By: David Arkow, Abe Atwood, Cael Berg, Noah Chung, Josephine Elting, Josh Rosenblum, Zach Stack, Kira Gabriel, Matthew Gross, Stephanie Yoshida, Victor Zeidenfeld
Every year, MLB fans vote on their favorite players to make the All-Star game. The Midsummer Classic always features the best talent in the league but there are always debates about players who were snubbed or shouldn’t have made the squad. As we have done in the NFL and in the NBA, HSAC set out to create our own All-Star teams but instead of choosing just the best players in a single year, we looked at four different decades from the 1980s. Using a holistic range of statistical criteria, we make our own All-Star teams recalling some of the all-time greats from America’s pastime sport.
With the availability of many statistics, we tried to create a “catch-all” metric showing how good each player was. Using standardized scores on a 0-100 scale, we compared where each player ranks in different widely available and important statistics separating by decade. Standardization allows us to compare players within a decade. For example, in the 1980s, the most home runs ever hit in a season was 49 (Mark McGwire and Andre Dawson) while in the 1990s (steroid era) the most home runs was 70 (also Mark McGwire). It would not be fair to compare a player’s stats who played in the 80’s to one that played in a different era. As the MLB has changed over time (more Moneyball analytics today), using standardized stats allows us to compare within and across decades who were the best players.
We selected our teams similar to All-Star team selections drafting a player at each position. This means that some players might have been left off the roster even though they ranked higher than another hitter in our sample due to the positional nature of baseball. For hitters, we computed a standardized score from 0-100 for five statistics from Baseball Reference: 1) OPS, 2) WAR, 3) SO/BB, 4) HR Rate, 5) Fielding Runs (defensive value). For pitchers, we used 1) W/L %, 2) ERA, 3) WHIP, 4) WAR, 5) K-BB, 6%) Opponent OPS+.
From these standardized scores, we computed a weighted average putting more stock in the primary analytical stats (e.g. WAR, OPS, ERA) than the secondary stats (e.g. W/L %, HR Rate, Fielding Runs). We then ranked the players based on their weighted average scores to select the best player at each position in their respective decade.
Caveats: While we took a holistic approach to selecting our teams, there are other methods that would result in a different list. The statistics we chose are widely understood, recognized, and available metrics. Today, there are more advanced analytical ones but might be harder to interpret or understand for casual fans (e.g. spin rate or Stuff+ for pitchers, exit velocity or barrel rate for hitters). Additionally, we did have a weighted criteria but one might choose different weights believing for example a player’s defensive value (Fielding Runs) should be worth more. Facing a similar problem as modern day analytics, it is hard to quantify a player’s defensive value and our statistical criteria focuses more on offensive than defensive production. Because we are using concrete statistical criteria, there will inevitably be players that rise higher on the list than expected due to putting up gaudy numbers in one area. This is not a “be-all and end-all” list for the best baseball players of all-time but an approach that uses a holistic and objective criteria to analyze and recognize the accomplishments of the best baseball players of all-time. We hope you enjoy reading through our All-Star teams and enjoy constructing your own based on our analysis.
C – Joe Mauer MIN (1x MVP, 6x All-Star, 3x Gold Glove, 5x Silver Slugger)
Mauer, the only catcher to win the three batting titles, put up a .306 average over his 15-year career. Drafted first overall by the Minnesota Twins, Mauer would spend his whole career there amassing the third most WAR in franchise history and remains the only catcher to win an AL MVP. While a concussion prompted the Twins to end his catching career in 2013, Mauer continued to mash as a first baseman until retirement in 2018, even posting a .282 batting average in his final season.
1B – Miguel Cabrera DET (2x MVP, 1x World Series Champion, 12x AS, 1x Triple Crown, 7x SS)
Miggy is a member of the exclusive 3000 hit, 500 HR, and .300 career batting average club (along with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays). Cabrera remains the only triple crown winner in the past 50 years, and while he is declining in the later years of his career (now 39 years old), he remains a fan favorite as the Detroit Tigers DH. You might be surprised to learn that Miggy’s highest score in our analysis was his plate discipline and K/BB ratio (95). He would have likely ranked even higher if we excluded defense where he had a low score of 8 given that he played a position of low defensive importance.
