By In Stuff

Magglio and Mike

There are four players left in our Baseball Hall of Fame ballot series who, realistically, have no path to the Hall of Fame, at least for a while. I do realize that the phrase “no real path to something” has sort of lost its meaning over the last couple of months, but by historical standards, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Magglio Ordóñez and Jorge Posada were all very good players but not quite Hall of Famers.

OK, so I wanted to try something — mostly thinking about Ordóñez and Cameron.

Here is how those four players rank by Baseball Reference WAR:

1. Mike Cameron, 46.5

2. J.D. Drew, 44.9

3. Jorge Posada, 42.7

4. Magglio Ordóñez, 38.5

OK? Got that order? Here is how they rank by Fangraphs WAR:

1. Mike Cameron, 50.7

2. J.D. Drew, 45.9

3. Jorge Posada, 44.7

4. Magglio Ordóñez, 36.6

Same order, though there is a wider gap between top and bottom.

Now, let me show you something else — I did a Twitter poll where I asked people to vote on which of the four was the best player. That’s not the perfect way to get a ranking, of course — it probably would have been better to use some sort of point system. But that wasn’t an option on Twitter (as far as I know) and anyway, I think the result is interesting and probably pretty close to how it would have turned out with a point system.

Here was how they finished with almost 3,000 votes in:

1. Magglio Ordóñez, 39%

2. Jorge Posada, 36%

3. Mike Cameron, 16%

4. J.D. Drew, 9%

OK, you see it right? The Twitter poll is almost the exact opposite order of WAR … with Cameron and Drew flipped. So what gives? Why do the perceptions of people so often cut against the WAR calculations? Why do the WAR systems have Mike Cameron way ahead while fans have Ordóñez so far ahead?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: DEFENSE.

What do you have with these four very different players? You have an offensive machine who played below average defense (Ordóñez). You have an offensive catcher with debatable defensive skills (Posada). You have a corner outfielder who walked a lot and played good defense (Drew). And you have a fantastic defensive centerfielder who hit with power but for a low average (Cameron).

How you rank them depends on how you weigh their skills and their weaknesses. WAR, both varieties, gives tremendous value to defense and so puts Cameron and Drew at the top. Fans, in general, heavily weigh offense, and so they put Ordóñez and Posada at the top. This is truer than even the fans themselves might realize; the Twitterati place the four players in the exact order of how they finished in career runs created:

1. Magglio Ordóñez, 1,251

2. Jorge Posada, 1,100

3. Mike Cameron, 1,093

4. J.D. Drew, 1,040

This, to me, is the big question in baseball these days: Just how important is individual defense? There are a million sub-questions that feed off that main one. How much of a difference can a great defender make in the grand scheme of things? How much of a liability is a poor defender? Can placement make up the difference between a poor and excellent defensive player? Have shifts taken away some of the value of individual defenders?

As you probably know, with Statcast we have tools to answer those questions in ways previously unimaginable. Tom Tango is at this very moment working on the data (I suspect). We should be able to come up with some pretty compelling answers to micro questions like: “How good a hitter must an everyday player be if he is a terrible fielder? (And vice versa).”

And we should be able to do better with macro questions like: Was Andruw Jones such a good defensive player that he should go to the Hall of Fame despite his various flaws as a hitter?

With these universal questions still being explored (and I don’t know that we will ever have DEFINITIVE answers on them), we find ourselves in the land of strong opinion. It is the opinion of WAR that defensive contributions have been dramatically undervalued. It is the opinion of WAR that while Magglio Ordóñez created 160 more runs than Mike Cameron with his bat, the difference in their defense (and baserunning) dwarfs that number, making Cameron a much better player over the length of his career.

But WAR’s is not the only opinion on the matter. Bill James believes that that defense is important but that WAR weighs it much too heavily. In his win shares system, he has Ordóñez with 245 win shares and Cameron with 243, making them basically equal when everything is taken into account.

And I think it is the unspoken opinion of most fans that offense is much more important than defense. I think that’s why they remember Ordóñez being better than Cameron.

Anyway, just some stuff to think about. I guess we’ll find out how I feel based on who I put next in my Hall of Fame ballot series.

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81 Responses to Magglio and Mike

  1. Bob says:

    I would also suggest that a high percentage of your followers are from KC and Cleveland (AL Central) and since Magglio played his entire career in the AL Central, we are simply more familiar with his work…

  2. Jere says:

    Well, since I voted for Magglio, I feel I should explain my thought process. I did NOT look up any stats to ‘refresh’ my memory. I just went with my ‘gut’ reaction/memories of all four players.

    I might add that the fact that I have a Magglio bobble head MAY have played a small role in my vote.

