Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Future of the 3000 Strikeout Club, 2021 Edition

Earlier this year, I published updates to some articles I did a few years ago, detailing the chances of current players reaching the 500 Homer and 3000 Hit milestones. I meant to do one for 3000 Strikeouts as well (since the last time I touched that was way back in 2015), but it slipped my mind. However, this past weekend, Max Scherzer became the nineteenth member of the club, which in turn reminded me that I had never actually gotten around to writing that piece.

So let’s fix that! I’ll be using my method and numbers from last time to keep things simple. If you haven’t read one of these pieces before, the gist isn’t too complicated: first, I looked at how many strikeouts each eventual 3000 Strikeout pitcher had at each age (so, their totals through their age 23 seasons, then through their age 24 seasons, and so on). Next, I sorted them from highest to lowest and broke them into quartiles, and compared those quartiles to the overall number of liveball pitchers who fell in those ranges at that age. So if the range of the second quartile of the 3000 strikeout club at age 25 was 500 to 750 strikeouts, I looked at how many total pitchers also fell in that range, and then found the percent that eventually reached 3000 as a fraction of that total.*

*One note here: instead of just a lowest quartile, I broke out Phil Niekro’s rate as a totally separate outlier, since he was such an anomaly in how late he started and lasted. So that’s the reason each set includes both a “Lowest” and “Second Lowest” threshold.

And to clarify, this piece (like the others that I’ve done) aren’t necessarily guarantees that all of these players will pull it off. Rather, it’s intended to give a different perspective on the future of the milestone than just eyeballing the active leaderboard. Essentially, I’m looking at where past members of the club were at each age, and looking for players that look similar. A key part of reaching any milestone is staying productive into your 30s, which is not something every player can manage. Instead, we’re looking at which players are best positioned to do that in each age bracket, and giving a perspective of how many other players could or couldn’t keep it up from that age on. So with that, let’s get started.
 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Can a Contract Still Be "Bad" if You Win the World Series? Examining Some High-Profile Cases

I saw an interesting discussion the other day that got me thinking about things; in this case, it was people wondering if Patrick Corbin is the worst contract in the Majors at this point.

For those who haven’t followed the Nationals outside of their trade deadline sell-off, Corbin has had an extremely rough 2021, with 14 losses and a league-worst (among qualified pitchers) 5.98 ERA in 155.0 innings. If you go by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement, Corbin has cost his team 1.5 Wins this season, the fourth-worst mark for a pitcher behind only Jake Arrieta, J.A. Happ, and Matt Shoemaker. Of course, Arrieta, Happ, and Shoemaker are only making a combined $16 million this year; Corbin, meanwhile, is signed through 2024 and will make roughly $108 million from 2021 through then.

Of course, position players Eugenio Suarez (-2.7 WAR) and Hunter Dozier (-2.9) have been even worse, and both are signed to longer term deals, albeit still for less than Corbin (and Cody Bellinger and Jarred Kelenic have also been slightly worse, although neither made it beyond arbitration). And another complicating factor is that it’s debatable if Corbin is even that bad, as Fangraphs’ version of WAR places Corbin at a much better 0.0 WAR, thanks in part to a much better FIP (5.47) and xFIP (4.34) rates. And none of this is getting into whether Corbin can rebound, as it wasn’t that long ago that he was making All-Star Teams and picking up Cy Young votes.

Of course, I think the single biggest argument against Corbin being the worst contract is his key role in winning the 2019 World Series. He finished eleventh in Cy Young voting that year, finishing with 202 innings of 135 ERA+ (or a 77 FIP-*, if you prefer) before becoming a key cog on the eventual champs as they leaned heavily on their rotation to avoid exposing a weakened bullpen. Even if he never returns to that form, Corbin played a key role in bringing home a flag that will fly forever (and for a franchise and a city that were both in long World Series droughts, at that).

