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    Friday, January 13, 2012

    50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame Wrap-Up and Analysis

    Well, it only took a month, but I finally wrapped up my explanations on my 50 Best Players Not in Cooperstown ballot. I thought I might want to add some thoughts, though. This will probably come out as a jumble of assorted ideas, but I would still like to share all of them. Oh well; it is what it is.

    First, a position-by-position look at who I added to Cooperstown (going by primary position):

    P: 10
    C: 4
    1B: 8 (although one of them is Pete Rose, who more so lacks a better position)
    2B: 4
    3B: 9
    SS: 4
    LF: 3
    CF: 1
    RF: 6
    DH: 1

    Part of my goal was to draw from the more underrepresented positions, which would be third base, catcher, and center field. Well, I definitely accomplished the third base one. Catcher, I did okay; the only other one I may have added was Gene Tenace, and even then, I don’t feel too terrible leaving him off.

    Center Field looks disappointing. Reggie Smith might count as a center fielder under the Ernie Banks/Andre Dawson principle-he had his best seasons in center, and was just short of playing 50% of his games there (879 in right to 808 in center). Even then, that still just makes it 6 right fielders and 2 center fielders. What gives?

    Well, I don’t think my center fielder runners-up were quite as strong as they were at other positions. The next center fielder to make my list would be one of Cesar Cedeno, Bernie Williams, or Dale Murphy, and again, none of those omissions is really bugging me. But, similar to the case I pointed out with pitchers, the 1990s and 2000s just saw a large number of really good center fielders. As of right now, I would definitely support Ken Griffey, Jr., Jim Edmonds, and Kenny Lofton for the Hall, and I don’t think Andruw Jones and Carlos Beltran are too far off from Hall standards either. That’s five Cooperstown-qualified players to play the same position in a two decade span. Unfortunately, Griffey will probably the only one that will actually excite the BBWAA enough to earn a swift election, but oh well. That doesn’t change the fact that the other four are all qualified, and I think it more than makes up for my lack of center fielders.

    So who didn’t make the ballot? Well, I had several near-misses. As mentioned, Gene Tenace probably could have made one of my last few slots, but in the end, I think he fell short. Also, there were three borderline center fielders. Similar to Dale Murphy, one of those center fielders, Fred McGriff also had my consideration for an end-of-ballot slot. Both made my actual 2011 Hall of Fame ballot, but fell just short of this list.

    Ventura was dueling with 1930s and ‘40s third baseman Stan Hack for one of the final spots, but in the end, I felt like Ventura was the better pick. The latter played longer, and was a historically-good fielder, so in the end, he won out. Hall of Merit out fielder Charlie Keller was also in consideration for a long time.

    I had a number of pitchers just fall short as well. I was prepared to give Tommy John extra consideration for the arm surgery to put him over the edge; I know that he didn’t invent it, but he was the first to take the risk of being the guinea pig. Billy Pierce and the largely-forgotten Larry Jackson were also among the finalists. While working on my post-ballot write-up, I discovered 1800s stars Tony Mullane and Jim McCormick. Any of those previous five could probably be substituted in for Koosman, Tanana, and Saberhagen and I wouldn’t have too much of an argument. Oh well. These are the types of things I’ll be able to review next year when I have a framework of a ballot to work off of. I also had five pitchers who I felt fell on the borderline-they weren’t quite good enough to nab even the controversial spots, but they lasted very far into my analysis, far enough to become what I felt were some of the best left out looking in. They were Kevin Appier, Tommy Bond*, Orel Hershiser, Jim Kaat, and Deacon Phillippe.

    *Fun fact: Tommy Bond is still the all-time leader in strikeout to walk ratio, 127 years after throwing his last pitch.

    There are several tangents I want to work off of in those last two paragraphs. First, I’ll start with the Hall of Merit that I mentioned. There were two institutions that I looked at frequently while looking for where to start: the Hall of Merit and the Hall of wWAR. Both are attempts at making a fairer, more objective Hall of Fame, and, while neither is perfect, I’d say they both come a lot closer to that objective than Cooperstown itself. So, as an idea of how worthy my candidates were of induction, I compared my list against those two groups. 48 out of 50 made the Hall of wWAR-only Robin Ventura and Jerry Koosman were left out. As for the Hall of Merit, 40 of my choices were inducted. The ten outsiders in this case were Koosman, Ventura, John Olerud, Buddy Bell, Sal Bando, Thurman Munson, Luis Tiant, Frank Tanana, Eddie Cicotte, and Bobby Bonds. In addition, in the 2012 Hall of Merit inductions, Tiant, Bando, and Bonds all finished in the top twelve vote-getters (fifth, tenth, and twelfth, respectively), meaning they may all see induction in the future.

