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A Baseball Blog - Scientific and Speculative Thoughts from Third Base

Monday, January 30, 2012

Multi-Team Hall of Famers

So, Mike Piazza seems to think of himself as a Met. I always find these topics interesting; for Hall of Famers that split their time between two teams, which one do they get on their plaques? It’s hard to find these types of players, but I think that just makes it all the more interesting.

The two obvious ways to think about this; you can go by games played, or where they played better. There are other things you can consider; for example, maybe you give a team extra credit for developing a player. Grant Brisbee points out that you can go the other way, giving a team extra credit for spending their money on a guy. Then there are things like if they won a championship with a team, whether there was anything notable about their stint with a team, and so on. All of these would color what team we associate with a player, even before considering any personal biases we might have.

With that in mind, I want to try and figure out (a) who the future split-team Hall members will be and (b) what team they will go in with. I can’t guarantee that every player I name will make the Hall, though, no matter how deserving. I’ll try to keep my reasoning to players who at least have a legitimate Hall of Fame case; for the players not bound for Cooperstown, think of this more as a discussion of “What is their signature team?”.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More Fun with Retired Numbers

Continuing with my recent trivia craze, I decided to publish the Best Players Without a Retired Number on Sporcle. The quiz is exactly what it sounds like; going by bWAR, who are the best players who are yet to be honored by a team. The players are on the list for a variety of reasons, and this may be worth an in depth look later. The one requirement I imposed was that the players have to have worn a number during their careers. The numbers listed are those that a player wore in multiple seasons, in chronological order of when they first wore them. There may also be bonuses-happy searching!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fighting Tomorrow's Ignorance Now

This past Hall of Fame debate season, I noticed something sort of depressing. So many people dismissed highly qualified (or even over-qualified) players for Cooperstown based on things as small as “He didn’t feel like a Hall of Famer” or “I can’t remember thinking he was a Hall of Famer”.

This is really disappointing. First of all, people (especially the writers and voters) need to realize that the Hall is not nearly as exclusive as they seem to think. If you are an official voter, every player is worth at least a moment of reflection and a look at their Baseball-Reference page. You might be missing out on a player who would raise the Hall’s standards simply because they have a low “Gut Factor”. That’s just not the way to go about it. At least take the time to see if there’s a convincing case to be made. There are, what, thirty-some players per year? If you put a minimum two minutes into looking at each player, that’s an hour. I’d say a Hall ballot is worth at least an hour of your time, right? And it gives you an excuse to revisit memories, or at least get lost in Baseball-Reference. And if you still aren’t convinced, you can spread that time out. It’s not like we don’t already know who will be ballot next year, or the year after (or the year after that, or the year after that, or...).

However, I realize not everyone will follow this rule of thumb. So, I figured I’d do what I can to start combating misconceptions that will pop up when a player eventually reaches the ballot. Maybe if I start early enough, these ideas will work their way into the collective subconscious by then. Hey, if nothing else, it’s worth a shot.

So, I’ll start by trying to get ahead on next year’s ballot. Curt Schilling is coming up next year, and I’ve already seen people saying that he just doesn’t feel like a Hall of Famer. These people are wrong.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Yet More Trivia! Retired Numbers Edition

I published another Sporcle Quiz. For this one, you have to name one player that's worn each number that's been retired. Enjoy!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Potential Deal Reaction: Johnny Damon to Orioles

Apparently, the Orioles are looking at Johnny Damon. I've seen some mixed reactions to this, and, as an Orioles fan, I feel the need to defend it. Not because the front office is perfect or anything; just because it's not necessarily a bad move.

It's easy to compare this to the Vladimir Guerrero signing last year, which went rather poorly. I don't think that's quite fair, though. Last year, the corner spots were rather crowded:
1B: Derrek Lee/Mark Reynolds
3B: Mark Reynolds/Josh Bell
LF: Luke Scott/Nolan Reimold
(RF: Nick Markakis)
DH: Vladimir Guerrero/Luke Scott/Mark Reynolds

50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame Wrap-Up and Analysis

Well, it only took a month, but I finally wrapped up my explanations on my 50 Best Players Not in Cooperstown ballot. I thought I might want to add some thoughts, though. This will probably come out as a jumble of assorted ideas, but I would still like to share all of them. Oh well; it is what it is.

First, a position-by-position look at who I added to Cooperstown (going by primary position):

P: 10
C: 4
1B: 8 (although one of them is Pete Rose, who more so lacks a better position)
2B: 4
3B: 9
SS: 4
LF: 3
CF: 1
RF: 6
DH: 1

Part of my goal was to draw from the more underrepresented positions, which would be third base, catcher, and center field. Well, I definitely accomplished the third base one. Catcher, I did okay; the only other one I may have added was Gene Tenace, and even then, I don’t feel too terrible leaving him off.