*A reminder, since I don’t always use it; FIP- works like ERA+, but inverted; so a 77 mark would mean a FIP 23% better than league average, since 77 is 23 points lower than the 100-average.

I’m not sure if there’s a set quantity of “value” that a World Series championship brings in evaluating how good a contract is, but my gut says that if a player played a crucial role in bringing home a title, at the very least, any “WAR shortfall” over the course of their contract should be forgiven. For a long time, my test case for this idea was Barry Zito and his seven-year, $126 million deal* with the Giants, which ran from 2007 to 2013.

Friday, July 23, 2021

All-Star Game Trivia: Who Were the Best All-Stars, Worst Snubs, Most Extreme Repeats, and so on

I guess publishing an article about All-Star Game trivia during the week of the All-Star Game is usually preferable, but there’s not much you can do when the inspiration comes to you during the All-Star Game itself (“the inspiration” in this case being “my brother started asking me questions I didn’t know the answer to during the game”). I guess I could sit on this idea for a year and run it for the 2022 game, but that seems a bit like overkill, and I’m not sure I trust myself to remember it for that long. So instead, let’s just take a look back at the different extremes when it comes to making the All-Star Game.

The obvious starting point is “who has made the most All-Star Games”, which, for anyone not aware, is Henry Aaron. The late Hammerin’ Hank made 25 different All-Star teams across his 23 years in the Majors, only missing in his first and final seasons. For anyone looking at those numbers for a typo, it’s worth mentioning that there were two Games per year from 1959 to 1962 (this will come up later), during which time Aaron went 8-for-8.

Stan Musial and Willie Mays also made two games all four years, which is a big part of their runner-up totals of 24 All-Star selections. The highest total for a player who couldn’t double up like that is Cal Ripken Jr., who made the Midsummer Classic in nineteen different seasons (which is still two behind Aaron and one behind Mays and Musial). Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera leads all pitchers with thirteen Games, with Tom Seaver right behind him at a dozen. Kind of a big step down there. Anyway, all of that is easy enough to find with a basic search, so let’s move on to the more complicated stuff. I’ll separate it into position players and pitchers.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Hot Corner Harbor's 10th Anniversary! A Retired Number Series Retrospective

June 2nd is Hot Corner Harbor’s anniversary, and this year in particular represents ten years since I started it, so I wanted to do something special. Part of the reason I started this site was to host my Retired Numbers Series, which was something I hadn’t seen anywhere else and felt like it needed its own place. I took a month or so to practice before starting it initially, and obviously kept writing here after the main series wrapped up, but it’s still closely tied to the creation of Hot Corner Harbor, so I figured revisiting it in some way would be an apt anniversary celebration.

So join me now, as I reflect on all of my observations and predictions from over the course of the Retired Number Series, and compare them to how the last decade of new retired numbers has shaken out, from 2011 to present. First, let’s look at the teams that have retired a number in that span:


Friday, May 28, 2021

Appreciating Evan Longoria

I have wanted to write something longer about Evan Longoria for a while, but I could never find an excuse enough to make myself do it. Since his trade to the Giants four years ago (jeez, has it really been that long?), he’s been... fine, but really just fine. Not great or anything. And he makes yearly appearances in my “Future Hall of Fame” articles, but those are usually pretty long, and I don’t want to delay those by going super in-depth for every single player mentioned; they’d turn into novels pretty quickly

But Longo is off to a great start in 2021, his best in years, in fact, so I wanted to take advantage of that to finally write about how good his career has been. When I look at his stats every year for the Future Hall pieces, I’m always struck by how good he has been over his career, particularly relative to the accolades that he’s received in that time.

