The Standards of Today Would Create a Very Different Hall of Fame

Alan Trammell should already be a Hall of Famer. (via James Marvin Phelps & Howell Media Solutions)

Alan Trammell should already be a Hall of Famer. (via James Marvin Phelps & Howell Media Solutions)

Editor’s Note: This is the final post of “Hall of Fame Week!” For more info, click here.

Last month, Justin McGuire of The Sporting News tweeted:


This tweet resonated with me because proving this point has become something of an obsession of mine ever since I started seeing the players I cheered for struggle to gain induction to Cooperstown. This obsession culminated with the launch of a site called The Hall of Stats.

The Hall of Stats shows us what the Hall of Fame would look like if we removed all 215 inductees and replaced them with the top 215 eligible players in history, according to a mathematical formula.

The formula, which I call Hall Rating, is largely based on Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Wins Above Average (WAA). Additional adjustments are made for length of schedule, catchers, relief pitchers and 19th century pitching workloads. Since there are 215 Hall of Fame inductees (as players), the 215th best eligible player by Hall Rating is given a Hall Rating of 100. Everyone above 100 is in the Hall of Stats. Everyone below 100 is not.

Babe Ruth (395 Hall Rating) is the best player ever. Bill Bergen (-16) is the worst. Of those in the Hall, 69 (32 percent) are not in the Hall of Stats. They are instead replaced by 69 non-Hall of Famers, ranging from Barry Bonds (359) to Pete Rose (147; the Hall of Stats ignores lifetime bans) to Bill Dahlen (143) to Billy Pierce (exactly 100).

While I don’t believe all 69 players belong in the Hall of Fame, there are many who look (statistically) like inner circle Hall of Famers but can’t gain induction.

The Hall of Fame’s Exclusivity Myth

In 1944, there were only 17 members of the Hall of Fame (inducted as players). All but one had a Hall Rating over 100 (Willie Keeler, at 98, is the only exception). Of the group, 13 actually had Hall Ratings over 200. In 1944, the Hall of Fame was reserved for the best of the best.

It hasn’t been that way since.

In 1945, nine players were selected by the Old Timers Committee. All nine were very good, but they were already nowhere close to the same level as previous inductees. Jimmy Collins (100 Hall Rating), Roger Bresnahan (93), Hughie Jennings (87) and Hugh Duffy (76) all have some Hall of Fame credentials, but are far from clear-cut choices.

In 1946, things got worse. The Old Timers Committee inducted 11 players. Among the group were Joe Tinker (102 Hall Rating), Frank Chance (93), Johnny Evers (87), Jack Chesbro (75) and the mother of all Hall of Fame head scratchers, Tommy McCarthy (28).

From there, the percentage of deserving Hall of Famers (by Hall Rating) gradually decreased until the mid 1980s. It has steadily increased since, as it has gotten harder to get into the Hall of Fame.

Retroactive Review: Ace
Looking back at some of Justin Verlander's most interesting moments.

How strange is it that Tommy McCarthy is in the Hall of Fame? I tried to put this in perspective by comparing him to a similar player. Using the Hall of Stats similarity scores, I can find players who provided similar value. Then I looked within the list of similar players to find one with similar raw numbers. Here’s an interesting comparison:

  • McCarthy: 13 seasons, 1,493 hits, .292 batting average, 102 OPS+
  • Sean Casey: 12 seasons, 1,531 hits, .302 batting average, 109 OPS+

Casey was the more valuable hitter, but McCarthy was also a pretty good base-runner and fielder. It’s not enough to make up the difference, and certainly not enough to make him a Hall of Famer. In fact, Mike Trout passed McCarthy in Hall Rating in his rookie season.

The second-worst Hall of Famer (by Hall Rating) is Lloyd Waner. Here’s a comparison for him:

  • Waner: 18 seasons, 2,459 hits, .316 batting average, 99 OPS+, +17 defender
  • Garret Anderson: 17 seasons, 2,529 hits, .293 batting average, 102 OPS+, +24 defender

How crazy will it be if Garret Anderson is inducted into the Hall of Fame in January? About as crazy as the fact that Lloyd Waner was inducted via the Veterans Committee in 1967.

These Hall of Fame mistakes have already been made and it’s not very productive to dwell on them. Today I’m going to use this same approach to demonstrate why a few players struggling to get into the Hall of Fame today should not be facing the resistance they are.

I’m not going to bother evaluating Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. We know why they’re not in. If you’re looking for similar players to them, look to Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson. I’m also going to skip Mike Piazza because I’m fairly certain he’ll be getting in this year (with Ken Griffey Jr.).

But what does a Hall of Fame without Larry Walker mean? Who was the Larry Walker of the 1930s? What about the Curt Schilling of the 1960s? What would the Hall of Fame be without their similar players? Let’s look.

Larry Walker

Walker is a complicated candidate. He debuted on the ballot in 2011 with 20.3 percent of the vote. By 2015 (his fifth year on the ballot), he was down to 11.8 percent. Walker could hit (.313/.400/.565 slash line, three batting titles, and a home run crown). He could field (seven Gold Gloves and 154 outfield assists). He could even run (230 stolen bases with a success rate over 75 percent). So what’s the problem?

Coors Field is the problem. Walker’s raw numbers get you in the Hall of Fame every time. The thing that’s keeping him out is the fact that Walker hit a staggering .381/.462/.710 at Coors Field. Voters are seeing that home-field advantage and dismissing Walker’s entire career.

