CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Tuesday... (01/15)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Western Front: What Wi... (01/08)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Western Front: Pacific... (01/22)
Next Article >>
Out of Left Field: Giv... (01/15)

January 15, 2013

Western Front

Zeroes and Ones

by Geoff Young

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Hall of Fame. Made you look!

One of the many things that makes baseball great is that it isn't politics. Well, usually. But voting always brings out the best in people. It's when they're at their most logical, exercising reason while avoiding rhetoric and personal attacks.

The color of the sky in my world? Why do you ask?

Bickering is all well and good, but today we'll do something more constructive, albeit imbued with less Great Meaning™. Today we'll consider players who were on only one Hall of Fame ballot and received either zero votes or one vote.

We'll focus on elections dating no earlier than 1978, the first time there's a clear record of players on the ballot that received zero votes in a given year. This date is somewhat arbitrary, but it's easier than using a cutoff based on the Hall of Fame's “dynamic” voting rules.

Zeroes against ones. It's like shirts against blouses, but different. Also, Team Zero is filled with the best (as measured by WAR and JAWS for purposes of this exercise) players to appear on a ballot and receive zero votes, while Team One is filled with the worst players to appear on a ballot and receive one vote. Fair? Hardly, but you already know that about the Hall of Fame. Jesus Alou received a vote in 1985, Roy White didn't. Fairness is irrelevant.

I know, I know. We must strive to overcome our meritocratic bias.

While we're trying to do that, and before we get to the teams, here's some big-picture data:

Votes

N

WAR*

JAWS

0

211

17.1

16.9

1

86

22.6

21.3

Tot

297

18.7

18.2

*Baseball-Reference's version of WAR since that's what Jay Jaffe's JAWS uses

Bullet points:

  • Since 1978, roughly 300 players have appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot and received either zero or one vote, then disappeared from subsequent ballots.
  • The average WAR and JAWS scores of this entire group are roughly equivalent to those of Hideki Matsui and Darren Oliver.
  • The pool from which to choose Team Zero is, on average, worse than the pool from which to choose Team One.
  • There are 2 ½ times as many players in the Team Zero pool than in the Team One pool, so we should expect to find more worthy candidates who didn't receive a vote than unworthy candidates who received a single vote (ooh, foreshadowing).
  • This is all in good fun and mostly devoid of Great Meaning™.

Very well, let's have the names:

Team Zero

Pos

Player

Year

WAR

JAWS

P

Frank Tanana

1999

52.7

44.3

C

Darrell Porter

1993

37.8

32.6

1B

Cecil Cooper

1993

32.6

30.4

2B

Dick McAuliffe

1981

34.3

31.0

3B

Jeff Cirillo

2013

32.0

30.3

SS

Denis Menke

1980

25.7

23.7

LF

Roy White

1985

43.0

39.0

CF

Jimmy Wynn

1983

53.1

47.5

RF

Ken Singleton

1990

38.6

35.3

Pitcher: Frank Tanana
Two pitchers with more innings and fewer WAR than Tanana are in the Hall of Fame: Red Ruffing (4,344 IP, 48.6 WAR) and Early Wynn (4,564 IP, 46.5 WAR). Burleigh Grimes (4,180 IP, 44.2 WAR), selected by the Veteran's Committee, fell eight innings shy of Tanana's total. If Jim Kaat received 100 votes in 1999, why couldn't Tanana receive one?

Honorable mentions: Mark Langston (2005, 47.1 WAR, 42.6 JAWS), Steve Rogers (1991, 42.1 WAR, 38.7 JAWS)

Catcher: Darrell Porter
Better than Rick Ferrell and Ray Schalk. Less popular with the Veteran's Committee.

Porter led the American League with 121 walks in 1979, made four All-Star teams, and started for three World Series teams. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract ranks him as the 18th-best catcher in history.

