Clash of the titans

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, this site was mentioned by Mike Lynch in an article at Seamheads.com on Friday. Back in August, Bobby Aguilera posted a roster of good ballplayers not in the Hall of Fame. I responded with an opposing lineup and suggested a one-game playoff. Lynch used the Lineup Analysis Tool on Baseball Musings to see who’d have the batting advantage.

Here’s what Lynch determined:

Aguilera’s Nine Womack’s Nine
Name POS AVG OBA SLG Name POS AVG OBA SLG
Tim Raines LF .294 .385 .425 Maury Wills SS .281 .330 .331
Edgar Martinez DH .312 .418 .515 Roberto Alomar 2B .300 .371 .443
Reggie Smith CF .287 .366 .489 Joe Jackson LF .356 .423 .517
Dick Allen 1B .292 .378 .534 Albert Belle DH .295 .369 .564
Dwight Evans RF .272 .370 .470 Dave Parker RF .290 .339 .471
Joe Torre C .297 .365 .452 Don Mattingly 1B .307 .358 .471
Bobby Grich 2B .266 .371 .424 Thurman Munson C .292 .346 .410
Ron Santo 3B .277 .362 .464 Pete Rose 3B .303 .375 .409
Bill Dahlen SS .272 .358 .382 Spottswood Poles* CF .327 .401 .405
Expected R/G 5.96 Expected R/G 5.63


Basically, Lynch found that perhaps I don’t know what I’m talking about, which really isn’t news (some of my friends have known this for years) though it still surprised me that my squad might not win a one-off battle. I conceded my guys had lesser career numbers, but I figured the talent level was higher, meaning more in the short term. That was kind of my point in doing this, to suggest that players like Bobby Grich, Reggie Smith, and Ron Santo aren’t necessarily the best guys not in Cooperstown simply because they spent more years in the majors and amassed better Wins Above Replacement ratings. Maybe I should give more thought to WAR and similar metrics.

Lynch did some tweaks and discovered I could gain an eighth of a run by batting Spottswood Poles in the lead-off spot, hitting Shoeless Joe Jackson second, and using Ted Simmons in place of Thurman Munson. I’m happy to have Poles lead off, and I’d substitute Cecil Travis for Maury Wills at short. I’m still reluctant to take Simmons over Munson, as I think Munson was better in his prime. His offensive averages aren’t much worse than Simmons, and Lynch noted that Munson was far better defensively. I also think Shoeless Joe would provide better slugging numbers in the modern era and be an excellent third hitter.

In the comment section for his post, Lynch said if I sent a full pitching staff, he’d set up a best-of-seven series on his computer. I provided a four-man rotation of Deacon Phillippe, Jack Morris, Dwight Gooden, and Eddie Cicotte, with Urban Shocker as an extra starter and long reliever. We’ll see where this goes. Regardless of how the series comes out, I may come out of this still not really knowing what I’m talking about. That’s fine– I’ve been wrong many times in life. Among the highlights:

  • I once insisted the Giants trade Tim Lincecum, right before he started winning Cy Youngs, for Alex Rios
  • I once predicted the 49ers would win the NFC West and then watched them go 2-14
  • Right before I graduated from Cal Poly, I passed on a chance to work a day behind the scenes at the Michael Jackson trial to go on a bike ride

Results of the great Hall of Fame poll

About six months ago, I posted a first-ever poll on this site. I offered a list of 29 great baseball players not in the Hall of Fame, and restricting visitors to one vote per IP address, I asked them to choose up to 10 players.

Six months on, I’m ready to close the poll and prepare a new feature to take its place. More on that later this week. For now, I thought it might be interesting to show the vote tallies.

In all, 68 visitors to my site participated in the poll. Were they the voting class for Cooperstown, Bert Blyleven would have his plaque, Pete Rose would have almost 70 percent of the vote, and another banned player, Joe Jackson would have better than 50 percent.