What voters are forgetting is that 70 percent of Walker’s games were played outside of Coors Field (all but 597). In those games, he batted .282/.373/501. I compared Walker to other hitters with at least 7,000 plate appearances between 1984 and 2010 (five years before and after Walker played). With his Coors stats included, Walker’s OPS ranked sixth. His non-Coors OPS of .874 would drop him to 29th. Does the 29th-best OPS in your era get you in the Hall of Fame? Sometimes it does, but often it doesn’t. But remember: When we remove Coors Field from Walker’s numbers, we’re removing a significant chunk of his prime. We’re also depriving him of the park he was comfortable playing in. Completely eliminating his Coors numbers is too severe an adjustment. The real Larry Walker probably lives somewhere in the middle. Some of the players in the middle are Sammy Sosa (.878), Fred McGriff (.886), and Gary Sheffield (.907). Those players were Hall of Fame-level mashers, but didn’t have the defensive reputation (or had a bad reputation for other reasons) to gain induction. That’s where the other half of Walker’s case comes into play.

Among eligible non-Hall of Fame outfielders, only Paul Blair and Dwight Evans (eight each) won more Gold Gloves than Walker’s seven. The advanced stats back it up, too. Walker’s Rfield (via Baseball-Reference) is 94 (eighth all time among right fielders). Even Walker’s 40 base-running runs are third all time among right fielders (32nd among all outfielders). In fact, only 13 other players in history (at any position) can boast Walker’s combination of 94 fielding runs and 40 base-running runs. Among them, only three can also match Walker’s 420 batting runs (which are park-adjusted): Barry Bonds, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

Walker’s dominance in all facets of the game is why his Hall Rating of 150 ranks 61st all time among Hall-eligible players (pitchers included). According to the Hall of Stats, his most similar player is Al Simmons.

Like Walker, Simmons had a gaudy batting line. He slashed .334/.380/.535 with 307 home runs. Also like Walker, Simmons did his work in hitters’ parks during a hitters’ era. Baseball-Reference quantifies this in a stat called AIR.

Hitting AIR measures the offensive level of the leagues and parks the player played in relative to an all-time average of a .335 OBP and .400 Slugging Percentage. Over 100 indicates a favorable setting for hitters, under 100 a favorable setting for pitchers.

Due to his time in Coors, Walker has an AIR of 116. Simmons’ AIR is 113.

Walker’s OPS was 50 points higher than Simmons’ (not a small gap). They played in similar hitting environments (with Walker’s a bit more favorable). Simmons had better longevity, so once everything is boiled down into Baseball-Reference’s Rbat (the batting component of WAR), Walker leads Simmons 420 runs to 391.

The reason Walker is more similar to Simmons than your typical slugger is defense. Simmons, like Walker, was a corner outfielder (though Simmons did spend a good amount of time in center) and was a good one. Walker’s 94 Rfield eclipses Simmons’ 67 Rfield, but both were exceptional. The comparison starts to fall apart when you get into base-running; Simmons was essentially league average.

Comparing Walker to Simmons is a heck of a compliment to Walker because Simmons was an incredible player. In the 10-year span from 1925 to 1934, he trailed only Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in WAR among position players. He was first in hits, fifth in home runs, third in runs batted in, second in batting average (just a point behind Harry Heilmann), and sixth in OPS (minimum of 3,000 plate appearances) while also leading all outfielders in Rfield. He has a 130 Hall Rating, ranking 98th all-time among Hall-eligible players. He was inducted by the BBWAA in 1953 in his seventh year of true eligibility (he received a few votes in prior years thanks to the Hall’s fuzzy rules of the time).

Even if you don’t believe WAR adjusts enough for Coors Field or don’t fully trust Walker’s defensive numbers, Al Simmons basically represents the worst-case scenario comparison for Larry Walker. Since Simmons is one of the 100 best players in history, that means Larry Walker absolutely should be a Hall of Famer.

Jeff Bagwell

Jeff Bagwell is on the ballot for the sixth year. He debuted with 41.7 percent in 2011 — not a great percentage considering the career he had, but still a first-year performance that usually leads to a swift induction. It looked like he would take that path, as two years later he rose to 59.6 percent. But since then Bagwell has not only stagnated, but actually taken a step back. He finished with 55.7 percent in 2015.

The best case I can make for Jeff Bagwell is this: Jeff Bagwell not being in the Hall of Fame is like the seventh best first baseman in history not being the Hall of Fame. That’s what he is (by Hall Rating).

Finding a similar first baseman to Bagwell is particularly difficult. Of the six players ranked in front of him, three played primarily in the 19th century (Cap Anson, Roger Connor and Dan Brothers). One (Albert Pujols) is still active. While I love Bagwell, I’m not about to compare him to the other two (Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx).

As a reminder, to say Jeff Bagwell was a Hall of Famer is an understatement. Over his 15-year career, he hit .297 with a .408 on-base percentage, and a .540 slugging percentage. His .948 OPS translates to a 149 OPS+. Despite a relatively short career (his 2,150 games rank 171st all time), he reached base 3,843 times (58th all time), including 2,314 hits and 1,401 walks. He hit 449 home runs and 488 doubles (only 20 others have done that and all of them played in more games).

Yes, Bagwell could hit. But like Walker there was so much more to his game. He could run, twice stealing 30 bases (he was a 30/30 man both times) and swiping 202 bags overall. He also picked his spots well, getting caught only 78 times. Baseball-Reference rates him as 31 runs above average on the bases. Like Walker, he rates very well defensively (54 runs above average). But he doesn’t have as many Gold Gloves to back it up (he did win the award in 1994).

