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December 4, 2000

One Man's Ballot

A Look at the Hall's Hopeful

by Keith Woolner

I decided to break down this year's Hall of Fame candidates by VORP. A full description is available at http://www.stathead.com, but the measure is essentially the number of runs contributed by a player beyond what a replacement level player at the same position would contribute in equal playing time, adjusted for park and league. Note that outfielders are considered as a single group, so center fielders should get a boost relative to their ranking here, and corner outfielders (especially LF) should be downgraded a bit. Quality of defense played at the position is not included.

Legend

  • MLVR: rate of production (runs/game) relative to league average = .000
  • MLV: Runs contributed above league average
  • PMLV: Runs contributed above positional average
  • VORP: Value Over Replacement Player
  • RP: Runs prevented by a pitcher relative to league average
  • ERA+: Normalized ERA, with 100 = league average, higher numbers are better

I'll also list players with comparable career VORP. Data is from www.baseball1.com's free downloadable database of players statistics.

First-time eligible position players

NAME            PLAYED    YRS     PA     MLV    PMLV    VORP  MLVR    SB   CS
WINFIELD,DAVE   1973-1995  22  12244   521.8   357.3   719.7  .175   223   96
WHITAKER,LOU    1977-1995  19   9787   222.1   348.0   628.0  .095   143   75
PUCKETT,KIRBY   1984-1995  12   7750   296.5   254.8   479.6  .161   134   76
MATTINGLY,DON   1982-1995  14   7612   325.7   164.8   385.2  .178    14    9
PARRISH,LANCE   1977-1995  19   7716    47.2   166.5   374.5  .023    28   37
GIBSON,KIRK     1979-1995  17   6577   201.3   127.8   355.9  .132   284   78
VanSLYKE,ANDY   1983-1995  13   6405   206.6    97.1   314.3  .126   245   59
JOHNSON,HOWARD  1982-1995  14   5649   151.2    96.0   277.0  .106   231   77
KRUK,JOHN       1986-1995  10   4548   241.6   132.4   258.5  .218    58   31

Players with comparable career VORP:

  • Winfield: Paul Waner, Reggie Jackson, Pete Rose, Al Kaline, Carl Yastrzemski
  • Whitaker: Willie Keeler, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Luke Appling
  • Puckett: Orlando Cepeda, Julio Franco, Andre Dawson, Jackie Robinson
  • Mattingly: Rocky Colavito, Tony Oliva, Jake Daubert, Larry Doby
  • Parrish: Red Schoendienst, Carney Lansford, Thurman Munson
  • Gibson: Cecil Cooper, Bob Watson, Jim Wynn, Bobby Murcer, Harlond Clift
  • VanSlyke: Kent Hrbek, Ross Youngs, Gil Hodges, Ken Williams
  • Johnson: Lenny Dykstra, Richie Zisk, Steve Sax, Ben Oglivie, Mike Greenwell
  • Kruk: Willie Wilson, Jeff Burroughs, Don Money, Joe Carter, Kevin Seitzer

Considering just seasons spent at their primary position, Whitaker ranks sixth all time among second basemen in career VORP (behind just Collins, Hornsby, Morgan, Lajoie, and Gehringer). Winfield ranks #22 among outfielders, Puckett 46th. Mattingly 25th, Johnson 42nd (at 3B), and Kruk doesn't make the top 50. Parrish is 13th among catchers.

I'd take Winfield and Whitaker, with Puckett just falling short. Whitaker probably belongs in the Hall on his own merits, without help from Alan Trammell. As Gary Huckabay has already noted, Mattingly's career isn't impressive for a first baseman by Hall of Fame standards.

