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January 7, 2010

Prospectus Hit and Run

Hawk, Rock, and a Couple of Shocks

by Jay Jaffe

At the end of my final Hall of Fame ballot breakdown of the season, published mere hours before the voting results were announced, I noted that I wouldn't be at all surprised if the JAWS-approved slate of seven candidates-Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Tim Raines, and Alan Trammell-were shut out, while Andre Dawson gained election. Well, that's exactly what happened. Dawson had received more than 65 percent of the vote on each of the previous two ballots, and surged to the forefront with 77.9 percent of the vote, enough to gain admission.

Though Dawson falls fairly short on the JAWS scale, his election is not a travesty, or at least not a garment-rending travesty on the order of Jim Rice's election last year. He was far from a one-dimensional player in his prime, he piled up hardware and other honors, and despite his injuries, he played into his early forties. Still, his hackstastic ways-camouflaged a bit by a higher intentional walk total than I gave him credit for in my writeup-leave him with the lowest career OBP (.323) of any enshrined outfielder, 20 points lower than the previous low man, Lou Brock. He is not, as I incorrectly claimed on a pair of radio hits yesterday, the owner of the lowest OBP of any Hall of Famer:


Player               OBP
Bill Mazeroski      .299
Joe Tinker          .308
Luis Aparicio       .311
Monte Ward          .314
Rabbit Maranville   .318
Brooks Robinson     .322
Andre Dawson        .323

On the other hand, Dawson now holds the distinction of owning the worst strikeout-to-unintentional-walk ratio of any Hall hitter:


Player                PA    OBP    BB   IBB     K    K/UBB
Andre Dawson       10769   .323   589   143   1509   3.38
Willie Stargell     9026   .360   937   227   1936   2.73
Lou Brock          11235   .343   761   124   1730   2.72
Roberto Clemente   10212   .359   621   167   1230   2.71
Orlando Cepeda      8695   .350   588   154   1169   2.69
Kirby Puckett       7831   .360   450    85    965   2.64
Tony Perez         10861   .341   925   150   1867   2.41
Jim Rice            9058   .352   670    77   1423   2.40
Ernie Banks        10395   .330   763   198   1236   2.19
Reggie Jackson     11416   .356  1375   164   2597   2.14
Bill Mazeroski      8379   .299   447   110    706   2.09
Carlton Fisk        9853   .341   849   105   1386   1.86

So there's that. But my point really isn't to knock the Hawk, a player whose career I enjoyed to a great degree during its day ,and one whose candidacy wasn't surrounded by the type of intellectual dishonesty that poisoned the latter-day Rice debate. I'm sure the next time I visit Cooperstown, I'll stop and give his plaque a nod.

The announcement of Dawson's election was overshadowed in some circles by two near-misses that were shocking for entirely opposite reasons. Stathead pet candidate Blyleven, in his 13th year on the ballot, moved up from receiving just over 60 percent in the last two years to 74.2 percent, a mere five votes short of enshrinement. Alomar, in his first year on the ballot, received 73.7 percent, falling just eight votes shy of the magic number.

Whether the latter is due to the collective grudge still held by certain writers over the infamous 1996 incident in which Alomar spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck-an impulsive, unpremeditated act for which Hirschbeck has not only forgiven Alomar but gone on to befriend and defend him as the two have worked together to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote awareness of the genetic disorder which claimed the life of the ump's son-or due to the BBWAA's more generalized institutional politics, which create a hair-splitting artificial distinction between first-ballot Hall of Famers and the rest, is unclear. Likely the incident had direct bearing on some voters' willingness to invoke that first-ballot distinction.

In any event, it's highly likely that a year from now, Alomar will gain induction. He received the highest-ever vote percentage of any first-year player not elected; in fact, since the BBWAA switched back to an annual vote in 1966, no player has ever polled above 43 percent on his first ballot and not eventually won election from the BBWAA. Furthermore, no player has ever polled above 64 percent and not eventually gained induction by either the BBWAA or Veterans Committee routes, which means Blyleven is practically sitting in the catbird seat, too. The Hall of Fame might as well start casting both plaques now. Particularly since next year's class, which is headed by Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, John Olerud, Kevin Brown, and Larry Walker, isn't terribly strong, and the following year's class is as thin as prison gruel. As I joked in Wednesday's chat, there may not be five players worthy of more than a paragraph in my annual JAWS rundown, and Bernie Williams is easily the top candidate on the ballot, but far from a slam dunk.

In any event, it's the first time in Hall history that two players on the same ballot missed by fewer than 10 votes. Blyleven's five-vote shortfall was the fifth-smallest in history, and the sting of the near-miss was amplified by the news that the 539-vote tally included five blank ballots, cast either as a protest or as evidence of an ongoing mid-life crisis. Each of those five blank ballots thus required three votes in favor of a given candidate to offset. Had that ignominious quintet gotten lost on the way to the mailbox, Blyleven would have still fallen a stitch short with 74.9 percent of the vote; in this game they don't round up. In fact, he needed the support of all of them, at least one of whom publicly declared during his supermarket-aisle meltdown that he had voted for the pitcher last year.

