Picking a 2010s all-decade team is fun, and everyone has been doing that. You know what's even more fun? Picking an all-decade team for every decade since 1900!
What goes into an all-decade team? It's some amorphous mix of decade-long value, peak-level dominance and iconic status. Some might factor in postseason performance or World Series titles, and some might consider that irrelevant, focusing only on regular-season numbers.
Here were my rules: I picked nine position players -- one for each position, including at least one outfielder who must be a center fielder, plus a utility/DH role that can be any position. I picked five starting pitchers, plus a relief ace for each decade since the 1940s. All WAR totals listed are from Baseball-Reference.com, and only numbers compiled from within the given decade were considered -- some all-time greats might not fit neatly in a specific decade; a few were great enough for long enough to make more than one all-decade team.
One general note: WAR doesn't make any timeline adjustment, something to keep in mind as you compare players across eras. As the quality of play improves over time, it becomes more difficult to post big numbers. In other words, my take is that an 8.0-WAR season is more impressive in 2019 than it was in 1929.
So let's get to it, starting with an in-depth look at the 2010s and then comparing our just-ended decade to the previous 10.
Catcher: Buster Posey(128 OPS+, 42.2 WAR)
Others considered: Yadier Molina
Why it's Posey: Posey has a sizable edge in WAR (42.2 to 31.9) -- an even bigger one at FanGraphs, which attempts to incorporate catcher framing into its WAR (53.0 to 41.7) -- and three World Series titles in the decade to one for Molina. Molina's big edge is he played 1,291 games behind the plate to just 980 for Posey. I put this vote to some ESPN baseball scribes and editors, and Posey was the unanimous choice.
First base: Joey Votto(152 OPS+, 52.1 WAR)
Why it's Votto: He led all batters in the decade in runs created and on-base percentage, ranked third in WAR, won an MVP and matched Cabrera in wRC+ (while being a much better fielder).
Second base: Robinson Cano(132 OPS+, 54.2 WAR)
Others considered: Jose Altuve, Ian Kinsler
Why it's Cano: Yes, Altuve is better right now and a lot more fun, but we forget how great Cano was from 2010 to 2017, hitting .303/.362/.503 and averaging 27 home runs and 99 RBIs per year. He trails only Mike Trout in WAR for the decade and has a big lead over Altuve (54.2 to 38.5). Even if we look at each player's best seasons, Cano has five of the seven best seasons between the two.
Shortstop: Francisco Lindor(119 OPS+, 28.6 WAR)
Why it's Lindor: Tulo was great the first half of the decade, while Lindor and Correa were great the second half. Simmons has the Ozzie Smith-like defense and leads in WAR but has a sub-.700 OPS. Lindor's high peak gives him the edge.
Third base: Adrian Beltre (130 OPS+, 51.0 WAR)
Why it's Beltre: His all-around excellence for the first seven years of the decade, when he averaged 6.5 WAR per season and had five top-10 MVP finishes, makes him the clear choice over Donaldson.
Others considered: Giancarlo Stanton
Why these three: It wasn't an especially strong decade for outfielders. Trout, of course, was the best player of the decade. Mookie makes it on his terrific half-decade of excellence, and McCutchen had a dominant run from 2011 to 2015, averaging 6.2 WAR with four top-five MVP finishes (including a win in 2013).
DH/utility: Miguel Cabrera (153 OPS+, 43.5 WAR)
Others considered: Donaldson, Goldschmidt, Nelson Cruz, David Ortiz
Why it's Cabrera: One of the best hitters of the decade, plus an iconic figure with four batting titles, two MVP awards and the Triple Crown in 2012.
Why these five: The first three are easy choices, but then it turns into a good debate for the final two spots. I put this one to a vote, and Bumgarner got the edge as the fourth guy on the list, even though he was just 13th in the decade in WAR and lacks the peak of even guys like Corey Kluber or Jacob deGrom; his postseason heroics put him over the top. You could make a similar argument for Lester, who trails Bumgarner in WAR but had 148 wins in the decade. Greinke and Sale tied for the fifth spot in the voting, but I went with Sale's more dominant peak (140 ERA+ to 128 for Greinke, who won 155 games in the decade with 44.0 WAR). If you want to argue Greinke, I won't disagree, but Sale received Cy Young votes in seven different seasons compared to four for Greinke.
Relief pitcher: Craig Kimbrel(195 ERA+, 19.6 WAR)
Why it's Kimbrel: He led in saves with 346 (Jansen was second with 301), had a lower ERA than Jansen or Chapman and matched Chapman with a 41.1% strikeout rate.
People consider the 1990s and early 2000s as the PEDs era, but offensive numbers actually remained pretty high through 2007. There were 4.80 runs scored per team per game in 2007 compared to 4.79 in 1998, the year Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa broke the home run record. That leads to some tough calls in our lineup. Nine players drove in 1,000 runs in the decade, and only two of them make the all-decade team.
