Monday, January 21, 2019

BTRTN's Annual Major League Baseball Hall of Fame Predictions: Mariano, Edgar and the Moose


At BTRTN, we predict things.  Most of the time, we are predicting the outcome of political elections, but occasionally we take a break from politics and turn our attention to the real national pastime:  baseball.  Each year, we take on the Ruthian task of predicting who will be elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, and our track record is pretty darn good.  The results of the voting will be announced this Tuesday, January 22, and we’ll see how we did then. 

SOME BACKGROUND

NOTE:  We realize that votes for the baseball Hall of Fame are being publicly tabulated as sportswriters announce them (which some do), and that articles have already appeared on the early trends.  In preparing these predictions, we have avoided all of these tabulations and articles, so these are “pure” predictions guided only by our own statistical methods and judgment.

Each year we analyze the baseball Hall of Fame ballot to answer two questions:  1) which nominees will be elected in this year’s voting, receiving at least 75% of the vote of the Baseball Writers Association of America (we also predict what percentage each nominee will receive), and 2) who amongst the nominees deserves to be in the Hall of Fame?  The two lists are never identical.  For the first question, we use various statistical models to come up with an initial estimate of the percentage of the vote they will receive, and we use judgment to massage and finalize that estimate.  For the second question, we have developed a methodology to compare nominees to their predecessors to determine their HOF-worthiness.  

HOW DID WE DO LAST YEAR?

Last year we had a very good year.  We predicted accurately that first-timers Chipper Jones and Jim Thome would be elected, and that returnees Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman would make the grade as well.  We also did quite well in predicting the actual voting percentages of most on the ballot, missing only two players relatively egregiously, underestimating Omar Vizquel and overestimating Scott Rolen.  Both were first-timers and both slick fielders, and those two factors pose massive issues for those in the HOF projection business, as was revealed yet again.  (We were also pretty far off on Andruw Jones at a much lower vote level; he, too, was legendary defensively.)  Because defensive metrics are neither perfect nor widely known, strong defensive players are more difficult to assess. 

But everyone else was within field goal range.  I was off on average by 4.8 percentage points per nominee, better than the 5.9 “miss” in each of the previous two years.  We rather immodestly believe we are the best baseball Hall of Fame predictors on the planet, but welcome challengers to the title!  Here were our results from last year, noting that the chart excludes all the nominees who received only a few votes or zero, just for space considerations; we do predictions for them, too, mostly zeroes, as you might imagine (and will see for the 2019 predictions.) 

2018
BALLOT YEAR
WAR
SHOULD BE IN HOF?
PROJECTED %
ACTUAL %
Chipper Jones
1
85
YES
93
97
Vladimir Guerrero
2
59
YES
82
93
Jim Thome
1
73
YES
76
90
Trevor Hoffman
3
28
YES
80
80
9
68
YES
63
70
5
83
YES
56
64
6
140
NO (PED)
56
57
6
162
NO (PED)
54
56
6
80
YES
48
51
Omar Vizquel
1
45
NO
7
37
Larry Walker
8
73
YES
23
34
Fred McGriff
9
52
YES
26
23
Manny Ramirez
2
69
NO (PED)
27
22
5
55
YES
17
15
Gary Sheffield
4
60
NO (PED)
11
11
Billy Wagner
3
28
YES
10
11
Scott Rolen
1
70
YES
40
10
Sammy Sosa
6
58
NO (PED)
6
8
Andruw Jones
1
63
NO
15
7
Jamie Moyer
1
50
NO
7
2


WHO WILL BE ELECTED?  THIS YEAR’S PREDICTIONS

On to this year!  

BTRTN predicts that the baseball Hall of Fame will soon vote in THREE new members: Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez and Mike "Moose" Mussina.  (Mussina is going to be very close, either way.) 

BTRTN agrees that each of those three should be in the HOF, but we think the ballot includes nine other players that also should be in the HOF, but will fall short in this year’s balloting: Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones. Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Billy Wagner and Larry Walker.  (Halladay has a shot at being elected this year, his first year on the ballot after his tragic death, but any of the others are highly unlikely.)

