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    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

    50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame, 2013

    For the last two years, I’ve participated in Graham Womack’s 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame project. So naturally, I had to participate when he announced his fourth edition of the project. This year, I’m taking a bit of a shortcut; I’ve written about all of these players over the last two years, and I don’t want to waste too much time going over old ground. So instead, I’ll post my list from last year for reference.

    In addition to their names, I’ll include their Hall Rating from Adam Darowski’s Hall of Stats. As a refresher, that’s based on Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement and normalized to a scale like OPS+. So, a 100 rating is the minimum to make the Hall of Stats. For reference, a 150 would be the equivalent of one-and-a-half Hall of Fame careers, a 200 rating would be as good as 2 Hall of Famers mashed together, and so on-you can read more about it at his site.

    Anyway, my 2013 list included the following names:

    Barry Bonds, 363
    Roger Clemens, 293
    Curt Schilling, 172
    Jeff Bagwell, 164
    (5) Larry Walker, 151
    Pete Rose, 150
    Mike Piazza, 147
    Bill Dahlen, 145
    Lou Whitaker, 144
    (10) Alan Trammell, 143
    Bobby Grich, 141
    Kevin Brown, 138
    Rick Reuschel, 136
    Edgar Martinez, 135
    (15) Kenny Lofton, 132
    Jack Glasscock, 131
    Shoeless Joe Jackson, 130
    Luis Tiant, 130
    David Cone, 129
    (20) Tim Raines, 128
    Craig Biggio, 126
    Graig Nettles, 126
    Rafael Palmeiro, 125
    Reggie Smith, 125
    (25) Buddy Bell, 124
    Mark McGwire, 124
    Willie Randolph, 124
    Dwight Evans, 123
    Bret Saberhagen, 121
    (30) Sal Bando, 118
    Ken Boyer, 118
    Dick Allen, 116
    Sammy Sosa, 116
    Keith Hernandez, 115
    (35) Dave Stieb, 115
    Deacon White, 114
    Ted Simmons, 113
    Kevin Appier, 112
    Joe Torre, 112
    (40) Bobby Bonds, 111
    Sherry Magee, 111
    Eddie Cicotte, 111
    Jim Wynn, 110
    Darrell Evans, 106
    (45) Tommy Bond, 103
    Thurman Munson, 101
    Minnie Minoso, 99.8
    Bob Caruthers, 96
    Ross Barnes, 83
    (50) Ezra Sutton, 71

    The numbers are a little wonky with some of the older players (Sutton and Barnes retired in 1888 and 1881, respectively), as playing time was very different then (and in Minoso’s case, he caught the tail-end of segregated leagues). But that’s a pretty solid list.

    One of the things that you need to do with this list is indicate how many players on your list you would actually put in the Hall of Fame. The last two years, I’ve said that I would put every player on my list in the Hall. I’ve always wondered if this waters down the Hall too much. I finally looked at that a little, though.

    For an unrelated project, I examined the Hall of Fame and the best players not in the Hall in a variety of stats; Baseball-Reference’s WAR was one. I know it’s just one standard, and by no means the end-all, be-all, but: the average WAR of the top 62 hitters not in the Hall of Fame and the average WAR of Hall of Fame hitters is not statistically significant. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not lower…but at the same time, I also only added 39 hitters last year rather than the full 63.

    Going all the way down to the 60s gets you players like Jim Fregosi, Brett Butler, Bernie Williams, or Bobby Veach… I’m still not quite that far down the list. So the point is, I’m still in the same neighborhood as the actual Hall. I wouldn’t be shocked if I was improving the pitchers, given that I’m only adding 13 this year (we’ll go over the changes shortly, and it’s quite an impressive bunch, with an average Hall rating of over 150).

    But now, the big question: what changes does this year bring? Well, first, Deacon White was inducted last year, meaning I can clear him off my list. Joe Torre was just inducted as a manager…but since that was for the class of 2014, it doesn’t take effect yet. All the others are in the same place they were last year.