In the annals of close-but-no-cigar, Nellie Fox (1985) and Pie Traynor (1947) hold the record by missing by two votes; Traynor was elected the following year, while Fox-or rather the family, friends and teammates who survived his 1975 passing-had to wait another 12 years to be voted in by the Veterans Committee, since his near-miss came in his 15th and final year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot. Billy Williams (1986) and Jim Bunning (1988) each missed by four votes. Williams gained entry in rather routine fashion the following year.

Bunning's fate was much more roundabout. The former Tiger and future Senator had appeared on track for enshrinement with vote percentages of 65.6, 70.0, and 74.2 percent in his 10th, 11th, and 12th years of eligibility, but a funny thing happened on the way to Cooperstown. In 1989, his 13th year of eligibility, first-ballot no-brainers Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski became eligible and each received support of 94 percent or above. Also eligible for the first time on that ballot were 300-game-winner Gaylord Perry (68.0 percent) and Fergie Jenkins (52.3 percent). Further down on the ballot, garnering substantial support were future VC selections Orlando Cepeda (39.4 percent in his 10th year) and Bill Mazeroski (30 percent in his 12th year). Bunning's support that year fell back to 63.3 percent.

The following year, two more no-brainers reached the ballot in Jim Palmer and Joe Morgan, both of whom easily made the cut, while Perry (72.1 percent) and Jenkins (66.7 percent) edged closer. Bunning, in year 14 of his eligibility, fell back even further, to 57.9 percent. When Rod Carew gained entry on the first ballot in 1991, both Perry and Jenkins got over the hump as well, and first-timer Rollie Fingers polled a strong 65.7 percent. Bunning received just 63.7 percent and fell off the ballot due to the 15-year rule. He would have to wait another five years before the VC elected him.

The stacked ballots of his latter-day eligibility make it difficult to read Bunning's fate as a potential precursor to Blyleven's, given the relative weakness of the 2011 and 2012 ballots. There are no 300-win pitchers to overshadow him, and the only player with 3000 hits or 500 home runs (Rafael Palmeiro, who has both) has the cloud of documented steroid use hanging over his head. While Bagwell is a legitimate great, shoulder woes forced him to an early retirement, and before that he derived much of his value from his plate discipline, an area the voters have traditionally undervalued (see Raines, Bobby Grich, Ron Santo et al), so his first-ballot support likely won't overwhelm.

Aside from Bunning, the erosion of such a high vote percentage is unprecedented. The only other player to receive at least 65 percent and then lose more than five percent the following year is Phil Niekro, who got 65.7 percent in his 1993 debut and then was forced to wait while Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt took the spotlight in the next two years, with Niekro falling to 59.9 percent in 1994 and then rising only slightly, to 62.2 percent in 1995; he was elected two years later.

As for the rest of the results, Jack Morris (52.3 percent) and Barry Larkin (51.6 percent) were the only two other players to receive the support of more than half the electorate, a significant milestone. Present company excluded, the only player to receive at least 50 percent on the ballot and not gain election is Gil Hodges. Morris, in his 11th year of eligibility, received an 8.3 percent bump over last year's result, his largest single-year increase to date. It's relatively late in the game for him to cross that simple-majority rubicon; Enos Slaughter is the only other inductee to do so in his 11th year, and he only gained admission via the VC. Bob Lemon, whose candidacy predated the annual balloting, crossed the line on his ninth ballot, 10 years following his debut. Byleven, Bunning, and Sutter all reached 50 percent in their ninth year of eligibility. The monster 2013 ballot (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, and Mike Piazza) will almost certainly eclipse the chances of any borderline candidates for a couple of years, much as the strength of the Class of 1989 did for Bunning, leaving Morris more or less competing with Blyleven for attention on the next two ballots.

As for Larkin, there's nothing but sunshine given his strong debut. As noted in relation to Alomar, he's well above the first-ballot minimum which inevitably leads to election, having more than doubled the undeservedly lackluster showing of the statistically similar Trammell (22.4 percent). Trammell, for his part, gained five percent over last year and climbed past the 20 percent mark for the first time. Alas, nobody with a vote total that low, that late has ever been elected, which means you can bury his candidacy next to those of Don Mattingly (16.1 percent in his 10th year), Dave Parker (15.2 percent in his 14th year), Dale Murphy (11.7 percent in his 12th year) and Harold Baines (a stubborn 6.1 percent in his fourth year). See that their graves are kept clean.

Lee Smith (47.3 percent in his eighth year on the ballot) set a personal high-water mark, but the needle hasn't moved substantially since his initial 42.3 percent (the highest debut percentage of any non-elected player), and his fate is rather cloudy. Of the five players to receive between 40 and 74.9 percent of the vote in their eighth year on the ballot, only Dawson eventually gained the BBWAA stamp of approval, though Blyleven now appears set to in due time. Hodges (60.1 percent) was snubbed, while Cepeda (43.3 percent) and Johnny Mize (41.3 percent) needed the VC to gain entry.

Among the holdovers, Tim Raines (30.4 percent in his third year) received nearly an eight percent bump, a showing that's at least somewhat encouraging. Sutter (29.1 percent), Duke Snider (21.2 percent), and Luis Aparicio (12.0 percent) all received less during their third years of eligibility and still eventually got the call, with the latter representing the biggest comeback of any candidate to gain BBWAA entry. Mark McGwire (23.7 percent in his fourth year), rose nearly two percent from last year and set a personal best by 0.1 percent, but with more than three-quarters of the electorate giving him the cold shoulder over steroid allegations or simply his continued unwillingness to talk about the past, he's going nowhere.

