Monday, April 9, 2012

The Sidelines: April 9

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Introducing the Bob Smizik Hall of Fame Barometer


Yesterday, in my first part of the 2012 Hall of Fame voting trilogy, I alluded to what I thought was the strangest Hall of Fame ballot that I could find. Well, I believe Bob Smizik has it (although Jon Heyman's, from yesterday's post, was pretty out-there).

The link to his original column can be found here.

Take it away, Bob.

Sitting in front of me, literally, is my 2011 (MLB) Hall of Fame Ballot, which I will shortly begin to fill out.

Adding the word literally did nothing to your sentence, literally.

There are 27 names on the ballot and a voter can select as many as 10. I don’t believe I’ve ever voted for more than four, and even that many is rare. Other people, whose opinion I respect, often vote for 10.

That is correct. And although I personally am in favor of a large Hall, the other viewpoint is perfectly valid.

A couple of things about how I vote:

* Unlike many voters, I do not eliminate players tainted by or actually found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs. My stance on their eligibility is quite simple: If MLB does not want a player in the Hall of Fame, it should do what it did with Pete Rose and ban him from eligibility. It's my job to vote on enshrinement, not determine eligibility. When a player has worthy credentials, I vote based on his ability. Yes, Mark McGwire used PEDs. But maybe half or more of the pitchers throwing to him also did? There are players I suspect of using PEDs who couldn’t hit .250.

* I will not vote for a players because he’s better than someone in the Hall. I may think, for example, Jack Morris is better than Bert Blyleven, who was voted in last year. But I didn’t vote for Blyleven and I don’t think he belongs. I will not allow him to be a barometer.

These are two very, very good points, and I want to give him credit for that. That being said, Bert Blyleven absolutely belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Don't worry, the fun part starts soon.

The first thing I do is eliminate the players who are on the ballot as little more than a courtesy for a nice career, but who don't begin to approach Hall of Fame standards. These are players whose records I don’t even have to check to know they don’t belong.

Ok, yeah, seems fair enough. There are a bunch of guys who automatically qualify for the Hall of Fame that no one thinks should actually be there. You can weed out a significant number of people on the ballot this way.

So it’s goodbye to, in alphabetical order, Jeromy Burnitz, Vinny Castilla, Brian Jordan, Javy Lopez, Edgar Martinez, Bill Mueller, Terry Mulholland, Phil Nevin, Brad Radke, Tim Salmon, Ruben Sierra, Bernie Williams, Tony Womack and Eric Young.

*scrolls through* Let's see...yep, yep, yep, yep, yeOH MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU EVEN.

*composes self*

Okay, okay, calm down, it's just baseball...

Okay. Edgar Martinez is one of the best handful of hitters of his era. He led the league in OBP three times, was in the top six in the league 11 times, and ranks 22nd all-time for OBP. He was in the top ten in SLG in the league six times, despite playing in a pitcher-friendly park during his peak, and is 44th all-time in adjusted OPS+. He's 70th all-time in WAR for position players. To summarize: HE WAS REALLY FREAKING GOOD AT BASEBALL.

His inclusion was not "little more than courtesy for a nice career." This is a guy whose record you clearly need to check if you don't think he "doesn't begin to approach Hall of Fame standards.

Look, it's one thing if you don't think DHs belong in the Hall of Fame. It would be a ridiculous position to take, but AT LEAST THAT'S A REASON. Please explain why this man does not even deserve consideration.

[Some readers left comments asking for the same thing. Here is the complete collection of Smizik's replies to those comments.]

Highly regarded DH but with under 309 HRs, 1,261 RBIs. Not even close.

Take a look at the career numbers of E. Martinez. They will surprise you.

309 HRs, 1,261 RBI, 312 BA. Career wise, those numbers rank 120th for HRs, 121st for RBIs, 95th for BA. A good one-dimensional player, but not, in my estimation, Hall worthy.

Batting average, home runs, and RBIs. To put it bluntly: Those career stats are about as useful in determining how good a player was as career triples, the amount of times he was caught stealing, and his jersey number. But I guess his use of those stats shouldn't surprise me, given his conclusion.

[Back to original article now.]

The 27 names have been reduced to 13.

It should be 14, but I mean, whatever.

The next step isn’t much harder because many of these players have been on the ballot before. But they require some thought before elimination.

"Unlike Edgar Martinez, because, seriously, screw that guy."

