People say it all the time—he's "good at everything". Well, he's usually not.
Perhaps that's just because of how I define "everything". I define it as "everything quantifyable by Rally's WAR". So perhaps I have different criteria than your father-in-law does.
- Batting (on base and slugging)
- Ability to avoid the double play
- Ability to induce errors (apparently that's a measurable skill)
- Range (for infielders and outfielders)
- Ability to turn the double play (for infielders)
- Arm (for outfielders)
- Catching (for, well, catchers)
- Positional Adjustment (I want my "good at everything" guys to play a high-value position, too)
How did I search for a player who's "good at everything"?
- Batting runs, Baserunning runs, Total Zone runs, and Positional Adjustment runs are all greater than 0.
- GIDP runs, Reach on Error runs, Infield DP runs, Outfield Arm runs, and Catcher runs are all greater than or equal to 0 (this is because some older players only have a 0 for their career because there isn't any data available for these categories).
Simply running this search yielded 49 players in the history of the game.
I was discussing the list with a good friend of mine when he said "I'm surprised that Kenny Lofton's power was above average." This got me thinking—batting runs is a pretty broad skill. We can break that up into individual skills. So, I went with the two OPS components—on base percentage (for patience) and slugging percentage (for power). I cut out any players below league average for their careers in either of these categories.
This got me down to 31 players.
When I originally did the research, the minimum requirement wasn't zero. It was one. This changed things dramatically. My list of 31 was then a list of 7—Trammell, Robinson, Bando, Beltran, McDougald, Utley, and Thompson. And these seven are basically the guys we have "true" data on. The others played in an era where the data for at least one of the categories was incomplete. I actually started this research with the assumption that Trammell would be first. While he does drop to sixth on the list above, the five ahead of him have incomplete data for some categories.
The list of 31 breaks down to:
- 14 Hall of Famers (Wagner, Lajoie, Davis, Gehringer, Frisch, Baker, Robinson, McPhee, Herman, Ewing, Jennings, McGraw, Lindstrom, Wright)
- 4 players often debated for The Hall (Trammell, Bando, Hack, Groh)
- 3 underrated guys who should be debated for the Hall more often (Dahlen, Glasscock, Barnes)
- 2 active players (Beltran, Utley)
- 5 steady veterans (Leach, McDougald, Clift, Dunlap, Thompson)
3 low-playing time surprises (Fennelly, Wood, Glenalvin)
By position, the breakdown is:
- 1 catcher (Ewing)
- 2 outfielders (Beltran and Leach, though Leach played almost as many games at 3B than in the OF)
- 28 infielders
No player was above average (>0) in more categories than Jackie Robinson. Not only did lack any zeroes in any of his categories, his outfield arm was even two runs above average in the 162 games he played outside of the infield. Looking at Baseball-Reference.com further, it shows that Robinson played 748 games at second, 256 at third, 197 at first, and 162 in the outfield. Taking this "good at everything" to the extreme, Robinson's defensive ratings were above average at each position.
Jackie Robinson was the Gold Standard for "Good at Everything".