Friday, November 8, 2013

The 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot (3)

My first two Hall of Fame (HOF) posts dealt with the newcomers to the 2014 ballot. This one will deal with the holdovers and cover several other areas as well. This table lists the holdovers on the 2014 HOF ballot, those that have managed to amass at least 5% of the ballots in the previous year:
Batting Stats
Rk YoB % of Ballots HOFm HOFs Yrs WAR WAR7 JAWS Jpos
1 Craig Biggio 2nd 68.2% 169 57 20 64.94 41.61 53.28 57.0
2 Jack Morris 15th 67.7% 122 39 18 44.06 32.75 38.41 61.4
3 Jeff Bagwell 4th 59.6% 150 59 15 79.48 48.17 63.83 55.7
4 Mike Piazza 2nd 57.8% 207 62 16 59.20 43.08 51.14 43.1
5 Tim Raines 7th 52.2% 90 47 23 69.07 42.23 55.65 53.1
6 Lee Smith 12th 47.8% 135 13 18 29.59 21.14 25.36 34.4
7 Curt Schilling 2nd 38.8% 171 46 20 79.92 48.99 64.45 61.4
8 Roger Clemens 2nd 37.6% 332 73 24 140.30 66.31 103.30 61.4
9 Barry Bonds 2nd 36.2% 340 76 22 162.53 72.77 117.65 53.1
10 Edgar Martinez 5th 35.9% 132 50 18 68.28 43.51 55.89 55.0
11 Alan Trammell 13th 33.6% 118 40 20 70.35 44.63 57.49 54.7
12 Larry Walker 4th 21.6% 148 58 17 72.63 44.59 58.61 56.4
13 Fred McGriff 5th 20.7% 100 48 19 52.56 36.04 44.30 55.7
14 Mark McGwire 8th 16.9% 170 42 16 62.05 41.87 51.96 55.7
15 Don Mattingly 14th 13.2% 134 34 14 42.24 35.66 38.95 55.7
16 Sammy Sosa 2nd 12.5% 202 52 18 58.42 43.71 51.07 56.4
17 Rafael Palmeiro 4th 8.8% 178 57 20 71.77 38.77 55.27 55.7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/6/2013.

The column headings are described in my first post. I'll break these players into discrete groups and discuss my thoughts. To see the entire Baseball-Reference (B-R) list with their career totals, you can click this link.

