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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday January 08, 2008 2:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.

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Jay Jaffe, creator of the JAWS system of evaluating Hall of Fame candidates, drops by to discuss the 2008 honorees.

Jay Jaffe: Hey all, just about to get the announcement. I'll start the chat in a few minutes after I'm done beating my head against the wall...

TomH (Lexington Park MD): my prediction: Goose in. Rice misses by an extremely small margin. Much, much bleating commences over the voters who submitted blanks to protest roids users, thus depriving the "deserving" pre-roids slugger.

Jay Jaffe: The Goose is Loose! He gets 85.8 percent, and he's the only one who gets in on this ballot.

Rice falls just shy at 72.2 percent, setting him up for a 15th-year push.

Raines 24.3 percent. Oh is that ugly.

Player Total Votes Percentage Rich Gossage 466 85.8% Jim Rice 392 72.2% Andre Dawson 358 65.9% Bert Blyleven 336 61.9% Lee Smith 235 43.3% Jack Morris 233 42.9% Tommy John 158 29.1% Tim Raines 132 24.3% Mark McGwire 128 23.6% Alan Trammell 99 18.2% Dave Concepcion 88 16.2% Don Mattingly 86 15.8% Dave Parker 82 15.1% Dale Murphy 75 13.8% Harold Baines 28 5.2% Rod Beck 2 0.4% Travis Fryman 2 0.4% Robb Nen 2 0.4% Shawon Dunston 1 0.2% Chuck Finley 1 0.2% David Justice 1 0.2% Chuck Knoblauch 1 0.2% Todd Stottlemyre 1 0.2%
Jose Rijo 0 0% Brady Anderson 0 0%

GBSimons (Loganville, GA): Only 24.3% for Raines?!?!? We still have a long way to go, don't we?

Jay Jaffe: Yeah, that's that's a piss-poor showing - not on Raines' part, on the part of the writers entrusted with the BBWAA vote. Boo! Boo!

Obviously, some of that is simply the resistance to voting for player who's not perceived (correctly or incorrectly) as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But it doesn't particularly bode well for the Rock either. The average non-first ballot HOFer going back over the last 40 or so years dating back to the point when the BBWAA resumed annual voting got about twice that percentage in his initial appearance. I'll break that down a bit more clearly in my next BP article.

dianagramr (NYC): Still not enough love for Blyleven ... :-(

Jay Jaffe: Actually, 61.9 percent is a heartening result for Blylevlen. His previous high was 53.3 percent two years ago, and he fell back to 47.7 percent last year. Getting above 60 percent is HUGE.

kevin (boston): mlb.com says rice will undoubtedly go in next year with henderson, isn't it a little early for such an official source to make such a statement?

Jay Jaffe: MLB.com isn't official - remember, the Hall of Fame is a private, independent institution that cooperates with MLB.

But you bring up a very good point. As close as Rice is, even going into his final ballot, the presence of an automatic such as Henderson -- a guy with membership in either the 3000 Hit Club, 500 Homer Club or 300 Win Club, to say nothing of an all-time category leader -- may hinder his cause next year. And frankly, I hope it does, because JAWS shows that he's miles off being even a borderline Hall of Famer.

WCherniak (Woodbine, Md.): Has anyone ever come as close as Rice without eventually getting in?

Jay Jaffe: Yes, if you mean getting in on the BBWAA ballot as opposed to the VC one. Nellie Fox got 74.7 percent in his final year, Jim Bunning 74.2, Orlando Cepeda 73.5 and Red Ruffing 72.6. All were eventually selected, Ruffing via a runoff (which happened when the writers came up empty the first time around) and the rest via the VC.

Benjamin (Lincoln): Once Rickey Henderson is elected to the HOF, will that help or hurt the case for Tim Raines, a comparable player?

Jay Jaffe: It will probably help him in the long run. Look at the way the elections of Eckersley and Sutter eventually helped Gossage - both of them more narrowly defined the closer role, setting up a contrast where Gossage was arguably superior to each. I don't think you can really argue Raines is arguably superior to Henderson anywhere except for his SB percentage and maybe his role-playing days, but I do think that some potential voters may be holding back until Rickey clears.

lexomatic (True North): I'm saddened by that Raines result. Off the top of your head, how many less deserving 1st ballot players have had better vote totals?

Jay Jaffe: Steve Garvey at 41.6 percent stands out, as does Maury Wills at 30.3 percent.

Alex (SF, CA): So I have to say I don't quite understand the Raines HOF love around these parts (although I guess better that than more Rice love.) He was a very good player with a couple of great years and he did all the little things yeah yeah, but basically we are talking about seven at best good/great years and a bunch of filler. He was a good basestealer and an onbase threat, but he wasn't a fantastic defender and he didn't have much power despite playing a position where you usually like to see some. That doesn't seem like a HOF shoe in at all, but rather marginal at best. Obv the Hall is filled with many such characters (and a number of well below marginal ones), but is adding one more really something we want to make a big cause celeb over?