Besides Larkin and Alomar, only two other first-year candidates received above five percent, the showing needed to remain on the ballot for another year. Edgar Martinez got 36.2 percent, and Fred McGriff received 21.5 percent. While those showings may disappoint their supporters, rallying from this point is hardly unprecedented. Consider the less-than-stellar debuts of these 11, all of whom eventually earned the requisite 75 percent:


Player             %
Gary Carter      42.3%
Hoyt Wilhelm     41.7%
Rich Gossage     33.3%
Eddie Mathews    32.3%
Jim Rice         29.8%
Early Wynn       27.9%
Luis Aparicio    27.8%
Bruce Sutter     23.9%
Billy Williams   23.4%
Don Drysdale     21.0%
Duke Snider      17.0%

It ain't over 'til it's over, as the wise man said. It's decidedly over for 11 other first-year candidates, however. Mike Jackson, Ray Lankford, Shane Reynolds, and Todd Zeile were all shut out. Kevin Appier, Pat Hentgen, and David Segui all received a token vote from some writer, perhaps as a favor for past considerations, or in Segui's case, candor on the sticky subject of steroids. Ellis Burks and Eric Karros received two votes; for the latter, that's two more than his career total of All-Star appearances. Robin Ventura got seven votes, while Andres Galarraga, who at 22 votes claimed 4.1 percent of the vote, nevertheless fell five votes shy of a return engagement. Without knowing who else the writers who doled out these tokens actually voted for, it's not clear whether those ballots fall into the protest category, containing implicit "No"s on the likes of Alomar and Blyleven.

In any event, this marks the first ballot since the Class of 2006 in which not a single JAWS-endorsed candidate gained election. While I'm disappointed at that distinction, I remain optimistic that the Class of 2011 will be something special. Wait 'til next year!

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

57 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

dianagram

OK .... I gotta know where you have that database of players and their vote totals and %s, and are thus able to churn out all those "since X did it in Y year" comps.

Great article, BTW. :-)

Jan 07, 2010 09:53 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Tim Kniker
BP staff

Where else but our friend baseball-reference.com.

Here's the link for the 1936 voting. From there you can go to any year.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/hof_1936.shtml

Jan 07, 2010 11:43 AM
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Actually, my data is all scraped from the previous iteration of the Hall's website (it appears to be currently unavailable) and thrown into one sizable spreadsheet.

Jan 07, 2010 12:45 PM
 
Dr. Dave

"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." Max Planck (1949)

50 years from now, Jim Rice's plaque in Cooperstown will be a fossil in the history of science.

Jan 07, 2010 10:02 AM
rating: 2
 
Brian24

I'm not sure I understand this line:

Of the five players to receive between 40 and 74.9 percent of the vote in their eighth year on the ballot, only Dawson eventually gained the BBWAA stamp of approval

Obviously, a bunch of players have been enshrined after their eighth year on the ballot. So does this mean that those players all totalled less than 40 percent of the vote in their eighth year? And if that's the case, how is this bad for Smith's chances? (Since that would mean his eighth-year result is higher than that of anyone else who gained election after that point.)

Jan 07, 2010 10:03 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Wow... I made a bit of a mess of that line due to a failure to fully sort my spreadsheet. Disregard that segment, and let's see if I can untangle this.

Thirteen players received at least 40 percent of the vote in their eighth year on the ballot. Hoyt Wilhlem (83.8%) is the only one who was elected in his eighth year. Of the other 12, all but Hodges and Blyleven are in the Hall of Fame, though Mize, Cepeda, and Bunning needed the VC to get there. Of that baker's doezn, the lowest percentage received by a player who gained BBWAA approval eventually was Sutter (47.6 percent), a whisker above Smith.

Based upon that information, it appears that while Smith is likely to someday make the Hall, he's something of a test case for the writers in terms of his mid-ballot support level.

Jan 07, 2010 10:40 AM
 
tommybones

Backlash?
1. A segment of the Old School, Flat-Earth Society BBWAA members are digging in their heels on Blyleven, and
2. These same writers are adding votes to Morris to as a poke-in-the-eye to the Blyleven movement and it's stat-based (reality based) community

Jan 07, 2010 10:06 AM
rating: 4
 
sgshaw
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Your anti-Rice ranting is not only tiresome, it has become obsessional on your part.

Jan 07, 2010 10:06 AM
rating: -20
 
Dr. Dave

1. You clearly have never seen an actual rant
2. The disdain is not for Rice, but for people who think Rice belongs in the Hall of Fame, even after seeing all of the evidence
3. Given that there are still a fair number of people out there who are not yet resigned to the DH, your standards for 'obsessional' seem too lax to me
4. The election of Rice is, by far, the craziest thing the BBWAA electors have done in decades. It's big news, and ongoing news in that the same people are still voting.