Which of these players belong in the Hall of Fame? (choose up to 10)
Selection
Roberto Alomar 39 votes
Bert Blyleven 53 votes
Will Clark 6 votes
Hal Chase 2 votes
Dom DiMaggio 11 votes
Steve Garvey 17 votes
Bobby Grich 6 votes
Stan Hack 7 votes
Gil Hodges 26 votes
Joe Jackson 39 votes
Bill Madlock 1 vote
Roger Maris 23 votes
Carl Mays 7 votes
Mark McGwire 23 votes
Thurman Munson 13 votes
Dale Murphy 17 votes
Don Newcombe 5 votes
Lefty O’Doul 9 votes
Tony Oliva 15 votes
Dave Parker 13 votes
Deacon Phillippe 1 vote
Pete Rose 46 votes
Ron Santo 38 votes
Urban Shocker 0 votes
Ted Simmons 24 votes
Riggs Stephenson 4 votes
Alan Trammell 23 votes
Lou Whitaker 15 votes
Maury Wills 9 votes
other 13 votes
68 voters
pollcode.com free polls

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A starting lineup of baseball players not in the Hall of Fame

I read a post on Seamheads.com that offered a lineup of ballplayers not in the Hall of Fame. It got me thinking, and I have compiled my own goon squad of non-inducted greats that I believe could run roughshod in a one-game playoff over the Seamheads 9.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting each player here is the best at his position who’s not in the Hall of Fame. This is strictly about creating the best possible team. I invite anyone to offer their own lineup.

Here’s my roster card:

1. SS – Maury Wills: He’s far from the best shortstop not in the Hall of Fame, but if we’re putting together a one-shot, winner-takes-all lineup, I could use Wills leading off. He’s a threat to steal every time on base and a Gold Glove fielder to boot.

2. 2B – Roberto Alomar: In his prime, Alomar regularly hit above .300, accumulated more than 200 hits, and was a stellar defensive second baseman. Had he not fallen off dramatically near the end of his career, he’d have been a first ballot Hall of Famer.

3. LF – Shoeless Joe Jackson: On sheer talent, Shoeless Joe may be the best baseball player not in the Hall of Fame. Because of his involvement in fixing the 1919 World Series, Jackson may never receive a plaque, though I’m happy to offer a lineup spot.

4. DH – Albert Belle: The only player boasting 50-home-run power on this team, Belle’s .933 career OPS is third-highest out of eligible players not in the Hall of Fame. The two players in front of Belle are Lefty O’Doul, who has less power and Mark McGwire, who recently admitted to using steroids.

5. RF – Dave Parker: A superb player whose Cooperstown candidacy suffered for well-documented drug problems, Parker is on my list of the 10 best players not in the Hall of Fame.

6. 1B – Don Mattingly: Were more power needed, I might go with Gil Hodges, and I was also tempted to tap my childhood hero, Will Clark, but I chose Donnie Baseball who offers the best combination of average, power, and defense.

7. C – Thurman Munson: I originally chose Joe Torre but saw he was the starting backstop for Seamheads, and I switched to Munson. The career of the iconic Yankees captain ended when he died in a plane crash at 32 in August 1979, though prior to that, he was one of the best catchers of the 1970s.

8. 3B – Pete Rose: The all-time hits leader could probably occupy most any spot in the batting order or field for this club and he’d be a valuable clubhouse presence as well. I should add that I believe Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame, Jackson too.

9. CF – Spottswood Poles: I’ve written before about Poles, described elsewhere as “the black Ty Cobb.” Most recently, I included Poles among a group of old-timers who deserve mass induction.

P – Jack Morris: He probably isn’t the best pitcher currently outside of the Hall of Fame (see: Bert Blyleven) but Morris owned Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. I give him the game ball hoping there’s another 10-inning, championship-winning masterpiece in him, if necessary.

