Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Hall of Fame's Problems Aren't Just Crowded Ballots, Part 1

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about the Hall of Fame lately. Not just about it in terms of this year’s ballot, although that is a lot of it, but also in terms of it as an institution and a process for enshrinement. The complete logjam on the main ballot the last few years, plus a Veterans Committee run that included several good selections, managed to send some of these issues to the backburner for a while, but they never fully went away, and this year is starting to highlight some of those issues again.

Really, there have been a lot of thing I’ve written lately that have brushed up against these topics indirectly, and I’ve been putting them off to stop those articles from getting derailed, intending to instead revisit them later. But what finally convinced me to finally pull all of those ideas together was this piece by Brian Cohn over at The Crawfish Boxes.

It’s a good piece, and a response to my last article looking at the Hall of Fame cases for Andy Pettitte, Mark Buehrle, and Tim Hudson. And he’s right; Pettitte, for all the support he’s gotten so far (2021 is his third year on the ballot, and according to early tracking, he’s polling at nearly 15% through 140+ ballots), is not as good as a lot of players who have fallen off the Hall ballot, many who didn’t even get a second time, let alone a third and fourth.

But that’s just one of the many problems with Hall of Fame voting as it’s currently structured. I’ve gone over it more in the past, when things were even more crowded, but like I mentioned last time, this year’s “normal sized” ballot still contains more players that I would vote for than spots to vote for them with. Just because the worst of the ballot crunch is gone doesn’t mean the problem no longer needs to be fixed.

Voters have gotten better at working around this problem, with strategic voting providing increased focus to players in critical thresholds, but this still isn’t an actual solution, just a workaround: get deserving players in quicker so you can shift focus (and their vote) to other players, and keep more fringe players around so they can get the discussion they deserve down the road. Pettitte is picking up more support than other deserving players, but under this theory, he becomes more deserving of more votes because he can actually build toward induction and be taken off the ballot. And I can see why that disconnect might be frustrating; it feels weird to have a vote for the Hall of Fame, but needing to leave the best players off of it so that you can vote for worse players (that you still think are deserving, mind you!) with more popular support.

Another thing that I commented on in Brian’s article is the choice of David Cone (this might feel like a bit of a tangent now, but I promise it all ties together later). I might have to look into this more later, but just looking back at it, I have no idea why Cone fell off the ballot so quickly. A former Cy Young winner with multiple other good seasons, a five-time All-Star, five-time World Series champion, who threw a perfect game. And all of that added up to just 3.9% of the vote, below even fifteenth-place Mark Grace. He wasn’t the best pitcher on the ballot that year, since Bert Blyleven (in his twelfth go-around) was still hanging around, but I would have a difficult time ranking four different pitchers ahead of him.

Was it really just his win total, given that he just fell short of 200 wins? If that is the case, he might have an argument for the player most screwed over by the 1994-5 Strike, given that those were two of his best seasons and he only needed six more wins to reach the milestone. Fred McGriff and his 493 homers are the only other major contender for this title that springs to my mind, but I still think McGriff goes in on his first Veterans Committee vote. I don’t even know if Cone makes it on to the next VC ballot he’s eligible for; by my understanding, he was eligible for the 2019 vote, but didn’t make that one.

Actually, let’s focus on the Veterans Committee a little more closely, since it’s another major point I want to focus on here. The BBWAA ballot has its problems, but so many of their biggest ones could be addressed with expanding or doing away with the cap on votes per ballot. How the BBWAA vote works with the VC, and their intersection, provides a different set of failures that are more unique and interesting.

But first, I want to address something about the two main methods of Hall induction. I often see them separated out, and on the one hand, I get it. On the whole, the BBWAA has inducted better players. But the question is also more complicated than that, which is why I get frustrated when I see people talk about doing away with the Veterans Committee entirely.