Jan 07, 2010 10:15 AM
rating: 16
 
emanski

I think it's easy to overstate the anti-Race case. Yes, the analysis clearly shows him to be well below HOF caliber. But few players' raw stats are as deceiving as Rice's apparently are. It is very difficult at a glance to see, for example, that Rice's 1983 season is worth just 3.9 WARP. It is difficult to compare Rice and Cash's raw numbers and conclude without looking at the analysis stats that Cash is 1.5 times the player Rice is.

Even traditionalists should find Rice's numbers underwhelming for a HOFer. But at the same time, avid SABR members should be able to accept that analysis, while on the rise, simply hasn't got the foothold necessary to make numbers like .298 and 2452 look merely good.

IMO, far more troubling than who the voters are letting in is who they are leaving out. I'd overlook a few strange-case outliers who don't really belong in exchange for giving the genuine stars their due.

I think one of the requirements of HOF voter eligibility is to actually have been to the HOF. I suspect a huge percentage of today's voters barely even grasp what the institution even feels like, or stands for.

Jan 07, 2010 11:30 AM
rating: 2
 
emanski

anti-Rice, of course. Wish there was an edit function.

Jan 07, 2010 11:30 AM
rating: 1
 
sgshaw

The election of Rice is entirely reasonable and can in fact be supported by facts, not just opinion. That fact is that Jay's system doesn't like Rice, and as I've said before that system is significantly flawed.

For example Bill James Black Ink, Gray Ink, Hall of Fame Monitor and Hall of Fame Standards all show Rice as above the average or likely Hall of Famer.

That fact that you and Jay continually use language that overstates the case against Rice (the craziest thing... garment-rending travesty) just shows how irrational this anti-Rice obsession is.

Jan 07, 2010 20:33 PM
rating: -3
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

All of those Jamesian metrics are outdated, and to build a case solely on them is to misrepresent what we know about valuation in baseball decades after James introduced some them. They don't adjust for scoring levels, either on a league or park level. They don't adjust for league size. And they significantly undervalue OBP, the single most important stat connected to run scoring and thus winning.

Jan 08, 2010 12:16 PM
 
sgshaw

But what they do that JAWS doesn't do is evaluate the player in the context of the time in which they played the game. In other words you see a picture of the player as they were viewed by their contemporaries at the time they played. It's interesting that Tim Kniker chose to use these same Jamesian scores in his discussion of ballot changes in the article just above this one.

In any case, you miss my point. It's not that Rice is an automatic HOFer. Of course, he's not. It's that reasonable people can disagree over his inclusion into the Hall. It's not a "garment-rending travesty."

Jan 08, 2010 20:47 PM
rating: -1
 
Dr. Dave

It's one thing to say that the judges in the Salem witch trials (or the Inquisition) didn't know any better, and that we can therefore somewhat understand why they reached the conclusions they did.

It's another thing entirely to continue "...and therefore, the accused really were witches", which is what you seem to be saying about Rice. Just because people at the time thought he was really really good doesn't mean he was, or that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

You are confusing "the player as he was viewed by his contemporaries" and "the player in the context of his era" -- two totally different things.

Jan 09, 2010 18:36 PM
rating: 2
 
sgshaw

Your analogy is very entertaining. But as I'm sure you know analogies no matter how close they may be (and yours is far from close)do not prove a point. We use contemporanious views of a players all the time when evaluating players for the HOF. Number of all-star appearances, placement in MVP, etc are commonly used. But the HOF Monitor and HOF standards don't even use those. They just uses hitting stats. A hitter with a Monitor score of 100 is a good bet for the Hall. A hitter with a score of 130 is a "virtual cinch." Rice's score is 144.

But once again you miss the point. I would argue that Rice is a marginal HOFer. But you have said that is election "is the craziest thing" the BBWAA has ever done. It's that emotionally laden arrogant language that I object to.

Jan 10, 2010 17:25 PM
rating: -2
 
Christopher Taylor

The Hentgen vote was almost certainly from a Toronto writer so it was unlikely that it was a protest of Alomar.

Jan 07, 2010 10:18 AM
rating: 0
 
sgturner65

If the vote for Hentgen did indeed come from a Toronto writer, it should only count as .90 vote (or whatever the exchange rate is now) and since the HOF doesn't round up, it should not count as a vote.

By the way, while I always try to refrain from booing at the ballpark, let the boos rain on the five clowns that sent in blank ballots.

Jan 07, 2010 23:17 PM
rating: 0
 
Jay Taylor

That 2013 ballot is crazy. It makes me wonder, not counting the early ballots that had a backlog of candidates, what was the best first year ballot ever?

Jan 07, 2010 10:46 AM
rating: 0
 
John Douglass

1999 perhaps, with George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount.

Jan 07, 2010 14:29 PM
rating: 0
 
tdogg217

Would anyone subscribing to this site cast an empty ballot? That's pathetic and those voters should have their voting rights stripped and given to broadcasters/fans/writers that have a passion for the game.

Jan 07, 2010 10:59 AM
rating: 2
 
TADontAsk

If the voter has studied his ballot, and honestly and truly feels that there are no Hall of Fame worthy players, and decides not to vote for anyone, then I have no problem with it. But it's the reasoning (Not a true first ballot Hall of Famer, etc. Give me a break) that I have the biggest problem with.