RP – Sparky Lyle: I interviewed former ballplayer Ken Henderson in July, and he said Lyle and Steve Carlton were two of the toughest pitchers he faced. Lyle was a pioneering reliever, the second to win a Cy Young award. In 16 seasons from 1967-1982, he went 99-76 with a 2.88 ERA and 238 saves.

Manager – Billy Martin: What non-inducted manager could better handle this team’s star power than the Bronx Zoo skipper?

Related: The 10 Most Overrated Hall of Famers and The zero Hall of Fame votes dream line-up

How the Hall of Fame could honor players who also managed

There are many paths in baseball to the Hall of Fame. A man can be enshrined as a player, a manager, or an owner, among other things. Interestingly, though, candidates who both played and managed don’t have these achievements judged together. Were rules different, a few more men might have plaques.

Currently, a backlog exists of baseball figures who both played and managed well, but perhaps didn’t achieve enough in either arena to earn a plaque. My idea is a hybrid wing of the Hall of Fame, where men could be inducted on the strength of both their playing and managerial careers. It seems reasonable that a man be considered for the sum of his contributions to baseball. This could also help the Hall of Fame honor more managers, since just 25 have been enshrined.

Here are eight men who could be inducted this way:

Charlie Grimm: One of those names I once figured was already in Cooperstown– as a player or a manager. Grimm compiled 2,229 hits and a .290 lifetime batting average in 20 seasons and was a longtime first baseman for the Cubs. He became a player-manager for them near the end of his playing career and ultimately posted a managerial record of 1287-1067 with three National League pennants.

Steve O’Neill: O’Neill had a 17-year career as a catcher and then did his best work as a manager. In 14 years with four clubs, O’Neill was 1040-821 and led the Tigers to the 1945 World Series championship. An ad on O’Neill’s Baseball-Reference.com page says he and Joe McCarthy are the only two managers to never post a losing record.

Jimmy Dykes: Dykes went 1406-1541 managing six clubs and prior to this was a longtime player with 2,256 hits, a .280 lifetime batting average, and two All Star appearances, a memorable baseball character in either capacity.

Gil Hodges: Of the men listed here, the iconic Dodgers first baseman might come closest on playing merit alone, hitting 374 home runs, making eight All Star teams, and being one of the greatest defensive players at his position all-time. I’m including Hodges because when his Hall of Fame case is brought up, people tend to invariably mention him managing the 1969 World Series champion Mets. It’s what inspired this post.

Al Dark: Like Hodges, Dark won a World Series as both a player and a manager, hitting .293 with 20 home runs for the champion Giants in 1954 and leading the A’s to a title 20 years later. In all, Dark had 2,089 hits, a .289 lifetime average, and three All Star appearances as a player, and he went 994-954 as a manager.

Dusty Baker: Baker hit 242 home runs in 19 seasons and has followed with a 17-year managerial career, winning at least 88 games eight times and compiling a 1386-1266 record. He comes nowhere close to the Hall of Fame as a player, and I suspect when he is considered as a manager, two things will doom him: 1) He hasn’t won a World Series; 2) He supposedly wrecked some young pitchers. All of this is unfortunate, because it’s time Cooperstown celebrated a modern black manager.

Felipe Alou: Similar to Baker, Alou had a long, if essentially unspectacular playing career, finishing with 2,101 hits, 206 home runs, and a .286 batting average. Nearly two decades after he retired, Alou resurfaced as the sagacious manager of the Montreal Expos and spent 14 years as a skipper in the majors, going 1033-1021.

Jim Fregosi: Early in his career, Fregosi was among the best shortstops in baseball, making six All Star teams and winning a Gold Glove. His career went downhill after he was traded for Nolan Ryan in December 1971. Fregosi served mostly as a bench player his final seven seasons before retiring in 1978, finishing with 1,726 hits and a .265 career batting average. He later was 1028-1095 as a manager, with one World Series appearance.

Related: A compilation of Cooperstown posts

Is it time for the Hall of Fame to have another mass induction of Old Timers?

