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    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame Ballot Explanations, Part 5

    Edit: Well, this is weird. Blogger seems to have deleted this post overnight. So, here it is again. Look for a wrap-up/look back on Friday.

    Links to the rest of my ballot: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

    The 2011 edition of the 50 Best Players Not in the Hall can be found here.

    Round 4 of Additions
    David Cone, Mets/Yankees/Royals/Red Sox/Blue Jays, P - Cone may not be a pitcher you think of as a Hall of Famer. Like Luis Tiant, though, if you take the time to look past your initial thoughts. His 57.5 bWAR puts him right in the borderline for the Hall. His 2668 strikeouts put him 22nd all-time, and his 121 ERA+ is solidly in the Hall of Fame range. His strong peak pushes him over the edge, though, in my mind. Going by weighted WAR (wWAR), which gives extra credit for all-star level seasons, Cone has 86.5 wWAR, which is right on par with Luis Tiant and above actual Hall pitchers Stan Coveleski, Don Sutton, Vic Willis, and Rube Waddell, among others. David Cone is not an inner circle member, but in a Hall with over 200 honorees, he definitely has his place.

    Thurman Munson, Yankees, C
    - Munson is another player I hadn’t thought of initially. However, the Hall is definitely short on catchers; sixteen catchers are in Cooperstown, and only thirteen of those have ever played in the Major Leagues. Factor in that some of them are questionable Veterans Committee choices, and it’s obvious that catcher rivals third base for most ignored position by Hall voters. I probably should have added more catchers to my ballot, to be honest.
    As for Munson, He was an impressive hitter for a catcher. In eleven seasons, he had 1558 hits, a .292/.346/.410 batting line, and a 116 OPS+. In his shortened career, that was good for 43.4 bWAR and 44.4 fWAR. I have no problem giving players with artificially shortened careers some extra credit (although Kirby Puckett may be pushing it), but in Munson’s case, he was young enough at the end (just 32) and good enough that I think he makes it. It’s interesting to note that, despite his shortened career, he still makes the Hall of wWAR (with 90.1).

    Rick Reuschel, Cubs/Pirates/Giants/Yankees, P
    - According to Baseball-Reference, Rick Reuschel is the leader in WAR among pitchers eligible for Cooperstown, at 66.3. Adam Darowski does a better job of explaining why than I can, but the basic argument is that Reuschel did a great job of limiting runs when you consider that he played in front of bad defenses. Reuschel allowed just shy of 1500 runs in his career, while a replacement pitcher with his fielders would be expected to give up over 2100 runs based on the league’s offense at the time, Reuschel’s parks, etc. That’s a difference of over 600 runs, and with 10 runs equaling 1 win, that’s at least over 60 wins. Even more simply, he threw a lot of innings (3548.1 IP, 32nd since World War II, and there’s value in that) and was good at limiting runs (114 ERA+) despite pitching in front of a bad defense.

    Round 5
    Bobby Bonds, Giants/Angels/Indians/Yankees/Rangers/Cardinals/Cubs/White Sox, RF - Bonds the elder had a good combination of speed, power, and an eye. He’s a member of the 300-300 club, with 332 homers and 461 steals. He also kept a .268/.353/.471 batting line, good for a 129 OPS+, over fourteen seasons while saving about 5 wins on defense. All in all, Fangraphs has him at 63.3 WAR, while B-R has him at 57.0. If peak is your thing, Bonds Senior has 80.6 wWAR, just between fellow corner outfielders Dave Winfield (81.1) and Andre Dawson (80.5).

    Will Clark, Giants/Rangers/Orioles/Cardinals, 1B - Clark retired at an interesting time; he was definitely still capable of playing. in 2000, his final season, he had an OPS+ of 144, which is impressively even better than his career mark. The man could definitely hit; he didn’t quite rack up the counting numbers with only 15 years in his career, but he did keep a .303/.384/.497 batting line, good for a 137 OPS+. A short career keeps him to 57.6 bWAR and 54.4 fWAR, but if you like inducting players with good peaks, Clark has a solid 83.3 wWAR. Also, it’s not really a tangible thing, but there’s something to be said for going out on top.