Bottom line:  we believe there are 12 qualified players on the ballot, but the voters will only do right by three of them this year.  Here’s the summary chart: 

2019
BALLOT YEAR
WAR
SHOULD BE IN HOF?
PROJECTED %
Mariano Rivera
1
56
Yes
99
10
68
Yes
81
6
83
Yes
76
Roy Halladay
1
64
Yes
65
7
140
PED
60
7
163
PED
59
7
80
Yes
58
Omar Vizquel
2
46
No
40
Larry Walker
9
73
Yes
40
Todd Helton
1
61
Yes
40
Fred McGriff
10
53
Yes
28
Manny Ramirez
3
69
PED
21
6
55
Yes
16
Scott Rolen
2
70
Yes
14
Billy Wagner
4
28
Yes
11
Gary Sheffield
5
61
PED
9
Andy Pettitte
1
60
PED
8
Andruw Jones
2
63
Yes
7
Sammy Sosa
7
59
PED
6
Lance Berkman
1
52
No
6
Roy Oswalt
1
50
No
4
Miguel Tejada
1
47
No
2
Placido Polanco
1
42
No
1
Kevin Youkilis
1
33
No
1
Derek Lowe
1
34
No
1
Michael Young
1
25
No
1
Freddy Garcia
1
34
No
0
Vernon Wells
1
29
No
0
Ted Lilly
1
27
No
0
Travis Hafner
1
25
No
0
Jason Bay
1
25
No
0
Jon Garland
1
23
No
0
Darren Oliver
1
22
No
0
Juan Pierre
1
17
No
0
Rick Ankiel
1
5
No
0


It’s a difficult ballot!  Of course, it’s relatively easy to predict returnees – last year’s percentages are a pretty good gauge, and we have models to adjust them for a new year.  And it’s easy to say who really shouldn’t really be on the ballot and predict zeroes for them (or a smattering of crazy votes in their favor).  The real tests are the first year contenders, and they are an unusually vexing group this year because they don’t all conform easily to the standard comparisons to their “peers” for a variety of reasons.  To wit: 

·        Todd Helton is a career Colorado Rockie, which , as Larry Walker has found, this will result in sportswriters discounting his stats due to the “Coors Field” factor

·        Roy “Doc” Halladay’s death is a complicating factor (perhaps in his favor), and he became the first player since Thurmon Munson (who first appeared in 1981, three years after his death) for whom the traditional five-year window has been waived

·        Andy Pettitte and Miguel Tejada are tinged by the steroid scandal

For the other nominees truly worthy of consideration – such as Mariano Rivera, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt – it is much easier to apply the lessons (and statistical norms) of history. 

WHO SHOULD BE IN THE HALL OF FAME?

For the position analysis below, we are not including the players that we don’t think should even be on the ballot.  In my view, there are eight of them who fail one criterion or another.  There are the three players on the ballot who never made an All Star Game even once in their careers (Darren Oliver, Juan Pierre, Rick Ankiel); three others who failed to collect 1,500 hits, as no non-catcher has ever made the HOF with less than 1,500 (Jason Bay, Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis); and two starting pitchers who fell short of 150 wins, as no starting pitcher has ever made the HOF with less than 150 (Jon Garland and Ted Lilly).  

Final note:  though there are two new “steroid-tinged” players on the ballot, we are slowly working our way through that terrible era.  Clemens, Bonds and Sosa are in their 7th year, more than halfway through their 10 year ballot life.  Gary Sheffield is in his fifth year and Manny Ramirez his third. We will stipulate that the returning steroid-fivesome’s stats are HOF-worthy, and also that we believe their actions are disqualifying, and we will not mention them again in our analysis. 

We started with a ballot of 35 players and have eliminated 15 from consideration (from question 2, that is, “should they be in the Hall?) because they are either tied to steroids usage or, though fine players, they simply fall short of some basic HOF standards.  So we are left with 20 to assess their worthiness via the “position peers” analysis (I will include the stats of Pettitte and Tejada, though, simply to demonstrate their borderline-ness even apart from the steroids taint.) 

BY POSITION

What follows, then are assessments of the nominees we deem worthy to be “in the conversation,” by position. 