C Jorge Posada: 129 OPS+, 37.5 WAR
1B Albert Pujols: 172 OPS+, 73.8 WAR
2B Chase Utley: 130 OPS+, 42.2 WAR
3B Alex Rodriguez: 153 OPS+, 77.7 WAR
SS Derek Jeter: 121 OPS+, 44.1 WAR
OF Barry Bonds: 221 OPS+, 59.1 WAR
OF Carlos Beltran: 122 OPS+, 51.4 WAR
OF Ichiro Suzuki: 118 OPS+, 51.1 WAR
DH Chipper Jones: 147 OPS+, 50.6 WAR
SP Randy Johnson: 137 ERA+, 51.3 WAR
SP Johan Santana: 143 ERA+, 46.2 WAR
SP Curt Schilling: 132 ERA+, 46.2 WAR
SP Pedro Martinez: 152 ERA+, 45.6 WAR
SP Roy Halladay: 134 ERA+, 45.4 WAR
RP Mariano Rivera: 217 ERA+, 33.0 WAR
Hitting: Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols duke it out for player-of-the-decade honors. A-Rod led in home runs, RBIs, runs and WAR, but Pujols played one fewer season. Both won three MVP awards and one World Series. ... Catcher is a debate between Jorge Posada and Joe Mauer. Mauer's first full season was 2005, and he won three batting titles and an MVP award. He was worth 25.9 WAR in those five seasons. In Posada's five best seasons, he was worth 25.2 WAR. Given his additional seasons, I have to go with Posada. ... Chase Utley is the easy call at second base, averaging 7.9 WAR from 2005 to 2009. ... Derek Jeter isn't quite a slam dunk at shortstop, as Miguel Tejada was close in WAR and had 1,046 RBIs. ... Barry Bonds broke baseball when he won four straight MVP awards from 2001 to 2004, hitting an incredible .349/.559/.809. ... Carlos Beltran and Ichiro Suzuki make it for their all-around brilliance, beating out Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero and Lance Berkman. ... Todd Helton ranked fourth in the decade in WAR (53.1), but I'm going with Chipper Jones as the DH/utility guy.
Pitching: Randy Johnson began the decade with three straight Cy Young Awards (after also winning in 1999) and ranked second in the decade in wins. ... After that, it gets dicey, with 10 pitchers ranging between 38 and 46 WAR and 112 to 139 wins. I ended up going with the highest peak performers in Johan Santana, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez. ... Schilling didn't win a Cy Young but finished second three times, and his playoff performances for Arizona and Boston stand out. ... Roy Halladay edges out Roy Oswalt (43.1 WAR, 134 ERA+) for the final spot. ... Andy Pettitte (32.0 WAR) led the decade in wins but lacks the peak of the other top pitchers, and Tim Hudson, CC Sabathia and Mark Buehrle also deserve consideration. ... Mariano Rivera? Of course.
2000s vs. 2010s: With Bonds, Pujols and Rodriguez, the lineup edge goes to the 2000s, plus you have Beltran and Ichiro running everything down in the outfield. The starting rotation edge probably goes to the 2010s group, with the outstanding trio of Kershaw, Verlander and Scherzer, plus big-game MadBum. Johnson and Martinez had some great years for the 2000s team, but the decade also contains their decline years. Winner: 2010s.
C Mike Piazza: 156 OPS+, 41.6 WAR
1B Jeff Bagwell: 160 OPS+, 56.9 WAR
2B Roberto Alomar: 122 OPS+, 45.6 WAR
3B Robin Ventura: 119 OPS+, 46.1 WAR
SS Barry Larkin: 126 OPS+, 52.6 WAR
OF Barry Bonds: 179 OPS+, 80.2 WAR
OF Ken Griffey Jr.: 152 OPS+, 67.5 WAR
OF Larry Walker: 143 OPS+, 47.8 WAR
DH Frank Thomas: 169 OPS+, 52.8 WAR
SP Greg Maddux: 162 ERA+, 65.4 WAR
SP Roger Clemens: 151 ERA+, 68.1 WAR
SP Randy Johnson: 140 ERA+ 52.1 WAR
SP David Cone: 135 ERA+, 52.9 WAR
SP Tom Glavine: 129 ERA+, 52.9 WAR
RP John Wetteland: 166 ERA+, 17.9 WAR
Hitting: Some difficult choices here, starting with Mike Piazza over Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge won eight Gold Gloves and the 1999 MVP award, but Piazza led in WAR and had the greatest offensive decade ever for a catcher. ... Jeff Bagwell's all-around brilliance gives him the nod over Mark McGwire, who did lead the decade with 405 home runs, but also had some injury issues and poor seasons early in the decade. ... Craig Biggio had the higher WAR and was certainly the most underrated player of the decade, but Roberto Alomar was a defining player and won two rings with Toronto (and his below-average defensive metrics don't match the eye test). ... At third base, I could cheat and put Edgar Martinez, but he spent only a few seasons there, so we'll go with Robin Ventura over Matt Williams. Both were outstanding defenders, and I'll take Ventura's OBP over Williams' edge in power. ... It's easy to forget that Larry Walker was a great player in Montreal before putting up ridiculous numbers at Coors Field. He edges out Kenny Lofton (47.5 WAR) and Albert Belle (39.5 WAR, huge peak) as the third outfielder behind Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. For the DH/utility spot, it's Frank Thomas and his two MVP awards over Edgar.
