By In Stuff

A Fun Challenge

OK, here’s a fun challenge for you baseball fans.

In the comments, craft as many strong arguments as you can to prove this contention:


That’s it. That’s the whole challenge.

Well, stop, wait, there two caveats:

1. You cannot mention saves or any derivative of saves (such as save percentage).

2. Any argument you make must hold up against other players on the ballot. For instance, if you want one of your arguments to be that “Hoffman had a higher Win Proabability Added” than Wagner, which is true, that’s fine, a good argument. However, you will be countered by the fact that the people on the ballot with a higher WPA than Hoffman include: Jeff Bagwell; Barry Bonds; Roger Clemens; Ken Griffey; Edgar Martinez; Fred McGriff; Mark McGwire; Mike Mussina; Mike Piazza; Tim Raines; Curt Schilling; Gary Sheffield and Larry Walker.

OK, have at it.


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104 Responses to A Fun Challenge

  1. Greg P says:

    Hoffman isn’t better than Wagner, though.

  2. Bill Heller says:

    Hoffman’s entrance music was “Hell’s Bells”. I don’t know what (if any) entrance music Wagner had, but it probably wasn’t as good as “Hell’s Bells”. That’s all I’ve got.

  3. Chad says:

    He had a better changeup than Wagner, and ….

    That’s all I got.

  4. lawr says:

    The dominant left handed reliever of all time…

  5. PhilM says:

    Trevor Hoffman is TALLER than Billy Wagner. But still not as valuable as Dan Quisenberry.

  6. Pete Scribner says:

    Hoffman was effective at their role for longer. That said, I wouldn’t have voted for either of them, and if you made me vote for one, it would be Wagner.

    • Bill Caffrey says:

      Even this is not true by all that much. Hoffman threw 1089 innings. Wagner threw 903 innings.

      • ceolaf says:

        That’s more than 20%.

        What is 20%? Well, in conventional statistics…
        * 500 vs 600HR
        *.250 vs. .300
        * 2500 hits vs. 3000 hits
        * 250 wins vs. 300 wins.

        That’s a big difference.

      • There we go. 1089 is a cooler number.

        Truly. Pick any 3-digit number (say, 517, but really, anything at all). Flip it. Subtract the little one from the big one (715-517=198). Flip that, and add the two together (198 + 891 = 1089). It’s always 1089.

        Hoffman wins.

  7. Aryeh says:

    Taller = better?

  8. Gareth Owen says:

    No one ever wrote an opera called “Tales of Wagner”

  9. Matt says:

    Hoffman never gave up a playoff homer to So Taguchi?

  10. Ben says:

    Hoffman wasn’t Hitler’s favorite composer…Wagner was. (Different Wagner, I know…but still…)

    • Gareth Owen says:

      Wagner didn’t event LSD. Hoffman did. (Different Hoffman, I know … but still …)

    • Richard says:

      Well, now that you mention it…

      You know, not many people knew it, but Hoffman was a terrific dancer. That is because you were taken in by that verdammte Eat Coast propaganda! Such filthy lies! They told lies! But nobody ever said a bad word about Billy Wagner, did they? No! “Enter Sandman” Wagner! With his cigars, with his brandy. And his ROTTEN painting! Rotten! Hoffman, THERE was a painter! He could paint an entire apartment in one afternoon! TWO COATS! Wagner…. Let me tell you THIS! And you’re hearing this straight from the horse – Hoffman was better looking than Wagner. He was a better dresser than Wagner. He had more hair! He told funnier jokes! And he could dance the PANTS off of Wagner!

  11. Neel says:

    I’ll bite:
    1) More peak seasons as measured by Top 5 Cy Young finishes: Hoffman had 3 vs 1 for Wagner
    2) When you take out intentional walks, Hoffman had a better K:BB ratio (4.55) vs Wagner (4.36)
    3) Extremely small sample size, but Wagner abysmal for career in playoffs (10 ERA vs Hoffman’s ~3.5 ERA)

  12. Brian says:

    More innings pitched….which admittedly I don’t know if that helps or hurts. Depends on what other stat you apply that to.

