Thursday, September 30, 2010

Steroids and the HOF

Recently I've read a number of articles concerning the election of players into the HOF, and how the voters view those who played in the Steroid Era, and more importantly, those who used. In Ken Burns' documentary The Tenth Inning, Tom Boswell drops a bomb that a current player in the Hall of Fame was drinking a "Jose Conseco milkshake" in the late 1980s. Without delving into too far (other blogs handle this more adeptly than I), this means:

1. JC milkshake = steroids
2. the "rule" that players who used/suspected of using not being allowed in the Hall of Fame is sort of shutting the barn door after the animals have fled.

I'll put in my two cents here...not that it matters (I don't have a vote).

1. I believe that a certain player who spent time with Oakland is the most likely candidate that Boswell is talking about. This isn't the first time I've heard a player currently in the HOF did steroids, and it isn't the first time I've heard this player suspected of doing steroids.

2. If I were a voter, here's how I would handle the situation. It's not right; not wrong, but I haven't heard this variation before: I would try to ascertain how a player's career may have been altered due to steroids, and judge if they were good enough to make it without the use of PEDs. Impossible to do? Not necessarily. I'll give a few examples:

*Barry Bonds - the man was a HOFer well before he is accused of doing steroids. The average player peaks between the ages of 28-32, Barry's four best seasons happened after he turned 36. Never done in the history of the game. As a result, it became a question of whether he was the greatest of all-time. Take it away, and he's still one of the best power-speed combination players in the history of the game.

*Mark McGwire - there are valid reasons to assume he began using early in his career, though his brother among others suggest he began using in an effort to cope with the injuries. What can not be denied is his offensive explosion in his 30s. Without the use of steroids? He had a career .263 average, and hit a ton of HRs. What do his numbers look like without it? I suggest he might be a rich man's Dave Kingman...and that (IMO) is not good enough.

*Roger Clemens - I'm taking Bill Simmons' word for it here, and maybe I shouldn't, but in one of his articles Bill suggested that 29 baseball GMs thought The Rocket was washed up leaving Boston. He did lead the league in strikeouts his last year in Boston...but Clemens went on to have two great years in Toronto, and another ten years (including two in Houston in his 40s that don't fall in line with a typical player. I find it hard to believe that Clemens didn't start his use after he left Boston, and would not vote him in on the first ballot.

*A-Rod - HOFer, with or without the use.

*Rafael Palmeiro - there were rumors of steroid use by Rafael while he was in college, and if one were to look at a player similar to him, one has to go no further than Will Clark. They were in college at the same time, switched teams, and were similar offensive players. Clark faded at a normal rate. If Clark isn't in, neither (in my book) is Palmeiro.

Just a thought.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Votes Are In...

And I have to say to the voters: Thank you.

After reading all the ESPN guys dribble over the possibility of 10 people getting in (I never read an argument against anyone on their website, and Stark/Kurkjian each voted for the maximum 10), I fully expected three to get in, and possibly four. Turns out, it was only Andre Dawson.

If there was only one selected, he wasn't the one I would've chosen, and some have pointed out his weak OBP as a case against him. They're not wrong, but with the support behind him in previous years, I wasn't surprised.

So how did I do in my evaulation?

Roberto Alomar: My prediction - Close, but in. Actual - Close, but out.
Kevin Appier: My prediction - less than 5% Actual - 0.2%
Harold Baines: My prediction - less than 5% Actual - 6.1% (up 0.2%)
Bert Blyleven: My prediction - In. Actual - missed by 5 votes. There are some stubborn voters who agree with me.
Ellis Burks: My prediction - Less than 5%. Actual - 0.4%
Andre Dawson: My prediction - miss by a single vote. Actual - Made it by 15.
Andres Galarraga: My prediction - just over 5%. Actual - 4.1%
Pat Hentgen: Less than 5%, less than 5% (0.2%)
Mike Jackson: Less than 5%, less than 5% (actually, 0%)
Eric Karros: Less than 5%, less than 5% (0.4%)
Ray Lankford: Less than 5%, 0 votes
Barry Larkin: Just into the HOF, 51.6% (missed by 24%)
Edgar Martinez: Near 50%, actually 36.2%
Don Mattingly: 8%, 16.1% (can someone explain why he received more votes than he had since 2002?
Fred McGriff: 15%, 21%
Mark McGwire: 21.9%, 23.8%
Jack Morris: slight increase from 44%, increased to 52.3%
Dale Murphy: slight decrease from last year (62 votes, 11.5%), actually increased by 1 vote
Dave Parker: didn't make a prediction, other than without cocaine, he would've made it. Increased his votes by 1.
Tim Raines: Increase his vote by a couple. Actually increased by 32.
Shane Reynolds: Less than 5%, less than 5%
David Segui: Less than 1.5 votes, received 1.
Alan Trammell: Between 10-20%, actually 22.4%
Robin Ventura: Less than 5% (forgot to write it), 1.3%
Todd Zeile: 0.3%, 0%

I was off on Larkin and Edgar...turns out only playing 4 seasons of 150+ games does affect how one votes, and with Edgar, he ended up 14% of where I thought he'd be, but well within range of reaching the magical plateau in a few years.

