Thursday, January 14, 2021
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
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
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
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.
Friday, December 4, 2020
*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
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.
Friday, November 27, 2020
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).
Monday, November 23, 2020
(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.
Friday, November 20, 2020
Monday, November 16, 2020
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Best Players Without a World Series, 2020 Edition
World Series with an Expansion Team
Friday, October 16, 2020
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.
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
(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
Friday, August 21, 2020
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:
Bench-Ted Simmons, Craig Biggio, Ken Boyer, Tim Raines, Shoeless Joe Jackson
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.