Considering the type of hitter Bagwell was, it seems odd to compare him to players in the 19th century. But his most similar player according to the Hall of Stats is Ed Delahanty.

I’m nervous about comparing Walker to Simmons and Bagwell to Delahanty because many modern fans probably don’t appreciate how great those players were. Delahanty was a huge offensive star, hitting .346/.411/.505 (for a 152 OPS+). He won two batting titles, led in OBP twice, and took five slugging crowns. He led the league in doubles five times, home runs twice, and runs batted in three times. While his career batting numbers may not look a lot like Bagwell’s, they were similarly valuable once context-adjusted. They got on base at nearly the same rate and Bagwell had more power. Because Bagwell played in a more offensive era, his slugging advantage essentially disappears when you compare their OPS+. Delahanty leads Bagwell, but only 152 to 149.

Delahanty stole 455 bases, more than twice as many as Bagwell. However, he rates as only an average base-runner by WAR. How is that possible? Beyond leading the league in steals in 1898, Delahanty never finished in the Top 10. Bagwell didn’t rank in the Top 10 either, but this shows how Delahanty’s total wasn’t actually special for his era. Delahanty was also rated as a plus defender, just a bit behind Bagwell.

Bagwell’s Hall Rating of 162 is higher than Delahanty’s, but much of that can be attributed to slightly better longevity. Delahanty played one more season, but had a few more partial seasons than Bagwell. Some of Bagwell’s lack of longevity can be attributed to the strike in 1994-95 and Hall Rating gives some of that back.

The BBWAA couldn’t elect Delahanty because he was a 19th century player, but the Old Timers Committee chose him as part of its second class of inductees (the first class included players Old Hoss Radbourn, Buck Ewing and Cap Anson). A Hall of Fame without Ed Delahanty would tell an incomplete story of the 19th century, just as a Hall of Fame without Bagwell doesn’t represent our generation.

Curt Schilling

Schilling garnered 38.8 percent of the vote when he first hit the ballot in 2013. He’s gained little ground since, first taking a 10 percentage point step back in 2014 and then regaining it in 2015. This is his fourth year of eligibility.

I’m not going to comment on Schilling’s politics or personality, but I’m sure neither one does him many favors with the voters. I think another key reason voters underrate Schilling is that he was pretty erratic in his 20s before becoming a truly dominant pitcher in his 30s.

From age 30-39, Schilling ranks sixth all time in pitching WAR (behind only Cy Young, Lefty Grove, Randy Johnson, Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry). His age 40 season was quite good, too (4.0 WAR). Only 20 pitchers won more games in their 30s, which is surprising since one of the biggest knocks on Schilling is his modest career win total (216).

The only pitcher with more strikeouts in his 30s is Schilling’s onetime teammate Randy Johnson. Yes, Schilling fanned more (2,215) than Nolan Ryan (2,192). Schilling also had better control than any power pitcher in history. For example, in his 30s he walked 397 batters (compared to 640 for Johnson and 1,088 for Ryan).

Schilling’s 4.38 strikeouts per walk for his career is the best since Tommy Bond retired in 1884. Schilling also had a 127 ERA+, something only 15 pitchers in history have managed to do while throwing as many innings as Schilling. ERA+ actually underrates Schilling, as he allowed an extraordinarily small number of unearned runs. Only 4.9 percent of the runs Schilling allowed were unearned. Among the other 14 pitchers with a 127 ERA+ or better, Tom Seaver allowed the next fewest at 9.1 percent. We all know that errors and unearned runs are not the most efficient way to measure a defense. Baseball-Reference’s WAR accounts for this by starting with a pitcher’s runs allowed and then adjusting for defense (instead of relying on an official scorer’s opinion of an error).

Who is Schilling most similar to? The top pitcher on his similarity scores is Pedro Martinez. Schilling’s peak was not on the same level as Pedro’s, but it was still extremely high and he had better longevity. Still, Martinez doesn’t feel like a good comparison. Next is John Smoltz, who actually trails Schilling in Hall Rating by 36 points (despite gaining induction in his first year on the ballot). Smoltz is a tempting comparison because the two pitchers had similar win totals, ERAs and strikeout totals.

Smoltz’s career is a bit unusual because he spent a few years as a closer (although that did wonders for his strikeout rate and ERA). Schilling began as a relief pitcher and was briefly Boston’s closer in 2008, but it’s not the same. The reason WAR greatly prefers Schilling to Smoltz is that a good amount of the credit for Smoltz’s low ERA can be attributed to the fielders behind him. In aggregate, Schilling spent his career in front of a league average defense. Over the course of Smoltz’s career, his teammates saved him 0.14 runs per nine innings, according to WAR. Over the course of his career, that’s 54 runs (or enough to bump his ERA from 3.33 to 3.47).

If you ignore ERA and simply look at RA (runs allowed per nine innings), it’s obvious how much closer the two pitchers are. Schilling allowed 3.64 runs per nine innings and Smoltz allowed 3.60. The facts that Smoltz played in front of better defenders (like Andruw Jones) and Schilling played in environments more conducive to hitting tip the scales firmly in Schilling’s favor.

Smoltz, of course, was a tremendous postseason pitcher and that should aid his case. He went 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 209 innings and won a World Series ring and an NLCS MVP. But Schilling might be the best postseason pitcher of all time, as he went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 133.1 innings and won three World Series rings, a World Series co-MVP (with Johnson) and an NLCS MVP with the Phillies.

