The Greatest Second Basemen of All-Time

hitting
Best with The Lumber
  • 1. Rogers Hornsby
  • 2. Rod Carew
  • 3. Charlie Gehringer
  • 4. Nap Lajoie
  • 5. Robinson Cano
fielding
Best with The Leather
  • 1. Bill Mazeroski
  • 2. Joe Gordon
  • 2. Roberto Alomar
  • 3. Lou Whitaker
  • 5. Frank White
Most Underrated Second Basemen
  • 1. Charlie Gehringer
  • 2. Chase Utley
  • 3. Lou Whitaker
  • 4. Bobby Grich
  • 5. Willie Randolph

The Top 100 Second Basemen

Joe Morgan

1963—1984
HALL OF FAME

1

Had Joe Morgan played in the 1920s he would have been a player/manager like Hornsby and Frisch. He was one of the smartest players of his or any other generation, and he had no weaknesses on the field.

Morgan was small, only about 5’7 and 160 pounds. Remember that runt, David Eckstein, how he looked so out of place on a baseball field? Eckstein was ten pounds heavier than Little Joe. But Morgan could do it all: hit, hit for power, run, field, all the things you want.

Rogers Hornsby

1915—1937
HALL OF FAME

2

The only other baseball historian to rate anyone other than Hornsby #1 is Bill James. He has Joe Morgan and Eddie Collins, in that order, listed ahead of The Rajah. Once, for a brief time he ranked Craig Biggio first, before quickly back peddling. James may have some great points to make on the subject, but it’s impossible to ignore the statistical record, and the ratings system I use here has Morgan, Hornsby, and Collins lumped together in a tight scrum. The three greatest second basemen tower above the rest of the field. You could take the careers of any two players below #45 on this list and add them together and not equal the value of Morgan, Hornsby, or Collins.

Eddie Collins

1906—1930
HALL OF FAME

3

As a player, Collins was very fast and athletic with boundless energy. Everywhere Eddie went on a baseball field, he ran. He choked up on the bat and hit the ball to the opposite field more than he pulled it. He was overshadowed as an offensive force because he arrived in the league almost precisely when Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker did. He led six teams to the World Series.

Jackie Robinson

1947—1956
HALL OF FAME

4

Robinson ran pigeon-toed with his chest out and his arms pumping away from his body. It was an unusual gait, but observers noted that watching Robinson go from first to third was one of the joys of being a baseball fan. In Brooklyn, as the years passed, enough black fans would congregate in one section that when Robinson got on base, they might chant “Go Jackie Go!”, and if he successfully stole a base, they would taunt the opposing team with “Yes Jackie did!”

Charlie Gehringer

1924—1942
HALL OF FAME

5

Among the second basemen, Rogers Hornsby or Rod Carew were the best pure hitters, Joe Morgan was the most complete offensive package, Jackie Robinson was the most thrilling, and Gehringer was probably the best all-around player. “The Mechanical Man” hit for average, ran the bases well, was a very good fielder (better than Hornsby and Morgan), and had a strong arm. The only flaw in Charlie’s game was that he didn’t hit the long ball.

Rod Carew

1967—1985
HALL OF FAME

6

Carew was one of those athletes who was naturally talented on offense. If it was soccer, he was the goal scorer, if it was basketball he was the star point guard, in baseball he was a great hitter. But sometimes that guy didn’t take care of business as well on the defensive side of the ball. That was Carew. James Harden is that way, and so was Wayne Gretzky. Sometimes the best defense really is keeping the ball (or puck) on offense.

Nap Lajoie

1896—1916
HALL OF FAME

7

As far as I can tell, only three players have had teams named after them: Cleveland became the Indians because of Louis Sockalexis, a Penobscot Indian; Brooklyn adopted “Robins” because of manager Wilbert Robinson; and Cleveland was dubbed the “Naps” for Lajoie.

