Archive for History

Josh Donaldson’s Last Four Seasons, In Context

If you come to this site, or are something more than just a casual baseball fan, you likely know that Josh Donaldson is pretty great at this whole baseball thing. With four straight top-10 American League Most Valuable Player Award finishes, and one actual MVP Award in his trophy case, this should seem pretty straightforward. And yet, relative to how good he is, I feel he’s still a little underappreciated. So in that spirit, I wanted to dig in a little on just how good he is. The answer is that he’s been historically great.

Let’s start, as we often do, with a table.

WAR Leaders, Ages 27-30, 1871-2016
Rank Name Years Hit Pit Tot
1 Ted Williams 1946-1949 40.6 40.6
2 Babe Ruth 1922-1925 37.5 37.5
3 Stan Musial 1948-1951 35.4 35.4
4 Carl Yastrzemski 1967-1970 35.0 35.0
5 Rogers Hornsby 1923-1926 35.0 35.0
6 Ty Cobb 1914-1917 34.4 34.4
7 Pete Alexander 1914-1917 0.9 33.3 34.2
8 Wade Boggs 1985-1988 34.1 34.1
9 Lou Gehrig 1930-1933 34.0 34.0
10 Pedro Martinez 1999-2002 -0.1 33.9 33.8
11 Willie Mays 1958-1961 33.8 33.8
12 Barry Bonds 1992-1995 33.8 33.8
13 Walter Johnson 1915-1918 3.3 30.3 33.6
14 Christy Mathewson 1908-1911 1.6 32.0 33.6
15 Guy Hecker 1883-1886 7.5 25.8 33.3
16 Sandy Koufax 1963-1966 -1.0 34.3 33.3
17 Honus Wagner 1901-1904 32.4 0.1 32.5
18 Joe Morgan 1971-1974 32.2 32.2
19 Hank Aaron 1961-1964 32.2 32.2
20 Albert Pujols 2007-2010 31.7 31.7
21 Chase Utley 2006-2009 31.3 31.3
22 Mike Schmidt 1977-1980 31.1 31.1
23 Charley Radbourn 1882-1885 3.7 27.4 31.1
24 Greg Maddux 1993-1996 0.1 30.7 30.8
25 Josh Donaldson 2013-2016 30.5 30.5
26 Mickey Mantle 1959-1962 29.9 29.9
27 Ed Walsh 1908-1911 1.1 28.6 29.7
28 Ernie Banks 1958-1961 29.5 29.5
29 Eddie Collins 1914-1917 29.3 29.3
30 Fergie Jenkins 1970-1973 1.1 28.1 29.2

Donaldson didn’t become a regular in the majors until his age-27 season. That was back in 2013, four seasons ago. Since then, he has been one of the best players of all-time for his age. Look at him right there, nestled between Greg Maddux and Mickey Mantle. What?

Before we get to the players who appear on this table, though, let me give you a quick sampling of the players who aren’t on it: Jeff Bagwell, Miguel Cabrera, Steve Carlton, Lefty Grove, Eddie Mathews, Mike Piazza, Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, Tom Seaver, Duke Snider, Tris Speaker, and Cy Young, just to name a few. When was the last time you thought of Donaldson as superior to A-Rod? Obviously, I’m not saying that Donaldson’s career is better. In the time he’s been a regular, however, he been nearly as good as possible.

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Omar Vizquel and the Worst Hitters in the Hall of Fame

While perhaps not universally accepted, it is generally acknowledged that Ozzie Smith is the greatest defensive player of all time. With 13 Gold Gloves at the most important defensive position that doesn’t require extra equipment, his ability to generate outs was second to none. Back when we had few defensive stats, eight times Smith led the league in assists and still has the record among shortstops with more than 8,000 in his career.

Omar Vizquel was not quite Ozzie Smith as a fielder. He did receive 11 Gold Gloves. He also played in 200 more games at shortstop than Smith, which is the record, and he’s third all-time in assists by a shortstop — around 700 behind Ozzie. Vizquel comes up on the Hall of Fame ballot a year from now, and he’s likely to be regarded as nearly, but quite, Smith’s equal as a defender.