He may want to do it before the big shots start hitting the ballots in 2013, however.

I was also surprised Galarraga missed the 5% cutoff. This doesn't bode well for Larry Walker next year, who played most of his career in Colorado.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

More Bert Blyleven abuse

Taken from comments on

1. The '77 Rangers won 94 games and gave Bert 4.9 runs/game, well above league average, above the Rangers' average, and more than the Rangers other three starters - Gaylord Perry, Doyle Alexander and Dock Ellis. And Bert puts up a great ERA+ of 151, best on the staff. Man, that sounds like a 20 win seasons, easy!

But Bert goes 14-12. Doyle Alexander takes his 4.5 runs/game - .4 less than Bert - and manages a 17-11 record. Gaylord Perry gets miserable offensive support - 3.8 r/g, more than a FULL RUN less than Bert - and posts a 15-12 record. Dock Ellis gets 4.6 r/g but posts a nifty 10-6 record in only 22 starts.

I can hear the Bert Backers now: "that's just one season, it was an anomaly!" Unfortunately for Bert, it wasn't.

Bert goes to the Pirates in '78, who proceed to win 88 games en route to a 2nd place finish in the NL East. The Pirates give Bert 4.2 r/g, which was pretty good: the league ave. was 4.0 and the Pirates average of 4.2 was fourth in the league. But Bert goes 14-10, a .583 winning percentage. The other three starting pitchers in the Pirates rotation - Candelaria, Robinson and Rooker - get about 4.25 r/g, virtually the same as Bert, and post a cumulative record of 35-28 for a .556 winning percentage. Bert won 41% of his starts while the other three won 39% of their starts.

Another anomaly? Mere coincidence that Bert again can't outperform lesser pitchers?


"Rob, what's so difficult to figure out about Murray Chass's argument? If, as Bert Backers argue, Bert would have been better if he'd played on better teams, isn't it relevant what he actually did for good teams?

Bert played eight seasons for teams that either won 90 or more games or were serious contenders for division titles. In those 8 seasons he averaged 12.5 wins per season. He played for a world champion Pirates team in '79 that gave him above average run support and he won 12 games in 37 starts. The Pirates led the NL East going into September in 1980 but Bert won only one of his last 7 starts, going 1-5 with a 4.38 ERA. The defending champion Twins were only six back of the A's in mid-August 1988, but Bert went 1-6 down the stretch and the Twins dropped out of contention.

All in all, Bert compiled a .546 winning percentage in those years for teams that had an aggregate .562 winning percentage.

That's 8 seasons, Rob, nearly 40% of Bert's career. Not only was he not a Hall of Famer, he wasn't even average for those teams.

Don't tell me what Bert would have done had those Twins teams of the '70s been better. Bert had his chance with the Pirates, the '80s Twins teams, the '77 Rangers - and he came up short."

Thanks Tymeg for providing details I couldn't be bothered searching for.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010 Hall of Fame Ballot, Part 6.

  • Alan Trammell (SS) - .285 BA, 2365 hits, 185 HRs, 1003 RBIs, 236 SBs, 6 All Star Games, 4 Gold Gloves, 3 Top 10 MVP finishes (2nd in 1987). Poor Alan Trammell. He played at the same time as Cal Ripken in the AL (who dominated the offensive stats for shortstops until the Jeter/Garciaparra/A-Rod triad in the 1990s), and Ozzie Smith, who may have been the greatest defensive shortstop in the history of the game. For most of Alan's career, there were 26 teams in MLB. Is taking more than 10% of the starting shortstops from a particular era too many from the Hall of Fame? And if one includes Larkin, who arrived on the scene when Trammell was 28, then Alan would be fourth on the list (if Larkin gets in). It's a numbers game, and Trammell's statistics haven't held up over time. But what I find interesting is how similar his and Larkin's numbers are (Baseball Reference has them at 914 for similarity). They are separated by a mere 25 hits, 13 HRs, 43 RBIs, and a 143 SBs. So why is Larkin going to be (in my opinion) regarded more highly than Trammell?
1. The AL that Trammell played had about 10% more offense than the NL, so Trammell's numbers are 10% less valuable than Larkin's.
2. Larkin's huge advantage is in SBs, while Trammell has no apparent lead on Larkin.
3. 12 All Star Games for Larkin (and an MVP), while Trammell has 6 All Star Games and a 2nd.