[Skipping ahead a bit]

Alan Trammell: A really outstanding shortstop for a number of years. Four Gold Gloves. Just a tad short.

"Had he won five Gold Gloves, he'd be in! But the voters decided on somebody else one year. Too bad for Trammell!"

Larry Walker: A five-tool guy, who oozed talent. But 383 HRs and 1,311 RBIs don’t cut it.


There are seven names remaining. Now it becomes difficult.

Compared to giving the first 20 names a basic thought and/or looking up his career numbers in batting average, home runs, and RBI? I guess it would get more difficult after that.

Jeff Bagwell (42 percent of the vote last year): There’s a natural bias, which can go both ways, against/for familiar players, and Bagwell is that. He was a dominant presence in the Houston Astros lineup for many seasons. That memory says yes. His 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs fall a shade behind Willie Stargell. Yes to Bagwell.

Bob Smizik Hall of Fame Barometer categories: dominance in Astros lineup, proximity to Willie Stargell.

Juan Gonzalez (5 percent): He hit 434 home runs, drove in 1,404 runs and had an OPS of 1.004. That’s good. It’s not great. No to Gonzalez.

Smizik just blew my mind by using a FOURTH BASEBALL STAT. Unfortunately, it's also one without much value. And I have to say this before we get any further: career numbers are useless. Any baseball player would get to 500 home runs or [however many Smizik wants] RBI eventually. Why reward only the ones who actually did?

In other words, counting stats for a career = doodoo.

Barry Larkin (62 percent): My Cincinnati friends swear by him. An outstanding offensive shortstop with three Gold Gloves. No to Larkin.

"Why did I say no to Larkin? Well, he does have a very impressive Hall of Fame resume, BUT- and this is a big "but"- my Cincinnati friends have ****ing AWFUL taste. Like, one time I really wanted to go see Sherlock Holmes 2, because we all liked the first one and I thought we would enjoy this one too, but NOOO, they wanted to see J. Edgar! And they kept saying "it'll be a great historical film with lots of interesting information," so I was like "okay, fine, let's go to J. Edgar." And guess what! It sucked! Nothing freaking happened for two and a half hours! You just can't trust those guys. Anyway, that's why I didn't vote for Barry Larkin."

Fred McGriff (20 percent): The statistical case can easily be made for McGriff: 493 home runs, 1,550 RBIs.


But his OPS is under .900. No to McGriff.

THAT'S your reason for keeping him out of the Hall of Fame? That one stat? Well, I guess since you only know four, that's somewhat excusable...

Mark McGwire (20 percent): A no-brainer by my standards. Second best single-season home run number, 10th best career. He is first in home runs per at bat (10.65), well ahead of Babe Ruth (11.76). Yes to McGwire.

Okay, good, we agree on something. For vastly different reasons, sure, but at least it's agreement.

Rafael Palmiero (11 percent): Over 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. Nothing more need be said. Yes to Palmiero.


*starts breathing heavy*

...that felt kind of good.

Tim Raines (38 percent): He’s getting a lot of support as a Rickey Henderson clone. But, sorry, Tim, you’re no Rickey -- not in stolen bases, not in power, not in on-base percentage.

Bob Smizik Hall of Fame Barometer categories: dominance in Astros lineup, proximity to Willie Stargell, proximity to Rickey Henderson.

An outstanding leadoff hitter,

Only, like, the second-best ever. Not a big deal or anything.

but not a Hall of Famer. No to Raines.

"This Raines fellow wasn't as good as the best leadoff hitter ever and one of the twenty best position players in baseball history? KEEP HIM OUT FOREVER."

This man actually has a Hall of Fame vote.

-Tucker Warner

What do you think? Comment on this post or send any and all questions, comments, or insults to Tucker Warner likes poetry and a nice pair of slacks. You can find him on Twitter at @twarner50.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hey-man, that's one awful ballot you got there.

See what I did with that title? Pretty clever, yeah? Yeahhh!

Oh yes, and: Disclaimer. (Note: disclaimer states that no personal disrespect is meant by posts such as this and that the author of the original column, or anyone else, has the right to do a similar post with my writing.)

Anyway, the Baseball Hall of Fame voting is something that gets me riled up every year. I'm one of those people that thinks a player's induction into the Hall of Fame means a lot, probably more so than many other baseball fans, and so, even though I do not have a vote (yet. I'm working on it.), I take my Hall of Fame evaluations pretty seriously. I tend to be a little frustrated when a great baseball player is snubbed, for whatever reason, and a far less deserving player gets a place in the Hall over the first man.