The National Baseball Hall of Fame held its first election in 1936, and the backlog of worthy players quickly became apparent. Although 40 future Hall of Famers received at least one vote for Cooperstown in 1936 from the Baseball Writers Association of America, just five were enshrined. Legends like Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker and Grover Cleveland Alexander needed multiple tries with the writers for a plaque. Earlier stars needed their own committee.

Between 1939 and 1949, 30 long-retired baseball greats were enshrined by an Old Timers Committee. Twenty-one of these inductions came in 1945 and 1946, nearly doubling the Hall of Fame in size. Early stars like Ed Delahanty, King Kelly, and others received their busts this way, and it may have seemed most Cooperstown-worthy players from 1920 and before were recognized.

More than 60 years later, another backlog is apparent.

The evolution of baseball research in recent decades along with the rise of Web sites like Baseball-Reference, Retrosheet, and Baseball Think Factory has made it easier to study and compare long-dead players who might otherwise be lost to history or only the most ardent baseball historians. There are dozens of notable baseball figures from 1920 or earlier who might merit induction to Cooperstown.

Here are eight men I would enshrine:

  1. Doc Adams: I emailed John Thorn for his picks, and he replied less than 30 minutes later with Adams and two other men he called “early giants,” Jim Creighton and William R. Wheaton. Adams is mentioned in Ken Burns’ Baseball (for which Thorn served as senior creative consultant) and was president of the New York Knickerbockers ball club from the 1840s to 1862. Adams helped devise the rules for the first official baseball game in 1846, pioneered the position of shortstop, and even sewed early balls himself.
  2. Pete Browning: Named the 2009 Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legend by the Society for American Baseball Research, Browning hit .341 in a career than spanned 1882 to 1894, leading the league in batting three times. One of my regular readers let me know that Browning also was the first player to use a Louisville Slugger bat.
  3. Ray Chapman: A serviceable Cleveland Indians shortstop for nine seasons, Chapman was just entering his prime at 29 when he was killed by a pitched ball in August 1920. His death led to the banning of the spitball pitch, which helped end the Deadball Era.
  4. Bill Dahlen: From 1891 to 1911, Dahlen was a mainstay at shortstop, accumulating 2,461 hits and a career Wins Above Replacement rating of 75.9, tops of any eligible, non-enshrined player.
  5. John Donaldson: In June, I chronicled this Negro League and semi-pro hurler who won 363 games between 1908 and 1940 and was later the first black scout in the majors.
  6. Shoeless Joe Jackson: He’s in the Hall of Merit, the Hitters Hall of Fame, and he far surpassed Cooperstown playing standards. I’ve said it before: Why not forgive Shoeless Joe? With his .356 career batting average, Jackson would’ve had a plaque decades ago had he not helped throw the 1919 World Series. He’s inspired literature, film, and remains a tragic figure. If there were a mass induction of Old Timers, Jackson might be the only name most fans would know or care about.
  7. Bobby Mathews: Bert Blyleven has nothing on this guy as an underrated hurler long denied Cooperstown. Mathews went 297-248 with a 2.86 ERA, playing from 1871 through 1887, his 4,956 career innings 15th most all time. I recently looked at the Hall of Fame candidacy of Blyleven who has a few more career innings and a lot more strikeouts than Mathews. But Mathews has the most wins of any eligible pitcher not in Cooperstown.
  8. Spottswood Poles: A reader told me of Poles, who’s been described elsewhere online as “the black Ty Cobb.” In the midst of his 15-year career, Poles earned a Purple Heart in World War I as a sergeant in the 369th Hell Fighters. My reader told me this unit “had the Germans running in fear, since the 369th had many ball players that could throw grenades twice as far as any German had ever seen.”