Jan 07, 2010 11:06 AM
rating: 4
 
ElAngelo
(942)

If I had a ballot and in 2011, Blyleven, Raines Alomar and Larkin got in, I would submit a blank ballot in 2012 because I don't think anyone else is HOF-worthy.

Jan 07, 2010 11:28 AM
rating: 4
 
Richard Bergstrom

mlb.fanhouse.com had 2 of their 8 HoF voters cast blank ballots, Mariotti and Olson. Olson has apparently never voted. Slusser, who is a NHL contributor at mlb.fanhouse.com(?), apparently has a HoF vote and voted only for Alomar.

http://mlb.fanhouse.com/2010/01/06/fanhouses-2010-hall-of-fame-ballot/#cntnt

Jan 07, 2010 17:12 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Actually, I've read elsewhere that Olson did NOT actually file a ballot, so she's counted as abstaining, not as voting a blank slate.

Jan 08, 2010 11:10 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

I didn't know that abstaining without it counting as a blank ballot was an option. Thanks.

Jan 08, 2010 18:37 PM
rating: 0
 
Henry F.

I think that Bernie Williams, given the lack of anyone else in his class, may have a good chance of getting in. I'm not sure where he ranks according to JAWS, but as a core member of 4 WS winning Yankee teams, he seems like at least an eventual inductee. He never did well in MVP voting, however.

Jan 07, 2010 11:08 AM
rating: 0
 
Adam Hobson

Bernie's problem will be that while many may feel he's worthy of a vote, especially when compared to the rest of his class, the "first ballot" snobs will probably keep him off that first ballot and from then then on he'll have to compete against that monster 2013 class. I can see him get something like 60% his first year and then slide down to 45% his second year as voters have to leave him off to fit in the more deserving of the 2013 class, some of whom should very well be "first ballot" HOFers.

That said, hopefully once the logjam is opened, he'll be able to get in on his merits.

Jan 07, 2010 12:55 PM
rating: 1
 
bpars3

Isn't Frank Thomas part of the 2013 Class, too? It will be interesting to see if there is any bump to Frank, who better not need any bump to get to Cooperstown, due to his anti-steroid stance for so many years while sharing the ballot with first timers that have been linked to steroids.

Jan 07, 2010 12:07 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Tim Kniker
BP staff

Baseball-Reference has Thomas on the 2014 ballot which will also include first-timers Maddux,Glavine, Kent and Mussina, plus any holdovers from the stacked 2013 ballot

Jan 07, 2010 12:18 PM
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Correct. Thomas last played in 2008, which means (couunterintuitively) that he's on the 2014 ballot, which debuts in late 2013, just after his fifth full season of retirement.

Jan 07, 2010 12:51 PM
 
Luke in MN

I look forward to some John Olerud analysis next offseason.

Relatedly, has his career WARP3 been downgraded by BP lately? I looked a while ago and it was up around 80, now much lower. I'm guessing the issue is evaluation of his defense.

Jan 07, 2010 12:17 PM
rating: 1
 
LouisArighi

I don't know how long ago you looked at the numbers, but last winter the replacement level, especially replacement-level defense, was increased, because there were data suggesting that the old replacement level did not reflect the actual performance of freely available talent. I don't have the article reference on hand, but I remember reading it sometime last winter, around when the book came out.

Jan 07, 2010 14:39 PM
rating: 0
 
bpars3

Thanks. Will Frank be viewed as a 1B or as a DH when his time comes?

Jan 07, 2010 12:54 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

He's lumped in with the first basemen, because that's where he played the most of his games in the field, but I'll also compare him to the average Hall hitter. Won't make much difference. He's 17 points above the line for the latter, a two-time MVP with over 500 homers. A no-brainer for the writers, most likely.

Jan 08, 2010 11:13 AM
 
onegameref

I don't think Big Hurt "retired" so much. I think if someone offered him guaranteed $ today he would snap it up and make a go of it and probably not worse than some of the options floating around. Billy Williams had almost identical SO and BB totals for his career, just 1 off. He was one of my favorites growing up a Cubs fan. He was a joy to watch.

Jan 07, 2010 13:16 PM
rating: 0
 
Dave Holgado

I'm curious whether the Bunning anomaly could be explained by his emergence as a politician. He was first elected to Congress in 1986, meaning he was just getting sworn in as the 1987 hall vote was happening. True, the dip didn't happen until '89, but perhaps he didn't do or say anything too polarizing until his second year in office. It may be cynical to suggest that some subset of voters would switch their vote on him for a non-baseball reason like that. But this is the BBWAA we're talking about.

Jan 07, 2010 16:00 PM
rating: 1
 
JC

Nothing substantive to say but just wanted to say great work this HOF season, even though I dont agree with some of it.

Jan 07, 2010 16:21 PM
rating: 0
 
etothepiiplus43

"Kevin Appier, Pat Hentgen, and David Segui all received a token vote from some writer, perhaps as a favor for past considerations"

I disagree on the first count. After reading Rany Jayzerli's piece about Appier, I see no reason why a vote for Kevin Appier is necessarily a favor. He was more than qualified as a player to receive one vote out of 539 for the Hall of Fame.