Pitching: Our five starting pitchers accounted for 12 of the decade's 20 Cy Young Awards, including four in a row from Greg Maddux from 1992 to 1995. I'd give him the nod over Roger Clemens as the pitcher of the decade due to more wins, lower ERA and all the playoff trips. ... Randy Johnson started the decade as a wild flame-throwing lefty and ended it as the most dominant strikeout pitcher baseball had ever seen. ... David Cone was the hired gun of the decade but won four rings with the Blue Jays (one) and Yankees (three). ... Tom Glavine is my fifth starter over Kevin Brown and the underrated Kevin Appier, although those two had a slight edge in WAR. Glavine was part of the iconic Atlanta rotation and won two Cy Young Awards. ... John Wetteland had two more saves than Dennis Eckersley and also had the lower ERA (2.66 to 3.18).
1990s vs. 2010s: The PED decade that kicked in rather suddenly in 1993-94 (a livelier ball certainly helped) featured some remarkable offensive performances -- we saw 40 seasons when a player hit .300 with 40 home runs compared to just 13 in the just-completed 2010s -- but maybe the most remarkable aspect to this team is its two-way brilliance. Other than Piazza, the other seven position players were terrific defenders, combining for 40 Gold Gloves in the decade (not including Maddux's 10 at pitcher). Despite the big home run numbers, we also saw the peak performances of some of the greatest pitchers of all time. Can any decade match the offense, defense and starting pitching of this team? For what it's worth, the 1990s team leads in total combined WAR. Winner: 1990s.
C Gary Carter: 118 OPS+, 44.9 WAR
1B Eddie Murray: 141 OPS+, 45.9 WAR
2B Ryne Sandberg: 112 OPS+, 37.7 WAR
3B Mike Schmidt: 153 OPS+, 56.6 WAR
SS Cal Ripken: 123 OPS+, 50.2 WAR
OF Rickey Henderson: 137 OPS+, 71.1 WAR
OF Robin Yount: 135 OPS+, 55.3 WAR
OF Dale Murphy: 132 OPS+, 47.1 WAR
DH Wade Boggs: 150 OPS+, 60.2 WAR
SP Dave Stieb: 126 ERA+, 48.0 WAR
SP Roger Clemens: 139 ERA+, 35.5 WAR
SP Jack Morris: 109 ERA+, 30.2 WAR
SP Fernando Valenzuela: 111 ERA+, 33.1 WAR
SP Orel Hershiser: 132 ERA+, 47.1 WAR
RP Dan Quisenberry: 151 ERA+, 24.8 WAR
Hitting: Rickey Henderson was the best player of the 1980s, with 11 more WAR than Wade Boggs. He didn't win an MVP award in the decade (his win came in 1990), but he led AL hitters in WAR in 1985 and 1989 and ranked second in 1980 and 1981. ... Robin Yount spent the first five seasons of the decade at shortstop before moving to center field, and his 1982 MVP season ranks as the best of the decade (10.5 WAR). He won a second MVP in 1989. ... Two-time MVP Dale Murphy ranked second in home runs and RBIs and earns the nod over Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Dwight Evans. ... Gary Carter was arguably the best player of the first half of the decade, ranking fourth in WAR over that span behind Mike Schmidt, Yount and Henderson. ... Schmidt, who won three MVPs, is my third baseman, pushing Boggs to our utility spot. Sadly, there is no room for George Brett (47.7 WAR) on the team. ... Lou Whitaker actually led Ryne Sandberg in WAR, although Sandberg played two fewer seasons. Sandberg won an MVP and had power and speed. ... Steady Eddie Murray was third in home runs and first in RBIs and beats out Keith Hernandez. ... Shortstop is a three-way coin flip between Cal Ripken, Ozzie Smith (52.2 WAR) and Alan Trammell (52.9 WAR). Ozzie was my initial pick, but Ripken had two fewer seasons and the higher peak, plus he was the '83 AL MVP.
Pitching: Good luck picking five starting pitchers from the 1980s. Dave Stieb was the only hurler to top 40 WAR -- 10 would do it in both the 1990s and 2000s, as pitchers in the '80s had trouble staying healthy. ... Jack Morris ranked just 12th in WAR (which is why he was such a heated Hall of Fame debate), but he was the one guy who did manage to stay healthy for 10 years, and he led in wins and innings. ... Roger Clemens debuted in 1984 and had a dominant run from 1986 to 1989, including an MVP and two Cy Young Awards. ... Fernandomania in 1981 was one of the biggest stories of the decade, and he was brilliant until Tommy Lasorda broke him from heavy usage. He gets the edge over Dodgers teammate Bob Welch (35.2 WAR) and Bert Blyleven (38.1 WAR). ... For my fifth spot, I'm going with Orel Hershiser over other half-decade greats Bret Saberhagen and Dwight Gooden. His 1988 season, with his consecutive-scoreless-innings streak and postseason heroics, is one of the defining seasons of the decade. ... Dan Quisenberry was every bit the pitcher that Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter was and deserved more Hall of Fame consideration.