  13. I’m not seeing what the 2nd constraint has to do with proving or disproving your hypothesis. Seems like a separate argument to me.

    • nickolai says:

      I think Joe’s points are that, 1) Hoffman did not deserve more than 6x’s the HoF votes that Wagner received, and 2) Hoffman definitely did not deserve more HoF votes than anyone on the ballot not named Griffey, Piazza, Bagwell or Raines.

  14. manimalof7 says:

    There’s already a Wagner in the Hall, but no Hoffmans.

  15. David says:

    To avoid the East coast bias

  16. Michael says:

    Hoffman walked fewer batters (2.5 BB/9 vs. 3.0 BB/8). As a fan, nothing is more agonizing than watching a closer issue walks.

  17. PhilM says:

    Let me try for realzies. Using annual ERA+ figures and negative binomial distribution to determine winning percentages, Hoffman’s “team-neutral” record is 90-46, earning 104 Bill James Fibonacci Win Points. Wagner’s 66-21 comes in at 95. Of course, that’s still way below Mussina’s 258-165 (250 Win Points), Schilling’s 227-135 (234), and Clemens’s all-time fourth-best 372-166 (463).

  18. Kelly says:

    San Diego has had scant baseball joy in 40+ years and Hoffmann is a San Diego icon while Wagner is not.

  19. tmutchell says:

    The argument must necessarily start and end with longevity. Hoffman pitched two more years, 182 more games, finished 153 more, pitched 186 more innings. He had a lower walk rate. He pitched better in the postseason.

    Admittedly, there’s not much, but I think the comparisons to hitters or even to starting pitchers are a moot point. While I agree that closers should not be regarded the same way as starters – just as an excellent DH should not be given the same credit as a very good position player – the voters have decided that “Closer” is a real job in baseball, worthy of HoF plaques, and they vote accordingly. Nobody looks at his ballot and decides not to vote for Billy Wagner because they don’t think he was as good as Larry Walker. At least, I don’t think they do.

    • nickolai says:

      Even the longevity thing is an empty argument.
      Hoffman threw 1089 IP and gave up 347 Earned Runs, for a 2.87 ERA overall.
      Wagner threw 903 IP, 232 ER for a 2.31 ERA.

      To ‘match’ Hoffman’s overall career totals, Billy would have had to throw 186 more IP with 115 ER, good for a 5.55 ERA over that stretch.

    • Curtis says:

      But when you only have ten slots on the ballot, you do have to compare Wagner and Walker. This is where having the PED’s guys on the ballots for years is clogging up the system. Take half of the 500 or so votes that Bonds, Clemens, and McGwire got, and spread them around to the others on the ballots, and maybe Raines and Hoffman join this class. I think there are lots of voters who had 11, 12, or more people they would have voted for, and had to leave off a couple of them because there just wasn’t room. And that is going to make the congestion worse in the years ahead.

      • Problem is, those guys are going to sit on the ballot all 10 years sucking up some votes. And look, here comes Manny Ramirez and Ivan Rodriguez to join the party.

      • Ed Davis says:

        You can’t seriously believe Hoffman is half as worthy as Barry Bonds. He was HOF quality before he began augmenting. In fact, we might still have rampant steroids if Bonds hadn’t shown how a truly great player could put up astonishly unbelievable numbers if he juiced. Nobody else was even close to Bonds’ performance no matter what drugs they took.

  20. Jesse says:

    I’m not sure relievers belong in the Hall of Fame but DHs don’t. Edgar Martinez not a hall of famer? How? Are we going to start putting bench players in the basketball hall of fame just because they were better than the other bench players?

    • ixcilaGeorge says:

      The argument is not that he was better than other DHs. It’s that even though he DH-ed, he was still one of the most valuable players of his time, full stop. If a bench player contributed as much value as Gary Payton, we’d put him in the baskeball HOF.