We compare each player to Hall of Famers at his position across a number of key statistics, both traditional (hits, homers, RBI’s and batting average) and non-traditional (OPS+ and WAR).  We show the average statistics for all the Hall of Famers at his position, and then divide the Hall of Famers into halves, separating (using WAR) the top half of the HOF from the bottom half.  And we also include these stats for the “next ten,” the ten players at the position who have the highest WARs but are not in the HOF.  These latter two groups define the so-called “borderline.” 

Our general feeling is that a candidate, to be worthy of the HOF, must be at least as good as the “average” HOF’er at his position across these stats.  Borderline won’t do.  As you will note, the “lower half” HOF’ers are really indistinguishable from the ones who just missed, the “next 10.”  To make the HOF, in our view, you have separate yourself from the “lower halfers” and the “not-quites.” 

First Base 

Fred McGriff has always been a very tough call for us, but we have convinced ourselves that he belongs in the HOF.  His home run and RBI totals make a strong case – the homers are way above the greats of the position, and his RBI total right with them.  On the minus side, his WAR and OPS+ are right with the bottom half folks and the next 10.  But on balance, he seems to belong more in the “average HOF” group than the borderline groups, and thus deserves to be in the HOF. 

Todd Helton is very hard to distinguish from his teammate Larry Walker, and we are Walker fans.  Both players show evidence of “Coors Field syndrome”; Helton’s home/road OPS’s are nearly identical to Walker’s (see Walker below under the outfielders) at 1.048/.855.  Helton’s overall figures are pretty much in line with the average HOF first basemen, and the decent WAR number is park-adjusted.  The word here is Helton deserves to be in the HOF. 

FIRST BASE
Avg.
Hits
HR
RBI
OPS+
WAR
Top Half
0.311
2566
363
1588
152
83
Avg HOF
0.306
2395
316
1450
143
67
Bottom Half
0.301
2210
265
1300
133
50
Next 10 non-HOF
0.290
2162
261
1172
130
52
Todd Helton
0.316
2519
369
1406
133
61
Fred McGriff
0.284
2490
493
1550
134
53

Second Base 

Jeff Kent is the all-time leading home run hitter among second baseman, and is third in RBIs behind Rogers Hornsby and Napoleon Lajoie.  He also won an MVP once, was a Top 10 in the MVP balloting three other times, and he hit three homers and had seven RBI’s in his only World Series.  He was simply one of the greatest power-hitting second basemen ever and the best in modern times.  His WAR may be a bit low, but there is no question otherwise that he deserves to be in the HOF.  

Placido Polanco has better credentials that one might have thought, but while he is worthy of consideration, he really falls short of the mark, especially when one factors in that he spent a good chunk of his career as a third basemen, where the standards are even tougher. 

SECOND BASE
Avg.
Hits
HR
RBI
OPS+
WAR
Top Half
0.314
2780
181
1259
132
90
Avg HOF
0.298
2442
160
1089
120
69
Bottom Half
0.283
2103
139
920
107
48
Next 10 non-HOF
0.285
2051
133
889
116
52
Jeff Kent
0.290
2461
377
1518
123
55
Placido Polanco
0.297
2142
104
723
95
42


Shortstop 

Omar Vizquel is on the ballot for the second time and, as mentioned, he did much better than I thought he would the first time out.  Our feeling is that while Omar deserves consideration, we don’t think he is quite HOF worthy.  With an OPS of only 82 – that means 18% worse than the league average over his career – he is well below both the bottom half and the Next 10.  He is almost the definition of a borderline candidate.   The main thing going for him is his 2,877 hits, a testament to his longevity – he did play 24 years.  He was a fine player defensively, but no Ozzie Smith or Mark Belanger. 

Michael Young was a fine player with good overall offensive production for his position.  Right on down the line he is in with the average HOF shortstops until you see his shockingly low WAR, which is way off the standard.  Some of this relates to defense shortcomings and some to a modest on-base percentage, but it’s a red flag that nixes Young’s HOF chances. 

Miguel Tejada has even better offensive stats than Young, and a better WAR – though it too is well below the average group.   But his steroid use disqualifies his borderline candidacy. 

