The Top 10 Best Seasons Ever by a Cub

As part of this Cubs history kick that started with Wiklifield, I had this idea of trying to figure out what was the best individual season by a member of the Cubs. As I started pouring through the research I decided that the burden of annointing the best Cubs' season ever was too much for this humble Cubs fan. Now I realize as a blogger and top 10 list-maker, I'm suppose to just present my opinion as fact and not accept any other arguments, but I decided for this instance to enlist the rest of the TCR writers.

I put together a list of 27 great Cubs seasons and put it to a vote and would weigh it MVP-style (10 pts for a first place vote, 9 for a second place vote, etc). The criteria for this list were all the Cubs' NL MVP seasons and Cy Young winners and then the best of the rest based on sabermetric dominance in either WARP-3 or Win Shares (Lee in 2005) , historical signifcance  (Wilson's RBI record in 1930) or place in Cubs history (Sutcliffe in 1984). Now there may have been a few names that deserved to be in that
original top 27 list over some other names, but I'm sure I didn't miss
the top season. As I mentioned in the poll, just think of it as the
NCAA tournament...there's a lot of arguments on who deserved to be in
the original 65 picks, but those that are left out never really had a
chance to win the whole thing. 

The only instruction I laid out for their votes was to use whatever
criteria each writer saw fit. Some of us have a sabermetric slant to
the world, some like MVP trophies, some just remember what we saw and
its impact at the time and so forth and so on. Transmission, Cubnut, Dr. Hecht and myself ended up participating and our ballots are listed at the end of the post. The final results for the readers voting is also at the end. We by no means believe this is the list to rule all lists, but it was an interesting exercise nonetheless. I mean if Arizona Phil or Christian had submitted their ballots, the final results could have been very different. Also, we tend to believe with our eyes and hearts and I don't think any of us saw much baseball before 1950 - and for some of us - not much before 1980. Speaking for myself, I had a hard time giving double credit for a player, generally focusing on what I felt to be their best season, even if they had a second or third great season that deserved to be recognized. But this is more art than science and the final results certainly are skewed by a small sample size.

1. Ernie Banks 1959

(.304/.374/.596, 155 OPS+, 45 HR, 143 RBI, 97 R, 179 H, 25 2B, 6 3B, 351 Total Bases)

(11.6 WARP-3, 33 Win Shares, NL MVP,  Starting SS for NL in All-Star Game)

Banks’ 1958 and 1959 seasons came in 5th and 1st,
respectively, in our TCR writers' vote. 
I voted them 1st and 2nd.  First,
the basic numbers:  In 1958 banks put up
a .313/.366/.614/.980 line with 47 HR, 119 Runs and 129 RBI.  He led MLB in Home Runs, RBI, Extra Base Hits
and Total Bases.

The following year Banks sported a .304/.374/.596/.970 line,
45 HR, 97 Runs and 143 RBI.  He again led
the majors in RBI, was one behind Matthews in Home Runs, and led baseball in
intentional walks.  His OPS+ scores were
156 and 155 and he won the MVP award in each year.  In 1958 he did so with 16 of 24 first place
votes, while second-place Willie Mays won three votes.  The next year he doubled up Eddie Matthews,
ten to five. 

Did I mention that Banks put up these numbers while playing
shortstop, and playing in every game as part of his longer 717 consecutive
games played streak?  Both facts weighed
heavily in my decision to vote these seasons 1st and 2nd.  Defensive statistics being what they are,
Banks looks like an average to slightly below average fielding shortstop in
1958, but had a much better 1959, going from 32 errors to just 12, with 51 more
assists, leading the league.  Banks’
range never was very good, and as Bill James notes in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Banks’ high
assists total came while playing for an extreme ground-ball pitching staff. To
which I respond “well, sure, but in 1959 at least he still was the league's best at converting everything he got to!”

Another way to appreciate Banks’ MVP seasons is to compare
them with the best hitting shortstop in baseball last year, Hanley Ramirez.  Ramirez had a lower average, a lower slugging percentage, a lower OPS (.940), a lower
OPS+ (146), fewer home runs, about half the RBI, (admittedly, hitting lead off) and only edges out Banks in runs
scored at 125.  So if Banks’ years were
rather clearly superior to Ramirez’s 2008, how about a comparison with Alex
Rodriguez’s years as a shortstop?  Those
work out much more closely.  I won’t go
into even more mind-numbing stats, but Banks’ 1958 and 1959 look very, very
similar to Rodriguez’s best years as a shortstop.  Not bad when you have to go to A-Rod Prime for a valid comparison.  

