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The Best Baseball Players from Ohio

The great state of Ohio is next up in our Best Players from Each State series. Birthplace to over 1,000 players, there is no shortage of talent from the Buckeye State. Ohio has produced several great baseball players, including 16 Hall of Famers and 201 combined All-Star game appearances. In determining the ten best baseball players from Ohio, it is important to use stats such as WAR as well as league-adjusted stats like ERA+ and OPS+. In addition, career accomplishments will be used. All these measures will help convey the level of excellence these players had relative to their peers and in the context of history.

Ohio Born Baseball Players

3B Mike Schmidt (Dayton, Ohio) 1972-1989

Career Stats: 106.8 WAR, 2234 H, 1501 R, 548 HR, 1595 RBI, .908 OPS, 148 OPS+

Accolades: Hall of Fame, 3x MVP, 12x All-Star, 10x Gold Glove, 6x Silver Slugger, 1980 WS MVP

What else can be said about Mike Schmidt that hasn’t already been said? He is arguably the best third baseman of all time, depending on how you feel about Alex Rodriguez. Schmidt spent his entire 18-year career in Philadelphia. He won three NL MVP awards, finishing in the top seven for five consecutive years from 1980-1984. Schmidt hit 30+ home runs in a staggering 13 out of 18 seasons. However, his best season came in 1980, as he hit 48 home runs while driving in 121 runs. In that season, he batted .286/.380/.624, good for a 1.004 OPS and 1717 OPS+, and a career-high 7.6 WAR. He is the player most synonymous with the Philadelphia Phillies organization and the best baseball player to come from Ohio.

RHP Cy Young (Gilmore, Ohio) 1890-1911

Career Stats: 163.6 WAR, 511 Wins, 2.63 ERA, 7356 Innings, 2803 SO, 138 ERA+

Accolades: Hall of Fame, 2x ERA Title, 1903 World Series champion, Triple Crown

The award given to the best pitcher in each league bearing the name of this pitcher isn’t a coincidence. Regardless of how some may feel about the state of offenses in the late 1800s or early 1900s, Cy Young is the greatest pitcher of all time. He is the holder of numerous pitching records including wins, WAR, innings pitched, complete games, batters faced…and yes, even losses and earned runs. Young never produced an ERA higher than 3.94 and only posted an ERA+ under 100 in only two of his 22 seasons. There is no question that Cy Young deserves to be on this list, as does this next pitcher…

RHP Roger Clemens (Dayton, Ohio) 1984-2007

Career Stats: 139.2 WAR, 354 Wins, 3.12 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 4916 2/3 innings, 4672 SO, 143 ERA+

Accolades: 7x Cy Young, MVP, 11x All-Star, 2x World Series champion, 7x ERA Title, 2x Triple Crown

Despite being one of the faces of the infamous steroid era, Roger Clemens undoubtedly belongs on this list and is one of the greatest pitchers ever. Clemens won his first Cy Young in his age-23 season in 1986 and won his last Cy Young in his age-41 season in 2004. That is remarkable longevity. He played for four different teams, winning at least one Cy Young with each of them. If the perception around steroids and PED usage evolves even further, Clemens will be one of the first people associated with that era elected into the Hall of Fame. It is pretty cool that Ohio is the birthplace of two of the top five or so starting pitchers to ever exist.

UTIL Pete Rose (Cincinnati, Ohio) 1963-1986

Career Stats: 79.6 WAR, 4256 H, 2165 R, 1314 RBI, 198 SB, .303 BA, .784 OPS, 118 OPS+

Accolades: MVP, 17x All-Star, 3x World Series champion, 2x Gold Glove, 3x Batting Title, WS MVP

Similar to Clemens, Pete Rose would be a no-doubt Hall of Famer if it weren’t for off-the-field controversies. It feels like a full circle moment to note Rose, a Cincinnati native, is also one of the best players in Cincinnati Reds history. Rose accrued more than 200 hits ten times in his career and scored 100 or more runs ten times. Additionally, he batted at least .300 in 15 different seasons. Not just for hits, Rose is the MLB record holder in games played, plate appearances, and at-bats. His lone MVP season came in 1973 as he led the league with a .338 average and 230 hits while putting up an 8.3 WAR season.

RHP Phil Niekro (Blaine, Ohio) 1964-1987

Career Stats: 95.9 WAR, 318 Wins, 3.35 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 5405 Innings, 3342 SO, 115 ERA+

Accolades: Hall of Fame, 5x All-Star, 5x Gold Glove, ERA Title

Philip Henry Niekro from Blaine, Ohio, is one of the most unique pitchers in baseball history. He lived and died on the knuckleball, an art form that is practically extinct in modern baseball. During a 24-year career in which he played until he was 48 years old, Niekro saw everything. He is certainly one of the best pitchers to never win a Cy Young Award. With more than 300 wins, 3,000 strikeouts, and 5,000 innings, Niekro’s career was one of consistency and longevity. He pitched over 200 innings in a staggering 19 seasons, reaching as high as 342 innings in 1979…as a 40-year-old!

