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Curtain Calls: Ranking the 20 Greatest Final Seasons of All Time

Whether it’s little league, high school, college, low A ball, or the tail end of a hall of fame career, eventually the game we all know and love will break our hearts. It will chew us up, spit us out, and leave us picking up the broken pieces by playing beer-league slow pitch softball, or writing for some start-up Canadian baseball site… Each and every one of us sandlot junkies has experienced the moment when you or someone else (usually a pot-bellied coach), decides you are no longer good enough to play this beloved game.  Very few, if any, ever have the luxury of going out on top.  So in light of Derek Jeter’s announcement, I thought it would be fun to rank the greatest final seasons of all time.

A few rules before we start: I’m only ranking players with a minimum of 10 seasons in which they played at least 100 games (the only exception is time missed due to military service).   Final seasons are final! If a qualifying player had even one MLB at bat, then I am considering that his final year. No dead ball-era players will be included, and I will only be researching Hall of Fame ballot worthy players.  I will start with hitters and move on to pitchers next week.  Defense will be counted, but not as strongly as offense.  Defensive metrics over the span of 120 years aren’t quite as consistent as raw numbers. I will also be excluding players’ careers that were cut short by suspension or un-timely death, like: Thurman Munson, Roberto Clemente, or Shoeless Joe Jackson.

20.  Tony Gwynn  2001 Age 41 – 112 PA  .324/.384/.461 127 OPS+  .845 OPS   0.9 oWAR (offensive WAR)

19.  Lou Brock  1979 Age 40 – 436 PA .304/.342/.398  100 OPS+  21 SB 4 3B  0.7 WAR

18.  Jim Edmonds 2010 Age 40 – 272 PA  .276/.342/.504  125OPS+  11 HR 23 2B 1.7 oWAR

17.  Stan Musial  1963 Age 42 – 379 PA  .255/.325/.404  101 OPS+  12 HR  58 RBI  1.3 WAR

16.  Ozzie Smith   1996 Age 41 – 261 PA  .282/.358/.370  7 SB  9 K  1.5 WAR

15.  Mickey Cochrane  1937   Age 34 – 124 PA  .306/.452/.490  135 OPS+  .941 OPS  4K  1.2 WAR

14.  Bill Terry  1936  Age 37 – 252 PA  .310/.363/.424  111 OPS+  1.4 WAR  5 3B  19 K

13.  George Kell  1957 Age 34 – 345 PA  .297/.352/.413  115 OPS+  16K  1.4 WAR

12.  Ty Cobb  1928 Age 41 – 393 PA  .323/.389/.431  112 OPS+  27 2B  4 3B  6 SB  16 K  1.9 WAR

11.  Larry Walker  2005  Age 38 – 367 PA  .289/.384/.502  130 OPS+  .886 OPS  66 RUNS  15 HR  2.4 WAR

10.  Mickey Mantle  1968  Age 36 – 547 PA  .237/.385/.398  143 OPS+  18 HR  106 BB  6 SB  4.1 oWAR  2.6 WAR

9.  Bobby Doerr  1951 Age 33 – 463 PA  .289/.378/.448  114 OPS+  73 RBI  33 K   2.7 WAR

8.  Joe DiMaggio  1951 Age 36 – 415 PA   .263/.365/.422  116 OPS+  61 BB  36 K  2.8 WAR

7.  Chipper Jones  2012 Age 40 – 448 PA  .287/.377/.455  124 OPS+  14 HR  23 2B  2.8 WAR

6.  Kirby Puckett  1995  Age 35 – 602 PA  .314/.379/.515  130 OPS+  .894 OPS  23 HR  99 RBI 3.1 WAR  -1.4 dWAR

5.  Hank Greenburg  1947  Age 36 – 510 PA  .249/.408/.478  131 OPS+  .885 OPS  104 BB  25 HR  74 RBI  3.4 WAR

4.  Will Clark  2000 Age 36 – 507 PA  .319/.418/.546  145 OPS+  .964 OPS  21 HR  30 2B 78 RUNS  233 TB  3.8 WAR

3.  Barry Bonds  2007  Age 42 – 477 PA  .276/.480/.565  169 OPS+  75 RUNS  132 BB  54 K  28 HR  5 SB  3.4 WAR  4.3 oWAR

2.  Jackie Robinson  1956 Age 37 – 431 PA  .275/.382/.412  106 OPS+  12 SB  60 BB  32 K  2.0 dWAR  4.6 WAR

1.  Ted Williams  1960  Age 41 – 390 PA  .316/.451/.645  190 OPS+  1.096 OPS  29 HR  75 BB  41 K  4.8 oWAR  3.0 WAR

It will be interesting to see if Jeter will be added to this list after 2014. If you have any player suggestions or feel that I overlooked someone, feel free to leave feedback in the comments.

  • Joe V

    Couple of guys who had some good traditional stats in their final season but maybe not the advanced stats: Todd Helton .249 15 HR 61 RBIs, Paul O’Neill (maybe not a HOF but still Hall of Very Good material) .267 21 HR 70 RBI and Sammy Sosa.252 21 HR 92 RBIs

  • JesseH

    Nice suggestions. I left Sosa and O’neill off because poor defense hurt their overall values.