Stan Musial's Place in the Baseball Hall of Fame's Inner Circle

Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Stan Musial's statistics reveal his career to have been one of the greatest in baseball's storied history.

Stan Musial played his final Major League Baseball game on September 29, 1963, in St. Louis. Musial was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 28, 1969, after being named on 317 out of 340 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Even for BBWAA Hall-of-Fame voters, Musial receiving just 93.23 percent of the vote is somewhat confounding. The former Cardinal's career combined elite production and longevity in a way few Hall-of-Famers ever have. He joined the Hall, a ballplayer amongst peers in the most inner circle of the Hall of Fame.

Looking at Musial's career stats, it's clear that he was a special player. He played in over 3,000 games, rapped more than 3,000 hits, clubbed 475 home runs, and drove in over 1,900 runs. His .331 batting average is quite high. His .427 on-base percentage is truly elite. Whenever I looked at Musial's career stats, his .976 OPS makes me do a double-take. It wasn't simply a function of a healthy run-scoring environment or hitter-friendly home ballpark, either. Musial posted a career OPS+ of 159.

STAN MUSIAL CAREER BATTING STATS


G

H

2B

3B

HR

R

RBI

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

wOBA

wRC+

3026

3630

725

177

475

1949

1951

.331

.417

.559

.976

159

.435

158

Standing alone, they speak for themselves. Musial's longevity and production make him a special player. For additional context to the laundry list of statistical accomplishments The Man has under his belt, I thought we'd see how he compares to his fellow all-time greats.

The first thing to understand is that Musial played baseball for a really, really long time.

Musial played in 3,026 games during his 22-year career. At the time of his retirement, that was a National League record. Even after Hank Aaron broke it along with a few other records, Musial's games played total is the sixth-highest in the history of the game. A look at the other names in the top 10 for games played makes it clear that a ballplayer has to be pretty good at baseball to make it into over 2,900 games.

MLB ALL-TIME LEADERS IN GAMES PLAYED (1871-PRESENT)

Rank

Player

Games

1.

Pete Rose

3,557

2.

Carl Yastrzemski

3,306

3.

Hank Aaron

3,298

4.

Rickey Henderson

3,068

5.

Ty Cobb

3,035

6.

Stan Musial

3,026

7.

Eddie Murray

3,021

8.

Cal Ripken

2,998

9.

Willie Mays

2,992

10.

Barry Bonds

2,976

We start with Musial's longevity because his career is amongst the longest in the history of the game. An excellent hitter, his .331 average is great. But 31 players in MLB history have hit for a higher career average. Of those 31, seven have played fewer than 1,000 games. Eight played between 1,000 and 2,000. This means that 16 players who have played in 2,000 or more career games have hit for a higher average than Musial. It we up the qualifying number of games to 2,500, only five Hall-of-Famers in MLB history have a higher batting average than Musial: (1) Ty Cobb, .366; (2) Tris Speaker, .345; (3) Babe Ruth, .342; (4) Paul Waner, .333; and (5) Eddie Collins, .333. For those curious, seventh on this list and one spot behind Musial sits Derek Jeter with a .313 average.

With OBP, it's the same situation. When trimming down the list of players with a higher OBP than Musial and a minimum of 2,000 games played, Musial places 14th, behind the likes of Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds, Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, Jimmie Foxx, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Mickey Mantle, Todd Helton, Frank Thomas, and Edgar Martinez.

Using the same 2,000-game threshold for SLG, Musial is a top 10 player, behind the following players: (1) Babe Ruth, .690; (2) Ted Williams, .634; (3) Lou Gehrig, .632; (4) Jimmie Foxx, .609; (5) Barry Bonds, .607; (6) Manny Ramirez, .585; (7) Rogers Hornsby, .577; and (8) Alex Rodriguez, .560. Musial's .559 SLG places him ninth all-time amongst players with 2,000 or more games played, ahead of Mays and Mantle (.557) as well as Aaron (.555).

Given Musial's excellent OBP and SLG, it's of no surprise that his on-base plus slugging (OPS) is also one of the ten best ever for a player with at least 2,000 games.