Beyond this, there are many other players at least worth mentioning here. Ten men appeared on the ballot for 2010 Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legend (side note: does anyone know who won?) Beyond Adams, Dahlen, and Mathews, the nominees were:

  • Ross Barnes
  • Bob Caruthers
  • Jack Glasscock
  • Tony Mullane
  • Harry Stovey
  • George Van Haltren
  • Deacon White

Browning, Caruthers, Dahlen, Glasscock and Jackson are in the Hall of Merit — the Baseball Think Factory-version of the Hall of Fame — but not Cooperstown. Others in this class include:

  • Cupid Childs
  • George Gore
  • Paul Hines
  • Home Run Johnson
  • Charley Jones
  • Sherry Magee
  • Hardy Richardson
  • Joe Start

Beyond this, here are a few names I found studying WAR rankings and batting similarity scores on Baseball-Reference:

  • George Burns
  • Lave Cross
  • Herman Long
  • Dave Orr

And here are six more players who don’t rate as high for career stats but each achieved some renown in their day for various reasons:

  • Babe Adams
  • Mike Donlin
  • Dummy Hoy
  • Duffy Lewis
  • Deacon Phillippe
  • Frank Schulte

I think it would be overkill to offer my opinion on all the players here though if anyone wants to take up the torch for any of these men or lobby for a ballplayer I didn’t mention, please feel free to add a comment or email me.

Who knows, maybe the Hall of Fame will take notice.

Related: A compilation of posts about Cooperstown and a link to my Tuesday feature, Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?

Point-counterpoint: Should the Hall of Fame cap membership?

I am pleased to present a first-ever point-counterpoint here. Joe Guzzardi, a regular Wednesday and Saturday contributor, proposes a cap on Hall of Fame membership. I have other views. Thus, we are each taking a side.

Pro


I have a proposal that makes the Baseball Hall of Fame annual voting more interesting and would make the Hall a truly select place reserved exclusively for the game’s greatest players.

Cap the Hall of Fame membership at a specific number—let’s say 300 players.

Once membership hits 300, the total becomes frozen by position. If there are 20 first basemen, then that’s the maximum.

When the upper limit of allowable players is met, every year the Baseball Writers’ Association of America votes to elect a player, another must be voted out, to make room for the new inductee.

Here’s the crux of my plan. If writers don’t agree on who exits, then no one enters Cooperstown! Thus the Hall remains only for the absolutely best players who ever took the field.

My variation also makes the annual selection process more interesting. Who gets in? Who goes out?

Earlier this week the Hall inducted Andre Dawson. Using my standards, for Dawson to be ratified, one outfielder must go. Maybe it would be the Cards’ Chick Hafey or perhaps the Cubs’ Billy Williams?

The debate surrounding the election becomes twice as intense since two questions would be considered.

As years pass, the players remaining among the 300 would be constantly upgraded. No matter how much time goes by, the BBWAA would never kick out Babe Ruth, Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle.

Obviously, under the current system, each player added makes the Hall less exclusive. What began in 1936 as an elite club with five members is now a watered down mishmash.

Currently mentioned as Hall candidates are Roberto Alomar, Mike Mussina, Fred McGriff and John Smoltz.

All are great. But if elected, fans would agree that they represent second tier players by comparison, not worthy of mention in the same breath as Ruth, Williams or Mantle.

Don’t worry about what will become of those who have to step aside.

Their plaques would move to a Cooperstown wing constructed to honor their baseball contributions with a notation of their years as “active” HOF members.

-Joe Guzzardi

___________________

Con


It’s true that less-than-stellar players occasionally make it into Cooperstown. Frankie Frisch helped enshrine former teammates like Chick Hafey, Jesse Haines and Ross Youngs when he was head of the Veterans Committee. For reasons that still defy logic more than 50 years later, the Baseball Writers Association of America chose to induct Rabbit Maranville in 1954 and pass on Joe DiMaggio, who needed another year to earn a Cooperstown plaque. And it seems a little odd to me that Travis Jackson and Babe Ruth have busts hanging in the same Hall of Fame.