Of course, the A-Rod of the 1950s easily surpasses today’s pin
cushion-assed superstar in the all-important congeniality department, which
also is worth considering when we think about the season that deserves the
title of Greatest Cubs Season Ever.  I
can not testify to any particular Banks story from either year, but given the
reputation he deservedly cultivated in the 1960s and onward as a great
ambassador for baseball and the Cubs, it seems fitting to acknowledge his work
as the Cubs’ greatest.  I personally am a
fan of his philosophy of attending more weddings than funerals.  My only question is, how did his 1959 season
get voted in ahead of his 1958? ~Transmission~

2. Rogers Hornsby 1929

(.380/.459/.679, 178 OPS+, 39 HR, 149 RBI, 156 R, 229 H, 47 2B, 8 3B, 409 Total Bases)

(10.2 WARP-3, 42 Win Shares, NL MVP)

Rogers Hornby’s 1929 season ranked second on our list; 
I voted him 8th.  I
happily confess that my vote is explained in part by my own bias.  He had several better seasons in St.
Louis, including two different triple-crown seasons.  In seven different full seasons he put up
better OPS+ numbers than in 1929.  I
learn from The New Bill James Historical
Baseball Abstract
that “There are 71 second basemen in baseball history who
played an estimated 10,000 innings or more at second base.  Among those 71 players, Hornsby rates dead
last in terms of Win Shares per defensive inning.” (p. 482) He also was a
jackass.  (Heh, neat, I now see that’s
the same word James uses to describe Hornsby.)

Still, Hornsby arguably was second only to Babe Ruth among
players in the 1920s.  Bill James’ New Historical Baseball Abstract rates
Hornsby the best player in baseball in 1922, 1925, and 1929: those being the
only years Ruth got bumped from the spot. 
James rates his 1929 season as the seventh greatest season ever by a
second baseman. (p. 485) His defense wasn’t abominable so much as it was very
mediocre for a very long time.

Hornsby’s 1929 season was pretty damn good:  rates of .380/.459/.679/1.138, OPS+ of 178, 39
HR, 149 RBI, and a stunning 156 runs scored, first in baseball.  His batting average and on base percentage
were third in baseball, his slugging and OPS+ second, and his OPS, total bases,
extra-base hits, batting wins, and adjusted batting runs (whatever the hell
THOSE are) all topped the charts.  He
played every game, finished fourth in home runs and fifth in RBI.  The Cubs won the NL Pennant.  Not bad.
~Transmission~

3. Ryne Sandberg 1984

(.314/.367/.520, 140 OPS+, 19 HR, 84 RBI, 114 R, 200 H, 36 2B, 19 3B, 331 Total Bases)

(9.5 WARP-3, 38 Win Shares, NL MVP, Gold Glove, Starting 2b for NL in All-Star Game, Silver Slugger)

1984 was Ryne Sandberg's break-out season helping lead the Cubs to their first playoff appearance in 39 years. It may not have been the best season of his career - he put up 9.9 WARP-3 in 1992 and hit 40 HR's in 1990 - but it's the one that is forever ingrained in the memories of Cubs fans and that has National League MVP stamped next to it. We all know about “The Sandberg Game”, two game-tying home runs versus the best closer in the game, seven RBI and 5-6 for the day. It was his second two homer game of the month and helped him to June Player of the Month honors.

Once the season wrapped up, he won the National League MVP nearly unanimously, with stray first place votes to Keith Hernandez and Tony Gwynn being the only blemish. He was also one home run and one triple short of being just the third player in Major League history at the time to hit 20 doubles, 20 home runs, 20 triples and steal 20 bases (Curtis Granderson and Jimmy Rollins have done it since). ~Rob G.~

4. Sammy Sosa 2001

(.328/.437/.737, 203 OPS+, 64 HR, 160 RBI, 146 R, 193 H, 38 2B, 1 3B, 425 Total Bases)

(11.9 WARP-3, 42 Win Shares, 2nd in NL MVP, Silver Slugger, Starting OF in All-Star Game)

Sosa was a tough one as his 2001 season was easily the statistically most dominant offensive season ever put up by a Cub, but it was overshadowed by Barry Bonds home run chase and MVP award and a cloud of suspicion over the legitimacy of the numbers. As you can see by our votes, it split the TCR writers, two of us putting him at the top, two leaving him off completely and probably a good indicator of what Sosa's Hall of Fame votes will look like.