SS Barry Larkin (Cincinnati, Ohio) 1986-2004

Career Stats: 70.5 WAR, 2340 H, 1329 R, 198 HR, 960 RBI, 379 SB, .295 BA, .815 OPS, 116 OPS+

Accolades: Hall of Fame, MVP, 12x All-Star, 1990 World Series champion, 3x Gold Glove, 9x Silver Slugger

Similar to Rose, Barry Larkin grew up in Cincinnati and ended up becoming a Cincinnati Reds legend. He is also one of the better offensive shortstops in the history of the sport. Larkin batted over .300 nine times in his career while batting as high as .342 in 1989. Larkin’s power season came in 1996 as he hit 33 home runs and posted a .977 OPS, with 36 stolen bases, to boot. However, he only finished 12th in MVP voting as the other top finishers posted gaudy RBI totals. His lone MVP season came in 1995, as Larkin only hit 15 home runs but stole 51 bases and posted a .319/.394/.492 batting line, yet the overall production was lower than his ’96 season. Regardless, it is pretty neat that there are two Cincinnati Reds icons on this list.

LF Ed Delahanty (Cleveland, Ohio) 1888-1903

Career Stats: 69.6 WAR, 2597 H, 1600 R, 186 3B, 101 HR, 1466 RBI, 456 SB, .346 BA, .917 OPS, 152 OPS+

Accolades: Hall of Fame, 2x Batting Title

Playing much of his career before the turn of the 20th century, Ed Delahanty is not one of the most well-known baseball players hailing from Ohio. Delahanty had eight seasons in which he posted 6 WAR or higher. In taking one look at his Baseball Reference page, there are a lot of bolded numbers, indicating a league-leading total that year.

It is clear that Delahanty would have had more accolades if he put up these numbers in a different generation. With more than 450 stolen bases and a .346 career batting average, Delahanty likely would have won a couple of MVP awards had it existed at that time. Arguably his best season came in 1899 as he led the league with 238 hits, 55 doubles, and 137 RBI. Additionally, he hit an outstanding .410/.464/.582, good for a 1.046 OPS and 189 OPS+. Delahanty was easily the best player in baseball that year.

3B Sal Bando (Cleveland, Ohio) 1966-1981

Career Stats: 61.5 WAR, 1790 H, 982 R, 242 HR, 1039 RBI, .760 OPS, 119 OPS+

Accolades: 4x All-Star, 3x World Series champion

Sal Bando may not have had a Hall of Fame-worthy career, but still a pretty good one nonetheless. His 61.5 WAR total is right on the bubble for the Hall of Fame yet he is lacking in other areas, both in counting and rate statistics. However, Bando’s peak from 1969 to 1974 was All-Star caliber as his 162-game average was 25 HR, 97 RBI, and 138 OPS+. Bando excelled at getting on base, accumulating over 200 more walks than strikeouts. With a 12.4% walk rate compared to an 11.1% strikeout rate, Bando would be viewed in a greater light in today’s game than he was during his career.

1B George Sisler (Manchester, Ohio) 1915-1930

Career Stats: 57.2 WAR, 2812 H, 1287 R, 164 3B, 102 HR, 1178 RBI, 375 SB, .340 BA, .847 OPS, 125 OPS+

Accolades: Hall of Fame, MVP, 2x Batting Title

George Sisler played professional baseball against some of the sport’s greatest players. He was one of the very first Hall of Fame inductees, being an inductee of the 1939 class. Funny enough, Sisler hit more triples than home runs in all but one season in his career. That came in 1920 as he hit 18 triples compared to 19 home runs while posting league-leading totals in games played, at-bats, hits, batting average, and total bases. His single MVP season came in 1922 as he batted .420/.467/.594 with 134 runs scored, 246 hits, 18 triples, 105 RBI, and 51 stolen bases. Sisler posted 200+ hits in six different seasons and batted .300+ in 13 of his 15 seasons.

C Thurman Munson (Akron, Ohio) 1969-1979

Career Stats: 46.1 WAR, 1558 H, 696 R, 113 HR, 701 RBI, .292 BA, .756 OPS, 116 OPS+

Accolades: MVP, 7x All-Star, 2x World Series champion, 3x Gold Glove, 1970 Rookie of the Year

Before he died in 1979, Thurman Munson was on his way to becoming a Hall of Famer. In his 11 seasons, Munson had already accumulated seven all-star appearances, an MVP award, three Gold Glove awards, and won two World Series. Plus, he was well on his way to a career in which he put up at least 2,300 hits and 65+ WAR. As a writer who covers the New York Yankees, this pick may be a bit biased. However, Munson was no doubt on track for a fantastic career.

Final Thoughts

Some other notable baseball players from Ohio include Jim Wynn, Frank Howard, David Justice, Paul O’Neill, and Al Oliver, among others. The state is the birthplace of several Hall of Famers. Additionally, it is the home of many players whose careers occurred during the deadball era. While nowhere near as many as states like California, the Buckeye State has a rich baseball tradition with some legendary players.


Photo Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Network

Players Mentioned: Mike Schmidt, Alex Rodriguez, Cy Young, Roger Clemens, Pete Rose, Phil Niekro, Barry Larkin, Ed Delahanty, Sal Bando, George Sisler, Thurman Munson, Jim Wynn, Frank Howard, David Justice, Paul O’Neill, Al Oliver


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