The BBWAA gets first pick at all of the most obvious candidates, which I think skews things in their favor. Like, yeah, they induct the Greg Madduxes and the Derek Jeters and whatnot; that many “gimmes” makes them look a lot better at the process than they really are, though. At the same time they’re making the calls that literally everyone else would make, they still regularly make questionable choices of their own, in both directions.

Guys like Catfish Hunter, Jim Rice, and Bruce Sutter look every bit the part of the stereotypical “Veterans Committee playing favorites” pick, but made it in on the BBWAA ballot. Meanwhile, players with overwhelming resumes like Johnny Mize, Ted Simmons, and Arky Vaughan had to wait for the VC to take up their cases. And even on some “obvious” picks that it eventually gets right, the BBWAA still leaves you scratching your head on their process; for example, why weren’t Yogi Berra (two times on the ballot), Phil Niekro (five tries), or Duke Snider (eleven!) first ballot selections? I have no idea! Maybe the first ballot distinction isn’t as meaningful as many people want to claim it is (and it’s probably a good thing the Hall doesn’t usually mention that on the plaques, since it’s so messy).

So on the whole, if we are going to have a Hall of Fame, we need something like the Veterans Committee as part of the process. And in my mind, it’s all the better to tear down the distinction between the two, for those reasons; the important thing is to get deserving players enshrined, and to not treat one method as some less-official “back door”.

In some regards, the Hall actually does a decent job of this! Once again, while it keeps note of how each choice was inducted, the plaques in the hall itself don’t make mention of or differentiate among the different selection methods. That’s good! People still remember the best of the best and the favorites, while the more questionable selections are still largely ignored by most people. No inductee is being “dishonored” by other players getting in, and the only people who could off the top of their head tell you that, say, High Pockets Kelly is in Cooperstown are largely trivia buffs who find it an amusing tidbit of info rather than an outrage to be corrected.

With all of that established, we actually can take a closer look at where the VC has gone wrong in recent history. While the early-‘70s Frankie Frisch era had the problem of letting too many players in, the much more recent problem has been the exact opposite: the VC has gotten too restrictive in who it lets in.

From 2002 to 2008, no players made it past the group (in 2008, they did finally let some non-players in, but put a pin in that for now). In 2009, they finally allowed Joe Gordon (died 1978) through the gates, a deserving player who had missed time while serving in World War II, which Hall voters had never really accounted for. They continued electing non-players, but the next player they let in was Ron Santo in 2012. Santo was a long-overdue pick, one of the ten best players in history at his position, but it took his death two years earlier to inspire the VC to actually act on his case. The next year saw them induct Deacon White, a formerly forgotten star of the 1800s who had died during Gordon’s sophomore season. And then, we saw another four years of solely non-players.

So for that sixteen year stretch, the VC inducted three players, none of whom were alive to enjoy the honor (and one of whom seems to have made it over the line because he had just died). If the point of the VC is to cover for BBWAA misses, that’s a pretty dismal stretch (especially if you think players being alive to see their induction is at all important). And, as you’ll know if you’ve followed my writing on this in the past, it’s not like they were short on potential candidates at that time, either!

The Hall restructured their rules on the Veterans Committee multiple times in the interim to get things going again, and maybe some of that finally stuck (in the last three years, they’ve added five players to the Hall*, and all of them have still been alive, to boot!). It could be like the BBWAA, where the failure to elect anyone in 2013 convinced voters to approach the task differently. But again, that’s people working around the existing system, rather than trying to build a better system without those inherent flaws.

*One sub-point I want to make is about candidate quality: while I think Alan Trammell and Ted Simmons are stellar choices, and Lee Smith makes sense compared to the other closers the Hall has inducted, Harold Baines and Jack Morris, though, are… not quite as good. I’ve already covered how Baines’ election was strange, and that one is all on the VC. I’m hesitant to chalk Morris up to the VC only, though.

