Martin: A Look at Baseball’s Best Players of the Decade

The past decade has brought us Beat the Freeze, the return of the two-way player, and the end of long-time championship droughts in Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

The past 10 years have also brought us a new generation of baseball legends, many of which will someday feature plaques in the halls of Cooperstown. Here is my all-decade MLB team for the past decade.  

First Base – Joey Votto  

Votto’s 48.1 WAR trailed only Mike Trout and Buster Posey for the decade. Votto won the 2010 NL MVP and hit .306 with a .516 slugging percentage for the decade as one of the premier hitters of the decade. While his Reds club did not see much success, Votto has remained among the elite at his position every year. 

Second Base – Robinson Cano  

Cano led all hitters with 363 doubles the past 10 years while hitting .300 with 237 home runs. His 868 runs scored were sixth-most during the decade. A very good argument could be made for Jose Altuve at second. Both players are now plagued by controversy, but Cano’s extra two full seasons in the league earn him the spot.  

Third Base – Miguel Cabrera  

While Cabrera played the majority of his games at first base he played third base during his most memorable seasons. Miggy played over 145 games at third each of his back-to-back MVP seasons in 2012 and 2013. He won the first Triple Crown in over 40 years with the Tigers in 2012. Cabera’s .317 led all hitters and coupled with 268 home runs and 941 runs batted in, he’s just about cemented his way to Cooperstown. Adrian Beltre receives an honorable mention at this position. 

Shortstop – Troy Tulowitzki  

Tulo was on a Hall of Fame trajectory before injuries shortened his career. He was not just the best shortstop in the game but one of the best players in the game between 2010 and 2016. Even with those injuries, he finished the decade hitting .293 with 160 home runs and highest WAR at his position. Francisco Lindor’s 2015 debut limited his overall performance for the decade but was for the second half that Tulowitzki was for the first half of the period. 

Outfield – Mike Trout  

What can you say? Trout just earned his third MVP award of the decade without even winning a playoff game. He has the highest WAR (73.4) of any player in the decade and didn’t make his MLB debut until July 8, 2011. He’s hit .305 with 285 home runs and 200 stolen bases since that date. Silver Slugger, Hank Aaron, and MVP awards will continue to rain upon this legend and the Angels fans can only hope championships are to follow soon. 

Outfield – Andrew McCutchen  

The 2013 National League Most Valuable Player finished in the top four in MVP voting four straight seasons from 2012 through 2016. His 46.5 WAR trails only Mike Trout among outfielders during the past decade.  

Outfield – Mookie Betts  

Betts hit .301 with 139 home runs and 126 stolen bases in his first 794 games. He didn’t even make his debut until 2014, but his overall numbers exceeded most outfielders’ over a 10-year span. Betts has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting each of the past six years, including winning the award in 2018.   

Catcher – Buster Posey  

Posey won the 2012 NL MVP hitting .324 for the Giants as they won one of their three World Series championships during the decade. The six-time All-Star hit .306 with 126 weighted runs created the past ten years leading all catchers in those categories. Posey gets the nod over Yadier Molina as the all-decade catcher. 

Designated Hitter – Nelson Cruz 

Cruz has hit more home runs (346) and driven in 961 runners during the decade. Cruz and Edwin Encarnacion both make a strong case at this position but it’s Cruz’s post-season performance that pushes him over the top. Cruz hit .287 with 17 home runs in 181 post-season plate appearances when it mattered the most.     

Starting Pitcher – Justin Verlander 

Verlander won the AL MVP and Cy Young award by winning 24 games for the Tigers in 2011. He wrapped up the decade with 21 wins for the Astros in 2019. Verlander finished 160-86 with a 3.10 ERA in 2,142 innings, earning 53.8 fWAR over the past 10 seasons. 

Starting Pitcher – Clayton Kershaw  

Kershaw won NL MVP and three Cy Young awards by striking out 200 or more hitters in seven different seasons. Kershaw completed the decade 156-61 with a 2.31 ERA for the decade. Kershaw was a key piece in leading Dodgers clubs to seven consecutive playoff appearances to finish the decade. 

Starting Pitcher – Max Scherzer  

Mad Max led the decade in victories with a 161-74 record, leading his league in victories on four occasions and earning three Cy Young awards in the process. He finished in the top five for the award in seven straight seasons. Max led the Nationals to their first World Series title to close out the decade.   

Starting Pitcher – Chris Sale  

Sale spent his first two seasons in the White Sox bullpen before moving to rotation in 2012. He didn’t look back and registered an incredible 11.08 strikeouts per innings pitched during the decade. Sale finished the decade 109-73 with a 3.03 ERA and 44.5 fWAR. 

Starting Pitcher – Madison Bumgarner

MadBum finished the decade 119-92 with a 3.14 ERA in 1,836 innings during the decade. It’s Bumgarner’s post-season performance that makes it impossible to exclude him from this list. He was 8-3 with 2.11 ERA in 16 post-season games (14 starts), including 4-0 with an unbelievable 0.25 ERA in five World Series outings leading to three Giants World Series titles. 

Closer – Aroldis Chapman

Chapman didn’t earn the most saves in the decade, finishing third behind Craig Kimbrel (346) and Kenley Jansen (301). The Cuban Missile did, however, help the Cubs win their first World Series in over 100 years while averaging almost 15 strikeouts per nine innings. He was 33-26 with a 2.23 ERA, 273 saves, a 14.84 K/IP rate, and 19.4 fWAR on the decade. Kimbrel is a close runner-up for this spot. 

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