Who Ya Got: MLB Stars of the 2000s vs. MLB Stars of the 2010s

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    From Derek Jeter to Mike Trout, there has been no shortage of star power throughout Major League Baseball over the past 20 years.

    The question facing us today: Which decade had the better collection of stars, the 2000s or the 2010s?

    The first step was to choose an All-Decade roster for each team, which consisted of a full starting lineup, complete with designated hitter, and one starting pitcher and one relief pitcher.

    From there, we moved on to head-to-head comparisons at each position to determine which All-Decade squad held the overall advantage.

    The statistics referenced in the following article indicate a player’s production solely during the decade he is representing. Each player’s stats are presented in the form of their average over 162 games to account for time missed during the decade, along with their peak single-season performance.

    So who ya got?

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    After weighing a number of factors, including overall offensive production, peak offensive production, defense, postseason performance and intangibles, we chose the following roster as the 2000s and 2010s All-Decade team:

    2000s Roster

    RF Ichiro Suzuki

    SS Derek Jeter

    LF Barry Bonds

    1B Albert Pujols

    DH David Ortiz

    3B Alex Rodriguez

    CF Carlos Beltran

    2B Chase Utley

    C Jorge Posada

    SP Pedro Martinez

    RP Mariano Rivera

    2010s Roster

    RF Mookie Betts

    CF Mike Trout

    1B Miguel Cabrera

    LF Giancarlo Stanton

    DH Nelson Cruz

    3B Adrian Beltre

    2B Robinson Cano

    C Buster Posey

    SS Francisco Lindor

    SP Clayton Kershaw

    RP Craig Kimbrel

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    Buster Posey

    Buster PoseyLachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    2000s: Jorge Posada

  • 162 G AVG: 129 OPS+, .283/.386/.492, 26 HR, 102 RBI, 85 R, 4.7 WAR
  • Peak (2007): 153 OPS+, .338/.426/.543, 20 HR, 90 RBI, 91 R, 5.4 WAR

2010s: Buster Posey

  • 162 G AVG: 128 OPS+, .302/.371/.458, 18 HR, 87 RBI, 77 R, 5.3 WAR
  • Peak (2012): 171 OPS+, .336/.408/.549, 24 HR, 103 RBI, 78 R, 7.6 WAR

After winning two rings to close out the 1990s, Jorge Posada was also an integral part of World Series champions in 2000 and 2009. During the 2000s, he was a five-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger winner, and he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting twice.

That doesn’t quite stack up to what Buster Posey accomplished during the 2010s.

The 2010 NL Rookie of the Year led his team to an unlikely World Series title in his first full season, and he added rings in 2012 and 2014.

He also became just the fourth catcher in MLB history to win a batting title, in 2012, when he hit .336, and that earned him NL MVP honors. He’s a six-time All-Star and a four-time Silver Slugger winner.

Posey also holds the defensive advantage. He’s a Gold Glove winner and has terrific framing skills and a strong arm, gunning down 33 percent of base stealers during his career.

Advantage: 2010s   

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    Albert Pujols

    Albert PujolsJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    2000s: Albert Pujols

  • 162 G AVG: 172 OPS+, .334/.427/.628, 41 HR, 124 RBI, 119 R, 7.9 WAR
  • Peak (2008): 192 OPS+, .357/.462/.653, 37 HR, 116 RBI, 100 R, 9.2 WAR

2010s: Miguel Cabrera

  • 162 G AVG: 153 OPS+, .317/.399/.544, 32 HR, 112 RBI, 95 R, 4.9 WAR
  • Peak (2013): 190 OPS+, .348/.442/.636, 44 HR, 137 RBI, 103 R, 7.5 WAR

Miguel Cabrera won a Triple Crown, two AL MVP awards and four AL batting titles during the 2010s.

However, Albert Pujols won three NL MVP awards during the 2000s, and his batting averages in 2003 (.359) and 2008 (.357) both surpass any single-season mark Cabrera produced.

On top of that, Pujols is a two-time Gold Glove winner with 114 career steals (61 in the 2010s), while Cabrera is a passable defender at best and a base-clogger.

These are two of the greatest right-handed hitters in MLB history. Still, Pujols is the clear choice.