    • tmutchell says:

      I’m not saying that DH’s don’t belong there. I’m a fan of the DH, but I think you need to be a really excellent one to compensate for not playing defense.

      • murr2825 says:

        But Edgar WAS a really excellent DH. Probably the best since they started using it in 1973. There are plenty of first or third basemen in the Hall (Killebrew, for instance) that were bad to terrible fielders and would probably been more valuable to their teams as DHs

        I don’t know how a world-class (thanks to Donald for that) DH could be less valuable than a world-class closer. Simple WAR illustrates: 68 for Edgar and less than 30 for the two closers.

        Every vote for Hoffman or Wagner that precluded a vote for Edgar helped keep Edgar out of the Hall. And that’s a shame.

        • Jesse A. says:

          I think this argument is a red herring. If he played in the NL and was a horrendous outfielder, or first baseman, he’d be in the hall for sure.

  21. Jake Bucsko says:

    There really isn’t any logical, real argument for why Hoffman is better, obviously, because that’s the point of this exercise. Wagner was better in his 903 innings than Hoffman was in his 1089, but those extra 186 innings make up the gap. Neither has any business entering the Hall without a ticket, and it’s not particularly close, either.

  22. Gary Wise says:

    Stretching here, but an argument can be made for the preservation of each team’s narrative. No guy on this year’s ballot was as much a part of the fabric of the history of the Padres, and if you’re of the belief that the Hall is a museum rather than statistical warehouse, he’s an important part of telling the Padres story as their fans apparently want it told. Grant that if you’re replacing “Padres” with “a team”, Griffey and Bagwell probably have him beat here.

  23. Carlos Barros says:

    Hoffman batted four hits (2 doubles), had 5 RBIs and 2 SH. Wagner had 2 hits and only 1 RBI to show for. 😛
    Hoffman never balked a baserunner. Wagner did it once.
    Hoffman hit 9 batsmen, Wagner hit 33 of them.

    • tmutchell says:

      And I imagine that if the was a metric for the pain caused by being hit by pitches (Writhing in Pain Average, or WPA) Wagner would come out WAY ahead, even if they were tied in the counting stats.

  24. John Harris says:

    Going by average leverage index on Fangraphs, Hoffman pitched in the highest leverage innings of anyone on the ballot. His LI was 1.91, Lee Smith at 1.87, and Wagner at 1.81, while the starters were necessarily down around 1. So no one on the ballot pitched more important innings than Hoffman. For further comparison, Rivera was at 1.87, HOFers Fingers at 1.82, Gossage at 1.63, Sutter at 1.98. Fangraphs does not have the figure for Wilhelm, and Eckersly spent so much time as a starter that his number is artificially low.

  25. Kuz says:

    Trevor Hoffman was better than Billy Wagner because he helped pitch the 1998 Yankees to the World Series Championship.

    • tmutchell says:

      Nah, this logic favors Wagner too, as he helped the 83-Win Cardinals to their NL pennant and eventual WS championship. The 1998 Yankees would have won no matter who their opponents’ closer was, but Wagner was special because he aided a fairly mediocre team to their championship. 😉

  26. wickethewok says:

    If the exercise is to just provide evidence that Hoffman is better than Wagner, why the second caveat? I don’t understand what Griffey having a higher WPA matters if the debate is Hoffman vs. Wagner. Obviously, there are a myriad of reasons Hoffman isn’t as good as Griffey, but no one is making that argument otherwise.

    • heaveecee says:

      I believe the argument is that since writers only get 10 votes, a vote for an inferior player like Hoffman hurts the others on the ballot. Even if we just compare pitchers to pitchers Hoffman is definitely not better than Schilling nor Mussina, and probably not Wagner, yet he grabbed more votes than any of them.

  27. MikeN says:

    Hoffman had twice as many hits and five times as many RBI.