SHORTSTOP
Avg.
Hits
HR
RBI
OPS+
WAR
Top Half
0.290
2597
173
1241
116
76
Avg HOF
0.286
2336
120
1053
109
63
Bottom Half
0.282
1997
51
809
100
46
Next 10
0.276
1995
92
903
105
49
Miguel Tejada
0.285
2407
307
1302
108
47
Omar Vizquel
0.272
2877
80
951
82
46
Michael Young
0.300
2375
185
1030
104
25

Third Base 

Scott Rolen should have avoided retiring the same year as Chipper Jones.  In fact, he should have avoided overlapping his entire career with Chipper, and in the same league, no less.  And, maybe he should have avoided playing third base, a position the HOF does not favor (there are fewer third basemen in the HOF than any other position).   Rolen was a terrific, if underrated player.  Chipper may dominate Rolen in every category, but Rolen in turn is solidly above the average third base HOF’er in all the power categories, and he was a great fielder, too.  We believe Rolen should be in the HOF, but the sportswriters did not show him much love last year. 

THIRD BASE
Avg.
Hits
HR
RBI
OPS+
WAR
Top Half
0.290
2715
372
1403
134
89
Avg HOF
0.296
2383
248
1203
125
68
Bottom Half
0.303
2052
124
1037
117
47
Next 10 non-HOF
0.270
2086
256
1103
117
56
Scott Rolen
0.281
2077
316
1287
122
70


Outfield/DH

We put the DHs in with the outfielders because there are not enough retired mostly-DH’s to evaluate separately.  

Larry Walker’s candidacy suffers from “Coors Field Syndrome,” as critics devalue his otherworldly home OPS of 1.068 and focus instead on his very-good-but-not-HOF-worthy .865 on the road (as said, very similar to Todd Helton’s split).  In Walker’s defense, players generally do better at home than on the road (even if not quite to Walker’s extent).  His 73 WAR is already park-adjusted, and his overall stats are pretty much on the mark of an average HOF outfielder.  Walker is on our ballot. 

Edgar Martinez gets dissed because he was mostly a full-time DH (68% of his games), but with an extremely healthy WAR of 68 and OPS+ of 147, he deserves to be in the HOF.  There are not enough DH’s at this point to compare him to, but in comparing him to the outfielders, you can see that his stats dominate those of the bottom half in every respect.  He’s on our ballot.  (The recent Harold Baines election – see below – will help the cause of the DH.) 

Andruw Jones is an interesting case, with those 434 homers and a 63 WAR that also reflects his outstanding defensive skills (the defense part of that WAR is 24).  We’ve come around on Jones over the years, and now consider him HOF-worthy.  Think about this one:  there is a fielding statistic call “Total Run Zone” that purports to measure “the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made” (quoting from Baseball-Reference.com).  Whatever it is, Brooks Robinson is first and Andrus Jones is second, ahead of Mark Belanger and Ozzie Smith.  That, combined with those power numbers and some memorable postseasons is enough for us. 

Lance Berkman was a terrific player but is almost a classic borderline case.  He is definitely low in terms of hits and batting average, solid in the power stats and OPS+, and light on WAR, hurt by being a defensive liability.  It’s close, and perhaps someone will talk us into it – over the years we’ve changed our mind on Fred McGriff, Larry Walker and Andruw Jones.  But for now, Berkman is a near-miss. 

Vernon Wells is far from that.  He was a good player, a three-time All-Star, but the chart makes it clear that he is not HOF-worthy. 

Just for the heck of it, I threw Harold Baines onto the chart below to see how he stacks up.  Quite a few eyebrows were raised when the Veteran’s Committee voted Baines into the HOF in December (along with the very deserving Lee Smith).  Baines has decent stats but his OPS+ and WAR are well below standard.  The sportswriters did not think much of Baines – he managed to stay on the ballot for five years, but always on the edge, garnering only 5% or 6% of the vote every year he was on the ballot before falling below 5% and off the ballot in his fifth year. Our sentiments are with the sportswriters. 