Advantage: 2000s     

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    Chase Utley

    Chase UtleyJed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    2000s: Chase Utley

  • 162 G AVG: 130 OPS+, .295/.379/.523, 29 HR, 106 RBI, 109 R, 7.2 WAR
  • Peak (2008): 136 OPS+, .292/.380/.535, 33 HR, 104 RBI, 113 R, 9.0 WAR

2010s: Robinson Cano

  • 162 G AVG: 132 OPS+, .300/.359/.496, 26 HR, 98 RBI, 92 R, 5.5 WAR
  • Peak (2012): 148 OPS+, .313/.379/.550, 33 HR, 94 RBI, 105 R, 8.4 WAR

This one was perhaps the toughest call.

For a five-year stretch from 2005 through 2009, Chase Utley was a superstar, posting a 135 OPS+ while averaging 29 home runs, 101 RBI and 7.9 WAR per season. He also won a World Series ring and slugged nine playoff home runs during that time.

Is a short peak lasting half the 2000s enough for him to earn the nod?

Robinson Cano produced at a high level for longer, posting a 135 OPS+ and averaging 6.1 WAR over the first eight seasons of the 2010s, but he never quite had the peak that Utley did.

If Cano were clearly the superior defender or if he had a stellar postseason track record, he would have been the choice. Instead, it’s Utley who holds the advantage in both of those areas.

Advantage: 2000s

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    Derek Jeter

    Derek JeterRon Vesely/Getty Images

    2000s: Derek Jeter

  • 162 G AVG: 121 OPS+, .317/.387/.456, 17 HR, 79 RBI, 118 R, 4.1 WAR
  • Peak (2006): 132 OPS+, .343/.417/.483, 14 HR, 97 RBI, 118 R, 5.6 WAR

2010s: Francisco Lindor

  • 162 G AVG: 119 OPS+, .288/.347/.493, 29 HR, 87 RBI, 108 R, 5.5 WAR
  • Peak (2018): 132 OPS+, .277/.352/.519, 38 HR, 92 RBI, 129 R, 7.8 WAR

The fact that it was difficult to decide on which shortstop would represent the 2010s should tell you all you need to know about this head-to-head battle.

Andrelton Simmons received consideration as the Ozzie Smith of his era, and Troy Tulowitzki was elite when he managed to stay upright, but in the end, Francisco Lindor was the best option for this showdown. The Indians star has been a two-way standout since debuting in 2015.

However, at just four-and-a-half MLB seasons, it’s hard to compare his body of work with someone who was one of the defining players of a decade.

Derek Jeter made eight All-Star teams during the 2000s. He had at least 190 hits seven times, hit over .300 eight times and finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting five times. He was the definition of a star.

Add to that a .307/.379/.489 line and 36 extra-base hits in 432 plate appearances during the postseason, and the choice is easy.

Advantage: 2000s

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    Alex Rodriguez

    Alex RodriguezRon Vesely/Getty Images

    2000s: Alex Rodriguez

  • 162 G AVG: 153 OPS+, .304/.401/.587, 46 HR, 132 RBI, 126 R, 7.5 WAR
  • Peak (2007): 176 OPS+, .314/.422/.645, 54 HR, 156 RBI, 143 R, 9.4 WAR

2010s: Adrian Beltre

  • 162 G AVG: 130 OPS+, .307/.358/.514, 29 HR, 104 RBI, 90 R, 6.1 WAR
  • Peak (2012): 139 OPS+, .321/.359/.561, 36 HR, 102 RBI, 95 R, 7.2 WAR

Alex Rodriguez spent the first four seasons of the 2000s as a shortstop with the Mariners and Rangers, but he played more games at third base during the decade, so that’s where he fits on the All-Decade team.

The three-time AL MVP winner had at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI every year during the decade. He topped 40 homers six times and launched 50 or more twice.

Adrian Beltre was already 31 years old when the 2010s began, and he had something to prove after a disappointing five-year stint with the Mariners. After making good on a one-year deal with the Red Sox, he joined the Rangers and developed into one of baseball’s best two-way players.

Aside from his run production, he also won three Gold Glove Awards during the 2010s, and his 77 DRS during the decade rank in the top 25 among all position players.

