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December 21, 2009

Prospectus Hit and Run

Alomar, the Crime Dog, the Big Cat and Big Mac

by Jay Jaffe

The BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot has been out for a few weeks, and by now just about everybody who's got an opinion on the subject of which candidates are worthy of election has beaten the Christmas rush by weighing in on Rock, Hawk, Rik Aalbert, and friends. While the cabal which sent Jim Rice to Cooperstown last year might like to believe that I've told my spreadsheet to shut up, the reality-deadlines for this year's annual impeding my progress-is much more mundane. There's still time to beat the Christmas rush, however, so away we go.

To recap, since 2004 I've been using a methodology called JAWS-the name actually came along a bit later-to evaluate the Hall of Fame ballot for Baseball Prospectus. JAWS stands for Jaffe WARP Score, and WARP stands for Wins Above Replacement Player, our metric to measure each player's hitting, pitching, and fielding contributions relative to those of a freely available reserve or minor-league call-up in runs, and then convert those runs into the currency of wins. Park and league contexts are built into WARP, so that a player in a low-scoring environment such as 1960s Dodger Stadium can be measured on the same scale as one in a high-scoring environment such as turn-of-the-century Coors Field. A solid, full-time player might accumulate three or four WARP in a season, an All-Star five or six; a season of eight WARP often earns a spot in an MVP discussion, if not the award itself.

The stated goal of JAWS is to raise the standards of the Hall of Fame by identifying and endorsing candidates who are as good or better than the average Hall of Famer at their position, a bar set so as to avoid further diluting the quality of the institution's membership. This is done by comparing the candidates to their enshrined counterparts; those with JAWS higher than the average Hall of Famer at their position are deemed worthy of election. The positional averages-what I refer to as the JAWS standards-are actually computed after the score of the lowest player, invariably an underqualified player voted in by the Veterans Committee, has been dropped.

JAWS is separated into two components, a player's career WARP total and his peak one, covering his best seven years at large. This prevents longevity from being the sole determinant of who's worthy. In essence, the player's best seasons are double-counted, an appropriate strategy given the research regarding pennants added and the premium value of star talent: individual greatness can have a non-linear effect on a team's results both in the standings and on the bottom line. The career and peak WARP totals are thus averaged to give a JAWS score.

For all that goes into it, JAWS can't incorporate everything that goes into a player's Hall of Fame case. It makes no attempt to account for postseason play, awards won (whether they were justified or not), leagues led in important categories, historical import, or-it should go without saying, but thanks to Rice's hagiographers, here we are-fear factor. In discussing the candidates in brief, I'll bring such accomplishments into context; they can certainly shade an argument for or against a player whose credentials are otherwise borderline.

The past year or so has seen Clay Davenport incorporate some key changes to WARP, raising the replacement-level floor by about 20 runs per player, lifting it significantly beyond the level of the bottom-of-the-barrel 1899 Cleveland Spiders or a current Double-A player to conform to a more modern definition of the major-league replacement level. At the level of the WARP data provided in our annual book, Clay has incorporated a play-by-play-based defensive system, but that system has yet to be implemented further back due not only to the various challenges such a system prevents but also to his other responsibilities, which this year have grown to include the daunting task of running PECOTA and of providing in-season updates of our projections.

The good news is that, unlike last year, what you see here should more or less be reflected on the DT cards, allowing you to play along at home. So without further ado, we turn to the positional standards:


Pos         #    EqA  RARP   RAP  FRAA   Career  Peak   JAWS
 C         13   .285   448   238    69    60.6   41.0   50.8
1B         18   .306   542   287   -12    64.0   43.0   53.5
2B         18   .286   579   308    82    76.8   50.1   63.5
3B         11   .290   545   266    81    71.8   47.1   59.5
SS         21   .274   477   204   105    70.0   47.9   59.0
LF         20   .302   548   273     4    65.3   42.1   53.7
CF         17   .306   565   316    21    68.8   44.2   56.5
RF         23   .305   597   321    38    75.7   46.6   61.2
CornerInf  30   .300   543   279    22    66.9   44.6   55.7
MI         38   .279   524   252    94    73.1   48.9   61.0
INF        68   .288   532   263    64    70.5   47.1   58.8
OF         60   .304   572   303    22    70.3   44.4   57.4
Middle     69   .287   520   265    71    69.8   46.3   58.0
Corners    72   .302   558   291    22    69.3   44.6   56.9 
Hitters   141   .295   540   278    46    69.5   45.4   57.5

For those in need of help deciphering the abbreviations, EqA is Equivalent Average, RARP is Runs Above Replacement, Position-Adjusted, and RAP is Runs Above Position. Both measures, which replace Batting Runs Above Replacement and Batting Runs Above Average as part of our suite of metrics, incorporate a positional adjustment not found in their predecessors (see Clay's essay in BP2009 for details). Both are included here as good secondary measures of career and peak value. Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) is a bit more comprehensible to the average reader than measuring fielding from replacement level.

In the interest of prioritizing the freshest above-the-line candidate in this particular sub-batch, I'm going to deviate from positional propriety and address the ballot's lone second baseman before turning to the first basemen. Much of what I wrote is a revision of a piece written upon Roberto Alomar's retirement, but the wholesale changes in WARP since that point necessitate revision, and the importance of his career merits a full airing in this context.