  3. Scott says:

    I watched Cameron for years with the Mariners, and I can attest that Ms fans appreciated his defense. He was a big part of that 116 win season. Any fly ball hit into the gap had a good chance of turning into an out instead of a double. Cammy was a wizard out there.

    He was also a genuinely nice guy who spent time chatting with fans and signing autographs. He had an infectious smile. I really missed him when he left.

    • Maz says:

      I agree with Scott. I remember how miraculous it seemed at the time that we got over the loss of Griffey so quickly. (Talk about big shoes to fill!) After one look at Cameron, the whole city seemed to say ‘Yeah, we’re going to be okay in centerfield.’

  4. Steve says:

    As a Detroit Tiger fan, I really believe Magglio deserves votes. He was a tremendous player for us and I really don’t think he was awful at defense. He better not fall off the ballot his first year. Maggs ranks right up there near the top as one of my favorite Tigers ever. He was a clutch player and he really (along with Pudge) took the Tigers from the worst team in the league to one of the best in no time.

  5. steve r says:

    2 old clichés: 1) You can shake a tree and a dozen gloves will fall out.
    2) Hitting a baseball is the hardest act in sports.

    • SDG says:

      People have a bias towars what they can see. Anyone can see a hitter smash one over the wall or strike out on three pitches. But with the exception of the occasional diving catch, you don’t really SEE what defenders do. This is especially true for catchers. We know, intellectually, that what catchers do is very important, but we don’t see someone position their glove an inch to the left and get a ball called a strike. We also don’t a see a RF decide to play someone shallow and make a deceptively easy catch. Etc.

      The old cliche, btw, comes from Rogers Hornsby, a great hitter and shitty fielder. I don’t think he’s an unbiased source. I think the reason we believe that, though, is decades of seeing players who can’t hit and having the baseball media call them defensive wizards. After awhile, it’s easy to assume anyone can be a great glove man.

      • Darrel says:

        The way most fans consume baseball is another reason for the defensive bias you mention. We watch on TV for the most part and the focus is always on pitcher/batter. Once a ball is put in play by the time the camera gets switched to show the defensive player he is 2/3 of the way to making the play. The fan at home doesn’t get to see the jump the fielder got or how far he moved to make the play. All we see is the ball hit the glove and that always seems routine with a few spectacular exceptions. Seeing the game live at the ballpark gives a whole different appreciation for defense.

        • Cooper Nielson says:

          Your point is most likely correct, but I think you’re overrating the effect of TV. Even before TV was the dominant form of baseball consumption (1980s and earlier), fans had these same biases.

          Even when you’re at the game, 90% of the time your focus will be on home plate, because that’s where the action usually is. Yes, if you’re observant, you can get a better idea of who the great defensive players are, but you’re likely not paying THAT much more attention to placement and movement than you are on TV.

          And generations of fans, especially outside major-league cities, consumed baseball only through radio and newspapers (including box scores), but I think they developed largely the same biases. Obviously it’s hard to appreciate a great defensive play over the radio, and box scores don’t show much more than errors and assists.

          • Brett Alan says:

            That’s a great point.

            Most of us, obviously, don’t watch most of the games. For offensive players, there are stats that are easy to consume, whether it’s on a game-by-game basis (“he was 2-for-4 with a triple and 3 ribbies), or longer term (where we also have the choice of traditional stats such as HRs and RBIs or newer ones such as OPS+). Defense is harder to quantify, and therefore, harder to see. (Of course there are defensive stats, but they are generally less reliable and/or harder to understand, not to mention rarely mentioned in newspaper articles or baseball cards….)

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I think that’s exactly right. You just don’t see great defense, except for a great play and even that might be misleading because a spectacular catch may just as easily indicate that the fielder took the wrong path to the ball. It’s hard to appreciate the effect of good defense on pitching because the average fan can’t tell if a player has good ranger or not.

      • Blue says:

        Disagree. Little thought experiment. How many players in, say, AA ball could you stick straight into CF and play Gold Glove level defense? Ok, now, how many players could you stick in the #3 lineup slot and hit with, say, a .900 OPS?

        • Tepposdad says:

          Go to AA ball games, the defense is horrendous, the level of defense in the MLB is staggering compared to minor league ball.

    • KHAZAD says:

      Those cliches are cute and all, but inaccurate. The biggest difference between the MLB and lower levels – College, the minors, independent leagues – is the fielding. Guys that can’t hit are weeded out early, and those who can’t field are weeded out later. There are many MLB players who play first or second base that were drafted at SS. The better fielders on your college or independent league team would be considered stone handed statues in the MLB. The fielders we consider bad in the MLB would be athletic stars somewhere lower, often at a more premium defensive position.