The season itself though was nothing short of the best offensive baseball any of us will probably ever see put up by someone wearing a Cubs uniform. Sosa became one of fifteen players in baseball to ever have more than 100 extra-base hits (103 in total and four of those instances happened in 2001, another in 2000). He won August Player of the Month honors and his 2001 season holds the Cubs' marks for highest slugging percentage and highest OPS+ and is in the top ten in runs, RBI, home runs, OBP and OPS.
~Rob G.~

5. Ernie Banks 1958

(.313/.366/.614, 156 OPS+, 47 HR, 129 RBI, 119 R, 193 H, 23 2B, 11 3B, 379 Total Bases)

(11.6 WARP-3, 31 Win Shares, NL MVP,  Starting SS for NL in All-Star Game)

See no. 1. ~Transmission~

6. Mordecai Brown 1906 (Tie)
(26-6, 1.04 ERA, 253 ERA+, 277.1 IP, 144 K, 61 BB, 0.934 WHIP)

(6.0 WARP-3, 35 Win Shares)


In 1903, the Cubs acquired Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown in trade from the Cardinals. Three years later, he was the best pitcher on a great staff on one of baseball's most magnificent teams ever. Frank Chance's '06 Cubs went 116-36 (.763) and the 29-year-old Brown was the winning pitcher in 26 of the victories. It was the first of six consecutive seasons in which Brown would win 20 or more games for the Cubs.

How dominant was the righthander? Brown's teammate, Jack Pfiester, had the second best ERA in the NL that season—1.51. Brown was nearly a half-run per game better, logging a 1.04 ERA (253 ERA+). Product of the Deadball Era or not, Brown's mark remains the lowest single-season ERA in the history of the National League (minimun 150 IP).

Of course, the Cubs and Cub history being what they are, it can be no surprise that Brown and his mates ended the 1906 campaign in disappointing fashion. Chance's team lost a six-game World Series to (gulp) the White Sox, and the manager's decision to start his ace in the decisive Game Six—just two days after he threw a complete game shutout in Game Four—didn't help the cause. Brown couldn't get out of the second inning as the Sox won the clincher, 8-3. ~Cubnut~

6. Mordecai Brown 1908 (Tie)

(29-9, 1.47 ERA, 160 ERA+, 312.1 IP, 123 K, 49 BB, 0.842 WHIP)

(9.1 WARP-3, 34 Win Shares)

In 1908, Three Finger Brown finished second in the NL in victories with 29 (New York's Christy Mathewson won a league-leading 31), second in ERA at 1.47 (Mathewson finished at 1.43), second in shutouts with 9 (Mathewson threw 11), and second in fewest walks per 9 IP with 1.41 (Mathewson led the way at .97). Still it was Brown who had the last laugh.

Thanks to the infamous Fred Merkle game, which cost the Giants a crucial September victory over the Cubs, the two teams finished the regular season in a dead heat and had to meet in a one-game playoff to decide the NL pennant. Brown and Mathewson were the starting pitchers, and Brown proved the better man, earning a 4-2 victory that sent the Cubs into the World Series against the Tigers. Remarkably, it was the ninth consecutive game, dating back to 1905, in which Brown had defeated the brilliant Mathewson. ~Cubnut~

8. Derrek Lee 2005

(.335/.418/.662, 174 OPS+, 46 HR, 107 RBI, 120 R, 199 H, 50 2B, 3 3B, 393 Total Bases)

(10.1 WARP-3, 37 Win Shares, 3rd in NL MVP, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger)

Derrek Lee put up a career year in 2005 that he continues to pay for in 2009. His 174 OPS+ is the fourth highest ever for a Cub, but a good 43 points higher than anything else for his career and a standard that many Cubs fans unfairly continue to expect him to repeat. 

It was a remarkably consistent offensive season as well, with an OPS over 1.000 each month except September – in which he put up a .958 OPS. He fell just one extra base short of joining the 100 XBH hit group that Sosa joined in 2001 and flirted with the Triple Crown for much of the season. He did win the batting crown – one of seven times a Cub player has led the league – finished second in home runs, but dropped to seventh in RBI, thanks to Corey, Neifi and Hairston mostly batting in front of him.
He backed up that 2005 offense
with a Gold Glove that the defensive statistics don't seem to support,
but his reputation and offensive prowess did.