    Building off of whether my candidates were worthy, I often wondered if I was watering down the Hall too much. After all, I did add 50 players to it; surely that would have to reduce the standards, right? Well, Adam Daowski made an interactive Hall of Fame ballot for the 2012 election and just happened to include the median bWAR and wWAR for Hall of Fame hitters and pitchers. For hitters, the median is 58.0 bWAR and 85 wWAR, while for pitchers, the median is 57.2 bWAR and 88.0 wWAR. How did my players stack up? Well, I found both my average (to show that my ballot was strong throughout) and median (to show that the strength wasn’t just top-heaviness caused by one or two over-qualified players). The results were:

    40 Hitters, Average60.193.8
    40 Hitters, Median60.990.3
    Actual HoF Hitters, Median5885
    10 Pitchers, Average56.477
    10 Pitchers, Median54.783.3
    Actual HoF Pitchers, Median57.288
    All 50, Average59.390.4
    All 50, Median60.288.5

    So, while the pitchers fell just slightly short of their Hall of Fame median, the hitters on my ballot were, as a whole, better than the median Hall of Fame hitter. Furthermore, you could add all 50 players on my ballot to Cooperstown right now and you would actually raise its standards. And this isn’t getting into how much my ballot will improve next year.

    Yes, I’ve already started thinking about next year. As mentioned, I will be able to improve it via revision. I will gain two slots, as Barry Larkin and Ron Santo are both no longer not in the Hall of Fame. However, next year brings seven players who I would immediately add to my ballot:

    Barry Bonds
    Roger Clemens
    Mike Piazza
    Curt Schilling
    Craig Biggio
    Kenny Lofton
    Sammy Sosa

    Yes, I will be arguing that all seven of those players should be elected. In addition to my two freed-up spots, I’ll have to knock off five players (just off-hand, Bret Saberhagen, Frank Tanana, Jerry Koosman, and Robin Ventura will probably lose their spots, but I’ll need to look into it more next year). I can safely say that the overall value of my 2012 ballot will be greater, though.

    Finally, I wanted to look at what team has been the most overlooked with regards to Hall of Fame voting. My list, while not comprehensive, is at least a good place to start when studying snubs. I had several ways to look at which team is most underrepresented. My first method was to look at how many times each team appeared on my list (remember how I’ve been writing the players’ teams next to their names?). However, this did overlook certain things. For example, because every appearance was weighted the same, this led to weird cases, like when the Mets, Cardinals, and Indians all got equal credit for Keith Hernandez. So, I then tried to go just by the teams where a player got a majority of their appearances. This led to other strange things, like the Cardinals getting credit for Keith Hernandez, but not the Mets. Using both of the two was useful, though.

    TeamPlayersPlayers Primarily with team
    Blue Jays32
    Red Sox93
    White Sox113

    So, some points. The leaders in straight players are, in order, the Yankees, the Cardinals, the White Sox, then a tie between the Dodgers and Mets (I should mention I took the four players out of this study who played with teams that no longer exist). Meanwhile, the teams who were a player’s primary team list is led by the Cardinals and Tigers with four, followed by the Cubs, Giants, Indians, Red Sox, White Sox, and Yankees with three each. Naturally, this was good, but I decided I need a more complete look (and this is partly why I’m late posting this article). Behold, every team by games played (note: I tried to roughly compensate for pitchers by multiplying games started by the number of starters likely in the rotation, so modern starters were times 5, and so on):

    TeamsGP by Top 50 PlayersRankYearsGames per year of existenceRank
    Blue Jays3112153588.913
    Red Sox5943411153.5410
    White Sox5641511150.8213

    I have a hard time declaring anyone other than the Tigers most unfairly ignored as of right now. The Cardinals, Mets, Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox, Astros...they all have their cases. But none of them can quite match up to Detroit right now. This may change in the coming years; Jerry Koosman, Frank Tanana, and Robin Ventura will all fall of my list next year, which should affect the Mets’, Tigers’, Angels’, and White Sox’s numbers. Barry Larkin and Ron Santo are now ineligible for next years’ lists.* The Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Pirates, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers, Indians, Astros, and Phillies should all see their numbers rise substantially next year, and the Diamondback will take decisive control of 29th place. I’ll worry about the exact figures next year, though.

    *If you’re wondering, this will have the following effects:
    White Sox: 5524 GP, 49.77 GP/year
    Reds: 3337 GP, 25.67 GP/year
    Cubs: 2832 GP, 20.82 GP/year

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