      Sometimes I think the reason we don’t appreciate fielding as much as hitting is perception. We expect good hitters to fail most of the time. We expect fielding to be perfect, and chastise when it is not, often on plays that would be clean hits at a lower level, because no player would have touched the ball.

  6. jscape2000 says:

    I’m going to echo the above Brilliant Readers and add a ranking of my own:

    Jorge Posada, 17 years, 1 team
    Magglio Ordonez, 15 years, 2 teams
    Mike Cameron, 17 years, 8 teams
    JD Drew, 14 years, 4 teams

    I think Posada and Ordonez both benefit from the Jason Varitek effect you identified a few days ago. When a guy is great for one team or two teams, it leads us to overvalue his greatness because it changes how he was important to our experience of the team.

    As someone who would happily put Posada in the Hall (I’m a big hall guy and a Yankee fan), Posada’s consistent very good to greatness is amplified because it impacted 17 seasons of baseball.

    • SDG says:

      I think Posada will get in eventually, but not from the BBWAA. And I think you’re right about players being overvalued if they spent the bulk of their career with one team. That effect is magnified further if the team in question has a nickname (Big Red Machine, Boys of Summer, Murderers Row, Bash Brothers etc) which also applies to Posada.

      • Alter Kacker says:

        My money would be that Posada — homegrown, highly respected, good-hitting catcher for a Yankee dynasty — gets in sooner than that.

        • Darrel says:

          That would be a disgrace. He isn’t particularly close to being HoF worthy. I kind of expect that he will be in danger of being one and done.

          • jscape2000 says:

            I disagree both that it would be a disgrace and that he’s a possible one-and-done.

            By most measures, I think you have to regard Posada as the third or fourth best catcher of his era. I’m not arguing he’s a shoe-in, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he never gets in.

            Piazza obviously redefined the bat-first catcher (career 140 wRC+ and 64 WAR). Ivan Rodriguez was a defensive marvel who carried an above average bat through age 33. If you’re a small hall person who wants just those two in, I understand but respectfully disagree.

            With seven other catchers since 1969 ranked by Fangraphs WAR ahead of Posada, Bench, Fisk and Carter are in the Hall already.

            That leaves five others (switching to baseball reference because I can’t find games started at DH easily on Fangraphs):
            Ted Simmons 54WAR (1687 C, 276 DH, 178 1B, 20 3B)
            Brian Downing 48WAR (790 DH, 750 OF, 610 C, 4 3B)
            Gene Tenace 45WAR (759 C, 517 1B, 14 3B, 7 OF, 5 DH)
            Joe Mauer 46WAR (920 C, 381 1B, 259 DH, 1 OF)
            Posada 45 WAR(1450 C, 166 DH, 26 1B)

            Joe writes often that the hard thing about a Hall of Fame career is sustaining it- and I really agree with that. I was always enamored of Hank Aaron as homerun king because he got there with endless consistency. Feel free to tell me I admire that too much in players and should value peak more.

            But the Hall without Posada basically says that in the last 60 years (half of baseball history), only 6 guys have been good enough catchers to be Hall of Famers (Bench, Carter, Fisk, Piazza, IRod and Posey)?

            I also think the Hall historically rewards great teams. I think Posada will get extra credit for being part of that Yankees team that was a constant postseason contender. Maybe Jeter, Rivera will be the only ones to get in. But I’d lobby hard for Mussina and Posda.

            The 72-74 A’s have 4 Hall of Famers; the Big Red Machine have 3 and Pete Rose.

            Also, Ted Simmons for the Hall of Fame.

          • SDG says:

            jscape2000 –

            Looking at WAR in a vaccuum is misleading for catchers, especially, since, as a counting stat, it rewards durability. That puts a huge bias on players who played after the 1960s because they switched to catching one-handed with a hinged mitt and a second bias for players in the last 30 years or so when training, protective, equipment, etc. really took off. If you can avoid getting injured, you’re going to look much better than players who played in earlier eras without those advantages. Add that to the fact that all we can really measure for catchers is offense, and you can’t just put every modern catcher with a decent bat in the Hall.

          • SDG says:

            jascape2000 –

            I also forgot to say that there will be other players on those Yankee dynasty teams in the Hall (besides obvious first-ballot locks Jeter and Rivera) they just won’t go in as Yankees.

            Raines was on those teams, he’s going in but not wearing a Yankees cap. Same with Clemens (eventually). Arguably Cone. A few others.

          • invitro says:

            “By most measures, I think you have to regard Posada as the third or fourth best catcher of his era.” — Sounds right to me. (Jason Kendall is right behind Posada, but got only 0.5% in his HoF voting, FWIW.) So where do the other three guys rank? Two of them were RF’ers… where do Ordonez & Drew rank among Walker, Suzuki, Sosa, Abreu, Vlad, Sheffield, Giles, Salmon, Bautista, Juan Gone, and Shawn Green?

