By In Baseball, Hall of Fame

Monitoring the Hall of Fame Monitor

Been working for a while on a big Baseball Hall of Fame idea — hope to have that out in the next month or so. And while doing some work on it, I ran across a wonderful little prediction section in Bill James’ excellent Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame. Bill was explaining his Hall of Fame Monitor, a method he created to predict a player’s chances of getting elected by the Baseball Writers Association into the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame Monitor awards points for different categories (17 categories for everyday players, 16 for pitchers). You add up them all up, and anyone who gets more than 100 points is “likely to get into the Hall of Fame.” As it turns out, 125 points is a better indicator than 100, but the main thing is that this system works quite well.

Remember: The Monitor works only for predictive purposes. It is not meant to determine who DESERVES to go to the Hall of Fame. It is based on the sorts of accomplishments that seem to impress BBWAA voters. How many times did he hit .300 in a season? How many times did he get 200 hits or 100 RBIs? How many times did he win 20 games or strike out 200 in a season or throw a no-hitter? How many MVPs? How many Cy Youngs? That sort of thing.

One more time just so we all have it: The Hall of Fame Monitor does not calculate who belongs in the Hall. It anticipates who will get voted into the Hall.

Let’s use 125 Monitor points as our standard to show you how it works:

Hitters: There are 109 Hall of Fame eligible hitters with 125 Monitor Points. Ninety-seven are already in the Hall of Fame. That’s 90%.

And the ones not in the Hall of Fame, for the most part, have presumed PED connections. Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Gary Sheffield are the highest-ranked players not in the Hall of Fame. Then comes Jeff Bagwell, who should get elected next year. Edgar Martinez is on this list too, and he still has a chance.

Pitchers;  There are 52 Hall of Fame-eligible pitchers since 1900* with 125 points. Forty-seven are in the Hall of Fame. That’s 90% again

The five not on the list include Roger Clemens (obvious reasons), Curt Schilling (will still get elected, I think), Trevor Hoffman (will get elected as soon as next year), Jim Kaat and Lee Smith (more on them in a bit)

*Nineteenth-century pitchers racked up huge Hall of Fame Monitor points because they threw so many innings.

Fun stuff, right? Well, for his book, Bill used the Monitor to predict who the BBWAA would vote into the Hall of Fame over the next 25 years. The book came out in 1994, so let’s see how he did.

* * *


Bill’s prediction: Mike Schmidt and Jim Rice

Actual: Mike Schmidt

Interesting that Bill thought Jim Rice would sail into the Hall of Fame first ballot. He did not — Rice got less than 30% of the vote that first year, and his Hall of Fame election turned out to be a long and semi-contentious deal. It took Rice the full 15 years to garner the 75% necessary for election.

Here’s what I think happened: In the 1990s and 2000s, baseball writers began to change subtly the way they voted. There’s still a lot of gut feeling when it comes to Hall of Fame voting — I know a Hall of Famer when I see one — but in the 1970s and 1980s, it was ALL gut feeling. Nobody defended why Billy Williams or Lou Brock or Catfish Hunter or Willie McCovey or Willie Stargell got voted in. It was obvious. Those guys felt like Hall of Famers. Meanwhile, Reggie Smith, Bobby Bonds, Jim Bunning, Ken Boyer, Orlando Cepeda, these guys did not quite feel like Hall of Famers (Bunning and Cepeda were elected later by the veteran’s committee).

In the 1990s, I think, more writers began to think of the Hall of Fame less as interpretive art and more as something to research and study. Some resent the change and think the Hall of Fame has become too number-driven and too performance driven. Most seem happy with the change.

So, while Jim Rice FELT like a Hall of Famer — he hit .300 seven times and just about hit .300 for his career, won an MVP award and led the league in homers three times and RBIs twice — people took a closer look and had some questions. He was a power hitter who did not hit 400 career homers. His numbers were bolstered significantly by Fenway Park. His defensive reputation was lacking. He hit into a ton of double plays.

After asking and getting comfortable with all these points, the BBWAA did vote in Rice. But it took some conversation. The Hall of Fame voting was changing in ways that were not easy to predict.

* * *


Bill’s prediction: Don Sutton and Pete Rose

Actual: Nobody

Sutton was elected two years later. Rose, well, that story has been told.

* * *


Bill’s Prediction: Steve Garvey and Phil Niekro

Actual: Phil Niekro

When Bill James wrote the book, Steve Garvey was had gathered about 40% of the vote each of his first two times on the ballot. He seemed destined for the Hall of Fame.

What happened to Garvey’s Hall of Fame case is not entirely clear. The narrative has been that Garvey’s personal problems — his philandering and illegitimate children and so on — cost him the Hall of Fame. Maybe that’s true, but it doesn’t quite add up. Garvey’s mistakes in life were well known by the time he came on the ballot in 1993. Rick Reilly’s devastating story about Garvey had appeared in Sports Illustrated four years earlier. His ex-wife’s book “The Secret Life of Cyndi Garvey” had also come out four years earlier. The jokes about Garvey were rampant long before he went on the ballot. Heck, I remember Pete Rose himself telling me this one in 1994:

Rose: Did you hear about the Breeder’s Cup?

Me: No.

Rose: I bet on it, and Garvey won it.

Garvey still got strong early support for the Hall of Fame. At that point, the smart bet was that as Garvey’s problems receded from memory, his percentages would go up. It might take time but, yes, he would get elected in the late 1990s.

