Robinson are both top 25 guys (Aaron is a top ten guy). Banks and maybe Snider are top 50 guys. In Wagner's best seasons, I'm not sure if he was competing with a top 100 guy. The league was thin overall and absolutely devoid of any major stars not named Honus Wagner.

                Do me a favor, Bill. Pretend Willie Mays was born white and then remove every player of color from the leader boards during Mays' career. Tell me what his league leaderships look then. I see hitting as a solid edge for Willie and enough to put him over Honus comfortably.

                I am puzzled by those who voted for Mays ahead of Wagner regardless of LQ. If you take Wagner's offensive numbers at face value and factor in the defensive value he brings as an excellent SS, then he should indeed be ahead of Mays. In fact, if you don't believe in LQ at all, I think Wagner would have a strong case for the top spot ever.
                "I will calmly wait for my induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame."
                - Sammy Sosa

                "Get a comfy chair, Sammy, cause its gonna be a long wait."
                - Craig Ashley (AKA Windy City Fan)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by ChrisLDuncan
                  Well Bill I think I have the answer for you, they're hypocrites who use the argument when it suits their predisposed positions. I think the fact that he was a Short Stop and five times the runner puts him ahead of Mays. This is the true test for the PA new metric crowd whether or not to put Wagner above their darling Mays.
                  I've always said that Mays was the greatest player that I've ever seen. Born and raised in the Bay Area. But I ranked Wagner over my "darling" Mays. While others may not agree with me on value and positional adjustments, I'm not going to change my vote just because of the sentimental spot Mays holds for me.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by AlecBoy006
                    I have to have Mays #3, but now I'm not so sure. Wagner played SS, a way better defender than the rest of the league. Wagner's FP was 11 points above the league. Mays was 3 points above the league. both of them had longevity in them. Mays outhit his league by 41 points. Wagner by 39. Mays outslugged his league by 157 points. Wagner by 115 points. However, this is a Shortstop we are talking about. Outfield can be a power position. Not to mention Wagner played in the deadball era. I think I have Wagner ahead of Mays now.
                    Alec, your vote shows Mays ahead of Wagner.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by [email protected]
                      Hmm. Wow. Whatever happened here? What happened to Honus' vaunted ability to make up 17 OPS+ points on a CFer? Poof? Gone With the Wind?

                      Oh my. Any explanations here, PA advocates? Sounds like some people have a lot of explaining to do. Didn't someone claim that he gave every SS a huge OPS+ boost. And in this particular case, all he needs is a meesly 6 point OPS+ bump. Hmm.
                      --Positional adjustments are not the whole story. There are many elements in player evaluation. Mays gives up some ground in position, but gains a ton back in league quality. Also, while Mays played the same position as Cobb he played it at a significantly higher level. Cobb was a pretty good defender, but Mays was an all time great - probably better at his position than Wagner was at his (although Honus still has an overall defensive edge due to position).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Bill just to give you an idea of the edge Wagner had in facing such watered down competition I decided to figure out what black ink Mays could've accumulated under two hypothetical circumstances. I've only gone up to 1963, but I think it proves my point. (Also, I forgot to look at minor areas like games played and at bats, and I'm too lazy to back and see if it makes a difference)

                        Circumstance one: Mays is born white and plays in a segregated league. All players of color who finished ahead of him are removed from the leader boards as if it never happened. These are the extra league leads he would've won (only in ink catagories, so OBP/OPS/OPS+ ect are not listed):

                        1957 Runs (Banks and Aaron removed)
                        1958 SLG (Banks removed)
                        1959 Runs (Pinson removed)
                        1959 Doubles (Aaron and Pinson removed)
                        1961 SLG (Aaron, Cepeda, Robinson removed)
                        1961 Doubles (Aaron and Pinson removed)
                        1961 HR (Cepeda removed)
                        1961 RBI (Cepeda, Robinson removed)
                        1961 Steals (Wills, Pinson, Robinson, Aaron removed)
                        1962 SLG (Aaron Robinson removed)
                        1962 Runs (Robinson removed)
                        1962 Doubles (Robinson removed)
                        1962 RBI (Davis removed)
                        1963 SLG (Aaron removed)
                        1963 Runs (Aaron removed)
                        1963 HR (Aaron and McCovey removed)
                        39 Extra Black Ink Points (That's better than the career black ink totals of Tris Speaker, Joe DiMaggio, and Frank Robinson)

                        Circumstance Two: Mays is born white and plays in a segregated league that has been raided of all its top talent, ala the NL of the 1900's. All players of color are removed and all white players in my top 75 of all-time are removed. Here's the extra ink titles Mays would've won:

