How did The Garv respond to fan chants on visiting the team he'd helped eliminate a few months earlier?
At last Saturday's Dodger Stadium shindig, we heard from Vin Scully, Logan White, and Steve Garvey. All told fascinating stories, among which were Garvey's recounting of his first game at Wrigley Field after helping to knock the Cubs out of the post-season the previous October.
Is Goose Gossage right to say that Mariano Rivera has it "easy?"
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Kevin Baker is a novelist and historian who is currently at work on a social history of New York City baseball, to be published by Pantheon.
With the Hall of Fame announcement coming later today, Jay concludes JAWS' take on who should make it in by sizing up the pitchers.
We'll dispense with the introductory formalities (you can read last year's pieces here and here) and cut to the chase. As with the hitters, we'll consider career WARP and peak WARP--the adjusted for all time flavor, WARP3--with the latter defined as a pitcher's best seven years. Just as we eliminated the worst elected Hall of Famer at each position in determining the JAWS standards, we'll exclude a similar percentage of pitchers--four out of the 60, in this case. In examining these pitchers, we'll also use Pitching Runs Above Average (PRAA) because it forms a reasonable secondary measure for "peak" in conjunction with PRAR's "career" proxy. A pitcher with many PRAA but fewer PRAR likely had a high peak and a short career, while one with the same number of PRAA but more PRAR likely had a longer career. Although durability should not be confused with excellence, league average has value, as anybody who's ever suffered through a fifth starter's pummeling knows.
This year's pitching segment has one more wrinkle. On the advice of WARP creator Clay Davenport, the pitching portion of this year's edition of JAWS includes a downward adjustment for pitchers in the AL after 1973 to counteract the negative hitting contributions of their non-DH brethren. This prevents the system from overly favoring recent AL pitchers, but the consequence is that the career and peak JAWS scores won't match what you can pull from the DT pages on our site. I'd prefer the transparency, but in terms of evaluating the cases on the current ballot, the need for this "tax" wins out.
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With the election results to be announced tomorrow, Joe looks at who should go into the Hall of Fame--and who will.
Of the 14 new candidates, at least 10 are probably making their only appearance. Rick Aguilera, Gary DiSarcina, Alex Fernandez, Gary Gaetti, Ozzie Guillen, Gregg Jefferies, Doug Jones, Hal Morris, Walt Weiss and John Wetteland all had prominent places in the game in their time, winning awards, making All-Star teams and contributing to championships. None, however, even passes the sniff test for Hall of Fame consideration. Their inclusion on this ballot is an honor unto itself, one that will likely serve as the sole coda to their playing careers.
Jay finishes off the 2006 Hall of Fame ballot with a look at eligible relief pitchers.
If this specialist, called a closer, is successful--and for the most part, such success is as attainable as that for an NFL placekicker--he collects a statistical cookie called a save (mmm, cookie) and is exalted by the media. Meanwhile the closer's fireman predecessors, who often pitched two or three frames at a clip and entered when the score was tied or (heaven forbid) tilted in the other team's favor, receive little love from the Hall of Fame electorate, which has trained itself to value an 80-inning/40-save season more highly than the 110-inning/25-save ones of that bygone era.
We shouldn't be fooled by high save totals; it's the runs that matter, and due to the limited innings they throw, the Davenport numbers tell us that it's nearly impossible for the best late-model relievers to be more valuable than the best everyday players or starting pitchers. Annual Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP3) totals above 10.0 are common for elite players at their peaks, but the best relievers--of either variety--top 8.0 only in a rare Mariano Rivera/Eric Gagne-caliber year. The three enshrined relievers (Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, and Dennis Eckersley) have a combined two seasons above 8.0 as relievers (Eck topped 8.0 twice as a starter).
Along with the three hitters he named last week, Jay Jaffe sees three qualified pitchers among the 11 on the Hall of Fame ballot.
The 2004 election saw the writers tab just the third reliever for induction, as Dennis Eckersley joined Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers among the bronzed legends. While Eckersley's dominance and his usage pattern ("Just the Saves, Ma'am") contributed mightily to his election, his decade as a starter and the stats he garnered in that role mean that his ascension offers us little insight on the writers' view of what makes a Hallworthy reliever. The standards for starters may be somewhat easy to discern, if lately a bit unrealistic, but with a growing number of quality relievers on the ballot, the continuous evolution of the closer role, and the paucity of standards to measure them by, sorting out the bullpen elite poses a hefty challenge to voters.
One of the great lessons of the sabermetric revolution is the idea that the pitcher doesn't have as much control over the outcome of ballgames (as reflected in his win and loss totals) or even individual at-bats (hits on balls in play) as he's generally given credit for. Good run support and good defense can make big winners of mediocre pitchers on good teams, and .500 pitchers of good hurlers on mediocre teams. As such, it's important to examine the things over which a pitcher has control and account for those he does not.
The Baseball Writers of America's standards on what constitute a Hall of Fame pitcher are in a curious spot now, both when it comes to starters and relievers. Spoiled by a group of contemporaries who won 300 games from the mid-'60s to the mid-'80s (Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro), the writers haven't elected a non-300-winning starter since Fergie Jenkins in 1991. That Perry, Sutton and Niekro took a combined 13 ballots to reach the Hall while Ryan waltzed in on his first ballot with the all-time highest percentage of votes is even more puzzling. Apparently what impresses the BBWAA can be summarized as "Just Wins, Baby"--which is bad news for every active pitcher this side of Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux.
Of the 59 enshrined pitchers with major-league experience, only two of them--Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers--are in Cooperstown for what they accomplished as relievers. While the standards for starters are somewhat easy to discern (if lately a bit unrealistic), the growing number of quality relievers on the ballot, the continuous evolution of the relief role, and the paucity of standards to measure them by present some interesting challenges to voters.
If there's an area in which performance analysis has struggled mightily against mainstream baseball thought, it's in hammering home the concept that the pitcher doesn't have as much control over the outcome of ballgames--as reflected in his Won-Loss totals--or even individual at-bats--hits on balls in play--as he's generally given credit for. Good run support and good defense can make big winners of mediocre pitchers on good teams, and .500 pitchers of good hurlers on mediocre teams. As such, it's important to examine the things over which a pitcher has control and account for those he does not. Once again, the Davenport system rides to the rescue.
[Note: The research for this piece, and much of the writing, was done prior to the Hall of Fame voting results being announced.]