          • Otistaylor89 says:

            I agree. Look at the 2001-2016 NE Patriots, one of the geatest team runs in sports history and how many HOFs will they get? Brady, maybe a kicker and Randy Moss, who was on the team only 3 1/2 years. There were several All-Pros during that time, some having better comparable careers than Posada had in baseball, but nobody else deserving and that’s the way I feel about Posada.

          • jscape2000 says:

            SDG- I get what you’re saying about the difference in catching styles. Have to respect that baseball was a different game in different eras.
            But that’s part of why I tried to just look at 1969 on. But your point about WAR rewarding longevity is part of my point- I value longevity over peak. Give me Mike Mussina over Kevin Brown. That’s my bias.
            So think about it this way, because it’s also related to how I think about it: Over 60 years, how many Hall of Famers would you expect to see at any given position? I expect a HoF peak to last around 7 years, so I’m looking for 8 or 9 players in 60 years. I’d put Simmons and Posada in (though maybe I’d hold off on Posada another few years to see if Yadi Molina or Russell Martin has a couple great years left in the tank). If you want a ten year peak, then you want 6 guys, so Simmons and Posada are out. I’d live with that. It’s interesting because we’re really discussing where we want the floor to be.
            Hear you on Raines. I didn’t count Orlando Cepeda (72), Billy Williams (75-76) or Willy McCovey (76) among those dominant A’s for exactly that reason. You’re right, I should give Clemens credit for his role, but I also am skeptical that his induction will be any day soon.

          • Darrel says:

            No I stand by disgrace as a description of what it would be if Posada got into the HoF. For these discussion I like to use Jaws as it accounts, or at least tries to, for both Peak and Longevity. Posada is 5.7 points behind the average Hof C(43.4-37.7). This leaves much closer to Lance Parrish and Jim Sundberg than it does to the average HoF catcher.

            Imagine Posada was a longtime Pittsburgh Pirate and people would hardly know his name. He was a pretty good player on a famous team. Fine career but not a HoF caliber player.

    • MikeN says:

      Yes, I think Varitek will do better than all but Posada in the actual balloting.

  7. Jamie says:

    I am completely in agreement with Bill James in regard to the over emphasis of defense on WAR, to the point of almost disregarding the stat. And there are people who do nothing more than point to WAR (pick either version, since there are 2 completely different calculations) and say that Player A was better than Player B because WAR.

    • SDG says:

      Which is the difficulty when discussing WAR. It’s not a stat (or it shouldn’t be). It’s a concept, and a very useful one (although not great when trying to compare across eras). Which is illustrated using statistics. And there are two main statistical models to illustrate that concept, and there could be a million more. If the current model overrates defense, then the model itself has to be tweaked.

      The real problem, to me, is from the fact that we can measure hitting fairly easily, and we can SEE hitting very easily. But we can’t see or measure defense the same way. And honestly, some of it is emotional. That baseball isn’t just a battle between pitcher and hitter with eight other guys just standing there. That Hornsby, Jeter, and Piazza are some of the greatest ever at their (important) positions despite weak fielding. That if you could have one team made up of the best defensive players ever at each positions, and the other be eight clones of David Ortiz, the latter would crush the former.

      We would like to believe fielding matters, because baseball is boring if everything is a strikeout, walk or homer. We have been told fielding matters. But we don’t SEE it.

      • Darrel says:

        Disagree on the Ortiz team crushing the all D team. Think it would be much closer than you realize. I get that you are using Ortiz as an extreme example but defense that bad would turn Andrelton Simmons into Jeter on offense and on the flip side D that great would turn all those Ortiz’s into Napoli’s or Adam Lind’s.

        • SDG says:

          Team Papi still wins, right? Now I want to see this actually happen. Or at least a way to statistically determine a likely outcome using modeling, or something.

          • jscape2000 says:

            The 2005 Yankees were widely regarded as among the worst defensive teams ever, with the ghost of Bernie Williams still in center field, Gary Sheffield in right and Hideki Matsui in left. Robinson Cano and Jason Giambi were brutal. Derek Jeter was Derek Jeter. That was the year they tried to make Tony Womack an outfielder.

            They went 95-67.


          • Darrel says:

            No I don’t think so. Imagine how many weak ground balls get through as hits. In addition to all the actual baserunners and scoring opportunities, this would put unimaginable stress on the pitching staff. This leads to shorter outings by starters which leads to a lot of AB against middle relief which leads to even more hits. Over seven games maybe the Ortiz’s have a chance. Over 162 no way.

        • Stephen says:

          Woe, David Ortiz playing shortstop, David Ortiz playing second base, David Ortiz playing center field, and David Ortiz CSATCHING?