1980s vs. 2010s: The 1980s provided us with perhaps the most diverse decade in style of play, with an exciting blend of power and speed -- stolen bases peaked in 1987 for the highest total since the dead ball era in 1919. No wonder attendance increased 28 percent from 1980 to 1989. Eight of the nine position players are in the Hall of Fame, but the lack of decade-long dominant pitchers hurt the 1980s in our make-believe showdown. Winner: 2010s.
C Johnny Bench: 132 OPS+, 58.9 WAR
1B Tony Perez: 130 OPS+, 36.2 WAR
2B Joe Morgan: 140 OPS+, 67.0 WAR
3B Mike Schmidt: 141 OPS+, 50.3 WAR
SS Dave Concepcion: 93 OPS+, 30.1 WAR
OF Pete Rose: 128 OPS+, 50.6 WAR
OF Cesar Cedeno: 128 OPS+, 44.2 WAR
OF Reggie Jackson: 148 OPS+, 51.3 WAR
DH Rod Carew: 142 OPS+, 56.3 WAR
SP Tom Seaver: 138 ERA+, 67.1 WAR
SP Jim Palmer: 137 ERA+, 54.1 WAR
SP Gaylord Perry: 125 ERA+, 59.0 WAR
SP Bert Blyleven: 130 ERA+, 57.8 WAR
SP Phil Niekro: 122 ERA+, 64.5 WAR
RP Rollie Fingers: 118 ERA+, 16.1 WAR
Hitting: It was, indeed, the Big Red Machine. Five members of the Cincinnati Reds make the all-decade team as the National League dominates with seven of the nine position players. ... Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan both won two MVP awards in the decade and would duke it out for player-of-the-decade honors. ... Pete Rose, who led in hits and runs, started in right field, left field, third base and first base. He won his MVP in 1973 while playing left field, so we'll put him in the outfield. ... Tony Perez and Dave Concepcion get the nod at weak positions. First base was especially soft, with Perez the only player to top 30 WAR. Steve Garvey would be his main competition. The '70s was the decade of weak-hitting middle infielders. I picked Concepcion over Bert Campaneris and great-field, no-hit Mark Belanger. ... Graig Nettles (54.5) tops Schmidt in WAR, but Schmidt played fewer seasons and was much more dominant at the plate. ... Reggie Jackson ranked second in home runs to Willie Stargell and fourth in RBIs (Bench was first) and is no surprise in the outfield, but Cesar Cedeno? He's viewed as one of the great "what if" stories in baseball history, a player who was a star at 21 (8.0 WAR) and 22 (7.4) but never reached those heights again. Still, he had a strong decade, with his offensive value masked by the Astrodome. He's our center fielder over Amos Otis and half-decade star Fred Lynn. ... Rod Carew split the decade between second base and first base and won six batting titles, so he's our utility guy.
Pitching: The best pitchers in the 1970s tossed ungodly amounts of innings, routinely topping 300 innings on an annual basis, especially in the first half of the decade. Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer both won three Cy Young Awards, and Seaver has a case as the player of the decade over Bench and Morgan. ... Gaylord Perry's workload the first six years of the decade was incredible, averaging 321 innings per season through 1975. He won two Cy Youngs (although he didn't really deserve the 1978 award with the Padres). ... Bert Blyleven was not appreciated in his own time because of that 148-128 win-loss record, but modern analysis shows he was one of the best. ... For the final spot, I initially had Nolan Ryan (41.4 WAR) for his iconic status and strikeout records, but Phil Niekro deserves the spot, trouncing Ryan in WAR and adjusted ERA. ... Steve Carlton (44.6 WAR) and Fergie Jenkins (52.6) also have arguments, but Carlton was inconsistent, and two of his four Cy Youngs came in the 1980s.
1970s vs. 2010s: How good is this pitching staff? It leads all decades in total WAR. Some of that is tied to the timing, as all six of our pitchers were around for the entire decade, but longevity and excellence were the mark of the best of this generation. The offense, however, isn't nearly as good, with relative weak spots at first base, shortstop and center field. In Bench, Morgan and Schmidt, you have arguably the three best ever at their positions, but the 2010s squad has a pitching staff that was perhaps even more dominant relative to the league and the better lineup. Winner: 2010s.
C Joe Torre: 129 OPS+, 36.3 WAR
1B Harmon Killebrew: 157 OPS+, 44.5 WAR
2B Pete Rose: 123 OPS+, 30.2 WAR
3B Brooks Robinson: 115 OPS+, 53.9 WAR
SS Maury Wills: 92 OPS+, 36.6 WAR
OF Hank Aaron: 162 OPS+, 81.0 WAR
OF Willie Mays: 159 OPS+, 84.2 WAR
OF Roberto Clemente: 144 OPS+, 66.4 WAR
UT Frank Robinson: 166 OPS+, 64.6 WAR
SP Sandy Koufax: 147 ERA+, 47.9 WAR
SP Juan Marichal: 136 ERA+. 55.3 WAR
SP Bob Gibson: 135 ERA+, 54.2 WAR
SP Don Drysdale: 119 ERA+, 44.7 WAR
SP Jim Bunning: 121 ERA+, 46.3 WAR
RP Hoyt Wilhelm: 160 ERA+, 24.3 WAR
Hitting: Let's start with that all-universe outfield. Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Frank Robinson were the top four players of the decade. Here's a good way to explain their greatness: In looking at the three leaders each season in WAR among position players, those four hold down 15 of the 30 spots. They were so good, we couldn't fit Carl Yastrzemski or Al Kaline on the team. ... Third base is a tough choice between Brooks Robinson and Ron Santo, and while Santo (57.6) leads in WAR and was the better hitter, Robinson was the more iconic player. ... First base is a coin flip between Harmon Killebrew and Willie McCovey, with almost identical totals in WAR and OPS, but Killebrew led the decade with 393 home runs and was second to Aaron in RBIs. ... Joe Torre was a borderline Hall of Famer as a player and led catchers in WAR, home runs and RBIs as a five-time All-Star. ... Second base in the 1960s may be the least impressive position of any decade -- only Rose and Bill Mazeroski crossed 20 WAR, and Rose played there only four seasons before moving to the outfield in 1967. ... Toss-up at shortstop between Maury Wills, Jim Fregosi and Luis Aparicio, but Wills' 104 steals in 1962 was a defining moment of the decade.