Jay Jaffe: Raines had more than a couple of great years. He's one of the top 10 LFs of all time. compares quite favorably to the average HOF LF in terms of his value at his peak and over the course of his career. He was every little bit as valuable as Tony Gwynn both at his peak and over the coursse of his career due to his ability to get on base and to advance himself.

From the JAWS piece I wrote:

"According to JAWS, Raines compares quite favorably to the average Hall of Fame left fielder, breezing past both career and peak benchmarks. By this measure he ranks as the ninth-best left fielder of all time, behind Barry Bonds, Stan Musial, Rickey Henderson, Ted Williams, Pete Rose, Jim O'Rourke, Ed Delahanty, and Carl Yastrzemski--some pretty fair ballplayers. If that sounds crazy, consider that the New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract ranked Raines eighth back in 2001, calling him the second-most valuable leadoff hitter in history, behind only Henderson. If you weren't around for it, he was that good. Raines' overall WARP score ranks 81st all-time, 62nd among hitters. His peak score ranks 122nd all-time, 91st among hitters, and his JAWS is 88th all-time, 67th among hitters. If those numbers sound low, consider that the Hall of Fame contains 198 players whose major league careers we can measure via this method (i.e., non Negro-Leaguers or late-career crossovers like Satchel Paige and Monte Irvin), and historical estimates suggest we're witnessing another 30 or so Hall of Famers currently active."

For the rest of the piece please see here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=7007

Nick Stone (East Village, NYC): Go Goose! Just heard on ESPN the idea that Sutter's election will open the door for guys like Billy Wagner (or at least prop it halfway). What do you think?

Jay Jaffe: Hey Nick! I certainly think that the elections of Gossage and Sutter go a long way towards helping top-flight closers, and while I'd consider Wagner among that group, he may be running out of time.

RAJAWS, the system I use to evaluate the relievers on the ballot, has Wagner 10th all time, with Rivera, Eckersley, Gossage, Hoffman, Wilhelm, Smith, Fingers, Franco and Gordon ahead of him. Billy Wags probably needs 2-3 more good years to work his way past Smith on that scale, and at his age, he's not terribly likely to climb above 4th on the all-time saves scale (358) given that Rivera (4th at 443) and Hoffman (1st at 524) are still going strong.

Franklin Stubbs (Los Angeles): So Dawson's getting in!!!

Jay Jaffe: At 65.9 percent in his seventh year, Dawson appears to be well-positioned to make it over the hump before his time on the ballot is up. I'm not a big fan of his candidacy; that .323 career OBP really makes the pit of my stomach hurt, but his counting stats look fairly HOF-ish.

He's about nine JAWS points below the HOF CF benchmark, 15 below the RF benchmark, and 13 below the general OF benchmark. He's a better choice than Rice, but still a below-average one, and not by a little.

Eric Haushanc (Vacation in Hawaii): Do you think that the steroid issue, the congressional hearings, and all the related nwes stories affected Raines disproportionately because he used cocaine?

Jay Jaffe: No. No relation between the two topics at all. Very few writers that I saw used Raines' cocaine usage to justify not voting for him; the ones that mentioned did so in terms of showing how he turned his troubles around to become a respected teammate and citizen.

rjmoore (Boston): Of those who received one vote (Dunston, Finley, Stottlemyre, Justice, and Knoblauch), who is least deserving of that vote? Please tell me what emotion I should feel knowing that someone thinks Todd Stottlemyre is a HOFer, but not Jose Rijo.

Jay Jaffe: Dunston, whose 40.4 JAWS points might be the lowest of any position player I've written up in five years of doing this at BP.

As for Stottlemyre/Rijo, I don't think it's worth losing any sleep over.

Gray (Chicago): Jay, please explain to me how writers could even consider Jim Rice a more viable HoF candidate than Andre Dawson. East Coast bias is my only answer. The Hawk was in the discussion as best player during the 1980s, Rice never was. Andre Dawson was the Vlad Guerrero of his time, power, speed, canon arm...these results make me sick.

Jay Jaffe: It's a BS distinction based on the supposed Decade Of Fear in which Rice made pitchers mess themselves at the mere mention of his name. As someone (Rob Neyer?) pointed out, that decade lasted three years (1977-1979).

Rice's candidacy is a product of the inflation of his stats by Fenway and of his legend by some big-name Boston writers who probably feel more than a twinge of guilt over the shoddy reception he got in Boston during his career (read Howard Bryant's Shut Out if you want the details of that). I'm not dismissing the impact of that treatment on his career, but I don't think it's enough to elevate him.

Mike (Chicago): Of all the hitters elected by the writers, who scored the lowest on JAWS?