          That’s not a team that’s going to win very many games, unless you can have pitchers who K more than half the batters they face.

          • MikeN says:

            You leave out that a lineup full of Ortiz’s would wear out starters and would do even better against middle relief. Those are high scoring games.

        • Matt says:

          I don’t think it offers a scientific conclusion, but this is a great read on the topic:

          • MikeN says:

            This had Dunn as the pitcher too.
            I don’t think a lineup of great defenders can really provide enough benefit to offset lousy defense on the other end.

    • jpdg says:

      FanGraphs version of WAR assigns 70% of the run prevention credit to the pitchers and 30% of it to the defense. Should it be 80/20 or 85/15? Nobody knows the correct answer but 70/30 feels pretty reasonable.

      And not knock James but absolutely nobody of note in the saber community takes Win Shares seriously and haven’t for a long time.

  8. jmarsh123 says:

    I did not look up stats before I responded to the twitter poll. I voted Cameron, but considered Posada. I was surprised when I saw the results how high Magglio was. He was a fine player, but I’d rather have the better all around players the other 3 were.

  9. Edwin says:

    Speaking of WAR being counterintuitive, so far the ballot blog series have followed more or less the list of official candidates sorted by WAR (I say more or less because there have been a swap here and there, but otherwise it has been pretty close). Except for 3 candidates with a low WAR but with an actual path to the Hall: Lee Smith, Billy Wagner and Trevor Hoffman. I have no idea how Joe is going to rank those guys in, but I do want to say that although WAR is not the end of the discussion (and for most voters, not even the beginning), it is very telling that a guy like Mike Cameron is CLEARLY not a Hall of Famer, and yet he produced almost 60% more wins above replacement than Hoffman. Confusing.

    • SDG says:

      Because WAR is cumulative and players are on the field every inning vs short relieves who come out one inning a game, sometimes. This is why when people discuss this stuff, they compare players to others in their position. It also prefers people who’ve had a solid career over a long time than a few years of greatness. Which makes sense if you’re some theoretical GM looking to sign a prospect, but when choosing for the Hall, people prefer high peak to long career. When you look back on players, or games, you remember, you remember high peak over long career.

  10. lazermike says:

    I wonder a bit about how much context affected the vote. Your Twitter followers presumably know you asked the question in connection to the HOF ballot, which may lead to a different read on the answer. I don’t have any doubt that I’d rather have Cameron in his prime years on my team than Mags — meaning he is a “better” player — but Mags seemed to me to do more things consistent with being a HOFer, like playing a key role on pennant-winning teams, that one giant year, maybe that association with one or two teams. Cameron never seemed to have any of that.

    I’m not saying HOF elections should be based on “feel” instead of actual data. But when we’re talking about players who won’t be elected, I wonder if that “feel” may have also crept into the responses.

  11. invitro says:

    ‘micro questions like: “How good a hitter must an everyday player be if he is a terrible fielder? (And vice versa).”’ — I think Joe doesn’t understand micro and macro. The first question is about as MACRO a question as you can possibly get in baseball. The most macro question possible about a player is: how good must a player be to put in the lineup? Joe’s question is just a tiny bit more specialized.

    ‘And we should be able to do better with macro questions like: Was Andruw Jones such a good defensive player that he should go to the Hall of Fame despite his various flaws as a hitter?’ — And this, guess what, is a MICRO question, because it’s about only one player. But it’s less onerous, because the question in general is a macro question.

    Here is an example of a general micro question: should this particular batter take this particular pitch?

    Sources: the definition of microeconomics and macroeconomics is one place.

  12. invitro says:

    One quick comment about WAR. Sure, the measure and value of defense is still hotly debated. But the measure and value of OFFENSE is NOT. To me, that’s the important thing about WAR: what it says about offense is pretty much a correct fact, not an opinion, and it’s been that way for a long time. Yet you still have people, certainly on twitter (well, I assume; I don’t read twitter), occasionally on this blog, who claim a worse hitter is actually better than a better hitter, because of RBI or not drawing those boring walks or clutchiness or something.

    It’s just a “hot take”, but I think Joe has misread things when he says that Posada has “no path to the Hall of Fame”. The main reason: Posada was a CATCHER. Catchers have much lower WAR requirements than other players to be HoF-worthy. Here’s where these four players rank at their positions on JAWS:

    Ordonez: #54 RF
    Drew: #38 RF
    Cameron: #34 CF
    Posada: #16 C

    Joe regularly misunderstands that the WAR requirements of catchers is lower than that of other positions. I predict that Posada gets a much higher vote than the other three.