Pitching: The 1960s were known as a pitching decade, but that's mostly because everyone remembers these five starters. The gap from Don Drysdale (fifth in WAR) to Larry Jackson (sixth) is nearly 10 WAR. ... Sandy Koufax, despite pitching through just 1966, ranked seventh in wins and tied for third in strikeouts. ... Juan Marichal had season records of 25-8, 25-6 and 26-9 yet never won a Cy Young Award. ... Bob Gibson's 1968 season, with his 1.12 ERA and 13 shutouts, still stands as one of the most famous seasons of all time. ... Hoyt Wilhelm, underrated as an all-time great, had a 1.99 ERA from 1961 through '69 as a reliever.
1960s vs. 2010s: Led by the six Hall of Famers on the pitching staff and that amazing outfield, the 1960s group has a strong argument as best decade ever, even if it's a little soft in the middle infield. Still, the collective WAR of this team ranks third behind only the 1990s and 1910s. Best-of-seven, anyone? Let's see, Kershaw versus Koufax, Verlander versus Gibson, Scherzer versus Drysdale, Bumgarner versus Marichal. Let's get it going. Winner: 1960s.
C Yogi Berra: 130 OPS+, 48.4 WAR
1B Stan Musial: 160 OPS+, 61.2 WAR
2B Jackie Robinson: 134 OPS+, 43.3 WAR
3B Eddie Mathews: 152 OPS+, 53.7 WAR
SS Ernie Banks: 139 OPS+, 42.4 WAR
OF Ted Williams: 185 OPS+, 47.5 WAR
OF Willie Mays: 158 OPS+, 58.8 WAR
OF Mickey Mantle: 173 OPS+, 68.1 WAR
UT Duke Snider: 147 OPS+, 55.6 WAR
SP Warren Spahn: 126 ERA+, 57.1 WAR
SP Robin Roberts: 119 ERA+, 60.5 WAR
SP Billy Pierce: 128 ERA+, 43.9 WAR
SP Early Wynn: 116 ERA+, 37.4 WAR
SP Whitey Ford: 140 ERA+, 26.3 WAR
RP Hoyt Wilhelm: 140 ERA+, 23.5 WAR
Hitting: No real arguments to be had anywhere with this roster. We slot Stan Musial at first base instead of the outfield, but he did play 721 games there versus 710 in the outfield. Gil Hodges (41.8 WAR, second in RBIs) is the backup choice. ... Jackie Robinson retired after 1956 and Ernie Banks didn't debut until 1953, but both led their positions in WAR, with Banks winning MVP honors in 1958 and 1959. ... Ted Williams missed almost two full seasons thanks to the Korean War, but we can't leave off a guy who had a .476 OBP for the decade. Richie Ashburn (50.9 WAR) and Minnie Minoso (47.6) have strong cases, but we'll go with Duke Snider, who led in home runs and RBIs, as our utility/DH. ... Player of the decade? Has to be Mickey Mantle.
Pitching: Likewise, the pitching staff is pretty cut-and-dried other than Whitey Ford, who makes it with a remarkable .704 winning percentage and great World Series record. He missed two seasons while in the military. (His best seasons came in 1961 and 1963; after Casey Stengel was fired, Ralph Houk let him pitch more often.) ... I have Warren Spahn over Robin Roberts as the pitcher of the decade. Spahn won 20-plus games eight times. Roberts had a remarkable run from 1950 to 1955, when he averaged 323 innings and 23 wins per season. ... Billy Pierce is the only non-Hall of Famer on this team, but he's a vastly underrated pitcher with 211 career wins and 3.27 ERA.
1950s vs. 2010s: The 1950s ranks only eighth in total WAR primarily due to being a little soft in the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation, but that lineup ... holy cow, as Harry Caray might say. I might take the 1950s lineup over all others, and it does have the highest average OPS+ of any lineup. We'll put Willie Mays in the leadoff spot, Williams bats second with his OBP, Musial third, Mantle cleanup ... I'll take the 2010 rotation, however, so this one goes seven. Winner: 2010s.