    Jerry Koosman, Mets/Twins/White Sox/Phillies, P - Looking back, I think Koosman may have been me reaching for more recent pitchers to add. I think he was one of the last three players I added, and I’m not sure I would put him on my list again if I were to redo it. Still, I can at least see where I was coming from; 2556 strikeouts in 3839.1 innings, a 3.36 ERA with a 110 ERA+, and 58.8 bWAR, all strong numbers. He has 75.6 wWAR as well (wWAR counts his batting WAR, though, which is bad; take that out and he goes up to 79.0). At the very least, Koosman is a defensible down-ballot choice, and I don’t think he’s the weakest pick on my ballot.

    Bret Saberhagen, Royals/Mets/Red Sox/Rockies, P - Saberhagen’s career was actually fairly short (more or less fourteen seasons), but it was bright at its peak. He managed a 126 ERA+ over 2562.2 innings, a 3.34 ERA, and a 3.64 strikeout to walk ratio that stands as thirteenth all-time. Baseball-Reference gives him 54.7 WAR, while Fangraphs gives him 61.5 (as a side note, finally we have a pitcher who’s entire career overlaps with Fangraphs pitching WAR-that only goes back to the 1977 season or so). Weighted WAR likes his strong peak, with 79.7 wWAR. If I had ranked them, I could see Koosman and Saberhagen duking it out for my 47-48 slots, depending on whether I liked Saberhagen’s stronger peak or Koosman’s nearly 1300 extra innings.

    Dave Stieb, Blue Jays/White Sox, P - Ignore when Jack Morris’s supporters call him the best pitcher of the 1980s-that title probably belongs to Dave Stieb (granted, the ‘80s is just an arbitrary ten-year period when ranking baseball players, but whatever). Stieb was a workhorse; despite only pitching 16 seasons (1979-1993, 1998), he threw just under 2900 innings (and three of his last four seasons saw him fail to reach even 60 innings). So, from 1979 to 1990, Stieb was averaging 222 innings. He managed to keep a 3.44 ERA and a 123 ERA+ despite that workload. He also made seven All-Star teams and finished with 53.0 bWAR, 49.5 fWAR, and 80.3 wWAR.

    Frank Tanana, Tigers/Angels/Rangers/Mets/Red Sox/Yankees, P - These last two picks would probably be the first two to drop off of my ballot (and, with the influx of players next year, I’ll certainly need to cut players for the 2012 edition). A lot of Tanana’s value came from his incredible durability; he’s one of eighteen pitchers since the end of WWII to record over 4000 innings. Fifteen of those are in the Hall of Fame, but Tanana is a lot closer to the two that aren’t (Jaime Moyer and Jim Kaat). Tanana did manage to rack up a lot of strikeouts (2773), though, which is good, and he had a reasonable ERA (3.66, good for a 106 ERA+). For his career, he put up 55.1 bWAR and 60.1 fWAR (fWAR leaves out his first season, but he only pitched 226 innings, so the effect is likely minimal). What sets him apart from the others is his strong peak, which puts him at 76.2 wWAR. Again, he’s not the strongest candidate, and I probably wouldn’t list him as a Hall of Famer if I had to do it again, but he was not by any means a bad pick.

    Robin Ventura, White Sox/Mets/Yankees/Dodgers, 3B - And we reach the final player on the ballot. As you can tell, I decided to go with one last third baseman (surprising, I know). We’ll close out with familiar themes; Ventura was good because he played an undervalued position, and played it surprisingly well (B-R and Fangraphs put him between 15.5 and 16.5 wins as a fielder; Total Zone Runs has him tied for fourteenth best fielder ever). On top of that, he was a good hitter, particularly because he could take a walk and had some pop (.267/.362/.444 line, 114 OPS+). Overall, it’s good for 55.5 bWAR and 61.2 fWAR. I feel better looking back at Ventura now then I did a few minutes ago, but he’s still probably the second or third person to go for next year’s ballot (not that there’s any shame in that).

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