Can you believe that the BBWAA gave our blog voting rights for this year’s MLB Hall of Fame ballot?
Just kidding. They haven’t made a decision that ill-informed since, um, electing Jim Rice and Andre Dawson. But I’m going to pretend we have a vote this year and explain the decisions on our ballot.
Here is some background on how I analyze players for the HOF:
Much like the Earth and many a good joke, the views on Hall of Fame worthiness have two poles. The first pole is the traditional view which focuses on seasonal and career ‘baseball card’ stats like AVG/Hits/HR/RBI or Wins/ERA, factors in dominance based on MVP/Cy Young voting + reputation during one’s career, and the post-season success for that individual and their team(s). The second pole is the sabermetric view which relies on more advanced statistics with the aim of crediting the best players based on objective criteria.
I am much, much closer to the sabermetric pole than the traditionalist pole. My view on baseball (and life) is to question and adapt my views when presented with compelling information. I’ve been convinced that OBP & Times on Base are superior to AVG and Hits and that the traditional view of baseball has underestimated the value of walks. I can’t view HRs or even Slugging percentage as an absolute reflection of power and look for advanced stats to adjust for era and park factors. Runs and RBIs are clearly important – you need to score runs to win games – but it’s hard to balance these stats against lineup strength, era, park factors, etc. The same goes for pitching: I think ERA/WHIP needs to be adjusted per era/park factors/team defense, Wins are a questionable measure given their reliance on team strength, etc.
As advanced statistics have improved, I put less faith in MVPs/Cy Youngs/All-Star voting. The writers (and fans for All-Star) voting for those awards over the years didn’t either have access to the advanced learnings that sabermetrics has provided and/or don’t believe it. For instance, let’s look at the 1996 MVP voting. Juan Gonzalez had a fantastic hitting year (.314/47/144 with a .368 OBP, below average running/defense and favorable park that led him to not even make the AL Top 10 in OPS+) but exactly how could that be considered more valuable than Ken Griffey Jr. (.303/49/140 with a .392 OBP, solid baserunning, and the most valuable defensive player in the league based on Defensive WAR) or Alex Rodriguez (.358/36/123 with a .414 OBP, positive baserunning and above-average SS defense)? In fact, of the 21 players to get at least one AL MVP vote in 1996, Juan Gonzalez had the worst Wins Above Replacement (WAR). In addition, there are also some years where a player wins the MVP/Cy Young by default because there really isn’t a player who warrants it and vice versa (see 1996 where Ken Griffey and Alex Rodriguez – as well as Chuck Knoblauch – were worthy MVP candidates). Does that make their year any less MVP-worthy?
So here are the criteria/stats I’m using for my HOF analysis:
1) Career Excellence – I am measuring this by career WAR (Wins Above Replacement). This statistic – which was developed by Sean Smith and is available for free on Baseball-Reference.com or Sean’s ownBaseballProjection.com – calculates the value of a hitter’s offense/defense/running or a pitcher’s pitching vs. those of a replacement player (minor leaguer or waiver wire claim). Many factors such as position, era, park, defense (for pitchers) are accounted for. (note: there are slight differences in WAR calculations between Baseball-Reference and BaseballProjection.com – I use those from B-R unless otherwise noted.)
2) Peak Excellence – I think most traditional and sabermetric fans and voters agree that – everything equal – a player who had a dominant peak is more preferable to one who was just very good for a long period of time. Rather than focus on awards, I’ve taken the B-R (and I assume Sean Smith) suggested breaks of 5.0+ WAR for an All-Star season and 8.0+ WAR for an MVP season. For reference, between 1901 and 2010, there were 282 hitting seasons and 132 pitching seasons that surpassed 8.0. That roughly 2.7 hitters and 1.2 pitchers per year which seems fair when you consider there are about 2x the hitters than pitchers who play enough to reach this total.
(Bit of trivia: The year with the most 8.0+ WAR hitters is 2004 with 6: Barry Bonds (12.4), Adrian ‘El Senator‘ Beltre (10.1), Albert Pujols (9.4), Scott Rolen (9.2), Jim Edmonds (8.4), and Ichiro (8.1). The NL MVP vote went exactly in WAR order for the 5 NL’ers. Vladamir Guerrero (7.4) beat Ichiro for AL MVP who finished 7th. The year with the most pitchers 8.0+ was 1971 with 6: Wilbur Wood (10.7), Fergie Jenkins (9.2), Tom Seaver (9.2), Vida Blue (8.8), Mickey Lolich (8.6), and Dave Roberts (8.5). Vida Blue and Mickey Lolich finished above Wilbur Wood for AL Cy Young while Fergie Jenkins edged out Tom Seaver for NL.)
I’ve combined the above into one stat using the following formula: Career WAR + 10 * MVP seasons (8.0+ WAR) + 5 * All-Star seasons (5.0-7.9 WAR). I’ll call this ‘Peak-Adjusted WAR’ for the series of posts. This is admittedly arbitrary but seems to do a fair job at rewarding those with high peaks vs. long careers. Case in point: Carlton Fisk has one more career WAR than Gary Carter (67.3 to 66.3) aided by playing close to 2 more seasons worth of games. But Gary Carter had 8 seasons of All-Star value (most ever for a catcher amongst retired players as of 2005) while Carlton Fisk only had 4. This adjustment puts Carter ahead of Fisk 106.3-87.3 (2nd and 3rd behind Johnny Bench). Sandy Koufax has far less career WAR to Don Sutton (54.5 to 70.8) but his 3 MVP seasons (1963, 1965, 1966) and two All-Star seasons give him 40 extra points where Don Sutton’s 4 All-Star seasons give him 20. Thus, Koufax scores higher 94.5 to 90.8. (Click here for access to the spreadsheet on Google Docs).