MLB CAREER OPS LEADERS (MINIMUM 2,000 GAMES PLAYED)

Rank

Player

OPS

1.

Babe Ruth

1.164

2.

Ted Williams

1.116

3.

Lou Gehrig

1.080

4.

Barry Bonds

1.051

5.

Jimmie Foxx

1.038

6.

Rogers Hornsby

1.010

7.

Manny Ramirez

.996

8.

Mickey Mantle

.977

9.

Stan Musial

.976

10.

Frank Thomas

.974

Unlike Manny Ramirez and Frank Thomas, Musial's OPS wasn't boosted by a high-scoring run environment and/or a hitter-friendly home park. When we look at OPS+, a stat that adjusts for the hitting environment a player played in and for park effects, Musial is again a top 10 players all-time amongst those who logged 2,000 or more games.

MLB CAREER OPS+ LEADERS (MINIMUM 2,000 GAMES PLAYED)

Rank

Player

OPS+

1.

Babe Ruth

206

2.

Ted Williams

190

3.

Barry Bonds

182

4.

Lou Gehrig

179

5.

Rogers Hornsby

175

6.

Mickey Mantle

172

7.

Ty Cobb

168

8.

Jimmie Foxx

163

9.

Stan Musial

159

10.

Tris Speaker

157

While Musial's rate stats are made all the more impressive by his longevity, it is the length of his career that makes his place in the counting-stat ranks so secure. When Musial retired, he was the NL career leader in hits. He would later be passed by Aaron and then Pete Rose. Nonetheless, Musial is fourth all-time in hits.

MLB CAREER HITS LEADERS

Rank

Player

Hits

1.

Pete Rose

4,256

2.

Ty Cobb

4,186

3.

Hank Aaron

3,771

4.

Stan Musial

3,630

5.

Tris Speaker

3,514

6.

Carl Yastremzemski

3,419

7.

Cap Anson

3,418

8.

Honus Wagner

3,415

9.

Paul Molitor

3,319

10.

Eddie Collins

3,315

Of Musial's 3,630 career hits, 20 percent were doubles. He ranks third all-time in doubles.

MLB CAREER DOUBLES LEADERS

Rank

Player

2B

1.

Tris Speaker

792

2.

Pete Rose

746

3.

Stan Musial

725

4.

Ty Cobb

724

5.

Craig Biggio

668

6.

George Brett

665

7.

Carl Yastrzemski

646

8.

Hank Aaron

624

9.

Paul Molitor

605

10.

Paul Waner

605

In addition to Musial's 725 career doubles, The Man also rapped 177 tripes and socked 475 homers. On the all-time leader board for extra-base hits, he places third with 1,377 extra-base hits. On this list, Musial ranks ahead of Ruth, Mays, and Gehrig, amongst every other player who ever played save Aaron and Bonds.

MLB CAREER EXTRA-BASE HITS LEADERS

Rank

Player

XBH

1.

Hank Aaron

1,477

2.

Barry Bonds

1,440

3.

Stan Musial

1,377

4.

Babe Ruth

1,356

5.

Willie Mays

1,323

6.

Ken Griffey, Jr.

1,192

7.

Rafael Palmeiro

1,192

8.

Lou Gahrig

1,190

9.

Alex Rodriguez

1,189

10.

Frank Robinson

1,186

When it comes to driving in and scoring runs, Musial is also in rarefied company. The Greatest Cardinal Of Them All ranks fifth all-time in RBI with 1,951 and eighth all-time in runs scored with 1,949.

MLB CAREER RBI LEADERS

Rank

Player

RBI

1.

Hank Aaron

2,297

2.

Babe Ruth

2,213

3.

Barry Bonds

1,996

4.

Lou Gehrig

1,995

5.

Stan Musial

1,951

6.

Alex Rodriguez

1,950

7.

Ty Cobb

1,938

8.

Jimmie Foxx

1,922

9.

Eddie Murray

1,917

10.

