By In Stuff

The BBWAA Project: Left Field

Previously on The BBWAA Project:


In the introduction, there’s an explanation of the project and also why I’m using Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as the guiding statistic. It is basically because it is the easiest statistic to use for various reasons. It’s a good statistic, I think, but has many problems with it, and I’m aware of that. For instance, Baseball Reference WAR doesn’t credit Craig Biggio with being as good a player as, say, Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement. But the point of this is NOT to get a precise view of how good a player is but instead to get a general idea of the BBWAA’s standards and how this year’s candidates matched up.

First Base roundup

Second Base roundup

Shortstop roundup

Third base roundup

And now we move on to what I think might be the weirdest, wildest, most controversial, most inconsistent and most thrilling BBWAA position of them all …

Left Field

OK, let’s start with the rundown: Eleven left fielders have elected by the BBWAA, six of them on the first ballot (Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson, Stan Musial, Willie Stargell, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski).

Median career: 59.9 WAR (High: Musial 123.4; Low: Lou Brock 42.8)
25th percentile career: 49.3

Median peak: 41.3 WAR (High: Williams 67.6; Low: Brock 31.1)
25th percentile peak: 37.2

Here are the BBWAA Hall of Famers as ranked by the fans on Baseball Reference’s EloRater:

No. 5: Ted Williams (119.8 WAR career/67.6 peak)
No. 9: Stan Musial (123.4/62.7)
No. 19: Carl Yastrzemski (90.1/53.1)
No. 21: Rickey Henderson (106.8/54.4)
No. 28: Al Simmons (64.3/.43.5)
No. 80: Willie Stargell (54.2/36.7)
No. 92: Billy Williams (59.9/39.6)
No. 106: Joe Medwick (52.4/37.8)
No. 166: Ralph Kiner (46.2/41.3)
No. 176: Lou Brock (42.8/31.1)
No. 208: Jim Rice (44.3/34.6)

So, here’s this thing about left field: The writers are all over the map. The other defensive positions — at least so far — have a rhythm to them. Yes, there are some outliers — a Tony Perez here, a Pie Traynor there — but generally speaking there is a standard, usually a high standard, and the writers stick to it unless the player has a particularly compelling narrative or happened to have good timing.

But here — wel, it’s hard to tell. The obvious players are the obvious players — Williams, Musial, Henderson, Yaz — all were elected first ball, all with well over 90% of the vote (though how ANYONE could vote against any of the four is beyond me).

But then the standard is all over the place. You have a brilliant but short career (Kiner), the master of the stolen base and a World Series hero (Lou Brock) and a striking image of the 1970s slugger (Jim Rice) … there is, of course, a very strong Hall of Fame argument for all three of them, but then there’s a strong argument for Goose Goslin and Zack Wheat, who needed the Veterans Committee to vote them in, and there’s a strong argument for Dwight Evans and Bobby Bonds and Minnie MInoso and Dale Murphy and Jack Clark and Bob Johnson and Roy White and others who are not in the Hall of Fame …

This gets at the point of this study: What is a Hall of Famer according to the BBWAA? At the infield positions, you can answer that question with some level of certainty … there are irregularities and exceptions and so on, but the standard is more or less in place. In left field, it’s more muddled.

And the Veterans’ committees? Good luck trying to figure them out. The left fielders inducted by the Veterans include: Goose Goslin (No. 64); Zack Wheat (No. 101); Fred Clarke (No. 107); Heine Manush (No. 209); Chick Hafey (No. 512) and Jesse Burkett (No. 93) who started in the 19th century. Hafey, it should be noted, is among the candidates for the least productive Hall of Famers.

This year’s candidates:

Barry Bonds

Career: 158.1 WAR (plus-98.2 against median)
Peak: 71.1 WAR (plus 29.8)
Ranking: No. 33

I had never actually looked up Bonds on the EloRater before … wow, No. 33. The fans, through the intensive process, have ranked him behind Ed Delahanty, Al Simmons and, interestingly, Alex Rodriguez. So, yes, among fans there is a lot of skepticism about how much of Barry Bonds’ value was real and how much was Memorex.* Either that, or a whole lot of people just don’t like Barry Bonds.