Jan 07, 2010 19:04 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

I was shocked to hear that Bert Blyleven made only 2 all-star teams in his career. Is there anyone else of recent vintage who made so few all-star teams?

The other surprise was that Bert recieved 14% of the vote on his first ballot. Certainly those voters didn't think he was worthy of the Hall. Has anyone made the Hall with so few votes on the first ballot?

Seems a little bit of a strecth to criticize current voters for leaving Bert out in the rain when some many others have chosen to do so at every step of his career.

Jan 07, 2010 22:48 PM
rating: 0
 
worldtour

Your work is a great resources for fans like me.

Question: Any thought to the changing nature of the vote dynamice over time? I would assume that there is a much larger pool of voters than even, say, 15 years ago, and we are talking about the media, which itself has evolved dramatically over time. Are there any reasons why, say, a 40% debut in the 1960 ballot is different than one in 2010?

Secondly, on McGwire, since at least some of the voter reticence is about his silence, there's a big possibility that that will change as he goes public in his new role. I imagine that he's forced himself back into the spotlight partly to pick up some more HoF votes. Is there ANYthing you can think of him saying at a climactic news conference that would appease the BBWAA voters? I'm not a supporter although I loved to watch him play pre-steroid-revelations, just wondering.

And while I'm on it, Bagwell seems like a no-brainer for steroid candidacy to me. I don't know the guy, but he had no power in the minors and it suddenly ballooned in his second or third year in the majors. Then inujuries cut his career short. The late Ken Caminiti didn't have his biggest steroid year until 1996, after he had left the Astros, but he was a team veteran by the time Bags arrived on the scene.

Jan 08, 2010 03:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

The changing nature of the vote dynamic is an area for further study, for sure. One reason why I tend to limit my voting analyses to the annual period is that before that the dynamic WAS very different; it included a runoff in the event nobody got 75 percent, and that actually lasted until 1967, I believe.

One interesting facet of McGwire's re-emergence is that if he were to actually return to active duty, as Tony LaRussa suggests he might upon roster expansion, he would stop his Hall of Fame ballot clock by five years, and wouldn't appear again until 2016, after the electorate has hashed out the Bonds/Clemens/Palmeiro steroid sagas. Beyond that, I suspect that as far as the writers are concerned he's as screwed if he opens up ("he confirmed it, I'm never gonna vote for him") as if he doesn't.

As for Bagwell, I've gotten in a high-profile tiff on this topic before. I'm absolutely, vehemently NOT in the business of speculating about the relationship of unsubstantiated steroid allegations to a player's accomplishments. If a player doesn't have a positive test and hasn't been outed as using via the Mitchell list, the BALCO list, or any of the other investigations which include, y'know, at least some actual evidence that he used, then so far as I'm concerned it's hearsay, inadmissible to his Hall of Fame case.

Jan 08, 2010 11:38 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

If that's the case regarding McGwire, does he get to remain on the ballot for 15 years or does the years he's spent on the ballot count against him?

Jan 08, 2010 18:36 PM
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John Douglass

It just stops the clock. He doesn't get an additional 15 years, only the 11 remaining.

Jan 09, 2010 12:01 PM
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jnossal

McGwire has apparently just publicly admitted he used steroids for nearly a decade. I guess this last round of balloting made it obvious that there would be little HoF downside by making the admission.

Jan 11, 2010 12:26 PM
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BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

It was apparent from the moment McGwire was hired to be the Cardinals' hitting coach back in October that he would have to address the situation. One can grant him a bit of credit for waiting until AFTER the Hall of Fame voting cycle to make the announcement so as not to overshadow the slate of candidates or to be seen as making the announcement specifically to curry favor with voters.

Jan 11, 2010 14:02 PM
 
Ironhorse

JJ, more nice work this year. Always look forward to your HoF analysis, so nothing negative here, only a Devil's advocacy:

If you really believe in the truths and truisms of what you're doing, why wait until HoF eve to publish? Might you not feel bound to get your analyses out there earlier so that your work could become part of the discussion and have some influence?

I think your work DOES have some influence. Look at Blyleven's rising vote totals. This is due not only to your work, but your work and others being picked up and passed through by scores or hundreds of bloggers, analysts on other websites, and even workaday sportswriters. Joe Posnanski, for example, is a BP reader and a conscientious writer who incorporates the stat revelations he consumes into his work...AND then Poz becomes an advocate. Shouldn't you try to maximize your advocacy?

How 'bout offering your insights to the Baseball Tonight people and ESPN, your willingness to be broadcast with them for no fee? Maybe the same thing with the MLB channel? Or why not a lengthy SI article with Poz next November or early December when the impact could be maximized?

Again, thanks for the good work.

Jan 08, 2010 07:55 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

There are years where we've been able to get the series out much sooner - this was not one of them, and it's a mild bummer because yes, I know that they do carry some influence. Per our ESPN relationship, we've got some limitations as to where else our content can run (SI is out; I did a JAWS rundown there last year, though).

The timing of the series has always been something of a problem because it lands when BP's resources are devoted most heavily to producing our annual. I want the WARP stats to be as fresh as possible, but to get there requires the work of Clay Davenport, and he's been spending a lot of postseason time not only tinkering with that over the past couple of years (the rising replacement level and PBP defense) but also this year taking on the daunting responsibility of running PECOTA. I was stretched thinner than anticipated this year as well, and it's definitely a lesson learned.