Center Field looks disappointing. Reggie Smith might count as a center fielder under the Ernie Banks/Andre Dawson principle-he had his best seasons in center, and was just short of playing 50% of his games there (879 in right to 808 in center). Even then, that still just makes it 6 right fielders and 2 center fielders. What gives?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame Ballot Explanations, Part 5

Edit: Well, this is weird. Blogger seems to have deleted this post overnight. So, here it is again. Look for a wrap-up/look back on Friday.

Links to the rest of my ballot: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

The 2011 edition of the 50 Best Players Not in the Hall can be found here.


Round 4 of Additions
David Cone, Mets/Yankees/Royals/Red Sox/Blue Jays, P - Cone may not be a pitcher you think of as a Hall of Famer. Like Luis Tiant, though, if you take the time to look past your initial thoughts. His 57.5 bWAR puts him right in the borderline for the Hall. His 2668 strikeouts put him 22nd all-time, and his 121 ERA+ is solidly in the Hall of Fame range. His strong peak pushes him over the edge, though, in my mind. Going by weighted WAR (wWAR), which gives extra credit for all-star level seasons, Cone has 86.5 wWAR, which is right on par with Luis Tiant and above actual Hall pitchers Stan Coveleski, Don Sutton, Vic Willis, and Rube Waddell, among others. David Cone is not an inner circle member, but in a Hall with over 200 honorees, he definitely has his place.

Thurman Munson, Yankees, C
- Munson is another player I hadn’t thought of initially. However, the Hall is definitely short on catchers; sixteen catchers are in Cooperstown, and only thirteen of those have ever played in the Major Leagues. Factor in that some of them are questionable Veterans Committee choices, and it’s obvious that catcher rivals third base for most ignored position by Hall voters. I probably should have added more catchers to my ballot, to be honest.
As for Munson, He was an impressive hitter for a catcher. In eleven seasons, he had 1558 hits, a .292/.346/.410 batting line, and a 116 OPS+. In his shortened career, that was good for 43.4 bWAR and 44.4 fWAR. I have no problem giving players with artificially shortened careers some extra credit (although Kirby Puckett may be pushing it), but in Munson’s case, he was young enough at the end (just 32) and good enough that I think he makes it. It’s interesting to note that, despite his shortened career, he still makes the Hall of wWAR (with 90.1).

Rick Reuschel, Cubs/Pirates/Giants/Yankees, P
- According to Baseball-Reference, Rick Reuschel is the leader in WAR among pitchers eligible for Cooperstown, at 66.3. Adam Darowski does a better job of explaining why than I can, but the basic argument is that Reuschel did a great job of limiting runs when you consider that he played in front of bad defenses. Reuschel allowed just shy of 1500 runs in his career, while a replacement pitcher with his fielders would be expected to give up over 2100 runs based on the league’s offense at the time, Reuschel’s parks, etc. That’s a difference of over 600 runs, and with 10 runs equaling 1 win, that’s at least over 60 wins. Even more simply, he threw a lot of innings (3548.1 IP, 32nd since World War II, and there’s value in that) and was good at limiting runs (114 ERA+) despite pitching in front of a bad defense.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

BBA vs. BBWAA: Thoughts on the Hall of Fame Elections

As I mentioned the other day, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance elected only two players to the Hall of Fame, Barry Larkin and Jeff Bagwell (congratulations to Larkin on his deserving election, by the way). Both of them are worthy candidates, but I think it’s very easy to argue that they aren’t even close to being the only worthy players on the ballot. For example, Beyond the Boxscore elected seven players in their mock Hall of Fame ballot. Bill James’ readers elected only one (Edgar Martinez), but only because they had already elected five other players on this year’s ballot in past years. Personally, I thought this year had eight more than deserving players up for election.

In any case, I’ve seen some people suggest that maybe the BBA isn’t too good at this election thing either. After all, we only put in one more deserving candidate than the BBWAA; how is that mush better? And besides, even the people who got in were a little lagging in votes. Larkin only 84.25% of the vote, compared to 86.4% in the actual election, while highly deserving Bagwell just squeaked in at 78.77%. Well, I think the difference in the electorates is pretty obvious if you dig past the top of the voting. (And, even more, I really want an excuse to compare the two organizations' voting habits.)