C Ernie Lombardi: 124 OPS+, 19.3 WAR
1B Johnny Mize: 159 OPS+, 41.1 WAR
2B Joe Gordon: 123 OPS+, 45.6 WAR
3B Bob Elliott: 125 OPS+, 39.7 WAR
SS Lou Boudreau: 126 OPS+, 59.9 WAR
OF Ted Williams: 200 OPS+, 65.8 WAR
OF Joe DiMaggio: 162 OPS+, 43.6 WAR
OF Stan Musial: 172 OPS+, 57.6 WAR
UT Bobby Doerr: 122 OPS+, 41.7 WAR
SP Bob Feller: 131 ERA+, 38.3 WAR
SP Hal Newhouser: 138 ERA+, 54.1 WAR
SP Dizzy Trout: 128 ERA+, 36.7 WAR
SP Harry Brecheen: 140 ERA+, 32.3 WAR
SP Mort Cooper: 124 ERA+, 28.4 WAR
RP Joe Page: 111 ERA+, 7.5 WAR
Hitting: World War II cuts into the counting stats for the decade, but it's hard to beat an outfield of Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial. Musial won three MVP awards, and Williams and DiMaggio each won two. ... Johnny Mize, an underrated Hall of Famer, averaged 31 home runs (with a high of 51 in 1947) and 106 RBIs. ... Joe Gordon and Bobby Doerr are both Hall of Fame second basemen. We'll go with Gordon and put Doerr on the squad as the utility guy. ... Lou Boudreau had eight top-10 MVP finishes and won in 1948, when he hit .355 with 106 RBIs as player-manager of the last Indians team to win the World Series. ... Hall of Famer Ernie Lombardi led a weak crop of catchers in WAR and Bob Elliott, the 1948 NL MVP, led the decade in RBIs and ranked in the top 10 in WAR.
Pitching: Bob Feller heads the pitching staff. He missed almost four seasons due to the war, but check out his first full season back in 1946: 26-15, 2.18 ERA, 371 IP, 348 SO, 36 CG, 10 shutouts. ... Hal Newhouser won MVP awards in 1944-45, but he wasn't just a wartime star, as he then went 26-9 with a 1.94 ERA in 1946 (and finished second in the MVP voting, ahead of Feller). ... Harry Brecheen and Mort Cooper (the 1942 NL MVP) were the aces of the great Cardinals teams of the decade. ... Joe Page was one of the first true relief aces and his mark of 27 saves held until 1961.
1940s vs. 2010s: Even factoring in the war, this may be the weakest team of them all, even with the star-studded outfield. Only two of the six pitchers are Hall of Famers, and Newhouser is a pretty weak Hall of Famer at that. Winner: 2010s.
C Bill Dickey: 132 OPS+, 43.7 WAR
1B Lou Gehrig: 181 OPS+, 73.1 WAR
2B Charlie Gehringer: 133 OPS+, 61.2 WAR
3B Harlond Clift: 122 OPS+, 25.6 WAR
SS Arky Vaughan: 142 OPS+, 53.2 WAR
OF Paul Waner: 133 OPS+, 44.1 WAR
OF Joe DiMaggio: 152 OPS+, 26.3 WAR
OF Mel Ott: 161 OPS+, 68.7 WAR
UT Jimmie Foxx: 173 OPS+, 72.9 WAR
SP Lefty Grove: 162 ERA+, 80.8 WAR
SP Carl Hubbell: 142 ERA+, 56.0 WAR
SP Dizzy Dean: 133 ERA+, 44.1 WAR
SP Lefty Gomez: 131 ERA+ 43.5 WAR
SP Red Ruffing: 119 ERA+, 38.1 WAR
Hitting: This decade featured the ridiculous rabbit-ball season of 1930 and crazy offensive numbers throughout the decade in the American League, which averaged over five runs per game each year of the decade. Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig ranked 1-2 in home runs and RBIs as the decade's best hitters. ... Mel Ott is an inner-circle Hall of Famer and the NL's best position player and hitter of the decade, although he never won an MVP award. ... Paul Waner is our other corner outfielder. He won two batting titles starring for the Pirates. ... They called Charlie Gehringer "the Mechanical Man" for his robotic consistency. He had seven straight top-10 MVP finishes, including first in 1937 when he hit .371. ... Arky Vaughan is a forgotten star and gets the nod over fellow Hall of Famer Joe Cronin, although Cronin drove in over 1,000 runs in the decade. Vaughan was an OBP machine and hit .385 in 1935. ... Third base lacks a decade-long star, although Harlond Clift averaged 4.9 WAR from 1935 to 1939 while playing for terrible Browns teams. ... We need a center fielder, so that eliminates Babe Ruth, who was still great the first half of the decade. Hall of Famer Earl Averill (44.5) has the most WAR, but we'll go with Joe DiMaggio for his terrific first four seasons from 1936 to 1939, averaging 140 RBIs as the Yankees won four straight titles.
Pitching: How dominant was Lefty Grove in the 1930s? His 80.8 WAR is the second highest for a pitcher for any decade and he won seven ERA titles. ... Carl Hubbell, with his famous screwball, was the NL's top hurler and won two MVP awards during an incredible run from 1933 to 1937. ... Dizzy Dean got hurt and pitched just five full seasons, but still ranked fourth in the decade in WAR (and won 58 games in 1934-35). ... Our final two spots go to the two Hall of Famers on the great Yankees teams, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing. Gomez was 6-0 in World Series play and Ruffing went 5-1 in the decade.
