Swing State Pres

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 Hall of Fame Predictions: Three Will Get In and Ten Worthies Will Be Denied, Crowded Out by Steroid Abusers and a Silly "Max Ten" Voting Rule

It seems quite clear by now exactly how Hall of Fame voters will deal with the steroids era, and the answer is:  “harshly.”  While there is a subset of voters for whom all that matters is what happened “between the lines,” the majority are quite willing to penalize the known abusers and deny them admission to the Hall of Fame.  While many (including me) find this stance admirable, one unintended consequence is that the abusers with the gaudiest stats will remain on the ballot, in some cases quite possibly for another decade.

And that creates a major problem for the Hall of Fame given the limit of 10 votes per voter.  With Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa still on the ballot (Rafael Palmiero was ejected last year), and now joined by Gary Sheffield, hundreds of votes will be cast for many years for these tainted candidates who have no chance of making the Hall.  And those votes create a logjam.  This year’s ballot contains 34 names, and excluding the steroids gang, at least 13 candidates who are worthy Hall of Famers (and several others that deserve some consideration).  Over the next five years, 11 more deserving candidates will become eligible.  Barring a rules change eliminating the 10-max cap, I can’t see how these 24 players will all find their rightful place in the Hall.

We can’t do much about that except lobby for such a change.  For now, this analysis will focus on answering two questions:  who will be elected to the Hall of Fame this year, and who should be elected?

So let’s break down all 34 players on the ballot:

·         Group 1 answers the first question:  “Who Will Be Elected”:  My assessment is that the newest members of the Hall of Fame will be Craig Biggio and first-balloters Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.  Biggio just missed last year and Johnson and Martinez are both nearly as certain as Greg Maddux was last year, and even stronger candidates than Tom Glavine, who also made it in on the first ballot in 2014.

·         Group 2 answers the second question:  “Who (Else) Should be Elected But Will Be Passed Over”:  Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent and newcomer John Smoltz.  This exceptional group is the one being punished most by the steroid guys. 

·         Group 3 players are “Ballot-Worthy, But Not Hall-Worthy”:  Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly, Larry Walker and newcomers Carlos Delgado, Brian Giles, Nomar Garciaparra, Tom Gordon and Troy Percival.  McGriff is the quintessential borderline candidate – in fact, last year I thought he was worthy – but at this point in time, you have to be better than borderline-plus to get in.  The others are excellent players, at times even dominant at times.  But not quite good enough.

·         Group 4 is comprised of “The Steroid Guys/Ballot Cloggers”:  Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and newcomer Gary Sheffield.  The first four will continue to see a slow decline in their totals, and McGwire will almost fall off the ballot (but not quite).  But this group will collectively claim over 500 votes.  Some voters may even put all five on their ballot…if you overlook the steroids, all have compelling stats.

·         Group 5 members “Never Should Have Been on the Ballot to Begin With”: Darin Erstad, Jason Schmidt, Cliff Floyd, Jermaine Dye, Rich Aurilia, Tony Clark, Aaron Boone and Eddie Guardado.  All of them made at least one All-Star team, and thus experienced at least a modicum of greatness, but none of them will even come close to getting 5% of the vote to keep them on the ballot another year, and several will get no votes at all.  Why a clogged ballot should even contain these names is a mystery to me.

Not surprisingly, last year set a record with 8.36 votes per voter.  I cannot fathom why the average was not 10.0.  I envision another year with 8+ votes, and here is my view on how it will shake out on Tuesday.

Proj.
Proj
%
Votes
2015
2015
Randy Johnson
96%
548
Pedro Martinez
95%
542
Craig Biggio
83%
474
Mike Piazza
68%
388
Jeff Bagwell
65%
371
John Smoltz
65%
371
Tim Raines
50%
286
Barry Bonds (st)
33%
188
Roger Clemens (st)
33%
188
Curt Schilling
30%
171
Lee Smith
30%
171
Edgar Martinez
27%
154
Mike Mussina
25%
143
Alan Trammell
24%
137
Jeff Kent
23%
131
Gary Sheffield (st)
18%
103
Fred McGriff
14%
80
Carlos Delgado
14%
80
Larry Walker
12%
69
Mark McGwire (st)
9%
51
Don Mattingly
7%
40
Sammy Sosa
4%
23
Brian Giles
3%
17
Nomar Garciaparra
3%
17
Tom Gordon
0.5%
3
Troy Percival
0.5%
3
Darin Ersted
0.1%
1
Aaron Boone
0.1%
1
Jason Schmidt
0.0%
0
Cliff Floyd
0.0%
0
Jermaine Dye
0.0%
0
Rich Aurilia
0.0%
0
Tony Clark
0.0%
0
Eddie Guardado
0.0%
0



# Votes

4752
# Voters

571
Votes per voter

8.32

Before we get into it in detail, here’s a note.  You will see references below to a “TG Score.”  What is it?  I (I am “TG”) 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 positive 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 invariably 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 only catcher on the ballot, Mike Piazza, with three groups of catchers:  1) all Hall of Fame catchers (the line labeled “HOF”), 2)  catchers who are in the HOF that I consider “borderline” (by virtue of having a TG Score of around 50) and 3)  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 HOF’er.  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.