2B – Robinson Cano NYY/SEA (1x WS Champ, 8x AS, 2x GG, 5x SS)
Cano racked up the fourth most WAR in the 2010s and ranks tenth all-time for second basemen. He was an all-around player posting scores of nearly 50 or above in all of our metrics. Cano was fined and suspended for PEDs in 2018 and in 2021, which could cloud his Hall of Fame case down the line. He has seen some drastic decline in the end of his career bouncing around three different NL teams (NYM, SDP, ATL) last season but his peak years with the Yankees will never be forgotten.
SS – Carlos Correa HOU (1x WS Champ, 1x Rookie of the Year, 2x AS, 1x GG)
In a surprisingly weak 2010s shortstop class, Correa stood out despite only debuting for the Astros in 2015 which speaks to how quick he burst onto the majors . Immediately making an impact in his rookie of the year campaign, Correa became part of the core that led the Astros to five consecutive ALCS, 3 World Series, and 1 title. While their World Series remains marred with controversy over the sign-stealing scandal, it cannot be doubted that the Astros dominance after 2017 was supported by Correa’s year over year consistency. He had agreed to a 13-year $350 million deal with the San Francisco Giants which fell apart after they were concerned about his medicals. The Mets swooped in and signed Correa to a 12-year $315 million contract and he will now play third base alongside his Puerto Rican counterpart Francisco Lindor (who was also high on our list of AL shortstops).
3B – Adrián Beltré TEX (4x AS, 5x GG, 4x SS)
Beltre, a member of the 3,000 hit and 400 HR club, spread his talents over the league spending at least five years with three different teams (Dodgers, Mariners, Rangers), hitting at least 100 HRs with each one. Beltré’s dominance is greatly attributed to his consistency only once having a batting average below .280 throughout the decade and rarely being on the injured list only playing less than 100 games once in his career.
RF – Mookie Betts BOS (2x WS Champ, 1x MVP, 6x AS, 6x GG, 5x SS)
A previous HSAC article identified Betts as one of the best five-tool players in the game. Mookie is one of the rare players to win a World Series with a team (Dodgers) who he beat two years earlier in another World Series (when he was with the Red Sox). He also won MVP in both of those World Series. Off the field, Bett’s is a professional bowler, and bowled a perfect game (perfect 300 all strikes) in the World Series of Bowling. If there is any player to bet on to make our future 2020s team, it is likely Mookie as he is only 30 and shows no sign of decline soon.
CF – Mike Trout LAA (3x MVP, Rookie of the Year, 10x AS, 9x SS)
Trout is arguably the most dominant player of the 2010s, finishing top five in MVP voting in each of his full seasons in the decade. In 2019, he made history by signing a 12-year $426 million dollar extension with the Los Angeles Angels, the largest contract in MLB history. Trout posted the highest marks of any player in OPS and WAR and scores of 80 or above in all categories except for fielding runs where he surprisingly ranks below average. Unfortunately, even with his dominance, the Angels have only made the playoffs once and that is something new ownership hopes to change with Trout still under contract for another decade.
LF – Brett Gardner NYY (1x WS Champ, 1x AS, 1x GG)
Gardner provided consistency and longevity for the biggest market team in the league. In our analysis, the left field position was relatively weaker and Garnder cracks the list not for his power (OPS+ score of 22) but for his defense (Fielding Runs score of 99). Gardner ranks 17th all-time in Yankees WAR and first among active players. While he may not have too much silverware, he managed to build up his stats by playing over 140 games in 8 out of the 10 years in the 2010s. Gardner played his entire 14-year career with the Yankees and has not officially retired yet despite not playing in 2022.
DH – Aaron Judge NYY (1x MVP, Rookie of the Year, 4x AS, 3x SS)
A giant standing 6’7, Judge broke onto the scene with a monster rookie season, hitting 52 home runs and finishing second in MVP voting to Jose Altuve in 2017. His incredible abilities at the plate enabled him to reach this list solely by debuting in 2016. After he broke fellow Yankee Roger Maris’s long-standing home-run record with 62 in 2022, it’s clear that Judge’s power is simply unmatched (HR Rate score of 95). Judge just signed a 9-year $360 million contract to remain with the Yankees, the highest average annual value for a position player. Assuming Judge can stay healthy, he is likely a lock to make our 2020s list.
Utility – Jose Bautista TOR (6x AS, 3x SS)
Perhaps best known for his infamous bat flip in the 2015 ALDS, Bautista was quite the power hitter with the sixth most home runs in the decade (285). Bautista was an integral part of leading the Blue Jays to their first playoff appearance since 1993. Bautista ranked above the 99th percentile in K/BB ratio, and still managed to hit for power, leading the AL in home runs twice.