In the end he was good enough to win the Silver Slugger award for best offensive season by a National League first basemen, but he finished third in the MVP voting to Albert Pujols...who happens to play first base. Apparently part of the criteria to winning the MVP is keeping your pitching staff healthy.  
~Rob G.~

8. Ron Santo 1964

(.313/.398/.564, 164 OPS+, 30 HR, 114 RBI, 94 R, 185 H, 33 2B, 13 3B, 334 Total Bases)

(11.9 WARP-3, 36 Win Shares, 8th in NL MVP, Gold Glove, All-Star Game) 

In the season that immediately followed Kenny Hubbs's fatal plane crash and saw the trade of Lou Brock to the Cardinals, the Cubs slid back into 8th place (76-86, .469, 17 games out), but their young third baseman's star continued to rise. In his fifth Major League season, the 24-year-old Santo hit a career-high .313 while leading the National League in walks (86), OBP (.398) and triples (13). He also was named to the NL All-Star team for a second consecutive season and finished 8th in that year's MVP voting.

List of all National League third baseman to have hit more home runs than Ron Santo (104) by age 24: Eddie Matthews, 190; Miguel Cabrera and Bob Horner (tied), 138.

List of all Chicago Cubs to have hit more home runs than Ron Santo by age 24: none. First baseman Vic Saier, who played in the teens, is second with 46.
~Cubnut.~

10. Rick Sutcliffe 1984

(16-1, 2.69 ERA, 144 ERA+, 150.1 IP, 155 K, 39 BB, 1.078 WHIP)

(4.7 WARP-3, 16 Win Shares, Cy Young, 4th in NL MVP)

Sutcliffe's 1984 doesn't really rank well when you look at the cumulative stats, but that will happen when you join the team on June 13th. He didn't even pitch enough innings to qualify for the NL ERA title but his .941 winning percentage was the best ever by a pitcher with at least 150 IP in the National League.  Wins don't quite carry the weight they once did, but back in 1984, starting pitchers still tried to finish what they started and Sutcliffe finished 7 of his 20 Cub starts. He started 2-1 as a Cub, then took off with 14 straight wins in 17 starts and a 2.71 ERA. That included six complete games including the NL East clincher against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Sure, Sutcliffe got plenty of support including 5.55 runs scored per
start by his offense, but some of that was due to his own hitting.

He started Game 1 of the NLCS and hit a homer while pitching the team to a 13-0 victory. When the game reached a surprsing Game 5, there wasn't a Cubs fan or oddsmaker that didn't believe the Cubs had Game 5 in the bag with the unbeatable Sutcliffe on the mound. Sutcliffe's streak met the Cubs' history of bad luck and some Gatorade and the rest, as they say, is history.
While not enough to take the sting off the postseason failure, Sutcliffe took the Cy Young by a unanimous vote and finished 4th in the NL MVP voting. ~Rob G.~

(Statistical and historical sources: Baseball-Reference.com, Cubs Journal: Year-by-Year and Day-by-Day With The Chicago Cubs Since 1876 by John Snyder., Baseball-Almanac.com, Baseball Prospectus.com, Win Shares by Bill James and Jim Henzler)

Final Voting

 Player 1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total Pts
Banks 1959   3                 27
Hornsby 1929     1   1 1   1     22
Sandberg 1984     1   1   1 1     21
Sosa 2001 2                   20
Banks 1958 1           2     1 19
Brown 1908 1         1       1 16
Brown 1906     2               16
Lee 2005         1 1     1   13
Santo 1964        1     1   1   13
Sutcliffe 1984        1       1     10
Hartnett 1935   1                 9
Jenkins 1971       1            1 8
Sandberg 1990       1             7
Santo 1967         1           6
Cavaretta 1945           1         5
Sosa 1998                1     3
Williams 1972                 1 1 3
Wilson 1930                 1   2
Sutter 1979                    1 1

 

Rob G.  