*Answer: 38. Question: How old do you need to be to get that reference?

Consider this, though:

Barry Bonds

Career: 96.9 WAR (plus-37 against median)
Peak: 61.2 WAR (plus 19.9)
Ranking: Right around No. 22 or No. 23

That’s approximates what Barry Bonds’ career would have looked like had he retired after the 1998 season when — the narrative goes — he decided instead to become superhuman. So, he would have been a dead lock, first-ballot, no doubt Hall of Famer and one of the best players in baseball history.

You know what’s funny — or sad — to think about? What if Bonds HAD done that? What if he had publicly come out right at the end of the seemingly magical 1998 season and said: “I’m retiring from baseball because I”m disgusted by the steroid use. You people celebrate these home runs like they are a wonder, but I know the truth … and deep down everyone in this game knows the truth. I don’t want to be a part of THIS game. I don’t want to be a part of this charade.”

How different would the history of baseball be? Suddenly, you don’t have Bonds hitting 73 home runs. You don’t have managers intentionally walking him every time there are runners on base because he’s better than any hitter had ever been. You don’t have the ever-present scene of Bonds bombing long home runs into the bay, night after night after night.

What happens if Bonds retires instead of presumably going roid crazy? Would there have been the same backlash against steroids in baseball without the villainous Barry Bonds at the heart of things? Would Balco have been such a big deal? Would Congress have gotten involved? Would the uproar have reached the pitch that finally pushed baseball to do some serious drug testing?

And would Barry Bonds be viewed as heroic and one of the 10 best players who ever lived?

I always love these alternate history scenarios.

Tim Raines

Career: 66.2 WAR (plus 6.3)
Peak: 41.1 WAR (minus 0.2)
Ranking: No. 70

In the same way that Trammell was overshadowed by Ripken, so Tim Raines was overshadowed by Rickey Henderson (and, to an extent, his old teammate Andre Dawson).

Raines is definitely a Hall of Famer by the BBWAA standards … this is largely because of the BBWAA’s voting of Brock and Kiner and Rice. He does not compare very well to Henderson, Yaz, Williams and Musial. Then again, who does?

I’m as big a Tim Raines fan as anyone South of Jonah Keri, but — like with other candidates I think belong in the Hall of Fame — I wish he’d had one more great year. This is the thing that often separates the easy Hall of Fame choices from the borderline, and the borderline from the nonmember. One great season.

Raines was really a great player every year from 1982 to 1987. That’s six years, and that’s enough for me. Three times he led the league in stolen bases, twice in runs scored, once in batting average, once in doubles. And I still stay he’s the greatest pure base stealer who ever lived. In 1985 he stole 70 bases … and was caught nine times. Unheard of. Nobody else in since they have been keeping track has stolen 70 bases in a season and been caught fewer than 10 times … Lou Brock in 1973 stole 70 bases and was caught 20 times, Bill North in 1976 stole 75 bases and was caught 29 times, Rickey Henderson when he stole 130 bases was caught 42 times.

You didn’t throw out TIm Raines, not in his prime. Three of those nine he was thrown out by Tony Pena, who was one of the great throwing catchers of all time. And three of the nine happened in the second half of September, when he was obviously beaten down. Like I say, it’s incredible — amazing 1985 season 70 stolen bases and nine caught stealing.

In 1986, he did it again — 70 stolen bases and nine caught stealing.

The next year — 50 stolen bases and five caught stealing.

What a base stealer. And, like I say, for six years, he was a truly great player — should have been a legit MVP candidate each of those six years, should have won at least one MVP and maybe two. But, even as a huge Raines fan, I have to concede: He was only a good player after that. There were some injuries. He bounced around. He became a part time player. He was still good, still productive, still played at a level that helped him compile a Hall of Fame value career. I have absolutely no doubt that he meets the BBWAA Hall of Fame standard and that is one of the best players in the game’s history.