What the voters will do: Keep Trammell between 10-20% again this year. What the voters should do: Eventually his supporters will fade.
  • Robin Ventura (3B) - .267 BA, 1885 hits, 294 HRs, 1182 RBIs, 2 All Star Games, 6 Gold Gloves, 1 Top 10 MVP finish (6th). Feel free to have a look - in relation to the league, Ventura's career peaked at age 27, in 1995. Though he may have had gaudier numbers later in his career, it was more an effect of the rising offensive statistics/smaller ballparks rather than any enhancers. And to be honest, if Ventura had been using steroids, I think he would have done better than to get his ass handed to him by a senior citizen such as Nolan Ryan.
I also am curious why third basemen have always gotten the shaft in relation to the Hall of Fame. Only ten are currently enshrined, out of 202. If things were fair, each position would have ten percent represented (though I would suspect there would be more pitchers). Can we assume that there should be twenty? What went wrong? Without going into any formal study, I think it's because third base has always been looked at as a power position, yet because of the fielding needed to play there (need to more agile than third base, and better reflexes/defensively than left field), their stats never compare favorably with the other power positions (LF/1B). In addition, they never get credit defensively when compared to C/SS/2B/CF, so third basemen fall into a nether region of no respect for their defense, no respect for their offense. Having said that, Bill James made a great argument that both Ron Santo and Darrell Evans should be either in the HOF, are at least reconsidered.

Todd Zeile (3B) - .265 BA, 2004 hits, 253 HRs, 1110 RBIs. Solid statistics, and nothing to show for it. Zeile was never a Gold Glove winner (moved from catcher to third base, third base to first base, then back when management realized he couldn't hit to play first, another discrepancy between the positions), never an All-Star, never got any votes in the MVP race, and only finished 6th in the Rookie of the Year voting. To play as long as he did (16 seasons), and put up the decent numbers he did (was only a backup in two of those seasons), but never managed to gain any accolades like that is tough. Here's a list of hitters who played longer without appearing in an All Star Game (since 1933):Joe Kuhel (1B), 1930-47. The first few years in the league, there wasn't an All-Star game, and the only reason Kuhel played 18 seasons was because everyone else was running off to fight. If there hadn't been a World War, Kuhel would've left the game by 1943. Still, Kuhel finished 6th in the MVP voting in 1936, and placed in the top 20 three other times, something Zeile never did.
  • Denny Walling (U) - a utility player for 18 years, Walling only had three seasons with more than 300 at bats. For his career, he averaged 170 a year.
  • Richie Hebner (1B/3B) - played 18 years, once received MVP votes but never played in an All Star Game. Ron Santo and Mike Schmidt usually occupied those spots, though Doug Rader did win five straight Gold Gloves in the early 70s.
  • Tony Phillips (U) - played every position on the field, one year hit 27 HRs, often had double digit steals, but never had his own position. Did finish 16th in the MVP voting one year (1993).
  • Jim Dwyer (OF/1B) - played 18 seasons for 7 different teams, but played less than Denny Walling.
  • Jose Vizcaino (2B/SS) - .270 BA, 1453 hits. 18 years, 6 years as a regular.
  • Jamie Quirk (C/U) - backup for 18 years (never had 300 ABs).
  • Dave Philley (OF) - only a Phillie for two years near the end of his career, Dave missed five years to World War II, yet still played until he was 42. He started for the first ten years of his career, then became a platoon player, then a pinch hitter. Still, finished in the top 20 of MVP voting twice.
  • Lenny Harris (U) - 18 years, only 6 years had more than 300 ABs. .269 BA, 1055 hits.
  • Rick Cerone (C) - 18 years, starter for two, no All Star Games yet still finished 7th in MVP voting in 1980.
  • Jose Cardenal (OF) - 18 years, stater for 12. Received MVP votes in 1973 and 74 (finished 28th and 23rd)
  • Dick Schofield (SS/2B) - 19 years, starter for 3. Classic no-hit middle infielder. Hit .227 for his career.
  • Mark McLemore (2B) - 19 years, starter for 8. Came up as a classic no-hit middle infielder as well, but taught himself patience at the plate, and to make contact. 1602 hits, .259 BA
  • Johnny Cooney (1B/OF) - 20 years, 4 as a starter. Although half of his career came before 1933, Cooney wouldn't have made any All-Star game. He didn't become a starter until 1936 with Brooklyn, and 3 times finished in the top 20 of MVP voting.
  • Elmer Valo (OF) - 20 seasons, .282 BA, 1420 hits. Was a regular until age 32, when injuries and Allie Clark pushed him to the bench. Two years later, as a platoon player, Valo put up the best statistical numbers of his career, and wound up finishing 22nd in the MVP voting.
  • Jay Johnstone (OF) - .267 BA, 1254 hits. 2o seasons, full-time for 2.
  • Rick Dempsey (C) - 24 seasons, part-time catcher. Only topped 400 ABs in a season once, was known for his ability to call a game. Also known for his antics, and being a clown during rain delays, but not known for his hitting: .233 BA, 1093 hits.
17 players, of which 8 never received MVP votes. Todd Zeile is the Hall of Fame selection for those players. What the voters will do: 0.3% What the voters should do: Perfect.

So there are my thoughts: in short, I think Alomar, Larkin, Raines, Dawson should be elected into the Hall, I think Blyleven, Dawson, and Alomar will be elected this year, and Larkin, Morris and Martinez eventually will be (though I don't think the last two deserve it), and I think Smith and McGwire could go either way. We'll find out in 2 days.