In looking at the scores across all players, I’d say for me that a peak-adjusted WAR of 100 is a no-brainer selection, anything from 80-100 is in the consideration set (with more bias towards positions with less players who’ve reached that plateau, and anything under 80 isn’t a consideration except for relief pitchers or special cases (e.g., an untimely death, Negro-league players, a player lost peak time to serve in the war, etc.)
3) Hall of Fame Position Representativeness – While WAR takes position into account for single seasons, it cannot adjust for the fact that certain positions (notably Catcher and Middle Infield) are tougher to have long careers than other positions (notably corner OF/1B/DH). My general POV is that if a player was in the top 10 at his position in the past 60 years (1945-2005), he warrants Hall of Fame consideration even if their stats look lower than average.
Players On The Razzball 2011 Hall of Fame Ballot (see links for posts on each player):
|Rank||Player||Peak-Adjusted WAR||Career WAR||MVP (8.0+ WAR)||All-Star (5-7.9 WAR)|
|1||Jeff Bagwell||139.9||79.9||3 (+30)||6 (+30)|
|2||Bert Blyleven||145.5||90.1||1 (+10)||9 (+45)|
|3||Alan Trammell||106.9||66.9||1 (+10)||6 (+30)|
|4||Barry Larkin||103.9||68.9||0 (+0)||7 (+35)|
|5||Edgar Martinez||112.2||67.2||0 (+0)||9 (+45)|
|6||Tim Raines||94.6||64.6||0 (+0)||6 (+30)|
|7||Roberto Alomar||88.5||63.5||0 (+0)||5 (+25)|
|8||Mark McGwire||98.1||63.1||0 (+0)||7 (+35)|
Players Considering For The Future
|Rank||Player||Peak-Adjusted WAR||Career WAR||MVP (8.0+ WAR)||All-Star (5-7.9 WAR)|
|1||Kevin Brown||99.8||64.8||1 (+10)||5 (+25)|
|2||Rafael Palmeiro||86.0||66.0||0 (+0)||4 (+20)|
|3||John Olerud*||96.8||56.8||2 (+20)||4 (+20)|
|4||Larry Walker||92.3||67.3||1 (+10)||3 (+15)|
* Yes, I’m shocked how high John Olerud scores on peak-adjusted WAR. He had two 8.0+ WAR seasons which is two more than the following 1B/DHs on the ballot Rafael Palmiero, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, Harold Baines, and Tino Martinez. This is because John Olerud had a much better OBP than anyone on this list (other than Edgar Martinez) and was a more valuable glove than anyone else during his peak years (about equal with Palmeiro and Mattingly). The AVG/OBP/SLG and OPS+ for those 8.0+ WAR years were: .363/.473/.599 in 1993 with a 186 OPS+ and a .354/.447/.551 with a 163 OPS+ in 1998. Mattingly never cleared .400 OBP once in his career, Palmeiro did it once (a pot-friendly .420 in 1999), and McGriff did it twice (.403 and .400). Neither of the three had a higher OPS+ than those two Olerud years.
Players Who Fall Short
|Player||Peak-Adjusted WAR||Career WAR||MVP (8.0+ WAR)||All-Star (5-7.9 WAR)|
|Jack Morris||44.3||39.3||0 (+0)||1 (+5)|
|Dale Murphy||74.2||44.2||0 (+0)||6 (+30)|
|Fred McGriff||65.5||50.5||0 (+0)||3 (+15)|
|Don Mattingly||59.8||39.8||0 (+0)||4 (+20)|
|Dave Parker||57.8||37.8||0 (+0)||4 (+20)|
|Al Leiter||53.8||38.8||0 (+0)||3 (+15)|
|Juan Gonzalez||43.5||33.5||0 (+0)||2 (+10)|
|Harold Baines||37.0||37.0||0 (+0)||0 (+0)|
|Bret Boone||36.4||21.4||1 (+10)||1 (+5)|
|Marquis Grissom||35.6||25.6||0 (+0)||2 (+10)|
|B.J. Surhoff||34.4||34.4||0 (+0)||0 (+0)|
|Raul Mondesi||32.2||27.2||0 (+0)||1 (+5)|
|Tino Martinez||32.2||27.2||0 (+0)||1 (+5)|
|Lee Smith||30.3||30.3||0 (+0)||0 (+0)|
|Charles Johnson||27.0||22.0||0 (+0)||1 (+5)|
|John Franco||25.8||25.8||0 (+0)||0 (+0)|
|Benito Santiago||23.8||23.8||0 (+0)||0 (+0)|
|Bobby Higginson||21.4||21.4||0 (+0)||0 (+0)|
|Carlos Baerga||21.0||16.0||0 (+0)||1 (+5)|
|Kirk Reuter||12.1||12.1||0 (+0)||0 (+0)|