But … oh for one more great season.

In fact … oh for one more HALF great season. I’m thinking of 1981, when Raines was a GREAT player as a rookie … but the season was made into a mockery by the labor issues. If Raines had been given a full season, he certainly would have stolen 100 bases (he stole 71 in 88 games), scored 110 or 120 runs, put up some other crazy numbers, maybe led the Expos to the World Series perhaps been a legit MVP candidate and the rookie of the year*.

*Raines hit .304/391/.438 with 71 stolen bases in 88 games as a rookie … and did not win rookie of the year. Ah, that was the year of Fernandomania.

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50 Responses to The BBWAA Project: Left Field

  1. Brian says:

    “The obvious players are the obvious players — Williams, Musial, Henderson, Yaz — all were elected first ball, all with well over 90% of the vote (though how ANYONE could vote against any of the four is beyond me).”

    We’ve all made our feelings known on this, and I think it’s safe to say that this practice is universally panned. I can’t think of ANYONE who agrees with a voter who purposely doesn’t vote for a 1st ballot HOF’er for reasons only they know. Which leads me to wonder, who are the voters who are doing this?

    But the other thing I’d like to know is the voter’s thoughts afterwards. They have to know that a player like Williams and Musial and in the future, Maddux and Jeter, are all getting in on the 1st ballot. So that means they’ll never get to vote for these guys. I wonder how they feel about that. I’d seriously like to ask one of these writers who’ve been doing this for a long time how they feel about their voting history possibly including Jim Rice, but not Rickey Henderson. This fascinates me.

    • Stephen says:

      1) On a packed ballot next year, do I want to waste a vote on Maddux (who’ll get in with or without my vote) or do I want to make sure I can use 1 of my 10 checkmarks to keep Trammell alive?

      2) Across time there’s a big difference among who was and wasn’t elected on the first ballot.

      Following the first class of 5 Hall of Famers in 1936, there were zero first ballot electees for 25 years (no one from Ruth to Feller). In the 50 years since, the majority of BBWAA electees are 1st ballot. There may still be writers who trot out the “he’s not a 1st-ballot guy,” but those voters have had little influence on election for the last half century.

      3) 2013 may mark the change of that — there’s consensus on few/no players anymore and we’re quickly accruing a backlog that, while not equal to the early elections, may confound the process for some time. The next decade’s voting may more closely resemble the jumbled ballot of the pre-expansion era more than the process most of us have seen in our lifetimes.

    • Brian says:

      1) I don’t think this is the reason voters who do this are giving. Then again, I’ve never heard a valid reason from one of them, or even ANY reason for that matter. But regardless, a better voting policy might be, oh I don’t know, taking the vote seriously and voting for the people they think deserve it? That’s too much to ask I guess.

      2) What is this numbering thing we’re doing? Are you commenting on my points one at a time? I only made 2 points, so I’m not sure what your “3” is for.

      3) Hi.

    • I’m with you, Brian. If I had a hall of fame vote, wouldn’t I want to walk through the plaque room and point to the plaques of Brett, Henderson, Ryan, et al. and say, “I helped vote that guy in,” rather than the other way around? Do I want to have to take my companions to Jim Rice and say, “George Brett? Not so much, but let me tell you about all the times I saw Jim Rice strikeout.”

  2. Hartzdog says:

    Does Barry Bonds’ superhuman prowess after he started taking steroids speak against including Sosa and McGuire in the HOF? Bonds took roids and became the greatest offensive force baseball had ever seen. Those two took them and became great, but nowhere near as great as Bonds. If they really were all-time great players, wouldn’t have they been even better when on the roids?

