Since the Circle of Greats was first proposed, with its birth-year based voting, followers of the process have been watching for the 1931 voting, with its extraordinary collection of birth-year talent. Sure enough, the 1931 voting has now graced the COG with two of the true all-time finest performers in the sport: Mickey Mantle from last week’s vote and Willie Mays from this week’s. More on Willie and the voting, after the jump.

Left-handed hitters have a bit of an advantage over right-handed batters in baseball, because they have the platoon advantage more often: there are more right-handers on the pitching mound, as there are in the population as a whole.  (Although it’s also true that lefties are closer to first base, that advantage is probably negated by the fact that lefties also tend to hit the ball toward the first base side of the field, where the defensive play-making is quicker).  The two most valuable everyday players in major league history have probably been Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds, both lefties. Who was the most valuable position player of all-time to play without the platoon advantage that lefties enjoy?

Most Wins Above Replacement (baseball-reference version), Right-Handed Hitters, Major League History:
1. Willie Mays 156.1
2. Hank Aaron 142.4
3. Honus Wagner 130.6
4. Rogers Hornsby 127.0
5. Alex Rodriguez 115.7

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Hitting, fielding and base-running are very different skills, demanding different sorts of physical talents and disciplines.  Willie Mays was one of the great masters in the history of baseball at not just one, not just two, but at all three tasks.  Baseball-reference’s Wins Above Replacement breakdown places Mays with the 10th most batting runs above average (Rbat) ever, the 7th-most fielding runs above average (Rfield) ever and the 15th-most base-running runs above average (Rbaser) ever.  One way to put this in perspective: WAR suggests that Mays was a more valuable hitter over his career than designated hitter and newly elected Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas, was essentially just as valuable a base-runner over his career as base-running specialist Vince Coleman, and was a more valuable player over his career on defense then an acclaimed defensive outfielder such as Paul Blair.

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Mays led the National League in season Wins Above Replacement (including WAR for both everyday players and pitchers) nine times in the 12 years from 1954 through 1965.  Yet he won only two Most Valuable Player awards over that period, in the first year of that stretch, 1954, and then the last year, 1965.  In seven of those nine years leading the NL in WAR, his WAR also led the majors as a whole.

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Most Consecutive Seasons, WAR of 10.0 or higher:
4 Willie Mays (1962-1965)
3 Ted Williams (1941-1942 and 1946; was in the military 1943-45) and Babe Ruth (1926-1928)
2 Babe Ruth (1920-21, 1923-24 and 1930-31), Barry Bonds (2001-02), Carl Yastrzemski (1967-68), Mickey Mantle (1956-57), Rogers Hornsby (1921-22, 1924-25), Ty Cobb (1910-1911)

Most Consecutive Seasons, WAR of 10.5 or higher:
4 Willie Mays (1962-1965)
3 Ted Williams (1941-1942 and 1946; was in the military 1943-45)
2 Babe Ruth (1920-21, 1923-24, 1927-28), Barry Bonds (2001-02), Mickey Mantle (1956-57), Ty Cobb (1910-1911)

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– Mays appeared on 58 ballots, one more than Mantle did in the previous round.

– Ballot newcomer Ernie Banks received significant support and is guaranteed eligibility for the next two rounds, but his fellow ballot newbie, Ken Boyer, fell short of the 7 votes needed to remain on the ballot.  Jim Bunning, a holdover from last week’s round, fell one vote short of remaining on the ballot.  You’ll have a chance shortly to try to bring either or both of these guys back in the redemption round that will run simultaneously with the 1929 vote.

– All the longer term holdovers will be back next round.  The only two long-term holdovers who appeared on fewer than 10% of the ballot were two guys who still have a stash of eligibility remaining, John Smoltz and Lou Whitaker.  But Smoltz’s once-large  stash is now just about gone.  In the next round he’ll be down to only two guaranteed rounds of eligibility.

The full spreadsheet showing this round’s vote tally is here: COG 1931 Part 2 Vote Tally.

The vote summary for recent Circle of Greats voting rounds is here: COG Vote Summary 2 .  An archive with fuller details of the 1968 through 1939 rounds is here: COG 1968-1939 Vote Summary .  In both cases, raw vote totals for each past round appears on Sheet 1 and the percentage totals for each past round appears on Sheet 2.

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A spreadsheet listing the full membership to date of the Circle of Greats is here: Circle of Greats Inducted Players . You can also now find that same link any time by clicking on “Circle of Greats” at the top of the High Heats Stats home page.

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