Chicago Cubs: Who are the 5 best third basemen in team history?

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Going back in time for two of the best at the hot corner

3. Ned Williamson 1879-89, .260/.338/.397, 116 wRC+, 38.0 WAR

Stephen Jay Gould has a theory which holds (and I am seriously paraphrasing here) that achieving baseball dominance today is much harder than it was in the 19th century because the worst players then were much worse than the worst players today. This is called talent compression, and you can read a good explanation of it here (see PDF page 21). The idea is that while the lions still catch the slowest zebras, even the slowest ones run faster than before. (Note: If you live in Maryland, please report zebra sightings to the relevant authorities.)

Talent compression could partly explain the prominence of Anson-era Cubs on various all-time lists. Guys like Williamson and Fred Pfeffer were superb players, but it’s possible they would have struggled to succeed to the same degree today, even if the speed and contact aspects of the game had not atrophied. Anson probably would have excelled in any era, but that’s less clear about many of his teammates.

2. Stan Hack 1932-47, .301/.394/.397, 124 wRC+, 55.8 WAR

This winter, while you’re watching the Marquee Sports replay of the Iowa Cubs’ scintillating 22-4 defeat at the hands of Omaha, you can amuse yourself by identifying players with especially inappropriate names. For pitchers, names such as “Homer Bailey” or “Janson Junk” are clearly suboptimal. Similarly, “Hack” is a ludicrous handle for one of the most disciplined hitters of his era.

A top-25’er, Hack had a better than average K% and significantly above average BB% while usually leading off in front of the dangerous Cubs lineups of the 1930s. As a speedy third baseman with outstanding zone control and limited over-the-fence power, Hack has few modern comps. Eduardo Nunez had very similar career homer and steal numbers, but for him the strike zone was a mere rumor (though he was a much more efficient base stealer). Chone Figgins was a skilled baserunner with a great eye, but almost devoid of power.