Swing State Pres

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hall of Fame Prediction, 2014: The Protest is Over, Let the Good Guys In! (December 29, 2013)

Last year the verdict was rendered on the Steroid Era and it was a resounding thumbs down.  It did not matter if you were totally clean (Craig Biggio), an apparently innocent victim of whisper campaigns (Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza) or outright guilty-as-charged (Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa) – no one from the Steroids Era was going to make the Hall of Fame in January, 2013.

A year has passed, and I suspect these lines of demarcation have become important.  The voting patterns established over a few years now for the truly guilty (such as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero) suggest that none of the scoundrels will ever see Cooperstown.  But I think the Good Guys from the Steroids Era (or at least the ones who never failed a test) will achieve success in time – even a few this year.

The latest problem of the Hall for Fame is, in my view, the maximum of 10 votes allowed that each voter will labor under.  There are a glut of truly deserving candidates on the ballot now, and next year those that fall short will be joined by Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, with many more first-ballot entry contenders to come in the years after that.

But…it is what it will be…so in the meantime here is my fearless prediction of who will be elected, and also who I think is deserving…sadly those will continue to be two different lists for years to come.

Who will be elected to the HOF this year (results to be announced on January 8, 2014)?  My answer:  Greg Maddux , Craig Biggio and Jack Morris will make the Hall of Fame this year.  I actually don’t think Jack Morris quite deserves it, but more on that later.  And a whole bunch of deserving candidates will fall short.

Who should be in the Hall?  Maddux, Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Fred McGriff, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, Tom Glavine and Jeff Kent.  Whew!  That’s 14 deserving players from where I sit.

Who is left out?  They come in three groupings:

·        The “deserves to be on the ballot, but not in the Hall” group includes Morris along with Don Mattingly, Larry Walker, Kenny Rogers, Luis Gonzalez and Moises Alou
·        The “steroid guys” are Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmiero and Sammy Sosa, all of whom will see their vote totals decline in the face of all these clean, deserving candidates. 
·        And the “never should have been on the ballot to begin with” group, for whom I will limit their space to their last names:  Durham, Nomo, Sexton, LoDuca, Benitez, Timlin, Casey, Gagne, Snow and the Jones boys (Jacque and Todd).

Below is my prediction on how the vote will go.  There are a ton of votes here…almost 8 per ballot.  The highest votes-per-ballot since 1990 was 6.9 in 1990, so I may be overstating it.  But when you consider the backlog from last year’s shutout and the number of deserving new candidates, I do see a votes-per-ballot record in the making.


Proj.
Proj

%
Votes

2014
2014
Greg Maddux
97%
552
Craig Biggio
76%
432
Jack Morris
76%
432
Jeff Bagwell
57%
324
Mike Piazza
55%
313
Frank Thomas
55%
313
Tim Raines
50%
285
Tom Glavine
45%
256
Lee Smith
40%
228
Curt Schilling
36%
205
Edgar Martinez
30%
171
Alan Trammell
30%
171
Roger Clemens (st)
28%
159
Barry Bonds (st)
27%
154
Mike Mussina
25%
142
Larry Walker
15%
85
Fred McGriff
14%
80
Mark McGwire (st)
11%
63
Don Mattingly
9%
51
Jeff Kent
5%
28
Sammy Sosa (st)
4%
23
Rafael Palmiero (st)
3%
17
Luis Gonzalez
2%
11
Kenny Rogers
1%
6
Moises Alou
0%
0
Ray Durham
0%
0
Hideo Nomo
0%
0
Mike Timlin
0%
0
Paul Lo Duca
0%
0
Richie Sexson
0%
0
Armando Benitez
0%
0
Sean Casey
0%
0
Eric Gagne
0%
0
Jacque Jones
0%
0
J.T.Snow
0%
0
Todd Jones
0%
0

Before we get into it in detail, here’s a note.  You will see references below to a “Tom Gardner Score” or “TG Score”?  What is it?  I have developed a regression equation that “predicts” whether one will/should make the Hall of Fame.  The independent variables for hitters are hits and OPS+, and there are additional bumps for being a catcher, second baseman or shortstop.  For pitchers, the independent variables are ERA+ and innings pitched.  Essentially, both equations have one measure for “longevity” and another for “excellence” and no other variable entered the equation. 

That is, with one exception:  there is a variable called “Problem” which is a rather tame reference to a player who has been tainted in some way, whether via gambling (e.g., Shoeless Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, Eddie Cicotte), steroids/HGH (the gang mentioned above) or some other strange issue (like Carl Mays, who killed Ben Chapman with a beanball).  It is an amazingly powerful variable, in that it discounts an affected player so much his TG Score drops below the key level of 50….a score above 50 is usually “Hall Worthy.”