Second Basemen


Player                H    HR   RBI   AVG   OBP   SLG  AS  MVP GG   HoFS   HoFM  Bal  2009%
Roberto Alomar      1508  210  1134  .300  .371  .443  12   0  10   57.0  194.0   0    N/A


Player       EqA   RARP  RAP  FRAA  Career  Peak   JAWS
Alomar      .288    675  370   30    79.4   49.8   64.6
AVG HoF 2B  .287    579  308   82    76.8   50.1   63.5

More abbreviations to decipher: AS is All-Star appearances, GG is Gold Gloves won, HoFS and HoFM are Hall of Fame Standards and Hall of Fame Monitor, respectively, a pair of hoary but somewhat useful evaluation systems created by Bill James during the Baseball Abstract era, Bal is how many years the player has appeared on the ballot, and 2009% the player's share of the vote on the last ballot, with 75 percent needed for election.

The son of light-hitting former big-league second baseman Sandy Alomar and the younger brother of catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., Roberto Alomar reached the big leagues as a 20-year-old San Diego Padre in 1988. His three years in the brown and yellow only hinted at things to come, as he hit a fairly one-dimensional .283/.339/.379. He took his lumps in the field, showing excellent range but averaging 20 errors a year. Still, not many players can hold their own in the majors in their age-20 seasons, and the ones that do often go on to greatness.

Alomar blossomed after being sent along with Joe Carter to Toronto in a December 1990 mega-deal which paired him and Joe Carter while sending Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to San Diego. The move helped the Jays become the division's powerhouse; they won the East in his first season north of the border, and in the two years following brought new meaning to the term World Champions. Alomar averaged 7.2 WARP over that three-year span, and put up a Joe Morgan-esque line of .326/.408/.492 with 17 homers and 55 steals in 1993. But the Jays fell below .500 during the two strike-torn seasons, and Alomar departed as a free agent for the Orioles, forming a well-decorated double-play tandem with Cal Ripken Jr. His 1996 stats were in the Morgan mold as well (.328/.411/.527), as he led the O's with a career-high 8.2 WARP and helped them to their first postseason berth since 1983.

Alas, Alomar's season lost some luster when a late-September ejection for arguing balls and strikes culminated in him spitting in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck. Adding insult to injury, the second baseman told reporters that the ump had become "real bitter" since the death of his eight-year-old son due to a rare brain disease in 1993. Alomar was instantly anointed Public Enemy Number One by the nation's fans and sportswriters; when he was allowed to play in the postseason by appealing his five-game suspension, it took a court order to avert an umpires' strike. Alomar spent October under a dark cloud as the Orioles advanced to the ALCS before losing to the Jeffrey Maier-aided Yankees.

He served his suspension to start the 1997 season and made high-profile amends with Hirschbeck, shaking his hand on the field and donating money to aid research on the disease which claimed the ump's son. But public sentiment was still mixed: Alomar drew boos around the league even as he was voted to start the All-Star Game. Hampered by a shoulder injury which limited him to 112 games, and to batting left-handed for the season's last four months, he still hit .333/.390/.500. The Orioles made it back to the LCS but lost to the Indians, his brother's team. Shortly after the loss, the O's took the express route to total irrelevance when skipper Davey Johnson fell out with owner Peter Angelos, culminating in the surreal sequence of Johnson resigning mere hours before winning Manager of the Year honors. They haven't seen .500 since.

Following a desultory 1998 which featured the ludicrous accusation from Angelos that Alomar hadn't been the same since the spitting incident, the second baseman joined his brother via free agency. Teaming with shortstop Omar Vizquel to form one of the slickest double-play combos of all time, he enjoyed his best three-year run as a hitter, batting a combined .323/.405/.515 and averaging 5.9 WARP. Despite the accolades, which included the last three of his 10 Gold Gloves, his defense was slipping, from +13 runs in 1999 to -9 and -6 in the next two seasons.

At that point, through his age-33 season, Alomar had amassed 2,389 hits at a .306/.378/.455 clip. He looked to be a lock for the 3,000 hit club, with the Bill James Favorite Toy estimate showing him as having an 87% chance of reaching 3,300 hits. But the wheels quickly fell off once he was sent to the Mets as the centerpiece of an eight-player deal in December 2001. He struggled to a .266/.331/.376 showing in 2002 as the Mets slid below .500, and when his decline didn't reverse, he was pawned off to the White Sox halfway through the next season. He lasted just one more year in the majors, and met an ignominious end, making two errors in one inning of a spring training game as a Devil Ray, then hanging up his spikes the next day.

Alomar never won an MVP award, but he placed in the top five twice (1999 and 2001) and finished sixth in his first three years in Toronto. He was otherwise well-decorated, as no other second baseman won the Gold Glove more often. He was worth at least 10 runs in the field in three of the seasons in which he won the award, and the one year amid that 11-year stretch in which he didn't (1997). He excelled in October, outdoing his career line with a .331/.381/.448 showing in 260 postseason plate appearances across seven separate trips. He won the 1992 ALCS MVP award en route to the first of hs two rings with the Blue Jays.