2010 Hall of Fame Ballot, Part 5.

  • Dale Murphy (OF) - .265 BA, 2111 hits, 398 HRs, 1266 RBIs, 7 All-Star games, 2 MVP wins, 2 other top 10 finishes, 5 Gold Gloves, 15th in career strikeouts. This is Murphy's 12th year on the ballot, and unfortunately Dale has been hovering under 15% since the first three years on the ballot. What causes voters to change their mind over time? I think, though they would probably deny it, writers are subjective as any of us, and I think Murphy has been hurt by a number of things, some of which I've mentioned under other candidates. For one, writers tend to remember the last couple of years of his career, which were by the standards he set earlier, horrible. After the last of his All Star years in 1987 (in which he hit .295-44-105, not as big a peak over earlier years considered the offensive power generated that year...look at Dawson's year, for example), he slumped to .226-24-77, and never hit above .252 or more than 24 HRs again. But before that slump, he was one of the most feared hitters in the NL, along with Schmidt. Secondly, the first three years of him being on the ballot coincided with the boom-boom years of McGwire, Sosa and Bonds, and everyone loved the home run hitters. Once the scandals started arriving, I think we (and they) became skeptical about all power hitters. Finally, as more recent players arrive on the ballot, Murphy's statistics (earned in a more difficult era) get compared to the newer players, and they don't stand up. What the voters will do: I think he'll slip a little further away from the Promised Land again this year, down to 9%. What the voters should do: He's 15th in career strikeouts among hitters, shouldn't that count for something?
  • Dave Parker (OF) - .290 BA, 2712 hits, 339 HR, 1493 RBIs, 154 SBs, 7 All Star Games, 1 MVP win, 5 other Top 10 MVP finishes, 3 Gold Gloves. Look at Dave Parker's career - isn't it obvious when his focus went away from baseball and onto cocaine? He went from "Cobra" to "Bloodhound"...his MVP win came at age 27, not surprising since batters usually peak at that age. He faded a bit the following year, and the next five years were a wasteland before finally leaving Pittsburgh for Cincinnati. He returned to form at age 34, but time was against him. As a result, he most likely falls short of election. But what if he had avoided drugs in the middle of his career (1980-84)? Let's fill in the missing stats...
1979: .310-30-106
1980: .302-27-99 (+ 30 hits)
1981: .292-21-86 (+ 55)
1982: .292-30-101 (+ 102)
1983: .284-31-98 (+ 3)
1984: .285-29-102

I'm assuming a couple of things:

1. The injuries were related to the cocaine.
2. The power stayed during those years, including the two just before it came back.

So what do we end up with for career stats? 83 more HRs, 413 RBIs, 190 more hits, which means: .294 BA, 2902 hits, 422 HRs, 1906 RBI's. Hello, Hall of Fame, Mr. 1997.