In the past few years, Wins Above Replacement Value (WAR) has soared in popularity.  As it happens, WAR and the TG Score are highly correlated (excluding the “Problem” variable, which WAR of course does not have), even though they are calculated very differently.  I include WAR scores in the analysis below as well…a WAR score of 50+ is also basically HOF-worthy.

So let’s take it position by position.

CATCHERS

I’m going to reference the chart below, and a similar one for each position.  I’ve compared the two catchers on the ballot (Mike Piazza and Paul Lo Duca)  with three groupings:  all Hall of Fame catchers (the line labeled “HOF”), catchers who are in the HOF that I consider “borderline” (by virtue of having a TG Score of around 50) and other catchers who are NOT in the HOF who were also borderline (also by having a TG Score of around 50; I used Ted Simmons, Lance Parrish, Thurmon Munson and Bill Freehan).

Mike Piazza is clearly a HOFer.  He is perhaps the greatest hitting catcher of all time, as his stats dwarf those of the average catcher in the HOF.  This one is not even close.  Equally clear is the case against Paul Lo Duca.  Lo Duca was a decent hitter for a catcher but his stats fall well below the group that is not in the HOF.

Catchers
OPS+
 Hits
 Avg.
 HR
 RBI
WAR
 Hall Score
TG Vote
Piazza
142
2127
0.308
427
1335
59
93
Yes
HOF
119
1773
0.285
94
1013
49
55

TG borderline HOF (41-62)
127
1558
0.301
113
890
45
51

Borderline not in HOF*
113
1851
0.273
23
980
43
51

Lo Duca
97
1112
0.286
80
481
18
10
No

* Simmons, Parrish, Munson, Freehan

FIRST BASEMEN

First-timer Frank Thomas joins Jeff Bagwell in the camp of “certain.”  Like Piazza, their stats are a cut above the average first base HOFer, and way ahead of the borderline groups.

Fred McGriff is also an “up” vote for me.  His stats generally fall safely between the average and borderline HOF groups for first basemen, and his power stats are up there with Bagwell and Thomas (493 homers!).  Rafael Palmiero and Mark McGwire would have been Hall-worthy, but the steroids rap voids them.  You can see their TG Score before and after the “problem”…Palmiero was a particularly solid case with a score of 73, but it drops all the way to minus 10 with his failed drug test (shortly after his finger-wagging claim of innocence in testimony to Congress).

Don Mattingly was effectively robbed of the second half of his career with a bad back, and as a consequence all his numbers fall short of the mark.  But at least he is worthy of consideration.  I can’t say the same for Richie Sexson, Sean Casey or J.T. Snow, who collectively managed five All-Star game appearances but little else to warrant inclusion on the ballot…they all have negative TG scores.

First Basemen
OPS+
 Hits
 Avg.
 HR
 RBI
WAR
 Hall Score
TG Vote
Bagwell
149
2314
0.297
449
1529
80
63
Yes
Thomas, Frank
156
2468
0.301
521
1704
74
75
Yes
HOF
142
2399
0.308
284
1421
66
59

Palmiero
132
3020
0.288
569
1835
66
73/(10)
No
McGriff
134
2490
0.284
493
1550
51
56
Yes
McGwire
163
1626
0.263
583
1414
63
51/(32)
No
TG borderline HOF (46-53)
138
2198
0.297
363
1391
54
49

Borderline not in HOF*
131
2248
0.297
250
1180
53
44

Mattingly
128
2153
0.307
222
1099
40
38
No
Sexson
120
1286
0.261
306
943
18
-1
No
Casey
109
1531
0.302
130
735
16
-2
No
Snow
105
1509
0.268
189
877
11
-7
No
* D. Allen, W. Clark, Garce, Garvey, Olerud, Hernandez
** Steroids tainted

SECOND BASEMEN

Jeff Kent is the first-time candidate of note here, and his stats line up well with the HOF groups.  He was simply one of the greatest power-hitting second basemen ever.  I’ve often thought that Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich were HOF-worthy and Kent’s stats exceeds theirs.

Craig Biggio should have been a first ballot HOFer last year, a clear victim of his era.  He certainly deserves entry, with a WAR and TG Score well ahead of Kent and each above 65, which is terrific.  His OPS+ is only average but his consistent excellence over a long career gives him a leg up on most second basemen in the Hall.