That didn’t happen. In the late 1990s, Garvey’s support deteriorated, and it never reemerged. I think the reason goes hand-in-hand with what I just wrote about Jim Rice. The BBWAA began to scrutinize players rather than just relying on a few token statistics and powerful memories. Garvey’s Hall of Fame Monitor is 130, making him a very likely Hall of Famer. He won an MVP. He got 200 hits just about every year. He won four Gold Gloves. He was essentially a .300 hitter. He was a starter in a bunch of All-Star Games.

But his career on-base percentage was a blah .329. He never slugged .500 even for a single season. He didn’t reach any of the career milestones that would strengthen his case (no 3,000 hits, no 500 homers — or even 300 — no 500 doubles, etc.). He won those Gold Gloves, but his fielding is an open question. In other words, when you broke down Garvey’s career and compared it to Hall of Fame careers, he didn’t fare especially well. Garvey was a towering figure in baseball. That did not prove enough.

It now looks like Garvey will never get elected to the Hall of Fame. He came up in the expansion era ballot three years ago but got little to no support.

* * *


Bill’s prediction: Gary Carter and Al Oliver

Actual: Don Sutton

Catchers almost always do poorly on the first ballot. Johnny Bench is the only catcher ever to be elected first ballot. Yogi Berra did not get elected first ballot if you can believe that.

Some Hall of Fame catchers first ballot percentages:

Yogi Berra: 67.2%
Carlton Fisk: 66.4%
Mike Piazza: 57.8%
Roy Campanella: 57.2%
Gary Carter: 42.3%
Bill Dickey: 32.2%

Ivan Rodriguez has what would have once been considered a slam dunk case. He leads catchers in a bunch of offensive categories — games, hits, doubles, runs and so on — and he won a billion Gold Gloves. But there is some PED smog clouding up his career and, more, catchers just don’t get elected first ballot. It doesn’t bode well for Ivan Rodriguez next year.

Al Oliver was a lifetime .300 hitter with more than 2,700 hits and 500 doubles in his career. His Hall of Fame Monitor registers at 116, which is why Bill must have thought Oliver would get another Hall of Fame look. But the reality is that Oliver had no chance for the Hall. He’d come up on the ballot in 1991, and he garnered only 4.3% of the vote. He has not gotten another glance since then on any of the Veteran’s Committee ballots.

I don’t think Oliver is quite a Hall of Famer, but his career has been dramatically underappreciated. His Hall of Fame case, in my view, is quite a bit better than Garvey’s, just using one example.

* * *


Bill’s prediction: Nolan Ryan and George Brett

Actual: Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount.

Nailed it.

* * *


Bill’s prediction: Robin Yount and Carlton Fisk

Actual: Carlton Fisk and Tony Perez

The Monitor did not forecast the election of Tony Perez; he scores only an 81. This is because Perez did not hit .300 much, he did not win an MVP, he lacked some of the career milestone statistics.

But looking at Perez a bit more closely helps explain why the Monitor works so well. The Monitor awards players points for being on great teams.

“If the player was a regular on a championship team,” Bill wrote, “award him:

— 6 points if he was the shortstop or catcher

— 5 points if he was the second baseman or center fielder

— 3 points if he was the third baseman

— 2 points if he played left field or right

— 1 point if he was the first baseman.

Prime position players league championship teams and division winners also earn points.

Well, Perez played on numerous championship teams — two World Series winners, five pennant winners — but he didn’t get many points for that because he played first base. The theory is that writers view shortstops as more integral to championship teams than first basemen, and it’s a sound theory.

But Perez is an exception to that rule. First base or not, the writers saw Perez as a leader on those Big Red Machine teams. And the writers were dead on — Perez was the guy everyone admired. The writers gave Perez all the championship points he would have gotten as a shortstop, and that pushed him over the top.

* * *


Predictions: Andre Dawson and Dave Winfield

Actual: Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett

Pretty good guesswork on Bill’s part predicting when Winfield would retire. Bill also predicted that Puckett would get elected, but he did not foresee that Kirby’s career would end abruptly when he lost vision in his right eye.

Dawson did not get on the ballot until the next year. He was not a first-ballot inductee as the Monitor suggested. Dawson languished on the ballot for a few years before getting elected in 2010.

* * *


Predictions: Eddie Murray and Ozzie Smith

Actual: Ozzie Smith

Eddie Murray stuck around one year longer than Bill predicted.

* * *


Predictions: Dave Parker and Jim Kaat

Actual: Eddie Murray and Gary Carter

Bill saw a down year in 2003. He thought Murray and Carter would be elected, and that would give the BBWAA a chance to elect more marginal candidates Parker and Kaat. This is something we often miss about the Hall of Fame; when a player gets close but does not get elected, it can have an effect on future players. On the current ballot, for instance, Curt Schilling is stuck waiting for some of the top players — Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Trevor Hoffman — to clear.

Dave Parker, like Garvey, lost support over time. He was at 25% in his second year but by 2003 he had dropped all the way to 10% and his Hall of Fame quest was over. A narrative built around Parker that he blew his Hall of Fame chances when he got lost in drugs and weight issues. Once a narrative builds about anything, it is very hard to change.

Jim Kaat was a great pitcher with terrible timing. For instance, he never won the Cy Young Award. He would have won it for sure in 1966 — heck, he finished fifth in the American League MVP voting — but that was the LAST YEAR that the AL did not award its own Cy Young.*

*From 1956 to 1966, there was just one overall Cy Young winner. And in 1966, that award was obviously and unanimously going to Sandy Koufax.

Kaat won 283 games, which is a lot. In 1980, he was 11th on the modern baseball wins list and the nine retired players in front of him were all in the Hall of Fame. He then watched as an unprecedented run of 300-game winners — Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro — all raced by him

Kaat won 16 Gold Glove Awards at a position where nobody cares about Gold Glove Awards.