First of all, let’s compare the results for each election

Player                      BBA%     BBWAA% Difference

Barry Larkin           84.25%     86.4%         -2.15
Jeff Bagwell           78.77%     56.0%          +22.77
Edgar Martinez      60.27%     36.5%          +23.77
Tim Raines            57.53%     48.7%          +8.83
Alan Trammell      44.52%     36.8%          +7.72
Mark McGwire     41.10%     19.5%          +21.6
Larry Walker        35.62%     22.9%          +12.72
Lee Smith             33.56%     50.6%          -17.04
Jack Morris           32.19%     66.7%          -34.51
Don Mattingly      29.45%     17.8%          +11.65
Rafael Palmerio    28.77%     12.6%          +16.17
Fred McGriff        28.08%     23.9%          +4.18
Dale Murphy        16.44%     14.5%          +1.94
Bernie Williams   11.64%      9.6%            +2.04
Juan Gonzalez      6.16%       4.0%            +2.16
Javy Lopez           2.74%       0.2%            +2.72
Brad Radke         2.05%        0.3%            +1.75
Tim Salmon         1.37%       0.9%            +0.47
Bill Mueller          0.68%      0.7%            -0.02
Phil Nevin            0.68%       0%              +0.68
Ruben Sierra        0.68%       0%              +0.68
Tony Womack     0.68%       0%              +0.68
Jeromy Burnitz     0.00%       0%              +0
Vinny Castilla      0.00%      1.0%             -1.0
Brian Jordan        0.00%       0%               +0
Terry Mulholland 0.00%      0%               +0
Eric Young          0.00%      0.2%            -0.2

No, that is not a typo. Almost every single candidate did better in the BBA election, in part because the BBWAA set a record low for fewest candidates per ballot. Yes, in a year with something like 6 to 8 deserving players, the BBWAA did it’s best to collectively ignore as many of them as possible. Or, another way, only six players did worse in the BBWAA voting, and three of those were within 1% of their BBWAA total anyway. The only substantial losers were Jack Morris (-34.51) and Lee Smith (-17.04), and even then, three players saw their votes shoot up by over than 20 (Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, and Mark McGwire) to more than compensate. The BBA seems to have done a better job at recognizing that this year’s ballot had multiple deserving players.

On top of that, I would argue that the BBA did a better job of recognizing said deserving players. Listed above is the BBA’s order, and I would say that the best players are clustered at the top. Larkin and Bagwell are at the head, followed by Martinez, one of the best hitters of all time; Tim Raines, who seems to be the new internet cause now that Bert Blyleven is elected; Alan Trammell; Mark McGwire; and Larry Walker. Those are all deserving candidates, in my mind. If you aren’t sure, both the Hall of wWAR and Hall of Merit, two groups that try and refill the Hall of Fame with the best players, agree that those seven all meet the standards of Cooperstown.

Now, look at the runners-up in the BBWAA polling. We have Jack Morris in second, followed by Bagwell, then Lee Smith, Raines, Trammell, Martinez, Fred McGriff, Walker, and finally McGwire all the way down in tenth. Plenty of ink, electron, and blood has already been spilled over Morris already, with the general consensus being that he was a good but overrated pitcher. David Schoenfield looked at Lee Smith’s case the other day and determined that he was rarely (if ever) the best closer in the league. And yet, those two finished second and fourth. You can’t tell me the BBA’s results aren’t an improvement over that.

And, in any case, we did elect two players, something the BBWAA couldn’t do (and something that will alleviate the upcoming massive influx of new names to the ballot). That shouldn’t be forgotten, even if it is small.

As a whole, even if the BBA voting wasn’t the most desirable outcome, I have a hard time seeing how it wasn’t vastly superior to the actual Hall of Fame election’s results.

Retired Numbers Poll

If you haven't noticed, I have a poll up asking what team I should cover next in the Retired Numbers Series. I'm reaching a point where I'm more or less indifferent to the teams remaining, so I don't see a problem in letting the readers have some input. This won't be the next team that I'll cover (as I already have that piece started), but the piece after that will likely start to draw from the winners.

Monday, January 9, 2012

50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame Ballot Explanations, Part 4

To see the early portions of my ballot: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


Round 2
Ross Barnes, Red Stockings (NA)/White Stockings/Reds/Red Stockings (NL), 2B/SS - Ross Barnes had a very short career; so short that, if he were to retire today, he actually wouldn’t make the ballot. He only played 9 seasons. In addition, he never played more than 78 games in a season. However, to say that the game was very different when Barnes played would be an understatement. Barnes played from 1871-1881 (taking 1878 and 1880 off), and only played in 499 games. The seasons were much shorter in the 1870s, though. For example, Teixeira also has nine seasons under his belt, but those nine seasons have equaled 1374 games. Rate stats do a better job of conveying just how dominant Barnes was; he had an OPS+ of 168. Also, despite his very short playing time, he managed to get 33.1 bWAR and 30.0 fWAR.