  28. Mark Daniel says:

    According to baseball reference, Trevor Hoffman’s most similar player at age 38 (the age of Wagner during his last year) was Mariano Rivera, while at the same age, Wagner’s most similar player was….Trevor Hoffman? Wha…?

    • Dan says:

      Meaning that Hoffman was closer to Mariano Rivera than he was to Wagner, and Wagner was closer to Hoffman than he was to his next-closest comp. If you put them on a number line, you might have Player X (Wagner’s 2nd closest comp) at 0, Wagner at 3, Hoffman at 5, and Mariano at 6.

      I *think* it makes sense.

  29. Hoffman had three Top 5’s for the Cy Young. Wagner had one. Hoffman won six season awards. Wagner won one. WPA, as mentioned. Hoffman had higher Black and Gray Ink numbers as well as Hall of Fame Monitor numbers. Lee Smith is Hoffman’s #1 Comp. Francisco Rodriguez is Wagner’s #1 Comp. That’s all I’ve got.

  30. Paul Schroeder says:

    Just looking at WPA, so what if there are others not in the HOF with higher WPAs than Hoffman? That has no bearing on whether he was better or more deserving of HOF induction than Billy Wagner. Furthermore, it is not the Hall of Highest Win Probability Added. It is the HOF. Billy Wagner was a good, perhaps great, closer. Trevor Hoffman was a rockstar closer. The way he entered the stadium to Hells Bells, a stutter step out of the bullpen and then a jog in. He had a scowl that made him look tough, and then he would throw that changeup that just baffled hitters for the better part of two decades.

    As an aside, I am tired of the argument where we compare players and say if this guy is in (or out) than this guy must be in (or out). To the extent a mistake is made with a particular player, why do we have to keep compounding that mistake?

    • Rick Groves says:

      “To the extent a mistake is made with a particular player, why do we have to keep compounding that mistake?” So if we made a clear mistake by thinking one RP was a “rock star” while another just “good, perhaps great” during their playing careers instead of properly recognizing that they were nearly identical in value, you would agree we would be wise to not compound that mistake by extending it to our HOF voting?

    • invitro says:

      No one seriously thinks that fame should be a criterion for the Hall of Fame. You’re making yourself look very simple by saying it should be.

  31. AM. says:

    Hoffman had better alphabetical placement on the ballot.

  32. invitro says:

    I wish Joe would not write quite so much on relievers and roiders for the HoF, and would write more about Schilling, Mussina, Walker, et al. (I believe he has Raines and Trammell well-covered.)

    • ajnrules says:

      He did say during yesterday’s live chat that he was going to start stumping for Schilling like how Rich Lederer campaigned for Bert Blyleven and Jonah Keri did the same for Tim Raines. So we should probably expect a lot on Schilling the next six years.

      • invitro says:

        Good, thanks for letting me know. Hopefully Schilling will be a little quieter on the political front, as I doubt his opinions mesh very well with Joe’s.

  33. Scott says:

    When I was younger I would have said that the Hall of Fame was about selecting the “Best Player” and that it was unfair to judge a player for things outside their control (like how good their team was, or media biases towards stats like saves). However, as I’ve gotten older and learned to accept that life isn’t fair, I’ve begin to see how much randomness and luck is involved in everyone’s careers. The most obvious example is injuries but so many player’s careers would have been different if they’d had a different pitching coach or been drafted by a different team.

    I was a huge baseball fan growing up and I remember reading all about the Hall of Fame but, beyond Babe Ruth’s 60 HRs in a season, I couldn’t have told you a single stat about those old players. Instead I loved the stories of how Ruth called his shot or how Cool Papa Bell was so fast he could flip the light switch and be in bed before the room got dark. To me, this will always be what the Hall of Fame is about; the stories. And so it doesn’t bother too much anymore that stories are unfair.