    So who takes this one spot? Well, this year’s ballot brings five people that I would consider worthy into the discussion. In the format from earlier:

    Greg Maddux, 220
    Mike Mussina, 163
    Tom Glavine, 149
    Frank Thomas, 140
    Jeff Kent, 103

    That’s a solid group, to say the least. Maddux takes White’s spot by default. Also, if you remember, in my wrap up last year, I was feeling a little uneasy about Sutton and Barnes. I replaced them with Tommy John (106) and John Olerud (103) for a variety of reasons. I realize it was a different time and you have to account for the different playing times, but at the same time, my research about how the Hall has changed over time made me feel more willing to side with more recent players. So those two should probably go into the discussion as well. There are a few more players from my first edition that may also work their way back in to consideration, in particular Wes Ferrell (111), who I had a hard time cutting last year.

    On top of that, Adam has revised his Hall system even more, which gives me a little bit of a different perspective on these players. A lot of the changes are to the early days of the baseball and how Hall rating works with regards to playing time and pitching back then; that’s why you may notice players like Bob Caruthers and Tommy Bond taking dives compared to where they were last year (the long-short of it: since part of WAR is playing time, and pitchers back then threw so many more innings, Adam’s formula was overestimating how valuable they were compared to their peers).

    Anyway, I anticipated a hard time deciding who all to kick off to make room for everyone. The starting place would probably be Barnes and Sutton; I was already kicking them off last year, so I may as well start there this year. That frees up two spaces, which probably go to Mussina and Glavine. Tommy Bond is someone I had been meaning to kick off last year, too. I’m not an expert on early baseball, and Adam wrote an interesting piece last year about 19th century pitchers. The biggest takeaway: Bond played in a wildly different time. He’s still the all-time leader in K/BB ratio…but he also had no value after the league moved the mound back from 45 feet (!!!). His spot probably goes to Frank Thomas.

    Those are really the big moves, actually. Jeff Kent falls into a weird level for me; he’s sort of on the level of players like Robin Ventura, Will Clark, and John Olerud…all players who have made my list in the past, mind you. I would support all of them for the Hall, but they’re sort of my borderline, and they don’t quite make this top 50 list. If, say, we elected 10 players this year and freed up a ton of spots for next year? They’d be first on the list. But right now, they’ll have to settle for honorable mentions.

    There are two other changes I would make to this list, though. First, Adam’s rejiggering of Hall Rating has given me second thoughts. I waffled back and forth on getting rid of Wes Ferrell last year; his combination of pitching and hitting was hard to beat. Bob Caruthers had a similar case, actually. However, Caruthers played much earlier in the history of the game. In the refiguring of innings pitched value for early pitchers, Caruthers dropped quite a bit. I’d be more than willing to swap Caruthers out for Ferrell, especially since they fill a similar niche.

    One other player I have second thoughts about every year is Eddie Cicotte. I even marked him on my spreadsheet from last year. He always looks like a good idea, but when I would do my write-up for him, I’d always sort of lose my conviction on him. Also, I’ve been wanting to fit Tommy John onto the list. This seems like as good a swap as any. Also, it’s worth bringing up their Fangraphs WAR, where John is over 75 while Cicotte is below 50. Fangraphs WAR for older pitchers is a little weird for my liking (maybe I just need to get used to it more, who knows; there are just a few pitchers who seem a little higher or lower than I would have thought), but I think that’s a pretty comfortable margin to go by.

    And…that’s about it, really. My list is the same as last year’s version, with six changes:

    Deacon White (elected to Hall) -> Greg Maddux
    Ezra Sutton -> Mike Mussina
    Ross Barnes -> Tom Glavine
    Tommy Bond -> Frank Thomas
    Bob Caruthers -> Wes Ferrell
    Eddie Cicotte -> Tommy John

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