  3. brhalbleib says:

    Joe, I like Tim Raines too and think he should be a HOFer, but your base stealing numbers are a little misleading: ” In 1985 he stole 70 bases … and was caught nine times. Unheard of. Nobody else in since they have been keeping track has stolen 70 bases in a season and been caught fewer than 10 times … ” Willie Wilson, in 1980 stole 79 bases and was caught exactly 10 times, so while your statement is true, it doesn’t really tell the whole story (and Wilson’s season was no fluke, he stole 83 in 1979 with only 12 caught and 59 in 1983 with only 8 caught and 47 and 5 in 1984). I don’t think that Raines’ base stealing ability is any better than Wilson’s. (his ability to get on base, of course, is another story)

    As for 1981, maybe your last statement isn’t supposed to imply that Raines was a better player than Fernando and Fernando only won becasue of Fernandomania, but Fernando’s WAR in 1981 was 4.6, Raines was 3.4, so if that was the implication, I think it is a little unfair.

    • I think Joe’s point is to highlight Raines’s case, not to diminish anyone else.

      With respect to Wilson, he was great at base stealing, and Raines’s 84.7% success rate to Willie’s 83.3% shows how great they both were. (Carlos Beltran has a higher percentage, but with only 306 steals.)

      Not only did Raines lose a half season when he could have been great in 1981, he lost 21 games in 1987, his best offensive year, to owners’ collusion.

    • Dinky says:

      Here’s the thing in a nutshell. Raines was a great player, a deserving HOFer, no question. But people don’t say Valenzuela mania; it’s Fernando mania. He was a beloved icon that was the only pitcher aside from Koufax during my lifetime of attending games at Dodger Stadium had people asking for tickets every game he pitched. Not scalpers; people hoping to watch Fernando pitch. That, plus his WAR, plus being in LA instead of Montreal, is why Fernando won RoY, and that might be why Raines isn’t in the HoF yet.

  4. Tracy Mohr says:

    Being picky, but Dwight Evans, Jack Clark and Dale Murphy weren’t left fielders, so I don’t really understand why they’re mentioned.

  5. MtheL says:

    I have two thoughts on Bonds. The first is a reply to your question what if Bonds had retired after 1998? Had that happened, Pujols would have 2 more MVP wins, for a total of 5 MVPs, with 2 2nd place finishes. I think we would be discussing whether Pujols was the greatest player of all time, rather than merely where he fits amongst the greatest.

    The second point relates to ATT Park. What if Bonds had either (1) never left the Pirates, thus spending his career at Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park or (2) if the Giants hadn’t moved to ATT Park? Sure ATT has a tall wall in right, but it is an awfully short shot there. Had Bonds stayed in a park that was more difficult to hit homeruns to right field, thus hitting many fewer homeruns, would he have ever been so vilified? It seems to me that the luck of a short right field fence in his home park sure helped Bonds a lot, something that is often overlooked.

    • Kymee says:

      Bonds would have hit HRs out of any ball park at the time. Also implying the “short porch” at AT&T implies you don’t know much about AT&T or Barry Bonds. It is one of the most difficult parks in the game for lefties (and righties) to hit HRs to right field. Bonds made it look easy and no one else has done anything like it, home or visitor. Also if you watch most of his HRs go out past the ~360ft point of that 24ft wall (365 is marked on the wall) and even then those balls weren’t wall scrapers. Add the heavy SF bay air and what he did in that park is more impressive then possibly any other park. Imagine if he had played in yankee stadium?

    • David in NYC says:

      PacBell/SBC/AT&T park is basically neutral in terms of park effects. The BB-Ref average for 2000-2007, years Bonds played there, is 98 (smaller numbers=less hitting, bigger numbers=more hitting, MLB average=100).

      Yankee Stadium is also basically neutral; the park effect average for the same years is 99. So, if Bonds had played in NY instead of SF, he would have hit roughly 1% more HRs.

      Interestingly, if he had stayed in Pittsburgh, he would have hit somewhat more HRs than either NY or SF. The park effect average for Pittsburgh (both stadiums) for the same years is 100.

      Also, if Kymee’s “the heavy SF bay air” is intended to mean that the ball doesn’t travel as well in higher humidity, that observation is actually completely backward. Balls go *further* in humid air because water vapor is lighter than air (otherwise, it would all fall to the ground).