For instance, did you know that he’s only made the All-Star team three times? But in his case, that’s more of a way to illustrate why using them as a career overview can be dumb and misleading. Which makes sense, in a way. After all, we hear hours of griping every year about how the rosters are bad; Longoria has just been on the losing end of that equation a lot. For example, he didn’t make the team in 2011 or 2013, despite finishing in the top ten in MVP voting both seasons. Those are the most obvious whiffs, but you can do that for a number of his other seasons as well if you’re willing to drill down a little more.*

*For instance, take 2016. Evan lost out on a spot via the Final Vote to Michael Saunders, of all people. And there were plenty of other worse players taking up spots, too; sure, Eduardo Nuñez and Eric Hosmer were locked into spots via the one-per-team and fan-vote rules, but there was also Mark Trumbo, Ian Desmond, tons of relievers, etc.

But all of that isn’t going to come across when he retires (and, let’s be real, when he hits the Hall of Fame ballot, where it will especially matter). I’m hoping he can ride this hot start to a spot this year to maybe make up a little bit for those snubs, but it’s still just one season. And on a larger scale, I can already see plenty of other ways that voters are going to unfairly come up short in evaluating his career, for similar, less-than-thought-out reasons, and I would like to go against those narratives now, hopefully before they’re fully settled.*

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Future of the 3000 Hit Club, 2021 Edition

Last time, I used Miguel Cabrera’s various milestone bids to investigate which younger players might one day be making their own attempts at 500 home runs. While Miggy is much closer to that mark, he’s also within spitting distance of the other big offensive milestone, 3000 hits. So today, let’s apply those methods once again to look at who might one day be approaching that other mark.

As a quick catch-up, we’re essentially looking at how many hits each member of the 3000 Hit Club had at each age, compared to how many non-3000 Hit players matched them at those ages, to determine a current player’s chance of one day joining the former group. If you want a more specific example of this, feel free to refer to the last article. Also, as mentioned last time, Baseball-Reference changed their search feature since the last time I looked at this, so for now, I’m stuck reusing my numbers from a few years ago (although the actual values likely haven’t changed much in the years since, for what it’s worth).

With that out of the way, let’s dive in!



Age 22 Median: 323 Hits, 14.16% of players go on to 3000 hits
Age 22 Third Quartile: 118 Hits, 4.01% of players go on to 3000 hits


It doesn’t necessarily mean a lot at this age, but Juan Soto is already pretty far ahead of the 3000 club median, with 361 hits to his name, and that total will only increase in the coming months. And while it’s not the most meaningful milestone, it’s also true that a 14% chance isn’t anything to sneeze at either, especially for players this young! Elsewhere in the league, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (238) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (202) are also above the third quartile mark already, and while Tatis is a bit of a stretch, Vlad could definitely still pass the median before the season is over. Dylan Carlson (66) also has a decent chance to reach the third quartile milestone this year.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Future of the 500 Home Run Club, 2021 Edition

We are very close to some upcoming batting milestones, and both of them are from the same person. Miguel Cabrera has had a very slow start in 2021, but with 489 home runs, 2881 hits, and at least two and half years under contract on a Tigers team that doesn’t expect to be competing any time soon, it seems safe to assume he’ll be given every opportunity to become the seventh member of the 3000 hit-500 homer club. He may even reach both of them this year, although it would take a bit of a rebound to pick up 119 more hits this year.

As is the case when big milestones are imminent, I’ve seen people speculating about future members of the club, and a surprising number of them seem pessimistic about the future of both clubs. I could understand that about the 300 win club, but not either of the batting milestones. Sure, there aren’t many players on the immediate horizon, but both clubs have gone through lulls in new members before. You just have to be willing to look into the future a bit.

Which is something I’ve done before! So I figured, it’s been a few years, why not update those numbers a little and look at how active players’ paces match up to the members of the club? For those who aren’t familiar with the last article, I used a process similar to my yearly Future Hall of Famer piece. I start by looking at how many homers each member of the 500 club had at each age, and marking the median totals (as well as a few others, like the first and third quartiles, and the lowest and second-lowest totals). Then, I see how many retired players in those ranges fell short, which allows me to see the percentage of that group that went on to make 500 homers.

