Defining "Good at Everything"

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.

So, that's:

  • Batting (on base and slugging)
  • Baserunning
  • 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.

Name PlApp Bat ROE BSrun DP TZ IFDP OFarm catcher Pos WAR WAR/700
Honus Wagner 11518 699 0 45 0 66 19 0 0 104 134.5 8.17
Nap Lajoie 10239 581 0 2 0 62 21 0 0 6 104.2 7.12
George Davis 9976 380 0 28 0 143 3 0 0 87 90.7 6.36
Charlie Gehringer 10096 391 0 38 0 30 4 0 0 74 80.9 5.61
Bill Dahlen 10235 188 0 25 0 139 0 0 0 140 75.9 5.19
Frankie Frisch 9871 195 0 63 0 115 25 0 0 73 74.8 5.30
Alan Trammell 9175 124 12 21 19 59 17 0 0 118 66.9 5.10
Frank Baker 6507 285 0 7 0 35 0 0 0 52 63.7 6.85
Jackie Robinson 5689 276 7 39 1 51 28 2 0 20 63.2 7.78
Sal Bando 8166 208 17 11 5 28 8 0 0 38 60.6 5.19
Jack Glasscock 7531 116 0 8 0 149 0 0 0 108 58.7 5.46
Bid McPhee 9359 150 0 37 0 154 0 0 0 42 57.9 4.33
Billy Herman 8470 167 0 12 0 37 18 0 0 65 55.6 4.60
Stan Hack 8391 240 0 24 0 2 0 0 0 15 54.8 4.57
Carlos Beltran 6790 178 11 52 14 67 0 4 0 18 54.7 5.64
Buck Ewing 5764 231 0 43 0 16 0 0 58 35 51.8 6.29
Tommy Leach 8811 114 0 43 0 67 0 0 0 5 50.9 4.04
John McGraw 4894 337 0 24 0 3 0 0 0 34 49.3 7.05
Hughie Jennings 5538 225 0 20 0 60 0 0 0 51 48.0 6.07
Heinie Groh 6853 157 0 3 0 35 0 0 0 44 46.4 4.74
Gil McDougald 5271 94 4 6 2 83 16 0 0 42 40.0 5.31
Harlond Clift 6841 141 0 5 0 3 0 0 0 18 34.7 3.55
Fred Dunlap 4264 147 0 3 0 80 0 0 0 19 34.7 5.70
Chase Utley 3777 140 1 20 13 49 4 0 0 15 34.5 6.39
Ross Barnes 2506 252 0 15 0 57 0 0 0 15 33.1 9.25
Robby Thompson 5117 43 18 18 5 18 18 0 0 28 31.0 4.24
Freddie Lindstrom 5958 79 0 14 0 21 0 0 0 10 29.2 3.43
George Wright 2942 128 0 16 0 75 0 0 0 35 28.5 6.78
Frank Fennelly 3451 80 0 3 0 9 0 0 0 51 19.1 3.87
Jimmy Wood 512 44 0 7 0 2 0 0 0 2 4.8 6.56
Bob Glenalvin 344 6 0 2 0 6 0 0 0 1 2.4 4.88

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".

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