If we regard the election of Jack Morris (and, if you’re among the more skeptical when it comes to closers, Lee Smith) as a miss by the VC, it only seems fair to note that they were only allowed to make that miss because of BBWAA incompetence. Both Morris and Smith had passed 50% and seemed well on their way to reaching the 75% needed for induction, but saw the 2013 crush of candidates kill their momentum. On an unlimited ballot, that might not have happened, and thus they might have been inducted like normal by the BBWAA. So for an analogy, if the election of Morris was the VC running into a metaphorical pole, it only happened because the BBWAA walking ahead of them tripped on their own metaphorical shoelaces before reaching it. Shoot, the BBWAA might have specifically cleared the path for the VC, if anything, thanks to years of building momentum through his case via the yearly discussions of the BBWAA ballot.

Still, as long as the induction of candidates doesn’t slow to a trickle again, it seems like they’ve at least found a format that isn’t actively impeding inductions. There are still pressing issues, though. Unfortunately, this piece is getting a little long, so I’ll revisit these issues in a Part 2 next week.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Disappearance of the Hall of Fame's Below-Median Starters, Part 2: Re-evaluating Andy Pettitte, Mark Buehrle, and Tim Hudson

The other day, Baseball-Reference founder Sean Forman wrote a little bit about his Hall of Fame ballot on Twitter. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the guy who founded the biggest baseball stats website has some interesting thoughts about stats and the Hall of Fame!

But there was one particular thought that jumped out at me. After discussing why he thought all of Andy Pettitte, Tim Hudson, and Mark Buehrle were worthy of the Hall of Fame, he noted (brackets expanding on abbreviations):

“Just a thought here, but look at the P[itcher]s & H[itter]s inducted s[ince] 2000. 9 SPs, 42 hitters, 6 RPs. That's 26% of player inductions are Ps and just 9 SPs. We divide WAR up 40% pitching and 60% defense and batting which suggests 22 pitchers out of 57.”

I have argued in the past that Hall voters have gotten too stingy when it comes to inducting starting pitchers, but this still a little shocking to see written out, especially when tied to player value like that. For those who don’t want to do the math themselves, 9 starters since 2000 means that just 16% of inductees in that time have been starting pitchers. When you work that out, we’re seeing over four and a half position players being inducted for each starting pitcher, and two relievers for every three starters.

Regardless of what you think about the 60%-40% split for WAR that Forman mentions and how accurate a division of value it is, I don’t know if anyone would argue that the split that we’re actually seeing reflects how we should divide up value. And it’s not hard to see how these results could have been even more lopsided, given that the brunt of the backlash against steroid users has come largely at the cost of hitters (fairly or not). Just since 2000, off the top of my head, we’ve seen Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, and Manny Ramirez drop of the ballot or completely stall out. On the pitching side, there’s basically just Roger Clemens.* It’s really not difficult to imagine a world where we’re looking at a 48-16 split in the position players’ favor (a 75%-25% split) since 2000.

Monday, December 14, 2020

More Sporcle Trivia: Retired Numbers on Multiple Teams

As a short coda to the Retired Number Quiz series, I have one more retired numbers game up over at Sporcle: Can you name the players with retired numbers on multiple teams? Since I’m not the first to tackle that idea, I also added my own twist to the proceedings, in that you also have to guess the teams for each respective player. In total, there are thirteen honorees (eleven primary-players and two managers) and twenty-eight teams (two honorees have retired numbers on three teams) to guess.

If you’re interested, I’ll also be discussing some possible future additions to the list here, since I just wrapped up writing about the topic and it’s on my mind. But it will be below the break, to keep from spoiling the quiz for anyone (although in this case, I guess the spoilers would come from eliminating possible options).


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Retired Number Quiz Series: The National League West

We finally made it to the sixth and final entry in the Retired Number Quiz Series, the NL West. As I mentioned last time, the Dodgers and Giants prevent this from being the youngest overall division, but it’s a close second behind the AL West, and two of their expansion teams only date back to the 1990s. And that has a notable effect on their results. For instance, only four teams have players on their top-six lists who failed to reach at least 20 WAR while with the team: the Marlins, and the three NL West expansion teams.

