Who would you say is the best player in MLB history? Well, before answering, you might ask me to specify an age. If you’re looking for someone under 25, it would have to be Ted Williams, right? Somebody in their early 30’s? That must be Babe Ruth. How about the best player in their late 30s to 40s? Clearly it’s Barry Bonds.

But what if you didn’t have to choose? What if we picked the best year by any player at each age, and put them all together to build the perfect player? That’s just what we do after the jump.

I found the player with the most batting runs at each age–that’s going by the player’s seasonal age as defined by Baseball-Reference.com. I ignored a few insignificant cups of coffee at younger and older ages, and otherwise here are the results:

Age  Player	Year  Rbat   G     PA  AB   R    H    2B  3B  HR   RBI  BB   SO   SB   CS
17 P Cavarretta	1934  2.26   7     23  21   5    8    0   0   1    6    2    3    1    0
18 Johnny Lush	1904  8.89   106  408  369  39   102  22  3   2    42   27   46   12
19 Mel Ott	1928  25.09  124  500  435  69   140  26  4   18   77   52   36   3	
20 Mel Ott	1929  60.57  150  675  545  138  179  37  2   42   151  113  38   6	
21 Ed Mathews	1953  61.55  157  681  579  110  175  31  8   47   135  99   83   1    3
22 Ted Williams	1941  104.4  143  606  456  135  185  33  3   37   120  147  27   2    4
23 Ted Williams	1942  92.62  150  671  522  141  186  34  5   36   137  145  51   3    2
24 Lou Gehrig	1927  104.73 155  717  584  149  218  52  18  47   175  109  84   10   8
25 Babe Ruth	1920  114.07 142  616  458  158  172  36  9   54   137  150  80   14   14
26 Babe Ruth	1921  120.41 152  693  540  177  204  44  16  59   171  145  81   17   13
27 Lou Gehrig	1930  93.7   154  703  581  143  220  42  17  41   174  101  63   12   14
28 Babe Ruth	1923  120.97 154  697  522  151  205  45  13  41   131  170  93   17   21
29 Babe Ruth	1924  103.55 153  681  529  143  200  39  7   46   121  142  81   9    13
30 Jason Giambi	2001  86.87  154  671  520  109  178  47  2   38   120  129  83   2    0
31 Babe Ruth	1926  100.74 152  652  495  139  184  30  5   47   146  144  76   11   9
32 Babe Ruth	1927  103.95 151  691  540  158  192  29  8   60   164  137  89   7    6
33 Babe Ruth	1928  88.13  154  684  536  163  173  29  8   54   142  137  87   4    5
34 Mark McGwire	1998  95.22  155  681  509  130  152  21  0   70   147  162  155  1    0
35 Babe Ruth	1930  95.13  145  676  518  150  186  28  9   49   153  136  61   10   10
36 Barry Bonds	2001  126.29 153  664  476  129  156  32  2   73   137  177  93   13   3
37 Barry Bonds	2002  123.61 143  612  403  117  149  31  2   46   110  198  47   9    2
38 Barry Bonds	2003  89.78  130  550  390  111  133  22  1   45   90   148  58   7    0
39 Barry Bonds	2004  124.46 147  617  373  129  135  27  3   45   101  232  41   6    1
40 Willie Mays	1971  40.03  136  537  417  82   113  24  5   18   61   112  123  23   3
41 Ted Williams	1960  43.35  113  390  310  56   98   15  0   29   72   74   41   1    1
42 Barry Bonds	2007  45.5   126  477  340  75   94   14  0   28   66   132  54   5    0
43 Tony Perez	1985  10.12  72   207  183  25   60   8   0   6    33   22   22   0    2
44 Cap Anson	1896  8.43   108  459  402  72   133  18  2   2    90   49   10   24	
45 Julio Franco	2004  5.97   125  361  320  37   99   18  3   6    57   36   68   4    2
46 Julio Franco	2005  2.66   108  265  233  30   64   12  1   9    42   27   57   4    0

Note that for caught stealing, data is not available for some early years, so there are blanks in the above table.

First of all, let’s look at the totals this mythical perfect player would have put up:

Stat     Career Total    Rank on Actual MLB Career Leader List
Rbat       2203           #1   (actual #1 is Babe Ruth, 1338)
G          4019           #1   (actual #1 is Pete Rose, 3562)
PA        16856           #1   (actual #1 is Pete  Rose, 15890)
AB        13106           #2   (#1 is Pete Rose, 14053, actual #2 is Hank Aaron, 12364)
R          3270           #1   (actual #1 is Rickey Henderson, 2295)
H          4493           #1   (actual #1 is Pete Rose, 4256)
2B          846           #1   (actual #1 is Tris Speaker, 792)
3B          156           #47  (actual #47 is Tommy Corcoran, 155)
HR         1096           #1   (actual #1 is Barry Bonds, 762)
RBI        3308           #1   (actual #1 is Hank Aaron, 2297)
BB         3455           #1   (actual #1 is Barry Bonds, 2558)
SO         1931           #9   (actual #9 is Mike Cameron, 1901)

Now, obviously, our Mr. Perfect has a huge edge in counting stats, since he was both an early-bloomer and played to an unusually old age. He had the most PAs in MLB history by a pretty wide margin.

So let’s take a look instead at counting stats. Mr. Perfect’s career batting average is .3428, which would put him 9th all time, just behind Billy Hamilton & Ted Williams at .3444 and just ahead of Dan Brouthers & Babe Ruth at .3421. Perfect’s career OBP is .4821, which would be #1 all time, the tiniest hair ahead of Ted Williams at .4817. Perfect’s career SLG is .6821, a smidge behind actual leader Babe Ruth at .6897.

It’s pretty stunning that Mr. Perfect has essentially identical OBP and SLG to the real all-time leaders.

A few other things of note:

    • Mr. Perfect is not a great base-stealer, with a success rate of only 59% for the years that we have CS data.
    • Mr. Perfect is 27% Babe Ruth, 17% Barry Bonds, and 10% Ted Williams.
    • Speaking of Williams, how awesome is it that he appears at both Ages 22-23 and Age 41?
    • Age 30 seems to be a bit of a hole. Jason Giambi makes it, but with the lowest Rbat total for the peak years.
    • Mr. Perfect has a pretty awesome K/BB of 0.559. Only 17 players have at least 10,000 career PAs and a lower ratio. These are guys like Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Stan Musial, Sam Rice, etc.

Obviously this exercise is pretty much a fabrication, but I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a fun one.

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