Swing State Pres

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My Baseball Hall of Fame Picks and Predictions (January 6, 2013)


This is the year we have been waiting for:  the votes that define the full judgment on the Steroids Era.  Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero have already felt the sting of the abrupt dismissal of their juiced-up HOF stats (at least for now).  And now the poster children of the era, two players who would otherwise lay a viable claim to the titles “Best Player Ever” and “Best Pitcher Ever,” Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, face the judgment, along with Sammy Sosa.

Some will argue that Bonds and Clemens were HOF-worthy well before the grossly exaggerated versions of themselves put up eye-popping stats at an age when most mere athletic mortals are following a natural downward spiral towards retirement.  And thus their ticket to Cooperstown was already stamped before the needle and the damage was done.  Sure, and Pete Rose may never have gambled as a player.  So what?  In my book, they are toast.

So, I give you, to start, my ballot, and then my prediction.  The two lists are very different because in my view, voters do not typically do a very good job.  Results will be announced on January 9th

My ballot: the nine players who are worthy of entry into the HOF:

Mike Piazza
Jeff Bagwell
Fred McGriff
Mike Piazza
Alan Trammell
Edgar Martinez
Lee Smith
Curt Schilling
Tim Raines

Let’s be clear:  I do not believe anyone who was proven to have taken steroids (via the Mitchell report or a known failed test) or HGH should ever get in the HOF.  We can’t take away their stats, or their trophies, or suspend them.  In fact, about all we can do is deny them entry to the HOF.  So let’s do that.

Also, I don’t believe in this “doesn’t deserve the first ballot” crap.  You are either a Hall of Famer or not.  What is the point of “building momentum” over the years?  It makes no sense.

And who will actually get in?  Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Jack Morris.

Here’s my stab at how the voting will go:


Proj.
Proj

%
Votes

2013
2013
Mike Piazza*
86.0%
520
Craig Biggio*
79.3%
480
Jack Morris
76.0%
460
Jeff Bagwell
57.9%
350
Lee Smith
49.6%
300
Tim Raines
49.6%
300
Roger Clemens*
41.3%
250
Barry Bonds*
41.3%
250
Edgar Martinez
35.5%
215
Alan Trammell
34.7%
210
Curt Schilling
28.1%
170
Fred McGriff
19.0%
115
Larry Walker
18.2%
110
Don Mattingly
15.7%
95
Dale Murphy
15.7%
95
Mark McGwire
14.9%
90
Sammy Sosa*
11.6%
70
Rafael Palmiero
9.9%
60
Bernie Williams
6.6%
40
David Wells*
6.6%
40
Julio Franco*
3.0%
18
Kenny Lofton*
2.0%
12
Shawn Green*
0.5%
3
Steve Finley*
0.3%
2
Sandy Alomar*
0.3%
2
Ryan Klesko*
0.2%
1
Jeff Conine*
0.0%
0
Royce Clayton*
0.0%
0
Reggie Sanders*
0.0%
0
Aaron Sele*
0.0%
0
Rondell White*
0.0%
0
Jeff Cirillo*
0.0%
0
Todd Walker*
0.0%
0
Woody Williams*
0.0%
0
 * First time on the ballot

 Note that I think Jack Morris will get elected, even though I don’t think he is worthy.  More on that later.

One other prediction:  Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will get the exact same number of votes.

THE BALLOT:  WHO IS “HALL WORTHY”?

Let’s start with the starting pitchers.  I’m going to reference the chart below.  I’ve compared the six pitchers on the ballot (Clemens, Schilling, Wells, Morris, Sele and Woody Williams)  with three groupings:  all Hall of Fame starting pitchers (the line labeled HOF), guys  who are on the HOF that I consider “borderline” (by virtue of having a Tom Gardner Score of around 50 based on my regression equation) and other guys were are NOT in the HOF who were also borderline (by the same method; I used Luis Tiant, Ron Guidry, Doc Gooden, David Cone and Jimmy Key for this group).

You can clearly see that Roger Clemens is far superior to every grouping.  He’s a certain HOF’er absent the steroids, but so be it.  He’s out.
  