NO
That would be Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly and probably Alan Trammell. I'll have to get in contact with the Hall of Very Good (@HOVG) to see if he/she has room for them, because I think they all deserve enshrinement there, and in Trammell's case, I'd argue that he belongs in the REAL HOF, but he's never generated enough interest from the voters. I like Walker, McGriff and Mattingly but they all have issues--Walker with inflated numbers at Coors Field, McGriff hitting home runs and not much else and Mattingly just not playing long enough to accumulate counting stats. This table shows just how pronounced the Coors Field effect is:
Rk I Player Split From To G OPS OPStot % PA PAtot AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Bobby Doerr Home 1937 1951 954 .928 .823 112.8 4080 8028 3554 634 1120 246 46 145 742 465 283 .315 .396 .533 .928
2 Cy Williams Home 1916 1930 880 .964 .858 112.4 3485 6811 3009 537 974 182 27 156 527 373 333 .324 .406 .558 .964
3 Dante Bichette Home 1988 2001 848 .938 .835 112.3 3466 6856 3212 574 1053 214 21 177 696 193 482 .328 .365 .573 .938
4 Rico Petrocelli Home 1963 1976 768 .843 .752 112.1 3025 6171 2617 369 713 141 12 134 465 332 444 .272 .354 .489 .843
5 Ian Kinsler Home 2006 2013 538 .898 .804 111.7 2399 4791 2070 434 630 143 15 85 293 260 253 .304 .387 .511 .898
6 Chuck Klein Home 1928 1944 887 1.028 .922 111.5 3635 7170 3289 661 1163 226 36 190 727 310 240 .354 .410 .618 1.028
7 Chico Fernandez Home 1956 1963 438 .693 .622 111.4 1571 3078 1402 163 366 51 14 26 151 124 163 .261 .320 .373 .693
8 Ed Charles Home 1962 1969 502 .807 .727 111.0 1907 3908 1695 246 490 76 20 53 236 166 238 .289 .355 .451 .807
9 Nelson Cruz Home 2005 2013 405 .912 .823 110.8 1592 3182 1435 225 422 88 6 92 278 135 340 .294 .356 .556 .912
10 Bob Horner Home 1978 1988 520 .929 .839 110.7 2145 4213 1901 333 560 90 4 142 415 198 241 .295 .359 .570 .929
11 Larry Walker Home 1989 2005 986 1.068 .965 110.7 3996 8030 3429 789 1193 268 39 215 747 444 546 .348 .431 .637 1.068
12 Juan Uribe Home 2001 2013 776 .795 .719 110.6 2830 5655 2587 348 714 143 27 104 369 166 461 .276 .323 .473 .795
13 Wally Judnich Home 1940 1949 388 .908 .822 110.5 1513 3207 1287 209 388 79 13 54 226 205 134 .301 .399 .509 .908
14 Carson Bigbee Home 1916 1926 559 .787 .713 110.4 2199 4669 1954 331 613 69 52 7 181 177 69 .314 .374 .413 .787
15 Jerry Lumpe Home 1956 1967 700 .751 .681 110.3 2746 5438 2446 334 711 105 32 31 263 241 203 .291 .353 .398 .751
16 Hank Greenberg Home 1930 1947 711 1.121 1.017 110.2 3086 6097 2592 594 876 198 38 205 733 468 402 .338 .440 .681 1.121
17 Todd Helton Home 1997 2013 1141 1.048 .953 110.0 4841 9453 4038 874 1394 321 28 227 859 710 514 .345 .441 .607 1.048
18 Rudy York Home 1934 1948 792 .929 .846 109.8 3302 6723 2897 479 882 152 30 158 656 390 387 .304 .388 .541 .929
19 Heinie Sand Home 1923 1928 422 .755 .688 109.7 1774 3529 1497 262 424 91 11 10 140 215 165 .283 .377 .379 .755
20 Russ Wrightstone Home 1920 1928 468 .854 .779 109.6 1648 3285 1498 250 482 81 11 44 232 116 70 .322 .375 .479 .854
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/31/2013.

This shows players with the greatest difference between home OPS and their career OPS (OPStot), with the key stat being the % column which shows the difference between home vs. overall OPS. When 3 of the top 20 in this category played their home games at Coors Field, it's safe to say the park had an effect. Walker, McGriff, Mattingly and Trammell will probably lurk on the ballot for the entire 15 years, but I don't feel bad leaving them out--they were good, VERY good, but not worthy of HOF enshrinement.

MAYBE
These are Jack Morris, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Curt Schilling and Edgar Martinez. To see how players who are enshrined after a number of years gradually build momentum click here and look around. Players need to reach a critical mass (usually around 40-50%) at which point enough other writers join the bandwagon and eventually vote the player in around year 8 or 9. All of these players have solid credentials:
Morris--250+ wins, (alleged) good postseason pitching
Raines--solid speed/power guy
Smith--one-time all-time save leader
Schilling--2001 postseason pitching
Martinez--best DH of all time
I've oversimplified, but this is what the arguments boil down to. These are the discussions when Andre Dawson and Jim Rice are enshrined and the bar for induction moves downward. When the Pedro Martinez discussions begin, someone will look at his 210 career wins and say "Schilling had MORE," and totally dismiss the utter dominance that Martinez had in his career.

