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Highest WAR to End a Career

Posted by Raphy on May 25, 2010

The end of a career is an interesting thing. Many players play out their careers until the bitter end, holding on to the memories of their youth, even when their bodies no longer respond. Occasionally, a player will go out on top, choosing to retire rather than redefining his role in baseball's landscape. There are also the unfortunate few  who vanish from the game due to tragedy, injury or scandal, leaving fans to wonder what could have been.

Here is a look at the players with the best final seasons since 1901. (I'm going 25 deep because there are some interesting names in the low 20's.)

Rk Player WAR/pos Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Shoeless Joe Jackson 7.4 1920 30 CHW AL 146 649 570 105 218 42 20 12 121 56 0 14 7 16 0 0 9 12 .382 .444 .589 1.033 *7
2 Happy Felsch 4.9 1920 28 CHW AL 142 613 556 88 188 40 15 14 115 37 0 25 4 16 0 0 8 13 .338 .384 .540 .923 *8
3 Jackie Robinson 4.6 1956 37 BRO NL 117 431 357 61 98 15 2 10 43 60 2 32 3 9 2 9 12 5 .275 .382 .412 .793 *54/37
4 Carlos Beltran 4.4 2009 32 NYM NL 81 357 308 50 100 22 1 10 48 47 10 43 1 0 1 9 11 1 .325 .415 .500 .915 *8/D
5 Roberto Clemente 4.4 1972 37 PIT NL 102 413 378 68 118 19 7 10 60 29 7 49 0 0 6 15 0 0 .312 .356 .479 .835 *9
6 Roy Cullenbine 4.2 1947 33 DET AL 142 607 464 82 104 18 1 24 78 137 0 51 0 6 0 10 3 2 .224 .401 .422 .823 *3
7 Will Clark 4.1 2000 36 TOT ML 130 507 427 78 136 30 2 21 70 69 3 69 7 0 4 7 5 2 .319 .418 .546 .964 *3/D
8 Ray Chapman 4.0 1920 29 CLE AL 111 530 435 97 132 27 8 3 49 52 0 38 2 41 0 0 13 9 .303 .380 .423 .803 *6
9 Mickey Mantle 3.6 1968 36 NYY AL 144 547 435 57 103 14 1 18 54 106 7 97 1 1 4 9 6 2 .237 .385 .398 .782 *3
10 Jim Doyle 3.5 1911 29 CHC NL 130 533 472 69 133 23 12 5 62 40 0 54 2 19 0 0 19 0 .282 .340 .413 .754 *5
11 Billy Lush 3.4 1904 30 CLE AL 138 577 477 76 123 13 8 1 50 72 0 0 3 25 0 0 12 0 .258 .359 .325 .684 *78
12 Barry Bonds 3.3 2007 42 SFG NL 126 477 340 75 94 14 0 28 66 132 43 54 3 0 2 13 5 0 .276 .480 .565 1.045 *7/D
13 Tony Cuccinello 3.2 1945 37 CHW AL 118 450 402 50 124 25 3 2 49 45 0 19 1 2 0 9 6 2 .308 .379 .400 .780 *5
14 Larry Doyle 3.2 1920 33 NYG NL 137 530 471 48 134 21 2 4 50 47 0 28 2 10 0 0 11 9 .285 .352 .363 .715 *4
15 Frank Huelsman 3.2 1905 31 WSH AL 121 465 421 48 114 28 8 3 62 31 0 0 8 5 0 0 11 0 .271 .333 .397 .729 *7/9
16 Hank Greenberg 3.1 1947 36 PIT NL 125 510 402 71 100 13 2 25 74 104 0 73 4 0 0 16 0 0 .249 .408 .478 .885 *3
17 Tillie Shafer 3.1 1913 24 NYG NL 138 584 508 74 146 17 12 5 52 61 0 55 5 10 0 0 32 29 .287 .369 .398 .767 *5468/7
18 John Briggs 3.0 1975 31 TOT AL 115 421 338 56 83 10 2 10 44 80 10 54 0 1 2 2 6 4 .246 .388 .376 .764 379
19 Johnny Dickshot 3.0 1945 35 CHW AL 130 542 486 74 147 19 10 4 58 48 0 41 1 7 0 16 18 3 .302 .366 .407 .774 *7
20 Larry Walker 2.9 2005 38 STL NL 100 367 315 66 91 20 1 15 52 41 3 64 9 0 2 9 2 1 .289 .384 .502 .886 *9/D8
21 Stan Javier 2.9 2001 37 SEA AL 89 323 281 44 82 14 1 4 33 36 1 47 2 3 1 8 11 1 .292 .375 .391 .766 *789/3D
22 Ted Williams 2.9 1960 41 BOS AL 113 390 310 56 98 15 0 29 72 75 7 41 3 0 2 7 1 1 .316 .451 .645 1.096 *7
23 Joe DiMaggio 2.9 1951 36 NYY AL 116 482 415 72 109 22 4 12 71 61 0 36 6 0 0 16 0 0 .263 .365 .422 .787 *8
24 Buck Weaver 2.9 1920 29 CHW AL 151 690 629 102 208 34 8 2 74 28 0 23 6 27 0 0 19 17 .331 .365 .420 .785 *56
25 Chick Stahl 2.9 1906 33 BOS AL 155 667 595 63 170 24 6 4 51 47 0 0 8 17 0 0 13 0 .286 .346 .366 .713 *8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/24/2010.