Smoltz is essentially the worst-case comparison for Schilling, and Smoltz coasted into Cooperstown on the first ballot. A best-case comparison might be Bob Gibson. Once you take a look, it’s not as crazy as it sounds.

  • Schilling: 216-146, .597 winning percentage, 3,116 strikeouts, 127 ERA+, 80.7 WAR, three rings
  • Gibson: 251-174, .591 winning percentage, 3,117 strikeouts, 127 ERA+, 81.9 WAR, two rings

Isn’t that closer than you thought? The two have nearly identical Hall Ratings — 171 for Schilling and 168 for Gibson. Gibson, like Smoltz, was a first-ballot Hall of Famer (despite what was a very modest win total for the time). Whether you think Schilling is closer to Smoltz or Gibson, either way he has first ballot Hall of Fame numbers.

Mike Mussina

We might as well go right into Mike Mussina because his No. 2 most similar player is Schilling (Martinez is eighth and Gibson is ninth). Mussina’s most similar pitcher is Roy Halladay, someone most seem to think will have no trouble getting into Cooperstown.

Mussina debuted on the 2014 ballot with just 20.3 percent of the vote. This shocked me because on that very same ballot, Jack Morris received 61.5 percent of the vote. You have to try hard to find a single statistic where Morris is better.

  • Mussina: 270-153, .638 winning percentage, 3.68 ERA, 123 ERA+, 2,813 strikeouts, 785 walks, 82.7 WAR
  • Morris: 254-186, .577 winning percentage, 3.90 ERA, 105 ERA+, 2,478 strikeouts, 1,390 walks, 43.8 WAR

Mussina had more wins, fewer losses, a much better winning percentage, a better ERA, a much better context-adjusted ERA, more strikeouts, fewer walks, and nearly twice the WAR. Yet Morris received three times as many votes as Mussina.

Much of the analysis for Schilling applies to Mussina. Again, here’s Schilling compared to Mussina’s stats above.

  • Schilling: 216-146, .597 winning percentage, 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+, 3,116 strikeouts, 711 walks, 80.7 WAR

The two were very similarly valuable, but Mussina did it over a few hundred more innings. Schilling had a bit higher peak, but was less consistent.

To compare Mussina to a first-ballot Hall of Famer, here’s Jim Palmer.

  • Palmer: 268-152, .638 winning percentage, 2.86 ERA, 125 ERA+, 2,212 strikeouts, 1,311 walks, 68.1 WAR

Palmer coasted into Cooperstown in 1990 with 92.6 percent of the vote. I’m not here to tell you he didn’t deserve it. But Palmer’s WAR takes a serious hit for the same reason Smoltz’s does. No pitcher in history had better defenders behind him. During Palmer’s career, his Orioles defenders won 37 Gold Gloves (41 if you count the four Palmer won himself). Great defenders help a pitcher’s ERA by saving runs. WAR takes those runs from Palmer’s ERA and gives credit to the defenders.

Mike Mussina’s 3.68 ERA would be relatively high for a Hall of Famer. But when you consider he pitched in the AL East during an offensive explosion, it adjusts to a more Hall-worthy 123 ERA+. According to WAR, if Mussina had pitched in front of the same defense as Jim Palmer, his ERA would have been 3.27.

Statistically, a Hall of Fame without Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina is like a Hall of Fame without Bob Gibson (or John Smoltz) and Jim Palmer. That would be a very incomplete Hall of Fame.

Alan Trammell

Alan Trammell is now in his 15th and final year on the ballot. He should have been inducted right away.

Second on the list of Trammell’s most similar players is Lou Whitaker. That just feels right. The pair formed a double play partnership for nearly 2,000 games and could do everything — they hit, they ran, they fielded, and they lasted.

That’s exactly the type of player that tends to be overlooked by Cooperstown. But still, it’s kind of amazing that the two aren’t in already when you consider the Hall’s existing standards.

2,000 hits. 150 home runs. 1,000 runs. 1,000 RBI. Individually, those don’t sound like impressive feats. But only 14 Hall-eligible middle infielders have ever reached all those milestones. Remember, that’s second basemen and shortstops combined. Of those, 11 are in the Hall of Fame — all but Trammell, Whitaker and Jeff Kent.

Now, let’s consider defense. Kent was considered a below-average defender. Meanwhile, Trammell and Whitaker rank second and third among the 14 in Rfield (behind only Cal Ripken). In fact, they’re two of only eight on the list who were above-average defenders. The Rfield is backed up by reputation. You’d be hard-pressed to find sometime who says they weren’t plus (or even elite) defenders.

Players like Alan Trammell simply get into the Hall of Fame. For some recent examples, we can point to Ryne Sandberg (No. 1 on Trammell’s similar players list) and Barry Larkin (No. 7).

  • Trammell: 2,365 hits, 185 home runs, 110 OPS+, 77 Rfield, 70.4 WAR
  • Larkin: 2,340 hits, 198 home runs, 116 OPS+, 18 Rfield, 70.2 WAR
  • Sandberg: 2,386 hits, 282 home runs, 114 OPS+, 60 Rfield, 67.5 WAR

Both Larkin and Sandberg were elected in their third tries, Larkin in 2012 and Sandberg in 2005. Perhaps the biggest difference between the pair and Trammell is hardware. Larkin won an MVP award in 1995 and Sandberg won in 1984. Trammell, of course, famously finished second in the 1987 AL MVP voting behind George Bell. While Bell dazzled with 47 home runs and 134 runs batted in, Trammell had a stunning 8.2 WAR campaign, batting .343 with a .402 on-base percentage and .551 slugging percentage. He collected 205 hits, 28 home runs, 21 steals (caught just twice), and 105 runs batted in. His OPS trailed Bell’s by only four points. While Bell was a corner outfielder, Trammell was a defense-anchoring shortstop and a menace on the bases. The award should have been his.