W
L
PCT.
ERA+
WAR
TG Score
TG Vote
Clemens**
354
184
0.658
143
134
122/77
No
HOF
266
184
0.596
122
65
64

My borderline HOF (.48-.52)
219
154
0.599
123
57
50

Schilling
216
146
0.597
128
76
51
Yes
Wells
239
157
0.604
108
49
49
No
Morris
254
168
0.602
105
39
45
No
Borderline not in HOF*
195
124
0.612
117
51
42

Sele
148
112
0.569
100
18
5
No
Williams, Woody
132
116
0.532
103
28
-8
No
*   Tiant, Guidry, Gooden, Cone, Key
**  Steroids tainted







The more interesting cases are Curt Schilling, David Wells and Jack Morris, who had very similar careers, and were also known for postseason excellence.  Each had 200+ wins (but not the high 200’s) and each won 60% of their decisions.  Each are classic borderline types, compiling stats that are similar to both the guys that squeaked in and those who just missed.  So why is Schilling deserving, but not Wells and Morris? 

1)  Schilling, while having fewer wins, had an ERA+ of 128, which means his ERA was 28% better than the average for the league of his career.  Wells’ and Morris’ ERA’s were only 8% and 5% better, which is very low by HOF standards (note the borderline guys were 123 and 117.) 

2)  Schilling had a “WAR” (Wins Above Replacement Value) of 76 while the other two have WAR’s below 50.  This means that Schilling, over his career, compiled 76 more wins than a “replacement” player – that is, a typical 5th or 6th starter) – would have compiled.

3)  Schilling’s postseason stats are far better than the other two:  he was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.  Wells was 10-5 with a 3.17 and Morris was 7-4 with a 3.80.

So, much as it pains me, since I’m not a big Schilling fan and, god knows, I am a Yankee fan, but Curt deserves the plaque.

I’m not even going to dignify Aaron Sele and Woody Williams with any commentary. 

CATCHERS

There are two catchers on the ballot, Piazza and Sandy Alomar.  Mike Piazza has some steroid whispers but no proof.  He is easily the greatest hitting catcher of all-time.  He dominates the other groups even more than Clemens.  Sandy Alomar is not even close to borderline, though obviously he was the better defensive catcher.  But let’s not waste too much time here:  Piazza is a must.

Just to clarify this chart, OPS+ is the hitting equivalent of ERA+:  OPS is “on base percentage plus slugging percentage,” and the “+” means the statistic is indexing the player’s OPS to the league average for his era.  Thus Piazza, essentially, hit a whopping 42% better than the league average.

Catchers
OPS+
Hits
Avg.
HR
RBI
WAR
TG Score
TG Vote
Piazza
142
2,127
0.308
427
1,335
59
93
Yes
HOF
119
1,773
0.285
94
1,013
49
55

TG borderline HOF (.41-.62)
127
1,558
0.301
113
890
45
51

Borderline not in HOF*
113
1,851
0.273
23
980
43
51

Alomar
86
1,236
0.273
112
588
12
10
No
*Simmons, Parrish, Munson, Freehan










FIRST BASEMEN

Like Piazza, Jeff Bagwell hears some whispers about steroids…such is the fate of any muscle-bound star of the era, even those never mentioned in the Mitchell Report or with any failed drug tests.  With an OPS+ of 149 and a WAR of 80, not to mention 449 homers and over 1500 RBI’s, he’s a certain HOF’er.

Rafael Palmiero and Mark McGwire are both HOF material, but both are tainted and thus doomed to the outside, though they will continue to get their votes.

Fred McGriff is a fascinating case and I tip the scales in his favor.  He’s borderline in many ways, but with a 50+ score on both WAR and the TG score, his power stats (493 homers and 1,550 RBIs) get him a plaque in my view.  Very tough call.

Don Mattingly was the best player in the game for a 6-year period, but his back woes left him short.  It is amazing to me how many great Yankees fall just short of making the grade….this ballot alone includes Mattingly, Wells and Bernie Williams, joining a long list of “borderline” Yankees who never made it that includes Munson, Nettles, Guidry, Randolph, Cone, Maris, Tino Martinez and others.

Alas, Ryan Klesko does not really belong on the ballot.

