By In Stuff

Hall of Fame Leftovers

So, I thought I would do a round-up of The BBWAA Project and see what — if anything — we learned. For this, I will not use WAR or any other statistic. I will only use the Baseball Reference EloRater — which involves fans rating the best (and not so good) baseball players in history. The rating is done in a fascinating way: The EloRater shows you two players — I just did it, and it gave me Bill Swift and Javier Vazquez, then Johnny Damon and Javy Lopez — and simply asks you which player was better (I chose Vazquez and Damon).

There’s then a fairly complicated formula to create the player rating. It’s a very cool system. Like everything else, there are biases and contradictions. Also, it’s a moving target — people keep ranking players on EloRater so the rankings keep changing (I started this about a week ago, so I’m actually using several different versions of the EloRater here. Sorry about that). But the point is not that the system is perfect but that it gives us a quick glance at the players and their approximate value.

So here are a few things we’ve learned:

  1. Of the EloRater’s 30 best hitters in the Hall of Fame, 29 of them were elected by the BBWAA.

Only Johnny Mize among the Top 30 was a Veteran’s Committee choice. Now, in some ways, this shouldn’t be surprising at all. The BBWAA gets the first shot at every post-1900 player, so they (we) will of course be the ones to elect Babe Ruth and Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente and so on. Mize was not fully appreciated by the BBWAA, I think, because he missed those three years for World War II. With those three years, he certainly would have reached 400 home runs, and certainly would have been elected.

I think this is interesting for another reason: After the Top 30, there is much more of a mix of BBWAA choices and Veteran’s choices. I’ve long wondered how many “unanimous” Hall of Famers exist. I put “unanimous” in quotations because, of course, no player has ever been elected unanimously. I really mean players who are unanimously considered Hall of Famers by baseball fans. You know the names I’m talking about. Ruth, Gehrig. Mays. Aaron. Mantle. Williams. Cobb. Hornsby. Wagner. Musial. Schmidt. Ripken. Brett. Robinson (Frank and Jackie). And so on. There is no serious debate about these players. THey are clearly Hall of Famers.

But how many “no debate” Hall of Famers are there? At No. 33 on the EloRather (dropped to 44 by this morning) is Arky Vaughan — the BBWAA never even considered electing him to the Hall of Fame. At 48 is Ron Santo (huge fall to No. 69 this morning) — the BBWAA talked about him for 15 years and never voted him in. In the Top 100 hitters, you have Goose Goslin and Richie Ashburn and Jesse Burkett and Pee Wee Reese, none of whom were elected by the BBWAA, and even now you can get pretty strong arguments against them.

But scattered in the group from 50 to 100, you also have Brooks Robinson and Ernie Banks and Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson and Willie McCovey and others who I think pretty much every single baseball fan would say belongs in the Hall.

It’s an interesting question: If you put it up to a fans vote — a legit fan vote, no snark allowed — how many players would get 90% fan approval? How many would get 95%? How many would get 100%?

I can’t help but wonder if there are really only about 30 “unanimous” Hall of Fame hitters.

  1. There are 52 hitters in the Hall of Fame who are ranked 150th or lower on the EloRater. Forty-five of them were elected by the Veteran’s Committee.

The BBWAA choices who rank 150th or lower include: Ralph Kiner (156); Luis Aparicio (163); Jim Rice (179); Lou Brock (No. 186); Tony Perez (No. 194); Pie Traynor (No. 222) and Rabbit Maranville (No. 337). But there are 12 Veterans Choices who rank below Maranville — see how many of these you knew were in the Hall of Fame:

No. 343: Travis Jackson

No. 351: Ross Youngs

No. 363: Jim Bottomley

No. 366: Roger Bresnahan

No. 376: Frank Chance

No. 387: George Kell

No. 399: Deacon White

No. 433: Freddie Lindstrom

No. 456: Lloyd Waner

No. 485: Monte Irvin*

No. 487: High Pockets Kelly

No. 514: Chick Hafey

*Irvin’s ranking is, of course, based entirely on his Major League career. He spent half his career in the Negro Leagues where many say he played, more or less, on the level of Willie Mays.