Being nearly as good as Ozzie Smith might be enough to get Vizquel in the Hall of Fame, given just how good Smith was, but there are considerable questions regarding Vizquel’s bat.

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Scott Rolen, Ron Santo and the Third-Base Myth

In one way, Mike Schmidt is the prototypical third baseman: he was a great hitter and provided excellent defense. In another way, though, he isn’t: a prototype is a model on which subsequent reproductions are based. But no other third basemen has ever reproduced Schmidt’s accomplishments. He’s the best third baseman ever.

There’s a view that’s prevailed for some time to the effect that third basemen are just like first basemen except slightly more mobile. This was never really the case, though — and, on offense, third basemen now have a lot more in common with second basemen than their counterparts on the other corner of the diamond. This view likely cost Ron Santo the chances to enter the Hall of Fame by way of the writers’ ballot and, ultimately, prevented him from living to see his own induction.

A very similar player, Scott Rolen, will appear on the ballot for the first time in 2017. Based on the value he provided both on offense and on defense, Rolen deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Here are some mostly mainstream stats, with a few other metrics worked in, comparing Santo and Rolen:

Scott Rolen and Ron Santo
Name PA HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR Gold Gloves All-Star Games Highest MVP Finish
Scott Rolen 8518 316 .281 .364 .490 .368 122 70.1 8 7 4
9397 342 .277 .362 .464 .367 126 70.9 5 9 4

That’s pretty darn close across the board. Rolen’s capacity for doubles resulted in a much higher slugging percentage. Because he played in an era defined by greater run-scoring, though, he sits slightly behind Santo in wRC+. Rolen closes the gap with superior defensive numbers, however — only Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt have more Gold Gloves than Rolen at third base, if you’re into that sort of thing — to end up with nearly identical WAR numbers.

Individual comparisons often make for a poor method for evaluating a potential Hall of Famer’s case. Going to the lowest common denominator will inevitably end up lowering standards for the Hall of Fame. (Consider what would happen if comparing every outfielder to Jim Rice, every first baseman to Orlando Cepeda, every second baseman to Red Schoendienst, etc.) That said, comparing a candidate to a clearly deserving member of the Hall can provide solid insight.

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Projecting the Hall of Fame Through 2022

Back in 1947, nine players received at least 50% of the Hall of Fame vote. That’s the last time so many players have appeared on at least half the voters’ ballots. Until this year, that is. Three players were elected this time around (Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez.) Another six received more than 50% of the vote.

Generally speaking, breaking the 50% mark is a pretty good indication that a player is going to make it at some point. Jack Morris didn’t make it, Lee Smith barely got over 50% one year and now he’s been removed from the ballot. Gil Hodges never made it. But they’re in the definite minority.

So how does the future look for the six candidates who crossed the 50% threshold but failed to reach the 75% mark? And what about players who’ll become eligible in the near future? Trying to predict the fate of those holdovers three, four, five years from now presents challenges, but we can see who will have a shot. Below, I’ve attempted to do just that.

Names of candidates through 2021 from Baseball-Reference.



For a more detailed look at next year’s ballot, check out my piece on it here, but the list below contains the notable new players.

2018 Hall of Fame Ballot Newcomers
Chipper Jones 62 84.6 73.3 57.3 52.6 71.9 75.3 65.8 55.1
46 68.9 57.5 59.1 57.0 66.3 57.1 57.2 54.2
53 70.1 61.6 57.3 52.6 71.9 75.3 56.8 55.1
Andruw Jones 53 67.1 60.1 64.6 49.2 92.1 77.1 54.6 57.8
Johan Santana 30 45.4 37.7 52.9 48.2 66.9 63.3 48.1 62.1
Johnny Damon 19 44.5 31.8 64.6 49.2 92.1 77.1 44.4 57.8
Omar Vizquel 16 42.6 29.3 55.0 52.5 62.0 57.8 36 54.8
Those above the median Hall of Famer at their position are highlighted in blue.

First-ballot no-doubters: Chipper Jones.