Honorable mentions: Mickey Tettleton (2003, 26.6 WAR, 24.7 JAWS); Charles Johnson (2011, 21.0 WAR, 19.6 JAWS) if you want a full-time catcher

First Base: Cecil Cooper
Five-time All-Star, two-time RBI leader. Cooper hit .352 in 1980, which would have been noteworthy if not for George Brett's hitting .390 that year. From 1977 to 1983, Cooper hit .316/.354/.504, averaging 22 homers a year. Better than Wally Joyner, not as good as Don Mattingly. TNBJHBA ranks Cooper at No. 28.

Honorable mentions: Wally Joyner (2007, 32.2 WAR, 27.1 JAWS), George Scott (1985, 32.0 WAR, 29.9 JAWS), Ron Fairly (1984, 31.7 WAR, 26.9 JAWS)

Second Base: Dick McAuliffe
TNBJHBA ranks McAuliffe as the 22nd-best second baseman in history, calling him “An awkward, odd-looking player who was what you might call functionally effective, but with no style points” and also noting that “the press never got what he was about.” There aren't any great current or recent comps for McAuliffe. Maybe Jay Bell?

Honorable mentions: Robby Thompson (2002, 31.7 WAR, 30.3 JAWS), Ron Hunt (1980, 30.6 WAR, 27.5 JAWS

Third Base: Jeff Cirillo
Cirillo led MLB with 211 doubles from 1996-2000. He hit .317/.391/.462 during that stretch and was named to two All-Star teams. He led his league in putouts at third base twice and in assists three times.

His offense disappeared at age 32. From that point to the end of his career, Cirillo hit .256/.320/.350 in more than 1,600 plate appearances.

Honorable mentions: Ken McMullen (1983, 30.8 WAR, 29.1 JAWS)

Shortstop: Denis Menke
This is, by far, the weakest position. TNBJHBA ranks Menke as the 62nd-best shortstop in history. He hit .283/.368/.479 for the Braves as a 23-year-old in 1964, made the National League All-Star team for the Astros in 1969 and 1970, and was part of the November 1971 trade that brought Joe Morgan to the Reds.

Menke is kind of like Mark Ellis, on the other side of the bag. Name rhymes with Henke, if you ever find yourself stuck for one.

In '66, when Fergie Jenkins faced the Braves,

He did serve up a two-run blast to Denis Menke,

Who later played with one Ed Sprague,

Whose son once played with one Tom Henke.

You probably won't need it, but it's best to err on the side of caution.

Honorable mentions: Gene Alley (1979, 22.7 WAR, 22.8 JAWS)

Left Field: Roy White
White's age 24-28 stretch was pretty good:

Player

Years

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS+

WAR

Roy White

1968-1972

3214

.283

.380

.432

139

25.8

Dave Winfield

1976-1980

3223

.290

.366

.483

142

25.9

Billy Williams

1962-1966

3541

.297

.364

.502

136

25.9

White hit .268/.352/.394 in nearly 3,900 plate appearances from age 29 to his final season at age 35. TNBJHBA has him at No. 25 among left fielders and spends 2 ½ columns explaining why he was better than Jim Rice.

Honorable mentions: Ron Gant (2009, 31.2 WAR, 28.1 JAWS)

Center Field: Jimmy Wynn
If the Toy Cannon had spent his entire career in Boston, grounded into more double plays, drawn fewer walks, played a less demanding position, had a less awesome nickname, and gotten along worse with the media, we'd be saying “In Like Wynn.” Instead, he'll have to settle for being ranked by TNBJHBA as the 10th-best center fielder in MLB history.

Honorable mentions: Devon White (2007, 44.2 WAR, 39.0 JAWS), Amos Otis (1990, 39.2 WAR, 34.9 JAWS), Andy Van Slyke (2001, 38.6 WAR, 34.9 JAWS)

Right Field: Ken Singleton
TNBJHBA ranks Singleton 18th all-time among right fielders. His age 28-34 seasons are like White's age 24-28 seasons:

Player

Years

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS+

WAR

Ken Singleton

1975-1981

4399

.298

.403

.471

149

27.4

Frank Thomas

1996-2002

4014

.306

.416

.547

148

25.1

Duke Snider

1955-1961

3248

.292

.389

.572

147

26.4

Hack Wilson

1928-1934

3646

.308

.400

.555

146

24.8

Singleton led the NL in OBP and assists by a right fielder in 1973, was named to three All-Star teams, and won a World Series ring with Baltimore in 1983. He ranks 47th in history with 1,263 walks.