  • Tim Raines (OF) - .294 BA, 2605 hits, 170 HRs, 980 RBIs, 808 SBs, 7 All Star Games, 2nd Rookie of Year, 3 Top 10 MVP finishes. Let's be honest: power hitters get more credit than speed guys, and players in big markets get more credit than those that play in..., I don't know, maybe Montreal. Finally, Tim Raines made the mistake of having his career entirely overlapped by the greatest leadoff hitter in the history of the game, and maybe one of the top 5 hitters of all-time (just ask him sometime). But let's look at facts - Tim Raines is 5th in career stolen bases, and has the best SB percentage of any of those near him in numbers (84.3%). In addition, combined with his walks reached base almost 4000 times, surpassed by only 33 players eligible for the Hall. (Completely lifted from ESPN) But let me go a bit further: Raines lost a significant part of the 1981 season to the strike, and wasn't able to go to spring training in 1987 due to the collusion (didn't resign with Montreal right away, and no one offered him a contract). That was his best year (OPS and OPS+), yet only played 139 games. Throw in 1994's strike, Raines missed over 100 games out of his control. Yet the same thing that plagued Murphy affects Raines as well, as by the time Tim Raines got to play in a spotlight, he was ten years into a steady, slow decline, and was nothing but a part-time player. But when he was at his What the voters will do: a couple vote increase from last year. What the voters should do: Elect him this year, rather than waiting until 2020 like I get the feeling they will before they realize how great a player he was.
  • Shane Reynolds (P) - (114-96), 4.04 ERA, 1403 K's, 1 All Star game, 1 Top 10 Cy Young finish. I don't think I need to add to what has been said by his statistics above. Tim Kurkjian just ejaculated over Shane's career.
  • David Segui (1B) - .291 BA, 1412 hits, 139 HRs, 684 RBIs. Not sure what to make of Segui's inclusion on this list. Is he the Mike Jackson of players? David only had one season where he had more than 500 ABs, and never made an All-Star game, never won a Gold Glove, or received an MVP vote. I think it is interesting to note that Segui admitted to taking HGH, and steroids while playing with the New York Mets...and we can look at his stats to see what affects it had. Just using OPS+, which compares his offensive output to the rest of the league (and eliminating park affects etc.), Segui had his best season in Montreal at age 30...which isn't that big a surprise, since power peaks in a hitter between ages 27-32. What I find significant is that Segui's second best season happened in 2001. At age 34. In Baltimore. Wasn't Baltimore one of the big steroid users' home later...and before (though Brady Anderson's 50 HRs has yet to proven to be caused by anything else than his dashing good looks and hip facial hair)? What the voters will do: I'm baffled - usually everyone on the ballot gets at least one voters to submit a "yes" for them. Segui has used steroids...does the old standard apply? Over/under on votes: 1.5. What the voters should do: Take the under.
  • Lee Smith (P) - (71-92), 3.03 ERA, 478 Saves, 8.7 K/9 IP, 7 All Star games, 4 Top 10 MVP finishes. Remember the good old days when a team's best reliever was brought in with the game tied? When they would pitch more than 100 innings a year? Yeah, I barely do as well. Lee Smith held the all-time career saves record until Hoffman and Rivera went past him a few years ago. This would be more impressive if: a) it was a statistic kept before 1969, which it isn't, and: b) the role of the closer didn't morph into what it is today (a one-inning performer) in the late 1980s. Which brings me back to Edgar Martinez...others wanted to compare Martinez to a reliever (i.e., Gossage), I think it's time to compare him to a more appropriate one. Smith. The save was adopted as a statistic by MLB in 1969; the designated hitter was adopted by the AL in 1973. Lee Smith was the greatest beneficiary of the changing managerial styles that led to elevated saves, while Martinez was the beneficiary of a changing managerial style that suggested a DH wasn't just for aging power hitters who couldn't play the outfield or field at first base anymore. And just like Lee Smith, Edgar Martinez will be passed by other DHs who did it better, based on how they are being utilized. What the voters will do: 40-50% of them will continue to vote for Smith. What the voters should do: Rename the Rolaids Relief Man Award the Lee Smith Award, and watch his percentage of supporters grow.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010 Hall of Fame Ballot, Part 4.

  • Don Mattingly (1B) - .307 BA, 2153 hits, 222 HRs, 1099 RBIs, 6 All Star games, 9 Gold Gloves, 1 MVP win (1985), 3 other top 10 finishes. Donnie Baseball was the one standout for the Yankees in the dark period between World Series Championships. He had a cup of coffee with the 1982 Yankees, a team that had lost to the Dodgers in the 1981 World Series, and expected to get back there soon. Fourteen years later they were still waiting when they were upset by the Seattle Mariners in the divisional playoffs. Mattingly retired after that season, his body broken down by years of carrying a so-so team loaded with Ed Whitsons and Roberto Kellys. The following year, some guy named Joe Torre led them to another World Series, ushering in a era of dominance not seen since Casey Stengel's Yankees. Matthingly's career is a little weird to understand. If one were to look at it without seeing the name or age, they would assume they got a cup of coffee with the Yankees at age 24, finally breaking in as a regular at age 26, winning an MVP at age 27 (the normal peak year), and suffering injuring and declining ability until retiring at age 37. For whatever reason, Mattingly peaked three early, and left the game at age 34, but an old 34. Maybe he's the exact opposite of Edgar Martinez...
His MVP finishes, Gold Glove wins and batting average suggest the possibility of the Hall. His cumulative stats say otherwise. What the voters will do: Mattingly's support will continue to dwindle, but I think he will stay on the ballot for one more year with about 8% of the vote. What the voters should do: Put Donnie Baseball back into his Midwestern Pasture. Unfortunately, his luck with the Hall is the same as his luck with the Yankees.