And so on. When you take in Kaat’s entire career, yes, he’s a borderline candidate. But with just a little bit of luck, he’d have been elected.

* * *


Predictions: Dennis Eckersley and Ted Simmons

Actual: Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor

Another great prediction by Bill on Dennis Eckersley. Bill was two years early on Molitor, who just kept going and going; Molitor played through age 41.

Simmons has a fascinating Hall of Fame case that, in my mind, was crushed by what you might call the Sham factor. How good a horse was Sham? He ran a record-breaking time in winning the Santa Anita Derby as a three-year-old. He then finished second to Secretariat at the Kentucky Derby even though he cracked his head at the starting gate, losing two teeth. He finished second to Secretariat at the Preakness. He was the horse that tried to stay with Secretariat in the early part of the Belmont only to fade away.

But if there had been no Secretariat, would Sham have won the Triple Crown in 1973? Did you know that Sham — like Secretariat — had a heart roughly twice the size of a normal thoroughbred?

What does this have to do with Ted Simmons? He has the second-most hits for catchers in baseball history, behind only Ivan Rodrigues. He’s also second in doubles. He hit 248 homers in his career. He had the same career on-base percentage as Yogi Berra, and it was better than Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter or Ivan Rodriguez.


So why did he get just 3.7% of the vote before falling off the ballot in 1994? His 124 Hall of Fame Monitor predicts him as a sure Hall of Famer. He seems to hit all the marks. Why has he not come up in any of the expansion era ballots? Why have so few taken up his cause?

The most logical answer is that Simmons’ defense was below average. He had that reputation, but it’s hard to say that it’s a fair one.  He did have some high passed ball numbers, especially early in his career. But he was about average throwing out base stealers, he was athletic, and he caught a Cy Young winner (assuming you count Pete Vuckovich).

I think his problem is not defense but Shamness. There were three legendary great catchers during Simmons’ era: Johnny Bench; Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter. All three were better than Simmons. Then again, all three were better than just about every catcher in Major League history.

I suspect people couldn’t get their arms around the idea that there was a FOURTH catcher in the same period with a real Hall of Fame case. But that’s how it sometimes goes: We get clusters. We got four of the ten greatest starting pitchers in baseball history in the 1990s and none in the 1980s. There just happened to be four great catchers at one time. Simmons happened the be the fourth or four and, like Andy Murray, that’s not where you want to be.

* * *


Predictions: Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken

Actual: Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg

Bill was just a little early on Ripken and a little late on Sandberg; he did not see Sandberg going in until 2010.

* * *


Predictions: Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor

Actual: Bruce Sutter

The Hall of Fame Monitor, like many of us, has no idea why Bruce Sutter was elected to the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame Monitor does Lee Smith as a surefire Hall of Famer (127) because he had so many saves, but it has Bruce Sutter well shy of election (79).

I still find the Bruce Sutter election to be one the most bizarre in recent BBWAA history. Look, Sutter was a fantastic reliever, but his vote is so out of line with the rest of the BBWAA’s voting record.  Dan Quisenberry has an almost identical career value, and he got 18 total votes.

* * *


Predictions: Tony Gwynn and Roger Clemens

Actual: Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken

Well, this is pretty telling: Bill predicted Clemens would be eligible for election in 2007. He wasn’t actually eligible until 2013, six years later. Clemens had an unprecedented run at the end of his career for all the reasons that you will have strong feelings about.

Even without that run, though, it was obvious that Clemens was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

* * *


Predictions: Kirby Puckett and Dale Murphy

Actual: Goose Gossage

Bill predicted Gossage would go into the Hall, but not until 2014.

Was Dale Murphy as good a baseball player as Jim Rice? They had almost the same number of plate appearances in the big leagues: 9,041 for Murphy, 9,058 for Rice.

Rice had much better rate statistics, a higher OPS+, more doubles, and triples.

Murphy had a few more home runs, 100 more stolen bases, five Gold Gloves to zero and a higher career win probability added.

Both relied quite a bit on their home park for offensive success.

In their day, I would say that Murphy probably had an edge in reputation. There was a period of three or four years when the consensus considered Murphy the best player in baseball. He probably wasn’t the best, not in a league with Rickey Henderson and Mike Schmidt and so on, but he had the reputation. Rice was feared and admired but you never really heard him called the best player in baseball.

Then, what is reputation worth? By WAR, Murphy’s top eight seasons are each better than Rice’s top eight seasons, though the difference is often minuscule. After season nine, Murphy falls — his career essentially ended after age 32.

I think Murphy’s Hall of Fame case should have been every bit as compelling as Jim Rice’s. But it wasn’t. Maybe people could not forget the image of Murphy’s sad final days (Rice retired fairly young). Maybe Murphy’s lousy teams hurt him. Whatever the reason, Rice kept growing bigger in people’s minds. And Murphy, a great player and person, grew smaller.

* * *


Predictions: Jack Morris and Lee Smith

Actual: Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice

Again, Bill saw a lull coming having predicted that Rice and Henderson would have been elected years earlier. Morris and Smith both got 44% of the vote but neither quite built up to 75%.

* * *


Predictions: Tim Raines and Ryne Sandberg

Actual: Andre Dawson

Here, we often compare Tim Raines and Tony Gwynn because they were outfielders and contemporaries and similar in value, though not in style. But what about comparing Raines and Sandberg?

They were similar talents offensively. Both could run — Raines was faster. Both had some power — Sandberg was stronger. Overall, though, Raines was a substantially better hitter. He had 1,000 more plate appearances and had a 40-point advantage in on-base percentage. Raines created about 300 more runs over their careers.