    Having grown up in Seattle, I want Edgar Martinez to make the Hall of Fame more than any other player. If I take my children to Cooperstown I want to be able to show them the plaque of the player I’ve told them so much about. They won’t know Edgar’s batting average or how many hits he had in his career. Instead, they will have heard the stories of The Double that saved baseball in Seattle and how Griffey, A-Rod, and Randy Johnson all left town but Edgar was a career Mariner. It is these stories (stories that were so meaningful to my childhood) that would make me want to vote for him.

    Is it unfair that Wagner’s story isn’t as compelling? Perhaps. But the Hall of Fame is about fair. It is about Hell’s Bells and Enter Sandman and that knowledge that, entering the 9th, the game was already over.

    • Nick says:

      Wow! This goes along with some thoughts I had this morning even before I started reading this article.

      Query: What would happen if players were not allowed to enter the Hall until 20 years after they retired, and statistics were not allowed to be used as entry criteria? Writers or whomever were given 10 minutes at some random time to put 10 names of players who have not been involved with Baseball in any way for at least 20 years on a ballot (Here is another good exercise Joe). What a different Hall we might have!

      Purists are certainly welcome to roll your eyes (and I probably deserve it) but I don’t care that much about statistics other than the easy ones (average, RBI’s etc.). People start using these silly acronyms (WAR, JAWS, etc.) and my eyes glaze over (yes I tried to understand them but was lost in the first few minutes, and I am an educated person). I don’t think the average person understands them because they don’t have the time to get to study statistics. This is why I like/love Joe’s blog and books. Usually, he uses the personal info in the story, the hardships, the triumphs, so you feel you know the person. the reader makes a connection. That is what makes someone memorable, and hall of “FAME” worthy, at least in my mind.

      So, what would the Hall look like under these criteria? I bet It would be a lot smaller but have a lot of people remembered for how they played and enhanced (or degraded) the game. Possibly it would have a lot more players that people who didn’t watch them play every day could connect with from the stories they heard from their family, friends, whomever.

      Fire at will…

  34. Trevor Hoffman seemed better than Wagner. Trevor Hoffman is more important to a complete understanding of how the game of baseball was consumed during his career than Wagner. Were his saves actually all that valuable? The numbers strongly seem to say they weren’t. But the same way that the value of money is all in our collective heads what Hoffman did was seen as remarkably valuable. He stood out from the crowd. He was special, not unique, but special. Any player who crosses that threshold for a significant period of time is easily in even if in retrospect they weren’t as useful as it was thought at the time.

    Note: You should still be able to get into the hall if you were extremely valuable but somehow failed to capture that specialness in the public mindspace. (Tim Raines)

  35. Chris M says:

    First, a caveat: I would vote for Schilling and Mussina (and Clemens) over any of the relievers currently on the ballot, and I’d definitely vote for (off the top of my head) Raines, Bagwell, Bonds, Walker, Edgar, Sosa, and McGwire (well, not anymore I guess) over them. If the ballot crunch gets better, I’d consider voting for them around the same time as I’d consider voting for Kent, Sheffield, and if they had gotten 5% Edmonds and Nomah.

    That said, I’m really sick of the same old “they don’t pitch enough innings” and “any starter could be a great closer” debates. First, to the innings: yes, they only pitch about 40% as many innings as a great starter in any given season. But they also pitch in about twice as many games. They effect the outcome of WAY more games than any starter does. Look at playoff teams every year for the past decade or so. Way more often than not they have closers having phenomenal seasons (Detroit Tigers excluded). During the course of a season you are going to get more familiar with your teams closer than just about any pitcher, and every time he pitches you’re gonna be on the edge of your seat (maybe it’s just me being a Mets fan but I don’t even feel comfortable with 3 run 9th inning leads until that final out is recorded). The closer doesn’t get “easy” innings.