Bobby Grich

1970—1986

8

Bobby Doerr wasn’t elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame until he was an old man. Joe Gordon was pushing up daisies by the time he was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame. Lou Whitaker will probably never get his honor in Cooperstown. The Veterans Committee should do their homework and put Bobby Grich’s name where it belongs: among the greatest second basemen in history. Do it while he’s alive, it’ll make for a better speech.

Chase Utley

2003—2018

9

Utley’s five-year peak, according to WAR, ranks sixth all-time for second basemen, and his top three seasons also rank sixth. His top seven seasons rank ninth. But he also played more than 1,800 games and topped more than 65 WAR for his career. The peak separates him from Sandberg, Alomar, Frisch, and Sweet Lou Whitaker.

Ryne Sandberg

1981—1997
HALL OF FAME

10

Roberto Alomar

1988—2004
HALL OF FAME

11

“I don’t just sit there and watch the game like a fan. I study the game. There are clues out there, but you have to study closely.” — Robbie Alomar

Frankie Frisch

1919—1937
HALL OF FAME

12

Like Eddie Collins, Frisch was at his best in the postseason. He was a key player in eight World Series. In the 1922 Series against the Yankees he batted .471 with eight hits in five games. The next fall he punished Yankee pitching again to the tune of .400 (10-for-25) in six games.

Lou Whitaker

1977—1995

13

Whitaker was 38 when he retired and he was still a fine ballplayer. He had the best final three seasons of any second baseman in history, though by that time he was essentially a platoon player. Nevertheless, when he retired he was doing everything he was good at: covering ground at second, drawing walks, hitting for power, and driving in runs.

Craig Biggio

1988—2007
HALL OF FAME

14

The career of Biggio breaks down like this: four years as a catcher, fourteen as a second baseman, and two as an outfielder. He was an All-Star as both a catcher and second baseman. Like most second basemen, Biggio hit the wall at age 34, which is why the Astros asked him to play center field.

Joe Gordon

1938—1950
HALL OF FAME

15

Joe Gordon earns the right to challenge Bill Mazeroski as the greatest defensive second baseman in the history of the game. If you prefer witness testimony:

“Gordon is a whole infield in himself. He is the greatest second baseman…the greatest of all the infielders today.” — Connie Mack

“The best at turning the double play is Gordon of the Yanks, and he’s the most sure-handed at second base too.” — Lou Boudreau

“No one could get the ball like Joe Gordon, no one.” — Ted Williams

Robinson Cano

2005—

16

Cano already had a smudge on his character for being lazy and selfish when he was caught using steroids. He never seemed like he cared so much for the game as he did getting paid. Cano, who was named for Jackie Robinson, has a pretty left-handed swing that some have compared to that of Rod Carew.

Willie Randolph

1975—1992

17

Randolph ranks seventh in fielding runs at second base, and among players who began their career after World War II, he trails only Frank White. But in comparison to White, Willie could do some damage with his bat and his feet, and he did it for a long time. His strengths were his range, acrobatic ability to turn the double play, his accurate throwing arm, and ability to draw bases on balls. He was also a superb base runner.

Billy Herman

1931—1947
HALL OF FAME

18

Herman was a very good ballplayer with no glaring weaknesses, usually overshadowed by more colorful teammates. He was a ten-time All-Star and received MVP votes in seven separate seasons. At his peak he was a better player than Whitaker and Randolph, but those two rate ahead based on their career value.

Dustin Pedroia

2006—

19

After two poor seasons and two mediocre seasons in his thirties, Dustin Pedroia doesn’t seem to have much future left entering the 2020 season. His body is wearing down, and he’s spent time on the disabled list five times since he turned 30.

Jeff Kent

1992—2008

20

While Kent and Barry Bonds each benefited from the other being in the lineup, neither of the egomaniacs would admit it. Probably no prominent teammates hated each other as much since Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford. Bay area sportswriter Ray Ratto wrote: “The one who lives longer will attend the others funeral just to make sure he’s dead.”

Ian Kinsler

2006—

21

At this juncture of his career, Kinsler will need to have a few more solid seasons if he wants to place himself into the discussion as a Hall of Famer. He ranked 17th in WAR among second basemen through 2019, and while his range in the field and ability to make consistent contact was waning, he still has power at the plate.