OUTFIELD/DH
Avg.
Hits
HR
RBI
OPS+
WAR
Top Half
0.317
2898
314
1496
145
91
Avg HOF
0.313
2560
242
1286
136
70
Bottom Half
0.309
2175
161
1047
127
46
Next 10 non-HOF
0.282
2096
241
1052
126
59
Larry Walker
0.313
2160
383
1311
141
73
Edgar Martinez
0.312
2247
309
1261
147
68
Andruw Jones
0.254
1933
434
1289
111
63
Lance Berkman
0.293
1905
366
1234
144
52
Harold Baines
0.289
2866
384
1628
121
39
Vernon Wells
0.270
1794
270
958
104
29

Starting Pitchers 

Mike Mussina, in our view, was a stronger candidate than Tom Glavine when they were both on the ballot together in 2014, each for the first time.  Mussina has a better ERA+, won-loss percentage and WAR than Glavine, but the votes for Glavine demonstrated the mystical power of the 300-win mark.  It was ludicrous that Glavine received 92% of the votes to Mussina’s 20%.  It is entirely possible that no one will ever win more than Moose’s total of 270 again.  Moose deserves to be in the HOF. 

Curt Schilling’s ERA+ is a sterling 127 and his WAR is a hefty 81, both up there with the top halfers.  And if you like postseason performances, his stats are phenomenal:  11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.  We’re not fans of his off the field, but Schilling would be on our Hall of Fame ballot. 

Roy Halladay is a tough one, but with an astonishing .659 won-loss percentage, a 131 ERA+ and 66 WAR, you have to give him the nod.  And someday those 203 wins won’t look so measly.  This is not a sympathy vote; Halladay deserves the HOF on the merits, and he just might make it this year (though we think he’ll fall short). 

Roy Oswalt, Derek Lowe and Freddie Garcia were all fine pitchers, especially Oswalt, but none come close to HOF standards. 

STARTING PITCHERS
W
W-L PCT.
ERA
ERA+
WAR
IP
Top Half
314
0.592
2.96
124
89
4735
Avg HOF
267
0.598
2.97
123
70
3998
Bottom Half
221
0.605
2.97
122
50
3260
Next 10 non-HOF
237
0.568
3.07
116
64
3758
Mike Mussina
270
0.638
3.68
123
83
3562
216
0.597
3.46
127
80
3261
Roy Halladay
203
0.659
3.38
131
66
2749
Andy Pettitte
256
0.626
3.85
117
61
3316
Roy Oswalt
163
0.615
3.36
127
50
2245
Derek Lowe
176
0.529
4.03
109
34
2671
Freddy Garcia
156
0.591
4.15
107
34
2264

Relief Pitchers 

There is not an extensive history of relief pitchers, so we have changed the comparison categories accordingly.  Here we compare the six “pure” relievers in the HOF (Gossage, Fingers, Hoffman, Smith, Sutter and Wilhelm, but excluding Dennis Eckersley) with the 15 relievers who reached 300 or more saves but were turned aside on the first ballot by HOF voters (none met the 5% threshold).   

Mariano Rivera is, of course, the greatest reliever of all time. And it is shocking to see how much better his statistics are than those mighty six.  And they don’t include his postseason stats, which were also incredible, against even better competition. 

Billy Wagner may be a headscratcher to some, but his statistics are amazing, and some keen voters – too few -- have noticed this because he has made it to a fourth year on the ballot.  He has well over 400 saves and a 1.00 WHIP that is – incredibly – equal to Rivera’s (and better than Trevor Hoffman’s 1.06).  His stats compare favorably to the big six.  Walker is on our ballot, too, though we don’t see him getting much more support than in the past (10%). 

RELIEF PITCHERS
Saves
IP
ERA+
WHIP
WAR
IP/G
Avg. HOF (ex-Eck)*
376
1531
133
1.16
32
1.6
Non-HOP 300+ Saves
331
1004
129
1.27
18
1.2
Mariano Rivera
652
1284
205
1.00
56
1.2
Billy Wagner
422
903
187
1.00
28
1.1
* Gossage, Fingers, Sutter, Wilhelm, Smith, Hoffman

That’s it!  Come back on Tuesday, January 22nd and see how we did!


2 comments:

  1. CONGRATS on great analysis and predictions..you even nailed upticks for PEDS players (not that I support). Would have been just matter of time for Halladay so fitting he and Mussina (Nate Silver licking his wounds for missing), very comparable stats, go in together. Mariano Rivera-Greatest of All Time at what he did athletically--truly deserving of first-ever unanimous entry in first year of eligibility.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Charles! Halladay and Moose were the toughies, glad I bettered Nate on Moose! (Plus Nate used the publicly announced ballots data....but no need to rub it in!)

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