(To use made-up numbers for an example, say one quarter of the 500 club, or 7 players, had 100 homers by age 23, and half of the club had 50. If 10 players in history had 100 homers by that age, and 7 went on to 500 home runs overall, our odds for players with 100 homers by age 23 are 7 in 10, or 70%. And if 14 players fell between 50 and 99 homers, and 7 of those are the ones who went on to 500, then the odds for players in that quartile are 7 in 14, or 50%.)

This should be a much better way to visualize which players are actually on-pace than basic active leaderboards (take, for instance, Robinson Cano, who is fourth place among active players with 334 dingers, but is also 38 years old and has roughly zero chance to stick around for another 166). Unfortunately, I couldn’t update my figures from last time due to changes to Baseball-Reference’s search tools, but these numbers are an estimate anyway, so they should be good enough for our purposes.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Early Hall of Fame Hypothetical: Yadier Molina vs. Salvador Perez

I’m always down for Hall of Fame arguments, especially about players who are underrated, or who have non-traditional cases, or who are maybe still active and have a range of possibilities for the rest of their careers. So when I saw Mike Petriello of MLB.com posing an argument for recently-extended Royals catcher Salvador Perez, I decided to follow up on it. Especially since the unusual Hall standards for catchers is an issue that I’ve covered here before.

Petriello’s case is more of a conversation starter than anything, noting the similar OPS+ marks for both catchers through their age 30 seasons; both debuted at the same age (21), and Perez is currently at 101*, while Molina was at 99 at the same age. Yadier was already getting some Hall of Fame buzz by this point (2013 was his age-30 season), but Salvador hasn’t seen a similar outpouring of Hall support that Yadi had at that age. So why is that the case? Petriello mentions a few other similarities between the two as well, including their defense and intangibles.

*I’m going to be using stats only through the 2020 season and ignoring the first few days of 2021, since that’s when Petriello’s original comparison was made.

So let’s just start from the top. Using rate stats made me a little suspicious; that can be a good way to gloss over major playing time disparities, which might explain the difference. In this case… it’s not the full story, but it is part of the issue. Molina through 2013 had over 200 more games played than Perez does at this point, thanks to the shortened 2020 season and Perez missing all of 2019 for Tommy John surgery. And in comparing those lines, I noticed the other major issue with this comparison: Molina’s age-29 and -30 seasons were his two best ones, with the backstop finishing fourth and third in MVP voting those years, respectively. Baseball-Reference puts his combined value from those seasons at 13.4 Wins Above Replacement, while Fangraphs (thanks in part to their inclusion of catcher framing) has him at 15.5. That’s a lot of value that Perez just doesn’t have.

In fairness to Perez, his shortened 2020 was fantastic, and over a full season, it may have looked a little like Molina’s 2013 campaign. His offensive rate stats were better, with a 160 OPS+ to Molina’s 133 mark. But again, a 160 OPS+ over 37 is still no match for a 133 mark over 274 games (especially given that 37 games removes a lot of the wear and tear a catcher might face; there’s no guarantee he’d keep it that high over 240 more games, so we can’t just multiply it by six or something). If there’s a silver lining, it’s that it seems like Perez is still capable of having an MVP-caliber season like Molina’s, but the problem is still that Molina actually has two MVP-caliber seasons rather than just the potential for one.

Of course, there are other issues in this comparison that hurt Perez. For example, let’s look at their status as “catching gods” that Petriello mentions. I’m assuming he’s referring to defense, and that is an area where Perez is usually highlighted; he has five Gold Gloves, after all (Molina was at the same point by this age, and has gone on to win four more since then).

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Houston Astros 2021 Predictions over at The Crawfish Boxes

Happy Opening Day! In honor of that, I contributed my thoughts on the Astros to The Crawfish Boxes' 2021 Team Predictions. I spent a few paragraphs rambling about the things that keep me up at night about the team, especially all of the ways that injuries could smite this team's chances. But ultimately, I agreed with everyone else that the team's outlook was still pretty rosy for the time being. Go check it out for all of the details!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Can We Find a Milestone for Walks to Match 3000 Hits and 500 Home Runs?