Sandberg, though, was a second baseman and terrific one, and this made a big perception difference. Sandberg could not match Raines as a hitter, and no one could match Raines as a base runner. But Sandberg played a much more important defensive position and played it beautifully.

The question is: Could Sandberg’s defense make up THREE HUNDRED RUNS? People will agree and disagree on that one. Sandberg cruised into the Hall of Fame three years into his time on the ballot. Raines is coming upon his last chance next year.

* * *


Predictions: Barry Bonds and Joe Carter

Actual: Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven

This is where we get to the fun predictions, the ones Bill was guessing about players very early in their careers. Barry Bonds was just 29 when Bill made this prediction, but this wasn’t hard: Bonds had already won three MVP awards.

Joe Carter, meanwhile, was 34 and coming off his eighth 100 RBI season in nine years. The RBIs told his story. Carter was a .263 hitter at the time with a .309 on-base percentage. He was not a great fielder. But he was good for 30 homers and 100 RBIs just about every year, and he had his time as a stolen base threat, and there was a strong feeling he would just keep compiling those numbers and get himself elected. I can recall hearing the phrase “future Hall of Famer” when referring to Joe Carter.

It didn’t work out that way. His career petered out, and he got just 3.8% of the vote his one year on the ballot.

Bill did predict that Alomar would be elected to the Hall of Fame (a few years later). The one player that Bill missed in this exercise was Bert Blyleven; I’m not sure why. I will have to ask him. The Hall of Fame monitor has Blyleven at 120, which is pretty solid Hall of Fame territory, Blyleven had 3,000 Ks and more than 280 wins. Bill put Kaat on his list but not Blyleven. I think it was probably just an oversight. I’ve spent way more time on this list, I’m sure, than Bill did.

* * *


Predictions: Brett Butler and David Cone

Actual: Barry Larkin

Bill and I are both avowed Brett Butler fans; we just love the way the guy played. I suspect Bill put him on here for fun. Butler was coming off a terrific 1994 season he hit .314/.411/.446 with a league-leading nine triples and 79 runs scored in just 111 games. He was 37 but with 2,089 hits, it did not seem beyond the realm of possibility that he could put together two or three more good seasons and get his hit total past 2,500 and maybe close in on 1,500 runs. As is, Butler finished with a higher career WAR than Jim Rice or Dale Murphy.

Barry Larkin was barely starting when Bill put this book together.

* * *


Predictions: Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker

Actual: Nobody

How much better would it have been if the BBWAA in 2013, instead of electing nobody, had elected Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker?

* * *


Predictions: Goose Gossage and Don Mattingly

Actual: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas

Bill foresaw the election of Greg Maddux and Thomas, even though it was very early in their careers. Gossage was elected earlier than Bill expected.

Mattingly represents the 8,000 plate appearance curse. There have been only six players since World War II elected with fewer than 8,000 plate appearances. Three were Negro Leaguers: Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and Larry Doby.

The others: Ralph Kiner (who led the league in homer his first seven years); Kirby Puckett (who had his career shortened by an eye injury); Mike Piazza (who was a catcher).

We just saw the 8,000 plate appearance curse hurt Jim Edmonds — he has a viable Hall of Fame argument but he didn’t even get 5% of the vote. Why? He had 7,980 plate appearances.  Dick Allen, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Mark McGwire, Curt Flood, Fred Lynn, Nomar Garciaparra and Mattingly all had fewer than 8,000 PAs. They all played at a Hall of Fame level but, the voters say, not for quite long enough.

* * *


Predictions: Jack McDowell and Greg Maddux

Actual: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio

It would have been pretty impressive if Bill had predicted any of those four who were elected. Johnson had turned 31, and he was 81-62 with a 3.70 ERA when the book was written. He had not yet won any of his five Cy Young Awards (though he did lead the league in strikeouts three straight years).

Pedro was 22 and had only made 26 career starts.

Smoltz was a three-time All-Star, but his career won-loss record was just 78-75, and he was coming off his worst season.

Biggio was coming off his first terrific season, where he led the league in doubles and stolen bases and won a Gold Glove. Bill would later become Biggio’s most vocal supporter.

Bill’s pick of Jack McDowell didn’t exactly pan out — he got four votes — but at the time of the book’s publishing, McDowell wasn’t a bad bet. He had won a Cy Young, finished second in another, he was 28 and had 91 victories. As it turned out, he only had one more good season.

* * *


Predictions: Fred McGriff and Dwight Gooden

Actual: Ken Griffey and Mike Piazza

Bill did predict Griffey’s election to the Hall, but not until 2018. He had a shot to pick Piazza, but it would have been an amazing guess. Piazza won rookie of the year in 1993 and hit .319 with 24 homers in 1994.

I’ve written enough about Fred McGriff, I suppose, but Gooden represents an interesting question. In the gigantic Hall of Fame post I have coming up (like this one isn’t big enough), I explore different levels of Hall of Fame stardom. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Dwight Gooden in 1985 had one of the five greatest seasons in modern baseball history. By WAR, this is true:

1. Walter Johnson, 1913 (16.0 WAR)

Johnson had all-time great seasons in 1912, 1914, 1915, etc.

2. Babe Ruth, 1923 (14.1 WAR)

Ruth had numerous other all-time great seasons, as everyone knows.

3. Dwight Gooden, 1985 (13.2 WAR)

His second-best WAR season, his rookie season, was less than half as good (5.5 WAR). And he never came all that close to having THAT good a season again.