    • Kymee says:

      David those are generic park factors not HR factors. AT&Ts HR factors since 2001-2007 are: .624, .624, .813, .899, .911(this year, 2005, Bonds only played 14 games), .681, .808. Thats an average of .766. Yankee stadium averaged 1.1 over that same period of time.

      Also the humid air affects the ball more than the flight as Arizona and Colorado have taught us. The ball stays “wetter” and heavier. The reason Colorado now uses a humidifier. The humidity, or lack thereof, affects the ball just as much as altitude. So yeah you are correct that I am wrong about the density of air but the air causes the ball to be heavier and prevailing bay winds, while not candlestick crazy, affect ball flight as well.

      Also the bay moderates temperature thus “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in san francisco.” When other stadiums heat up it makes air molecules move more and thus easier for a ball to move through. SF doesn’t get “hot” the air is harder to move through because the molecules don’t have as much energy.

    • Kymee says:

      Fangraphs also has HR park factors by handedness from 2002-2011. AT&T is the hardest HR as LHB from 2002-2004, 2nd hardest from 2005-2008 (introduction of Petco in 2005), 3rd hardest from 2009-2011. ESPN (used above) and fangraphs use different methods but the effect is the same. Yankee Stadium (especially the new one) is a LHB HR heaven

    • David in NYC says:

      Yes, you are right about the differences in run-scoring park factors and type-of-hit park factors (e.g., Citi Field is a paradise for triples hitters). Your research on the topic is spot on.

      But two things still: first, you say (probably correctly; you appear to be more familiar with his career) “Bonds would have hit HRs out of any ball park at the time”.* Now, if that’s true, then it doesn’t really matter what the dimensions of the ballpark are or what the weather is.

      *Back when Babe Ruth hit his 60 HRs in 1927, balls that bounced into the stands were considered HRs, not 2Bs as they are now. Research into the Babe’s HRs showed that every one of them had gone into the stands on the fly. Bonds’ HRs could have been something similar.

      Second, yes, temperature definitely plays a part in hitting (I am always astonished that nobody ever points that out when, say, there is an unusually warm spring and there are an unusually large number of HRs). That also includes the temperature of the ball itself, which is why golf pros generally carry their “ball in play” to the next tee in their pocket.

      But, no, humidity only makes the ball go further, at any given temperature. The ball does not become “heavy” because it’s “wetter”. Read the link at the bottom of my earlier post in detail, and you will see what I mean.

    • Justin says:

      Also the humid air affects the ball more than the flight as Arizona and Colorado have taught us. The ball stays “wetter” and heavier.

      As mentioned above, the air humidity doesn’t affect the ball too much during the game, as it takes time to draw moisture out of the air. It takes about 2 weeks or so for a baseball to saturate within reasonable ranges of ambient humidity, and they store balls at Coors for longer time periods than this.

      Also, while the ball does get somewhat heavier from the relative humidity in the humidor, the dominant effect on home runs comes from changing its coefficient of restitution (the elasticity or bounciness). This is also why golfers try to keep golf balls warm, by the way; the coefficient of restitution for a golf ball is reasonably sensitive to temperature.

    • Justin says:

      When other stadiums heat up it makes air molecules move more and thus easier for a ball to move through. SF doesn’t get “hot” the air is harder to move through because the molecules don’t have as much energy.

      It’s true that a hotter temperature means that air molecules are moving more quickly on average, but that’s not directly why the ball travels farther on hot days. The higher temperature leads to a lower air density, so there is less drag on the ball (drag & deceleration are proportional to the density of the fluid, air in this case).

      For what it’s worth, Chase Field in Phoenix is the second highest stadium in the majors, which adds something like 1.5% to the distance of home run balls relative to sea level. That can be the difference between a warning track out and a home run. Chase has other effects going on, like the fact that they store the balls in a dry environment (which they considered changing a couple years ago) and the roof open/closed issue. In addition to increasing the coefficient of restitution, it’s more difficult to get a good grip on particularly dry baseballs, which causes problems with breaking pitches.

