Chicago Cubs: 25 best all-time players in franchise history

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(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs / Ned Williamson
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Chicago Cubs Greatest All-Time Players: No. 20 – Ned Williamson

Scouting Report. Infield. Ned Williamson. Pick Analysis. . 20. player. 9

WAR: 38.0

At first glance, I had no idea how Ned Williamson found his way onto this list. But after some digging and knowing that numbers don’t lie, it makes a lot more sense.

He spent the first year of his career, 1878, with the Indianapolis Blues before joining the Chicago White Stockings the next season. Now, back then, seasons were far shorter than what we’re used to today — roughly half as long, in fact. So we’ll look at some numbers stretched out to a 162-game average just so it’s more of an apples-to-apples comparison.

We’ll get into why hardcore baseball history nerds know Williamson’s name in just a second. But we can’t gloss over what he did defensively. From 1878 to 1885, he led the league in double plays and fielding percentage on five separate occasions. Oh, and he ranked tops in the league in assists six times, too.

He smacked 49 doubles in 1883, a precursor to what was to come the next year. Williamson carried a 130 OPS+ from 1879 to 1884 — but his real claim to fame comes from that ’84 campaign. In his entire 13-year career, this guy never hit double-digit home runs, bar once — when he slugged an astounding 27 long balls.

The first man to eclipse that mark? One of the most prolific sluggers of all-time, Babe Ruth, in 1919.