I am happy to announce that there is definitely a renewed commitment towards getting the JAWS data online, which will make my job much easier and also allow readers to play along at home much more regularly. You'll be hearing more about that and some other exciting developments along those lines in the coming weeks.

Jan 08, 2010 11:26 AM
 
orlandoca7

Jay ~ Re. some of the commentary above on Rice and BJ's decade-plus old Hall metrics ~

There's no doubt that his standards, monitor, etc. can serve, at best,as guiding tools only. Your point about their undervaluing OBP is on the money, of course.

At the same time, is it possible that we are now at a point where more advanced, complex metrics, such as JAWS, might overvalue OBP, & thus show undue bias towards someone like Edgar Martinez? I'm not suggesting that's happening. I have no idea. Only asking if it's possible that the emphasis on OBP is masking over deficiencies in other parts of a player's game.

Jan 08, 2010 19:13 PM
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Richard Bergstrom

It's not like JAWS is perfect either and, from what I understand, it has also gone under multiple revisions.

It would be a bit interesting to see how the first published version of JAWS evaluates players compared to today and get a history of what changes have been made to the methodology.

Jan 09, 2010 11:01 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

The first two ballots I evaluated, the 2004 and 2005 ones, used a different definition of peak - a player's best five consecutive year string, allowing for a handful of exceptions due to war and serious injury. A pain in the ass to sift through, particularly as I was gathering all the data from BP's player cards manually.

The 2004 ballot flagged Keith Hernandez, Ryne Sandberg, Alan Trammell, Paul Molitor, Bert Blyleven, Lee Smith, Rich Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley as worthy. It wasn't until the 2005 ballot that I introduced the name JAWS. That year's approved slate consisted of Blyleven, Smith, Gossage, Wade Boggs, Sandberg, and Trammell.

The 2006 ballot was the first one to use the seven-year definition of peak. Albert Belle, Blyleven, Will Clark, Tommy John, Trammell, Gossage, and Smith were the "yes" votes, though there was a bit more subjectivity involved. Belle got the nod because his overwhelming peak made up for a short career (he outscored Rice then, and he still does today - by an even wider margin, actually). John was borderline, well ahead on career but behind on peak, overall enough to be over the line. He subsequently fell back as later revisions of WARP came about which took a bit more credit away from the pitcher on balls in play.

The rising replacement level has of course made comparing older JAWS scores to ones today rather difficult, but what hasn't changed substantially is the correlation of EqA with run scoring, so in answer to the question above about Edgar, no, I don't think OBP is overvaluing him.

Looking back at some of these, I'm pretty comfortable with the results. Smith has crossed from a "yes" to a near-miss "no" because the standard for relievers has risen with the additions of Eckersley, Gossage and Bruce Sutter. John faded, but the ensuing ballots (he fell off last year having reached his 15th go-round) reflected that. Hernandez is still above the JAWS standard based upon the value of his defense. Clark is still above as well. Belle has fallen below overall, but his peak remains well above average, and of course, the reason for the abrupt ending of his career hasn't changed.

Jan 10, 2010 07:50 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Thanks for the breakout Jay. It's interesting to see how and why JAWS has changed over time in its evaluation on players.

So, the addition of Eck,Gossage and Sutter changed the threshold for Smith. At the same time, there is no threshhold for DHs since there are no DHs that are in the Hall.

Is it possible to do some kind of comparison of DHs historically? Say comparing Baines and Martinez versus someone like Molitor, or even one like a Canseco or a Brian Downing?

Jan 10, 2010 14:26 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

I'm still of the mind that because the relevant DH-identified players which have come up for discussion actually spent a good portion of their careers at other positions, we can start by comparing them to the standard at that position - for Molitor and Martinez, third base, for Baines, right field. Obviously, as lousy fielders, they don't accrue very much value at those positions, so their bats have to make up for it.

The fallback baseline for DHs in the absence of a DH threshold is to compare them against the average Hall hitter, or the average Hall corner hitter (1B, 3B, LF, RF). For Molitor and Martinez, the totality of their value as hitters and fielders is still enough to surpass the JAWS standards for both, if not by a whole lot (around 57 or 58 JAWS). Frank Thomas blows by the standards with a JAWS score in the mid-70s. Downing and Baines are both in the high 30s, JAWS-wise, with Canseco topping them at 40.5 - nowhere near Hall of Fame caliber. Don Baylor and Hal McRae come in around the high 20s. David Ortiz is in the low 30s.

Jan 10, 2010 21:27 PM
 
Adrian

Re: Jim Rice and comments above -

While I think it is kind of a case of the ship having already sailed - he's in the HoF so it's probably time to deal with it and move on - I do understand why people use statements like "garment-rending travesty" (not that I believe that Jay is being literal - he's clearly being hyperbolic for humorous effect, as well).

Even if Gray Ink, Black Ink, and the HoF Standard and Monitor tests were up-to-date tools, did anyone see any of the mainstream media trotting these tools out to justify their votes? I sure didn't. No, they were justifying their votes based on statements that Rice was "the most-feared slugger of his time" or that OBP wasn't properly valued then so he should be given a pass - as if Rice would have suddenly started getting on base more often if someone had told him it was a good idea, and ignoring the fact that there have always been players who get on base a lot, regardless of era, and their value is real whether the media and the other players/teams realize it or not.