Of course, as weak as some of those choices are, I think the quiz isn’t as hard as some of the others, since it’s still overwhelmingly modern (even the Giants and Dodgers skew relatively recent, for teams as old as they are); there aren’t any Tommy Bridges or Johnny Logans hanging around, like some other teams had. But if you’d like to catch up on any of the previous divisions before jumping in, you can read more:

AL East (quiz, article)
NL East (quiz, article)
AL Central (quiz, article)
NL Central (quiz, article)
AL West (quiz, article)

With those out of the way, you can try the new NL West quiz HERE, then come back here for a discussion of the answers. As per usual, players can come from any point in the franchise’s history, they just need to have worn a uniform number for three of their seasons on the team. There are only three bonus answers this time, one Dodger who didn’t reach the three-year minimum, another Dodger who came in seventh by 0.1 WAR, and one Giant to make up for a player from the New York days making the list.

Good luck!


Friday, December 4, 2020

Retired Number Quiz Series: The American League West

Today, we move to our penultimate division in the Retired Number Quiz series, the AL West. In stark contrast with the Central divisions, four-fifths of the teams in the AL West are expansion teams, making them the overall youngest division.* Still, I think there are a lot of solid options here. And if you missed any of the previous pieces, so far, there’s the AL East (quiz, article), the NL East (quiz, article), the AL Central (quiz, article), and the NL Central (quiz, article).

*Technically, all three expansion teams in the NL West are newer than any AL West team, but the age of the Giants and Dodgers leaves the AL West with the lower average age. I guess that means the NL West is younger by median, but either way, they still cover more history.

You can try the AL West quiz HERE before coming back here to read the full breakdown. As a refresher, players must have worn a uniform number for at least three seasons, and this quiz covers the entire history of the franchise. For bonus answers, there are five A’s; one who failed to reach the three-year minimum, and four players from the Oakland era of the team, since two-thirds of the list is from before their move out to California.

As usual, good luck!


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Retired Number Quiz Series: The National League Central

We’re now in the back half of this trip through the league. Having covered the AL East (quiz, article), the NL East (quiz, article), and the AL Central (quiz, article), we now move on to the next division, the NL Central. As I mentioned last time, the two Central divisions have the oldest teams on average, which makes things a little more difficult. But I still don’t find this one on the whole to be as tough as the AL Central; their NL Central counterparts just don’t feel like they’ve picked over their retired number options quite as thoroughly.

When you’re ready, you can play the quiz HERE, then return after you’re finished to learn more about the answers. As a reminder, players must have worn a uniform number on the team in question for at least three seasons. Since none of these teams have moved, the only bonus answer this time is a Hall of Famer for the Reds who didn’t reach that three-year minimum.

Have fun!


Friday, November 27, 2020

Retired Number Quiz Series: The American League Central

Following the AL East (Quiz, Article) and NL East (Quiz, Article), we continue westward, today tackling the American League Central’s five teams. I personally think this is the hardest one of the batch, although maybe that’s just because the ALC has historically been the division I’ve followed the least closely (for whatever reason). Still, there is some logic to that too, I think: the two Central divisions are both four-fifths original-sixteen teams teams (every other division has at least two expansion teams), and their only newer teams were still some of the older ones at that (the Brewers and Royals both date back to 1969, the third wave of expansion). But even on top of that, I think the AL Central teams have generally felt just a little more thorough in their number retirements than other teams? However you’d quantify that.

If you’re ready, you can take the quiz HERE before reading on to learn more about the specific players involved. Remember that to make the quiz, players must have worn a uniform number on the team question for at least three questions (that actually came up a lot in this division, but more on that in the article…). And for those hunting bonus answers, your goal this time is four Minnesota Twins players (plus four more players who didn't reach the three-year minimum, spread across the Indians, White Sox, and Twins-Senators, although those answers are a little more difficult).

