The Small Hall (of wWAR)

I may be a stat geek, but I’ve always been captivated by the history of the game. That’s what first drew me to this site. Many sites out there cover statistics. Some even discuss statistics from a historical perspective (a niche I try to fill). This site was different—the coverage of baseball history went beyond the numbers.

While I quickly became a big fan of Graham’s work, I was also very intrigued by the work of Joe Guzzardi. Joe—let’s say—has been around longer than most of the folks I read. I found his writing about the Pacific Coast League fascinating. I also love it when he talks about guys like Robin Roberts and Bob Friend.

Joe recently wrote a post called To the BBWAA: Focus on the Great, Not the Very Good. In the post, Joe explains his “small Hall” stance. It’s not a stance I agree with, but I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a “small Hall” since coming up with my system to rank Hall of Famers (via Weighted WAR and the Hall of wWAR). To get a “small Hall” by wWAR, you just have to pick a higher cutoff than I use for my Hall.

So, let’s see what a Small Hall of wWAR would look like. First, we need to pick our cutoff. In the comments section of Joe’s post, he says:

Sorry, I’m opposed to continuously lowering the bar. I’m fine with the thirteen catchers already induced: Bench, Berra, Campanella, Dickey, Cochrane, etc. In fact, I’d like to vote some of the others out.

So that gives us an idea of where he’d set a cutoff, positionally. Roy Campanella, sadly, has a low wWAR because his career was held back because of his skin color and then it ended early because of a tragic accident that left him paralyzed. Take him out of that group and the lowest wWAR is Mickey Cochrane’s 105.3. There we go—our cutoff is 105 wWAR.

Let’s see what this “Joe Guzzardi Small Hall of wWAR” would look like (player’s wWAR total in parentheses):

Catcher

  • Johnny Bench (158.7)
  • Gary Carter (147.0)
  • Carlton Fisk (129.7)
  • Yogi Berra (123.7)
  • Bill Dickey (107.0)
  • Mickey Cochrane (105.3)

I’m guessing that Joe would enshrine Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk (who rank as the second- and third-best eligible catchers in history). This is one hell of a half dozen receivers. The next-highest rated catchers are Buck Ewing (104.3), Ted Simmons (98.3), Joe Torre (91.9), and Thurman Munson (90.1). I don’t see any of them cracking Joe’s standards. Hall of Fame catchers who would be bumped include Ewing, Gabby Hartnett, (sadly) Campanella, Roger Bresnahan, Ernie Lombardi, Ray Schalk, and Rick Ferrell.

First Base

  • Lou Gehrig (246.9)
  • Cap Anson (205.0)
  • Jimmie Foxx (172.7)
  • Roger Connor (165.2)
  • Dan Brouthers (160.2)
  • Jeff Bagwell (132.6)*
  • Rod Carew (121.2)
  • Johnny Mize (115.8)
  • Ernie Banks (111.3)

Banks appears here because he spent more time at first base than shortstop. You can argue with me about that if you’d like, but I tried to make things as systematic as possible. Again, Jeff Bagwell is the sixth-best eligible first baseman of all time (and best since Foxx). Get this man in the Hall. Following Banks we find Dick Allen (98.1), Willie McCovey (96.4), and Hank Greenberg (95.8). These are tough cuts if you ask me. Soon after that, we start getting to the McGwire/Palmeiro types. This call bumps McCovey, Greenberg, Eddie Murray, George Sisler, Bill Terry, Harmon Killebrew, Jake Beckley, Frank Chance, Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, Jim Bottomley, and George Kelly from the Hall.

Second Base

  • Rogers Hornsby (258.0)
  • Eddie Collins (233.9)
  • Nap Lajoie (184.5)
  • Joe Morgan (177.5)
  • Charlie Gehringer (138.0)
  • Frankie Frisch (117.8)
  • Jackie Robinson (113.1)
  • Ross Barnes (105.3)*

Roscoe Barnes, the great American Association infielder, makes it in. The rest of the list is not very surprising. Just on the outside is Bobby Grich (99.9), Roberto Alomar (93.4), Lou Whitaker (93.4), and Ryne Sandberg (92.1). Alomar, Sandberg, Joe Gordon, Bid McPhee, Billy Herman, Johnny Evers, Tony Lazzeri, Bobby Doerr, Nellie Fox, Red Schoendienst, and Bill Mazeroski are bumped.

