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    Friday, December 21, 2012

    50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame 2012, Part 3

    For the second year, I’m participating in Baseball Past and Present’s 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame project. First, I covered players still on the ballot. Then, I started on to the backlog of candidates. He’s the second part of the older candidates. Each player is listed with their teams (in order of games played), position, and Hall Rating from the Hall of Stats (which works similar to OPS+; 100 is the baseline for a Hall of Famer).

    Bob Caruthers, Browns(Cardinals)/Bridegrooms(Dodgers)/Reds/Colts(Cubs), RF/P, 118-Bob Caruthers was like Babe Ruth before Babe Ruth, in that he was a great hitter AND pitcher. In ten seasons, from 1884 to 1893, Caruthers spent 366 games in the outfield and 340 games at pitcher. In that time, he went 218-99 with a 2.83 ERA (good for a 122 ERA+) while hitting .282/.391/.400 (a 134 OPS+). Going by Baseball-Reference, that gives him 40.1 pitching WAR and 18.6 batting WAR*. I think he was both good enough and interesting enough to merit induction.

    *Note that 1800s WAR is kind of weird in that way. The pitchers WAR is greater because of the greater number of innings, while the shorter schedule cut into the batting WAR. That 18.6 batting WAR came in 705 games, or about as many as Joey Votto has played in six seasons.

    Eddie Cicotte, White Sox/Red Sox/Tigers, P, 108-Cicotte was banned with Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of the Black Sox. He was the ace of that team, too, with a 176 ERA+ and 29 wins in almost 307 innings. His 123 career ERA+ is in the neighborhood of Mike Mussina and Don Drysdale. His 53.6 bWAR is also good, especially when you consider he probably had a few more good seasons left in him when he was forced out of the game. He was 36 in his final season, but he also posted 4.7 Wins. I’d say it’s good enough for the Hall.

    David Cone, Mets/Yankees/Royals/Red Sox/Blue Jays, P, 127-David Cone didn’t quite get 4% of the vote in his lone appearance on the Hall ballot. I would argue the 1994-1995 strike probably cost him his due consideration. He missed around 10-15 starts and finished with 194 wins. If he had gotten to 200 wins, there might have been more voters willing to throw a vote his way and keep him on the ballot.

    In 2898.2 innings, he managed 2668 Ks, 22nd all-time. His 8.28 K/9 is ninth all-time for pitchers with 2000 innings. And his 121 ERA+ is definitely solid. He’s not a clear first-ballot type, but I would argue he’s right there after Kevin Brown in the next group down.

    Dwight Evans, Red Sox/Orioles, RF, 121-Can we take a moment to compare Evans to his longtime teammate, former Red Sox corner outfielder and Hall of Famer Jim Rice? Just look at their batting stats next to each other. In about 1500 extra plate appearances, the two were about even in hits (with Rice getting the slight lead, 2452-2446) and home runs (Evans had the lead, 385-382). However, Evans was better in the lesser focused-upon things; he had over 100 more doubles (483-373) and over 700 more walks (1391-670).

    Those factors gave Evans the slight edge in their batting lines; Evans’ triple slash stood at .272/.370/.470, while Rice’s was at .298/.352/.502. Weighted On Base Average (which is OPS but with more weight given to getting on base, to reflect how runs are scored) has them at dead even, 129-128 (Evans being the 129). What makes this really stand out in Evans’ favor is everything else; he had almost three seasons of extra at bats on Rice, fielded better, and played the slightly harder position (right field vs. left field).

    All of those parts add up. Fangraphs has Evans at 71.4 WAR, well within the Hall’s bounds, while Rice falls just short at 56.1. Baseball-Reference concurs, with Evans at 62.8 bWAR and Rice at only 44.3.

    Darrell Evans, Giants/Braves/Tigers, 3B, 105-Another third baseman. Darrell Evans was a good hitter who not only got a lot of his value from walks, but also played in bad offensive parks in a bad offensive era. Despite only 2223 hits, he reached base 3863 times, 54th most in major league history, more than other third basemen like Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews. Granted, both of them had more power and played better defense, but those are still two of the best hitters in the history of the game. On top of that, he hit 329 doubles and 414 homers, contributing to his .248/.361/.431 line that translated to a 119 OPS+. He also at least held his own at third base, if not played above average defense. All together, it makes for 67.9 fWAR and 55.1 bWAR in what is essentially 18 and a half seasons of playing time.

    Jack Glasscock, Blues/Hoosiers/Maroons/Giants/Browns/Pirates/Outlaw Reds/Senators/Colonels, SS, 134-It’s a little surprising Glasscock didn’t make the Veterans Committee ballot this year. He was a decent enough hitter back in the late 1800s (1879 to 1895, to be specific), getting 2041 hits in 17 (shorter than they are now) seasons, and managing a .290/.337/.374 batting line. That looks bad, but for his era, it was a 112 OPS+. From a shortstop, that’s not bad, about equal with multiple-time All-Star Jim Fregosi.

    However, by most accounts, he was a brilliant fielder on top of that. He’s estimated to have saved 149 runs in his career, or about on par with nine-time Gold Glove winner Luis Aparicio (and in over 800 fewer games, too, most of which would have come out of his prime; also consider Aparicio is in the Hall with that glove and an 82 OPS+). I’d say that’s good enough. For reference, he has 58.1 fWAR and 59.2 bWAR.

    Bobby Grich, Angels/Orioles, 2B, 139-You might not have realized this, but Grich is arguably one of the ten best hitting second basemen of all time. Among second basemen with over 1000 games played (Grich has 2008), he has a 125 OPS+, which ranks fifth, and a 129 weighted Runs Created+ (wRC+; like OPS+, but it accounts for base running and properly weights OBP). Most fielding metrics also say he was very good with the glove (B-R’s fielding runs has him at 14th among second basemen with 81 runs saved, while Fangraphs has him at 20th with 83). Only Nap LaJoie and Chase Utley (who only has 1192 games played to date) rank above him in all of those. I get the feeling the Hall voters struggle to rate second basemen properly, although it’s not quite as bad as third base (maybe closer to catcher or center field).

    All together, he was worth 67.3 bWAR and 74.1 fWAR.

    Keith Hernandez, Cardinals/Mets/Indians, 1B, 114-Hernandez is pretty close to what I would consider the floor for Hall of Fame first basemen. I would put him just ahead of Will Clark and John Olerud (my stance on those two varies from time to time, but I think I usually consider them Hall of Famers too, usually as the absolute baseline for first base).

    Hernandez only had 162 homers, which looks low for a power position like first, but thanks to 426 doubles with that, he managed a .296/.384/.436 batting line, a 128 OPS+, and a 130 wRC+. However, he added a lot of defensive value on top of that, by most accounts. Fangraphs puts him first among primary first basemen, with 119 runs saved, while B-R puts him only behind Albert Pujols, with 117 runs. That seems like a good enough reason to help a borderline candidate. Overall, he has 61.8 fWAR and 57.1 bWAR.

    Shoeless Joe Jackson, Naps(Indians)/White Sox/Athletics, LF, 129-Is there any opposition to Jackson getting inducted other than on moral grounds? And in any case, he’s dead, so it’s not like it should matter at this point.

    Either way, he only had nine seasons of more than 20 games when he was forced out at the age of 32. Up until that time, though, he had already accumulated 1772 hits and carried a .356/.423/.517 batting line, good for an astounding 170 OPS+. He was also worth 59.6 bWAR and 66.0 fWAR in that short time.

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