  1. Sosa 2001
  2. Banks 1959
  3. Hornsby 1929
  4. Jenkins 1971
  5. Lee 2005
  6. Brown 1908
  7. Sandberg 1984
  8. Sutcliffe 1984
  9. Santo 1964
  10. Banks 1958

Cubnut

  1. Sosa 2001
  2. Banks 1959
  3. Brown 1906
  4. Santo 1964
  5. Santo 1967
  6. Hornsby 1929
  7. Banks 1958
  8. Sandberg 1984
  9. Lee 2005
  10. Williams 1972


Dr. Hecht

  1. Brown 1908
  2. Hartnett 1935
  3. Sandberg 1984
  4. Sutcliffe 1984
  5. Hornsby 1929
  6. Cavaretta 1945
  7. Banks 1958
  8. Sosa 1998
  9. Wilson 1930
  10. Sutter 1979

Transmission

  1. Banks 1958
  2. Banks 1959
  3. Brown 1906
  4. Sandberg 1990
  5. Sandberg 1984
  6. Lee 2005
  7. Santo 1964
  8. Hornsby 1929
  9. Williams 1972
  10. Brown 1908, Jenkins 1971(tied)

Reader Votes

1. R. Sandberg - 1984
2. S. Sosa - 2001 
3. H. Wilson 1930
4. R. Hornsby - 1929
5. D. Lee - 2005
6. R. Sutcliffe - 1984, E. Banks - 1958
8. E. Banks - 1959
9. "Three-Finger" Brown - 1906
10. "Three-Finger" Brown - 1908
11. G. Maddux - 1992
12. A. Dawson - 1987
13. S. Sosa - 1998
14. P. Alexander - 1920
15. B. Sutter - 1979
16. R. Santo - 1964
17. B. Williams 1972
18. M. Prior - 2003, F. Jenkins - 1971
20. R. Sandberg - 1990
21. R. Santo - 1967
22. F. Chance - 1906
23. P. Cavaretta - 1945, G. Hartnett - 1935
25. R. Sandberg - 1992
26. H. Sauer - 1952
27. F. Schulte - 1911

Cubs Hitters by OPS+

Cubs Pitchers by ERA+

Sortable Spreadshet with OPS+/ERA+, Win Shares and WARP-3

Just a few comments on the reader vote and other tidbits. I'm not surprised to see some more recent seasons leading the pack, after all, we tend to remember with our hearts and know what it was like to follow Sandberg's 1984 season versus Hornsby's 1929. For what it's worth, Sandberg's 1984 season was only his second best by WARP-3, by just a slight margin to his 1992 season, which I must admit I wouldn't have even thought of bringing up before going to his Baseball Prospectus page. It seems those who voted are enamored as much by the RBI as the the Baseball writers, putting Hack Wilson third. While the RBI record and 56 HR's is neat and all, it came during one of the big offensive explosions in baseball. His 1.177 OPS is the highest single season OPS for any Cub hitter, but his OPS+ trails Sosa's 2001 significantly. Plus he played some real poor defense in center field that year with 19 errors and a Rate2 of 85. Hornsby' 1929, which was comparable offensively, but he did it playing an average second base at least.

I do have to question the 1987 Andre Dawson vote that came in at #12 ahead of some considerably better seasons. I know he wrongly earned the MVP trophy, let's not keep rewarding him for that injustice. Out of all the seasons listed, it was the worst in WARP-3 and second worst in Win Shares to Sutcliffe's 1984, but Sutclffe had the excuse of playing a little over half a season and being one of the key forces to leading the team to the playoffs.

The last thing I want to mention is the mystery of Pete Alexander's (aka Grover Cleveland Alexander) 1920 season. Somehow it ranks nearly 2 wins better on BP's WARP-3 scale than any other Cubs season and for the life of any of the writers, we couldn't figure it out. It was a fine season, the second highest win total by any Cub pitcher just behind Brown's 29 wins in 1908. But it's just 12th in ERA+ among all the seasons put together by Cubs' starters and when you compare it to Ferguson Jenkins 1971, it's hard to spot the differences.

  Jenkins
Alexander
W-L  24-13  27-14
IP 325 363.1
ERA/ERA+ 2.77/142 1.91/168
GS 39 40
CG 30 33
K 263 178
K:BB 7.11 2.51

Alexander led the league in strikeouts, but Jenkins was second behind Tom Seaver. Alexander made 6 relief appearances as well, but doubtful that explains the disparity. Jenkins even hit .243/282/478 with an OPS+ of 102 compared to Alexander's 71 OPS+ with the bat. I really would like someone at BP to explain that one to me.