Wow. There are a lot of stories in that list. Among them are:

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 at 9:22 pm and is filed under Season Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

11 Responses to “Highest WAR to End a Career”

  1. Beltran's season would be a fascinating final season (4.4 WAR in half a season) if his presence on this list weren't a (temporary) accident of circumstances so to speak.
    Would be interesting to see a similar list for pitchers - I looked up Mussina and saw that he posted 4.4 WAR in his final season.

  2. Evan - I answered your question in a new post. Mussina is 5th since (1901).

  3. Chick Stahl--no relation, though you can see why I pay attention--is also an interesting, if sad, story: he committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid just before the next season would have started. The suicide has always been somewhat of a mystery, given Stahl's reputation as an upbeat guy. He left no note, but his last words to his teammates carry a sort of cryptic glory: "Boys, I just couldn't help it. It drove me to it." No one knows what the first "it" represents.

  4. John Proulx Says:

    Clarification: JIM Doyle is the one whose career was cut short. LARRY Doyle has his own interesting story.

  5. Levi - Thanks. I don't know how I missed him.
    John - Yes. Thanks for catching that.

  6. Beltran hasn't retired....

  7. At the time, people thought Mantle was playing to the bitter end. There was no recognition then of how good his 1968 was. All people could do was compare his triple crown stats to the ones he put up in 1961 and 1956, and it looked like it was past time for him to quit.

    Cullenbine was before my time, but I bet no one appreciated how good his 1947 was, either. Hard to look past that .224 batting average.

    Number 15, Frank Huelsman, had a bizarre season the year before he finished; in 1904, he played for the White Sox, the Tigers, back to the White Sox, then the Browns and the Senators. I believe he's the only ballplayer to switch teams 4 times in one season.

  8. Gerry,

    You bring up a very good point about Mantle. One of the great misconceptions in baseball history was that Mantle was done as a ballplayer in 1968, when in reality he was just a victim of one of the worst run scoring environments in baseball history. It's a shame he didn't stay for 1969 because his average would have probably gone up about .40 points and everybody would have said what a great comeback and he probably could have played until 1971 or 1972.

    Jackie Robinson retired because he got traded to the rival Giants after 1956, which is inconceivable in today's baseball. I still don't know why the Dodgers traded him in the first place.

    Will Clark's retirement always seemed odd to me. He seem to come off as a fickle guy so who knows.

    Whatever you think of him, Barry Bonds' 2007 retirement looks like he was black-listed in 2008. Especially when teams like Mets were playing back-up utility infielders as their left-right outfielders while struggling to stay in the play-off race.

    Greenberg's retirement always sounded odd as well. He was traded to the Pirates and they moved the fences in for him and then he retired after only one year. Ralph Kiner was the big beneficiary for that move.

  9. Charles Saeger Says:

    Cuccinello's last year was right before the real ballplayers got back from the war. You want to knock his WAR by about a half-win to make up for the poor competition.

  10. Charles Saeger Says:

    Same story with Johnny Dickshot as well. What a last name.

  11. Spartan Bill Says:

    John

    From my personal observations at the time, I think you are mistaken about Mantle. I was a kid who grew up in the NY area, and followed baseball on a daily basis. Mantle played the 1968 season on the knees of a 70 year old man. There was no such thing as minor knee surgery in those days, let alone arthroscopic.

    He was a 5 tool with only 2 tools left in the box, e was no longer fast, nor did he ever really master 1B. I don't know about his arm, but as a 1B, it didn't really matter. I saw him at a game about 2 or 3 years after he retired, and he walked like he was an ex-running back, not an ex-centerfielder.