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    Monday, January 9, 2012

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

    To see the early portions of my ballot: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

    Round 2
    Ross Barnes, Red Stockings (NA)/White Stockings/Reds/Red Stockings (NL), 2B/SS - Ross Barnes had a very short career; so short that, if he were to retire today, he actually wouldn’t make the ballot. He only played 9 seasons. In addition, he never played more than 78 games in a season. However, to say that the game was very different when Barnes played would be an understatement. Barnes played from 1871-1881 (taking 1878 and 1880 off), and only played in 499 games. The seasons were much shorter in the 1870s, though. For example, Teixeira also has nine seasons under his belt, but those nine seasons have equaled 1374 games. Rate stats do a better job of conveying just how dominant Barnes was; he had an OPS+ of 168. Also, despite his very short playing time, he managed to get 33.1 bWAR and 30.0 fWAR.

    Buddy Bell, Indians/Rangers/Reds/Astros, 3B - You know that group of four deserving third basemen I mentioned in Part 2? The one with Sal Bando, Darrell Evans, Graig Nettles, and one mystery person in that got added in my second round of additions? Well, Buddy Bell should probably get added to that group; for some reason, I didn’t automatically think of him as a Hall of Famer, but he compares to that quartet quite well. Like the others, he was very well-rounded at a difficult position; the difference is that more of Bell’s value came from his glove. Both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference put him at over 17.5 wins through his fielding alone. That makes up for his .279/.341/.406 line and 109 OPS+ (lower than the other four mentioned third basemen). Overall, Fangraphs has him at 66.6 WAR, while B-R puts him at 60.8, both of which put him in good standing (for reference, both figures but him on the same level as first-ballot pick Dave Winfield).

    Ken Boyer, Cardinals/Mets/Dodgers/White Sox, 3B - Ken Boyer was actually the last member of the quartet I had in mind. I scrutinized him a little more, as he came up on the Veteran’s Committee ballot this year. However, I determined that third base is underrated enough and all five third basemen mentioned so far are good enough that all of them could be added to the Hall while raising it’s standards. Again, Boyer was a third baseman in the “do everything well” vein, posting a 116 OPS+ while saving over 70 runs (worth over 7 wins) with his glove. The difference is that most of Boyer’s value came over a shorter peak rather than a long, spread out career. He played for roughly 15 seasons, so his 58.4 bWAR and 63.3 fWAR look underwhelming. However, going by weighted WAR (wWAR), which gives extra credit for stronger peaks, Boyer comes in with a solid 87.0, equal with Ozzie Smith and better than Hall members like Harmon Killebrew, Jimmy Collins, and Willie Stargell.

    Eddie Cicotte, White Sox/Red Sox/Tigers, P - It’s actually kind of easy to make a case for Cicotte. In fourteen seasons, he had a 209-148 record, a 2.38 ERA, a 123 ERA+, 3226 innings pitched, 49.7 bWAR, etc. He’s not in because he was one of those meddling Black Sox. I’ve made my case on Shoeless Joe, and that applies here as well: at the very least, Cicotte’s been dead since before the 1970s, and the Hall is losing more at this point keeping him out than he is by being kept out.

    Minnie Miñoso, White Sox/Indians/Senators/Cardinals, LF - I didn’t think much about Minoso until he appeared on the Veterans Committe ballot this year and I began to see people supporting him. Part of his candidacy is built on lost time; he spent time in the Negro Leagues, then stuck in the minors. But when he did play, he was great. From his first full season in 1951 to 1960, he never recorded less than 4.4 fWAR, and only recorded lower than 5 fWAR three times. As a result, he has a strong wWAR of 81.1, on par with fellow corner outfielders Wille Stargell and Dave Winfield. A lot of Minoso’s value comes from his ability to take a walk; his .298 average is accompanied by a .389 on-base percentage and a .459 slugging percentage, which is good for a 130 OPS+. In his career, he racked up 52.8 bWAR and 58.0 fWAR.