Back in my position player Future Hall of Fame entry for the year, I marveled at Joey Votto’s walk total, noting that his 1217 mark is currently 57th all-time. That led to me also wondering if there was a cutoff for walks that could serve as a common, ubiquitous milestone, in the way that 3000 hits or 500 homers have become. Today, I figured, why not follow through on that question for fun?

As a reminder, there are currently 27 members of the 500 Home Run Club and 32 members of the 3000 Hit Club, so we’re looking for a round number of walks that somewhere around 30 players have reached. Ideally, this cutoff should also provide some sort of connotation of Hall-worthiness, so most or all of the players above this mark should either be already in Cooperstown, currently on the way, or kept out due to steroids or gambling or something.

The big round numbers are probably the best starting place. For those who don’t know offhand, the all-time leader in walks is Barry Bonds at 2558, well ahead of runner-up Rickey Henderson’s total of 2190. A 2000 Walk Club would still be far too exclusive, though, with only Babe Ruth (2062) and Ted Williams (2021) joining Bonds and Henderson.

A 1000 Walk Club won’t do, either; there are currently 120 players who have reached four digits, with Carlos Santana (991) set to join the bunch this season. And right now, the dividing line falls between Boog Powell (1001) and Jim Edmonds (998). It’s a solid group of players, but still way too big, and it doesn’t seem especially useful in regards to Hall voting.

1500 walks might be a good number to use. It’s a little on the small side of what we’re looking for, though, with only 18 members. Given that we’re partly trying to match the size of the other clubs, we might want a little lower bar, but this isn’t a bad choice. And it’s hard to beat a multiple of 500. We’ll come back here in a bit.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Predicting Today's Future Hall of Fame Starting Pitchers, 2020 Edition

Last time, we took our annual look at which position players were on-pace for the Hall of Fame. Naturally, we follow that up by looking at the pitchers.

As I mentioned last time, I decided to just carry on like normal, shortened pandemic and all. Players from other generations have faced shortened seasons for other reasons, so it’s built into the precedent we’re working with, to some degree. But it did make me wonder a little, are pitchers better suited to the missing time? Like, it’s to some degree expected that pitchers will miss a season here or there due to injury, in a way that isn’t common with position players. Right?

But looking a bit deeper, I’m not actually sure. For example, while Tommy John surgery isn’t rare and usually wipes out a whole season, there actually aren’t that many players in the Hall who have had it; to date, it’s just John Smoltz and non-pitcher Paul Molitor (although maybe Billy Wagner or Tommy John will be added in the near future). And sure, there are a few more Hall pitchers with non-UCL injuries that took time, but on the whole, Hall pitchers are probably noticeably healthier than pitchers as a whole. It also doesn't help that the year-ending injuries are a relatively recent phenomenon, seeing an uptick since the 2000s and especially since the 2010s, meaning we are still some time away from seeing how it's handled by Hall voters. So in short, my feeling is that for now, we should assume the missed time will still matter, although we will probably need to wait to get a sense of the exact degree.

Anyway, if you’re looking for an explanation of the general methodology of this series, the process is the same as the one I discussed at the beginning of the position players article, measuring the Wins Above Replacement totals for Hall players across ages, and then seeing how many other position players also reached that mark. The one difference is that, for the pitchers, I narrowed my scope to just starting pitchers from the liveball era on (1919-present), since pitching has varied wildly throughout baseball history and this helps keep it to just a single, more recognizable standard.

I will also note that the standard caveats I mentioned last time hold here as well. This is only descriptive and can miss modern extenuating circumstances, like testing positive for PEDs and how that impacts voting (or, again, the modern spike in injuries). Some starters who will make the Hall, by definition, are below the Hall median, so missing these marks isn’t the end of a player’s chances. Also, my research on Cooperstown failing to fully understand modern pitchers applies here as well, and that may affect future Hall voting.