    Finally, on J.D. Drew’s last-place twitter finish: Drew has been detested ever since (and before) he was a pro baseball player. He’s practically in the Basket of Deplorables. I’m not sure how Joe could’ve failed to see this, or at least mention it, when discussing his 9% vote. In any case, expecting twitterers to be able to accurately choose the best player of a group is like expecting a random lady at the grocery store to do a good job removing your appendix.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Yes, JD Drew was not popular. He had a great season when he was in Atlanta, but still he wasn’t popular. First there was the tendency to sit out when he had a hang nail. That stopped in Atlanta when Chipper Jones called him out in the media for it. Then there was the issue of Boras being his agent & (as usual) overstating Drew’s value. He just came across as a guy who was there for the money, didn’t ever want to put everything out there for the team and just was a selfish guy. Boras just doubled the impression. With the season Drew had in Atlanta he should have been really popular. He wasn’t. Nobody was sad that he left.

      • steve says:

        I could tell you where all the Philadelphia fans would rate J D Drew, but everyone else on Joe’s page is so polite I’d best not.

    • Blue says:

      Not sure I buy that offensive WAR is a “fact.” It still relies on positional adjustments the value of which is not much higher than “Wild Assed Guess.”

  13. todmod says:

    One other thing clearly ignored here – peak performance. Career WAR is not a great way to determine the “best” player, even if it is useful to look at.

    Mike Cameron has one season as a top 10 position player by WAR (9th) and 2 5 WAR All-Star type seasons – and this is giving him defensive value.

    Magglio Ordonez has 3 top 10 position player years by WAR including his amazing 3rd place 2007 season. He had 4 5 WAR All-Star level seasons.

    Jorge Posada has 1 top 10 position player WAR year and 1 more top 10 OWAR year (if you are skeptical of his negative defensive ratings). He has 3 5 WAR seasons.

    JD Drew just has 1 top 10 year and only 2 5 WAR seasons. He does have the best peak year of any of the players.

    If you want number of solid years – you can see the big difference between Magglio and Cameron. Magglio has 5 3 WAR solid starter level seasons. Mike Cameron has 10.

    Just depends on how you want to consider a great player.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I agree. WAR isn’t averaged, so if a guy stays around and extra five years and averages 2 WAR seasons, he has 10 more WAR than a guy that retires five years earlier. I think that’s why some like JAWS to assess their peak and use that as a big part of the equation. You can compile WAR just like you can compile hits and HRs by staying around a long time.

      A lot of people are down on Sandy Koufax being considered a great player. His lifetime WAR is only 53. But the majority of that number was compiled in six seasons, including 2 10+ seasons. If he’d hung around another five years he’d probably have been up near 70 WAR. But he didn’t. You have to look at the peak values, not just the compiled average over a 20 year career.

  14. ajnrules says:

    I’ll admit I’m a bit biased when picking Magglio Ordonez. I saw him when he was just a September call-up back in 1997 (and he even signed my program). And then 14 years later I watched him take his last at-bat in the 2011 ALCS against the Rangers.

  15. Rob Smith says:

    The SportCenter clips will give you diving catches/stops and great plays in the hole for a SS. So, if someone makes a lot of those and ends up in a lot of “Top 10 Plays” segments, it will be perceived that they are a good defender. Andreulton Simmons and Andruw Jones made enough of those plays that people got the drift. But some are more subtle, like Cameron and maybe Jason Heyward. You have to see them a lot and probably be a fan that watches a lot of games to really see what they’re doing. And it helps to actually go to games where you can see the ground they’re covering to make a play…. and sometimes make it look unspectacular. With Andruw Jones, they’d often play the corner outfielders towards the line and essentially expect Andruw to cover both gaps entirely. And he’d do it. Watching games in person to see how much area he was covering was amazing. His first step was unworldly because though he had above average speed, he wasn’t really a burner. He just started quicker than everyone else and took great angles to the ball. You can’t really see that on a SportsCenter clip.

    Nothing replaces seeing a game live. This is football, but another good illustration. Back several years ago (2007) I went to a Rose Bowl. USC was playing Illinois. Illinois was one of the early read/option teams and most teams struggled to stop their running game. Rashard Mendenhall was the running back for Illinois. USC solved the problem by having Brian Cushing cover the slot receive AND stop the option. He was playing two positions. And he was fast enough and smart enough to always play the right guy. Even if he didn’t, his catchup speed was good enough to cover any mistakes. You would never see that on TV. Anyway, USC dominated and it really had to do with Cushing essentially cancelling out the spread option advantage of creating player advantages and running through them. One guy was it. The rest of the game was interesting, of course, but Cushing was the main difference maker…. every play. It got zero notice (except that Cushing did recover a key fumble in the end zone) in the press accounts later.