Thanks for indulging us and we hope you enjoyed the show. Back to the present tomorrow with two new posts from me.

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Comments

This right here is proof that Democracy Doesn't Work.

Besides the Sosa 2001 season, two people left Brown's 1906 season entirely off their lists?

Those two things, and Banks 1959 over Banks 1958, I just don't get, dear fellow-columnists.

Dear reader-voters: Hack Wilson? Really? And No one has EVER had a better season than Sandberg 1984?

And now that I've antagonized very one, I'll be away from my computer for almost all of the day....

No good can come of this, for me.

Hey Trans, who's Mordecai Brown?

I should have voted his '58 season higher, but I still would have ranked his '59 season over it. Higher WARP and Win Shares and just one point behind in OPS+.  Maybe he was just lucky defensively that year, but it was a big difference.

I relied heavily on OPS+/ERA+ and WARP-3. A huge believer in statistics. However, I definitely allowed my heart to corrupt my list, not to exclude those with the numbers (Sosa and others should be innocent until proven guilty, although personally I would be surprised if he didn't use THEM) but to bump up some of my favorites (Santo, Maddux). Anyway, here is my list.

1. Brown 06
2. Sosa 01
3. Hornsby 29
4. Alexander 20
5. Lee 05
6. Williams 72
7. Prior 03
8. Sutter 79
9. Santo 64
10. Maddux 92

One more thing...

"It seems those who voted are enamored as much by the RBI as the the Baseball writers, putting Hack Wilson third."

I didn't include him personally, but in fairness to those who did, they may have used OPS+ and not RBIs directly.

Go CUBS!

"It seems those who voted are enamored as much by the RBI as the the Baseball writers, putting Hack Wilson third. While the RBI record and 56 HR's is neat and all, it came during one of the big offensive explosions in baseball. His 1.177 OPS is the highest single season OPS for any Cub hitter, but his OPS+ trails Sosa's 2001 significantly."

I voted Hack first in part because I knew he would be down on the lists of many others. I can see an argument for why he isn't first, but you just pointed out that that season was the highest OPS of any, and while he does trail Sosa's 2001 season in OPS+, no on else in Cubs history is ahead of him!!! So how is he not even on your top 10?!?!?! Sure, 1930 was a great offensive year, but so was 2001. I mean Luis Gonzalez hit 57 HR that year and Bonds had 73. Those 56 HR in 1930 have only been surpassed just 15 times in MLB history, and 9 of those seasons belong to McGwire, Bonds, L. Gonzalez, and A-Rod. His SLG% that year was the 22nd best of all-time, his OPS 27th, and the RBI mark, of course, remains a record.

How is Santo's 1964 season 4th, 7th, and 9th on Cubnut, Trans, and Rob's list respectively, and Wilson doesn't even make the top 10 on any of them?

Ron Santo (1964): .313/.398/.564, 164 OPS+, 30 HR, 114 RBI, 94 R, 185 H, 33 2B, 13 3B, 334 Total Bases (11.9 WARP-3, 36 Win Shares, 8th in NL MVP, Gold Glove, All-Star Game)

Hack Wilson (1930): .356/.454/.723, 178 OPS+, 56 HR, 191 RBI, 146 R, 208 H, 35 2B, 6 3B, 423 Total Bases (6.9 WARP-3, 35 Win Shares, No official MVP that year but Wilson won the unofficial BWA's Award, All-Star Game=NA)

How is Santo's 1964 season 4th, 7th, and 9th on Cubnut, Trans, and
Rob's list respectively, and Wilson doesn't even make the top 10 on any
of them?

Defense and run-scoring environment of the time....

some fun facts..

leage OPS:

1930: .837

2001: .763

1964: .724

but that's reflected in OPS+, what Wilson also had going for him was

Hartnett 339/404/630

Grimm 289/359/403

W. English: 335/430/511

K. Cuyler: 355/428/547

R. Stephenson: 367/421/478

and Hornsby played a partial season as well

They don't have the batting orders of the time, but I'm gonna guess Hack Wilson batted behind a lot of those guys.

But OPS+ is adjusted, is it not? And Wilson is still much higher.

And Santo had Banks behind him and Billy Williams batting in front of him. Williams, fyi, had a higher OPS+ (147) than any of the hitters in Wilson's lineup.