Honorable mentions: Reggie Sanders (2013, 36.7 WAR, 30.9 JAWS), Brian Jordan (2012, 30.8 WAR, 29.8 JAWS)

Team One
Remember, for this team, we're looking at the worst player at each position. I'll note the best at each position in the individual comments.

Pos

Player

Year

WAR

JAWS

P

Jack Billingham

1986

5.1

7.6

C

Terry Kennedy

1997

19.5

18.7

1B

David Seguí

2010

7.8

9.4

2B

Tommy Helms

1983

6.5

7.9

3B

Ray Knight

1994

10.9

12.4

SS

Hal Lanier

1979

-2.3

-0.3

LF

John Lowenstein

1991

8.1

9.6

CF

José Cardenal

1986

16.9

16.1

RF

Jesús Alou

1985

-1.0

1.8

Pitcher: Jack Billingham
Billingham finished fourth in the 1973 NL Cy Young Award race. Tom Seaver, who won, had a WAR that year more than twice Billingham's career total. Voters are dazzled by superficial numbers; maybe someone couldn't resist the 145 wins on Billingham's ledger. Like Menke, he was part of the Joe Morgan trade.

Best at position: Chuck Finley (2008, 53.7 WAR, 45.6 JAWS) or Kevin Appier (2010, 51.5 WAR, 46.4 JAWS)

Catcher: Terry Kennedy
Kennedy is Team One's best player. The four-time All-Star hit .264/.314/.386 in nearly 1,500 games and later managed Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson with the Golden Baseball League's San Diego Surf Dawgs. Kennedy's father, Bob Kennedy, played in the big leagues from 1939 to 1957.

Best at position: Gene Tenace (1989, 44.3 WAR, 38.7 JAWS); Jim Sundberg (1995, 37.3 WAR, 32.2 JAWS), if you want a full-time catcher

First Base: David Segul
Seguí is practically tied with Mike Jorgensen (1991, 7.9 WAR, 8.8 JAWS), but since we are in strict binary mode, there are only winners and losers. Sorry, Mike; your WAR wasn't quite low enough.

Like Kennedy, Seguí is a second-generation big-leaguer. Diego Seguí pitched from 1962 to 1977, leading the AL in ERA in 1970. Dad received zero votes in his only year on the ballot, 1983.

Best at position: Mike Hargrove (1991, 27.4 WAR, 25.2 JAWS)

Second Base: Tommy Helms
Helms had 6.5 WAR for his career. Nine position players exceeded that total in 2012. Eleven did it the year before that. He was also involved in the Joe Morgan trade.

Best at position: Tony Phillips (2005, 48.2 WAR, 40.6 JAWS); Chuck Knoblauch (2008, 42.0 WAR, 39.5 JAWS) if you want a (mostly) full-time second baseman

Third Base: Ray Knight
When Knight's name appeared on the ballot, he was married to pro golfer Nancy Lopez. It could be that the person who voted for him also covered golf and wanted to make nice.

Knight twice led his league in an offensive category. In 1980 and 1981, he paced the NL with 24 and 18 double plays, respectively.

Best at position: Toby Harrah (1992, 47.6 WAR, 40.5 JAWS); Tim Wallach (2002, 34.8 WAR, 31.7 JAWS), if you want a full-time third baseman

Shortstop: Hal Lanier
Guys with Lanier's skill set don't survive these days. Rey Ordonez is probably the most recent example. Maybe Wilson Valdez, if you gave him 500 plate appearances a year.

Best at position: Chris Speier (1995, 27.9 WAR, 24.5 JAWS)

Left Field: John Lowenstein
As with first base, there was tough competition here, with Lowenstein edging Gates Brown (1981, 9.2 WAR, 9.8 JAWS). A favorite of Earl Weaver and teammate of Singleton, Lowenstein enjoyed a great seven-year run with the Orioles, hitting .274/.365/.460 in nearly 1,800 plate appearances. More than 60 percent of his career WAR came in 1982 and 1983, when he hit a combined .301/.395/.543.