First Basemen
OPS+
Hits
Avg.
HR
RBI
WAR
TG Score
TG Vote
Bagwell
149
2,314
0.297
449
1,529
80
63
Yes
HOF
142
2,399
0.308
284
1,421
66
59

Palmiero**
132
3,020
0.288
569
1,835
66
73/10
No
McGriff
134
2,490
0.284
493
1,550
51
0.56
Yes
McGwire**
163
1,626
0.263
583
1,414
63
51/32
No
TG borderline HOF (.46-.53)
138
2,198
0.297
363
1,391
54
49

Borderline not in HOF*
131
2,248
0.297
250
1,180
53
44

Mattingly
128
2,153
0.307
222
1,099
40
38
No
Klesko
128
1,564
0.279
278
987
27
17
No
*   D. Allen, W. Clark, Grace, Garvey, Olerud, Hernandez
** Steriods tainted

SECOND BASEMEN

Craig Biggio is a classic HOF candidate and should be elected.  Conventional thinkers will point to his 3,000 hits as the golden ticket, but his 66 WAR and .73 TG Score are certainly HOF caliber.  He has excellent power stats for a second baseman, but his OPS+ is borderline at 111.

Second Basemen
OPS+
Hits
Avg.
HR
RBI
WAR
TG Score
TG Vote
Biggio
111
3,060
0.281
291
1,175
66
72
Yes
HOF
120
2,405
0.299
152
1,084
69
54

TG borderline HOF (.44-.62)
113
2,584
0.301
161
1,070
64
54

Borderline not in HOF*
116
2,137
0.273
174
878
46
40

Walker, Todd
98
1,316
0.289
107
545
8
-8
No
* Whitaker, Grich, Randolph

SHORTSTOPS

I have long thought of Alan Trammell as a Hall of Fame shortstop, but he’s suffered for being a peer of Cal Ripken, Jr. and a forerunner of the Jeter/A. Rod/Nomar/Tejada era of tremendous hitting shortstops.  But his stats clearly match those of HOF shortstops on all dimensions, and he should be inducted.  His long-time double play partner, Lou Whitaker, is no longer on the ballot, a true injustice as his stats largely mirror Trammell’s and are  even more impressive compared to second basemen.

Royce Clayton is far from HOF material.

Shortstops
OPS+
Hits
Avg.
HR
RBI
WAR
TG Score
TG Vote
Trammell
110
2,365
0.285
185
1,003
67
58
Yes
HOF
109
2,335
0.286
117
1,056
63
54

TG borderline HOF (.43-.53)
105
2,248
0.284
59
939
54
49

Borderline not in HOF*
103
2,143
0.283
129
887
39
42

Clayton
77
1,904
0.258
110
723
16
10
No
* Bartell, Stephens, Fernandez, Dark, Concepcion

THIRD BASEMEN

Jeff Cirillo is the only third base candidate this year, and he is far from qualified for the HOF.

Third Basemen
OPS+
Hits
Avg.
HR
RBI
WAR
TG Score
TG Vote
HOF
124
2,352
0.296
228
1,203
67
41

TG borderline HOF (.28-.37)
121
2,313
0.284
235
1,225
66
37

Borderline not in HOF*
115
2,223
0.273
290
1,155
55
28

Cirillo
102
1,598
0.296
112
727
33
-6
No
* B. Bell, D. Evans, Madlock, Nettles, Boyer

OUTFIELDERS

A large group of outfielders/DH’s are on the ballot and only one is worthy is my view, and that is Edgar Martinez.

Let’s dispense with Barry Bonds first.  What can I say, he has unbelievable, dare I say Ruthian stats.  But no go.

Edgar Martinez is another fascinating call, a guy who spent roughly ___% of his career as a DH, one of the few primarily DH candidates we have had (Paul Molitor was another).  Edgar gets my vote on the strength of that singular hitting talent, with an exceptional OPS of 147, and WAR and TG Scores well above 50.

Tim Raines was another tough call.  With a WAR of 65 he certainly merits consideration, even though his OPS+ is only 123.  Raines of course had 808 steals, and even more impressive was his 85% stolen base success rate, one of the best ever, which clearly was a huge plus not captured in the OPS (you need, I believe, a 70% rate for the increased scoring opportunities created by a successful steal to offset the removal of same and the lost out of an out stealing).  So the Rock gets in.