4. Pete Alexander, 1920 (12.8 WAR)

Grover Cleveland Alexander had a movie made about him starring Ronald Reagan, giving him the ultimate trivia question: Name the only pitcher named for a U.S. President who was played by another one in the movies.

5. Cy Young, 1901 (12.6 WAR)

Did you know that Cy Young never won a Cy Young Award?

6. Steve Carlton, 1972 (12.5 WAR)

About as good in 1980, had five other great years. You know you’re good when people call a baseball pitcher “Lefty,” and they mean you.

7. Carl Yastrzemski, 1967 (12.4 WAR)

Had a 10 WAR season the very next year.

8. Roger Clemens, 1997 (12.2 WAR)

Few think that 1997 was even his best season.

9. Ed Walsh, 1912 (12.2 WAR)

Deadball Era pitchers threw a lot of innings. This year, Walsh threw 393 innings. He had two seasons where he threw more than 400.

10.  Rogers Hornsby, 1924 (12.1 WAR)

Hit .400 the very next year; Hornsby had six 10 WAR seasons.

The question here is: Should that ONE SEASON be enough to elect Gooden to the Hall of Fame? As you can see, it’s a unique situation. All-time great players had the other all-time great seasons. But Gooden was not an all-time great player. He just was for one year. Is that enough We’ll get into that more in our next installment.

* * *


Bill’s Prediction: Frank Thomas and Ruben Sierra

My prediction: Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, and Trevor Hoffman

Ruben Sierra? Well, he was a bold pick in 1994. Sierra was still 28 years old, and he had more than 1,400 career hits, which is more than Derek Jeter would have at the same age. Sierra also had 200 home runs, which is about as many as Barry Bonds had through age 28.

Unfortunately, Sierra never had even a passable season after age 28. He had negative WAR seasons every year but one.

* * *


Bill’s Prediction: Ken Griffey Jr. and Roberto Alomar

My prediction: Chipper Jones and Curt Schilling

I have to believe this Schilling madness will end sooner rather than later.

* * *


Bill’s prediction: Jeff Bagwell and Juan Gonzalez

My prediction: Mariano Rivera, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jim Thome, Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez.

Well, a guy can dream, can’t he?

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50 Responses to Monitoring the Hall of Fame Monitor

  1. Carl says:


    I believe, in discussing Ted Simmons, you are overlooking Thurman Munson. Simmons would, at best, have been the 5th best catcher of the time.

    • So Munson. I’ve looked at him a lot. He died at age 32. So, while he had some baseball left in him, he was past his prime. He always hit for a good average and got on base well. But he seems to have completely lost his power by age 31, when he went from 18 HRs the prior year down to 6. In his final year he had hit 3 HRs in 97 games. His top 5 HR seasons were 20, 18, 17, 13, 12. He drove in 100 Runs 3 times. His next best year was 74. WAR: He was at 45.9 when he died. His final year, he had compiled 2.4 WAR, the prior year was 3.2. So, at that rate, he would have needed 7 more years, without much decline to get to 60 WAR. That was highly unlikely. And that includes a fair amount of WAR compiled defensively, because he was an excellent defensive player. But even at a premium position, he was still only getting 1.1 dWar, or less, his last four years.

      Simmons: Much longer career, I’ll grant, but he hit more than twice as many HRs and hit 20+ HRs six times. Career HRs: 248 Simmons – 113 for Munson, and as noted, Munson wasn’t really hitting many HRs anymore by the time he died.
      Simmons hit .285/.348/.437 over 21 years (sustained his hitting over twice as long) 50.1 WAR, most of it offensive, since defensively, he was about average probably. Interestingly Simmons career was longer, largely because he started younger. He really declined significantly after age 33 (only one year older than when Munson died) so didn’t get a big boost from his later years that Munson didn’t get. He only had three full time years (one of which was very substandard) and three partial seasons, in which he was mostly a declined player.
      Munson hit .292/.346/.410 over 11 years (with no degradation from playing in non prime years). 45.9 WAR (a decent amount from defense), and probably wouldn’t have gotten much more than 51-52 if he was able to go 3-4 more years.

      Comparison through age 32:
      Munson .292/.346/.410 with 113 HRs 116 OPS and 45.9 WAR
      Simmons .291/.355/.453 with 209 HRs 124 OPS+ and 48.4 WAR

      So, Munson’s HOF case really doesn’t hold up, like Simmons (though he’s closer) though I’ll grant you that the comparison with Simmons is at least close. You could probably make a case either way focusing on Munson’s defense at a key position, and maybe intangibles. But other than that, Simmons was the better offensive player and sustained it for a long time. Even through similar parts of their career Simmons was pretty clearly better offensively.

      • Pat says:

        Well done. Simmons is clearly better than Munson even if you only look at Simmons form 22-32, then you realize he had good to great seasons at 21 and 33, as well as a solid rookie season at 21, and the gap becomes even larger.

      • Carl says:

        I like your analysis comparing the 2 players through age-32. I did not adjust for age as you did and instead stopped at 1979, at which point Munson’s career had 45.9 War, 1 ROY, 1 MVP and was a 7x All Star. Simmons had 34.6 War through 1979 and had earned 6 of his 8 All Star selections. For his career, Simmons, who had over 3,700+ PA more than Munson had a total of 50.1 War. My feeling was since Munson earned 2.4 War in less than a full season in 1979, he only needed 2 seasons more (end of ’81) to surpass Simmons’ additional 4.2 of War. Comparable offensively (OPS+ of 118 for Simmons’ career, 116 for Munson) I believe that the complete package would have favored Munson, (as measured by War) but as you state Simmons’ career was far longer.