  • Fred McGriff (1B/DH) - .284 BA, 2490 hits, 493 HRs, 1550 RBIs, 5 All Star games, 6 Top 10 finishes MVP voting (best - 4th in 1993). The Crime of the best nicknames in baseball during the 90s, and McGriff was one of the best players during that time as well. He also holds the distinction of being the last player in BOTH leagues to lead the league in HRs under 40. There a couple of factors that keep McGriff from joining the ranks of those in Cooperstown. I'll start with those that have nothing to do with stats.
  1. He played for six different teams, and few fans identify him with "their" club. It was no fault of his own; drafted by the Yankees, he was traded to the Blue Jays, then the Padres, and finally he left the Padres during their cost-cutting moves of 1993 and joined Atlanta. After signing with Atlanta as a free agent, he was purchased by Tampa Bay when he played unnoticed for a few years, before returning to the National League...but by then the Crime Dog was toothless.
  2. Someday compare Jeff Bagwell to Fred McGriff. Career-wise, the Crime Dog beats Bagwell almost in every category, but Bagwell played his entire career in Houston, and had two or three years where he peaked higher than McGriff. McGriff was a steady player, but at no time did anyone consider him one of the top hitters in the league. For this reason, I'll think Bagwell will get in his first year of eligibility, while the "carpetbagger" McGriff won't.
  3. As the offensive statistics when up in the mid-90s, his stayed level and decreased slightly. If his career started five years later, he would have about 520 HRs, and 500 HRs is still considered a HOF standard.
So where do I stand? In my opinion, McGriff was never THE first baseman. He was never THE man on a good team - with the Atlanta teams, it was always the pitching, and the team was led by Pendleton and then Chipper Jones. In order to get in, he needed to get to 500 home runs...and even then, I'd be hard pressed to say yes. What the voters will do: Around 15%. What the voters should do: I think that's appropriate, but as the bigger numbers and names come on the ballot over the next few years, he'll lose support.
  • Mark McGwire (1B) - .263 BA, 1626 hits, 583 HRs, 1414 RBIs, Rookie of the Year (1987), 12 All Star games, 1 Gold Glove, 5 Top 10 MVP finishes (top 2nd in 1998). McGwire has been discussed, dragged through the mud and analyzed because of what he said (or didn't say) before Congress. Therefore, I don't need to go through that stats, though I will say this: if he doesn't take steroids, what type of career does he have? Am I wrong in suggesting the following career line? .259 BA, 1474 hits, 443 HRs, 1274 RBIs, Rookie of the Year (1987), 8 All Star games, 1 Gold Glove, 3 Top 10 MVP finishes (?) Does he get elected then? What the voters will do: 21.9%, give or take .005%. What the voters should do: 2010 will be a very interesting year. LaRussa has always shown great admiration for McGwire, and I believe LaRussa offered him the hitting coach's job as a way to begin a rehabilitation of McGwire's image. The next step is McGwire's: if he avoids discussing it, like he avoided the topic in front of Congress, his support for the Hall will not increase. If he makes amends, he'll be elected within 5 years.
  • Jack Morris (P) - (254-186), 3.90 ERA, 2478 K's, 5 All Star games, 5 Top 5 Cy Young finishes (3rd twice). Why are all the tough ones in the middle of the alphabet? As far as I'm concerned, Morris doesn't belong in the Hall. He was a workhorse of a pitcher, a pitcher who was about eight years too late. Mind you, if he pitched eight years earlier, he would have already fallen off the ballot. His ERA would be the highest in the Hall, bar none...and he avoided the offensive explosion that happened after the 1994 strike, as Commissioner, owners and union looked away from the "enhancers" that encouraged fans to come back to the game. So why is Morris still getting almost half of all voters to say yes?
  1. While his workhorse style was about eight years too late, his win totals look better and better, standing out against the background of average career pitchers in a period between the Carltons, Ryan and Seavers of the 70s and early 80s, and the emergence/milestone achieving Maddux, Glavine, Clemens and Johnsons of the late 90s/ Double 00s.
  2. His 10 inning shutout masterpiece against John Smoltz and the Braves to win Game 7 for the Twins. It is one of the best postseason performances in baseball history, equal to Mazeroski's HR to win the 1960 World Series. Then again, that HR got Maz into the Hall...
  3. Career wise in the postseason though? 7-4, 3.80 ERA. Good, but again not comparable to some of the greats. Curt Schilling by comparison was 11-2, 2.23.
  4. Only 5 All Star games. Schilling was in 6. David Cone was in 5.
What the voters will do: Slight increase for Morris, as 251 looks better and better. What the voters should do: Look past the 1991 World Series and look at his 1987 masterpiece against the Twins: 8 IP, 6 ER. Or his entire 1992 postseason of 23 IP, 19 ER.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Hall of Fame Ballot, Part 3.

  • Eric Karros (1B) - .268 BA, 1724 hits, 284 HRs, 1047 RBIs, Rookie of the Year (1992), 1 Top 5 MVP finish. A rich man's Wally Joyner, perhaps? Karros' numbers were typical for a solid first baseman in the 1970s and early 80s, but he gets hurt on two fronts. First, he played in Dodgers Stadium, traditionally one of the best pitching parks in the league. Second, his career fell almost entirely during the offensive explosion of the 1990s, and he numbers were regularly overshadowed by contemporaries like Bagwell, Frank Thomas, and to a lesser extent, Mark Grace. Maybe he's a poor man's Mark Grace? Or Jeff Bagwell? Karros never won a Gold Glove, beaten regularly by Mark Grace and later J.T. Snow, and was just an average fielder by most evaluating criteria. One final note: Bill James and the rest of Sabrematicians, have, by studying thousands of baseball careers, surmised the average right-handed batter peaks in offensive numbers at age 27, and left-handers a year later. The real only group that doesn't match this are catchers, who tend to be rushed to the majors because of their defensive skills, and don't peak until their early 30s as hitters. Now that we're getting players who fell during the Steroid Era, isn't it wise to at least look at possible steroid users, simply by evaluating their years? Take Karros, for example:

  1. Age 27: .298 BA, 32 HR, 105 RBI, .905 OPS (145 OPS+)
  2. Age 28: .260 BA, 34 HR, 111 RBI, .795 OPS (113 OPS+)
  3. Age 29: .266 BA, 31 HR, 104 RBI, .787 OPS (110 OPS+)
His peak was at age 27, and began a subtle decline. But then...