Those are Hall of Fame credentials, and his JAWS numbers back up that assertion. While his defensive reputation falls surprisingly shy of the average Hall second baseman-pushing his peak all of 0.3 wins below the standard (but still about four wins above the average Hall hitter)-his career mark is safely above the line even given his early, inglorious end. Only four second basemen (Eddie Collins, Rogers Hornsby, Joe Morgan, and Nap Lajoie, all Hall of Famers) outrank him on the JAWS scale, though they all leave him in the dust, with scores above 93.0. Alomar does outdistance BBWAA-sanctioned keystoners Charlie Gehringer, Frankie Frisch, Ryne Sandberg, Jackie Robinson (whose JAWS mark is obviously just the tip of the iceberg), and Rod Carew, as well as the unduly snubbed Bobby Grich (who ranks right behind him, JAWS-wise). Neither the spitting incident nor the salcious, subsequently withdrawn lawsuit which emerged earlier this year are grounds for keeping him out of Cooperstown. There are enough writers out there who bear him a grudge over Spitgate that I doubt he'll gain first-ballot election, but I suspect his stay on the ballot will be a short one.

First Basemen


Player                H    HR   RBI   AVG   OBP   SLG  AS  MVP GG   HoFS   HoFM  Bal  2009%
Andres Galarraga    2333  399  1425  .288  .347  .499   5   0   2   35.0  114.0   0    N/A
Eric Karros         1724  284  1027  .268  .325  .454   0   0   0   17.0   30.0   0    N/A
Don Mattingly       2153  222  1099  .307  .358  .471   6   1   9   34.1  134.0   9   11.9%
Fred McGriff        2490  493  1550  .284  .377  .509   5   0   0   48.0  100.0   0    N/A
Mark McGwire        1626  583  1414  .263  .394  .588  12   0   1   42.0  169.5   3   21.9%
David Segui         1412  139   684  .291  .359  .443   0   0   0   16.0   15.0   0    N/A


Player       EqA  RARP   RAP  FRAA  Career  Peak   JAWS
McGwire     .327   661   450   -11   71.6   48.7   60.2
McGriff     .302   543   253   -24   59.0   40.6   49.8
Mattingly   .291   342   116    37   42.9   36.3   39.6
Galarraga   .279   243   -25   -35   23.8   21.2   22.5
Karros      .272   136   -83    36   20.3   20.3   20.3
Segui       .273   107   -53     0   12.2   13.1   12.7
AVG HoF 1B  .306   565   306   -12   66.4   44.1   55.3

Mark McGwire isn't much fun to debate because of the steroid-related questions that surround his career, but taken at face value, his accomplishments put him well above the JAWS standard for first basemen. In the interest of brevity and reduced agita, I'll refer you back to what I wrote last time around and note that his 583 home runs rank eighth all-time (tied with Alex Rodriguez), his .588 slugging percentage is ninth, and his .327 Equivalent Average is 13th-solidly in a Hall-worthy stratosphere. As far as JAWS is concerned, McGwire comes in ahead of both the career and peak marks for first basemen, and ranks 12th among first basemen all-time; of the 11 players above him, seven are already in the Hall, with Albert Pujols still active and birthday twins Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas not yet eligible. Big Mac's JAWS total outdoes 12 enshrined first basemen, including BBWAA electees Willie McCovey, Eddie Murray, Tony Perez, Hank Greenberg, and Harmon Killebrew, many of whom similarly bore the "one-dimensional slugger" tag.

McGwire's failed to garner much support on the ballot from the same body which put him on a pedestal back in the late Nineties, doing so while shunning the writer who exposed his dirty little secret of androstenedione. His support actually declined slightly last year, down from 23.6 percent on the 2008 ballot. I don't pretend to have an answer to the vexing problem of how the voters should handle his case, but as the number of superstars alleged to have used performance enhancers continues to grow-since last year Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz have all been outed via even more dubious means-it's clear that this issue won't be leaving the ballot anytime soon.

Don Mattingly's case is one I've hammered every year since the introduction of JAWS. The revisions aren't pushing him any closer to the Hall standard, so we'll forego the retelling of his tale of woe.

Which brings us to Fred McGriff, the Crime Dog. A ninth-round pick by the Yankees in 1981, McGriff's big break came six months later when he was traded to the Blue Jays along with Dave Collins, Mike Morgan, and cash for Dale Murray and Tom Dodd. Nonetheless, he made slow progress to Toronto, finally cracking the big-league lineup as a DH in 1987, the year the Jays lost their final seven games to fumble the AL East flag into the hands of the Tigers. McGriff hit .247/376/.505 with 20 homers that year, the first of 15 seasons in which he would reach a plateau. Only 13 other hitters have equaled or surpassed that feat; 10 are in the Hall of Fame, and the other three are Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., and Jim Thome. The next year, McGriff began a string of seven straight 30-homer seasons, the first five of which were worth at least 5.9 WARP. He won the 1989 AL home run crown with 36 dingers, and won the 1992 NL crown for hitting 35 with the Padres in 1992, making him the first player to top both circuits (McGwire would become the second) and the last player for 16 years to lead a league with less than 40.

McGriff was traded to San Diego in the aforementioned December 1990 trade (with Tony Fernandez, for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter)-a star-studded trade if there ever was one. The move helped the Blue Jays win two World Series in 1992 and 1993, but McGriff missed out on those parties, though he was swapped-part of the Padres' infamous fire sale-to the defending NL champion Braves in July 1993. Those Braves were 53-40, eight games behind the Giants in the NL West standings when the deal went down; they would go a remarkable 51-18 the rest of the way, winning the West before being bounced by the Phillies in the NLCS. Settling in as one of the cornerstones of a dynasty, McGriff hit .310/.392/.612 with 19 homers in 291 plate appearances with Atlanta, and set a career high with 37 homers overall. Though the strike wrecked the 1994 season, McGriff would be part of three straight division champs (1995-1997) and back-to-back pennant winners in the first two of those years. He bopped a pair of homers and slugged .600 in both World Seres, the first of which the Braves won over the Indians, and the second of which they lost to the Yankees. Throughout his career, McGriff had an excellent track record in October, hitting .303/.385/.532 with 10 homers in 50 postseason games.

McGriff slumped to 22 homers and 0.9 WARP in 1997, and after the season the Tampa native was traded to the expansion Devil Rays (a transaction that received a decidedly lukewarm reception from one Chris Kahrl in these pages). He spent three and a half years with the godawful Rays, enjoying a mini-renaissance (34 homers, 2.7 WARP) in 1999 but otherwise merely clocking time in front of sparse crowds. After some no-trade clause-based resistance, he was swapped to the Cubs in July 2001, and while he again hit well upon switching teams, he couldn't spur them to the postseason. After his 10th and final 30-homer season in 2002, he bounded to the Dodgers and then back to the Devil Rays before hanging up his spikes.

For years now, there's been talk of the fact that with his 493 homers, McGriff might unseat Dave Kingman (442 homers) as the player with the highest total not to make the Hall of Fame. Jose Canseco (462 homers) has already erased the so-called "Kingman Line," but then his transgressions insured he'd never make Cooperstown anyway. There's bound to be a certain nostalgia among voters for McGriff, who hit the majority of his shots before the pharmaceutically-fueled assault on the single-season home-run record began, and an acknowledgment that the round-numbered milestone he fell short of means less today than it did a generation ago.

Even so, McGriff doesn't have a particularly strong case for Cooperstown. Despite the two home-run titles, he's well short of the Black Ink of a typical Hall of Famer (though that Jamesian metric fails to adjust for expansion). He never won an MVP award (his top single-season WARP total of 6.8 isn't quite MVP territory), and while he did place in the top 10 in the voting in six straight seasons (1989-1994), he only cracked the top five in 1993. JAWS-wise, that stretch of six-win seasons still isn't enough for him to measure up to the average Hall of Famer on peak score, and he's even further below the standard on career WARP. The shape of his JAWS line is very similar to that of Tony Perez (59.0/41.3/50.2), but that particular Doggie had five pennants, two rings, and a more famous dynasty to his name. The guess here is that he'll fall far short, but linger on the ballot for a long time.

Joining the Crime Dog on the ballot is the Big Cat, Andres Galarraga, who walloped 399 homers for seven teams over the course of his 19-year career. Signed by the Expos out of Venezuela in 1979, Galarraga was a latecomer who didn't debut in the majors until he had already turned 24, in 1985, and didn't win a starting job until the following year. His most valuable season came in 1988, when he hit .302/.352/.540 with 29 homers, good for a .322 EqA and 6.5 WARP. He's best remembered for his stretch with the expansion Rockies, for whom he clubbed 172 homers over five seasons, including a league-leading 47 in 1996; he also won a batting title by hitting .370 in 1993. His stats with the Rockies were distorted by playing in the most hitter-friendly environment in modern times, however, and properly accounted for, they weren't worth a whole lot; only in 1993 was he worth more than 2.0 WARP. His 1995 season (.280/.331/.511 with 31 homers) actually comes in as below replacement level (-0.4 WARP), one of four times he would compile at least 300 plate appearances and finish underwater-a harsh assessment. MVP voters, blind to the need to park-adjust his statistics, nonetheless voted him into the top 10 five times during his six years with the Rox.

Galarraga bounced around after leaving the Rockies, putting up one fantastic year as McGriff's replacement with the Braves (a .305/.397/.595 line with 44 homers, his third straight year above 40, good for 4.5 WARP) in 1998. Alas, he missed all of the following season when it was discovered he was suffering from non-Hodgkins lymphoma, but he beat the disease and won Comeback Player of the Year honors at the age of 39 in 2000 (.302/.369/.526 with 28 homers), and stuck around the majors until he was 43. His battle cost him a spot in the 400 Home Run club, but it doesn't really matter here; he simply didn't have enough truly valuable seasons to mount a credible Hall of Fame case.

Eric Karros won Rookie of the Year honors in 1992, when he hit .257/.304/.426. Of course nobody cared about his lousy OBP or slugging percentage at the time, they were more impressed by his 20 homers and 88 RBI, both first basemanly totals. Karros would go on to spend 11 years as the Dodgers' starting first baseman, a tenure longer than that of Steve Garvey; he topped 30 homers five times in that span, but cleared a .330 OBP just three times, and a .500 SLG just twice; even in pre-renovation Dodger Stadium, those were hardly unattainable bars. His best season came in 1995, when he bopped 32 homers and hit .298/.369/.535 for a team that gave Tommy Lasorda his last trip to the postseason, a season worth 5.9 WARP.

Karros overstayed his welcome in LA by a couple of years, declining from 34 homers, a .300 EqA and 4.1 WARP in 1999 to 31 homers, a .263 EqA, and 0.7 WARP in 2000, and then-at the point where most of us Dodger fans were sure he had joined the ranks of the undead-15 homers, .244 EqA, and -0.7 WARP. And yet they still didn't replace him for another year. After departing in 2002, he bounced to the Cubs, then the A's, and finally into a broadcast booth.

The son of longtime major league pitcher Diego Segui, David Segui spent 15 seasons in the majors, although sometimes it seemed as though he were merely around to rack up time on the disabled list (he finished with 516 days, according to the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia). He played in more than 130 games just three times and qualified for a batting title (3.1 plate appearances per team game) just six times. He generally hit for decent batting averages, topping .300 in four of those six seasons, but didn't walk much, and reached 20 homers just once. He never won an award, never sniffed the postseason, and his greatest claim to fame aside from winding up in the Mitchell Report (and actually admitting to using steroids) is a personal one.

The incident has forever become known among my close circle of friends as the David Segui Foul Ball Incident. On May 8, 1999, with the Mariners playing the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, Segui faced Orlando Hernandez, batting left-handed. He fouled off a pitch towards the third-base side of the stadium's upper deck, where my brother, my roommate, and I were sitting in the front row. As I looked up at it spinning against the overcast sky, I judged a fly ball correctly for possibly the first time in my life. "That's yours," I told my roommate, who was on the aisle seat. A soccer player with no baseball experience whatsoever, he lunged at the ball as it arrived in his hands, rather than cradling it. The spinning sphere caromed off his hands and over the railing, and my roommate slumped sheepishly into his seat as a crowd of 41 thousand and change showered him with boos. You don't forget a thing like that.

So, having covered the right side of the infield, the JAWS verdict is a yes on McGwire and Alomar, with the other infielders on deck.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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52 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

dcarroll

My recollection was that Alomar and Hirschbeck reconciled long ago. If so, this might factor into the judgment of those voters who consider this isolated incident as a factor in Alomar's HOF credentials.

Dec 21, 2009 10:19 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Hirschbeck has moved on, but nobody can carry a grudge longer than a sportswriter. Here's one frothing voter who admitted to skipping Alomar over the incident:

"What greater crime could any player commit against the sport? To me, Alomar's was a public assault, a contempt of baseball court, a blast of inconsideration to the viewers, a vile, hateful and unsanitary act. And since it's my ballot, he’s out on strikes."

Yeesh. What greater crime? How about throwing a game, or a World Series? A little perspective, please.

Dec 21, 2009 10:28 AM
 
dcarroll

Good grief!

Dec 21, 2009 10:31 AM
rating: 1
 
cdt719

I wouldn't wipe my ass with the Delco Times. It's easily on my shortlist of the worst newspapers so no surprise their sports page is just as bad.

Dec 24, 2009 05:28 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I think Alomar is a Hall of Famer but the incident is more than just a mere sportswriter's grudge. If kids look up to athletes as role models, then Alomar spitting at an umpire encourages that kind of confrontational behavior from the Little Leagues up to the big leagues. Not only do kids forget to show respect for authority, but also fail to treat others as human beings. Then, the gap is much shorter between "simple spitting" and physical fighting, whether it's rushing a baseball field to attack a player or coach, a barroom brawl over a trivial incident, or a scuffle with authority.

People get all in a tizzy about how athletes using steroids would affect kids, but how athletes other behavior (drinking and driving, domestic violence, beanbrawls, etc.) affect kids? I don't get it.

Dec 29, 2009 05:31 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Addendum to the Segui story, from the guilty party:

"Don't forget that the Yanks ended up losing that game and afterwards some guy came down, sat a few rows behind us and said, 'It all started to go wrong when the kid in the blue jacket dropped that foul ball.'" Double-ouch.

Dec 21, 2009 10:21 AM
 
ElAngelo
(942)

Are David Segui and Mike Jackson the worst players to ever appear on a HOF ballot?

Dec 21, 2009 11:01 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Shawon Dunston and Bobby Witt come to mind as worse players during the time I've been on this beat; both have JAWS scores under 20 in the current set but were helped along by a longevity and durability that Segui lacked. I'm sure there are others out there - Jim Deshaies, who made a joke of his own candidacy, comes to mind - who were worse, too.

Dec 21, 2009 11:25 AM
 
David Coonce

I don't know - Jackson was a good middle reliever for a long time. He had a couple seasons with big save numbers, and his peripherals were always good. He struck out more batters in his career than he allowed hits, kept the ball in the park and had a career ERA+ of 125. He was pretty consistent in a role that pitchers aren't usually consistent in. Certainly no hall-of-famer, but far from the worst player to ever appear on the ballot.

From what I understand, the ballot is made up of anybody who played more than 10 seasons and wasn't a bench player or clearly just an average player. I'm not sure who decides those arbitrary guidelines, but a quick glance at the HOF ballots from the aughts show plenty of guys worse than Jackson. Take, say, 2003: I'd argue that Jackson was more useful than Mitch Williams, Vince Coleman and Mark Davis, who were all on the ballot. Otis Nixon was on the ballot in 2005; Gary Disarcina and Gregg Jefferies were on the ballot in '06.

Dec 21, 2009 13:25 PM
rating: 0
 
David Coonce

Actually, looking at numbers, I think we could safely call Disarcina the worst player to appear on a HOF ballot, at least in the last ten years. He was a regular for only five seasons, had a career OPS+ of 66, and was never a standout defensively (although he wasn't bad). he compiled just 4000 plate appearances, which may just be the record for fewest PA by a player who made the HOF ballot. It does seem odd that a guy like him made the cut, while guys like Kevin Seitzer or Kevin Gross didn't. It seems so arbitrary.

Not that it matters; it's just interesting.

Dec 21, 2009 13:32 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Wow, yes, Disarcina (5.0/9.6/7.3) is in single-digit territory in JAWS. Just brutal.

As for how he ended up on the ballot, anyone who meets the requirements of playing for 10 years (including partial seasons) and retirement for five is eligible to reach the ballot, but beyond that it still takes two of the six people on the BBWAA screening committee to nominate a player to actually appear. Not sure what the payoff was for some of these guys reaching and others not, but it happens - Andy Ashby, Dave Burba, Mark McLemore and Fernando Vina were among those who didn't clear that hurdle to reach this year's ballot.

Dec 21, 2009 14:03 PM
 
David Coonce

Wow. Ashby was my favorite pitcher when he pitched for the Padres. Injuries just really killed him.

In 2007 Bernard Gilkey, Norm Charlton, Kevin Tapani and Ken Hill were left off the ballot, while Scott Brosius and Bobby Witt were on it. It's a crapshoot. Hill and Tapani were better than Witt every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Dec 21, 2009 15:30 PM
rating: 2
 
dianagram

Thanks Jay (and Clay) for continually working to improve this analysis, and for providing an abstract viewpoint to an often-contentious issue.

Dec 21, 2009 11:24 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Thanks, Diana.

Tip of the cap to Bil Burke, who spent hours with me trying to tame this data during an insanely busy stretch, and to Dan Wade for some last-minute help.

Dec 21, 2009 11:26 AM
 
wpitcher3

Jay, any idea how some of the deserving candidates might fare in Veterans' committee elections in the future?

Dec 21, 2009 11:31 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

I've hit the VC ballot in the past and will again in the future, but now's not really the time, as I've got my hands full with this ballot. I will say that I don't think the latest set of WARP numbers does anything to change my contempt for the VC's obstinacy when it comes to Ron Santo and the inexplicable inability of Bobby Grich to even make the ballot. On the other hand, I'm less sure that Dwight Evans and Lou Whitaker belong given what I'm seeing.

Dec 21, 2009 12:21 PM
 
dianagram

I did some research for some SABR friends of mine. Here are the players with most games played with NO ASG appointments:

1b - Eric Karros (1755 games - 1991 to 2004; ROY in 1992)
2b - Jim Gantner (1801 games - 1976 to 1992; never received even 1 MVP vote, or a Gold Glove)
3b - Aurelio Rodriguez (2017 games - 1967 to 1983; GG in 1976)
SS - Greg Gagne (1798 games - 1983 to 1997; never received even 1 MVP vote, or a Gold Glove)
C - Rick Dempsey (1765 games - 1969 to 1992; received 1 HOF vote in 1998; 1983 WS MVP)
LF - Pat Burrell (1428 games - 2000 to 2009; finished 4th in NL ROY in 2000; 7th in NL MVP in 2005)
CF - Bill Bruton (1610 games - 1953 to 1964; finished 4th in NL ROY in 1953; led NL in SB '53,'54,'55)
RF - Al Cowens (1584 games - 1974 to 1986; won GG and finished 2nd in AL MVP in 1977)
DH - Travis Hafner (823 games - 2002 to 2009; finished 5th in AL MVP voting in '05 and 8th in '06)

Pitching
RH - Mike Torrez (458 starts – 1967 to 1984; Top 10 in league wins four different years; finished 16th in AL MVP vote in 1975)
RH - Bob Forsch (422 starts – 1974 to 1989; won Silver Slugger in ’80 and ’87; received 2 HOF votes in 1995)
RH - Tom Candiotti (410 starts – 1983 to 1999; received 2 HOF votes in 2005)
LH - Paul Splittoff (392 starts – 1970 to 1984; won 19 or more games twice)
LH - Charlie Liebrandt (346 starts – 1979 to 1993; finished 5th in AL Cy Young voting in 1985; finished with 15 or more wins four times)
LH - Kirk Rueter (336 starts – 1993 to 2005; career .586 winning percentage)
RP - Mike Timlin (1,054 relief apps – 1991 to 2008; 141 career saves; finished 6th in AL ROY vote in ’91)
RP - Mike Jackson (998 relief apps – 1986 to 2004; 40 saves in 1998 and 39 saves in 1999)
Closer - Gene Garber (922 relief apps – 1969 to 1988; 218 career saves)

Dec 21, 2009 11:37 AM
rating: 3
 
Ira

Here's some of the worst all stars:

Name WARP JAWS AS
Max Alvis: -3.1 -1.2 65,67
Jack Armstrong 0.7 4.7 90
Toby Atwell: -0.5 0.5 52
Beau Bell: -1.1 1.3 37


and others.
This would be alot easier with a decent all time database which included WARP.

Dec 22, 2009 08:36 AM
rating: 0
 
wonkothesane1

Alomar never played in Brown and Yellow. Even your own link shows that he played in Brown and Orange.

Dec 21, 2009 12:02 PM
rating: -1
 
dianagram

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Diego_Padres#Logos_and_colors

Dec 21, 2009 12:07 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

An assertion from the original Alomar piece from 2005 which went unchallenged and thus unchecked. Apologies to those who hoped to find pictures of Alomar looking like an escaped fry cook from a third-rate burger joint.

Dec 21, 2009 12:26 PM
 
J Scott

Not exactly sure what the Alomar portion of this piece is trying to say. It seems like, because Alomar has credentials which place him in the average range of previous inductees at his position, it's some sort of injustice if he doesn't get in the first time around? Is that it? Did the other guys in that average range make it their first time around? Their third? Fifth? Seventh? What's so special about Alomar that he has to get in right away? Don't see it.

Dec 21, 2009 12:33 PM
rating: -3
 
Aaron/YYZ

I believe Jay is from the "He's either worthy or he's not" school of thought in that there's no reason to avoid voting for a worthy player simply because it is his first time on the ballot.

Dec 22, 2009 11:02 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Exactly. I have little patience for the petty politics that surround the first-ballot distinction. Alomar is over the line at the position where the bar is the highest.

Dec 22, 2009 11:14 AM
 
DavidHNix

Why do you set your "Hallworthiness" standard at average of existing Hall members -- do you really think that HALF the guys in the Hall of Fame don't belong there? Certainly the writers and the old vets' committee made some mistakes in admissions, but I think realistically it's more like 20 or 25% than 50%. Where would a 20th percentile standard set your lines?

Dec 21, 2009 12:38 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

As noted atop the piece, the stated goal of JAWS is to raise the standards of the Hall of Fame and avoid further diluting the quality of the institution's membership.

Nowhere have I ever said that I think half the players in the Hall don't belong there, just that I don't think a lower-common-denominator qualification properly advances any appreciation of the game's true greats. A 20th percentile bar would open the floodgates to dozens of statistically similar candidates, rendering election to Cooperstown a meaningless honor.

Just to illustrate with one positional example, take the left fielders. If there are 20 of them in the Hall, the 20th percentile means being better than the fourth-worst, in this case Lou Brock (37.2/27.0/32.1); Jim Rice is even below him. The list of eligible left fielders not in the Hall who best Brock's score:

Tim Raines
Albert Belle
Jose Cruz Sr.
George Foster
Jimmy Sheckard
Charlie Keller
Bob Johnson
Sherry Magee
Bobby Veach
Roy White
Augie Galan
Kevin Mitchell
Minnie Minoso
George Burns
Harry Stovey
Brian Downing
Elmer Smith
Kirk Gibson
Jeff Heath
Sid Gordon
Frank Howard
Rico Carty

For every one of those low guys that's in there are five who are qualified and score higher. Even at a 40th percentile bar you're down at Veach, with double the number of qualfied guys who score higher. And that's without considering the fact Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Luis Gonzalez, Lance Berkman and Moises Alou aren't yet Hall-eligible, yet would rank somewhere in here, too. The museum would need to add another wing to accomodate all of those plaques.

Dec 21, 2009 13:30 PM
 
mentalmeat

Correction: Alomar's line states that he had 1508 H, whereas that is his R total; he had 2724 H.

Dec 21, 2009 12:42 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Whoops, yes. Intern transcription error unchecked by bleary-eyed writer.

Dec 21, 2009 14:10 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

So the average HoF 2B has a higher career WARP, higher peak WARP and higher JAWS than an average HoF 1B, or in fact, any other position?

That doesn't quite smell right.

Dec 21, 2009 14:01 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

That has actually been an enduring oddity of JAWS for years, because four players (Collins, Lajoie, Hornsby and Morgan) tower over the rest of the field by a good 30 JAWS points. There's some top heaviness at every position except catcher, where the progression is smoother.

Dec 21, 2009 14:09 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Even so, 1B has the worst HoF offensive performance by WARP/JAWS than any other pitcher besides catcher and left field... left field? Isn't that also considered one of the offensive positions?

I obviously don't know the mechanics of WARP and JAWS, but it doesn't really add up.

Dec 21, 2009 16:56 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Your first mistake is to assume that the Hall of Famers at a given position are a representative sample of the the player pool, which they aren't. Second, you're conflating JAWS scores with offensive value, when they also include defense. I suspect where you're getting tripped up is the fact that first basemen and left fielders don't have much defensive value, so their WARP scores aren't as high as you'd expect.

From a purely hitting standpoint, HOF first basemen have the highest average EqA of any position. The two outfield corners are close, though center field is actually closer due to more top-heavy representation. Note that there's a 20-point spread between the infield corners and the middlemen, and a 15-point one between the infield and outfield corners compared to the up-the-middle positions. That's generally what you'd expect.

Dec 21, 2009 17:22 PM
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

It actually makes some sense for a typical HOF first baseman and left fielder to have an average WARP/JAWS lower than the average HOFer over all. For it to make sense you have to assume that Hall of Fame voters tend to focus on voting based upon offense rather than a player's total value of offense/defense/position. (And for that matter, tend to conflate the ability to hit for power with total offensive value.)

Now, I'm not saying that's necessarily so - I haven't done any research here. But I'm having a hard time coming up with the Jim Rice of shortstops or second basemen, at least without having to turn to guys the VC inducted. So I think it's an idea worth considering.

Dec 21, 2009 17:46 PM
 
Ira

Rabbit Maranville? Phil Rizzuto? Luis Aparicio? Not sure what you are looking at. These guys (like Ozzie, and Red, and Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers) were at least great defensively.....

Dec 22, 2009 08:49 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

Rizzuto was certainly a questionable selection, but he was inducted by the VC. The other two are probably good examples.

I finally remembered what I was thinking of - Patriot did an analysis of HOFers by position and got similar results a few years. So I don't think it's an issue with how WARP/JAWS is calculated, but with the behavior of Hall of Fame voters.

Dec 22, 2009 09:12 AM
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Maranville is the low SS in JAWS among HOFers, the one who gets dropped when the position standard is calculated. Luis Aparicio is the next lowest, then Joe Tinker and Phil Rizzuto. Ironically, both Maranville and Aparicio were elected by the BBWAA, not the VC.

Dec 22, 2009 10:19 AM
 
David Coonce

Maranville is an interesting player, because his numbers, offensively seem so subpar now. But he was probably the most popular player of his era, by all accounts was greatly beloved by the fans and writers, was considered a tremendous defensive player (the dead-ball era skews defensive numbers so much that it's nearly impossible to determine if this was true, imo - he handled far more chances and made many more errors than any current shortstop would). He finished in the top-15 in MVP voting 7 times, and had a long career. In his final season he started, at age 41, at second base for a decent Boston Braves team and finished 12th in MVP voting after posting a 218/274/266 batting line. Obviously the writers of the time gave him an extraordinary amount of credit for things which are not statistically apparent 76 years later.

In "The Politics of Glory" Bill James devotes several pages to Maranville and also points out that he died shortly before the voting in 1954. It's certainly possible, lacking references and film, that the writers remembered him as better than he was, but it's also clear from the voting that he was probably going to get in, death or not.

Dec 22, 2009 12:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Here's a silly question though. Shouldn't prospective Hall of Famers be compared with all players who played a position and not just current Hall of Famers? For example, should a Fred McGriff be compared to just the likes of Lou Gehrig, or to all historical first baseman? Or, in other words, what is the WARP/JAWS of an average first baseman in baseball's history? How does McGriff's JAWS compare? Is he among the top 10 percent of 1B of all time?

Dec 22, 2009 17:05 PM
rating: 0
 
baserip4

Holy cow, .280/.331/.511 with 31 homers comes in below replacement? Sure an .824 OPS isn't the greatest line in the world, but wow, I had forgotten just how good hitters park pre-humidor Coors Field was.

Dec 21, 2009 14:22 PM
rating: 0
 
dkeenan80

Obviously it was in the dead ball era but Sam Crawford did lead the NL in home runs in 1901 and the AL in 1908 (with only 7!).

Dec 21, 2009 14:57 PM
rating: 0
 
JohnnyB

Sportswriters do carry a grudge, but I'm ok with holding alomar out for a few years as a result. What he did was completely out of bounds and I'm glad he apologized, but apologies only go so far -- he never should have done it and I think it goes to the character issue.

Dec 21, 2009 17:16 PM
rating: -2
 
David Coonce

So do you feel the same about Ty Cobb, who ran into the stands and beat the hell out of a guy who had no hands? How about Burleigh Grimes? They were both first ballot Hall-of-Famers. Should they have had to wait? How about Tom yawkey, who resisted integration as long as possible and was, by all accounts, a seething racist? Should those guys be in the HOF? Where do you draw the line, "morally." What defines, for you, the "character issue"?

Frankly, Tom Yawkey's release of Reggie Smith - for being black - is more morally reprehensible than anything Robby Alomar did on the field.

Dec 21, 2009 18:07 PM
rating: 3
 
sgshaw

I'm no Tom Yawkey fan, but the Red Sox never released Reggie Smith. He was traded for Bernie Carbo and Rick Wise in 1973.

Dec 21, 2009 18:58 PM
rating: 0
 
David Coonce

Sorry. that's what I meant to write. The trade was racially motivated, by all accounts.

Dec 22, 2009 02:45 AM
rating: 0
 
Bill N

Maybe those people should have been judged, but we can't really do anything about that can we?

I'm not sure how you measure these incidents either, but I don't think you can dismiss it out of hand. Alomar's behavior demonstrated incredibly poor sportsmanship and his comments were tasteless.

Dec 22, 2009 11:57 AM
rating: -2
 
BurrRutledge

The interesting thing here is that if 96% of the voters feel that he might be worthy, except "not this year," then there won't be a next year.

Dec 22, 2009 06:43 AM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

Alomar should be in the Hall but, IMO, should also not be a first-ballot electee because of the spitting. I'm sorry to all the phlegm apologists we seem to have here, but that was pathetic.

Dec 21, 2009 17:25 PM
rating: -1
 
lunatic96

In 5 years almost nobody will remember if Alomar got in on his first or second ballot. The distinction is practically meaningless, and is a pretty dumb way to measure how HoF worthy someone is.

Dec 21, 2009 21:55 PM
rating: 3
 
smallflowers

test

Dec 21, 2009 18:00 PM
rating: -2
 
Dr. Dave

Jay, the 'peak' standard for 1B is different between the table at the top of the article and the section later on. Is that a typo due to copying a pre-revision table, or is there something subtle going on that I'm missing?

Dec 21, 2009 19:06 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Crap. I had to re-calculate the positional standards mid-stream and was moving too fast to check myself further down. The one in the top table (542 RARP, 287 RAP, -12 FRAA, 64.0 Career, 43.0 peak, 53.5 JAWS) is the correct one, the one listed with the first basemen is wrong. It doesn't change anyone's status relative to the standards, but I apologize for the confusion.

Dec 21, 2009 20:42 PM
 
smocon

What is the JAWS score for Dale Murhpy, and any chance that it will be added as a column to the DT Cards?

If I take his peak x 2 that gives 84.8 plus his 46 WARP divided by 2 equals 65.4. Must be doing some math poorly here, or misunderstanding.

Personally I think that Murphys peak is as good as any HOFer, but the end of his career really hurts. Any thoughts on Murphy and why he hasnt gotten much love from the BBWAA, especially since he was always percieved as a nice guy (e.g. Puckett).

Dec 22, 2009 14:00 PM
rating: 0
 
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