  1. The best players non-active everyday players not in the Hall of Fame, according to the latest EloRater are:

No. 32: Barry Bonds

No. 34: Ken Griffey

No. 47: Jeff Bagwell

No. 52: Alan Trammell

No. 57 Pete Rose

No. 60: Tim Raines

No. 67: Larry Walker

No. 72: Lou Whitaker

No. 74: Mike Piazza

What I love about this list is that it naturally makes up a complete team

C: Mike Piazza

1B: Jeff Bagwell

2B: Lou Whitaker

3B: Pete Rose

SS: Alan Trammell

LF: Barry Bonds

CF: Ken Griffey

RF: Larry Walker

DH: Tim Raines

How good a team would that be? Pretty spectacular.

  1. I’m going to go deep into pitchers in the next baseball post, but it’s worth saying here that the split between the BBWAA and the Veterans Committee on pitchers is not nearly as complete or obvious as it is with hitters. With hitters, with a few notable exceptions, the highest ranked players in the Hall of Fame are BBWAA choices and the lower ranked players in the Hall of Fame are Veterans choices.

But with pitchers — it’s not as true. Yes, nine of the Top 10 pitchers on the EloRater are BBWAA Hall of Famers (Kid Nichols, who pitched before 1900, is the 10th) and the next 10 Hall of Famers on the EloRater were also BBWAA choices.

But after that, it’s a complete mishmash of BBWAA and Veterans. The three lowest ranked pitchers in the Hall of Fame — Rollie Fingers (172), Goose Gossage (176) and Bruce Sutter (192) —  were all BBWAA choices.

  1. The best pitchers not in the Hall of Fame, according to the EloRater are Greg Maddux (No. 6), Roger Clemens (No. 7) and Pedro Martinez (No. 9). To give you an idea of the volatility of the EloRater, when I started this post Clemens was ranked No. 18.  Randy Johnson is No. 14, which seems low to me. More on that coming up.

Leaving Clemens out of the mix for a moment, the highest ranked eligible pitcher who is not in the Hall of Fame is … take a guess. Wrong!* It’s Orel Hershiser (No. 34). That’s surprising to me — Hershiser must be on a big EloRater winning streak.

*If you said “Orel Hershiser” then change “Wrong!” into “Good job!”

Here’s a question about Hershiser: If he had not been hurt in 1999 and 1991, would he be in the Hall of Fame right now?

I’d say, almost certainly: Yes. Hershiser was coming off three seasons when he led the league in inning pitched, and over those three years he went 54-39 with a 2.55 ERA (141 ERA+). And here’s something that kind of shocked me — Hershiser was actually better ON THE ROAD during those years. I expected that a big part of his success was pitching in Dodger Stadium, but in his amazing 1988 season, he was 11-5 with a 2.31 ERA at home and 12-3 with a 2.21 ERA on the road. The next year, his road ERA was 1.93 (compared to 2.71 at home) and he gave up, get this THREE HOMERS on the road all year. He was a dominant pitcher wherever he went, kind of Greg Maddux before Greg Maddux.

In April 1990, Hershiser blew out his rotator cuff, and he was never a great pitcher again. But he was still a good pitcher, enough to win 204 games and post a 112 career ERA+.

I don’t think Hershiser is the best eligible pitcher not name named Clemens who is absent from the Hall of Fame — I think it could be Kevin Brown or David Cone or Jim Kaat or Tommy John or Wes Ferrell or Billy Pierce or Rick Reuschel or Dave Stieb or, well, it depends on your definition of what makes a great pitcher. But I do think Hershiser was truly excellent — Hall of Fame excellent — until he got hurt.

  1. It seems to me that the biggest outliers voted in by the BBWAA at each position are:

1B: Tony Perez. Elected for his leadership, his RBI prowess and for being at the center of great teams. Similar players not in the Hall of Fame: Dave Parker, Rusty Staub, Harold Baines.

2B: No outliers. Best second baseman not in the Hall of Fame: Lou Whitaker.

SS: Rabbit Maranville, Elected many years ago when the BBWAA was a different kind of organization. Similar players not in the Hall of Fame: Dave Concepcion, Bert Campenaris and Bill Dahlen.

3B: Pie Traynor. Elected when there really weren’t any great third basemen. Similar player not in the Hall of Fame: Stan Hack. Third basemen who were clearly better who are not in the Hall of Fame: Ken Boyer, Graig Nettles.

LF: Jim Rice. Elected for his fearsome reputation and for being a slugger when the name did not carry the connotations of the 1990s. Similar players not in the Hall of Fame: Dale Murphy, Dwight Evans, George Foster, Albert Belle, Dick Allen.