4. Age 31: .304 BA, 34 HR, 112 RBI, .912 OPS (132 OPS+)
5. Age 32: .250 BA, 31 HR, 106 RBI, .780 OPS (100 OPS+)

Which suggests at age 32 he produced at the league average. He never in a full season reached that level again. Did Karros try steroids? Why a second peak at age 31 in his career? What the voters will do: Nice career Eric, and thanks. What the voters should do: One and done.
  • Ray Lankford (OF) - .272 BA, 1561 hits, 238 HR, 874 RBI, 258 SBs, 122 OPS+, 1 All Star game. Lankford joined the Cardinals in the early 90s, finishing 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1991, replacing Willie McGee in center field. I'm not sure if Ray was ever able to decide what type of ballplayer he should be. His first two full years in the NL he stole 40+ bases, but was caught a ton of times, and through his first four years was under 60% for success rate. After that, he became much more successful on the basepaths, finally winding up successful 69% for his career...but he never reached 30 again. He struck out a ton, and in his early 30s became an on-base machine and offered 30+ HRs in 1997 and 1998, when HRs went through the roof in the league overall. While his OPS peaked in those years (at age 30 and 31), his career looks like a normal bell curve, rather than two distinct peaks. His legs went first (his 15 triples his rookie year was never topped), and then his ability to catch the inside fastball. He returned to St. Louis in 2004 at age 37 hoping to rekindle that ability, but it was five years removed. What the voters will do: One and done. What the voters should do: One and done. What Tim Kurkjian will do: Rave about what an outstanding ballplayer he was, then check "yes".
  • Barry Larkin (SS) - .295 BA, 2340 hits, 198 HRs, 960 RBIs, 116 OPS+, 12 All Star games, 3 Gold Gloves, 1995 MVP winner, 1 other Top 10 finish (twice finished 12th). Barry Larkin is one of two people on this year's ballot I can't decide from day-to-day whether he should be in the Hall of Fame. I'll discuss at length my criteria in the other player's section, but let me first point out the negatives about Larkin, and then rebut them. No: He played nineteen seasons, and was often injured, amassing only 7937 at bats and 9057 plate appearances. If they were spread evenly over his career, he would qualify for a batting title by only 6 plate appearances, and would appear in only 114 games a year. Yes: He was good enough to stay in the league for 19 years, even after injuries that would've retired many other players. No: He only won 3 Gold Gloves in his lengthy career. Yes: His career overlapped Ozzie Smith's, arguably the best defensive shortstop in the history of the game, yet still made 12 All Star games, equal to Roberto Alomar. No: his offensive statistics don't dominate like today's shortstops, winding up with less than 200 HRs and 1000 RBIs. Yes: When judged against his contemporaries, only Ripken outproduced him, and while Larkin was in the lineup he could match Ripken. In addition, when Ripken got older he moved to third base, an easier position to field, while Larkin stayed at shortstop his whole career. What the voters will do: Larkin will squeak in on the first ballot. What the voters should do: Today, I'm with the voters. Ask me again tomorrow.
  • Edgar Martinez (DH) - .312 BA, 2247 hits, 309 HRs, 1261 RBIs, .418 OBP, .933 OPS, 147 OPS+, 7 All Star games, 2 Top 10 MVP finishes. Last year when the voters were deciding who should make the HOF and who shouldn't, I took a stand against Bert Blyleven. This year, I'm making my stand against Martinez. Why? The arguments for Edgar go something like this:
1. Best DH ever, they even named the award after him.
2. One of the best hitters in the league; retired before he slipped too far.
3. Didn't receive the accolades he should have because he played in Seattle, well out of the view of mainstream America.
4. Career wasn't long enough, but that's the fault of Seattle's management, since Edgar didn't get his chance until he was 27 while keeping a dead body named Jim Presley at third base.
5. He wasn't a bad fielder, they just wanted to protect his legs from injuries after he pulled a hamstring early in his career.
6. Just because he only hit can't be held against him - he played more innings and had more at-bats than pitchers like Goose Gossage faced hitters. If Goose can make it, so can Edgar.

I'll try and refute each of these arguments in order, but to do so I have to explain my opinion on the criteria for the HOF. I believe, to be inducted into the HOF, a player/pitcher must be both:
  • One of the dominant players in the league for a period of time
  • Must have a lengthy enough career to reach certain milestones.
  • If one is not dominant (the Don Sutton corollary), then one must achieve the Pantheon of Statistics, 300 wins or 3000 hits. 500 HRs used to be the number, but due to the 1990s I think Reggie Jackson's 563 might be the new number, or even 600.
With that in mind, let me approach the current arguments in favor of the World's Greatest DH.