      • SDG says:

        I’ve usually seen Munson compared to Campanella. Besides the obvious (catchers, New York, regarded as leaders and full of “intangibles”, roughly the same PAs – Munson had half a season more, careers that ended in the same sudden and dramatic way as they entered their decline phases), their stats are pretty different. Campy leads in OPS, RF, CS% and black ink (but not by much) and has a higher peak, but their career WAR is 45.9 to 34.2 in favor of Munson. Yet one is considered one of the top five catchers ever, the other isn’t in the conversation. Yes, with NeL stats Campy blows Munson out of the water, but no one was looking at that in 1969.

        I don’t really understand this one.

  2. Sutter definitely is an odd one when you look at his actual record. His reputation, however, was stellar. He was the guy who seemed to invent the split fingered fastball, which was a devastating pitch. He appeared to be that guy you didn’t want to face, down one, in the late innings. If you look at BBR, however, you see that he probably DID dominate in 1977, 1979 (won the Cy Young), 1981, and 1984. Four years. He actually led the league in Saves five times. But Saves were not quite the thing they are now. The universal closer role was not yet in vogue across the league. He got a 3rd place in the Cy Young in 1982 for no obvious reason. So he either got a major award or was in the running (including being an All Star) for seven years of his career. So, I think there was some smoke and mirrors involved that made it appear that he was dominant for more than just four scattered years. In retrospect, his election is puzzling. But, I have to admit, at the time it seemed right based on his reputation. Reputations/narratives can be very misleading.

    • SDG says:

      Being credited with being the first one to do something is huge. It’s the reason Maury Willis is even in the conversation. Also, he was before my time – was he particularly well-liked? The Cards retiring his number seems even odder to me based of the small amount of time he played there.

    • Stephen says:

      I was living in Chicago as a teenager when Sutter began his career. (I was NOT a Cubs fan.) My recollection of Sutter from that time is that he was completely unhittable. I remember sitting in the grandstand on a summer day, the Cubs leading by a run or two, and somebody from the visiting team would get on base vs the Cubs starter in the seventh or eighth inning, and the manager would come to the mound and the organ would play the Alka-Seltzer song and Sutter would come in from the bullpen–and I knew, just knew, that the game was over.

      Anecdotal, of course. And the actual statistical record doesn’t bear out that he was untouchable. And there have been plenty of pitchers since then who were at least as unhittable over multi-year stretches: Rivera, and Pedro Martinez, and Greg Maddux, and Randy Johnson. And Sutter’s career didn’t last all that long…I agree that on some levels his selection is undeserved. But. Even now, if you ask me to ID “the most dominant pitcher I ever saw,” I wouldn’t name Gooden or Clemens or Kershaw or King Felix or any of the guys above, I’d name Sutter.

      And I suspect there were a lot of voters back in 19-whatever-it-was who saw Sutter on the ballot and (like me) immediately recalled that perception of absolute dominance… I’m not ordinarily a “well, you had to be there” kind of a guy, but this may be one of these situations.

      • otistaylor89 says:

        I see Sutter as completely different than Quiz as Sutter basically popularized a pitch that changed pitching and couldn’t be hit until he was injured while Quiz aged out like your normal closer. Sutter was Riveria until injured while Quiz was Lee Smith type.

  3. Theo says:

    Can’t believe you don’t have Scott Rolen in your 2019 Mega-Class as well, Joe. Great article, otherwise!

    (Seriously, though, I would be interested in seeing your thoughts on Rolen and the Hall sometime, hopefully it’s touched on in your big post coming up?)

    • Pat says:

      Rolen, clearly deserving, just as clearly not going to get even a sniff by the writers.

    • I just looked at Rolen and found something pretty interesting. If you look at JAWS for 3rd basemen that played in the last 50 years (no old timers), Rolen is right at the dividing line. Those rated higher than him are all in the HOF or presumed to be locks when they become eligible. Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Adrian Beltre, Chipper Jones, Ron Santo, Brooks Robinson and Paul Molitor. Behind him are Edgar Martinez, Craig Nettles, Ken Boyer, Buddy Bell, Sal Bando and Dick Allen. And yes, I know Molitor and Martinez were largely DH’s… and Dick Allen played a lot of first base on some OF.

      It will be interesting which side of the coin falls for him. He certainly has a compelling case. Those behind him have good cases as well. His issue is that he was never close to the best player in the league in any year. The narrative is lacking, even if the numbers are there.

      • dfj79 says:

        Well, b-ref has him down for a 9 WAR season in 2004, behind only Bonds and Beltre. Even if you want to regress his +30 fielding rating a healthy amount, you’re still left with an MVP caliber season (or at least what would normally be considered one, in anything other than a peak Bonds year). He finished fourth in the MVP vote that year and even got a first-place vote, so it’s not like he was under the radar either. I would count that as a year when he was in the best-player-in-the-league discussion (non-Bonds division, anyway). On the other hand, he only received MVP votes three other seasons and was a down-ballot guy each time (finishing 14th, 20th, and 24th), so yeah, he certainly wasn’t thought of as a perennial MVP candidate kind of guy.

        • professorbohn says:

          Yeah, but that was the year he had the great “traditional” stats….314 avg, 34 HR, 124 RBI. But he doesn’t have those for his career. With a guy like Beltre who could clear 450 HR and 3,000 hits, I think Rolen is going to suffer by comparison, especially because he was always missing time. I think he’s in big trouble unless there’s a big class next year that clears the ballot.

        • Gene says:

          2 shoulder injuries caused by collisions on the basepaths essentially ruined Rolen before his time. Turn back the clock, eliminate those injuries and Rolen could probably have added 2-3 (or more) really excellent seasons to his career, and we would be having a different conversation.