CF: Kirby Puckett. Elected in an emotional sweep and because he was such a striking player. Similar players not in the Hall of Fame: Kenny Lofton, Don Mattingly, Tony Oliva.

RF: No outliers. Best right fielder not in the Hall of Fame: Dwight Evans.

C: No outliers. Maybe Roy Campanella, but he was obviously a very different case. Best catcher not in the Hall of Fame: Ted Simmons or Joe Torre.

32 Responses to Hall of Fame Leftovers

  1. mkd says:

    For a kid’s baseball history book I’m working on I had to come up with a list of 81 baseball legends. Starting in 1901, I believe there are 45 Indisputable choices. These are the players I will spend no time attempting to justify in the Parent’s Index:

    Cy Young, Napoleon Lajoie, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Eddie Mathews, Al Kaline, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, Carl Yastrzemski, Joe Morgan, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Johnny Bench, Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Pedro Martinez.

    Add to that four players who are Indisputable on the merits, but get dinged for morality issues: Shoeless Joe, Pete Rose, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds.

    And four Indisputable Negro League players: Pop Lloyd, Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson.

    That brings us to 54 total. Of those, I think only three are even remotely open to debate: Feller, Berra and Griffey. But upon reflection, no not really…

    So I’d say there are 54 Unanimous Hall of Famers.

  2. Joe: The volatility of the EloRater makes it hard to take seriously.

    I just went to try it and was offered Mike Cuellar vs. Jon Lester. I’m from Baltimore; I picked Cuellar. I could make a rational argument for picking Cuellar, but I wanted to pick him and would have grasped at straws to do so.

    Wouldn’t most fans have similar feelings? If you read the comments on ESPN, it’s hard to believe that anywhere close to a majority of fans would be objective.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Cuellar had a Cy Young and a solid 15 year career with a 3.14 lifetime ERA. Lester’s only been in the league 7 years, including 2 early non productive years and last year was not good to him. So, he’s had four good years total. Anyone who picks Lester clearly lives in New England.

    • Cliff Blau says:

      The volatility is only a short-term issue. The real problem with the Elo Rater is that some people vote dishonestly, which is why Barry Bonds is in the 30’s instead of second.

  3. Josh says:

    I’m having a hard time seeing Dwight Evans as a similar player to Jim Rice. Without looking it up, Evans got on base more and Rice slugged better. Evans was a good base runner (though a lousy stealer) and Rice grounded into double plays. Evans could throw. He could field. Evans had an awesome mustache. Rice had a boring mustache.

    In the end, the two are interesting because they were teammates and their total values are awfully close. But they were so very different.

    • Scott says:

      I just looked at a bunch of borderline HoF guys in a series on my blog called Dale Murphy’s All Stars and one of the trends in my series was light slugging first basemen from the 80’s. We look at a 1st baseman now, particularly in the AL, as a big masher who is good for at least 25-30 HR a year but that’s the Cecil Fielder prototype. In the 80’s the top first basemen tended to be sweet swinging guys who hit for high average and OBP and didn’t drive the ball so much, Dwight Evans Will clark and Don Mattingly are more the prototype of that kind of 1st baseman.

    • Stephen says:

      I’ll see your Mattingly & Clark and give you Al Oliver, Bill Buckner & Wally Joyner too.

      But . . . John Mayberry, Chris Chambliss, Eddie Murray, Cliff Johnson, Willie Aikens, Don Baylor, Andre Thorton, Cecil Cooper, Willie Upshaw, Steve Balboni, Mark McGwire, Kent Hrbek, Fred McGriff, Alvin Davis?

      Firstbase was always a basher position, even in the AL where you could put such a guy at DH.

    • Scott says:

      I see your point but if you pare that list down to guys who played most of their prime years in the 80’s and hit over 200 HR I am guessing you end up with just two cats: Murray and Hrbek. First base is traditionally a basher position, but there wasn’t much of that in the 80’s, and by the time Cecil Fielder had his 50 HR season in the early 90’s it was a pretty shocking event because we just hadn’t seen much of that kind of season or that kind of player for a while.

    • Except Dwight Evans didn’t play first base (or left field, where Joe mentions him). He was a great right fielder, a Kaline-Clemente.

      The prototypical “light slugging” first baseman, who fielded brilliantly and could win a batting title, was Keith Hernandez.

    • Scott says:

      Your right, Boston started playing him on 1st some late in his career but he was primarily a RF.