Eddie Stanky

1943—1953

22

Little Eddie barely weighed 165 pounds and was only about 5-foot-7, but he brandished the confidence of a larger man. He wasn’t a dirty player, but he gave no ground. As a result, he made his way to a fine career in the big leagues and he was a popular teammate, at least until 1947 when he infamously participated in a mutiny against Jackie Robinson’s arrival in Brooklyn.

Bobby Doerr

1937—1951
HALL OF FAME

23

A right-handed hitter, Doerr had some of the most striking platoon splits of any player in history: he had a career OPS of .716 on the road and .928 in Fenway Park. He averaged 4.2 homers per 100 at-bats in Fenway and 1.9 in road games. He was still a productive player when back problems forced him to retire at the age of 33.

Ben Zobrist

2006—

24

Sort of the Tony Phillips of his era, Zobrist has played every position except pitcher and catcher. He’s been most comfortable at second base and in right field, where he had his best seasons for Tampa Bay. He quickly became Joe Maddon’s pet.

Tony Phillips

1982—1999

25

Phillips played nine years with the A’s but his best seasons came as a Tiger. The versatile player averaged 100 runs, 154 hits, 26 doubles, 12 homers, 62 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, and 104 walks per season in Detroit. He got on base nearly forty percent of the time with Detroit.

Lonny Frey

1933—1948

26

Originally a shortstop, Frey was scrappy and quick, and a catalyst for the Cincinnati Reds when they won pennants in both 1939 and 1940.

Nellie Fox

1947—1965
HALL OF FAME

27

“I had to be a ballplayer. I wasn’t very good at school and I didn’t have any outside hobbies. I played ball. That’s what I did.” — Nellie Fox

José Altuve

2011—

28

One of the most unique ballplayers in history, Altuve has a chance to become the greatest “little ballplayer” in history. He’s a full inch shorter than Joe Morgan, the current holder of that title. Morgan won two MVP awards, and Altuve has one already through the age of 29.

Chuck Knoblauch

1991—2002

29

In a relatively brief big league career that ended when he was just 33 years old, Chuck Knoblauch accomplished a lot. He won the Rookie of the Year Award, was a four-time All Star, a Gold Glove winner, and he won four World Series titles while appearing in five Fall Classics. Knoblauch was a pesky, tenacious player in the mold of Pete Rose: not particularly the most polished defender at second base, but a gritty player who grinded out every pitch, every at-bat.

Tony Lazzeri

1926—1939
HALL OF FAME

30

Lazzeri was best pals with fellow Italian (and San Francisco Bay area native) Joe DiMaggio. Lazzeri’s teammates never called him Tony, they called him one of many nicknames that derived from his Italian heritage, some of which are politically incorrect today, like “Bananas” and Wop.” The most common was “Nino,” which is what Italian families used to call the oldest boy in the family.

Red Schoendienst

1945—1963
HALL OF FAME

31

Was Schoendienst worthy of a Hall of Fame plaque as a player? For the first 13 years of his career he was an everyday second baseman on good teams and he did some nice things. As a rookie he led the league in stolen bases. One year he led the National League in doubles. He had 200 hits when he was 34 years old, the same season he was traded to the Braves and sparked them to the pennant. He earned MVP votes in six of his 14 full seasons and his teams won three pennants and two World Series titles.

Davey Lopes

1972—1987

32

Not a particularly good second baseman (Lopes was originally an outfielder), but he was a remarkable baserunner and valuable offensive force, helping the Dodgers to four pennants in eight seasons.

Johnny Evers

1902—1917, 1922, 1929
HALL OF FAME

33

Despite his size, Evers was a great athlete and an even smarter ballplayer. Evers had a baseball lineage: his father and several uncles were ballplayers in the 19th century. He was quick and had an accurate throwing arm, which was strong enough for shortstop, which is where he played his first big league game.