Good luck!


Monday, November 23, 2020

Retired Number Quiz Series: The National League East

Part two of my retired number quizzes is out, this one featuring the NL East teams! The quiz can be found here, with an article explaining the results (and including spoilers) included after the break. If you’re looking for part one, featuring the AL East teams, the quiz can be found here and the article can be found here.

(Also, like last time, players must have worn a uniform on said team for three or more seasons to qualify. And as far as bonus answers go, for those searching, the Braves and Nationals each have three focusing on their days in Atlanta and Washington, respectively.

Good luck!


Friday, November 20, 2020

Retired Number Quiz Series: The American League East

As I mentioned last time, I’m going to be publishing a series of articles and Sporcle quizzes over the next few weeks where I’ll look at the top players (by Wins Above Replacement) in each team’s history who do not have a retired number. If you want to try the quiz before reading the full piece, that can be found here. Once you’ve tried that, be sure to come back and read the full piece below, with a team-by-team analysis.

(Please note that to make the list, players must have worn a number with the team for at least three seasons. Also of note: the quiz contains one bonus Baltimore Oriole answer, to account for a St. Louis Brown appearing in their top six players.)

Happy guessing!


Monday, November 16, 2020

New Trivia Series Announcement: Best Players Without a Retired Number, by Team

In my most recent bout of Sporcle Quiz Making during the playoffs, I decided to try and make more Retired Number quizzes as well. There wasn't really a rush to publish them, though; playoff quizzes would be timely to run during the postseason or immediately after, but retired numbers aren't really tied to any one section of the year. 

So... I decided, why not make an offseason mini-series about it? It will help fill the slow offseason months in the time between the World Series and Hall of Fame voting (especially since I'm anticipating a slow free agent market this winter). 

But like with anything related to Retired Numbers, I found myself struggling to be brief. There's so much interesting trivia, data, and backstory to it all. So, I decided to make it into a pair of mini-series, one a set of quizzes and one a series of short articles expanding upon the material further. So, over the next few weeks, I'll be going division by division looking at a simple question: who are the best players in each team's history without retired numbers? 

For the sake of simplicity, I'll be going by just Baseball-Reference's version of WAR, and only value accrued with the team. Each team will have six players listed, since that a) will give me a good, round 30 answers per quiz and article; b) was generally where I found notability to start trailing off, give or take. And for added bonus answers, I’ll also include hidden answers for players who qualified for the most modern incarnation of each franchise (so for example, if three of the A’s six top players came from their time as the Philadelphia A’s, I’ll also include three extra answers of the best players when limited to just the Oakland era); all of that will be expanded upon in the articles as well.

In any case, with all of this out of the way, I should be able to jump right in once the series actually starts in earnest. Hopefully, it's something for all of you to look forward to in the second half of November!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

2020 World Series Trivia: Best Active Players Without a World Series

With the conclusion of the 2020 World Series, it is once again time for the yearly Best Active Players Without a World Series quiz. There were some big names crossed off the list this year, which we will cover after the break below. Also, I published several quizzes throughout the World Series (they were a good thing to focus on between innings and during pitching changes!), which I've also included below:

Best Players Without a World Series, 2020 Edition
World Series with an Expansion Team

Friday, October 16, 2020

New Sporcle Quiz: 2010s World Series Trivia

It’s been a while since I did a Sporcle quiz that wasn’t related to my yearly “Best Players Without a World Series” tradition, but I had inspiration recently. Going back through my earliest quizzes, I found one that I had totally forgotten about: 2000s World Series Trivia. And upon remembering it and replaying it, I realized that I could do a follow-up. 