    • Dinky says:

      In all the games I saw Bonds (mostly on TV) in ATT Park, I don’t recall a single homer that stayed in the park. They all went over the bleachers, long home runs. I only recall one line drive that hit the wall; in Dodger Stadium, I have no doubt it would have been a homer. I recall a study done a while back that normalized ATT for non-Bonds, and it became far far more of a pitcher’s park. I have no doubt that if Bonds had gone to any ballpark in baseball (aside from San Diego and Seattle) he would have had more homers than he did in San Francisco.

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  7. Toar Winter says:

    One note I haven’t seen on Raines or the previous discussions of Bernie Williams is their prowess as switch hitters. They both are probably top 10 switch hitters all-time (straight guess). Raines is a basically a mirror from one side to the other. Williams is a great LH hitter, and an all-star caliber RH hitter. How does this figure into their respective narratives? Eddie Murray, for example, was clearly better from the right side, and not so good from the left, yet his switch ability was a cause celebre when he was elected.

  8. MtheL: Barry Bonds hit 35 “splash hit” home runs over the right field wall at AT&T in 8 seasons.

    All other players combined have hit 52 splash hits in 13 seasons.

    Barry Bonds: 4.4 per season. The rest of MLB combined: 4.0 per season.

    It’s not an easy place for lefthanders to hit. Barry Bonds on steroids was just that good.

    • Kymee says:

      These numbers don’t tell half the story. They make sense but to but an even bigger discrepancy between the numbers look at splash hits/PA. Bonds number will be like 18 times greater than the rest of the MLB.

    • Tux says:

      They’ll be even better than that if you turn this into splashes/ABs. Remember, he walked over 1100 times in those 8 seasons.

      Bonds has 1407 home at-bats at AT&T, and 1982 plate appearances. The rest of the league has 72056 ABs and 76302 PAs. Bonds averaged a splash shot every 56.6 plate appearances. The league? One every 1467. That’s insane.

      But…there’s the obvious fact that the majority of the league isn’t lefthanded, and that gives Bonds a major advantage. And if we assume that the league follows the 70-30 righty-lefty split, then it’s one every 440. So, assuming that all of the water shots were from lefty batters, Bonds hit one into the bay 8 times more frequently than his lefty brethren.

    • I’m sure the math for other teams’ #3 hitters is closer to 4.4

    • Tux says:

      Maybe, but even then, I can’t see the rate diminishing by a full factor of ten. Bonds’s lowest OPS+ in those seasons was 156. I’d be interested to see the OPS+ of the rest of the at bats by the #3 batting spot in the league over those seasons.

    • Kymee says:

      Ask Morneau, Fielder, and Howard how easy it is to hit the bay. None of them could do it in the HR derby in 2007.

  9. purebull says:

    nods. i remember thinking raines got jobbed in the ROY voting that season. in retrospect, no, he probably didn’t…but i’d say that his rookie year *is* the other great season in his career. hardly anyone seems to notice, for some reason..

  10. dbutler16 says:

    I’m pretty sure Heine Manush got in because of his name.

  11. Lou Mindar says:

    Even after all of these years, with all of the accolades and words written about him, could Stan Musial be the most underrated great player in baseball history? I don’t think we truly appreciate how great he really was.

  12. pumpkino says:

    Yes – every time I see reference to Musial like this I think “man, he was good” – truly underrated.

    I am of the opinion that Bonds should be in – however, I think the what-ifs become a tangled web with anyone. I have often wondered (though haven’t made the effort) how we would perceive Koufax if we tacked on 10 years of mediocre. It is an interesting exercise, as is doing the opposite (removing 8-odd years of Bonds) but SO theoretical.

    I certainly see that Joe’s methodology (as good as any) would make Koufax look exactly the same, but the point is that the voters obviously don’t see it that way. They take Bonds post-1998 as a subtraction, not omission. Really, that’s almost weirder.

  13. David in NYC says:

    Stan Musial is criminally underrated. Sounds weird for a first-ballot HoF member, but it’s true, IMHO. Joe has written about Stan the Man on several occasions and made similar observations.