Placido Polanco

1998—2013

34

Polanco was a late-bloomer. He didn’t play 100 games at second base in a single season until he was 28 years old. He was an everyday utility player of sorts before that, though he had several seasons where he was a true utility player. Polanco didn’t play 140 games at second until he was 31, and he won his first Gold Glove Award that year. He won three Gold Gloves in his 30s, the only second baseman to win his only Gold Gloves in his 30s and win more than one.

Gil McDougald

1951—1960

35

His natural position was second base, but Casey Stengel liked McDougald so much he also used him at third and short for spells. His arm was strong enough. The Yankees made him Phil Rizzuto’s replacement in 1956. “I’m not exactly in love with shortstop,” McDougald said during his career. “But I will play anywhere as long as I get to play. Personally, I’d prefer to play second base. That’s where I really feel at home.”

Buddy Myer

1925—1941

36

Myer and Placido Polanco were about the exact same size, and they were very similar players, though Buddy hit from the left side. Myer was a lifelong Senator, other than about two seasons early in his career he spent with the Red Sox. Myer was one of the best bunters of his generation. He probably dropped down 50 bunt attempts a season, maybe more. His specialty was the drag bunt, which even in the 1920s, was falling out of vogue. His favorite target was Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig, who was known to be slow to field short grounders. When Buddy won the batting title on the final day of the 1935 season, he started with a drag bunt single.

Bobby Avila

1949—1959

37

After maturing as a star in Mexico, Avila played eleven seasons in the United States and won a batting title in 1954 when he also finished third in MVP voting. When his playing career ended, he went back home where he bought a baseball team and later entered politics.

Del Pratt

1912—1924

38

Pratt was a bad ball hitter and he gained notoriety for swinging at pitches in the dirt and over his chest, he was sort of like Jose Altuve in that respect. The record indicates that he was pretty average with the glove. But for the deadball era, he was a slugging middle infielder.

Dick McAuliffe

1960—1975

39

Larry Doyle

1907—1920

40

Compares favorably to Johnny Evers, who played in the same league with Doyle for eleven seasons. Doyle was a far better hitter, and Evers was the better fielder. Both men played for dynasties: Doyle for the Giants, and Evers for the rival Cubs. Both second basemen won the MVP Award, two years apart. A sportswriter wrote a poem about Evers and two of his teammates, but Doyle never got that type of publicity, and is largely forgotten.

Jim Gilliam

1953—1966

41

Born five months after Gil McDougald, Gilliam debuted for the rival Dodgers two years after McDougald debuted for the Yankees. Like McDougald, Gilliam was named Rookie of the Year, and like the Yankee, Gilliam played other infield positions during his career too, as needed by his team. Both players were in the middle of the scrums between the Yanks and Dodgers in the 1950s and 1960s. Gilliam played in four World Series against the Yankees, hitting two homers in the Fall Classic as a rookie.

Robby Thompson

1986—1996

42

Thompson and Will Clark played next to each other in the Giants’ infield for eight seasons, a very long stretch of stability. The only other right side of the infield that played together longer for the Giants was first baseman Fred Merkle and second baseman Larry Doyle, who were teammates for parts of ten seasons, though they were starters at the same time for only seven.

Bill Mazeroski

1956—1972
HALL OF FAME

43

He was called “No Touch” because he transferred the ball so quickly on the pivot. His range up the middle was amazing, he made plays beyond the bag in shallow center field that most people had never seen before, and his arm was very strong.

Max Bishop

1924—1935

44

Legendary manager Connie Mack wrote Maxie Bishop’s name in at leadoff and watched as his little second baseman averaged 130 walks a season. The redhead scored oodles of runs ahead of Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons, and Jimmie Foxx. After he retired, Bishop coached the Naval Academy team for a quarter of a century. The baseball field at the Naval Academy is named for him.