Advantage: 2000s   

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    Barry Bonds

    Barry BondsMARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/Associated Press

    2000s: Barry Bonds

  • 162 G AVG: 221 OPS+, .322/.517/.724, 52 HR, 115 RBI, 127 R, 9.4 WAR
  • Peak (2001): 259 OPS+, .328/.515/.863, 73 HR, 137 RBI, 129 R, 11.7 WAR

2010s: Giancarlo Stanton

  • 162 G AVG: 144 OPS+, .268/.358/.547, 43 HR, 109 RBI, 96 R, WAR
  • Peak (2017): 169 OPS+, .281/.376/.631, 59 HR, 132 RBI, 123 R, 8.0 WAR

We’re playing it a little fast and loose with the outfield alignment, taking an All-Star Game-style approach in which the three top outfielders were aligned in a way that makes the most sense.

In this case, that meant Giancarlo Stanton, who has primarily played right field, shifts to left field in deference to perennial Gold Glove winner Mookie Betts.

Sorry, Giancarlo. Stanton is a prolific slugger and has an NL MVP Award on his mantel from his terrific 2017 season when he led the NL in OPS+, home runs and RBI, but he never had a chance here.

We’re talking about some legendary seasons from Barry Bonds, who had an OPS+ over 230 for four straight seasons from 2001 to 2004 and won NL MVP every year as a result.

This one isn’t particularly close.

Advantage: 2000s   

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    Mike Trout

    Mike TroutRob Leiter/Getty Images

    2000s: Carlos Beltran

  • 162 G AVG: 122 OPS+, .282/.363/.502, 29 HR, 107 RBI, 112 R, 5.5 WAR
  • Peak (2006): 150 OPS+, .275/.388/.594, 41 HR, 116 RBI, 127 R, 8.2 WAR

2010s: Mike Trout

  • 162 G AVG: 176 OPS+, .305/.419/.581, 39 HR, 102 RBI, 122 R, 9.0 WAR
  • Peak (2018): 198 OPS+, .312/.460/.628, 39 HR, 79 RBI, 101 R, 10.2 WAR

While the left field matchup was a landslide for the 2000s squad, the same is true here for the 2010s team with Mike Trout manning center field.

Carlos Beltran is one of the best power-speed threats in MLB history, as he averaged 30 steals per 162 games during the 2000s. In addition, he turned in one of the best postseason performances in MLB history in 2004 when he hit .435/.536/1.022 with eight home runs and 14 RBI in 12 games for the Houston Astros.

But Mike Trout is Mike Trout.

The 28-year-old is the best player on the planet, and that’s been the case ever since he ran away with AL Rookie of the Year honors with a 10.5-WAR season in 2012.

His lack of a postseason track record is no fault of his own and is nowhere near enough to close the gap between these two center fielders.

Advantage: 2010s    

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    Mookie Betts

    Mookie BettsJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2000s: Ichiro Suzuki

  • 162 G AVG: 118 OPS+, .333/.378/.434, 10 HR, 59 RBI, 111 R, 5.0 WAR
  • Peak (2004): 130 OPS+, .372/.414/.455, 8 HR, 60 RBI, 101 R, 9.2 WAR

2010s: Mookie Betts

  • 162 G AVG: 134 OPS+, .301/.374/.519, 28 HR, 96 RBI, 125 R, 7.5 WAR
  • Peak (2018): 186 OPS+, .346/.438/.640, 32 HR, 80 RBI, 129 R, 10.6 WAR

Ichiro Suzuki took MLB by storm in 2001, leading the AL in batting average (.350), hits (242) and steals (56) to take home Rookie of the Year and MVP honors for a 116-win Seattle Mariners team.

That began a run of 10 straight seasons with at least 200 hits and an average over .300, and he set the single-season hits record (262 in 2004) along the way.

He also had an absolute rocket for an arm and won 10 straight Gold Glove Awards to begin his MLB career.

At the same time, a case can be made that he was somewhat one-dimensional offensively, with 1,650 singles among his 2,030 hits during the 2000s.

On the other hand, Mookie Betts is a true five-tool talent. The 2018 AL MVP boasts equally impressive defensive skills in right field, and at the plate, he has a batting title and a 30/30 season to his credit.

The numbers don’t tell the whole story of the type of impact Ichiro made on Major League Baseball, but if we’re picking one guy based on on-field performance, Betts has the edge.