Buddy Bell, Indians/Rangers/Reds/Astros, 3B - You know that group of four deserving third basemen I mentioned in Part 2? The one with Sal Bando, Darrell Evans, Graig Nettles, and one mystery person in that got added in my second round of additions? Well, Buddy Bell should probably get added to that group; for some reason, I didn’t automatically think of him as a Hall of Famer, but he compares to that quartet quite well. Like the others, he was very well-rounded at a difficult position; the difference is that more of Bell’s value came from his glove. Both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference put him at over 17.5 wins through his fielding alone. That makes up for his .279/.341/.406 line and 109 OPS+ (lower than the other four mentioned third basemen). Overall, Fangraphs has him at 66.6 WAR, while B-R puts him at 60.8, both of which put him in good standing (for reference, both figures but him on the same level as first-ballot pick Dave Winfield).

Ken Boyer, Cardinals/Mets/Dodgers/White Sox, 3B - Ken Boyer was actually the last member of the quartet I had in mind. I scrutinized him a little more, as he came up on the Veteran’s Committee ballot this year. However, I determined that third base is underrated enough and all five third basemen mentioned so far are good enough that all of them could be added to the Hall while raising it’s standards. Again, Boyer was a third baseman in the “do everything well” vein, posting a 116 OPS+ while saving over 70 runs (worth over 7 wins) with his glove. The difference is that most of Boyer’s value came over a shorter peak rather than a long, spread out career. He played for roughly 15 seasons, so his 58.4 bWAR and 63.3 fWAR look underwhelming. However, going by weighted WAR (wWAR), which gives extra credit for stronger peaks, Boyer comes in with a solid 87.0, equal with Ozzie Smith and better than Hall members like Harmon Killebrew, Jimmy Collins, and Willie Stargell.

Eddie Cicotte, White Sox/Red Sox/Tigers, P - It’s actually kind of easy to make a case for Cicotte. In fourteen seasons, he had a 209-148 record, a 2.38 ERA, a 123 ERA+, 3226 innings pitched, 49.7 bWAR, etc. He’s not in because he was one of those meddling Black Sox. I’ve made my case on Shoeless Joe, and that applies here as well: at the very least, Cicotte’s been dead since before the 1970s, and the Hall is losing more at this point keeping him out than he is by being kept out.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Retired Numbers Series: Cleveland Indians

While looking for the next team to cover in the Retired Numbers Series, I noticed something interesting about the Indians. The team has six retired numbers. Among the sixteen original teams (the eight AL and eight NL teams around in 1901), only four teams have six or fewer retired numbers. And the other three (the Orioles, Twins, and Athletics) all spent significant portions of their history in other cities.

Is this low number for the Indians the result of higher standards, a lack of good candidates, or something else? And does it look like they’ll add to this total any time soon?


Notes on the Numbers
Some quick notes on the stats: the two most prominent stats I used are similarly named. Both are called WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. They both try to account for every part of a player’s game, including, but not limited to: offense, defense, position, and playing time. So, it is a counting stat, like hits or home runs (with the small difference that bad seasons can actually decrease your WAR, if you are worse than a replacement player). WAR credits a player with how many wins they have provided to their team. They aren’t perfect, but for my purposes (a single number showing roughly how good a player has been), they work perfectly.

There are two major sites that provide WAR, Baseball-Reference (henceforth called bWAR) and Fangraphs (fWAR). The two are mostly the same, with the biggest difference coming from the different fielding stats the two use. Fangraphs has a fairly good summary of what makes up WAR and how it is calculated (for those wanting a more general summary, the introduction works just fine). Pitching is slightly different: Fangraphs’ WAR for pitchers only goes back to 1974, so for my purposes, I stuck to just bWAR for them.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hall of Fame Results Are In!

No, not the official results; those are next Monday. The Baseball Bloggers Alliance announced the results of their Hall of Fame elections. This year, Jeff Bagwell and Barry Larkin made the 75% cutoff, receiving 78.77% and 84.25%, respectively.

Seeing as I picked eight candidates as worthy of being elected, I would have liked to see more candidates make it (Edgar Martinez was next closest, at 60.27%). However, it's better than the BBWAA will do, I can almost guarantee. Also, the results of the BBA elections correspond much better to who is worthy of induction; the 3 through 7 spots all made my ballot, while I bet Jack Morris and Lee Smith finish in the top 5 of the BBWAA elections.