Bill Doran

1982—1993

45

The Astros traded Johnny Ray (#68 on this list) to the Pirates so they could make room for Doran. At the time, Ray was the top-ranked prospect in the Houston organization and general manager Al Rosen drew quite a bit of criticism for the deal. Through age 29, Doran proved the Astros made a good decision, as he put up solid numbers with a multi-faceted game that included fine defense, good power, and great baserunning. One year he stole 42 bases, another year he hit 16 home runs despite playing in the Astrodome.

Snuffy Stirnweiss

1943—1952

46

With most of the best players out of the league during World War II, Stirnweiss was ineligible for the draft because of a severe stomach ailment. Instead, the stocky second baseman with a baby face had two fantastic seasons, narrowly defeating Tony Cuccinello for the batting title in 1945 when he also paced the league in runs, hits, triples, stolen bases, slugging, and total bases.

Danny Murphy

1900—1915

47

In mid-career, Danny Murphy was moved from second base to right field to make room for young college-educated Eddie Collins. Some in the A’s clubhouse didn’t like the move, but Murphy wasn’t bitter. “He willingly cooperated with me,” Collins later recalled, “I took to the position naturally and really found myself there, but Murphy played a great part in helping mold me into a good infielder, or rather a good second baseman.”

Howie Kendrick

2006—

48

Kendrick got injured in 2018, a leg injury. It was the second straight season he was shelved for a considerable amount of time. He surprised almost everyone in 2019 at the age of 35 when he hit .344 as a super utility guy, playing mostly first base. He hit a walkoff grand slam in the tenth inning to win Game Five of the NLDS for the Nationals. A few more years like that and Kendrick can move up about ten spots on this list.

Orlando Hudson

2002—2012

49

Among players who had the entirety of their career between 1900 and 1920, and who played primarily catcher, Kling’s career WAR is first and rivaled only by Chief Meyers.

Frank White

1973—1990

50

The most similar player to Wynegar when he was 21 is Ivan Rodriguez. At age 26 it’s Bill Freehan, and at 27 it’s Yadier Molina. Wynegar was a star, but injuries and inconsistency led to the early end of his career at the age of 31.

Mark Ellis

2002—2014

51

Chief was a large, muscular man for his era: a smidge under 6-feet tall and a pound or two under 200 pounds. In his prime he was quick enough to bounce out of his crouch and combat the running game, and agile enough to scramble after errant pitches.

Ray Durham

1995—2008

52

He caught 120 games six times and more than 1,000 innings in a season six times. Folks back then were impressed with that unusual durability. Ferrell retired having caught more games than any other player in history.

THE REST OF THE 100

  • 53. Ron Hunt
  • 54. Pete Runnels
  • 55. Tony Cuccinello
  • 56. Jimmy Williams
  • 57. Bip Roberts
  • 58. Claude Ritchey
  • 59. Brandon Phillips
  • 60. Miller Huggins
  • 61. George Grantham
  • 62. Davey Johnson
  • 63. Brian Dozier
  • 64. Phil Garner
  • 65. Luis Castillo
  • 66. Marty McManus
  • 67. Aaron Hill
  • 68. Johnny Ray
  • 69. Carlos Baerga
  • 70. Buck Herzog
  • 71. Dave Cash
  • 72. DJ LeMahieu
  • 73. Bret Boone
  • 74. Tom Herr
  • 75. Jason Kipnis
  • 76. Steve Sax
  • 77. Billy Goodman
  • 78. Delino DeShields
  • 79. Mark Grudzielanek
  • 80. Bip Roberts
  • 81. Adam Kennedy
  • 82. Damion Easley
  • 83. Randy Velarde
  • 84. Jerry Priddy
  • 85. José Vidro
  • 86. Dan Uggla
  • 87. Neil Walker
  • 88. Ronnie Belliard
  • 89. Daniel Murphy
  • 90. Tony Taylor
  • 91. Mark Loretta
  • 92. Craig Counsell
  • 93. Jim Gantner
  • 94. Marcus Giles
  • 95. Frank Bolling
  • 96. Jim Lefebvre
  • 97. Mike Gallego
  • 98. Bump Wills
  • 99. Glenn Hubbard
  • 100. Glenn Beckert