Willie Mays

1,903

MLB CAREER RUNS SCORED LEADERS

Rank

Player

Runs

1.

Rickey Henderson

2,295

2.

Ty Cobb

2,246

3.

Barry Bonds

2,227

4.

Hank Aaron

2,174

5.

Babe Ruth

2,174

6.

Pete Rose

2,165

7.

Willie Mays

2,062

8.

Stan Musial

1,949

9.

Alex Rodriguez

1,898

10.

Lou Gehrig

1,888

The advanced stats also show Musial to be one of the greatest ballplayers ever to lace up his cleats. We have long used Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) here at VEB. It's a stat readily found on Fangraphs that uses linear weights to give each type of offensive play a proper run value. It counts singles, doubles, triples, homers, walks, steals, and outs and then the number is scaled so that it can evaluated the same as OBP. Thus, a wOBA over .400 is really good. Anything greater than .425 is all-time great. Musial is an all-time great by wOBA, tying Bonds with a career .435 wOBA.

MLB wOBA CAREER LEADERS

Rank

Player

wOBA

1.

Babe Ruth

.513

2.

Ted Williams

.493

3.

Lou Gehrig

.477

4.

Jimmie Foxx

.460

5.

Rogers Hornsby

.459

6.

Hank Greenberg

.453

7.

Ty Cobb

.445

8.

Joe Jackson

.443

9.

Joe DiMaggio

.439

10.

Tris Speaker

.436

Dan Brouthers

.436

12.

Stan Musial

.435

Barry Bonds

.435

The stat Weighted Runs Created Plus does the exact same thing as wOBA, but with three important differences. Like all "Plus" stats, it adjusts for park effects and the league scoring environment of a season or career. It is also scaled to 100 with 100 being average and greater than 100 being above-average. The higher a player's wRC+, the better. Unsurprisingly, Musial's wRC+ is pretty high.

MLB wRC+ CAREER LEADERS

Rank

Player

wRC+

1.

Babe Ruth

197

2.

Ted Williams

188

3.

Lou Gehrig

173

4.

Rogers Hornsby

172

5.

Barry Bonds

172

6.

Mickey Mantle

169

7.

Ty Cobb

165

Joe Jackson

165

9.

Albert Pujols

164

10.

Stan Musial

158

Jimmie Foxx

158

12.

Mark McGwire

157

Tris Speaker

157

Wins Above Replacement is a stat that attempts to measure a player's entire contribution: batting, baserunning, and fielding. The Fangraphs Glossary entry for WAR explains the stat like this:

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic. You should always use more than one metric at a time when evaluating players, but WAR is pretty darn all-inclusive and provides a handy reference point. WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, "If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?" This value is expressed in a wins format, so we could say that Player X is worth +6.3 wins to their team while Player Y is only worth +3.5 wins.

Because WAR is a counting stat, Musial's longevity and excellent production are reflected in this stat more than in a rate stat like average, OPS, or wOBA. By fWAR, Musial is one of the ten best position players in history, neck and neck with Williams.

MLB fWAR CAREER LEADERS (POSITION PLAYERS)

Rank

Player

fWAR

1.

Babe Ruth

177.9

2.

Barry Bonds

168.0

3.

Willie Mays

163.2

4.

Ty Cobb

161.8

5.

Hank Aaron

150.4

6.

Honus Wagner

147.6

7.

Tris Speaker

141.6

8.

Ted Williams

139.8

9.

Stan Musial

139.4

10.

Rogers Hornsby

134.9

11.

Eddie Collins

132.4

12.

Lou Gehrig

125.8

13.

Mickey Mantle

123.3

14.

Frank Robinson

116.4

15.

Mel Ott

115.9

The stats clearly show that Musial is an inner-circle Hall-of-Famer. They reflect a player whose greatness has been under-appreciated for years. Musial hit for average and power and got on base at a high rate. He hit singles, doubles, homers, and even triples. Any discussion of the greatest ball-players of all-time should include The Man. He has a résumé as good or better as almost any many who ever played the game.

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