It’s an interesting idea to consider capping membership and removing marginal Hall of Famers like Hafey, Jackson, and Maranville as space is needed for new, better members. But I’m against it. It doesn’t seem fair to the players removed, and beyond this, I ask: What’s wrong with having a large Hall of Fame?

One of the few advantages baseball still has over other major sports is its history, which goes back in competitive form to at least the 19th century. Cooperstown is a testament to that long and gloried life. Almost everything good about baseball is in the Hall of Fame.

Even as there are just over 200 players enshrined now, I don’t see anything wrong with eventually having a 1,000-player Hall of Fame if necessary, provided these men meet the subjective (and admittedly varying) standards for induction. A larger Hall of Fame will tell me baseball has that many more solid — if not great — players. I think that’s something to celebrate, not bemoan.

There’s also the human element to consider with any argument that proposes stripping old players of their honors and saying they were Hall of Famers only for a set time, even if they’re still in a token part of the museum. Being enshrined in Cooperstown may be the highlight of a man’s life. In his induction speech on July 25, former manager Whitey Herzog called making the Hall of Fame, “Like going to heaven before you die.”

What would it be like to get kicked out of heaven?

-Graham Womack

The zero Hall of Fame votes dream line-up

Every year, 20-30 baseball players make the Hall of Fame ballot. Generally, of these men, one or two will receive the necessary 75 percent of the votes needed for enshrinement, a handful of others will get lesser totals, and most will fall off the ballot with less than five percent of the vote. Without fail, there are usually at least a few eligible players who get no votes at all.

Most of these men don’t make it to Cooperstown for good reason, though former All Stars and Cy Young award winners sometimes are completely forgotten at Hall of Fame voting time. Here are a few men who laid zeros their only time on the Cooperstown ballot:

P – Mike Cuellar (1983): The passing of the four-time 20-game winner in April prompted me to write about one-and-done Hall of Fame candidates. Incidentally, Cuellar is not the only former Cy Young winner to receive zero Hall of Fame votes. Others in this class include John Denny, Steve Stone, and Pete Vuckovich.

C – Mickey Tettleton (2003): He hit more than 30 home runs four times and was twice an All Star, though he also struck out a lot and was a .241 lifetime hitter.

1B – Cecil Cooper (1993): A reader recently reminded me of Cooper who was a five-time All Star, two-time Gold Glove winner and two-time American League RBI champ. Overall, he had 2,192 hits with a .298 lifetime clip and hit above .300 seven straight seasons.

2B – Manny Trillo (1995): He made four All Star appearances, was a three-time Gold Glove-winner and surprisingly, nabbed two Silver Slugger awards as well.

3B – Bob Horner (1994): The No. 1 overall draft pick in 1978, Horner went directly to the majors and won Rookie of the Year. He later hit more than 30 home runs three times and put together a solid, if somewhat truncated ten-year career, wrapping up at 30 with 218 lifetime home runs. Horner may most be remembered for hitting four home runs in a game in 1986.

SS – Rick Burleson (1993): Burleson made four All Star teams, did well enough offensively to become a hitting coach for the Oakland A’s after retirement and shares the same name as an architect in the Seattle area.

OF – Amos Otis (1990): Otis was a perennial All Star and MVP vote recipient with the Kansas City Royals in the 1970s, retiring in 1984 with 2,020 hits, 193 home runs and 341 stolen bases.

OF – Andy Van Slyke (2001): Van Slyke won five straight Gold Gloves from 1988-1992 as center fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, twice finishing fourth in MVP voting in that span.

OF – Jim Wynn (1983): Though Wynn boasts just 1,665 lifetime hits and a .250 career batting average, the former longtime Astros center fielder may be among the most underrated players of all-time. His career Wins Above Replacement rating of 59.8 ranks better than first-ballot Hall of Famers like Kirby Puckett, Willie Stargell and Dave Winfield, among others.

All in all, the thought here is that this lineup would triumph in a grudge match against a team of overrated Hall of Famers.