There is a huge distinction between career milestones and dominance. Curt Schilling DID have more career wins than Pedro Martinez and there were years where he was considered among the best pitchers, but Martinez was DOMINANT. Using just one stat, there have been 35 seasons since 1901 in which pitchers had an ERA+ of 200 or greater (min 20 starts)--Martinez had FIVE of them, Schilling 0. Morris' WAR7 suggests he was a very good pitcher who lasted a long time, but was possibly the Jamie Moyer (better, granted) of his day. Raines very well could be developing the momentum necessary for eventual enshrinement and I wouldn't say one word if he were to be elected--he is the quintessential on-the-fence candidate. I just happen to believe that if I have to think THAT hard about a player, he doesn't belong. I touched on problems that plague Edgar Martinez in the discussion of Frank Thomas in my previous post.

In no way do I want to diminish the careers of any of these men--they WERE among the best in their generation and I never want to blithely dismiss any candidate by stating "Well, he's not HOF worthy"--most players aren't. Over 18,000 players have put on a big league uniform and the HOF currently enshrines less than 2% of them. It's the Hall of FAME, not the Hall of "Hey I Remember That Guy."
PROGNOSIS--Morris YES (even though I wouldn't), everyone else NO (I'm very conflicted on Edgar Martinez). In other words, if I had a ballot, none of these players would get my vote but I would struggle mightily with Edgar Martinez.

NO BRAINER
I have absolutely no idea how Craig Biggio wasn't elected in 2013, none whatsoever that isn't connected to innuendo or some stupid issue of not electing players on their first ballot appearance (easily the STUPIDEST unwritten HOF voter rule). I'd be shocked if he isn't elected in 2014 but he might be aced out by a strong first-year class and the reticence of voters to enshrine more than 2-3 players a year. Biggio was the example Bill James used in the New Historical Baseball Abstract to completely blow my mind as to how to evaluate players (pp 361-364). He had Biggio rated as the 35th-best player of all-time, and at that time I was barely aware of Baseball-Reference, completely clueless on advanced metrics and had just started listening to 670 The Score out of Chicago. I thought this was IDIOTIC until I read further and followed James' logic. Biggio has the traditional numbers, 12,500 plate appearances, 3,000+ hits and did the most important thing a player (particularly a leadoff hitter) can do--he created runs, and if you check the link, you'll see that he's a relative rarity in that bunch that are typically power hitters. 
PROGNOSIS--YES, 82% of the vote

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Which leaves Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa, with more on the way. These players range the spectrum of PED use all the way from suspected (Piazza) to acknowledged (McGwire) with every shade in between. This era will never go away--sometime in 2050 a Veterans' Committee will review any of these who don't get enshrined and examine the whole issue all over again. I suppose I should state where I stand:

I DON'T CARE

I don't, not one lick. I wish definitive evidence of PED use by ANY player, not just these exists and they had been dealt with administratively by MLB at the time, but the Collective Bargaining Agreement at the time did not explicitly ban these drugs. This site has comprehensive lists of those who used PEDS or were suspected--it's a bit out of date but covers the players I'm interested in.

PEDs do two primary things, build muscle mass and reduce inflammation, and I'm unclear as to which is the bigger benefit--I'd argue the reduced inflammation, which allows for quicker rebound from the rigors of baseball. Players were able to extend their careers because they could recover faster, and as a new CBA explicitly banned PEDs and instituted penalties, the older productive player is becoming a rarity again. This chart shows the number of players aged 37 or older with 400+ plate appearances in a year between 1960 and 2013:


It wasn't fair, but neither were amphetamines in the 1970s and 1980s. Besides, if PED use was as rampant as suspected (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), we're still down to around 7-10 players who vaulted themselves to the pinnacle of baseball achievement. I have a hard time believing PEDs made an average (certainly not a below-average) player great as much as taking a great player and extending his career 2-3 years and allowing the accumulation of counting stats. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, and to the extent and manner you wish, I'm more than happy to discuss it.