Larry Walker looks like a strong candidate but the “Coors Field” Factor is quite strong for him.  His Coors OPS was an otherwordly 1.068, but only .865 on the road, which in a given year may not even land him on an All-Star team.

Sammy Sosa is interesting because I’m not sure he is a HOF’er even if he was not tainted.  His OPS+ of 128 is borderline, but he would probably get the nod for his power stats and a decent WAR.  But no.

Bernie Williams is another one that is a tough call.  His regular season stats are borderline at best, with below 50 WAR and TG Score.  But he is the all-time leader in postseason RBIs and second in hits, runs, home runs, doubles and total bases.  Having said that, his postseason stats are quite similar to those of his regular seasons…and thus the whole picture does not add up to Hall-worthiness.

Steve Finley and Kenny Lofton are fine players with combinations of speed and power reminiscent of Tim Raines, but both are Rock-lite, not Rock-like.

Dale Murphy is getting a fair amount of discussion as this is his last year of eligibility, but the two-time MVP has stats that are across the board below the borderline outfielders (guys like Rusty Staub, Al Oliver, Dave Parker, Dwight Evans and Reggie Smith, none of whom made the HOF).

And the other outfielders, Shawn Green, Jeff Conine, Reggie Sanders and Rondell White, are all pretty good players, each with an All-Star pick or two, but each falls well short of Cooperstown consideration.

Outfielders/DH
OPS+
Hits
Avg.
HR
RBI
WAR
TG Score
TG Vote
Bonds**
182
2,935
0.298
762
1,996
158
1.16/.33
No
HOF
137
2,566
0.314
240
1,288
70
0.61

Martinez, Edgar
147
2,247
0.312
309
1,261
64
0.59
Yes
Raines
123
2,605
0.294
170
980
65
0.50
Yes
TG borderline HOF (.48-.52)
130
2,448
0.309
198
1,165
51
0.50

Borderline not in HOF*
126
2,527
0.286
310
1,352
49
0.50

Walker, Larry
140
2,160
0.313
383
1,311
67
0.49
No
Sosa**
128
2,408
0.273
609
1,667
55
.47/-.36
No
Williams, Bernie
125
2,336
0.297
287
1,257
47
0.42
No
Finley
104
2,548
0.271
304
1,167
40
0.30
No
Lofton
107
2,428
0.299
130
781
65
0.28
No
Murphy
119
2,111
0.265
398
1,266
44
0.28
No
Green, Shawn
120
2,003
0.283
328
1,070
31
0.25
No
Conine
107
1,982
0.285
214
1,071
15
0.12
No
Sanders
115
1,666
0.267
305
983
37
0.08
No
White, Rondell
108
1,519
0.284
198
768
26
(0.04)
No
 *    Staub, Oliver, Parker, Evans, R. Smith
**  Steroids tainted

HYBRID

Julio Franco is an interesting candidate, with nearly 2600 hits.  He split his time roughly in thirds between second, short and OF/DH and I have therefore concocted a hybrid set of comparables.  He’s basically a very strong hitting middle infielder but a relatively modest DH-type.  He’s not a Hall of Famer – look at that WAR – but he lines up closer to the border than I would have thought.

Hybrid (1/3 SS/ 1/3 2B, 1/3 OF/DH)
OPS+
Hits
Avg.
HR
RBI
WAR
TG Score
TG Vote
HOF
122
2435
0.300
170
1142
67
56

TG borderline HOF
116
2427
0.298
139
1058
56
51

Borderline not in HOF*
115
2269
0.281
204
1039
45
44

Franco
111
2,586
0.298
173
1,194
40
54
No

RELIEF PITCHERS

Relief pitchers have not been around long enough for established norms to have been established, much less regression equations built (although I’m working on one!).  But I simply find it hard to argue against Lee Smith, who is third on the all-time list of saves with 478, trailing only Mariano and Trevor Hoffman.  He is well ahead of #4, John Franco (424), and light years ahead of Hall of Famers Ekersley (390), Fingers (341), Gossage (310) and Sutter (300).  I can’t figure out why he has not done better in the voting to date.


Comments welcome!  And check back on January 9th to see how I did!