Jay Jaffe: The five lowest JAWS scores among those elected by the writers:

HARMON KILLEBREW (73.9)
BILL TERRY (73.6)
LOU BROCK (68.8)
RALPH KINER (68.5)
ROY CAMPANELLA (59.1)

You can't take Campanella's score at face value given that he didn't appear until 1948, the year after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier; Campy was in his Age 26 season, and while he wasn't an instant superstar (4.5 WARP his first year), he received down-ballot MVP support that year and began making the All-Star team the second year. Of the other four, Killebrew and Brock have magic numbers that guaranteed their entry, Kiner had that string of leading the NL in homers, and Terry had his career as a manager to boost his credentials. They're not great selections but I can see the logic behind them.

Will (NYC): Why doesn't the Hall of Fame consider revamping it's selection process? The current system was designed for an era when no games were on TV and stats weren't easily accessible. Why not simply have the Hall of Fame select qualified electors (based on defined criteria as opposed to membership in a trade group) and then have them debate the candidates each year?

Jay Jaffe: That's a good question, one for which I'm not really sure I have a good answer for as of yet. The Hall has shown a willingness to tinker with the VC format over the past few years, but that's because it has "failed" to elect anyone over the past several years. The BBWAA keeps a steady stream going, and because that means fans keep flocking to Cooperstown every summer, there's little incentive to force change into that process - no matter how uneven the results.

Mike (Chicago): Does the fact that McGwire's vote total was stagnant mean anything for him long term? Was the mitchell report cloud too close? Are the writers really going to keep out a handful of players for steroids, and let a bunch of others in?

Jay Jaffe: An interesting set of questions. McGwire boosters can take heart that their man's base of support hasn't dwindled further, and yes, I do think the fact that steroids were in the news during the entire election cycle didn't help his cause - even if he wasn't mentioned in the Mitchell Report.

It's too early to say what the writers will do regarding those suspected of steroid usage. It's a good bet Palmeiro suffers the same fate despite the presence of the 3000/500 automatics, but as for Bonds, Clemens, Sheffield, I don't think we know enough yet to know which way the voters will swing.

lexomatic (busybeeland): who do you see as the next candidate undeservedly snubbed by the bbwaa for not understanding their value on the field? also: how long do you think the Mcgwire punishment vote lasts? thanks for answering my last question

Jay Jaffe: Looking at the upcoming eligibles, I see trouble ahead for Roberto Alomar (105.0 JAWS, where the 2B benchmark is at 101.7) and Barry Larkin (96.7, where the SS benchmark is at 96.6). They're on the ballot in two years, as is Edgar Martinez (85.5, where the HOF hitter benchmark is 93.2 - i.e., his case will be easier to understand).

As for the punishment vote, it may last his entire 20 years on the ballot. The BBWAA voters aren't exactly known to forget a grudge, and let's not forget the energy many of them expended building McGwire a rather large pedestal. Mike Lupica, please pick up the white paging phone...

Brian (Tinley): How many players have ever been inducted into the Hall with as low of a vote percentage as Raines received today? Also, will we be waiting for Frank Thomas to be inducted for the DH position to be recognized by the Hall? Is Thomas looked at as a first ballot guy?

Jay Jaffe: In the question above, I meant 15 years on the ballot, not 20 - that's 20 years after the end of his career.

As for the question at hand, confining ourselves to the post 1965 annual balloting era, Duke Snider (17.0%), Don Derysdale (21.0%), Billy Williams (23.4%) and Bruce Sutter (23.9%) started out in bigger holes than Raines.

As for Frank Thomas, I do think Paul Molitor already scored some points on behalf of the DHs. Thomas, with 500+homers and a 400+ OBP, could well be a first-ballot guy. At 101.7 JAWS, he's about 12 points above the 1B benchmark.

Jack (Chicago): What do you think will happen when Sammy Sosa is up for election? He was never named in the Mitchell Report, never named in any of the stings over the last 5 years...there actually is no proof of him using steroids whatsoever, aside from public opinion.

Jay Jaffe: Well, Sosa was named in the Grimsley affidavit - the unsealed one, not the fake-o one the LA Times hacks reported on (featuring Clemens and Pettitte).

Despite the lack of hard evidence against Sosa, the number of writers who speak of him as though he himself had signed an affidavit declaring that he was on the juice during his heyday is staggering. He'll almost certainly suffer the same fate as McGwire simply on the basis of his lackluster showing in front of Congress in 2005.

Doug (San Francisco): What about Trammell's prospects in the coming years? Is he gaining support in terms of vote percentage? Or is he falling back? Lynn Henning of the Detroit News had a column today on Trammell. Fourth-most hits of anyone while playing SS (behind Aparicio, O. Smith and Appling), and more HRs than the top 3 combined. You can't say that was due to the "long infield grass" at Tiger Stadium.