Monday, January 2, 2012

BBA Hall of Fame Elections

One of the elections the Baseball Bloggers Alliance does every year is a Hall of Fame election. Seeing as I’m a huge Hall of Fame buff, I could not wait for this year’s election. However, I think I may have tipped my hand with regards to my ballot. So, this will be more of a wrap up/final thoughts style piece.

I used all ten slots on my Hall ballot this year. I voted for:


Jeff Bagwell
I find most of the arguments for keeping Bagwell out of the Hall ridiculous. I think the baseless steroid accusations are unfair, but those have been covered enough. The ones I’ve truly found bafflingly (as they started to show up, as of late), are the ones where people don’t think Bagwell measures up statistically. Those arguments border on insane. Yes, Bagwell fell just short with 449 home runs, but that’s while a) missing something like 80 games in his prime due to labor disputes, and b) playing a majority of his career in the Astrodome, which ate home runs for breakfast. What about the fact that Bagwell also had 488 doubles? Or 202 steals? Or a .297/.408/.540 batting line? Or that he’s 34th all-time with a 149 career OPS+? Or that he’s seventh all-time among first basemen in WAR, as per Fangraphs, with 83.9 (behind Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Pete Rose, Albert Pujols, and a pair of 19th century stars)? Trying to say his numbers aren’t that of a Hall of Famer is just flat out wrong.

Barry Larkin
Larkin still looks like the only candidate that will make it in this year. I was hoping that he and Bagwell would both go in this year-it would help clear out the ballot a bit before next year’s flood of candidates, and it would be nice to have a Hall class with two one-team players. It doesn’t look likely now, though.

Edgar Martinez
Edgar has attracted a majority of the stupid opinions among the non-Bagwell players on this year’s ballots, I feel like. The Designated Hitter is, in fact, a position, contrary to what some writers may try and argue. You cannot disqualify Edgar based on that. And then, there are the writers that will acknowledge the DH, but argue that you have to be “something special” to make it to Cooperstown. Well, Edgar was most certainly a special hitter; he finished with a career OPS of .933. That puts him 32nd all-time, above players like Hank Aaron (.929), Frank Robinson (.926), Willie McCovey (.889), Harmon Killebrew (.884), and so on. Going by OPS+, that made Edgar 47% better than a league-average hitter. That puts him tied for 40th with Willie McCovey, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, and Jim Thome, and puts him ahead of players like Reggie Jackson (139), Chuck Klein (137), Billy Williams (133), Eddie Murray (129)...and those are just corner fielders known for their hitting. Basically, even if you think a DH had to be one of the forty or fifty best hitters in all of baseball history to make the Hall of Fame, Edgar Martinez still makes that cut-off.

Fred McGriff
McGriff is one of two players to not make my 50 Best list but make my Hall ballot. Really, I don’t see a reason to not vote for ten players (the maximum). If it were an unlimited amount, I would probably cap myself at the other eight that did make my list, but since I have fewer than ten picks this year (unlike last year), I have no problems giving votes to players who, in my opinion, just miss the cut-off. It’s almost certainly not enough to accidentally elect a player, and it keeps a player on the ballot for discussion for a few extra years. Besides, this is the last year that I’ll have spare votes for the foreseeable future, so I might as well use them.
 
Mark McGwire 
I’ve already gone into my thoughts on steroids, so I won’t hit them again. If you haven’t seen them, though, go here.

Dale Murphy
Like McGriff, I think Murphy falls onto the lower end of the borderline for the Hall of Fame, so I’ll vote for him while I have the free space. I won’t actively campaign for either of them, but I won’t mind if they get in (although I doubt either of them ever will).

Rafael Palmeiro

Tim Raines

Alan Trammell

Larry Walker
I sort of ran out of additional thoughts to add on about these last four players. Oh well.

Happy 2012!

Well, 2011 went better than I expected. When I started Hot Corner Harbor back in June, I didn't really have any expectations other than to continue writing. Well, here I am, six months and nearly 4,000 hits later. Thank you to everyone who reads this.

Now then, in honor of my six months writing, the top six articles of the year (and yes, there was a three-way tie for second):

1. A Post in Which I Try and Emulate Ken Tremendous
2. 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame Ballot Explanations, Part 1
2. Pitchers, the MVP, and the Hank Aaron Award
2. Comparison: Ken Griffey, Jr. vs. Chipper Jones
5. Are the Cardinals Worthy Champions?
6. Should Justin Verlander Win the AL MVP?

Happy 2012 everybody!