Swing State Pres

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thoughts on and Analysis of the Nominees for the Veterans Committees MLB Hall of Fame Vote: Hello, Dick Allen!

On Monday, December 8th, the Golden Era for Veterans Committee will announce whether they will add any new members to the Hall of Fame from the vast pool of major leaguers who were not voted into the HOF within the standard 15-year voting period.

The purpose of this post is to give my best shot (analytically based) of who SHOULD be voted in among those nominated – not who I think WILL be voted in (I;m not trying to get into the minds of the committee), but rather who I think is worthy of the designation.

The ballot consists of nine players and one executive.  The players are Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills.  The exec Is Bob Howsam, and I will not address his candidacy at all.

Here is the headline:  I think Dick Allen is definitely worthy of the HOF, and the rest are not.

Below are some stats that support my views on each player.  In each case, I’ve compared the candidates to others as follows:

1)       Hall of Famers (at their position)
2)       The ten “worst” Hall of Famers at their position, including, often, undeserving enshrinees, based on my own “Hall Score” (explained below)
3)       “Borderline” Hall of Famers, (defined again using my Hall Score), again at their position;  these players are usually paradoxically somewhat better than the “ten worst,” since the ten worst includes some guys who simply are wrongly enshrined in the Hall and are not even “borderline.”
4)       Five players at their position who are NOT in the Hall now….borderline players who failed to make it in the voting, which is essentially the direct peer group of the nominees, and, in effect, comprise the pool from which the nominees were selected to be reconsidered

My hall score regression equation is fairly simple.  For hitters, the variables are “Hits” (which is a good proxy for a long productive career) and “Adjusted OPS” (on base percentage plus slugging percentage, relative to the league in their era and several other adjustments for ballpark, a good proxy for “brilliance” if not endurance).  The equation is pretty good, with an R-squared of 41%.

For pitchers, the variables are “Wins” (like “Hits,” it is a good proxy for a long productive career) and “Adjusted ERA”, which is ERA adjusted for league, era, ballpark, etc (a good proxy for brilliance).  “Won-Loss Percentage” also enters the equation, although us sabermeticians believe it should not be that important.

Let’s take the players in turn, by position. 

FIRST BASE

First base has two candidates, Dick Allen and Gil Hodges.

First base
 OPS+
 Hits
 Avg.
 HR
 RBI
Hall Score
 WAR
HOF
     142
    2,399
    0.308
    284
   1,421
              59
      66
Ten worst HOF
     133
    2,140
    0.301
    278
   1,271
              42
      49
My borderline HOF (.48-.52)
     138
    2,198
    0.297
    363
   1,391
              49
      54
Garvey, Hernandez, Cash, Vernon, Mattingly
     126
    2,250
    0.291
    241
   1,178
              39
      45
Dick Allen
     156
    1,848
    0.292
    351
   1,119
              53
      61
Gil Hodges
     119
    1,921
    0.273
    370
   1,274
              21
      45

Dick Allen fares very well in every comparison.  His OPS+ of 156 (meaning his career OPS is 56% better than the league) is phenomenal, better than the average for each grouping.  He did not have a long career, only 15 years, and that is reflected in his lower hit and RBI totals.  But his Hall Score (which reconciles the two) and his WAR are very healthy, certainly right in there with the Hall of Famers and well above those of the lesser groupings.  Accordingly, in my view he is a Hall of Famer.

Gil Hodges is pretty clear cut the other way.  His hall score of 21 is very low, lower than every group – basically he was a decently productive hitter (119 OPS+) with relatively few hits (especially for 18 seasons).  So he lacks true distinction on either hitting dimension.  His candidacy is based on good homer and RBI totals, the fact that he was a good fielder, and his managerial record which, though brief, included his ’69 Mets championship.  But he really is no more distinguished than his “peer group” (Steve Garvey, Keith Hernandez, Norm Cash, Mickey Vernon and Don Mattingly)  who produced more, had more hits than Hodges, an equal WAR and were as good or better with the glove. None of them are in the Hall, none deserve to be in, and neither does Hodges.

SHORTSTOP

Maury Wills is an interesting candidate.  On the face of it, he does not belong, given his very low OPS, power stats and Hall Score.  But of course the potential differentiating factor for Wills is his stolen base total, which are not captured in any of this data, as it is rarely a deciding factor for anyone (e.g., Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson were certain Hall of Famers even if they had average steal totals).

So, as an experiment of the value of the stolen base, I attempted to adjust his OPS+ for those stolen bases.  I essentially gave him an extra single for every net stolen base he had (586 stolen bases minus 208 caught stealing equals 378 net steals).  That made his slugging percentage go up by 50 points (while not affecting his on-base percentage since he was already on base for those steals), moving his OPS+ up from 88 to 95.  Of course, I would need to adjust the other players and the entire league to do this right, but my point is that even with these adjustments in Wills’ favor he does not match the OPS of any other group.

So, sorry Maury!