    Willie Randolph, Yankees/Dodgers/Brewers/Athletics/Mets/Pirates, 2B - I actually totally forgot about Randolph and had to add him on at the last second, but I originally meant to include him in round 2. Again, a lot of value from above average hitting (104 OPS+, with a lot of that coming from the much more important OBP) and good defense (10.8 wins according to B-R, 11.4 according to Fangraphs) at a hard-to-fill position. All together, Baseball-Reference values him at 60.5 WAR, while Fangraphs values him at 67.9 WAR.

    Deacon White, Bisons (NL)/Wolverine/Red Stockings (NA)/Reds/Bisons (PL)/White Stockings/Red Stockings (NL)/Alleghenys/Forest Citys, 3B/C/RF - Note these teams; that’s a big clue to when White played. The Cleveland Forest Citys were a National Association (NA) team that went defunct after two seasons (1871-1872). The NA Red Stockings also went belly-up after their fifth season, 1875. The White Stockings actually became the Cubs, while the NL Red Stockings became the Braves. The Reds White played for only lasted five seasons, from 1876 to 1880. The two Buffalo Bisons lasted a combined eight seasons (with the one in the Players League only lasting for 1890). The Detroit Wolverines only lasted from 1881 to 1888. Finally, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys eventually became the Pirates. And there’s your 19th century baseball lesson for today. 

    Yes, White is an old, forgotten player, who managed to make it twenty seasons (1871 to 1890). Despite his many seasons, he only played in 1560 games due to the shorter schedules of the time (if you don’t feel like doing the math, today’s seasons mean a total possible 3240 games in a twenty year career). He kept a 127 OPS+ while playing important positions. In his shortened time, he managed 42.4 fWAR and 43.1 bWAR. Also, just as quick back-of-the-napkin calculations, assuming Deacon White played as many games as even Tony Gwynn (twenty seasons, 2440 games), White would have wound up somewhere around 66.3 fWAR and 67.4 bWAR, well into Hall of Fame range, as well as 3233 hits.

    Round 3
    Wes Ferrell, Indians/Red Sox/Senators/Yankees/Braves/Dodgers. P/PH - Ferrerll is special for his status as both a pitch and a hitter. He was primarily a pitcher, yes, and just based on that, he falls short of induction. Though his 4.04 ERA looks bad, he played in a hitter’s era, so it translates to a 117 ERA+. Being 17% above league average over 17 seasons is not at all bad; it translates to 41.3 bWAR. He was also a good hitter on top of that (usually a pinch hitter), managing a 100 career OPS+ (which includes two full seasons at 140 or higher). His fourteen seasons as a league average batter translates to an additional 12 bWAR, good for 53.3 total bWAR. I think his versatility deserves some extra credit as well; if you don’t feel that way, though, it is worth pointing out that he had a really strong peak, too. He made the Hall of wWAR with 93.3 weighted Wins Above Replacement.

    Jack Glasscock, Blues/Hoosiers/Maroons/Giants/Browns/Pirates/Outlaw Reds/Senators/Colonels, SS - Another star of the 1880s and 1890s left out of Cooperstown. To continue the earlier history lesson, the Cleveland Blues only lasted from 1879 to 1884 (so Glasscock played with them for their whole existence). The Cleveland Outlaw Reds were a member of the very short-lived Union Association (which only lasted for 1884). The St. Louis Maroons and Indianapolis Hoosiers were both NL teams that only survived three seasons. The New York Giants, St. Louis Browns (now Cardinals), and Pittsburgh Pirates have all lasted until the present day. And finally, the Washington Senators and Louisville Colonels were both NL teams that went under (although they made it 9 and 18 seasons, respectively). 

    Imagine Omar Vizquel if he could hit better, and you have Joe Glasscock. In seventeen seasons, Glasscock saved between 15 (Fangraphs) and 16 (B-R) games with his glove alone (for reference, those two have Vizquel at 13 wins). Except instead of Vizquel’s meager 82 OPS+, Glasscock had an OPS+ of 111. All of this was good for 58.7 WAR (by both systems, oddly enough). He also had something like 600 fewer games played than a seventeen year veteran today would; add that time lost time back in and you get close to 79 WAR.