    The only other candidate for “most underrated in the HoF” in my mind is Frank Robinson.

    • Blotz says:

      The argument against Bonds has always been that what he did was unprecedented for someone his age. Which comfortably elides over how unlikely Hank Aaron’s accomplishments were for a guy HIS age.

    • Ian R. says:

      Hank Aaron was an MVP-caliber player through his age-35 season, which is amazing. He had one renaissance season as a 37-year-old (even then, his 6.9 WAR would have been one of the weaker seasons in his prime) but was generally a diminished (though still All-Star) player in his late 30s.

      Bonds, on the other hand, had the top three seasons of his career by WAR at ages 36, 37 and 39. Aaron is a great example of someone who showed flashes of his previous brilliance in his late 30s, but no one other than Bonds was able to actually take his game to a new level at that age.

    • Dinky says:

      As IIRC Bill James wrote, Aaron’s career was resurrected by moving from a pitcher’s park in Milwaukee to the (pre-Coors) launching pad in Atlanta. Park effects substantially helped his career. For his career, in County Stadium he had an OPS of .902, in Atlanta, .992, for his career, .929. So Atlanta was just what Hank needed to go from a HOF caliber player to winning the all time homer record.

    • John Gale says:

      Aaron’s accomplishments weren’t *really* like Bonds’. He stayed very good for a very long time. But it’s not like he suddenly became *much* better in his mid-to-late 30s than he ever was in his 20s. Aaron’s OPS+ by year starting with his rookie season: 104, 141, 151, 166, 152, 182, 156, 163, 170, 179, 153, 161, 142, 168, 153, 177, 149, 194, 147, 177, 128, 95, 102. Ok, the 194 at age 37 is a bit of an outlier. But it’s only one season and it’s not inconceivable. Now, let’s take a look at Bonds’ OPS+ numbers: 103, 114, 148, 126, 170, 160, 204, 206, 183, 170, 188, 170, 178, 156, 188, 259, 268, 231, 263, 174, 156, 169. The four ridiculous numbers were in his age 36-39 seasons, and are four of top 11 single-season numbers in the history of baseball (including the top three). Babe Ruth has the next three highest OPS+ numbers, and those were all in his mid-to-late 20s. It’s one thing to have *one* crazy season like that late in your career (Ted Williams had a 233 OPS+ at age 38). Maybe even two. But four in a row, when Bonds never came anywhere close to those numbers even in his 20s (by contrast, Williams had an even better season–235–at age 22) Come on.

  14. MtheL says:

    Ignoring my earlier comment about ATT Park (I admit defeat), has anyone ever looked at Bonds Home-Road splits for 2001 when he hit 73 homeruns? His road stats and home stats are almost identical (Home: 37 HR, 71 RBI, 6 SB, 80 BB, 46 SO, .335/.516/.915, 205 TB – Away: 36 HR, 66 RBI, 7 SB, 97 BB, 47 SO, .321/.514/.817, 206 TB). I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such home/road consistency (other than the great Stan Musial). Unbelievable.

    • David in NYC says:

      Speaking of Stan The Man and consistency, Mr. Musial owns one of my all-time favorite baseball trivia stats:

      1,815 hits at home
      1,815 hits on the road

      I guess he could hit anywhere, couldn’t he?

  15. Chris says:

    Wow, I feel like the disparity between Bonds and everyone else should make people question steroids in a different way. Considering the number of people we know who have used PEDs in various sports, how many people have actually been THIS much better than their contemporaries as well as anyone that came before them?

    Only comp I can come up with is Armstrong, who obviously used an entirely different kind of performance enhancement, but I don’t think anyone else is close.

    • Dinky says:

      Wayne Gretzky. There are some possible basketball examples, but it’s hard to compare across positions. For example, Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double one season, and Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 points per game another, but in basketball (and football) coaches choose where the ball is going, so the best will get more touches. But Gretzky just seemed to be playing a different game altogether.