Shortstop
 OPS+
 Hits
 Avg.
 HR
 RBI
Hall Score
 WAR
HOF
     109
    2,335
    0.286
    117
   1,056
              54
      63
Five worst HOF
     100
    1,898
    0.279
      86
      820
              32
      49
My borderline HOF (.48-.52)
     105
    2,248
    0.284
      59
      939
              49
      54
Bartell, Fregosi, Dark, Campaneris, Groat
     100
    2,073
    0.277
      95
      705
              36
      40
Maury Wills
       88
    2,134
    0.281
      20
      458
              29
      33


THIRD BASE

Third basemen have it rough.  There are only 11 of them in the Hall, compared with first basemen (20), second basemen (17) and shortstops (21).  They seemed to be judged as hitters only, whereas the middle infielders are given credit for fielding, and this is inherently unfair.  And they don’t hit as well as outfielders because that glove is important.

On the other hand, there simply have not been many truly great third basemen.  Brett, Boggs, Brooks, Schmitt and Mathews were all fantastic and Hall-worthy, of course, but the other five in the Hall, Traynor, Baker, Kell, Collins and Lindstrom, are not terribly impressive.  When I was a kid, Pie Traynor was the “All-Time Team” third basemen and he stood out like a sore thumb on a team that Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle did not make!


Third base
 OPS+
 Hits
 Avg.
 HR
 RBI
Hall Score
 WAR
HOF
     124
    2,362
    0.298
    216
   1,191
              42
      71
Five worst HOF
     115
    2,011
    0.308
      80
      978
              21
      43
Bell, Evans, Madlock, Nettles, Cey
     116
    2,168
    0.268
    297
   1,155
              28
      53
Ken Boyer
     115
    2,143
    0.287
    282
   1,141
              26
      58

 Ken Boyer’s stats are virtually identical to his peer group of Buddy Bell, Darrell Evans, Bill Madlock, Graig Nettles and Ron Cey.  The numbers speak for themselves.  All six of them are as good or even better than the “five worst,” but that includes, as stated, more than a few suspect players.  And Boyer and his peer group are a cut below the entire HOF class of third basemen.

You could argue that there is no reason for infielders to be unevenly distributed in the Hall, and therefore with only 10 representatives, another 5-10 third basemen have been denied.  So you could make a case for each of Boyer and at least some of the other five.  But alone, for Boyer, no.

OUTFIELDERS

Tony Oliva and Minnie Minoso have Hall-worthy OPS+ but less than 2,000 hits, so their candidacy is weaker than the borderline hall members and the five peers who are not in the Hall (Rusty Staub, Al Oliver, Dave Parker, Dwight Evans and Reggie Smith).  They are both better than the ten worst Hall outfielders, but if the bar was really set by Lloyd Waner and Ross Youngs, there were be fifty or so more outfielders in the Hall!  So no to Oliva and Minoso.

Outfielders
 OPS+
 Hits
 Avg.
 HR
 RBI
Hall Score
 WAR
HOF
     137
    2,566
    0.314
    240
   1,288
              61
      70
Ten worst HOF
     127
    1,748
    0.303
    135
      814
              23
      39
My borderline HOF (.48-.52)
     130
    2,448
    0.309
    198
   1,165
              50
      51
Staub, Oliver, Parker, Evans, Smith
     126
    2,527
    0.286
    310
   1,352
              50
      49
Tony Oliva
     130
    1,917
    0.304
    220
      947
              31
      42
Minnie Minoso
     130
    1,963
    0.298
    186
   1,023
              33
      53


PITCHERS

As for the pitchers, Jim Kaat is really a peer of Tommy John and no one else (aside from a couple of guys from the pre-20th century years).  Both have a very high win total, near the magic 300 level, but not terrific ERA’s or won-lost records.  Both are quintessential “longevity” plays.  (John also missed out on the 15 year writers voting.)

As hard as it is to deny a pitcher with 283 wins – a figure that may never again be reached – I say “no” to Kaat.  His ERA+ of 107 is very mediocre, well below the borderline Hall guys, and wins alone do not offset that.  Plus, to bring it some other stats, he made only 3 All-Stars teams and had only ONE appearance in the Cy Young Top Ten (Ron Guidry, who had a much shorter career, and is also not on the Hall, had SIX of these).  He had poor postseason stats, and his WAR is 41, only 123rd on the all-time pitchers list.

It is far easier to turn down Tiant and Pierce.  Both are more or less in the same place stat-wise as the five peers who are not in the Hall (Jack Morris, Ron Guidry, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and Jimmy Key).  And four of those players (all save Gooden) have impressive post-season records.  To pull Tiant and Pierce out of their peer group and into the Hall seems undeserved.

Pitchers
 ERA+
 W
 L
 PCT.
 ERA
 Hall Score
 WAR
HOF
     122
       266
       184
 0.596
     2.94
              64
      65
Ten worst HOF
     114
       212
       166
 0.564
     3.13
              33
      45
My borderline HOF (.48-.52)
     123
       219
       154
 0.599
     2.85
              50
      57
Morris, Guidry, Gooden, Cone, Key
     115
       200
       126
 0.617
     3.53
              43
      47
Pierce
     119
       211
       169
 0.555
     3.27
              33
      53
Kaat
     107
       283
       237
 0.544
     3.45
              47
      41
Tiant
     113
       229
       172
 0.571
     3.30
              40
      60

We’ll see what the Committee says on December 8th!



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