I write frequently about Cooperstown-related matters and have a Tuesday feature, Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?

Why getting a lot of Hall of Fame votes matters

I logged into my Google Analytics account this morning and was surprised to see that I got a bunch of traffic yesterday from a Web site called Baseball Think Factory. David Pinto of Baseball Musings linked to my post from Saturday proposing a new Hall of Fame metric, so I expected some spike, but this was insane. I got over 200 unique visitors yesterday, a Baseball: Past and Present record (I don’t get a whole lot of traffic.) Over a hundred of these visitors came from Baseball Think Factory, which I’m guessing picked up on my post from David. I was less excited, though, when I saw discussion by the members. I didn’t know whether to cheer that I made the site or throw up at how I was received.

Basically, I got my ass handed to me in the forum. No one much cared for the metric I proposed, Hall of Fame +/- which takes the number of future Hall of Famers a ballplayer got more votes for Cooperstown than, subtracts the number of non-members who finished in front of them and divides by the number of years they were on the ballot. Some members didn’t read my post, instead remarking that I share the same last name as an excellent Motown singer (I like to tell people we’re related.) One person who did read my story (twice, he lamented) referred to it as TFA, Internet slang for That Fucking Article. A guy who said he skimmed my piece slammed it for not offering Hodges’ Hall of Fame credentials, which I previously did elsewhere and would’ve added to an already-long post.

He wrote:

Did you read the article? The guy makes no case for Hodges whatsoever other than he received a lot of HoF votes. He doesn’t mention the pennant winners, the all-star games, the MVP votes (which aren’t impressive), the best at his position or anything. He mentions his made-up stat. His argument for Hodges’ worthiness is essentially (although it’s not clear he understands this) “the writers almost elected him, therefore he’s the most deserving of the un-elected.” You’d have a hard time coming up with a less interesting take on who deserves to be in the HoF that isn’t there already.

Actually, that’s incorrect.

I looked at every Hall of Fame ballot from 1936 to 1980 this evening. Out of the 104 men who received at least 30% of the vote at least once from the Baseball Writers Association of America in those years, 97 are now in Cooperstown (the seven players who aren’t enshrined are: Phil Cavarretta, Gil Hodges, Marty Marion, Hank Gowdy, Allie Reynolds, Johnny Sain, and Maury Wills.) The honorees aren’t just guys who made the Hall of Fame in a walk. The writers inducted 61 men (some, like Duke Snider, past their 10th ballots), the Veterans Committee enshrined another 24, and an Old-Timers Committee tabbed the remaining dozen.

Basically, if a player gets at least 30% of the vote at any time he’s on the Hall of Fame ballot, there is a better than 95% chance he will eventually get a plaque. It may take a long time, like it did with Tony Lazzeri who was enshrined 35 years after the first time he cracked 30 percent of the BBWAA vote, but it’ll happen. The longer it takes for a guy to get enshrined, the more he rises in the Hall of Fame +/- rankings.

I stand by my “made-up stat.”

(Postscript: This post caused some discussion)

An open letter to Baseball-Reference and the statistical powers that be

To whom it may concern:

On the heels of a pair of great Baseball-Reference blog posts this past week ranking the best pitchers and position players not in the Hall of Fame based on their Wins Above Replacement data, I may have created a new baseball statistic and found another way to gauge worthiness for Cooperstown.

This statistic is called Hall of Fame +/- and it measures how many future Cooperstown members a ballplayer finished ahead of in Hall of Fame voting compared to how many fellow non-inductees got more votes than them, divided by the number of years they were on the ballot. As I’ll explain momentarily, it’s a great tool for discovering forgotten players. Also, it appears many recent Veterans Committee picks have positive Hall of Fame +/- ratios so my metric could be a good way for predicting future honorees. In fact, the old-guard players and managers of the committee could care less about modern sabermetrics like WAR, so this might predict more future picks.