          • I think you’re right. But with injuries, there’s always that “what if” component. Would Griffey have beaten Aaron’s record if…. What would Koufax’s career number been if he didn’t have the arm issues and had a normal declining career instead of retiring. What if Andruw Jones didn’t get fat & stopped trying?….

  4. Paul White says:

    Joe, you know I’m the Jim Rice guy. And I know you’re one of the bigger Dale Murphy guys. And it sounds like we are awfully, awfully close in how we view them. For all intents and purposes they were of equal value as players, for all the reasons you stated.

    Because of that, for the life of me, I’ve never been able to understand why you vocally supported Murphy’s election and vocally opposed Rice’s. It seems, given their similarities, that you have to support both or neither, but not just one. I supported Rice, as you know. But I also was in favor of Murphy’s election. I’m a big Hall guy, so I thought it was fair that both be elected (I was just much louder about Rice). People who draw their cutoff line higher would certainly exclude both of them.

    But it’s always seemed to me that you essentially drew your cutoff line directly between Murphy (in favor) and Rice (not in favor), and I’ve never heard you really explain why that’s the case.

    • Pat says:

      Well, the best peak Rice can put together is a 3 year run with an OPS+ of 152, Murphy can put up a 150 while playing CF. Murphy can also put together a 6 year peak of 145 in CF, while Rice can only manage a 140 in LF. Murphy averaged 5.6 WAR for those 6 years to Rice’s 4.4 WAR. Personally I wouldn’t vote for either, but I think Murphy is clearly the better option given the positional difference between CF and LF.

      • Paul White says:

        The problem with that argument is that there’s a reason why Rice accumulated slightly more bWAR and fWAR overall than Murphy, despite the positional adjustment gap…Murphy was an atrociously bad center fielder. So much so that he never had a positive Fielding Runs total in any of the five seasons in which he won a Gold Glove. In fact, his final two Gold Glove winning seasons in center field were so horrible (-38 FR combined) that he was moved to right field the next season in favor of the immortal Dion James, who promptly compiled his own bad defensive season (-13 FR) and yet was still a defensive upgrade in CF over Murphy. In right field, Murphy was quite good, just as Rice was in left, and if he’d played there his entire career he likely would have compiled more total value than Rice did. Sadly, he played over a thousand games of bad defense in CF and that drags him down.

  5. Alejo says:


    I would like to read your dissection of Omar Vizquel’s HoF chances, if possible.


    • He’s tough since most of his value is on the defensive side. If you go by dWAR as SS (not the only measure, of course) he’s behind Ozzie, Mark Belanger, Cal Ripken, Joe Tinker, Luis Aparicio, Rabbit Maranville, Bobby Wallace and tied with Bill Dahlen. Of these, only Mark Belanger and Bill Dahlen are not in the HOF. Leaving aside the obvious Ozzie and Ripken (first ballot elects)…. Voted in by the writers was: Aparicio (6th ballot), Maranville (16th ballot under old rules), Veterans Committee elections were: Tinker, Wallace

      So, you have two guys ahead of him on dWAR not in the HOF (Belanger was a way better fielder than Vizquel, but way below average hitter & Dahlen was pretty similar to Vizquel), two first ballot (with whom Vizquel) can’t be compared. Aparicio could be considered similar to Vizquel stat wise, though Aparicio was a better fielder, he stole 100 more bases, played in a much lower offfensive era & was the top SS of his era.

      So, I think the better comps are Maranville, Tinker, Wallace and Dahlen. Tinker and Maranville are two of the more controversial picks in the HOF. Wallace and Dahlen I know nothing about. That being the case, I’d say he has a very outside shot at squeaking in late in the voting process. He’s got a better shot at a Veterans Committee whenever they get around to re-evaluating his era…. which probably won’t be for many years. I’d say he has a close to equal shot of not being elected ever.

      The thing is, there are lots of great defensive shortstops ahead of him, some of whom are not in the HOF and some of whom had to wait for a Veterans committee. I’d give it a 5% chance of getting voted in by the writers, a 50% chance of getting voted in by a Veterans Committee after most of us are dead. And about 45% chance of not ever getting voted in.

      • mrh says:

        roughly 1963-1998 the Orioles shortstops were Aparicio, Belanger, Ripken.

        • You know Earl Weaver insisted on being strong up the middle defensively. And usually his teams were. The amazing thing is how impossibly great Belanger’s defensive metrics were. He’s right there with Ozzie. Of course, he was no where near as flashy, but I do remember Weaver praising his defense more than once…. and Weaver threw compliments around like man hole covers. It wasn’t that unusual to have good field, no hit players at SS in that era. But obviously Weaver grasped how great of a shortstop Belanger really was.

          Ripken, I think, people forget how great he was defensively. Probably because he had a longer career and showed obvious decline that necessitated a position change.

          I completely forgot that Aparicio played for the Orioles. He was traded from the White Sox to the Orioles, in a multi player deal that included Hoyt Wilhelm going to the White Sox.

      • Tim says:

        I love looking back at Rabbits career. Was there another hitter that finished his career with as many hits as he (2,605) with a BA that low(258)?

      • Brian says:

        According to Baseball Reference, Vizquel was only 43 runs above average for his entire career – meaning most of his value came from longevity. His career year, 1999, was his only 5 WAR season. I’m an Indians fan but can’t see Vizquel as a Hall of Famer.

  6. Pat says:

    ” the 8,000 plate appearance curse.”

    I know Larry Walker has 8,030, but I think this curse is hurting him, too.

  7. mark says:


    Bill’s prediction: Jeff Bagwell and Juan Gonzalez

    My prediction: Mariano Rivera, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jim Thome, Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez.