One other major thing I want to cover before diving in is the difference between what the position player median means versus the pitcher median. This is something that I’ve covered in-depth before, but to summarize: the position player median is much more straightforward. Position players who reach the mark young tend to stay good, one that debut later needs a strong but steady run to catch up, and it’s just generally fairly predictable from early on. Pitchers are not like that; passing the median early doesn’t mean nearly as much, and pitchers with later major successes in their 30s isn’t nearly as rare. The Hall of Fame formula for pitchers, for the ones who aren’t instantly dominant from the start and always stay ahead of the median, is to just be somewhat close to the WAR median until your early thirties or so, and then just having enough strong seasons in your 30s to catch up from there.

With all of that out of the way, let’s finally ask the question: which current starting pitchers are trending towards the Hall of Fame?


Thursday, March 4, 2021

Predicting Today's Future Hall of Fame Hitters, 2021 Edition

I wasn’t sure if I should do an entry in my annual Future Hall of Fame series this year. In the wake of the shortened 2020 season, I just wasn’t sure how meaningful players’ stats (especially their Wins Above Replacement) would be.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, while the specifics differ, players in history have missed time for various reasons: from the labor stoppages of the ‘80s and ‘90s, to the players serving during wartime, to players who got later starts due to the color line barring non-white players, to the less centralized league structure from the turn of the century. Shoot, in the past versions of this series, I’ve even noted that the latest debut for a Hall of Fame position player was Jackie Robinson, or that Ichiro Suzuki debuted just a year shy of Robinson’s mark; they certainly could have been in the league and racking up counting stats much earlier than they did.

So sure, not every generation has dealt with missed time, but it’s not uncommon. And it’s hard to tell how Hall voters will react to different reasons for missed time, but it’s probably for the best to not try and guess those things just yet, and instead just report the stats as they are.

So with all of that disclaimer out of the way, let’s move on to the article proper. As a reminder, the process for this article is: first, I look at every Hall of Fame position player at a given age, say, where they were at 21, sorting by Baseball-Reference’s version of Wins Above Replacement. The midpoint of that gives me the median WAR; then, I look at how many players in history have had that much WAR through that age. This gives me the percentages. So, to make an example with fake data, if half of the Hall of Famers had 2.0 through age 21, and 50 of 100 players with 2.0 WAR through that age eventually made the Hall of Fame (filtering out non-eligible players and ones still on the ballot), then our percentage is that 50% of position players with 2.0 WAR through age 21 went on to make the Hall of Fame.

This of course comes with a number of caveats. This is entirely descriptive, and won’t be able to predict things like how the voters will react to steroid users or something. This also obviously doesn’t predict whether a player will go on to deserve induction and get snubbed (a number of the false positives are in fact players I would argue should be inducted). And of course, missing these marks isn’t a death sentence for a player’s chance at Cooperstown; by definition, half of the Hall of Famers didn’t reach these totals. This is mostly just to give us an idea of younger players’ chances at reaching the Hall; after all, they don’t just suddenly appear, fully-formed, with a Hall case ready to go. It takes years to build to that, and we can watch in real time as it happens.

Now then, we can move on to the post-2020 results! Players are listed based on their ages from the 2020 season.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Best Players Getting Snubbed by the Veterans Committee, Part 3

Today, we have the third and final part of my series looking at the thirty best players who have been totally overlooked by the Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee process. It's a direct continuation of the first two parts, which can be found here and here. Also, if you'd like to see my chart summarizing Veterans Committee ballots since 2000, that can be found here, with the annotation notes: non-player candidates are highlighted in red (Joe Torre gets an off-red color, since his first few ballot appearances were as a player), each column is a different year’s VC ballot, and X’s show seasons that they were nominees. Yellow means a candidate was inducted that year (with subsequent years blacked out), green means the player hadn’t been retired long enough for VC consideration, and light blue is years where the candidate wasn’t up for consideration (for example, how they currently consider certain eras at a time).