Baseball-Reference helped with the creation. I recently learned it’s possible through the site to view the results of Hall of Fame voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America for every year dating back to the first vote in 1936. Looking at the results of the 1983 election for a post I did in April on one-and-done Hall of Fame candidates, I noticed Gil Hodges, whose Hall of Fame credentials I’ve looked at before, got more votes than six future Cooperstown members that year but wasn’t enshrined. In fact, Hodges exhausted his 15th and final year of BBWAA eligibility in 1983 and still doesn’t have a plaque.

For each year Hodges was on the ballot, he got more votes than an average of 9.67 men who were later enshrined. Only once, in his first year of eligibility, did anyone finish ahead of him in the voting who doesn’t have a Cooperstown plaque now. So, by taking the 145 times Hodges got more votes than a future Hall of Famer, subtracting the three non-members who beat him in 1969 and dividing by the 15 times Hodges was on the ballot, we get his Hall of Fame +/- of 9.47.

I wanted to see if this was an anomaly or the norm for the 32 other men besides Hodges who’ve gone the full 15 years and failed to make the Hall of Fame with the writers since the advent of modern voting procedures in the 1960s, men like Ron Santo, Roger Maris and Tommy John. Thus, I started going through the voting records and tabulating the Hall of Fame +/- for each player.

I didn’t look at all 32 others, but the ones I saw didn’t approach Hodges’ ratio. Maris, Santo, and John all have negative Hall of Fame +/- ratios– that is, the number of non-members who got more votes than them was higher than the number of future Hall of Famers they beat out. Bill Mazeroski never finished ahead of a future Hall of Famer in his 15 years on the ballot, though the Veterans Committee later enshrined him. Other committee picks like Jim Bunning and Red Schoendienst appear to have positive ratios at quick glance, though I haven’t calculated them yet, and I’m guessing the numbers are lower than Hodges’ ratio.

I dug through old ballots to find Hodges a peer. Some may argue it’s not a valid comparison, since the older the Hall of Fame voting year, the more time that’s transpired to allow a larger number of players to be honored by the writers and Veteran’s Committee. Old ballots also sometimes teemed with more than 100 players, including active stars and managers. That’s where the ratio comes in: It means little for a player to have finished better than 50 future Hall of Famers in 1938 if that many non-members finished in front of him. My stat rewards non-members who finished consistently better than other non-members.

Hodges doesn’t have the best Hall of Fame +/- ratio among all non-inducted players. I found three with better ratios: Lefty O’Doul with 13.8, and a pair of Deadball Era catchers, Hank Gowdy with 14.59 and Johnny Kling with 13.11. Hodges also doesn’t have the record for most future Hall of Famers beaten out on one ballot, even though he bested 13 in 1970. Gowdy, who I recently wrote belongs in a starting lineup of combat veterans, got more votes than 33 future members in 1956. Kling beat out 32 in 1937 and 31 the following year, while O’Doul, an amazing player a short time in my book, got more votes than 27 in 1960. Gowdy, Kling and O’Doul weren’t bested by any non-Hall of Famers those years, either.

I hadn’t heard of Kling prior to my research, and it illuminated others like Babe Adams, Duffy Lewis, and Bucky Walters. To me, that makes this stat valuable. If for no other reason, it could help honor forgotten players. With that said, there’s another reason I’d love to see this stat added to Baseball-Reference: All I’ve done this weekend, it seems, is pore over old Hall of Fame ballots.

Anyhow, with that, I’m out.

Yours truly,

Graham Womack

(Postscript: Not everyone liked this idea.)

Another day, another guest post: WAR and the Hall of Fame

After writing my first ever guest post on Wednesday evening, I wrote my second one less than 24 hours later. This time, I wrote something for Baseball In-Depth, examining a Baseball-Reference blog post that ranked the best pitchers and position players not in the Hall of Fame based on their WAR data.

Here is a link to my post:

http://www.baseballindepth.com/2010/05/guest-post-war-new-answer-in-baseball.html

Hope you all enjoy it.