    Reggie Smith, Red Sox/Dodgers/Cardinals/Giants, RF/CF
    - Smith has several reasons, from what I can tell, that his Hall candidacy never took off. First, he had a long-brilliance type of peak rather than a shorter flash-in-the-pan type peak. From 1968 to 1974, he was constantly at All-Star level, although he rarely crossed into MVP-territory. After two above-average seasons, he bounced back and posted another all-star season and then possibly his best season ever in 1977. Really, you could argue that his “peak” was from 1968 to 1980, and he only played from 1966 to 1982. Second, his career was rather split in half; he spent 879 games in right field and 808 games in center. I remember hearing that players with a clear division in their career sometimes have a harder time gaining support, as voters have a hard time combining the two halves of their careers mentally. This would apply to Smith. And overall, Smith was just really good at the things that Hall voters don’t appreciate. He was worth around 8-8.5 wins defensively, played a tough position for half of his career, was good at getting on base via walk (.287 batting average and a .366 on-base percentage) and hitting for power (363 doubles, 314 homers, .489 slugging, 137 OPS+). Really, he did everything really well, but didn’t excel at any one thing. His career was just too spread out across different things. Smith was worth 32.6 bWAR and 71.8 fWAR.

    Ezra Sutton, Beaneaters (Red Stockings)/Athletics (NA)/Athletics (NL)/Forest Citys, 3B/SS - I’m trying to fully explain why every candidate is both worth of Cooperstown and overlooked, but I’m starting to feel a little bit like a broken record. For example, Ezra Sutton: forgotten early star (he played from 1871 to 1888); played an undervalued position (Sutton was mostly a third basemen, with some time at short); didn’t play in enough games to rack up counting numbers (in eighteen seasons, he played in 1263 games, while A-Rod has 2402 games in the same number of seasons). In his career, he was worth 30.5 fWAR and 37.6 bWAR. 

    To complete your early baseball history lesson for the piece, the National Association Philadelphia Athletics lasted from 1871-75, while the NL Philadelphia Athletics only made it through 1876.

    Luis Tiant, Red Sox/Indians/Yankees/Twins/Pirates/Angels, P - Like Minoso, I was convinced of Tiant’s worthiness after reading more about him following his appearance on the Veterans Committee ballot. With the election of Bert Blyleven, Tiant is in the running for best eligible pitcher not in the Hall of Fame (I still think Kevin Brown is better, although I’m not sure if he counts as eligible since he fell off the ballot). For starters, Tiant’s bWAR of 60.1 puts him in a tie for 42nd among pitchers, even with Hall member Jim Bunning and ahead of several other Hall of Famers. There are 67 Hall of Fame “pitchers”, although this includes closers and players like Satchel Paige and Babe Ruth, where we have incomplete information. The only pitchers ahead of him that aren’t in the Hall who have gone up for election are Rick Reuschel, Brown, and two nineteenth century stars (Tony Mullane and Jim McCormick, who I’m now wondering how I missed).

    If you aren’t as into WAR, there’s still a case to be made. Tiant threw 49 shutouts, good for 21st all-time (tied with Hall members Don Drysdale, Fergie Jenkins, and Early Wynn). His 2416 strikeouts put him a respectable 36th. His ERA+ is a respectable 115 over 19 seasons, which ties him with Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Fergie Jenkins, Phil Niekro, and Eppa Rixey. He had a strong peak too, with nine seasons of 120 or more, including two seasons leading the league (1968 with 186, and 1972 with 171).

    Jimmy Wynn, Astros/Dodgers/Braves/Brewers/Yankees, CF - Wynn had the misfortune to play in the Astrodome during a pitcher’s era, both of which masked his hitting prowess (his career .802 OPS is actually 28% better than league average). In addition, he was a center fielder who was good at taking a walk and hitting for non-home run power (.250/.366/.436 line), all of which adds up to a severely underrated Hall candidate. In what is one of the greatest injustices in Cooperstown history, Wynn didn’t receive a single vote in his one appearance on the ballot (for an added bonus, this marked Dick Allen’s one appearance on the ballot too; he pulled a meager 3.7%). Overall, Fangraphs has him at 60.7 fWAR, while Baseball-Reference has him at 58.8 bWAR. If a strong peak is your thing, wWAR has him at 95.1, above a large percentage of the Hall (including players like Eddie Murray, George Sisler, Roberto Alomar, and Harmon Killebrew).


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