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

 * Simmons, Parrish, Munson, Freehan

FIRST BASEMEN

Jeff Bagwell in the camp of “certain.”  Like Piazza among catchers, his stats are a cut above the average first base HOFer, and way ahead of the borderline groups.

Fred McGriff is a very tough call for me.  His stats generally fall in line with the “borderline” groups, with both a WAR and TG Hall Score just above 50.  He does have homer and RBI stats in line with Bagwell, but his 134 OPS+ is below average for an HOF’er and well below Bagwell’s.  Bagwell has an 80 WAR, McGriff 51.  But this was my toughest call.

Carlos Delgado is similar to McGriff in many ways, but below him on every stat.  Which makes it easier to say “no” to him.

Mark McGwire has Hall-worthy stats (some out there think not, but the 163 OPS+ and 63 WAR are superb), but the steroids rap voids them and him from consideration.

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 first-timer Tony Clark.

First Basemen
OPS+
 Hits
 Avg.
 HR
 RBI
WAR
 Hall Score
TG Vote
Bagwell
149
2314
0.297
449
1529
80
63
Yes
HOF
142
2402
0.308
296
1434
66
60

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

McGriff
134
2490
0.284
493
1550
51
56
Yes
Delgado
138
2038
0.280
473
1512
44
43
No
Mattingly
128
2153
0.307
222
1099
40
38
No
Clark, T.
112
1188
0.262
251
824
16
2
No
 * D. Allen, W. Clark, Grace, Garvey, Olerud, Hernandez
** Steroids tainted

SECOND BASEMEN

Craig Biggio has been passed over twice now for no good reason.  Last year he missed by two votes.  He certainly deserves entry, with a WAR and TG Score 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.

Jeff Kent is another tough call but I give him the nod.  It is hard to deny his feat of being the all-time leading home run hitter among second baseman, and he is third in RBI behind Hornsby and Lajoie.  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.

Second Basemen
OPS+
Hits
Avg.
HR
RBI
WAR
Hall Score
TG Vote
HOF
120
2405
0.299
152
1084
69
54

Biggio
111
3060
0.281
291
1175
66
72
Yes
TG borderline HOF (44-62)
113
2584
0.301
161
1070
64
54

Kent
123
2461
0.290
377
1518
55
57
Yes
Borderline not in HOF*
116
2137
0.273
174
878
46
40

* Whitaker, Grich, Randolph

SHORTSTOPS

Alan Trammell is on the ballot for the 14th time.  I’ve long thought he was worthy.  His stats are practically identical with the average shortstop HOF’er, 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. 

There was a time when Nomar Garciaparra looked like a certain Hall of Famer.  He outshone Derek Jeter offensively in those early years.  But like Don Mattingly, injuries robbed him of the second half of his career and put him short of the mark for both WAR and TG Hall Score.

Rich Aurilia should not be on the ballot.

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

Garciaparra
124
1747
0.313
229
936
44
31
No
Borderline not in HOF*
103
2143
0.283
129
887
39
42

Aurilio
99
1576
0.275
186
756
18
22
No
* Bartels, Stephens, Fernandez, Dark, Concepcion


THIRD BASEMEN

The Hall of Fame has always been tough on third basemen, with only 11 inductees, the fewest of any position.  But Aaron Boone is a head-scratcher for being on the ballot.  He was a below average hitter who had a short career.  I’ll always love him for that magical night in October, 2004 when he ended one of the greatest games I have ever seen, but he is simply not worthy of serious consideration.

Third Basemen
OPS+
Hits
Avg.
HR
RBI
WAR
Hall Score
TG Vote
HOF
124
2352
0.296
228
1203
67
41

TG borderline HOF (28-37)
121
2313
0.284
235
1225
66
37

Borderline not in HOF*
115
2223
0.273
290
1155
55
28

Boone, A.
94
1017
0.263
126
555
14
-30
No
* B. Bell, D. Evans, Madlock, Nettles, Boyer

OUTFIELDERS/DHs

The two best candidates in the traditional power positions are not traditional at all, 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, with so many derserving candidates, this is 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.  Welcome, Gary Sheffield, to this misbegotten steroid club.  Sheffield will get his share of votes, and never exceed that total again.

Cliff Floyd, Jermaine Dye and Darin Erstad should not be on the ballot.