                        1954 Runs (Snider/Musial removed)
                        1955 AVG (Ashburn removed)
                        1955 RBI (Snider removed)
                        1957 AVG (Musial removed)
                        1957 Runs (Banks and Aaron removed)
                        1957 HR (Aaron, Banks, Snider removed)
                        1958 AVG (Ashburn removed)
                        1958 SLG (Banks removed)
                        1958 Hits (Ashburn removed)
                        1958 Triples (Ashburn and Banks removed)
                        1959 SLG (Aaron, Banks, Mathews removed)
                        1959 Runs (Pinson removed)
                        1959 Doubles (Pinson and Aaron removed)
                        1959 HR (Mathews, Banks, Aaron, Robinson removed)
                        1960 RBI (Aaron, Mathews, Banks removed)
                        1961 SLG (Aaron, Cepeda, Robinson removed)
                        1961 Doubles (Aaron and Pinson removed)
                        1961 HR (Cepeda removed)
                        1961 RBI (Cepeda, Robinson removed)
                        1961 Steals (Wills, Pinson, Robinson, Aaron removed)
                        1962 SLG (Aaron Robinson removed)
                        1962 Runs (Robinson removed)
                        1962 Doubles (Robinson removed)
                        1962 RBI (Davis removed)
                        1963 SLG (Aaron removed)
                        1963 Runs (Aaron removed)
                        1963 HR (Aaron and McCovey removed)
                        103 Extra Black Ink Points (By way of comparison, Wagner had 109 Black Inks points for his entire career)

                        Now remember that's only going up to 1963 too!
                        Last edited by Windy City Fan; 03-19-2007, 10:12 PM.
                        "I will calmly wait for my induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame."
                        - Sammy Sosa

                        "Get a comfy chair, Sammy, cause its gonna be a long wait."
                        - Craig Ashley (AKA Windy City Fan)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by leecemark
                          --Positional adjustments are not the whole story. There are many elements in player evaluation. Mays gives up some ground in position, but gains a ton back in league quality. Also, while Mays played the same position as Cobb he played it at a significantly higher level. Cobb was a pretty good defender, but Mays was an all time great - probably better at his position than Wagner was at his (although Honus still has an overall defensive edge due to position).
                          Wow, Mark! Just Wow! I've never seen folks change directions so sharply it gives me vertigo.

                          I thought you gave all SSs a huge OPS+ bump. And what about opening up another slot???!!! I bet I don't hear that phrase this entire thread!!

                          And what about that huge 1908 season, giving Wagner that better peak??? Bet I don't hear about 1908 here either!

                          Such sudden disappearances of so major of issues! Aren't you even embarrassed? This level of sleigh of hand is mind boggling.

                          I bet if you PA Adjustment Advocates tried to buy some time for an HBO special Pay for View event, you'd put David Copperfield, Chris Angel (Mind Freak), or David Blaine (Street Magician) to shame. They would all stand back in awe of such a disappearing stunt.

                          I know I am standing back in awe.

                          Opening up slots; 1908 Monster year giving Wagner that better peak; Much better glove; All gone in the blink of an eye. Without a trace. Is there a Black Hole nearby?

                          First, PA is the magic bullet. Now, LQ is the magic bullet. Such magic needs to be on a Pay-Per-View event. This is stunning. Epic. I guess if you live long enough, you get to see anything, including real miracles.
                          Last edited by Bill Burgess; 03-19-2007, 10:36 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by leecemark
                            --Positional adjustments are not the whole story. Huh? It sure was decisive in another thread! Let a SS overcome 17 OPS+ points. There are many elements in player evaluation. Mays gives up some ground in position, but gains a ton back in league quality. Whatever became of that opening another slot? You formerly made PA HUGE. Why is it less huge now? Also, while Mays played the same position as Cobb he played it at a significantly higher level. Cobb was a pretty good defender, but Mays was an all time great - probably better at his position than Wagner was at his (although Honus still has an overall defensive edge due to position).
                            But what I need to know is why is PA suddenly not decisive? If Wagner can hold Willie to a draw in hitting/running, why is PA not proving decisive? Can you see why others are stunned at your sudden de-emphasizing of that which you insisted was decisive earlier? And now, suddenly, LQ is resurrected as the new 'magic bullet'.

                            Always have that magic bullet in the chamber, for all occasions. Some consistency would be refreshing.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Windy City Fan
                              Bill just to give you an idea of the edge Wagner had in facing such watered down competition I decided to figure out what black ink Mays could've accumulated under two hypothetical circumstances. I've only gone up to 1963, but I think it proves my point. (Also, I forgot to look at minor areas like games played and at bats, and I'm too lazy to back and see if it makes a difference)
                              So now it's all about LQ. Whatever happened to 'opening another slot, or monster 1908 peak?

                              Still haven't heard a peep about those former monster issues. Quaint. And very convenient.

                              Comment

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