At the very least, I think writers should at least give their votes a lot of thought before sending in their ballots. Jon Heyman might have given his a lot of thought- it certainly seems like he at least thought about it a lot, but what a strange thought it was. (And he's not even the worst. More to come on that front later.) It should be noted that Jon Heyman is a top-notch sports reporter and is one of the best at breaking news from around the league. Unfortunately, I am not similarly enamored with his analysis or columns.

Here's the link to his column explaining his choices:

After spending some time talking about the steroid ramifications on the Hall of Fame vote, wherein he says nothing particularly egregious, but also nothing you haven't heard before, he gets to his ballot. Take it away, Jon.

The biggest thing I look for is impact.

Roger Clemens once dented a guy's batting helmet with a fastball. First-ballot!

That means impact on the game, and on the games.

"The game, singular, which means baseball, as a whole, and the games, of baseball, in which the player of baseball played baseball."

While I do look closely at the numbers, and I certainly consider them all

Except for the numbers that are actually useful.

some numbers seem more meaningful than others.

That's true, but probably not in the way that you realize.

In any case, it's not the Hall of Numbers, the Hall of Stats or the Hall of Sabremetrics. The game is played by people, and the judges are people too, not computers. Until that changes, I'll consider somewhat murkier criteria than only the hard stats.

Great point, Jon! It's almost as if these people think that these "statistics," or "records of what players did in the game, and games, of baseball" were created by computers! But we both know that these "records of what baseball players did on the baseball field" were actually done by humans!

Without further ado, here's this year's scorecard.

The Worthy

1. Jack Morris:


Sadly, it looks like that unsightly 3.90 ERA is going to continue to haunt him.

"Sadly, it looks like his bad result in a formula that measures how good a pitcher is at pitching is going to make him look bad."

This guy is one who's much better if you were around to witness it. The back of his baseball card just doesn't do him any justice.

This is a very weak argument to use because everyone who was not around to witness Morris's career can neither confirm nor deny this. I will say, though, that I've only heard this argument about guys who both:
1. Were well-liked, and
2. Were on the outside looking in of the Hall of Fame. I never hear it in the context of "Willie Mays [for example] sure had great stats, and he was even better if you were around to witness his career! Those stats don't do him justice!" It just happens with guys like Morris, who are close to getting into the Hall of Fame. (Curiously, this argument also showed up with guys like Andre Dawson and [in particular] Jim Rice, who both made the Hall of Fame despite having, well, shaky statistical resmues.)

Morris had great games,

So did Bobo Holloman. (That's a guy who's worth looking up, by the way.)

great seasons (seven times he received Cy Young votes)

Never had an ERA+ above 133, never had an ERA below 3.05 despite playing in a pitcher-friendly era, was only in the top 5 in the league for ERA twice, was only in the top five in the league for Pitcher WAR once.

and a great decade.

I suppose it's convenient to point out that his physical peak came during the middle years of the 1980s (bookmarked by a few below-average seasons during that time). It also doesn't speak well to his credit that he wasn't that good even during the years he was good. I'll give you that he was pretty productive in 1983 and from '85 to '87, though.

He was the ace of three different World Series-winning teams and he started 14 Opening Days. Some will argue that's a meaningless statistic,

I love it when the writer makes my point ahead of time.

and while it certainly does depend on circumstance,

And I DOUBLE-LOVE it when they understand why I would make that point! Thanks, Jon Heyman.

the only others who've started as many are Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson and Cy Young, a quintet of all-time greats.

That's pretty cool. Hey, did you know that in Jack Morris's best season, 1979, he had a lower WAR than some guy named Sid Monge? That's pretty cool, too!

2. Barry Larkin

Well, okay, at least we agree there.

He's a 12-time All-Star. That's twelve times.

That's XII times. That's doce times. That's 10+2 times. That's a dozen times.

Some might say that's a matter of circumstance too.

Because it is.

I'm not sure that Heyman understands that people receive awards because they were good, not the other way around. Explain why they were good- don't point to circumstantial evidence that others thought they were good.

[Skip ahead. More of the same for Larkin, and Tim Raines. Still on the section of who he voted for.]

4. Don Mattingly:


Some will argue this is geographic bias.


But if anything, it's greatness bias.


I like players who were great for a little while a lot more than those who were merely very good forever.