1930s vs. 2010s: "Inner-circle Hall of Famer" is kind of a vague description. It's kind of "you know it, when you see it." This maybe gives the edge to the 1930s, with Gehrig, Gehringer, Ott, DiMaggio, Foxx, Grove (arguably the greatest pitcher of all time) and Hubbell. The 2010s have Trout, Cabrera, Kershaw, Verlander and perhaps Scherzer. I don't quite put Beltre in that group and maybe Betts or Lindor gets there someday, but for now the super-duper-star power goes to the 1930s (and that's without even considering Negro Leagues legends like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson). Winner: 1930s.
C Wally Schang: 114 OPS+, 25.6 WAR
1B Lou Gehrig: 174 OPS+, 39.3 WAR
2B Rogers Hornsby: 188 OPS+, 93.2 WAR
3B Pie Traynor: 107 OPS+, 23.0 WAR
SS Joe Sewell: 113 OPS+, 44.1 WAR
OF Harry Heilmann: 156 OPS+, 56.8 WAR
OF Tris Speaker: 151 OPS+, 51.4 WAR
OF Babe Ruth: 216 OPS+, 102.3 WAR
UT Frankie Frisch: 118 OPS+, 54.1 WAR
SP Dazzy Vance: 130 ERA+, 50.1 WAR
SP Pete Alexander: 130 ERA+, 47.7 WAR
SP Red Faber: 121 ERA+, 46.1 WAR
SP Urban Shocker: 125 ERA+, 44.8 WAR
SP Burleigh Grimes: 112 ERA+, 38.3 WAR
Hitting: Babe Ruth in the 1920s had the decade of decades for individual achievement. Simply: He changed the game. ... Rogers Hornsby had three .400 seasons -- three of his seven batting titles). ... Harry Heilmann is an easy call for the other corner outfield spot and Tris Speaker gets the nod in center field, even though the 1920s were only the second-best decade of his career. ... Wally Schang was a superb hitter and is the choice over Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett, who had his peak seasons in the 1930s. ... First base is a weak position in the 1920s so Lou Gehrig is the easy call for his run from 1925 to 1929, including his career-best season in 1927. ... At shortstop, we'll go with Hall of Famer Joe Sewell. From 1925 to 1929, he played 150-plus games every season and struck out 30 times. That's 30 times in five seasons. ... Third base is toss-up between overrated Hall of Famer Pie Traynor and defensive whiz Willie Kamm. It's one of the weakest positions of any decade.
Pitching: As ERAs rose this decade compared to the dead ball era, pitchers started fewer games and threw fewer innings. Dazzy Vance is the one easy selection on the pitching staff. He had cups of coffee in 1915 and 1918, but didn't return to the majors until 1922 at age 31. He led the NL in strikeouts his first seven seasons and became a Hall of Famer. ... Pete Alexander was on the back half of his career, but was still terrific and had one final monster season in 1920 with 27 wins and a 1.91 ERA. ... Burleigh Grimes was the Jack Morris of the 1920s. ... Red Faber and Urban Shocker are my final two choices, although you could go with Eddie Rommel, Herb Pennock, Eppa Rixey or even old Walter Johnson or young Lefty Grove. ... Shocker won 18 games for the 1927 Yankees and was dead a year later from heart disease.
1920s vs. 2010s: As great as Ruth and Hornsby were, I'll go with the 2010s here. Much better depth in the starting pitching and the 1920s teams have some soft spots in the infield. Winner: 2010s.
C Chief Meyers: 116 OPS+, 23.3 WAR
1B Ed Konetchy: 123 OPS+, 32.0 WAR
2B Eddie Collins: 150 OPS+, 73.5 WAR
3B Home Run Baker: 139 OPS+, 53.3 WAR
SS Art Fletcher: 102 OPS+, 41.8 WAR
OF Joe Jackson: 171 OPS+, 55.2 WAR
OF Tris Speaker: 166 OPS+, 76.5 WAR
OF Ty Cobb: 192 OPS+, 84.3 WAR
UT Honus Wagner: 125 OPS+, 34.3 WAR
SP Walter Johnson: 183 ERA+, 107.8 WAR
SP Pete Alexander: 145 ERA+, 68.7 WAR
SP Eddie Cicotte: 127 ERA+, 48.1 WAR
SP Hippo Vaughn: 125 ERA+, 43.3 WAR
SP Christy Mathewson: 127 ERA+, 29.9 WAR
Hitting: You want to talk about star-studded outfields? The trio of Shoeless Joe Jackson, Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb is hard to beat. The power numbers don't compare because of the era, but if we average the adjusted OPS of the three, their 176 OPS+ ranks second behind only the 1940s trio. ... Eddie Collins and Home Run Baker, teammates on the Philadelphia A's, are strong choices at their positions. During the four years of the Chalmers MVP award from 1911 to 1914, Collins finished third, sixth, third and first in the voting. ... Chief Meyers didn't enter pro ball until he was 25 and reached the majors at 28, but was a star on great Giants teams under John McGraw. ... First base was more of a defense-first position in the dead ball era and the 1910s lacked a clear star. Ed Konetchy played for five teams (he was always asking for more money, so teams traded him), but was eighth in the decade in RBIs. ... Art Fletcher was another member of the Giants, regarded as an excellent fielder. ... Finally, we'll go with Honus Wagner in the utility spot. He averaged 5.3 WAR from 1910 to 1916, and was still good enough to lead the NL in 1911 and 1912 at ages 37 and 38.