Advantage: 2010s

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    David Ortiz

    David OrtizRob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images

    2000s: David Ortiz

  • 162 G AVG: 137 OPS+, .283/.378/.554, 37 HR, 123 RBI, 100 R, 3.4 WAR
  • Peak (2006): 161 OPS+, .287/.413/.636, 54 HR, 137 RBI, 115 R, 5.8 WAR

2010s: Nelson Cruz

  • 162 G AVG: 138 OPS+, .281/.350/.538, 40 HR, 112 RBI, 91 R, 3.8 WAR
  • Peak (2019): 166 OPS+, .311/.392/.639, 41 HR, 108 RBI, 81 R, 4.4 WAR

The numbers are closer than you might expect.

David Ortiz had 307 home runs and 1,016 RBI during the 2000s, while Nelson Cruz had 346 home runs and 961 RBI during the 2010s, and they posted nearly identical OPS+ totals in the process.

This one came down to postseason production, and both players have impressive resumes there as well:

  • Cruz: 181 PA, .287/.354/.659, 17 HR, 35 RBI, 2011 ALCS MVP
  • Ortiz: 289 PA, .283/.388/.520, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 2004 ALCS MVP

Cruz might have more gaudy counting numbers, but Ortiz delivered some of the biggest hits in Boston franchise history during the team’s 2004 title run.

Ortiz by a surprisingly slim margin.

Advantage: 2000s   

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    Pedro Martinez

    Pedro MartinezSTEVE SCHAEFER/Getty Images

    2000s: Pedro Martinez

  • 162 G AVG: 152 ERA+, 17-7, 3.01 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 243 K, 220 IP, 6.8 WAR
  • Peak (2000): 291 ERA+, 18-6, 1.74 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 284 K, 217 IP, 11.7 WAR

2010s: Clayton Kershaw

  • 162 G AVG: 164 ERA+, 18-7, 2.31 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 252 K, 231 IP, 6.8 WAR
  • Peak (2014): 197 ERA+, 21-3, 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 239 K, 198.1 IP, 7.7 WAR

The 2000s are an interesting decade when it comes to selecting a starting pitcher.

Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were all historically good at the start of the decade, but age had caught up to them before the 2010s rolled around. Guys like Roy Halladay and Johan Santana had more complete decades, but not nearly the same otherworldly peak.

With a 1.74 ERA, 291 ERA+ and 0.74 WHIP at the height of the steroid era in 2000, Martinez owns arguably the greatest single-season pitching performance in MLB history, and that was enough to earn him the starting nod.

On the other side, Clayton Kershaw edges Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, with some consideration also given to Madison Bumgarner for his postseason heroics.

The fact that Kershaw’s ERA+ during his MVP season in 2014 was nearly 100 points lower than Martinez’s in 2000 is further proof of just how special that season was for the Red Sox ace.

Advantage: 2000s

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    Mariano Rivera

    Mariano RiveraPatrick McDermott/Getty Images

    2000s: Mariano Rivera

  • 162 G AVG: 217 ERA+, 68 G, 41 SV, 2.08 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 3.5 WAR
  • Peak (2008): 316 ERA+, 64 G, 39 SV, 1.40 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 4.3 WAR

2010s: Craig Kimbrel

  • 162 G AVG: 195 ERA+, 68 G, 42 SV, 2.08 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 14.6 K/9, 2.4 WAR
  • Peak (2012): 399 ERA+, 63 G, 42 SV, 1.01 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 16.7 K/9, 3.2 WAR

This one isn’t fair.

Craig Kimbrel is one of the most overpowering pitchers in baseball history, having struck out 41.1 percent of the batters he’s faced during his 10-year career.

He’s led the National League in saves four times, nailed down 90.3 percent of his save chances and has 346 career saves.

However, Mariano Rivera is the best to ever do it, and he was in his prime during the 2000s.

Aside from his stellar regular-season numbers, Rivera also had 26 saves, a 0.94 ERA and .170 opponents batting average in 86 postseason innings during the 2000s.

There’s not a manager alive who wouldn’t want the ball in Rivera’s hand over anyone else with the game on the line. And he did it all while everyone in the ballpark knew exactly what pitch was coming: his devastating cutter.

Advantage: 2000s

Final Tally: 2000s 8, 2010s 3

All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.