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Bob Caruthers (SP/OF, 59.6 WAR)

If you’ve read any of my Hall snubs coverage in the past (or similar articles from other writers), you might be familiar with Wes Ferrell, the pitcher from the 1930s who could hit like a position player. Ferrell has had plenty of VC ballots (including 6 since 2000), but the 1880s equivalent Bob Caruthers (who even finished within half a Win of Ferrell’s career total) has not. His career, like many of the other 1800s pitchers I’ve covered, was relatively short, at ten years exactly, and he did pitch in fewer games than most of them. He makes up for some of that by being an actually good hitter, though, with a career 134 OPS+ to go with his 122 ERA+. I don’t know if I’d put him ahead of Ferrell, but that certainly is an interesting narrative hook that puts him ahead of some of the other 1800s pitchers I’ve touched on so far.



Sherry Magee (LF, 59.4 WAR) #

Magee had some bad luck in building a Hall of Fame narrative. He was one of the better offensive players of the deadball era, but retired in 1919, the year before Babe Ruth went to the Yankees, hit 54 home runs, and rewired how everyone thought about offense in baseball. He played for mostly mediocre teams, primarily the 1900s-1910s Phillies, but was dealt away in 1915, at which point the Phillies made a surprise pennant win. He finally won a World Series as a part-time player on the Reds in 1919, but that was probably the only World Series where the losing team is more famous than the winner. Magee had been retired for a bit when the Hall of Fame opened, but wasn’t really old enough to qualify for early attempts at Old Timers Committees. He made a handful of BBWAA ballots in the early years (which featured very different rules), but never got more than 1% of the vote, as he was already something of a relic from a different era. Magee did make the pre-1943 ballot of the 2009 Veterans Committee induction, where he got 3 of the required 12 votes, but did not make the 2013 or 2016 ballots.



Bret Saberhagen (SP, 58.9 WAR)

I feel like I’ve mentioned this here repeatedly, but I think Saberhagen fits neatly within the Hall’s tradition of high-peak stars, and he (along with Cone) should be one of the first names the VC considers in their effort to elect more starting pitchers. Despite his two Cy Young Awards, Saberhagen was a one-and-done candidate on the BBWAA ballot, getting only 1.3% of the votes back in 2007. That was also Orel Hershiser’s second year on the ballot, and he fell below 5% as well, although he’s made the Today’s Game ballot both times he’s been eligible. I’m really not sure what’s the disparity between those two in terms of Hall consideration, let alone the disparities between Cy Young winners like them and MVP winners like, say, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy, who hung around the ballot for full terms. There’s a lot around the margins of Hall voting that gets confusing when you look at it too closely.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Best Players Getting Snubbed by the Veterans Committee, Part 2

Here's the second part of my series looking at the thirty best Veterans Committee-eligible players who have been snubbed in the process. It directly follows the first part, which you can find here if you missed. Also, if you'd like to see my chart summarizing Veterans Committee ballots since 2000, that can be found here, with the annotation notes: non-player candidates are highlighted in red (Joe Torre gets an off-red color, since his first few ballot appearances were as a player), each column is a different year’s VC ballot, and X’s show seasons that they were nominees. Yellow means a candidate was inducted that year (with subsequent years blacked out), green means the player hadn’t been retired long enough for VC consideration, and light blue is years where the candidate wasn’t up for consideration (for example, how they currently consider certain eras at a time).