Third Base

  • Mike Schmidt (197.3)
  • Eddie Mathews (170.5)
  • Wade Boggs (149.0)
  • George Brett (140.3)
  • Home Run Baker (114.4)
  • Ron Santo (110.4)
  • Deacon White (107.1)*

Ron Santo keeps his brand new honor. Also, Deacon White (one of my personal favorite pet cases) gets in. Just missing are Brooks Robinson (100.5), Sal Bando (93.0), and Ken Boyer (87.0). Seeing that makes me think Joe’s cutoff might be more like 100 wWAR. I don’t know how you can keep Brooks Robinson out. Exiting the Hall in this case would be Robinson, Jimmy Collins, Pie Traynor, George Kell, and Freddie Lindstrom.

Shortstop

  • Honus Wagner (259.8)
  • George Davis (149.7)
  • Cal Ripken (143.5)
  • Arky Vaughan (127.7)
  • Robin Yount (117.5)
  • Bill Dahlen (113.2)*

Oh hi there, Bill Dahlen! We saber kids love you! Very interesting to see George Davis rank second, seeing how long it took for him be inducted to the Hall of Fame. Right behind Dahlen we see Jack Glasscock (104.3), Luke Appling (103.0), Barry Larkin (100.2), and Alan Trammell (99.3). Joe also says “I guess I’m sort of okay with Larkin … I’d have been okay if Larkin were passed over, too.” The fact that Joe says this and Larkin sits in that 100–105 wWAR range makes me think that I picked the right cutoff. Shortstops exiting the Hall will be Appling, Larkin, Pee Wee Reese, Bobby Wallace, John Montgomery Ward, Joe Cronin, Hughie Jennings, Lou Boudreau, Ozzie Smith, Dave Bancroft, Joe Tinker, Joe Sewell, Travis Jackson, Luis Aparicio, Phil Rizzuto, and Rabbit Maranville.

Left Field

  • Ted Williams (240.3)
  • Stan Musial (231.8)
  • Rickey Henderson (194.1)
  • Ed Delahanty (140.3)
  • Carl Yastrzemski (139.8)
  • Pete Rose (116.1)**
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson (115.0)**
  • Fred Clarke (110.1)

What a group of players this is! I’m not sure if a Joe Guzzardi Hall of wWAR would include Pete Rose or Shoeless Joe Jackson. Joe does say “I would not vote for anyone suspected of PEDs”, so cheaters are definitely not cool with him. I’ll keep them in the list for now, since the numbers put them there. I also want to point out that just because Pete Rose has the most hits ever, it does not necessarily mean he is the best player not in the Hall of Fame. That’d be our friend Mr. Bagwell.

Anyway, following Fred Clarke (who seems to be criminally underrated, even as a Hall of Famer) Jim O’Rourke (102.3), Jesse Burkett (101.5), Al Simmons (98.0), Goose Goslin (92.6), and … Tim Raines (89.8, wWAR isn’t as bullish on Raines as most saber folks are). O’Rourke, Burkett, Simmons, and Goslin would depart the Hall of Fame along with Ducky Medwick, Willie Stargell, Billy Williams, Zack Wheat, Ralph Kiner, Heinie Manush, Jim Rice, Lou Brock, and Chick Hafey.

Center Field

  • Ty Cobb (305.5)
  • Willie Mays (298.8)
  • Tris Speaker (247.9)
  • Mickey Mantle (228.4)
  • Joe DiMaggio (145.7)
  • Billy Hamilton (118.6)
  • Duke Snider (115.0)

There are not very many center fielders in the Hall of wWAR. But gosh is the position top-heavy. Look at that. Four guys above 200 (225, even). And that doesn’t even include Joltin’ Joe and the Duke. Who’s next? There’s a huge 20 wWAR drop-off before we get to Jimmy Wynn (95.1). Then there’s Richie Ashburn (84.8) and 19th century stars George Gore (82.9) and Paul Hines (78.3). Exiting the Hall would be Ashburn, Hugh Duffy, Larry Doby (again, just because this is purely statistical), Earle Combs, Kirby Puckett, Edd Roush, Earl Averill, Hack Wilson, and Lloyd Waner.

Right Field

  • Babe Ruth (418.9)
  • Hank Aaron (256.8)
  • Mel Ott (187.4)
  • Frank Robinson (170.6)
  • Al Kaline (138.8)
  • Roberto Clemente (131.6)
  • Reggie Jackson (119.5)
  • Sam Crawford (115.2)
  • Paul Waner (112.4)
  • Harry Heilmann (108.2)

There’s a lot of talent here, too. I don’t think anyone will debate the credentials of this list. After Heilmann is a ten wWAR gap, then Larry Walker (98.8), King Kelly (97.3), Tony Gwynn (95.6), and Willie Keeler (94.2). Leaving the Hall would be Kelly, Gwynn, and Keeler, along with Elmer Flick, Dave Winfield, Andre Dawson, Enos Slaughter, Kiki Cuyler, Sam Thompson, Harry Hooper, Sam Rice, Chuck Klein, Ross Youngs, and Tommy (Freakin’) McCarthy. We just booted 36 outfielders.