Why should George Bell winning an MVP award have such an effect on Alan Trammell’s Hall of Fame case? It hasn’t had much of an effect on George Bell’s Hall of Fame case.

To find players similar to Trammell who have failed to enter Cooperstown, you have to go back to the 19th century. Bill Dahlen, SABR’s Overlooked Nineteenth Century Base Ball Legend in 2012, has been on the Hall of Fame’s last two Pre-Integration Era ballots. He came two votes shy of induction in 2012 and fell to four votes shy earlier this month. He is fourth on Trammell’s similar players list and you can see why — 2,461 hits, 84 home runs (a lot for his era, plus 163 triples), 110 OPS+ and 139 Rfield.

There’s another 19th century shortstop who is so overlooked that he has not yet been named a SABR Overlooked Legend (finishing as runner-up the past two years). Jack Glasscock has Hall of Fame credentials essentially on par with Dahlen’s and better than several (if not most) Hall of Fame shortstops. He collected 2,041 hits (but began his career earlier than Dahlen when the seasons were even shorter), 27 home runs (with 98 triples), a 112 OPS+, and 149 Rfield. These aren’t flimsy 19th century interpretations of defensive stats, either. He led his league’s shortstops in fielding percentage and assists six times each, range factor per nine innings five times, and double plays four times. Those aren’t perfect stats, but you don’t have that much defensive black ink by accident.

Dahlen and Glasscock are two big reasons we should not yet close the door on inducting 19th century players. It’s not their fault the majority of voters haven’t yet figured out how to honor this type of excellence.

Don’t Forget My Generation

Past generations have been able to enjoy seeing their Jim Palmers, Bob Gibsons and Al Simmonses inducted into Cooperstown. Heck, they even got to see their Lefty Gomezes, Rabbit Maranvilles and Sam Rices get in. Seeing players like Walker, Bagwell, Schilling, Mussina and Trammell (not to mention Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez and many others) struggle simply isn’t fair to my generation. We want to see the superstars we cheered for adequately represented.

So many baseball fans think the generation of baseball played when they were growing up was the best. This train of thought has trickled into the Hall of Fame voting. From the mid 1920s to the mid 1930s, more than one out of every five plate appearances was taken by a Hall of Famer. The representation is high through the 1950s and then it tanks. We could simply wait for decades for these players to be inducted after their deaths, but why keep making the same mistakes over and over again?


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Adam Darowski is a web product designer living in New Hampshire with his wife and three young children. He is the creator of the Hall of Stats, an alternate Hall of Fame populated by a mathematical formula called Hall Rating. He serves as the chair of SABR’s Overlooked Nineteenth Century Base Ball Legends committee. Follow him on Twitter @baseballtwit.
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Carl
Guest
Carl

Paul,

Bagwell isn’t in because of Peds, not because anyone thinks his stats aren’t good enough. He should be lumped in with Clemens and Bonds.

It’s actually more consistent to wait to see “your generation” in so the inner-circle (writer-elected) can stand apart from those not in the inner-circle (Veteran’s Committee). Another way to think of it is that the mistakes of the past should not be repeated, so the percentage of AB’s (and IP) of HoFers isn’t as high as it was in the 1930s.

Scott
Guest
Scott

There is nowhere near the evidence against Bagwell that there is against Bonds and Clemens. Bagwell was a big dude in the wrong era. It’s reckless to throw a PED tag on him just because of that. By that logic you should add Thome, Frank Thomas, Chipper and Griffey to the list. You can’t just knock him for being a power hitter in the ’90s/early 2000s.

tz
Guest
tz
This. And if you go by the sudden “spike” in Bagwell’s HR numbers beginning in 1994, note that baseball as a whole had a large spike: 1993 HR per ball in play: 3.03 1994 HR per ball in play: 3.53 Increase = 17% 1991-1993 HR per ball in play: 2.76 1994-2000 HR per ball in play: 3.72 Increase = 35% So for a guy to see his HR rate leap during a year with a spike in overall HR rates is plausible enough. That is was his age-26 season might have also been plausible enough on its own. And Bagwell’s… Read more »
Spa City
Guest
Spa City

Yes… Very clearly people can (and do) “knock” Bagwell as a PED user based on the evidence that you find less than compelling.

People should feel free to draw their own conclusions. Only in criminal trials is the standard of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” – in civil cases the standard is “preponderance of the evidence” (i.e. 51%). And in the court of public opinion, the standard is whatever people feel like it should be.

JLRC
Guest
JLRC

Don’t overlook the possibility that the sports writers could have inside info or experiences that use plebes are not privy to. Of course, we must also acknowledge that those same writers are prone to believing and thinking very stupid things, making it all the more difficult to discern which of their collective actions should be taken seriously.

Marc Schneider
Guest
Marc Schneider

I don’t think he is saying Bagwell did Peds, only that the writers have suspicions and that’s why he is not in.

Carl
Guest
Carl

Apologies, meant Adam not Paul. Paul is my friend who was overlooking my shoulder as I typed that.

tz
Guest
tz

There is as much evidence that Adam Darowski’s first name is Paul as there is for Jeff Bagwell using PEDs.

Zero.

replevel
Guest

Well done, Adam. If anything, I think you undersell Mussina’s case by comparing him to Palmer. And those Schilling vs. Gibson numbers are eye-opening. Required reading for hall voters.

bob magee
Guest
bob magee

Mussina won over 50% of his starts – very favorable compared to other HoF electees.

