Monday, November 4, 2013

The 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot

There is little I enjoy writing about more than Hall of Fame (HOF) voting because it allows me to review players over the span of their careers. Hot streaks over the course of a week, month or year happen all the time, but sustained excellence gets my attention. I see this as a 4-part series:
1. The 2014 Ballot--the one-and-doners
2. The 2014 Ballot--new candidates
3. The 2014 Ballot--holdover candidates
4. The Bill James Hall of Fame--objective ways to induct (and DE-induct) players
Without further ado, this is the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot for newly-eligible candidates:

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
18 Greg Maddux 1st 254 70 23 106.83 56.29 81.56 61.4
19 Frank Thomas 1st 194 60 19 73.64 45.32 59.48 55.7
20 Mike Mussina 1st 121 54 18 83.01 44.48 63.75 61.4
21 Tom Glavine 1st 176 52 22 81.43 44.31 62.87 61.4
22 Jeff Kent 1st 122 51 17 55.19 35.60 45.40 57.0
23 Kenny Rogers 1st 66 29 20 51.43 35.56 43.49 61.4
24 Luis Gonzalez 1st 103 48 19 51.51 33.84 42.67 53.1
25 Moises Alou 1st 80 44 17 39.67 27.50 33.59 53.1
26 Ray Durham 1st 64 33 14 33.68 25.68 29.68 57.0
27 Shannon Stewart 1st 34 21 14 24.73 22.79 23.76 53.1
28 Esteban Loaiza 1st 18 9 14 23.04 22.38 22.71 61.4
29 Jon Lieber 1st 15 14 14 24.28 20.80 22.54 61.4
30 Hideo Nomo 1st 24 14 12 21.10 22.82 21.96 61.4
31 Geoff Jenkins 1st 19 19 11 21.75 20.98 21.36 53.1
32 Keith Foulke 1st 38 17 11 20.92 20.82 20.87 34.4
33 Matt Morris 1st 25 15 11 20.49 19.94 20.21 61.4
34 Jose Vidro 1st 41 24 12 17.15 20.01 18.58 57.0
35 Richie Sexson 1st 46 21 12 17.90 18.81 18.36 55.7
36 Paul Lo Duca 1st 21 26 11 17.93 18.71 18.32 43.1
37 Armando Benitez 1st 73 14 15 17.73 16.58 17.16 34.4
38 Mike Timlin 1st 49 8 18 19.64 13.97 16.80 34.4
39 Sean Casey 1st 38 19 12 16.35 16.27 16.31 55.7
40 Dmitri Young 1st 22 18 13 12.10 12.05 12.08 53.1
41 Eric Gagne 1st 46 17 10 11.92 11.97 11.95 34.4
42 Shawn Estes 1st 15 4 13 11.12 12.77 11.95 61.4
43 J.T. Snow 1st 16 16 16 10.99 12.77 11.88 55.7
44 Todd Jones 1st 78 3 16 10.91 11.29 11.10 34.4
45 Joe Borowski 1st 19 0 12 3.80 6.31 5.05 34.4
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/1/2013.

This will be the last you read of Shannon Stewart, Esteban Loaiza, Jon Lieber, Hideo Nomo, Geoff Jenkins, Keith Foulke, Matt Morris, Jose Vidro, Richie Sexson, Paul Lo Duca, Armando Benitez, Mike Timlin, Sean Casey, Dmitri Young, Shawn Estes, Eric Gagne, J.T. Snow, Todd Jones and Joe Borowski. It will also quite likely be the last you'll see of them on a Hall of Fame ballot as they'll be lucky to receive any votes, let alone reach the 5% threshold necessary to stay on the HOF ballot going forward. Bid them a fond farewell and think on them kindly, because they had okay-to-good careers.

The full page from Baseball-Reference doesn't fit in my blog format, so I didn't show the traditional stats because those will be everywhere. Shown instead are less-familiar but very powerful measures:
HOFm--the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, fully described in his outstanding book "Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?" (originally titled "The Politics of Glory"), is James' method of measuring the counting stats. A definition can be found here at B-R and is fairly self-explanatory--it places season numbers in context.
HOFs-Hall of Fame Standards, another Bill James creation that is fully defined here. Career numbers are given point values, helping truly gauge the value of 3,000 hits, 500 home runs or any other career benchmark to see how it stacks up to OTHER HALL OF FAME MEMBERS. In many ways, these two values set floors that future inductees should hopefully cross or at least come close to.
WAR and WAR7--the familiar WAR statistic and the WAR values for the players' best 7 seasons (NOT necessarily consecutive)
JAWS and Jpos--the first is the Jaffe WAR Score System and the second the JAWS at position. I am not familiar with these metrics and will not use them--I'm sure they're excellent since they come from Baseball Prospectus, but I'm far more familiar with WAR and the two James' stats, so I'll limit my analysis to what can be learned by viewing these.

The chart is ranked by WAR, and I'll work my way UP the chart as to leave the best for last (and force you to either jump to the end or suffer through it all). I'll begin with Ray Durham and Moises Alou collectively--both had very productive careers with brief flashes of excellence. In 1994 Alou was among the top-ranked WAR players, while Durham was a dependable second baseman for around 10 years. The fact that neither Durham or Alou are serious HOF candidates in no way diminishes the value they brought to their teams--no baseball team EVER succeeded without solid second-line players like Durham and Alou to augment their superstars.