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In Defense of Andruw Jones’ Hall of Fame Credentials

We tend to form memories poorly. In middle school, my band teacher was fond of telling us that if you only played two parts of the song correctly, to make it the beginning and the end, because most people wouldn’t remember anything else.

So it may be with Andruw Jones. If you pressed most people on what they remember most about Jones, there’s a decent chance that they’d recall him as the 19-year-old who homered twice in the 1996 World Series and also as a really fat guy who was terrible in his 30s. In between those two endpoints, though, he had a Hall of Fame career.

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A Look Ahead to Next Year’s Hall of Fame Ballot

While fully acknowledging the honor bestowed upon Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez yesterday evening by the voters, it’s also never too early to begin looking ahead to next year’s Hall of Fame ballot. The three who gained election this time around were certainly deserving — and will receive due recognition this summer in Cooperstown. That said, there were a lot of players worthy of the Hall who failed to earn the requisite 75% for entry — and those players will be joined by even more great players seeking induction on the next ballot.

During the eight-year period from 2006 to 2013, the writers selected just 10 players for enshrinement. Over the last four years, however, 12 players have been elected, suggesting that the voters have changed their standards a bit to compensate for a stingier time.

Unfortunately, the increase has done little to clear the backlog of worthy players. Consider: of the 12 players inducted over the last four years, eight of them were elected on their first ballot. So, while it’s nice to know that certain deserving players have been given due recognition, there actually hasn’t been as much activity as one might suspect to benefit the other players worthy of Cooperstown. The last four years have seen Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, and now Lee Smith age off the ballot, but the numbers of players who’ve exited from the ballot doesn’t compensate for the appearance of new qualified candidates.

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Vladimir Guerrero and Quantifying Pitcher Fear

Whenever conventional wisdom and the numbers — or whatever conclusion I have drawn from the numbers — differ, I’m left wondering why such a difference exists. Many times there’s a good reason; other times, the reasons make less sense. One situation where my conclusions appear to differ from conventional wisdom comes in the form of Vladimir Guerrero and his case for the Hall of Fame. When recently considering Guerrero’s statistical credentials for the Hall, he seemed to fall short of the voting standards for most recent candidates who gained induction. At the same time, his name currently appears on 75% of this year’s ballots according to Ryan Thibodaux’s tracker. So what gives?

The easy answer is that voters — due to Guerrero’s brilliance and flair at the plate — are willing either to minimize or forgive entirely Guerrero’s defense and baserunning, as well as the fact that his last above-average season occurred at age-33. They aren’t necessarily wrong, as he certainly has a case by virtue of his peak and career WAR numbers. He also recorded a very good .318 career batting average and an MVP award. Plus, from 1997 to 2006, his 114 assists topped all outfielders, with his great arm obscuring his lack of range and errors, in which category (errors) he also topped MLB during that time. That’s probably the most reasonable explanation for why I concluded he was just below the cusp for the Hall of Fame — certainly worthy of consideration, but not a certain Hall of Famer like the voters appear close to making him.

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Active Starting Pitchers Have Virtually No Shot at Hall*

*Unless current standards are changed.

Making the Hall of Fame as a starting pitcher has never been harder than it is right now. Consider that in the last 25 years, only 11 starting pitchers have been elected to the Hall of Fame by the writers. During that same time period, four relievers have been elected, not including John Smoltz, and the pitcher closest to gaining election at the moment is Trevor Hoffman, also a reliever. We will get into active pitchers who have a shot at the Hall of Fame below, just like we looked at position players, but first let’s look at the nearly impossible standard Hall of Fame voters have created.

Over the last 25 years, back to 1992, here are the 11 starting pitchers who have been enshrined along with their WAR, Hall of Fame Rating, and their ranking among pitchers for said rating. You can read more about HOF Rating here. In essence, however, it represents an attempt to summarize a player’s Hall of Fame credentials by accounting both for peak and career.

