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    Wednesday, December 26, 2012

    50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame 2012, Part 4

    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 third 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).

    Sherry Magee, Phillies/Braves/Reds, LF, 109-Magee was one of the premier sluggers of his (early) time. Among players to debut before 1910, he ranks ninth in home runs with 83. He also ranks twelfth in slugging percentage in the same group. His 137 OPS+ (from a .291/.364/.427 batting line) puts him in the same territory as players like Will Clark, Todd Helton, Joe Medwick, and Al Simmons. Add in that he was a moderately above-average fielder in left, and you have someone that clears the Hall standards, with 55.8 bWAR and 73.2 fWAR. I would still put him in the Hall, but he’ll probably be one of the first to go next year when even more worthy candidates are added and only one or two are cleared off of this list.

    Minnie Miñoso, White Sox/Indians/Senators/Cardinals, LF, 99-Miñoso is a little like Magee; he was good, but he might need to be one of the first to go next year when I need to add four or five more candidates. Also, with only twelve full seasons, part of his candidacy is dependent on assumptions (how he would have done if he got an earlier start without the Negro Leagues, how he would have done if his age was, in fact, reported wrong, which it might not have been, etc.).

    In any case, he was still a good player. In his shortened career, he managed a 130 OPS+ thanks to a .298/.389/.459 batting line. In addition to being good at getting on base , he also managed 205 steals and played solid defense in left. Fangraphs gives him 58.2 WAR, while Baseball-Reference has him at 47.5.

    Thurman Munson, Yankees, C, 101-Catchers, like third basemen, have been traditionally underrepresented in the Hall of Fame. Munson would make a great addition to increase their ranks. His counting numbers may appear a little lacking (1558 hits and 113 homers), due to his demanding position and untimely death. But on a rate basis, he was very good (.292/.346/.410 batting line, a 116 OPS+), especially for a catcher (his batting alone puts him 23rd at the position). Plus, most rating systems have him as an above average catcher, which is partly how he managed to get 43.3 bWAR and 44.4 fWAR. B-R actually has him thirteenth among all players with 50% of their games at catcher in WAR. Add in that he didn’t even get to play in ten full seasons for bonus if you want (I’m comfortable doing so, although it’s worth pointing out he had been declining in the years leading up to his final season, so the addition might not be huge). Either way, I would be comfortable putting Munson in Cooperstown.

    Graig Nettles, Yankees/Indians/Padres/Twins/Braves/Expos, 3B, 123-Yet another third baseman who didn’t get his full due. I seemed to recall Nettles being primarily a case based on fielding, but he was a better hitter than I recalled too. He managed some decent counting totals, at least, with 2225 hits and 390 homers (the second number puts him fifth among primary third basemen, even today). His batting average was a little low, but his overall line was still a respectable .248/.329/.421, good for a 110 OPS+ (across about full 19 seasons). Most fielding metrics have him as a great fielder too; Fangraphs, for example, gives him a 141-run glove, seventh at the position. All in all, he was worth 71.8 fWAR and 62.8 bWAR.

    Willie Randolph, Yankees/Dodgers/Brewers/Athletics/Mets/Pirates, 2B, 124-This is the third primary Yankee in a row. Maybe playing in the big city doesn’t do such wonders for your Hall chances? His case is similar to Nettles; he wasn’t an overwhelming hitter, with only 2210 hits and a .276/.373/.351 batting line.* That meant a 104 OPS+, but, considering he played an up-the-middle position, that’s actually pretty good (it actually gets him into the top 40 hitters at the position). However, he was a great fielder on top of that-like Nettles, Fangraphs’ 114 runs saved puts him in the top ten all-time at his position, which helps explain his 67.8 career fWAR and 63.0 career bWAR.

    *Yes, his OBP was greater than his slugging percentage. That is unusual.

    Rick Reuschel, Cubs/Pirates/Giants/Yankees, P, 133-Reuschel is right up there with Kevin Brown in the running for the title of best pitcher not in the Hall or on the ballot. He managed a solid 2015 strikeouts against only 818 unintentional walks in his 3548.1 career innings. On top of that, his 3.37 ERA, thanks to playing in hitter-friendly parks, is actually a 114 ERA+, right in line with Hall of Famer Jim Bunning. That might put him on the borderline; however, this is a good use of WAR. To an extent, WAR tries to also account for defense in a way that ERA doesn’t. Reuschel pitched in front of a lot of bad defenses (best explained here), in which time he far exceeded the rate at limiting runs a regular pitcher would have been expected to allow. That is why he has career numbers of 64.6 bWAR and 73.4 fWAR.

    Pete Rose, Reds/Phillies/Expos, 1B/LF/3B/2B/RF, 149-I’m not sure I need to defend Rose’s merits as a player. Like with Shoeless Joe, the issue is more about gambling. It is worth noting, though, that the Hall is a separate institution from Major League Baseball, and they aren’t required to follow their bans (they just chose to). In this case, since Rose was banned for his actions as a manger, I don’t see why they couldn’t allow him a shot at induction. I can also see the argument for waiting until he’s no longer alive, I suppose, but it does seem more vindictive. The man is already banned from baseball, after all.

    Bret Saberhagen, Royals/Mets/Red Sox/Rockies, P, 120-Saberhagen had a very short career (only 14 times did he exceed 6 starts in a season), but in that time, he was great. In 2562.2 innings, he had a 3.34 ERA, a 126 ERA+, a 1.14 WHIP, and 1715 strikeouts against only 437 walks. That dominance meant that, in spite of his short career, he managed 56.0 bWAR and 61.5 fWAR. In a Hall severely lacking in more modern pitchers, I would say that Saberhagen clears the bar, even if he isn’t a no-doubt first ballot buy like Maddux or Clemens.

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