Luis Gonzalez, Kenny Rogers and Jeff Kent all have similar career WAR values and illustrate different manners in which career numbers are accumulated. Gonzalez is the quintessential late bloomer, hitting 270 of his career 354 (76.3%) of his home runs after reaching 30. Here's how that figure ranks all-time:

I have to admit that took me a LOT longer to put together than I thought--I figured that would be an easy search using the B-R Play Index Split search. This list only includes players with at least 300 career home runs, and it should be no surprise that the list is populated with players of very recent vintage. In addition to better conditioning, higher salaries and the elephant in the room of performance-enhancing drugs, the new wave of (generally) hitter-friendly stadiums also played a role.


Rogers is the Rusty Staub of pitchers, a player who was never transcendent but had enough skills to last and amass counting stats. In Staub's case he was good enough to last 6-7 years as a DH/1B/left-handed bench bat. Rogers was a lefty, already giving him a leg up toward a long career if he were so inclined, had several decent seasons (winning 16-18 games in five different seasons), made four All-Star teams--and received exactly 3 Cy Young votes in his entire career (2006, when he finished 5th, at the age of 41). He was a great #2-#3 type pitcher who was very consistent at making 30+ starts a year but certainly not one of the best pitchers of his era.

Jeff Kent will be a very interesting case. He's already at a disadvantage in that he played 2nd base, and when power numbers are looked at in a cursory manner he'll be docked for "only" hitting 377 home runs. Luckily, outstanding sites like B-R, FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus allow us to make comparisons within positions, which assists in evaluating Kent's career. This chart is from FanGraphs and ranks the best second basemen of all-time by WAR:

There are some very interesting players ahead of Kent like Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker and Willie Randolph, all of whom received generally weak support for induction. I've had a soft spot in my heart for Whitaker (as well as Alan Trammell) since I've never really understood why their support was tepid at best. I'll return to those players in the next post.

It's purely my opinion, but I find a career WAR value of around 50 to be my cutoff for serious HOF discussion. WAR calculations state that a season of 5 is considered to be an All-Star type of season and 7.5+ an MVP-type season. Putting together 8-10 of those seasons should get players into a serious HOF discussion, since that suggests prolonged and sustained excellence. Given that, look at the WAR7 column and change that value to 35 to see where the cutoff begins--you'll find it does a very nice job of separating the chaff from the wheat. All the one-and-doners are well below that threshold and Rogers, Gonzalez and Kent are all right at it and worthy of discussion. Rogers had four seasons with a WAR of 5 or greater (out of 20), Gonzalez 3 (out of 19) and Kent 3 (out of 17). 

I don't think that's enough. I doubt that Gonzalez or Rogers will receive any serious support but Kent will, and probably should. WAR takes into account that he plays an "important" defensive position and viewing him in a strictly offensive manner puts him in the top 10 of second basemen. I suspect he'll make it in, but probably not in a year that is so top-heavy as the 2014 Class will be.

My next post will discuss the five new candidates who deserve serious consideration--Kent, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas.

1 comment :

  1. Hey Scott! I just discovered your blog. I was reading Tango's blog, on which I saw your comment. That led me to Fangraphs, which led me here! I love talking Hall of Fame, too. So I thought I'd see what you have to offer. This is pretty good analysis! I just thought I'd leave a few comments.

    1. Vis-a-vis the older players with the greater percentage of homers: another factor is simply strength and conditioning. In the olden days, a lot of those guys would've got hurt young, and not had the strength training, round-the-clock medical attention, and year-round salary to keep them in "baseball shape" even as young men who, in some of their cases, were hurt a lot. The same thing that one bounced back from easily in 1997 may have been career-ending in 1937.

    2. JAWS and Jpos: These are actually really simple measures. JAWS is just the average of career WAR and WAR7. WAR7 is meant to represent a player's value at his "peak." Career WAR obviously represents his value over the course of his whole career. JAWS just averages the two numbers (you can see that this is true by simply trying it with any row on the table) in order to get a sort of "composite" look at a player's career and peak value, so that it's fair to players who are both hangers-on and who burn bright-but-fast. Jpos is really easy, too. So now that we have JAWS, what do we compare it to? Well, Chris Jaffe, who invented JAWS, took the average JAWS of each player at each position in the Hall of Fame. That number is Jpos. In other words, at first base, the average Hall of Famer has a career JAWS of 55.7. You can see on the table that all first basemen have a 55.7 in the Jpos column: Bagwell, McGriff, McGwire, Mattingly, etc. The idea is you can see if a player's induction would be "better than average" or "worse than average." In the case of Bagwell, it would be a "good" induction (i.e., above the Jpos line); in the case of, say, Mattingly, it would be a "bad" induction, as he's well below the line indicated by Jpos. JAWS is a quick-and-dirty measure that a lot of people like because it's so simple. It's probably not the best system out there (see Adam Darowski's Hall of Stats for that, which is, in my opinion, currently the gold standard), but it gets the job done. I hope that helps. I enjoy the blog, and I'll be checking back often!