Designated Hitter

  • Paul Molitor (107.6)

A “small Hall” may not like DHs at all. But if we’re going by the numbers, Molitor would remain the only one. Edgar Martinez is close (100.5). Brian Downing is next, but not close (62.4).

Pitcher

  • Walter Johnson (273.1)
  • Cy Young (231.6)
  • Pete Alexander (191.1)
  • Christy Mathewson (182.2)
  • Tom Seaver (177.5)
  • Lefty Grove (175.4)
  • Bob Gibson (167.8)
  • Kid Nichols (163.4)
  • Gaylord Perry (149.5)
  • Phil Niekro (148.0)
  • Warren Spahn (147.1)
  • Steve Carlton (139.9)
  • Al Spalding (139.0)***
  • Bert Blyleven (136.9)
  • Robin Roberts (134.1)
  • Fergie Jenkins (128.5)
  • Bob Caruthers (120.8)*
  • Eddie Plank (118.9)
  • Nolan Ryan (113.8)
  • Bob Feller (110.6)
  • Don Drysdale (109.5)
  • Juan Marichal (107.6)
  • Carl Hubbell (106.7)
  • John Clarkson (105.4)

Gosh, that’s a nice list of pitchers. My guess is that the less-statistically-inclined are surprised to see Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro, and Bert Blyleven rate that highly. Folks, this is what we’ve been talking about. I’m really curious about who comes next on this list, so let’s expand it out a bit:

Tim Keefe (102.8), Ed Walsh (101.5), Red Ruffing (100.7), Jim Palmer (100.4), Old Hoss Radbourn (99.7), Sandy Koufax (96.6), Hal Newhouser (96.0), Jim Bunning (96.0), Kevin Brown (95.9), Wes Ferrell (93.2), Amos Rusie (92.0), Rick Reuschel (91.9), and Dazzy Vance (90.2) all topped 90 wWAR. The one that sticks out here like a sore thumb is Koufax. Can you have any kind of Hall that doesn’t include Koufax? The peak was strong, but this type of small Hall is reserved for dominance and longevity. Sorry, Sandy.

Leaving the Hall: Keefe, Walsh, Ruffing, Palmer, Radbourn, Koufax, Newhouser, Bunning, Rusie, and Vance, along with Mordecai Brown, Ted Lyons, Joe McGinnity, Stan Coveleski, Don Sutton, Vic Willis, Early Wynn, Rube Waddell, Dennis Eckersley, Bob Lemon, Whitey Ford, Red Faber, Clark Griffith, Mickey Welch, Dizzy Dean, Pud Galvin, Lefty Gomez, Burleigh Grimes, Eppa Rixey, Waite Hoyt, Chief Bender, Herb Pennock, Addie Joss, Catfish Hunter, Jack Chesbro, Jesse Haines, and Rube Marquard. That, right there, is a metric ton of Hall of Fame pitching. For the record, Red Faber and everyone listed before him is in the Hall of wWAR.

This Hall would also lose all of its full time relievers (Rich Gossage, Hoyt Wilhelm, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers), though Gossage comes close at 100.6 wWAR.

* Denotes Not a Hall of Famer
** Denotes Banned from the Hall of Fame
*** Denotes Inducted as a Pioneer, Not as a Player

This new Hall of Fame would currently have just 86 players. If we opened it up to 100 wWAR guys, we would add twelve more: Buck Ewing, Jack Glasscock, Luke Appling, Tim Keefe, Jim O’Rourke, Jesse Burkett, Ed Walsh, Red Ruffing, Rich Gossage, Edgar Martinez, Brooks Robinson, and Jim Palmer.

Which active or retired-but-not-yet-eligible players reach the 105 wWAR threshold?

  • Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez (134.8), Mike Piazza (129.7)
  • First Base: Albert Pujols (174.2, already)
  • Second Base: none
  • Third Base: Chipper Jones (122.0)
  • Shortstop: Alex Rodriguez (189.2)
  • Left Field: Barry Bonds (341.2)
  • Center Field: Ken Griffey (133.0), Jim Edmonds (108.6)
  • Right Field: none
  • Designated Hitter: Frank Thomas (115.4)
  • Starting Pitcher: Roger Clemens (221.8), Greg Maddux (155.4), Randy Johnson (154.5), Pedro Martinez (124.6), Mike Mussina (109.5)
  • Relief Pitcher: Mariano Rivera (154.2)

A few guys are close (though some are retired): Curt Schilling (104.4), Derek Jeter (104.1, active), Jim Thome (102.3, active), Tom Glavine (101.4), Craig Biggio (98.1), Scott Rolen (97.1, active), and Roy Halladay (96.8, active).

Even though we’ve identified a very exclusive Hall of Fame here, there are still actually some players not in the Hall of Fame. Some are banned, but some are not. They are:

  • 1B Jeff Bagwell (132.6)*
  • 2B Ross Barnes (105.3)*
  • 3B/C Deacon White (107.1)*
  • SS Bill Dahlen (113.2)*
  • P/RF Bob Caruthers (120.8)*

We have four players who played at least 100 years ago… and Jeff Bagwell. Personally, I think these five players are the most egregious omissions from the Hall of Fame. My question for any Small Hall advocate is… would you put these guys in? If not, why the heck not?

So, Small Hall folks… what do you think of this? I think it looks pretty good. The biggest things I could see Small Hall advocates balking at are the omissions of Sandy Koufax and maybe Willie McCovey, Hank Greenberg, Harmon Killebrew, and Brooks Robinson while there are non-traditional additions like Jim Edmonds and perhaps Mike Mussina. Bert Blyleven, of course, remains a polarizing figure. I don’t like that John Montgomery Ward is bumped, but if he’s not in as a player, he’d be in as a pioneer.

I like a Hall of Fame that’s bigger than this. But if it’s going to be a Small Hall, I think wWAR does a pretty good job. What says you, Joe?

0 thoughts on “The Small Hall (of wWAR)”

  1. First, I’m flattered that anything I wrote could inspire someone as knowledgeable as Adam to dig deeper and provide our readers with more detail than I ever have.

    Second, a special note of gratitude to Adam for the delicate way he hinted at, but did not actually mention, my age. These small acts of kindness mean a lot to senior citizens like me!

    Third, Adam asks in his last paragraph: “What say you,Joe?” What I say is that it’s great. Like Adam, I’m disappointed that some of my favorites (McCovey, Killebrew) don’t make his 105 wWAR cut but the Hall shouldn’t be a popularity contest. On the other hand, I’m delighted to see that some of my favorites did so well, eg. Robin Roberts. And I’m puzzled that Blyleven, who I have scorned in past BBPP blogs, did so well. Maybe (probably) I don’t understand wWAR as fully as I should. In any event, Adam’s revised and restrictive list of HOF pitchers is a lot better than the current inducted bunch.

    Kudos to Adam for his outstanding work. I’ve got plenty of new fodder for posting about some great old names whose contributions to baseball have slowly faded among most save for the historians like us who still thrill to their achievements.

  2. Well, don’t you think there might evolve the need to separate the truly greats from the merely greats at some point? What would be wrong with skimming the cream of the hall and making an even more elite group that would honor the greatest of the game, while still being able to honor those whose contributions should also be recognized and immortalized but whose performance didn’t reach the same heights?
    We see all sports becoming more specialized and new roles emerging, why shouldn’t we also recognize and celebrate that handful of greatest of the great? We all know the distinction between Babe Ruth and Tommy McCarthy. Why don’t we finally figure out a way to acknowledge it without dishonoring anyone?
    At the same time, don’t you think that it might be reasonable to find a way to honor some of the historically great minor league players who for one reason or another either weren’t able to reach the big leagues for any length of time, or who were tied to teams and never got the opportunity, but whose performances are still an important part of the history of the game? Maybe a place of honor or remembrance with a small plaque with their name etched into it? After all, they too played the game as well.

  3. This is a great project. If we could blow up the Hall and start over I would favor making it more exclusive, as this post proposes. That being said, given the precedent, I think it would be unfair to raise standards now as small-Hall people advocate. But I love the idea of separating the greats from the good, and 105 wWAR seems like a great place to draw the line.
    You would have to make a few exceptions, like for Campanella, who would have likely reached the cut-off if not for his Negro League years and maybe for Larry Doby. Straight statistics will never (and probably should never) definitively decide these types of things, but this gives us a great guideline for determining the truly great Hall of Famers. Overall, this is one of my favorite BPP posts ever. Great read.