Again, not saying Wilson should be first, or even ahead of Santo necessarily, but I disagree with the idea that his season is not even a top 10!!!

Come one, let's see some love for Hack!

yes OPS+ is adjusted and Wilson did have a better season with the bat...

But Wilson gets a lot of love for his RBI's and he he clearly had an advantage with 4 guys with an OBP over .400, there was no one on the 1964 Cubs with an OBP that high.

And Wilson gave a lot back with his defense, I think he led all NL outfielders in errors and his range was supposedly terrible.

If it was just offense, I would have probably put him 2nd or 3rd, but he played a relatively important defensive position and was very bad at it.

The more I researched since I did my initial vote, I would have probably tweaked a few things. I  should have lifted Banks' 58 season up  #4 or #5 and tried to fit in Alexander's 1920 season as it was on par to Jenkins 1971.  If anything he gets punished for them not having a Cy Young award back then. Hack was probably #11 or #12 on my list.

Thanks for the opportunity to bring up an unsung Cub and one of my all-time favorites, Jim Hickman.

Hickman's 1970 offensive numbers look a little better to me than Santo's '64 numbers, but they're very close:

Ron Santo (1964): .313/.398/.564, 164 OPS+, 30 HR, 114 RBI, 94 R, 185 H, 33 2B, 13 3B, 334 Total Bases, 86 BB, 96 SO

Jim Hickman(1970): .315/.419/.582, 155 OPS+, 32 HR, 115 RBI, 102 R, 162 H, 33 2B, 4 3B, 299 total bases, 93 BB, 99 SO

Like Santo, Hickman was 8th in MVP and an all-star. His all-star appearance is still in highlight reels because Pete Rose bowled over the catcher when Hickman drove him in with a single.

Santo, of course, was a defensive star in 1964 and beyond while Hickman was a slow-footed outfielder by 1970.

I remember Hickman as a rock on a team where some of the better-known players were maybe not as solid and dependable.

I also remember Hickman batting cleanup and Santo hitting fifth. The BR splits for batting order position tell an interesting story. By 1963, Santo was hitting cleanup and Banks fifth. Santo was 23 at the time, Banks 32. (Williams always batted third.)

Santo hit cleanup for seven seasons, through 1969. In '70, he gave way to Hickman, who batted fourth in 80 games to Santo's 66. Santo was 30, Hickman 33.

a solid offensive season, but as you can see by OPS+, trailing Santo's and most the others.

When you toss in defense he was only a 5.0 WARP-3 and bounced around the diamond quite a bit playing center, right , first and 2 games at third and none of them particularly well.

But some of you may be interested in this. And since you need a BP or ESPN Insider subscription you probably haven't seen it yet....

Baseball Prospectus article published yesterday,
....

Baseball's 10 irreplaceable stars

by Jay Jaffe

Ranked by MLVr above backup

1.Hanley Ramirez Marlins SS (0.293 MLVr, 0.463 above backup)
2.Chipper Jones Braves 3B (0.4 MLVr, 0.454 above backup)
3.Ryan Braun Brewers LF (0.231 MLVr, 0.434 above backup)
4.Albert Pujols Cardinals 1B (0.456 MLVr, 0.398 above backup)
5.Manny Ramirez Dodgers LF (0.245 MLVr, 0.369 above backup)
6.Chase Utley Phillies 2B (0.202 MLVr, 0.364 above backup)
7.Joe Mauer Twins C (0.124 MLVr, 0.363 above backup)
8.Geovany Soto Cubs C (0.180 MLVr, 0.357 above backup)
9.David Wright Mets 3B (0.265 MLVr, 0.352 above backup)
10. Jose Reyes Mets SS (0.152 MLVr, 0.339 above backup)

Pretty cool piece. Surprised to not see Grady Sizemore up there to be honest, considering the Tribe had nothing without him last season.

chipper is replaceable...yearly...for at least a month's worth of games =p

Sosa got robbed

so did eyre...i hear he's broke.

well played

Best season ever by a cub: Knut, 2007.

I voted with my heart a little bit. I picked Maddux in 1992 1st because he was the best pitcher I had ever seen in that year.

I also only voted for a player once, which as I think about this some more, was unnecessary.

I also heavily discounted older seasons on the theory that the degree of dominance in prior eras would be more difficult to achieve in a more competitive environment

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