Ray Durham had a fine career, but his trip to Cooperstown will come as a visitor if it comes at all.  Jose Vidro is not on the ballot, but he had 1500 hits, which is the minimum for consideration for a non-catcher (in my view), so I threw him on the chart.  He certainly is more worthy than the Sexson, Casey, Snow trio at first base, with a positive TG Score, and he made three All-Star teams – one more than Durham!

Second Basemen
OPS+
Hits
Avg.
HR
RBI
WAR
Hall Score
TG Vote
Biggio
111
3060
0.281
291
1175
66
72
Yes
Kent
123
2461
0.290
377
1518
55
57
Yes
HOF
120
2405
0.299
152
1084
69
54

TG borderline HOF (44-62)
113
2584
0.301
161
1070
64
54

Borderline not in HOF*
116
2137
0.273
174
878
46
40

Durham
104
2054
0.277
192
875
34
27
No
Vidro
108
1524
0.298
128
654
17
10
No
* Whitaker, Grich, Randolph

SHORTSTOPS

Alan Trammell is the only shortstop on the ballot, now for the 13th time.  I’ve long thought he was worthy.  His stats are practically identical with the average shortstop HOFer, except for those 185 homers which are nearly double his HOF peers.  Trammell was outshone in his career by Cal Ripken, Jr., and then eclipsed by the Jeter/A.Rod/Nomar trio of outstanding hitting shortstops.  But he belongs, for sure.  It’s quite a statement that no other shortstops are even on the ballot, and none are on the horizon either among recent retirees, unless you get excited by a David Eckstein candidacy (actually, Nomar is up in 2016 and Edgar Renteria in 2018).

Shortstops
OPS+
Hits
Avg.
HR
RBI
WAR
Hall Score
TG Vote
Trammell
110
2365
0.285
185
1003
67
58
Yes
HOF
109
2335
0.286
117
1056
63
54

TG borderline HOF (43-53)
105
2248
0.284
59
939
54
49

Borderline not in HOF*
103
2143
0.283
129
887
39
42

* Bartels, Stephens, Fernandez, Dark, Concepcion


THIRD BASEMEN

Did anyone notice there are no third basemen on the ballot this year?  Thirty-six players on the ballot, and no one from the hot corner?  The HOF is very tough on third basemen…the position with the fewest members.  And that is obviously not changing anytime soon…until Chipper Jones and Scott Rolen come on the ballot….in 2018! (And Rolen is hardly a shoo-in.)


OUTFIELDERS/DHs

This is not a good year for these traditional power positions.  The two best candidates here are not homer run types, but they still get my vote:  Edgar Martinez and Tim Raines.  Martinez gets dissed as a full-time DH, and Raines is undervalued as a speedster, but both have WAR’s and TG Scores well above the borderline HOFers and stack up well with the average outfield HOFer.

Larry Walker is a borderline candidate…he has a high WAR and an on-the-cusp TG score of 49.  But he suffers from “Coors Field Syndrome,” with an otherworldly home OPS of 1.068 and a merely very good .865 on the road.  Good…not good enough.  Face it, it’s not a good time to be a borderline candidate.

Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa…deservedly shunned again…and again…and will be for another decade.

This year’s first-time candidates are not HOF caliber.  Luis Gonzalez and Moises Alou had very good careers…the former made five All-Star teams, the latter six.  Gonzalez’s OPS+ of 118 hurt him relative to the borderline groups, and Alou simply had a relatively short career and only 2,134 hits, and not enough “excellence” to offset that lack of “longevity.”

Jacque Jones is one of the most absurd ballot selections in years.  I cannot remember a lower TG score that was not a “Problem”-tainted score.  His former Twin teammate Shannon Stewart is not on the ballot, but he did get to the magic 1500-hit level and certainly is a better ballot contender than Jones!  But neither of them even made one All-Star team.

Outfielders/DH
OPS+
Hits
Avg.
HR
RBI
WAR
Hall Score
TG Vote
Bonds**
182
2935
0.298
762
1996
158
1.16/33
No
HOF
137
2566
0.314
240
1288
70
61

Martinez, Edgar
147
2247
0.312
309
1261
64
59
Yes
Raines
123
2605
0.294
170
980
65
50
Yes
TG borderline HOF (48-52)
130
2448
0.309
198
1165
51
50

Borderline not in HOF*
126
2527
0.286
310
1352
49
50

Walker, Larry
140
2160
0.313
383
1311
67
49
No
Sosa**
128
2408
0.273
609
1667
55
47/-36
No
Gonzalez, Luis
118
2591
0.283
354
1439
52
45
No
Alou, Moises
128
2134
0.303
332
1287
40
37
No
Stewart, Shannon
105
1653
0.297
115
580
25
-1
No
Jones, Jacques
98
1272
0.277
165
630
12
-22
No
* Staub. Oliver, Parker, Evans, R. Smith
**  Steroids tainted

STARTING PITCHERS

Starting pitchers are the most fascinating category this year. 