  4. Cool. That’s some fun stuff. Certainly too small a hall for my tastes as well, but fun to read about and to think about the Hall being like this.

  5. @Joe People much smarter than me have beaten the Blyleven thing to death, but the major point is… WAR absolutely loves the guy. Thanks for reading!

    @Dan As always, thanks for the support. Yeah, this is way too small for me. I’ve thought a lot about where my ideal cutoff for a smaller hall might be, and I think it’s more in the 90 wWAR/Tim Raines area.

    @Vinnie While it is flawed, wouldn’t “first ballot Hall of Famer” be a good distinction? I don’t know if we need separate areas of the Hall based on talent. We have a hard enough time figuring out the borderline of who’s in vs. who’s out. It would be even harder to determine who’s the greatest vs. who’s “just a HoFer”.

    @Alex Thanks for the kid words. Love your work on the site. The exceptions certainly need to be considered. There’s wartime. There’s also the big Negro League problem that still haunts the history of the game. Larry Doby actually doesn’t make the “regular” Hall of wWAR, but I would certainly call him a Hall of Famer. I don’t think he gets enough of a boost to be included in this type of “Small Hall”. Campanella, on the other hand, probably would, for me.

    @Bob B. Thanks for reading!

  6. @Vinnie While it is flawed, wouldn’t “first ballot Hall of Famer” be a good distinction?

    Then does that say about Hornsby, Foxx, Grove, DiMaggio and others who weren’t voted in on the first ballot? It seems that they might qualify for the greatest of the great, small hall. What do we do with exceptions like them?

    I don’t know if we need separate areas of the Hall based on talent. We have a hard enough time figuring out the borderline of who’s in vs. who’s out. It would be even harder to determine who’s the greatest vs. who’s “just a HoFer”.

    Agreed that it would, but if you were to take all the members in the hall and say ask everyone to vote on who they consider the top tier players of all time and then count the votes, I suspect you’d get a pretty good idea of who the best ever truly are. That might be a starting point. Say a non binding survey which you or someone might run by the average, knowledgeable baseball fan just to see the results of. I’ll bet you that you’d probably agree with just about every one of the picks. Even the percent of votes would give you a better clue as to the rankings, and starting with Ruth on down, like as not to be pretty accurate.
    Another thing I mentioned to some people whose opinion I greatly respect is the possibility of letting retired players, managers and coaches actually have a vote for the hall of famers. After all, who better to know just who the best are then the men who have the skills and talents themselves to have been part of the elite to have played at the major league level? Who better understand the actual game and the talent of their teammates and opponents? And, the fact that there are so many of them almost insures that their collective judgment would be less likely to be biased based on personalities or favorites, unlike so many of the writers, none of whom played the game at the big league level.

  7. A couple things…

    I really don’t want a tiered Hall of Fame. There’s already enough ambiguity about who is in vs. who is out. We’d have that for each and every tier.

    Next, the Veterans Committee has been far more susceptible to cronyism than the BBWAA. I think Vets are “too close” to objectively handle the BBWAA’s job.

  8. I really don’t want a tiered Hall of Fame. There’s already enough ambiguity about who is in vs. who is out. We’d have that for each and every tier.

    Very understandable, but as you suggest, breaking the hall down by WAR is doing the same thing and skewing it against the greats with shorter careers.

    Next, the Veterans Committee has been far more susceptible to cronyism than the BBWAA. I think Vets are “too close” to objectively handle the BBWAA’s job.

    Also a valid point, but that’s only because you have a handful of former players doing the voting as well as the fact that the choice of candidates is restricted before they even get to vote on them.
    By having a larger number of voters, you’ll round off the rough edges that as you point out in the past have led to questionable selections. At least that seems to be both a mitigating factor as well as allowing those most qualified to have an input.
    Then again, it really doesn’t matter, but sure is a lot of fun to speculate on.

  9. That’s a good point. If the Vets Committee has a few hundred members, we’d see much different results. In fact, I’d say if we had a large Vets Committee, the Hall might look a lot like the one above (very exclusive).

  10. They might surprise all of us. But the real gate is who are the ones who select who’s on the ballot? You can’t vote for someone who isn’t on the list. Can we say Richie Allen?

  11. What about Ichiro? He’s not going to hit 195 WAR but would you give the same dispensation for his Japanese League years as you do for Negro League years?

  12. Ichiro’s tough. He wouldn’t make this Hall because I don’t have WAR data. It’s the downside for just using big league metrics (as I opined regarding Campanella).

    Ichiro’s big league career alone puts him in the Hall of wWAR already, though.

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