5 Reserves – Evan Longoria, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson
SP 1 – Chris Sale CHW/BOS (7x AS, 1x WS Champ)
Sale’s selection to the 2010s team as the ace makes the Red Sox responsible for all 4 of our AL aces along with Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez. Sale reached 1,500 strikeouts in the second fewest innings (1,290) in MLB history. He played an integral role during the Red Sox 2018 World Series run, starting game one and striking out Manny Machado to end the series. Recently, Sale has been plagued with injuries including Tommy John Surgery in 2020 and has pitched less than 50 innings in both of the last two years.
SP 2 – Justin Verlander DET/HOU (1x MVP, 9x AS, 3x Cy Young)
Verlander led the league in wins four times throughout his career with a 65% Win-Loss percentage over the decade. Verlander has 244 wins, most among currently active pitchers but ranking 56th all-time as wins have become a devalued stat in the Moneyball era. Verlander has maintained top form as he has aged and has overcome numerous injuries (most recently Tommy John), resulting in him winning AL Comeback Player of the Year and the Cy Young in 2022. Verlander has thrown 3 no-hitters during his career and has most recently won his second World Series with the Astros this year, anchoring their rotation. Verlander signed a 2-year $86 million contract with the Mets (tying former and now current teammate Max Scherzer for the average annual value record) hoping to get closer to the 300 win club.
SP 3 – Corey Kluber CLE (3x AS, 2x Cy Young)
With the Cleveland Guardians, Kluber posted a 3.16 ERA over the decade and started games 1,4, and 7 in the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs. Following his immaculate 2016 playoffs, Kluber upped his level earning his second Cy Young in 2017 and earning 20 wins in 2018. Now in the tail end of his career, Kluber has pitched for the Rangers, Yankees, and Rays and is a free agent for the 2023 season.
SP 4 – David Price TBR/DET/BOS (2x WS Champ, 5x AS, 1x Cy Young)
Over the decade, Price started 287 games for 4 AL teams (Rays, Tigers, Blue Jays, Red Sox) and pitched over 1,887 innings, posting a 3.24 ERA. Price proved to be extremely versatile throughout his career, coming in during the playoffs as a relief pitcher on minimal days of rest and starting game 2 and 5 of the 2018 World Series. Price was a part of the Mookie Betts trade package with the Dodgers enabling him to get a second World Series ring in 2020. Price just announced his retirement after the 2022 season.
SP 5 – Félix Hernández SEA (6x AS, 1x Cy Young)
King Felix’s career highlight was his perfect game on August 15, 2012 featuring his one footed, two hands up in the air celebration. He made 10 consecutive opening day appearances for the Seattle Mariners and won the 2010 AL Cy Young, despite having the fewest number of wins (13) of a Cy Young recipient in a season. Despite his success, the Mariners were not good enough to make the playoffs in any of the seasons he pitched, only just breaking their 20 year playoff drought last year. Hernandez is one of the most celebrated Mariners of all-time having spent his entire 15-year career there and ranking first in pitcher WAR (50).
RP 1 – Koji Uehara BAL/TEX/BOS (1x AS, 1x WS Champ)
Koji played much of his career overseas in Japan (NPB) before signing with the Baltimore Orioles in 2009 at 34 years old. Between 2010-2015, he posted a 2.26 ERA over 375 games, including 97 saves. Most notably, his 2013 season included a stretch where he retired 37 consecutive batters, setting a Red Sox franchise record and he was the top reliever by WAR in 2013. Uehara retired in 2019 after returning to the NPB.
RP 2 – Aroldis Chapman NYY (7x AS, 1x WS Champ)
At his peak, Chapman was one of the most intimidating pitchers in the game, posting the record for the fastest pitch in history at 105.1 mph. His 6’ 4’’, 218 pound frame helped him pitch to a 13.8 SO/9 rate and a 2.51 ERA between his 2016-2019 seasons with the New York Yankees. Chapman could also have been on our NL team as he started his career with the Cincinnati Reds and recorded the final out for the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 World Series. Chapman ranks third among active closers in all-time saves with 315. Chapman (now 34) is an upcoming free agent, after posting his career worst ERA (4.46) and having some off-field issues in the Bronx.