  16. Chad says:

    I’ll always like Magglio, if for no other reason than he gave us Dan Dickerson’s radio call in the 2006 ALCS on Magglio’s walkoff. As a lifelong Tiger fan, it was a pretty amazing moment after nearly 20 mostly lost years, and only 3 years removed from nearly erasing the ’62 Mets from the record book. Many people don’t realize, but it took a team that ended 43-119 winning 5 of their last 6 to avoid tying or eclipsing 120 losses.

  17. Mike says:

    I did go and review BB reference to look at Posada’s career. High walk (.375 obp) High OPS (.848) for his career (both higher than Pudge). I guess that makes me a big HoF guy. Not everyone is going to be Piazza.

    I am from Detroit, and no, I don’t believe that Magglio is worthy. He was a very good / sometimes great player, but not even big HoF worthy compared to other corner outfielders.

    • Otistaylor89 says:

      I find it very hard to pick a guy like Posada, who even in his best hitting years, only batted 6th and mostly 7th in the order while putting up fairly average fielding stats. Yes, most of that was because of the great hitting teams he was on, but you could say that his elevated hitting stats were greatly enhanced because he was on a great hitting team every year.
      DoesPosada belong in the HOF over a guy like Molina?

      • Mike says:

        Yes, he does simply. Molina doesn’t compare offensively to Posada. It really isn’t close. Molina oWAR is 9.1, dWAR is 8.9. .307 obp / .411 slugging.

        Good vs. VERY VERY Good (if Piazza is great).

        • Otistaylor89 says:

          Yes, but Posada comes nowhere near Molina defensively. Molina is currently 41st in dWAR at 21.0 of EVERY player, not just catchers and Posada is 2.1. Molina may be top 5 fielding catchers in history, who finished with MVP votes in 5 different years, including a 3rd and 4th finish, 8 time GG winner and made7 AS teams. Posada has MVP votes in two years, made 5 AS teams and had no GG wins.

  18. heaveecee says:

    seems to me that Magglio and Jorge had higher peaks and played at a higher level longer. I’m more of a peak performance bias rather than cumulative WAR guy. Mags and Jorge have more All-Star calibre years than Cameron or Drew. I (and I assume others in your poll) remember all-star calibre seasons more than very good for a long time guys.

  19. jay_B says:

    Magglio had that amazing 8 WAR season, which is the first thing I think about with him. I don’t have a standout memory like that with Cameron.

    I think it might be like the situation with players who are good all-around instead of having one huge skill like power or speed that really jumps out at you.

  20. shagster says:

    Agreeing w folks who pointed out size of market as influencer here. Posada may get in over time simply bc of NY factor.

    • invitro says:

      I believe it is now known that NY players have received bonus HoF votes. (I’m assuming that this fact, if true, is for BBWAA votes, and is not just because of all those Frisch NY Giants Vet’s selections.) I don’t know if this bias has held at a constant level throughout history. However, Posada has worse WAR, and a much worse WAR7, than another, more famous, Yankee catcher, who also played on multiple World Series teams, but still isn’t in, and you guys know who I’m talking about. I can’t see how Posada could get voted in before this other man, and if he did, it’d be kind of embarrassing. (And speaking of embarrassing, I think Bill James opined earlier this year that this other man is not even in the top 50 catchers, in his Hey Bill feature. I may be thinking of the wrong catcher, but I don’t think so.)

    • jpdg says:

      Eh I think that’s a myth. If that’s the case why did Keith Hernandez, a solidly borderline guy, fall off the ballot in his first year? Or why did it take Carter, an obvious Hall of Famer, several ballots to make it? Or why does Mike Mussina have middling support despite having a remarkably similar career to Roy Halladay who will likely cruise in on his first ballot?

  21. invitro says:

    Who else wishes that Joe would do this for the next Basketball Hall of Fame ballot? Anyone?

  22. invitro says:

    I’ve pointed out that Posada is the #16 catcher of all time according to the JAWS ranking system (which is the average of career WAR + peak 7-year WAR), and that this ranking is far, far ahead of the other three players. I thought I’d make a list of the #16 players at each offensive position:

    #16 C – Jorge Posada
    #16 1B – Hank Greenberg (HoF)
    #16 2B – Joe Gordon (HoF)
    #16 SS – Joe Cronin (HoF)
    #16 3B – Sal Bando
    #16 LF – Ducky Medwick (HoF)
    #16 CF – Jim Wynn
    #16 RF – Ichiro Suzuki (HoF in seven years)

    A few great players on that list…

    • otistaylor89 says:

      JAWS only includes batting WAR. As much as dWAR seems somewhat objective, I would think that you would need to include some dWAR when judging the catching position since there are probably +100 OFs that have better JAWS that Posada.