*blacks out from frustration*

*wakes up two hours later*

He had a lower career WAR than some guy named Nap Rucker. WAR is far from the be-all, end-all to statistics or analysis, and preference of peak over longevity is a perfectly fine opinion, but...I mean...maybe the peak-over-longevity thing could be used for a player better than Don Mattingly? His entire career puts him tied for 423rd on the all-time WAR leaderboard.

That's Four-Hundred-Twenty-Third. Numero Cuatrocientos Veinte y Tres. Okay, I'll stop.

He didn't last forever because of a bad back I suspect was earned twisting his 185-pound body into a power hitter. Some of his total numbers aren't overwhelming, but they look a lot like those of Kirby Puckett, an obvious Hall of Famer.

Kirby Puckett was far from an obvious Hall of Famer, actually. Love the guy. But not an obvious Hall of Famer.

Was maybe the best player in the game for three straight years (he won the Sporting News Player of the Year 1984-86) and also was one of the two greatest fielding first basemen of all time.

I disagree with both parts.

First part: 1984-86 were the three best years of Mattingly's career, so already that's a bit of a cherry-pick, but whatever. Over that time, he finished no higher than 5th in the AL in WAR. Not a good start. He finished 10th in the AL in OBP in '84 and 5th in '86. Mattingly was in the top two in the AL in slugging each year from 1984 to '86, but did so in a hitter-friendly stadium. This was also a time when Cal Ripken, Rickey Henderson, Robin Yount, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, and Ryne Sandberg were peaking. Mattingly's WAR over that time was 19.6. Henderson's was 19.8, Boggs's was 22.9. And those figures are from cherry-picked years designed to make Mattingly look better than everyone else.

Second part: Mattingly finished his career with a dWAR of 3.1, which is pretty good, but barely registers on the career leaderboard. In TZR (Total Zone Runs), he ranks tied for 17th among first basemen. In career RF/9 innings for first basemen, he is 51st. In RF/game for first basemen, he does not crack the top 100. One of the two best fielding first basemen of all time? I disagree.

It took me about 15 minutes to do that research. This isn't hard to do if you're a baseball writer.

5. Dale Murphy: He was great for a while (two straight MVPs), but is also known as one of the greatest guys to ever play the game.

Mike Schmidt was better than Murphy both years he won the MVP, but those were two strong years for Murphy. And he is one of the classiest men ever in uniform, but unfortunately for him, that's kind of irrelevant.

[Skipping ahead for the rest of the article. Only bits and pieces to come. Also, everyone else listed is who Heyman did not vote for.]

Fred McGriff: I feel a little guilty about this one. He's 26th in both home runs and RBI, a consistent and pure power hitter. He didn't quite make 500 home runs; he had 493. But that shouldn't be the barometer. He ranked among the top five in OPS for seven years. Not bad. But alas, it feels like something's missing.


7. Jeff Bagwell: The percentages (.540 slugging, .408 on-base) are worthy, and that he won only one Gold Glove and one MVP may have been a matter of timing and the era. Also gets points for uniqueness; not many huge first basemen could run like him (202 stolen bases, 100 runs in eight seasons). Still thinking about it.

So...why did he not get your vote, then?

9. Juan Gonzalez: He may be the greatest player only to receive 5 percent of the vote in any year, as he did last year to barely stay on the ballot.

That honor actually belongs to Kevin Brown, who received even fewer votes last year.

Had a .561 career slugging percentage and was two-time MVP. Just can't quite do it.

But...WHY not?

11. Edgar Martinez: Maybe this is a little low as a reaction to the campaign on his behalf, but I don't think so. His percentages were great (.515 slugging and .418 on-base) and I'm not going to hold it against him that he was the fourth-best player on a team that never reached the World Series (I did vote for Ron Santo eventually). But he was a DH. And he only finished in the top 10 in MVP voting twice. (Some will say that's repeating an injustice, but I don't think so.) A great hitter, yes, but in my estimation he didn't leave a mark that was quite great enough.

But that doesn't explain WHY you didn't.....oh, forget it.

26. Mark McGwire: On accomplishment alone, he would be the top guy on my ballot. Just can't do it. The 70 home runs were a mirage.


Oh, whatever.

-Tucker Warner

What do you think? Comment on this post or send any and all questions, comments, or insults to Tucker Warner likes poetry and a nice pair of slacks. You can find him on Twitter at @twarner50.