AL Manager – Joe Girardi NYY
C – Buster Posey SFG (3x WS Champ, 7x AS, 1x MVP, Rookie of the Year, 1x GG, 5x SS)
After being selected fifth overall out of Florida State, Posey spent his entire 12-year career as the backstop for the Giants leading them to three World Series titles. Posey was known primarily for his ability to put the ball in play especially as a catcher, consistently placing among the league leaders in batting average. Shortly after retiring in 2021 after leading the Giants to an MLB and franchise best 107 wins, Posey joined the Giants ownership group.
1B – Joey Votto CIN (6x AS, 1x MVP, 1x GG)
The longtime Cincinnati Red stands out as far and away the most dominant offensive player in our dataset, with the most offensive WAR of any player and above-average scores in each offensive metric. His remarkable consistency across the decade must not be ignored, registering an OPS+ over 150 in 7 seasons throughout the decade, meaning that he was at least 50% better than a league-average hitter. One of the best Canadian players of all-time still plans to play in 2023 at 39 and is fourth all-time in Reds WAR.
2B – Chase Utley PHI/LAD (1x WS Champ, 6x AS, 4x SS)
Second base was a difficult decision, especially considering that the prime of Utley’s career unfolded mainly in the 2000’s. Yet due to the relative lack of offensive firepower from the position, Utley narrowly emerged as the best second baseman in our analysis.
SS – Troy Tulowitzki COL (5x AS, 2x GG, 2x SS)
Tulowitzki, the latest in a series of tall (6’3’’) power-hitting shortstops, was an easy selection given his dominance in the early 2010’s. Tulowitzki only made the playoffs twice with the Rockies making their only World Series appearance in franchise history in 2007. Tulowitzki was traded to the Blue Jays eventually making way for Trevor Story. Despite not having much postseason success, the Rockies do have a knack for churning out talented corner infielders (Tulowitizki, Story, Arenado).
3B – Nolan Arenado COL/STL (7x AS, 10x GG, 5x SS)
Arenado is likely the best defensive third baseman as he just tied the record for most consecutive Gold Gloves to begin a career with 10. He had a dominant four-year stretch beginning in 2016 with an OPS north of .930 each year. Though he has received criticism for having played much of his career in a hitter friendly ballpark (Coors Field), he has since continued his elite production in St. Louis finishing third in MVP voting behind teammate and 2010s reserve member Paul Goldschmidt.
RF – Giancarlo Stanton MIA (5x AS, 1x MVP, 2x SS)
One of the most physically imposing players in the game (6’6’’), Stanton has wowed fans for the past decade with his ability to crush a baseball harder than any other player. His record-breaking exit velocities and barrel rates have translated into the highest home run rate of any NL hitter in the 2010’s, highlighted by his 2017 season in which he hit his career high 59. He was also an above average defender throughout the decade although he primarily DHs now for the Bronx Bombers due to injury concerns.
CF – Andrew McCutchen PIT/PHI (5x AS, 1x MVP, 1x GG, 4x SS)
Though a mid-tier defender, McCutchen was one of the most complete offensive players in the league over the decade. He was primarily dominant earlier in the decade with a four-year stretch in which he claimed four top-5 MVP finishes including one win (2013). Though his performance after 2016 has declined, he remained an above average hitter, and continued to contribute for multiple teams most notably the Pirates and Phillies and he is now a free agent.
LF – Bryce Harper WSN/PHI (7x AS, 2x MVP, Rookie of the Year, 2x SS)
Though Harper traditionally plays right field, his elite offensive production made him impossible to leave out of our lineup. The former wunderkind made 6 All-Star appearances in his first seven seasons, including a dominant 2015 MVP season in which he registered the highest single-season OPS+ of the decade (198). In 2019, he was signed by the Phillies to a 13-year $330 million contract (the largest at the time), cementing his status as one of the league’s superstars.
Utility – Justin Turner NYM/LAD (2x AS, 1x WS Champ)
After never registering an OPS+ above 100 with the Orioles and Mets, Turner was released and then picked up by the Dodgers who helped him make adjustments to his swing that improved all facets of his hitting ability. The highlights of his career include multiple top-10 MVP finishes and stellar postseason play from 2015 to 2019. Turner joins NL teammate and Dodgers teammate Kenley Jansen joining the Boston Red Sox on a 2-year $22 million contract in his age 38 season.