Pitching: Even though the 1910s were a low-scoring era, it's interesting that many top pitchers burned out quickly, unable to handle the big workloads of the era. Not the legendary Walter Johnson, who pitched at least 322 innings in nine of 10 seasons, had seasons of 33 and 36 wins and led the AL nine times in strikeouts, five times in wins and four times in ERA. ... Pete Alexander is a distant No. 2, winning 208 games in eight seasons. He won 30 games three times and led the NL five times in wins, five times in strikeouts, four times in ERA and six times in innings. Pretty solid one-two punch. ... Eddie Cicotte and Hippo Vaughn were the only other two to clear 40 WAR. For the fifth spot we'll go to late-career Christy Mathewson over a half-dozen other possibilities. He averaged 7.7 WAR from 1910 to 1913 before fading.
1910s vs. 2010s: The 1910s actually rank second behind the 1990s in total WAR, but the decade is a little weak at first base and shortstop and the back of the rotation isn't particularly strong for such a low-scoring decade. You do have four inner-circle Hall of Famers in the lineup in Cobb, Speaker, Collins and Wagner, although Wagner was post-peak. Winner: 2010s.
C Roger Bresnahan: 130 OPS+, 31.0 WAR
1B Frank Chance: 140 OPS+, 41.3 WAR
2B Nap Lajoie: 165 OPS+, 69.5 WAR
3B Jimmy Collins: 113 OPS+, 33.4 WAR
SS Honus Wagner: 175 OPS+, 85.8 WAR
OF Elmer Flick: 150 OPS+, 43.9 WAR
OF Roy Thomas: 125 OPS+, 35.9 WAR
OF Sam Crawford: 146 OPS+, 45.0 WAR
UT Bobby Wallace: 111 OPS+, 49.7 WAR
SP Christy Mathewson: 142 ERA+, 67.7 WAR
SP Cy Young: 140 ERA+, 75.4 WAR
SP Rube Waddell: 136 ERA+, 58.5 WAR
SP Eddie Plank: 120 ERA+, 56.4 WAR
SP Mordecai Brown: 164 ERA+, 40.0 WAR
Hitting: Honus Wagner was the player of the decade, dominating his peers like few have done since. He led the majors in position-player WAR five times and his 1908 season was one of the best ever (he had a .957 OPS when only one other NL player was even over .800). ... Nap Lajoie was the other standout, winning four American League batting titles. ... Roger Bresnahan was kind of the Ben Zobrist of his era, if Zobrist had also played catcher. He actually first appeared as a pitcher, moved to outfield and settled in at catcher, where he famously introduced shin guards and a padded mask. ... Frank Chance arrived as a catcher, moved to first base and had a great five-year stretch from 1903 to 1907. As player/manager of the Cubs he won four NL pennants in the decade. He even led the NL twice in stolen bases. ... Our corner outfielders are Sam Crawford and Elmer Flick, two Hall of Famers. Crawford ranks second in the decade in RBIs and Flick, Lajoie's teammate in Cleveland, ranks fifth in adjusted OPS. He gets the nod over Fred Clarke. ... Center field is a tough call. Ty Cobb came up in 1905, but played mostly right field until 1910 (Crawford actually spent a couple of seasons in center). Roy Thomas was the best pure center fielder. He had zero power, even for the 1900s, but drew 100 walks six times and was third in the decade in runs. ... Hall of Famer Bobby Wallace was a defensive whiz at shortstop and is our utility guy (actually, Wagner would make a great utility guy, as he played all over early in his career).
Pitching: Christy Mathewson leads the pitching staff and he would battle Wagner for player of the decade honors. From 1903 to 1909, he averaged 29 wins per season, leading the NL three times in wins and three times in ERA. ... Cy Young had dominated the 1890s, jumped to the AL when it began play in 1901, and led in victories its first three seasons. ... Rube Waddell and Eddie Plank were teammates on Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's for a time. Waddell was one of the great strikeout pitchers of all time after adjusting for era. His 349 strikeouts in 1904 stood as the highest post-1900 total until Sandy Koufax beat it in 1965 (and still ranks sixth). ... Others have more wins and WAR in the decade than Three-Finger Brown, but he had a great peak from 1906 to 1910 as ace of those Cubs teams.
1900s vs. 2010s: The 1900s feature one of the best five-man rotations, but the lineup is a little lacking (although eight of the nine are Hall of Famers). Bresnahan and Chance had very short peaks, third baseman Jimmy Collins wasn't a great hitter and center field is a little soft. One of the strongest aspects of the 2010s roster is there are no major holes, which speaks to the depth of talent in today's game. Winner: 2010s.