    Well, a guy can dream, can’t he?”

    Might as well have thrown in Trammell, Whitaker,and Raines, too.

    • murr2825 says:

      And, as long as we’re dreaming, Jim Kaat.

      • dfj79 says:

        Is there a reason why Jim Kaat is widely perceived as closer to the Hall of Fame borderline than Tommy John? Their career numbers are practically identical (John actually has more wins, fewer losses, and an ERA that’s better even after league/park adjustments). And John had more All-Star selections, better Cy Young finishes and a better postseason record (not to mention a decided advantage in baseball-reference WAR). Their careers (except for the tail end of John’s) came before my time, so I’m wondering if there’s something I’m missing. Maybe my perception is wrong, but it sure seems that Kaat gets brought up in these discussions more often than John does, and just going by the numbers, I can’t figure it out.

  8. jalabar says:

    Well… I too would like to see Schilling get in, and think he is a Hall-of-Famer. You asked about Dwight Gooden, and whether having the best season, or one of the best, in history should be enough to get you in the Hall. It gets to the word, ‘Fame’. For baseball players, we assume that they have to be the best of the best on the field, and exemplary outside the field of play. At least these days, that is what we expect. But… Bowie Kuhn in in the Hall. Was he ‘excellent’ at his job? I hardly think so. But he sure was famous. And that is what Fame means. So… you ask if Gooden’s one season is enough… I would ask if being the best starter in post-season history is enough. Those are Schilling’s qualifications for the Hall.

    Based on the regular season, I think Mike Mussina is deserving BEFORE Schilling. However, when you add in that Schilling may be the best playoff starter in MLB history, it sure changes the equation.

    • SDG says:

      I disagree that it’s a Hall for the most famous baseball players. Maris is one of the most famous players ever. No one suggests he should be in the Hall. Same with Bobby Thomson or Joe Carter (and by extension I suppose Ralph Branca and Mitch Williams) or Curt Flood or Jose Canseco. It’s the Hall of Best Players Ever (with owners, execs and various non-players being their own separate thing we have no real standards for). But yes, Schilling deserves to be in and he will eventually. There’s a huge 90s-2000s bottleneck that will eventually be cleared up.

      • Arthur Radley says:

        It’s called the Hall of Fame because it confers fame. The rules of election state:

        Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

        There’s no mention about getting in for being famous.

        • SDG says:

          I don’t see why that was directed at me, because that’s the point I was making. It’s for the best players, The ones with the best record and playing ability. So many famous (Maris) and influential (Flood) players aren’t in there because they were not the best of the best in terms of stats.

          (And yes, the character clause is in there but with all the cheaters, racists, adulterers, drug users (performance enhancing), drug users (recreational), and criminals already in there, I think we can declare that a non-issue).

      • professorbohn says:

        I think it’s odd you say “no one suggests” Maris should be in the Hall, because 43% of the vote is not anything to handwave away. As for Carter and Thomson, hitting a famous home run and being famous are two different things.

        • SDG says:

          Right. But now, when people talk about the people who’ve been overlooked, no one ever brings up Maris. It’s Gene Tenace and Bill Dahlen. Maris is one of the more famous baseball players and he’s not a HoF cause like Shoeless or Rose or Blyleven.

  9. When Brett Butler signed with the Giants, at the press conference he said “I’ve always wanted to be a Giant”. A few years later, when he signed with the Dodgers, at the press conference he said “I’ve always wanted to be a Dodger”. How can you be a fan of that kind of thing?

  10. Tim says:

    I was such a huge Ruben Sierra fan growing up in North Texas. He was the first player that was my fav. Such a bizarre career. That year where had 101 RBIs and 25 steals yet hit 233 with an OBP of under 300. Lol. All the failed comebacks that followed. Its amazing that a guy who hit 306 homeruns and knocked in 1300 plus, and made 4 all star teams would be considered a disappointment. The weight training did him in. He showed up in 92 huge with a gut and he was never quite the same. Still love the uniqueness of his career. His stat line from year to year is just….odd

    • Brian says:

      It’s incredible how long he stuck around. He accumulated negative 3.8 WAR from 1993 on, but still played through the 2006 season and was a starter on a playoff team in 2004.

      • Tim says:

        When he connected on a homerun with that goofy swing, it just looked awesome. But when he missed…..sheeeeeesh. The Rangers had an interesting cast of hitters with goofy swings. Julio Franco with the bat held over his head, sierras one armed slash, Pudges attempts to swing at EVERYTHING, hell, even Mickey Tettleton with the bat held in a lackadaisical manner, to Rusty Greers lean back pose. Fun times.

  11. MikeN says:

    Why do people use WAR to compare great players? 30 home runs is 30 home runs. Why should one player be considered weaker because lots more people are hitting 10 home runs today?

    I would want my GM to use that in his analysis when considering players to sign within a budget, but don’t see the point of using it to compare good players.

    • Brent says:

      Easy answer: because 30 home runs on the moon (5/6 of the earth’s gravitational pull) is a lot less impressive than 30 home runs on Jupiter (2.4 times the earth’s gravitational pull).

      To a lesser degree hitting 30 Home runs in Denver in 1995 is a lot less impressive than hitting 30 home runs in Washington D.C. in 1967.

    • professorbohn says:

      Because doing something no one else can do is more valuable than doing something lots of people can do.

    • Nick S. says:

      Because that’s what WAR is designed to do.
      I had a longer response, but everything I wrote seemed inadequate.

  12. Allen Phillips says:

    Frank White!!!

  13. mrh says:

    Bobby Grich

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