    As far as the “any starter could be a great reliever,” I don’t buy that at all because I’ve seen a lot of decent starters make terrible relievers. It’s true that most great relievers are “failed starters,” but I’d argue that it’s generally not because they couldn’t have been good to great as starters, it’s because teams had needs in their bullpens and used them there, and once they had success didn’t want to move them back (maybe bc teams value relievers more than fans/writers?) there have also been a number of relievers who have been converted to starters who have had success (Derek Lowe, Adam Wainwright to name two off the top of my head).

    The argument for guys like Hoffman and Wagner, to me, is that they were historically great at their positions, especially for the era they played in.
    I’m writing this on my iphone so this is said without doing any research, but the average shelf life of a great closer seems to be about 2-3. Guys like Gagne or Brian Wilson explode on scene and make all-star teams and get famous in October, and are lucky if they’re still middle relievers in another city 3 years. Wagner and to a greater extent Hoffman were somewhere between above average to dominant pretty much year-in-year-out for 15 or so years. Seeing how much trouble the Mets have had locking down their closer role since (ironically) Wagner left has only reinforced how lucky teams like the padres and Yankees were to have a guy that they just knew was gonna be their lock-down closer every single year. That has a lot more value than can be shown in an innings-based statistical approach.

    So there is my argument for closers in the hall. Now I’ll add to my earlier caveat that I also hate the way closers are used in today’s game and wish they were used more in the 70’s/early 80’s mold, and if they were would put their value even higher.

    • Dan says:

      “40% as many innings”? Schilling and Moose were usually good for 200+ innings per year; Hoffman and Wagner averaged about 60, i.e. less than 1/3 of that.

      “They effect the outcome of WAY more games than any starter does.”

      I’m not sure what you mean by this, other than “they pitch in more games than a starter does”. How many of those games are they affecting in a meaningful way? They take the ball with the lead, they don’t give up the lead – basically, they don’t screw things up. The winning percentage of teams that had a lead entering the 9th inning has been pretty much constant since God was in short pants.

      I too would love to see all-star relievers used in high-leverage situations earlier in the game, like the old “fireman” role.

  36. steph says:

    Hoffman’s case is built on the save record, and that is almost all it is based on. Everyone knows this.

    This whole exercise is obviously built for the sole purpose of disparaging the Save statistic, which Joe loves to do. Obviously the reason Trevor Hoffman got so many more votes is because of the save. So telling us we can’t talk about the save and have to think of other stuff is going to be a challenge.

    If someone had a big beef with the Home Run stat, and made an exercise telling us to think of all the reasons Babe Ruth deserves the HOF without ever mentioning Homeruns, it would be the same basic kind of thing. Yes, it could be done, but when you take away the primary thing known about the player, then obviously you have to scratch a little harder to find other stuff to say. Yes, I think Ruth could have gotten into the HOF without hitting any homeruns, but no, I don’t think it would be an easy case to make. Also, homeruns are a much better value stat than saves, and I know that. But Joe’s exercise is about the save, and he is turning it into a Hoffman/Wagner debate when it should be a Save debate.

    • EnzoHernandez11 says:

      I was thinking of something along similar lines: Craft as many arguments as you can to prove the contention that Harmon Killebrew was a better player than Al Oliver. CAVEAT: You cannot mention home runs or any derivative of home runs (such as slugging percentage).

      Apples and oranges, obviously, but the premise of this challenge does amount to “argue for this player ‘s greatness without considering the one statistic that brought him his fame. BTW, many analysts insist that stolen bases are overrated; what chance of enshrinement does Tim Raines have if we leave SB and SB% out of the equation? (Rhetorical point–of course I believe that Raines is a Hall of Famer.)

      • jposnanski says:

        This would be true if home runs was a complex and wholly invented stat like saves. We just count home runs. We compile saves. Different. And slugging percentage is not a derivative of home runs, it’s a derivative of total bases.

        Also, off top of my head, Killer had 100 more runs scored, 250 more RBIs, 30-plus points in on-base percentage, played in about twice as many All-Star Games, had twice the Win Probability Added … this really isn’t hard.