First-time eligible pitchers

NAME            PLAYED    YR   G  W-L:SV        IP    ERA ERA+      RP    VORP
RIJO,JOSE       1984-1995 12 332  111-87:3    1785   3.16  124   139.2   337.6
STEWART,DAVE    1978-1995 16 523  168-129:19  2629   3.95  105    20.0   312.2
RIGHETTI,DAVE   1979-1995 16 718  82-79:252   1403   3.46  118    82.2   238.1
DARLING,RON     1983-1995 13 382  136-116:0   2360   3.87  103   -24.6   237.7
HENKE,TOM       1982-1995 14 642  41-42:311   789    2.67  155   130.9   218.6
BEDROSIAN,STEVE 1981-1995 14 732  76-79:184   1190   3.38  109    55.0   187.3
BROWNING,TOM    1984-1995 12 302  123-90:0    1920   3.94   92   -36.4   177.1
DESHAIES,JIM    1984-1995 12 257  84-95:0     1524   4.14   94   -56.3   113.2

Comparables:

  • Rijo: John Tudor, Mel Parnell, Sal Maglie, Don Newcombe, Charlie Liebrandt
  • Stewart: Doug Drabek, Al Downing, Harvey Haddix, Vern Law
  • Righetti: Ron Kline, Don McMahon, Mike Marshall, Jim Clancy, Scott McGregor
  • Darling: Dave Righetti, et al.
  • Henke:Bruce Sutter, Mike Jackson, Mark Eichhorn, Tom Burgmeier, Ron Perranoski
  • Bedrosian: Don Robinson, Eric Plunk, Kirk McCaskill, Ralph Branca, Al Pena
  • Browning: Jim Bibby, Moose Haass, Richard Dotson, Steve Stone, Shane Rawley
  • Deshaies: Atlee Hammaker, Mike LaCoss, Jim Beattie, Blue Moon Odom

Henke's the only one I'd consider, and it depends on how high a standard you set for relief pitchers. Henke's probably in the top 10 of all-time closers, excluding active players.

Holdover position players

NAME            PLAYED    YRS     PA     MLV    PMLV    VORP  MLVR    SB   CS
RICE,JIM        1974-1989  16   8959   339.2   258.2   512.3  .158    58   34
CARTER,GARY     1974-1992  19   8887   239.7   253.4   483.2  .111    39   42
CONCEPCION,DAVE 1970-1988  19   9480   -44.9   161.8   450.5 -.016   321  109
PARKER,DAVE     1973-1991  19  10097   360.2   183.0   445.0  .147   154  113
HERNANDEZ,KEITH 1974-1990  17   8472   395.2   200.2   426.9  .195    98   63
MURPHY,DALE     1976-1993  18   8974   281.5   124.3   381.2  .126   161   68
GARVEY,STEVE    1969-1987  19   9343   322.6   123.0   368.5  .142    83   62

Comparables:

  • Rice: George Sisler, Ryne Sandberg, Sam Thompson, Dwight Evans, Pie Traynor
  • Carter: Kirby Puckett, et al.
  • Concepcion: Jack Clark, Tony Perez, Lou Boudreau, Davey Lopes, Bobby Doerr
  • Parker: Dan Brouthers, Fred Lynn, Al Oliver, Bobby Bonilla, Bobby Bonds
  • Hernandez: Enos Slaughter, Roger Connor, Norm Cash, Bill Madlock, Jose Cruz
  • Murphy: Tony Oliva, Boog Powell, Luis Aparicio, Darrell Evans, George Foster
  • Garvey: Greg Luzinski, Carney Lansford, Ron Cey, Rico Carty, Richie Ashburn

Value at position: Carter 10th, Concepcion 16th. Hernandez 14th, Garvey 29th. Murphy, Parker, and Rice not in top 50 (Rice missed it due to seasons at DH).

I've made my case for Jim Rice before, and I'd vote for him. Carter's rank as a catcher gets him in. VORP doesn't know about Hernandez's defensive reputation, but at first base, I don't give it much weight anyways.