  16. Scott says:

    “And would Barry Bonds be viewed as heroic and one of the 10 best players who ever lived?” No, because he would still be Barry Bonds, a man people loathe almost instinctively. This is the same Barry who got voted off his college team before the College World Series because no one there could stand him. This is the same guy who used to tell white kids he wouldn’t sign autographs for them after games. Everyone would hear that statement, assume he was just jealous of McGwire and Sosa (and be right in that assumption) and even if he had a positive effect on baseball he would still be looked at the same way Jose Canseco is today, and for the same reasons.

    • Could you supply citations for “no one there could stand him” and “used to tell white kids. . .”?

      Might be true, but this the first I’ve heard of them, and I’d like to see the source of the allegations.

      And of course he was jealous of McGwire. McGwire was voted one of the 25 greatest living ballplayers in 1999 and Barry wasn’t. He knew that didn’t make sense.

  17. ray says:

    I know you bring up the lost games to the strike in 81 by Raines but what about the games that he lost to collusion in 1987. That’s another month that was lost.

  18. yoyodyne says:

    As a lifetime Phillies fan, the two most terrifying players I have watched the Phightin’s play against were:
    1) Pedro Martinez
    2) Tim Raines.

    Yeah, Chipper Jones & Maddus killed them for years. Willie Stargell. Johnny Bench. Piazza, because the Gods have a sense of humor.

    But Raines against those pennant-winning Phils teams terrified me at the plate, on the bases, and in the field.

  19. Indakind says:

    I am 38 and I do get the Memorex reference.

  20. DJM says:

    On the idea of the voters being all over the place in left field, I think there’s a reason for that.

    If you think about most positions, they have a “type”: power-hitting first baseman, great defensive shortstop, etc. If you think about the kind of players who end up in the Hall at each position, they tend to fit that image. So all of the BBWAA-elected first basemen are offense-first players, second basemen and shortstops tend to be quality defensive players first with offense taken into account later, third basemen are a mash-up of the two, and so on.

    Left field is a position that on most teams signifies “inferior outfielder”. It gets the guy who is too slow with a big bat or fast but with no arm, or just the guy whose defense isn’t as good as his fellow outfielders.

    When you look at the voting, you see something similar. You see guys who could hit for average (Ted Williams, Musial, Simmons, Ducky). You see guys who could hit for power (Billy Williams, Kiner, Stargill, Rice). And you see guys known for their speed (Henderson, Brock). There isn’t a type in play other than most of those players not getting in for their defensive contributions.

  21. Grulg says:

    Manush got in for the same reasons Cuyler, Roush did and Al Oliver would if so lucky: .300 averages, batting crowns, 200 hit seasons, etc. It’s hard to keep a .330 lifetimer out, no matter the era-he’s Paul Waner w a shorter run if you like. He’s at least reasonable, he’s not Lloyd Waner or George Kelly.

  22. Brian says:

    “He does not compare very well to Henderson, Yaz, Williams and Musial. Then again, who does?”

    Well, Barry Bonds, clearly.

  23. Joe-
    I know the project is looking at what the BBWAA has done, so perhaps a new project could be to help redefine what greatness really is. In this vein, I think you are missing a key point about Raines – although you wrote a great article outlining this last year – by suggesting he needed ONE more great year.

    From his rookie season in 1981 at age 21 through his age 33 season in 1993 (13 seasons), Raines had 6 seasons of 5.0 bWAR or >, and in 11 of those 13 he posted >3.0 bWAR. Look it up – few players sustain 13 seasons of excellence, and a small few produce > 3.0 bWAR, much less 5 bWAR post-age 33.

    Personally, I think the term “compiler” was developed to describe those guys who hang on past 33 and put up a few more seasons of numbers in their specialty (HR, H, RBI, 2B, etc.). What matters to a team is whether a guy produces or prevents runs RIGHT NOW, THIS SEASON for his team, and bWAR and comparable stats captures the essence of that.

    Guys like Raines, and Trammell, WERE great players for a long time, and both deserve to be in the Hall.

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