    • Dinky says:

      Evans had 18 straight seasons with an OPS+ of 104 or higher, with an OPS+ of 119 his last season. Rice had 12 seasons with an OPS+ of 104 or higher, period. Evans was always worth at least 0.3 WAR. Rice had some seasons where he really didn’t help the team. Evans came up a year younger and lasted several years longer. Evans also did much better in the postseason, although both dropped off a fair bit from their regular season averages. But Rice is in the HOF, because voters still don’t understand the value of a walk as compared to the value of having guys who walked (Boggs, Evans) on base for you to drive in.

  4. Scott says:

    I’ve just wrapped up a blog series called the Dale Murphy’s All Stars in honor of Murph’s last year on the ballot. Basically, I tried to find one player for each team who spent most of his prime playing for fans in one city, was a favorite of those fans during and after his career, and was at least a borderline HoF’er. A lot of the guys I chose are actually listed in this blog: Lou Whitaker, Dave Parker, Dave Concepcion, Ken Boyer, Dwight Evans, Dick Allen.

    I actually found about 1/3 of the teams didn’t have an equivalent, 1/3 had a borderline guy with a great Hall case who probably isn’t quite that beloved, and 1/3 were very similar to Dale in both performance and fan appreciation. Guys like Whitaker in Detroit, Mattingly in NY, Bobby Grich with the Angels were among the fits.

  5. Unknown says:

    Dwight Evans .272 .370 .470 127 385
    Jim Rice .298 .352 .502 128 382

    Offensively, I think they are pretty similar.

    • Dinky says:

      Rice had a higher peak. Evans had a much longer career. Career OPS were 128/127. Rice’s best OPS+ season, 157, was in a year with little competition and won him an MVP; neither of Evans’ two best OPS+ years (157, 163) earned him an MVP, and that’s why Rice is in the HOF. But Rice was a defensive liability, of whom the best line I recall when he was active was he was getting good at playing caroms off the Green Monster (when good fielders would get back on the ball better and actually catch some of those line drives), whereas Dewey won lots of Gold Gloves and always had a -5 arm in Strat-o-matic baseball, and of course right field in Boston is enormous, left field is small. If both had played their entire career at DH, my HOF vote would go to Rice over Evans (actually, neither) but since defense matters….

  6. Stephen says:

    Dick Allen as a Philly fan favorite?

    I guess Philly fans tendency to boo everyone makes the fan-favorite qualification moot in Philly.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Not sure who said that, but Allen was a favorite among kids. His surly attitude even made him more attractive because it made him a scarier hitter (again,to kids). Plus, what kid did not like imitating his buggy whip swing. That and his .930 lifetime OPS. The HOF has to pull this guy in at some point. If so, I will find a way to get to Cooperstown to hear his induction speech. I hope he sneers at some point. That will make it worth the trip.

  7. Triston says:

    Actually, there are at least 13 Veterans Committee selections who rank below Rabbit Maranville- Tommy McCarthy, ranked at #851 at the time of this posting, right between John Reilly (who starred in the latest Disney animated film), and Carl Reynolds.

  8. jess says:

    YES!!! a Dave Stieb mention!

  9. Leon Chen says:

    Interesting. I always thought Frank Chance as being the best of the Franklin Adams trio, so it’s interesting to see him as the only one of the three ranking below Rabbit Maranville. His WAR may not be as high as the others, but his also played 500 fewer games due to health problems.

  10. dbutler16 says:

    As far as third basemen who were clearly better than Pit Traynor who are not in the Hall of Fame I would most certainly add Darrell Evans.
    Also, for best eligible pitcher not name named Clemens who is absent from the Hall of Fame, I’d throw Louis Tiant’s name out there (and of course Curt Schilling).

  11. mickey says:

    EloRater just asked me who’s better–Duane Kuiper or Luis Polonia.

  12. Frank says:

    The fact that Baseball Reference includes the EloRater under its “frivolities” heading should tell us something right there about how serious to take it.

  13. Tom says:

    People of my generation when prodded to think about great-fielding, light-hitting, first basemen will immediately think of Vic Power.

    • Dinky says:

      Wes Parker, anyone? As Vin Scully loved to say, 100+ RBI with only 10 HR. Admittedly, having Wills, Grabarkewitz, and Willie Davis stealing bases in front of him helped his singles and doubles become RBI.

  14. Nick Shay says:

    I hope we hear from Joe soon about his move to NBC Sports.

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