Hall of Fame Starting Pitchers Elected Since 1992
WAR HOF Points HOF Rating HOF Rating Rank
Randy Johnson 110.6 99 104.8 4
Greg Maddux 116.7 90 103.4 5
Bert Blyleven 102.9 76 89.5 6
Nolan Ryan 106.7 68 87.4 7
Steve Carlton 96.5 75 85.8 9
Tom Seaver 92.4 69 80.7 13
Pedro Martinez 84.3 72 78.2 14
Don Sutton 85.5 42 63.8 23
John Smoltz 79.6 47 63.3 24
Phil Niekro 78.1 44 61.1 26
Tom Glavine 66.9 30 48.5 46

Tom Glavine is the “worst” pitcher included here — if that’s an appropriate term to use — and he compiled more than 300 wins. His ERA was a bit lower than his FIP so by Jay Jaffe’s JAWS, which uses bWAR, Glavine ranks 30th among starters. There’s a pretty good argument that, over the last 25 years, a pitcher would have had to produce one of the 30 best careers ever in order to gain induction to the Hall. There are 67 starting pitchers currently in the Hall of Fame. The writers have long had tougher standards, but the next list shows the pitchers who were elected in the 25 years before 1992.

Hall of Fame Starting Pitchers Elected 1967-1991
WAR HOF Points HOF Rating HOF Rating Rank
Gaylord Perry 100.1 65 82.6 12
Bob Gibson 82.3 67 74.7 15
Fergie Jenkins 80.1 61 70.6 18
Robin Roberts 74.7 51 62.9 25
Warren Spahn 74.8 42 58.4 29
Juan Marichal 61.2 42 51.6 39
Sandy Koufax 54.5 46 50.3 42
Don Drysdale 59.3 37 48.2 47
Jim Palmer 56.6 33 44.8 54
Whitey Ford 54.9 28 41.5 74
Early Wynn 58.6 24 41.3 75
Red Ruffing 56.1 19 37.6 100
Catfish Hunter 37.2 15 26.1 199
Bob Lemon 32.3 15 23.7 249

We have some truly great pitchers on this list. Koufax ranks a little lower here than one might place him if composing a more subjective list of greatest pitchers of all time — probably due to the way his career ended. Jim Palmer did sport a lower ERA than FIP, though how much Brooks Robinson had to do with that might be up for debate. Gaylord Perry pitched forever using (ahem) unique methods to keep pitching at a high level.

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Looking for Active Hall-of-Fame Position Players

Much like the run-up to Christmas or perhaps the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, the Hall of Fame season seems to get longer and longer. Thanks to Ryan Thibidaux we have more data regarding how writers are voting and who might gain induction. Thanks to the revamping of the Veteran’s Committee, in the form of the Eras Committee, we’re able to begin debates over which overlooked players might be worthy of consideration. Also, the Hall of Fame has moved back the announcement of voting results by two weeks from last year, when Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were received entry into the Hall of Famers. While early January might be more accurately considered the “leftover free-agent-market portion” of the baseball calendar, examining the cases of future Hall of Famers seems like a slightly more uplifting task. So, as part of this year’s Hall of Fame season, here’s a piece on active position players and what’s required of them to earn consideration for enshrinement when they become eligible.

First, a note: I’m not the first person to engage in this sort of exercise. Mike Petriello has now performed it two years running and Jay Jaffe took a brief look in the middle of last year, as well. In order to add some value to the conversation, we’ll take a look, using a WAR framework, at what exactly some of these players need to accomplish to establish their credentials for the Hall.

In each of the tables below, I’ve included every player’s HOF Ratings — about which metric one can read more here — and the median HOF Rating at the relevant position both for (a) all Hall of Famers regardless of how they got into the Hall of Fame and (b) Hall of Famers elected by the writers (denoted as BBWAA Median), who have had a tougher standard. Given the lapse in election by means of the Veterans (now Eras) Committee, it might be best to look more closely at the writer’s number in terms of likelihood of election. The last column shows an example of what the player likely needs to do to be a Hall of Famer or at least get in the discussion, where noted.

First, the guys who seem very likely to make the Hall of Fame.