        • EnzoHernandez11 says:

          Fair point; slugging percentage is not wholly derivative of home runs, though, by definiton, home runs contribute disproportionately (especially for a player like Killebrew). The Raines comparison, in any event, is probably the better one. And I’m not sure I buy the “complex and invented” argument: we have a definition for saves (which isn’t *that* complex), just as we have a definition for home runs and stolen bases. Indeed, some “actual” stolen bases turn into errors, while other are sacrificed to the phantom concept of “fielder indifference”. Regardless, once the definitions are established, counting and compiling are indistinguishable.

          BTW, I greatly respect the fact that you read and take seriously your readers’ comments. Few A-list sportswriters do. The blog continues to be a wonderful gift to baseball fans everywhere.

        • EnzoHernandez11 says:

          A further response since you updated your post (and made it a bit more biting 🙂 ). Most of the advantages you cite for Killebrew are based on his large edge in home runs, but no matter. I don’t honestly believe Oliver was better. Saves are an imperfect stat, to be sure, but given that Hoffman is the second best of all time at “compiling” them, and maintained this level of performance far longer than almost all of his peers, including Wagner, it simply has to count significantly in his favor. That may or not make him a Hall of Famer, but his case cannot simply be dismissed via a wry caveat.

          • Foob says:

            The big difference between removing all of someone’s saves versus removing all of someone’s steals (which may or may not be what Joe was getting at with his “complier” comment) is that steals are an independent event on the baseball diamond as opposed to something that is credited to someone because of a specific rule.
            Put another way: if Trevor Hoffman had spent his entire career (or even a significant chunk of his career) pitching in the eighth instead of the ninth, and put up the exact same numbers but was not credited with the save, would he even be considered for the Hall?
            Of course, he was the closer because he was able to pitch extremely well in relief and stayed healthy. And there are also those who feel pitching the ninth takes a degree of mental fortitude that many others lack, and that it takes an exceptional breed to succeed there for a short while, much less for nearly 20 years. How you feel about Hoffman for the Hall depends largely on what powers you ascribe to pitching that particular inning.
            But basically, Raines made his steals happen, whereas Hoffman’s saves were dependent on the situations in which he pitched.
            I’m not averse to him being in the Hall, but there are easily a dozen others I personally believe are more worthy, and – as Joe’s exercise was meant to show – he wasn’t more worthy than Wagner, at least in my opinion.

  37. hoffman was a better all around baseball player, having signed professionally as a shortstop. wagner was just a one dimensional pitcher…

  38. Just Bob says:

    I’ve got it. Hoffman (birthday October 13) is a Libra. Wagner (birthday July 25) is a Leo. The sign characteristics of a Libra are Balance, Justice, Truth, Beauty, and Perfection. The characteristics of a Leo are Ruling, Warmth, Generosity, Faithful, and Initiative. The sign characteristics of the Libra are much stronger than that of a Leo, therefore Hoffman was better. Really, that’s the only thing I can come up with.

  39. Steve Adey says:

    Wagner is better because he played well for a team I care about.

  40. Mike says:

    Hoffman surfs, Wagner doesn’t.

  41. Desert Rat says:

    Hoffman played for the Arizona Wildcats. Wagner played for the Tucson Toros.

  42. Donald A. Coffin says:

    FWIW, taking the data from Fan Graphs (which is the only fairly comprehensive blown-save data I could find)…For the years in which blow-save data are available (2002 onward), Hoffman blew 10% of his save opportunities and Wagner blew 13.5%. If the job of a closer is to, you know, close, then Wagner failed at it more often. (On the numbers: From 2002 forward
    Hoffman: 287 saves, 35 BS
    Wagner: 276 saves, 40 BS.
    With the same number of opportunities, that’s probably 6 more blown saves in 8 (?) years for Wags…

    (Full disclosure: If I had to vote in a real HoF election, I don’t think I could vote for either.)