So here it is: 2010s World Series Trivia. Go give it a try! And like normal, it’s been added to my Sporcle Quizzes page here. And as a new thing, I finally got organized and started playlists for some of my Playoffs and Retired Number quizzes; if you have a Sporcle account and want to be updated when new things come out, you can follow those. Because this may have given me a few more ideas to try out…

I’m not sure if the Best Players Without a World Series quizzes should get their own playlist or go on my existing playoffs playlist; I’m leaning towards the former right now, and will probably make a decision when the new one comes out.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The 2020 Astros Look to Follow a Tradition of Slow-Starting Pennant Winners

(Also up over at The Crawfish Boxes)

One thing I mentioned in my ALCS Prediction is that, while the Rays had a better 2020 season than the Astros, and are more than likely the better team this year, that doesn’t quite mean as much as it seems. Obviously, short series in baseball are already much more random than they are in other sports (see, for instance, the 2006, 83-win Cardinals upsetting teams with 88, 97, and 95 wins). But the other part of the issue is that the Astros likely aren’t as bad as their record indicated, and the shortened season likely helps obscure that. 

Yes, the Astros finished the abbreviated 2020 season with a losing record, at 29-31. On the other hand, there’s a reason most seasons go longer than 60 games. In fact, if they win the ALCS, the Astros would make for the third straight pennant winner who didn’t have a winning record through the first 60 games of the season, after the 2019 Nationals and 2018 Dodgers.

In fact, since 2000, seven out of the forty teams to appear in the World Series carried a .500 record or worse at the 60-game mark, with a quarter of the 2010s pennant winners in that club. I wanted to look a little more at that bunch of teams, and how their full season unfolded for a sense of what might have been. Those teams in question are (all stats from Baseball-Reference):

Year         Team             W L     Final W Final L WS Result

2019         Nationals   27 33     93         69         W

2018         Dodgers       30 30     92         71         L

2014         Royals        29 31     89         73         L

2012         Tigers         28 32     88         74         L

2007         Rockies       29 31     90         73         L

2005         Astros        25 35     89         73         L

2003         Marlins        27 33     91        71        W

The actual World Series results of this group aren’t necessarily ideal, but then again, two World Series wins in seven chances is better than not making it at all. Either way, the 2020 Astros are pretty comfortably within this group’s range, well ahead of the 25-35 2005 Astros. And they’re tied for second with the 2014 Royals and 2007 Rockies, and just a hair behind the 2018 Dodgers, who needed a 4-game win streak just to reach .500. Those Dodgers would immediately lose their next game, and they had only one day above .500 until game 63.

Which brings me to the next question: what did the path to the pennant look like for those teams? And how does this year’s Astros team compare? 

Monday, October 5, 2020

The Annual Playoff Trivia Bonanza, 2020 Edition (Plus Thoughts on the Expanded Postseason)

I wasn’t sure whether to do my annual playoff trivia article before or after the expanded, sixteen-team Wild Card round. I know it’s officially counted as one, but it still feels weird. Then again, I’m still not totally sold on the ten-team playoff structure, and think it could be improved

And given that, you can probably tell that I am especially unhappy with Rob Manfred’s desires to keep expanded playoffs around into 2021 and beyond. I mean, obviously, if I think the current system still needs work, I would want them to focus on fixing that before moving on to bigger and better things. 

But it does go beyond that as well. The MLB season is long for a reason: there is a lot of randomness in baseball, and it takes a lot of games to get to know who’s better. Expanding the playoffs makes sense in a shortened, 60-game season, given that World Series and Pennant winners aren’t even always winning through their first 60 games (last year’s champion the Nationals are an especially famous example, going 27-33 in their first 60, but even going back another year adds the 2018 Dodgers, who were a mediocre 30-30 and in third place by that point). 

Obviously, the World Series winner isn’t always the true “best” team, given the randomness and short series that finish out the year, but everything is a balancing act between reward and excitement. I already think five teams is pushing things a little too much, but if more teams start getting added, we’ll be regularly seeing some mediocre squads in October. And because baseball is much more random and the rounds the new format adds are shorter and shorter, there's a good chance that those mediocre teams go far. And this isn't even getting into how an expanded playoff picture would further disincentivize teams from acquiring good players and building solid rosters-why try for 95 wins when 85 wins gets you a ticket to the postseason, especially if it's at all similar to what those 95-win teams are getting.

