Where does Alex Rodriguez rank in baseball history?

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Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez slugged a home run for his 3,000th career hit on Friday night, becoming the 29th player to join the elite club. He had just recently joined the 2,000 RBI club and passed Willie Mays for fourth in baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard earlier this season as well.

Rodriguez, a three-time MVP award winner and a 14-time All-Star, is an obvious Hall of Famer on statistics alone, but where does he rank all-time? According to Baseball Reference, Rodriguez has accumulated the 12th-most WAR among position players, trailing Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Ted Williams. FanGraphs has him 13th, also behind Lou Gehrig.

Of the 12 batters ahead of Rodriguez, Ruth, Cobb, Speaker, Wagner, Hornsby, Collins, and Gehrig played before integration, which rules them out. Many will interject with, “but A-Rod used performance-enhancing drugs, so he should be ruled out as well.” I’m glad you brought that up. So did Mays and Aaron, as well as fellow Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Mickey Mantle — they used amphetamines. If one invalidates Rodriguez’s place among baseball’s greats, one must do the same for Mays and Aaron and others. Assuming we’re keeping Mays and Aaron, and thus, Rodriguez, we’re dealing with an all-time list of Bonds, Mays, Aaron, Musial, Williams, and Rodriguez.

Musial and Williams played most of their careers before integration, but they should still be penalized for the years played prior to integration. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. Musial accrued 32.6 of his 128.1 WAR in that time, per Baseball Reference. For Williams, it was 45.1 of 128.1. That puts them clearly behind Rodriguez. The ranking then becomes Bonds, Mays, Aaron, and Rodriguez:

  • Bonds: 162.4 WAR
  • Mays: 156.2
  • Aaron: 142.6
  • Rodriguez: 117.5

Personally, I believe more recent eras of baseball to be much tougher than those of the past as athletes are bigger, stronger, and smarter than they’ve ever been, and technology has made it simple for pitchers to research and exploit a hitter’s tendencies. But I don’t think there’s any realistic adjustment for that which would bridge the 25 WAR gap between Rodriguez and Aaron. So, with my methodology, Rodriguez is the fourth-greatest position player in baseball history.

Note: I realize that WAR has many methodological flaws, but it’s the best tool for comparing players across eras. I believe in using imperfect tools than no tools at all.

Max Scherzer, with broken nose, strikes out 10 Phillies over seven shutout innings

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Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.

Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.

Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.

Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.