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Dodgers: Ranking the Best Third Baseman in Franchise History

Grading the Dodgers best of the best at the hot corner.



In case you haven’t noticed, we’re still without Dodger baseball. However, the extended doldrums provide plenty of time for healthy debate and conversation. For instance, who is the best Dodger third baseman of all-time?

Why It’s Not Pedro Guerrero

The godfather of sabermetrics Bill James did not fall victim to hyperbole when he declared that Guerrero was “the best hitter God had made in a long time”. In his time as a Dodger, Guerrero produced three seasons over 5.0 WAR, a .893 OPS, and an impressive 149 OPS+.

In his 8 full seasons as an everyday player, he was selected to 4 All-Star games, finished in the top 3 in MVP voting 3 times, and was named 1981 World Series Co-MVP thanks to an epic Game 6 against the Yankees. That night he went 3 for 5, with a triple, a homer, and 5 RBI. Damn right Mr. James, damn right.

The foundational problem with declaring Guerrero as the best Dodger third baseman isn’t the stats,  it’s the fact that he played more outfield than third base.

  • 1B: 104 games (10% of games played)
  • 2B: 12 games (1%)
  • 3B: 374 games (36%)
  • OF: 524 games (51%)
  • PH: 22 games (2%)

It’s tough to penalize a player for their utility, but Guerrero simply doesn’t qualify.

Why It’s Not Adrian Beltre

The Dominican prodigy averaged 18 home runs and 73 RBI in his first four seasons as a starter. He reached his potential in 2004 when he led the NL in dingers and finished second in MVP voting to Barry Bonds. Although his highest finish in MVP voting was with the Dodgers, the best stretches of his more than likely Hall of Fame career were spent elsewhere – Seattle, Boston, and Texas. 

Beltre earned multiple Gold Gloves (5) and Silver Sluggers (4) once he left for Los Angeles. Any Dodger fan has to wonder what might have been with Beltre at third for back-to-back NLCS appearances later in the decade. Unfortunately, Beltre is the best third baseman to have played for the Dodgers, but not the best Dodger to have played third base in Los Angeles. 

Why It’s Not Justin Turner

Make no mistake, Turner has been the engine for this decade’s Dodgers since he arrived in 2014. Turner transformed himself into an incredible contact hitter, a lethal playoff bat (.310 career playoff BA), and an icon in the city of Los Angeles.

The argument can be made for Turner to hold the top spot with what he’s done in his 6 seasons with Los Angeles. JT has produced 3 seasons hitting over .300, made the All-Star team in 2017, and was a key cog in back to back World Series appearances. The Dodgers simply wouldn’t be where they are now without the driving force of Justin Turner.

Why It’s Ron Cey

To make the comparison between The Penguin and Turner somewhat fair, let’s look at numbers from six prime seasons and pit them against one another:

Player Years AVG OBP SLG HR RBI WAR dWAR
Turner 2014-2019 .302 .381 .506 112 383 27.4 1.4
Cey 1974-1979 .269 .370 .454 147 553 31.6 6.4

In addition to beating Turner in WAR and dWAR, Cey played 170 more games than Turner and consequently hit 150 more RBI in his 6 seasons of peak production. Sorry, but they both played on talented offenses and Cey shouldn’t be faulted for being the healthier player. However, for an apples to apples comparison, below are their 162 game averages for the same time frames:

  • Turner: 25 HR, 83 RBI, 9.3 BB%, 15% SO
  • Cey:     24 HR, 92 RBI, 13.5 BB%, 13.1% SO

Cey owns the better walk and strikeout rates on top of better counting stats. He racked up 6 All-Star appearances and of course, won a World Series ring in 1981. Even if you throw out his other 6 years with the Dodgers, Cey’s best seasons are better than Turner’s best seasons. 

No disrespect to Turner, but The Penguin is the king of the hot corner.

What Fans Thought

 

The vote is close with recency bias seeming to have the upper hand in the online vote. Where do you stand? Let us know in the comments below!

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Written by Eric Eulau

Born and raised in Ventura, not "Ven-CH-ura", California. Number one fear in life is dying without ever seeing a Dodgers Championship.

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  1. Ron Cey – hands down! Consistent run producer and solid defensively. Very few injuries. 2nd all-time LA Dodger in HRs.

    • The penguin by far cause JT is a wimp compared to the penguin who played 81 world series with a cast on his hand while JT sat down when he broke his wrist also Cey suffered a concussion in that world series and came back to play and helped the Dodgers beat the yankees.Ron Cey and Garvey both were let go too soon or they would have won another world series.

  2. Biggest hit by a third baseman? Cookie Lavagetto breaking up Bevins’ World Series no hitter in the 9th inning winning the game in the process. It was his last major league hit. Otherwise the best is The Penguin but Justin still has a chance to pass him

  3. A little story on Ron Cey. My little daughter Laurie made a remark about Cey one time while we were listening to a Dodger game and it was this. Cey was at bat and Vin Sculley said he “bounced out to third” and she remarked. “boy that must have hurt !

  4. I’m not a Dodger’s fan, but I grew up watching Ron Cey playing for the Spokane Indians ( AAA).
    Great teams great Manager.
    Anyways, Ron Cey was the best third baseman, I have ever seen in person…sure there was a lot, but mostly on TV…Ron Santo, Brooks Robinson.
    But Cey was my guy….

    Go Giants!!!?

  5. I’m surprised that many people still remember Ron Cey. I could only remember Ron Cey gettinh drilled in the head by Goose Gossage, Cey’s wife reportedly passed out instantly due to shock witnessing the HBP.

  6. The Penguin, I grew up watching that great infield and he was solid. Part of the four players with 30 homeruns. Was very sad day when he left. He almost got into the World Series with Chicago but lost the series to Garvey and the padres.

  7. Grew up watching Cey – one of my favorite all time. He gets the nod for excellence over time BUT JT’s a better hitter and playoff gamer. He gets every big hit for the team – it’s JT.

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