I also believe this will eventually become the thinking of the HOF voters, but it will have to be declared somehow. The BBWAA won't ever issue a statement like this because they'd never come anywhere close to being able to reach a consensus, but until something is done it's going to be the Wild West in voting as each voter takes his personal biases (which already happens, I know) and lets them run rampant. As much as I'd love to see the recommendations that Bill James puts forth in Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? (Chapter 29) I know I'll never see them, at least not anytime soon. Until then:
Jeff Bagwell          YES
Barry Bonds         YES
Roger Clemens    YES
Mark McGwire     NO
Rafael Palmeiro    NO
Mike Piazza          YES
Sammy Sosa         YES (but I wouldn't vote for him)

Even before the PED scandal became well-known I was already beginning to wonder about the whole notion of the automatic enshrinement of anyone who hit 500+ home runs. The 500+ club numbers 25 and can be broken into these groups:
Lively Ball--Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott
No-Name--Ted Williams
Expansion--Eddie Mathews, Mickey Mantle, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Harmon Killebrew, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt
1990s on--Eddie Murray, McGwire, Palmeiro, Sosa, Bonds, Frank Thomas, Gary Sheffield, Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Alex Rodriguez
Fully half of these players accomplished this feat in the past 20 years or so, with Albert Pujols banging on the door. As I look at the list of hitters with 400+ home runs (itself only 51) I find myself wavering, but I'll stick with it. The point in baseball is to score runs, not hit home runs--this chart shows the difference between hitting home runs and creating runs:

Players like Bonds hit home runs AND created runs, Stan Musial hit far fewer home runs but is still #3 on the runs created list and Mark McGwire is shown to be the one-dimensional player he was who didn't create runs other than by hitting home runs. The two blacked out boxes (Dave Kingman and Andre Dawson) didn't make the top 200 in runs created. Now I need to re-think this AGAIN since this paints Palmeiro in a far more flattering light. 

The rumors are out regarding Piazza and Bagwell, and until those rumors are substantiated, they're just that--rumors. As such, I'm very comfortable with both these players--Piazza is easily among the best, if not THE best offensive catchers in baseball history and Bagwell was among the best during a time that saw offensive first basemen by the bushel. Both Bonds and Clemens had HOF-worthy careers PRIOR to their alleged PED use. I cannot overstate that this is simply my opinion, which doesn't make me right or infallible. I just don't see withholding HOF enshrinement as a correction for an unfortunate period in  baseball history as a solution.

All this makes for a very confusing ballot. With the 5 players discussed in my previous post plus the 12 I discussed in varying degrees in this one, I would strongly argue that 10, maybe more deserve enshrinement. This false "protection" of the HOF from the taint of PED users has created a backlog of players that should already be in (Bonds and Clemens for sure as well as Piazza, Bagwell and Biggio) that will have implications for future elections. That's why this whole issue needs to be addressed in some manner--there is a very real possibility that it will keep DESERVING (and CLEAN) candidates out, which would be a huge failure. HOF Attendance is already on the decline for any number of reasons (try very hard to read the Wall Street Journal article referenced, but it may be behind a pay wall) and continued weirdness in the voting procedure won't help matters any, nor will Induction Days where all the inductees are dead.

6 comments :

  1. Very good analysis. It made me think of some things that hadn't crossed my mind. I enjoyed the tables and agree mostly with what you've said.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You say no to Larry Walker based on the Coors Field effect but no credit to his exceptional defense and very underrated baserunning ability. He also has quite a few steals for such a power hitter. If you look at advanced metrics he adds a lot of value through defense and baserunning which is not something most people think about regarding Walker.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent point regarding Walker's defense--FanGraphs shows him as the 8th-best RF in history:

      http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=rf&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=6&season=2013&month=0&season1=1871&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=5,d

      However, I can't remember if I make the point in this post or a different one, the typical outstanding player's offensive output is around 4-5x better than his defense. Walker is the same. Ignore the positional hit he gets just for playing RF, that's only there to compare him to other positions (which I try not to do anyway). Walker is a true member of the Hall of Very Good and deserves to get serious scrutiny.

      You make compelling arguments but in the end it will be a rare player enshrined, particularly in this era, due to his base running and defensive skills. I appreciate the comment.