Holdover pitchers

NAME            PLAYED    YR   G  W-L:SV        IP    ERA ERA+      RP    VORP
BLYLEVEN,BERT   1970-1992 22 692  287-250:0   4969   3.31  114   296.5   848.7
JOHN,TOMMY      1963-1989 26 760  288-231:4   4710   3.34  113   203.0   726.4
KAAT,JIM        1959-1983 25 898  283-237:18  4530   3.45  103    96.4   599.7
TIANT,LUIS      1964-1982 19 573  229-172:15  3486   3.30  107   144.4   531.8
MORRIS,JACK     1977-1994 18 549  254-186:0   3823   3.90  105    80.7   505.5
GUIDRY,RON      1975-1988 14 368  170-91:4    2391   3.29  125   189.9   455.7
GOSSAGE,RICH    1972-1994 22 1002 124-107:310 1809   3.01  126   159.4   360.4
SUTTER,BRUCE    1976-1988 12 661  68-71:300   1042   2.83  124   101.7   217.5

Comparables:

  • Blyleven: Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro, Steve Carlton, Amos Rusie, Jim Palmer
  • John: Red Ruffing, Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Early Wynn
  • Kaat: Frank Tanana, Burleigh Grimes, Jim Bunning, Waite Hoyt
  • Tiant: Rick Reuschel, Eddie Ciccotte, Herb Pennock, Orel Hershisher
  • Morris: Herb Pennock, Bobo Newsom, Sam Jones, Vida Blue, Jimmy Key
  • Guidry: Addie Joss, Sandy Koufax, Catfish Hunter, Wes Ferrell, Frank Viola
  • Gossage: Sam McDowell, Johnny Antonelli, John Tudor, Firpo Marberry
  • Sutter: Tom Henke, Mark Eichhorn, Tom Burgmeier, Ron Perranoski

Blyleven is 14th all time, John is 31st, and Kaat just misses the top 50.

Blyleven ought to be a no-brainer, and will be one of the great travesties of the HoF if he never gets inducted. I give Tommy John some "pioneer" credit for popularizing a medical advance that has changed the game, and would vote for him also. Guidry did an awful lot with a short career, and gets in on peak value. I take Gossage and Sutter easily, the latter getting extra credit for being essentially the first modern closer.

Wrap-up

My ballot ends up being:

  • Winfield
  • Whitaker
  • Rice
  • Carter
  • Blyleven
  • John
  • Guidry
  • Gossage
  • Sutter

And if I'm feeling generous, flip a coin between Henke and Puckett to fill the ballot.

There was some discussion on the Red Sox list about Tiant's qualifications versus Tom Henke's, so I took a look at that also. Part of the difference is in how one thinks relievers and starters should be compared for Hall of Fame qualifications. Tiant has a case as a borderline pick, but depending on how many relievers you think ought to be represented in the Hall from the last 20 years, Henke may edge him out.

Among starting pitchers since 1960-99, Tiant is 18th in wins, 38th in runs prevented, 23rd in VORP. His VORP is just above Catfish Hunter and Jerry Koosman, and just behind Dennis Martinez and Frank Tanana.

Looking at individual seasons, Tiant finished in the top 20 VORP among starters as follows:

1966 18th
1967 10th
1968  2nd
1972  8th
1973 12th
1974  5th
1976  5th                                           
1978 16th

Overall: 8 times a top 20 starter, 4 times in the top 10.

Let's not underrate Henke. Over a 10 year stretch (1986-95) he topped 30 saves 6 times, including 4 in a row, posting a sub 3.00 ERA in 8 of them. Among post-1960 relievers, he's 7th in saves, and 7th in runs prevented, and 19th in VORP. His low finish in VORP is mainly due to relievers throwing more innings before the mid-1980's. His rate of VORP (VORP per IP) is best among all relievers with 700 or more innings since 1960.

His top 20 finishes among relievers in VORP are:

1986 14th
1987  2nd
1989  4th
1990  9th
1993 11th
1995  8th

6 times a top 20 reliever, 4 in the top 10.

Tiant's probably among the best 30 starting pitchers of the past 40 years. Henke is in the among the top 15 relievers over the same time span. Of course, Henke didn't become a full time reliever/closer until he was 28, so his career totals aren't as impressive as some of his contemporaries, but his peak value is comparable.

If you think that there should be more than twice as many starters as relievers represented in the Hall over the post-expansion era, then Tiant probably gets the edge. If the ratio is less than 2:1, Henke arguably has a better statistical case.

Keith Woolner can be reached at kwoolner@baseballprospectus.com.

Keith Woolner is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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