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Willie Randolph (2B, 65.9 WAR)

Randolph is like what you would get if you crossed Lou Whitaker and Graig Nettles (see part 1). Randolph appeared on the 1998 ballot, hit 1.1% of the vote and vanished. Like Nettles, Randolph was a six-time All-Star and two-time champion on the ‘70s Yankees. I’m kind of wondering if the fame of being a Yankee only extends so far, though (something I alluded to last time); like, those ‘70s Yankees benefitted Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter’s cases (and maybe Ron Guidry, who got a decade on the BBWAA ballot), and that’s as far as it went. Nettles, Randolph, and Thurman Munson were just all out of luck. If that is the case, it’s not surprising that Randolph got the shortest end of the stick. His skillset was extremely un-flashy, with lower power totals (he actually has a higher OBP than slugging percentage) and an only-decent average supplemented with a great eye (he’s 55th all-time in walks!), solid baserunning, and a fantastic up-the-middle glove (but at not-shortstop, so it gets overlooked). For the last part, it probably also doesn’t help that he didn’t win any Gold Gloves (the defense component of Baseball-Reference's Wins Above Replacement has him sixth all-time at the position, but Frank White is third on the same list and was racking them up during Randolph’s peak).



Reggie Smith (CF/RF, 64.6 WAR)

Center field isn’t quite third base, but it’s still overlooked in its own way when it comes to Cooperstown, with fewer members than the corner outfield spots. But it probably also doesn’t help that Smith spent the second half of his career in right field, either, naturally inviting that comparison. Smith had a typical career for an overlooked star (good-but-not-singular average and power with great plate discipline leading for a very good but well-divided total package; above-average defense at a difficult position, but maybe not the best ever). But I’ve also seen some speculation that splitting your career (in a variety of ways) hurts a player’s impression on voters, possibly making it harder for them to consider every facet of a player’s career as a single package. And Smith (8 years in Boston, 9 years in the NL between the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Giants; 800+ games at two positions) certainly fits that profile. He didn’t even reach 1% of the vote in 1988, and has not resurfaced since.

Monday, February 8, 2021

The Best Players Getting Snubbed by the Veterans Committee, Part 1

In my recent article digging into issues with the Veterans Committee, one problem that I noted was that the Veterans Committee tends to repeat the same few candidates over and over, often to the exclusion of other players deserving of consideration. The way I determined this was by going back through every Veterans Committee ballot since the turn of the millennium and listing every player who appeared, then noting subsequent reappearances.

If you’re interested in that mess of a chart, you can see it here. There’s a lot going on there, so as a quick summary: non-player candidates are highlighted in red (Joe Torre gets an off-red color, since his first few ballot appearances were as a player), each column is a different year’s VC ballot, and X’s show seasons that they were nominees. Yellow means a candidate was inducted that year (with subsequent years blacked out), green means the player hadn’t been retired long enough for VC consideration, and light blue is years where the candidate wasn’t up for consideration (for example, how they currently consider certain eras at a time).

Those last two colors may not be perfect, since it was mostly based on my snap judgments for over 100 players, and the Hall’s various rule changes and ambiguities mean those designations aren’t always clear (for example, some players, like Luis Tiant, have actually seen their era designation shift), and I sometimes used gray to convey my uncertainties around the fringes. But it’s mostly accurate, and does its biggest job of showing which names are getting considered the most.

In compiling that info, I couldn’t help but notice how many names that I was expecting to appear just… didn’t. At all. Sure, a lot of big names in the world of Hall of Fame snubs made frequent appearances, like Dick Allen or Minnie Miñoso or Ken Boyer. But with 109 names to get through, there were definitely some absences that surprised me. Granted, some of them (especially older ones) might have appeared on older ballots (although some of those also didn’t publish finalized lists of names they considered, either, so no list will be 100% comprehensive), but still, with two decades to consider, this feels like a pretty long time for these big names to just never show up, or to come up just once.

So, once that was done, I went through Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement career leaderboards, filtered out everyone who was active or not yet eligible for the Veterans Committee, then matched the remaining players to their count from my chart. My main goal is just to highlight the biggest names to be totally ignored by the process, but when appropriate, I’ll also reflect on the little attention they have gotten, speculate on reasons for that cold shoulder, and look at what it might take to break that streak.

With that, here’s the list of the thirty best players eligible for the Veterans Committee that have nonetheless appeared on one or zero ballots since 2000 (players with one appearance marked with a #).