      Delete
  3. I don't know why people are so down on Walker. Yes, he played at Coors. Yes, he was a better hitter there - but so is everyone! He was, as the above post mentions, a great defensive player, and a very good baserunner. In his best season (his MVP year of 1997), he hit better AWAY from Coors than AT Coors. I think you should give him another look. If you look a couple of posts ago where I described JAWS and Jpos, you'll see that Walker is "above the line," so to speak, for right fielders.

    As for McGwire, he's a tricky case. You rightly point out that he didn't create a whole lot of runs - only 1529, according to your own chart. Admittedly, that's 62nd all-time, which doesn't seem very high for a slugging 1B. On the other hand, there are over 200 players in the Hall of Fame, which puts that number in the top 1/3 already, so it needs to be taken seriously. The second thing that needs to be remembered about McGwire is that he really didn't have a very long career - only 7660 PAs. Taking that as a ratio, McGwire had a .200 "average" (actually .1996) in terms of RC/PA. Here are the five players on either side of McGwire in terms of career RC and PA from the above chart:

    Sammy Sosa: 1625 RC, 9896 PAs, .164 RC/PA
    Jason Giambi: 1609 RC, 8838 PAs, .182 RC/PA
    Harmon Killebrew: 1606 RC, 9833 PAs, .163 RC/PA
    Carlos Delgado: 1588 RC, 8657 PAs, .183 RC/PA
    Willie Stargell: 1531 RC, 9027 PAs, .170 RC/PA
    McGwire: 1529 RC, 7660 PAs, .200 RC/PA
    Andre Dawson: 1518 RC, 9927 PAs, .153 RC/PA
    Ernie Banks: 1512 RC, 10394 PAs, .145 RC/PA
    David Ortiz: 1505 RC, 8249 PAs, .182 RC/PA
    Darrell Evans: 1499 RC, 10737 PAs, .140 RC/PA

    As you can see, McGwire is in the middle of this pack in terms of RC, but has the fewest PAs. In fact, his RC/PA is 10% better than the nearest competitor. So while it's true that McGwire didn't create a whole lot of runs relative to his number of home runs, it's truer that the reason that he didn't is simply because he didn't bat that many times in his career. He was an incredibly productive player, just didn't have a long career. It's something to keep in mind. I wouldn't lump him in with Dave Kingman, is I guess what I'm saying.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Excellent points all and brings to fore a very common HOF distinction, the long career vs. the short productive one. Sandy Koufax, of course, is the poster boy for the short-but-spectacular type of enshrinement, and Pedro Martinez will be right there with him come next year when he becomes eligible.

    I like your analysis and in the end it probably won't matter--he'll get in via some Veterans Committee in the future, I have a very hard time seeing him gain the critical mass necessary for enshrinement.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've been looking at their career stats over the last hour or so and I don't see how you would choose to leave Curt Schilling out of the Hall of Fame while choosing to induct Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina and (presumably, considering your first post) John Smoltz.
    While I would put Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez on the highest level of pitching greatness, I don't see much to separate the other four; either they are all worthy of the Hall, or none of them are (I would definitely vote for all of them). They are all comfortably ahead of Jack Morris, obviously (although, believe it or not, Morris had a better career WHIP than Glavine).

    I don't know if you've ever gone to the Hall of Stats, but they love Schilling, having him at 16th in Hall Rating among pitchers. I know you weren't using Hall Rating as a guide, but JAWS actually ranks him ahead of the other three as well (at 27th, one spot
    ahead of Mussina). I also thought it was a little strange to point out that Schilling was never a dominant pitcher, since this is one of the knocks against Mussina and Glavine (and also to compare him against Pedro, the pitcher with arguably the greatest peak of all time); having said that, Schilling had the best 7-year peak of the four.

    It's late, and I need to sleep. i would like to hear more about your thoughts, however. Maybe I could add some more myself.

    ReplyDelete