Hurt by strike years and entire career spent in the strict 5 man rotation mentality.

The strike hurt because he was in prime

The rotation thing limited his annual starts – league leaders now only start about 35 games. You have to go back YEARS to find anyone starting more than 36 games.

You can only perform at a high level when you are in a game

Jack Strawb
Guest
Jack Strawb

The players chose to go on strike. No player should get “strike credit.”

Sam Rice
Guest
Sam Rice
All of these arguments tend to be the same. Everything based on numbers. Everything. Regardless of what statistical analysis you’re using, some players were held in such high regard because they were simply so much better than their opponent(s) you didn’t NEED stats to back it up. I’ve seen bloggers say Sandy Koufax wasn’t that good. Yet none of them have ever reached out to guys who tried hitting against him. Virtually every batter who hit in the early and mid-1960s has said Koufax was the greatest pitcher they’d ever seen. His career ended a few years too soon but… Read more »
Jaack
Guest
Jaack
You want a non-numbers argument for Schilling? How about his postseason dominance. He pitched 19 playoff games in his career, and had some of the most dominating performances of all time. In 1993, he dominated in Games 1 and 5 of the NLCS and game 5 of the World Series, the latter two being elimination games. In the 2001 postseason, he pitched 6 games, completed 3, going 7+ innings in all of them, each time allowing 1 run or fewer except in game seven of the World Series when he allowed… 2. Pitched great in his one appearance in 2002,… Read more »
Mark L:
Guest
Mark L:

You want a non-numbers reason? Well, here’s a bunch of numbers!

Naliamegod
Guest
Naliamegod
If someone is so much better than everyone else, than stats would show it. Stats show that Koufax’s reputation isn’t unearned. The only reason why people state he is overrated because he is sometimes treated as heads above every other pitcher in history, when there are other guys with similar peaks and longer careers. And Lloyd Waner really had no reputation outside of being Paul Waner’s brother and being pretty good. It is also generally believed that he was inducted in because people saw his batting numbers and didn’t realize that .300 during Waner’s time was actually pretty average.
Jack Strawb
Guest
Jack Strawb

“Regardless of what statistical analysis you’re using, some players were held in such high regard because they were simply so much better than their opponent(s) you didn’t NEED stats to back it up….”

Amazing! That’s exactly what ALL of Jack Morris’s supporters for the Hall say!!

Jetsy Extrano
Guest
Jetsy Extrano

A detail, but about Delahanty’s baserunning — how do we say much of anything? There’s no CS data back that far, and no play-by-play data coverage we’d use for non-steal advancement, right?

Eric the Snail
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Eric the Snail

It would have to be something like runs scored per time on base, adjusted for the quality of his teammates hitting behind him. Obviously this would be just an estimate and would be regressed pretty heavily.

Michael Bacon
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Michael Bacon
Good article which I enjoyed immensely. The HOF should be for only the best of the best. Period. If there are any questions or debate about a player then he should not be inducted. For example, no one questioned Greg Maddux or Pedro Martinez. Everyone questioned Jack Morris. There are far too many people in the HOF who should not be there, which tends to make the HOF irrelevant. There is a reason Bill James titled his book on the HOF, “The Politics of Glory.” When Ty Cobb led the very first group inducted into the HOF no one questioned… Read more »
Devan
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Devan

I think you need to do a better job of understanding the stats you are railing against. OPS + is not simply adding OBP and slugging. WAR is not a “raw total” both take into account context and the time in which the player spent his career. You spent a few hundred words criticizing two metrics you don’t seem to understand. Yes, Schilling was remarkably close to Gibson. We can talk about the 1.12 ERA all day, but make sure the context you wished for is applied. Which is exactly what WAR does.

Paul G.
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Paul G.
The reason the 1920s and 1930s are so Hall of Famer rich is the Frankie Frisch cohort. Frankie, who got grumpy in age and decided that the players that came after him weren’t as good, got control of the Veteran’s Committee and started stuffing in his former teammates, many of them of dubious qualification. It is not a useful benchmark. I’ve discussed Jimmy Collins in prior HOF articles. While his numbers may not jump out as super awesome, he has an argument of being the greatest third baseman of all time as of the point he retired and is in… Read more »
Paul G.
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Paul G.

Also, Tommy had been dead for 20 years when he was inducted, so it was not as if he could correct the record, assuming he wished to do so.

Caleb
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Caleb

Honest question: should stats be the only qualifier for the HOF? Or should off-the-field contributions to baseball (e.g. additionally experience as manager, umpire, scout, broadcaster, etc.) be considered in their case? For example, Dizzy Dean’s career totals do not put him in the Hall of Stats. However, he was also a highly successful broadcaster. Should that factor into his HOF credentials?

Keith
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Keith
I don’t know, how are you to define “highly successful?” Was the success from quality broadcasting or being a former player people knew? Tim McCarver and Chris Collinsworth come to mind as “highly successful” broadcasters who are cliched and obnoxious. Both make the home viewing experience worse, but they are famous, have been around for a long time, and would meet the classification of “successful,” I think. In a similar vein: Derek Jeter is an accomplished/successful defensive player because he won Gold Gloves, even though newer defensive statistics rate him as one of the worst defensive shortstops in the history… Read more »
Caleb
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Caleb

Humor another example, if you will. What if a player was very good but a statistically borderline HOF candidate. If said player also had a very good but not great managerial career, should that be considered in his HOF case?