      • invitro says:

        Can you explain what you’re talking about? dWAR most definitely IS included in JAWS; why do you think it isn’t? First, it’d be looney tunes crazy not to include it, and second, it just does. Example: Mike Trout has career totals of 46.7 oWAR, 2.9 dWAR, and 48.5 WAR. On the CF JAWS page, there he is at #17, with 48.5 WAR. You can repeat this example with any player you like.

        I think you may be misusing the “Note that only batting or pitching WAR are used in determining the averages at a given position” statement. To be fair, I don’t know which averages they’re talking about… WAR7 average? Average of HoF players? But in any case, I think all this means is that batter’s pitching WAR is not included, and pitchers’ batting WAR (which I assume is the standard WAR that shows up in the Player Value–Batters table) is not included, in whatever averaging they mean.

      • invitro says:

        FWIW, I count 120 OF’s with better JAWS than Posada.

        • otistaylor89 says:

          This was from Baseball Ref
          “JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system) was developed by sabermetrician Jay Jaffe as a means to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness. A player’s JAWS is their career WAR averaged with their 7-year peak WAR. Note that only batting or pitching WAR are used in determining the averages at a given position. The current Hall of Famers are then grouped by position and a position average JAWS is computed. “

        • otistaylor89 says:

          Oop, I’m sorry, I get it.
          However, by that metric Gene Tenace, at #13, should be in the HOF.

          • invitro says:

            Well, I don’t know… Tenace is behind Simmons and Munson, and under the HoF average JAWS, too. And Tenace only started 759 games at catcher, vs 517 at 1B, and JAWS doesn’t take this into account… it’s equivalent to assuming that Tenace started all his games at catcher, or at least the same percent of them as the current HoF’ers. Certainly one should not just use JAWS straight-up to decide on HoF catchers, but also consider what percent of games the player played as a catcher. Of course, this will affect Mauer too… unless he plays enough more seasons at 1B and gets moved to that position on JAWS.

  23. Tom says:

    Has anyone ever added up the WAR for every player team by team, and compared those team totals to the final standings? And same for WAA, winshares, etc? If so is there a link? That would show the accuracy of the various calculations, especially if you put a few years’ data together. If this has been done I have not heard or read about it but it seems a pretty straightforward way to compare these competing systems for valuing players.

    • JHench says:

      Win Shares actually starts with a team’s win total and allocates the wins (or actually, thirds of wins) from there. So summing the win shares of a team will always equal three times the number of wins a team had.

      I’m not aware of comparisons of the other metrics.

      • invitro says:

        WAR should correlate more closely with Pyth wins than with actual wins, and more closely to predicted runs than actual runs (and thus Pyth wins). Of course, this is a feature, not a bug. And the WAR formula is designed to correlate with predicted runs, so if it -doesn’t- correlate with predicted runs more closely than some other stat, it’s evidence of a major error, and/or a whole lot of people would be very surprised. (If I’m understanding WAR correctly!)

        I view the way Win Shares does things as a bug. For example, because the Rangers did so well in 2016 in one-run games, all Rangers will have falsely inflated Win Shares for 2016. Well, if it’s true that an exceptional record in one-run games is mostly due to luck.

  24. JaLaBar says:

    Interesting question. And just how much weight does defense have? In my opinion, Mark Belanger was one of the three best defenders who have played baseball. He was also a horrible hitter. Pathetic. I can not imagine, steroids aside, one of the three best hitters ever not being almost a sure first-ballot HoFer. But despite defense being a pretty significant part of the game, and despite being one of the very very best defenders ever, I doubt Belanger got more than a knowing nod when it comes to HoF support. The best hitter ever could be a complete oafish clod in the field and still make the HoF. But the best defender ever would still need to hit some to get any career recognition.

    • JaLaBar says:

      Just look at Belanger and Robinson. Mark Belanger was woeful at the plate. Brooks wasn’t much better than pedestrian at the plate. Both were wizards in the field. Brooks sailed into the Hall.

      • invitro says:

        It’s a valid comparison, but the difference between “woeful” (68 OPS+) and “not much better than pedestrian” (104 OPS+) really is a *gigantic* difference. That’s the same difference as 104 and 140 OPS+.

  25. Andreas says:

    Just as the 19th century French intellectual/journalist Frederic Bastiat said: most people don’t take into account what they don’t see. Defensive excellence, in particular when it is made look easy, is being perceived as normal. While offense is easily recognizable. Baseball has focused on things that can be seen (hits, HRs, errors, etc.) while not accounting for things that are not as easily seen (walks/OBP, good positioning in the field, pitch framing, etc.) Now it’s reverse…

  26. MikeN says:

    Cameron played in Seattle when they didn’t matter anymore. I only remember him from that one season, and never heard of him again. Swap him with JD Drew and he would have come in 2nd to Posada or maybe won it.

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