First of all, it is a banner year for first-time candidates.  Greg Maddux deserves 100% of the vote (he won’t get it, though he’ll come close, I bet) as simply one of the greatest pitchers of all time.  Mike Mussina and Tom Glavine are also worthy.  Mussina, in my view, is the stronger candidate, with a higher ERA+, won-loss percentage, WAR and TG Score, but Glavine will get more votes simply because of the mystical power of the 300-win mark. 

(At this point, I should reference my post from last summer that sought to answer the question, “What is the new ‘automatic ticket’ to the HOF if 300 wins is nearing extinction?”  Here’s the post where you can find the answer:  http://www.borntorunthenumbers.com/2013/07/automatic-ticket-for-starting-pitchers.html)

This is Jack Morris’s last year on the ballot, and I think he will get in.  He received 68% of the votes last year and usually if you achieve that level close to the end of your time on the ballot, you get the nod.  But I simply don’t view him as a HOFer.  Morris’s ERA+ of 105 is way substandard – that means his ERA was only 5% better than the league average over his entire career!  The pitchers on both sides of the HOF borderline are at a whopping 122/123.  Morris is not even close to that.  He also does not have the 270 wins that I posit is the new “automatic” standard (in case you did not read my article!).  And both his WAR and TG Score are below 50.  What he does have is an incredible Game 7 performance in the 1991 World Series, the famous 10-inning-complete-game-shutout of the Braves that gave the Twins the series.  A great Game 7 worked for Bill Mazeroski, but Joe Carter’s Game 6 walk-off Series winning homer in 1993 did not do it for him.  We’ll see about Morris.

Curt Schilling may not know how to do a video game start up, but he IS deserving of the Hall of Fame.  His OPS+ is a sterling 128 and his WAR is 76, along with a TG Score of 51.  And if you like postseason performances, his stats are far superior to Morris’s:  11-2 with a 2.23 ERA versus 7-4 with a 3.80.

Kenny Rogers picked the wrong year to retire, but he would be a substandard candidate even if the competition was not so stiff.  And Hideo Nomo is not worthy of a ballot slot, unless you consider his four strong seasons in Japan.


W
L
PCT.
ERA+
WAR
TG Score
TG Vote
Clemens
354
184
0.658
143
134
122/77
No
Maddux
355
227
0.610
132
107
103
Yes
Mussina
270
153
0.638
123
83
77
Yes
Glavine
305
203
0.600
118
81
76
Yes
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
Morris
254
168
0.602
105
39
45
No
Borderline not in HOF*
195
124
0.612
117
51
42

Rogers
219
156
0.584
108
51
37
No
Nomo
123
109
0.530
97
21
-16
No
* Tiant, Guidry, Gooden, Cone, Key


RELIEF PITCHERS

I do not have a model for relief pitchers, so no TG Score here.  There have simply not been enough of them to comprise a good data set for regression modeling.  But I do give you the stats below, ranking the Top 10 relievers of all-time by WAR.  If you ever wondered if Mariano Rivera was truly the best reliever of all time, stare at this chart awhile. 

I think Lee Smith makes the grade based on this information.  He has nearly 500 saves, which is 3rd all-time, a 132 ERA+ which is better than Gossage or Fingers.  His WAR of 30 exceeds Sutter and Fingers.  He should be in.

I don’t see Eric Gagne, Mike Timlin, Armando Benitez or Todd Jones on this list, nor should the be in the HOF.

Relief Pitchers
Saves
ERA
ERA+
WAR
HOF
Mariano Rivera
652
2.06
205
57
Not Yet Eligible
Rich Gossage
310
2.77
126
40
Yes
Hoyt Wilhelm
227
2.49
147
40
Yes
Trevor Hoffman
601
2.87
141
31
Not Yet Eligible
Lee Smith 
478
2.98
132
30
On Ballot
Billy Wagner
422
2.31
187
30
Not Yet Eligible
John Franco
424
2.89
137
26
No
Bruce Sutter
300
2.83
136
25
Yes
Rollie Fingers 
341
2.73
120
24
Yes
Dan Quisenberry 
244
2.76
146
24
No

So, the boycott is over, the protest against the Steroid Era is by the books.  And just in time, because the floodgates are about to open, with a slew of entries in the coming years…for the Good Guys of the Steriods Era.