That was a long sidetrack, but I think you get the point. Anyway, in the end, I decided to wait until now and focus on the final eight teams, but I did at a small look at the expanded sixteen-team set as well. So with that all out of the way, let's look at this year's playoff trivia:


It’s probably not too much of a surprise, but the average and median drought of teams in the playoff this year is a little lower than last year, but not too out of line with the previous two or three years.

Year         Average     Median
2020 24.25     24
2019 25.7             26
2018 24.5             24.5
2017 28.3             25.5
2016 39.9             31.5
2015 37             29.5
2014 23.9             27.5
2013 24.2             23.5
2012 22.1             22.5
2011 19.375     12

Granted, it’s not like this year’s batch of teams has been wildly successful. The A’s, Braves, and Dodgers are all sitting on winless streaks of twenty-five years or more, and the Rays haven’t won in their twenty-three years of existence. The Marlins, Yankees, and Astros are the only teams here with a title since 2000, and the Yankees and Marlins won theirs prior to the 2010s. 

It’s just that usually, there’s more high-end droughts to pull these numbers up a little more. This year, it’s just the Padres repping the historic droughts. The Indians and Brewers had similarly long streaks going, but both were of course ousted in the Wild Card rounds. Those two getting knocked out were a big part of why the expanded, sixteen-team field had a slight advantage in overall drought length over the DS round.

Year         Average     Median
2020 27             26

Of course, given the number of historic droughts that ended in the past decade (the Giants, Cubs, Astros, and Nationals all saw 50+-year droughts end in the 2010s, with the Cubs’ of course topping out at 107 years), we probably won’t see these numbers returning to their peak for several years. Right now, the only other team with an active drought of over 50 years (besides, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and San Diego) is the Texas Rangers, so there just aren’t as many permutations we can make to match, say, the 2015 or 2016 postseasons. The Pirates and Mariners will join those four before the decade’s end if they don’t win in the 2020s, and the Orioles and Tigers will be close to joining that mark, but it obviously isn’t quite where we were in 2010 or 2015. And even at the high-end, the Indians are still a decade and a half away from matching the Curse of the Bambino, let alone either Chicago team’s titleless streak. 

Last World Series Win
Padres: Never (founded 1969)
Athletics: 1989
Dodgers: 1988
Braves: 1995
Rays: Never (founded 1998)
Marlins: 2003
Yankees: 2009
Astros: 2017


Like normal, there will be a full Sporcle quiz about the Best Players by WAR without a World Series after the postseason is totally over. As such, I'll include a full accounting of players on the list playing this October later in this post as part of a separate spoiler section, and instead focus on the quantity of players on each remaining team here.

This year's list includes fifty-seven players (plus a pair of internationally active ones), going all the way down to 110th place on Baseball-Reference's active leaderboard. The Nationals last year did an exceptional job of clearing out names on this list, and no one in 2020 quite measures up to that. However, every team does have at least one player who made it.

One: Marlins, Padres, Rays
Two: Astros, Athletics
Three: Braves, Dodgers
Four: Yankees

And if you were wondering about the eight teams that were already knocked out, they broke down like this:

Zero: Blue Jays
One: Cardinals, Reds
Two: Brewers, Twins
Three: Cubs, White Sox
Four: Indians


Things looked pretty decent at the start of the expanded postseason, with six of the final sixteen teams being expansion franchises. But the newer teams had a pretty good showing in the Wild Card round, going 4-2 (with one of those two losses being the Blue Jays at the hands of the Rays). Between the Rays, Padres, Marlins, and Astros, we have a good chance at our third-ever all-expansion team World Series, following up on 2015 and 2019.