1. Yes, they named the DH award after him. Can someone explain to me why there is a specific name for the award? Is there an award for being the best second baseman? And why do they choose someone who just retired to become the poster boy for the award? There are some that argue Edgar won't get his just due because he was a DH, but I disagree. I think that since MLB named the award after him he will get more support than he normally would get, so being a DH works in his favor. With that in mind, I wish they had waited another decade at least to name it after him, because I think they may have called it the Frank Thomas Award in a couple years...
2. I have no doubt Edgar Martinez was one of the best hitters in the league for a couple of years, but for this section I submit his candidacy to Bill James' Ken Keltner List, first written about in his 1985 Baseball Abstract. For Bill James, there are 15 questions that need to be asked about a player to decide if he is worth of Cooperstown. At a stretch, I think Edgar is a "yes" for five of them. I hate to write about all of them here, so I'll keep it short. Well...short for me.
  1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball? No.
  2. Was he the best player on his team? Maybe in 1995, but that was it.
  3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position? Yes.
  4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races? One. 1995.
  5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime? We don't know - he retired before he slipped more than a little bit.
  6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame? No.
  7. Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame? This is Edgar's weakest point. His career cumulative stats are weak for a HOF candidate.
  8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards? Batting average yes. That's it.
  9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics? No, other than the argument that Seattle management decided to screw him by not bringing him to the majors until age 27.
  10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in? Yes.
  11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close? He finished 3rd in 1995, and 6th in 2000, his only top 10 finishes.
  12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame? 7 All Star Games - Baseball Reference doesn't list those with 7, only 8 or more. Of the 17 hitters with 8 (I don't include pitchers, as they are picked by the managers, and are generally more worthy of their selection), only 5 are in the HOF.
  13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant? They didn't in 1995, when he was the best player on the team. They had the best record in 2000, but he wasn't the best player.
  14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way? His biggest yes. They named the award after him.
  15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider? Yes.
That's 5 yes, 10 no. But, and I think it's important to note here, the discussion of being a DH. Others have compared his candidacy to relievers, and how he played more of the game than some (like Goose Gossage), and therefore shouldn't be discriminated against for only being a DH. As I said earlier, I think that having an award named after him works in his favor, but I also want to point out - if the only job a player has to do in the game is to hit, and there is nothing else to compare him to with other players, than he should hit (career/season) better than the average candidate. Look at Frank Thomas' numbers. Edgar doesn't match up to him. Look at Albert Belle's numbers, and you'll find they're more similar to Martinez. Finally, look at the "similarity scores" for career numbers. Of the ten players whose career is most similar to Edgar, only 1 is in the HOF, and he was put there by the Veterans Committee.

3. A great point made by someone who wrote about David Schoenfield's promotion of Edgar's claim to the HOF: Seattle in the 1990s was NOT Seattle in 1906. The year Edgar finished third in MVP voting, Randy Johnson won the Cy Young, and the nation watched as they stormed back to take the division, then beat the Yankees in the Division Series. The year before, Griffey finished second in MVP voting. ESPN showed highlights every night. If anyone could complain about a lack of exposure in the 1990s, I think only Montreal had an argument.

4. Those supporting Edgar's candidacy here are playing the "What If..." Game, a favorite of mine when thinking if I had bought Microsoft stock in 1986, or Google stock a couple of years ago. I would own an island, and would date Hollywood stars, and... but we can't play "What If" with a player's career. We can only take what we have. If we do that, then we wonder about Cecil Travis, who got frostbite fighting in World War II preventing him from reaching the HOF, or the players who stayed in the International League because Jack Dunn wouldn't sell them to the majors.

5. I don't trust defensive statistics, and I don't have access to Billy Beane's Zone Ratings charts. There is a reason why Edgar Martinez was kept in the minors as long as he was: Seattle management thought his defense was horrible, but he hit so well they had to find a spot for him. After two years in the majors, he became the full-time DH. I know what the statistics say about his fielding; I'm saying that this is one case I don't think I can pretend to judge appropriately because the stats might not tell the whole story. Edgar was a hell of a hitter; don't pretend he got screwed out of being the next Brooks Robinson because the GM was a moron (he may have been, but still...)

6. Again, the references to the relievers I think are inappropriate. I believe in comparing apples to apples, and in this circumstance Edgar should compared to the other hitters of his time period, not only DHs. And when I do that, I'm left with this: 91st all time in BA (6 of the 16 above him eligible for the HOF are in), 154th in hits (1 of the 11 above him are in the HOF), 22nd in OBP (his strongest argument, but Ferris Fain and Max Bishop are above him), 112th in HRs (2 of the next 14 are in), 115th in RBIs (2 of the next 9). If a player is only going to be judged on their hitting, I think these numbers need to be stronger.

What the voters will do: This is one case that I really don't have a feel for, but I think Edgar will come out near 50%...which almost guarantees his future election.
What the voters should do: wait a couple of years, then reevaluate. I think his numbers will diminish in stature over time.