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider
I think his more general question is whether non-players who contributed significantly to the game should be in the Hall, such as Branch Rickey or Ernie Harwell. The other question is whether players who would not qualify as players should get a boost from their post-playing contributions. Dizzy Dean is an interesting case because he may well have been in the Hall of Fame as a player if he didn’t hurt his arm. So, should his post-playing broadcast career put him in? Does it matter how good a broadcaster he was? I remember Ol’ Diz as a broadcaster (although I… Read more »
Naliamegod
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Naliamegod

There is a separate process for non-players, so no. Dizzy Dean induction has little to do with his broadcasting but due to the fact he was essentially the Sandy Koufax of the prewar era, and arguably one of the most famous players in baseball at the time.

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider

Well, you sort of made my comment irrelevant, but I do think Dizzy Dean deserves to be in. At some point, the Hall of Fame process is just a fun thing and who really cares if some schmoe got in because he knew the right people? That’s life.

Michigan & Trumbull
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Michigan & Trumbull
Adam. Fine piece. All these arguments have been hashed over in many places but you’ve made a great case for some clear errors. It is a fact that in sports as in other areas You can get to be famous for being famous as Bill Mazeroski could tell you. However , in comparing players across eras , we have to make an adjustment for what they were trying to do. We’ve come a long way in understanding what constitutes winning baseball , and teams have gone from carrying 9 pitchers to 13 , and nobody is ashamed of strikeouts anymore… Read more »
Rich Moser
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Rich Moser

Are you really comparing Maz to Paris H. and Kim K. ?? Maz made the HoF precisely because the sabermetric revolution revealed how dominant he was at fielding his position, and how much that contributed to his team’s success. That homer didn’t hurt though.

Bukanier
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Bukanier

I think it’s conceivable that if Mussina’s 18 and 19 win seasons were replaced with 16 and 17 win seasons, and nothing else changed, he’d be getting more votes.

Joel
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Joel

It seems like a sinister whispering campaign is keeping Bagwell out.

What about Kevin Brown? Basically as good as Schilling, although he succeeded with a completely different approach. He was a mercenary, and that’s probably what baseball writers are holding against him, but who cares? Good on him for maximizing his earnings. He was also the ace of a World Series winner.

Paul G.
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Paul G.

Kevin Brown is part of the PED group. He was on the Mitchell Report. He also gets demerits for a mediocre playoff resume, never winning a Cy Young, only winning 20 games once, being a disappointment once he was playing in the LA and NYC markets, and for being, reportedly, a jerk.

Devan
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Devan

You lost me at “never won 20 games.” It’s 2015, and we are still placing importance on arbitrary milestones like pitcher wins. Also, who cares if he was a jerk. Didn’t keep Ty Cobb out. Or Ruth. Or Ted Williams. It’s not the Hall of really good guys.

Paul G.
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Paul G.
*sigh* Man, you were lost long before I got involved. I didn’t say “never won 20 games.” I said “only winning 20 games once” as in one more than zero as in not “never.” Good grief, man. (The other thing about that 20 win season is it really was not that good by his own standards. It was very good, mind you, but not to the level of his “mercenary” seasons.) Also, I absolutely agree that being a jerk should not be a bar to the Hall of Fame, and I don’t really care what kind of jerk he was… Read more »
Bad to the Bone
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Bad to the Bone

Tim McCarver is a fine announce, one of the all-time greats, and his books are outstanding!
Ol Diz may have infuriated school marms using words like “slud,” but he was entertaining, and I recall with great pleasure watching, and listening, to Diz and Pee Wee on Saturday afternoons, which was a highlight of the week.

Reade King
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The BBWA seems to have moved, philosophically, from a ‘big hall’ to a ‘small hall’ over the past 40 years or so. This is likely due to innumerancy (the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy). When so-and-so is ‘only’ the 38th best 3rd baseman, he is inevitably considered less good than the 13th best 3rd baseman (in 1939, when said 3rd baseman became eligible for the hall). He might well be better than that 1939 no-brainer, but he’s ‘only 39th’. It’s a question of numbers. The overall pool of all major league players continues to grow (check B-Ref and you will find… Read more »
Hollywood Hills
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There is absolutely no change whatsoever in how the Phillies are run. Bill Giles put the ownership group together with people who think like him 35 years ago. Guess what? Bill Giles is still there. He took part in the hiring of MacPhail and Klentak both. He was at the press conference announcing the hiring of Klentak. 35 Years. Jim Thome and Cliff Lee That’s it. 35 Years. Carlos Ruiz and Maikel Franco, the only two starting quality players signed out of Latin America. Ruiz was signed out of Panama for eight thousand dollars. Need that in numerical form? $8,000-… Read more »
Lenny
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Lenny

Relevance to this article?

a concerned reader
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a concerned reader

This guy went to jail for hacking sport writers accounts to complain about the Phillies not spending like drunken sailors, and now has a personal vendetta against the Phillies ownership.

He had been “banned” from Fangraphs but is worming his way back with new rants under differing user names.

Dave
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Dave

You REALLY need to seek help dude, you’re ridiculous.

Hollywood Hills
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PHILLIES OWNED BY THEIR FANS Don’t be passive. Recognize reality. What is our reality? 1) The Phillies do not exist without us. The TV deal didn’t happen if we did not deliver the best TV ratings in all of MLB. Neither the owners or the players get their money without us. WE are the source of their wealth. The Phillies belong to us. 2) Own your reality. People say “I’ve followed the Phillies for 30 years” Yeah? MLB lasts half of a year. If you followed the Phillies for 30 years then you devoted 15 years of your life to… Read more »
Bob B.
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Bob B.