Future Hall of Famers
2017 Age Points WAR HOF RATING HOF Median BBWAA Median Example of Work to Be Done
Albert Pujols 37 87 91.2 89.1 57.0 57.1 Nothing.
Adrian Beltre 38 53 81.3 67.2 52.6 75.3 Probably nothing, but two 4-WAR seasons would exceed Chipper Jones.
Miguel Cabrera 34 52 67.9 60.0 57.0 57.1 Nothing.
Ichiro Suzuki 43 40 58.2 49.1 51.5 71.8 Probably nothing given prior MLB experience and 3,000 hits.

Albert Pujols is an easy choice. Miguel Cabrera has already exceeded the standards for first basemen in the Hall, and with a few more good seasons will be better than Jeff Bagwell both by the advanced metrics and the traditional numbers. Ichiro presents a unique case given his late debut, but it’s difficult to see voters keeping him out with his considerable accomplishments. Adrian Beltre should be a no-brainer, but the writers have been particularly stingy when it comes to third baseman. Ron Santo couldn’t make it in on the writer’s ballots, for example, despite a strong resume. Although, to be fair, there haven’t been too many other third baseman who have had great cases. Chipper Jones has one for next year, Scott Rolen has a better case than one might think, and Beltre will have a great case in another half-dozen years or so.

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If You Vote for Vlad, You Have to Vote for Walker

If you’re an avid FanGraphs reader, you might remember a piece I wrote January in which I wondered whether Vladimir Guerrero had the credentials of a Hall of Famer. The verdict? He does. As an inductee, he wouldn’t have the most impressive resume in the Hall, but he’d belong — and, according to the first 44 ballots collected by Ryan Thibodaux by way of his BBHOF Tracker, it appears as though the voters agree:

2017 Hall of Fame Ballot, Vote %
Player Vote%
Jeff Bagwell 89%
Tim Raines 87%
Ivan Rodriguez 81%
Vladimir Guerrero 74%
Trevor Hoffman 74%
Barry Bonds 70%
Roger Clemens 70%
Edgar Martinez 66%
Mike Mussina 62%
Curt Schilling 51%
Manny Ramirez 43%
Lee Smith 36%
Larry Walker 19%
Jeff Kent 17%
Fred McGriff 15%
Jorge Posada 11%
Sammy Sosa 11%
Billy Wagner 9%
Gary Sheffield 6%
Vote % through 44 ballots from Ryan Thibodaux’s BBHOF Tracker

At 74%, Guerrero is right on the threshold for induction (which requires a candidate is named on 75% of ballots). That means that even if he isn’t selected this year Guerrero will almost certainly gain entry to the Hall next year. Which is great. Guerrero was a fantastic player. He’s deserving.

Larry Walker was also a great player, though. In most important ways, he was a superior one. And he’s received enough votes on previous Hall of Fame ballots to return for a seventh year. Like the previous six years, however, Walker is unlikely to be enshrined in Cooperstown this year — if the early polling holds steady, that is. In light of Guerrero’s seeming popularity, that’s strange. By most reasonable accounts, Walker has a better case. If you vote for Guerrero, you have to vote for Walker.

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Tim Raines’ Last Hurrah Highlights Hall of Fame Holdovers

While the Hall of Fame ballot is still heavy with deserving candidates, last season did help a bit in terms of making this year’s decision easier for voters. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza gained entry this past January, Alan Trammell and Mark McGwire exhausted their eligibility, and both Jim Edmonds and Nomar Garciaparra failed to receive the necessary 5% of the vote required to remain on the ballot.

Among the newcomers, only four candidates — Vladimir Guerrero, Jorge Posada, Manny Ramirez, and Ivan Rodriguezappear worthy of serious consideration. With more voters than ever choosing to fill their ballot with 10 names, several players close to induction — in particular Tim Raines, who enters his final year on the ballot — might stand to benefit.

Last year, Jeff Bagwell fell 15 votes short, while Raines and Trevor Hoffman received 23 and 34 fewer votes, respectively, than the 330 necessary to appear on 75% of the ballots and (in turn) earn a place in the Hall.

The electorate, of course, isn’t composed of a static number. Some voters choose not to cast a ballot and others fail to meet the requirements of voting. Still other members receive their Hall of Fame ballots for the first time. In the end, it’s the 75% figure that’s the relevant one, not 330.