Not only that, but the expansion teams are evenly distributed in the Division Series round, with each matchup pairing an original team with a new one (Braves-Marlins, Dodgers-Padres, Yankees-Rays, A’s-Astros). That means there’s also a decent chance of an all-expansion Championship Series. That’s happened a little more often than the World Series, but not much more. By my count, there are only five such instances: 1982 (Brewers-Angels), 1985, 2015 (both Royals-Blue Jays), 1986 (Mets-Astros), and 2007 (Rockies-Diamondbacks). Apparently, prior to the last half-decade, the mid-1980s were the prior golden age for expansion team playoff success.


Every single remaining NL team has played the Yankees in the World Series. The Marlins and Padres have each only made the World Series twice, and they both have played the Yankees in one of them (1998 and 2003). The Yankees’ reach in this category is just incredible when you break it down: they’ve played all eight original NL teams at least twice, and four of the seven expansion teams. The only ones they haven’t played against in the World Series have a combined two NL Pennants between them (the Nationals and Rockies have one each, while the Brewers’ lone pennant is from their time as an AL team).

So yeah, if you want a ton of new options in this category, your first option is always to root for the not-Yankees. But in spite of that, a majority of the remaining possible World Series matchups would be occurring for the first time. The Dodgers have faced everyone but the Rays, the Braves and A’s have faced the non-expansion teams, but everything else would be new. The only team the Rays have previously faced in the last round didn’t make the postseason this year, while the Marlins, Padres, and Astros are missing half of their former final foes (the non-Yankees and non-Dodgers opponents, obviously). 

Technically, we could have seen some interesting pre-league swap World Series and Championship Series reunions (Astros-White Sox ALDS would have been a rematch of the 2005 series, Cardinals Brewers would have been the 1982 Series, Cardinals-Astros would have been the 2004 and 2005 NLCS), but all of those chances died in the Wild Card round. The Astros did play the Braves, Dodgers, and Padres in previous Division Series, though.

Unique Matchups

One Time
Yankees-Marlins (2003)
Yankees-Padres (1998)
Athletics-Braves (1914)
Astros-Dodgers (2017)

Multiple Times
Athletics-Dodgers (1974, 1988)
Yankees-Braves (1957, 1958, 1996, 1999)
Yankees-Dodgers (1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1963, 1977, 1978, 1981)


Friday, August 21, 2020

Team Hall of Fame Snubs vs. Team Hall Median, Part 2

A few years ago, I covered an interesting hypothetical question: Which team would be better, a team of median Hall of Famers, or a team of the biggest Hall snubs? I encourage you to go check it out, in part because I feel like the setup was interesting, but also to give a bit of background for what I want to do today.

I sort of randomly stumbled upon that article while looking for a reference for something else, but had fun looking back at it. And I couldn’t help but noticed that a good chunk of Team Snub had actually made it into Cooperstown in the seven-plus years since I wrote it. So I couldn’t help but wonder, if I updated it for 2020, would Team Snub still stack up so well against the Hall of Fame Median?

First, as a brief refresher, here was the 2013 edition of Team Snub:
C-Mike Piazza
1B-Jeff Bagwell
2B-Bobby Grich
3B-Graig Nettles
SS-Alan Trammell
LF-Barry Bonds
CF-Kenny Lofton
RF-Larry Walker
DH-Mark McGwire
Bench-Ted Simmons, Craig Biggio, Ken Boyer, Tim Raines, Shoeless Joe Jackson
Rotation-Roger Clemens
Curt Schilling
Kevin Brown
Rick Reuschel
Luis Tiant
Swing Men-Tommy John, David Cone, Eddie Cicotte
Relievers-Lee Smith, Dan Quisenberry, John Hiller

Since then, Piazza, Bagwell, Trammell, Biggio, Smith, Raines, and most recently, Walker and Simmons, have all found their way into the Hall of Fame, and thus, no longer qualify for the team. So that’s almost a third of the team we’ll need to replace, plus we have seven years’ worth of new candidates to evaluate, so we should be seeing a good amount of turnover.