Jay Jaffe: Trammell rose from 13.4 percent last year to 18.2 percent this year. The surge is working!

In reality, another year below 20 percent hurts him; he's not appreciably above his 2006 showing of 17.7 percent. He's just drained another year of his eligiblity (he's still got eight years left), given what I said above about the players lower than Raines who were elected - Duke Snider is the only one below Trammell's current level of support to rise.

Dougbb (OH): At least Bert got 100 more votes than Morris. Do you think the current BBWAA is better at getting pitchers 'right' than hitters?

Jay Jaffe: Gossage's election means they've got a bit of a clue about relievers, but Blyleven not getting in is still a huge black mark against the voting body, so no, I don't think you can say that.

Creator of Shawon-O-Meter (Unknown): I have a HoF vote...fyi.

Jay Jaffe: Really? Cuz according to this, http://www.flipsidesports.net/shorts/shawon.html the Shawon-O-Meter inventor is deceased.

mferrin (Washington DC): I'm having an arguement with one of the Bostonians I work with as to the misplaced Jim Rice love. I told him Dwight Evans was a better player over the course of his career than Rice. Am I right?

Jay Jaffe: Yes. JAWS has Evans (91.7) well ahead of Rice (69.4), and even Fred Lynn (68.3) isn't far off the pace.

OK folks, gotta take a time out to do a radio hit in San Diego (1360 AM Sports XTRA). You can listen here:

http://www.xtrasports1360.com/main.html

I'll be back to take one or two more questions but I'll have to run soon after.

buddaley (Clearwater): Do you think it might be a good idea to focus more discussion on the best way to use statistical analysis as a means for measuring HOF worthiness rather than focusing so much on particular players? I think the rancor that accompanies discussions of Blyleven, for example, may actually hurt his cause. Perhaps regular analysis considering the best way to make arguments, done without the nastiness of sites like FJM, might open more minds.

Jay Jaffe: Back from what I thought was a great interview segment with Chris Ello in San Diego. I always have the time for a radio host who's read my work and wants to talk about JAWS on the air.

As for the question at hand, the problem is that without pointing to particular examples, it's an abstract discussion that doesn't capture the attention of many people, even if it's done as tactfully as possible. And I'll disagree with you regarding the Blyleven candidacy - his rising vote percentages have gone hand in hand with a huge push from statheads over the past several years, guys like Rich Lederer at baseballanalysts.com who've actually reached out to BBWAA voters and even made converts like Tracy Ringolsby with regards to Blyleven's candidacy.

I'm not going to make a claim that JAWS is driving this by any means, but the year before my system debuted at BP, Blyleven received 29.2 percent of the vote. Since then he's gone 35.4, 40.9, 53.3, 47.7 and now today 61.9 percent. That's a pretty significant turnaround. Same story for Goose, if you look at what I wrote in my JAWS piece.

rawagman (Work): With the benefit of (marginal) hindsight, how big a mistake was the BBWAA snub of Will Clark? What do you think the chances of the VC (in whatever structure it holds in 17 years) will redress this omission? Thanks for answering.

Jay Jaffe: I'll take this one and then one more...

I don't know that Clark was a huge mistake. My system now shows him at 105.2 career, 65.8 peak, 85.5 JAWS, where the HOF 1B benchmark is at 115.1/66.9/91.0 - it's risen because Clay Davenport's WARP tweaks have given 19th and early 20th century players like Cap Anson, Roger Connor and Dan Brouthers far more value than they had before, enough to wrestle the top spot from Lou Gehrig. I'm not entirely comfortable with those tweaks, but it would appear Clark is a borderline guy at best. He'll have a chance if the VC ever clears out the deadwood that's clogged up the past several ballots, but guys who retire at 36 don't get a whole lot of charity from the voters.

SteveInPhilly (Philly): Despite what Joe Sheehan says, I am opposed to McGwire getting in. (Go Rock Raines and Bert Blyleven, though!) Do you think a statistical argument could be made that McGwire should be excluded? Or is it purely a PED issue? And do you think he will eventually get in?

Jay Jaffe: As I pointed out this year, with the revised JAWS benchmarks, McGwire is now above on peak but below on career. That can be spun either way without sticking to anything but the numbers, and the direction of the spin is likely to be based on one's views about PEDs.

I think McGwire will get in, but only after at least 10 years on the ballot. He'll have to open up about his past, and the public and the media will have to calm down in order for that to happen. I do hope it does - it will be a great day when we can move past "cheater cheater pumpkineater" when it comes to the topic of steroids and the Hall of Fame.

Jay Jaffe: Folks, that's all I have time for today. Thank you for the great questions. As always I've taken note of the ones I didn't get to and may answer them in upcoming work at BP or beyond. I'll probably have something about this election up for tomorrow's site, so look for this discussion to continue.


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