As for this year’s returning candidates, the cases for or against them are pretty clear. For a few borderline cases, meanwhile, this year’s voting represents an opportunity to gain the necessary momentum to receive induction at a later date. Of the 15 returning candidates, there are six pitchers, five outfielders, and four infielders. Let’s start with the outfielders.

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A First Look at the Hall of Fame Ballot

Once again, we find ourselves approaching the Hall of Fame debate season. As has been the case over the past few years, a collection of strong candidates returns to the ballot after having received the minimum 5% of votes required to remain. Those holdovers will be fighting against a new class headed by Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, and Ivan Rodriguez. As usual, there are a host of other, newer candidates unlikely to see a second vote. Last year, Jim Edmonds fell off the ballot in his first try to reach the minimum threshold. Unlike last year, however, this year’s most deserving candidates are all likely to remain eligible going forward.

This year’s list is awash with hitters; the only newcomers on the ballot who made their living on the mound are Arthur Rhodes and Tim Wakefield. Before getting to the better candidates, let’s take a quick look at the players who failed to reach the 30 WAR mark over the course of their careers. These players aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. All of them played at least 10 years in the majors. That said, their careers aren’t worthy of serious consideration for the Hall of Fame. The numbers below include career WAR, HOF points and HOF Rating. An explanation of the latter two metrics can be found here. Briefly put, however, the numbers represent an attempt (like Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system) to account simultaneously for a player’s peak and overall production.

2017 HOF Ballot: Under 30 WAR
Tim Wakefield 4 27.5 15.8
Melvin Mora 15 27.3 21.2
Carlos Guillen 11 25.4 18.2
Orlando Cabrera 10 24.6 17.3
Jason Varitek 7 24.3 15.7
Casey Blake 8 22.3 15.2
Pat Burrell 7 19.0 13.0
Arthur Rhodes 3 17.6 10.3
Freddy Sanchez 6 15.7 10.9
Matt Stairs 2 12.3 7.2

I haven’t bothered to include the Points and Rating scores that generally serve as the thresholds for entry into the Hall of Fame — I’ll do that below. What’s relevant for now is that none of the players listed here approach those thresholds. Again: all great players, just unlikely Hall of Famers.

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The “Eras Committee” Hall of Fame Candidates

Every year, the Hall of Fame ballot and subsequent results general considerable attention — as they probably should. The writers have the first opportunity to decide who will enter the Hall, and they generally admit the best players. But the BBWAA alone doesn’t have a say. Of the 247 players enshrined in the Hall of Fame, the writers have selected only 116 in the traditional fashion we see today. Another 45 gained entry through special Old Timers and Negro Leagues votes. Three players were selected in a runoff procedure that used to be performed if no player was elected. Both Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente were elected in special votes.

That leaves 80 players who were selected via the so-called Veteran’s Committee. That committee has changed its rules over the years and is now known as the Eras Committee. This year, five players are up for election: Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Mark McGwire, and Orel Hershiser.

From 1953 through 2001, the Veteran’s Committee selected 77 players for the Hall of Fame, averaging a player and a half per year. The committee’s selections, however, were accompanied by complaints that the elections diluted the Hall, ultimately accepting too many players. The Hall responded by creating tougher standards for election through the Veteran’s Committee and, over the last 15 years, only three players were inducted by that means: Joe Gordon, Ron Santo, and Deacon White. While those tougher standards might have been necessary in the short term, the freeze made it very hard for players to gain entry, delaying Santo’s election, for example, until after his death. More changes have been made over the past few years, in part to deal with changes made to the Hall of Fame ballot limiting the number of years for which a player can appear on the writers’ ballot.

There are currently four eras, per the Hall’s definition: Today’s Game (1988-present), Modern Baseball (1970-1987), Golden Days (1950-1969), and Early Baseball (1871-1949). Candidates for Today’s Game will be considered this year (2016) and in another two years (2018); candidates for Modern Baseball will be considered next year (2017) and again in two years following that (2019); candidates for the other two, older eras will be considered in four years (2020). If the current iteration holds up longer than that, the plan is to consider the two more recent eras twice in five years, with the Golden Days considered once every five years and the Early Baseball considered once every 10 years.

This year’s committee, consisting of 16 writers, executives and Hall of Famers, is considering 10 candidates who need at least 75% of the vote and members can vote for up to four candidates. That last rule could make it difficult for the players, however, because of the five other names that appear on the ballot and which belong to a collection of non-players. Here are the names of those managers and executives: Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella, Bud Selig, George Steinbrenner, John Schuerholz.

As for the players, we have four Hall of Very Good-type players and one Hall of Fame-caliber player who has admitted to PED use.

Harold Baines

Harold Baines played 22 years in the majors and compiled 2,866 hits and 384 homers. Only 15 players in Major League Baseball history have recorded greater figures than Baines in both of those categories, and the only ones not in the Hall of Fame have either never been eligible for election (Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre) or have other issues clouding their candidacies (Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro). The same is true for 38 players who rank ahead of Baines in hits. Baines was a good hitter throughout his career, but he stopped playing regularly in the field after age 27, and spent his time at designated hitter thereafter.

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This Was the Lowest-Scoring ALCS in History

You might have heard offense has been down this postseason. I think one or two articles have been written about it. After the Blue Jays were shut out for the second time in the American League Championship Series, I wanted to see how much it’s been down. What I found: this ALCS was one of the lowest-scoring in history.

First, a little refresher. The ALCS has existed since 1969. From ’69 until 1984, it was a best-of-five series. Since, it’s been a best of seven. You probably already knew that, but just in case, now you definitely know. And knowing

Anyway, there were 20 runs scored in this series — 12 by Cleveland, eight by the Blue Jays. This makes it the lowest of any ALCS since it moved to a best-of-seven format. The only series that comes close is the 1990 ALCS, when the A’s scored 20 runs to the Red Sox’ measly four. It’s also easily the lowest of any series in terms of runs per game.

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The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad 100-RBI Season

Depending on your perspective, you might think that Eric Hosmer had a career season. After all, he wasn’t just an All-Star, he was the All-Star Game MVP! He hit 20 homers for the first time — his 25 dingers were six more than his previous season best. And he drove in 104 runs — 11 more than his previous best. And yet, for the third time in his career, he was a replacement player or worse in terms of WAR. Did Eric Hosmer just have the worst 100-RBI season on record?

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Ichiro Suzuki’s Greatest Hits

Yesterday afternoon, Ichiro Suzuki became just the 30th player to reach 3,000 hits in the major leagues. He did so with a triple, making him just the second player ever to get to hit number 3,000 on a triple. It was a pretty glorious hit, and it will be one of the capstones on an awesome career. To celebrate, I thought we could take a walk back down memory lane and look at some of the most impactful hits of his Hall of Fame career. Some are his best according to WPA, some are postseason hits, and a few are just round-number hits, because we all love those. We’ll go in chronological order.

April 2, 2001, Mariners vs. Athletics
Ichiro wasted little time getting going. After grounding out to the right side in his first two major-league plate appearances, and striking out in the third, Ichiro would single up the middle in his fourth plate appearance, and drop down a bunt single in his fifth and final plate appearance of his first game.

The first hit came off of T.J. Mathews, and the bunt came off of Jim Mecir. Ichiro scored following the first hit to pull the Mariners within one run, and the bunt would push go-ahead run Carlos Guillen to third. The bunt came following a walk. Generally speaking, you don’t want to give away an out with a bunt when a reliever comes into the game and walks the first batter he faces on five pitches, but Ichiro did anyway, quickly serving notice that the normal rules of engagement did not apply to him. Guillen would cross home three batters later, and the Mariners historic 2001 season started with a bang.

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Dave Dombrowski Has Been Good at Trading Prospects

Know this — Dave Dombrowski likes to make trades. He was first named a general manager back on July 5, 1988, assuming the title of “youngest GM in the game” back before it was cool with the Montreal Expos. He made his first trade on July 13. His aggressive nature was sometimes just off center stage, as the teams he had previously helmed — the Expos, Marlins and Tigers — have rarely been media darlings. But now he is running the Red Sox, and they get plenty of coverage. While that level of coverage might not be fair or warranted, his deals are being scrutinized hard these days. Is he gutting the farm system? Or does Dombrowski know how to pick ’em? I thought I’d take an objective stab at his trade record.
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Tommy John Surgeries: 2016 Update

It’s no secret that, over the last few years, the number of Tommy John surgeries has increased across all levels of baseball. As we emerge from the All-Star break, let’s take a snapshot of the current state of Tommy John surgeries at the professional ranks.

New Tommy John Surgeries
Let’s start with some good news. The number of Tommy John surgeries at the major-league level is down in 2016 compared with the last couple of seasons. Comparing totals at this point in the season over recent years, there have been fewer Tommy John surgeries to date this year than any since 2011.

MLB Tommy John Surgeries, By Year
Year MLB TJ Surgeries
2016 12
2015 20
2014 24
2013 15
2012 26
2011 8
2010 6
2009 17
2008 8
2007 12
Surgeries before July 12 of each year

In the past five seasons, I’ve attempted to track Tommy John surgeries at the minor-league level more closely than in prior years. This information is much more difficult to collect, and certainly there will be many surgeries missing from the list every season. Looking only at surgeries known to have been performed by this time in the year, however, the 2016 campaign looks more like 2012-2013 than the last two years where surgery counts had spiked.

Known MiLB Tommy John Surgeries, By Year
Year Known MiLB TJ Surgeries
2016 38
2015 60
2014 63
2013 44
2012 39
Surgeries before July 12 of each year

So the most interesting question here is: has something actually changed to cause the number of Tommy John surgeries to drop this year compared with the last two seasons?

I can’t say that I know the answer, but I suspect it’s due to a number of factors.

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Putting Hitting Streaks in Perspective, Again

Back in July of 2013, I put together a little bit of research to put Michael Cuddyer‘s 27-game hitting streak into perspective. I had been quite critical of Mr. Cuddyer at that time, and it only seemed fair to show him a little love. At the time, I mentioned that I might look into some more hitting streak data in the near future. Turns out the “near future” was three years later. Spurred on by the recent hitting streaks from the killer B’s on a swarmJackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts — I thought I’d wade back in.

First, as I mentioned last time, a couple of ground rules. I don’t count streaks that span two seasons. I don’t like doing it, and you can’t make me. Second, there are some streaks that took place from the time before we have game logs. When I first conducted this research, the earliest season for which we had game logs was 1916; now it’s 1913. Fortunately, for the sake of convenience, no relevant hitting streaks occurred during 1913-1915, so we’re not getting any new information in that respect.

We are getting some other new information, though. For instance, Baseball-Reference has WPA calculated further back than they did before, so where before we didn’t know the WPA of Joe DiMaggio‘s 56-game hit streak, now we do have that figure. We also have a few more years of streaks in the mix. The cut-off for WPA data now seems to be 1930, though there was one streak from 1943 for which WPA information appears unavailable.

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Best Final Seasons, Part Two

Yesterday, we tackled the best final seasons for pitchers. Today, let’s tackle the position players, so we can get to the heart of the question of just how good David Ortiz needs to be to crack one of these lists. The rules and breakdowns are the same as before, so I would encourage you to read yesterday’s post to peep those. Once again, big ups to Jeff Zimmerman for data help.

30-39 WAR

Best Final Season, Position Players with 30-39 WAR
Player Final Season Age WAR Career WAR
Roy Cullenbine 1947 33 4.4 33.8
Chick Stahl 1906 33 3.7 33.1
Tony Cuccinello 1945 37 3.0 32.2
Gil McDougald 1960 32 2.8 39.7
Joe Adcock 1966 38 2.5 34.2
Elbie Fletcher 1949 33 2.4 30.7

The guys on this list are definitely not household names, but there are some interesting, if also tragic, stories here. Let’s deal with the tragic first. There are six players here because one of them, Chick Stahl, committed suicide during spring training of the 1907 season. He had been named the Americans’ (Red Sox) player/manager over the winter, and something drove him to take his own life. This was surely a big loss for the team, as they had been counting on him to help lead them. He was the fifth-best hitter in the game just a couple years earlier in 1904.

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