Best at position: Lonnie Smith (2000, 36.3 WAR, 32.3 JAWS)

Center Field: Jose Cardenal
Cardenal never made an All-Star team but got onto at least one MVP ballot in 1972 and 1973. He led AL center fielders with 11 errors in 1965 and again with 10 in 1968. He ranks 39th in history with 137 caught stealing. Cardenal was traded six times in his 18-year career.

Best at position: Chet Lemon (1996, 52.0 WAR, 43.8 JAWS)

Right Field: Jesus Alou
Alou was Ron Coomer without the power, Geoff Blum without the ability to play infield, Emil Brown without the generic last name.

Best at position: Johnny Callison (1979, 35.4 WAR, 34.1 JAWS) or David Justice (2008, 37.6 WAR, 31.8 JAWS)

And a quick tale of the tape, showing averages for each team:

 

Team One

Team Zero

Votes

1

0

WAR

7.9

38.9

JAWS

9.2

34.7

Comps

Scott Hatteberg (7.7 WAR, 9.0 JAWS)

Joe Mays (8.1 WAR, 8.7 JAWS)

Jose Canseco (39.2 WAR, 33.7 JAWS)

Jack Morris (39.3 WAR, 35.1 JAWS)

What can we learn from this? Well, for one thing, it's time to let go of the outrage we might feel at the fact that Jim Deshaies received a vote in 2001. Save that for the folks who wasted a vote on Hal Lanier or Jesus Alou (not the players themselves; it isn't their fault).

Perhaps more importantly, we can appreciate some very good players who were in no way ever deemed worthy of Hall of Fame consideration by voters:

Player

Votes

IP

W

ERA

K

WAR

JAWS

Frank Tanana

0

4188.1

240

3.66

2773

52.7

44.3

Chuck Finley

1

3197.1

200

3.85

2610

53.7

45.6

Jack Morris

385*

3824.0

254

3.90

2478

39.3

35.1

*2013 totals only

This might not be the exact lesson, but you get the idea.

13 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Tuesday... (01/15)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Western Front: What Wi... (01/08)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Western Front: Pacific... (01/22)
Next Article >>
Out of Left Field: Giv... (01/15)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of July 25-27
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Monday, July 28
Fantasy Article The Buyer's Guide: Francisco Liriano
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Bochy and Peavy, Back ...
This is Not Your Father's Baseball Road Trip...
Premium Article The HOF Rule Change
Premium Article Monday Morning Ten Pack: July 28, 2014

MORE FROM JANUARY 15, 2013
Premium Article Overthinking It: Have the Twins Learned to L...
Premium Article Skewed Left: Filling the Free Agent Voids
Out of Left Field: Giving Miami the Silent T...
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Tuesday, January 15
Baseball ProGUESTus: Why Baseball Players Ge...
Fantasy Article The Keeper Reaper: Relievers for 1/15/13
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Cano's Southpaw Struggles

MORE BY GEOFF YOUNG
2013-02-04 - Premium Article Western Front: They Took Their Turn
2013-01-29 - Western Front: Pass the Bonds, Please
2013-01-22 - Premium Article Western Front: Pacific Surfliner
2013-01-15 - Premium Article Western Front: Zeroes and Ones
2013-01-08 - Premium Article Western Front: What Will Become of Neftali F...
2012-12-18 - Premium Article Western Front: An Almost Defense of Kevin To...
2012-12-11 - Premium Article Western Front: Padres Break Bank, Won't Pay ...
More...

MORE WESTERN FRONT
2013-02-04 - Premium Article Western Front: They Took Their Turn
2013-01-29 - Western Front: Pass the Bonds, Please
2013-01-22 - Premium Article Western Front: Pacific Surfliner
2013-01-15 - Premium Article Western Front: Zeroes and Ones
2013-01-08 - Premium Article Western Front: What Will Become of Neftali F...
2012-12-18 - Premium Article Western Front: An Almost Defense of Kevin To...
2012-12-11 - Premium Article Western Front: Padres Break Bank, Won't Pay ...
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2013-02-12 - Premium Article Western Front: Three Former Astros