*yawn*

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider

Who gives a shit?

John Autin
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John Autin

Adam, it’s great to see your work here.
I’m so glad you mentioned Trammell. There seems to be a campaign going on to vote Tim Raines before it’s too late. I’ve nothing against Raines, who absolutely deserves election. But he’ll have another shot on the writers’ ballot. Trammell is do-or-die this year, and seems to me more deserving, as well. (Your Hall of Stats agrees.) I hope that any writer with room for just one of them will vote for Trammell.

Dana Yost
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Dana Yost
I appreciate the detailed study and well-explained comparisons of players. But whenever I read a story like this, whether on the HOF or MVP or Cy Young voting, I end up wishing there was some way to calculate and quantify a player’s intangibles and add that to the rest of the math: his baseball smarts (situational baserunning, hitting the cut-off, reading the Green Monster’s caroms, etc.), his heart, leadership in the clubhouse and on the field, ability to play injured, and so on. Maybe there is a stat for it, but I don’t know of it — but would something… Read more »
Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider
Why do you need that for Bob Gibson? There has never been any question that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and his pitching down the stretch is incorporated in his stats. So what is your beef except that someone here compared Schilling to Gibson? Are you suggesting that players should be in the HOF because of their intangibles? Plus, you are picking and choosing stats to prove your point. Gibson lost his first WS start in 1964 and gave up five runs in Game 7 but got a lot of runs. He lost Game 7 in… Read more »
Dana Yost
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Dana Yost
Yes, I guess my beef is that Schilling was compared to Gibson. Also, what I was trying to say was that a player should have both — intangibles and impressive career numbers — to be worthy of induction. One good September does not a Hall of Famer make, nor does a career WAR that may look gaudy but is hollow in terms of substantial, meaningful performances. Yaz and Gibson had bigger careers, which Cespedes is a long way from achieving. My aim with citing Yaz’s great finish in 1967 was to start a discussion on how difficult it seems to… Read more »
Dana Yost
Guest
Dana Yost
I appreciate the detailed study and well-explained comparisons of players. But whenever I read a story like this, whether on the HOF or MVP or Cy Young voting, I end up wishing there was some way to calculate and quantify a player’s intangibles and add that to the rest of the math: his baseball smarts (situational baserunning, hitting the cut-off, reading the Green Monster’s caroms, etc.), his heart, leadership in the clubhouse and on the field, ability to play injured, and so on. Maybe there is a stat for it, but I don’t know of it — but would something… Read more »
Bob B.
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Bob B.

Nice article. Some of these exclusions seem beyond ridiculous. I think some of it is a fear of voting someone into the Hall of Fame who later comes out as a PED user… which doesn’t seem like a good way of going about things.
Still I may be jaded about “the horrors of PED abuse” because I’m a big cycling fan… shit happens. (Well, now I sound more blase about it than I actually am; I probably should have stopped writing after “nice article”).

Anyway… thanks.

plastic extruder
Guest

Ceramic and band heaters are a bit expensive compared to a
wire coil heater, but the benefits they offer are great.
* Ram Extruder. The ceramic heaters that have got no fans in them can be used for small areas
only.

Tom Mullen
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Tom Mullen
Great article. I’m a SABR member since 2003, with a decent knowledge of baseball history (including statistical records, and who’s IN/OUT of the HOF). I would like to add that, even as to players accused of (or tested positive for) taking steroids for part(s) of their career (starting with Bonds & Clemens), I think it is a big mistake to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and simply refuse to consider their candidacy for the HOF–despite their clear HOF qualifications, based on their great seasons that occurred BEFORE the “steroid-tainted” part of their careers (or after), which arguably should… Read more »
Paul G.
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Paul G.

I think it is a joke that the all-time hit leader, Pete Rose, has not been inducted or even considered

Gambling is a big deal. Any sport where the the population thinks the game is rigged will die. Pete knew it was wrong, he knew what would happen, he did it anyway and apparently he is still doing it, though admittedly not being part of the game he’s not causing any damage except to himself. Frankly, serves him right.

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider

But the idea of the Hall of Fame isn’t just to reward the players. It’s to commemorate baseball history. Pete Rose is a significant part of baseball history. I have no problem with banning him from participation in the game; gambling is dangerous to the game. But the Hall isn’t, to my mind, a gift to the player and I think the all-time hits leader should be in the Hall as a way to commemorate his career-not necessarily the person.

Dana Yost
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Dana Yost

True, one of the Hall’s purpose is to commemorate baseball history, but that can be — and is — done through the museum side of the HOF. Through artifacts on display and in exhibits, Rose and his career are well-represented at the hall.

JLRC
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JLRC

I find it a little difficult to take the whispers at their words when it comes to players having a steroid era and non-steroid era within their career. If I’m Bonds or Clemens, even if it is true that I started taking steroids after x amount of amazing years in MLB, it is incredibly convenient for that storyline to get out there. Steroids existed long before the mid-90s, so I don’t have a great way to really know that the pioneering cheaters of the mid-90s weren’t doing it before others got into it.

Dave B
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Dave B

I actually think that Chuck Klein might be a better comp for Larry Walker than Al Simmons. He’s a corner outfielder who played in the Coors Field of his time – the Baker Bowl. As a result, his home/read splits are huge – his home/road OPS differential is even a bit bigger than Walker’s. He also won one MVP, like Walker, though it did take a Veteran’s committee to get him elected.

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