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    Monday, December 4, 2023

    Jim Leyland Inducted to the Hall of Fame, Plus Breaking Down the Rest of the Veterans Committee Results!

    We officially have our first Hall of Famer for the 2024 Election: manager Jim Leyland, who received 15 out of 16 votes from this year’s iteration of the Veterans Committee. Fellow manager Lou Piniella fell one vote shy of joining him, while executive candidate and general renaissance man Bill White missed by two votes.

    Leyland is the first manager elected to Cooperstown in a decade, and he’s a very deserving choice. His 1769 wins are seventeenth all-time (most of those ahead of him are enshrined), he was the head of the Marlins when they won the World Series in 1997, his three total pennants ties him for twenty-fifth all-time (again, behind mostly other inductees, and tied with several more), he’s currently the only manager to win both a World Series and a World Baseball Classic (2017), and he even wound up winning three Manager of the Year awards. (All stats from Baseball-Reference, by the way.)

    Really, the biggest knock against him was relatively low win rate for his career, but a lot of that could be chalked up to bad luck; getting stuck with the 1998 Marlins after their post-Championship firesale alone dropped his winning percentage from .514 to .508. If you want to go even further, you could also point out how long he stuck with the Pirates into the start of their firesale era, sticking around for four seasons after their 1992 NLCS upset even as the team shedded talent with no sign of replacing it (if you want to be extra-generous and chop off the last two of those Pittsburgh seasons, he reaches a .523 rate). Either way, when not being shoved into hopeless situations, it was clear that Leyland was talented as a manager, and sometimes he could even make some of the seemingly-hopeless situations work out (like the 2006 Tigers reaching the World Series, or those 1992 Pirates).

    If you missed it, I put up a preview of this vote a few days ago, and I figured it would be a good time to revisit it while comparing the results.

    Saturday, December 2, 2023

    Hall of Fame Season Kicks Off This Weekend with the 2024 Veterans Committee Ballot!

    This weekend, the Winter Meetings will take place, and with it will come the first big moment of Hall of Fame discussion season: the Veterans Committee vote. As per usual, the sixteen voters will come together, discuss the candidates, cast their ballots, and announce anyone who receives 75% of the vote as the first inductees of 2024.

    And there will be something extra to this year’s process: back in April 2022, the Hall changed their rules on the Veterans Committee process once again (for reasons that were really never clarified, but whatever). The 2024 Ballot will mark the first instance of the big change from those announcements, the non-player ballot. Yes, that’s right, all eight of this year’s nominees are managers, umpires, or executives: we have Jim Leyland, Lou Piniella, Cito Gaston, and Davey Johnson from the first group; Joe West and Ed Montague from the second; and Bill White and Hank Peters from the third.

    If you went back and read that piece I wrote at the time, I feel like I was kind of harsh on the rule change. I still think there’s a lot of dumb things about it, but I’ve softened a little on the idea of a special ballot for non-players. In all honesty, it’s probably been necessary for a little bit, and this might help to rectify that, not to mention that the original method of making these candidates compete directly against players for spots in the Hall was just really weird on a conceptual level. I do still think it’s dumb that they couldn’t do this ballot in the same year as a separate player ballot, but whatever, small steps are always necessary when discussing the Hall. We’ll take it for now.

    With managers and especially umpires and executives, we don’t always have the most objective or statistical evidence, unlike how player stats have been quantified here and back again. Even still, I don’t think it’s unsupported to say that these categories have been a little too ignored by the Hall. At this moment, we have just 22 managers in the Hall, with the earliest one (Ned Hanlon) having started way back in 1889; so we have those 22 managers covering 134 seasons of baseball history. That feels maybe a little light?

    Thursday, November 16, 2023

    As 2023 Comes to a Close, the Number of 2000s Players Continues to Rapidly Decrease

    Almost exactly two years ago, I made note of a shocking trend: we were losing 2000s players at an alarming rate. And in the short time since the 2023 season ended, we’ve seen a number of high-profile retirements, which has made me want to look into the matter again.

    But first, I wanted to quickly remind everyone of some basics. First, when I refer to “2000s Players”, I’m of course talking about players who debuted between 2000 to 2009, not just “any players who have debuted since 2000”. This topic is kind of a follow-up to something I looked at almost a decade ago, trying to predict who would be the final active player from the 1990s. Once we ran out of 1990s players, it seemed natural to move on to the next decade, so I figured I’d shelve the issue until around 2024 or so.

    Except when Buster Posey announced his surprise retirement back in 2021, I began poking around in Baseball-Reference and realized that the topic was coming up on us much quicker than I ever expected. You see, historically, “The Last Active Player from a Decade” has been shockingly predictable:

    Last Player from the 1920s: Satchel Paige made it to 1965 if you count his comeback publicity stunt; if you only count regular players, Paige tied with Bobo Newsom (retired 1953)
    Last Player from the 1930s: Early Wynn (1963)
    Last Player from the 1940s: Minnie Miñoso (1980) if you count his comeback publicity stunts, otherwise Willie Mays (1973)
    Last Player from the 1950s: Jim Kaat (1983)
    Last Player from the 1960s: Carlton Fisk and Nolan Ryan (1993)
    Last Player from the 1970s: Rickey Henderson and Jesse Orosco (2003)
    Last Player from the 1980s: Jamie Moyer and Omar Vizquel (2012)

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find that stability hilarious: for six straight decades, the last active player would hang up their cleats exactly 24 years after the decade ended. The 1980s saw that slip to 23 years, which is maybe a little unusual, but ultimately not really a meaningful difference.

    …Except that, with the benefit of hindsight, maybe it was a sign of things to come? After all of that, our final 1990s players wound up being Adrián Beltré and Bartolo Colon, who both called it quits* after the 2018 season, or five years early if you go by that 24-year rule.

    *Technically, Colon would go play in the Mexican League in 2021, but his MLB days ended in 2018.

    And if you were hoping that 2000s players might prove to be a rebound here, you’re probably going to be disappointed; for as aggressive as the last decade was at pushing 1990s players out of the league, things are only looking worse for 2000s players this decade. In fact, we’ve generally been a year ahead of the already-accelerated schedule that decade was on: