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January 13, 2010

Prospectus Hit and Run

10 Men Out

by Jay Jaffe

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One of the great things about having an intelligent and inquisitive readership here at Baseball Prospectus is that interacting with our readers often yields strong ideas for articles. Case in point: during last week's chat in which I discussed JAWS and the Hall of Fame voting results, loyal reader and long-suffering Orioles fan TGisriel lobbed an article idea right into my wheelhouse:

Do you have any thoughts on who would be on a team of the best players who both have not been voted into the HoF, and who are no longer eligible to be voted on by the writers?

Ask and ye shall receive, though for the purposes of this piece I'm simply going to stick to the best players not in the Hall of Fame, regardless of their eligibility status as it relates to the writers. That's out of a bit of reverence for Bill James' Keltner Test, which includes the question, "Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?"

At each position, I'll note the JAWS standards, which have been updated to include the recently-elected Andre Dawson, whose election lowered the center field standard by 0.2 points and the overall standard by 0.1 point, in case you were wondering; a rounding error, basically. The numbers for starting pitchers also include the restoration of Clark Griffith's statistics to the pool; in assembling this article, I discovered that I had inadvertently excluded him from this year's tally. He's not far off the average Hall pitcher, but the standard is slightly lower than previously reported.

Catcher

JAWS Standard (Career/Peak/JAWS): 60.6/41.0/50.8

Best eligible player: Joe Torre (61.8/40/50.9)

With nine All-Star appearances and the 1971 NL MVP, Torre was no slouch as a player; he racked up 252 homers and 2,342 hits before retiring to manage the Mets at age 36. He played "only" 898 games at catcher, in addition to 793 at first base and 515 at third base, and while his hitting (.298 EqA, 578 RARP, 322 RAP) is above the standard at all three spots, his fielding (-18 FRAA) falls short. Torre's been up for election via the Veterans Committee a few times, but because he's still active as a manager, his considerable accomplishments in that area-2,246 wins (fifth all time), 13 division titles, six pennants and four World Championships-can't be considered as part of his resume. He's overqualified on that front, and will be in Cooperstown soon enough.

Runner up: Ted Simmons (53.5/37.8/45.7)

Simmons was an above-average hitter (.298/.366/.459) and an adequate backstop during his 11 seasons and change with the Cardinals, but proceeded to hit just .260/.310/.395 over his final eight years after being traded to the Brewers at age 31.

First Base

JAWS Standard: 64.0/43.0/53.5

Best eligible player: Mark McGwire (71.6/48.7/60.2)

How's that for timing? If you could take McGwire's accomplishments at face value, they'd be enough to make him worthy of Cooperstown, but particularly this week, it's easier to find a baseball fan willing to believe in the Easter Bunny than it is to find anyone besides Big Mac willing to take his numbers at face value. The man's confession to having used steroids appears not to have changed many minds about his fitness for the Hall of Fame; after publicly pressuring McGwire to confess, some of the biggest names in the BBWAA flat-out declared they wouldn't vote for him now that he'd done so. McGwire received just 23.7 percent of the vote during his fourth year on the ballot, less than one-third of what he needs to gain entry. Perhaps his ultimate Hall of Fame fate is best left to the Veterans Committee, which by the time his case comes up for review will likely include players from this era with much more perspective than the writers, who, let us not forget, initially jumped all over the reporter who broke the story of McGwire's androstenedione usage during the 1998 home run race.

Runner-up: Dick Allen (64.9/50.2/57.6)

Allen was the Gary Sheffield of his day, a tremendous hitter who could not escape controversies which led to him being run out of town on a rail more than once. The dude could hit; his .327 EqA is in a virtual tie with Johnny Mize, Frank Thomas and McGwire for 12th among batters with at least 7,000 career plate appearances, and his 454 Runs Above Position ranks 33rd all-time. Since the last VC go-round our assessment of his fielding has improved from -115 runs to a still-lousy -70, enough to move him from a borderline candidate to a solid one despite a career which saw him garner just 1,020 at-bats after his age-32 season.

Second Base

JAWS Standard: 76.8/50.1/63.5

Best eligible player: Roberto Alomar (79.4/49.8/64.6)

The overwhelmingly qualified Alomar just missed gaining election last week by a total of eight votes, likely owing to a certain subset of voters for whom the infamous spitting incident was enough to prevent entry on the first ballot.

Runner up: Bobby Grich (78.5/50.0/64.3)

One of the greater injustices in Hall history is the fact that Grich received just 2.6 percent of the vote in his ballot debut in 1992, not enough to remain eligible (five percent of the vote is necessary), and he has yet to appear on a Veterans Committee ballot. A six-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover who played on five division-winning teams in Baltimore and Anaheim, he combined good pop (he led the AL in homers and slugging in the strike-shortened 1981 season), excellent plate discipline and outstanding defense; his 119 FRAA dwarfs Alomar's 30. High walk totals and injuries, which cost him about a season's worth of playing time and forced his retirement after his age-37 season, kept him from reaching 2,000 hits (he had 1,833), a line below which no player from the expansion era (1961 onward) has gained election from the BBWAA.

Shortstop

JAWS Standard: 70.0/47.9/59.0

Best eligible player: Barry Larkin (86.2/53.6/69.9)

Runner up: Alan Trammell (78.1/52.8/65.5)

Both Larkin and Trammell were on this year's ballot, and both are well above the JAWS standard. But despite rather comparable cases, their treatment at the hands of the voters has been surprisingly divergent. Larkin received 51.6 percent in his ballot debut, a strong sign that he'll gain entry eventually. Trammell, on the other hand, received just 22.4 percent in his ninth year on the ballot, and while that represents a five-percent climb over last year and a personal high-water mark, nobody with this low a vote percentage this late in the game has ever gained election from the writers.

Third Base

JAWS Standard: 71.8/47.1/59.5

Best eligible player: Ron Santo (67.7/57.1/62.4)

A nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner who placed in the top 10 in MVP voting four times, Santo had power (342 home runs), plate discipline (he led the league in walks four times in a five-year span), and defense (52 FRAA). The only thing he lacked was a pennant, but then so did teammates Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins, all of whom gained election via the BBWAA. Meanwhile, Santo has gotten a raw deal from Hall of Fame voters at every turn. In his first year of eligibility (1980), he received just 3.9 percent, not enough to stay on the ballot. Five years later, he was among a handful of players whose eligibility was restored by a review committee following widespread complaints about overlooked candidates. Allen, Curt Flood, Harvey Haddix, Denny McLain, and Vada Pinson were among the others who received second chances, though nearly all fell off the ballot soon enough. Santo stuck around, but he didn't even clear 40 percent of the vote until his 15th and final year on the ballot. Since then, he's fallen short in four VC votes as well, most recently receiving 60.9 percent in the 2009 VC balloting. Circa 2005, JAWS saw him as the best eligible hitter not in the Hall, and while the rising replacement level has changed that, he's still a strong enough candidate to be worthy of admission.

Runner up: Edgar Martinez (68.9/46.4/57.7)

Though he actually saw more time at designated hitter than at third base, Martinez did accrue enough value at the hot corner to lift his overall WARP score into the realm of consideration for the Hall, and that's before allowing for the late start he got to his major league career. An incredible hitter who ranks 19th all-time in OBP (.418) and 30th in EqA (.317, 5,000 plate appearance minimum for both), he falls a few points short relative to the third base standard, but surpasses the corner infield (66.9/44.6/55.7) and at-large hitter (69.4/45.4/57.4) standards, useful aggregations for considering DHs.

Left Field

JAWS Standard: 65.3/42.1/53.7

Best eligible player: Tim Raines (81.7/51.4/66.6)

No huge surprise here for a player I've examined in-depth multiple times. An on-base machine who was the most valuable player in the National League over a five-year span (1983-87) and one of the top percentage base stealers of all time, Raines had the misfortune of being the game's second-greatest leadoff hitter at a time when the No. 1 guy, Rickey Henderson, was a direct contemporary. He didn't collect 3,000 hits, but his walks and stolen bases made up for it. His .306 EqA is just a point behind that of Tony Gwynn, and he fares better on the JAWS scale. Raines couldn't even net 25 percent of the vote in his first two years on the ballot, but he received 30.4 percent in the most-recent go round, an eight percent bump, which at the very least, puts him ahead of Bruce Sutter, Duke Snider and Luis Aparicio in terms of players who made the Hall of Fame after slow starts to their candidacy. So there's still hope.

Runner up: Albert Belle (53.3/48.2/50.8)

Belle flat-out terrorized AL pitchers (and just about everybody else) for a decade before a degenerative hip condition forced his retirement at the age of 33. Even in an era of inflated offensive totals, his numbers are staggering; from 1994-98, he slugged .600 or better four times, going as high as .714 in the strike-abbreviated 1994 season (future teammate Frank Thomas led the league at .729). The following year, in a 144-game schedule, he walloped 50 homers, just the third player since George Foster and Cecil Fielder to reach that mark since Willie Mays in 1965 (it's been done 22 times since then), and became the first hitter ever to pair those 50 homers with 50 doubles. Belle's peak is worth nearly one win per year more than the average Hall of Fame left fielder, a strong enough showing that one can shape a solid argument for his candidacy, no matter what a jerk he was.

Dishonorable mention: Pete Rose (88.7/46.7/67.7)

Rose isn't actually eligible for the Hall due to his lifetime suspension for betting on baseball, but it is nonetheless interesting to note where he fits in JAWS-wise, particularly for those too young to remember anything but the weak-hitting first baseman who stuck around into his mid-40s in pursuit of Ty Cobb's all-time hit record. Rose did play more games at first (939) than in left field (673) or any other position, but when you consider that he also played another 590 games in right field and spent most of his prime (1967-74) at one corner outfield position or the other, this is where he belongs for comparative purposes. An excellent table-setter, Rose added 1,566 career walks (against just 1,143 strikeouts) to his record 4,256 hits, good for a lifetime OBP of .375. He was an above-average outfielder as well (Rate2s of 107 and 104 in left and right, respectively). All the more pity that he can't actually gain election.

Center Field

JAWS Standard: 68.3/44.0/56.1

Best eligible player: George Gore (62.5/44.6/53.6)

Who? "Piano Legs" Gore was a hard-drinking, skirt-chasing character with massive calves. He played center field for Cap Anson's Chicago White Stockings from 1879-86, a span during which he was a key part of five pennant winners, then went on to play for two more pennant-winning Giants clubs. He led the league in walks three times during an era where one needed six to nine balls for a free pass, and was consistently among the league's OBP leaders, hence his strong WARP totals, though they still leave him shy of the JAWS standard in center field. I don't know if the Veterans Committee ever seriously took up his case, but Lord knows there are far less-accomplished VC-anointed outfielders in the Hall of Fame. His JAWS numbers crush those of Hugh Duffy, Max Carey, Earl Averill, Hack Wilson, Edd Roush, Earle Combs, and Lloyd Waner, all VC selections.

Runner up: Jimmy Wynn (57.1/47.6/52.4)

The Toy Cannon spent the first 11 years of his career playing in the Astrodome, a godforsaken hitting environment if there ever was one. Properly adjusted for context, he was a helluva hitter, topping a .300 EqA six times during that span, with a high of .348 in 1969. He had two more outstanding years with the Dodgers in 1974 and 1975 before injuries washed him out of the majors at age 35. In the New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James ranks Wynn 10th all-time among center fielders, and likens him to former teammate Joe Morgan, another small, strong, speedy guy with outstanding control of the strike zone and good defense.

Right Field

JAWS Standard: 75.7/46.6/61.2

Best eligible player: Dwight Evans (59.5/37.7/48.6)

Evans spent parts of 19 seasons in the Red Sox outfield (1972-90), during the prime of which he was overshadowed by Jim Rice and Fred Lynn. He wasn't entirely overlooked, however, cracking the AL top five in the MVP voting twice (1984 and 1987) and winning eight Gold Gloves in a 10-year span (1976-85). Like many other players here, he was undervalued in his day because a large part of his offensive contribution came via walks. He topped 100 three times and ranked in the league's top three six times in a nine-year span. He lasted just three years on the BBWAA ballot, though, and his numbers, which were once above the JAWS standard, now come up short. They're still ahead of Rice's (34.2/28.5/31.4) by more than one win per year at their peaks.

Runner up: Bobby Bonds (55.2/41.8/48.5)

Barry's father was a pretty fair player in his day, best known for reaching the 30/30 club (homers and stolen bases) five times, an all-time record shared by father and son. A natural center fielder who got stuck in right field by the Giants because he had the misfortune of arriving when Willie Mays was still a going concern, Bonds seemed to spend much of his career under a cloud of bad luck. He and Reggie Jackson were almost exactly the same age and debuted one year apart. Both had power, considerable speed and a ton of strikeouts, and the two players finished with similar career rate stats (.268/.353/.471/.296 EqA for Bonds to .262/.356/.490/.300 for Jackson), Yet one was a superduperstar who won an MVP award and five World Series rings, and stuck around into his 40s. The other never finished higher than third in an MVP vote, played just three postseason games, left the majors at 35, and died young.

Designated Hitter

With no JAWS standard extant for designated hitters, I'm still of the mind that because the relevant DH-identified players who have reached the ballot actually spent good portions of their careers at other positions, they're best considered in the context of those positions, as well as measured against the average Hall hitter. That goes double for this piece, since beyond the aforementioned Edgar Martinez, it's really not much of a discussion when it comes to the best eligible DH outside the Hall. Jose Canseco (47.1/33.8/40.5), Harold Baines (48.4/28.3/38.4) and Brian Downing (46.2/27.0/36.6) lead a bad lot (Don Baylor and Hal McRae are in the high 20s), with nowhere near the resumes to merit further discussion here.

Starting Pitcher

JAWS Standard: 70.5/47.7/59.1

Best eligible player: Bert Blyleven (92.4/49.3/70.9)

I've already said plenty on his behalf, but there's always more to say. Blyleven now ranks as the single best eligible player outside the Hall of Fame, a distinction that may finally be put to rest next year after he missed election to Cooperstown by just five votes. A man in the wrong place at the wrong time, Blyleven pitched for some mediocre teams in his youth, taking a lot of losses at a time when wins and losses were the primary yardstick by which pitchers were measured. As such, he generally wasn't thought of as an elite pitcher, and it showed when it came to All-Star appearances and Cy Young voting. Today we know that it's more important to judge pitchers by the runs they prevent rather than those their offense scores for them, and that it's important to judge pitchers by the load they carry relative to their defense, because those are the qualities that persist from year to year, i.e., skills rather than chance. A strikeout machine, Blyleven reeled off nine straight years among the league's top five in K rate, and 12 straight years in the league's top 10 (1970-81). In that span, only Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver struck out more hitters, and only Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver posted a better ERA relative to the park-adjusted league average.

Runner up: Rick Reuschel (72.5/44.7/58.6)

One of the JAWS system's bigger surprises of recent years is that Reuschel edged ahead of Blyleven in last year's "bleeding edge" data set. A frontline starter with the Cubs for nearly a decade, he was surrounded by mediocrity, and went just 135-127 for the team while posting an ERA 13 percent better than the park-adjusted league average. After leaving Chicago via a trade to the Yankees (whom he helped to the World Series), "Big Daddy" went on to become a rotation stalwart for Pittsburgh and San Francisco. He's a pitcher whose JAWS case feels overstated, particularly relative to his middling strikeout rates, but he had several strong seasons which boost his standing.

Relief Pitcher

HOF Standard (Career/Peak/JAWS/RAJAWS): 35.2/44.5/43.0/66.0

Best eligible player: Lee Smith (32.2/40.0/46.7/63.3)

RAJAWS (for Reliever-Adjusted JAWS) incorporates a reliever's WXRL (JAWS +0.5 x WXRL) for the purposes of measuring Hallworthiness. Smith consistently ranked among the best closers of his day, but the inductions of Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage, all of which have taken place during his time on the ballot, have pushed him below the evolving standard. Smith's support from the BBWAA hasn't moved substantially since his initial 42.3 percent, the highest debut percentage of any non-elected player to date. He received a personal-best 47.3 percent in the most recent vote, his eighth year on the ballot, just a whisker below what Sutter received on his own eighth (47.6 percent), so perhaps he'll get his day.

Runner up: Doug Jones (37.0/32.9/35.0/51.3)

While there are a host of active or not-yet-eligible relievers who can give Smith (not to mention the already-elected relievers) a run for his money, it's Jones who's the closest to the Hall among the remaining eligibles, though he's not really very close at all. Look up "well-traveled reliever" in a reputable dictionary and you'll see his picture, suitcase in hand, requisite bushy mustache atop his lip and a boarding pass to the next stop, two towns down the line, tucked under his arm. Over the course of 19 years, Jones pitched for nine teams and alternated good years and bad ones as though he'd left some essential part of his slow-slower-slowest repertoire at the previous stop.

Measured strictly relative to the JAWS standard at their position, 10 players here-Torre, McGwire, Allen, Alomar, Grich, Larkin, Trammell, Santo, Raines, and Blyleven-are worthy of the Hall of Fame but not in. One can make high peak/short career arguments for Belle, Gore, and Wynn as well, if so inclined. Six of those 10 players are still on the BBWAA ballot, with three of them in pretty good shape to gain admission and the other three facing uphill battles of various steepness. As for the other four, their fates rest in the hands of a VC that's been reconstituted more often than Minute Maid orange juice without quenching the thirsts of those of us who'd like to see justice done at the Hall of Fame level. Torre is a lock once he retires from managing, but the rest might as well engage in a footrace to Cooperstown with Raines, McGwire and Trammell.

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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

steve.k

I've always wondered why Allie Reynolds and/or Vic Raschi are not in this conversation.

Jan 13, 2010 09:49 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Raschi (17.2/17.2/17.2 - really) and Reynolds (22.7/20.6/21.7) have nowhere near the standing in terms of WARP to climb into the discussion. Short careers - Raschi barely meets the 10-season qualification for Hall eligibility - with strong winning percentages and nice postseason accomplishments but ERAs not far off from league average. Between the two of them they have one season which grades out above 4.0 WARP, Reynolds' 1952. By comparison the HOF SP standard includes an average of 6.8 WARP per year for peak.

Jan 13, 2010 10:43 AM
 
BillJohnson

Comparing Bonds _pere_ to Jackson is something of a reach, precisely because Bonds did crater early while Jackson kept going. If Bobby had stuck around for a decline phase even half as long as Reggie's, his career numbers wouldn't look nearly so good, and wouldn't leave him in serious contention for the Hall.

This provokes a question that I have not seen debated here (although there's every chance that it has been and I missed it). Which is the more Hall-worthy behavior in the eyes of the voters: to hang 'em up (voluntarily or otherwise) before you start a decline phase that risks making your career rate stats ugly, or stick around for the farewell tour and boost your counting stats, possibly at the expense of the rate ones?

Jan 13, 2010 09:57 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

You've missed my point on Jackson and Bonds. Today the Jackson/Bonds comparison looks less than obvious, but the two spent a fair amount of time in each other's orbit up during the Oakland/SF phase of their careers. Consider these 1968-1975 numbers, which run up until Jackson's departure from the A's and Bonds' first injury - their age 22-29 seasons:

Reggie: .268/.362/.509, 253 HR (3rd in span), 142 SB, 1083 K (2nd)

Bonds: .273/.358/.482. 218 HR (8th), 293 SB, 1153 K (1st)

It's not a direct match, but it's hardly an off-base one up to that point. With better luck (and better care of himself, perhaps), Bonds' decline wouldn't have come so early and he would have finished with numbers that could stand with Jackson's.

As for your second comment, read the Grich comment above. Guys who don't at least stick around to reach 2000 hits have had no chance with the writers in the expansion era, Kirby Puckett got there and is in Cooperstown. Jim Edmonds didn't and thus likely won't be.

Jan 13, 2010 10:21 AM
 
Ira

I was wracking my brain looking at the raw stats of Bonds and Reggie and they looked so similar in the early 70's. In particular I looked at 1973, when Reggie hit .293/.383/.531 and won the MVP, and Bonds hit .283/.370/.530 and didn't and tried to figure out why Reggie's EQA was .331 and Bonds' was .314 when it hit me:

Candlestick played as a hitters park in the 70's. We're used to it as a pitchers park. Oakland was still a pitchers park back then, which made the difference in context. (not that the MVP voters cared. likely the difference was the division title for the A's vs a 3rd place finish for the Giants).

Jan 13, 2010 14:45 PM
rating: 2
 
BillJohnson

Oh, I get your point with Bonds and Jackson, and I don't really disagree with you; they were remarkably similar players for their first seven or eight years (and appear on each other's comparables lists). My point, rather, is exactly what you said in the comment: their CAREERS weren't all that similar, because of Bonds' early flameout -- a thing that doesn't play well with voters, at least until you get to the veterans' committees.

Grich isn't really relevant to the decline-phase question, because he did experience a definite decline phase, hanging around until he was 37, which by middle infielder standards is no spring chicken. Few second basemen in the Hall lasted much longer than that, at least not _as_ second basemen. His failure to crack the 2000-hit barrier was partly because of all his walks (which we agree are underappreciated by the voters) but also because he wasn't very durable, only exceeding 150 games in three of his 15 full seasons -- something often overlooked by his advocates for the Hall, of whom, make no mistake, I am one.

Thanks for mentioning Edmonds here. His candidacy is one that I'm going to be following with particular interest. How does he stack up to Gore and Wynn?

Jan 13, 2010 19:19 PM
rating: 1
 
Patrick Ferrington

Why is Alomar "overwhelmingly qualified"? Not that I don't think he's qualified but:
JAWS Standard: 76.8/50.1/63.5
Best eligible player: Roberto Alomar (79.4/49.8/64.6)

Your own Jaws show him as Clearing, not clearing, and barely clearing the averages for his position. While At SS:

JAWS Standard: 70.0/47.9/59.0
Best eligible player: Barry Larkin (86.2/53.6/69.9)
Runner up: Alan Trammell (78.1/52.8/65.5)

Larkin and Trammell both clear all categories by a comparitively huge margin and are only rated "Well Above"

I know you consider more than JAWS but what makes Alomar "Overwhelming" by just clearing the bar when the other 2 are (Well Above) when they EASILY clear the bar?

Jan 13, 2010 10:10 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Yeesh. Clearly you've given more thought to the word choice than I did.

When I say overqualified for the Hall of Fame I mean not only does he have the JAWS qualifications but the more traditional ones - he was recognized in his time as a guy who was en route, via awards, postseason accomplishments, records. Larkin and Trammell both fit that bill as well.

Jan 13, 2010 10:26 AM
 
Ira

Maybe I've been under a rock, but the first thing I thought of when I saw the MVP voting results was that Alomar was just spitting distance from enshrinement.

Yes, I'm going to hell for that comment.

Jan 13, 2010 14:47 PM
rating: 4
 
ccseverson

Anyone else have 2 MVP awards and not in the Hall - I'm thinking of Dale Murphy?

Jan 13, 2010 10:13 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Roger Maris, for one. Juan Gonzalez will fit the bill next year.

Jan 13, 2010 10:32 AM
 
David Coonce

Minor point of contention - but before 1931 no player could win an MVP twice - previous winners were disqualified (for some reason?) Not sure if this would add any players to the list of 2-time MVP/HOF lockouts, but it's possible.

Jan 13, 2010 11:16 AM
rating: 1
 
dcarroll

Although Bobby Bonds never did well in MVP voting, he deserved better especially in 1973. This was the year when he finished a distant third to Pete Rose with an OPS that was not only higher than Rose but also highly similar to the superduperstar who (justifiably) won the AL MVP that year. Bonds also fell one HR short of a 40-40 that year, but the Giants weren't that hot, the Reds were, and nobody paid any attention to OPS.

Jan 13, 2010 10:14 AM
rating: 0
 
Brian24

At some point it would be interesting to see this list done just with players who are no longer eligible for the BBWAA vote. Much as I respect the cases of Raines, Blyleven, etc., Jay, those of us who religiously follow your articles (or those of any other writer who takes on the Hall) have heard an awful lot about them. It would be so much more interesting to see a "best of the guys who never made it" list.

Jan 13, 2010 10:18 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Thanks, I think? One of the reasons I went two deep at every position (and three in LF) was to bring more guys into the discussion than simply the current guys on the ballot. I guess you can't please all of the people all of the time, though.

Jan 13, 2010 10:36 AM
 
Peter7899

Well, to be fair to Brian, TGrisiel's question was the best team that has not been voted into the HoF AND who are no longer eligile to be voted on by the writers. Many of the players you picked are still eligible, and probably will be eventually voted in by the writers.

Jan 13, 2010 11:07 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Yes, and I already explained why I chose a slightly different tack.

I'm delighted to know there is interest in the next layer of candidates, and sure, someday I'll write up (spoiler alert) Brett Butler and Frank Tanana and Groh to fill that void. But as a practical matter, none of those guys has an ice cube's chance in hell of making the Hall given the current VC's stalemmate, and making the Hall remains what interests me the most about this line of thinking.

Jan 13, 2010 11:37 AM
 
TGisriel

As the person who posed the original question, I think that Jay's reformation of the question made for a more interesting article. Certainly I received a more thorough response to the question than I anticipated when I posed it during the chat.

Jan 13, 2010 13:45 PM
rating: 3
 
echalek
(195)

How does Darrell Evans fare at 3B?

Jan 13, 2010 11:01 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Evans' JAWS (63.4/41.6/52.5) ranks behind those of Santo, Martinez, Robin Ventura (who just fell off the ballot) in a tightly-clustered band which includes Heinie Groh, Ron Cey, Stan Hack, himself and Ken Boyer, all within 3.0 JAWS points of each other. Of that quintet he's got the lowest peak and highest career WARP totals.

Jan 13, 2010 11:33 AM
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Yes, setting Edgar to the side as a "not really" third baseman, I'm also curious about where Evans and Graig Nettles come in.

Jan 13, 2010 11:33 AM
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Nettles is a fair distance further down (50.8/35.9/43.4), looking up at the likes of Matt Williams, Bobby Bonilla, Bob Elliot, Ken Caminiti, John McGraw, Buddy Bell and Tim Wallach. Hitting-wise he's just 7 runs above position for his career, and as acclaimed as his defense was (and at 122 FRAA, deservedly so), he falls behind half a dozen of the aforementioned guys, with Ventura, Wallach and Bell the best among them.

Jan 13, 2010 11:41 AM
 
TGisriel

Your discussion of historical FRAA suggets another article: the best fielders at the various positions, as measured by the various defensive metrics currently available (and which can be applied retroactively)

Jan 13, 2010 13:48 PM
rating: 1
 
David Coonce

I just wonder how you can apply certain defensive metrics retroactively, what with the lack of available data regarding balls in play, fielder positioning, etc. I'm thinking of hall-of-famer Rabbit Maranville, widely regarded as the best defensive SS of his era, who routinely made 50+ errors while handling many more chances than any modern shortstop.

I can't quite see how to compute defensive metrics for the dead ball era - the errors would just overwhelm all other data, right?

Jan 13, 2010 16:42 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

C'mon David, surely you've been around here long enough to know that it's the plays a fielder makes that matter, as opposed to the ones he doesn't. We obviously don't have play-by-play to get as good a picture of a fielder's ability as the modern day metrics such as UZR and Plus/Minus do, but we do the best we can. Chances per game, double plays, staff BABIP, staff strikeout rate and other ingredients go into telling us a fair amount about defensive abilities prior to pbp-based systems.

Maranville, for example scores at 131 runs above average at SS, one of the top 15 totals of all-time (13 of those runs are from his time at 2B - I haven't gone back to figure out the non-SS portions of the guys around him). Enough to support his reputation as one of the best fielders of his day, at the very least.

Jan 13, 2010 18:56 PM
 
buddaley

I understand your reasoning for considering players still on the writers' ballot. But if you were to eliminate them, would "Indian" Bob Johnson be in the discussion for LF?

Jan 13, 2010 12:08 PM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

Raines, Belle, and Rose are a perfect storm of outfielders -- all clearly above the standard, but all overlooked (deliberately or otherwise) for various reasons.

I'd be curious to know how deep the pool of near-miss outfielders is. Where does Ken Singleton (my choice for "player clearly better than Jim Rice in every aspect of the game, yet clearly not a Hall of Famer") stand in the JAWS rankings?

Jan 13, 2010 12:12 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Singleton (49.7/39.3/44.5) falls behind Evans, Bonds, Jack Clark, Paul O'Neill, Mike Tiernan and Reggie Smith, done in somewhat by a relatively shorter career. Again it's a tight cluster, with just four points separating Bonds from Singleton.

All of which - particularly in conjunction with the Darrell Evans comment here elsewhere - reminds me of Bill James' famous graph of the talent pool as the far right edge of a Bell curve. Once you move to the left just a hair, the number of comparable players multiplies like bunnies, in the process also providing a telling sign that the player isn't Hallworthy, because he's not terribly unique.

Jan 13, 2010 12:35 PM
 
BurrRutledge

Jay, following up on our emails last week, this information regarding distribution of talent is the information that I think should be added to the analysis. It's not just about how many wins above or below the "average" HoF player a candidate may have, but just how unique that performance is in regards to those already enshrined. Obviously it's a non-linear distribution, and it probably varies by position.

So, there must be some "best fit" curve that representative of this distribution. Call it a JAWSentile. With the "average" HoFame score at each position being the 50th JAWSentile. The lowest inductee at each position represents the 0th JAWSentile.

Once the data goes public, I'll look at it and think about how to represent that information.

Jan 13, 2010 15:53 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

To be consistent with the JAWS methodology, of which I agree completely, the above should read: "The /second/ lowest inductee at each position represents the 0th JAWSentile."

Jan 14, 2010 12:01 PM
rating: 0
 
BrewersTT

Mike Tiernan? An inside joke of some kind?

Love these articles. The topic will always be interesting. Thanks.

Jan 14, 2010 17:27 PM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

And when will we have searchable/sortable JAWS on the website...?

Jan 13, 2010 12:13 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

As I think I noted at some point last week, there is a renewed commitment here towards getting that online this year.

Jan 13, 2010 12:29 PM
 
RBIGuy

Given the title of this article I was surprised to see no mention of Shoeless Joe Jackson. How does he register on JAWS? Was his career too short?

Jan 13, 2010 12:22 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Jackson (54.5/46.8/50.7) actually wound up just 0.1 behind Belle. I suppose I could have written him up as I did Rose, now that you mention it. I've never been all that compelled by his case even having read Eight Men Out, while Rose has lingered in my mind since reading Joe Posnanski's The Machine over the holidays (a fun read).

As for Indian Bob Johnson (53.0/36.0/44.5), whom buddaley asked about above, there are four other players and 6.3 points separating him from Belle: Jose Cruz, George Foster, Jimmy Sheckard and Charlie Keller.

Jan 13, 2010 12:41 PM
 
offbase99

I think Jay's buried the lede here, which is: according to JAWS, Doug Jones is the second-best reliever not in the Hall of Fame.

I just can't get my head around that. Changeup specialist Doug Jones, really? The guy who spent six and a half seasons shuttling between AA and AAA and didn't become a major-league regular until age 30? The closer who never struck anybody out (at least comparatively; he's got a lifetime 7.3 K/9 ratio) and allowed over a hit an inning? THAT guy?

Even if there's some hidden term in JAWS that gives a guy bonus points for being on those wacky late-80s Cleveland Indians -- and I could get behind a Brook Jacoby Hall of Fame candidacy before I could get behind a Doug Jones one -- I still can't figure this one out. Doug Jones. Wow.

Jan 13, 2010 12:43 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Heh, not quite. Doug Jones is the second-best ELIGIBLE reliever not in the Hall. Next year he will hand that title over to John Franco (~60 RAJAWS).

Jan 13, 2010 12:54 PM
 
echalek
(195)

Jay,

I really like your JAWS articles. I'd love to see an article with the Top-10 unelected for each position (except DH).

And I second Dr. Dave's searchable JAWS data set. Maybe even have JAWS as a feature of the player cards?

Jan 13, 2010 12:55 PM
rating: 1
 
Rob Moore

I'm surprised that Dan Quisenberry wasn't one of the top relievers, or that he's behind Jones.

Jan 13, 2010 13:00 PM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Craaap. Upon further review, Quisenberry (36.6/32.9/34.8/51.7) edges Jones by about 0.35 RAJAWS points - about three runs. Long story short - the WXRL data comes from a different resource than the WARP data, and my tight schedule for the JAWS series prevented me from fully integrating the two for RAJAWS, particularly with non-threat Mike Jackson the sole new reliever on the ballot.

So consider this the capsule addendum to the above:

Submariner Dan Quisenberry spent a decade as the Royals' ace reliever and one of the game's most renowned firemen, leading the AL in saves and winning the Rolaids Relief Award five times in a six-year span from 1980-1985. He led the league in WXRL twice during those six years, and never finished lower than fourth. He helped the Royals to four postseason appearances, two pennants and a World Championship along the way. Had his career lasted longer - he didn't reach the majors until age 26, lost his full-time closer's job at 33, and headed towards replacement level at 35 - he might have mounted a stronger Hall of Fame case, though as it is, his peak score tops only Hoyt Wilhelm's among Hall relievers.

Jan 13, 2010 13:50 PM
 
bobbygrace

Quiz is certainly the top reliever-turned-actor, as viewers of "The Baseball Bunch" with Johnny Bench and the Kool-Aid Man can attest.

Jan 13, 2010 14:34 PM
rating: 0
 
bobbygrace

Craaap. I forgot Tug McGraw.

Jan 13, 2010 14:37 PM
rating: 0
 
Lou Doench

"after publicly pressuring McGwire to confess, some of the biggest names in the BBWAA flat-out declared they wouldn't vote for him now that he'd done so."

Could I get a list of said hypocrites so that I might spit on them if I ever get the chance?
Seriously, at what point does the HoF Museum reconsider hitching their induction policies to these bozo's?

Jan 13, 2010 13:03 PM
rating: 2
 
rbrianc

Wondering where Jim Fregosi fits in at SS - I've thought he had some good arguments and he might be buried by the Larkin/Trammell combo.

Jan 13, 2010 13:14 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Low 40s, with eight guys between him and Trammell.

Jan 13, 2010 15:02 PM
 
Scott D. Simon

I know this is the kind of thing that probably takes a ton of work, but I wonder if we can some day get career numbers for wins above average player. I understand the value of wins over replacement player, but after the Tigers lost more games then a team of replacement players that kind of lost its luster to me.

Also, it is hard to really grasp the concept that an average player would have the highest WARP if he played long enough.

Jan 13, 2010 13:33 PM
rating: 0
 
mhsiegel14
(636)

I wonder what this list would look like if you included "not yet eligible" players. I'm pretty sure most of these guys would lose their status as best X not in the HOF.

Jan 13, 2010 13:41 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Oh, it's a totally different ballgame, particularly when you consider the classes of 2013 (Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, Schilling, Sosa, Piazza) and 2014 (Maddux, Glavine, Mussina, Thomas, Kent and Edmonds).

Jan 13, 2010 13:55 PM
 
villapalomares

Where does Bernie Williams stand?

Jan 13, 2010 13:52 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

In line to reach the ballot in two years, 3.3 points behind Wynn.

Jan 13, 2010 13:57 PM
 
TGisriel

One more thing from the "long suffering Orioles fan".

I'm old enough to remember The O's become contenders in the early 60's, including the forgotten and overlooked '61 season of Jim Gentile (I was 8). I played Little League with current GM Andy MacPhail winning "Rookie of the Year" in 1963, and the prize, obviously arranged by MacPail's father who was O's GM at the time, was a ball taken signed by Lefty Grove, Brooks Robinson, Luis Aparicio, Jim Gentile, Steve Barber and Bill Hitchcock (then the manager). My father took me to the '66 World Series when the O's swept the Dodgers. I followed the entire Weaver era, attending World Series games in '69, '70, '71 and '79, as well as the "just after Weaver" series in '83. I was able to take my son to playoff games in '96 and '97, including a classic duel between Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson.

The last 12 years have, shall we say, not been the best, but there has been a lot of joy in my life following the Orioles. With the new young core, I even have hope for the future.

Jan 13, 2010 14:13 PM
rating: 5
 
echalek
(195)

Two other SS, I'd love to know about: Pebbly Jack Glasscock and Bad Bill Dahlen. Are they roughly comparable to Larkin/Trammell (or Tarkin if you prefer).

Jan 13, 2010 14:20 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

The thing about the latter duo is that there were few grand muffs between them.

(Couldn't resist.)

Jan 13, 2010 14:22 PM
 
BrewersTT

But more than a few star awards.

Jan 14, 2010 17:17 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Dahlen (78.1/42.7/60.4) and Glasscock (64.7/46.4/55.6) are two of the next three behind Trammell, with Davey Concepcion (66.8/48.3/57.6), who tops the peak standard in between them.

Jan 13, 2010 15:01 PM
 
deholm1

Jay -- Where does Lou Whitaker's JAWS now stand. In you Hall articles a couple of weeks ago, you hinted that he's fallen a bit. Is he the next second baseman after Grich?

Jan 13, 2010 14:26 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

THIS!

Jan 13, 2010 14:41 PM
 
deholm1

Huh?

Jan 13, 2010 14:48 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Yes, Whitaker (75.9/39.5/57.7) is the next eligible second-sacker behind Grich, with not-yet-eligibles Craig Biggio and Jeff Kent and a fair bit of real estate in between them.

Jan 13, 2010 14:59 PM
 
houstonuser

It would be great to have these JAWs numbers in one place on the statistics pages. That would be a useful reference and would make this good research available to people all the time. Thanks.

Jan 13, 2010 14:47 PM
rating: 0
 
deholm1

I second that suggestion. . . .

Jan 13, 2010 14:48 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

See above. It's on the horizon, and believe me, I want it far more than all of you combined.

Jan 13, 2010 14:57 PM
 
EricJ

Couldn't help but notice Santo's comp on BR is Beltre (and Adrain's is Santo) from age 21-30. Seeing as Santo's career was over by 34 it isn't hard to imagine Beltre putting together 3 more slightly above average seasons and matching Santo's entire career. Ive never considered Beltre HOF worthy by any measure. Would this indicate perhaps he is? I remain rather skeptical and instead knock Santo down a peg in my mind.

Jan 13, 2010 15:25 PM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

Remember that BR's similarity scores are based on raw offensive numbers, not adjusted for era. It ain't worth as much when Beltre does it today as it was when Santo did it then.

Jan 13, 2010 15:51 PM
rating: 1
 
EricJ

Ahh thanks

Jan 13, 2010 16:11 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

You could have a bunch of left fielder dishonorable mentions...Joe Jackson, maybe Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez in the years to come, etc.

Jan 13, 2010 18:16 PM
rating: 0
 
Brian24

Yeah Jay please don't take my previous comment as a big negative, I love your JAWS articles.

PS "Post Reply" never works on my computer for some reason. Anybody have an idea how to fix that?

One reason I think it would be really interesting to see a "best of the no longer eligible" list is because we all know that at some point going down to the list you have to get to a player who is the next-best guy not in, but who definitely shouldn't be a Hall of Famer. I'd be interested to hear which guys you think got jobbed, and which guys you think are just the "best of the rest."

As a couple of people mentioned above, the right level at which to start keeping people out is probably a level at which there are a bunch of guys packed together.

Jan 13, 2010 18:18 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

I have learned that in order to "post reply" when you are using Internet Explorer 8, you have to turn on "Compatibility View." In the standard setup, there is a button that looks like a torn sheet of paper - click that. It will make IE8 backwards compatible to webpages that are designed for older browsers.

Jan 14, 2010 12:04 PM
rating: 1
 
eighteen

Confirmed this works. Compatability View is under Tools.

Jan 15, 2010 20:28 PM
rating: 0
 
George Dreckmann

Jay,

What do your numbes show about Ken Boyer at third base? I always thought that he compared quite well with Santo, and unlike Ron he was the leader of a team that won a World Series and did quite well in that series also.

Jan 14, 2010 07:00 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Boyer was a better fielder than Santo but not as good a hitter (though still good), and his late arrival to the majors left him with over 1000 fewer PA. He's in the pileup around Darrell Evans detailed above.

Jan 14, 2010 12:27 PM
 
tbookas

I would have thought Ron Guidry or Jerry Koosman above Reuschel.

Jan 14, 2010 10:00 AM
rating: 0
 
Michael
(736)

I would have guessed Luis Tiant would be near the top of eligible starting pitchers. Jay already told us that Frank Tanana was next behind Blyleven and Reushel.

Jan 15, 2010 12:40 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Actually, the order is Blyleven, Reuschel, Jim Whitney, Bucky Walters, Tiant, and Tanana, with the last three closely packed together around 53 points. I think Tanana came to mind because I was going to do a capsule dedicated to the top lefty starter as well as righty, but changed my mind.

Jan 16, 2010 13:51 PM
 
harderj

Thanks so much for the comparison/discussion about Reggie and Bobby, my two favorite players when I was growing up.

Bobby was the A.S.G. MVP once, at least :-).

Jan 15, 2010 08:25 AM
rating: 0
 
CurseThis

In respect of "the weak-hitting first baseman who stuck around into his mid-40s in pursuit of Ty Cobb's all-time hit record", the guy was a exceptionally durable singles hitter and not much else (besides a lot of hyped hustle). Playing corner power positions his whole career, he never put up legit power numbers, peak WARP numbers or exceptional OBP worthy of enshrinement. I think it would be great to make Rose HOF-eligible and then have him not muster the requisite votes because of lack of credentials.

Jan 15, 2010 12:55 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Rose's peak WARP numbers most certainly surpass the HOF average for hitters. Just to pick a few random examples, his peak score is higher than those of Eddie Murray, Rod Carew, Yogi Berra, Al Kaline, Carl Yastrzemski, Paul Molitor, Reggie Jackson, Robin Yount... do I need to go on? Higher than 92 of the 142 HOF hitters.

He was in the league's top five in OBP eight times, and top 10 11 times. He led his league in doubles five times and averaged 38 per year over a 16-year stretch (he averaged 203 hits per year in that stretch too). He hung around too long and obviously made a terrible choice when it came to gambling, but do not confuse that choice with the fact that his accomplishments were certainly Hall of Fame caliber.

Jan 16, 2010 13:46 PM
 
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