5 Reserves – Paul Goldschmidt, Ryan Braun*, Anthony Rendon, Christian Yelich, Matt Carpenter
SP 1 – Clayton Kershaw LAD (9x AS, 3x Cy Young, 1x MVP, 1x World Series Champ)
The seventh draft pick in the 2006, Kershaw has accumulated 2,179 strikeouts, 156 wins, and a 2.31 ERA throughout the 2010s. He has scores of 70 or above in all of our metrics with his highest being WAR and W-L% as he was the best pitcher on the Dodgers teams that have won 9 of the last 10 NL West division titles. Over the past few seasons, Kershaw has battled injuries but has still been a top-end starter finishing with a 12-3 record and 2.28 ERA last year. Kershaw quickly signed a 1-year $20 million deal to remain in Los Angeles for his age 35 season. Kershaw is currently fourth among active players in career wins (197) and strikeouts (2807) but at least two or three years younger than those ahead of him (Verlander, Scherzer, and Greinke).
SP 2 – Max Scherzer WSN (8x AS, 3x Cy Young, 1x WS Champ)
Scherzer may have one of the most unorthodox deliveries, but his pitch mix of a four-seamer, changeup, curveball, and cutter made him dominant throughout the decade. Scherzer’s precision is displayed with his 6 SO/BB ratio with the Nationals, as well as nearly 12 strikeouts per nine innings. Scherzer is known for his competitiveness and meticulous routine of taking care of his body, which has allowed him to remain a No. 1 option into his age 39 season. Scherzer will pitch for the New York Mets in 2023, looking to continue climbing from his 13th spot on the all-time strikeout list trailing former and now current teammate Verlander by only five.
SP 3 – Jacob deGrom NYM (4x AS, 2x Cy Young, Rookie of the Year)
deGrom was a hidden gem selected in the ninth round of the 2010 draft by the New York Mets. Over the decade, deGrom pitched to a 2.62 ERA, and held opponents to an OPS+ of 70. In 2018, he had the third lowest ERA (1.70) of any pitcher since the mound change in 1968. The only statistic where deGrom isn’t at the top is wins with only 82 in his career as the Mets were notorious for their lack of run support when he pitched. Despite his recent injury problems, deGrom signed a five-year $185 million contract with the Texas Rangers.
SP 4 – Zack Greinke MIL/LAD/ARI (6x AS, 1x Cy Young, 6x GG, 2x SS)
While also dominant on the mound, Greinke is one of the best defensive (6 Gold Gloves) and hitting pitchers ever with 9 home runs and two Silver Sluggers. In 2013, with the Dodgers he actually had a .328 batting average in 72 plate appearances. In 2015, he posted a record of 19-3 with 200 strikeouts and a 1.66 ERA leading to a second place finish in the Cy Young race. As Greinke has aged (39), he has redefined himself to still be an effective starter with a diverse pitch mix that includes an occasional efis pitch. Greinke is an upcoming free agent but is expected to return to the team that drafted him, the Kansas City Royals.
SP 5 – Madison Bumgarner SFG (4x AS, 3x World Series Champion)
Bumgarner was a stalwart starter in 285 games for the Giants, pitching 1,836 innings and picking up 119 wins. Bumgarner is best known for his performance in the 2014 World Series pitching 21 innings across 3 games with a 0.43 ERA and closing out Game 7 with 5 scoreless innings. Currently, Bumgarner pitches for the Arizona Diambacks and is under contract through the 2024 season.
RP 1 – Kenley Jansen LAD (3x AS, 1x WS Champ)
While Kershaw led the Dodgers starting rotation, Jansen was the dominant closer. He has 391 career saves, 8th all-time and second active (only three behind Craig Kimbrel who he will likely pass next year). Jansen posted a 13.3 SO9 and 903 strikeouts over 611.2 innings in the decade. In 2022, Jansen joined the Atlanta Braves who ousted his Dodgers in the NLCS the year before. In 2023, Jansen will join the Red Sox (who also ousted his Dodgers in the 2018 World Series) on a 2-year $32 million contract.
RP 2 – Craig Kimbrel ATL/SDP/CHC (8x AS, 1x WS Champ)
Over the whole decade, Kimbrel accumulated numerous awards, a 202 ERA+ (adjusted for ballpark), 14.5 SO9, and 238 saves. He ranks seventh all-time and first among active closers in saves (394). In 2013, he was the 11th pitcher in history to record 50 saves. On May 11, 2017, Kimbrel recorded an immaculate inning, striking out the side on 9 pitches. Kimbrel has bounced around teams for the past few seasons and just signed a 1-year deal with the Phillies or 2023 in his age 34 season.
NL Manager – Bruce Bochy SFG
Check out our 1980s, 1990s, 2000s All-Star teams!