I don't want to generalize, I know there are some very smart people with reasonable arguments who supported Rice, but to me, at least, they seemed to be a clear minority.
And a great many of Rice's most vocal supporters were making things up to justify something they had already decided was true long before they had ever seen any evidence or compared him to other players in a rigorous fashion.

This kind of thinking is the very antithesis of intelligent discourse and analysis and is the reason why people like Jay are still annoyed about it. If the majority of Rice's supporters had been reasonable in their evaluations, and used arguments that make sense, as well as actual facts, I don't think any of the Jim Rice brouhaha would have occurred. And to be fair, obviously there are people who were anti-Rice in a very unreasonable way, as well, but I didn't see any of them writing for BP or ESPN or Hardball Times or Baseball Analysts, nor did Joe Posnanski come off that way.

In the end it really wasn't about Rice, it was about people reaching into what Bill James called the "bullshit dump" to justify their pre-existing beliefs, something that continues to go on today with Jack Morris supporters. You wanna put a guy in the HoF for being a league-average workhorse for two decades and having a couple shining moments in the postseason? Fine. I don't agree, but fine, at least that's accurate.

But when people just make things up, like that Morris pitched to the score - or that "it's not about stats, it's about impact", as a prominent writer for CNNSI.com stated one evening on the MLB Network - as a rational person I have to draw the line at that kind of thing. I mean, what does that even mean, "it's not about stats, it's about impact"?

And I can understand, hey, everyone makes mistakes, right? But when you look at something like Joe Posnanski's various rundowns on Blyleven and Morris and see that Morris was not particularly good at turning on the juice in close games and did most of his best work against sub-.500 teams, I mean, at that point you expect a reasonable person to think, "Oh, hey, yeah, I maybe should think this over some more" instead of ignoring it and spouting more baloney.

So um...yeah.

In other news, it's awesome that *my* childhood hero really is super awesome! Can't wait for you to get elected, Barry!

Jan 09, 2010 11:59 AM
rating: 4
 
Richard Bergstrom

Adrian,

I agree with what you are saying. The trick is that most people (including the BBWAA) don't read THT or even Joe. At best, they glance at the headlines on their newspaper or news website.

You have Jim Rice who played in a large media market, and whether he's surly or not, creates headlines. Some of these writers might not go to games, or if so, go once every year or so. Either way, five years have passed, and they probably have fond memories that one time that Rice hit a home run forgetting the times he struck out. Or that one time Rice's face and headline appeared on their paper.

So, for people (i.e. voters) who have not tried to figure out what OBP is over the last fifteen years, is it surprising that they miss Blyleven vs Morris debates?

And, overall, is that necessarily wrong?

To paraphrase a quote from a movie called Man From Earth, "Show me four other experts in your own speciality and tell me which ones of them you actually agree with?"

We still can't tell at a granular level who is or isn't a good fielder. We have some idea of hitting or pitching, but due to sample size, luck, park/league/altitude/PED/moon-phase factors can't say much more than "This guy was probably better" or "This guy was clearly worse". And we can only say that if the discrepancies are vast.

Rice, in regards to the HoF, is probably not even borderline statistics-wise. The BBWAA probably assumes more about steroids than it knows about statistics. Some combination of those factors, with the large media market, got Rice his 75%.

Would a ballot box at a ballpark similar to the All-Star game done better?

Something tells me that the average Joe would also vote for him. Either they saw him live and loved him, read about him and loved him, or had some vague recollection about his reputation. If Rice helped define a time in many average Joe's lives, maybe even 75% of the Joes, that might be something that deserves enshrinement.

Jan 10, 2010 14:17 PM
rating: 0
 
Adrian

Richard -

Is it surprising that they miss those debates? Probably not.
And I understand what you're saying - is it really fair to pillory these people when they're no more flawed than the average human being? Probably not.

But then I look around at what "average" human beings do to each other on a daily basis and wonder if that's much of an excuse...

But, specifically, I think most of your average Joes are not particularly aware of Jim Rice or his career any more than as a vague name they remember as a Red Sox star from yesterday. People for whom Rice helped define a time in their lives are almost all going to be either Red Sox fans or people who wrote about/covered baseball at that time.

If he did help define a time in the lives of a majority of baseball fans of that era, then that is something that, as you say, might be deserving of enshrinement. I personally am doubtful Rice had that kind of impact on the sentiments of baseball fans, as a whole, in that time. I don't actually know that, though, so it's speculation on my part.

The real problem I have with this kind of argument, though, is that it's a sort of "if/then/maybe" argument based on something it would be rather difficult to actually prove. That doesn't mean you're wrong - but I think it means we're still in the realm of speculation.

Jan 11, 2010 19:14 PM
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Richard Bergstrom

I admit my argument is definitely speculation. In the absence of a statistical basis for why writers would vote him to the Hall of Fame, all I can do is speculate that at least 75% of the writers either saw him and loved him, or knew his name and reputation and voted based on that.

Jan 12, 2010 22:48 PM
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