  43. Bryan says:

    Inherited Runners, the stats are complete to 1973 and mostly complete to 1954 which means pretty much means mostly complete for Hoyt Wilhelm and John HIller and (almost) entirely complete for any other elite reliever.

    With a minimum of 50 Inherited Runners Trevor Hoffman allowed the 38th lowest % to score, 20.23% of 346. With a minimum of 100 Inherited Runners Hoffman is 15th. With min 150 (the highest round number without eliminating Wagner) you have the following:

    1. Ricardo Rincon 18.96%, 80 of 422 inherited runners score
    2. Steve Wilson 19.43%, 34 of 175
    3. Sergio Romo 19.57%, 46 of 235
    4. Randy Choate 19.92% 105 of 527
    5. Trevor Hoffman 20.23%, 70 of 346

    6. Jared Hughes 20.38%, 32 of 157
    7. Javier Lopez 20.40%, 113 of 554
    8. Frank Francisco 20.75% 33 of 159
    9. Carlos Marmol 20.77%, 38 of 183
    10. Luis Avilan 20.83%, 35 of 168

    113. Billy Wagner 27.71%, 46 of 166
    130. Lee Smith 28.04%, 143 of 510
    184. Mariano Rivera 29.16%, 107 of 367

    Provided by

    Schilling allowed 24 of 73 IR to score or 32.88%, Hampton allowed 12 of 41 or 29.27% and Clemens and Mussina never came into a game with a runner on base in their regular season careers. The biggest problem with giving much weight to this is that the top of the list doesn’t come across at all as a who’s who of pretty good and possibly underrated relievers.

    Hoffman’s other biggest problem is this comparison:

    Pitcher A: 1098.1 IP, 2.91 ERA, 148 ERA+, 69 OPS+, 29.4 WAR
    Pitcher B: 1089.1 IP, 2.87 ERA, 141 ERA+, 67 OPS+, 28.0 WAR

    Pitcher B is of course Hoffman, Pitcher A is Dave Stieb 1982-1985. There are statistics that show a clear edge to Hoffman (less walks and hits allowed and more strikeouts for Hoffman) but this is comparing him to only 4 years of a pitcher that only 1.4% of the voters considered worthy of the Hall of Fame based on his entire career. Being clearly better in some respects to a portion of a career of a pitcher not worthy of the Hall of Fame isn’t much of a Hall of Fame case.

    The only other basis is the forbidden one where Jerome Holtzman and Bruce Bochy combined to bring one of the most effective relievers in MLB history at stranding runners into the game mostly when there were no runners on base.

  44. John says:

    I think I won, Joe!

    Games Finished. Hoffman 856, Wagner 703,and every other guy you named way behind those two in that category. Considering the modern habit of putting in one’s best reliever to finish games, this statistic demonstrates the confidence that managers have in relievers.

    And if you take a look at the all-time leader board, it passes the smell test as a legitimate stat for great relievers (not the FINAL stat, but a good one): Rivera 952, Hoffman 856, Lee Smith 802, Franco 774, Fingers 709, Wagner 703 (Gossage and Wilhelm are at #8 and #10)

    Your question of course was unfair as well. Especially the second part; it makes the assumption that we have good stats that can compare relief pitchers with other players and we really don’t, and even that they SHOULD be compared directly to other players. Frankly, I have always found the best HOF rule of thumb is to induct the dominant couple players at each position in their time. And it is easy to make the case that after the incomparable Rivera, definitely Hoffman and possibly Wagner were the best closers of their generation.

    By the way, catchers, DHs, and starting pitchers are similarly ill-suited for direct comparison with other players, which is why I think Ortiz and Edgar belong in the HOF.

  45. jmw082 says:

    Hoffman is the name of one of the best sodas of all time, with flavors like watermelon and pineapple. They did not have an artificial taste, so they were good to drink.

    Don’t think there was a Wagner soda, just a Wagner Soda Spring (in Oregon).

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