Bonds**
182
2935
0.298
762
1996
158
1.16/33
No
HOF
137
2566
0.314
240
1288
70
61

Walker, Larry
140
2160
0.313
383
1311
67
49
No
Raines
123
2605
0.294
170
980
65
50
Yes
Martinez, Edgar
147
2247
0.312
309
1261
64
59
Yes
Sheffield**
140
2689
0.292
509
1676
60
68/-15
No
Sosa**
128
2408
0.273
609
1667
55
47/-36
No
TG borderline HOF (48-52)
130
2448
0.309
198
1165
51
50

Giles
136
1847
0.291
287
1078
51
36
No
Borderline not in HOF*
126
2527
0.286
310
1352
49
50

Erstad
93
1697
0.282
124
699
32
-11
No
Floyd
119
1479
0.278
233
865
26
10
No
Dye
111
1779
0.274
325
1072
20
8
No
* Staub. Oliver, Parker, Evans, R. Smith
**  Steroids tainted

STARTING PITCHERS

This is a wonderful time to be celebrating the great starting pitchers of the 1990/2000 era.  Last year Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine received first ballot nods, and this year Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez will receive the same.  So should John Smoltz and Mike Mussina, but they will likely be shut out again.

Randy Johnson may be the last pitcher to make the Hall with 300 wins.  And he sustained a 135 ERA+ over this career and a 102 WAR, amazing figures.  I never saw Walter Johnson pitch, but in my lifetime no pitcher ever struck more fear into batters than Johnson.  (Remember John Kruk in the 1993 All Star Game?)  He’s a shoo-in.

(At this point, I should reference my post from 2013 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)

Pedro Martinez falls in the “Koufax” category of a relatively short career but an overwhelming one, as evidenced by his 154 ERA+.  That number is, quite simply, higher than any other Hall of Famer’s.  Among eligible pitchers, only Mariano Rivera has a higher one (205).  Pedro is a shoo-in as well.

Mike Mussina, in my view, is a stronger candidate than was Tom Glavine; he has a better ERA+, won-loss percentage, WAR and TG Score, but Glavine got in in 2013 simply because of the mystical power of the 300-win mark.  It was ludicrous that he received 525 votes to Mussina’s 113.  Moose should make it, but he will be denied for some time to come.

Curt Schilling 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 phenomenal:  11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.

John Smoltz is kind of in the Dennis Eckersley mold, a big-time starter who became a reliever later in his career.  (And, unlike Eck, returned to being a starter and seamlessly reached 200+ innings from ages 38 to 40.)  He excelled at both roles, though that very success diminished his statistical case for the Hall, “limiting” him to 213 wins and 154 saves.  But you can’t deny that 70 WAR, and if it is your pleasure, consider his versatility, willingness to do what was best for the team, and excellent post-season stats (15-4 with a 2.67).  He should be in, but I doubt he will make it on the first ballot.

Roger Clemens…nope.

And Jason Schmidt does not belong on the ballot.

W
L
PCT.
ERA+
WAR
TG Score
TG Vote
Clemens**
354
184
0.658
143
134
122/77
No
Johnson, R.
303
166
0.646
135
102
98
Yes
Martinez, P.
219
100
0.687
154
84
91
Yes
Mussina
270
153
0.638
123
83
77
Yes
Schilling
216
146
0.597
128
76
51
Yes
Smoltz
213
155
0.579
125
70
44
Yes
HOF
269
185
0.596
122
69
65

HOF
266
184
0.596
122
65
64

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

Borderline not in HOF*
195
124
0.612
117
51
42

Schmidt
130
96
0.575
110
30
6
No
* Tiant, Guidry, Gooden, Cone, Key
** Steriods tainted


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.  (At the bottom of the chart, I’ve added the three other relievers who are on the ballot as first-timers, Troy Percival, Tom Gordon and Eddie Guardado.)  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.

Troy Percival was a fine reliever and Tom Gordon did well as another combo reliever and starter.  But it is hard to build a case for either of them, which becomes clear when look at the chart.  Percival’s WAR was lower than any of them by a good margin.  Gordon has a decent WAR but much of that was generated as a starter.  He’s no Eckersley or Smoltz.  Eddie Guardado is one of the weaker candidates ever to appear on a ballot….he was an okay reliever but had a career 4.31 ERA!

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
Yes
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
Troy Percival
358
3.17
146
18
No
Tom Gordon
158
3.96
113
35
No
Eddie Guardado
187
4.31
109
-3
No

And so, I give you a sorting out of a ballot clogged with too many worthy candidates chasing too few slots, further clogged by steroid abusers and a bunch of players who have no business being on the ballot.  Let us hope the HOF cleans up this mess soon enough by ridding itself of the 10-vote max cap and not going through the lunacy of the Aaron Boone’s and the Eddie Guardado’s.

And then we’d see a parade of terrific candidates take their rightful place in Cooperstown.


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